Thursday, February 26, 2009

Loving and Faithful

Life is just better when we choose to do what is right over what is easy. If you don’t believe me, ask Alex Rodriguez or Marion Jones. They did what was easy (steroids) over what was right. They put in hard work training, but their reputations and careers will forever be marked by the fact that they were caught cheating.

I have been having this conversation with my children for a while now about the fact that effort and determination are key ingredients to success. It is not about doing only what we can to get by, but about doing our best in order to get the most out of our God given talents. The same is true in the spiritual world as in the physical world. When we try to take short cuts, slide by, or skip over God’s design, we miss the mark of what God intended for us.

“All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep his covenant.” Psalm 25:10
When we follow God’s design and plan for our lives, we find his love and his faithfulness are more than enough to sustain us in our moment of need. God is always faithful to those who follow him.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's Not About You

The first few lines of one of my favorite books remind us of a very important truth, “It’s not about you.” Rick Warren may sound harsh, but the truth is timeless and is ever more needed today in our “me” centered culture. I know people volunteer more today, people give today, and all the rest, but most of the time it is not based on what they give, but how they feel, what they hope to receive, or how they look in the giving.

David, the greatest king of Israel, the only man the bible describes as a man after God’s own heart understood all of his success was not of his doing, but was a blessing from the and of God. Listen to a partial list of things he credits to God in Psalm 21:
· “Your victory”
· “victories you give”
· “You have granted the desire of the kings heart”
· “You welcomed him”
· “You placed a crown on his head”

As you read through the passage the list goes on and on. As leaders we can never by into the fact that any success we have in ministry (or in life) is a direct result of the blessing of God. We may work hard, we may till compacted soil, we may plant seeds by the millions, we may water like crazy. But only God causes increase.

What are you taking credit for today that God should be getting credit for doing through you? What temples to your ego are you building? No matter how large or small the ministry we shepherd becomes, we are merely stewards. They ultimately belong to God.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sins and Sensitivity

Some thoughts from Ephesians 4 (Remember, Paul is writing to Christians):
· Hard hearts leads to lack of sensitivity toward God. (vs. 18-19) Paul is writing comparing non-believers to followers of God, and says that their hard heart is at the root of their sin.
· Christians are just as vulnerable to this path as non-Christians. (vs. 22-31) The actions described here are personal choices of believers in their behavior toward God and one another.
· Kindness, compassion and forgiveness should be hallmarks of the Christian life. (vs. 31)

How often do we forget (or simply choose) not to live in our new self, but resort to the old self that was held captive by death? How often does our heart become desensitized to sin and comfortable living in our old habits? How are our relationships with other Christians challenged because we don’t forgive as Christ forgave us?

All of these areas lead us to live lives of disobedience and insensitivity to God. What is the solution?

“Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice.” Ephesians 5:1-2

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tramps and Trash Talk

“I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the Lord Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.” Malachi 2:16

God makes his feelings about divorce crystal clear in this passage. He hates it. He also hates violence and injustice. The prophet tells us that the best way to protect ourselves against the things God hates is to guard our spirit and to hold onto faith. Those two elements become the first casualties of broken covenants

I seem to be surrounded right now by people involved in marital conflict. It is the same with most pastors, but lately almost all of my appointments have been with couples or with one spouse that can’t seem to get past some type of issue in their marriage. I have also noticed that some of the pastors that I read and listen to regularly are dealing with this same issue head on in their churches. As pastors, we need to quit being wimpy about this issue and tell some people to grow up!!!

Husbands love your wives. Don’t dominate or control them. Sacrificially love them!!! If you don’t like my thoughts about it, read God’s thoughts in Ephesians 5 and take it up with him. I am tired of husbands whose egos are so big they can’t actually love a woman who loves them. Trust me guys, she could do better than you!!! Learn to love like God has called you to love. Put your ego aside and ask a Godly man for some advice. The answer to your problem is not found in the arms of some hot, young tramp.

Wives respect your husband. Go look at Paul’s words in Ephesians 5 and see what he says about respecting your husband. You don’t like the fact that he is a little overweight? Don’t harp on him about it. Cook some healthy dinners. You don’t like that he is a little too involved in football? Let him have some time for himself to enjoy something he likes. Your husband needs to know that you respect him and that he is the only man for you.

It is so easy to go overboard in these areas. Our human nature tells us to push the limits of other people’s boundaries. So husbands do their own things and expect their wives not to be upset. Wives get mad and talk about their husbands and trash talk to their friends about him at every opportunity. All of those actions are saboteurs in your marriage. Get biblical with one another. Love unconditionally and sacrificially. Respect without expectation. Be generous in affection and lavish with praise.

No marriage is perfect. But, our God is big enough to fix any broken pieces.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What Do You Do?

Occasionally life sucks!! There. I said it. Sometimes things don’t make sense, we get hurt by people close to us, circumstances beyond our control drive us to the brink, or we simply feel beat down. When you begin to add any of these (and thousands of other options) life can suck. So, what do we do about it?

First, we have to remember that life is not about us being happy all the time. That’s right; happiness is not life’s ultimate purpose. Life’s ultimate purpose is connection with God and expressing his love to others. When we understand that aspect of our circumstance we are able to overcome the drain of life in our daily routine.

Second, we can’t just sit there. We can wallow in our misery, we can become bitter and we can lose focus. But that never accomplishes anything. The last two days have had some major challenges for me. It was only when I decided to push through some tough times by praying, reading God’s Word and carrying out God’s purpose for me was I able to feel a renewed focus in my heart.

Third, we have to deal with it. It sounds like I don’t want to deal with the issues, but that is not the case. But some issues are beyond my control. We have to do what we can, when we can, with what we have. And leave the results to God.

So, what do you do when life sucks?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Heart Issues

Heart issues are always the most difficult to handle. It is one thing to have an injured leg or arm, because physical injuries will heal. Even if they are permanent, they are physical and they tend to be able to be dealt with easier. Heart issues are an entirely different level. I’m not talking about a physical heart, but the soul of a man; the heart that cannot be physically seen or examined.

Proverbs 17 has some great words about our hearts. It cautions us that the heart is the level of judgment used by God to see into a man’s life. That puts some perspective on our “secret” places and thoughts. It gives us a better understanding that our heart is the realm that God cares most about. Our actions may be more visible, but the heart is more honest.

My own heart drives me crazy. It will be fine for a while and then a spiritual EKG will help me to see that there is some hardening. It is in those moments that I need to self-examine my heart against God’s Word and see how I measure up. It is in these times that I realize that my heart is not only under my control, but under the grace of Christ that changes my heart from old and broken down to new and full of life.

What is your heart condition? Is it full of life from Christ that allows us to experience grace and mercy at new levels? Is it hiding darkness that we are afraid will be exposed? Maybe it is time for a heart check and a new perspective of a heat that honors God.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Asking the Right Questions

I saw a “Tweet” this morning from Frank Viola. He made this statement: “WWJD is not biblical. What *is* Christ doing in and through is the NT teaching.” I love this thought. I have thought for a long time that WWJD was the wrong issue. I have a little different perspective than Frank does, however.

I have always thought that What Would Jesus Do is a ridiculous question. We KNOW what Jesus would do. That is the basic premise of all New Testament teaching. The question is not WWJD but WAIGTDWWJTM. Okay, it doesn’t make for a cool bracelet but stay with me.

The real issue is What Am I Going To Do With What Jesus Told Me. We have a recorded record of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection. From Acts through Revelation the questions shifts from what Jesus does to what his followers are going to do. That is the key issue for our lives.

Jesus came to be the “image of the invisible God.” In other words, he came to show us the Father. The question becomes how does it impact our lives? Do we live according to his model and instruction or do we pervert the gospel to reflect our desires and our preferences? This is where so many of us, yes as pastors and leaders, have to make some tough decisions about how we are going to demonstrate God’s love to those around us.

So, let’s make sure we are asking the right question. It is not WWJD. The real question is WAIGTDWWJTM?

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I had a great meeting last night with our Pastoral Team. These guys amaze me constantly with their wisdom, encouragement and support. If you don’t have a group of guys to encourage you, find some!!!

One theme remained constant in all of our discussions last night: connection. It seems like every time we talk about what God is doing in someone’s life we get back to a personal connection they have with someone in the church body. This friend invited that person and God began moving in this way. Over and over again connection came to the surface.

We hit three important areas to focus our efforts in deepening people’s connection to God.

1) Personal Leadership Connection- People have to feel that they are connected with someone involved in the leadership of the church. It can’t be only me. It can’t be me primarily. I am the worst of all of our leaders at pastoral gifts. That is why the body needs every person to contribute in this way. Every leader in every area has to develop leadership connections with people.

2) Personal Ministry Connection- People need to get connected in serving. The growth we are seeing in people’s lives right now is that they are moving from consumers to contributors. People who one year ago were not connected to God are now stepping up to take some ministry responsibility. In doing this they begin to take ownership of the ministry at LifeQuest.

3) Personal Prayer Connection-We have prayer gatherings every couple of months at LifeQuest. They have not been massively attended, but those who have gotten involved are seeing awesome growth areas I their lives. This has to become a major ministry focus for us.

I believe with all my heart that if we can focus on these areas of connection in the lives of people at LifeQuest it will rub off on those not connected to Christ. It will allow us to have a deeper and more meaningful impact on the community around us for the Kingdom of God. That will lead us to help people make the greatest connection of all; fully devoted followers of Christ.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Brain Dump

Need to dump some thoughts out while they are fresh:
· I never get tired of seeing children and teenagers being discipled.
· Volunteers are the backbone of any churches existence.
· Not everyone is called to be famous; but everyone is called to make Christ famous.
· My wife is the best mentor for kids that I know.
· The couple leading our student ministry is amazing.
· I am humbled by the people I get to see up close.
· My dreams and visions need to grow deeper.
· My thoughts need to develop legs.
· I think I am ready for a creative challenge.
· I love that God isn’t done with me.


The word “wow” seems to be popping up in my life quite a bit lately. Since I have been working out harder the last few weeks (okay, working out at all!!) my wife says, “Wow, you have lost some “love handles.” It was a compliment. My kids says stuff like “wow, I can’t believe you can do that at your age.” It was not a compliment. Friends that I knew 20+ years ago are finding out I am a pastor and college professor and they all reply “Wow!!”

It’s the wow factor that makes life interesting. I see myself through lenses that have been with me all along. Others see things and it causes a “wow” for good or for bad. It is just the way life is. The wow factor can motivate, encourage, hurt, or cut depending on how it is used.

I have been thinking about what causes me to go “wow” these days. My kids doing amazing stuff makes me go wow. My wife loving me even when I break a lid to her favorite pan makes me go wow. The fact that God allows me to study, speak, write and counsel or a living makes me go wow. The fact that my life is half over makes me go wow. The fact that I still have half a life to live makes me go wow.

What is your “wow?” What is catching your eye, grabbing your attention, or moving you forward? What is it that makes you say, “Wow!!!”?

Monday, February 9, 2009


I love when I see some really great lessons come alive from scripture. It is amazing to me how God so understands us as human beings that he crafted His Word over 2,000 years ago so that it would make sense in our lives today. As I prepared for yesterday’s message, a theme popped into my head that may not be new to you (and in honesty is not new to me) but took on a new level of insight into my heart.

I was speaking on Mark 10:35-45, where James and John ask Jesus to sit on his right and left. Jesus makes one statement that gets passed over too quickly most of the time. “To sit at my right or left is not for me to grant.” Mark 10:40 We may not think very much about it. It is one little verse in a much larger teaching. But it tells us a ton about Jesus.

The lesson is simple: Jesus never tired to upstage God. He never demanded his rights. He never pressed his plan or his will. He never moved forward on his own. He allowed himself to be humiliated for the greater glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2)

How often do we try to take God’s position? We judge. We condemn. We criticize. We take stands. We place our will and our desire over God’s. How shameful is that!!!

This week, try to take an example from the life of Jesus. Bend your will to God’s. Trust his heart over your feelings. Allow him to direct your path and your plans.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Church Signs

Some things just don’t make sense to me. I was driving last night when I passed a church with one of those road signs with a comment. Whenever I see a church sign with a message on it I get a little queasy. I know how they make me feel as a pastor. What must non-Christians think when they see them?

Will it be one of those hokey religious puns used to attract a certain type of Christian? I once passed a church that had a sign that read “We Sing Hymns.” Who are they after? Will it be a judgmental, snide remark about how a certain group is going to hell? I love how we as Christians can blast sin in others and ignore gluttony in ourselves. Will it actually have useful information that someone may find interesting?

The sign last night read, “Don’t do anything. Sit here.” What? Seriously? Is that the best this church has to offer? Will someone please slap somebody for that!!!!??? Is the message of this church really to come and sit and do nothing?

As followers of Christ we have the greatest message in the world and we broadcast it in such stupid ways. I was disgusted, angry, and saddened all at the same time. To look at the message and what it communicates about Jesus is so lacking in any type of real meaning and purpose. Didn’t Jesus call us to follow? Doesn’t that necessarily imply getting off our ever widening behinds and doing something?

What crazy church signs have you seen? What message is your church sending?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Stuff I'm Thinking About

The Stuff I’m Thinking about Today

This morning I spent some great time in 1 Thessalonians 1. Some thoughts jumped off the page into my mind today that I want to share with you. They may not be new, deep or insightful to you, but this is what God has been speaking to me this morning.

· Paul loved the people God have given him to pastor. (1:2)
· Paul recognized that any eternal consequence of his ministry was only through the power of the Spirit of God. (1:5)
· The best example of what God can do for a human being is the changed life. (1:8-9).

It is so encouraging to me to think that God wants to use me to develop others spiritual life. He wants me to love them, pray for them and nurture them in the grace of Christ. I have to always recognize that anything that will last in ministry is the result of the power of God and not of me. The real test is if it lasts longer than I do. If the effects of my ministry continue after I am gone it was from God. If I die tomorrow and LifeQuest Church shuts down I will have completely failed to establish a ministry based on the power of God.

The best way to demonstrate to others who God is and what he has done is to tell your story. If we fail to let others see Christ in us we are missing the mark of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. Our lives tell more about Christ than our words.

Monday, February 2, 2009

All Things New

I’m sitting at my desk and a thousand thoughts are running through my head. I am reliving parts of the service yesterday (as I always do), I am thinking about the Super Bowl (a great game), I am planning different aspects of my week (many meetings and events) and I am thinking about some things in life that I would like to do over (better grades, practiced harder, studied more, etc.). It can be fun, frustrating and challenging all at once.

As I think about all of this stuff I am reminded that God does not view life or history as we do. In fact, God has a completely different perspective. While we view history and time as linear (a definite starting and stopping point) God views time as circular. He is above it all. It has no beginning and no end for him. He simply has always been and will always be, and our perception of him is very small in comparison.

When I think about all the stuff I would change, I must remember that the most important thing is that God has changed me. I am not who I was (thank you God!!!) and I am not all that I am to become. But God has changed me. He has allowed me to become a different person that lives in grace and freedom. He has allowed me to see life through a new lens. He has given me the ability to enjoy the presence of today and to overcome the pain from yesterday.

It is so easy to see life in a snapshot. Our memory gets frozen in time and we still view whatever or whoever we were the same as we are today. But that is not God’s design for us. God takes the old things of our lives and he gets rid of them. He restores us and he makes us new creatures in him.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

It is so easy to miss the fact that God has called us to be new in him. What makes you cringe when you think about your past? What makes you want to disappear when people start talking about certain things? We are not called to live in fear and failure of the past but as new creatures in the life of Christ.

So, let go of the past. Move forward in Christ. And allow yourself to experience the joy and the celebration of a life as a new creation in Jesus.