Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Yesterday evening I read these words on a friend's Facebook status: "Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12)

We are all subject to temptation. It comes at us every day. It comes to us as a cheeseburger, fries, and a coke. It comes as the big office in the corner. It comes as the office flirt who stops by too many times to say, "hi." It comes as the house that the realtor says, "Yeah, you can afford it." It comes as a cheat sheet on a final exam. It comes as another hour of TV. Temptations are never the same for every person because as James says, "One is tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when fully grown, gives birth to death." (James 1:14-15)

I know this reality all too well. I gave into my temptations. I let them grow within me and gave into that which did not produce life, but rather death. I did not endure temptation. It almost destroyed me, it almost destroyed my marriage, it almost destroyed much of what I really love. My temptation had grown into sin and sin was giving birth to death. I even could justify my actions to myself biblically using St. Paul's words, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." (Romans 7:15) I did exactly what many people do and pull the one verse as my justification and did not take the full lesson. He continues, "Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me." (Romans 7:20) Again, I find that I was being consumed by my temptations, my desire, my own sin.

For those of you playing along at home, we Christians are in the middle of Holy Week. This is the time where we remember and celebrate Jesus' last days before his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. I am here because I participate in Christ's death as a sinner. I was not strong enough to resist temptation and sin on my own. He died because I was not enough on my own. Under my own strength, I simple find death. Paul found himself in the same position and said, "Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25) It is Christ who rescues me from this body of death. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the many saints in our daily lives, who help fulfill the prayer, "deliver us not into temptation."

Every day, as I find myself again giving myself to the will of God and the strength of the Holy Spirit, I find myself being recreated and resurrected in and with Jesus. Yes, temptations still abound. Yes, I am still weak. Yes, I cannot make it on my own. Yes, this change still scares me (see last week's blog). But not changing, not growing, not finding life abundant, that would only mean death.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My Change

The human motto is "We fear change!" Even the most go-with-the-flow people want and need a certain amount of consistency and security in their lives. Watch a group of people who meet together regularly. They will sit in more or less the same seats. Change the chairs, or sit in a totally different part of the room and the whole group functions differently. Someone may even say, "You are sitting in MY seat." We really do fear change.

Change is relative however. The more distant the change, the less dramatic it seems. It can also depend on how much it plays with our sense of security and reality. If the change somehow makes us feel vulnerable, it will, no matter how small the change really is, feel like a big shift in our existence.

Make the change personal, and it is even harder. My family watches The Biggest Loser almost religiously. The contestants often breakdown emotionally as much as physically. It is because as they deal with their weight, they are making a huge change. Physically, they are loosing weight and getting fit. As they put away old coping mechanism (in this case food) and habits, the emotional and psycological issues begin to move to the fore. Add to all of this some exhaustion and emotionally these people can almost spin out of control.

Over the last the last 7 months, I have been working on changing who I am so that I can be the person I am called to be. This has meant stepping out of ministry so I can be better husband to Tammy and a better father to my boys. But over the last month or so, I have decided to deal more directly with the issues that haunt me. This change, this admitting to myself that I need to change, is difficult. It is not easy nor is it fun. In fact, it makes me feel less the person. It hurts. It sucks. It scares me.

I know that I cannot change myself. I must take a step and rely on the grace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit to hold me as together we take the next step. I am blessed that Tammy continues to hold my hand and walk with me on this journey. I do not know exactly where it will end, nor what God has in store for my future. I do know, yes I believe, that as hard and scary as this change might be, this will be a change for the better. So, today, even as I look into a future I cannot see, as long as God is sovereign and merciful, I can say with confidence, "I will NOT fear this change!"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Today, I read an article that really bothers me. See if you want to read the article.

Not so surprisingly, a group of people (the Sons of Confederate Veterans) have once again become fired up over someone calling the Confederate Flag a symbol of racism. They are planning on demonstrating in Granbury, Texas. Do we really think that flying the Confederate flag is all about heritage? Somehow, I think race may have much more to do with this fight than many want to admit publicly. But assuming it is all about heritage, is it a heritage we want to honor? I mean we are not even arguing over the National Flag of the Confederate States of America. We are arguing over a battle flag that has gained popularity on and off over the years, often in circles that flew the flag as a symbol of white supremacy.

Would we be OK with people deciding to fly a red flag bearing a white circle with a black swastika? Of course not. The pain of such an symbol is too great. So it is with this flag. All it does is perpetuate the pain, the hate, the ugliness of an era that we hoped had past in days gone by. Too many people have used the Confederate Flag as a symbol of terrorism for it to be seen without conjuring up feelings of shame, hate, and pain.

And I am not some Yankee come around lately. I am Texas born of a family that fought for the Confederate States. I had family members who fought under the Nazi party in Germany as well. We have to remember the past, in the good and the bad, if we truly hope to move to something better in the future. More importantly, we need to move to a future where we learn to work with our neighbors, to be proud but not arrogant, to be a people who incite peace not violence or anger.

Christ never said, "Blessed are those who hold on to their heritage blindly." Christ said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." This is not a question of heritage, this is a question of righteousness.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


This weekend I saw a few guys in very vulnerable places. One was a guy on the side of the road at 6:45 in the morning. I would come to learn he was drunk. One guy, who I know, was lost in his thoughts at the coffee shop at about 9:30 the same morning. Both of these guys were obviously in vulnerable places and lost in one way or another.

As I reflected on these two men, I realized we are all more vulnerable than we want to admit. What I realized as I thought about that morning was that God uses vulnerable people to be real to other vulnerable people. Currently, I am still working through some of the vulnerable places in my own life. I still am working to make a marriage better and stronger. I am still trying to discern where God is leading me in terms of ministry and the future.

Why do we fear vulnerability? We have learned not to stop for the guy on the side of the road, because he MIGHT be a bad person. We cannot afford to be that vulnerable. We have learned not to get involved with the person who has that blank stare on their face, for helping them might take too long. Again we do not want to be that vulnerable. More so, I think we are all a bit afraid and know we are closer to that level of vulnerability than we want to admit. We are one bad night from being drunk on the side of the road. We are one bad day from being lost at the coffee shop. We are one step away from feeling helpless.

The truth of the matter is we are not totally vulnerable. This is not because we are strong, but because God is merciful. God is holding us in the palm of that mighty hand. God is tending to us even in the midst of lose and tragedy. Our hope is not that we will never be vulnerable. Our hope is that God will never leave us broken and alone.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Fear is an emotion all of us experience from time to time in our lives. Often it is a reasonable or semi-reasonable response of protection. My wife is afraid of snakes, period. I am a hunter, and I am afraid of the business end of a rifle. Both of those fears come from the knowledge of what can happen if a snake bites you or a rifle is discharged (intentionally or unintentionally). Many more fears are based on things that are not reasonable. There is not reason to be afraid of Friday the 13th for example, and still it is a fairly common thing. Fear of open spaces or closed spaces are not reasonable. I know of a little girl that has a diagnosed fear of rain to the point that she cannot go to school if it is raining.

The fears that really control most of us are not the phobias we might have. It is a more guttural fear. We are afraid of what others might think, of how the scenario plays out, of "what if they don't like me." These fears steal from us. Well, I know they steal from me. It is this fear that keeps us from trying the new thing, from taking the steps forward, from being all that God calls us to be.

We even fear our past, that it will come up one day and grab us by the shoestrings and drag us down. But we all have a past. None of us can say we are 100% proud of everything we have done. Tammy had a boss who would say, "It is fine to make a mistake everyday, but let it be a new mistake each day." What he was trying to say was, "Learn from the past and your mistakes so you can do better tomorrow."

But why do we really fear? We cannot control the future. We cannot change the past. The future lies in the hands of God, who will be merciful with us in all things. The past is forgiven, because God loves us through our mistakes, our mishaps, and our sins. Jesus' first words to his disciples after the resurrection were, "Peace be with you." (John 20:19) Peace is the opposite of fear.

What do you fear? Do you trust God enough to not be afraid?