Why my Dad is my hero

A pic of US 35N on my way in to work this morning

This morning I woke up to 4 inches of snow that blanketed frozen rain on the ground. I started the truck first thing and then took a shower and got ready for the day. It was a long drive to work. I planned on taking double the time to make my normal drive here in Dallas. As a Michigan native, I am familiar with these kinds of conditions, yet when I drive here in this city, my fear mainly comes because of other drivers who only see these conditions one or two days a year and try to be a cowboy and brave the elements.

So, there was plently of time to think on the way in. I listened to the radio- mostly- but there were times when my heart raced as a pickup in front of me went sideways, or when I saw an 18 wheeler in the ditch. I kept saying to myself, my goal is to get there safely, not to get there quickly.

(This helped me to be patient as I thought of my wife and kids back at home. 2 of my children currenlty are battling the flu. I know that more than getting to a destination expediently, they eventually need me back home. So I was extra careful on my way in.)

As my tires rumbled over the chunky and icy ground, there were also times when my mind warped back decades in time. I recalled as a kid seeing my dad leave out the door every morning in the winter so that he could provide for us. I remembered one time when he was in a car accident on his way to work. He was driving a car that had recenlty been given to us by a family member. It was a total loss. But God provided another vehicle for us.

I also remember the many times my dad went under our trailer and took a heater, or heat tape or a hair dryer to thaw or water lines in the subzero weather. While I didn’t understand the signifance of that back then, as I look back now, I can have a greater appreciation of the amazing things my dad did to take care of our family.

At one point of time, I would have never thought of calling my dad a hero. As a child I did not understand our poverty. I was often bitter because we couldn’t afford the name brand clothing or food. I despised that we lived on government subsidies. I was humiliated by our living conditions. I was hurt often by the fighting and anger I saw in or home. Those memories will never leave. But they don’t have the same bite that they once had.

I kept driving. My mind kept wandering. My instincts were heightened as that pickup truck in front of me turned sideways. I was far back enough where I could slow down and go around and avoided the vehicle. Moments like these can be defining. I became more eager to make it to my destination safely, looking forward to working hard today and getting back to my family who needs me.

After I got to another point, the vehicles around me disappeared. There was a long stretch of road before I saw another vehicle. My mind went back to where it left off. I remember at an early age how my dad, even though he struggled with anger that I despised, always took care of us spiritually.

We were always in church- Sunday morning and evening and Wednesday. There were times he attempted doing devotions with us as a family. I remember those moments. My most vivid spiritual memory with my father was when he led my brother Tim to Jesus. I too knew that I was a sinner and wanted to be saved. So that day, as a 5 year old boy, I knelt at my bedside with my dad and confessed my sin to my Father in heaven and asked Jesus to come into my heart.

It was the best I knew how then to commit my life to Christ. That moment was a defining moment in my life. It has shaped how I view every aspect of my life. It has kept me from numbing my pain with sexual sins, alcohol, drugs, social life, technology, and whatever other idols I could have made. That decision has helped me to constantly return to Jesus when I have tried to find life in other places. That decision ultimately is what has helped me to forgive my dad and others who have harmed me over the years.

(I can still remember my dad weeping at my bedside, running his fingers through my brown childish hair one night because his heart was torn from the way that he constantly struggled with losing his temper. He hated his sin that he had difficulty controlling.)

As I pressed on toward my destination, I thought about heroes. I certainly did not want to be driving to work so early in the morning, especially as I was up several times last night helping my own son manage his symptoms of the flu, and knowing my wife would be home caring for both he and my oldest daughter who is sick with the same.

But I remembered how my dad was always faithful to do what it took to care for his family. I also thought of all the people who I may be serving today, how God would use me, like he used my own father, to be a light to others. So I kept driving. And I thought about all my dad did for me, and all he has done for others. And it dawned on me like never before what a hero my dad has always been.

Kid’s Marshmallow Test

My pastor did a series on temptation called The Way of Escape. For one of his messages,  “The Carrot, the Stick, and the Ass: The Truth Will Set You Free,” some guys from our church created a video. It was shown on The Today Show last Saturday and went viral on YouTube. I thought you all would enjoy it, so I posted it here:

This Generation: Sex and Seduction

Proverbs 7

Focus: Proverbs 7:4-5: Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call understanding a close relative, so that they may keep you from the adulterous woman, from the loose woman who flatters you with her words.

Last Friday the craziest thing happened to me when I went to get my hair cut. Usually, I go to Supercuts because I can get a Haircutdecent trim for around $15. The line was too long, so I called 411 and found a men’s salon and spa where I was told I could get a cut for $16. I think I can afford an extra buck to save time! 🙂 So when I get there, I am stunned to see all the LCD TV’s glittering the walls with ESPN and CNN. What more does a guy need?

As I sat down and waited, I was about to find out that apparently we men need a whole lot more! The receptionist offered me some water with berries floating on the surface (I was impressed!). Then she took me on a tour of the place and pointed out 2 keggers, a liquor cabinet, the massage rooms and pedicure pools. I said, “I’ll just take the haircut!” I also couldn’t help but notice how gorgeous the stylists were. They all looked like super models! (And let’s just say they were not in their “Sunday Best” dress!!!) I was amazed to see how everyone of them had problems with their clothing shrinking in the dryer!

As I sat down, I had a choice to make. I had to decide who my relatives were. I was looking for my “sister” and another “close relative”: wisdom and understanding. Immediately I knew the strategy of this hair parlor. Their business strategy was sex and seduction! Was I shocked? Not really.

For me, as I think about this situation, it seems to be iconic of the generation today. Sex and seduction are twins that have pranced around flattering people with words for years! Today the speech of sex and seduction is communicated through many media: TV, Internet, radio, magazines, fashion, clothing, perfumes, words, music, bad philosophy and psychology, and the list goes on.

As we are bombarded with sex and seduction, we have to choose how we will respond. In my situation, I actually shared about my faith, family, church, and politics with the beautiful woman who trimmed my hair. Seriously, she was shocked. I wasn’t. She said that no one had ever talked with her before in the salon about those topics. Judging by the combination of alcohol and the business strategy of this parlor, I would assume that most men don’t come there just for the trim. They like the LCD TV’s! RIIIIGHT!

The truth is that sex and seduction are beautiful when they are in their proper place. I prefer these to be coming from my wife. God created sex to be enjoyed in a monogamous relationship in marriage: Just like a fire is made to burn in a pit or fireplace. When sex is taken outside of the place God created for it to be enjoyed, it is inevitable for destruction and pain to follow close behind (just like what happens when fire is taken outside of the fireplace).

If there is one thing this generation needs as it experiences and enjoys sex, it is close family relationships with wisdom and understanding. Discernment will go a long way in helping us to stay away from the pain of the seductive woman, and it will lead us to the true pleasures that are found when we enjoy God’s gifts through the means he intended.

By the way….that hair cut…it actually costed $60 +$12 tip, not $16!!!! Ahhhh! I had heard the receptionist wrong! Can you believe there are knobheads who pay that much for a hair cut?!!!

Injustice

Brothel Rescue

Brothel Rescue

Psalm 71

Focus: 71:15 I will tell about your justice, and all day long proclaim your salvation, 22 though I cannot fathom its full extent. 23

This last week, my church hosted guest Gary Haugen from International Justice Mission. This was truly one of the most moving experiences I have had in recent years. Through Gary’s humble message, I was challenged spiritually in a way that I have never been before. For the first time, I was confronted with the problem of God’s justice. It also reminded me of the problem of evil. Where is God in the midst of young children in India where they are forced into the slavery of sex brothels? Or people who are beaten ruthlessly to the point of death by those who are supposed to be their protectors? Or when a hundreds of thousands were being destroyed by genocide in places like Rwanda?

These are certainly tough questions, but the main takaway that I had is that God is a God of justice. God hates injustice and one day he will bring justice and accountability for all the evil that exists. Psalm 71:15 was a sweet reminder to me that God is a just God. In Micah 6:8 it tells us what God requires of people. The first requirement: to do justly. When Haugen shared, I had an epiphany. In God’s plan for justice, His people are his agents for accomplishing justice. The reason why so much injustice exists is that God’s people allow it to happen, but they are the very people who are to be the agents of change that brings justice!

I am so thankful to hear about the work of Haugen. The Psalmist records, “I will tell about your justice, and all day long proclaim your salvation, though I cannot fathom its full extent.” Because of ministries like IJM I can confidently affirm the message of the psalmist. God is doing great work freeing those brutally enslaved by evil people. So, while I live in my bubble in life, there is a world of miracles happening every day all across the globe where God is freeing people to know Him. Now the exciting thing is that I know about the tangible ways of being an agent of justice. I will be reading Haugen’s book Good News About Injustice. But more than that, I will be voice for those who are around me struggling with less severe forms of injustice. There are many ways to be involved. What can you do?

Stewardship

Pslam 67

Focus: 67:1-2, “May God show us his favor and bless us! May he smile on us! (Selah) Then those living on earth will know what you are like; all nations will know how you deliver your people.

There is nothing like coming terms with the idea that I own nothing. Nothing is mine. Mine, mine, mine, it’s ALLLL not mine! When the democrats were campaining, they were all very intentional about coming to Texas. Why? Because there is an abundance of wealth here! This is one of the first things my wife and I noticed when we first moved to Dallas. Keeping up with the Jones’ is an epidemic in this ocean of wealth. But I suspect that in the midst of the materialism that grips people here, the Biblical concept of stewardship is foreign.

I am certainly not against wealth. I am against the notion that wealth is ours. Biblically speaking, God owns it all. One of the prayers in this beautiful Psalm is for God to show His favor and to bless his people. I don’t believe there is necessarily any spiritualizing necessary to properly interpret this request. The prayer is for an abundance of wealth to be poured out on God’s people, but blessing would also include health, relational, spiritual, and more. This prayer is for God’s people to be blessed in every way! This is a wonderful prayer. But often people read this Psalm and stop at verse 1. This is a mistake!

The prayer is for God to bless His people so that those on earth will know what God is like. That is, everything we are blessed with is a means to make God famous- NOT for our own glorification! God does not smile on us to make our name great! Rather, everything we have is a tool to direct people’s attention to Him. We should all be careful to examine how we are managing our wealth. Biblical stewardship is simply recognizing that we don’t own anything and that we will be held accountable for how we manage the resources God has entrusted to us.

When we examine our wealth, can we see a pattern of self-glorification and pride because of what we have? Have we taken opportunities to share with others about the Giver of our resources? And finally, what are we doing with the resources we have been given?

When God smiles on His people, it is so that people from the outside of His community will be able to look inside and ask, “How can I serve a God who blesses his people like that?”

Did God Forget?

2/16/2009 5:00pm

Exodus 1-5

Pericope: Exodus 2:23-25.

My wife and I attend Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Tx. A few months ago, our pastors returned from Congo, Africa, the most impoverished area on the globe. We have a justice ministry in different regions of Congo and in other parts of Africa which fight for the rights of the underserved- orphans, widows and impoverished. Our church helps bring food aid and other supplies, but what was amazing from this trip is the people’s response when they knew there was a Church thousands of miles away who was praying for them and loves them. Tears of joy were shed because they knew they were remembered.

One of the most devastating circumstances in life is hopelessness. There are several reasons why one would feel hopeless. Unrelenting stress at a job, poverty, victimization, and general aimlessness are just a few. In Exodus, the story begins with God’s people lost in the misery of slavery. The text shows how God is protecting his people, yet they are enslaved. God is making them multiply, yet only to be whipped. Israel was in slavery for over 400 years! What happened to God? Did God forget?

On face value, it seems that God does not care about his people. But the writer of Exodus (probably Moses) records, “God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob…” As the writer looks back in history, he attributes whatever happens next to God. God remembered not only his people, but the covenants he had established. In other words, there was never a time when God fell asleep and was AWOL. The writer is acknowledging that God knew his covenants and was sovereignly working not only to deliver his people, but to be faithful to the covenant. As the rest of Exodus unpacks, we will see that is exactly what happens!

Some of us may be in a bind. Sometimes we know God asks us to do something or has put us in a circumstance. Yet, we are caught up in a bind that we cannot be free of. It is in these moments we must remember that God is faithful! He never leaves us hanging. He is always knowledgeable, able and active in history. No one’s situation is unique. God was faithful to deliver his people in a mighty way. Ultimately he brought redemption to a people who were undeserving. We can look back on God’s past work and find hope for our present situation. God did not forget. God has not forgotten you!

Strong God

Genesis 33-36

Pericope: Genesis 35:9-11

My wife and I serve in an upscale apartment community downtown Dallas. Recently, we were awakened by a series of gunshots. It was followed by a second series of shots and a scream. Minutes later, we could hear sirens in the distance growing louder- apparently they were heading to the crime scene. The next morning, I tried to do some research on the internet to find out what happened. I never found out, but what I did discover was the fact that this city, like most others, is daily rattled with crime. Thoughts of packing up and moving to a suburb crossed our minds, but even then we know we would not escape such evil.

This whole world is inundated with evil. All around us we see and hear the effects of wickedness. And we must ask ourselves, where is God in all this? Where is God? Why doesn’t he do something about it?

Thoughts like these crossed my mind as I read through the passage when Jacob moves back to Canaan. His daughter Dinah goes out to meet new friends and ends up getting raped by this guy named Shechem. What’s worse is that Jacob (The great pillar of faith!) does nothing and even gives permission for Shechem to take Dinah to be his wife! Jacob was more concerned about being a good guest in this new land than living by the ways of the Lord. The waters become murkier when Jacob’s sons take justice in their own hands. Jacob then has to live in fear of the surrounding villages avenging the deaths of the family of Schechem. What a mess! Where was God in all this?

Genesis 35:9-11 gives the answer. God in effect says, “I am El Shaddai” I am the sovereign God. I am the Strong God. God delivers Jacob from the surrounding villages. The writer of this passage reports that they were afraid of the God of Jacob. Jacob was instructed to get rid of foreign gods and to go to Bethel. Bethel is the place where Jacob had previously made a covenant to worship Yahweh as the one true God.

In the midst of the weakness and ineffectiveness of Jacob, God was establishing Himself as the one true God, the God of Abraham, then Isaac, and now Jacob. This story is not about Jacob, but about God. Jacob had foreign gods, sources where he went for strength, sources which were ineffective. But God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, which means “God fights.” God was fighting on behalf of Jacob the whole time, not just in bringing justice on behalf of Dinah, but to bring Jacob to a knowledge of Him so that God could establish His covenant through the line of Jacob. This covenant is one which God, through Jesus Christ, would bring life and liberty to all men who would also rid themselves of foreign gods.

If you get discouraged because of the wickedness and injustice, and if you wonder where God is, you can be confident that God is fighting as a Strong God to bring you into community with Him through Christ. One day all evil will be destroyed. Justice will be delivered to propagators of evil and mercy extended to those who live for Christ. Our concern should not be about figuring about what God is doing in the midst of wickedness, but rather are we aligning our life away from “foreign gods”, impotent objects and belief systems which bring no security at all in the midst of such evil? Are we aligning our hearts toward El Shaddai who has effectively proven himself over and over again in Christ and will one day restore goodness and destroy all evil?

Unfailing Love

1/26/2008 1:00pm

Genesis 22-27

Recently I was flying back to Dallas after driving up to Denver. The woman who sat next to me on the plane shared that she had spent the weekend together with her boyfriend skiing. From the conversation, she gave me the impression that her relationship with her boyfriend was much more than platonic- i.e. physically intimate. I was not at all surprised since physical intimacy before marriage seems to be the norm for our culture today. After she finished, I was able to share the blessing of having a wonderful wife and a beautiful baby boy. My wife and I have been married for 3 years. There have been times when it has been difficult, but the hard work has been worth it all. There is nothing more freeing and satisfying than sharing a commitment that is mutual.

This morning as I read through Genesis 22-27, I became grateful for the security that I have in the love of Christ. Because of his love, I enjoy both heavenly riches by being in right relationship with the Father, and I enjoy earthly riches by being blessed with a beautiful wife who is faithful to me. The love that God has for us is much richer than our love toward him or even our love toward the one we love most.

When Abraham’s servant was searching for the wife of Isaac, he recognized this faithful love God had toward Abraham. It is called Checed (Kesed) love, or faithful love. This love is not only an endearing love, but much more than that. It is a love that is continually faithful to uphold its commitments. In the case of Abraham, God was firmly committed to the Covenant whereby God would bring redemption and blessing to all mankind.

I am thankful for being in Community with Christ. He is the ultimate fulfillment of Chesed love. God does not want us to spin isolated in the fleeting pleasures of one night stands, cheap sex, or pornography. They all seem intoxicating at the moment, but such moments are quickly fleeting and leave one feeling unsatisfied. Instead, God is delivering us from a world of hurts, habits, and hangups that are less than a cheap imitation of love. Love without commitment is dangerous and hurtful- it really is no love at all. True love is committed. If your life is caught up in isolation and uncertainty, and you are looking for a way out, that way has been provided through the unfailing love of Christ.