Monday, December 15, 2008

Discontent

Every now and then God likes to mess with me. Not in a mean or cruel way, but occasionally he takes my thoughts and feelings about an idea and reminds me that I know nothing. It is a very humbling experience and it makes me crazy at times. At other times it encourages me that God has everything under control.

I had this myth going on in my head for a while that said to be a really good leader I needed to be “discontent” with stuff. I needed to strive for perfection, I needed to demand more out of myself and I needed to require a greater level of discipline. While some of that is true, God has smacked me upside the head this week to remind me that he has called me to be content in all my circumstances.

First, let me tell you what I am not discontent about. I am not discontent with being a husband and father. I am not discontent of pastoring LifeQuest Church. I am not discontent that I will never be able to dunk a basketball or have a Porsche.

I am discontent over not being a better husband and father. I am discontent that I feel like I am not a great leader at LifeQuest. I am discontent that some of my dreams and plans are not going exactly where I desired them to go. It is in my own failures that I am discontent.

My thoughts of what it means to be a good husband and father are all about me being a good example and model. My ideas of being a great pastor are all about me leading a charge against the gates of hell. My discontent about my dreams center around me not accomplishing my own thing.

Philippians 4:12-13 says “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

The secret to contentment is moving off of our agenda and onto God’s. It is giving up our plans and surrendering to God’s plans for us. It is letting ourselves become lost in the glory and fame of Jesus.

I know that for a while I am going to be “discontent” learning to be “content.”

Monday, December 8, 2008

Spiritual Sculptures

I am constantly amazed at how God moves and works to shape us into the likeness of Christ. It is almost never an easy process and it usually requires some pain. It is very much an art form where God, as scripture notes, is a potter and we are clay. For me, it often feels like God is a sculptor and I am a piece of rock!!!

That has nothing to do with God’s love or care of me, only that I am dense and thick and in need of being chiseled. (No, that is not a resolution to get in shape next year!!) God has to break away the top layers, the cracked places and the imperfect aspects of who I am so that he may be clearly seen in the unique creation that he desires me to become.

I have seen recently three major tools that God uses on me to shape me:

· Scripture- God’s Word is definitely the best tool to refine a fractured heart and life.
· Prayer- Not just spouting off to God but taking time to listen.
· Honest Followers of Christ- They speak into your life like no one else can.

The old saying is that “God loves you just the way you are but loves you too much to leave you that way.” It is a cliché, but it also happens to be true. God wants to shape us and change us.

Are you allowing God to sculpt you? What tools do you need to have shape you in a more powerful way?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Refined by Fire

God’s Word has an amazing way of revealing things about our hearts that we don’t want to hear. It shows up our weaknesses, our deficiencies and our sins. It shows us how deceptively wicked the heart of man can be and how incredibly holy and righteous is the heart of God.

I have been hanging out in Ephesians recently and here are some things God has shown me this morning from Ephesians 4:
* I am not very humble, gentle or patient. (Eph. 4:2) At least I know what to pray for!!
* Christ’s desire is not fir us to do everything, but to prepare others to serve him.
(Eph. 4:12) That is a shot at the ego and pride of every person in “professional” ministry.
* We all suffer from occasional “heart disease.” Eph. 4:18 says our spiritual arteries are hardened by our ignorance.
* Satan uses anger in our lives to develop a foothold in our soul. This is a killer for me!!! It usually surrounds someone I need to forgive for a wrong suffered: either perceived or real.

Mostly it reminds me how much I must rely on Christ as the sufficiency and strength of my life. How has God’s Word been shaping you lately?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Leadership Focus

This morning in my office I have been reading e-mails and blogs from some people that I really respect in ministry. I typically devote the first part of my day to catching up on what some people are writing and saying and thinking through my reaction and feelings about their thoughts. I read stuff from guys I respect a ton: Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, Gary Lamb, Ed Young, Jr., Andy Stanley, etc. All of these guys are pastoring churches that are really making a difference in the kingdom of God. I want to learn from them as much as I possibly can.

One thing that I consistently notice is that they are extremely focused. The men I read and the churches they lead have a singular focus that I strive for in my own life: Jesus Christ above everything else. They are always sharing stories of how lives are being changed because of Jesus. They challenge me, they encourage me and they frustrate me because I am not sure that I maintain my focus as well as I should.

It is so easy to compare lives and ministries with men you have never met. There are so many things behind the scenes that we never hear, but they are doing big things for God and sometimes it is easy to get sidetracked into thinking that because our church is not as large, our ministry is not well known or no one is asking me to write books or speak at conferences that somehow I am insignificant to the kingdom of God. That is simply a case of sin and pride getting the best of me. It is ego at its worst.

When it comes to following God, all of us have things to offer. God never told us to seek out fame or favor, God simply called us to obedience. When you start feeling like you don’t matter in the kingdom, simply ask yourself a questions: “Am I being obedient to what God has called me to do with my life?” If you answer yes, then you have understood that your life matters for eternity. If you are not sure, then ask yourself, “Where can I serve, where can I lead, and where can I grow to be all that God called me to be?” Then call me. Let’s have lunch or grab a Starbucks and talk about where God may be leading you.

You matter to God. LifeQuest Church matters to God. And you have a role to play in declaring the fame and the name of Jesus Christ!!

To paraphrase Stuart Smalley from the old Saturday Night Live routine: “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and gosh darn it, Jesus likes you!!!”

Monday, November 24, 2008

God

The Life Group that Alana and I attend on Sunday night started a new series last night. It is the Foundations study on God. The first session deals with what God is like. When we have thoughts about God, we think of him in a particular ways, most of the time, not based on biblical truth.
As we talked last night we looked at what the bible says about God and then thought of our own personal views of God. We had the typical views that most humans have: God is a father; God is a judge, God I light, etc. As the pastor, I felt like I was supposed to have a really clear, concise, theological view of God that would impress everyone and bring some kind of clarity to the conversation. As we discussed last night and as I reflect on it this morning I am convinced that the very thought I had about that shows my lack of depth and understanding about the real God.
You see, as humans I think we spend time trying to impress others and God with how much we know, our deep philosophy or just how spiritual we are. It is the antithesis of who God is in reality. God is not like that. He is not out to impress or show off.
God is about love in action. He is about sacrifice and gentleness. He is about showing love where love in neither easy nor deserved. I guess what I have really come to understand about my view of God is that although I have years of training, know the theological arguments and am a “professional” in religion, I only know the surface of the God of the universe.
The more I think I know God and how he works the more I discover my thoughts are mere images and dreams of a wandering traveler. To quote John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace” once again: “I know two things; I am a great sinner and Christ is a great savior.” In many ways, I guess that is enough.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christianity and Civilization

“If Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he is everlasting and the life of a state or a civilization, compared with his, is only a moment.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Given the most recent elections in the United States, great debate has occurred within and without the church walls as to the meaning and significance of the times. I have spent the last two weeks listening, thinking and reflecting on this issue and have a few ideas that I want to share.

Whatever your political views may be one truth cannot be denied: the election of 2008 was historic in nature. More money was spent, more people voted and the very first African American President was elected. For many people this was a sign of great change and opportunity. For others it was cause for concern and alarm.

One thing we must always keep in mind is that God is the controller of the eternal destiny of mankind and he is the controller of the governments of the world. Scripture teaches that no government exists except that God allows it to exist (Romans 13:1). Some have taken this to mean that God mandated President-elect Obama to office. I stop short of that interpretation because God allows man to make free choices and decisions. It does not necessarily mean that God approves of our choices. As individuals we make decisions that honor God and as societies we make decisions that dishonor God. But what is clear is that God is still God, no matter who the President of the United States happens to be.

I am fascinated by the above quote by Lewis because it seems that in the wave of emotion that has swept our nation in the past weeks we seem to have forgotten that the United States is not an eternal entity. Governments, civilizations, societies and cultures all fade from the world except to live on in the pages of history. But individuals, they are the one eternal creation.

The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”
Lord Alexander Tytler (1747-1813)

My point is this: God’s call to humanity is to love him and love others. That is how Jesus defined the law that rules men’s lives in Matthew 22. As followers of God our job is not to rely on government to be the answer to life’s solutions. Nor is our role to be afraid of our government. We serve an eternal king who has an eternal perspective.
If the church in America works together to love God, love others and seek the wisdom of God in the daily affairs of our lives, we will see life and liberty in ways only dreamed of in the social construct of our day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Life Lessons



If you can't tell, my family is really into sports. Kimmie loves soccer, Zach did play baseball but now loves basketball, and Emily has been a hoops head her entire life. We spend many days, nights and weekends in gyms or at fields. We spend almost as many hours counseling after things don't go right or celebrating when things do. (By the way, Zach won his basketball game with a free throw in the final 10 seconds the other day!!!)
I have a motto I use with our kids. I am especially drilling it into Emily's head as she has begun her sophomore year on the varsity team. Before every game and every practice I remind her, either through a text message or talking with her of four simple words: "No Blame. No Complain."
It is so easy when things go wrong on the court to pass the blame to someone else or complain about someone elses failure. The referees were bad (okay that one is mostly true) my teammates didn't hustle, I got fouled, I got pushed, the coach is a jerk. That last one really hurt when I was the coach!!

The same is true in life for us adults. We tend to blame and complain when things don't go our way. We pass the buck, attack the messenger, or simply refuse to accept that maybe we are the problem. I am always fascinated by people who want all the responsibility and none of the accountability. It is a trap that has weighed me down far more times than I would like to confess.
So, here is my challenge: take 1 day where you don't blame or complain. See if you can do it. Don't gripe about your boss, don't complain about traffic, don't suggest that your co-worker is the source of contention in your life. Take the 4 Word Challenge!!
No Blame! No Complain!





Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shakespeare

I have a band that I really like that most people have never heard of. To be honest I don’t know if they still are around or doing anything, but I still pop in a CD occasionally and veg out as I drive down the road. The band is “Everybody Duck” and they came out of Hume Lake camp in California. They have some cool late 90’s guitar driven songs that are fun and really hit the sweet spot when you need to travel light.
One of their songs is called “Shakespeare.” The chorus simply says this:
“You do Jesus/Just as well as you do Shakespeare/ and frankly that’s not very good at all/
The church is your theater/ and tradition is your script/ but where you gonna be when the final curtain fall?”
It is not deep meaning rock and roll, but the point is good. Most of us do our Christian lives about as well as we could do Hamlet. Remember reading Shakespeare in high school and having no idea what he was talking about? I remember sitting in class at Kirby High as Mrs. Patterson tried to explain it to us. I never got it. The key to understanding Shakespeare is the same as understanding the King James Bible: you have to speak Elizabethan English.
My point is this; we will never get our relationship right with Jesus until we invest in it. We spend time reading the bible, listening to others teach and praying through scripture and we develop a deeper appreciation for what Jesus had to tell us. But most of us treat it like we did high school Shakespeare: we simply endure it.
Jesus told us that to truly be his follower we had two things to do: Love God and love others. Matthew 22:40 tells us that all the rest of the bible narrative rests on those two things. When we invest in those areas of life, we find that we have the ability to love God and others at deeper levels than we ever imagined.
So, are you doin’ Jesus like you do Shakespeare?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Taking Flight


One of the greatest things about living in South Florida is watching the Space Shuttle launch. On Friday night my kids and I watched on a clear night as the shuttle took flight. The moon was full, there was not a cloud in the sky and we could see the shuttle for several minutes. We could see it separate from the rocket booster and the flames behind it extinguish as it took orbit. It was very cool!!!
I picture that and think about our lives as followers of Christ. Many times it begins with an explosion of excitement that people see for a while. We have some dramatic experience that helps us to begin this new journey with Christ and it is incredible to watch.
What people don't see is all the behind the scenes work. It takes months and months to prepare the shuttle for launch. I believe that God works in our hearts for a long time until we are finally ready to launch into this new relationship with him. Then, after an amazing start, we settle in to the tasks of becoming fully devoted followers of God. It is usually not as dramatic at takeoff and most of the time, no one is watching this part.
Sometimes I think we focus so much on the launch that we miss the important stuff. We miss the growing process and the behind the scenes work that God does to draw us and others to himself. It is not always impressive and not nearly as exciting, but it is just as important.
This week, I want to challenge you to do some real work on your flight plan. Study God's Word. Listen to his voice. Share your observations and your questions. This is the deep space flight that God wants to develop in our lives. As we grow in him we will learn to soar into unknown spaces of his limitless love.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One of Those Lives

Some people have one of those days. I feel like I have one of those lives!! You know what I mean? The last few weeks have been amazing in ministry and brutal in person. I have gone from incredible joy and celebration to incredible depths of hurt and pain. The culmination of most of that has been the death of my dad and the trip to the service. It has left me feeling ragged, strung out and feeling like a shadow of myself.

I was telling my brother the other day that the best thing that happened one day last week was the car wash broke the antenna on Alana’s Suburban. Literally, that was the highlight for me. Personally, it was a nightmare.

As I look back on it, I realize that on the same day about 40 people from LifeQuest gathered together to make blankets to send to some missionaries in Mexico to help them minister to the poor in their community. The same day, a small group from our church put together a new church sign to face the Turnpike entrance next to the church. The same day people rallied around to cover the weekend service so I could go be with my family in Mississippi.

It has been a week of less than joyful moments. But I am reminded that Paul told us that the troubles of this present age are of no comparison to the joy of the age to come (2 Corinthians 4:17). I am also reminded that he who is in me (Christ) is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

I don’t understand it all. Why does it pour when it rains in our lives? Why isn't it all just easy and joyful? Why does God allow pain and heartache to accompany joy and celebration?

Greater minds than mine have tried to understand. I know very little when it comes to the ways of God. But, as John Newton the author of Amazing Grace said, “I know I am a great sinner and Jesus is a great savior.” For me, that is enough for now.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Update on My Dad

If you have read on here in the last few weeks you know that my dad has been very ill. He passed away about 30 minutes ago and is now free from the pain and struggles of this life. Please pray for my mom and my family as we travel to Mississippi for the services this weekend.

Monday, November 3, 2008

True Identity




I couldn't help but post a picture of "Hannah Montana" on this weeks blog. Of course, that is not the real Hannah Montana, that is my daughter Kimberly who dressed up like a rock star who is dressed up to avoid looking like Miley on the Disney show "Hannah Montana." If you have a young daughter in the house you know what I mean. If you don't, well this is where Google comes in handy.


We had an awesome time trick or treating with our kids. Zach was a punk rocker and Emily was Sarah Palin. I also posted a picture of Zach. Emily would kill me if I posted pictures of her!!! We went trick or treating with some friends and had a blast. literally when we poured lighter fluid in a pumpkin and set it on fire, but that is a story for another day.


I was thinking about Halloween and costumes and Hannah Montana this morning and could not help but think about how we dress up and pretend in real life as well. We go through life putting on masks to hide pain, shame or grief, and we act as those everyone owes us something. We are so guarded with our true identities that we live life as split personalities. We live as rock stars, super heroes or martyrs unworthy of love, attention or even pity.


But Christ has called us to so much more. We are called to live in the beauty of the kingdom of the eternal king. We are called to live as children ofthe king. We are called to be heirs of the living God. Mostly we live our lives putting on "airs" and not living how God really designed us to live.


This week I am making a serious effort to get over a life of masks and images. I want to live as a true son of God. I want to experience life in reality and in the glory of Jesus. I want to take seriously the idea of living as God has made me: a child of the king!!!


"He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and his will." Ephesians 1:5

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Metaphors for Life

I have been thinking a great deal lately about metaphors. If you are not an English major, and I was not, a metaphor is like a simile. (Some of you recognize that as funny.) Basically a metaphor is something that describes without using the words like or as. They are figures or symbols which tell a story.

I was thinking about my life last night when a metaphor came to my mind. It is a little image that I recognize has, for better or worse, come to symbolize some very emotions in me.

I have a brick on the file cabinet in my office. I got it when I was a youth pastor and took a group of students to Isleta, Mexico. It is a brick that was made at a very rustic, poverty stricken factory we visited. Every person on the trip received a brick. It is multi-colored, rough, and uneven, but in many ways it is very beautiful. And I have found recently that it paints a picture of me that is reflective of my own personal narrative.
· The brick has a basic shape, but is very uneven.
· The brick looks strong and sturdy but it is actually fairly delicate.
· The brick will flake and the clay will fly off if you rub your hand against it.
· The brick stands as a memorial to a different part of my life.

Here is how it reflects me. I have a basic shape and worldview, but I can be uneven in some areas. I hate seeing my weaknesses show up. I can be uneven in my emotions and in my attitudes. I can fly off the handle at the smallest things and other things tend to roll right off my back. I long to be more stable

On the outside people assume I have it all together. Most people see me on Sunday when I am “on.” However Monday through Saturday I feel fairly vulnerable. I need to stand with others in order to have any true strength. One brick may seem strong on its own, but its true strength comes when it is placed alongside other bricks.

When I get hurt, part of me dies. The clay of this brick flies away when you rub it. When I get hurt or rubbed the wrong way, part of me escapes and disappears. It is a painful and lonely place at times.

The brick reminds me of a special trip to a special place with a group of special people. I want my life to be a memorial for Jesus Christ. I want people to look at me and see Christ. I want to be a reminder of God can do with one simple little life.

The brick I have was shaped and created by humble people, living in poor conditions simply trying to survive. I was shaped and created by the Master of the Universe, the infinite God and the one who loves beyond all compare. As David said, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

What is the metaphor for your life?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Beautiful

This morning is beautiful. The air is crisp and clean and there is not a cloud in the sky. I had a meeting planned this morning with a friend of mine, and when he arrived at the office we took our chairs outside and sat as we talked. I love this time of year. Perhaps, if I get really lucky, I may get to break out a long sleeve shirt and feel comfortable. After all, I live in South Florida so low 70’s is almost winter weather.

I appreciate short moments like I had today because they allow me to enjoy the beauty of God. They allow me to see that Gods creation is a place of wonder and awe. It reminds me that God loves me no matter the stress and strain of my daily life. In short, I see God in the midst of life.

Today, take a moment and enjoy God. Go outside at lunch instead of eating at your desk. Take a moment and breathe in the crisp cool air. Open a window and feel the breeze. And in doing so, enjoy the presence of God.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Life or Sometihing Like It!!

Life is rolling right now. I am back to teaching at Palm Beach Atlantic University plus pastoring LifeQuest. Between study for class, study for messages, and my own personal growth time I have my nose in a book a lot right now. I feel like a rag doll at times because my Blackberry calendar keeps going off telling me where to go, who to meet with, and what I am supposed to be doing. It is amazing how those three things aren't always the same!!!

Life is busy and crazy for people. It reminds me of the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off where Ferris looks into the camera and says, "Life moves pretty fast." If ever a greater truth came out of Hollywood, I am not sure what it is.

But in the midst of life, we must slow down. I am forcing myself to study more than other people's writing. I am making a commitment to be in God's Word and to listen and not just talk when I pray.

Our society and culture is not going to slow down. My Blackberry is not suddenly going to empty. But, we must all find the time to simply "Be still and know that he is God."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Truth, Lies, and the People That Follow Them

At election times there are always stark challenges to truth. Did he do or say one thing and vote another? Is this person honest and trustworthy more so than his opponent? Will this person promise not to raise my taxes and will they, once elected, raise my taxes anyway? Sometimes it seems that truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

But there is such a thing as real truth. No matter what our generation says about truth, there are some absolutes that never change. The fact that some people say that there absolutely are no absolute shows the flaw in the argument. It is like saying, "ALL generalizations are bad." "And don't start a sentence with a preposition."

Gods word gives us a great picture of what happens when people exchange truth for lies.

"The idols speak deceit, diviners see visions that lie...therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd." Zechariah 10:2

As followers of Christ there are lies we buy into everyday that keep us from living out the life we should be living. Here are some of the lies that I have been facing lately:

* I have to be perfect to be loved.
* I am responsible to make everyone around me grow in their faith.
* The success of the church is a reflection of how good I am.

All of these lies have one common ingredient: me. They are all based on a sense of self-value that is distorted by the world in which we live. We have the idea that somehow everything depends on us. That is not true.

One of the heroes of my life has been the late Bill Bright. he founded Campus Crusade for Christ and lived with a passion for reaching the next generations with the message of the gospel. I attended seminary at a school he founded. One if his favorite sayings to us was "Work as hard as you can and leave the results to God."

That is the truth that we as leaders must embrace. We must understand that true, lasting fruit only comes from the Heavenly Father. We find his truth in his word and in the power of his word to come alive in our lives. That is truth that lasts and that produces people of God who follow the Truth.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Unmet Expectations

I am constantly amazed as I read through scripture at how often the people closest to Jesus totally missed on his point. They often thought he was talking about one thing when he was really talking about another. They took metaphors and made them literal. They missed the signs and the illustrations that Jesus was using to teach.

I then become totally frustrated at how often I do the exact same thing. We have 2,000 years of history to tell us what Jesus meant and millions of pages of commentary to help us understand and yet we often whiff on the point of what Jesus is trying to show us. Today, let me give you one simple idea to help you get the point.

When we are struggling with a teaching of Jesus and what it really means, look deeper. Look not at what you think it means for just the issue in front of you, but what is the deeper meaning, the one that has eternal value.

When Jesus tells us to honor our mother and father, he means for us to literally do that. It also means for us to demonstrate God's love in our own homes first. When Jesus tells us to love our neighbor, it literally means that, but it also means we should see them through the eyes of God. When Jesus tells us to be a light to the world around us it means to set an example to those not yet following God. It also means to be seen with his love and grace, not with judgment and anger.

We get frustrated with God because he does not meet our expectations. However we need to understand that maybe our expectations are not of the eternal realm. Maybe our focus is not in line with his. In order to avoid unmet expectations with God we must see through the lens of eternity and not through the lens of the temporary. God deeper. Love more. Shine brighter. That is God's expectation for us.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

One Heart at a Time

I have just begun reading a book that I have had for several months. You know how it goes: someone suggests a good book, you buy it and it sits for a while before you get to it. Well, I decided this morning was the time I needed to get to it.

The book is called Restoring Broken Things and it is written by Steven Curtis Chapman and his pastor Scotty Smith. I really respect SCC and have loved his music for a long time. I actually met him when I was in college and he was just a new musician with a serious mullet!!! As I started the book I was looking forward to some great stories and lessons on God’s love and the power of redemption. I was not prepared for what hit me on the second page of the prologue.

If you know anything about Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife Mary Beth (does the whole family have two first names?) you know that they have adopted three little girls from China. When they adopted Shaoey, their first, they visited the orphanage where she had spent her entire life. Here is how SCC describes that event:

“Like being caught in an unexpected downpour, I wasn’t prepared for the burst of emotions that welled up inside of me as these simple elements took on enormous symbolic meaning. Two images came into mind, one right after the other. Not exactly like a song lyric, but just as real as the thought came to me: “One bed at a time…that’s how we’ve got to think about the daunting challenge of caring for so many orphans. One bed at a time.”

As I read those words I could only think of one thing: One heart at a time. That is how we must care for the lives that are broken and wounded in the society around us: One heart at a time.
I am not a huge slogan guy. At LifeQuest we don’t have a new motto every year and we don’t do acronyms or acrostics to make our point. But this one is one that is hitting me heard. For some reason this is rattling my cage in some major ways. I don’t know what it looks like or what it means, but there is something to the concept of “One Heart at a Time.”

What would happen if churches across America began to love people that way? What would it look like if Christians quit fighting one another and restored the broken places in the depth of our hearts? What would happen if we were really serious about touching one heart a time?
I don’t know. But I am committing to praying through this concept and I am committed to exploring it to the ends of the earth. Is anyone else interested?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Half of My Life


This morning Alana and I had the exact same thought at the exact same time. I said something and she replied with a joke and a smile. My response was, "I knew you would say that!" We just laughed because it seems to happen more and more these days.


I realized that I have spent exactly half of my life in a relationship with Alana. We met when we were in college, dated for two years and have been married for 18 years. I can honestly say that without Alana my life would be very, very empty. What a blessing she has been to me


I prize my wife. She is a blessing and a joy to everyone who comes into contact with her. She is loving, sensitive, emotional and passionate. She is an incredible mom and a wonderful partner in ministry. Most of all she loves Jesus more than anything in the world.


Life has not always been easy. We have seen some really tough times, but God has been incredibly faithful to get us through.


So, here's to my wife. The greatest blessing ever!!!!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Guys Night Out

We had a great time at the LifeQuest Classic Mini Golf tournament on Saturday Night. A bunch of guys got together and had some incredible laughs playing mini golf. We had two balls go off the course into the water, one ball go off the course and through a fence and at least one ball chipped from the grass next to the hole! (It was the only shot I had!!!)

The night was just a lot of fun for guys. We went to Michael Sapusek's and had pork loin that he had been slow cooking all day. It was awesome. Guys, we need to do more stuff together. We need to hang out, talk and get to know one another. And, in the midst of all that, we will find that we need to listen, learn and trust in new ways.

I hope everyone who went had as much fun as I did!! And if you didn't make it, I hope you will be there for Night O' Beef in January!!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Simply Amazing!!!

I am intrigued by illusionists and magicians. Brock Gill makes me stop and stare at some of the stuff he does. David Copperfield did some amazing stuff in his day. And David Blaine...well, two out of three isn't bad!!

I love to watch entertainers and see what they are going to do next. I marvel at their slight of hand. I am puzzled by their acts that seem to defy gravity, physics, and logic. I am amazed that elephants can seem to appear and disappear with incredible ease.

So I was very disillusioned a few years ago when the Masked Magician showed how all the tricks worked. You know they are mere tricks and illusions, but there is something fun about not knowing exactly how it works. So when the Masked Magician showed me how an elephant disappears on national TV, I was little bummed.

This morning I was reading in Zechariah 3. The prophet has a vision where he sees Joshua dressed in filthy rags. The rags are a symbol of the sin of the nation of Israel. It is a sign of how they have turned their back on God. Then, something amazing happens.

God says, "See I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you." (3:4) God takes away the sin of the nation and clothes them with rich and clean garments. No trick, no gimmick, no illusion. God simply changes the nation.

When I realize the God of the Universe has that kind of love for me I am amazed. I stand in awe of the fact that God would take all my filth and clothe me in his righteousness. It is not some illusion or magic. It is the infinite power of the loving God of creation.

Now that is amazing!!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Run DMC Theology

This morning I was reading in Zechariah 2. God is telling the nation through Zechariah that he will be with them and they can trust in the presence of God in the midst of the nation. God is too big to be confined inside the walls of Jerusalem (or the boxes of our own theology) and his glory is the real glory of the people. At the end at the chapter is a small verse that really stuck out to me. "Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his dwelling."

My first thought was how I am not still before God very often. Even when i try to be quiet my brain is racing, my thoughts drift or I nod off. (Okay, that's a confession!) Just the idea of being still before God brought to my mind not stillness in my body, but stillness in my mind and heart. The constant racing thoughts and the constant commotion of life seems like I am always talking to God instead of listening.

For some reason my mind immediately went to the old Run DMC song "You Talk Too Much." Basically it was as if God were speaking to me through an old 80's rap song that I haven't heard in years. (I am not getting into the theology of rap!!!) The song simply says, "You talk too much/you never shut up/ I said you talk too much/Homeboy you never shut up." Seriously, my quiet times are getting weird.

I guess what God is trying to tell me is to quit talking all the time and listen. I need to listen to him for direction, guidance and focus. I need to listen to others for wisdom, discernment and fellowship. I need to listen to the culture so that I can effectively interpret the scripture into the language of today.

So, here's my challenge for the day: Shut up!!! I am going to try to be a minimalist in conversation today. Not that I am not going to talk, but I am going to be a listener as much as possible. Even though Run DMC stated the thought in my mind, it is a very biblical concept.

"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." James 1:19

Now I just need to figure out the theological implications of "My Adidas."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lessons Hopefully Learned

I am a slow learner. it takes a while for me to catch some things and begin to put them into practice. God is constantly showing me things that cause me to step back and think, "Why haven't I done this before?" Here are three quick leadership lessons that God is teaching me right now.

1) Don't assume in leadership. Yesterday a situation came to my attention that caused me to feel sick to my stomach. I had made an assumption about someones desire for ministry without taking the time to really question and listen to their real heart. I assumed that because situations were one way at one time I didn't need to communicate anymore with that individual. assumptions in leadership can kill all momentum and strain relationships. We all know what happens when you ASSUME!!!

2) Don't always respond instantly. Instant responses kill me. I typically overreact, make statements I later regret, and have to clean up more mess than was caused initially. Time is a great teacher. Don't make decisions on the fly. I have a general rule: no decisions on Monday. I need to be fresh, alert and ready to make decisions. On Monday, I am none of those things. I let things lie until Tuesday and then move ahead whenever possible.

3) Don't be paralyzed by fear. I am afraid of many things as a leader. I am afraid of people being mad, of hurting the church, of missing the mark in my gifts. Fear leads us to fail if we allow it to control us. Sometimes there is healthy fear. Other times, fear is a roadblock to effectiveness.

God is slowly teaching me some things to make me a better leader. What is God showing you to make you a better leader in your particular area?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pray

I feel better this morning that I have in quite a while. I have not been sick, just a little discouraged, fatigued, and stressed. It is a little thing I like to call "life." For more information about life see my post from Monday. But today I woke up with a little bit of a bounce and a little excitement.

Last night we had a great time at LifeQuest. We did something we don't normally do but that may become a part of our routine a few times a year. We had a cookout at the church for anyone who wanted to come and then had a prayer and praise gathering for our adults and students. Our KidQuest ministry went on as usual and overall it was a good night for everyone.

This was not your usual prayer meeting. We took no prayer request. We didn't try to give answers to problems. We simply prayed. We broke into small groups of teenagers and adults (it was very cool to listen to young people pray) and I led us through three areas that God has been stirring in my heart.

We first prayed that ass individuals and as a church we would have a "Passion for God." I believe we need to breath in deep of the grace and mercy of God. I believe that as individuals and as a church we will not fully live until we fully seek the living God.

The second thing we prayed for was "Compassion for Others." These are hard times. Many people are struggling and hurting and in need of care. We prayed that God would place on our hearts not just a desire to see people fill the church, but a desire to see Him move in their lives through us.

The final aspect of the prayer time was to pray for "Connection in Ministry." We prayed that God would use us as individuals and as a body of believers to be intimately connected into his work. We prayed that God would move us into a place of influence int he relationships we have so that we can effectively minister to those around us.

Last night and this morning my mind has drifted to the prayers that were prayed in our groups last night. I had people tell me how much they enjoyed the time to focus on prayer and how much they enjoyed just praying together.

I don't know what the long term effect of these prayers will be. I can't see any "mystical" result from last night. I don't know that any mountains were moved. I simply know that a group of people spent time with the God of the Universe and this morning I am still enjoying the moment.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Life Happens!!!

Life happens!!! I know, obvious isn’t it? But as I have been praying and thinking this morning I am just at the point of thinking, “God, why does life always seem to happen to me?” Ever felt that way? I’m sure I am the only one.

I have been riding a lot of waves lately, and I have not been surfing. It just seems like life has been getting in the way of my plans, my dreams, my vision, and my desires. I just keep having this nagging thought that says, “God if you will just handle _______________ than everything will be great.” But life doesn’t always work that way.

This morning I was reading the book of Zephaniah. Yes, it is in the bible. Yes, it follows on the heels of my reading Amos and Obadiah. Yes, it is still relevant today. Throughout the book God is telling people that he is going to destroy them for disobedience, he is going to punish their wicked ways, and that there is no hope for those who have set up false gods and are worshipping the stars. (It is exactly the book you want to read if you are feeling a little over the top.)

But, at the end of the book God makes some awesome claims. He says that for those who seek him there will be deliverance. For those who have been faithful there will be celebration. He says, “The Lord is with you, he is mighty to save.”

I can’t always hang my hat on my feelings. I can’t always rely on my abilities or strengths. I can’t always trust my vision of life. But, I can be assured that God is with me. I have spoken with so many people these days who are hurting. Life is running them over. I described my feelings last night to some friends as “it’s a dog eat dog world and I am wearing Milk Bone underwear.” It’s not an original line, and not exactly theological, but it was as deep as I could go at the moment!!!

What I want to share with you today is that there is the certainty that God has not abandoned us. When all else seems lost, God is still God and he is still in control. If you are feeling a little crazy and that life is happening all over you, read Zephaniah. It will take about 15 minutes and then you will hit the core truth that sustains us all: God is still here taking great delight in us.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Energy

I'm a sports radio junkie. I love listening to "Mike and Mike" or Scott Van Pelt on ESPN Radio.
One of the things that I love about those shows is they have incredible energy. While these guys are on the air, you never know what can happen. There is something exciting about it.

Last night I went into a Pastoral Team meeting not being in the best state of mind. There are some heavy issues facing the church and some big events on the horizon. I was not really sure how it was all going to go. When I left, I found myself amazed.

In the midst of struggle, adversity and challenges, I found myself energized by the conversation in the room. It was uplifting, encouraging and propelled me into a vision of what God could do in this place. At the end of the meeting, I felt like we were about to see a movement of God.

Will that happen? I have no idea. How does that happen? i have no idea. What can we do to make that happen? I have no idea. But the prospect of God moving at LifeQuest brings me energy.

I asked the team last night to pray for three things for our church: passion for God, compassion for others and connection to one another. I believe with all my heart that God honors that prayer. I can't wait to see what happens. I can't imagine how awesome it will be to see God move if the expectation of his moving is so exciting.

"God, gives us passion for you, compassion for those who are without you, and connection to propel one another on toward love and good deeds. Amen."

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday

It's Monday again!! Not just because the calendar tells me it is, but because my heart and mind and emotions are suffering from "Monday Invasion." I simply have hit a wall this morning. I want to share three things that I am doing to overcome Monday. Maybe they will help you when you experience one.

1) I am praying. I have spent a lot of time this morning banging on my computer keyboard and pouring out my thoughts to God. I have been honest about everything that has come to my mind. It is not always easy to pray some of the real heart issues we feel. But God can handle it. he can help us to overcome the major issues of life.

2) I am reading. Not just any old book but scripture and books that lift my soul. Monday is usually a day spent in reflection and study for me. So today I am reflecting on God's Word and seeking peace in my heart.

3) I am being honest. May of you who read this will e-mail me with thoughts and encouragements. I am not looking for that, although I love to get your feedback. I am simply sharing my heart with you. One of the main reasons we go through life so "Mondayfied" is that we aren't honest with our hearts and with others.

Maybe today is a Monday for you in more that just the calendar sense. Maybe Thursday will be your Monday. I want to encourage you that prayer, scripture reading and honesty are the best cures for the Monday's of your life.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Clearing Out the Clutter

I spent some time today just cleaning up my office. I threw some stuff away, I moved some furniture around, and basically just tried to get it livable. The clutter was becoming overwhelming. Books were stacked on books, journals were all over the place and notes from messages delivered months ago were still in the metal tray on my desk. So, today stuff got cleaned out.

I hate doing this. I don't like deciding what I should keep and what needs to go. i don't like deciding if I am someday going to need that pamphlet from some ministry somewhere doing something. But sometimes we simply must clear out the clutter. So, some old mementos went i the trash and some furniture was rearranged and the books actually made it to the shelf.

My overall goal is to hopefully make my life a little more productive. I want to feel energized when I come into the office, not overwhelmed. I want a place where I can be creative, productive and organized. In order to move ahead, it is necessary to let go of the past.

I know life gets cluttered. From the junk we get int he mail, to kids school projects, to books we will get to "someday," life can be a pit of junk. But in order to really accomplish what God created us to do with our lives, we must make some space. We must create the opportunity for God to move and work within us.

I don't know how long the fresh look will last in the office. But I like the feel. I like that some steps were taken to move me forward in my work and ministry. Now, if I can just remember where I put everything I will be in good shape.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Self-Feeding

One of the biggest joys in a parents life is when your child can feed himself in the morning. There is nothing better than when they can get cereal and feed themselves while you sleep in or simply enjoy your cup of coffee on a Saturday. Okay, so I'm a bad parent, but we all have our flaws.

In our spiritual life, self-feeding is so important. We can't depend on other people to constantly give us the word of God. We have to be able to study and apply it for ourselves. So, today I want to give you three things that can help you on this path.

1) Make Time. The only resource everyone in the world has an equal amount of is time. We all have 24 hours in a day. We all have seven days in a week. If you want to begin the process of self-feeding, set aside time to spend studying God's Word. Start small and build. If you carve out ten minutes a day to read scripture and reflect on what you read, you will find that your desire for more time with God will grow and you will dedicate more time.

2) Reflect. We live in a noisy society. There is always something grabbing our attention. My Blackberry has gone off twice since I have been writing. The urge is to always check it no matter what. Sometimes, we need to learn to live in the silence. But in order to really grasp the word of God in your heart, spend a moment and reflect on what you have read. Ask three questions: what does it say, what does it mean, how does it apply to me. When we reflect on God's Word it takes on a new level of insight.

3) Write. Take a moment and write down one or two key thoughts that will help you to understand scripture better. This way it is not just some old mystical words, but it is an active part of your spiritual development.

This week, make time to study God's Word, reflect on what it says to you, and write down what you are learning. These basic principles will help you to begin to feed yourself on the riches of scripture.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Emotions

This week has been full of them. From hope and excitement, to laughs, to tears, to pain. Caring for a parent who is terminally ill is never easy. It is especially difficult when you don't know how long the illness will last and what you can do to make it better.

This week with my dad has been one where I have discovered good and bad in my self and in my relationship to my dad. My dad is a good man. He always has been honest and has done all that he knew how to do to get by in life. He has been a man who wanted to live simply.

This week has stirred in me so many emotions. I have learned to see things through different lenses and to realize there is a great deal more that must be investigated. I am a very flawed person when it comes to compassion and care. I have very little to offer in patience. I am an imperfect caregiver.

I don't know how long my dad will last. He may be here another few days or weeks or it could be months. Only God knows for sure. I am not even sure my dad will know I was here after I leave. This has been a hard week for me personally. I feel like a limp noodle emotionally.

I am leaving tomorrow to go back home. I am not sure if I will ever see my dad again. I am working through all my emotions and all my own junk right now. So, I will not be writing about my dad's illness any more for a while. I need to process, pray and reflect.

Thank you for all those who have prayed, sent messages and notes. I appreciate them all and ask you to continue to pray for my mom and dad. Eventually I will update everyone and let you know how things are going. Feel free to ask and to call about how things are with my parents.

I love an appreciate all of you.

John

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Long Days and Restless Nights

I am in Mississippi helping care for my dad this week. He has been ill but seems to be dong okay right at the moment. He is alert, moving around and mostly calm. The days are long as he needs to be watched constantly, but mostly he is having "good days." The late afternoon and evenings get him very restless. The Hospice workers call it "Sundown Syndrome."

This morning about 3:00, my mom woke me up. My dad was saying that he was dying. He said he could see his father who has been gone since 1969. We sat, prayed and sang to him. My brother and sister who live here in town came over and we sat up through the night to see if this was the end or not. He went back to sleep and woke up this morning without knowing that anything had happened. We are quickly learning that this is not a simple and calculated process.

I was amazed at the peace my dad had as he struggled last night. He never moved from the bed, he wasn't restless or afraid. He simply said he was ready to go. It is the first time that I have seen him so calm in the midst of this new part of "life." I am learning to be amazed at many different things that I never expected to see.

In this process I am working through my own emotions and also trying to understand God's plan and design for human life. I have finally grasped a universal truth that humanity has grappled with for thousands of years: God is not small enough to fit into our human brain. His plans are not my plans. His ways are not my ways. And his vision is bigger than mine. For all of that I am eternally thankful.

I don't understand all there is to know about God. I will never know all that can be known about God. But I know these two things beyond any doubt: God loves me (and you) and God is good. With that in mind, the long days and restless nights can be managed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Steps

Forgive me if this is a little personal, but it's my blog and I designed it to be my thoughts and feelings. If you have read earlier posts, you know that I am in Mississippi this week helping my parents. My dad is dying, we are just not sure where in the process he is. (As I write that last sentence I realize that is true for all of us.) I made it to Columbus with a few delays because of weather in Atlanta. Last night was all about getting the lay of the land as far as my dad is concerned.

I noticed very quickly that a big part of my role this week is going to be watching where my dad steps. He is on oxygen quite a bit and the cord often gets tangled around his legs. I had to untangle him several times last night just so he could walk from the kitchen to the living room.

I was thinking this morning how God spends so much time untangling our mess. I was reading in Amos today where Amos is calling out the nation of Israel for walking away from God's law. God had to untangle their mess for years. Wouldn't it be great if we could keep ourselves from being tangled up in the first place?

God's call is the call to obedience. It is the call to follow and trust that his plan, his purpose and his desire for our lives is better than even our own. When we follow the path of Christ we keep ourselves from being tangled up in the first place. It's a better way to live our lives.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A New Journey

I am leaving Florida in a couple of hours headed to Columbus, Mississippi to spend the week with my mom and dad. I am not really sure what to expect because of my dad's health, but I am praying that God will allow me to be a part of encouraging and helping in some way.

My daughter asked me the other night if I was looking forward to drinking sweet tea at my mom and dad's. (Yes, in our house the tea is unsweet. ) I had to be honest and tell her that I was not looking forward to a whole lot on this trip. I want to help my mom and to minister to my dad, but this is not like taking a vacation. I know it is going to be difficult, but I am praying that this will be a good time for me to minister to my parents.

Our life is a journey. We never know what to expect or what the outcome of things will be. It is scary, exciting, frustrating and disappointing at times. The great part is that we never have to travel alone. God has made a promise to never leave us or forsake us. In the journey we have a companion. And one who knows our fears, our hurts, our joys and our sorrows.

Many people have traveled the road my family is on right now. However for us it is a new path; the "Road Less Traveled" so to speak. We are hoping and praying this road is not a long one. But whatever the outcome and whatever the result, we know we are not traveling alone.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Dad's Still Funny!!

I have written a few times that my dad is dying. He has been ill for quite a while and has been progressively getting weaker. His mind is going at a much quicker rate than his body. he floats in and out of being aware of what is going on. But every now and then he still cracks us up.

I was talking to my brother Dan earlier tonight when he told me about something my dad said. My dad has been saying for the last couple of days. He said yesterday that he was gong to heaven. This afternoon he told my nephew Bobby that he thought he was going to heaven last night. He said, "I woke up this morning and thought, 'Oh, crap! I missed the boat!'" If you know my dad you know how funny it is!!!

Please continue to pray for my family. I will be going up next week to spend the week helping my mom care for my dad. I will do my best to keep everyone updated. Thank you all for your prayers and messages of concern.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

WET!!!

Everything is wet!!! The streets, the yards, the parking lots. The Treasure Coast got pounded by Tropical Storm Fay yesterday and turned everything into a sponge. The road leading in to the parking lot at the church is flooded. The drainage ditches and the grass lots have feet of standing water. Thankfully everything else is fine.

I'm sitting in my office trying to fight my way out of the gray clouds lingering outside. More rain is expected today and more rain means more standing water. I feel like Spongebob. (I do have pants on, however!!)

We have a big event at church on Sunday. I am not sure if we can make it happen. The ground will take at least a week to dry. I always wonder why God allows things like this to happen on weeks we have special events. I guess he has a plan and I know I can trust him to work it all out. I am just ready to see the sun!!!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Storms, Storms, Storms!!!

It is raining really hard. Not little rain drops, but buckets of rian. Tropical Storm Fay is really a big headache. So far there is no major damage around us, but schools are closed, the streets are flooded, and we are all around the house trying to keep busy. In some ways it is fun, but in other ways it is just a hassle.

We are fine here. I am praying that our electricity does not go out, but it will at some point. I plan to work today and exercise with the kids and just do what I can. But this storm reminds me of the storms we face everyday.

Some are huge. If you are homeless today, or live in a flooded area, or live in a substandard house, today is a disaster. If you are like me and most people, it is just a headache. But I feel for people today.

Our spiritual lives are similar. For some of us, life just rolls along in normal order. We may have a little headache here or there, but overall, life is pretty normal. Others are trapped in major storms. They are tossed around, flooded out and banged up.

Christ is the anchor of our life. He holds us through storms, calms us through fears, and guides us to safety under the protection of his healing wings. Storms can teach us incredible things and can strengthen us for future storms. Had I not already gone through several hurricanes I would be freaking out today.

Whatever your storm is, trust Christ to guide you through. Allow him to become an anchor and rock and shelter through the wind and rain.

Peace.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Life and its Adventures

I have returned from vacation and have had many different thoughts and feelings over the last few days. The cruise was a blast and my kids had a great time. However, I was constantly thinking about life in the "real" world. As we traveled there was world conflict in Russia and Georgia, there was the thrill of the Olympics and most importantly my father's health was always in the back of my mind. Cruises are great, but you are definitely out of touch the entire time.

As I have returned home, we have jumped back into life. Worship yesterday was awesome. We had a great communion celebration and the atmosphere was charged with energy. I am excited about next week as our church hosts a Back to School Carnival. We are praying that this will be an open door into some new relationships for people not connected to church.

Our kids started school today. I am amazed at how grown up they are. Emily is now a sophomore. As I dropped her off this morning she said, "Remember last year how nervous I was?" I was the one scared to death. This year she has the high school thing down. Zach started middle school today. He is becoming quite the man. And Kimberly is in second grade. How is that possible!!!

As I write, all of South Florida is watching Tropical Storm Fay. It doesn't look like anything more than an inconvenience, but one of the lessons you learn living in "paradise" is that storms can change really quickly.

My dad is not doing well. His mind is going faster than his body and that is causing some major stress on my mom. Please keep her and my family in your prayers. I will be heading north next week if nothing changes.

In the midst of all the chaos of life, it is good to know that God is still in control. In Psalm 32, David calls God his shelter in the storm. I am feeling that right now. I praise my God that I have a loving Heavenly Father who knows all about my life here on this rock. I trust him and know that he is here in the midst of all this.

My prayer is that in all that I say and do his name and his fame would grow.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I'm Out of Here!!!

It has been a really interesting few weeks, but I am really looking forward to this week. My family is headed out tomorrow for a week long cruise with one of my brothers and his wife and some really good friends of ours. This is the first time we are taking the kids along. I can't wait to see their expressions when they see the ship, the ocean and the buffet!!! (The cruise line is going to take a loss this week!)

Please continue to pray for my family. My dad is fairly stable right now, but everything is still touch and go. Also, pray for my mom. I know all this is hard on her and she is wearing down.

We are out of here for a few days. I hope you all have a blessed week.

Worship Celebration

I wanted to just write a quick post today to express how excited I am for our worship celebration this morning. I am looking forward to having my friend Nate lead worship today (the dude is amazing!!) and to teaching from Mark again.

Today I am raising the issue of our identity. In Mark 6, "King" Herod has John the Baptist beheaded. He wasn't a king, but killed John because John spoke out against his adulterous affair. This should be a fun experience.

Tomorrow, I am out of here for a week. I have had a cruise planned with my family and some friends for several months. My dad is stable right now and we have been told by my mom and by Hospice to go ahead with our trip.

I pray this morning that your worship experience will be an intimate, passionate love affair with Jesus.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Childlike Faith

It has been an interesting few days in my life. My dad is slowly slipping away and that is hard, but it sometimes help you put some things and some thoughts into perspective.

This afternoon I am preparing the final for the class I teach at Palm Beach Atlantic University. It is on worldview and ethics and how we see life. My students have been studying how different people from different backgrounds view the world and how we as followers of Christ should view the world and universe. It is a pretty intense philosophy kind of class.

I bring this up to make the point that my dad has always had a very simple worldview. He has always just been the kind of person to try and do his best, try to be as honest as possible and try to follow through with his commitments. He has a relationship with Christ, but it has always been very private. As he is getting closer to passing from this life to the next, he has asked questions, made comments and talked at times like a little child.

I thought about this today: we may think we have a lot of education and understanding, but faith in Christ and understanding of a Christian worldview come down to simple childlike (or even elderly) simplicity.

We should all examine life. We need to study, think and wonder. But ultimately peace is found in the faith of a child.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Seen and Unseen

I published yesterday about my dad and his failing health. He seems to be a little stronger in terms of his physical condition, but his mental condition has worsened. It is really tough on my family who is caring for him right now. Thank you to all who wrote and commented about your prayers and concerns.

My mom told me this morning that one of the pastors from their church came to visit my dad for a few minutes yesterday. Now my dad is not always alert so it is difficult to have a conversation with him. But this pastor was trying to just encourage and demonstrate love to my dad. As the pastor got ready to leave, my dad looked at him and said, "Well, I'll see you in heaven." If you know my dad at all, you know how unusual it is for him to talk that way. He has a relationship with Christ, but it has always been very private and personal.

I was thinking of the words of the Apostle Paul this morning after talking with my mom. Paul talks about the suffering that goes on in human life. he talks about how we keep the treasures of God in "jars of clay" and how our life will never be without suffering until we are with Jesus. He says this at the end of the passage: "So we fix out eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18

My dad is approaching the end of his life and is looking toward what is unseen. I pray that I, and you, would not wait until the end to focus on what is unseen. Focus now on what matters. Focus now on what life is really about. Focus now on the idea that this life is temporary and all the troubles we face are but a mere breath of eternity. Jesus Christ is real and what he is about is the reality of eternity.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Death and Dying


My dad is dying. He has been very ill for about five years and it seems like we are really nearing the end. Hospice nurses have told us that they would not be surprised if he did not make it through the week. I have so many different thoughts and emotions that I know I can't explain them. On Sunday I asked the family at LifeQuest to pray for me, not knowing how bad my father was doing at the time, so I wanted to share some thoughts so that you can know what is happening in my head and my heart.


It is extremely hard not being in Mississippi where my family has gathered. However, it just doesn't work right now. I was there several months ago when he was in the hospital and never expected him to live this long. I am really waiting for the end and then will take my entire family for the services. The stress of not being there eats away at me, but I have done all I can do right now. My dad is pretty out of it mentally, so he does not even know I am not there. I am in constant phone conversation with my mom and siblings, so that helps.


Last night Alana and I sat down with Emily, Zach and Kimberly and told them. They were upset naturally, but handled it all fairly well. Emily spent most of the night writing a song. It sounded great from what I could hear, but I simply had to go to the other part of the house. It was hard. The only line I can remember is "It is never easy to say goodbye/there is never a right time to leave." It brought tears to my eyes as I dried the dishes. Zach went outside int he rain for a few minutes just to sit. Kimberly cried for a little while and just needed to be held.


For those of you who have been there, you know how painful it all can be. I am writing as a way of keeping people informed about what is happening in my life. I asked for your prayers this week and I covet them now.

The picture is from April at my nephew's wedding. It is my dad (Charles) my mom (Mamie) my sisters (Cathy and Caroline) and my brothers (me, Dan, David and Ron). If we come to mind this week, please pray for us as we walk this new and difficult journey.



Monday, August 4, 2008

Significance

Last week I spoke with our high school students about significance. I read from 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 where Paul talks about God choosing the lesser things of the world to confound the wise and the rich. God doesn't always work using people of great worldly stature. He chose a murdering shepherd who couldn't speak well to bring the nation out of Egypt. He used a man hiding in luggage to avoid being made king to be the first king of Israel. He used a shepherd boy who no one thought would be king to expand the nation. He used a bunch of guys who were not quite good enough for other rabbis to change the world.

There are very few places in scripture that God uses the person who makes sense. Most of the time he uses those who are of no particular stature in this world to make the greatest impact. I don't know about you, but that makes me feel great. It works because ultimately we realize, in the grand scope of things, how small we are. There are over 6 BILLION people in the world today who have no idea that I exist or that I write stuff on the web. I am not sure there are six who actually read what I write, and that's okay as well.

Last night I was watching a Team USA basketball game on TV. They were talking about how the night before Lebron James had dinner with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. At the table, Lebron was the person who was worth the LEAST financially. That is a power table right there.

God uses the small things of the world to show his greatness and his mercy. My prayer is not that God would make me great. My prayer is that God would use me greatly. I want to be an instrument that people look at my life and think to themselves, "If God can use him, he can use me." That would be significant!!!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sunday Night Thoughts

I know I am in the minority here but I am so glad this weekend is over. We re-modeled the garage this week to make a room for Emily. It looks awesome, but I am worn out!!! I need to go back to work so that I don't have to work so hard!!!



It was a long, hard weekend, but I had a blast working alongside my family. Alana is an amazing woman. How she does all she does and keeps our lives together is awesome. Emily, Zach and Kimberly are the coolest kids ever. We had a blast moving things, painting and even doing insulation in the attic. Okay, we hated the insulation but it was fun to work together.



I am reminded that life is an incredible journey of small efforts. We take small projects, dig into them piece by piece and then ultimately the task is done. The fun part is not always the finished project but the journey along the way. Our family will always remember painting the floor chocolate brown so that it looked like a giant cake. We also will remember getting paint and caulk everywhere. But mostly we remember being together. It was awesome.



So, don't go through all the little task alone. Find someone special, lay out the process and enjoy the steps along the way!!!



Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sin and Prosperity

I think it is inherent in our human nature to want more. It is the major issue facing us today in our American society. The desire for more has caused thousands to lose their homes in the last year, to ruin their marriages and to harm to future generations through their selfish acts. We usually think that the grass is greener somewhere else, with something or someone else, but we fail to realize the grass us usually over a septic tank!!

I was reading yesterday in Proverbs 28 when this verse struck me: "He who conceals his sin does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." The truth of that simple verse is a great reminder for us.

We view prosperity through a lens. More, better, bigger. Those words define prosperity in our minds. But the kingdom of God is a kingdom of upside down economics. To be rich, you must be poor in spirit. To be full you must empty yourself. To prosper, you must humble yourself before God. All of these things play against the course of human nature.

Here's my question: are we seeking worldly wealth through worldly gain, or Godly wealth through spiritual renewal? Are we seeking our own prosperity at the cost of our souls?

I like everyone else desire to have more financial freedom and to be able to enjoy certain other things in life. But I desire more than anything else Godly freedom that money and possessions of this world can never buy.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep in order to gain that which he can never lose." Jim Elliot

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rescue Mission

I was reading a quote today from John Stott that has my head spinning. He says, "Christianity is in its very essence a rescue religion." When I first read that I had an instant reaction that I have fallen short in my vision of Christianity. It seems that I have lost that type of focus. I know that all things we do are spiritual and that there is an element of rescue in the most mundane of tasks at times, but I never thought of Christianity as being rooted int he concept of rescue.

It makes perfect sense. God sent Jesus Christ to rescue us from our sins. Jesus sent the disciples to share the message of this rescue. We are now commissioned to carry out the same mission as the disciples. It seems to me that, at least in my own life, I have lost the sense of rescue in my mission and ministry.

I have no immediate thoughts, plans, visions or six step processes to fix this. It is something my brain is simply wrestling with today. In all of my life and ministry, how do I live out the basic plan of a rescue mission?

Any thoughts?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Offended or Humbled?

Yesterday I spoke form Mark 6:1-6 where Jesus returns to Nazareth to teach. In his own hometown no one has Faith that he is who he says he is. They simply see him as the kid int eh carpenter shop or as the guy who studied int he synagogue with them. They were amazed at his teaching, but offended at the same time. In this passage he famously says, "only in his hometown is a prophet without honor."

The bottom line of the talk was that we respond to Jesus in one of two ways: we get offended or we get humbled. In Mark 5 we find the story of Jairus who, as far as we know, did not know Jesus. Yet when his daughter was dying he threw himself at Jesus' feet and begged Jesus to help. In Mark 6, the people who should have known Jesus best were offended that he spoke truth into their lives. I am amazed at how easily people get when Jesus gets involved.

The main reason people get offended is pride. It is the same issue as all sin. Pride and our own selfish desires drive us to a hardness of heart and to a closed mind. We never want to hear truth if it is going to invade our space or our life.

So, how do you react to Jesus. In what areas are you offended when Jesus shows up? Are you open to humbling yourself before Christ or are you going to cling to your pride? How has that been working out for you?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Brian Dump

After a two hour nap (yes, I crashed!!) here are a few things running through my brain from the weekend:
* I worked hard around my house this weekend.
* I love all the people who have helped me work on this house project.
* Electricians work really hard! (Jeff, you rock!!!)
* I love that my son wanted to watch a movie with me last night.
* My daughter led worship for the first time in the service this morning. She was awesome!!
* God is doing some stuff. It may be a slower pace than I want, but he is up to something.

I am so thankful that my life is not in my hands but in Christ. It lets me nap a lot easier!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Markers and the Journey

I have really gotten into the lessons and teaching of Ray Vander Lann lately. Over the past few years I have been amazed at his ability to bring the geography of the Holy Land and the message of the scripture to life. If you are not familiar with Ray, you need to check him out at www.followtherabbi.com. He takes the land of Israel and brings it to life to teach us valuable lessons from the culture, history and people of scripture.

Have you ever wondered why God told the nation of Israel to gather stones when they crossed the river into the land? Of course it was to build an alter to God, but it was also to leave a history marker to tell future generations what God did in that place. The practice of "standing stones" was a very common practice in the Middle East.

Thinking through this concept makes you reflect on what markers your life has left. There are markers that others have placed in us that we have no control over. The words spoken that cut our heart, the pain of broken relationships, the celebration of true love. There are also markers that our life leaves on others. Are we testimonies to God's love and grace, or are we barriers that keep hidden true joy and acceptance from the one true God?

Life is full of markers. I have a rock from the Berlin wall, a brick from a factory in Mexico, and dirt from the first load of fill brought onto our property during our construction project. They all tell a story about an aspect of my life. The greatest marker we have is not something that can be touched. It is not a memento that can be passed around a room. It is a life lived in love and grace before an eternal Heavenly Father. Our life is the marker for someone else's spiritual journey. That is at one time exciting and at another time painful.

What story does your life share? What or who are the "standing stones" in your life? how are you living today to be a standing stone in the life of someone else?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Movement

I have been thinking a great deal lately about how God moves in our lives. Sometimes it happens with a great revelation or a crisis moment that turns into a life changing event. These become markers or boundaries in our life that help tell the narrative of how we got to where we are today. Other times God moves in our lives through people. We see him in others and we become curious and begin to ask some questions or seek some truth. I see him show up all the time in my kids. They say or do something and it paints a picture of God and his love and grace for me.

Most of the time, God shows up in very quiet whispers throughout our life. He shows up in a conversation we have with an old friend. He shows up in a voice of concern over our tears or in sharing laughter that leads to tears. He shows up in opportunities to help and serve others. The key is not how shows up, but that he shows up.

I was looking over a message from several weeks ago and was reminded how God showed up int he lives of the first followers of Christ. It was through three simple words that changed their lives forever: "Come, follow me." In those words Christ began a revolution of movement that still is going strong today. In those words the infinite God of the universe reached into the lives of ordinary men and changed the course of eternity.

Today, we still get to be in on the movement. We get to play a role in the narrative of all history. We get to step back and touch the waters of history stirred by twelve simple, uneducated men. We get to move!!!

Life is full of movements. There is the Green Movement to save the planet. There is the Peace Movement to end the war. There is the Political Movement to elect a new president. All of them are important and all of them matter. You have to make decisions on which side of those movements you are on. However, at some point, all of those movements will end. There is only one movement that will last forever and that is the movement of God in the hearts and lives of humanity made possible through his son Jesus Christ.

Which side of that movement do you find yourself?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Random Thoughts for Tuesday

  • God loves me. Sometimes that is all you can hold onto.
  • I am not perfect, but I am forgiven.
  • Life is not all about me but how I fit into God's narrative.
  • God is the one who sustains, provides and forgives.
  • He has a plan. I don't always understand it, but he he has one.
  • Jesus hung out with a bunch of "used to be's." She used to be a prostitute, he used to be a tax collector, she used to be filled with demons.
  • Sometimes my life is so sanitized that I can't see any potential "used to be's" around me.
  • I long for more! I want to see God more and more in my life and ministry.