Father and son – A Voice in the Darkness

Father and son – A Voice in the Darkness

Last weekend, I took my 9 year old son (Nelson) for an overnight camping adventure at our ranch.

I had three objectives. First, to invest time into my son’s life. Second, teach him practical outdoor skills while feeding his sense of adventure. Third, each activity was designed to point him toward authentic manhood. All the while, pushing him outside his comfort zone surrounded by God’s amazing creation.

Upon arrival, I gave him a gift. It was a small field med-pack with a headlamp (red light), a striker, one chem-light (aka: glow-stick for all you ravers), a multi-tool, a small LED light to illuminate the inside the bag at night, a zip-lock with several cotton balls soaked in Vasaline petroleum jelly, a small first aid kit, a wrist compass and a two-way radio. I instructed him to keep the pack with him at all times.

Before sunset, our first lesson was to learn how to start a fire without conventional ignition, like matches or lighters. We gathered rocks, tinder and wood. Then I demonstrated how to ignite a tinder ball using a striker and a cotton ball covered in Vasaline.  Nelson practiced a few times before dinner.

Night came and temperatures fell. Stars filled the clear sky. Nighttime noises in the country surrounded us – crickets, frogs, locusts, owls and coyotes

We dawned our packs and made our way down to the pasture gate in the darkness. I instructed him to turn on his red-light head-lamp and close the pasture gate behind him. I prayed and read Bible passages about loyalty, leadership and humility over him. We turned on our two-way radios and tested our comms. Loud and clear.

“What are we going to do, dad?” he asked with a great deal of uncertainty.

As I put the compass on his wrist, I said, “Son, I am going to walk 250 yards down the path. You will stay here until I call on the radio. When I call, you will begin walking on a southwest heading, keeping on the path. Do not wonder off the path. As you know, there are cactus, snakes and trip hazards out here.” I continued, “Down the hill, there is a tree with a green chem-light hanging in it. I will meet you there.”

Coyotes were howling all around and the moon was not quite high enough to give much light. The red headlamp only emits enough light to illuminate the ground a few feet in front of you.

With his voice a little shaky, he uttered the words I expected, “Dad, I’m a little scared.”

I replied, “Son, there is nothing to be afraid of – this is just a new environment for you.”

I continued, “You have your radio and red light. You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you. Stay on the path, use your radio and your compass. I’ll meet you in a few minutes at the tree. I love you.” I shut off my headlamp and made my way into the darkness.

You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you.

When I arrived at the tree, I made the radio call to Nelson. I could see his red light up the hill begin to move toward my position. He radioed that he was still afraid. I encouraged him to keep walking down the hill. “I can see you. You are doing a great job son. Keep going!”

As he approached our meeting point under the tree, he couldn’t see me in the darkness. So, I called out to him without the radio. Nelson trotted over to me. He was so excited, I was too. Hive-fives and hugs around the board. I congratulated him and read Bible passages on purity, honesty and self-discipline to him.

After a drink of water and another radio check, I told him we had a second objective – further into the pasture. The terrain is rocky with a little creek running through it. There would be another tree with a chem-light hanging in it. I walked ahead into the dark to the meeting place and called him over the radio to begin walking. He could hear my voice but couldn’t see me. But, I could see him.

He arrived at the tree excited and confident. I instructed him to take off his pack, get out his striker and fuel. “Are we going to start a fire here?” he asked. I replied laughing, “YOU are going to start a fire!” We cleared a small space and he gathered tinder. With minimal guidance from me, he assembled a small bundle and put the petroleum jelly soaked cotton ball in the center. After several minutes of failed attempts, he produced a giant spark that landed in the center of the bundle. We had fire!  The boy had built his first fire.  I could see his self-confidence and satisfaction on his face.

As we hovered over the tiny flames, I read scripture about excellence, integrity and perseverance over him and I prayed. He was so excited. We put out the tiny fire, put on our packs and headed back to the pasture gate where we had begun.

This time Nelson would lead the way and I would follow. We talked and laughed as we walked in the darkness. Looking forward to building a camp fire and roasting some marshmallows. We would sleep beneath a blanked of stars.  Nelson had conquered fear, learned something about listening to the father’s voice in the darkness and learned perseverance through fear and adversity.

 

Further consideration…

Maybe you are in the darkness right now. The darkness can be a dreadful place. However, our heavenly father can see us and we can hear his voice in darkest night. You can call out to him. He will answer.

Special Note: The ideas for this activity with my son originated with a book called “Raising a Modern-Day Knight” by Robert Lewis and operations with Ironcenturion. Thanks guys for your creativity and leadership.


Read previous post: Remember when Jesus prayed for us? (a reflection)
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A message for men that you don’t want to hear

A message for men that you don’t want to hear

Note: I’ll be the first to admit my own responsibility for being a part of the problem in the past. I’m lovingly, yet sternly challenging you to read and consider what I am saying. After thoughtful consideration (perhaps 24-48 hours), if you disagree – that is fine. Articulate your disagreement if you like.  Emoting is a sign of immaturity and my response will call out immaturity.  If that causes a bit of anger to well up in your little heart, so be it.  You need to learn to deal with anger and this conversation is not for you – yet.

Boys are crying out for help!

Over the last 50 years, our moral revolution has attacked the sanctity of human life, destroyed the family and diminished the father’s role in society. So, males are nothing more than animals that have sex at will with whomever they want, pursue immediate gratification and comfort, relish violence and affluence and move on like a swam of locusts.

Today boys, as young as 8 years old are immersed in pornography, addicted to violent games/movies and have ZERO respect for human life. As a result, girls (and  boys) are objects for their personal gratification, other children are targets for destruction and parents exist to feed and pamper them.

Our boys need to be rescued from this toxic culture and men who have abandoned their responsibilities need to repent and be restored.  We need to admit we need to help each other.

No matter how you slice it – Males hold all the cards.

We are paying the price for the “moral revolution”. This revolution is rooted in nothing more than personal immediate gratification (of males – primarily).  It says,

“I want what I want and I want it NOW… And I will use the veil of reproductive rights, feminism, sexual freedom, personal autonomy, marriage, coercion and political volition to achieve my personal gratification – be it comfort, affluence, power or orgasm.”

Our children are paying dearly with their lives. Make no mistake – the cost is high for “if it FEELS good, do it” culture. It is no accident that we have arrived at this very moment.

“A poor sailor blames the wind.”
It is also no accident that adult males are molesting and demeaning women, abusing children, stealing, doing drugs, lying under oath, murdering and going to jail at high rates.  We raise our boys according to the rules of the moral revolution and when our boys become adults infused with the ‘values’ of the revolution and act out of those impulses – the moral revolutionaries make an ‘out-cry’ and blame everyone except themselves.  A worldview that blames systems, things and institutions for society’s problems is rejecting any personal accountability.  They will deny this but there will always be a ‘but’ to avoid personal responsibility.

 

How about raising boys who know what it means to be authentic men?

A man does not give into passivity, he takes responsibility for his own actions, he practices personal accountability and integrity, he is humble, just, kind, self-disciplined, leads courageously and focuses on a cause greater than himself. A man is the voice for the voiceless, a protector of the weak and a provider.

Stop the cycle of blame. In order to raise men of honor and integrity, we must look ourselves in the mirror and ask how we are going to help raise boys into authentic men. It is an issue of our hearts. Boys are crying out for help. Let’s help them by modeling manhood for them – teaching and challenging them to become the courageous men they are created to be.

Ignore the screaming of the moral revolutionaries – they will never stop screaming. That is what they do – they rage against everything. They will not stop raging until they destroy everything – including themselves.  I’m not sorry for pushing back against the disjointed and dangerous worldview driving the ‘moral revolution’.  As a matter of fact, I’m going to challenge it with extreme moral force.

Dave Ramsey once said,

“We all have a red-faced screaming child inside us.  That child’s name is ‘Immaturity’.”

It’s not too late.

Our future depends on our personal accountability today.  

  • How am ‘I’ going to raise my son to be man?
  • How can ‘I’ support the fatherless who have no role model?

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Should not I pity America, that great nation?

Should not I pity America, that great nation?

Read the headlines from around our nation. What do you see? You see anger, hostility, confusion, selfishness and violence. We are seeing riots and division. What are we not seeing? We are not  seeing compassion, caring or charity.

2800 years ago in ‘the great city’ of Nineveh, we see an evil and cruel people. The entire city was heartless and cold. The lack of love and compassion and a bent toward violence and selfishness is described as sin. Nineveh was within a hair’s breadth of experiencing God’s judgement and destruction. And who could blame Him? If you saw a city full of people filled with rage, hatred, violence and cruelty toward each other, wouldn’t you just want to end it? Why didn’t God go with the ‘nuclear option’ in Nineveh? I would have!

How would you describe the ‘tone’ in our nation today?
Would you describe it as charitable and peaceful or toxic and divisive?

We are a nation divided. The media is helping to drive the division. As a Christ-follower, I must counter this division with a comprehensive worldview anchored the word of God. I am called to think redemptively and pursue reconciliation through God’s love. Why is it so hard?

Here’s the problem. I struggle with my part. When I am constantly called names or told that I am racist, intolerant, etc or characterized with the latest straw-man fallacy, I grow angry because I am none of those things. If I am honest, I must admit I harbor ill-will toward the people who believe I am those things. That is my sin.  I must own up to it.

God is compassionate and we are not!
God called Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah hated Nineveh (a sin) and ran from God (a sin). He eventually ended up in Nineveh (a miracle). His mission was to call for the people to repent and turn to God. In doing so, God would relent from destroying the city, a demonstration of His compassion and love for all people. Nineveh was headed for destruction but God showed compassion.

The people of Nineveh turned to God, He relented and the city was saved! Furthermore, the city prospered. When God showed compassion, Jonah was angry because he didn’t see the people how God saw them. Jonah wanted the city judged and destroyed. Essentially, he was no different than the cruel hateful people of Nineveh. I have to claim that sin for myself.

My part as a Christ-follower
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

People’s part: People who claim Christ must humble themselves, pray, seek and turn
God’s part: He will hear, forgive and heal

I believe Christ-followers across the nation have humbled themselves and prayed over the last year. I don’t know if we are actively seeking God’s face or turning from our wicked ways. Have you personally confessed the anger and pride in your heart? Frankly, I am writing this to myself.  It is a struggle.

Perhaps, this is my call to the people of God. “Hey church, we bent our knee in humility and prayed. Maybe God is relenting and showing us his compassion. Now, we must be obedient and see this through. We need to seek God’s face and turn from our hatred and divisiveness. We must not boast but reach out in humility and love to a people God loves. And we must act right now! Forget what people say about you, act redemptively and in the spirit of love immediately!”

If we demonstrate God’s love through how we love others, who’s to say how God’s spirit may move upon the people of our nation?

The king of Nineveh said, “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”

God’s response?
“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.”

What is my response? Is it an unrelenting anger, like Jonah?

God is compassionate and we are not
You see Jonah really struggled with getting on the same page as God. We all do.

The last sentence in the book of Jonah ends with a question, “And should not I (God) pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Please allow me a bit of liberty to apply the final verse if I may.

And should not I (God) pity America, that great nation, in which there are more than 320 million people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much wealth?”

I am convinced that we are being tested and challenged. We have the greatest opportunity in generations to reach our nation with the love of Christ.

Please note, this post is a message to Christ-followers (aka, the Church). I do not expect non-believers believer or understand this. But, a believer should consider it and mediate on what God has to say to our culture.

Reference: 2 Chronicles 7 and the Book of Jonah

Priorities – How I get things done

Priorities – How I get things done

As I have made the move from business to ministry in the last 10 months, I’ve found I battle three things. As Local Outreach Pastor (community outreach) at a growing church with 8000 visitors on any given Sunday, two campuses, thirty local ministries partners, hundreds of volunteers, large budgets, various events and personal ministry, things can get a little crazy. In fact, they can feel a bit chaotic and overwhelming. How do I (personally) get things done and stay on top of hundreds of moving parts?  How do I identify the most important priorities?

Well, I have a bunch of God‘s grace and an awesome team. I also have a tool that I’ve adapted from what I’ve learned from others and years of experience.

Are you looking for a better way of staying on top of things?

Know your enemy – Look in the mirror!
There are three things I battle. The first is procrastination. I am gifted at putting important tasks off by replacing them with non-important tasks or tasks I should not be doing. The second is being a slave to the urgent. Emergencies and urgent tasks happen in daily life. When they do, we have to stop what we are doing and engage in the urgent. Many times when I have procrastinated to do an important task, the task migrates into the urgent. The third is deception. This happens when I make an activity of low importance into high importance when that is not the case.

A few years ago, Dave Ramsey provided a helpful tool for establishing priorities. It contains quadrants of activity or tasks.

1. Important and Urgent: This is a crisis or emergency like your child is in the hospital.  This is also task where your immediate action is required or something will break.

2. Not Urgent but Important: This something that is important but not currently urgent like taking care of your body. If you don’t take care of yourself, you could potentially have a health crisis. This is where planning and cultivating relationships reside. This will also include personal growth and health-related activities. Spend your time in this area!

3. Urgent and Not Important: This is someone else’s crisis or activities that we mistake for having high importance and urgency. Responding to email as they hit your inbox lands here. This is something that seems really important but it can wait or be delegated. If there is a crisis, I will get a phone call (sometimes a text but I recommend a call). This is a danger zone as it interrupts important work.

4. Not Urgent and Not Important: There are activities like surfing Facebook or watching senseless videos on Youtube. Dave Ramsey includes gossip here as well.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. – Ps 90:12

Download a PDF of my Weekly Urgency Chart.

Enjoy the journey!

Doing the Right Thing the Wrong Way

Doing the Right Thing the Wrong Way

We take up our cause because we believe it is right and good. We know that it is good and we are passionate about reaching the good result. Somewhere along the path toward our goal of achieving what is right and good, we can fall into the trap of the wrong way.

Winning at all costs is not winning.For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Mt. 16:26)  If I have not love in my heart as I pursue what is right, I fail. If I love the object of the rightness of my cause and have no love for those on the path, I have created an idol. When my pursuit of what is right destroys fellowship and unity causing division, I have not love in my heart. I have gone the wrong way.

The heart will produce fruit that will manifest in reality. By the fruit, the wise can discern the motivation of the heart. We can attempt to manufacture ‘good fruit’ but eventually the facade will crumble and we will be found on the wrong way.

In the pursuit of doing the right thing, our way must be the way of love. It is a matter of the heart. The heart is the seat of the will. Our motivations are born in the heart.

The right way
A heart that is authentically regenerated and transformed will produce spiritual fruit in one’s life. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23).

The wrong way
A heart that is not transformed remains under the authority of darkness and rebellion is completely incapable of producing spiritual fruit in one’s life. The bible calls this state of the heart ‘the flesh.’ “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these…. those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21b)

Doing the right thing the wrong way
There are examples in the Bible of people doing the right thing the wrong way. Cain’s sacrifice was not pleasing to the Lord because of his motivation. Abraham and Sarah’s decision to use Hagar to provide an heir. Jacob and Rebekah’s deception of Isaac to attain Esau’s inheritance. Somewhere along the path toward their goal of achieving what is right and good, they fell into the trap of the wrong way.

How do we know we are doing the right thing the RIGHT way?

  • Pray it through: Why am I really pursuing this ‘good thing’? Is it to earn points with God or man? What is truly motivating me? What is driving me toward this cause or goal?
  • Check your fruit: Keep a journal on your journey and look for fruit.
  • Test it with Scripture: Read God’s word and allow it to minister to you. Don’t treat it like a cafeteria where you pick and choose what supports your goal/mission.
  • Be Accountable: ‘Iron sharpens iron.’ (Pr. 27:17) Share what you are doing with a brother or sister who will test you and hold you accountable. They must be able to ask the tough questions. Don’t trust yourself because you can deceive yourself. Get a trusted friend to help.

The way of love ties it all together.
“Grace and truth need each other. Grace ceases to be grace if it lacks truth. And truth loses its power if it lacks grace. Grace without truth sanctions and perpetuates unwanted actions…. Truth without grace is harsh, usually self-centered, and un-Christlike. Grace without truth is deceptively permissive, often lazy and equally un-Christlike… Should I show grace or should I tell the truth?’ Both. Love unites grace and truth.” – Bill Robinson

A spiritual problem demands a spiritual solution

A spiritual problem demands a spiritual solution

“Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.” – Matthew Parris (RichardDawkins.net article 2009)

The more brokenness and lostness you see in our world, the more you recognize that the problem at the core of humanity is NOT solved through material means. Governments and organizations provide tons of material relief where spiritual transformation is needed. Material resources do not solve the brokenness of the human spirit.  Relief has its place but is not the answer.  Relationship is the answer.

At its core, the human problem is a spiritual problem and demands a spiritual solution. Dumping money on communities that need rehabilitation exacerbates the problem. If your house was on fire, would you attempt to extinguish it with water or gasoline?

Jesus Christ is in the transformation business. He is the only figure in history to properly diagnose our disease (sin and death) and offer a cure (salvation and life through Christ alone). Every other worldview requires human effort. The world scoffs at the name of Jesus Christ. Strangely, an atheist recognizes the transformational power of the Gospel of Christ.  I commend him for his honesty.

If you read the Matthew Parris article, you must conclude that the transformation he is describing in Africa is authentic. He is observing the outward manifestation (evidence) of an inward transformation of the heart. People who are truly ‘in Christ’ bear the fruit of Christ; sacrificial love, service, hope, joy, discipline and patience.

The entire article is very interesting, but Matthew Parris’s conclusion nails it:
“Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I’m afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

Imagine waking up having settled the biggest question of life once and for all (destiny). No matter what the world throws your way, you are at peace. In the midst of the storms of life, you know for a fact that you are eternally secure. You are free to love and forgive others because you walk in the power of God’s grace in relationship with him. Experiencing God’s grace changes who you are, how you act and your motivations.  Your relationship with Christ changes your relationships with others.

If you believe that ALL humans are created in the image of God, it changes the way you see yourself and others.

Further reading and resource:
“When Helping Hurts” (Corbett and Fikkert)
Matthew Parris: As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God (2009 Article)