Tag Archives: Jesus

The Rub of the Christian Cliche’


I’ve been involved in church since I was 5 years old.  I “got saved” in VBS by “asking Jesus into my heart”.  I acknowledged “Jesus is Lord” and “repented” of “sins.”  I didn’t fully understand all of those phrases I spoken to me at that time.  I did fully believe there was a God, Jesus was his son and I could go to heaven when I died.

It wasn’t until I was in the 5th grade when my family actually began “attending” a “church” on Sundays.  Since then I have been actively involved in different churches.  I have been in various degrees of leadership including being a Youth Pastor for the last 15 years.  I fully believe that God created heaven and earth and that he sent his son Jesus to save the world.  I believe in the Bible and what it says.  I have tested and experienced God first hand in my life in a variety of ways.  I still come back to the conclusion that what God says and has happened he is real, alive and still at work today.

Through all the churches I have attended I noticed that the same phrases have been used over and over.   We who are believers speak a different language and use phrases (those above I put in quotations) and say things those who don’t go to church or haven’t experienced church have no clue as to what we are saying.  The following is a list of words or phrases I put together of what I have said as well as continue to hear to this day:

  • Ask Jesus into your heart
  • Amen
  • Authentic
  • Bible-believing
  • Born-again
  • Can I get a witness?
  • Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven
  • Community
  • Creation-Care
  • Doing life together
  • Emergent
  • Feeding on the Word
  • Fellowship
  • God is in control
  • Hate the sin, love the sinner
  • Head of the house
  • Here’s my testimony
  • His pain, your gain!
  • How can I pray for you?
  • If you die tonight do you know where you will go?
  • I’m a child of God
  • Impact
  • In His Grip
  • Intentional
  • Jesus loves you
  • Jesus is my homeboy
  • Jesus Saves
  • Living in sin
  • Live that out
  • Lord willing
  • Missional
  • Post Modern
  • Pray harder
  • Read your bible
  • Relational
  • Redemption
  • Repent
  • Relevant
  • Salt and light
  • Say a blessing over the food
  • Small groups
  • Thank you Jesus/Praise Jesus
  • Transparent
  • We’re in the end times
  • What’s God doing in your life?

There’s a lot more I have heard but this is a pretty comprehensive list.  As I look at this list and think to myself of how many times I have used these, I am actually pretty sad.  By using these words and phrases I have given the appearance I know what I am talking about, I have it all together and that I am in this amazing relationship with God.

I’ve been told, trained and even told others how to have a relationship with God the things you must do.  Pray, pursue him; read the bible, go to church, seek out like-minded believers and you will become Christ-like.   I’ve been taught that true repentance means changing my heart.  To work out my faith with fear and trembling.  As I allow God to work in my life I will be changed and transformed into a man of God.

As I have walked with God, pursued him as well as said these things there are days where none of it seems real or feels right.  To be honest, at 40 years old I feel in some sense that I am a fake, phony and living a lie.  I am not nice every single day of my life.  I am envious and jealous. I struggle with sexual purity and lust.  I have terrible wicked thoughts running through my mind.  I am critical and judgmental about others.  I don’t always see the good in others or the situation.  I jump to conclusions and I tend to be short-tempered and unfair.  I struggle to truly love my wife and at times love my kids more than my wife.  It’s easier to love my kids and want to be around them when they do what I want and aren’t being rebellious.  I want to scream, yell and curse at people who annoy me or tell them off.  I can wear masks and act differently in different settings.  I want to be liked, loved and desired.  I want my ideas and ways acknowledged and have my way be right all the time. There are attitudes and actions I have done since I was a boy that I still do to this day.  I often try to surrender my will to God and give up control but 5 minutes later I take it all back and use my intellect to control my life. There are days I think I will never make it to heaven with all of this.

I bet looking at me you wouldn’t know any of this or even have a clue these thoughts were running through my mind.  Because I call myself and Christian and follow God it is assumed these things should not be a part of my life and that somehow all of this is no longer a part of who I am.  Yes I do believe in God and yes I do believe he is changing me.  I will never have it altogether and I will never be perfect at least not here.  Someday things will be much better and my ultimate hope lies in Jesus coming back and taking me to heaven.

All those words and phrases have impacted me and they have made me realize I need to remove these words and phrases from my vocabulary.  How in the world can I relate to the world and live out what I believe with every part of me if I just can’t be real, honest and talk in a normal way. Being real and honest in the Christian realm often means facing rejection, but what’s worse being real or being rejected?

 

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Sacrificing for Life


Living in the richest country in the world I find it hard to utter the words “I am poor or don’t have much”. Those words used to roll off my tongue growing up in Montana. Growing up was spent living in a trailer, hand-me-downs, Kmart Specials and Goodwill clothes, my parents lived paycheck to paycheck and a lot of time we had no health insurance. I was ashamed of what I came from and being looked down upon by the community only it made it worse.

My parents owned 28 acres of land and while we weren’t a sprawling ranch it was enough to keep us busy year round. My responsibilities growing up included feeding & watering the animals, cleaning out the barn, bucking hay bales, mowing a ½ acre of grass as well as cleaning the house and making meals. While there was time to play, there was a very clear expectation to take care of our chores first before we did anything else. It only took a couple of times of not doing it to learn it was better I did it than getting in trouble.

Living here in Portland I miss those responsibilities I had as a kid. My kids main responsibilities is keeping their rooms clean, doing their homework and a couple other chores around the house. They think they have it rough and don’t want to do what we ask of them. Looking at my life growing up compared to what we have now is so vastly different. My kids have yet to fully understand what it is to have to get up and work hard.

Looking at my life as an adult, I am incredibly thankful. God has blessed me with a large home, 3 vehicles, a large family, friends, church, work and a state I love living in. I live in a city that is wealthy with resources available to folks if you want to take advantage of them. I don’t consider myself poor or disadvantaged. Even in times where I say I don’t have any money left, in all honesty I still have money available. I know where my food is coming for every meal and I have shoes and clothes to choose from. I do not consider myself poor, I am wealthy in many ways.

My wife and I chose to have a large family. We chose to have 4 children, and after having them we chose to have 2 international college age exchange students to come and live with us. We also chose to adopt 2 more children. When purchasing our first home we bought a larger house so we could continue with all of this. We made our children share rooms instead of giving them their own so our exchange students could have rooms to use. In doing all of this – family, friends and folks from church and strangers have felt it necessary to tell us how wrong it was we were doing this. We were crazy, ridiculous, thinking only of ourselves, even polluting the planted by adding more life to it. We’ve had people just look at us like we are crazy or be at a loss for words, even telling us it takes “special people” to do this.

Why do we do this? Are we rich by America’s standards, probably not, we’ve lived on one income most of the time and my job in social work isn’t a place where people go to get rich. We do this because God has blessed us. We have more than we could ever need. We are not hurting for anything, we have an abundance. Life isn’t easy in terms of raising a large family and all the extra we added in. We wanted and chose the life we have. It takes work to make it all flow, establishing boundaries, taking time out and getting away, refreshing and recharging. Communication and scheduling are key to our survival. We looked at all that God has given and realized we still had room to do more. We are making sacrifices to impact this world. We are giving up things in our life so that others can be blessed. Does this make us special or deserving of some award or trophy? Does this mean I am bragging and trying to make myself seem better than others. Absolutely not, that is the last thing I want.

What is has done is to challenge me on just how much am I really willing to sacrifice in this life. I know that Jesus chose to sacrifice his life for others, that was his whole purpose. What more I am I willing to sacrifice and give up so that others can benefit. I’ve told my wife and countless others that 6 kids was my limit. I am willing to continue having exchange students live with us, but I want to be done parenting at some point. This past weekend I was at a conference listening to Coach Tony Dungy speak along with Donald Miller and Todd Scott. They were talking about The Mentoring Project and the 1000 kids in our city who need men involved in their lives. A statement made during the conference was “our life is about serving others” . That really resonated with me. As someone who grew up being incredibly selfish and wanting my way all the time, God has given me new lenses for viewing life. Today those lenses are about serving others. I still have moments of selfishness, but when I stop and think about it, really everything I have, comes from God and I am only using it to help others. None of the “things/stuff” I have will be going with me when I pass from this life. Even when my kids are grown and gone, there will still be kids needing good parents, there will still be kids who need love, attention, affection and that someone is there for them. Am I willing to sacrifice for the rest of my life so these kids can be impacted and changed for good?

I have more to think about in regards to sacrifice. I know that my life is going to be lived giving up of my own selfish needs for the needs of others. How much do we truly sacrifice living in America? To what extent are we willing to give up things so we can help others out? These questions have been running through my mind as of late and I think I have the answer, do you?


Values of Manhood Defined


Growing up I had a father, but he was not around and when he was, he was not interested in me.  Conversations around becoming a man didn’t occur in my home.  The only nugget of wisdom passed onto me was if I wanted a large family I better get a good job to support them.  The concept and ideas of what it meant to be a real man were somewhat foreign to me.  I really had no good male role models; those around me did not discuss it or consistently demonstrated through their actions and words how something I would not describe as being manly.  The small country town, white is right, there is only one-way to do it culture I lived it shoved worldly ideas in my face about being a man and I was repeatedly reminded of how I never measured up.

As I left my family, began establishing who I am as a man and what I was about, I began looking at the world around me, observing the ideas and concepts that most men used to define themselves as men – someone who does it all on his own, has no need for anyone else and lives a life filled with money, cars and women. Many of the men I knew were not living their lives the way I thought it would look like.  I observed men not discussing their thoughts or feelings, used women in unhealthy ways and could only relate to one another through sports or drinking.  None of which appealed to me and it certainly was not how I was going to define myself as a man.

As someone who has been a follower of Jesus since I was 7 years old. I began looking at examples in the church of what it meant to be a man.  I discovered morals preached and rigid guidelines followed. Few men in the church discussed what it meant to be a real man.  Most of the men I saw in church did not want to be there, were unhappy and appeared to be living their lives,  just existing, but never having much passion or desire.  Once again, I found it hard to find what it meant to be a real man.  There are plenty of examples in the Bible of regular men who God has used to do amazing things.  For myself the one person I most admire and look towards in being a man is Jesus.  Granted I am by no means Jesus, but his life and how he lived it demonstrates so many characteristics of what a man can and should do.

When my wife and I got married the first things that actually made me feel like a man was finding out I was going to be a father.  When it was confirmed, something inside of me said, “You’re the man.”  Prior to that, every time I looked in the mirror all I could see was a 16-year-old boy who was lost and had no clue what it meant to be a man.  Finally, I felt like I was joining the ranks of others and becoming an official man.

As I closed out my 30’s and start my 40’s I finally am beginning to feel like I am fully a man.  My journey into this has been a long and difficult one.  It has taken me going from not allowing other guys to be a part of my life to finding amazing men who have spoken volumes into my life.  Evaluating events that have shaped who I am today, seeking out, and understanding God’s purpose in my life.  I can tell you as someone who is a deep processor and thinker; there have been many days where my brain just never turned off.

A few years ago after reading a couple of books and completing some profile tests I took a week and came up with what I believe defines me as a man.  To me a real man means you are honest and true about who you are and where you have come from.  A man is not afraid to share his feelings, admits when he needs help and someone who takes care of his family and not just through monetary means.  It also includes spending time with each person, getting to know who they are and what you can do to build them up and influence their lives. Having other men in your life you can go to and talk with, men who will hold you accountable.

For myself being a real man is defined by my core values:

Knowledgecontinually striving to be better than I am, through various means, which allows my words to be honest and wise, and my actions filled with insight and discernment

Honorliving a loyal life of commitment to God, my wife, kids, family and friends that includes faithfulness, commitment, responsibility and integrity

Fulfillmentliving a courageous life filled with passion that allows me to serve others out of love and devotion

Impact all that I do I do for the legacy I will be leaving behind me

Truth seeking to live a life that stands up for what is right and just and using my voice to silence injustice, evil and wickedness in the world

For whatever reason men still today do not feel the need to talk about this.  It greatly saddens me to see men in church who are walled off, hurting and do not know who they are or what they are about.  Men who have been so wounded and hurt they do not even know which way to turn.  It is for this very reason I write about these things and use the gifts I have been given to try to build relationships with other men.  For me I strive to live an authentic life, which includes being a real man to everyone I meet.  Pouring my life into other men and asking the questions that need to be asked.  In doing this I hope I not only will be the example but it will help other men in their own journey.

What about yourself, what values define you as a person?  How long has it taken you to feel like a fully grown man?  How do you see yourself today?


In search of a Pearls


Today I am very excited.  This is the first time someone has ever done a guest post on my blog.  Today’s post if from Seiji Yamashita.  He and his wife are expecting their first child and currently in the process of purchasing a house.   Please say some prayers for them.

I encourage you to follow him on Twitter @JustaPen and definitely check out his Blog – The Ignition Point – http://justapen.wordpress.com/

 

My favorite line from Star Trek: Generations is early on in the movie before Captain Kirk “dies” for the first time.  He has just found out that his pilot, Hikaru Sulu, had a family and a daughter who was now serving in Starfleet.  For all you non-nerd types out there, let me translate: a career military man had a family.

Kirk is astonished of course and asks “when did he have time?”  Now the smart aleck in me has to try really hard to keep my mouth shut on that one but the script writers put in a very good answer here.  “You told us Captain, that if something is important, you make time for it.”

I like that.  I can handle that.  I can take that and put it into my context and understanding of the world and apply it to my life.  Family is important therefore I make time for it.  Relationships are important so I make time for it.  Career is…reasonably important so I’ll make time for that too.

Lucky for me however, or maybe unlucky depending on your perspective, I don’t model my life after James Tiberius Kirk.  I model my life after Jesus.  And Jesus said something very different.

Matthew 6:33 “First seek the Kingdom of God in all its righteousness.”

Ok, so instead of family and relationships the Kingdom of God comes first and I make time for that. Ok I can still handle that.

Matthew 13:45-46 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls.  When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.”

This one makes me stop.  This is like Elisha burning his plow and sacrificing his oxen to follow Elijah.  This is the moment where the disciples dropped everything without a thought to follow Jesus.  This is what Jesus means when he says “follow me.” He’s saying, forget all that stupid stuff you think is important, because here is the pearl of great price, and it’s worth everything.

Even my dreams, Jesus?

Even my hopes?

John Wimber tells the story of how he first heard this parable and what it meant to him.  Arguably one can say that the Christian must be WILLING to give up everything for the sake of the Kingdom, but what happens on D-day when you have to get out of the boat and leave it all behind you?

Could you do it?

I’m not sure I could.  Jesus has been talking to me, some days more sternly than others, about my dreams and visions and I’m having a really hard time with it.  These are dreams I’ve had since I was a kid and they’re really all I can hold onto when things get tough and I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  On those days when I’m just tired of the people I deal with on a daily basis, when I don’t want to think about the next bill coming in, or someone else putting more demands on my time, I can carve out a couple of hours for me and my dream.

And now I’m supposed to give it up not because I’m supposed to, but because the Kingdom is worth it.

If God asked you to give it up, could you do it?

 


Book Review – Under the Overpass


To begin with let me just say this book was powerful, it was one that reached down deep inside of my heart and grabbed hold of it from the first page. If you want to understand homelessness from a different perspective read this book. As a believer, someone who works with the mentally ill and homeless and live in one of the cities written about in this book, I connected in more ways than expected.

Living in America, most of us, myself included take for granted how well off we are.  Most of us never worry where our next meal will come from, when we can take a shower or what articles of clothing we will wear today.  We know we will sleep safe and sound in our own bed tonight.   Day to-day we go through life passing strangers, mentally ill and homeless individuals, never giving them a second thought.  We see them standing on the corners with their signs, or even coming up to us and asking us for spare change.  Many times I have seen and witnessed people not wanting to be bothered by folks and brush them off. Yet they are human beings, created in the image of Christ and this is our response to them?

In our lives we have so little need for God, we take him for granted and only come running back to him when our lives are falling apart.  What happens when you don’t have any of this any longer? Mike Yankoski heard God speak to him during a church service as he meditated on Philippians 4:11-12 “I have learned what it means to be content in all circumstances, whether with everything or with nothing.” Mike’s thoughts were “What if I stepped out of my comfortable life with nothing but God and put my faith to the test alongside of those who live with nothing every day.”

After praying, planning, wise counsel and a friend to join along in this journey they set out to really experience life in a very different way.  Their trip took them to Denver, Washington, D.C., Portland, San Fransisco, Phoenix and San Diego. Mike and his friend Sam set out on a 5 month journey carrying a pair of boxer shorts, a pair of shorts, a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and a sweatshirt.  Sleeping bag, books, journals and a couple of guitars to aid in panhandling – the bare essentials for this life altering journey.

The journey began May 27th, 2003 and came to it’s conclusion November 2, 2003. The stories they share of their experiences surviving in each city is eye-opening.  How those living off the streets keep up what little dignity they have, survive and yes even live out their own faith in Jesus.  The folks they meet and the stories they shard about their lives which led to them being on the streets is what got me the most.  How members of churches responded to them and their response back to them.  They met and experienced Jesus in different ways and in doing so it challenged them as to how they would live upon returning to normal, if there is such a thing after what they went through.

In reading this book it reminded me of the movie “Into The Wild”.  There is something extremely appealing about casting off the world, (cell phones, cars, luxuries we take for granted daily) and really truly devoting ourselves to dependence on God.  It’s refreshing to me to see men like these two who weren’t afraid to go out and do it.

As I finished out this book moved to tears.  I was reminded of the passage in Deuteronomy 15:11 “There will always be poor people in the land.  Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”  It is true, more so today than I have ever seen or experienced in my life.  It is now estimated there are close to 2 million homeless people living here in America.  That number is shocking.

It made me realize as someone who has been given much, I need to find ways to merge taking care of the poor into my family.  What can we do out of our wealth to help others. I am once again challenged not to ignore them to but really see the person, to do more than just pass them by. This book is one I strongly urge you to read.  In reading the stories presented in this book it should change and shape your future and how you look at homelessness.  The end of the book provides you with some simple ways you can also do your part.

FTC Disclaimer – “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”

You can order a copy from Amazon for as cheap as $4.31 – just click on the link below

http://www.amazon.com/Under-Overpass-Journey-Streets-America/dp/1590524020/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1301366551&sr=8-1


R.A.M. – God First In Everything


I often struggle trying to understand where folks obtain moral guidelines and principles.  As someone who is a follow of Jesus how do they know it’s not ok to cheat, lie or murder. Who tells them it’s not right? Do they get their standards from what society says is right?  I am in no place to judge others, but it’s a question that has always run through my mind and most of the time I don’t have the answers.  It is also why I enjoy talking with other folks in deep conversations and understanding where they come from.  It help give me a better perspective.

Maybe I am the only one who thinks this.  I don’t know, what I do know is the “church” and those who profess to be Christians have deeply wounded and hurt many others who have honestly been seeking to find truth. This has left folks feeling betrayed and hating God, Christians and wanting nothing more to do with the church. Don’t think for a minute as a follower of Jesus that I don’t struggle with those same thoughts.  There have been plenty of times where I have questioned my faith journey.  In my experience as a believer, someone who has served in leadership and been an active member of the church I have been deeply wounded to the point of wanting to walk away from it all and never return.  These aren’t just one time things, they’ve happened more than I ever imagined they would.

I didn’t start attending a church until I was in the 5th grade.  Once I went and started, I really enjoyed it.  The first church I attended was a Lutheran church, services were actually held in the Catholic church because we couldn’t afford our own building.  The building with it’s stained glass, statues and other decorations was beautiful and held my attention every week.  I enjoyed the services and even as an adult going back home to visit I can still recite the liturgy.  I have truly loved going to church and being part of something greater.  Growing up I never realized all that went into having the church work.  It wasn’t until I got into leadership where I saw a different side of it.

The church is made up of sinful humans, who act out of their brokenness.  They say and do things that don’t always match up with the way God intended them too.  Being able to remember the “church” is just a building, while the people who attend it are the body.  For those of us that are sold out believers, we still have sin issues in our life and will until the day we die, however we are purposeful about constantly seeking to follow Jesus and treat those around us how he would have us treat them.

I continually keep coming back to God because my life and all that I have been through shouts out there is a God and he is in charge. Time and time again I have seen God prove himself in my life through grace, peace, wisdom and love. The only way I am the person, husband, father, friend or leader I am today is because of God and his work in my life.

For me I go back to the Bible as the place I use as my moral compass and guide. I have never read the entire Bible from front to back. I tend to focus on the New Testament, Proverbs and Job. Frankly, I find it difficult to read a lot of the Old Testament writings, they never appeal to me. However, I do believe that the Bible is relevant today just as it was when it was written. I don’t doubt for a moment that what God had to say in the beginning doesn’t pertain to me today. I have learned to take the principles of what he was speaking, test them and then work them out in my mind and see how they fit in my life and in the culture in which I live. For me the center and core of my life is designed around God and his word. The morals that guide me as a husband, father and person in general all ties back to what God has called us to be.

Every single day starts of with reading something from the bible and prayer time. I need it. I’ve always needed it, but as I have grown and mature I need it more. I strive to be the example for my children as they are my greatest audience. I take an active role in our church not just as a leader, but as a participant, I go to church on Sunday, meet with other guys weekly and talk openly and honestly about life issues we all face, I pray with other folks and make myself accountable to stay on track. I open myself up feedback all the time to make sure I am getting it right. Through all that I do it allows me to hear God at work in my life and this includes his word and him speaking to me through others.

I believe that real men need a moral compass to guide and direct their lives. Mine happens to be God and the Bible. I can’t imagine what my life would look like without him. I need and want him everyday. I believe for a man to be any good at anything he will need a force greater than himself to guide and direct his path. In my experience I believe men who are authentic choose to get real about who and what they believe and follow. They are proud of these things and allow it to permeate everything about them. These are the real authentic men I know.  Though I may fail daily, I still know it’s the right thing to do and I get back up again and push forward. Jesus is my moral compass.

 


Surrender


Surrender means to give up.  If you’re a convict and you surrender it means you turn yourself into the police.

I have a friend going through SA that I talk to daily and support him as best I can who’s trying to learn this term.  Part of my profession in dealing with folks who are addicts and providing them skills to stop or surrender from what they have done.  Assisting them in getting rid of the unhealthy things and addictions that have taken over their life.  Some of which I am no stranger to.

Part of following Jesus means that I recognize he is in control of my life.  We are meant to surrender our lives to him because in going it on our own we tend to make a huge mess of things.  I also know from many experiences when I allow him to guide and direct me life seems much sweeter.  However, because I deal with control issues this is not an easy thing.  I have my life planned out, I am a creäture of habit and routine so I do the same things week after week.  I guess this is my way of controlling my life so that I don’t have to worry bout unexpected things popping up.  Many times in my life I have said I was surrendering over my will and life to Jesus to take control, that I had messed it up and I couldn’t do it and I needed his guidance and wisdom to take over.  Only to shortly later take back control and go back to doing it my way.

The other night I was on the way home from work and I really was pondering the idea of surrender.  What does it mean to really surrender?  Somehow I have foolishly believed that surrendering means I turn over my will and “wham”, “pow”, “zap” – it’s a done deal, Jesus is now in full control and I am just along for the ride.  It seems so much easier to do than it is.  I began praying,  “Jesus I don’t know what full surrendering is, but please help me figure it out.”

I gave my friend a call today and asked him what surrendering meant to him and how it was working in his life.  He said it’s a moment by moment choice.  There’s nothing magical about it, you recognize your being controlled by something else that is really unhealthy for you and as hard as you try to stop it, you can’t.  This is where you surrender and say “I can’t do this I need you God” comes into play.  It’s extremely difficult and it take a lot of hard work and practice to put it into place.  He told me he has to say it over and over, some days hundreds of times; because that’s the only way it will happen or else he goes back to his old unhealthy ways and habits.

As I thought through our conversations, the concept is clear I just have done a poor job of surrendering.  I don’t have a give up attitude, I keep pressing on.  I am heard headed in that way.  I will freely admit I don’t have my stuff altogether and that I am in need of guidance, wisdom and the power of Jesus to transform my life.  I want and need to surrender and am praying that Jesus will walk me through the process.

Do you feel like you can surrender easily?