Tag Archive: Christ


I do love golf.  There is only one problem.  Golf does not love me.  

As a young adult, I could pull out the clubs and shoot in the 80’s and not blink twice.  I never took the game super seriously, so getting down to par (around 72) was probably not going to happen.  Shooting in the 80’s would work for me.  Most of the guys I played with struggled to break 100.  They would get very irritated when winter ended and the golf courses opened.  Here I show up and shoot an 84 while they tried their hardest to not take an “8” and break the hundred barrier.  In those days I loved the game and the game loved me.

That all changed in an instant.  I was playing flag football.  I was the quarterback and driving for a score.  Instead of pulling my flags, the big guy on the opposing team two-handed touched me right in the middle of my chest summersaulting me backwards.  Did you know that when a quarterback throws the ball ,his opposite arm and hand flies behind him?  Yeah, I didn’t either.  It does.  I figured it out when I got up from the hard hit and grabbed my wrist.  My arm was in the right place only my palm was up when it should have been down.  The wrist was a mess. Little did I know at that point but my arm had a splinter break of the bone.  It was going to be a long recovery.

The doctor wanted to operate.  He said the bones would not line up, and I would lose power in my left wrist.  I have a personal philosophy.  If you don’t have to cut open the body…don’t.  I told him to set it and let it go.  He warned me I would not be hitting homeruns as a softball player and ,if I played golf, there was going to be a slice.  He wasn’t kidding.  Instantly ,I had a banana slice.  

About the only fun I had with it was setting up for the slice with someone I never golfed with.  They would interrupt me when they noticed I lined up far left.  I told them to take a video.  They were about to see some amazing golf.  I figure I can hit the ball 300 yards.  The only problem is it travels 150 yards straight and 150 yards to the right.  

No use losing any sleep over it all.  I will never win the Master’s tournament.  Golf doesn’t put food on my table.  I’ll live.  Lately, with the help of my friend Bob Jarrell, I’ve been able to get the boomerang under control.  At least I can enjoy the game some.  

Today, I got in nine holes over at Okatie Creek.  I didn’t hit the ball all that bad.  I didn’t hit it all that good either.  I was disappointed.  Last week I shot a 44 on the back nine and was hoping good things were ahead.  

My friend noticed I was peeking.  In case you don’t know the game of golf, that’s when you lift your head and don’t keep it down with your eyes focused on the ball.  It’s hard to hit a good shot when you are not looking at the ball.  It’s a common golfers error.  An old friend said to “spit” where the ball once sat after you hit the ball.  He laughed, “That will keep your head down.”  Well, I wasn’t spitting today, and my head was all over the place.  

My buddy asked me if I knew why we pull our heads.  I answered, “We want to see where the shot went.”  He laughed once again.  “Nope,” he said with a smile.  He continued to educate me, “It’s our pride.”  It didn’t take long to admit he was right.  We want to admire our own shot instead of letting our playing partner follow the trajectory.  

We talked some more.  It’s like life actually.  Our pride takes our focus off the important things of life.  Those being God and our loved ones.  We don’t let things pan out as they should.  Each of us wants control.  So instead of spending some time in the Word of God ,I’d rather pull my head out of it and plan my day without being reminded God is in control.  Instead of focusing on my family, I’ll just hope they can catch up with me.  When they don’t, tempers flair.  Meanwhile, I miss connecting with them on an intimate, caring level.  

Just like golf, we blame everything else.  Let’s see, I’ve blamed the clubs, the turf, the ball, the lie, the weather, the grip, and the golf course.  There is a common denominator.  ME!  

When we focus on everything other than the grace and love of Jesus Christ, we are bound to get in some sort of trouble.  The sand traps of life are hard to miss when our heads are looking all around.  

We all have  some form of Attention Deficit Disorder.  Thank you Jesus our faith is not dependent upon us.  Instead, our faith is made whole by the one who kept his focus as he journeyed to the cross.  Our hope is indeed Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  I just wonder one thing.  Can Jesus hit a one iron?  I can’t, even with my head down.

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When in high school, I had a best friend.  If anyone asked me today the name of my best friend he will still be at the top of the list.  It’s not because we have done amazing things together.  It’s not because we talk every week.  In fact it’s been years since I’ve even seen him.  For some reason, we are brothers.  Yes, there are two other guys that are right up there, but there is just something that makes my high school brother one notch ahead.  

His parents moved to California my senior year and his junior year.  He decided not to move with them and instead moved in with us.  That was a magical year.  We did just about everything together.  It created a union that is beyond explanation.

We were separated for a long time.  We had committed to being in each others weddings.  He was in mine.  I found out via a card that he even was married.  I thought our friendship had come to an end.  That was until our paths crossed years later.  Every time our paths cross, something happens.  Just this week my phone rang.  It was him.  He left a message and asked me to call back.  He wanted to talk.  Without hesitation, I called.  I’m glad I did.

Bruce is a medical doctor.  He has been practicing for years.  No, let me rephrase that; he had been practicing for years.  He had an established practice in the Knoxville, Tennessee area.  He walked away from it all.  He no longer wanted to run a business.  He wanted to talk about Jesus.  

His wife was all in.  He is now a medical missionary taking medicine to the “least of these.”  We use those words, and yet they don’t come close to describing the poverty he walked into.  He packed his backpack with medicine and walks the streets of Guatemala, Mexico, and in the very near future, will walk in Beirut, Lebanon.  He isn’t worried about retiring.  He is no longer worried about making more money than he could possibly ever use.  He wants to talk about Jesus.  He said he loves using medicine to talk about Jesus.  The “least of these” will listen about Jesus.  He was tired of talking to people about Jesus who really didn’t think they needed Jesus.  

Amazing.  What makes a 58-year-old man with life set walk away to walk the impoverished streets caring for men, women and children with not only medical care but with the name of Jesus Christ as well?  

Sometimes when Jesus puts things together, it’s down right scary.  The past few weeks I’ve been mulling over Matthew 4:19 and 20.  It was Jesus calling his first disciples.  Here they were, adult successful fishermen.  In those days, if you left your family business, you were at great risk.  Your identity and success were based on your heritage.  Jesus called them to follow him to become fishers of men.  Say what?  Fishers of men!  

They followed, but I love verse 20.  It says they dropped their nets and followed Jesus.  My brother dropped his nets.  He answered the call we as believers are all called to.  It’s a three part harmony.  “Follow me,”  -Jesus called.  He defined the calling, telling them to be good guys and wait around till he comes again? Wrong!  He called them “fishers of men.”  The third part was not a command.  It was their response.  They dropped their nets.  

We can’t hold on to our nets and follow the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  It’s a false teaching of the modern age.  So, Bruce and I shared thoughts and stories for a few minutes.  Stories of the calling sometimes I find hard to find.  My personal calling was to reach people the church tends to miss.  I thank God the leadership of my church understands the calling.  Little did I know it would take me to prisons, half-way houses, and rooms full of addicts ,and more broken people than we like to admit.  

The only thing that gets in the way is the same thing that got in the way of my friend for so many years.  We were raised in an era where the gospel was more about being a convert, hold a moral code, and wait till one gets to heaven.  We somehow missed the same call at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry that was similar to the first calling.  He said, “Go and make disciples.”  He did not say “converts.”  He said disciples.  Disciples follow.  Disciples fish for men.  Disciples drop nets.  

Jesus often leaves me speechless.  I needed Bruce’s phone call.  I needed to be reminded of my own calling.  It’s not who I am.  I can’t be a fisher of men on my own. I needed to drop some nets once again.  Those nets are tempting.  Even the disciples ran back to their nets after the resurrection.  It’s where Jesus found them once again.  Jesus has a way of finding us.  When that happens ,we have to drop the nets.  There really is not a choice.

 

Marriage holds a high place on the priority list in the Bible. It is mentioned as early as Genesis 2. The Apostle Paul equated the marriage relationship to one that mirrors the relationship between Jesus and his bride, the church. That is a pretty special relationship.
Marriage is often seen as the backbone of a society. As far as I know, all major religions and even atheists acknowledge the importance of the institution. The magazine Psychology Today published an article recently that pointed out that a family where mom and dad are present is the healthiest environment to raise a child. Marriage, the legal commitment, brings stability to possibly the most important relationship on earth.
It’s under grave attack.
As a counseling pastor, I see more broken marriages than anything else. A broken marriage endangers the next generation, and that is exactly the intended target. All the good elements of life are to be what drives a marriage. We marry because we say we are I’m love. When someone asks what is the most important characteristic of God, the answer is usually “love.” Break the love that is to hold a family together and the interpretation of God’s love is at stake.
We have not handled marriage well in the last 50 years. Divorce rates are on par in the church with the rest of society. Deep teachings giving a marriage purpose and meaning is relegated to maybe a Sunday school elective. Pre-marital counseling is weak to non-existent on most occasions. God values marriage highly, and we treat it haphazardly.
I want to tickle your brain for a few seconds.
In Genesis 2 God says one of the most important relationships of man, parent to child, is not to interfere with the husband to wife relationship. He tells men to “Get Out” of our parents home. Your wife is your most important relationship. Interesting!
Jump to Ephesians and we see the Apostle Paul telling us that the marriage relationship is an image of the relationship of Christ to believers. We are to love our wives as Christ loved the church. I often ask men, “How did Christ love the church?” The answers take awhile to come out and are often shallow. There is the indication we don’t consider marriage as high of a priority as we say we do. We get more training for job skills then the marriage relationship. I like to treat a 6-week pre-marriage counseling as an opportunity to see why a couple should not get married. At least they can’t say they were not warned.
Apostle Paul in the NewTestament said our marriages are like Jesus (God) and the church. Jesus summed up the commandments by saying “love God and love your neighbor.” Since human marriage is like God and his love for the church, why don’t we look at the first 4 of the 10 commandments for guidance? Aren’t the the love commandments of God and the church? They are!
Here is a summation of the first 4 commandments: 1. No other gods (no other relationships come between us), 2: No idols; God is a jealous God (nothing comes into the relationship), 3. Do not take the Lord’s name in vane (do not speak idly of our relationship), and 4. Remember the Sabbath (take time to rest together). What if we applied these four to our marriage? Can it make a difference? Without question.
No other relationship is to take anything away from the marriage relationship. There is no flirty with the cute waitress. Texting a best friend endlessly instead of engaging our spouse is letting someone in where historically they were not allowed. Even the children are not to interfere with the ever important relationship between a man and a woman. It is easy to tell when a marriage is under stress. The parents have an unhealthy relationship with the child, and it doesn’t have to be perverted.
Nothing is to take away from the marriage, including sports, sport events, work (man have we failed at that one), television and now social media. The love of Jesus according to the Apostle John has us laying our lives down for our neighbor. You heard that right. It’s not about what is fair. It’s not about what I want. It says, “Lay your life down.” Even when you are mad and frustrated and not getting a reciprocal response. Nothing means nothing.
How do you speak of your spouse? Do your closest friends know that your spouse is the most valued commodity in your life? Do they even know he or she exist? What does your spouse hear from you? Complaints and ridicule or encouragement and love? Our mouths do expose our heart. What is in our heart for our lover?
Last but not least, even God wanted his people to break from the craziness of life and spend some time with him. How are we doing with that one in todays pressure-packed time overload world? And spouse, are you using that time well to connect with each other, and I don’t mean sexually? Is your spouse so valuable you will purpose your time with him or her? You would not believe the looks I get when I counsel parents to make it a point to tell your kids that your time comes first. Kids are a by-product of a marriage not the marriage.
I have never had anyone put the first four commandments together with marriage. It is so much deeper than “man love your wife” and “wife submit to your husband” because God said so. If you can’t do these things…you do not love the other person. Don’t get married. If you are married and feel like you don’t love your spouse anymore…hate to tell you this…love is for the bad times not the good times. That is the love of God, even when we shake our fist at him. His love keeps on flowing. And flowing. And flowing. Now, go love whom God has chosen for you.

 I like to play fantasy football.  10 to 12 guys draft their players and play head to head based on the statistics their guys produce each week.  Some play for money.  I play for honor.  We are all armchair general managers and coaches.  I’ve seen people do and say some of the dumbest things over their fantasy teams.  It’s fun.    

 I root for the Dallas Cowboys.  Yes, we all have our flaws.  The Baltimore Colts moved out of town one year in the dead of night.  I refused to root for the Washington Redskins.  No way I was going to root for Indianapolis, their new home.  I picked another team that was blue and white.  I didn’t know anything about them.  I was not jumping on the Roger Staubach/Tom Landry bandwagon.  They were blue and white, and that’s how they became my team.  I’ve only been to Dallas once for a three-day conference.  They are my team.  Live with it.

I watched the NFL draft this year for the first time in my life.  I don’t know why other than it sure beats the stuff my wife likes to watch. I had the computer sitting on my lap trying to punch out this week’s article.  I tried a couple different subjects.  In the end the only thing that I had was the NFL draft and Jesus.  What a combination!

As I watched the draft I thought about how it resembles some spiritual issues.  The first impression was how much of a critical world we live in.  Jesus wanted us to love and care for one another.   The air of criticism was to be replaced with compassion, encouragement and peace.  Good luck finding those elements in our hyper sensitive, overly critical social media infused society.

Let’s try to tackle this one.  In my opinion, the Cowboys’ draft was mediocre at best.  But, that’s just it.  I am not in the front office.  I don’t do any scouting.  I don’t know their 1-year plan and I don’t know their 3-year plan.  However, they didn’t do it my way!  How dare they?  My philosophy in the draft must not be theirs.  Sometimes I think as Christians we feel we have the right to be judge and jury with people’s lives.  

We like to look at everybody else instead of ourselves.  In the meantime we talk about and to people without knowing them.  We have joined the rest of the world in judging others in a 30 second social media diatribe.  Jesus said, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”    When will we stop running away from people and run to them?  Where would we be if Jesus operated that way with us?  

The NFL draft also gives us a view of being dependent upon Christ instead of  settling to be “good” people.  Eugene Peterson in The Message writes, “Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk.  They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything.  Everything of God gets expressed in Him, so you can see and hear Him clearly.”  What is it to see Christ instead of the elements of this world?

The NFL teams drafted players based on talent, ability and strength.  The world operates in this way.  Jesus doesn’t.  He invites those to his banquet who are “poor, crippled, blind and lame.”  The Christian faith is not dependent upon us!  It’s dependent upon the One who opens the gates to those who spiritually don’t belong.  His “team” looks vastly different than one put together by scouts and experts.  “Praise Him all creatures here below.”  

We are looking for someone to rescue us.  All we put our hope on has failed.  The apostle Paul says to look no further than Jesus who is “the author and finisher of our faith.”  It’s a great time to be a Christian!  As the great song said, “Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.”  

Could you imagine a young man in a wheel chair, bottle-thick glasses, hearing aides in place sitting in the crowd at the draft.  Jesus comes to the podium and all the wonderful “good” people are waiting to hear their name called.  They got talent.  They got ability.  They got it!  As Jesus walks to the podium. He announces His first draft pick for 2018.  It’s the young man in the wheelchair.  He doesn’t tell Jesus what he can do to make His team better.   He wheels forward and wraps himself around Jesus with tears of joy thankful to hear his name called.  He has nothing to bring except his heart.  That is what it is like to be on His team.  “Coach, let me play!” 

It has been one week since Christians across the world celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Honestly, it didn’t take long for life to sap the energy out of the celebration.  Probably by Monday if not Sunday evening the celebration was over and it was off to the next event.  Don’t feel too bad.  The disciples upon whom Jesus would give authority to carry the message of the resurrection were in the same boat we are.  Literally.  

One would think that after being taught by Jesus himself and seeing the empty tomb and hearing the witness of the women at the tomb, the disciples, the inner core, would have been scanning every nook and cranny of Jerusalem looking for Him.  Well, not quite.  The next major event in the birthing of Christianity has the disciples returning to their former occupation…fishing.  

They weren’t all that great at fishing.  Let me rephrase that.  They were good at fishing.  They were not good at catching.  But that is not the issue.  The issue is that Christ the Lord is risen and they aren’t all that giddy about it.  They were a bit lost and confused as to what comes next.  So what did they do?  They went back to what they knew!  Fishing.  So much for the calling of “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  

What were they thinking?  The incredible boulder sealing the tomb was moved.  The soldiers were no where to be found?  Their story is quite incredible with the fact that their failure to keep Jesus in the tomb had their head on the line.  It was not uncommon to slay soldiers who failed in their duty to serve and protect. The women told them what happened.  John and Peter saw the empty tomb and the folded head cloth.  That was important in itself.  If someone was stealing the body they would not have taken the time to fold the cloth.  No way!  They had to hightail it out of there before the Roman soldiers caught them.  All the facts point to a risen Jesus.  

Maybe they thought he went off to heaven.  Maybe they had not clue.  Their mission for three years had come to an abrupt end and they were lost in the transition.  Have any of us ever been there?  You bet.  Was the last three years a waste?  I’ve felt like that in ministry.  I bet many who have attended a church and gotten involved have had the same feelings.  Let’s be honest sometimes great movements come to an abrupt end.  

I remember the years we provided low cost food through the Angel Food program to upwards of 325 families in the Bluffton area.  All was going well.  Suddenly, the Angel Food national program came to an instant and discouraging end.  “What do we do?” many asked.  “Nothing” was the unfortunate answer.  We knew how the disciples felt.  

So, they did what we all did Monday morning.  They went to work.  If they felt like Monday morning like we feel like Monday morning it was probably not a fun group to be around.  They hadn’t touched the nets for three years.  Their legs had become land bound.  Worse, they dropped their nets to follow Jesus to come back three years later facing the other fishermen who were still slaving away on the high seas.  Can you imagine the looks?  The comments?  The questions?  Unbearable.

Sometimes we get caught up and focus our attention on the Christians.  Many stopped going to church over the past ten or so years because they read the story and they see weary travelers on the road of life instead of triumphant disciples of Jesus.  The message of Christianity is not about the disciples.  It’s about the Lord Jesus.  

Look a little closer.  They are out fishing just like you and I would be doing on any given Monday morning.  Who shows up?  Jesus.  He once again tells them what they need to do to catch fish and catch fish they did.  That’s just it with our crazy faith.  It’s not all under control and everybody is marching to the same beat.  Quite the opposite.  We have periods of isolation, loneliness, lostness, and mediocrity in our Christian lives.  But, and I love that word when it shows up in the Scriptures, Jesus shows up and gets us moving in His direction once again.  Wherever and whatever you are doing today, from worship to work, keep an eye out.  Jesus might just show up.  It’s usually when you least expect it.