When I Was An Atheist

If you have heard or read my testimony, you know that I was professing atheist for a few years in my early 20’s.  I was raised in between two conservative Christian churches, studied and memorized scripture daily and attended church and mass twice per week while I was growing up.  Much of my early experience with God and religion was based on rituals, guilt, obedience without question, religious head knowledge and a list of Does and Dont’s.  In my teens, I started asking skeptical questions about my faith but was often told “I shouldn’t think these things” or simply given looks of disappointment rather than logical answers to my faith struggles. Thus, in my early 20’s, I decided God was man-made, religion was used to control the masses and usurp resources and money using guilt and ultimately walked away from God and my faith.

notdead

Before I continue, please understand that this post is not meant to be an argument or debate on God versus atheism or logic versus faith, or anyone of the other debates that both Christians and Atheists love to spend hours in forums going back and forth on.  This is simply my journey from religion – to atheism – to faith and how atheism ultimately failed to work for me personally.  For those of you looking for hours of debate and discussion or if you are struggling and in need of answers, please visit RZIM, Probe or CARM for hours of answers and debate.

The 5 W’s

Many of  you have heard me quote the poem, The 5 Watches, from time to time over the past eight years of being involved with Lance and this blog.  Lance and I do believe that Character, Integrity, Honor, Courage, Honesty, Gentleness, Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness and Self-Control are important to being a Legacy Dad.  It is important because that is the call of the disciple priorof Christ.

Many of us, do to the the lack of time, over-commitments, laziness and/or fill in your blank: _________________, do not always measure up to these demands and some may even feel overwhelmed by the God’s call for our lives.  I think if we are honest and really reflect back, I would believe that a majority of us would realize the answer:  It’s not because God couldn’t do this for us, rather, because we got in the way – we tried to do it on our own.  That is, to say, that we gave him a little of our day (our schedule, our sin, and our lives) but we didn’t give it all to him.

The poem that I often quote is this:

Watch your thoughts,

for they become words.

Watch your words,

for they become actions.

Watch your actions,

for they become habits.

Watch your habits,

for they become your character.

Watch your character,

for it becomes your destiny.

How about the 5 W’s of the Christian Walk:

  • Who do we worship?  (God or god(s) defined as idols that take our attention from who we should worship:  God
  • What do our lives tell others what our priorities our?
  • Where does our faith belong (where is it currently?  do you have faith in God?)
  • When do we believe God (does he really mean His will be done, His abundant life for us?)
  • Why should we serve God His way and not ours (not when we want, not how we want, but instead reading His word and serving Him the way that He requires in all of our lives)

by faithWhat can we do to change our perspective our religion?  When I say our religion, I am defining it as this:  Our religion is that which is what we only take away from reading the Bible (meaning if there is somethings that convicts us or causes us the desire to repent and we ignore that part).  Our religion being defined as we are allowing ourselves to serve both the world (and our own special interests) and God instead of serving him in all that we do.  Our religion being defined as when it is convenient for to serve Him and others instead of when He wants us to serve.

Pure religion in the eyes of the Father is that which looks after widows and orphans and turns away from the ways of this world.  God’s religion is for us to Trust in the Lord with all of our hearts, to lean not on our own understanding, but to acknowledge Him in all of our ways.  And He will make our paths straight.

What about you?

Blessings,

Dante

 

A Yearning Desire: The Secret to Love and Happiness

Do you remember that “in love” feeling?  Maybe you still feel it every day or maybe it has long since faded but it’s that feeling in your heart and in the pit of your stomach that you cannot be away from the one you love for even one minute.  You spend every waking moment thinking of the person you love, what they are doing and you desperately wait for a call, text or email that sends exhilaration into your heart and puts a smile on your face.

All of us have an intense yearning desire to be loved and nurtured. Research studies show over and over that love is considered one of our most basic and fundamental needs.  Without love in our lives, we have an ever-present longing within our souls and a feeling of emptiness and incompleteness.

Desire

The Hunt for Easter

Apostles’ Creed

passion-of-the-christI believe in God, the Father almighty,

      creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

      and born of the virgin Mary.

      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,

      was crucified, died, and was buried;

      he descended to hell.

      The third day he rose again from the dead.

the-passion-of-the-christ-052      He ascended to heaven

      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.

      From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

      the holy catholic* church,

      the communion of saints,

      the forgiveness of sins,

      the resurrection of the body,

  the empty tomb    and the life everlasting. Amen.

God loves us so much that He gave His only Son for us.  Even though Jesus was both man and God, he faced all the temptations, trials and tribulations that we face every day.  Not only did He face them, He succeeded them and lived a perfect life.  Thus, a perfect sacrifice was made to atone for our sins once and for all.  Our debt (of sin) has been paid.  If we admit that we our sinners (and in need of a Savior) and believe in our hearts that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, lived on this earth 33 years (no historian disputes this) and was crucified and rose again on the third day (we are celebrating His resurrection on Easter Sunday) and confess with our mouths and ask Jesus Christ in our hearts. then you will be saved.

Why is Easter Sunday important to us?  Because He lives.  He is risen.  He now sits at the right hand of God advocating on behalf of us to the Father.

Happy Easter!  He has risen, indeed!!!

Blessings,

Dante & Lance

Why do bad things happen….?

why-do-bad-things-happen-to-good-people-blog-postSo I was sending this work email this morning, after men’s group, and fell upon this video of a woman who has sadly lost her battle (on earth) to cancer.    This video struck me in so many different ways that I do not have enough time in the day to post on this topic.  That being said, I have shared before that I have had malignant melanoma and there was a time when I almost lost my wife (two years in a row).  I understand pain and loss and the fear of death.  Let’s just say that I have spent a lot of time in the book of Job and in prayer during these trials and tribulations.

I have been hurt and I have been angry and I have asked why do these things:

  • Why is there cancer?
  • Why is there evil in the world?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Why is there so much pain?
  • Why do we face trials and tribulations?
  • Why, Lord, Why?

I cannot pretend to sit here and tell you, the readers, why do bad things happen.  Nor will I ever try to explain your life situation to you without walking through it with you, without being in the trenches with you and/or sharing life with you.  Here is the video that struck me today:

Two of the most hardest things that I had to endure in my life were:

1)  When I received a phone call from the doctor that said I had malignant melanoma.  I just about dropped the phone on the floor of the vehicle and thought to myself, why God?  My wife and I had our son, who at the time was 10 months old and my wife was pregnant with our 2nd child while this was happening.  The concern from the doctor was my age and the fact that I had malignant cancer at my age.  By the grace of God, my cancer was detected early and I have been cancer free now for over 9 years

2) When our three kids were 1, 3 and 4 years of age, my wife almost went into renal failure and was losing muscle tissue daily.  The doctors knew the effect, but to this day we still do not know the cause.  We went to a top tier hospital the second year of the two years that this happened and even they could not diagnose the cause.  We did learn to be cautious around fevers and so on, but to this day she has been healthy since those days.  The first year that this happened, my wife was in the hospital for 6 days.  That was the most sobering and scariest time in my life.  I wrestled, I prayed and I argued with God (all through this process he was patient and kind and waited for me to trust, obey and surrender to his will).  The idea that I was going to be a widower with three kids 5 and under was almost too much for my soul to bear.  This too passed and God is faithful!

What have I learned through these two heart-wrenching trials (tribulation) was to trust God no matter what.  The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, BUT Blessed be His name.  He is faithful and just and he does have plans for each and everyone of our lives.

I hate evil.  I hate cancer.  I hate what is contrary to the will of God.

I love God, I love the Son and I love the Holy Spirit.  I love those who even persecute me!  Is it hard to forgive and forget (at times)?  Yes, of course, I am human and broken and sinful.  Is it possible to love who God calls us to love?  Through His Spirit and trusting His will – it is!

I believe that God gives each and everyone of us a story for us to go unto the world and tell the good news.  Does He promise us peace and tranquility throughout this journey?  Of course not!  Does he promise us an abundant life through Him?  Yes He does!

For the joy of the Lord is our strength!

Where is your joy?  In good season, in trial and through tribulation?

To God be the glory forever and ever, Amen!

Blessings,

Dante

 

Who is on the throne in your life?

Yesterday, my wife and I went to a coffee shop and listened to a hot topic.  Without naming the theme of the hot topic, I have to say that I was not surprised by the turnout and the questions from the audience during Q&A time.  As this topic can divide churches, in how they handle the broken, it amazes me how people can confidently speak for God and his thoughts on this topic.  For that matter, even on other matters as well.  When I think on these things, I am reminded of Romans 9 in which, Paul, states to us, how can the clay question the potter?

approaching-the-throne-of-godAs I left this great presentation last night, I was very pleased with the rawness of the speaker and his story and daily struggles.  I really enjoyed his authenticity and how he was not afraid to dig in deep and peel the apple to the core regarding his life story.  His story is an evolving story and one that is truly being worked out daily in God’s grace and mercy.

When he got done speaking, he opened the room up to comments and questions and there was one in particular who had a child in this sin and made the assumption that regardless of whether or not the child is in sin, that they WILL be in heaven when they die.  That is such a loaded statement that when I heard it, it was like nails on a chalkboard to me.

Let me qualify this statement before you jump down my proverbial throat on this.  First of all, I do believe that those of us who are called by God to be saved will be saved.  And Jesus tells the religious leaders of his time, that once we are in God’s hands, no one can take us away from Him.  John 10:25-30.  That being said, Genesis through Revelations gives us clear pathway for working out our salvation with fear and trembling.  Jesus even said, that some will come to him and say, “Lord, Lord” and he will say to them, “Depart from me, for I never knew you.

grace and truthWhen there is a true conversion, not just a confession of the mouth, but a full conversion, then we are promised the Holy Spirit, who will intercede for us (even when we do not know what to pray or say).  That being said, I believe that when Jesus died for us and rose again, the sins of our past, present and future are forgiven.  We are covered by His blood.  All Jesus wants from us is:  Everything.  He wants us all to himself.  He calls us to be holy, to be priests, we are all referred to as saints.  Our lives will bear His fruit.

Therefore, because of this, I have a really hard time believing that someone, which all of us sin everyday, can continue to live in that particular sin without repentance or remorse and then to be told that if they continue to live this way that they will be in Heaven.  I am not speaking for God, nor will I ever try to.

I will ask these questions though:

  • If we live in sin without remorse and/or repentance, then why do we need the Gospel?
  • Why are we called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling?
  • Why does God call us to be Holy?
  • Why are we called to put sin in our lives to death daily?
  • How can we serve sin and God?
  • If we can continue to live in sin, sin and do nothing but sin over and over without repentance and still go to heaven, then why do we need Jesus and who needs to read the Bible?

For my follow-up on this email, please read 2nd Timothy 4.

 

Thoughts?

 

What is good about good habits?

Phrases like “creatures of habit”, “practice makes perfect”, and so on, should continue to highlight the theme in our daily walks and biblical discipleship.  All throughout the Bible we read about a God who takes the time to invest in ordinary men and does extraordinary things with them.  Does He need us to do his will?  Of course not!  Does He desire to use us for His good?  Of course!  Words like grace and mercy and justification and honor and integrity and courage should all be words that describe you as a legacy dad, as a man of God, as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

There is a poem that I like from Frank Outlaw that goes like this:

“Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

HabitLoopAdaptationIf accept this poem as true in human nature, then we have to be careful and watch our habits because that could shape our character.  That being said, I was surfing the internet and found this chart (inset to the right) that I really liked.  The reason why I like this is because you can apply it to just about every aspect of our life:

Physical:

  • Eat Healthy
  • Sleep Healthy
  • excercise
  • Laugh
  • Love
  • and be social (God desires us to be in community)

Mental:

  • Exercise the Brain by reading and writing
  • Healthy Sleep
  • Have accountability in your life (to keep you on the road of healthy thoughts)
  • Avoid sin
  • Laugh

Spiritual:

  • Read the word daily
  • Pray continuously
  • Have accountability in your life (true accountability – not just a social hour of patting each other on the back)
  • Listen to preaching and teaching of the Word
  • Sing Songs, Hymns and Spiritual songs (with reckless abandon and act is no one else is watching but our Lord)

As a men’s ministry leader, elder, legacy dad and husband and father, I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I witness men getting out of healthy habits (routines) and how they are able to slip back into sin so quickly.  Or other men, who shoot up so strong in their faith and yet fade away when temptations or anger sets in.  Or men that have marriages that are barely holding on and instead of letting go and letting God they hold on tight to mediocrity?  Honestly, sometimes this can be frustrating, and if I am really honest about this, then the frustrating part becomes when I realize that the very thing that annoys me about them – really annoys me because I can identify with that – meaning I can shift and fade quickly as well.

Jesus put it like this in Scripture:

Matthew 13 English Standard Version (ESV)

The Parable of the Sower

13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears,[a] let him hear.”

The Parable of the Sower Explained

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.[b] 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Some may come to the Judgement Seat of Christ and say, “Lord, Lord” and Jesus will reply depart from me, I never knew you.  Scripture is clear that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  Don’t misunderstand this reference because someone who is truly saved (born again) is always saved (Once saved, always saved – Read John for this one).   Immediately upon salvation, the Holy Spirit dwells within each of us and promises to us gifts of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness and Self-Control….

We are called to examine ourselves to see if we are still in the faith?  Or if we ever were?  Are you?  Is your life-bearing the Fruit of the Spirit?

What if you are not?  What if you are in the same rut, sin, shame every day?    If you are not and all you see is the fruit of the Sinful nature, then pray and ask God to call you to be His (Read Romans 10).

If you are, but are slipping backward or finding yourself along the thorns of life, the rocks of life and or just away from the good soil, then try this on for size:

Cue:

  • Wake up an hour earlier
  • Wait on the Lord
  • Be patient and quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry

Routine:

  • Read the Bible daily
  • Meditate on the word
  • Join a men’s group
  • Have accountability in your life
  • Get involved with your family (put the phones, computers, video games and alcohol down)
  • Start serving at your church

Reward:

  • Try this for 6 months (same cue, same routine) and email me (dante@legacydad.com) to tell me your reward.

Blessings,

Dante

 

 

 

What should the top 6 + 1 priorities be?

Earlier last week, I posted What are your top 6 priorities?  I listed, in any order:  Family, community, work, church, friends and God.  One other person, that I respect, amended this list and added Self.  I asked you to do some honest work on assessing this in your life with your spouse and yourself and what you thought that the Bible would say about this list.

priorAs a result, I am listing the following order of what I believe the Bible tells us that our priorities should be:

  1. God – Jesus said, when asked by the leaders of Israels time, what is the greatest commandment, Jesus said to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength (and the second, to love our neigbhor as our self.)
  2. Self – some may argue with this one, but I would like to contend the following verses:  1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 3 John 1:2, Romans 12:1-2, 1 Peter 5:7-9.  Our bodies are a temple to God (His Holy Spirit resides in each of us that are born again).  How can we help others when we are not well?  How can we show Christ in us, when we do not treat our bodies, mind and soul with this respect that God calls us to be.
  3. Family – as legacy dads we are called to be prophets, priests and kings of our household.  Ephesians 5 tells us to love our wives as Christ loves the church.  Colossians 3 gives us important details about the family:  Love our wives and do not be harsh with them, do not embitter our children.  Deuteronomy 6 tells of how we are to raise our children.  Family is our direct mission field.
  4. Friends – we are to love our neighbor as our self.  Who is your neighbor and why are we called to take care of our friends?  Our life should model Christ and point our friends to church.
  5. Church – can really be included under friends.  In church, we are called to corporate worship and to listen to the reading of scripture.  We are called be the body (working together) to go and reach the disconnected growing the connected and making disciples.
  6. Work – King Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes, tells us that life is but a mist.  We are to work hard, enjoy life and to give all that we have to our maker.  Without him in our life – it is pointless.  Colossians 4 tells us how to approach work and to realize who we are working for.
  7. Community – lining up #1 – #6 gives us the importance of our mission field in our neighborhoods, towns, cities, states and nations.  Mathew 28 gives us the Lord’s commission – The Great Commission.

humilityThis is my two sense (cents).

Blessings,

Dante