My Family, My Friends, & The Dead Guy That Keeps Screwing Things Up

God saved me in the winter of 1996. In January of 1997 I married Leslie and we have been together for 21 years now. Our daughter Grace was born in June of 2002 and she has been a reminder of God’s grace every year that she has been with us. Through the years we have made many friends; some of them very close to us. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for God, wife, daughter or friends. If they need me for any reason, I am gratefully available to them all, but…

There are times (if I’m being transparent) that I don’t want to be available. Do you ever feel that way? I mean, I love them, but sometimes that’s just not what comes out. I care about them all, but sometimes you just wouldn’t know it. There are times when I am a narcissistic jerk that wants my life to revolve around me and me alone.

It comes out in many ways: sometimes I get quiet, sometimes I say more than I should, sometimes I quit doing anything, sometimes I do things and my actions are hurtful, sometimes my words cut…deep. Sometimes my wit and sarcasm become weapons of mass destruction and before I even realize I hit the launch button all I can do is deal with the fallout and collateral damage. Sometimes I “do” or “say” and immediately think, “Nooo…why did you…?”

Sometimes I live like the old dead guy (2 Cor. 5:17) that doesn’t care about other’s feelings and only wants to be heard, wants to be smarter, bigger, and better than you. Yeah, I know, major jerk. Just writing this I want to punch myself in the face. But listen, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (Rom. 7:18-19) But that’s kind of a cop out isn’t it? I mean just saying that I want to do right, but, oh woe is me, I don’t because I just keep doing it even though I don’t want to is kind of a joke.

And if I left it there, it would be a joke, but that’s not the biblical way of dealing with being a jerk. We can’t just say I am who I am and keep doing what we do. Why? Because if we are truly in Christ who we are is a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). I’m not a jerk, I’m not a bad husband, father, or friend. It’s not my true nature as a child of God. Do I still mess up? Yes. Do I still live like the dead guy sometimes? Yes. But that is not my identity. In Christ, I have been set free from the old me (Rom. 6:18) and I don’t have to choose to live that way. So how can I keep the old guy in the grave and live like the new creation that I am? How can you?

  1. CONFESS MY SINS REGULARLY: “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16) Keep short accounts of your sin. Don’t let known sins linger, confess them to those you have sinned against and ask others to hold you accountable to your sins. Jesus said, “whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”(John 3:21)
  2. REPENT OF MY SINS: it’s one thing to confess our sins, but if we don’t actually turn from those sins, turn to God, and “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27) then it means nothing. The only thing confession without repentance accomplishes is that people know that we know we’re jerks. So we must “repent…and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19-20)
  3. STAY IN COMMUNITY (NO MATTER WHAT): “The New Testament contains at least 40 passages that contain the words “one another” and each one points to a way that Christians are to treat, or are not to treat, each other.” (One Another, Challies) Our relationships are more about our holiness than they are our happiness. It is only in community that we grow to be more like Christ. Hebrews tells us, “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some.” (Heb. 10:24-25)

Paul tells us, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” (Rom. 15:1) I’m not saying I am strong, quite the contrary, I’m saying I am weak. I need those who are strong in the community of faith to hold me accountable, call me out when I need it, allow me to confess my sins and still love me, help me to live a life of repentance and keep walking with them towards Christ-likeness.

Romans 8:13 says to “put to death the deeds of the body [and] you will live.” In other words we need to regularly tell the dead guy to stop screwing things up, put him back in the grave, and love like Christ has loved us…not just in word, but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)


Jesus Christ, Johnny Cash, & Why My Daughter’s Eternity Is Secure

Johnny Cash was in my life long before I ever thought about Jesus Christ being in my life. I probably listened to I Walk The Line and Folsom Prison Blues a thousand times before it ever crossed my mind to listen to a sermon from anyone. I was plucking out Cash tunes for years before my Martin guitar ever echoed the sound of a praise chorus. The Lord saved me at 23; He gave me a daughter at 28.

When Grace was born I used to say to people, “If Grace grows up to know Jesus Christ and Johnny Cash I will have succeeded as a father.” Well, by the time she was four she would sit in her car seat behind me and sing Ballad of a Teenage Queen, Guess Things Happen That Way, and even Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down. When she was nine she told me she wanted to follow Jesus and I baptized her in a bathtub in a hotel room in Denver, Colorado. Thank you Jesus, I’m the dad of the century…NOT.

There’s a reason why I like Johnny Cash, it’s not just because I grew up on his music. I actually like him more now, that I’m a Christian, than before. There’s a reason why I still want Grace to know who Johnny Cash is, not just his music, but his life as well. You don’t have to look to deep into Johnny’s life to see that sin was “crouching at [his] door” (Gen. 4:7) regularly and he opened that door and invited sin in continually. Adultery, drugs, alcohol, and that was all before the 60’s. So why would I want my daughter to know Johnny Cash? Why would I seem to put him second to only Jesus Christ? Because Johnny Cash lived a life of recklessness, rebellion…and also redemption. Johnny is a walking contradiction, flesh and spirit, sinner and saint; which he continually admitted through his life. He once told Rolling Stone magazine, “There is a spiritual side to me that goes real deep, but I confess right up front that I’m the biggest sinner of them all.”

The reasons why I would want my daughter to know Jesus Christ, I hope, would be obvious, but the reasons I want her to know Johnny Cash are that I want her to see a real life example of a man that messed up constantly, but loved Jesus and was loved by Jesus. Granted, she has grown up with me, so I’m probably all the example she needs, but I look at Johnny Cash regularly and think, “My God he was a screw up, but he loved Jesus and knew that he needed Jesus desperately.” I continually fall short. I continually do things that even make me think…you’re never gonna make it…you can’t be a Christian. But then I remember, Jesus saves prideful, hard hearted, jerks all the time…He even saved Johnny Cash.

Then I can look over at my daughter and say, “Well, we keep screwing up. Heck, sometimes we don’t even look like Christians, but let’s get up, brush ourselves off, put our eyes on Jesus, and keep on moving, because Jesus saves screw ups…just like Johnny Cash.”

And then I’ll open my Spotify app, scroll down to With His Hot and Blue Guitar and Grace and I will sing along:

Yes, I know when Jesus saved me (saved my soul)
The very moment He forgave me (made me whole)
He took away my heavy burdens
Lord, He gave me peace within (peace within)

Satan can’t make me doubt it (I won’t doubt it)
It’s real and I’m gonna shout it (I’m gonna shout it)
I was there when it happened
And so I guess I ought to know

The Flesh, The Spirit, & A Nasty Little Creature Named Rags

My wife and I once owned a schnauzer named Rags. He was your typical cute little dog that followed us around the house, ate our food if we left it on the coffee table, and had that little yippy bark that made your ears bleed if someone knocked on the front door. We adopted him from some friends of ours that were moving to Hawaii and couldn’t take him. It was either us or the Humane Society…so we took him. My wife loved that dog. She would get him groomed and put bandanas around his neck. He owned a couple sweaters. He never was wanting or without everything a dog could possibly need to be happy and healthy.

Rags was a house dog. He slept on our furniture and sat on our bed and rolled around on our carpet. In the eyes of my wife and our friends he was the poster dog for cute and adorable dogs. Then one day he went outside to do his “business” and when I went out to yell for him…no Rags. So I trudge out in to the cold, “Rags! Come here!….Rags! Come on!” Then I saw him. “RAGS NO!! GET INSIDE NOW!”

Rags, our cute, adorable, house dog was at the edge of our yard, at the edge of the woods, rolling around in a nasty, smelly, rotting….deer carcass. Yep, our cute little dog that got bandanas and perfumes put on him and wore precious little sweaters every now and then was free and out of his mind diving around getting as much wet, putrid, stinky deer funk on him as quickly as he possibly could…then wanted to come in my house and lay on the couch.

You know what? We’re all Rags. God adopts us, brings us into His family, lets us live in His house, gives us everything we could possibly ever need and then whenever we get the chance…we find the first nasty deer carcass we can find and roll around in it…then we want to come back in the house and have Daddy love on us. Romans 7:21-23 says:

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”

Christ died to set us free, that we might live as children of God, yet we continually run back to the world. The Spirit is leading us in the way of Christ and our flesh is pulling back, tempting us to go the way of the world. So where is the hope, for the Rags of the world?

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

The lure of the world is strong, but through faith in Jesus Christ we are free from the law of sin and death. He gives us the ability to serve Him, love Him, and desire Him more than the cheap pleasures of the world. There’s a war going on inside of us, between the flesh and the Spirit, but if we place our hope firmly in the cross and continue to fight, we have already won, in Christ. We still fall, we still fail, we still roll around in a carcass occasionally, but our loving Father “keeps” us (Jude 24) and nothing will separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39)…including the occasional deer funk.

May we strive to walk by the Spirit, not gratifying the flesh.
May we continually look to Jesus, our superior Pleasure.
May we learn to follow.

My Mom, Leftovers, & Why Spotify Reminds Me That I Need Jesus

My mom has not owned a microwave oven in twenty years. She once got an apartment that came with a microwave; she unplugged it and put it in the laundry room. When she cooks, she cooks on the stove or in the oven. If she has leftovers and wants to reheat them she puts them in the oven or in a pot on the stove.

I, on the other hand, have always had a microwave. I love them and don’t really want to know a life without them. Microwave popcorn, microwave desserts, microwave dinners. Have you ever cooked popcorn on the stove? Uh, pain. I don’t want to wait 45 minutes for a baked potato, I want to wait 7 minutes. I don’t want to make and bake a whole cake, I want to put a few ingredients in a mug and microwave it for one minute. Here’s a site if you want to pause for a treat: 13 Easy Microwave Mug Cakes

Then there’s Spotify. In my life Spotify is to music what a microwave is to food. But it’s also a reminder of a desperate desire to feed my appetite for immediate self-gratification. In Galatians 5:19-21 we read a laundry list of sins:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. 

When I look at these sins I see a common thread running through them all: they all feed off of a desire for immediate self-gratification. They all suffer from a lack of patience and an abundance of pride. The same sinful desire that makes a person jealous, or divisive, or impure, or sexually immoral is the same sinful desire that makes me want the entire world of music available to me at the push of a button. I don’t want to buy every CD or song that I might ever care to have I just want every CD or song I can think of available to me now, now, now, now….give me, give me, give me, give me….more, more, more, more.

This is how the Bible says it:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

She saw it, she wanted it, now. God said not to, but it looked so good and they wanted to eat it, they wanted the knowledge, they wanted to be like God, NOW. And every time I search some obscure album that I would never spend my money on, but I’ll listen to it, because I can, I’m reminded that in my heart, I am just like them…I don’t want to save up and buy the album, I want to listen to it now. I don’t want to heat up leftovers for 30 minutes, I want them hot and ready now. I want everything I want and I want it all now.

So what is the answer to my (our) insatiable desire for immediate self-gratification? Paul tells us to, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Gal. 5:16) Why is that? Because the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23) So how do we receive the Spirit?  When we heard the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, and believed in him, we were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. (Eph. 1:13) Have you heard? Have you believed? Yes? If so, then you are sealed and you have received the Holy Spirit and belong to Jesus.

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24-25) for immediate self-gratification, for having everything they want and more, right now. So, make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Rom. 13:14) Bake a potato in the oven, heat some leftovers the old fashion way (on the stove), and listen to a CD, that you bought, at a store, where you spent money, that you earned.

May we put on Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.
May we live by the Spirit and walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
May we learn to follow.