Dear Daddy…

 

I was thinking of you at this moment.

For just a fleeting second I was thinking how much you would enjoy this view…then I remembered you see something greater every day.

I wish I could look into your eyes again.

I wish we could embrace and I  could feel your chest against mine. I wish my hands could feel the strength in the broadness of your back.

I wish you could give me some good advice while we sat in the backyard watching the martins.

I just wish I could reach out and touch you again.

I’m doing my best to carry out the things you said. I really hope you are proud.

I wished you were here for this moment … and then I realized you were, but I still miss you so.

I know you are enjoying the everlasting Light in which you now bask. You will show me around won’t you?

See you soon. I love you so.

Steve.

Is the Easter Bunny the Anti-Christ?

Last Christmas eve I attended a candlelight service where 50 or so people came together to prepare their hearts for the celebration of Christ‘s birth.

I’ve attended many of these services over the years at many different churches and I like them. I like that we sing the traditional Christmas songs; I like that kids come in their pajamas in anticipation of the wild morning ahead; and I like how it makes me think back to more than 2,000 years ago when the world received the miracle of miracles.

As I walked into the foyer for that particular service, one of the sweetest ladies I know was the first to greet me. I was prepared to give her a hug and wish her a warm Merry Christmas.

But before I could extend a hand and offer a warm greeting, she took the initiative with this:

“Don’t tell me Merry Christmas. Say happy birthday, Jesus.”

And she meant it.

I remember the strong movement a few years ago against the “Xmas” phrase. And for the record, it’s a movement I support. It does, in fact, take the Christ out of Christmas. But Santa Claus isn’t the devil, and neither is the Easter bunny.

For the last few years, I’ve noticed a similar trend. Among many evangelical Christians, Easter has now become “Resurrection Sunday.”

It’s certainly true enough. Among all things, first and foremost, Easter is the time when we recognize the one aspect that makes Christianity unique among all other religions. We serve a living God, not one who is dead in the tomb, or worshiped as a stone carving. Christ is alive, and it’s a belief I hold to be as true as the air I breathe.

So Resurrection Sunday – it’s a good thing.

But what of the extremity of this … because I like Easter.

Ninety percent of the references I heard in my church yesterday were to Resurrection Sunday – not Easter. That’s fine, but when did Easter become such a bad thing that we go out of our way to avoid the word?

I don’t hate the Easter bunny…and I don’t believe Jesus would either.

He’s soft, cuddly and has that really cute cotton tail.

My grandmother loved flowers. She particularly loved the Easter lily. I wonder if it should now become the Resurrection Sunday lily?

I’m not anti-Resurrection Sunday.

But I am pro-Easter.

Hop on Peter Cottontail. Jesus loves you too.

-30-

The 3-7-12 Principle (Part 2 of 4)

 

Seinfeld‘s George Costanza was on to something in the episode where he had a burning desire to name his firstborn “Seven.”

Seven Costanza – has quite a ring to it.

In introducing the 3-7-12 Principle last time we took a biblical look at the number 3, and many of its’ possible implications. Generally, we view the number three from its’ basis in the Trinity, and the “completeness” that it signifies throughout scripture.

So to begin the idea of the 3-7-12 Principle, we first have the completeness of three.

Now – what of seven?

It’s another undeniable theme throughout both the Old and New Testaments and the meaning is clear. I submit to you that God does not inspire subliminal messages in His Word. Among the examples:

  • Seven days of Genesis.
  • Seven seals of Revelation.
  • Seven angels.
  • Seven plagues.
  • Seven colors in the rainbow.
  • Seven Feasts.
  • Seven loaves and fishes.
  • How many times shall we forgive? Seven? No. Seven times seventy.
  • Seven – is mentioned seven times in Genesis 7.
  • Seven notes in the musical scale.
  • Solomon build the temple over seven years.

This is not the stuff of vagueness. It’s clear that God is telling us something here.

In seven, we have perfect completion. A finished task without error.

Clearly, God shows us there is application in this idea. Not that there’s anything magical about it, but there is something quite holy about it.

In the next post, we’ll take a look at the final number in the 3-7-12 Principal – the number 12, and then we’ll try to tie all this together and see what it means as a whole.

May God bless you and keep you, and may His mighty countenance be upon you.

—30—

The 3-7-12 Principle (Part 1 of 4)

(Blogger’s Note: This is the first in a series of four posts outlining the 3-7-12 Principle in my upcoming book: “Light Wins! …and the darkness is defeated forever…”)

John Maxwell has his 21 Irrefutable Laws; Rick Warren has his 40 Days of Purpose; and Stephen Covey has his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

So, as we say down here in Arkansas … we’re already walking in some pretty tall cotton.

From the first printing of God‘s Word there’s been an interesting and ongoing dialogue about the significance, or lack thereof, of  the symbolism of biblical numbers. Could it be pure coincidence that we see the repeating theme of numbers throughout both the Old and New Testaments? I’m a believer that there’s not a single coincidental word in the Bible and so as a reader and a writer, I must conclude God desires that we delve into the meaning of these numbers for a greater understanding of his Holy Spirit as it lives in each and every Believer.

I’m no Robert Langston (the symbologist portrayed in Dan Brown‘s “The DaVinci Code“) … oh, but to be as suave and debonair as the character Tom Hanks portrayed in that series … but it seems the significance of certain numbers in the Bible, simply cannot be denied.

The writing process is one that comes with great learning. As we seek to learn about other things, we, in the process, also learn much about ourselves. And so the fascination of a writer’s journey is compounded with certain revelations.

I’ve noticed (with the help of others) that my own particular writing style is relatively metaphorical in nature, and that I subconsciously use numbers as an expression of those metaphors … particularly the numbers 3, 7 and 12. Those who write with a metaphorical tone are in good company, I’d say. The parables Jesus related throughout the New Testament were the ultimate, and most profound metaphors.

For now, let’s take a look at the Biblical significance of the number “3,” mentioned exactly 523 times in Scripture Some quick facts and observations:

  • Three attributes of God: omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence.
  • Three crosses at Christ’s crucifixion.
  • Jesus was resurrected on the third day.
  • Jesus ran with a group of 12, but His inner circle consisted of three.
  • At 120 years old, Moses’ life was divided into three distinct periods of 40 each.
  • Three is God’s numerical “signature.”
  • The Godhead consists of three. Add up the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and you get “three.” But multiply 1 exponentially by three, and you still get “one.” 
  • Our earthly lives consist of three phases: Birth, Life, Death.
  • The Ark of the Covenant contained three sacred objects.
  • Holy, Holy, Holy.
  • It was in Genesis 1:3 when God spoke Light into being, eliminating the darkness forevermore.
  • “And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A chord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

And the list could go on and on…

There is power in the perfection of three. There is holiness and grace in the promise of three.

And there are principles we can follow in the priority of three.

(Next Post: “The Promise of Seven.”)

Seismic Testing & Gut Checks

I always wanted to do this. This is me in 2010 under the Big Sky of Montana during a period when I was going through a major gut check.

I hope you have a dream, and if you do, I hope you are pursuing that dream, now.

There have been quite a few in my own life, there are some now, and I know there are others yet to come.

Thank God He gives us dreams, visions, hope for a future.  The God of All Creation loves the creative collective minds of His children.

But you know, God doesn’t always speak clearly to me about dreams. A few times (maybe just a handful) He’s given me guidance with crystal clarity on things I needed to pursue, OR those from which I needed to distance myself. But by and large, He typically leaves it to me to explore the possibilities for myself.

And I’ve found there are two methods I can use to make a decision on pursuing huge dreams or every-day tasks of a smaller magnitude.

I can do some seismic testiing, or go with a gut check.

Credit for the phraseology here goes to author/entrepreneur Bob Buford, creator of “HalfTime.” As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, his book is one that has had a profound influence on the way in which I view the “second half” of my life. Buford talks at length about seismic testing, or low-risk measures we can take and with which we can experiment before making a major decision – especially a potentially life-changing one.

Unbeknownst to be, I’d been working through the various exercises of seismic testing just about all my life, but I simply called it, “dipping my toes in the water.” Seismic testing sounds way cooler.

There are friends now who are doing their own seismic testing. I have a friend across town who’s spending a week in Jackson, MS, checking out the lay of the land for a possible new career. For her, it’s a major “lifepoint.”

There’s a couple friend in Colorado who was told a week ago that they had that – exactly one week to make a major life changing decision which was forced upon them. They are in maximum seismic testing mode.

Myself – yes I’m doing some too. My dream is to publish a book in  Summer 2012, and sometimes these very blogs are seismic tests designed to see how readers react to the presentation of certain topics. The wordpress analytics make it easy for me, and the comments breathe life into the tests.

When God stays silent, what to do?

I’m naturally inclined to act from the heart rather than the head. That’s why I appreciate the benefit of seismic testing so much. It’s a balancing tool.

My wife is a heart follower as well, so it sometimes makes it all the more challenging for us to make major decisions as a couple. We think it, and we want to do it.

When God stays silent, I go with a gut check. I simply use my life experience of 45 years, a close circle of friends which is VERY small by design, and what my heart says to me. That’s the presence of the Holy Spirit I believe, and we can never avoid hearing that voice.

Seismic tests and gut checks have given me some great experiences in life, and they have also resulted in some tough times.

With the combination of the two, I’m about to go down a path that should prove interesting.

What Would it Look Like if …

… we shattered our categories?

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States.

How do we get to the “secret heart” of Christianity? Many are finding it difficult in today’s church.

It’s the battle of two extremes – we are wayward sinners or moral insiders – or we seek one of two journies – the road of moral comformity or the path to self-discovery. Is there room for any of us who may find ourselves somewhere between the two extremes without people thinking we’re rebellious troublemakers?

The fact is, it’s easy to alienate ourselves from God by going either way for too long. Proof can be found in the well-known story of the prodigal son, in which most readers of the Word focus on the wayward son. That side of the story is easy enough. But what about the older son, the one who obeyed the rules, the one who conformed, and yet refused to attend the grand celebration hosted by their father upon the younger son’s glorious return?

The two extremes … where is the middle ground, and if there is one, is it the right place from where the Holy  Spirit wishes us to operate?

Isn’t it interesting in so many Bible stories that the people who were most intrigued by Jesus were the ones who were estranged from religion, as opposed to those who were immersed in doctrine and dogma? The rule followers tried to trick Jesus into a corner. Who is this man, they wondered?

I am one of those who finds myself in the middle – probably further to the right side of self -discovery than rule follower, but yet fascinated by what God’s Word speaks to me each day. In this position, it’s easy to become an outcast. Church friends wonder what happened to you. Why are you rebelling? What’s wrong with you? Do you still know Jesus?

Maybe it rings true with you.

Actually, I feel pretty good. I feel freedom. The sun and stars look different to me now. The North Star visible each night from my back yard reminds me that I do have a fixed point of light and a direction. I’m learning, discovering, hearing.

If it does ring true with you, then I believe we are not alone. I believe we are in the midst of the winds of change. God appears to be changing the conversation He is having with His church. Yes, God can actually “change” the conversation if He so chooses.

Less than a year ago, leaders from a dozen megachurches across the country came together for: “Exponential 2011: On the Verge Conference.” The church leadership in the conference represented some 80,000 members.

The church leaders, you see, were at a high level of satisfaction with their “attractional” strategies. And why not? They had grown exponentially. They were in “high cotton.”

But somewhere along the way, the “missional” aspect of service was lost. Too many people, too many programs and services, too much budget, too many decisions and too much baggage.

They had become “missionless.”

An interesting observation/prediction by two church strategists who helped facilitate the meeting is this: The prevailing church growth approach (or market strategy, if you will) will have appeal to about 40% of the U.S. population over the next 10 years.

So if the strategy continues to dominate, where does that leave the other 175,000,000 or so of us who aren’t drawn to that approach?

What if church looked not so much like a building, but a movement?

What if church looked apostolic rather than institutional?

What would it look like if we created demand, rather than competed for it?

What if we were On the Verge of something?

What if…

(Blogger’s note: Many of the ideas, language and concepts posted in this blog come from two well-written and thoughtful books: On the  Verge by Alan Hirsch & Dave Ferguson; and The Prodigal  God by Timothy Keller.)

A Fixed Point of Light

Perfect Timing

In his inaugural address in 1989 incoming president George Herbert Walker Bush initiated a domestic effort to recognize volunteer, humanitarian and community leadership initiatives that made a difference for the greater good. You may recall he called it: “A Thousand Points of Light.”

This is what Bush said in his inaugural address written by the great speechwriter Peggy Noonan.

I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding. We will work on this in the White House, in the Cabinet agencies. I will go to the people and the programs that are the brighter points of light, and I will ask every member of my government to become involved. The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.”

My aunt, Neala Hoch, was named as one of those Points of Light for her leadership efforts in the recycling industry across the South.

It was a momentary time of scandalous debate in our family with significant Democratic roots.

She recalls: “The family had mixed feelings about me meeting with Bush. Everyone was proud, but Aunt Jimmie told me to spit in his hand!”

Politics aside, we were, and are proud of her. She was recycling when recycling wasn’t cool. Ahead of her time in that regard.

Points of Light … how interesting.

I love variety, impulse and whimsickle moments of craziness, but I’m also a creature of habit, especially in the early morning hours from 3 until around 6.

Gotta make the coffee, check email, check FB, check the blog hits, write the blog, take time for study of the Word and see what God has to say on that particular day.

Snickers is a fixed Point of Light for me. She is under my feet at all times!

And of course, there’s always a bit of quality time with one of my favorite girls – Snickers – my prized cocker spaniel.

But I always also spend a few moments of quiet reflection outside by the pool which is on the north side of our property.

On clear mornings I can look in the same direction every day and see the Big Dipper. And sure as the sun rises, the two stars at the end of the ladle point directly to the North Star – the only fixed star in the sky that never “moves” as related to the earth’s rotation and orbit.

It’s always there, in the same place, every time, every morning.  Always. Always. Always.

You know where this is going.

There is another fixed point of Light in each of our lives. It is the Great Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We may wander. We may stray. And we may close our eyes to put ourselves in intentional darkness, but the Light of Christ is ALWAYS there.

He’s in the same place He always has been, is and always will be. You don’t have to look very hard.

And PS Aunt Neala: I’m still proud of you, even if you did shake the hand of a Republican.

Light that Motivates

I’m a big believer in the value of personality profiling, especially when it comes to how we relate to others in the workplace and in social settings.

A few years back I took a battery of tests that would help me understand myself better so that I could relate to my clients in the coaching industry. One of the things I discovered is that I’m a visual learner, and moreover, visually inspired.

The things I see (as the light depicts them) motivate me and compel me to give my best. So a few months back when I committed myself to beginning the manuscript for my first book I took action.

There was a total makeover of my home office. Three different colors on four walls. The color combination of pepper red, chocolate brown and sky blue give me a sense of balance. But the highlight of the makeover was the visual prompts that were hung on those walls.

There is a simple iron cross to my left; family photos of my wife and kids, photos and medals from a few of my past marathons, movie posters from Lonesome Dove, Gladiator and Braveheart; a historical sports photo of Muhammad Ali standing over a floored Sonny Liston after a KO in the first minute of the first round; a large photo of Nelson Mandela, perhaps the greatest champion of democracy that ever lived; a victory photo of the US hockey team after they defeated the Russians in the 1980 Winter Olympics; photos of Jack Nicklaus, Andre Agassi;  a space shuttle launch I witnessed in 1988; and the great Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics.

These visual prompts remind me of great times. Great moments. And they inspire me to give my best, especially in my writing.

Directly in front of me is a list of seven life priorities. A copy also hangs on my bathroom mirror. This is intentional to remind me to keep focused on what’s important and eliminate distractions.

And there are some strange parallels I take from knowing that I’m visually inspired. I’ve committed myself to become an author. Over the years I’ve published hundreds, if not thousands, of newspaper and magazine articles, but no books – YET.

Much as I hate stereotypes, I suppose I have one for the way an author should look. So when I made this commitment, I changed the way I dress. I began dressing in the way that I see an author would dress. I started collecting hats, one of which I wear almost every day. And I take a lot of good ribbing from friends about the hats I wear, but it’s part of the fun.

And I now speak a little differently than before. On the things about which I dream, I speak as if they are so. As surely as I type these words I know there is a another home that awaits me in South America where my family and I will spend regular time improving the cause of humanity and spreading the love of Jesus. It awaits…

As I sit here writing at 4 a.m., I’m also reminded of two important things on my desk. There is a lit candle and a small globe. The candle reminds me of the power and purity of the Light, and the globe helps me to recall the world is a small place, and that as a group of committed people we can make a difference in that world.

I couldn’t see these things if it weren’t for the Light, and even if I flipped the light switch off, there’s a candle that still burns and it’s right by my side.

Mistaken Light

You are a natural seeker of Light. So am I.

Just one part of  God‘s great Design is that we are seekers of light. Our soul needs it; our skin needs it, our bones and eyes need Light.

And it’s a great paradox that sometimes, even though we already have the Light in us (see 2 Corinthians 4:6) that we go out and look for it, oftentimes in the wrong places.

In our daily walk, we seek out the Light. It’s our innate desire for understanding, acceptance, truth and self-identification.

Because of Old Testament prophecy, the people of the early first century were overly zealous in their pursuit of the Light. So hungry were they in their pursuit that they were easily mistaken, especially in the great case of John the Baptist.

Consider some of the most awesome scipture that ever was from the Book of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God …In Him was life, and the Life was the Light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There came a man sent from god, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through Him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was true Light, which coming into the world enlightens EVERY man.” John 1:1-9

Even though the Light is in us, sometimes we have a need for supplemental light, and that’s ok.

Babies born prematurely need the warmth and comfort that incubation light provides for their proper development. Many doctors use phototherapy for the treatment of serious wounds, acne and other skin irritations. I often supplement my Bible reading with the works of great authors such as Barna, Viola, Buford, Idleman and others. They provide supplement to my daily walk.  All this is ok.

Then sometimes, especially as adults, we go looking for supplemental light in all the wrong places. In the search for life’s answers we find ourselves caught up in addictions, wrong relationships, schemes and other things that we believe will “make us happy.” That’s not ok.

You see, the darkness has a trick up it’s sleeve to make you think you can find the light in some bad places.

And as much as I prefer not to talk or write about these things, they are true. There is an enemy out there who wishes you harm and he will do everything he can to see you drawn to mistaken light.

Now I’m not naive enought to believe I’m important enough for the enemy to pursue me on a daily basis. He’s got much bigger fish to fry than me, but reading Frank Peritti’s book “This Present Darkness” a few years ago changed my view forever regarding how the enemy uses his legion of demonic spirits to bring me down. Again, forgive the demonic talk. I don’t like it and don’t go there often, but it is a reality, and here’s the support from God’s own Word:

“No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of Light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14

This is an amazing scripture – pure evidence of God’s magnificent design.

With all the negative influence the enemy can have on a fallen world, when all else fails, he’ll steal God’s method and disguise himself as “Light.”

All the more reason for us to stay in the Word which gives us wisdom, discernment and the power and authority to be the Light ourselves. False light can never penetrate pure light and we are the Light of the Word because Christ lives in us.

It’s going to be a beautiful spring-like day here in Arkansas today. I’m going out to catch some light. Make no mistake about it.