father Sons want to capture their dad’s awe. Daughters want to capture their dad’s attention. John Elderidge, in his little booklet, You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs To Know, states it this way: “Little boys look to their dads to answer the question: ‘Do I have what it takes? Am I a man?’ Little girls look to their dads to answer the question: ‘Am I lovely? Am I worth fighting for?’ “

I believe those questions are answered through their dad’s Holy Kiss.

1) The Holy Kiss of Affection.

Hug your sons. Dote on your daughters. Hug your son long and tight. Cup his face in your hands and tell him he is a man and has what it takes. Give your son a literal holy kiss to his cheek and forehead. The Prodigal Son’s dad kissed him again and again and again (according to the original language)!

Also, dads, kiss your daughter. Stroke her face and tell her she’s lovely and worth fighting for. Scratch her back, rub her feet, hold her hand, hug her tight, and let her sit in your lap.

And do all the above whether they are six or forty-six.

2) The Holy Kiss of Captivation.

Your son is asking, “Do I have what it takes? Am I a man?” He’s asking this as he flips off the couch, shows you his drawing, runs down the track, gets cut from the team, shares his dirty secret, weeps after the break-up, hands you his acceptance letter, or mentions his promotion. Are you noticing (not grading)? Are you affirming with your undivided attention? Are you showing him he captivates you?

Your daughter is asking, “Am I lovely? Am I worth fighting for?” She’s asking this as she prances about, sings and dances, arm-wrestles you, competes against her brothers, keeps climbing into your lap, performs in recitals, gets no invite to the prom, shows you her new clothes and pedicure, rambles on about her friends and boys, and struggles in her marriage. Are you paying attention? Are you showing that you are captivated by her?

3) The Holy Kiss of Availability.

I received a book years ago about practical ways to love my sons. One sentence read, “Take his calls…forever.” In other words, be available. And dads, that has to do with your son and/or daughter’s timetable, not yours. Jesus retreated to spend time with His Father early mornings, late at night, or all night. And His Father was always available.

So trust that the lawn will get mowed, the emails will get answered, the deadline will be met, and grace will come for sleep deprivation. Welcome your kids to interrupt your time, your work, your game, and your movie. Be available to them till kingdom come. And give them your holy kiss…forever.

tightrope2It’s tough enough to preach a sermon on “Money” to New Yorkers. But to stand before 2500+ people (and knowing it would be podcast to many more) and say, “I am saddened, frustrated, and disappointed in the overall giving of our Church. But I take the blame. It’s a failure in my leadership”? Well, that is outright horrifying. H.o.r.r.i.f.y.i.n.g. Yet God led me to do just that this past weekend.

I’m sure you can literally hear my sweat in the sermon podcast.  I felt like I needed sponging off after every service. In fact, before our seven weekend services began Saturday night, I awoke from a nightmare about this around 2:00am Saturday, and barely slept again.  To truly know why this was a huge deal, you have to hear the sermon to get the full context. (Go HERE to listen or watch the sermon podcast).

How did I know this was of God? How did I come to the place of knowing that if I didn’t share my heart I would be disobedient?As I journaled about it this morning, I wanted to share it with you.

Early last week, I just happened to be reading Hebrews 13 in my devotional time with the Lord.  Hebrews 13:5-7 NLT jolted me! It was about, you guessed it, MONEY. Coincidence? No such thing in God’s agenda. The Hebrew author quotes an Old Testament passage in those verses: Psalm 118:6 (but the context that gripped me is verses 7-9 that follow it!). I found great encouragement and confirmation to move forward in what the Lord was leading me to share.

Then, Saturday morning hit. I began doubting. I started second-guessing, especially after that nightmare!  The easy path was to preach what I had planned weeks ago and trust the Lord with the rest. But was that really what the Lord wanted? So I took my Bible again and went outside to sit before the Lord, and pray, and listen. “Lord, are you sure? Is this of you? Please speak to me. I’m nervous. I’m anxious. I just want to be sure this is of you.”

I opened my Bible back to Hebrews 13:5-7. Keep in mind the context of that passage is about money. Out of that text I noticed another Old Testament passage quoted by the Hebrew’s author that I had missed all week: Deuterononmy 31:6-8.  Specifically, it was verse 8 that brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes: “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord is the one who goes before you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

In that moment, all doubts, all second-guessing, evaporated. After wiping tears, and sitting there for a while just praising and worshiping the Lord for speaking so clearly to my heart, I walked in and said to Christie: “Babe, I know that I know that I know now that what I’m sharing this weekend must be shared. If I do not share it, I will be disobedient.  But pray for me HOW I share it!”) :-) .

Now, it is Monday morning. Do I feel naked, raw, vulnerable? Yes. Have I received some negative responses (with more to come, I’m sure)? Yes.

But more so, the response of many of the leadership and people of Grace has been overwhelming in encouragement to me personally. In fact, after the final service, a precious servant on our staff came backstage in tears and hugged me. Also, after I prayed to end the final service, I walked off the stage and basically into the arms, smiles, support, and love of our Washingtonville campus worship team waiting right behind the curtain for me. Wow. I get choked up even now thinking about that. And this was after they had to cut a song due to my long-windedness!

But even more so, there has been an overwhelming response by Grace family and friends to the call and challenge to honor the Lord first from their income through tithes and offerings*.  All along, this has not been about me (though this post kind of is, I know). This is about how worthy Jesus is of our first and best financially, and how one cannot lose to give toward that which cannot be stopped–God’s church. THIS was what God wanted our people (and maybe you?) to hear, but especially obey. Will you?

Personally speaking, I sit on this side of the weekend with joy that I obeyed. It was a landmark weekend for me personally, spiritually, and as a pastor and leader.  I feel God’s pleasure. I have spent the morning in gratitude, worship, and joy before Him, His speaking to me, and giving grace to speak tough words through me. Oh, His pleasure…. My friend, there is nothing greater. I want this for you so much.

Where is God leading you to do one of the toughest things you have ever done? Don’t be afraid before it. And no matter what happens after it, don’t be discouraged. He goes before you. He will never leave you nor forsake you, especially when it comes to your money (Hebrews 13:5-7).

* If you are interested to know more about Grace’s “Don’t Waste Your Internet 500,” go HERE.

Storm_cloudsI once heard it said, “Don’t tell your God how big your crisis is, tell your crisis how big your God is.” 

In Scripture, you will often find the Psalmist going through a crisis of the soul.  He cries out“I will go to the altar of my God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you…O God, my God” (Psalm 43:4). That’s the Psalmist praising His God in his crisis. His focus is steadfast on God, not the crisis.

Think of a seesaw: If you are focused on your crisis your fear will go up and your praise will go down. If you are focused on Jesus your praise will go up and your fear will go down.

Perhaps Jesus and no crisis is best of all. Or, perhaps that’s overrated. It’s usually the crisis that makes Jesus sweeter to us. Having Jesus and no crisis brings certain joy. But having Jesus in crisis brings exceeding joy.

So let the praises ring.

God set down His saw

April 15, 2014

the_cross___jesus_bloody_feet“ ‘Up you go!’ They lift the cross. God is on display in his underwear, and can scarcely breathe.

But these pains are a mere warm-up to his other and growing dread. He begins to feel a foreign sensation. Somewhere during this day an unearthly foul odor began to waft, not around his nose, but his heart. He feels dirty. Human wickedness starts to crawl upon his spotless being—the living excrement from our souls. The apple of his Father’s eye turns brown with rot.

His Father! He must face his Father like this!

From heaven the Father now rouses himself like a lion disturbed, shakes his mane, and roars against the shriveling remnant of a man hanging on a cross. Never has the Son seen the Father look at him so, never felt even the least of his hot breath. But the roar shakes the unseen world and darkens the visible sky. The Son does not recognize these eyes.

‘Son of Man! Why have you behaved so? You have cheated, lusted, stolen, gossiped—murdered, envied, hated, lied. You have cursed, robbed, overspent, overeaten—fornicated, disobeyed, embezzled, and blasphemed. Oh, the duties you have shirked, the children you have abandoned! Who has ever so ignored the poor, so played the coward, so belittled my name? Have you ever held your razor tongue? What a self-righteous, pitiful drunk—you, who molest young boys, peddle killer drugs, travel in cliques, and mock your parents. Who gave you the boldness to rig elections, foment revolutions, torture animals, and worship demons? Does the list never end! Splitting families, raping virgins, acting smugly, playing the pimp—buying politicians, practicing extortion, filming pornography, accepting bribes. You have burned down buildings, perfected terrorist tactics, founded false religions, traded in slaves—relishing each morsel and bragging about it all. I hate, I loathe these things in you! Disgust for everything about you consumes me! Can you not feel my wrath?’

The Father watches as his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself, sinks drowning into raw, liquid sin. Jehovah’s stored rage against humankind from every century explodes in a single direction.

‘Father! Father! Why have you forsaken me?!’

But heaven stops its ears. The Son stares up at the One who cannot, who will not, reach down or reply. Two eternal hearts tear—their intimate friendship shaken to the depths.

The Trinity had planned it. The Son endured it. The Spirit enabled him. The Father rejected the Son whom he loved. Jesus, the God-man from Nazareth, perished. The Father accepted his sacrifice for sin and was satisfied. The Rescue was accomplished.

God set down his saw.”

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief…. Isaiah 53:10

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

(Book excerpt taken from When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson-Tada)

When my blog was revamped, one of my goals was to write toward health a bit. It’s been a while! I’m not into six pack abs or huge biceps necessarily (though I certainly do not begrudge them). But I’m very into being healthy, fit, and feeling spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically well. If you read the “Aboutsection of my blog (HERE) you’ll understand why. In addition, I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar II in 2004 (you can read my blog series on it HERE). Since 2009, I’ve been determined to control and/or conquer that diagnosis more naturally than chemically.

Recently, I came across a little device that tapped into the competitor in me that has been a game-changer: The Pedometer.  My dear friend, and assistant, Denise Wiggins, had an extra one and gave it to me. She set it to my height, weight, step-length, and the like, and I have been using it now for about four weeks.

Ped

Iphone shot of my pedometer

According to the studies, 10,000 steps“active.” 12, 500 steps“highly active.” Below 5,000 = sedentary.”

The first day I tested myself just to see what I might average without doing anything special. I logged a whopping 750ish steps. But that was a study day where I’m glued to the chair. The next day was a more typical day in the office. Still I logged only 1500ish steps. Unacceptable. So game on!

In the last four weeks my goal has been to get 12,500 steps per day at least six days a week. That’s the competitor in me.  However, if I nailed 10,000 steps and was just too fatigued or too busy to go further, I’d settle for the 10,000. Either way, my goal now is to land 12,500 steps three days per week, and no less than 10,000 steps six days a week.

Know this. It is tough to get 10,000 steps per day!  I workout every morning and jog or skip in place and around the garage between sets of lifting weights. I can usually log 3,000 to 5,000 steps in that hour. But it typically takes me until near bed time to hit my 10,000-12,500 step goal. During the day, I get up from my desk about every hour to hour-and-a-half and move my whole body (running in place, skipping, arms going up and down, side to side, and so forth) to get my steps and my heart rate up. This goes on all day. But again, it has been worth it, and even refreshing.

Before the pedometer, I considered myself fairly active due to working out in the mornings—jumping rope, plyometrics, kettlebell-swinging, weightlifting, and the like. But I would sit the rest of the day almost all day.  I learned from research that I was negating the positives of exercise due to my sitting at a desk all day. The pedometer has changed that in the last four weeks. I have noticed an amazing difference in my energy, my joints, and even my sleep. In fact, even as a mostly fit person, I lost a belt-size (in the first two weeks even)!  Crazy. In addition, the 10,000-12,500 steps (with full body movement) has been so effective that I no longer do cardio work. I just lift weights. Once a week, however, I will play with the kids in a way that makes me sprint and run, but that’s about it.

I highly recommend the pedometer. The key is to MOVE your body throughout the day, your whole body, and not just casually pace a room (though that is better than nothing). It gets your heartrate going too. Get outside, walk, and stretch and move your arms all around (not just a runner’s motion). Have meetings while you walk. Don’t have enough space and/or don’t want anyone watching you? Get in a stairwell and skip or run in place while moving your arms up and down, sideways, and so forth. Use an empty bathroom or bathroom stall (yes, I’m serious), or an empty office or conference room, and get moving and pedometer-ing there!

Be sure you get a higher quality pedometer because many of them are pure junk and misread your steps. Also, you MUST set the pedometer up according to the directions! My pedometer is accurate within about 10 – 12 steps. There is no brand name on my pedometer or I would recommend it to you.  A site that claims to list the top ten best pedometers can be found HERE. If you have a Consumer Reports subscription, you can check out their recommendations HERE.

To make the pedometer challenge more fun, compete with a friend about who can log the most steps per day or week (I have this friendly competition every now and then with Denise, but also with my kids).

Looking out for you!

Do you or have you ever used a pedometer? How was your experience? How did you use it? Any pedometer brand you recommend?