Consider the Person

iam“Consider The Person”, from Pope Francis, “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. ”

Before I expound on this post, I wanted to share my struggles as a husband, father and legacy dad – First of all, I am a sinner saved by grace.  Secondly, I sin almost every day and on the days that I don’t sin, I sin even more because of my pride.  There is none righteous no not one.  Therefore, what hope do I have in salvation between the outcome of heaven and hell?

Whether you believe Him or deny Him, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No man (woman or child) comes to the father but by me.”  This may be a very hard statement by an awful lot of people but don’t miss the message – Jesus was born of a virgin, was on this earth for 33 years, performed many miracles (thus fulfilling all prophecies about the Messiah), was crucified, in 3 days rose again and now He sits at the right hand of God the Father.

The Law of Moses, better said, the Ten Commandments was put on this earth not to condemn God’s chosen, rather, to condemn those who do not know His Son – Jesus Christ.  The list goes like this


Commandment #            Old Testament                                  New Testament (Jesus re-clarifies)

1st Commandment          No other Gods before God         Love the Lord your God with all your heart,  mind, body, soul and strength

2nd Commandment         No images (no idolatry)                 keep yourselves from idols (what’s before God)

3rd Commandment          Do not take God’s name in vain do not blaspheme God, His Son or His Spirit

4th Commandment          Keep God’s day holy                      The Sabbath is between you and the Lord

5th Commandment          Honor Mom & Dad                          Honor your parents with respect and joy

6th Commandment          You shall not murder                      if you even hate your brother – you murder

7th Commandment          You shall not commit adultery    if you even lust – you commit adultery

8th Commandment          you shall not steal                            don’t even think about stealing

9th Commandment          you shall not bear false witness do not lie about your brother or sister

10th Commandment        You shall not covet                          the word reveals this often

I have to apologize about the term, Christian, for many wear that badge of honor but truly not many know the cost of being a disciple.  If you truly define yourself as Christian then the world really should see Jesus and not our sinful self – and our diluted version.  Because if we are really honest so many Christians let ignorance (not knowing the Truth) stand in their way of the transformation of the Gospel.  That is, simply said, that

I have issue with the following situations:

  • How can a church that says it is redeemed and saved only by the blood of Jesus Christ turn others away when they (those other sinners) do things that are on the outside of our own very transgressions (meaning the sin that we tolerate versus the sin that God hates?).
  • How can we say that sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, magic, jealousy, anger, rivalries dissensions and divisions, drunkenness and the like are tolerable, but homosexuality in our midst is outrageous? Or you pick your un-tolerated sin?
  • How can we judge others by the very standards that we refuse to judge ourselves? (You know, the proverbial log in our own eye?)
  • Why do we just isolate homosexuality as the unforgivable sin and not any form of sexual immorality (sexual sin).

Before you condemn me on some of my views just stated, I want you to know that I am a leader in my church (an Elder), I love our church and the pastors that preach and the worship directors who praise and the people who serve and the communities that we impact.  Our mission statement is a biblical mandate:  Reach the disconnected and grow the connected – I am overjoyed to serve in a church that stands on biblical principles and loves people as the Lord loves us.

I will be the first to admit that I do not believe or align myself with the Pope or other religions as I am a Christian who believes in my only hope to reach heaven is through God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus did not come to replace the law, but to complete it- without Jesus the law condemns everyone.  Let me repeat that, without Jesus any transgression of the laws damns us to a hell that was intended for the devil and the fallen angels.

What the Pope challenged us on was to consider the person and not the sin.  That statement resonates with me for many reasons:

  • We are all sinners
  • No one is perfect
  • Even on our best day we fall short of the holiness of God
  • God is holy, holy and holy
  • We are not holy
  • Our sin separates us from Heaven without a blood sacrifice

There are two adages that I like to model my life by and three if we count Lance’s Esse quam videri:

1)       People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel – Maya Angelou

2)      “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.” – Frank Outlaw

3)      Esse quam videri means to be rather than to seem

If truly want to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ then you will take up the following daily:

  • Die to self, Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
  • Renew your mind, Romans 12:1-2, 12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] 2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
  • Put on love, Colossians 3 English Standard Version (ESV) put on the New Self 3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your [a] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[b] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.[c] 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self[d] with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave,[e] free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

When you take these steps and truly realize that we are all in need for a Savior (who is none other than Jesus Christ) then we have a hope in God that no on (repeat over and over and over – “NO ONE” can take us away from the Father’s Love) then we are truly his disciples.

itisfinishedWhen the world looks at us, do they see Jesus?

When the world looks at us, do they see hope?

When the world looks at us, do they see love?

If not?  Why not?  Pray for God’s guidance and wisdom in taking this path with us today.

Blessings,

Dante

I am free to be me

This past Sunday I declared that I am officially over with Winter.  That is, I am done with it, but the weather models shows that I may have to endure this another 45 to 60 days of on again off again nasty weather in the Midwestern States.  Between the shoveling, snow-blowing, driving to and fro and just being downright cold, I have had enough of this.  Bring on the swimming pools and beaches – I am ready regardless of the heat!

Super Bowl Sunday is upon us and I am a Bears Fan to the death but I have always been a fan of the Orange Crush and Peyton Manning.   Recently, following Mark Driscoll I was turned onto this video on YouTube with Russell Wilson and other players from the Seattle SeaHawks.  You can click on the interview here.  I was impressed and I am still impressed with the poise and integrity of this man and the players/coach that surrounded him in this interviews.

Lately I have been inquisitive on the music choices and programming that my kids desired and was rudely awakened by just how much hollywood and the entertainment world vies for our kids hearts and minds.  I have a middle daughter who is 8 years old.  The one thing that I firmly believe is that I will let my kids be free to express themselves and their likes and dislikes and so on.  However,  they do have boundaries and they do have limits on that expression:  The Litmus Test being the word of God (aka the Bible).  For instance, my daughter is/was a huge fan of Justin Bieber.  My wife and daughter saw his video in which he prayed and made reference that there was some fruit in his life in regards to Jesus – so we permitted this to continue.  If you are like me and you have seen the news, Justin’s influences (bad company) and his choices have turned him to a dark path that clearly needs repentance (if he truly has a relationship with Jesus Christ).  That being said, I recently had a conversation with her about this and she realizes that she needs to find other venues to follow.

goodluckBeyonce Illuminati (2)This inquired me to reflect and YouTube and check all various sources of TV and Music entertainment that are seeking to destroy my children’s purity.  If you really want to go overboard then google search the Illuminati and Beyoncé and the Occult and you will be shocked – what Legacy are we leaving our kids?  The last straw, for me, was driving in this morning and listening to moody radio and how they were talking about a Disney Show that my children all watch:  Good Luck, Charlie.  This, I thought, was a somewhat decent (wholesome show) until they inserted into their programming a lesbian couple in that series – why?  Disney was asked about this, of course, and their response was to show a more rounded perspective of real life scenarios – really?  Why not show someone getting murdered (or how about decapitated) or a husband cheating on his wife in adultery or a man watching porn or a woman doing something completely contradictory to social norm.  The point that I am trying to bring her and to challenge is this:  Be free to make your own choices in this life BUT DON’T PROGRAM MY CHILDREN TO THINK that your choices are healthy and/or Biblical – they are not.

I don’t want to pass judgement here on anyone because Lance and I sin every day (just ask our wives).  But we both admit and confess to one thing:  God is a Holy God and He is not mocked.  He is pure and righteous and has given us the gift of salvation and forgiveness through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  That being said, if we don’t know his Son as our savior then there will be a day of reckoning called the Great White Throne Judgement.  There will be a day of reckoning in that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Woe to those that lead God’s children the wrong way.  Woe to the teachers and false testimonies that say that sin and impurity is acceptable in our culture.  Woe to those who say that anything that is contrary to the word of God is acceptable – it simply is not!

Now here is where the church, in my opinion, has blown it over the years.  Because we are in the world (not of the world) and because we are called to be pure and holy through sanctification of the saints we can be guilty of pride and guilt of judging others before we judge ourselves.  We cannot do that.  We cannot simply close our doors and create our own version of sanctity by not letting the world inside our doors.  Quite the contrary, if you ask me, we have to love and to share and give them the good news of our Lord and Savior.  We have to show them Christ instead of denying them.  We have to be the hands and feet.  My senior pastor is a true witness of this – there is transforming power in the word of God – all we have to do is live it and not deny it.

defaultI am free to be me simply means that I once was lost but now am found.  I was once a slave to sin and because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ I am free to live.  I once was hopeless and now have hope.  In other words, I am free to be me.  I am free to be the person that God created me to be – his adopted son and heir to his Kingdom – WOW!  If you knew me and knew where I came from you would say wow too.

I do not want to be a hypocrite were others see my life and do not see Jesus.  I want to live a life that even when false accusation and trials and tribulations malign me and my integrity that I can bear witness to the King of Kings.

———

1 Timothy 6

New International Version (NIV)

6 All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.2 Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare[a] of their slaves.

False Teachers and the Love of Money

These are the things you are to teach and insist on.3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Final Charge to Timothy

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith.

Grace be with you all.

Your thoughts,
Dante

Top 10 Signs that you are a true disciple of Christ

Often you will hear a man of God say to you that if you really want to know where Jesus stands in someone’s life – open their checkbook.  Other men say that when you look on a person then you should see more of Jesus and less of that person to see a true disciple of Jesus.

toptenWith that being said, What are the top 10 Signs of being a true disciple of Jesus Christ?

1. The disciple shows his/her love for Christ (by keeping his word and commandments close to his/her heart – not just hearing the words but doing what they say).

2. The disciple abides in this love of Christ (signs of peace and of patience and of true kindness)

3. The true disciple bears the fruit (Read Galatians 5)

4. The disciple is in fellowship with the Spirit, the Word and daily meditates on the word paving God’s pathway for the disciple every day

5. The disciple bears witness for what God has done for him (sent His only Son to die for our sins – Jesus is the way, the truth and the life…)

6.  The disciple is a friend of Jesus, that is, the disciple just doesn’t know who Jesus is, rather, the disciple calls Him friend

7. The disciple believes in the power of prayer.  Prays continually and trusts that not their will be done – but God’s will be done.  The Lord gives and He takes away but blessed be His name

8. The disciple bears joy in all situations (even through trial and tribulation the disciple will exude pain and suffering and emotional suffering, but will ultimately find the joy of the Lord)

9. The disciple exudes the truth behind Romans 12 and Colossians 3

10.  The disciple is humble and repents when necessary.  The disciple is able to discern good from evil and flees the course of evil at all times.
What are your some of your top 10?
Blessings,D

Freedom of Speech or From Speech….?

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription


IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

declaration_of_independence_stone_630When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long-established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security…

—-

The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

—–

The Fifty States Reference God in their Constitutions-Truth! 

——-

Lately, especially in the media and social networks, I feel that a person is truly not afforded his or her constitutional rights of freedom.  Too often then not a person is dragged through the mud both in public and through the media without a fair shake.  For instance, Phil Robertson, of the Duck Dynasty, has been removed from the successful television show – Duck Dynasty.  He was asked for his views on sin and here is what he said.  According to an article published in the:

Christian Science Monitor:   ‘Duck Dynasty’ in peril over Phil Robertson suspension. Why did this happen? The family at the center of A&E’s ‘Duck Dynasty’ said they may not be able to go on without clan patriarch Phil Robertson. His remarks on homosexuality illustrate a cultural divide in America.   By Patrik Jonsson, Staff Writer / December 20, 2013

The Christian Science Monitor, Weekly Digital Edition.  In a statement issued late Thursday, the Robertson clan at the center of the show said they may not be able to go on after A&E suspended Phil Robertson for his blunt AS YOU KNOW CINDY, THIS IS MY FAVORITE PIC. THX.scriptural interpretations. “We have had a successful working relationship with A&E, but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm,” the Robertson family said in a prepared statement. “We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty.” Robertson’s commentary, where he compares homosexuality to sins like “bestiality,” sparked a wildfire debate in the blogosphere about free speech, civil rights, and religious values. The flap also has come to epitomize what some academics have identified as a cultural gulf separating America’s coastal urban power centers and a rural America that remains steeped in hunting, fishing, and churchgoing. “This moment definitely says something about where we are as Americans,” says Rob Weiner, a pop culture expert at Texas Tech University. “For so long … the more traditional sort of down-home Christian good ol’ boy, living off the land, hasn’t been seen. Now that he has, he’s touched a nerve. A lot of people find the show entertaining, but equal numbers of people find it offensive – the killing of animals and things like that.” Gay rights advocates, for one, applauded the decision by A&E to suspend Phil. “What’s clear is that such hateful anti-gay comments are unacceptable to fans, viewers, and networks alike,” said GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz. “By taking quick action and removing Robertson from future filming, A&E has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value.” But the backlash caused its own backlash from Duck Dynasty fans, who asked why, in a country founded on Judeo-Christian precepts, is someone being punished for artfully stating scripture? “We all need to be out there promoting and protecting the heart of America,” said Sarah Palin. “We can do that by showing support for ‘Duck Dynasty.’ ”

Here is one question for you, are the laws in a country promoted by inherent values that are granted to us by God of the universe?  How and where are we given this moral compass to forge laws in our nations?  By what inherent right do we have to force laws on people?  Where, from the age of 3, do we get this sense of right and wrong from?

When was homosexuality illegal in all 50 states?  According to Wikipedia (yes, I just quoted Wikipedia), “Sodomy laws in the United States:  From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Sodomy laws in the United States, which outlawed a variety of sexual acts, were historically universal. While they often targeted sexual acts between persons of the same-sex, many statutes employed definitions broad enough to outlaw certain sexual acts between persons of different sexes as well, sometimes even acts between married persons.  Through the 20th century, the gradual liberalization of American sexual morals led to the elimination of sodomy laws in most states. During this time, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of sodomy laws in Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986. However, in 2003 the Supreme Court reversed the decision with Lawrence v. Texas, invalidating sodomy laws in the remaining 14 states (Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia). Prior to 1962, sodomy was a felony in every state, punished by a lengthy term of imprisonment and/or hard labor. In that year, the Model Penal Code (MPC) — developed by the American Law Institute to promote uniformity among the states as they modernized their statutes.”  This isn’t conjecture, nor an opinion, but actual laws in the United States of America that were against sodomy.

So this begs the question of our Bill of Rights given to us by our founding fathers:  Why should any citizen of the United States be condemned or shunned for his or her right to freedom of speech?  I will put it this way:  As a consumer and a taxpayer, if there is anything that I do not like then I have choices:  1) I can choose not to endorse that product or politician 2) I can avoid that person or product or go to their competitor which offers a different service or political view 3) I can choose to turn him/her or that show off.  So, in the case of Phil Robertson, if what he says offended any of you – then simply choose not to support their show on A&E.

For me, I think the Book of James 1:19 says it best, “19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,”.  We live in a world that is rapidly changing, but we are not seeing any new themes coming from a worldly perspective.  In the days of the Roman Empire there was a multitude of un-biblical practices around, and throughout generations upon generations sinful behaviors and practices became public norm.  Am I going to become the moral compass for everyone around me – God forbid me!

Here is the truth in all things:  God is Holy!  God is not mocked.  It is appointed for man (and woman) once to die and after this judgement.  We read in Scripture that if you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior that there is no Salvation for you – there is only the Great White Throne Judgement that does not end well for those without Christ.

For me, if asked a tough or political leaning question – I would be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  I would rather hope that my light would shine – the light of Jesus Christ in my life.  I would hope that my first response would be to share the gospel of Christ in love (not in condemnation).  Does that mean that I should withhold the truth – absolutely not.  But does that mean that I can cast stones in other peoples lives when I have giant logs sticking out my own eyes – I would hope not.

I am a sinner!  I sin everyday!  I ask for forgiveness from God when I do sin.  Because I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior, my sins of the past, the present and in the future – are forgiven once and for all – To God be the Glory for His Son Jesus Christ.

In all that we do as Legacy Dad’s – please, pretty please – let your light shine!

Your thoughts?

D

 

Christmas is more about a life worth living then just one day…

Christ·mas

[kris-muhs]  Show IPA

noun

1. the annual festival of the Christian church commemorating the birth of Jesus: celebrated on December 25 and now generally observed as a legal holiday and an occasion for exchanging gifts.

WEB_121313_Atheistbillboard1
  Christmas is a time that we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  As many historians speculate on when the actual birth date of Jesus was, most say without certainty that they believe that it was around August.   The Romans celebrated a festival around this time that was not very flattering toward peace on earth and good will toward man.  According the Origin of Christmas, “Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of genesislawlessness celebrated between December 17-25.  During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the weeklong celebration.  The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.”  Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week.  At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman.”  Obviously, as Rome became “Christian” under Emperor Constantine, this tradition gradually changed over the year (many many years) and had its back and forth moment, but eventually Christmas, as we know it, came around to the holiday that we celebrate today.I guess what surprises me most in how both conservative and liberal groups get so bent out of shape.  Seriously, how can you hate something or someone or the idea of something or someone?  Lack of forgiveness is the pathway to eternal imprisonment.

To challenge our Christian friends who are so animate about protecting our freedom religions, I would encourage them to take a step back to our founding fathers and to our founding universities (schools like Harvard and Stanford and so on, when students had to be fluent in Latin and had to defend and define their relationship with Jesus Christ).   Don’t get me wrong, there are always times that we have a right to fight (defending our constitutional rights is very important), we just need to find Jesus in all that we do.

Let me ask a question this way:  Do we celebrate Jesus once a year (Christmas), twice a year (Easter?) or everyday of our life.  Let’s put it this way:  How many of us Christians practice Coram Deo.  Everything under the Sun is under God and He is over everything.  Do we, Christians who profess Jesus Christ as Savior, live our lives each day with Jesus with us (in us through His Holy Spirit)?

How about this, instead of pointing to the light of Jesus once or twice or a few times a year….why don’t we let our light shine everyday of the year.  The transforming power of Jesus’s birth, death and resurrection is our daily process of sanctification in becoming more like Him and less like us.  To tell the world about him with how we live our lives daily.

Your thoughts?

Blessings,

Dante

 

Picking Friends and Pudding Proof

I’ve had the past two weeks off and it has given me plenty of time to reflect on the past year plus spend a lot of quality time with my kids.  Recently, I was re-reading one of our popular posts OverProtective Parents, Underdeveloped Children and thinking about how our children pick friends and our parental involvement (or lack of) in this process.  I know many parents these days have “play-dates” and also tend to pick and chose who their children hand around, particularly as they get older.  This may be a surprise to some parents out there but my wife and I don’t pre-screen our children’s friends and many of their friends do not come from Christian homes.  I’m sure some parents reading this will definitely disagree with me on this but let me first explain my reasoning.

First, we have personally witnessed our children, at numerous times, standing up to friends and peer pressure while defending their beliefs and choosing to do what was right over what was “fun, cool, insert other word here.”  This plays into our entire parenting process as we have always raised our children that the decisions they make when not in our home or under our control, is more important than what they do when they are with us.   This is the main reason Fear Based Parenting does not work.

grin758lFear Based Parenting focuses on the parents controlling the children’s environments, friends, activities, etc. in an effort to keep bad things from happening to the children.  These parents do their best to create an environment that controls as many of the avenues as possible that sin/bad things could use to work its way into the inner sanctum.  It’s controlling a child’s external environment out of a sense of protecting the children rather than focusing on developing the child’s heart and resiliency to deal with bad things that will inevitably happen.  Again, this varies by age and is not a simple black and white process, there are obvious times and exceptions when a parent should step in.  What I am discussing here is everyday, hand around the house friends.

Back to my kids…As a result of developing our children’s hearts, character and values; 90% of the time our children do not let their friends influence them towards unhealthy choices.  But, if we ever see this happening slightly, my wife and I usually step in and have a discussion on whether this behavior is consistent with our values or not and this corrects the issue.

This past year, our family moved to a highly affluent, national blue ribbon school district on the East Coast thinking this would be the best option for our children.  What we have discovered here is exactly what I’m describing above.  Many of the children here come from very controlled homes and divorced or blended families are more the norm than traditional families. While the children are very academically intelligent, many are severely deficient in ethics, morals and social skills.  In the middle school, you have to be apart of a certain clique or group or other children will not befriend you or even speak to you for that matter.

Our children, unaware of this social caste system, made friends with whoever was friendly with them.  So my kids made friends with kids outside the socially acceptable “cool clique” but have now been invited into the “cool clique” under one condition, they drop their other friends.  Maybe this is just middle school drama?  girl-cliques-300x199

Let me add some background details.  In the past, our children took this very same approach on the West Coast.  They made friends with whoever wanted to be friendly, which my wife and I supported, and then they slowly used their friendships, unknowingly, as a way to do relational ministry.  At our church on the West Coast, our children helped to double the size of the church youth group, helped many of their friends find Jesus and even got some families to start attending church together.  This all happened because my wife and I did not “pre-screen”or try to influence our children’s relationships and because our children stuck to their beliefs and values and influenced their friends.  Also, our home is a grace filled, Christian home and if you are going to spend time in it, you are going to follow our rules.  We pray at meal times, you respect adults, you do not use profanity, you play and act fairly towards one another.  Some of the toughest kids in town from pretty rough backgrounds came to our home, prayed with us, showed respect to my 5 Foot wife and started attending church and youth group.  This also creates a strong sense of security in the home and kids, no matter their background, long for that sense of security in the home.

Rather than my wife and I focusing on keeping the bad kids out and “protecting” our children, we saw this as an opportunity to show others the grace and love of God through a relationship with our children and family.  My wife and I believe whole hardheartedly that this was one of the best life examples and learning experiences for our children.  I could write a book full of stories about the many examples of God shining into the lives of all those kids that came through our home.  But that only happened because we let them in.

Back to the East Cast. My kids have made friends here with some kids who have tough backgrounds; divorce, abuse, emotional problems, cutting, etc.  One is heavily into witchcraft.

relministryGuess what?  They too are starting to pray at our dinner table and tag along to church.

The other day, my kids and I were driving back from the mall when my daughter told me about this current “cool clique” dilemma.  Here’s what she said.

“Dad, I’m not going to stop being friends with XXXXX just to be accepted by the “cool clique” if that’s how those girls act, they don’t sound like the type of people I want to be friends with anyways.  They have their values really backwards”

Me – “Hmm”

My Son pipes in “Yeah, I invited XXXX to come with me to sit at the football players table, at first they scoffed at me and XXXX but now that the football players have seen how funny XXXX is, and they are really starting to see what a good guy he is and are more accepting of him.”

Me – (Smiling) “Hmm”

So what’s the bottom line?  We focus primarily on developing our children’s hearts, values and character and do not worry as much about the external environment or their friends.  As a result, our kids naturally default back to their values and are not influenced by friends or other outside circumstances.  They are learning what true friendship and relational ministry looks like and to quote my son “Dad, you are preparing us for the real world.  You don’t get to pick who you work with at your job do you?”  Me – “No, your absolutely right, I just have to deal with them.”

What to do next?

I encourage you to focus on your children’s heart rather than on their environment.  Let them make friends with the unChurched and the Lost and Hurting and use these relationships as real world examples to teach your children about relational ministry and most importantly, adhering to their values and beliefs no matter who or what is in their external environment.  Learning these skills now, while their in your home, will save you and them from the inevitable reality and potential hardships of experiencing this later in life.  Plus, it’s what Jesus did.

Esse Quam Videri

Lance

Love Dare? Fireproofing your marriage!

lovedareFrom their website, “In the movie FIREPROOF, a couple dares to rescue their choking marriage from the flames of divorce and temptation using The Love Dare book as a guide. Now you can take the experience of the film one step further with your own copy of The Love Darebook. This daily devotional steers you through the fiery challenge of developing a strong, committed marriage in a world that threatens to burn it to the ground. 

The Love Dare personally leads you through daily devotionals, records your thoughts and experiences, and ends each day daring you to perform a simple act of love for your spouse. This 40-Day journey equips you to melt hardened, separated hearts into an enduring love that can withstand the flames of fear, pride and temptation.The Love Dare book will help you reinforce and enrich your marriage, earn back a love you thought was lost, and hear more about the One who not only designed unconditional, sacrificial love—He illustrated it.

In a world that attacks, devalues, and redefines relationships every day, learn how to rescue and protect your marriage from the firestorm. Take The Love Dare and FIREPROOF your relationship.”

I have to admit, I am a skeptic on some of these movies and agree with Lance that these movie guys are borrowing from www.Legacydad.com and helping people in their walks.  Seriously, though, we are all taking biblical principles and trying to apply them to our lives.

On Facebook today, some posted this:  “When I got home that night as my wife served dinner, I held her hand and said, I’ve got something to tell you. She sat down and ate quietly. Again I observed the hurt in her eyes.
Suddenly I didn’t know how to open my mouth. But I had to let her know what I was thinking. I want a divorce. I raised the topic calmly. She didn’t seem to be annoyed by my words, instead she asked me softly, why?
I avoided her question. This made her angry. She threw away the chopsticks and shouted at me, you are not a man! That night, we didn’t talk to each other. She was weeping. I knew she wanted to find out what had happened to our marriage. But I could hardly give her a satisfactory answer; she had lost my heart to Jane. I didn’t love her anymore. I just pitied her!
With a deep sense of guilt, I drafted a divorce agreement which stated that she could own our house, our car, and 30% stake of my company. She glanced at it and then tore it into pieces. The woman who had spent ten years of her life with me had become a stranger. I felt sorry for her wasted time, resources and energy but I could not take back what I had said for I loved Jane so dearly. Finally she cried loudly in front of me, which was what I had expected to see. To me her cry was actually a kind of release. The idea of divorce which had obsessed me for several weeks seemed to be firmer and clearer now.
The next day, I came back home very late and found her writing something at the table. I didn’t have supper but went straight to sleep and fell asleep very fast because I was tired after an eventful day with Jane. When I woke up, she was still there at the table writing. I just did not care so I turned over and was asleep again.
In the morning she presented her divorce conditions: she didn’t want anything from me, but needed a month’s notice before the divorce. She requested that in that one month we both struggle to live as normal a life as possible. Her reasons were simple: our son had his exams in a month’s time and she didn’t want to disrupt him with our broken marriage.
This was agreeable to me. But she had something more, she asked me to recall how I had carried her into out bridal room on our wedding day. She requested that every day for the month’s duration I carry her out of our bedroom to the front door ever morning. I thought she was going crazy. Just to make our last days together bearable I accepted her odd request.
I told Jane about my wife’s divorce conditions. . She laughed loudly and thought it was absurd. No matter what tricks she applies, she has to face the divorce, she said scornfully.
My wife and I hadn’t had any body contact since my divorce intention was explicitly expressed. So when I carried her out on the first day, we both appeared clumsy. Our son clapped behind us, daddy is holding mommy in his arms. His words brought me a sense of pain. From the bedroom to the sitting room, then to the door, I walked over ten meters with her in my arms. She closed her eyes and said softly; don’t tell our son about the divorce. I nodded, feeling somewhat upset. I put her down outside the door. She went to wait for the bus to work. I drove alone to the office.
On the second day, both of us acted much more easily. She leaned on my chest. I could smell the fragrance of her blouse. I realized that I hadn’t looked at this woman carefully for a long time. I realized she was not young any more. There were fine wrinkles on her face, her hair was graying! Our marriage had taken its toll on her. For a minute I wondered what I had done to her.
On the fourth day, when I lifted her up, I felt a sense of intimacy returning. This was the woman who had given ten years of her life to me. On the fifth and sixth day, I realized that our sense of intimacy was growing again. I didn’t tell Jane about this. It became easier to carry her as the month slipped by. Perhaps the everyday workout made me stronger.
She was choosing what to wear one morning. She tried on quite a few dresses but could not find a suitable one. Then she sighed, all my dresses have grown bigger. I suddenly realized that she had grown so thin, that was the reason why I could carry her more easily.
Suddenly it hit me… she had buried so much pain and bitterness in her heart. Subconsciously I reached out and touched her head.
Our son came in at the moment and said, Dad, it’s time to carry mom out. To him, seeing his father carrying his mother out had become an essential part of his life. My wife gestured to our son to come closer and hugged him tightly. I turned my face away because I was afraid I might change my mind at this last minute. I then held her in my arms, walking from the bedroom, through the sitting room, to the hallway. Her hand surrounded my neck softly and naturally. I held her body tightly; it was just like our wedding day.
But her much lighter weight made me sad. On the last day, when I held her in my arms I could hardly move a step. Our son had gone to school. I held her tightly and said, I hadn’t noticed that our life lacked intimacy. I drove to office…. jumped out of the car swiftly without locking the door. I was afraid any delay would make me change my mind…I walked upstairs. Jane opened the door and I said to her, Sorry, Jane, I do not want the divorce anymore.
She looked at me, astonished, and then touched my forehead. Do you have a fever? She said. I moved her hand off my head. Sorry, Jane, I said, I won’t divorce. My marriage life was boring probably because she and I didn’t value the details of our lives, not because we didn’t love each other anymore. Now I realize that since I carried her into my home on our wedding day I am supposed to hold her until death do us apart. Jane seemed to suddenly wake up. She gave me a loud slap and then slammed the door and burst into tears. I walked downstairs and drove away. At the floral shop on the way, I ordered a bouquet of flowers for my wife. The salesgirl asked me what to write on the card. I smiled and wrote, I’ll carry you out every morning until death do us apart.
That evening I arrived home, flowers in my hands, a smile on my face, I run up stairs, only to find my wife in the bed -dead. My wife had been fighting CANCER for months and I was so busy with Jane to even notice. She knew that she would die soon and she wanted to save me from the whatever negative reaction from our son, in case we push through with the divorce.— At least, in the eyes of our son—- I’m a loving husband….
The small details of your lives are what really matter in a relationship. It is not the mansion, the car, property, the money in the bank. These create an environment conducive for happiness but cannot give happiness in themselves.
So find time to be your spouse’s friend and do those little things for each other that build intimacy. If you are not in a relationship now, remember this for the second (or third) time around. It’s never too late.
If you don’t share this, nothing will happen to you.
If you do, you just might save a marriage. Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

—-

Marriage is between two sinners.  We all have our baggage and pasts that we bring into the marriage.  Some of us, have really good stories and great childhood memories and some of us don’t.  Needless to say, none of us are perfect.  We all need Jesus.  Successful marriages need to center Christ in their marriage!

I have had a few friends tell me that they have secretly done this book without telling their wives and have been blessed for it.  I personally, look for the Bible to guide and direct me, but I can tell you that I picked up this book and am doing this with another friend (he isn’t telling his wife either) and I shared with him on day 9 or 10 of just how selfish I can still be after all these years.

I am a good dad and a good husband.  I like Lance’s blog entry, The Law of the Lid, because for me it is NOT about being good enough – I want to be the best.  I want to hear the words from our Lord, “well done thou good and faithful servant!”  I hope and pray that I can be that accountable to reach that guy with my brothers (from Men of Faith, Lance & Gary).

Some websites to help you along the way:

http://site.themarriagebed.com/headship

http://www.marriagemissions.com/avoiding-emotional-adultery/

1 Peter 3:7 (ESV), “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you[a] of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

Thoughts?

Blessings,

Dante

 

Messy Faith – Messy Parenting Part 2

I continue with my reflections from Andy Stanley’s principles he used to build North Point Church.  These reflections apply not only to our own personal faith but how we as parents can instill a strong faith in our children.  In Part One, we talked about a balance of truth and grace and how balancing the two can be messy but we should openly walk towards and embrace the mess and complexity just as Jesus did.  In this post, we’ll discuss the mess and complexity of authentic spiritual growth.

Discipleship and Maturity in Faith

maturityFor years, the Church has used programs, curriculum, classes and Bible studies in an effort to build maturer faith in Christians.  But is this really creating mature believers?

I believe this goes back to my earlier discussions on focusing on the head versus the heart.  Classes and Bible Studies get people involved in the word, which is a really good thing, but the content is not what is the most important.  Classes make smarter, more knowledgeable believers but not necessarily more mature believers.  I know atheists that can quote scripture back and forth but they are not mature believers.

Theological Education/Knowledge ≠ Spiritual Maturity

Again, I’m not saying small groups or Bible Studies do not add value but it’s not necessarily the increased biblical knowledge that creates maturity in faith.

So what does?

Spiritual Maturity can be defined as a growing relationship with God through faith and confidence.

How do we grow in relationships with other people?

Many people try to grow as Christians through the Old Testament model of Obedience to the Law but do we truly grow and create intimate relationships with others by being obedient?  Furthermore, salvation does not come from obedience but by faith and Trust.  Think of a relationship with a close friend or spouse, there is a deep trust there.

They entire Old Testament of the Bible speaks the same message = Trust in God.trust

So therefore, an accurate definition of spiritual maturity could be a growing and unconditional trust in God through full surrender and a relationship with Christ.

Easy to write, hard to implement in daily life and decisions at times.  It means faith no matter what.

Read the New Testament, Jesus was not amazed by obedience but when people acted on their faith by living, active, out of the box, death defying trust and faith in God.  Trusting God against all odds, not lukewarm obedience.

In light of all this, many church models focus on increasing biblical knowledge and obedience rather than increasing faith and trust in the Lord.

So what can we do for ourselves, our churches and our children to fuel trust and faith in God which ultimately creates spiritual growth? Read On…

The 5 Catalysts of Spiritual Growth.

These catalysts are designed to be pursued simultaneously or in conjunction with each other rather than focusing on only one at a time.

Practical Teachings

For believers to become strong disciples they need to hear strong practical teachings from God’s Word that are relevant and impact their lives on a daily basis and bring change and transformation starting from the inside out. These biblical teachings must impart Godly wisdom that touches them personally, allows them to internalize the teaching and ultimately to take action on the teaching.  Sometimes we can get this from reading/hearing the Bible directly, but most people need this to be refined and put in a practical context.  The message must also be aimed at the heart or spirit realm and not their heads where it is just more information that they will quickly and gladly forget.

The real purpose of God’s Word and thus the teaching of His Word is to transform people – changing them from the inside out.

Transformation – not information.  We are overloaded with information these days.

Practical teachings for every day life is therefore essential for a believer to grow into a  strong, reproducing disciple of the Lord Jesus.

Private disciples

I believe there are some basic Christian disciples that a believer needs to implement in their lives of they really want to grow as a Christian and become a strong disciple of the Lord.

The discipline of simplicity – A God Centered Life

Submission – Total surrender to God and allowing his plans to be done.

Prayer – where we connect with God and hear his plans for us.

Study – Digging into the Word

Meditation and Journaling - where we find solitude and reflect on his word and are understanding of it.

Forgiveness – When we confess our sins and ask for Gods forgiveness.

Service and sacrifice – where we learn to express our faith through serving others and giving unconditional of ourselves.

Evangelism and apologetics – Spreading God’s word through our actions, love, grace and compassion for the lost and sometimes defending our faith and beliefs.  I’ve learned a lot about my faith defending and debating atheists on my beliefs.

Personal Ministry

Each day you are influencing and changing everyone around you through your actions and words.  How you change them is your choice.  Leaving them with a positive impression or a negative one makes all the difference and studies consistently show that the impression you leave, gives all of Christianity a positive or negative image.  Most people cite leaving the faith due to interactions with Christians who acted unchristian rather than due to theological or content issues.

The thing about a personal ministry is that we may never see the transformation or change in others.   Through our spiritual gifts and passions we share the positive lessons we’ve picked up from our life experiences. And then we move on, relying on faith that our offerings will come to fruition.  Many times, I have poured my heart into others only to hear years later of the impact.

Providential Relationships

Providential Relationships are relationships we enter into normally and God then uses them providentially to bring changes to our life.  We all grow through relationships.

For us to grow as disciples of the Lord we need to be open to actively building personal relationships within the local church as well as with non-believers, unchurched and other religious sects. These are relationships that will challenge us to grow and mature in our faith.

For our children and many of the younger generations, Community is much more important that Content.  One of the best practices I have seen is for small group leaders for children taking the group from kindergarten all the way through middle school.  This creates a group and leader that are strongly bonded and connected to each other year after year.

Pivotal Circumstances

When people tell their story of spiritual growth, they almost always talk about something that happened to them – I was divorced, I got a raise, I got moved by my company, I received a scholarship, I lost a friend or a child. Pivotal circumstances always impact a person’s faith. Always. Either for better or for worse. What makes the difference in most cases is not the circumstances, it is the way we interpret or process or frame the circumstances.  People who are surrounded by people of faith who are able to help them frame or interpret a circumstance correctly, for them, pivotal circumstances can more easily impact faith in a positive way. For the person who does not have that network of Christian friends or relationships, it can be devastating.  To be there for them, of course, means you are building relationships long before they hit their circumstance or situation. You have taken the time to connect and in doing so have built a certain level of mutual trust and respect and you are known as a person of integrity. Otherwise, when the pivotal circumstance comes along they will not turn to you for advice, support, or help

growthI can honestly say that I am not actively pursuing all of these catalysts all of the time.  The first three are all within our control so I cannot make excuses there. Also, we can ultimately control how we act in our relationships with others; whether we are positive or negative, loving, graceful and encouraging or gossiping, judgmental or hypocritical.  We have some form of control over how we interact with others but pivotal circumstances is ultimately up to God.  We don’t decide when an accident happens, when we lose a job or hardship hits.  However, focusing on growing and developing ourselves in the first four ares will ultimately prepare us for whenever the final catalysts come along in our lives or the lives of those around us.

In 2013, I’m making a commitment to focus more on the first four catalysts in my own life and in developing these areas in my children.  I invite everyone to make this same commitment, put first things first and make 2013 another great year to grow closer to God through faith and trust.

Esse Quam Videri

Lance