Cupcake Earrings

I had a very cool dad moment yesterday. This past year, my oldest daughter wanted me to take her, on her birthday, to get her ears pierced. Yesterday, while at the play area of the mall, we realized she had lost one of the earrings we originally had bought for her. So, I rushed down to the store and bought her a new pair of earrings.

I brought back gem-packed, sparkly, cupcake earrings. I knew she’d love them – the gems, the colors, and the cupcake shape…I hit all of her favorites. Now, I had to buy the more expensive ones. Not because she is some diva-in-the-making, but because she needed the better quality ones, the right type of medal, to help from infection, etc. And, she needed something right away, or that piercing could possibly close up.

I brought back these little gems…


She hugged and thanked me. She was so happy.

Then it happened. Then, that cool dad moment happened…

I watched her go around to all of her “friends” in the play area, pointing out her new earrings, and telling others – even those young boys who could care less – telling everyone: “look at my beautiful new cupcake earrings, with gems, that my daddy bought – my daddy loves me.”

After she did this to about 4 or 5 other kids, our eyes met and the smile on my face must have been as big as the sun because she came over and asked: “why are you so happy daddy?” I told her, that her joy is contagious and it makes me happy to see how she wants everyone around her to know her joy. We hugged for a few moments and she ran off to play again.

As I was reflecting on that great moment I had with my daughter, the Holy Spirit impressed this verse on my heart: “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine.” (Exodus 19:5)

In a day and age when everyone fights to be an individual, to make a way for themselves, to be their own person – we forget the tremendous value we have in knowing that we belong to God, and that He delights in us.

In our longing to be an individual and unique, we’ve rejected our true identity in Christ. 

No wonder so many today suffer from feelings of rejection, self- hatred, insecurity, great fear, being a people-pleaser, loneliness, and various unfulfilled cravings for approval, etc. No wonder so many people have lost sight of who they are in Christ: His beloved, a treasured and highly possession, one that can declare His goodness to all those they encounter.

When we are consumed with doubt, hurt, or selfishness, we cannot clearly reflect our belonging to God. We reflect then, that we belong to that doubt, or fear, or hurt – rather than our Redeemer and Restorer.

Many of us need an intervention from the Lord. What we need is for the Lord to breakthrough our wish-washy “feelings” and birth in us a hope and peace that only He can provide. But are we actually wanting this type of experience with God? Are we willing to let go of our desires to be known for what we can do and to be known for who we truly are in Christ alone? 

We have tremendous value, not because of what we can do, but because of who we are. We seek to add value to our lives through the things we do. And although experiences in life add much to our lives, they do not make us greater – our life richer perhaps, but they do make us more valuable.

My daughter has no idea the quality, nor the cost – the value – of those cupcake earrings. What she does know is that her daddy hand picked them for her, and they were the best, not because of the quality of medal, or the cost, but because I gave them to her. The value of those earrings to her, that produced great joy – joy that she shared with everyone – the value came from me giving them to her, something that demonstrated my heart to provide for her and her needs.

Run to your Heavenly Father today. Allow Him to speak to the deepest needs in your life. Do not let any other relationship, a promotion, success in the gym, or any other accolades in life to fill you with true value. That is fake value, temporary stuff that fuels that emotional tug-of-war in your mind and heart – and it is only temporary.

We have tremendous value, apart from what we can do on our own, in our own strength. We have value because of who we are in Christ and what He has done, and given, and poured into our lives.

So for those suffering from feelings of rejection, self- hatred, insecurity, fear, people-pleasing tendencies, loneliness and unfulfilled cravings for approval – run to your Heavenly Father. Feast on His Holy Word for your life. Let Him define for you, your value. Let Him replace your sorrow with His Hope. Let Him take away your pain and put on you His peace. Let Him provide for your needs by trusting in His provision and timing.

Run to your Heavenly Father. Abide in Him. Trust in Him. Obey Him. Deuteronomy 26:17-29 says: “You have today declared the Lord to be your God, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and listen to His voice. The Lord has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments; and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to the Lord your God, as He has spoken.”

God has spoken. Let your Heavenly Father fill your mind and heart with the truth of who you are. Let Him remind you of who you really are and how He will address every feeling, every concern and every problem in your life, according to His Holy and Divine will. “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”

That moment I shared with my daughter and those cupcake earrings, it made me feeling like a million bucks. God, He is a victorious warrior and the greatest hero of all – and He, as we seek and obey Him in all things, will rejoice over us and fill us with a joy that we won’t be able to contain. And what God longs to do in your life, it will be greater than a pair of cupcake earrings. Run to Him, let Him fill you with His presence, with His truth, with His will for your life.

Transformed by Humility

At various points and places in life, we come face-to-face with our past.

In some experiences, this moment is thrilling and exciting. And at other times, that moment can be a shaming, sorrow-filled reality.

It is easiest to run straight towards those exciting past experiences – it was a moment of great joy, one you are proud of and most willing to recall and even repeat. But those moments of our past that we face, those saturated in sin and self, we often choose not to run towards those things, but rather, we choose to run away from them.


Friends, it is in those moments, when we are confronted the shame of our past, it is those moments that running away from the past brings no healing, no forgiveness and no redemption. Facing our past, or mistakes, our sin – it is never easy. And yet, how we deal with our past mistakes and sin, that speaks volumes to the world around us about how deeply we understand the grace and redemption of God.

See, the Word of God tells us in 1 Peter  5:6 & 7 to “humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” The word picture here of “the mighty hand of God” is a powerful symbol in the Bible of God working in the experiences of men, always accomplishing His divine and sovereign purposes.

We often choose to run away from the very process in which God has designed to use in our lives to purify us and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

Seeking humility as we face the past, it positions us before God to truly receive His correction, His guidance and His empowerment to press on. 1 Peter 5 continues in verse 10 by saying: “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” God will work through our struggles, our sin, to produce His strength and character in us if we remain humble and let God work and transform every thought and every action we have.

We have to remember that Lord will not waste any pain that we face. Yes, we need to get serious about dealing with our past. And yes, we need to get serious about sin. For as disciples of Christ, we need to be radically committed to the spiritual discipline of confession and repentance so that we can fully abide in the powerful and majestic life-shaping grace of the Lord.

Most of us do not want to be humbled, so choose to be humble – choose to seek humility daily, staying devoted to having a contrite heart before the Lord, letting Him speak to the problems you have and thus allowing Him to restore and redeem you.

Remember, God is never closer than when He is pruning and refining us, and action which is a very “hands on” moment in your life. God is faithful to transform us when we address the discontent, the discouragement, the despair, the fear, the lies, and all of the other “stuff” from our past.

So choose humility. Run towards transformation and redemption. Abide in Christ, so that He may lift you up and out of the shame of your past.

(Originally written for the “Faith & Insight” column of the “Nevada Appeal” – June 2015)

mercy-grace-21585658I went to the grocery store with all three of my children. The youngest is buckled in and the older two walk beside the cart, holding on. This is standard protocol for the Emery kids. We got some fresh fruit and then some milk. My youngest is learning that he can’t just have whatever he wants, whenever he wants it – he is not even two years old yet.

As we walked past the greeting card section of the store he saw an inflated ballon and really wanted it. He got loud about his want. My face turned red as heads turned and stared at me like I was a three-headed monster. What was only like 15 seconds of instruction and redirection seemed like an eternity.

With things now calm, we grabbed a few other essentials and headed to the check out stand. Hanging there at the top of the isle was another ballon and little man saw it and quickly asked for it. Now before he even got upset and loud, the person behind me sighed loudly and told me to get my child under control this time.

That loaded statement, small and maybe intended to be innocent, it was hurtful.

We think things that are judgmental, and maybe we don’t even realize it. And we say things that are judgmental too. No one, myself included, as not struggled with being judgmental. Rather than operating with an abundance of mercy and grace, we can be quick to judge others. And the scary part: we try to justify our judgmental tendencies. And yet mercy, should triumph judgement. Being judgmental is hurtful. And our judgmental ways are hurting our impact on the Kingdom of God.

God’s perfect work of mercy, can be displayed through imperfect people. James 2:12-13 says: “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” Whatever we say or do – we will be judged by it and often mercy lacks within us because we have a poor understanding of God’s mercy for ourselves and for others. It is easier to be judgmental, than to be conduits of mercy.

As disciples of Christ, we must talk and act like one who is centered in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. We must still speak boldly to the issues of our culture that are contrary to the Word of God, but we must act and speak from a place of mercy, not judgement. And if we cannot display mercy to guy in the car next to us, or to that parent in the store, then how will be able to operate from a state of mercy and grace with bigger issues – eternal issues – Biblical, Christ-centered issues – ones that we must address and speak to as disciples of Christ?

We must never compromise the standards set before us in God’s Holy Word. Nor should we compromise God’s calling on our lives to not just experience His mercy, but to be conduits of His mercy and grace. We have never been commanded to be the judge of others. Yes, we can and should assess and judge others actions by the fruit their lives produce. And yes, we can see the consequences others face because of their decisions and make an assessment, or judgment on that.

As followers of Christ, we must speak and act in such powerful ways of mercy and grace that those we encounter will see God in us, because of the extravagance of mercy and grace that we display in our lives. When you speak and act, do people see Christ in you? Regardless of the situation, big or small, do others see God at work in you and at work through you?

(Originally written for the “Faith & Insight” column of the “Nevada Appeal” – May 2015)

be genuine

While out at the store, I came across a wallet made of leather and stamped into the leather wallet was the word: genuine. For something to be genuine, it means it has to be real – to be pure, to not be counterfeit or fake in any way. I reached into my pocket to compare this wallet with my own, wondering how real my wallet was.

Both were black in color, both had a sleeve for cash and several sleeves for cards, etc. And both had a clear sleeve for a drivers license. Now both wallets looked like they were leather and yet here I was, holding my wallet and now also holding a wallet that was marked as genuine. How genuine was my wallet then, in this side-by-side comparison, with the new wallet marked as genuine?

As followers of Christ, we must be genuine and our lives must be stamped with this truth. We must understand though, that in order for our lives to bear witness to a true, genuine faith in the Lord, then we must be devoted to taking in the Word of God and then living it out. This is what we are to compare our lives to.


James 1:26-27 says: “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

This truth from James gives us three markers of what it means to be genuine in our pursuit of knowing God’s Word and then living it out. First, tame your tongue. Second, care for those in need. And third, avoid worldliness. When we do these things, we walk in God’s Word, we are more apt to have His stamp of “genuine” upon on our lives. When we know this truth and live out, we genuinely represent God to others.

We say we want to take in and live out God’s Word. We say we want those around us to know we belong to the Lord. And we say we desire to have a genuine faith. And yet, our “religion” is useless if it what we take in from God’s Word, if it does not tame our tongues, if it does not move our hearts to serve and and if it does not separate us, or distinguish us in word and deed, from the rest of the world.

Take time to consider what the Lord may be speaking to you through these verses in James. Reflect on your journey with God, because it is possible that you are looking to others and thinking you are genuine in your faith, but you may be far from that truth. We cannot compare ourselves to others. We must compare ourselves to God and His Word. So, when you look at your life – at what you think and believe, in what you say and do – are those actions and elements true, pure and genuine? One can compare wallets, and hope or think they are the same – both being genuine – but the truth is that only the one marked as genuine is the real deal. As a disciple of Christ, are you the real deal – or do you merely hope or simply think you are? Have you been deceived by your “religious” activities and busyness?

Controlling what we say, passionately caring for others, and remaining separate from the ways of the world – it will require that you know God’s truth and abide in His truth. It  requires of you to compare yourself to Christ and His Holy Word, not others. We cannot desire to influence the world around us if we are allowing the world to influence our thoughts, our words or our actions. May you make the time to reflect on this truth and then allow God to show you the condition of your heart.

(Originally written for the “Faith & Insight” column of the “Nevada Appeal” – April 2015)

Abandon Our Excuses

Many of us suffer from a condition, a toxic spiritual condition that we often try to mask or explain away. Many of us have become all to familiar with this state of life and we have allowed it to become an intricate part of our daily lives.

This condition is called: excuses. We are quick to have an excuse ready for all of our short comings. In fact, often our excuses try to shift the blame to others or to something else. Often times, it is no-more-excuseseasier to make an excuse then to actually address our true need. We live in a time where excuses are everywhere and people have settled for living in a state of excuses rather than in a place of truth and freedom.

Why? Because truth is costly. And freedom actually requires sacrifice. But an excuse? Well, it is often clever and quick and is “just enough” to get us by. And we’ve settled for a life of excuses, rather than a relentless pursuit of a loving and holy God who wants to full transform our minds and hearts to reflect Him.

Have you been carried away by excuses? Has your spiritual growth been hindered by habitual excuse making?

In order for us to abandon our excuses we have to confront the reality of sin and temptation in our lives. James 1:13-15 says: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”

Far too often we find ourselves under pressure, and that is when we cave to excuses. The temptation we face comes from ourselves, for God is impervious to evil – meaning He is holy and untouched by evil, but we are born into sin and must daily choose to say no to sin and yes to the Lord and His mighty work in our lives. We let everything else in this world entice us and set our priorities. We let those forces drive our decisions, rather than the cry of God to work more fully, more deeply in our lives.

Excuses allow sin to grow in our lives, that is why we must abandon our excuses. We make excuses about staying away from God and the church. We make excuses from submitting ourselves to the revealed word of God and true Biblical authority. We allow everyone else’s opinion to matter more than the Lords, and we make excuses for it.

God wants to redeem and restore every broken place in our lives. He wants to provide an escape for the enticing sin that lingers before us.

My 8th grade football coach always told us: “Emery, excuses are like…(I’ll save you his wording, I am sure you’ll get it)…we all have them, and they all stink!” Friends, you know what else stinks? Sin! We have allowed ourselves to wallow in our sin and excuses rather than reaching for the hand of the Savior who longs to pull us out, fully and forever, from the muck and mire of our sin saturated lives. Now is the time to abandon your excuses and to fully press into God in this present moment.

(Originally written for the “Faith & Insight” column of the “Nevada Appeal” – March 2015)

Right & Wrong Questions

My kids ask a ton of questions. From the classic “why dad” to even more intricate ones about death and life and Jesus. I never want to give them some fluff answer either. I want to be ready to answer what I can, or help them find the answer to the questions they have. I want to always be able to respond to their questions with great wisdom.


But asking the right question, at the right time, is very crucial. The right question, it yields the right answer. The wrong question, it leads us in the wrong direction. And although there many never be a “stupid” question – there definitely are questions we are asking that are keeping us from the truth of what God wants for our lives.

Poor questions yield poor responses and we live in a time where the tension between good and poor is very real. We must be faithful at seeking God’s wisdom for our lives – for our needs, for our relationships, for our future and for our spiritual journey. We must seek God’s full wisdom for our lives and trust in what He reveals.

James 1:5-8 reminds us that: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Perhaps part of difference between is a good question and a poor question is our intent behind our asking. If we are faith filled followers of Christ who intend to actually seek and apply, then we actually build a base with a solid question that can truly search for the right wisdom that the Lord will provide. That kind of foundation will enable you to live out the wisdom that you seek. It takes you deeper than superficial questions that focus on your own self-interests and immediate needs. Seeking out God’s wisdom for your questions is the best thing to do and we must do it with every question.

The Lord is faithful and He will provide for you, the answer to your questions. God speaks in a variety of ways. We have to guard our hearts to not read into things that aren’t there. We have to position ourselves in the right places to hear from the Lord as He blessings us with His wisdom so that we can apply what He has revealed.

Sometimes God reveals His answers, His wisdom, to us through His Holy Word. Sometimes He speaks to us through times of prayer where He speaks right into our hearts. And sometimes He speaks to us through a person who loves Him and whom you can trust. God is faithful and He will reveal to us His wisdom when we seek it. The wisdom God produces in our lives never contradicts His character or His revealed truth in the Word. So check your prayer life against that. Check the input of those in your life with God’s truth. God is faithful and He will provide you with the wisdom you seek.

So what is one area you need wisdom in your life? Seek the heart of God, ask the right questions and do so without doubt. Doubt will cripple you and it derails your pursuit of God saturated wisdom. May you go to the Lord with every question, but may you go with the intent of believing in God, the granter of great wisdom, ready to apply and live out the wisdom from the Lord that you have sought.

(Originally written for the “Faith & Insight” column of the “Nevada Appeal” – February 2015)

Leadership Insights from Some Greats

Perhaps you’ve heard of him before, John Maxwell, a huge hitter in the leadership world. He is an author, speaker, and he has served as a pastor and as a pastor within the movement I am part of, the Wesleyan Church. Some of his books include: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow. His books have sold millions of copies and some have made it on the “New York Times Best-Seller List” as well.

I’ve read a few of his books and I have taken classes developed around his writings and other resources he provides. The man is out of this world. And, he drives me nuts, makes me angry and yet inspires me and challenges me to do more with myself. Not many people live in that kind of extreme, in that kind of tension. He does. Maxwell is one of a kind.

And even though I am not his biggest fan, I have been impacted by him. He has poured into other pastors within my specific area and they in turn, have poured into me. The things they learned from him, they shared with me and I have used many of tools to help encourage and guide those that I lead. Perhaps this is why Maxwell has such a dynamic presence because his leadership and values are so far reaching.

Recently I attended a national event for our movement of churches, called “The Gathering” in Orlando, Florida. It was such a special time to gather with several thousand pastors and leaders from our denomination – to be refreshed, encouraged and challenged both personally and in ministry. One of the seminars that I attended was hosted by another prolific church leader in our movement, Kevin Myers. He too had been mentored and coached by John Maxwell and he lead Maxwell into a time of sharing key insights regarding leadership.

Here is what I walked away after a few moments:

Wooden asked himself everyday: “How can I make my team better?”

A leader makes those around him better. We cannot lead by assumption, for this is the wrong way to lead others. Let those you lead discern what went wrong, what needs to happen and then lead them from that place, no longer assuming but knowing where they are so you can lead them to the next level. Ask good questions, not just be a good teller, vision caster. Listen more, ask better questions and direct less. Value the question asking process more than the teaching process.

For the team, a great question to ask: “Did I/we exceed expectations?” Most live below expectations. Few meet expectations. And only 1% exceed expectations. Disappointment is the gap between expectation and reality. Most of us live in this gap.

Exceeding Expectation: First, expect more from yourself than others expect of me. Don’t let others set your bar of expectation, for when they do, you are already at a loss. Meeting expectations is the bare minimum. The people who own the world exceed expectations, so don’t let others set your expectations. Second, refuse to live off of your past. Most people, when they taste success, get fat, dumb and happy. They always talk about yesterday. Yesterday ended last night, quit sucking off yesterday. It’s over. Your memories shouldn’t excite you more than your future. Don’t live forever in today’s success. Third, do not let relationships cover your issues. Whenever you use a relationship to cover up for what you didn’t do, you begin to abuse the relationship. Fourth, respect must be earned daily. We honor people for what they have done. We respect people for what they are doing. Fifth, it is impossible to offer excuses and exceed expectations. These two worlds cannot cohabit together. Accepting excuses dumbs down expectations.

The reason I need to exceed expectations is because one day, I will stand before God and I don’t want to give a list of “if’s” and “buts”.

And then Kevin Myers shared about the impact that Maxwell had on his life. I loved this part and it was such a solid reminder about how to learn from others and apply what you learn. Here is what I gained from Myers:

What Myers Learned from Maxwell: We cannot sit there and surround ourselves with people who will let us dwell in emotionally acceptable standards. Be careful where you get your expectations affirmed. Even though I won’t meet every expectation, it doesn’t mean that I am not accountable and must grow and strive to exceed expectations. If we are meeting expectations that means we are working faithfully. If we are exceeding expectations, we’d be willing to cancel our vacations and work harder – meaning we can’t just let momentum die, because eventually it will die. Live off of momentum once you have momentum. When that momentum dies, then go on that vacation or take your break then. And, if we miss expectations, we need to work smarter. The set expectation was probably too high, too soon. The expectation wasn’t wrong, probably, but the timing was. Adjust and re-set, and go again.

Prepare for your times with your mentor. You do all the digging. You must prepare. Consultants do all the work, they do they digging – you’ve bought them. People say they want a mentor, but really, they  want a consultant. But we must dig deep with our mentor. We must prepare and prepare again and get from them all the layers of information that they have, and that we need – for we must draw it out. Be a good steward of your time with your mentor. Come back, after results. Insecure leaders always think more about themselves and end up taking more than giving more.

I won’t be personally embracing everything that was shared by both men. I can’t. I don’t want to. But there many things shared that did challenge and encourage me. So perhaps these insights have challenged you too. That was my hope. To share from some great leaders things they’ve learned and things the believe in. I hope these insights help you to be more effective in our goal to advance the Kingdom of God and to make more and better disciples of Jesus Christ.

A Walking Target

I love Sunday morning comics in the paper; I still look forward to reading them each week. One of my favorites is “Far Side” by Gary Larson. He has done such a great job of capturing so many human expressions and depravities. 6g6XMU8In one of his comics, he displays an aerial view of a man, a woman, and a dog walking through a city park – each one of them with a target on top of their heads. The caption below the image reads: “How birds see the world.”

Have you ever felt like a walking target? We have all had those days where it seems like nothing we say or do is right. There are days when our children test every ounce of our patience. There are days when we just cannot connect and communicate correctly with our spouse. There are days when we show up to work and report on our efforts only to be told that what has been done is not good enough. And, there are days when we are so sensitive that everything that happens to us seems very intense and very personal. Those are the hard days that we all face. Those are the days where we feel like life comes straight out of a “Far Side” comic strip.

Yet, God has given us a great reminder about the power of His grace for those daily life experiences. James 1:2-4 says: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Perhaps you need to change your perspective to that of a God-defined, grace-filled perspective.

When we are saturated with the loving grace of the Lord, and our identity rests not in what we do but in who we are in Christ, it is then that we can have the true perspective needed to be joyful (joy-filled) “walking targets” in this world. When we do this, we surrender ourselves not to be captive to circumstances and experiences with others, but rather, we submit ourselves to the process of God transforming our lives.

What if our perspective were to change and we were to realize that the target was not there to shame or hurt or destroy us, but rather it has been placed there to engage, grow, and equip us for works of righteousness for the glory of our loving Lord and Savior? In order for us to not just survive but to thrive and to be joy filled in those experiences, we actually have to grasp the purpose of being a “walking target.”

God loves you, and the remaining text in James 1 encourages us to understand that God desires for us to seek His heart and to seek His wisdom for holy living. God promises to be faithful in delivering His grace to meet every need of our lives. We must abide in Him and respond to His work in our lives so that no matter what we face God can use it to transform us into who He desires for us to be. We are not simply walking targets, but rather we are followers of Christ that the Lord desires to shape and mold into His instruments of noble holy purposes.

So “consider it all joy” being a walking target this next week, this next month, and this next year. Consider it all joy to be a walking target because our gracious and loving God will grace you with His wisdom and His truth that you will need every day. Abide in Him, rest in His grace, and trust in His provision. Operate not from what you can accomplish on your own, but from what God has graced within you.

(Originally written for the “Faith & Insight” column of the “Nevada Appeal” – January 2015)


If you play or watch golf, you are probably familiar with a mulligan. It’s a action in golf that brings restoration from a bad swing. Often at fundraiser tournaments you can even buy a few – a mulligan gives a player a chance to re-do one play, to be restored.


Our journey as disciples of Christ is full of mulligans. One of the disciples, Peter, he is a great example of this process. 

In Mark 8:27-33, Peter gets the identity of Jesus right, but he got the mission of Jesus wrong. He goes from one extreme to the next. He needed a mulligan. In Mark 10:17-31, with this shot, Peter made it back to rough for he understood that a sacrifice on his part was needed to follow Jesus. And yet, the rich young man that approached Jesus was not able to give up what he values on earth in order to be fully surrendered to Christ. In Mark 14:27-41, at first Peter nails it again, claiming his devotion to God at any cost but in the next few verses, Peter is with Jesus in the garden and he and a few other disciples, they could not keep watch like Jesus asked and they fell asleep. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Peter is about to slice it into the woods in Mark 14:66-72 when he does, in fact, disown Jesus, just like he had been told.

Peter was ready to give up on the mission and return to fishing. He was in a desperate need of a mulligan. Yet, a mulligan is not something he can give to himself. And despite what people say, it is not something we can buy either. Peter needed a mulligan, big time. Do you?

Do you constantly replay your failures? Or maybeyour problem is re-committing the same sin over and over again? While others around you are experiencing spiritual victory, you feel plagued with the same problem, the same temptation, the same sin. And after awhile, you give up on asking for a mulligan. You give up on becoming the Rock that Jesus said we would be.

We cannot give ourselves a mulligan. Mark 16:7 says: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Why was Peter singled out? For restoration, for a spiritual mulligan-experience He probably did not feel like he was worthy of and yet, just like that, Peter receives it when in Mark 16:15 when Jesus says: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

We cannot give ourselves a mulligan, only God can do that. And some of you reading this article right now are in desperate need of a mulligan. You need something only God can give you. This is more important that Christmas shopping or holiday parties. You have looked for that restoration, that re-do, from so many other things and other people. You may have even thought you got one through some other route, but no, that was nota true spiritual mulligan because it did not last. When you really receive a true spiritual mulligan, it keeps you out of the woods.

Will you seek restoration with God now? Will you receive the mulligan He wants to offer you? Will you humble yourself and let God restore you into a right relationship with Him? Right now is the time to receive that much needed mulligan, just stop and go to our gracious Lord in prayer and seek His heart of forgiveness for your life. He will restore you, you are His prized possession, His beloved.

(Originally written for the “Faith & Insight” column of the “Nevada Appeal” in December 2014)


One dictionary defines “advocacy” as “active help, especially of a cause.” And, in my opinion, one of the best advocacy efforts happens every October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month – an annual campaign aimed to increase the awareness of this cancer. Pink is the color and we see it everywhere. My favorite football team has tones of pink this month in their uniform. You see pink and you think…well, we know what you think.

In late August 2014, many were blown away at how quickly the cause of ALS had spread. In such a short period of time, people from all over and from every walk of life were participating in the “ice bucket challenge” and donating to the cause. The ALS Association reported that they had “received $88.5 million in donations compared to $2.6 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 26). These donations have come from existing donors and 1.9 million new donors to the association.” This was a powerful advocacy effort – one that surprised everyone.

Breast cancer awareness month is very intentional. Events and activities are planned out. The ice bucket challenge grew faster and went farther than anyone could have planned for. Both have made a huge impact for their respective causes.

eggpictureRecently I went to the grocery store. I went to buy some fresh eggs. My favorite eggs right now are Egg-land’s Best. As I reached for my beloved egg and was a bit shocked, but then, I actually wasn’t. Why? Well, the labeling looked different. It was all shades of pink. And instead of their own company initials stamped on each egg, there was also a pink ribbon.

Apparently this company places a high value on advocating for the disease of breast cancer. I wonder why? I wonder what happened at HQ that caused them to say: “this is a cause worth promoting.” Perhaps it isn’t anything deep. Perhaps it has less to do with good intentions and more to do with corporate partnership and shared publicity. Regardless, they have joined in the promotion of this cause.

As I went to crack those eggs for a meal, I was reminded of something very valuable. As a disciple of Christ, advocating the mission of Jesus should be our chief aim. It should saturate every aspect of our lives – our thoughts, our actions, our schedules, and our choices. His cause, should be something that is marked by all that we do. And what is the mission, the cause of Christ? 1 John 2:1-3 says:I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the ]propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments…” His cause was to advocate on our behalf so that we would be able to experience eternal life. When this happens, it forever changes our future. And this change should produce within us a strong desire to see others experience the forgiveness of our loving and gracious God. His advocacy for us, is to be duplicated in our lives – as we too are to advocate for this cause in others.

Romans 1:16 says: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Has His advocacy impacted your life? Have you taken on the cause of Christ to live out and proclaim His desire to restore and redeem a lost and broken world? What are the “causes” that you have been committing your time and energy to? Is being His disciple and making more disciples of Jesus Christ the greatest cause in your life? If not, then what is keeping you from being a fully devoted, fully committed advocate for the cause of Christ in your community?

In his book, “The Dangers of Shallow Faith,” A.W. Tower said: “Either God is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.” Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and to show you were there needs to be less of yourself, and more of Him. May your advocacy of the cause of Christ represent your radical personal pursuit of true intimacy with our Heavenly Father. May you seek to grow daily in God’s grace and truth, while sharing with the world around you His plan for restoration. And may you be unashamed of your advocacy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all that you say and in all that you do.