The Parable of Two Farmers

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In the Christmas season we often are consumed with giving gifts that are quickly forgotten.  What if, instead, you could invest your time, energy and money in a way that would have a lasting impact?

The Parable of Two Farmers

There once were two farmers whose farms were right next to each other’s. And each of them started out with one bushel of grain.

The 1st Farmer saw that the grain would make great cakes, pastries and bread. He loved homemade bread. So he thought to himself, “Why would I put all this in the ground? I’ll plant as little as possible and enjoy the rest.”

And so on his farm he planted one row of grain and enjoyed wonderful pastries, cakes and bread.

The 2nd Farmer looked at his bushel of grain and thought, “If I live on as little as possible and plant the rest, this time next year I’ll have a bountiful harvest to enjoy and plenty to plant for the following year.

And so while the 1st Farmer was enjoying fine pastries and homemade bread, the 2nd Farmer made little flat breads and often went without as he worked the field. Instead of 1 row, the 2nd Farmer planted 50 rows of grain.

Months went by and the 1st Farmer thought he had it made, as he relaxed, ate and watched the 2nd Farmer work, toil and eat his small flat bread.

Then one day, it was finally harvest time. The farmers took a look at their fields and began to gather their crop.

The 1st Farmer one row yielded a crop but it wasn’t nearly as much as he wanted. In fact when he gathered it all together it was a little less than a bushel full. He had less than he started with the previous year.

The 2nd Farmer went out to harvest his field and the return was bigger than he could have dreamed. He started out with 1 bushel of grain and after harvesting his 50 rows; he now had 40 bushels of grain. He now needed more land to plant his crops and ask the 1st Farmer if he would be willing to sell.

The 1st Farmer was mad at the 2nd Farmers good fortune, called him lucky and couldn’t believe how unfair God had been. “Why did God bless him more than me?” He said.

“My friend,” the 2nd Farmer said, “The answer is simply found in the law of the harvest.

THE LAW OF THE HARVEST:

Principle:  We REAP what we SOW.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

1. We reap in PROPORTION to what we sow.

2. We always reap the SAME in KIND that we sowed.

3. We never reap in the same SEASON that we sow.

 

What are you sowing today?   Where are you sowing?

What are you hoping to reap this next year?  

My Election Reflection [please please read]

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On Wednesday morning America woke to perhaps the greatest upset in political history.   Today, we have a deeply divided country that is venting and attacking one another on social media.   Honestly I am heart broken by what I see online, especially by those who claim the name of Jesus.   It seems silly to me that I even need to write this post. But in light of how Jesus followers are responding, I am compelled to give a brief election reflection that I pray will give us some perspective.

The morning after the election I sat my 3 amazing kids down before school [ages 12, 9, and 6]. I saw this as a critical moment to teach them how followers of Jesus are to respond.

Here’s what I said:

If you do not have anything good to say…

Today at school your friends are going to be saying all kinds of things about the election. Do not get caught up in it. Do not get pulled down to speaking negatively, making fun or saying mean things.

Remember if you have nothing good to say, then say nothing at all.

It is not about whether you agree or disagree, it is about honoring others with our words. We need to bite our tongue instead of using biting words. Social media is not the place to vent, emote or attack.  

Before you post take a deep breath, pray and ask: will this be helpful or harmful?

 

We are called to pray for our political leaders.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Funny side note: At this point my youngest raised his hand and ask, “How can we pray for people if were dead?” He thought persecuted meant that you were killed. So we clarified what it meant to be persecuted.

Now back to the main point, Jesus was absolutely clear:

We are to love those we consider an enemy and pray for those who are mistreating us.

The Apostle Paul commands us to pray for our political leaders. At that time he’s writing the church was under Roman oppression and persecution. And he is saying, pray for the leaders who are oppressing you. And so no matter how you feel about Mr. Trump, even if you would consider him an enemy, we are called to pray for him. I am praying that he has a life-changing encounter with Jesus. I’m praying that God gives him wisdom and discernment.

Even though our political leaders change; God never changes.

The good news is that God is still in control.

He is not surprised. He is not caught off guard. Nothing can thwart His plan. Though our president is changing and there is uncertainty in our nation, the true King is still enthroned and reigning. That morning I opened my Bible to Hebrews chapter 13 verse 8 where it says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Followers of Jesus should not be bent out of shape or freaking out.

Our hope is not in a government, a president or a political system.

Our hope is in Jesus.

And so yes our country is changing but God has not changed. We can face the future with confidence because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.

We have an unshakable hope because we have an unchanging sovereign God.

 

It was now just about time for my kids to head off to school. But before they did, I ask each of them to pray for Mr. Trump and our country. We went around with each one of them praying starting with the youngest and then I closed out our time. How precious it was to hear my kids pray for our country and praying for Mr. Trump’s salvation.

My dear friends this is how we are called to respond in light of the recent election.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the shadow of shame

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As a college student going to school to study the Bible, I was struggling with pornography. Porn had a powerful hold over my life.  There was an internal war raging and guilt flowed through my veins.  I had tried countless times to be free of this addiction, yet time and time again I came crawling back to the altar of my computer.

Failure soon became my identity. It wasn’t that I failed but now I was a failure. Failure is who I am. I began to believe this is who I am and I will never change. I was broken, hiding—shame had become my companion.

Shame is powerful.

Shame says that you are what you did. It’s not that you failed or you made a mistake. Shame says you are a failure; you are a mistake. Shame finds its power in the silence, in the absence of community and our destructive self-talk.

In that college dorm room trying earnestly to pursue God, I was living in the shadow of shame. It tainted how I saw life. It tainted how I thought God saw me.

I remember one particularly dark moment of shame. Shame was whispering in my ear, you are a failure, you’ll never change, it is not worth going on. And an insidious thought ran through my head to end the misery, the world would be better without me. That really scared me.

The deep work of the Christian life is rejecting our perceived identity and embracing God’s imputed identity.  

This is spiritual formation. As a follower of Jesus, our identity is not based on what we have done or even what has been done to us. It is based solely on what Jesus has done for us. Our identity is not based on WHO we are but on WHOSE we are.

I remember the turning point for me. One night in my dorm room, I had a dream. The room was dark; the only light came from the blue hue of my laptop. Sitting at my desk looking at the computer was the 8 year-old version of me, scrawny, blonde, innocent boy.

My heart broke for that little boy. “Don’t look at that junk! Don’t get stuck!”

It was in that moment that I first saw how God saw me. He did not see a failure, He saw His kid that He loves. He was not made or angry. His heart broke for me.

The truth is, I am His kid. I do not live in the shadow of shame. I dwell in the shadow of the Son He loves. My identity is secure, fully loved, completely forgiven, absolutely delighted in by my heavenly Father. And that changes everything!  That was the beginning for me to experience freedom from my addiction.

There is this incredible Psalm that I memorized in college, Psalm 15. In it David asks, “Who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?” One of the things David says about those who live in the shadow of the almighty is that they, “speak truth in their heart.” I love that.

My friend Kevin Queen says, “If another person talked to you the way you talk to you, you’d file a restraining order. Replace those lies with truth.”

Pay attention to the self-talk. Is it true of what God says is true of you?

No matter what shame says, you do not have to live in the shadow of shame. You are God’s kid. He loves you more than you could ever know. He’s not down on you. You already dwell in the shadow of the Son He loves.

Start telling yourself the truth.

The question that is changing my life

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With my kids I’m famous.

Right now they think dad can do anything and everything and everything that dad does is the best. During the Olympics, my youngest son asked if I would go to the Olympics and win a gold medal. I realize this season will not last much longer. Soon it won’t be that everything dad does is the best but dad you don’t know anything. Dad you are embarrassing me. And dad why are you such a bad dancer?

I’m at the halfway point of my kids in the house. And as a result I’ve begun to wrestle with an old question in a new way. I believe what Michael Hyatt said is true, “Our lives are shaped by the questions we ask.” This question is certainly shaping my life and parenting in a fresh and powerful way.   In the midst of all the noise, distractions and demands this questions has brought incredible clarity.

It was on a trip with my daughter that I began to wrestle with this question.

This past year I took my daughter on a trip to Mexico.  We visited an orphanage called Rancho De Sus Ninos. Ever since my daughter was very little she has had a heart for orphans. She would talk about, cry for and pray for kids without a mommy or daddy. So I reached out to my friends who run an orphanage and we booked our flight.

Honestly, I was incredibly nervous and anxious about taking my little girl to Mexico. So many things could go wrong. In the weeks before the trip I began to obsess over them.

Was this really the wisest thing to do?

What if the drug cartel kidnaps us?

What happens if there’s a medical emergency?

I was losing sleep.

One of my goals as a dad is to take my kids on a trip when they turn ten that would expand their view of who God is, grow their faith and foster the passions God has placed in them. But now that was being put to the test.

It is one thing to trust God for yourself.

It is a whole other thing to trust Him with your kids.

I think sometimes in our effort to protect our kids we can unintentionally pass on a faith that isn’t very compelling, attractive, or captivating.   We say we believe in God but our kids never see us believe God for anything. We say put your faith in Jesus but then never step out into something that requires any faith.

And so we were off to Rancho De Sus Ninos for 2 packed days to visit the orphanage.

On the return flight home I sat safe and sound with my daughter who couldn’t stop talking all about our trip.   She excitedly recounted every part of our trip; playing with the kids at the orphanage, sharing Jesus one night in a very poor neighborhood, playing soccer with a crew kids in the street and of course the amazing taco stand.

I couldn’t help but sit back in my seat and really ask:

What do I want to be known for as a dad?

What do I want to make sure I pass on to my kids?

When my kids talk about me as adults, what do I hope they will be talking about?

How do I want to be remembered?

On this trip Ella got a glimpse of who God is and how He is working. And on this trip I got a glimpse of who God made me to be as a dad and what he was calling me to do.

In the hurry and hustle of life we get caught up with a list of demands and to do’s. Life has an unrelenting way of continually coming at us.   Like waves in the oceans, one after another. Sometimes it feels like you barely have a chance to get your head above water.

And rarely do we stop long enough to truly ask the question,

What do I want to be known for?

You are going to be famous for something by the closest someone’s in your life.

What do you want to be remembered for you?

Busy. Successful. Tired. Irritable. Kind. Present. Anal. Unpredictable. Fun. Loving. Absent.

This is the legacy we leave behind. And what’s remarkable is we get to determine what we are known for. The decisions we make and the responses we have determine what we’ll be remembered for.

So, what do you really want to be known for?

 

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.  We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

 1 Thessalonians 1v2-3

 

The one thing I want my kids to learn.

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A few weeks ago we were away as a family in Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara has some of the most incredible restaurants and shopping around. People travel from all over the world to visit this scenic beach town.  And you cannot visit Santa Barbara without taking a stroll on the main strip, State Street.

My son and I were walking up State Street passing people carrying their high end shopping bags, looking picture perfect for their day out. And all of a sudden right in the middle of the sidewalk laid a homeless man, motionless, completely sprawled out. Just a few feet away, also in the middle of the sidewalk, sat his wheelchair.

If you took a closer look you would notice he was missing one of his legs, his pants partially pulled down revealed a badly used diaper and an odor emanated from him that was revolting.

It was a jarring sight that stopped my son and I in our tracks.

As we tried to figure out what to do and how to help, I couldn’t help but notice that nobody seemed to notice this man in the middle of the sidewalk. It was as if he was invisible. People literally just walked around him, some even stepped over him to get to their shopping destination.

How does no one notice?

How could people just keep going?

Why doesn’t anybody do something?

Could it be that people were uncomfortable with what they saw and so they just walked by trying to ignore it?

Maybe they felt the way I felt, overwhelmed by the pain before them and completely unequipped to help. What did I have to offer? What I could I do to help? But even so, I can’t just stand by and do nothing.

Or is it worse than that, could it be that they were not uncomfortable at all, that they just did not care?

All I know is there in the middle of the sidewalk lay a human being that other human beings just passed by and stepped over. On the ground lay a person made in the image of God. One who is deeply loved by God, who has intrinsic worth, yet stepped over like a worthless piece of trash.

Often times when we talk about our relationship with God it is completely disconnected from the grittiness life. It remains a spiritual exercise for the soul with no earthly impact around us. This was never how it was intended to be.

You were put here on this planet for more.

You put here on this planet for more than being upwardly mobile, retiring early, or achieving the American Dream. You were put on this planet to not only know God but to express his love to a hurting and broken world around you.

You were put on this planet to love those God puts in the middle of your path.

We have a God who loves with a reckless abandonment every person on this planet.

He is about bringing healing and wholeness.

He is about bringing beauty from ashes.

He is about bringing dead things back to life.

He’s about making us new.

He’s about restoration.

God is inviting us to be about what He is about.

The problem is we often feel exactly the way I felt when I came across the man in the middle of the sidewalk. “But I’m not equipped. I’m not trained.”

We often respond like Moses did before God at the burning bush. I think you have the wrong person. Isn’t there someone else? Why would you want to use me? I’m useless. I’m average. I’m broken. I’m not good enough. Maybe one day but not today.

 I love what Mother Teresa said,

“I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”

It is not so much the usefulness of the tool but it is the tool in the right hands that makes it useful. You are a Daughter or Son of the King most High. You have been given incredible gifts and talents by God to bring Him glory. You are an image bearer of the Creator of the universe. And when you give yourself fully to him he will skillfully use you in the way that He has made you.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”    

[Galatians 5v14]

The more you were made for is to love others the way Jesus loved you.

This is the one thing I want to teach my kids.  The is the one thing I want them to learn and live out.   They were put on this planet for more than they could ever imagine and God wants to use them greater than they could ever dream.  We step into the more we were made for when we love those God brings along our path.  It is as simple and as difficult as that.

What does it look like for you to love those God puts in the middle of your path today?

When I am afraid [which is more often, than I care to admit]

“Fear is a useful servant but a harmful master.”

I don’t like to admit that I’m afraid. But the reality is that I am often afraid.  I’ve shared over the past year with our church my struggle with anxiety.  It doesn’t’ feel very manly to say, “I’m afraid.”  In fact it doesn’t seem very godly to say, “I am afraid.”  And I think for that reason far to many of us live secret lives of desperation.

The Bible talks a lot about fear.  In fact, the most common command in the Bible is, “Do not be afraid.”  And this has been somewhat problematic for me. Especially in the last few years when nightly anxiety attacks started to become a common experience.

I think the problem lies in how I’ve always heard this command of God.  What I all too often hear is:  It’s wrong to be afraid.  You’re broken if you experience anxiety.  You don’t have enough faith if you’re afraid.  And so I spent many sleepless nights alone, hiding even from my wife my fear and anxiety.  What would she think about me or what would the church think about their supposedly fearless leader caused me to run into hiding with my anxiety and fears.

Recently, I had an experience that has deeply shaped how understand or view this command to not be afraid.  My family and I were on vacation together hanging out at the beach.  I love to surf, play volleyball and really do anything that involves the ocean and sand.  While at the beach we had a paddleboard and my daughter who is almost 10 years old wanted to go out with me.  I was so excited to share with her something that I love. And while she was on the beach she was excited too.

She put on a life vest and off we went into the wild blue yonder.  Actually we only went out about 20 or 30 yards out.  What started out as excitement soon turned into shear terror as she began to notice the depth of the ocean below, the size of the waves all around and the feeling of being completely out of control.

My daughter grabbed her knees and cried desperately for me to take her back to shore.  In that moment I had such compassion for her and my heart broke. I quietly and repeatedly let her know, “It’s ok, daddy’s with you. The waves aren’t as big as you think and the water isn’t as deep as it seems. I know it feels scary but your safe because I’m with you.”

We sat on that paddleboard in the midst of the beautiful yet terrifying ocean and I simply reminded her that she was ok because I was with her.

In that moment I so wished my daughter could see it from my perspective. If she went out there by herself she would have every reason to fear.  She could get swept out to sea or pummeled by waves.  But she was with her dad, who loves her, who would do whatever it took to take care of her and make sure she made it safely back to shore.

Her fear was bigger than what she was actually afraid of.  And that’s how fear works much of the time.  Fear itself expands, grows and consumes us until it’s way bigger than the thing we are actually afraid of.

It’s interesting that every command in the Bible about not being afraid is almost always coupled with the phrase; “For I am with you.”

These commands read so much differently when I hear them as the whisper of my Heavenly Father saying, “I’m with you, you don’t have to be afraid. I wish you could see it from my perspective.

In the midst of the rising waves and the ocean deep, the whisper of the Father can be heard, “I’m with you.”  He knows that waves of life seem so big and strong.  And the ocean of worries, feel far too deep and dark to traverse.  Even there, even now, He is with you.

When I am afraid I have to quiet my heart so I can once again hear the loving whisper of my Heavenly Father saying “I’m with you sweet child, so don’t let your heart fear. I know it feels big and scary but I am with you.”

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

WHY I GAVE UP…

I have given up on ever finding balance in life.  The “balanced life” was a perpetual pursuit of mine for years.  And it was a constant source of friction in our home.  At the end of long, tough season both my wife and I would cry out, “WE NEED MORE BALANCE!”  Yet we never were able to experience the “balanced life” and honestly I don’t think we ever will. The balanced life is like the elusive carrot which is always dangling just in front yet conveniently never within reach.  And in the ever so rare moments that we did achieve balance it last for maybe a day or a week tops!  And then we would dive back into the chaos of life and the pursuit of balance.  That’s why I’ve given up on living the “balanced life.”  It simply doesn’t work.

The “balanced life” says you need to have just the perfect amount of work, family, fun, exercise, etc. It pictures life like a beautiful pie and family takes a slice, work takes a slice, and so on.   The problem was I could never quiet find the ideal combination.  And in reality, life doesn’t work that way.  In life we constantly experience seasons of life that are extremely out of balance: a family tragedy, a pressing deadline at work, or even going on vacation is completely out of balance.

So if the balanced life isn’t the answer, what is?  What if it’s less about balance and more about rhythm?

Imagine that you have to carry 100 pounds.  The “balanced life” says to hold 50 pounds in one hand and 50 pounds in the other. Which sounds good in theory.  And granted there is a need for some level of balance in life.  But rhythm says in order to carry that weight further there are times when you need to actually put it down and rest.  Rhythm understands that life isn’t so easily balanced and it doesn’t get bent out of shape by that.  Rhythm understands that there are seasons in which certain things or people need to take your full attention [i.e. your family, your work, your spouse]

I used to ask this question: how do I find or maintain balance?  It was absolutely exhausting!  Now I ask a better question:  In light of the season of life that I’m in, what rhythms do I need in my life?  It’s a powerful question that could change your life.

In asking this question, Jenny and I stumbled on an incredible rhythm for our relationship and our family that has been absolutely life-giving.  We simply call this rhythm, DATE & DETAILS.  We call it a date because that just sounds fun and special.  But we take a time to talk about three big areas almost every week.  The rhythm of DATE & DETAILS helps us identify what season of life where in, and what season of life we’re heading into.

Here are the three things we talk about in our rhythm of DATE & DETAILS:

  1. First we talk about the FUTURE.  We get our calendar out and talk specifically about the next week and what is coming up.  What events do the kids have and what’s coming up with work?  What fun stuff do we have planned?  We look generally at the next few months to see what’s coming up.  We talk about when are going to have dates together, family times, and times away.  And if we’re coming up to an intense, full season, we identify how long it’s going to be and what fun things do we have planned at the end of it.  We always need something to look forward to!
  2. Second thing we talk about is our FINANCES.  This is real practical.  We simply get out our checkbook and write our bills.  You never talk about money with out talking about what you value.  And so our conversation goes from what we are dreaming of the future, what we want our kids to experience to what needs to be taken care of around the house.  Our last date and details we talked about getting the kids in swim lessons, and what sport we want them to do.  It means budgeting accordingly now so that we can have kids that are all pool safe!
  3. The third and final thing we talk about is our FAMILY.   We connect on how we are doing, what we’re needing from one another.  We talk about our kids, how they are doing and what they’re needing from us in this next season.  We talk about each of our kids and what they need in the season of life they are in.  As you can see each of these three areas are interdependent on one another.  And so our conversation flows from one to the other and back, as we talk about what’s important in life, where we’re headed and what needs to get done.

Now here’s what I discovered about this helpful rhythm of doing DATE & DETAILS with my wife.  These times free us up on our actual date nights to simply have fun and enjoy.  We don’t need to cover all the nitty gritty stuff and just get to truly be with one another.  It also gives us the perspective to know what season we’re in and what season we’re heading into.  So if we’re heading into an intense busy season we know we need to take some extra time on the front end to recharge and some time on the back end to get refreshed.

I have yet to find balance in life.  But I discovered balance wasn’t what I really needed.  What I needed was a new rhythm for life.