The “Larry Crowne” Effect

Standard

Remember the movie, “Larry Crowne” starring Tom Hanks as a middle-aged college student? It’s one of my favorite contemporary films. I love the fact that Larry made the decision (at his age) to start over. Forget the house, the mortgage and the SUV. Larry trimmed the fat and started a whole new life as a student of higher learning. Sure, he didn’t really have much of a choice, but he made the most of his situation and circumstances.

Believe it or not, Larry Crowne was a deciding factor in my choice to return to college. That’s right; I’ve decided to make it public. In the fall of 2018, I have officially returned to go after my elusive degree in Construction Management. Wanna know what’s funny about the return? My core classes were all closed, so I decided to complete a course that would fulfill my ART requirement. I enrolled in Creative Writing 201. For the first time in my life, I’m learning writing skills in a class setting! How cool is that?!

Like Larry, I am the old guy in class. It was a bit intimidating to be surrounded by so many young and hip undergraduate students, on day one. I honestly doubted whether or not I actually possess the writing skills and talent to be able to keep up with the younger generation of future professional Wordsmiths. I sat in the back of the class at a lone table and simply listened to the their interactions with our vibrant and passionate young professor, Mr. Jesse Eagle. While some students are  more vocal and eager to participate than others, I slowly settled into my newfound roll of creative writing student.

Here comes my public announcement segment. You’re never too old to restart, or continue. Did you start a task early in life and somewhere along the journey, you lost focus? Find that focus again. Reignite the fire, and get back into the saddle. Finish what you started.

 

We Can Be Better

Standard

This morning I listened to a sermon preached by pastor John MacArthur. The focus of the message was on Christianity and politics. Pastor John made it clear that Jesus was certainly not interested in the politics of the day, but made it clear that we should respect authority.

Last night, I read Jeremiah 25 and 26. In those chapters, God made it clear to Jeremiah that he was going to use the evil King Nebuchadnezzar to punish God’s chosen because of their disobedience. He said that Nebuchadnezzar would also be punished (in time) for the atrocities he had committed. Politics are not important to the Lord.

If Jesus isn’t concerned with the political stature of his people (he cares about Salvation rather than occupation of the White House), why are we as believers in Christ, displaying wretched behavior over the current political race? I’m serious. It amazes me that Christian brothers and sisters are not only dividing over differing choices in candidates, but we are also reverting to the type of behavior that we honestly teach our children to steer clear of. Why would non-believers want to listen to our message of Salvation when our actions over two political figures–neither of whom have anything to do with the message of the gospel–cause us to behave like lunatics?

Today on the radio, I heard so much negative talk about both candidates that it was totally ridiculous! This was on separate AM Christian talk shows, recapping last night’s second presidential debate! One station’s argument was that Christians who will stand behind a candidate who is supporting “all-inclusiveness” do not believe in the Bible. The other station’s stance was that Christians who continue to support a “sexist” and “racist” candidate aren’t Christian at all. A third station’s stance was that any Christian who chooses to “bow out of the voting process all together” is not only anti-Christian, but also unpatriotic!

Folks, none of these stations made a plea for the brethren to come together and agree in prayer for our nation. None of these stations spoke about the final question asked during the second debate. In my opinion, that question was the best question of the night. None of these stations made any relevant reference to Jesus being concerned with saving souls, over political allegiances.

Believers, we have to keep our eyes heavenward. I’m not suggesting we totally ignore what’s going on in our world at the moment. I am suggesting that we all take a deep breath and remember to trust in God; not our political parties. Our children are watching and listening to us make hypocritical fools of ourselves, during this election season. We can be better than that.

Luke 20:21-26 (NIV):  “21 So the spies questioned him: ‘Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’

23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 ‘Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

25 He said to them, ‘Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.

26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.

If we can’t follow Jesus through this time in our history, we need to be silent.

 

 

*always*

Set Your Mind On Eternal Value

Standard

We always lust for more. We’ll envy the new house the Jones bought even when our modest home is paid for. We want their house. Have you ever pulled up next to a nice SUV, but failed to notice the woman and 3 children standing in the snow at the bus stop right beside you? We’re too busy wondering how that gas guzzler must ride. Guys, have you ever ogled the supermodel–currently on her 3rd marriage–while your faithful wife–the mother of your children–is asleep on the sofa beside you? C’mon, don’t act like I’m the only flawed man in the room!

In the flesh, our appetites are insatiable. Sometimes, life plays out like an old school video game with never-ending levels. Each time we grab hold of the next big thing, almost instantly we want more; something bigger; something better; something totally unrelated to the last big thing, but still temporarily out of reach.You ever meet a millionaire who has everything money could ever buy, but still suffers from loneliness? Personally, I don’t know any millionaires, but they get lonely too. Money can’t buy happiness.

Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your mind on things above, not earthly things.” If we could find it in our hearts to daily seek the Lord and ignore the cravings of the flesh, we’d have less stress in our lives. The big house on the corner doesn’t care that you’re trying to obtain it. It won’t make an effort to reach out to you; neither will the Bentley, or the yacht, or the promotion. But…if we set our minds and hearts toward obtaining Jesus, He will reach out and meet us…not halfway, but right where we are. Jesus doesn’t depreciate either, people. His value is eternal.

Repentance

Standard

Dear Lord,

I spend a lot of time complaining about the lack of attention I receive. I clock hours writing articles and stories that I claim glorify you. I work into the late night hours, and sometimes days, putting together original beats and melodies with the plans of writing God-glorifying lyrics or at least passing the instrumentals on to an artist who will honor you. My DJ controller/mixer has clocked some pretty insane hours as I constantly record sessions for my various social media sites. Speaking of social media, I’ve spent loads of time trolling and following various Christian artists and authors; reaching out to give a word of encouragement whenever I feel led to do so.

Through it all, I convince myself I’m doing your will. But tonight I dug deep and faced the truth. In my heart, I’ve long for the glory you deserve. I’ve secretly harbored a desire to hear or read a comment from someone—anyone—who gets where I’m coming from; who acknowledges my efforts.

“Hey brother, just wanted to let you know what you said to me really touched my heart.”

“Hey Ennis, your music really grabbed hold of me today.”

“Brother E, I just wanted to say ‘Thank You’ for writing that piece today. It really spoke to me.”

When did my selfish ambitions take the place of your glorification, Lord? When did you receiving the honor become cheap, compared to me receiving praise for my efforts? When did I fall victim to selfish desires, through the gifts you’ve given me?

In my heart, I want people to praise my writing; my music; my witty banter; my words of encouragement. I want it for me. When I pray that you would bless my talents, I’m praying for self-glorification. Your glory is a distant second despite my words.

This is hard for me to write and accept, because no one wants to acknowledge their own dark side. I need you to know that I see what you’ve known all along. I see my selfish intentions and ambitions. Tonight, I give them to you.

I’m sorry Lord. Please forgive me for putting you behind me. Help me to see clearly, and to use the talents you’ve given me to truly honor you, with no expectations of personal gain. If you don’t get the glory, I don’t want to do it. My confession is real. Guide every step I take, from this moment going forward, Jesus.

Step By Step

Standard

“It only takes one step to start. That’s what he told me. Seemed simple enough. So…why can’t I find momentum?”

You’re not ready yet.

“I thought I was. A man can only take so much, before something gives.”

I know. I understand. It takes time, and a real commitment. Unfortunately, many people choose to go the other way.

“But, the prayer was the first step, right? I mean, I feel like I’m not so…alone…anymore.”

It was. You’re not. But, it can’t stop there. I have so much more in store for you. The plans I have for you, are to give you a hope and a future you can’t even begin to imagine. But, you have to willingly choose to go deeper.

“Pastor says that all the time. I never really understood what it meant. Go deeper, how? He told me one step would change my life.”

And it has. Now that you have a new life, you need to lay down the old one. Part of doing that is getting to know me. I don’t want you to simply know my name. I want you to get to know me intimately. That’s going deeper.

“How do I do that exactly? You’re not going to tell me I need to throw out all of my music, ditch all of my friends, relinquish my intelligence and start meditating all day, are you?”

HA! That’s funny. No, nothing like that. I want you to get close to my Word. Don’t fear it anymore. Learn from it. It’s me. In time, you’ll find me throughout its entirety. I’ve always been there. I’ll always be there. I AM.

“You are—”

I AM.

“What’s that mean?”

It means from the beginning to the end, I will always be. Since you’ve called, and I came, I will never leave you. I will fight for you, but I will not compete for your love. You have to willingly choose.

“What’s the choice I have to make? Why can’t you just come into my life and add good things to what I already have? Why does there have to be a choice?”

I know it seems hard at first. Maybe even unfair. But it has to be this way. Light and darkness can’t coexist. You have to choose between the life I offer and the life behind you.

“So…no middle ground? No compromise?”

No. But I promise you this: though the road may get rough, I’ll always walk it with you; one step at a time. Soon enough, you’ll find that the music you loved, some of the friends you cherished, even your former way of thinking will seem flawed compared to what I will show you.

“And what’s that? I’m already bad off. Giving up all the good stuff in my life is going to gain what?”

My peace.

“Peace.”

My peace; a peace you’ve never known but have always yearned for. You already feel a small portion of it.

“How do you know?”

We’re talking.

“-”

Yes. Let that sink in for a moment.

“Jesus—it feels weird to speak your name out loud.”

I know it does, at first. Don’t be ashamed.

“Jesus, I want to try to get to know you better. Will you help me?”

Absolutely. Now, we’re walking together.

 

* Jeremiah 29:11*

Faith, You Must Have

Standard

“I’ve watched this one for a long time. All his life, he’s looked away to the future; to the horizon. Never once did he keep his mind on where …he…was! Hmm? What… he… was doing! Hmmph! Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! A Jedi doesn’t crave these things.  You are reckless!”

Anyone who claims to be a real Star Wars fan knows Yoda’s unique dialect doesn’t flow as simple as that. But, that’s what I heard. I must’ve watched “The Empire Strikes Back” a hundred times since I was a kid. But this time, those accusatory words hit me personally, and square in the heart. On top of that, I watched Luke Skywalker struggle with his faith in the Force; watched as he erroneously judged his command of the Force on the circumstances surrounding him. The icing on my cake of conviction was that infamous dialogue between Luke and Yoda, after Luke’s submerged X-Wing Fighter was levitated out of the bog.

“I don’t…I don’t believe it,” Luke said.

“That is why you fail.” Yoda sighed.

For most of my adult life, I’ve spent too much time star gazing into the future, and never really concentrating on the “here-&-now” tasks required to get me there. Spur-of-the-moment decisions and knee-jerk reactions cause more setbacks than successes. Eventually, life can become frustrating when you try to go it alone. Since I struggled with the concept of “faith alone”, I usually made up my mind to do something, then prayed about it afterwards. But, that’s not how it works.

Faith is a lot like the Force. In Luke 17:6, Jesus said, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” That kind of faith seems impossible, in the natural world, so most of us don’t even bother trying to cultivate it. Because we tend to look at our circumstances, we lack the faith to believe in miracles, despite claiming to know Jesus. The trick to changing that failing faith, is to do precisely what Yoda told Luke Skywalker:

“You must unlearn, what you have learned.”

We have to put our complete trust in the one who created everything, and controls all things. That’s Jesus. Faith in him is the way we conquer our giants. Complete trust in him, is how our lives will change. Believe it or not, trusting him all the way is a simple choice. I don’t mean it’s easy. If that were the case, everyone would be saved! What I mean is, you have to choose to trust the Lord. It’s a daily wholehearted choice.

Trusting in the Lord may start out small and seem ridiculously uncomfortable, in the beginning. But, that’s where he meets you, right where you are with his mercy and grace. As you continue to move toward trusting him, he gives more grace. And believe me when I say his grace is sufficient. There isn’t a challenge you will encounter that God can’t walk you through.

So here’s my call to action, friends. In 2016, let’s all train to be Jedi. Our lightsabers are prayers because our struggle is not against flesh and blood enemies, but against the rulers, authorities and powers of our dark world. Whether you realize it or not, our greatest battles are fought spiritually. Let’s start fighting back, by using the real Force: our faith.

P.O.V.

Standard
  • One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
  • The glass is half empty; the glass is half full.
  • This is a setback; this is an opportunity to regroup.
  • I can’t get any lower; I can only go up from here.
  • I quit; now watch me get started.

Point of view (or P.O.V.) is vital for success. The way you view a situation or circumstance tells a great deal about your character. If there are truly two sides to every story, your version will determine your own outcome.

Do you look at your life challenges and see the obstacles standing before you? Can you look beyond those giants? Or…are you the kind of person who faces the giants, and recognizes the opportunities beyond the challenges? Can you see the victory just after the trial?

Long before David was crowned king of Israel, he faced off against a Philistine giant of impossible size and strength. Yet, David never faltered. He saw victory where others, much stronger than he, saw only defeat. David’s P.O.V. was different from that of his countrymen despite looking at the same challenge. Because of his difference in perspective, God gave him a great victory.

We all face giants. How you respond to yours depends on your point of view. Instead of fearing the circumstances, look to God and recognize the victory on the other side of the challenge.

*always*

Like Me on Facebook