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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wholly Holy...

I wrote this on my divorced dad's blog but I thought it bore repeating here...

Peter admonishes us in 1 Peter 1:15, "But in the way that He who has called you is holy, so you should be holy in every aspect of your life. Because it is written, "You be holy because I am holy".

Dad's...I wrestled with this verse for so many years. I thought it was a very legalistic command to live a pious, perfect life, free of even the remotest form of humanity, much less sin.
But I was reading my way through A.W. Tozer's wonderful little book, "The Knowledge of the Holy" which is a study on the attributes of God, and I finally--after many years--grasped what Peter was saying.
Tozer makes the case...appropriately so...that God is all of His attributes fully, and all at once. In other words He is not Holy sometimes and Omniscient others. Or Just sometimes but Sovereign others. He is all of the things He is, and He is all of them all at once. He chooses to show us one attribute over another sometimes but those attributes are still totally at work all at once.
It took a while but I finally understood what Peter was saying when he said; "But in the same way He who called you is Holy, you be Holy..."  God is Holy all at once and His Holiness winds it's way through every other attribute and aspect of His being.
And so the charge from Peter. We should be holy. Holy in everything we do. There shouldn't be any areas where we aren't seeking to exude the Holy imprint of God in our lives. It's difficult to imagine how we can really be Holy. But remember...Holiness is not something we possess. It comes from God and it renders us Holy by contact. Remember when Moses first met God, in the form of the burning bush? God told him to take off his shoes because the very dirt he was walking on was Holy. How was that true? Was it special dirt? No. It was dirt just like the rest of the mountain was...until God showed up. When the presence of God descended on the mountain and lit upon the bush, His holiness became the holiness of the entire mountain. That is how it happens with us.
As dad's, sometimes we can close off areas of our lives and only open them when our children are around us. We aren't trying to be deceitful or duplicitous, we just compartmentalize. But we can't do this. We need Holiness in every aspect of our lives, from our fatherhood, to our jobs, to our citizenship in our country, to our activity in our churches to our workplace and on and on. Holiness doesn't mean rigid simply means a purity that comes from God Himself. The fragrance of our faith in Christ should permeate every single aspect of our lives...even the things we barely pay attention to. Things like our attitude in traffic (a trouble spot for me) to our smile and gentleness in the check out line in the grocery store, to the way we handle our finances and our assets, to the respect we show our children's mom and on and on.
Holy living doesn't mean being perfect. It doesn't even mean trying to be perfect. It means living out of a center of focus on Jesus Christ and His person and the Holiness of His Father God, through the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit.
That last phrase is really a key. Think of the third person of the Trinity...say that name thoughtfully. "The Holy Spirit". Literally it is "The Spirit (or power, or attitude) of God's Holiness" If I am filled up inside with the very attitude of Holiness of God Himself, then it simply must permeate my whole life.
Dad's...and all believers...are you Holy in all areas of living. Do we do everything we do in a way that points to Jesus Christ? It's hard. But I am trying.
Dad's, make a short list of a few area's where you could really use to surrender your way of living to more Holiness.
Here are mine:
     *Prayer life. I know prayer is vital and I pray each morning and evening but I could use more time and effort here. More serious pursuit of God in prayer...especially more sitting quietly and listening for His voice. This is an integral part of prayer as much as asking for things is. I need to model this in front of my daughter so it's a habit she develops too.
     *Kindness. I am stressed so often and it makes my fuse quite short. A life infused with the Holy Spirit will show more kindness and patience. I need to work on this more and let my daughter see her dad as a kind, and Christ-like man.
     *Faith. I need the Holiness of God to be the core of a large life of faith. I want my daughter to see a dad who believes big, asks big and trusts a big God for big answers.

Let's be determined to be holy, men. Let's let the Holy Spirit enter into every area of our hearts...even the loneliness, pain, and emptiness of post-divorced life. Because that is how He will make something wonderful come from it all.

Let's be wholly Holy.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

An Open Letter to Joe Biden...It's Not Funny Mr. Biden

Mr. Vice President…
didn't enjoy your performance the other night in the debate. It saddened me. I like to think I have a sense of humor. I have always been a funny guy, the class clown, a guy who disarmed many situations with a joke or a smile. But what you did the other night wounded me deeply and betrayed me as an American and as a dad. Let me tell you why…
I was born in Philadelphia and when I was 7 years old we moved a few miles south, to New Castle, Delaware…you’re home state. I was a constituent of yours.
 I remember reading in the Evening Journal about the tragic accident that claimed your wife and daughter. I remember being only 8 years old but being very sad. I know I didn't laugh.
You know the area. It’s blue collar and lunch pail. It’s only a couple of miles from the big Boxwood Road GM plant…the one they closed down. One of my best friends lost his job there. For the last three years he’s been living in Ohio, working at a GM plant there, and coming home every few weeks because he needed to get his last few years in so he didn't lose his retirement. He almost never sees the house he lived in, where he grew up, three doors down from me. That’s not funny either.
What’s even less funny is a few years ago Fiskars came to town and made big promises about moving their production there. They were given a choice loan from your boss, Mr. Obama. 529 MILLION dollars to be exact. But they changed their minds and they aren't coming. My friend John won’t be coming home to work. That’s not funny.
I moved to Nashville 15 years ago and had a beautiful wife and a daughter. I scratched out a living and got very good at my job. I was in the mortgage business. I wasn't a Wall Street bundler…just a loan officer. But I did well and found success. I went through a divorce and stayed a single man and focused on my daughter, because she’s my world. You’re a dad…I’m sure you can understand.
In 2004 I bought my dream home. It wasn't fancy or expensive. I only paid $175,000 for it. But I had a few acres and I could plant a garden and our dogs had room to run. We had two beautiful Springer Spaniels named Bonnie and Cooper and a cat named Giacomo and my daughter had a little pony.  They were like family to my daughter and me. I mention them because they are gone now. So is the house.
In 2006 the mortgage industry began to contract. In 2007 I lost my home to foreclosure.
That was nothing to laugh at…me losing my home. It wasn't funny Mr. Vice President.
I rented for a year but we all know what happened in 2008. I didn't just lose my job…I lost my career. By August of 2008 I was sleeping in my car, hidden behind a church. I showered in the recreation center and ate infrequently. It wasn't funny Mr. Vice President. My joblessness was nothing for you to smirk at the other night.
I lived this way for THREE and a HALF YEARS! Believe me…I didn't have much to laugh about in all that time. It wasn't funny.
I lived this way stubbornly because I love my daughter and she needed me to remain in her life and to do that I had to remain in her town. I know you understand this…you rode the train every day to come home to your kids instead of moving to D.C. Surely you appreciate the value of the sacrifice I made and the hardship and embarrassment I endured.  Given the dad you are, I don’t know why you laughed. Believe me…it wasn't funny.
I had to give our dogs and cat away. I had to tell my daughter that. I broke her heart with that news and here four years later we still look to the day when we can get them back. That wasn't funny either Mr. Vice President…it was heartbreaking. It was sad. I felt like the worst father alive.
My unemployment ran out after about a year and a half. Of course even that little bit didn't help much…not when gas was $4.50 a gallon in the fall of 2008 and it would take half my unemployment check to fill my tank. I ate every other day. I had to keep gas in my tank and my cell phone turned on so that the potential employers from all the applications I put out could reach me. But no one did. I put out 207 resumes in those days and got one callback. That wasn't funny Mr. Vice President…it was humiliating.
I decided to finish my degree and enrolled at my alma mater. Last May I graduated from Liberty University. I proudly walked with my class. I was older than most of them, and it was 28 years later… but it didn't matter. It took 6 semesters for me to graduate…I lived in my car for 5 of them.  That was about as hard a way to study as there is. Believe me Mr. Biden…that wasn't funny.
There were nights I awoke to frost inside my car and had to scrape BOTH SIDES of the windshield just to see. There were nights I fell to sleep with the image of my daughters face torturing my mind and wondered if she was worried about me and was she embarrassed…and would I ever be able to get back all I lost? I cried on those nights. I cried a lot. I cried sometimes because it was just so cold out and I had to spend yet another night wrapped in sleeping bags and blankets and living in my car.
The tears of a broken man are bitter indeed Mr. Vice President and they aren't anything to laugh at. Especially not like you laughed the other night.
I scraped together enough money to start a little carpentry business. I am making enough to live on…barely. I found a place to live temporarily but it’s for sale and I’ll have to move soon. I’m not making enough for a deposit, and furniture, and utility deposits. I fear I might be back sleeping in my car again. That’s not funny either Mr. Vice President. And it sure isn't Hope and it sure hasn't changed.
Since you and President Obama came to office more people are out of work…more people are on government assistance, groceries cost more, gas costs more, utilities cost more, meanwhile we all make less. These are facts Mr. Biden and they aren't funny. In fact the only person laughing at all this is YOU!
I have dreams. I dream of owning a home again some day. I dream of providing for my daughter’s education…without YOUR help! I’m a dad…I want to pay for it myself. That’s pride and responsibility. You and this president have stripped it from us like the skin from an orange. It’s sad, Mr. Biden. It’s not funny.
This patch of weeds and scrub is where I lived in my car for the first four months. Then I found another place to park where I was welcomed. Let me tell you what it’s like to sleep in a car. You don’t really sleep because you worry the police might find you and run you off or take you in. Every tiny sound wakes you up. You can’t turn in your sleep like you can in a bed. My back hurt every morning when I woke up. No matter how many layers and sleeping bags you wrap yourself in, and no matter how warm you can make your body…you still breathe the unheated winter air. That’s not funny. That made me cry. I cried in frustration and sorrow and humiliation and sadness. I went almost four years without being able to have my daughter sleep over on weekends like she was supposed to. You don’t know how it feels to worry that your child’s friends will find out her dad is homeless and she’ll be teased and bullied. I cried about that too Mr. Vice President…it wasn't funny.
This is MY story. This is how YOUR economy affected ME. The other night when you laughed and smiled…you laughed at MY situation.
I haven’t laughed in a long time Mr. Biden. Not really. But I've cried. I've cried when I see my daughter growing up and only in the last 6 months have I been able to resume my regular parenthood and have her stay with me. I've cried when I look at pictures of those dogs and that cat and my home and they are just memories now. I cried a lot. While you’re laughing… I've been crying.
I don’t know if you know what it feels like to be heartlessly laughed at when your life has been broken and battered. But it hurts. That’s what you did the other night with your callous display.
I don’t want help from the government. I am a MAN…I’m a DAD! I want to do this MYSELF! I want an opportunity! I want to make MY OWN decision about healthcare and pay for it MYSELF! I want to pay for my daughter’s education with my OWN money. I don’t want to be beholding to Barack Obama…or you. Or anyone else who would laugh at me and others like me when we have suffered so much for so long.
Mr. Vice President…This is MY life. And I don’t think it’s funny. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Loving Your Enemies...

Last night, as I knelt to pray, I went through my usual litany of things that were burdening my soul. I pray daily for myself, for my daughter, for my church and her staff, for my friends and family and people I love and hold dear. I pray for this country, that she'll come to her senses and have, if not a Spiritual Awakening, then at least an awakening of true Patriotism and national Pride. I pray that she'll hearken back to a day when even elementary school kids knew what it was to truly be American and not some multi-cultural menagerie. As a pundit once said "It's the Melting Pot...when are you  finally going to melt?"
I pray each day for doors to open for me to pursue the gifts and talents God has blessed me with. I pray for people I have yet to meet, who need Jesus Christ and for whom I pray I will be ready when that not-so-chance meeting occurs.
I pray protection over my daughter as she faces a world I was never facing at 14. I pray for wisdom to be better at being her dad than I am today, and better still tomorrow.
Last the midst of my prayers...I prayed for my enemies.
And my heart broke.
Last night I prayed for the millions of people trapped in a devilish, horribly enslaving, Hell-birthed lie covered in the thin skin of a religion known as Islam.
Make no mistake...Islam is in no way a path to God. Allah is not God. He's not the same God by a different name and he's not a deity and he isn't holy. Muhammad was no prophet except a prophet of Satan. The system of living that the Koran forces on it's adherents is slavery and it's hopeless. Jesus was no mere prophet and He certainly wasn't subordinate to a pedophilic, murderous, marauding brigand. This will offend some folks at first. I offer no apology.
Islam is a culture all it's own, not merely another religion. And it's adherents are trapped.
They are trapped by a lie so evil and so fully deceptive that they don't know any different. 80% of the Arab world is illiterate. 60% of all Muslims fall into that same category. (Not all Muslims are Arabs) They don't even know the content of the book they so violently defend except for what some hatred-spewing Imam tells them. In the 14th Century when Wyckliffe produced the first English Bible, he was outcast by the Catholic church. Why? Because prior to this there had been no English version and the people had to totally trust in what the priests were saying. They could not double check. If they had, there would have been a reformation a long time before 1495.
Think of the Muslim world in that way. The people can't read the Koran so they have no idea if the Imams are telling them the truth. Sadly...they are. The Koran is an evil book full of evil deeds and commands to do evil, horrible things to anyone who doesn't follow the religion of the moon god Allah.
But here's the heartbreaking, sad, soul-crushing truth. They can't read a Bible either.
And it's not just because it's outlawed and forbidden...that's never stopped a hungry soul in the past and it never will. God makes a way to get His word to a soul who seeks it.
They can't read anything. And because of this they are enslaved. Enslaved to a system of lies that steals their souls and is the antagonist in a great spiritual battle for humanity.
Last night, God did what God and God alone can do. He broke down my own defense against a terrible intruder and showed me how He sees this enemy. He permitted me to see them as the human souls they are.
The world looks different when viewed from the cross.
And so last night as I prayed for protection for my daughter and for my nation against this invading force of pure antichristic evil, I began to weep and then I began to beg God to set these people free. They are deceived and trapped. And while I do believe there is a culture at work that strips virtually all humanity from them and that is infinitely dangerous, (Who rapes a has been widely reported happened to the body of Ambassador Stevens after his body was retrieved from the Embassy compound?) the truth is that the majority of the people of the Muslim world are not full of the evil we see. They live in a culture of silence and they don't get outraged at the acts of their neighbors. To me this is cowardly and I can't understand it. But the truth is that they are heading toward the same horrible Hell as all who die without Jesus Christ and my silence at their demise is no different than their silence at the attacks of the radicals in their midst.
In fact...if I truly believe what I claim to's worse. It's worse because I know the truth and they don't.
And so last night as my heart broke and tears began to fall I begged God to open their eyes and set them free. I asked that the Spirit of Truth...the very Spirit of Jesus Christ Himself who is "The way the Truth and the Life" would penetrate the spirit of deception and evil that is Islam.
It's a hard, tempestuous prayer because my heart tells me that things will only get worse in this epic battle between good and evil. So how does one love the foot soldiers of the enemy? Only through the love of Jesus Christ. And so now, in addition to my prayers for my family, myself, my nation...I am determined to pray for my enemy. And to love them where I am presented the opportunity. I won't be foolish...Dietrich Bonhoeffer would warn us against that. But I will be loving and I will be their friend in my prayer closet.
Those who know me and know my often-extreme views know this is a big deal. I'm not given to grace where my very country and freedom is at stake. But somehow I have to separate the sin from the we Christians claim to be so good at. If all I do is pray for them, that's more than I've been doing. I know that I will never change Islam. It is what it is and it is evil. But I can pray for it's captives and love them in their chains and trust that Jesus will use what I offer in what way He sees fit to set a few of them free.
Somehow I have to learn to keep my guard up, my heart open, and my head bowed.
Because the world looks different when viewed from the Cross...