God Is for You (Letters to My Son, “Five Things” part 3)

Dear H,

There are five things in life that I always want you to remember. The third is this:

God is for you.

Despite an abundance of proof, the original lie that tricked human beings into rejecting and rebelling against God was this: God hasn’t given you the best, he is holding back. It was a whisper that God is not for us.

But it is a lie. A terrible, no good, very bad lie.

God is the source of everything good in your life. And the best he offers is himself. He is good and he desires good for you. The good things he gives us are meant to lead us to him. For in him, we find the best. Jesus is life and joy.

The world will whisper to you that there are better things away from God and that he does not have your good in mind. Don’t listen to the lie. Trust him. Trust his goodness. Trust that he will use even the bad things for your good and forever-joy, when Jesus returns and makes all things right in the end.

Love,

Dad

The Lord, your God, dwells among you. He is strong and will save. In gladness, he rejoices over you. In love, he stills you. In song, he delights in you.

Zephaniah 3:17

Image source: Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Today’s post is inspired by what Eugene Peterson would whisper to his children each night: “God loves you. He’s on your side. He’s coming after you. He’s relentless.” You can read the full story at The Christian Post.

God Loves You (Letters to My Son, “Five Things” part 2)

Dear H,

There are five things in life that I always want you to remember. The second is this:

God loves you.

There’s brokenness in the world. As you grow up, you will look around and see it. You’ll even experience it and partake in it. It is sadness in the story of humanity that ends in death. And the reason? We rebel against God and reject him instead of listening to him.

Yet, there’s hope in the world. God offers us forgiveness for our rebellion. His gave of himself, Jesus his dearly loved son, who came and lived as a man on earth. He was not broken. He did not rebel. Instead, he offered to become the rebel-in-our-place to give us his peace, life, and wholeness. It is happiness in the story of humanity that ends in eternal life beyond death.

That hope is the offer of God’s love to you. And that hope will be yours if you simply believe and trust in Jesus to be the rebel-in-your-place and the giver of forever-life.

My prayer for you is that you will believe and trust.

Love,

Dad

This is the way that God loved the world: He gave his only Son that anyone trusting in him would not be lost in death but have forever-life.

John 3:16

Image source: Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Today’s post is inspired by what Eugene Peterson would whisper to his children each night: “God loves you. He’s on your side. He’s coming after you. He’s relentless.” You can read the full story at The Christian Post.

Daddy Loves You (Letters to My Son, “Five Things” part 1)

Dear H,

There are five things in life that I always want you to remember. The first is this:

Daddy loves you.

Nothing will ever change that. My love for you is simply because you are you, you are my son. You will never have to earn my love. Nothing you could do will make me love you more. Nothing you could do would make me love you less.

I will not be the perfect father. I will not live up to this ideal every day. But I will do my best every day. I hope that when my life story is finished, you will know without question that daddy loves you.

Love,

Dad

(P.S. Yes, mommy loves you, too. But this is daddy’s letter. ­čśë )

You are my dearly loved son. In you, I delight.

Mark 1:11

Image source: Photo by Szilvia Basso on Unsplash

5 Favorite Authors :: Faves for 40

May is the month I turn 40. To celebrate, I thought I’d do a series of posts about some of my favorite things.

Today: 5 Favorite Authors, in no particular order

1. Francis Schaeffer. He was a well-respected thinker and Christian apologist in the 1960s&70s. Yet, he was not a hardened intellectual. He had great compassion for people as he sought to lead them to Jesus. His works heavily influenced my early faith and continue to challenge me today.

2. CS Lewis. A theologian and a dreamer. Lewis knew how to stir the imagination as well as the soul. His works remind us that theology doesn’t have to consist of a bunch of cold propositions. Jesus often spoken in stories. Stories can help to form us spiritually.

3. Michael Crichton. He wrote a lot of popular fiction, especially of the sci-fi variety, during my teens and 20s. It’s not high literature, but there’s a lot of fun reading. And plus,┬áJurassic Park, The Lost World, Dragon Teeth… there’s also dinosaurs. What’s not to like?

4. Jared C. Wilson. A very grace-filled and gospel-focused author of the present. You could say a lot about what he writes, but I’ll leave it at this: I’ve yet to pick up anything of his not worth reading.

5. Dean Koontz. This one is borderline on my list. He writes a lot of pop fiction, a lot, especially of the sci-fi and mystery genres. And not everything he writes is good. When you have published over 100 books, there’s bound to be plenty of duds. He makes my list for one main reason: The seven-book Odd Thomas series. Odd is a kid in his 20s who talks to ghosts, hangs out with the spirit of Elvis, and reluctantly solves mysteries. It’s fun, it’s quirky, it’s humorous…it’s odd.

Honorable mentions: AW Tozer, Os Guinness, Gary Paulson, Louis Sachar (who I pen-palled in the 5th grade)

Image source: Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

5 Favorite Favorite Places I’ve Visited :: Faves for 40

May is the month I turn 40. To celebrate, I thought I’d do a series of posts about some of my favorite things.

Today: 5 Favorite Places I’ve Visited, in no particular order

1. London. I’ve been to London six times, all on layovers, including two overnights. I’ve seen Big Ben, the Tower of London, Buckingham (at least the outside), British Museum, rode the Eye, and lots of rides on the Tube (mind the gap). It’s a big, multicultural city and there is still so much to see. I’d like to go back some day and spend a week.

2. Zion National Park. Hands down, ZNP is one of the most beautiful places I have been. And as much as I hate heights, I was able to do the Angels Landing trail. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do that again, but the views were breathtaking.

3. Rocky Mountain National Park. I’ve been twice and managed to do some hiking surrounded by 14,000ft peaks. Where I live, we have hills. We even have some bluffs along rivers. The Ozarks have their own beauty, but goodness–to see mountains! One thing, though, if you make an unplanned trip in May, remember there will still be snow and you’ll need something more than a light jacket.

4. Zambia. When you grow up in a first world country, you don’t realize how much you have and how much you take for granted. Then you visit a third world country where people live on about $2 a day and the average lifespan is in the 40s, and it changes your perspective. There’s also something beautiful about walking through the African bush and stumbling across thatch hut villages.

5. The Ozark National Scenic River Way. Growing up, summer vacations involved seeing grandma and canoeing. Unfortunately, life has not permitted much time on the rivers of southern Missouri in recent years, but I have spent time in over my half summers in a canoe or kayak among the river bluffs.

Photo, mine

5 Favorite Candies :: Faves for 40

May is the month I turn 40. To celebrate, I thought I’d do a series of posts about some of my favorite things.

Today: 5 Favorite Candies, in no particular order

1. Reese’s Pieces. I know, everyone seems to love the peanut butter cups. I’m an odd duck. I like chocolate. I like peanut butter. I do not like chocolate and peanut butter combined. So, keep your cups. The great thing about pieces–no chocolate, just that straight up creamy peanut butter in a crunchy candy shell. (Oh, and there’s not much better than pieces mixed into vanilla ice cream.)

2. Whatchamacallit. The name says it all. This candy bar has a mixture of all the chewy, crunch, gooey deliciousness. Enough said.

3. M&Ms. Let’s go with a classic here. They melt in your mouth and not in your hand. Unless your hand is wet. Okay, maybe these are not the best candy to buy at the shack at the swimming pool. But, they’re crunchy and they’re milk chocolate and it’s hard to stop eating them once you start.

4. Cadbury Creme Egg. I sometimes question if these would be my favorite if they were readily available all year round. But, since they only appear near Easter, I enjoy them without them getting old. My only complaint is that I swear they’re smaller than they used to be.

5. Skittles. I almost put the Hershey Kiss here, but my list has a lot of chocolate already. Skittles are a fruity, chewy classic. Taste the rainbow, just avoid the weird commercials. I will say, they did drop a bit in my book when they replaced the lime with green apple. No. Just, no.

Image credit: Photo by vaun0815 on Unsplash

 

5 Favorite Bible Verses :: Faves for 40

May is the month I turn 40. To celebrate, I thought I’d do a series of posts about some of my favorite things.

Today: 5 Favorite Bible Verses, in no particular order

Zephaniah 3:17 – “The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in his love. He will delight in you with singing.”

Ezekiel 36:26 – “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13 – “When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity.”

John 17:17 – “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

Philippians 1:21 – “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Image source: Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

5 Favorite Movies :: Faves for 40

May is the month I turn 40. To celebrate, I thought I’d do a series of posts about some of my favorite things.

Let’s start: 5 Favorite Movies, in no particular order

1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This is a Trek classic from my childhood, and widely considered the best of the thirteen movies. I grew up on Trek, and STII encapsulates the best of the series and movies. Plus, who can forget Kirk screaming, Khaaaaannnnnnnnnn!

2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This is a movie that I’ve found either you love or you hate. I fall into the former. I saw this movie for the first time in college, and no telling how many times since. If you watch it with me, I’ll try my best not to quote along with the whole thing.

3. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I make no promises that if you watch this with me, I won’t sing along to the songs. I don’t remember the first time I watched it, but I do remember recording it off a Disney free preview and then watching that VHS again and again and again. Okay, so the boat scene is weird, but we are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.

4. Batman (1989) and the Dark Knight trilogy. Okay, these are four movies, but they’re hard to separate out. Batman has been my favorite superhero for a long time. Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson rocked it to close out the 80s. Unfortunately, that gave way to George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the terrible Batman and Robin in the late 90s, but without that dud, we might not have seen Christopher Nolan take the helm.

5. O Brother Where Art Thou. The Coen Brothers take on The Odyssey with a 1930s prison break setting. How could you not like that. Plus… the soundtrack, don’t forget the soundtrack.

Honorable mentions: A Christmas Story, Transformers: The Movie, The Princess Bride, There Will Be Blood, Unbreakable

Image source: Photo by Myke Simon on Unsplash

Book Recommendation: The Money Challenge

God designed us not to be hoarders, but conduits thorough which his generosity flows.[1]

Generosity is part of the heart of Christianity. God overflows with generosity toward us through Jesus, as he replaces our debt of sin with the infinite wealth of his righteousness. As God is generous to us, so a heart moved by the love and grace of Jesus longs to be generous toward others.

The problem is, many things often hinder us from being as generous as we want to be.

If you feel like you struggle with finances or that your money controls your life more than you control it, then The Money Challenge (TMC) by Art Rainer is a book that will help you immensely. If you are familiar with Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program, then some aspects of TMC will feel the same. However, one advantage of TMC is its compact nature. At less than 150 pages, Rainer aims to set you on the path of financial health and generosity without all the bells and whistles of other programs.

Rainer lays out his book as a 30-day challenge to learn God’s design for money–to make a positive difference in the world for him. This challenge has three main parts, learning to (1) give generously, (2) save wisely, and (3) live appropriately. After this, Rainer tackles four main generosity killers: (1) keeping up with the Joneses (our neighbors), (2) debt, (3) disorganization, and (4) financially-separate marriages.

Finally, TMC recaps eight milestones we should aim for in order to make the best use of our wealth: (1) start giving, (2) build a basic emergency fund, (3) max out retirement matches, (4) pay off all debt but mortgage, (5) save for an extended living-expense emergency, (6) put 15% to retirement, (7) pay off mortgage or save for college expenses, and (8) live generously.

With each chapter along the way, Rainer closes with two or three days worth of a “money challenge” before you move on to the next chapter. Some are as simple as grabbing a cup of coffee and spending time with the most generous person you know. Others are as practical as mapping out your plan to get debt free.

If you want to live more generously but need help getting there, take the money challenge. Rainer’s book is available on Amazon in both print and kindle formats.

[1] Art Rainer, The Money Challenge (B&H Publishing, 2017), 82.

Those Quiet Moments

Dear H,

You’re 8 months old, now. That still seems so young, but it has come so fast. In a blink that “months” will become “years.” You’re growing big. Eight months, but wearing size 18 months. Yeah, you’re going to be tall like your dad. Get used to bumping your head.

At eight months, one thing is for sure. You don’t like slowing down, not even for a cuddle. There’s too much to do. Too many places to explore. Too many ways to be ornery. Too many temptations to pull the cat’s tail.

Sure, now and then, you’ll stop and want to be picked up. You raise your hands now when you do. It’s cute and a sign that you’re learning new ways to communicate. But even then, you want to walk around and see what there is to be seen from a height you’ll have soon enough–eighteen brief years, give or take.

But there does come a moment in the day where your eyes begin to grow red and glazed. You yawn, showing off your two sharp little teeth. You slow down and take a pause, for once in the day.

Then we make a bottle, carry you to your room, and get ready for bed.

It’s in those moments, when the room grows quiet and still in the dark, and your bottle runs empty that you finally decide it’s time for a cuddle. You shift in my arms, wanting me to hold you against my chest so you can lay your head on my shoulder as I rock you in the small green chair.

There you close your eyes and start to drift off. Content–both you and me.

I love those quiet moments, holding you, wishing they would last forever but knowing they can’t. Soon enough, I lay you in the crib. Too soon, you’ll be too big. That’s life. That’s how things are meant to be as you grow.

Still, I’ll cherish the cuddles now, while I can.

Love,

Dad

(header image credit: Photo by Heike Mintel on Unsplash)