We don’t need Jesus

3 02 2015

They say catchy titles will draw people to read your post.  Did it work?

Can I be honest?  I see some truth in the title.

“Give us our daily bread”  Honestly, I look for that in my paycheck that comes faithfully twice a month.

“Your will be done” is great as long as it can be accomplished on the weekends and preferably not during football season.

When a crisis hits, the need for Jesus shines brightly.  As a Chaplain I am in awe when I bring the power of the Gospel into a situation.  I am always amazed and humbled when God moves me out of the way and touches hearts.  Then, I go home where I have a good marriage and, while my kids frustrate me from time to time, they have normal middle class American problems.

Jesus teaches his disciples to pray for God’s will to be done.  On the night he was handed over to be crucified he has a desperate time of prayer and says “not my will but your will be done.”

Wow!  Jesus lives out the very thing he taught.  I am convicted.

If you can relate to me, I challenge you as I challenge myself to re-engage our world.  I don’t believe we have to wait for a crisis.  We just need to allow ourselves to be uncomfortable.

My conviction was helped by a NPR story on my drive home.  The reporter was being honest that the stories of Jesus seemed distant but a priest who stood up for the poor and was killed for his stand made the stories of Jesus real.  No, I do not want us go out and get shot.  However, when we engage our world, we bring hope and make Jesus real in lives of the people around us.  Then, we have the privilege of watching our Savior change lives.

After listening to the story I went into the store to pick up a couple of items.  As I looked around, the Holy Spirit pointed out that each person I saw had a story and God loved them.  It was an invitation to join him as he looks for his “will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

I want that. I need that.  I need Jesus.





These are socks…Love

16 01 2015

This is my final devotional in this series.  It has been based on how Coach Wooden, the legendary basketball coach for UCLA, would begin his first practice.  He started off each season by teaching his team how to wear their socks.   He believed the basics are what wins the game.

What are the Christian’s socks?  What are the basics we have to remember to be effective?  I believe there are three; faith, hope and love. Today I want to focus on love.

Love is the most overused word in our vocabulary.  Everyone has their idea of what love means.  I think there are two distinctive for the unconditional love we need as socks.

First, it must come from a place of strength.  John 10:18 is a uniquely powerful verse.  Jesus says he has the authority to lay his life down and pick it back up.  In other words, he was the only one who could die sacrificially in place of humanity.  This is critical to understand.  There are a lot of people who would die for another person.  While that is admirable, it does not have the same power as what Jesus did.  When Jesus laid down his life, reality was fundamentally changed.  Our relationship with God was fully and completely restored.  God did this out of the purest form of unconditional love.  There were no strings attached and no other agenda except love.

As Christians we tap into that love.  This is why Jesus says the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others.  It is only in my relationship with God I have the understanding to unconditionally love anyone else.

As a pastor and a Chaplain I have often seen people who love from a place of weakness.  They do things because they need to feel accepted, they want to portray an image or they want to cover up an area of their life.  The majority of the time they are not doing it with evil intent.  They are doing it because they are longing for love.  They will join churches and even go into ministry all with the hope of being good enough or accomplishing something significantly enough that will let them feel loved.  Sadly they are missing the true depth of Christian love. They are missing their socks.

God’s unconditional love comes from a genuine place of strength.  When I accept this type of love, it transforms me.  I rely on God to show others love.  In other words I operate from God’s strength.  Will there be sacrifice?  Of course but it comes from pure motives and a right perspective.  It is truly powerful and transformational.

This is a deep concept so I encourage you to meditate on it and talk to God about it.  Once it clicks, I promise you will be amazed and in awe of God.

The second aspect of unconditional love is boundaries.  Healthy relationships have boundaries.  The very concept of love implies a relationship so it makes sense there would be boundaries.  A great example is the marriage relationship.  If I say I love my wife but hurt her or cheat on her you could legitimately question my love.  Because God has invited us to freely choose to enter a relationship with him, it is reasonable that we would live within the boundaries of that relationship.

We need three things to know God’s boundaries.  First, we have to have an active prayer life in which we are not just asking God to do things for us but we are slowing down to listen for God’s voice.  Second, we have to read the Bible.  This is the sacred text of Christianity.  We believe it is inspired by God and unique in both it’s power and authority.  Finally, we have to be connected to a healthy church.  In a healthy church we can have good relationships to keep us grounded and help us grow and mature.  I know I often sound like a broken record when it comes to the importance of being connected to a church but I see the difference in lives of people who are connected and those who aren’t.

So do you have your socks on? I hope this series has given you something to consider.  Let’s make sure we have our socks on and let’s get into the game.





These are socks…Faith

22 10 2014

Coach Wooden was a legendary basketball coach for UCLA in the 1960s and 70s.  He won ten NCAA Championships in twelve years including a streak of seven.  He knew how to win.  Coach Wooden always began his first practice by teaching his team how to wear their socks stressing the importance of protecting their feet.  Getting a blister on your foot makes you ineffective on the court.  Bottom line remembering the basics helps you win the game.

This got me wondering.  What are the Christian’s socks?  What are the basics we have to remember to be effective?  I think there are three; faith, hope and love.  Today I want to focus on faith.

As Christians we believe God does the work and we respond by faith.  This is foundational to the Gospel.  We believe Jesus died for us and we are saved by God’s grace through our faith (Ephesians 2:8).

Living by faith goes back to Abraham.  His faith was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).  In other words, Abraham’s righteousness was based on trusting and following God.  Abraham was human.  He did some good things and some bad things.  His relationship with God was not based on his work but on his faith.

Most Christians understand this intellectually.  However, it is hard to do.  Why?  Because living by faith is scary.  Faith leads to action.  The actions are directed by God.  Living by faith means God can lead us anywhere.  If God wants me to go to Africa, I go to Africa.  If God wants me to forgive someone, I forgive that person.  If God asks me to give up something, I give it up.

What does the Bible say about this?  Noah built an Ark.  Abraham left his home.  Jonah went to Nineveh.  Daniel prayed even with the threat of being feed to lions.  Jesus told a rich young man to sell everything.  I could go on but you get the point.

Not living by faith is much easier.  Some become legalistic.  In other words, they come up with the list of rules to keep God in a nice safe box.  Others just reject or ignore the things of God.  They never let themselves slow down long enough to actually hear God’s voice in their life.

However, if we put our socks on correctly and live by faith two incredible things happen.  First, we become less busy.  We serve as God leads and we say no to things that are not a part of God’s plan.  We focus on the right things.  Second, our thankfulness increases.  We become grateful for the work God is doing in our lives and we have peace because we are in step with God.  It is a great place to be.

Are you living by faith?  Can God truly ask anything of you?  The first step is to slow down and really listen.  This means spending time in prayer, reading your bible or talking with a respected mentor.  God will show you areas where you are not in step.  It will be an opportunity to change and truly follow where God is leading.  Take the opportunity to thank him.  The more you see God working in your life the more thankful you will be.  Before you know it you will be living out your faith…by faith





Thank you

27 05 2013

Memorial Day is a day we set aside to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country.  This year Memorial Day falls on the three year anniversary of when this day became personal. On May 27, 2010 my battalion experienced our first loss.

I will always remember that night.  I went out and God and I had to talk.  I had been praying for what I thought was a pretty valid request.  I did not want to lose anyone.  God was gracious with me.  He let me vent.  He let me tell him this was unfair.  I knew I didn’t understand but I also knew I trusted God (as much as any of us can).

The cross stood out boldly.  God had personally faced the unfairness of this world.  God had faced death. During my season in Afghanistan I went from simply loving God to respecting God.

As a battalion we had to move forward.  We still had a mission to accomplish.  We would lose others.  I was honored to serve as their Chaplain.  I was thankful for a God with the depth to deal with the realities of war and a hope bigger than our circumstances.

So for this Memorial Day I want to say thank you.

First, thank you God.  Thank you for the peace you give.  Thank you for the comfort you provide those who grieve.  Thank you for your understanding and your grace.  Thank you that you are God who “gets it.”  We can come to you with the realities of this life and you walk with us.  Thank you for your church and your people who are faithful in prayer and are your ambassadors to those who are hurting.

This leads to my second thank you.  It is to you.  Thank you.  I have always felt supported.  I can tell you while I was in Afghanistan I could tangibly feel the prayer support.  I have been thanked countless times for my service.  It is humbling.  It will continue to be an honor and a joy to come along side young men and women serving our country.  I will continue to be grateful for your support and encouragement.

I will end with what Jesus said when he instituted the communion meal.  Jesus said, “I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29)  While we honor those who died in the service of our country, let us never forget there is a day we look forward to.  One day Jesus will return and on that day there will be an end to war and suffering.  There will be no more deployments.  He will lift his cup and I will be able to say “thank you” face to face.





Did you hear? I am going to be Court Marshaled.

8 05 2013

Well, that is what some news sources said.  As is often the case, reality is far less exciting.  For those who missed it, the report stated the military would court martial Christians who shared their faith.  That is not going to happen.  The truth is the military supports religious freedom.  The only thing that is prohibited is for someone to use their position to force others to follow their beliefs or use methods considered coercive or disrespectful and disruptive.

When we deploy we live in confined spaces and spend 24 hours a day for months with each other.  We will spend long hours on watch or patrol.  A wide range of conversations happen including many on faith.  99% of the time they are good conversations and help pass the time.  When lines are crossed, appropriate actions are taken.  Bottom line, as a Navy Chaplain, I have felt free to express my faith and hold firm to my beliefs.  I also have a responsibility to ensure everyone has religious freedom.  The moment I say another group cannot practice their faith is the moment others can tell me I cannot practice my faith.

In the United States we are struggling with how to talk about faith.  There are those who would like to see us become a completely secular society in which faith is strictly personal and not allowed in the public square.

This is understandable.  The world is more complex today.  We have access to information like never before.  We can experience a wide range of cultures and world travel is easier than ever.  We often find ourselves with people who have very different beliefs.  The easy answer is to ignore those different beliefs and play it safe by only talking about “secular” items to avoid offending anyone.  That thinking over simplifies the world and actually robs the quality of the relationships we could have and the culture we could experience if we acknowledged our differences.

Additionally, to say faith is simply a personal matter is to ignore the role faith plays in a religious person’s life.  My faith impacts my morality and my understanding of how to treat people.  It is impossible to make it personal.  It is who I am and I am not unique.  The average person of faith understands that our faith shapes us and naturally spills out into our public lives.

Another danger I see is to make everything a result of biology.  Whether it is love or ethics, we try to explain everything down to how we evolved instead of looking at the complexity of life.  Does biology play a role?  Of course but it plays one role of many.  I will take some of the things I have heard and take them to their extreme.  This Sunday for Mother’s Day, children tell your moms that you have genetically evolved to care about the person who was your primary care giver in infancy and moms feel free to tell your children the reason you love them is due to your biological composition and with evolution you may or may not maintain your love for them in the future.  I think it is safe to say that would not be the way to make Sunday a special day.

What makes the Untied States great is freedom.  Whether that is freedom of speech or freedom of religion, we flourish when we are free to believe and bring those beliefs to the market place of ideas.  Ideas that are poorly thought out or are not founded on solid ground naturally a marginalized and minimized.  Ideas that are well thought out or are built on a solid foundation have to be engaged.  Will we agree?  I hope not.  I become stronger and sharper when my beliefs are challenged.  I am forced to truly look at what I believe and why I believe it.

I have great confidence that Christianity has deep roots.  We have a rich tradition built on the foundation which is Jesus Christ.  We add richness and beauty to the mosaic of our country.

For those who want only a secular world, I encourage you to be careful that you do not simplify this complex and wonderful world.  There is more than meets the eye.  Maybe instead of trying to court marital me, we could get some coffee.





But I have prayed for you

23 03 2012

Sometimes life is hard, really hard. As a Navy Chaplain I have walked with people down some very difficult roads. One of the hardest parts of facing difficult situations is dealing with “why.” Why did it happen? Why am I going through this? Many people assume it is God’s will or a part of God’s plan. Others attribute it to fate. I disagree with both of those perspectives.

Christians believe something went terribly wrong in the world. We call it the fall of humanity. It is described in Genesis chapter three. We see Adam and Eve choose to violate God’s command. The results are ugly. The very next chapter tells the story of two brothers, Cain and Able. Able does everything right but is murdered by Cain. Very early in the Bible we see evil and unfairness.

God’s response was to stay involved. In fact, God is personally involved. Christians believe Jesus is more than a man. We believe he is God who became a man. Jesus faced the evil and unfairness of this world. The verse that hit home for me this week was when Jesus was talking to Peter (aka Simon) just before he faced the cross. He told him:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-34)

Just as Jesus had to face the cross sometimes we have to face difficult circumstances. Peter would blow it. He would deny he even knew Jesus when Jesus was facing his darkest hour. But Jesus had prayed for him. Jesus was watching over Peter and knew that he would make it. He also wanted Peter to know he expected him to help the other disciples. Peter was the leader Jesus had chosen. He would walk with Peter through the difficult circumstance and Peter would be the leader he was suppose to be.

I like the way the Apostle Paul put it. He said “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). This is a better perspective. This paints the picture of God being able to enter into the evil and unfair situations in our life and redeem them. He takes a bad situation and brings good from it. It wasn’t his plan for that to happen. He just doesn’t let evil and unfairness have the final word. He gets the final word.

Jesus is treated unfairly and experiences the consequences of evil men. He is not a distant God but a personal God who understands the realities of this life. You and I hate evil and unfairness but we only understand a small part of the larger picture. God sees the big picture and I promise his heart breaks in ways we can’t imagine. His deep love for us is why he got involved and why he faced the cross.

Why doesn’t God just make everything okay? I don’t know and God doesn’t seem interested in answering why. He just prays our faith won’t fail.

God promised to make everything right one day and in his timing. Until that day I trust him and I follow him. I commit to getting personally involved and I am going to pray. When someone makes a mistake, I will help them get back up and encourage them to become the person God knows they will be. Will you join me?

Of course we will need people who will pray for us. We need people who will get involved in our lives and when we make a mistake encourage us to get up and continue becoming the person God knows we will be.

How does all of this happen? It happens with a God who is personally involved, who has prayed for us and encourages us to keep going.