for God’s Grown-up Children
Please enjoy the first Chapter to Short Stories.
Below you will find further information and where to purchase your own copy of the full book.
Short Stories: for God’s Grown-up ChildrenPart 1: Meeting God
In the fall of 2006, I walked into my first semester of World Religions at a community college in my hometown Cocoa, Florida. The air was stale and the room brown and amber, lit by the kind of pitiful fluorescent lighting that gives you a minor headache in thirty minutes or less. I found a seat like I always did, alone at the center of the room, so I didn’t come off too lazy like the guys in the back or too astute like the girls in the front. The attendance was what you would expect from any night class at a community college, thin and ranging from 18 to 150 in age.
Our teacher was already at his desk, doing his best to look busy. He was an older man, balding. The kind of guy that prides himself on being a professor, and carries himself like he has been working at Harvard, rather than a community college for the last twenty years. He introduced himself and got right into the material. He compared himself to another World Religions professor at the school that only taught on Christianity, Judaism and Islam (“the Big Three”). He informed us that he planned on getting through as many religions as possible with us, spending no more than a week on any one of them.
He was well spoken and seemed genuine. The kind of uncle you have growing up that is the really rich one your parents don’t seem to like, but you don’t understand why because he has a pool. He delivered the class orientation and opened it up to questions for anyone. After a few inquisitive people tried to get him to reveal his personal religion, he told us he wouldn’t tell us until the last day of class. But if anyone could guess it on the final, he would give him or her extra credit.
Finally, the first class was over and I was walking back to my car under the night sky, able to breathe the fresh air again. It was a beautiful night, and I felt really glad to be alive at 18 years old.
I walked to my old ’94 Nissan, talking to Jesus. All my life, I grew up in a Christian household, in a very conservative neighborhood, in a very Christian county, in a very Christian country. I was proud and happy about this, but in my adolescent years, I would often think about the 18 year old on the other side of the planet, worshipping Allah with all their heart. And they were doing it because it was what they had grown up in. It was their culture. It was their life.
I knew my God. And never for a second did I doubt He was my Savior. But I also knew He was a confident God. I told Him I wanted to “test” Him. I wanted to go through this class, asking every hard question to Him. What was so attractive to someone else about their religion? Why was Jesus still the answer? How could I answer a Buddhist’s questions, if I never faced them myself? Thus, I began my World Religions class in the fall of 2006 and a very trying and educational period of life for me.
I listened and learned as we went through each religion from different parts of the world. Each one, I knocked out of the sky with a club in the shape of the cross. Though I did thoroughly enjoy learning some of them, all the religions had one recurring theme. Ironically enough, it was religion.
Mankind is a sucker for religion, because we feel the need to control. And it is the fear of man that has created religion, fear of what we may or may not do if we are not told what to do. It is the fear that our children won’t be wise enough to follow Christ or do what is right. That is what drives us to create religions. We are afraid that God will not be good enough to take care of us. So we give ourselves boundaries and rules to hold us inside of a barricade of laws.
When the Jews out of Egypt looked down at the ground and saw that God had covered it in food just for them, they exclaimed, “What is it?” Then they packaged it away in their nice containers because they knew better than God to let it just sit out, even though He told them not to.1
They knew to keep it safe and locked up before the next day because it may never come back, and then they would go hungry. Thus, it was covered in maggots and became rotten. The thing that God had provided for them became a plague because of their fear in trusting Him. Religion is a demonic spirit that tells you and me we know better than God.
Religion is full of it. In religion, man’s hard work is what gets him taken care of, never God’s love. Even in Christianity, we see, riddled throughout, different teachings on man’s failure to receive God’s grace. But the problem with this thought is grace was never man’s idea. It was God’s.
The day came when my professor spoke on Christianity. I was so excited to hear taught the history of Jesus and what Christians believe, because honestly for all I could perceive, our teacher had been very unbiased toward each religion. He gave them respect, pointed out positives and negatives and always kept his speeches very historically based, rather than opinionated.
We got into Christianity, and I immediately felt some little, but painful jabs at it. I wanted to believe that maybe, because I was a Christian, it just felt that way coming from his emotionless dialogue. Perhaps, the Muslim next to me felt the same tension when he heard the professor speak on Islam.
But then there were more jabs. “Did you all know that half the New Testament was actually written by a man who never even met Jesus?” the professor asked with more than a shred of indignation on his lips.
I looked around the room, spotting the group of 60-and-up in the back, nodding with their mouths agape. They were token Christian old ladies from Sunday school at the local Methodist chapel, and yet they acted like they just received the revelation of a lifetime.
“Did you all know that Moses was actually polytheistic? Here it is in the text where he wrote, ‘We shall create man in OUR image’. He uses the word ‘our’ to describe God because he was not monotheistic like many now believe. He and Abraham were most likely Zoroastrians and not Jewish at all.”
Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!
What in the world was this guy even saying?! I looked over at the empty seat next to me, imagining Jesus in it. “Am I allowed to jump up and rip this guy to shreds, Lord?” Where was the straight history talk now? This was a lot more than just a basic understanding of the Christian religion. Now he was blatantly twisting the Bible to disprove itself.
I got through the night class and left, more than flustered by how the whole experience went. The rest of the course went back to normal, and the semester ended. The final came, and no one could guess the professor’s religion, which honestly didn’t even matter.
I passed the class, and as we received our tests back, he left us all with one final divinely inspired thought. “Remember, if ever in life you feel like you have finally found the answer…” Pause for dramatic effect. “…you’ve already forgotten the question.”
I sat in my seat, most likely wearing every emotion on my face for a few minutes, as I chewed that piece of crap over in my mouth. What in the world did that even mean? And why did so many of my classmates “a-ha” at that?
For at least an hour I chewed on that with Jesus. Together. And that’s one thing I really love about Jesus. He will sit and chew on a piece of crap with you for a whole hour if it means you find a solution.
The conundrum the professor created was, “How do I find the answer to a question that I seemingly lose as soon as I begin to find it?” Perhaps, more accurately what he meant was, “If you think you have found God or purpose, you have already forgotten that you’re not supposed to”.
The problem with all of this thinking is: I would not have the question in my heart if I weren’t supposed to answer it. It’s the very reason God wrote eternity on the hearts of men and put a hole on the inside of us the size of a galaxy. Because He wanted us to come looking for Him.
The question my teacher was asking all along was the wrong one. He kept asking, “Can I find God?” When in reality he didn’t want to. If he wanted to, he would have started by now, instead of claiming its impossibility as a philosophical paradox. And the reason he didn’t want to was because of who he believed God to be. And that is why so many of us fear searching for God. Because we are afraid of what we will find.
In religion, we start to imagine God in man’s image, rather than the other way around. It’s why Greek mythology is such a beautiful mess, not unlike that of a soap opera. The more we create God in our image, the more we project all of our own faults on Him. God’s wrath must be unjust and dangerous because I am out of control when I am angry. God’s wealth must be greedy because I could never have that much money and not be selfish. God’s love must be conditional. God’s grace must be circumstantial. God’s forgiveness must be earned.
In religion, we project ourselves onto the image of God, rather than us being a projection of His. So the real question my teacher should have been asking is not “Can I find God?” He should be asking, “What is God like?”
The Proud God
I remember in the winter of ’98, just after my eleventh birthday, going to the movie theatre with my dad. We were seeing The Prince of Egypt2on its opening weekend. Beforehand, I had little interest in the movie, but my dad was especially excited about it. And because it was just the two of us going, this was a special occasion, indeed.
For those who are unfamiliar with Dreamworks’ first real hit, The Prince of Egypt is the animated story of Moses. And honestly, it does a pretty darn good job at telling it. Thus, the first real imagery of this masterful tale was bolstered to my imagination.
My dad was so intrigued by it. His little grunts and groans throughout told me that it was hitting all the right beats and staying true to the source material. It had Moses, the stereotypically good-looking Egyptian. It had the cool action shots of crocodiles swimming by a baby in a basket. It had singing and dancing. It had people spilling their full glasses in every scene. Which I always wondered, was it to show the viewer there was liquid in those cups or that everyone had little concern for drought? Either way, it was always frustrating to me to see so much beverage spilt needlessly.
Then this moment came in the movie, where a flaming bush started speaking. And Val Kilmer’s voice said the words, “I am that I am.” And somehow I knew that strange little phrase meant a whole lot more than I could comprehend in the moment.
In my years after The Prince of Egypt, I was really starting to learn who God was, and more than that, what I believed about Him. Up until then, He was Sunday school and routine. He was that Thing that “loved us” and that Thing we loved back.
About the age of thirteen, I really started to press into knowing the role of Jesus. And honestly, I had a very hard time understanding this three in one, Trinity thing. It all seemed a little odd to me. God was some mean guy who made the Old Testament, Jesus was this cool hipster that made the New Testament and the Holy Spirit was imaginary, or something.
I remember having a conversation with my dad on the way to school one morning. We only had about five minutes of travel time each morning, but many of those conversations resonate with me more than fifteen years later. We were discussing God, and I said something of how God really wasn’t that important to me; Jesus was all that mattered, and God was just some guy I didn’t really care about.
As I was growing up, my dad always had this quality about him when I said something theologically stupid. His whole demeanor would change and his tone would have this sort of intense authority that could smack the fear of God into you so fast, you knew you would never think it again, for all of eternity.
He said something like, “You better fear God. He’s God.”
And that was that. I suddenly knew exactly what he meant. My dad loved me. And my dad scared me. And in that moment, BAM, I knew that God loved me. And God scared me. And I never thought otherwise again. I could look at God and see someone so terrifying. The most terrifying thing of all was that He loved me more than anything. It was haunting.
I believe God is so infinite in His attributes, that even He has a hard time describing Himself. When it comes right down to it, God is much bigger than we could ever truly express with mere words. Perhaps, this is why He gives us His own language, tongues3, to speak with Him so often.
He has given Himself names like God Almighty4, Master5, Banner6, Shepherd7, and the One that is There8. He is the Beginning and End9, Everlasting God10, Jealous11, Provider12, Peace13, and Lord of Hosts14. He is God of the Breakthrough15. God is Love16.
Before understanding the motivations of God and ultimately what He intends for us, we must understand who He actually is and what He thinks about us. Without knowing His heart, we can never know His intent. Over the last few years, God has revealed to me more and more how proud of a God He really is.
There is a place in Israel, just at the base of Mount Hermon called Pan’s Grotto. It’s quite fascinating, the history of this little hole in a mountain. The people in Jesus’ day actually called it the Gates of Hell. And though it doesn’t look too menacing now, a lot of bad stuff went down in this place. The worshippers of Pan would actually throw sacrifices, human or not, into this hole. If the body drowned, Pan was satisfied. If the blood ran out, Pan was angry. The people believed the cave to be a gateway to Hell.
As truly awful as that sounds, this is also where Jesus stood with His disciples in Matthew 16, when He said to Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”17 Sometimes, we lose in translation some of the visceral reality of Jesus’ statements. We know this verse to mean that Jesus was going to build his church on Peter, “the rock”, who became the first Pope, and that the Christian faith would never be stopped. But in an even more real sense, Jesus was standing in front of one of the deadliest locations in Israel, and proclaiming that God’s church would not be built in a secluded pretty corner of a garden. He pointed at the rock that hung over Pan’s Grotto and proclaimed the Church would be built over the corpse of a demon that would never be worshipped again.
That is who our God is. A proud God. He doesn’t care to share space with a demon. He moves in and says, “It’s Mine.”
When I was about eight years old, I went fishing with my father off the side of Indian River in Cocoa, FL. He had just bought a cast net for the first time in his life, and we were eager to figure out how to use this crazy contraption.
My father was not a fisherman. Nonetheless, he was convinced that he could master cast netting in no time. So there we were, both taking turns throwing this ball of nylon into the salty river water. I don’t remember either of us catching anything except a small seahorse, which honestly was probably more interesting than any fish we would have caught.
But this story is not one of my favorites. In fact, it’s one of the most hated stories of my childhood. One that haunted me for many years, and still makes my stomach turn when I think of it.
I grew bored of watching my dad cast, curse and pull the ball of nylon again and again off the side of the dock. I went searching for anything interesting to do, chasing fiddler crabs and silver fish round the rocks on the bay, when a boy about the same age as me, came running up.
He mockingly exclaimed, “Hey, hey! Your dad just lost his whole cast net in the water! He threw the whole rope in!”
I don’t even know why I responded the way I did, but somehow I had a humiliation rush over me, greater than anything I’d ever felt toward my father.
I retorted, “He’s not my dad! He’s my…my uncle.”
Immediately I felt sick. My whole insides cringed and writhed. I looked down at the ground as the boy ran away with a shrug. Who was this boy anyway, that I let decide how I should feel about my dad?! I had abandoned my father. And suddenly I didn’t feel like a son anymore.
I walked over to Marvin. He was doing what he does best, laughing off the whole ordeal. Some fisherman had helped him hook the net and get it out of the river. He said something about how he was just beginning to get the hang of it when he let the whole thing go. Then the rest of the trip became a blur and we were going home.
I couldn’t look at him. I sinned against my father. And it felt like I didn’t deserve to call him “dad” anymore. I felt similar to how I imagine Peter felt, when he let a little girl scare him into cursing and denying Jesus, when Jesus needed Peter the most. The same way he wouldn’t let himself return to ministry, I didn’t want to let myself return to sonship with my father.
And sadly, it took years for me to confess it to my dad and let go of it. Once I did, he mostly shrugged it off and thought nothing of it. But the truth is, he deserved better than that. He deserved my pride in him. Even when I was embarrassed by it.
A few years ago, I remember seeing a British comedian on television poke fun at the United States. His big shtick was how our Senate was asked publicly if anyone in the House denounced evolution and believed God created the Earth. At that, three men stood. This was hilarious to the comedian of course; that our government could actually have men so foolish to believe in God and that evolution was a bunch of crock.
But while he said this, I muted him with the remote and thanked God for men in our government doing the hard thing. Honestly, I know there were many more men and women in that room that wanted to stand and fearfully wouldn’t. And I was proud of my brothers that did stand in that moment, in the face of ridicule, for our Father.
Our God is a proud God. Not because of whom He says He is. But because of whom we say He is. He says, “I am that I am.” You can’t get more hipster than that! It’s the essence of The Beatles and the ‘let it chill generation’. And yet, because of us, it holds the weight of the universe.
Because we know who that I AM really is. He is the Maker of it all. He held the stars in His left hand, and threw the galaxies into existence with His right. His voice has traveled since the beginning of time, carrying the invisible attributes that hold the fabric of our mortal bodies together. He is the God of the Universe, all power, all might, wrapped into glory. The stars vibrate in song of His goodness. The dolphin jump, eagles soar, lions roar, all to bring Him glory. And He is the One that let Himself become mortal and die for us. In a flash, He could wrap time on itself and begin all over again. Instead, He held death on His shoulders and breathed His last painful breath. All that we would have pride in Him.
That is why we fear God, as my father taught me on that car drive. Because He deserves it. Because He is the Great I Am. That is what makes Him a proud God. You and me.
Our youth ministry The New Thing holds a week long camp every summer, and I’m fortunate enough to have been a part of it for over half of my lifetime. For a few years even, I had the honor of being the worship leader. We treat this thing like the Super Bowl of all youth ministry. It is youth ministry. Loudness, fun, late nights, worship and the Word. And every year, it is an amazing thing to see young people laying out their lives before God in worship. I’ve seen hundreds give their lives to Christ at this event. Hundreds get filled with the Holy Spirit. Lives changed forever in one night. People healed. People set free.
There is a really wonderful thing that happens when you take a couple hundred young people, pumped and ready to hear from God, out into the woods to spend time worshiping for an entire week. You can rest assured you will receive a ton of revelation.
In the summer of 2014, it was no different. While celebrating our camp, I remember seeing many lives changed. People who had struggled for years about understanding God’s Word were getting filled with the Holy Spirit. Lives were coming to Jesus. Left and right, people were talking about the awesome new revelations they had received from God. And I was sitting in the middle of it wondering, “What about me?”
Here I am, the worship leader of this whole thing, leading a couple hundred people into God’s courts each night, and I wasn’t getting anything. Don’t get me wrong, it was awesome to give God glory and to see lives encounter Him. But where was my “moment”? Where was my awesome new thing that was going to give me five new sermons and ten new worship songs? I needed that thing to change the world! And I had better receive it now. And theoretically speaking, if this many people were getting something, I should probably get multiple things. I am that great, right?
It was the last night of camp. Which by default, means it has to be the craziest in worship. There was a moment where the entire mass of people were singing this song “Set a Fire” again and again, just the chorus, three lines, for over half an hour! And that’s when God spoke.
Here it was! The moment I was dying to hear. Change me forever! What is the power you have bestowed on me to carry into the rest of the world?
“I’m proud of you.”
That was it?
He simply said, “I’m proud of you.”
I had no idea that such a simple statement could actually shake my whole core for so long. Here I thought it would be some majestic revelation of the Word no one had ever seen before. But what He needed me to know and understand, beyond a shadow of a doubt, was His pride in me.
You see, what I didn’t realize at the time was that my ministry was on a standstill because of depression. Something I had faced for many years and something I think many of this generation face.
There is this insane culture in our world today. By the age of fourteen, we need to know what college and career we are going to have. We have to have our life completely planned out for the next twenty years. And if you don’t, you’ll miss out on all that life has to offer. Because at the age of 30, all life ends, and that’s when you finally get married and do the things no one really wants to do.
Saying it out loud may seem like total lunacy, but in reality, this is how most people between puberty and 30 feel right now. I’ve actually had many one on one conversations with students who are at the brink of anxiety attacks because they are going into their final year of high school and still don’t know what career they are supposed to have for the rest of their life!
And some of that fearful thinking was in me. Piled on by the thought that I’ve made too many mistakes for my ministry to ever have any real sustenance, and that I’m getting started too late anyway.
Guess what, God uses broken material18. He knows exactly whom He is dealing with when He looks at us. He turned a stuttering selfish Moses into the savior of His people and the author of the first five books in our Bible. Elijah was proud. Jonah was racist. Jacob was selfish. Matthew was a crook. Paul was a murderer. And all of them, God looked at well before they were ready and said, “This one. This is the one I’m going to use to change the world.”
Look at David. Probably the greatest ministry in the Old Testament rests on David’s shoulders. And he was groomed for the position while he sat on the backside of a hill, singing to his sheep and battling off lions. David was an incredible man, and yet, deep into his flourishing ministry, he murdered a man and stole his wife. God looks at you and knows exactly who you are just as any father looks at their children and doesn’t see where they are today but who they will become.
I can remember a day that my oldest daughter AnnaBelle and I were playing outside of a restaurant waiting for a table inside to open up. She was a little over two years old and was practicing her balancing on the curbs in the parking lot as I walked behind her. Round and round she went for about thirty minutes, getting more and more excited and starting to run. Finally, it happened. She slipped and completely ate it, face first into the curb. My whole body cringed, and I reached down in a hurry, fully expecting a bloody, crying face to look back at me. Instead, she pushed herself up from the ground and under her breath she let out, “That was a good one, Dad…”
I tend to laugh at unexpected, and frankly surreal circumstances. And I couldn’t help but giggle at her apparent apathy toward her injury. She was fine. She pulled herself up and continued on her balancing.
Now, I could be frustrated with her for falling. How dare she not know how to balance on a curb properly! But that would make me a lousy father. Instead, when I see her wobbling around on those curbs, and every once in a while slip, I see the lady she is becoming. And when I see her push herself up from an injury and exclaim, “That was a good one!” my heart tells me, she is going to change the world. That’s how God looked at those men and women in the Bible. The ones that crashed and burned and shook it off with a word to their Father.
So there I stood on the stage at camp. My heart was soaring, as I watched more and more teenagers getting moved by the power of God. And here was my God, knowing fully whom I was, simply saying, “I’m proud of you.”
Depression died in me that day. And I have carried that simple statement in my heart for years. It is one that denounces everything the Enemy could use to come against me. Nothing else matters if I know my Father is proud to be my Father.
God the Father
In the Old Testament, God is referred to as Father only fifteen times. Once Jesus shows up, He is called Father over one hundred sixty times in the Gospels alone. This is not an accident. All of our relationship with God is built on Jesus. And Jesus can only describe Him as Dad. Tearing the veil and destroying what religion was, Jesus has restored us to the place of recognizing our God the way He wants to be seen, as a Father.
Now, this gets a little fuzzy in some circles of our Christian family as some would say this is labeling God as a male and that is wrong. And perhaps it is wrong to designate God, a spirit, as having male dominant properties. But all of it is misinterpreted when sexual male and sexual female qualities, which a spirit doesn’t have, are at the forefront of what we consider male and female. This is not what a he or she really is. Outside of living bodies, we are much more than the natural sexual properties our bodies exhibit. My spirit determines the natural reaction of my body. In my spirit, I am masculine, and thus male in my flesh. Not male in my flesh determining the masculinity in my spirit.
C.S. Lewis put it this way in Perelandra19:
“Our ancestors did not make mountains masculine because they projected male characteristics into them. The real process is the reverse. Gender is a reality, and a more fundamental reality than sex. Sex is, in fact, merely the adaptation to organic life… Female sex is simply one of the things that have feminine gender; there are many others… Masculine is not attenuated male, nor feminine attenuated female.”
Everything in this world that we see as masculine (like an oak) or feminine (like a willow) is based not on sex, but instead on the true genders of God, and their supernatural characteristics. God is both Masculine and Feminine, having birthed Himself into both man and woman. In fact, it was Himself that He breathed first into Adam, not solely masculinity, but femininity also. And that femininity is what He took out, in order to create Eve next to him. God carries both the qualities of warrior (masculine), and a “hen [gathering] her chicks”20 (feminine).
I would happily admit that I hold both masculine and feminine qualities. Just as my wife holds feminine and masculine qualities. But I do not equate myself as the female sex. I am a man built on dominant masculine qualities, who recognizes that in me are the abilities to be a mother to my children, if and when my wife is absent. (Note: this would mean in a woman, the feminine is dominant and masculine recessive.)
If anything, this is a celebration of what gender is, rather than a divisive line trying to separate man and woman. Our gender is built on the fabric of spiritual characteristics, not defined by our bodies. It is built by the spirit put into us by God, not by what we equate ourselves with because of biological nature, or our personal experiences.
This puts in mind the discussion of what sex is, and what the transgender argument states. In the past, the generally conceived thought was that your biological sex defined you as male or female. The freethinking New Age opinion now believes that your sex is defined by your psyche, instead of biology.
In fact, it is neither. It’s spiritual. Masculine and Feminine are not based on natural substance or emotional impulse. God breathed a female or male into you. And your body acquired the physical attributes tied to it (masculine or feminine). This is why no one can change it. Because your body didn’t determine it, nor did your psyche. God’s Spirit did.
I cannot decide my gender based on an emotional declaration, for the same reason I cannot let my emotional impulsivity declare I am a murderer. My emotions built on the fabric of my natural body, being led by exhaustion, fear, rage, hunger and pride, have told me to do very sinful things to the fool who cut me off in traffic! But those thoughts do not define me.
Paul’s words about “taking every thought captive” come to mind. If a thought can distinguish something in me that is feminine and in turn tell me I am a woman in a man’s body, I must be ready to take it captive and see that it is untrue. My gender is not determined by an emotion or feeling, but determined by the Spirit of God when He breathed a man into me.
Contrarily, much of the Christian world would fight against this awkward feeling of feminism, deem it effeminate and unholy and thus be afraid of showing any emotion whatsoever. And this is what leads us to the whole mess of being offended by “Is God a man or a woman?” or “Can women be pastors?” and even “Christian homophobia” in the first place.
If my emotions can sway me foolishly, how much more can my personal experiences in my developmental years lead me to believe something wrong about myself or the people around me? Racism is the best example of this. How can an intelligent American man be raised to whole-heartedly believe another man is lesser than him based on his skin tone? Because an emotional and psychological guide is a poor excuse for the spiritual truth of whom you and I really are. And we are lied to our entire lives by the Kingdom of Darkness. Our spirit must become louder than our soul and body.
Thus, gender is neither built on biological nor psychological principles. Your biological gender is a product of the spiritual dominance of either masculine or feminine inside you. And no feeling, idea, belief or psyche can change that fact. No one can decide or finally “understand” they are a different sex, because their sex has no authority over the spirit already living inside of them.
Masculinity and Femininity are spiritual characteristics, and perhaps we will one day even shake their hands. But until then, we should recognize that God breathed both, therefore is both, and we should stop fretting over whether God is a male or female. Instead, we should celebrate that He is in all things.
And yet, He calls Himself, Father (a clear masculine symbol). He calls the Church, His Bride. Jesus, the Son of God, calls Him “Abba, Father”.
He attributes Himself as the masculine caretaker, the protector, the warrior, because it is His masculinity that He wants His children to be aware of most. He will always be there, a firm and powerful foundation. His feminine qualities are seen when He is in worship with us, whisking us about, full of delight. His masculinity is shown as the mountain He is. And in a world full of darkness and sin, it is a good and holy thing to see Him as that mountain that never shudders in the wind. Perhaps, one day in paradise, we will see much more of his femininity than ever before. For now, I am happy He is our masculine “strong tower”21.
Our first two daughters were born at Cape Canaveral Hospital in Merritt Island, Florida. We had all our checkups, both pre and post-natal, for them there. Needless to say, we were there often. And I sort of gained this appreciation for their chicken fingers. It wasn’t just a liking, as much as it was a deep, deep love for those golden, crispy chicken delights.
But it wasn’t all too often I would get them once the girls started growing up. The hospital was really out of the way from our normal day to day, and you had to be passing a particular part of the afternoon to get them just right.
One day, the family was passing by and I hadn’t eaten anything but an apple and cup of coffee the whole day. Carlia looked at me and encouraged me to go grab a serving of fingers and fries.
Not to be confused with a fast food joint, this is a hospital, and waiting for food can take a while as only one cook is serving four people in front of you. I sat in line, chatting with everyone about their day, visit, and all that jazz. But deep down, I just wanted my chicken fingers!
Finally, it was my turn. The cook took my order and fried them up. He threw them in a Styrofoam container with some French fries and I was off. Back to the car, and rushing home.
Now, maybe you are thinking, “Keith, why don’t you just grab some and eat them in the car on the long drive home?”
Well then you don’t understand how good these chicken fingers are. They are prepared by Heaven, and one cannot simply grab them and eat idly while looking at the road. One needs to properly put them on a ceramic plate and ceremoniously eat them, one by one, in a proper chair at a proper dining table.
Twenty minutes later, we were home and I went to my spot at the dinner table. We were going on evening time now, and my stomach was really starting to growl. Here they were: my chicken fingers.
I started pouring into them. Slowly and graciously enjoying every bite, when suddenly, my two-year-old daughter AnnaBelle hops up on the chair next to me, smiles, and grabs a whole chicken finger, throwing it into her mouth.
My wife knows the deal with these chicken fingers. Though she may not understand how good they are, she does understand how much I love them. She quickly started to reprimand AnnaBelle, “Those are daddy’s! Stop that!”
I looked at my sweet, darling daughter and her precious smile. “It’s okay, honey,” I said, “She can have it.”
I leaned over and gave her some of my ketchup and a few fries so she could enjoy her lunch with daddy. She grinned and kept enjoying her little feast.
If God calls Himself our Father, we need to start looking at Him that way. When God looks at you, He sees His son or daughter. When He looks at you, climbing into the seat next to Him to get what He has, He is eager to give it away.
There is this incredible story in our Bible about a Gentile woman who came to Jesus to beg Him for healing. The woman comes to Jesus on the road and pleads for Him to heal her daughter. Jesus, believe it or not, ignores her. She continues on, as the disciples tell Jesus to blow her off. At this, He admits that His purpose is not for the Gentile, but for the Jews.
Theologians and scholars would agree that Jesus’ ministry was to the Jew first, and not until after His death and resurrection and after the Holy Spirit came onto the scene, was His ministry finally for all. This is when we first see the disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, doing God’s work in all the nations, at Jesus’ final command. Before this, we see only two instances where Jesus’ ministry coincides with the Gentiles, and this is one of them.
Here this woman is begging Jesus, and He ultimately tells her that His hands are tied. It is not His duty to be helping her. At this, the woman cries out,
“Lord, help me!”
But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”22
For context, we can look at Jesus’ ministry thus far. Just before this stroll past Sidon and Tyre, the Pharisees condemned Jesus for His disciples being infidels that do not wash their hands properly at suppertime. To which He replied that the whole lot of them were nothing but a bunch of hypocrites giving lip service to God, vainly worshiping Him and declaring their own personal beliefs as the doctrine of Heaven. And then His own disciples cater to the fact that He just “offended” the Pharisees. No crap, Peter!
With “…are you still without understanding” just having come off His lips, Jesus departs and meets this crazy Gentile woman begging Him to heal her daughter. His response, probably spritzed with a bit of frustration, is that He can’t do anything for her. He’s there for the Jews.
Then the woman gets even bolder. She saw what these Jews did in response to Jesus. She is watching the Lord of heaven and earth walk before her, and the Jews are condemning Him for not teaching his employees how to wash hands properly before returning to work.
“Lord, even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
Jesus is moved. This woman would stop at nothing. She knew He had the power to save her daughter, and she wanted it. Just like my daughter AnnaBelle saw that I had a piece of heavenly chicken on my dinner plate. She wanted it. And she got up and took it. I didn’t slap my daughter for getting what she wanted. I was proud that my daughter knew what her father was like. She was confident that her father loved her and that her father would give her anything she desired.
This Gentile woman was confident, amidst fear of persecution, that Jesus was here because He loved her. And she was going to get what she needed. And how does Jesus respond? He doesn’t slap her, push her in the dirt, and say, “No, dog!” He celebrates her! He stands before the men that were just fighting over hand washing procedures and says to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed that very hour.23
Jesus was willing to break His own rules of the supernatural, which honestly I will never fully understand in this earthly life, because this woman wanted what He had and would stop at nothing to get it. God is waiting, hungry as a Father, to give His children all that they desire. Are we afraid of what His response will be if we go asking? What will happen if we throw ourselves up into the seat next to Him and grab His dinner? As a proud Father, He is waiting for you to see.
One of my favorite moments in every day is the moment I first open my front door, coming home from work. My children rush to me full of delight. It doesn’t matter what toy they are holding and playing with. It doesn’t matter what TV show they are watching. It doesn’t matter what they are eating. They drop it all and come running, exclaiming, “Daddy, daddy! Daddy is home!”
I pick them up in my arms and spin them around. Sometimes, I have to rush to the bathroom, but most of the time, all I want is to see them and hold them.
I want my heart’s desire to always be one of excitement when my Father walks in the room. In the House of Worship or the house of Alderman, I want my expectation to be for my Father’s entrance. So that when it happens, nothing else matters. Everything is dropped as I run to be beside my Father. He deserves it.
As much as I want that, I have learned a very important lesson while being a dad. God wants it too. His favorite moment in the day is when He enters the room and you come running to be by His side. And not only so He would get praised and honored, but because He loves you.
I love asking my two year old what her day was like. It is never very clear and always a bit broken in sentences, but I don’t care. I want to hear her voice tell me what she did. Because I love her. God, the Father, loves you. And He loves being with you. He loves talking about your day with you, the good, bad and ugly.
Sometimes we can get wrapped up in ourselves and tell social media and every friend in our contacts list about the crappy day we have just had, but we forget to talk with our Father about it. Either out of neglect, or some stupid prideful assumption that God wouldn’t want to hear about our griping.
On the contrary, God would much rather hear your griping than never hear from you at all. It would be best to not gripe, and just as my children must learn and grow, we must too. But I would hate it if my children never spoke to me because they thought I didn’t want to hear what they had to say.
He wants to hear about what we are thinking. He wants to hear about what we are feeling and learning. It’s okay if some of it is wrong. In fact, most of it will probably be wrong. When my daughters talk to me about their day or what they are learning with mommy or at school, there is usually a very large chunk of it that is incorrect. But that’s okay. Because they are learning and I am doing it with them!
He is a father. He knows His kids are kinda stupid sometimes. That doesn’t change His pride in you. Like I said before, a father’s pride is not found in who their child is but who they are becoming.
He wants to play with you. Why would we have mouths that smile and lungs that laugh uncontrollably, unless we were designed to have fun? God is the God of Fun. It’s time we stopped focusing on all the negative persecution and/or due diligence and took time to have fun, because our Father wants to play with us.
I’ll be honest; there is very little part of me that wants to play Princess Doctor in the middle of my evening. But there is a massive part of my heart that wants to experience what my daughters are doing and what makes them happy.
Paul said, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.”24 This is exactly what he’s talking about. My job is not to sit in a bunker and pray constantly night and day until the day I die. There is no part of Jesus’ ministry that looks like that.
But Jesus’ ministry does show us that He was always quick to stop and listen to God, quick to pull away with Him when He needed. A life like Jesus’ is accomplished by having God always on our mind. I cannot experience Publix grocery shopping to its fullest until I am aware that I am walking with God down the aisles. And I cannot experience God to His fullest until I am aware that He enjoys doing it with me.
“Short Stories for God’s Grown-up Children” will undoubtedly teach you something about yourself, and most importantly, about your Creator. What started as a collection of stories for Keith’s children has turned into a book of lessons for all of God’s children, a book about recognizing God’s heart in every circumstance. A compilation of stories and sermons written with the purpose of making you think, question and understand His goodness. Through personal tales and testimonies, “Short Stories” reveals the love and character of God.