Being “rescued”, what does that exactly mean?  I get the dictionary definition that states “saving someone from a dangerous or distressing situation”, but what is the Bible revealing when it says Jesus “rescued” me?

So here is my dilemma. I often understand terms in my brain logically, but do not feel them as passionately as I would like in my heart and soul. For instance, I understand in my mind that Jesus came to Earth as a man to save me from eternal death and darkness, to forgive me my sins, to provide grace, and to allow me to have a close and personal relationship with my Father in Heaven. The words make sense, but what about in my heart?  Do I really feel these statements through and through? Do I feel the rescue down deep in my soul and spirit? I want to really know in my heart that I am rescued and not just saying it because it is expected or the right thing to do. I want that passionate and heartfelt understanding that He came for me on a personal level.

The word “rescue” in the Bible is not the only one that made me feel this way. It is similar to other ideas like the concept of “grace”. I understand that the Lord provides me with grace every day, but do I really know it and feel it? What about “forgiveness” for my sins?  Do I really feel the weight of all the sin that Jesus had on his shoulders when He died on the cross and how I can now live my life with freedom and healing because of His sacrifice?

I decided one way to feel more connected to and passionate about the word “rescue” was to open up the Bible and find scripture that speaks to this idea.  Here are a few scriptures that helped me understand His rescue for me more clearly:

Colossians 1:13-14 – “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Psalm 143:9 – “Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; I take refuge in you.”

Isaiah 41:10 – “Do not fear, for I am with you.  Do not anxiously look about you for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and I will help you; surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Ezekiel 34: 11-12 – “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.  As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is away, his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.”

1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.   But with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

The words and phrases in these scriptures that are helpful to me in understanding the rescue of Jesus more clearly are ones such as deliver, transfer, do not fear, strengthen, uphold, help, search, seek and endure. Try letting these words speak to you in a personal manner. No rescue is the same.

Another way that I have learned to feel these concepts in my heart more passionately is to ask Jesus specifically to show and speak to me more clearly about them. Praying for clarity, interpretation, revelation and wisdom as it relates to His personal relationship with me also helps me better understand His love on a deeper and more intimate level.   Matthew 7:7-8 says “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who ask receives; the one who seeks finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

A few weeks ago at our E6 Ministries Advanced Boot Camp, Jesus showed up for me in a personal manner unlike He had ever before. I had been praying prior to the event that He would give me everything that He had for me at the Camp, to hold nothing back and to speak clearly about whatever He had in store. On the second day of the event, He showed me specifically how and where He rescued me during a time of darkness in my life. It was as if Jesus and a band of His warrior angels were on a mission to rescue me and me only. The power of Jesus and His rescue were personal and for no one else. I now have a more intimate understanding of His love and what He did to rescue me from evil.  Words cannot fully describe how thankful I am to now know this part of my story. I will never be the same.

Let’s close by saying my understanding of the ways of Jesus is small. My knowledge of his commands and promises are weak. It’s a long journey of learning and character building. However, I know without a shadow of a doubt that He loves me and rescued me in an amazing way. Let’s keep asking, seeking and knocking.  He will answer!

Thanks for allowing me to share my heart.

Go West Young Man!

January 15th is my work anniversary date. So this week I celebrated my 29th anniversary with Hallmark Cards. It’s hard to believe that much time has gone by. Where did it all go?

As I reflected upon the past three decades (close enough) this week, I thought about my story and how I risked starting a new life in the Wild West of Kansas. It is a story of my Heavenly Father guiding me to a new land, my earthly father providing tough love, and a boy willing to go on an adventure to become the man he was intended to be.

Let me take you back to the fall of 1989. I was in my last semester at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. It was a time of great expectations as I would soon be finishing school in December and looking forward to a new job somewhere close to home.   Home was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I had grown up there my entire life and had no reason to believe that my career would be somewhere else. I loved that city and still do to this day.

The story starts with a letter from the Career Placement Office at Miami University.   Hallmark Cards was coming to Oxford in October and they wanted interview me and 13 other candidates. I showed the letter to my three other roommates at the time and we all laughed. I said to them “What do they think I am an artist?” How naïve of me at the time to think that Hallmark only employed creative talent.

As I looked over the letter, I noticed that the second interview was in Kansas City, Missouri. I had never been out of the Eastern Time Zone in my life, so why not take the chance and interview. I might get a trip out west with the cowboys and Indians (a common thought back east).

The interview date came and went and by the grace of God, I was selected for a second interview in Kansas City during November. The trip to KC was wonderful. I interviewed in both the manufacturing facilities in Kansas City and Leavenworth. The people were wonderful and the company had values that I could be proud of.

In November, I received a job offer from Hallmark, but my place of employment would be in Topeka, Kansas.  I didn’t even interview in Topeka. That seemed strange, but it really didn’t matter anyway. It was a fun trip, but I was going to find a job in Pittsburgh.

I then came home over the Thanksgiving holiday. My father and I were sitting in our living room and he asked me about the job offer from Hallmark in which I needed to give them an answer in the next few days.  I said to him, “They want me to work in Topeka. I didn’t even interview there. Besides, I wouldn’t know a single soul in an 800 mile radius. There’s no chance I’m taking that job.”

My Dad then said “So if you do not take this job with Hallmark, where will you be living when you graduate in December.” I responded in a matter of fact tone “Well, I’ll be living right here with you Dad, looking for a job in Pittsburgh.” Then there was silence for a couple of minutes, almost an uncomfortable silence. My dad then spoke to me the words that changed the trajectory of my life. He said “I am sorry. You do not have a place to stay here.  You have a great opportunity to work for a company with a good reputation. If you don’t take this job with Hallmark, you will need to get your own apartment. I suggest going on an adventure out west. Meet new people and learn a new culture. SeYou can always come back home after two or three years and have it on your resume.”

Well, that was a shock. It almost felt at the time like a kick in the gut. My mother was completely appalled listening in the kitchen. Her son was being thrown to the street by mean ol’ Dad. That tough love, however, quickly gave me a new perspective. I immediately had a new attitude. Well, maybe I could make this happen and go on an adventure.

What my Dad was really saying was “I believe in you.   You have what it takes to go on this adventure. You will make new friends. You will succeed. You are the man.” It was tough love, but better yet, it was the blessing from my father that I always needed to hear. My Heavenly Father was speaking through my earthly father. I now know that these words were directly from the Lord above.

To this day, my Dad feels guilty about the direction he provided me on this day. Let’s get this straight. There is absolutely no reason for him to feel badly about this. It was exactly what I needed. It was the best thing he could have ever done for me. I didn’t need to be coddled. I needed to be called up as a man, to be the man the Lord intended me to be. He believed in me. That’s exactly what I needed to go West with the cowboys and Indians.

So I packed up everything I owned in my Honda Hatchback wagon and followed the sun to Topeka. My father gave me one spoon, one fork, and one knife for my new adventure and sent me on my way. It was time to grow up and be a man. I thank God often that my earthly father loved me so much that he would call me up in this manner.

At the time, I couldn’t see that my Heavenly Father was directing this adventure for my life, but it is so clear now that he had a hand in all of this. God was calling me, like Abraham, out of the land of Ur to go on a great adventure with Him. I am so thankful that he did. My life has been forever changed based on His leading.

I believe the Lord has blessed me abundantly for taking this risk. As a result, He has given me a beautiful and Godly wife, six children, great friends and a long-term career at Hallmark Cards. All glory goes to my Father in Heaven. He has given me many other adventures in my new home, but those are stories for another time.

So here are a few things that I’ve learned based upon God leading me to my new Promised Land:

  • Our Lord has a mission, plan and calling for every one of us.
  • This mission is a great adventure with Him.
  • We need to be faithful in what we cannot see and obedient in his direction for our lives.
  • This means giving up control of our lives to Him. Total surrender.
  • We need to pray for this mission on a daily basis. Ask Him to expand your impact, leadership, and ministry for His Kingdom.
  • If you do so, He will answer your prayers and you will experience the Glory of God in your life.
  • Your adventure with Him is not about you. It is about His Kingdom and bringing it forth to others.

Take the risk. Go on an adventure with God. He will not disappoint!

Knowing My Identity

Over this Thanksgiving weekend, I have been thinking about all the things that I am thankful for and how God has provided so much.   I am definitely thankful for my lovely wife, fantastic kids, extended family, food (pizza specifically), a warm home, friends, my new job, a close relationship with the Lord and so much more.  These can be seemingly common to many people.  However, I also have been thinking about how grateful I am that my identity as a person is in the Lord.

What do I mean by the word “identity”?  Well, Google defines identity as “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is”.   That’s a pretty bland way of describing what I am feeling and what I am grateful for.  When I think of my identity, I think of who I am as a man, what I stand for, my name and how I would be described by others.  Even better, I think about what God has to say about me, who I am in His eyes and the Godly man He has called me to be.

Let’s take a look at what the Lord has to say in the Bible about us and our identity in Him:

  • I am a child of God – John 1:12
  • I am the light of the world – Matthew 5:14
  • I am strong and courageous – Joshua 1:9
  • I am a son of God; God is spiritually my Father – Romans 8:14-15, Galatians 3:26 and 4:6
  • Because I am sanctified and am one with the Sanctifier, He is not ashamed to call me brother – Hebrews 2:11
  • I am righteous and holy – Ephesians 4:24
  • I may approach God with boldness, freedom and confidence – Ephesians 3:12
  • I am a new creation – 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • I am free forever from condemnation – Romans 8:1
  • I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit – John 15:16
  • I am joint heir with Christ, sharing His inheritance with Him – Romans 8:17
  • I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved – Colossians 3:12 and Thessalonians 1:4
  • I am an enemy of the devil – 1 Peter 2:11
  • I am a son of light and not of darkness – 1 Thessalonians 5:5
  • I am a temple – a dwelling place – of God. His Spirit and His life dwell in me –                  1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19
  • I have been justified – completely forgiven and made righteous – Romans 5:1

Could it not be any more clear how much the Lord loves and cares for us?   Is there any doubt about what He thinks of us?  If the answer is so clear, then why do we have such a hard time believing that these verses are real and true?

I think we need to ask ourselves on a regular basis where we are seeking our validation and identity.  Is it from the world that we search for our answers or is it from God?   Do wealth, power, success and fame determine our identity or is it in our character built by the Lord over time?  I think we know the answers to all of these questions on the surface, but truly knowing in our hearts can be a different story.

So let’s talk about receiving our identity from the Lord instead of the world.  How do we do this?  One way is to just ask Him.  During your quiet times with the Lord, try asking Him these questions:

  • What do you think of me Lord?
  • What do you see in me?
  • What is my identity?
  • Who am I called to be?

If you don’t receive an answer right away, stay with it.  Come back to it later and be persistent.  He loves you and wants you to know how special you are to Him.  Seek and you shall find.

Part of my prayer life each morning is to ask God to speak to my identity.  I want to know who I am in Him each day.  He answers this prayer by speaking directly into my heart, through other people, through music, books, podcasts, nature and more.  Knowing who I am allows me to be true, real and authentic in my relationships and activities.  I can be who I truly am in the Lord and not worry about what others think.  I can walk free and without fear throughout my day.  Knowing He is with me and that I get my validation and identify through Him allows me to be my true self.

Having this knowledge of who I am and who He made me to be is better than gold.  With this knowledge comes a sense of peace, comfort and confidence for anything that comes my way in my life.  The confidence is not of my power, but only received through Him.  For all of this, I am grateful and thankful this day.

Let me leave you with this wonderful song sung by Hillsong called “Who You say I am”.  This song was played at our church service this past Sunday morning, and it spoke directly into my soul.  The Spirit of God reigned down upon me like the rays of the sun as this song played.  I felt His love encompass me as a true Son and Child of God.

Just know that we can all have this connection and identity in the Lord.  Just ask Him for it.  He wants to reach out to you and for you to reach out to Him.  Take the risk.  You won’t regret it!

Rule and Subdue

Two weekends ago on Labor Day, my wife and I decided to go shopping in order to find outdoor fencing for our home. Unfortunately, we didn’t find what we wanted. However, along the way through the endless aisles of products, we found something that we did need. This time, it was a faucet for our first floor bathroom. The old faucet in our bathroom was very old, corroded, and would not line up correctly when shutting off the water. We agreed that it was time for a change.

So, we bought the new faucet and took it home. It was about 4:00pm in the afternoon and I decided that I would tackle this project, knowing full well in my mind that it would likely take less than an hour to remove the old fixtures and then install the new ones. That’s right, how hard could this be? I am not Mr. Handyman, but I surely could handle this easy project in a snap.

After reading the directions for installation (yes, I really did), removing all of the cleaning products from underneath the sink, turning off the water to my home, and getting my tools ready, I was prepared to whip this project into shape. The first thing that I noticed was how small my work area was underneath the sink. All the PVC piping, water lines, and the parts to the sink stopper were in my way and needed to be removed.  It was so tight that I could hardly maneuver my tools to un-install the old faucet. I banged around and tried various tools, but I wasn’t making much progress. This was taking longer than I expected. With all of the man-handling of the parts, I eventually broke a shut off valve and needed to make a trip to Home Depot.   After 30-40 minutes from the of purchase my new part, it was already 5:30pm and the old faucet wasn’t un-installed yet.

At this point I was getting frustrated, so I prayed a few times for perseverance. God didn’t answer me right away. I was reminder by my Father that he is a God of process. Some times change, improvement, or in this case the removal plumbing parts takes time. We often want instant results and answers, but He doesn’t work that way. God does not work like a microwave or Google. Learning to delay gratification is part of the maturation and character building process. This project was a good reminder of how He works within and through me.

Back to the story: After reaching out to God, the old faucet eventually started to slowly come apart. There were a few parts that just would not come free, so I turned to demolition mode to finally complete the de-installation process. It was now 6:00pm and I was ready to install the new faucet.

Fast forward to 8:00pm. I was still not completed with the project. Each installation step seemed to be taking me 2-3 tries to get it right. I was running very low on patience, but I knew God was with me every step of the way. I reminded myself not to rely solely on my abilities, but to give it over to the Lord.

Did I forget to mention that every 30 minutes, my son or my wife came by and asked “How’s it going?” I knew what they are thinking, but I was not quitting. This was a test of perseverance and God was fathering me through this entire process. I was not going to believe the lie that I can’t handle this.

Its 8:30pm now, 4.5 hours into this “easy” project, when my wife came by and asked me the dreaded question “Do you think we should call a plumber?” I said to her (something like) “Absolutely not. This is a project that I should be able to handle. This is about learning and growing into something that I need for my soul. Calling a plumber at this point would be emasculating. I need to be able to rule my domain.”   I don’t think she completely understood what I was saying, but it was important to me to finish this job and to learn from my mistakes. I would not become a quitter.

To be transparent, this project lasted another three days. At one point, we even had puddles in our basement. However, I discussed my plumbing problems with several friends and eventually solved the issue. I am pleased to report that the new faucet is working great without any leaks or problems.

So what does God have to say about this issue? Does he want me to call a plumber in the future? I don’t think so.

Genesis 1:28 says “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

In this verse, God gave Adam and Eve a job to complete, to rule and subdue over their domain (Creation). To rule and subdue means to have fierce mastery over something. God wants us to rule over and subdue the kingdoms that he has given us, not with an iron fist, but in a manner that will grow us up into the men and women he intended us to be.

Romans 5:3-4 says “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope”.

The Father is concerned with building our character. He is not so concerned with what job we have or what kind of car we drive. These types of trials, that require perseverance, grow our character and can be used as building blocks for bigger and even more difficult challenges to be faced in the future. Growing our character is a journey through many life events and if we always choose to take the easy route, then we miss out on the opportunity to receive His blessings.

God is also very much concerned with being in relationship with us. If we outsource the plumbing or other challenges, then someone else is ruling our kingdom and we miss out on the opportunity to be fathered by Him. Adam and Eve couldn’t call a plumber or someone else to rule and subdue Creation. They had something better, a close and personal relationship with the Father.

I recognize that we do not have the skills to tackle every problem and that some things must be handed over to the experts. However, let’s not make a habit of taking the path of least resistance when challenges arise. There is much to learn, character to build, and a relationship with the Lord to be experienced.   Don’t miss out on what He has planned for you!

Can I really hear from Jesus?

There are numerous examples of men and women in the Bible who speak with and hear directly from our Lord. It started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Abraham then gets instruction to sacrifice his son Isaac and Moses is told to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. How about Moses seeing a burning bush and receiving the 10 Commandments?   Noah is also told to build an ark because the world will flood. David spoke directly to God throughout his entire life.

Yes, these are examples from the Old Testament, but what about the New Testament? Well, besides Jesus living as a human on Earth for over 30 years and giving us countless instructions to live by, we have other examples like Saul on the road to Damascus when Jesus confronts him and asks “why do you persecute me?”. Saul then becomes Paul and is given clear direction from the Lord to spread the Gospel throughout the world. On and on it goes throughout the Bible, God communicating directly with his loved ones.

What about today? Does God speak to us now? Do Jesus and the Holy Spirit give us personal direction for our lives even on a daily basis? I hear some people say that hearing from the Lord is impossible and that he only spoke to people long ago.

What does the Bible say about Jesus speaking to people?

Check out John 10: 2-5 NIV – The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

Jesus is our Shepherd and we are His sheep. What does this mean?   Well it says that we listen to his voice and He calls us by name. He knows us personally. He leads us and goes on out ahead of us as our Leader. We, as sheep, follow Him because we know His voice.

How about Revelation 3:20 NIV – Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

If I hear His voice and open the door for Him, then He will join me, even for dinner. Think about how we interact with our closest friends and companions. We get together and “break bread” for intimate and personal conversations about life. Jesus wants to do life with us too.

I believe the Bible is clear on Jesus speaking to us directly. Here is one example in my life where the Lord communicated with me and provided specific instructions on something I needed, but didn’t want to do:

A few months ago, I was driving through the state if Illinois after seeing my son in Chicago for the weekend. On the way home, I felt the presence of God in the car as I drove alone down Interstate 55. You see, this was the location where my life fell apart 18 years ago. I became divorced and also a single Dad raising two children full time after my ex-wife had an affair with the neighbor across the street. It was a traumatic event and my heart was broken at the time. Now, 18 years later, I thought I was past the pain and the need for healing from the divorce. God, however, had other plans for me.

During the drive, I invited the Lord in to my prayer time. After a few minutes, He spoke into my heart and said I needed to forgive the man from this affair. He told me to go to his home and tell this man that I forgive him face to face. Needless to say, I wasn’t excited about this great opportunity the Lord was providing me. I wanted to get home instead of having this conversation. However, I had been asking God to speak to me for weeks prior to this day, so I felt the need to be obedient to His direction, no matter how uncomfortable it would be.

Commentary: Jesus speaks to us today in many ways if we will make time for Him. In my case, I was driving alone in a car where there was no competition from a television, a laptop or even my phone at that point. He wants to be our #1 priority. He knocked and I met Him ½ way by having three hours of quiet time on the road. This type of quiet time, even if for 30 minutes each day, is something we need on a regular basis to hear from Him. Ask Him to join you. Ask Him all of your intimate questions. He will respond if you believe and have faith.

Back to the Story: On the way to the man’s home, I looked for any excuse to drive right on by. What would I say to him? Did he even live in the same home? What if his wife came to the door? On and on the questions came as I battled spiritual warfare on how “stupid” I would look if I showed up at his door.   As this battle raged, I became more and more confident, knowing that anything was possible through Him.

So I came to the city where he lived and said “God, you need to make this clear to me if You want me to forgive this man now.” 10 stoplights in town stood between me and his home. I was looking for a red light from God, but all 10 lights turned green just as I approached each one.   Point made. I felt Jesus say, “Green means go, so go and forgive this man now”.

I then stopped outside of his home and prayed again asking Jesus to send a sign to move me on past this “opportunity” for character building. No sign came to my dismay. So, I walked up to the door and pushed the doorbell. No response. I hit the doorbell a second time. No response again. Was this a chance to leave? “Knock on the door” is what I heard next.

Commentary: Jesus can speak to us in many ways. Sometimes it is directly to us (not audible words, but a stirring in our hearts). Other times, it might be through another person’s words, or through nature, music, books, poetry and so on. It is very personal when coming from Jesus. He knows the words we need and the manner in which we need to receive it in. In my story this time, I felt His presence and words in my heart.

Back to the Story: I then knocked and the man who had the affair with my ex-wife came to the door. He looked at me in shock with his eyes becoming the size of silver dollars. I shared with him that what he did 18 years ago was wrong and also a betrayal. I told him that God asked me to visit him on that day to forgive and release him from the affair. The man stood there speechless and only grinned. No apology came as he just listened to me. I left that man’s home not needing an apology that day. It didn’t matter what he said or didn’t say. There was healing that was needed in my soul (and maybe his) that the Lord provided to me through an act of faith and obedience. I never felt as strong as when I left that man’s home that day. I could do anything through the power of the Lord. I believe that the Lord gives us what we need, even if we don’t recognize it sometimes. He knew I needed healing and spoke directly into my wounded heart. I am so thankful for His gift of a healed heart and for speaking directly to me on that day (many times).

There is no doubt that God wants to speak to us. We just need to have the ears and desire to hear Him.

Surrendering Seeds

On most days, I start my mornings by reading devotionals from a few of my favorite authors and ministries to bring myself into alignment with the Lord before the craziness of the world enters in. A couple of weeks ago, the devotional from that morning hit me right between the eyes, almost like a locomotive had run me over. You know the feeling.

The Bible verse highlighted in the devotional was Galatians 6:7 – “Be not deceived, God cannot be mocked: For whatever a man sows, therefore he shall also reap.” I had heard this verse many times, but never before did it have this strong of an impact on me. All I could think about were the seeds that I had been sowing in my marriage, with my children, at work, with my friends, and others. Why did this verse jump out at me this time more than ever before? Is the Lord tired of me going through the motions with my thoughts, words and actions? Yes or no, I certainly felt convicted.

I wrote this verse on a sticky note and placed it on my desk at work so that I would be forced to think about it each day. So over the last few weeks, here are some of the questions and issues that it has raised in my heart:

What seeds am I sowing each day? I realized that every meeting, every conversation and interaction is an opportunity to plant seeds. These are opportunities to represent Him, His Kingdom and His Word. I fall short here, but that cannot deter me. I need to be strong and courageous through Him. Every day I pray for Divine Appointments and He gives me many opportunities thankfully.

Why do I sometimes shy away from planting seeds with others? Am I fearful of their reaction or what they might say? Some of that is true unfortunately, but I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t matter how they react or what they might say. It only matters what I do in that situation. My job is to plant the seeds and then the Lord will do the watering and growing.

Some of the seeds I have planted have not sprouted. I have wondered if I am doing something wrong. It is painful not seeing results. I recognize that not all seeds grow and some will take longer than others. This requires “surrendering the seeds”. Surrendering doesn’t mean giving up, losing or that I am weak. Surrendering means coming under the Lord’s authority. It means relinquishing control over to Him. So once planted, it’s time to release or “surrender” the seeds over to the One who has a plan for each and every one of the seeds. This requires trust and faith that He will make the seeds sprout one day. Seeing all of the wonderful gifts He has given me over the years makes me confident that the seeds I have planted will grow someday (on His timetable).

As I wait patiently for the seeds to sprout, I can till the soil and make it more fertile with my words and actions. These are words that provide love, life, and healing; words that build self-esteem and self-respect. Yes, that is what is needed. Actions that show kindness are important; actions that bring peace, understanding, and wisdom are critical too. These seeds will require protection as well. It can all be very complicated, but as long as I “surrender the seeds” and my life over to the Lord, there is nothing to fear. He loves these seeds more than I ever could.

Jesus is my Brother

Ever since I was young, I wanted a brother.  Older or younger, it didn’t really matter.  Having an older brother would have given me someone to follow, to show me the ropes and to help train me in all that I would encounter.  Maybe it would be how to catch a football, throw a baseball, cast a fishing line or talk to girls.  The list would be long of what he could teach me since my brother would have already traveled these very steps before me.  Having a younger brother would have reversed the role.  Instead of being the trainee, I would now be the leader.  My mission would be to impart all of the wisdom that I had gained over the years to my little ‘bro’.

There is a strong bond between brothers.  They are there for each other in times of trouble no matter the time of night.  Brothers can be counted on to come through, to make sacrifices and to love unconditionally.  I’ve seen this with my friends and their brothers growing up.  Although they may bicker and fight with one another, they were ready to defend each other tooth and nail or at the drop of a hat if anyone messed with either one of them.  In other words, you better get ready to take on two if you went after one.  I love that kind of loyalty, someone having my back no matter what the situation.  There has always been something deep inside me that desired a brother, someone of my own blood who would be willing to stand by me, and me with him, through anything that life would bring our way.

But wait a second, I already have this brother, the one I have desired throughout my life.  He has been there the entire time waiting for me to reach out to Him, to surrender and give my life to Him.  His name is Jesus.

How do I know this to be true?  It says it in the Bible in various places including:

Hebrews 2:11 – “Because I am sanctified and am one with the Sanctifier, He is not ashamed to call me His brother.”

Matthew 12:50 – “For whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven is my brother…”

Luke 8:21 – “He replied, my mother and brothers are those who hear God’s Word and put it into practice.”

Jesus wants a brotherly relationship with me.  All the things I desire in a brother He will do and so much more as long as I surrender my life to Him.  He can be counted on in times of trouble, no matter the hour of night.  He will love me unconditionally.  He will be loyal, will defend me, will teach, coach and guide me.  He already has sacrificed His life for me so that I can have eternal life.  His brotherly love is already present for you and I.

What more could I ask for, a brother who is always with me and loving me every hour of the day.  I can’t wait to see Jesus face to face one day in Heaven.  I wonder what we will talk about, what things we will laugh about, feeling a brotherly love never felt before.

Jesus is the ‘bro’ I have always desired and needed.  You can have this relationship too.  All you have to do is submit your life to Him.  Take the risk!  It’s the best decision you will ever make!

To Become King

Every man wants to be king. From the time we are little boys, there is something inside us that calls us up to rule and reign well. We only need to look within the first book of the Bible (Genesis 1:28) to see that the Lord placed this desire into our hearts by giving us the mission to rule and subdue the wild earth He created.

This desire to lead does not change as the man grows older. He wants to “come through” when the chips are down. He wants to know that he “has what it takes” to make a difference when called upon.

Not all men, however, are good kings. There is a distinct difference between what the world says is a good leader versus what God has to say on the matter. The worldly definition includes words like success, wealth, and power. The Godly king is defined by words such as integrity, character, spirituality, humility, and courage.

Let’s take a close look at a king in the Bible who portrays the image of a Godly leader in the eyes of the Lord.

David was not a perfect man by any stretch of the imagination (Uriah and Bathsheba for example), but he was called “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). What did the Father see in this man to anoint him as King of Israel and how did He train him up in the ways of the Lord to prepare him for this kingdom? I think we get a clear picture of this training and transformational process by looking at the stages of David’s life. (The life of David can be found in the following books of the Bible: 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel and 1 Kings for reference).

Before David became king, God trained him up in His ways. David knew that his Father in Heaven loved him as a son. The name David means “beloved son.”  In the fields tending the sheep, David learned to be fully committed to the Lord and to live in harmony with Him by studying and meditating on His commands all day and night. Living in solitude in this manner, praying and connecting with the Lord, nurtured and matured David’s character. David lived in the obscurity of the wilderness taking care of his sheep. This created humility in David.

David’s heart was also shaped outside of the limelight. He learned to be faithful in the things unseen and unknown. David’s time in the wilderness shepherding was monotonous. It gave time to David to master the sling shot, to learn playing the harp, and to connect with the Lord throughout the day. This training also exposed David to the dangers and threats of the wilderness, including bears and lions attacking his flock. These adventures honed his skills which would provide useful during combat with Goliath and later in war. This training allowed David to have complete faith in the Lord and to have no fear as he battled the Philistine giant. David became a warrior as noted in this verse “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7).

David would face many trials before becoming King of Israel. He would be hunted relentlessly by Saul and his men over a long period of time. David lived in caves for safety from Saul and faked insanity with the Philistines to save his life.

David’s character was not developed by one encounter with Goliath. His manhood was molded by the Lord over many years in the fields and through numerous difficult trials and adventures. The Lord required David to be capable in handling little things (his flock) before entrusting him with the nation of Israel.

The masculine journey is a life-long process of being molded into a man of integrity. Many battles must be fought and won. Many hearts must be saved. Courage in the face of fear must prevail for a boy to become a man and a man to become king.

David is a man I admire for many reasons. His love, connection, and close relationship with the Lord is one I desire. His steadfast commitment and meditation on the Lord’s commands gave him the strength, courage, and faith to fight in battle. I appreciate how real and authentic he was as a man of God. He didn’t care about persecution and what others thought about his beliefs. Although imperfect, he was sold out for the Lord.

Over the years, the Lord has molded and shaped my character through difficult trials and tribulations; divorce, being a full-time single father, re-marrying into a blended family, being a step-father, and more. He has taken these seemingly insurmountable obstacles and turned them into good as He has molded my character all at the same time. I am thankful for these trials as I would not be the man I am today without them and there continues to be much room for growth in my character along my masculine journey. We never “arrive” as the men God fully intended us to be. That, however, doesn’t stop us from openly accepting His training and working to be better.

I look forward to meeting my Father in Heaven someday. I envision it looking something like the excerpt from the book “The Way of the Wild Heart” (pages 217-218) by John Eldredge directly below. This short description of coming Home speaks to my soul as a man and makes me want to be the warrior son He always intended me to be.

“Picture in your mind’s eye an image of a great warrior, a renowned champion, returning home from far-off lands. His fame has long preceded him, and now the reports of his feats are confirmed by the scars he bears, the remembrance of wounds more noble than any tokens of honor. With dignity he moves up the main causeway of the city, lined with the faces of his people, the very people for whom he has fought bravely, whose freedom he has secured. The warrior has returned after years on the field of battle, returning only when triumph was achieved and not a moment before. This is his homecoming, and it is as a conquering hero he returns. Before him, at the head of the street, stands the king, who is his father. The scene is both a homecoming and a coronation. For the father-king will now hand the kingdom over to his son.”

Now let’s get to work! Be the man He intended you to be!