Browse Category: Straight From The Word

Empire of Dirt

Johnny Cash’s cover of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt” was in my head all week. It’s a powerful, thought-provoking song that has searing words. It’s sad and uplifting at the same time.

He, most notably, covered this song seven months before his death in 2003. Check it out below.

While the NIN song does have a couple choice words, Cash (IMO) covered it only as Cash could cover it. Personally, I love it.

More than anything a single phrase sticks with me in that song: “empire of dirt”.

Truth is: we go throughout our lives collecting stuff – awards, wins, creations, accolades. We achieve. We score. We create. We succeed.

All for what?

Paul writes in Romans that, ““None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

In short, all mankind is under the guilt and weight of sin.

But… that is not the end.

Enter, grace.

I want my life-intentions to serve God, first and foremost. But no doubt there will be times when I put ‘me first’: I want to close the sale for my glory. I want to serve that couple in need at church for my glory. I want to donate money to your mission trip for my glory.

In those moments, I need grace.

And in those moments, I want to be able to tell God “Here, have this empire of dirt that I’ve collected. It’s nothing compared to your glory.”

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What collects in your ’empire of dirt’?
What is your favorite “cover song”?

What Do You Want?

Today I have the honor of having my wife Jen share a glimpse into her everyday with you. Through her experiences as a Mom, she challenges us to assess our heart’s longing question: What do you really want?” Hope you enjoy.

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It would be difficult to imagine our house without clutter. In the middle of life with three little ones, our new “normal” looks like Legos hidden in the folds of our worn couches, princess dolls strewn haphazardly on our living room floor, an entire cupboard devoted to sippy cups, teething rings, and other kid-friendly utensils, 4 toothbrushes and 4 different toothpastes crammed in one bathroom drawer, and a steady pile of rouge socks (aka the ones that never seem to have a match) collecting in a pile on our dryer. If someone asked me, “Jen, what do you really want?” – my answer would seem almost painfully obvious: a weekly cleaning service, and extra set of hands, a fairy godmother! I would look at my situation in the moment, and choose something that made life easier.

Photo credit: Jake Rohde (Creative Commons)

Two thousand years ago, Jesus encountered people living in the midst of their own life’s “clutter” – slavery, busyness, illness, wealth, etc., and He asked them the same seemingly obvious question, “What is it that you want?”  At first glance, we might answer, “Freedom. Rest. Healing. Purpose.” However, it was a question that intended to take the focus off of the circumstances around them and draw out the attitudes of the heart.

In Luke 18, Jesus encounters a blind beggar outside the city of Jericho. He repeatedly cried out, “Jesus, have mercy on me!” even though the crowds around him tried to silence his pleas for help. In the midst of the chaos, Jesus stops and has the blind man brought to him, then asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Jesus chose to address the beggar’s physical need along with spiritual desire to know Him more. We orient our lives – our relationships, our actions and inactions, our resources, our prayers, our time – around what we want.  Do our hearts reflect the truth- that Jesus wants to be more than a solution to our circumstance? Do our lives make much of the Gospel and less of ourselves?

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If Jesus passed you by on that same road, what would you ask Him for?

 

Beauty for Ashes

You see the above placard for the Georgia Theatre in Athens, GA and might be thinking to yourself, “Gorgeous. Very cool. Shiny!”

No doubt, it is a fantastic college-citied music venue that is both intimate and legendary.

It has hosted celebrated acts like R.E.M., The Police, B.B. King, and DMB.

When I was in college, I frequented the Georgia Theatre many times to enjoy good music.

But two years ago, something tragic happened: a fire gutted the storied Athens landmark. You can read about it here.

If you have spent any time in Athens and/or with the University, you were affected. I was affected.

Unsure if it would ever reopen it’s doors, it was as if part of my youth was taken away from me. Okay, slightly dramatic, but still true.

On the flip side, I was able to witness the incredible happen: after two years of rebuilding, the Theatre was restored and came back to life. Beauty for ashes.

Similarly, we experience this story first hand with Christ. In our case, we deserve ashes yet receive beauty.

By ourselves, we are ruined. With God, we are redeemed.

It may not take a fire in our own lives, but rather a simple acknowledgement.

Recognizing the restoration process is initiated by God and fully-satisfied through Christ is what’s important.

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How has God reminded you that you are redeemed lately?

My Navy Blue Shorts

To get straight to the point, I peed my pants in fourth grade.

Full disclosure: I was one of “those kids” who, for some reason or another, coulnd’t seem to master the art of holding my urine overnight.

But, that is for another day and time.

What I want to share with you today is a specific incident; one I remember with absolute clarity.

It was minutes before receess. I was in fourth grade.

Not the kind of blue shorts I was wearing...

I must have downed a couple gallons of Tang that morning because all I remember was having to go to the bathroom really bad. So bad that I considered just going. Right then and there. In my seat.

Then, I had this brilliant idea (remember I was 11): just let go!

I was in the back row, so I could immediately sprint to the bathroom once class was dismissed for recess.

In addition, I could just dribble out a little bit to hold me over (Needless to say Lloyd wasn’t dropping nuggets of wisdom yet).

On top of that, I was wearing navy blue shorts (The kind of blue shorts that were perfect for hiding pee).

And so I went.

No need for a dribble because I just let it all out.

Recess came and went. I was in the clear.

I was certain my navy blue shorts camoflauged my little incident.

In a twisted sort of a way, I thought I could hide from my little accident.

While I may have temporarily succeeded in the hide-yo-pee department, there is one thing that I cannot hide from: God’s love.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39)

That is a powerful set of 50 words right there. It is specific and personal. There is absolutely nothing–not my hiding, my shame, my attempts, or my creations–that can separate of from God’s love.

I never found out if my classmates (or my parents) knew I leaked in my shorts.

Either I was sneaky-sneaky and completely inconspicuous, or I just didn’t notice that I had become “that kid”. :)

Photo credit: mahalie (Creative Commons)

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Have you ever had an “accident”? (Embrace it!)
What do you falsely believe may separate you from God’s love?

Spilled Coffee and Personal Tendencies

I’ve said it before on this blog: I’m clumsy.

So clumsy, in fact, that two minutes ago I nearly spilled my coffee all over my work desk… again.

Instead of spilling the entire cup, only a small amount tipped over and I was able to soak it up with some napkins right away.

Crisis averted.

Seriously: major crisis averted.

My usual setup.

If coffee would have gotten into my laptop/keyboard/mouse here at work I would be straight-outta-luck.

I would have to sheepishly walk over to our IT guy here in the office and tell him the story.
I would have had to email my boss and tell him why I couldn’t work today.
I would have had to alter my routine and resign to having a “non-productive” day.

All what ifs…

Knowing my personal tendencies, I know I need to stop keeping my coffee mug so close to my hardware and in the middle of my accessories here on my desk. I have to be intentional about separating the two.

The same goes for my personal life and tendencies. The Bible says to “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (1 Tim 6:11)

Paul is pretty intentional about saying what to pursue. Run from the bad; Pursue the good. Opposite directions; Focused behavior.

Joseph did it.
Jesus talked about it.
Zacchaeus demonstated it.

If that means fleeing from youthful lusts, so be it. If that means running away from greed/love of money, that’s what I need to do. If that means intentionally putting myself in a position to be considerate and patient, that is what I need to do.

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What are your “tendencies”?
What is the worst thing you’ve ever spilled all over yourself?

The TV Stand: A 21st Century War Story

Today I have the honor of having Moe Vivas guest post on Abraham Chronicles. I’ve gotten to know Moe over the last few months through the interwebs, and I can say with certainty that he is on my “have a cup of coffee with before I die list”. Moe blogs and tweets like a professional (yes, a professional tweeter). He’s an Apple fanboy, loves his family, and has quite a way with making you laugh with the written word. Be sure to show him some love in the comments!

I never really understood how difficult it was to build furniture. When you see it on display in the store, you think “that looks easy”. But that’s not always true. A few years ago, I purchased a TV stand. What I didn’t know was how difficult it was to build something that looked so simple.

From the time I could stand, I was baptized in the fire of combat. I was taught never to retreat, never to surrender. I had learned that death on the battlefield was the greatest glory I could achieve in my life. I was taught to show no pain, no mercy. I was constantly tested, tossed into tough situations. Left to pit my wits and will against any enemy, be it toys, animals, or in this case…a TV stand.

I opened the box and sorted out the materials. I begin picking up pieces and adding a screw here and there. I moved carefully around its sharp edges to avoid any injuries. Too late, one of my hands was scratched with a screw. “Battle scars” I whisper to myself. No good war is ever fought without scars.

My eyes are focused as the small furniture begins bearing shape. Don’t let progress fool you; it still had fight in it. It begins to get wobbly. I take a few steps back and drops of sweat begin to fall from my brow. My hands are steady, swinging the wrench from one hand to the other, slowly striking when I see an opening. It begins to submit to me, It forms… It’s done. It’s perfect!

I raise my weary arms in victory and manage to find enough strength to yell out, “It is finished!”

I get some Iced tea and being to stare down my beaten opponent. Then I begin to see an unfamiliar sight. One of the wooden pieces was screwed with the unfinished side of the wood towards the front.

“It is mocking me”, I said to myself.

I tried to loosen a screw here and there and turn the piece around, but I wasn’t successful. I had to take it all apart and start the war again. All because I didn’t read the manual. It took me another 2 hours to put it together right the second time around.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

We make a mess out of things because we often forget to go to the manual. God’s word is our manual. With it, we are complete. Without it, we are like a fine piece of furniture with the unfinished side to the front.

What part of you is showing its unfinished side?

What is the manual (God’s word) telling you to do today?

Who Will Vouch For Me?

Today I have the honor of having Ben Nunes guest post on Abraham Chronicles. He is the epitome of a family man and I even had the excellent privilege of meeting him for a cup of ‘joe last week. Ben blogs and tweets his heart on his sleeve. He hangs with middle schoolers, loves his wife and kids, and apparently makes a mean hamburger. Be sure to show him some love in the comments!

I loved the show Friday Night Lights. It’s a good wholesome TV show about the life of Coach Taylor and football in the semi-fictitious city of Dillon, Texas. Honestly, I can say it will be a TV series that will be one of my forever favorites. Along with 24 and Lost.

One of the episodes in its final season depicted a young man “Riggins” who was up for parole. The reason why he was in jail is an entirely different story in itself, but let’s just say he didn’t deserve to be where he was. So Riggins had Coach Taylor, and a family friend testify on Riggins behalf, so that he could get paroled. A third person, his brother, who happened to be the reason why he was locked away to begin with, gave a pretty shaky testimony as well.

Long story short, it was enough to get him paroled.

This episode, along with many others places a tension within the viewer that seemed to almost always hit pretty close to home. Here was Riggins, not even knowing if anybody was going to show up to vouch for his character so that he could end his sentence.

Although I’m very glad I will (hopefully) never be in a position like Riggins here on earth, I’m even more glad I won’t have to worry about The One who will vouch for me when it comes to Heaven.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

While we were still sinners. What the…

We didn’t have to do anything for God to send His Son down for our salvation, and we are most certainly not going to get into Heaven on good behavior.

He sent His Son, in spite of our actions, because He loved us. Get that?

Out of Love.

His Love.

His most perfect, unconditional, Love.

Do you have anybody this side of Heaven that you would vouch for?

Do you like Friday Night Lights?

Marked By a Life of Change

Today’s post concludes a short 3-part series on wholehearted commitment– what it looks like, what the Bible says, and how we can go “all in” with our faith. Last Monday, we explored the WIIFM mentality and how it’s so seductive in today’s society. On Wednesday, we touched on lukewarm faith. Today, we’re concluding with the “what’s next”. Hope you enjoy reading!

My life has gone through a bit of change lately: new job, new child, etc. Those two alone are pretty big! As we conclude this mini-series today, I wanted to touch on exactly that: change. With regards to our relationship with God, I believe the following statement to be true:

Wholehearted commitment is marked by a life of change.

Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God’s kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money, and thought on things of this world. Some pretty bold questions that challenge the best of us.

A great example of someone in the Bible whose life was marked by change is Paul. Before his conversion experience, Paul (went by Saul) was a mean dude. He was uber-religious, knew his stuff, and persecuted the early church. In fact, he was there when the first martyr (Stephen) was stoned. Then God came into the picture. On a trip to Damascus, God met Saul where he was and changed his life. He changed his name to Paul and later became one of the principal figures in the early church. Here is an example of that change he experienced:

At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah. (Acts 9:20-22)

Paul didn’t just stop killing people, he changed. He acted. His faith was real.

At times sometimes I believe that change only involves the elimination of a certain action in my life (“I’ll stop being selfish”, “I’ll put away my iPhone at night when I’m with the family”), but most of the time it is characterized by what happens next (“Instead of stopping selfishness, I’m going to chose to prefer this person.”, “Instead of just putting away my phone, I’m going to intentionally engage my family”).

What area needs to be marked by change in my life? My relationships with others? My discipline to spend time with God? My bad habits?

Without holding back punches, Jesus wasn’t interested in those who “fake it”. Many times He addressed Pharisees who behaved like this (Matthew 23) and, like we mentioned last Wednesday, a lukewarm faith claims to know God but doesn’t live like He exists.

Like myself, it may be time to examine and search our hearts so that we can truly give God wholehearted commitment.

Have you seen a powerful example of change in someone’s life?

Photo credit: dunkind

What’s In It For Me?

This week we’re talking about wholehearted commitment– what it looks like, what the Bible says, and how we can go “all in” with our faith. I’m going to touch on three areas which specifically highlight why God desires this for our lives. Hope you enjoy reading!

If you’re like me, sometimes your love and appreciation of others is driven by the “WIIFM” mentality. You’ve heard it before: “What’s In It For Me?” Businesses and organizations have used it for motivating and persuading employees for years. The underlying theme behind it is that people are best motivated by self-interest. I can be that way at times also in my relationships.

  • You don’t have any money for lunch? (WIIFM: Sure, I’ll cover you today. You will be buying me lunch next week, right?)
  • You need me to wake up early and run a few errands? (WIIFM: Sure, as long as I get to sleep in tomorrow with no interruptions!)
  • You need me to lead that small group at church?  (WIIFM: I’d be happy to, as long as we follow my agenda and study the topics I’m interested in.)

We’re all looking out for numero uno: a mentality that feeds on self-service, thrives on covetousness, and breeds isolation. With God on the other hand, I believe that wholehearted commitment is what He is after. The first part of living that out is loving God for who He is and not what He can do for us. Before we can fully experience God’s love, we have to properly understand who God is.

Isaiah 6: 1-5 reminds us of what our only response to such a God should be:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

The amazing thing about this passage is that Isaiah’s first and only response to such a holy God was to say, “You are holy. I am unworthy.” Instead of responding with requests, petitions, and personal stories, Isaiah made it completely about God.

So, we know about God. We know who He is (holy, perfect, mighty, etc.). Why do we flip things around and, in turn, make it about us?

My self-interest meter seems to hit 100% quite often. I expect a little blessing from God from time to time. I mean, surely good things will come to someone who serves at church multiple hours every Sunday, tithes regularly, prays for his family, and pretty much does all the “right” things. I even have this tattered little “Christian card” that I pull out of my back pocket that reads, “Dustin: Christian” (okay–not really, but you get the point). Don’t all those things matter?

Sure, they are good things. They serve and encourage other believers. They serve God. When doing those things, however, get to the point where my love and desire for God is divided by my own self interests, I need to have a little heart check.

Have you had a WIIFM mentality recently?


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