Category Archives: Christian Living

Put Your Game Face On!

Braves Win!

Have you ever been to a major league baseball game? Well, ’tis the season, and I’d love to go to another, especially like the one where this picture was taken. It was on a night when the Braves (my favorite team) beat the San Diego Padres 6-5. Oh yeah!

It was a great game, too! The Braves were behind five runs for the longest, but then they got their act together and pulled out a win in two innings. All the while my family and I were cheering, doing the “tomahawk chop,” and enjoying the weather (it didn’t rain on us).

photo (54)That was my daughter Haley’s first-ever baseball game, too, so it was extra-special for me to be proven correct when I offered her some encouraging words. When the Braves were still down by 5 runs, she was a little discouraged and thought it was sad that her first game would be a loss.

However, I reminded it her that the game was not over – and I had my game face on.

It’s Not Over

Whatever you are going through right now, remember that victory only comes to those who stay in the game. Just because it may seem like you’re behind in the score, don’t give up!

Many years ago I competed in a martial arts tournament. In the championship match of my belt and weight division, I had to fight against a guy that was, quite honestly, better than me. I wasn’t too nervous or scared, but I knew I had my work cut out for me.

Long story short, my opponent hit me in the right side of my head with a spinning heel kick. Needless to say, I went down – and almost out. Because this was tournament point fighting (like the kind Chuck Norris did), and that kind of kick was considered excessive contact, I was given two minutes to recover, or else I would lose the match.

With the tune of “Eye of the Tiger” and the theme from Rocky playing in my head, and my dad giving me a look that said, “You da man, bro!”, I managed to stand, gather my senses and get back in the fight. The only difference was that this time I was mad – I had my game face on!

I’m happy to say that I came back and won that fight and got a big 1st-place trophy to show for it. But more than a trophy, I got the satisfaction of knowing that I could come back from nearly being knocked out (everything went blue) and win.

If you don’t get it by now, maybe you never will… Life is all about struggle, but no race, no game, and no fight is ever won by quitting before it’s over. Set your eyes on the prize; press forward toward the goal; dust yourself off and get back in the fight.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” – Ephesians 6:10-13 

If you are on the side of Christ, you’re already on the winning side. Put your game face on!

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Culture Wars

Saturday 

“Is your Saturday a day off, a day of preparation, or maybe both? Sunday is coming; are you ready for it? I guess it really all depends on to whom you think the day belongs…the One who made it, or the one who uses it.” – A. Baker

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Filed under Christian Living, Church

This Is Why We Struggle With the Enemy

Pastor, preacher, minister, Christian… if we feel like the Enemy is winning, like he’s not even intimidated, there’s probably a simple reason.Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was a South African preacher and pastor (of Scottish decent). But more than anything, he was a prayer warrior. Some of his theology may not sit well with all of some of us, but one thing is certain: this man had a heart for God like few others.

The following is from his book Living a Prayerful Life:

The Enemy uses all his power to lead the Christian – and above all, the minister – to neglect prayer. Satan knows that however admirable the sermon may be, however attractive the service, however faithful the pastoral visitation, none of these things can damage him or his kingdom if prayer is neglected. – Andrew Murray (p. 28)

I’m not going to lie – I don’t pray like I should. What a waste! What a sin!

I have preached some pretty good sermons and tried to do all the pastoral stuff, but how much more effective could I have been had I spent more time on my knees and less time at a desk?

What if I spent more time talking with Jesus than talking about Him?After all, the whole reason the disciples called for the selecting of deacons was so that they might first give themselves “continually to prayer…” (Acts 6:4).

Preachers, before you worry anymore about your outline for Sunday, your clever illustrations, or your Power Point, spend some more time prostrate before the throne. If we neglect earnest prayer, we’ll have no power, so what’s the point?

Battles may be lost on our feet, but they are won on our knees.

One finger pointing, three back at me.

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Filed under book review, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Prayer, Preaching

It’s a Reality Show In the Making

Folks, I’m just going to shoot straight with you this Saturday morning. I only have a short amount of time to write this, so I’m just going to type it, post it, and not worry about the aesthetics.

Like the title of this post says, our life is like a dad gum reality show in the making. I don’t know who would sponsor it, and I don’t know who would watch it, but there’s more that happens to us in any given week than ever takes place on a TV reality show. The DRAMA! The TRAGEDY! The COMEDY!

The only problem is that what happens in our family, should it be made into a reality TV program, would be considered made-up, fake, or overblown just to get ratings. In other words, no one would believe it.

You may be reading this with a little smirk, thinking to yourself, “Yeah, right. It couldn’t be THAT bad, Anthony. Everybody’s got their issues.” Maybe, but consider what has happened in just the last couple of weeks.

  • After 14 months out of work (except for the occasional insurance commission), I finally got through all the red tape of getting my CDL (Commercial Drivers License) back in order to drive a school bus – that story is a book to itself. THEN, I only worked 2 days before Spring Break came – without pay.
  • Friday, the last day of Spring Break, I had a heart attack which required 4 days in the hospital and 2 stents. Now I can’t drive a school bus until I’m cleared by a cardiologist.
  • Our insurance through the Marketplace changed, so NONE of our doctors were covered – we had to find new ones. The only problem is that hardly any doctors or hospitals in our area take the new insurance! SOOOO, I’m having to wait 2 weeks to see a cardiologist.
  • The day before yesterday, in the morning, on the first day I was at home from the hospital, my mother (who stays with us) wouldn’t wake up. We had to call an ambulance. I had to take a nitro pill. She went to the hospital and didn’t wake up until 8 p.m.! We still don’t know why!
  • While at the hospital, I got a little too winded, so my wife said she would push me in a wheelchair. On the way to the van she flipped her knee scooter – the one she was riding because she had a broken bone in her foot and a fractured tibia from dropping my mother’s wheelchair arm on her foot – and fell in the hospital parking lot, doing more damage to her leg…now she’s in a full-blown cast.
  • Oh, she also broke her toe in the hospital where I was being treated. She closed the reclining chair she was sleeping on and it closed on her toe.
  • When my wife and I got the wheel chair out of the van, she pushed me (imagine how that looked) into the hospital where my mom was (they moved her from the ER to a room). As she was pushing me in, she looked down as we were going through the automatic doors. They opened outward, not inward, so she ran me right into them!

We’ve had little income, more bills than money to pay them, multiple injuries and illnesses, sermons to preach, people to visit, jobs that have been lost, arguments that have escalated, death that nearly happened, and people wondering what in the world we did to deserve all that’s been happening to us for the last 25 years.

YET… God is good, all the time.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. [We are] troubled on every side, yet not distressed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; – 2 Corinthians 4:7-8 KJV

People look at us with wonder and ask, “How do you do it?” All I can say is that “He giveth grace.”

I don’t know why we have so much happen to us. I don’t know why it’s been so hard the last year and a half, especially. It could be that Satan is trying to attack us and defeat us. It could be that the Lord is testing us.

Either way, I will not yield ground to the Enemy by giving up. I will not surrender my faith by doubting God’s goodness, mercy, and grace. I will not give up. I’ll keep getting up. I’ll keep pressing on.

I’m still not sure what I’m going to be preaching on tomorrow morning, but I can promise you one thing: The devil won’t like it.

God bless you all, and have a great weekend!

Go to church somewhere this Sunday.

Tell the networks we are ready to talk.

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Filed under blogging, Christian Living, Faith, General Observations, grace, Life Lessons, Life/Death, Love of God, ministry, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials

“Pleeeease, Daddy!”

The following post was first published in March of 2015, but the truth is still totally relevant…please read…especially if you’re a father of little girls.


As I watched, my heart broke, my eyes flooded with tears, and I nearly had to leave the theater – that’s how I felt when I watched a particular scene in the movie Do You Believe?.

lacey Do You Belive Movie still

Credit: Still from “Do You Believe?” Movie

Alex PenaVega (of Spy Kids fame) played the role of a young woman named Lacey. Early in the movie she is shown sitting on a couch, on her cell phone, begging her father to either come to visit her, or let her spend some time with him (as I type this my eyes are beginning to water).

Totally desperate for his attention and affection, through barely contained sobbing, she cries out to her daddy, “pleeeease!

Now I’m crying. Seriously. Read on and you’ll understand why.

Not long ago, Katie (my middle daughter) called me up in the middle of the night…then called again…and again… She was at college and really, really ill.

Long story short, she wanted me to come get her…in the early hours of dark morning…before I had to get up and drive a school bus! It was an hour there, an hour back, not to mention loading her stuff, and I needed to be on a bus at 6:20 a.m.! But what was I supposed to do? She was my daughter, and through tears she asked, “Pleeease, daddy, I want to come home!”

I made record time to Bryan College.

Yesterday was a long day, from getting up early after going to bed late, to church last night. Then, at around 9:30 p.m. my little girl, Haley, asked, “Daddy, would you watch a movie with me?”

I looked down at my watch…my eyes were already heavy…I thought to myself, “It’s not going to be long before she’s grown and gone like the others.”…What’s another long day, right?

“Sure,” I replied. “What do you want to watch?”

The reason the scene in the movie got to me was that there are so many little girls out there…girls of all ages…each one willing to give anything for a little time with Daddy. And where are the dads? What is more important to them than a little girl on the other end of the line, soaking her cell phone with tears, crying “Pleeese, Daddy! Pleeeease!“?

More tears.

I like the way the New Living Translation renders Jesus’ words regarding fathers and their children…

You fathers–if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” – Luke 11:11-13

My heart broke as I watched Alex PenaVega’s character weep for her daddy. It broke because the scene she was acting out was all too real – there’s a lot of hurting people out there who may never find comfort in a father’s arms.

Oh, would to God that men would be men and be the heroes their little girls need! Heaven only knows how many precious lives would be spared abuse, broken marriages, and life-long addictions if only daddies would be daddies!

How wonderful it is to know that we as believers have a Father in heaven, our Abba Father, who loves us more than any earthly father ever could! But does that excuse us dads from being our little girls’ knights in shining armor? Absolutely not!

A daddy’s role is to strive to be like our heavenly Father: one who is compassionate; one who listens; one who is patient; one who is strong as an oak tree, uncompromising, yet still available for make-believe tea or midnight retrievals from the dormitory.

Men…dads…be there for your daughter; God’s collecting her tears.

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Filed under Movie review, Parenting, Relationships and Family

Decaffeinated Christianity

Like vs. Love

I like coffee, but I wouldn’t say I love it. My wife and kids, on the other hand, are worth dying for. I love them. I only like coffee. I’m not going to jump in front of a moving train to save an espresso.

But there are times when I like coffee more than I like my wife. Every once in a while I want a cup of coffee more than a kiss or a hug. I still love my wife, but she won’t fit into the French press.

Now, it must be said that I also like tea. Thanks to the influence of certain English folk, my tea consumption has increased a thousand fold! Yet, tea is not coffee. Sometimes I want coffee more than tea. Sometimes tea needs to leaf me alone. There’s a big difference between loose-leaf anything and some medium roast Jamaican Blue Mountain. That’s real coffee, and I really like it.

What is Real?

But wait! That raises a question. What is real coffee? What is the difference between freshly brewed coffee and let’s say, uh, freeze-dried instant? Both are real, aren’t they?

Fake coffee. Whoever still drinks that stuff on purpose should be psychologically evaluated. Coffee is only coffee if it comes about as the result of gently ground coffee beans being caressed by steaming hot water. Chicory is of the Devil.

Instant coffee. It comes packaged in a jar, but it is made from real coffee. It may not taste as good as fresh-brewed, but it’s real, nevertheless. The worst instant coffee is still better than dandelion tea, believe me.

Nasty coffee. Even the stuff you find in a gas station, an army mess tent, or a crazy relative’s thermos is still coffee. Coffee is coffee, even if it tastes like road tar.

“Unleaded.” What I don’t understand is decaffeinated coffee. Sure, it tastes the same to most people, but why would anyone want it? Without the caffeine coffee is…well…it’s just not coffee. It has the look and taste, but no umph, no kick, no power.

Powerless

Decaffeinated Christianity is the same way. It looks like the real thing. It smells like the real thing. It tastes like the real thing. For crying out loud, it even outsells full-strength, real Christianity 10 to 1! People love it! They wear t-shirts promoting their favorite brand. Yet, decaffeinated Christianity is no better than decaffeinated coffee without the Power.

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! – 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT

What are you drinking?

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, General Observations, Life Lessons, Uncategorized

Perfection Not Required

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” – Luke 18:11, 13

Looking for Perfection?

God doesn’t use perfect people; He uses REAL people. Yet sadly, within the church, there are many men and women who have felt inferior and useless because of sinful and broken pasts.

They are the people who sit on the pews, week after week, doing all they can to be faithful in life, but are forbidden to hold positions in the church.  

They are much like the Publican, men and women who know they have failed before, but want to be forgiven and start new.  They are not the ones that look down on others for mistakes they’ve made. 

Genesis of Dysfunction

A while back I read through the book of Genesis in a couple of sittings.  Reading a book of the Bible that way, especially in a different translation, can help you see the story from a new perspective.  This time I was just astounded at how messed up these people really were!  There was so much “stuff” going on that if it were today, it would make an episode of Jerry Springer look tame!

Consider, if nothing else, the sad story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. This was a seriously messed up family with real marital problems.  At one point, Leah and Rachel get into a jealous argument over a son’s mandrakes.  Just imagine you were a marriage counselor and listened in to the following story…

Reuben went out during the wheat harvest and found some mandrakes in the field.  When he brought them to his mother, Leah, Rachel asked, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”  But Leah replied to her, Isn’t it enough that you have taken my husband?  Now you also want my son’s mandrakes?”

“Well,” Rachel said, “you can sleep with him tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.”  When Jacob came in from the field that evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come with me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.”  So Jacob slept with her that night. – Geneses 30:14:16 HCSB

Check this out…

  • Twice Abraham told other people that his wife, Sarah, was his sister so that he would not be harmed.
  • Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him to traveling salesmen.
  • Jacob and Esau were seriously at odds.
  • Leah, poor thing, kept trying to have children so that her husband, Jacob would love her.

And there’s more!

  • Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, got him drunk on his wedding night and gave him the wrong wife – on purpose.
  • The son’s of Jacob (founders of ten of the tribes of Israel) lied to a bunch of men about making a covenant, then proceeded to slaughter all of them after they had convinced them to be circumcised.

It just goes on and on.  Messed up, I am telling you! MESSED UP!

Nevertheless,

God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”  How is this even possible?  

If God can use Abraham and his family with all their problems to bless the nations, then He can use ANYBODY!

 

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