Fisher Of Men

I’m not sure what it will take,

To pay for that mistake.

The one I made decades ago,

That swung my heart to and fro.

Merry-go-round of emotions since,

The kind of pain that makes you wince.

It promised much and provided little,

Satan asked if he should play his fiddle.

Mocking the death of my feelings,

Taunting me with memories when,

I made active choices to sin.

“But do you remember when…”

“If your wife knew that, then…”

“Your love is fake, your story is a lie.”

Round and round, despair takes my breath.

This must be what it feels like – death.

All of this because I wanted to see,

That which wasn’t meant for me.

Images on a screen, women that weren’t mine.

Innocence taken before its time.

Side effects that can still be felt,

Worse than a bruise, worse than a welt.

Scar tissue that runs so deep,

It’ll hit me like a train and cause me to weep.

And there’s the enemy, back with his fiddle,

Ready to challenge me with another riddle.

“If you loved Jesus, then how could you?…”

“If you were Christian, then wouldn’t you?…”

“How will you pay for all of this?”

It’s true – I’m indebted.

Credit-line with God maxed out to the brim,

And it’s not just my heart that carries the pain,

Marriage causes Beauty to carry my shame.

The burdens too heavy to carry on my own,

Pick up the phone and call one another,

Thank the Lord Jesus for my brothers.

And if I could give you one piece of advice,

It’d be that the forbidden-fruit isn’t worth it.

It’s amazing how crafty and contorted,

Our versions of “truth” can become.

“It’s not that bad to look,”

“I’m just reading a book.”

“But it’s a good movie,”

“And it’s a great show.”

“We’re just talking.”

“It’s not really stalking.”

Oh I fear for the day the Judge returns,

Takes out the gavel as his heart burns,

With just anger and proclaims,

“Away from me, for you never knew me.”

Don’t stay there, my friend.

Walk into the light, and own up to when,

You made some choices that aligned you with sin.

Talk to someone, talk to me,

Ask them how you, too, can be free.

It’s not a joke, it’s not a comedy.

Interfile men because they’re wasting their seed,

Women’s hearts crushed, pleading with God that their men would be freed.

Family’s ripped apart because of sleazy affairs,

Men so emasculated that they have the courage of a young boy,

Because shame has tied a noose around their neck and stolen their joy.

That doesn’t have to be your story – it’s not mine anymore.

Christ, let us out of our heart’s prison,

Pay for our debts, for you’ve already risen.

Raise us up and fill our cup,

Renew our joy and our gifts,

Speak into my heart and give me your voice,

The courage to tell men they have a choice.

The strength to stand when others won’t,

And I suppose I’ll end on this note…

I can’t wait to see,

That which he’s meant for me.

The dreams and visions and ministry,

A fisher of men in a raging sea.

fishers of men

New Insight In A New Season

I decided recently – again – that I spend far too much time online. By far one of my favorite coping mechanisms is reaching for the smartphone and surfing Facebook to see what others are up to. It helps me feel connected without risking being vulnerable in real-life. Requesting prayer from an online platform is a lot different than speaking face-to-face or over the telephone line about your life’s hardships and opening yourself up to someone else’s feedback and perspective.

It’s easier to crop an image and choose a filter than to deal with people seeing the real, angsty, almost always sweaty this time of year, Justin. One of the guys that I’ve grown up with invited me over to his house for a Guy’s Night this weekend – the fire pit was ablaze, cigars were lit, beer cracked open (or sparkling water in my case that night), and a huge, life-sized Jenga set was played.

Jenga Set

All that fun happening and I found myself wanting to reach for my phone to take a picture so that others would know I’d had a good time that night. (Also, because the Jenga set was awesome and I wanted to remember it.) The point remains, it’s so much easier to be able to document life online than it is to actually live it.

I’ve been encountering a lot of weird, heavy, dark, tough emotions lately and my first reaction is to find some form of coping mechanism (social media apps on the phone, booze, entertainment, etc.). Due to this and some other life-experiences, I’ve placed myself on bit of a fast from social media being so easily accessible on my phone and from alcohol for the next few weeks at least.

Technology is a useful resource but one of the things I despise about Sales is being married to my cell-phone, and reducing the amount of time I spend on it and coping with my stress and emotions in other unhealthy ways at home, is something I’ve chosen to work on.

After all, it was interesting what happened when I resisted the urge and left my phone in my pocket the last few evenings. I connected with total strangers and got to know about their lives, what they do, and the varying ways I can be actively praying for them. And I returned home to my wife, refreshed and ready to re-engage her with a fresh set of relational batteries because I’d taken the time to pour out God’s love on others and receive it from them as well. And last night – sitting across from Allie at Red Lobster enjoying the ultimate trio of salmon, lobster, and shrimp (mmm, seafood!) – we found ourselves connecting on a conversational level like we did when we were first starting to date each other a few years ago.

I think it’s time that we, as a society, begin taking larger steps toward becoming less dependent on hiding behind text-messages and social-media and instead invested the time in face-to-face interactions with those we love, and perhaps, those we don’t currently, but could lead our hearts to love over time.

An interesting tidbit from Tim Keller’s “The Meaning Of Marriage” is that as he pastored a church in Virginia, he took on ministering to a rather difficult couple with lots of problems and no one really seemed to like them. Over the course of a few months, he spent some of his ministry time in their house, inviting them into his office for counseling, and so on. Well – one rare mid-week day off, his wife was asking what he’d like to do that day and he said, “I think I’d like to hang out with the couple we’ve been working with.” His wife was surprised until he realized what had happened. As he’d been faithful in loving them, even though they weren’t all that likeable, he’d actually come to enjoy spending time with them – to love them, as he loved himself. He now genuinely loved his neighbor because he had led his heart in the direction of God’s will.

I found that convicting as I considered the people in my life that I don’t really like all that much or the coworkers that I tend to…avoid. I may make a greater impact for the Kingdom if I were to focus less on who I love and don’t love, and simply chose to love others as myself, as the Lord has directed.

Oh, and another thing – the world seems to spin a little smoother the more we align ourselves with what God has in store for us. Like many of you, I’ve spent plenty of time trying to direct my own footsteps and find my own, individualistic, “unique” way in life. It takes a lot of energy attempting to control all of the people and circumstances in your life. It’s just kind of ironic, humorous, and perplexing to consider that the “freedom” we’ve all been searching for in our youth is actually found in surrendering ourselves to the will of the God of Jacob – the same God that’s been keeping the world spinning on its axis just fine, since long before you and I came into existence.

So – the lesson I’m presently learning in life is quite simple: Love God. Love Others. Less of me, more of Him, so that His Kingdom can come, right here, right now, and we don’t have to wait any longer for His peace to fill our homes and flood our hearts.

Relying On Him

It was one of those weeks where you never really catch up on sleep – and just when you think the drama has come to an end, there’s a new twist and turn. From family drama to challenging professional interactions, arguments over nothing caused by irritability, and life-changing, deep conversations. From a margarita infused laugh fest to sober tears and lots of pain, there was all of it.

I’m not sure why but whenever life enters that spectrum where success suddenly doesn’t seem to matter all that much, interesting things happen. You’re at work – but you’re not really at work. You’re in the car driving, but your thoughts are taken back to your own memories of pain. You make it home safe, but you’re not sure how.

This week a family member made the strong, challenging decision to break off an emotionally abusive relationship and I couldn’t be more proud. But it’s hard to break away from something that we’ve become used to.

In a way, “love” can become as addictive as a drug, the dopamine that had been released during close times together creates a spiritual tie of sorts. It binds us closer, creates that need for closeness; and that’s one of the many reasons it hurts so much to break a relationship off.

The light that is at the other end of the tunnel is worth it though. I remember the time in my life where I was in a relationship where the other individual wasn’t all-in, but I was – it hurt a great deal to end the relationship one fateful May evening. But what I didn’t know is that just a little while later – on an October evening, I’d meet a woman that would love me wholeheartedly, forgive quickly, and encourage and champion growth together. It was no longer the endless, perpetual cycle of stagnancy; I made financial gains, spiritual gains, and relational gains. “He makes all things new.” Even you. And even me.

My heart has been overwhelmed with the pain of others recently. Thinking about all of the addictions that some wrestle with and that I’ve had to overcome personally. Allowing myself to feel the pain my family-member is going through. Spending valuable time on my phone outside talking brothers off the ledge.

It’s times like these that make me wonder – how does anybody do it that doesn’t know Jesus?

I mean, seriously. How?

Several times over the last week, when someone has overstepped their bounds and interfered with my life and I’ve wanted to lash out in anger, I had to rely on strength that was not my own – it was His.

Several times over the last week, when someone was feeling the same pain that I’ve experienced in the past, I had to rely on strength that was not my own – it was His.

Several times over the last year, as a brother in Christ confesses their battle with purity, and I’ve done the hard thing of giving them tough, Gospel inspired love, calling them to repent and then lovingly embracing them – I’ve had to rely on strength that was not my own – it was His.

So when you ask, how does the eldest of five, newly married, constantly busy, “rock-star-legend” (according to my wife) retail salesmen manage to keep it together (most of the time)? The answer is, I am His. My strength is His. I rely on Him.

I know Jesus, and I want you to know Him too. He saved my life, saved my marriage, gave me hope, and rose again – giving every sunrise new mercies.

There’s a new beginning each day. And we get to live with that hope, because of Him.

I’m praying for you, dear friend, as you’ve taken the time to read this – praying that you would know Him too.

tunnel

Start Loving Others

The most common thread in the advice I’ve received on writing is to start. Don’t get so caught up in mapping out your thought-process and attempting to steer things the direction you want to go. Just do it.

I think there’s a lot of truth there and I’ve seen it play out in many areas of my life. Love someone? Just tell them and then prove it by showing them they’re the most important person in your world. Ready to lose weight? Then put down the bread and get out of bed, sleepyhead (had to throw a cheesy rhyme in there somewhere).

Meeting with a childhood friend of mine was encouraging this morning. There are some friendships that you have in life that just never die. Perhaps they fall asleep for a long hibernation but once back together your hearts can pick up right where you left off and this guy is that kind of friend. Some people have the gift of making whoever they’re with in the moment feel like the most important person in the world; I think it’s because he’s allowed his heart to become like Christ and he genuinely loves everyone.

That’s something to aspire to – isn’t it? Loving everyone. That’s so, so hard. Think of the difficult coworker that just rubs you the wrong way – you really do not even want to try to establish a relationship with this individual but perhaps that’s sheer laziness on your part. After all, everyone’s deepest desire to be known – to be connected. All their pushing and shoving and stiff-arming is likely fueled by a distrust of others because of others that have hurt them. What difference a little genuine love could make in their life.

I think of the times I was hurting inside the most. In these life-chapters I had frequently bullied friends and family into a corner and told (not asked) them to stay out of my life. Isolation is the companion of the fool that goes his own way, because community requires accountability. It was in these isolated, depressed, anger filled moments that some of my best friends in life took the time to draw me out – to get me to share my feelings and make myself vulnerable again. Only then, in the light, could I be healed.

So today, I challenge you and I challenge me, to start loving others. It’ll likely be one of the more emotionally taxing things you do today but it will also probably be the most rewarding. And who knows – it could build a relationship between you and the other that could pay off dividends in the future. Because chances are, you aren’t the easiest person to love either.

start loving others

Good Mornings

Today is a Good Morning. It started with waking up at 5:00AM to make sure I could meet with a friend of mine at 6:30AM for breakfast and coffee – two of my favorite things – one on one time with a bro and delicious, bottomless mugs of Ethiopian blend coffee.

I don’t know why I don’t do this more often – wake up and get after it. Force myself out of bed for the benefit of the rest of the world, as well as myself. By waking up I took the time to invest on an emotional, mental, and spiritual level with another person and I’ve jump-started the rest of my day. I’m awake, alert, and ready to go long before I have to be clocked in at work and ready to go.

There’s a reason why you feel better on the mornings that you just get out of bed versus the days you snooze the alarm over and over again.

Today is also a Good Morning because it’s Good Friday. Today, we remember the day that Jesus sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane in the early hours of morning due to the anxiety of knowing what was to come that evening. Betrayal. Pain. Death.

And yet, we have the luxury of knowing that Sunday brings freedom from death because Christ escaped the grave and overcame death so that we don’t have to. By His blood, our sins are paid for, our righteousness has been bought at a price and all who have faith and repent can be saved. Incredible.

It’s interesting to think about the fact that our Savior, Himself, had to experience betrayal of a friend. The betrayal of a loved one or friends can sting and cut you down, the pain seeming to linger for a heart’s eternity. But there is hope – there is a Sunday for that. By experiencing the true love of Christ and His forgiveness over our own sin and darkness, we can be granted the strength and opportunity to forgive and release others of their transgressions to us.

I think the greatest example I’ve witnessed of this is my beautiful wife and the times I’ve hurt her with the words I’ve said or the actions I’ve taken. But something has always set her apart from anyone else I’ve given my heart in the past, she has always been capable of forgiveness. She’s always been filled with the Spirit, capable of a love deeper, more passionate, and more loyal than any I’d experienced before. It was because of this that my heart was drawn back to Jesus back in 2015 and because of this that I made her my bride in 2017. And it’s because of God’s redeeming work in my heart and in my life that I’m capable of loving her with that same kind of love in 2018 and beyond.

Perhaps you’ve been following along in our Psalms Study and you’ve seen the weekly tidbits of wisdom gathered from the Scriptures and I’ll do what I can to continue that at my writing leisure. But I felt today was the perfect opportunity to remind everyone that they can have a Good Morning too. The love of Jesus is available to you – you just have to make yourself available to it. And that’s the hardest part, isn’t it? (Because what if…he doesn’t come through this time, he doesn’t answer your first prayer, he forgets what you’ve been through…)

It’s worth the unknown, because He’s never left me hanging. In my moments of need, I’ve allowed myself to become anxious and worried time and again and it’s never added a minute to my life just as promised in Scripture – but somehow, someway, He always comes through for me. Let Him do the same for you.

Let this morning be the first of many Good Mornings.

good morning coffee

Psalm Study Week 4 (Psalms 22-28)

Sitting in my hotel room in Denver I find myself challenged to maintain the discipline, to keep the dream alive and write. So here’s the 4th installment of our Psalms study. If you’re not enjoying it – that’s okay. I’ll get back to my more traditional style soon enough. But for now, writing weekly and maintaining a daily discipline of being in the Word of God has been extremely beneficial for me and my marriage.

  • Psalm 22:11 “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
    • We’ve all bee in this place before – of feeling as if we are alone and there is no one around to help us. Sitting in the corner of our bedroom on the floor, crying out to God – “If you’re there and you hear my cries, then show yourself to me! Let me hear your voice, O God!” I love the authenticity of David’s heart in asking the Lord to stay close to him. I relate. Lord, stay close.
  • Psalm 23:6 “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
    • I am terrible at believing the promises of God to be true. One moment I’m singing his praises and the next I am complaining about how difficult making sales is and how hard marriage and family relationships can be. Through conversations with my friend here in Denver we were discussing a simpler way of looking at life – of focusing on each moment of each day and just being present. I think if I were to just be 100% where I’m at all the time and not so consumed with worry about the future, I’d learn to be truly thankful. Thankful for the cup of coffee I enjoyed this morning, the mountains I climbed this afternoon, my wife dancing around like a goofball in our hotel room as I write this making me laugh and pause and thank God for her. Surely, Lord, your goodness will follow me all the days of my life.
  • Psalm 24:3-4 “Who may ascend the mountain of the LordWho may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.
    • For me, this is a good reminder of how holy our God is. I think we often take it for granted that we can communicate with God whenever we want to. There was a time where we needed a priest to intercede on our behalf in the temple. But then came a time where the curtain in the temple was torn in two, Jesus rose from the grave, and became our Savior. The Holy Spirit prays for us when we do not have the words to pray ourselves. And we have an open line of communication the throne-room in Heaven. How cool is that? How mighty is our God? Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?
  • Psalm: 25: 7, 15 “Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways;
    according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good… My eyes are ever on the Lordfor only he will release my feet from the snare.

    • Aren’t you so thankful there is forgiveness? We’ve all made decisions that were not the greatest. We’ve all done something that we regret. He’s separated our sins from us as far as the East is from the West and remembers them no more. And how true is it that when our eyes are set on the Lord, it is then His strength, guidance, and healing power that releases us from the snare of sin.
  • Psalm 26:1 “Vindicate me, Lordfor I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.
    • May this become increasingly true of my life. What a power-statement.
  • Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lordbe strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
    • I don’t know if you’re familiar with me or not, but anything involving waiting is not for me. I hate waiting. Patience is a virtue and I despise it. But how frequently have I attempted to take things into my own hands and then regretted it? How frequently it would have been so much easier if I had just waited for, and then listened to, the Lord? Many, many times. Wait on the Lord, for He is Good and Faithful.
  • Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.
    • I am weak, but He is strong. I find rest in His harbors. He keeps the waves from crashing down on the decks of my ship and tossing me into the sea. My heart trusts in Him. I can’t help but tell you that He is Good. So, so Good.

Downtown Denver beckons. St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness need my attention so I must run for now! But I hope these verses encourage you as much as they encouraged me. Please let me know how I can be praying for you and what you’ve been learning in your Psalms Study!

four leaf clover

Psalm Study Week 3 (Psalms 15-21)

Sometimes life takes over and you fall behind on your writing. What matters is that I’m trying to become more consistent and disciplined with it – right? Here is “Week 3” and what I learned along the way. I’ll also do what I can to write Week 4 in the next couple days so we can all be caught back up!

  • Psalm 15:1-2 “Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart.
    • The last year or two I’ve been a part of a group of men that hold each other accountable to living holy and blameless lives, protecting their marriages from scandal, and doing the hard work of cleaning their hearts from the inside out. You may have heard it said, the Lord is not concerned with whitewashed tombs but he is concerned with the heart – and that’s what my message (and blog) has always been about. You may have it all together on the outside – that’s wonderful. But when was the last time you opened up your heart and really dug to the root of your weaknesses? Can you really, confidently pray to the Lord and ask Him to examine your heart, for it is blameless?
  • Psalm 16:8-9 “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.

    (The bullet list formatting wouldn’t work beyond this point in the blog for whatever reason. I’ll have to come back and edit later on, but the show must go on!)

    What I found to be so important in Psalm 16: 8-9 was how David’s focus could not be shaken. But placing his eyes on the Lord, his lot was secure. Because his heart is glad and his tongue sings praise, his body also will rest secure. I could go for some of that rest. Come, Lord – show me what that kind of rest and peace looks like.

    Psalm 17:3 “Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.”

    Can the same be said of my heart? Can the Lord look into my heart and see that I have planned no evil – that I have not uttered a slander against a brother or a sister? And what about you, dear friend? O that we may experience this sort of holiness!

    Psalm 18:37-39 “I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed. I crushed them so that they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet. You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me.

    What an excellent battle-cry! What a testament to the confidence we should have in the Lord. Just makes you want to go workout in the gym and prepare yourself for battle against evil. Death has no sting and we’ve got the power of God before us. Earlier in the chapter, David is writing and describing the majestic power of the Lord and how he has rescued him from deep waters. The imagery is beautiful, powerful, and descriptive and I’d encourage you to go back and read it when you have the time. What an awesome God we serve.

    Psalm 19:11 “By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

    “Them” is referring to the instructions of the Lord found in Scripture. I think this is an excellent reminder of our need to be in the Word daily, meditating on it day and night, as it instructs the heart and leads us toward great reward.

    Psalm 20:6 “Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.

    Who doesn’t like #winning? May the Spirit call you out of deep waters and anoint you and your ministries. May He send His angels to deliver us in times of battle and may our shouts be shouts of victory and not wails of defeat.

    Psalm 21:7 “For the king trusts in the Lordthrough the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken.

    Recording artist Thi’sl writes of Christian men being kings. Royalty in the eyes of God, heirs to the throne. A king that trusts in the King Of Kings will not be shaken. I want to be like that when I grow up!

    crown