A Confession…


NEEDTOBREATH crooned on the stereo as I cruised down the highway.

Be the light in the crack ,Be the one that’s been there on a camel’s back, Slow to anger, quick to laugh, Be more heart and less attack

I sang along with the refrain…Be more heart and less attack.

Be the wheels not the track, Be the wanderer that’s coming back, Leave the past right where it’s at, Be more heart and less attack

“YOU FREAKING MORON!” I suddenly shouted at the car which cut me off narrowly missing my front bumper as I hit the brakes. The words hung ringing in my ears as the song played on…

The more you take the less you have, ‘Cause it’s you in the mirror staring back, Quick to let go slow to react, Be more heart and less attack

As I caught my reflection in the rear view mirror I hung my head in shame. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

I wish I could say this is just a story, a parable to convey a truth. But it’s not. I wish I had never shouted those words that only God and I heard, but I did. While not a parable, my reality gives voice to one immutable truth. The “old man” is still there and while usually buried deep beneath the surface he is quick to be resurrected.

Be the wheels not the track ,Be the wanderer that’s coming back, Leave the past right where it’s at, Be more heart and less attack, Be more heart and less attack, Be more heart and less attack

I can justify myself stating “we’ve all been there and said things we regret.”  I can ignore this event; pretend it never happened. Or I can own it and acknowledge my need to nail that “old man” to the cross once again.

Justification is cheap.  To ignore is to lie.

I stuck my hat out, I caught the rain drops I drank the water, I felt my veins block I’m near the sanctified, I’m near broken I’m down the river, I’m near the open

I’m down the river to where I’m going 

I choose the cross…

(*Lyrics are from More Heart, Less Attack by NEEDTOBREATH)

What’s Your Mark?

Narrate-13If you had to pick one word to describe yourself what would it be?  Funny, successful, attractive…perhaps when you look in the mirror the words echoing in your mind have a darker voice.  Perhaps that voice says you are fat, ugly, worthless or unlovable.  If I had one word to describe myself I would say “marked”.

Webster’s dictionary defines a mark as “a visible impression assumed or imposed.”  My life bears the impressions…the scars… the marks of the encounters I’ve had and the choices I’ve made.  It also bears the resulting marks of choices others in my life have made that affected more than them.

For many years I allowed these scars to define me, whether directly or indirectly. For even my attempts to cover and not be defined by my scars was an action born out of my scars.  Despite my efforts I was marked; perhaps not to the world but to myself.  Try as I may I could not escape my scarlet letter.

On Halloween night 1998 I received another mark.  On that night I had an encounter with the risen Jesus which left an imprint upon my life that has been growing ever since.  It is a mark of His person that has been imprinted upon my being.  It is a mark of renewal and it heals all my other marks.  Jesus says, “Behold, I make all things new!” His imprint on my being is a mark of Life.

I’m no longer ashamed of my marks.  They are no longer a scarlet letter.  I bear a greater mark.  My mark is a symbol of love; it is an emblem of grace.  Above all it is a testament to the power of renewal.  I have been marked by Life…for life.  That is the mark, the visible impression I have received.  That is the mark I am now called to leave behind on the people I encounter each day.

If every encounter leaves a mark, what mark are you leaving behind?

Abandoning Resolutions

imageResolutions…we all have made them and let’s face it we all have broken them.  “I’m going to go to the gym four times a week”.  “I’m going to get up early and read my Bible every day”.  “I’m going to be better at posting to my blog”.  Honestly, I can’t think of one resolution I have made that I haven’t broken eventually.  This year I don’t want a resolution.

Resolutions spring from the momentary desire for change.  They are cries of deficiency.  Resolutions are instigated by desire, but facilitated in weakness.  We say will power, but lets face it.  If I’m already weak in that area how am I now suddenly through will power going to change that area?  It’s a recipe for failure.

I don’t want a resolution.  I want a revelation.  I want a revealing of truth which supersedes my perspective, presumptions and preferences.  I want a revealing of God which transcends my “reality”.  Revelation of His Word, of His Truth, of His Person is the only thing which can fuel my spirit on to mastery over my flesh and bring me into agreement with His Life…The Life.

Resolutions are conceived in the desire for change.  Revelation gives birth to the ability to be transformed!

The Prodigal resolves, “I will return to my father’s house as a servant and as a servant I will have bread.”  The Father reveals, “You are my son!  My presence is your true inheritance and all I am is yours!”

Resolutions are cries of deficiency.  Revelation is the proclamation of His abundance and ability.

Resolutions are formed and abandoned on whims, circumstance and convenience.  Revelation is the manifestation of Truth empowering eternal transformation.

This year I’m abandoning resolutions and pursuing revelation.  How about you?  What are you going to pursue?


tresspassMy neighbor’s kid, he’s a squatter. No…literally, a squatter.  The kid lives on my side lawn.  From dawn till dusk he’s there….in my yard.  But it’s not his uninvited presence that irks me.  It’s the fact that, well, like I said…he’s a squatter.  The kid literally will drop trow and cop a squat anywhere.  I don’t know why.  Could be nature, could be nurture.  I don’t know.  But I do know where…my lawn!

Now when in the course of this six year olds life he decided to go ‘free range’ is a mystery to me. Like a lawn gnome that leaves you wondering, “Why?” this kid’s presence and miscreant activities leave me befuddled.  There are only two things I know for sure:

  1. He’s not my kid. I’ve got four of my own and while their names may occasionally escape me I still recognize their faces!
  2. This isn’t his yard. I verify that fact with every monthly mortgage payment!

So the question remains, “What event in the course of this six year olds life led him to believe that my lawn is his? What instilled this squatter’s mentality?”

Truth is many of us are no different than my neighbor’s kid. We too go through this life as squatters.  Laying claim to that which we paid no price for and ‘dumping’ on others along the way.

Jesus said, “…the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44 italics mine)

Far too often we see the field. We see the treasure in it, but like squatters we feed off the treasure without buying the field. Instead we hop the fence and free range.  We call to God when in need and forget him when things are fine.  We’ll attend church as long as it doesn’t go over one hour.  We want programs for our kids, but were just too busy to help teach.  We’ll freely give our opinion as to the latest message, event, lack of event, and the general state of everything holy, yet refuse to be a part of any potential solution.  And let’s not forget about our wallets which instinctively pucker up tighter than a snare drum or are conveniently not on us when the offering plate is passed.

Squatters take while refusing to give. They ingest, but the only impartation they deposit is similar to that which can be found on my lawn!

Now if you’re young in your spiritual life you may not know any better. Like my neighbor’s kid.  When he was two or three and still potty training it wasn’t that big of deal.  But eventually time moves on and so should we.  At six the kid should know better and spiritually we should too.

There really is little excuse for prolonged immaturity. At its core it’s simply selfishness.  My neighbor’s kid doesn’t want to be inconvenienced to stop playing and go to his own house to use the bathroom.  He doesn’t want to pay that price.  Don’t let it be that way in your spiritual life.

Remember, while we are commanded to love everybody…nobody likes a squatter.


Clean Your Plate!

photo  I have a confession to make.  Two actually.  First, that picture of rugged toddler masculinity is in fact me.  The second confession is that just like that two-year old birthday boy I still tend to be a picky eater. Growing up three words I hated hearing the most were, “Clean your plate!”  When I was a wee little lad still sporting the high chair I developed a method for avoiding the food I disliked.  Like a king upon his throne I would dismiss the evening offerings with the regal grace of a flip of the wrist.  In other words I would throw it on the floor beneath my high chair.  Yet, for all my firstborn right, for all my toddler cunning my mother was far shrewder.

One evening I sat upon my throne sifting between the edible and the remaining slop not fit for man or beast.  After surveying the offering I rendered my judgment…TO THE FLOOR!!!  Suddenly, like the space shuttle in launch, the moorings of my tray were released and I found myself being lifted from the earth.  What began as a glorious trip to the heavens quickly transitioned into a crash landing across her knee.  Yes…I got spanked.  To make matters worse, my mother had gotten wise to my rendering of culinary judgment.  Unbeknown to me this bastion of maternal affection that brought me into the world had secretly placed a sheet beneath my high chair. If I wouldn’t eat it from my throne, I would eat it from the floor.  And eat it from the floor I did!  Well played mother, well played.  I told you she was shrewd!

Now, reading that you may laugh. You may be horrified and think its abuse.  Relax.  I’m OK.  To tell the truth I’m grateful for that experience.  It’s one of the earliest memories I have and while I didn’t realize it at the time it was the first spiritual lesson I ever learned in life: You can’t just eat what you want.  Often it’s that which we find most unpalatable which is most necessary for us to consume.

2,000 years ago Jesus dealt with the finicky eating habits of the masses.  But, rather than cave to their tantrums and “cook” to their whims Jesus challenged them to expand their palate.  Jesus put a sheet under their high chair stating, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no part of me.”

When Jesus said we must ‘eat his flesh and drink his blood’ what was he saying?  Here is what I believe.  The flesh and blood symbolized all of who Jesus is.  It’s the total package not just the attractive part.  Jesus is the bread and Jesus is the word.  To have life we must consume and digest all of the word not just the parts that are easily palatable to us!  We can’t pick and choose what we like.  We can’t pick and choose what we believe and ignore what we don’t like.

All of his word is truth and we must accept that and incorporate it all into our daily life.  If we are unwilling to accept and consume all of who he is we aren’t actually serving Jesus.  We are serving a God after our creation.  This is the essence of idolatry; the exaltation of our carnal reasoning.  Like Adam in the garden we disregard and we substitute based upon the preference of our carnal man.  As with Adam our result will be the same.  When we feed only according to our fleshly preferences we eat of death.

So why does he want us to consume all of him?  Because unlike manna he is the bread that rises!  As we eat all that he is, he promises to raise us up unto eternal life.  When we consume all the Word of God and apply it to our daily life our carnal man gets crucified.  It’s uncomfortable.  Let’s be honest it downright hurts!  But, here’s the thing; there can be no resurrection where there has not first been a death!

Four times in John chapter six Jesus declares that it is the Father’s will that we be raised up.
39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
54 Whosoever eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

The unpalatable word will kill you, but that’s alright.  It’s supposed to.  The Word that kills you is the Word that will perfect and resurrect you.  So go on…“clean your plate!”

Representation: The Neglected Discipline

Recently a friend asked me and some others to weigh in on what we thought were necessary spiritual disciplines. He was compiling a list and wanted to see what each of us felt were vital to every believer’s spiritual growth. As the responses began to emerge they began to echo the typical mantra of most “spiritual discipleship” self help books: prayer, fasting, silence, giving, reading and memorizing scripture etc.  Yet I found myself consistently veering off the beaten path with my simple offering…representation, the neglected discipline.

Representation. 46 passages in the book of John alone teach the necessity of representation over substitution. Jesus did what he saw the Father do, spoke what he heard the Father speak. The doctrine he taught was not his own, but the Father’s. He never substituted his for the Father’s. If our spiritual growth and hope of glory is Christ in us, it must begin with ‘not my will but yours be done’…representation.

This is not a talent some were blessed with and others were not.  Representation is a discipline all are called to, but few embrace.  To tell the truth most of us (myself included) play the part of King Saul and play it well.  We go about our lives substituting our will and preference for God’s then indignantly feign ignorance and innocence when our substitution finds us out.  But as my friend Eric Samuel Timm says, “We cannot live out of order and expect order!”  More than anything else I believe its our substitution which leads to our perpetual state of spiritual infancy and our eventual demise.

Comparatively it is easy to read. Its easy to pray and give. Its even easy to fast. These are all things that can be accomplished through sheer will power. Just look at the Pharisees.  What is difficult is dying to your own will; completely surrendering to embrace the will and identity of another.  Because it is difficult it is often neglected.  I would go so far as to suggest that many times our offerings of prayer, fasting, giving and reading are in fact an act of substitution RATHER than representation.  I’m not saying we should neglect these things, but like Jesus, I am saying we ought to do these things while not leaving the weightier issue undone!  Often we will give theses acts of service in place of truly dying to ourselves that Christ may completely consume us and have preeminence.

Until we embrace the revelation “not my will but yours be done” we will never experience the full glory that is Christ in us.  In the end the neglected discipline ought to be our primary discipline. Without it everything else aren’t spiritual disciplines.  They’re just works of the flesh…an un-asked for offering…a shallow substitute…a death sentence.

Perspective, Truth & a Can of Coke

ImageBe honest.  Have you ever looked at something and thought you saw the totality of it.  You were comfortable and confident in your perception or understanding so you went happily along your way only to later find that what you initially saw was only a fraction of the picture?  Or worse yet, you come to discover that what you thought you saw wasn’t accurate at all; there was something deeper beyond the surface that was much greater than what you first recognized?  I have.  Just ask my wife!  I am the king of the cursory glance, especially when it comes to looking for something in the fridge!

Now I swear my fridge is a spacial anomaly in the construct of the space time continuum.  It’s a black hole which literally consumes ever last morsel of food for which I search and spews out the toxic gamma radiation commonly known as left overs!  I hate left overs!

I stand before the fridge, door wide open, convinced there is nothing to eat.  So I resign myself to the sweet nectar of life, mother’s milk, also known as Coke.  But wait!  I don’t see any Coke.  What happened to the Coke?  Dagnabit…did the kids drink all MY Coke again!?!  Thus the following scene typically unfolds:

“Heidi!  Do we have any Coke?”

“It’s in the fridge.”


“In the fridge!”

“Where in the fridge…I don’t see it?”

“Look around.”

“I AM LOOKING!  It’s not in here!”

Now mind you I’m convinced we don’t have any Coke.  I know it for a fact!  I’ve looked and I know what I’ve seen; a black hole which has consumed all edible food, and let’s not forget my Coke, and left in its wake a vortex of nasty.  There is no Coke.  My fridge is now host only to the Island of Misfit Toys a.k.a the left overs!  Frustrated and annoyed I resign myself to lounge in my recliner completely convinced of what I know I saw.  Then a miracle happens!  Like Moses in the wilderness bringing forth water from the rock, my wife walks in, with a cold Coke in hand.  Hallelujah!  The Lord heard my cry and delivered me!!

“Where’d you get the Coke?” I ask.

“Where I told you it was…in the fridge.”

“You did not.”

“No, I magically made it appear!  Come here and look!”

Reluctantly I peal myself from the safety of my recliner to stand beside my wife at the very event horizon of the black hole.

“Where’s the Coke?” I ask

“Right there, bottom shelf, right hand side…where it was the whole time!” she points out without a hint of vindicated, spousal condescension (cough, cough, wink).

In that moment my eyes are opened.  Convinced of what I saw, yet betrayed by what now appears before me I have only one explanation, “This is a conspiracy!”  All right I admit it.  I missed it.  I’m a guy!  Looking for things isn’t necessarily my forte.  Yet here’s the moral to this story.  Often in life we miss what is right in front of our faces.  Due to cursory glances and a weak constitution we resign ourselves to settle and convince ourselves that’s all there is too it.  That’s the character of the soul-centered life.  It’s selfish, lazy, proud and blind to the truth.

Transitioning from the soul-centered life to the spirit-centered life is work.  And as my search for the Coke reveals, often it takes an outside influence to guide us beyond our initial perceptions and reveal to us the depths of truth we miss in our cursory glances.  While my wife is a great asset in my search for pretty much all things related to natural life, the Holy Spirit is the needed asset in our search for the spirit-centered life.  Guidance and Revelation are the function and intention of the Holy Spirit.  Every time we read the word of God the Holy Spirit is there.  He’s longing to guide us into all truth and reveal the nature and person of God to us.  Without his assistance we stumble through this mortality missing the riches of His Spirit that are right before us.