All posts by Jeffrey Bennett

I’m a thirty one year old man of God. I work full time as a compressor operator and have a wonderful wife, daughter, and toy poodle. I attend New Beginnings Church in Good Hope, WV under pastor Tom Sears. It is my hope to influence or encourage other Christians in their walk with God in this dark world. If nothing else you can get a good laugh out of my attempts. Thanks for reading.

Moral Maniacs vs Cultural Christians

Unless you are way back in the sticks with no wheefee or obliged to place your head in the sand, you may have noticed a bit of a culture war in America. Abortion, women’s right, gun rights, LGBTQIA issues, assisted suicide, police brutality, immigration, ethnic hatred and many more. These aren’t new issues, but having them thrust in our face day in and day out via social media is fairly new. Continual arguments on and on can be exhausting. I took six months away from Facebook this year and it was like the world calmed down. The problems didn’t go away but I wasn’t reading about or involved in the arguments everyday. Here is wisdom, “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee..”

Why so much disagreement on right and wrong? Now this is a topic that can be debated itself, but I tend to agree with the notion that the confusion began to come in with the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. Prior to this time period America was overwhelmingly culturally Christian. Obviously there were many flaws within our society but the overarching moral compass was pointed towards truth of God and His word. After kicking God out of the morals of our sexual behaviors as a society we have continued to kick him out of every other. Christians are quick to point to this point and the growing immorality and condemn non believers and their “wickedness” as the main contributor to our moral decay.

Cultural Christians

The bigger part of the problem is cultural Christians. People who have been raised in church, or taught about God without ever having a personal relationship with him. A mental ascent to the knowledge of God, but never having surrendered their heart to him. Those walking in sin and talking in God. Those that worship God on Sunday, then cheat or lie to their bosses on Wednesday. Those that care about “In God We Trush” on their money, but don’t care to use any of that money to help the poor. Those ready to change their lives because a man kneeled at a flag, but not ready to change their lives because a man hung on a cross. Those horrified at not being able to say “Merry Christmas”,  but don’t bother sharing the resurrected Christ with a single person they meet during their day. Those sickened by abortion, yet cheat on their spouses. Those who would stone a stripper, then head home to watch some porn.

This is a basic feel for what I mean when I say cultural Christianity. Our society rejects this nonsense for the hogwash it is as well they should. This has led to a search for a new moral foundation. Christianity must be false because many of the adherents live fake lives goes the argument. It is a poor test of truth to judge Jesus by the actions of some of His followers, but such is the case.

Moral Maniacs

What becomes of morality when you unchain it from the objective moral law giver? When you decide that the God who defines right and wrong is no longer fit to do so? You are left looking for right and wrong within yourself. This mean that moral relativity floods in and every man does what is right in his own eyes. This leads to many inconsistencies and situations you see played out in our society today.

Folks arguing men should do more to protect women in cases of sexual assault while maintaining genders don’t exist. People who scream for women’s right, unless that woman is in a womb. People who want peace so bad they dress up in black clothes with mass while committing all sorts of violence to bring it about. People who would say I’m damaging my child by requiring her to hug her grandfather; then turn around and administer drugs to their child to prevent them going through puberty. Yes in the world of moral maniacs hugs are bad and drugs that lock a child in a mental state that ends with a 60% suicide rate are good.

Hmmm?

What should our course of action be in such chaotic moral waters? REPENT. Our hearts grow hard and callous to things of God and the prompting of His Holy Spirit. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.

Pray the love that held Christ on the cross be poured over you. Let it wash the dirt from our hearts and the logs from our eyes so we might wisely and lovingly address the specks in the eyes of our fellow Americans.

Altars and Groves: When You Can’t Stand Your Pastor

You ever been sitting at a particular church service listening to a sermon and then you just suddenly can’t stand your pastor? You run through your mind how you might like to just take his little lap top with the little words typed on it and give them a good old fashioned parking lot smashing?

Perhaps I overreact and am a bit dramatic……have you not ever asked yourself how the pastor could be saying the things they are saying because these words are cutting you and pushing everything inside you to a culminating climax of fantasy land meets reality. I submit to you that this is the sign of a pastor doing what they are supposed to be doing, speaking truth. If you aren’t offended by anything your pastor says I’m going to go out on a limb and say he has gotten off course with truth.  That works out for a nice social club, but not for anybody looking for a movement of the power of God.

Altars and Groves

My pastor spoke today about going back to your first love, your initial altar….that place where you made a commitment to God, to serve Him with your life, your words, your deeds. This whole sermon was incredibly frustrating to me, but before I get to the why of that, I want to talk a little bit about groves.

From biblestudytools.com we find, “The Heb. word ‘elon, uniformly rendered in the Authorized Version by “plain,” properly signifies a grove or plantation. In the Revised Version it is rendered, pl., “oaks” ( Genesis 13:18 ; 14:13 ; 18:1 ; 12:6 ; Deuteronomy 11:30 ; Joshua 19:33 ). In the earliest times groves are mentioned in connection with religious worship. The heathen consecrated groves to particular gods, and for this reason they were forbidden to the Jews ( Jeremiah 17:3 ; Ezekiel 20:28 ).  ”

Now God had the Jews set up altars to Him, and the rest of the world was setting up groves to false Gods. Our groves today can be other interests that lead us away from what God is wanting us to do with our lives. The could be relationships, hobbies, careers, or any other mundane things that are not evil in and of themselves, but if not monitored could cause us to miss what God has for us.

Pastor Vince

We were told a story of a man passionate for God who after tirelessly demonstrating God to those in his vicinity was elected to be the spiritual leader/pastor of that area. Things were going pretty well, but their ended up being a disagreement between himself and church officials that couldn’t be reconciled and he was removed from this position.

Long story short, he loses his passion for God; takes up painting for which he is well remembered, Mr. Vincent Van Gogh. Nothing wrong with painting at all….but he failed to put it in the proper priority position in his life. Vincent Van Grove if you will.

What’s the Point?

I don’t recall promising to make one, but you’re already reading along so I’ll try to do my best. This probably has less to do with anyone reading and more to do with me, but if it helps you out great.

My life is a scattered battle field of altars and groves, some still standing, some torn down willingly, some blasted down by force, some forgotten with time.  Do you ever try to really make sense of your life? Where is it going? What is the point?

When I peel back everything else I have always wanted to do something great for God, but with time I’ve realized I’m way to quick to latch onto any little victory as my own doing like Gideon in his latter service to God.

I feel like I’m over here throwing spaghetti at the wall of life (books, radio program, franchise, MLM business, YouTube Videos) to find anything that sticks. Something to free me up financially to give more of my time and service to God. Noble enough, but the fact of the matter is if I’m not giving my time to God now, I won’t give it to Him when I have more of it. The “more of it” being leisure time that isn’t confined by a work schedule.

So Are They Good or Bad?

Now the aforementioned pursuits to increase the amount of leisure time to free myself up from a job that I don’t hate, but I simply have zero passion or interest in aren’t bad on their own. They become bad if I focus on them and some sort of future goal of acquired wealth/free time as the end game.

I should already be experiencing the end game in the form of freedom to do a job and do it the best that I can for my King. This sort of counterintuitive perception cannot be realized in the flesh though, it is only revealed in the spirt. Therein lies the problem, I’m lacking a fullness of spirit.

Sure I have the Holy Spirit dwelling in me the same as any other Christian out there, but I’m not walking in the fullness of that. There is power in Him, power that you can’t get anywhere else. You can’t fake it and you can’t make it up……enter the problem of religion.

Poison of Religion

The knowledge of God is not synonymous with the power of God. How do you get the power of God? By getting to know God. How do you get to know God? By studying His word and talking to Him. Pride and religion wants me to cling on to the fact that I’ve had the privilege of being raised in church, had some great experiences with God, and had a general hedge of protection around my life as evidence of some sort of closeness to God.

That is total garbage though, you only come closer to him by knowing His word…….Jeff wait, you always talk about God and the bible and you go to church and you write blogs about God, doesn’t that mean you are close to God? No not in the least.

My flaw is that I study the word to answer questions and not to know God. I don’t even know how to go about studying in a way to go more deeply. I study a topic here and there (evolution, trinity, allah vs God of bible, tongues, healing, proofs for resurrection) but always to win an argument, as if God’s honor rides on my ability to defend Him. The aim of your study should be to know God more deeply, not prove a point to someone.

Those are hard words to type, but easy at the moment so I guess the Spirit has giving me +5  on my confession and typing skills each today. (Gamers surely follow me?)

Men’s Leader?

Now the admission of such clear inefficiencies in bible literacy and commitment of intimacy in prayer I’m sure do not bode well for someone who has tried to fulfill the “men’s leader” position at my church for two years. If that is something that needs changed I’m open to that. I want the absolute best for our particular body of believers as it pertains to being edified/taught.  My pastor said he isn’t much for being a “pastor” but he is passionate for God. That is all I want, the real God, his real power; everything else is just fool’s gold. I want to know that I have survived by going deep into the mines of our Heavenly Father and bringing out nuggets of truth and power. That when the enemy attacks I stand not because of anything I did but simply because of my proximity to the Lord.

Why do we Christians look just like the world? Where are the men who are willing to stand against hell for their king? Where are the men willing to sacrifice their time? I’m guessing they are standing in the mirror. Talking to people about God and wondering why they aren’t walking in the things that Jesus and all his pals walked in. These are dark times, but their is a light that is shining as bright as it ever has. That light is looking for people to reflect it in this dark world.

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)

West Milford Swat

If there is anything in you that has just the tiniest bit of “That’s weird, I don’t really seem to experience closeness with God like they did in the bible”……figure out why. Dig in, press deep. You ever notice how something can immediately change people’s behavior? We just had three suspects on the loose in West Milford and boom everybody and their brother was on the watch tower.

There are demonic forces, fallen angels, and Satan himself wreaking havoc on not only our small community, but this whole world and we care nothing about it. Let the government fix it, let the non-profit organizations fix it, let the “church” fix it…….We are the church! Shake yourselves off, repent to God, ask Him to lead your studies that you may know Him more closely.

Conclusion

Everybody is walking…..either to God or away from Him, which way are you going? I don’t have any answers for you on the deep places of God because I’ve never been there, I’ve never sacrificed the time to get there, not like the pastor I’ve been blessed with has. With God’s help though I will go there. I would call out to anyone willing to listen to go there to. Deep and Wide, make your relationship with God deep and wide.

That’s the end, that’s my heart; to know God in such a way that His attributes (fruits of the spirit) flow out of me and spill into the lives of others so that it might spark them to seek Him out and know that goodness for themselves.

See you on the other side of the fire…..ignited for Christ.

Where I am weak, He is strong.

 

Football Coaches and What They Taught Me about God (Hawk Pride)

Disclaimer: This is long, and maybe not even worth your time.

I have been thinking about writing this article since last football season, and given recent events in our community decided I would write it now. I will first address the giant elephant in the room of the arraignment of Bridgeport’s football coach, then we will cover some of my coaches over the years and what I gleaned from my time spent under their tutelage.

Hope Your Sin Sensitive Ears Can Handle Honesty

First and foremost, I have zero personal experience with the man to know anything about him other than what I have read in the newspaper, what happened with Mr. Nicewarner is unfortunate and a black eye to his life story. I have had a lot of black eyes in my thirty-two years. A lot of drinking and drugs, sexual immorality, and pride. I was never addicted to any of the drugs and when I repented, boom my drug use ended. (Sort of, I walked away from God 2 years later for another 2 years of ignorance, but after that it abruptly ended again, whatever) Porn and cigarettes were a different story all together. These were addictions and the deepest rooted being the porn.  This secret sin can grow like a cancer and spread leading to greater and more perverse sins if not confronted.

If you think for one second pornography has any place in the life of a Christian or that God doesn’t mind it let me assure you that you are dead wrong and it can quietly destroy your life out from under you. The whole time you don’t even recognize what is being done. I never had any incidents like Mr. Nicewarner, but knowing the enemy and how he always wants to take  you further and further, I was always afraid of finding myself in some sort of similar situation. When would one type of desire not be enough and what would the next line I would cross be?

The drug addict or junky that everyone wants to let die isn’t much different from the porn/sex addict. One man’s judgements are evident here, the other’s will be evident for all to see at the final judgement and we will find out that most of the folks calling for the addicts to go to jail didn’t really have a bit of moral high ground to be standing on. I said that to remind us to call out sin, but separate that sin from the man. Strongly rebuke, but more strongly love.

With all of that off my chest let us move on to the matter at hand. We have ourselves a failed role model to a lot of kids. I want to go ahead and highlight some men who have been good role models and taught me a lot about God when they probably didn’t even realize they were doing it……With that being said……

Dave Cottrill: 1 Corithians 2:2

Dave was my very first football coach. He is a master teacher. I don’t believe I had a knack for understanding football, I believe I had one of the best guys around as far as putting football into understandable concepts. He took it down to the basic package and built it up from there. All of the mechanics of the game and the necessary knowledge he was able to convey to me in a very short amount of time. That is why Dave gets this scripture from Corinthians, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

When all is lost in your world, and the pressures of your family, job, mental stresses, sickness, any other struggle in life feels like it is just about to crush you; forget it all and remember the basics of your Christian faith. Jesus Christ died on a cross to pay for your sins so that you can know Him, and spend eternity with Him. Take comfort in the basics.

Don Toth: Hebrews 12:29/1 John 4:16

For our God is a consuming fire/ …God is love

Don Toth, or Spider as a lot of folks know him is probably the coach who had the single greatest impact on me over the years. Looking back all these years later he reminds me the most of what God’s character is like. He was deadly intense and powerful, yet at the same time one of the most kindly caring gentle folks I’ve known.

His anger could flash to a high very quickly, and be very intense. This wasn’t like the anger of other men that I see though, this was an anger that was rooted in a love and desire to correct you. It wasn’t to destroy you and make you feel stupid, but it was to shock you into reality and build you up. He also worked us harder than we ever would have imagined we could. If you played football under Don, you were basically a mini Spartan.

The apparent contradiction of these two concepts of an angry/jealous God and an all loving God is a typical misnomer by someone who is just glancing at the bible and not in a relationship with God. That power to rip this world from its hinges and destroy it is to be revered, feared, and respected; the decision to instead lay that power down and take the punishment on yourself is to be adored, loved, praised, and worshipped.

Bobby Kester: Luke 14:31

“Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?”

Bobby is the chap that dubbed me “Puddin” because I was slow and smooth. Still haven’t ever figured out if that was a compliment or a jab haha. He is the master planner. He would never be found in the middle of a battle without a plan. He would have back up plans for his backup plans. I think as we were playing the first half he had the video reel of the second half playing in his head and then he would explain how it was going to go down to us in the locker room. He was always a step ahead. If we were getting smoked on the field it was the execution part, not the battle plan itself, because he never failed in that department.

The Lord has given us His word. If like Mr. Kester we can take that battle plan for life and put it to work in our own lives it will never fail. We fail on the execution end, but the plan is simple. Not easy, but very simple….obey and be blessed, disobey and be cursed. Now we need the Lord’s help obviously to obey, but we will never get going anywhere in life as long as we keep a stiff neck and hard heart towards God. Fight the wind if you want, that’s just the way it is.

Ron Fisher: Proverbs 4:7

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

Fish. This guy was amazing. He just seemed to make every situation better. No matter what we were doing or what was going on, if Fish was there or involved it just seemed a little less….hard. He was absolutely hilarious too. A quality I tend to admire in folks, love me some joking around. I realized through Fish though that you could be both the funniest guy in the room and the most profound, it didn’t have to be one or the other.

We could go from laughing about somebody’s girlfriend woes or bad haircut, to hearing some valuable life lesson. It was like a switch. He could be telling a joke one second and then the very next you are hearing something that you know is just dripping with life changing wisdom. I don’t know if it was just the manner he spoke, but his words just seemed larger than life and impactful. As mentioned earlier I made a lot of less than wise decisions that may be key in my inability to recall any direct Fish quotes, but just the way in which he spoke and presented his words was impact enough. (Sorry Fish, I’ll let you go over it all again when I get to where you are)

Brad Jett: Nehemiah 1:8-9

Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations; But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

Of all my coaches, Coach Jett took the most flack from me. He had the unfortunate luck of having to deal with me at those wonderous teenage years of 15-18. I still remember making a really nice defensive play against Ben Hall as a freshman in a practice that got me noticed by the Coach and I was so grateful that it did, and he would give me the opportunity to go into ball games. My attitude had changed by the time I was a senior. I had become arrogant and figured I probably knew better than the coach a lot of the time.

I respected him and listened to his instruction, but I still assumed I could probably do things better if I was the one calling the shots. Typical I’m a boy, but think I’m a man scenario. Coach Jett was pretty fiercely loyal and protective over his guys. If we did poorly he took the blame, if we did well we got the credit. If anyone had anything bad to say about us he had our backs, but then when we were away from the eyes of everyone else he would teach us to act like we had some sense.

Two things stand out to me about Coach Jett that really stuck with me. The first being that he was able to see the enjoyment and bond of high school football beyond just winning ball games. I recall suggesting a younger player in place of one of my teammates who in my eyes was our weakest link. Now he very well may have been our weakest link (every chain has one), but he wasn’t about to be replaced by someone who hadn’t put in four years of faithfully showing up and trying. I wasn’t able to value that as a younger man, I can now, and I’m glad that he did then.

Secondly, I grew further apart from Coach Jett as my senior year went on. Especially when football season was over. This is real easy to sum up now; I started partying, drinking, and doing drugs almost daily (During football I wouldn’t do any drugs because I cared too much about winning, I would drink on the weekends after the games though) and he didn’t approve. He went from being my pal that had my back to a thorn in my side and an obstacle to me getting to do the things I wanted to do.

 

This is much the case with God. When we are submitted to Him, there is nothing we have to fear and doors just open up. When we rebel against Him, He is a mighty foe and will not relent nor acquiesce to our sinful desires. He loves us enough to confront our faults. He is definitely not an enabler, and neither was Coach Jett. I can see looking back he had and still has the best intentions for each and every one of the boys he coaches; not only on the football field, but in the field of life.

Wrap It Up Long Wind

Longest post I’ve ever wrote, if you made it this far congratulations, you  have proven you can read 🙂 I want to say thank you to these men and a few others I didn’t write about, but who I could say kind words about and share similar stories of (Frank Tate, Mark Clayton, Jeff Richards (let them big dogs eat!), but I figure I’ve said enough already.

I simply want to point out that, there are good men in our community and that coaches do have an impact on the children they coach. Children are impressionable, so when you hold a position of authority or a platform to speak from, be wary of what you do and how you influence those around you. Jesus said it would be better to tie a mill stone around your neck and cast yourself into the sea than to offend one of the little ones that believe in him.

This season, instead of complaining about whose kids playing more or the fact that this or that was a terrible call; how about you go up and shake the hand of somebody who is taking time out of their life to build and form your children into better citizens and in a small town where it’s still allowed, hopefully better Christians.

Why does Hell Fire and Brimstone Preaching Bother You?

Over the years I have heard people reference “hell fire and brimstone” preaching as a bad thing. A dirty word that you wouldn’t want to be associated with. Often times also followed up with a stern warning not to be a bible thumper. Is that really the best advice? How does that instruction match up with the bible? Lets have a little looksy. (Don’t underline my West Virginian vernacular spell check, ughhh.)

Cultural Bullies Change Meanings

I could write a whole post just on this heading. This is a strong tactic of those who gain power, be they on the right side of the isle or on the left side. I will give two quick illustrations of extremes on both sides.

When I say swastika, what do you think of? Do you think of good fortune? Do you think of sacred religious symbolism to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, or Odinism? Probably not; I would wager 98% of my readers draw up negative connotations of the word and associate it with one of the worst human tragedies known to our modern world. Adolph Hitler and his politics has changed what we think of when we bring up the swastika, perhaps for the rest of history. (Unless we forget it and revisionists rewrite it as is currently underway in America)

Lets move over to the other side of the aisle. What do you think of when I fill out a questionnaire and I list rainbow as my favorite color? Or maybe I put a rainbow symbol bumper sticker on my car. Are you immediately thinking, “wow, this guy has a healthy respect for the promises of God and understands that He will never flood the earth again.” No I imagine you would probably assume I was pledging my solidarity with same sex couples.

These two examples are along the same lines of what I believe has happened to “hell fire and brimstone” (HFB from here on out) preaching. In an attempt to defend the character of God, somebody along the way thought that it would somehow impugn his character if anybody went to hell. So then they got the notion that you shouldn’t be talking about hell. Next thing you know you have people being labeled “HFB preachers”. Did the content and message change or is something else going on?

Should We Please Men, or God?

This is the question the Peter and the apostles had for the high priest after he commanded them not to teach in Jesus name. (Acts 5:16-32) I don’t know of anybody that is going to be real pleased hearing about the fact that their rebellion against the creator has them destined for hell, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t warn them.

Now granted there is a wrong way to present the gospel and that would be to stop the message right there. It would be like your mom saying you’re going to get your butt beat when your father gets home and then your little sibling repeats that to you fifty times through the day before he gets there. You are naturally going to want that sibling to shut up. This is the case with people who don’t deliver the full gospel message.

It seems to me today though that those cases are far and few between and that  the majority of pastors and Christians in general would stray much too far in the other direction. Never breathing a single word about hell. Now what if that same sibling above knew how to get that butt whipping taking care of with you never having to feel it, would you want them to tell you? Or would you rather them just say, “You’re good man, dad loves you….no worries, he’s loving, I’m loving, we’re all loving.” I would choose the former, the latter sounds just wonderful until your father walks in and you still get your butt beat. That is the equivalent of just telling people  God is love and don’t worry about anything because He is a good God. Those are true words, but hearing them and knowing them will do you absolutely no good come judgement day.

Who Started the HFB Preaching?

It is real easy, Jesus did. It was his message. There is hell coming and those who have sinned are going there for God is holy and perfect and there will be no sin in his presence. Now that wasn’t the climax of His message, but it was the setting of the stage. If you take away this aspect, the message can lose its clarity, impact, and meaning.

Jesus didn’t give a hoot if it upset the folks around him, but it wasn’t because he was cold or indifferent; it was because he loved them with a greater love than the “love is love” groups and the social Christians who think you’re going to heaven because you sat in a building for two hours once a week. He didn’t have a problem with “bible thumping” that was kind of His thing. He based his life around the word, when people had a problem with what he was doing He simply quoted scripture and went on about His business. He trusted and rested fully in the authority of the word of God.

He gave the full counsel of God, not just one side or the other. He didn’t lead them to think there wasn’t an ultimate eternal butt whipping coming, he said if you will put your faith in me I’ll take it for you. We have so far removed hell from Christian talk I sometimes wonder if people know just what it is they’ve been saved from. Lump that in with teaching evolution and then you don’t know why you need saved in the first place. It goes down hill pretty quick when you start taking key components out of the bible.

Time Marches On

I attended my little cousin’s wedding yesterday and my daughter Lilly was the flower girl. I was sitting a few pews back and in my line of sight was my Uncle (father of the bride), my daughter a step or two down from the top of the stage, and then my cousin the bride up top. I just had this overwhelming feeling of time sucking everyone in the equation forward.

My uncle would go on to be old and die, like he always said he would. (he has a morbid sense of humor) I would sit where he was, and my daughter would be married off one day. We are all on this planet living and breathing  then one day we aren’t. Some of us have more time and some of us less, but we are all limited by time. Please don’t waste your time. There is no more crucial question to answer then where you are going to go when your time is up. I will choose to love you enough to let you know hell is very real, and without the blood of Christ that is where we go.

 

 

photo credit: grantuhard <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/30388487@N07/12777057294″>Fire and brimstone</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

photo credit: hz536n/George Thomas <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/11703832@N08/34871045692″>Time after Time</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>

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photo credit: Leo Reynolds <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/49968232@N00/25090279764″>war trophy</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

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If You Having Marriage Problems I Feel Bad For You Son, I Got 99 Problems But My Wife Aint One

Happily ever after! That is the fairy tale a child is taught from the time they are small in books and movies. This is not a post to blast the cultural norms of society and the lack of commitment to marriage, nor is this a post to boast about my own greatness in achieving some super human goal that unobtainable by the rest of you mere mortals. This post is to brag on the Lord and the wife he blessed me with and the marriage I have.

 

 

 

 

 

Pause and Consider…..

I’m usually pretty hesitant to talk up something as good for two reasons. Immediately after I do so it will fail, or it will be tested. I usually wonder if my marriage has been tested enough, but maybe that is the point, maybe it hasn’t been tested a lot because of the foundation. Or maybe the testing just hasn’t felt like testing because the way it is being handled? I don’t know, but I do know that this has been a wonderful experience and I couldn’t imaging life any other way. I think the reason it has been so good is because it’s built on the only one who is good.  Anyone who was at my wedding can let you know that it was my prayer that God would be the very center of the marriage and that Savannah and I would be able to come together in Him and through Him. This is the only reason that I can so confidently say that my marriage is wonderful and the bond we share is stronger than anything else I know. Like one of my favorite rappers Andy Mineo says, I ain’t cocky, I just know that God got me.

We aren’t perfect people, we have fights, and just yesterday we thought a boxing ring might be a fine place to have our next date; but God is faithful. We always come back to Him, and we always come back to that foundational love. The cornerstone of our relationship, our vows to one another, our oath  before God. If you haven’t thought about exactly what you vowed to do there in front of God and a bunch of witnesses you just might want to give it some thought. We might be loose with our words and short on memory, but I assure you the Lord isn’t. You said you were going to love this woman, you said you were going to take care of her, you were going to be there for her.

Out with the Bad Beans, In with the Good

I think a lot of folks struggle within their marital relationship because they are looking for that equal partnership, they are looking for that fairness situation. I scratch your back and you scratch mine. Jesus couldn’t make things anymore clear than what He did on the cross that life isn’t fair, so stop trying to make it out to be. Did Jesus say, “Father, I’m not dying for them they don’t do this, and they don’t meet this standard, and they don’t meet this expectation.” No, while we were yet his enemies He loved us and went to the cross and shed his blood for us, so that we might live. The whole, I do this and this and this; but she won’t ever do this is weak sauce garbage nonsense when brought before the Lord. Boys make excuses, men make plans. You better plan on loving your wife like Christ loved you, don’t forget that’s his daughter before she is your wife.

Sorry, kind of got off on a little rant there, it is just frustrating that so many of us as men fail to step up to the plate. We want to dodge responsibility and shrink back from our duty. Some of this can be laid at the feet of the way we were raised, but ultimately when you really get down to the truth of it, men love their sins. Wait I thought this post was about marriage, why are you getting off in the giggly weeds of sin? The two topics cannot be separated from one another. You will not experience the deep oneness and bond with your spouse as it was intended to be experienced while walking in sin. Just as Christ is keeping his bride the church spotless and sin puts a divide between you and the Lord, so to it does with your wife. It will drive a wedge and hopefully it is removed before you are split apart.

Spare Me the Speech, Just the Basics

Enough with the world ending dramatics and life shattering statements already Jeff you say? I’m trying to serve God and I just want some practical ideas of how my wife and I can grow closer, how I can be a better husband. Well shoot brother, why didn’t you just say so and you could have saved me a lot of typing. Here are a few things I TRY to implement into my own marriage that I think have been beneficial over the years.

  1. Do not fight or argue in front of your children. You either experienced fighting yourselves or have seen enough movies of kids listening to mom and dad fight to understand why this isn’t healthy. Not to mention you aren’t showing them that you are a single unified unit.
  2. When you fight and argue in front of your children (because try as you might you’re going to fail) be sure to go back and apologize to your wife in front of your children and apologize to your children. Tell them it was wrong for you to lose your temper like that and you are sorry and ask for forgiveness. This is not only verbatim what the bible prescribes when we sin, but this is also an example to your children and your wife of humility in action. Everything in you is going to scream and you are going to hate yourself, but suck it up buttercup, you said you wanted to be a man didn’t you?
  3. Make her a priority. There are a million things in this world that scream for out attention and our time. You are already on a limited amount of time here on this earth. Make sure that right after God (you are putting God first right? If not please refer back to the manual) your wife is the very next priority. Not your children, not your mommy and daddy, not the church people, not your hobby, not the fellas; your wife is the next one in line. There are some really good things in that list that all need attention and care, but none as important as your wife.
  4. Hear her. This one is really hard for me because I’m often off in my own little world thinking about who knows what. I tend to fade back and forth between talks with God and day dreams of utter nonsense (lol, I hate typing lol just so we are all aware, but I have texted it so much I don’t know what else to put or how to express my laughter to you, time to take a writing class). When she is telling you about her day take an interest in all the mundane details like you did back when you were dating. Then any place that you can interject and lighten her burden or go out of your way to get some small token item to let her know you are hearing her or show that you are engaged in what she has going on in her life.
  5. Do Housework. Jeff, that’s the women’s job, I work, I’m tired, she should take care of that. Again, if this is your attitude, you heart is in the wrong place go and talk it out with God. “Father, why do I have to die on the cross? That’s the sinners job, I’m perfect, punish them.” Is that the example we were given? No, we were called to serve. If Jesus Christ knelt down and washed feet, you can kneel down and fold clothes, sweep, bathe children and the fifty million other things your wife is doing while you’re at the recliner spa because you’re tired from work. Again buttercup, do you want to be a man or not?

That’s it for some basic ideas and tips on a better marriage. I’m not an expert but I know my marriage is great and I know it’s great because God is in the middle of it. You can take my advice or not, but I’m certain none of it is bad advice, choice is yours.

 

Wounds Stick Around

Nobody is getting out of this life unscathed. We are all going to have some bumps, bruises, and scars along the way. That is the natural order of living in a fallen world with the curse of sin. The bible instructs us to confess our sins one to another that we may be healed, but what happens if we disregard this piece of advice?

Tough Enough?

Take you a couple of good sharp knives and jam them in thighs, now punch out a few windows, and lastly for good measure run a couple of fish hooks through your cheeks. Not those little baby fish hooks either, the big mamma jamma’s. Now I want you to just carry on about your day as usual. Isn’t that what many of us do in life? We suffer all these emotional wounds and then we act as though nothing is wrong. There are a number of reasons for not showing any emotion, but none of them are very good.

Some folks let their pride stop them. If I show any emotions or acknowledge that this situation or person hurt my feelings I’m going to seem weak. In other situations people bottle their emotions up because they are trying to be strong for other family members….wives, children, husbands, siblings, etc., Fear of confrontation can be another reason that people don’t acknowledge their wounds. The reaction of the person doing the wounding is presumed to be worse than the continuing on of the situation.

Are You Wounded?

Regardless of your reason for holding everything inside the result is the same; you are a wounded person. Many of us never learned how to process or deal with these wounds and over time they compact and you are no longer the person you started out. You are something else now. A set of scars with a person underneath.

Everyone uses a different type of coping mechanism to achieve the same end; emotional numbness. The goal is to not feel a particular pain, but in pursuit of that goal you end up not feeling anything. My favorite band the Avett Brothers (thanks Cody Goldsmith) gave the analogy of being like the old tin man. That is about the best I can think of.

Healing in Christ and Community

Nobody gets well on their own. Christ paid a high price for us to live free. To be healed and fully capable of sharing love, of laughing, of weeping with those who weep. I used to think men didn’t cry, and over the years I’ve learned  scared men don’t cry. It only makes sense to weep when you are wounded, letting the Lord bubble that poison up and out of you from your core.

I have the honor of having an amazing wife and good men in a small group at church to work through my own pains. I’m not a finished work, but the Lord is giving me back my emotions. Everything is simply deeper in Him and more alive….to put it simply, the mundane in life has suddenly become much more abundant.

I worked through a small group program with some men from my church that helped the process a lot and we had to journal our 10 worst moments in our life and what we felt when we thought about them. That really helped me to get the ball rolling on dealing with some things and maybe it could help you to if you gave it a try.

If anyone reading this ever needs somebody to talk to just leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you.

 

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photo credit: UnlockingTheBible N04/7136627949″>Isaiah 53:5 Desktop Background “By His Wounds We are Healed” via photopin (license)

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Yes I can! (Nutty Professor Voice)

Let me ask you a question; have you ever been reading your bible (ain’t been reading your bible? You better get on it hombre, you’re missing out on life) and thought to yourself, I wish God would use me it some really great way like that, that’s amazing. I have had those thoughts, now let me tell you what thoughts trail those thoughts. (say it three times fast, I dare ya.)

Shortly after come all my self-condemnation and doubt thoughts. I know these aren’t coming from God because He is crystal clear that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. So the enemy tricks the flesh, they do a little fist bump, and say lets break his spirit.

I was reading in Luke 9 about the transfiguration and some of these thoughts started to creep in. Fortunately the Holy Spirit was quick on the scene to guide me into all truth. You see, I began to say to myself; “If Peter can watch Jesus shine in glory and talk to two superstars of the faith from the past who are apparently still alive and kicking by his power, immediately afterwards see a cloud of “glory” and hear the voice of God say audibly this is my Son and still go on to deny him, what hope is there for a wretch like me?”

An aside here that I had also flipped over as a cross-reference to the stoning of Stephen, and he’s just casually asking God not to lay this sin at their charge. I’m not like that, I can’t fake that kind of love, I will never reach some level of spiritual discipline to make me love others in that way.

Then it hit me like a two ton heavy thing. (Queensryche Empire album reference recognized by nobody ever; I find I often reference the most odd things from my childhood that weren’t really pop culture but they were my culture so I’m the only one who thinks its cool lol) Christ was with Peter on the mountain, he was not with him when he denied Him. Once the presence of the Lord had departed He was just an everyday bum like the rest of us. I don’t mean any offense to Peter, but I know he wouldn’t take any.

The point is when the people in the bible that you think are heroes of the faith are doing things that seem superhuman, that’s because they are. Not that they are super human, but that God is. They merely placed their faith in Him to do super human work through them. That is how you love people who are stoning you, that is how people forgive a drunk driver for killing their family on the spot and go on to petition for them to get out of jail, that is how when  you are taking captive you lead your captors to Christ.

It doesn’t make any sense according to the principles of this world, even to our most virtuous attempts at defining love. This is a love that transcends all and you only get it by knowing the one who was transfigured on the mount.

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Sprinting is fine, but life is a marathon

I walked briskly for almost 7 minutes and I’m winded. This is both comical and sad as I reflect on just last year running two miles no problem. What happened Jeffrey? Sprain your ankle? Have some really bad circumstances in your life that anybody would understand you not working out? Nope, just got lazy one day. (I think a pack of dogs is fighting a bunch of turkeys; who could focus?) 

That was just a brief paragraph that doesn’t back up the point of my post and only relates in as much that it had to do with running. The point I want to make is that sprinting is a great way to gain ground quickly, but it can be your enemy if you are in a long range situation. This just in: “Life” found by new study to be a long range situation. 

Attacking while you’re wounded (next blog topic) and sprinting after your enemy can both be detrimental to your health, just ask Asahel (2 Samuel 2:18-23). Our finite life spread across a timeline of eighty years of your blessed to see so many is a small thing compared to eternity, but in light of a week or a day it is quite the journey. 

Have you ever just sat back and thought, “Lord Will I ever be the person you want me to be? Will I ever walk out the personal purpose you have for me in this life?” I have asked those things. I so easily forget that God isn’t a genie and I’m not in a movie. After three weeks training in the snow, a cut scene of me with the family, and some inspirational music while I laugh with my mentor I won’t be ready for the battle. Walking this life out with the Lord is a journey and it’s going to take years to get where I’m going, but I’m going.

Sprinting is hard of course and has its momentary merits, but sprinting comes to an end. You tire and you faint. I started this blog sprinting. Anxious to simply “DO” something, anything for God. As I’m wearing down and panting He’s trying to say, “Son, you don’t have to do anything, and what you’re trying to do there is all wrong anyways. Stop, calm down, come over here and let me heal you up and love you. Love me, and the doing will handle itself.” If you are trying to get fruit to show up on the branch of your Christian walk you may be like me, missing the point.

Heard a guy say he was tithing his time, this can be more precious than money. A person can write a check or drop some money in a plate and then go on about their life without a thought of God. Give Him your time, that is what He wants and that is what we need.

“No no, not those sticks there, they burn too quickly.”

Man’s Man

The most noble of titles, one of the highest ranks of achievement for any man in the community…..”he’s a real man’s man.”

I will not take the time to speak to the generation that is at present in a crusade to dismantle the sexes as though they were a child’s play thing to be torn apart and placed back together in any mix and match style that you choose. Perhaps one day that group will have to struggle with the concept of a real human’s human; for the here and now though I will speak to those of use who still understand an objective male and female.

The MM title naturally will vary across different cultures and landscapes. Hunters, bankers, soldiers, actors, kings, villagers, captains of the sea, miners of the ground; all different, all the same. There is an overarching theme that comes up. Identity of the man based on what he is able to do. One can fetch food, one can fetch power, one can kill, one can play dead, one can rule lands, one is ruled. His identity is derived from his position or performance.

The problem isn’t for the man who does well or is in a high position. The problem is for the man who does not perform well, or who does not have such a high position.  More so even for the man who never learned some of the time-honored traditions of “manliness”.

You contemplate such things as your wife drives off to have the oil changed on your vehicle you can’t find the oil filter on. You also contemplate such things as setting your lawn mower on fire after the minor task of changing blades has taking the fight out of you. (On a side note, after borrowing the tools I needed the stupid blades finally came off and were changed.) I find more often than not simple “man of the house” tasks and anything mechanical are the bane of my existence.

Now I have to look into the magic bag of self-worth and find something to quickly paint over top of these recent gaffes of ego. Let’s see….money? No, that won’t do I’m neither particularly poor nor particular rich. Maybe strength? No, I’m neither particularly strong nor particularly weak. My career? My tasks at work while needed, tend much more towards the mundane and unimportant. I am for all intents and purposes average. This presents a bit of an identity conundrum for a man. Perhaps the men who sat atop a throne and have lost their knack have it worse. The men who were great athletes, and fell prey to injury. Men who were great leaders and fell prey to scandals, betrayal, or assassination. Men who were incredibly strong and suffered a debilitating disease. Men of great wisdom know for the wonders of their minds suffering a stroke. They may have it worse, but at least they have their stories of bygone times of greatness.

So the crux of the problem is this; a man needs greatness. He needs something large and purposeful, full of meaning. He needs a destiny. The problem is that we cannot find that within ourselves. Many of us try to do so, and through perhaps God’s grace or for his own amusement have some success. Ultimately though a man will reach a limitation. Perhaps it will be physical, maybe mental, or maybe even the mere passage of time will overtake him. I won’t leave you in such a dismal state though, for there is hope, and I know Him.

You see, my identity is in Jesus Christ. This cannot be shaken, this cannot be taken. There is no physical limitation, no mental set back, not even the passage of time that can change who I am in him. I am an ordinary man as much as I perceive myself; I am an extraordinary man as I am perceived by Him. He has made me unique, a masterpiece in His hands. Of all the things I could set my heart to do in this world, there is but one that will satisfy. What is that one thing? What is that meaning in life? To know Jesus Christ. All other stations and pursuits in life a void of meaning if not pursued in light of who you are in Him.

A small comparison of correct pursuit of the “manly” task of painting a picture in light of who you are in Christ and painting a picture in light of who you are in the world, the man’s man painter if you will. The latter paints and revels in what he has created only to lose his identity when an accident removes his ability to paint. The former revels in the fact that he has been given an imagination and that even though his brush may be taken he is still a work of art; his Lord the master painter, and he the paint.

As it seems I generally do, I have once again strayed a bit from the original idea of this post; however I hope that perhaps just one line in it somewhere will encourage anyone who has ever thought they weren’t good enough to turn to their father who deemed them good enough to create, love, and die for.

Da Best!

Color the eggs, bake the bread, feed me more of the ham I said! Another trip around the sun has brought us back to the most monumental holiday in the Christian religion; Easter. I apologize to the folks who can’t handle me calling it Easter. Pagan religion, fertility goddess, bunnies and eggs equal lot of reproduction; got it. I just so happen to not equate the holiday to any of that unless the bunnies are chocolate and the eggs are painted. If you do then you probably want to avoid it all together because anything not from faith is sin.

Now that I’ve got past the word police I can address the fact that this holiday is the most amazing of any we could celebrate. This is the moment that all humanity must address and decide how it will impact their present and their future. The day that Jesus conquered death and walked out of the tomb. The risen Christ. This is the crescendo of life’s symphony. The cross is foolishness to so many though because they don’t have a foundational concept of creator God.

I heard it explained in such a way as this; America was founded on Christian principles that guided our laws and education system. The bible was taught in school, this was common place. Our society as a whole understood the concept of original sin from the first human Adam bringing death to our entire race through our very nature. We inherit the sin nature because we are of that very same nature; any one of us in the garden under the same circumstances would have eaten from the tree and disobeyed God.

We lack any means to make ourselves righteous no matter how desperately we try. We have more in common with Hitler than Jesus when it comes to righteousness. This is why we need a savior. We tend to minimize God’s eternality. When you sin once against an eternal God the punishment must be eternal for their to be justice. While hell was not created for mankind, it is the only fitting place for us to be sent when we sin against God. Otherwise God would not be a just judge. The equivalent of giving a murderer a two month sentence. It just isn’t right. (Note right and wrong have no bearing if God doesn’t exist)

Our Messiah took that death-blow, that punishment for our sins upon himself on the cross so that we could be reconciled to a relationship with God minus the barrier of sin. He took on our sins and gave us His righteousness. This is the free gift that God offers each of us, to take our place upon the cross and endure God’s wrath.

Now if we put our faith in Jesus and that was the end of the story I suppose we would all thank Him for that enjoy our lives and return to dust at the end of it. This isn’t the end though it is just the beginning. This same Christ that died on the cross for your sins by the power of God was raised from the dead. He conquered the power of death. That same power that raised Him up from the dead will raise us from the dead also. In this we take comfort, in this we take hope. Our loved ones are not gone forever, we are connected to everyone throughout history that has believed in the work of our resurrected Lord on the cross and we will know them all in the life to come. He has promised us that we will live forever with Him and not perish.

That is why this is the most amazing of all the possible holidays in the world. It combines our greatest need (payment of our sin debt to a holy God); with our greatest want. (A life that knows no pain, nor sorrow, nor evil, nor sin, nor ending) This all comes together between the cross and the resurrection. Please, please, please take some time to stop and think on who this man was and what this event means if you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  -Jesus