Monday, March 30, 2009

Relational Responsibilities

God has been showing up in some funny places in my life these days. I know God is always there theologically, but sometimes you catch a glimpse of him when you don’t really expect it. It is in those moments that we become fully alive to what God wants to do in us. It is in those moments caught unaware that we see pure love, genuine acceptance, and intimacy of the Divine.

It seems that those moments most often happen in the context of relationships with others. It makes sense that relationships become revealers of God sense God is so relational. When my kids and I share a laugh, I see how God could laugh along with me at the craziness of life sometimes. When bridges are built in relationships, I am reminded that any reaching out on my part is a response to God reaching out to me. When hurt or pain comes into relationships, I am reminded that sin is painful not only to us, but to God.

God has shown me three things that I must be doing to see him more clearly in my relationships:

· Be humble. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. This is a very hard task for a prideful, sin filled man. Seeing my life in the context of Jesus should naturally make us humble. That humility should be infections to the relationships around us.
· Be forgiving. If God can forgive us, who are we to hold grudges? This is much easier said than done. I have a lot of grudges. I have been beaten up and chewed up a ton. But I am working on it.
· Be loving. It is easy to love when we feel loved. It is even easy to feel loved when we simply feel aroused. But it is difficult to feel loving when we feel wronged. God tells us to love anyway. For insight on how I am doing I this area, see “Be forgiving.”

Jesus is best revealed and understood in the context of relationships. Without the outflow of Jesus from our lives into the lives of others we simply become stagnant cisterns. That was never God’s plan. This week, be humble, be forgiving and be loving and see what God has in store for you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

God of This City

I did something yesterday that is totally out of my normal mindset. I tend to be a fairly cautious person. I don’t make bold claims. I don’t recall ever saying, “God told me to say this.” Yesterday I felt like God was speaking to me and asking me to make some big claims.

I left my office with a pen and a note pad and went to a park in Palm City. I sat there and wrote whatever God laid on my heart. Some were dreams, some were message ideas, and some were questions. As I sat there asking God to help us reach the people of our community who are hurt, broken and have no idea of who he is, I had a distinct feeling he was asking me to do something. I share this not to sound holier than thou or as if I have some special insight into what God is doing. I really have more questions than answers. Here is where it may get a little weird for you.

I got up from the table, got in my car, put my iPod on the “God of This City” by Chris Tomlin and drove around the city. I simply had the song on repeat and played it over and over again as I asked God to do greater things than we can imagine in Palm City. I drove around different areas of our city simply praying that God would give us that area for his kingdom. I know, it weirds me out as well!!!

I don’t have any idea what God will do. I don’t know if anyone will come to know him because we start praying for it or if he will fill the seats with people seeking him. I am simply praying that he will be God of this city and that we will be a part of declaring it to everyone we meet.

I am asking for you to join me in that prayer. Whatever city you live in, whatever your church background, declare that God is the one who is in control. Declare that he is the one who can do anything.

“Greater things are yet to come/ Greater things are still to be done/ in this city/ We believe in You God.”

Not one person will enter the kingdom of God simply because some goofy pastor drives around town with a song playing. But the scripture tells us that God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine him doing. The implication is that God wants us to ask. So I am asking. What about you?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday Morning Musings

Many different thoughts run through my head this morning. I can’t make sense of them all, so here is a random list of things that are jumping from one section of my brain to another:

· How can a God who knows me so well love me so much?
· Where is the line between holiness and legalism drawn?
· Why didn’t Jesus defend himself before Pilate? (I know the theological answer; it is the human one that puzzles me.)
· My obedience and faithfulness please God more than they please me. (He knows how much worse it could be!! So do I!!)
· Longing for God is the first step in pursuing God.
· What is the one thing God has in front of me today that will bring him honor and glory?
· Am I willing to let that one thing drive me forward even when my I feel like I got hit by a truck last night?
· I am tired, the weather is cloudy and my brain is fuzzy. I know the enemy will be looking for my areas of weakness today.
· Christ’s strength is displayed in the depths of my weakness.
· My tournament bracket looks good, but I wish my Vols hadn’t let me down!!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Too Close to the Fire

Peter is inside the courtyard of the high priest as Jesus is being tried. He is warming himself by the fire of those who seek to kill Jesus. In his weariness and fear he has traveled from disciple willing to fight in the garden to one blending into the crowd during the trial. He has perhaps wandered too close.

In our own ways we stand next to the fires of the enemy. We compromise here, we tell a small lie there, we bend our convictions out of convenience and all the while we are the strongest of disciples. No matter how close you are to Jesus, at some point you can quickly find yourself next to the fire of the enemy.

In leadership and in life, we must be careful to avoid being comfortable near the fire. This is not the fire of fun and smores. This is the fire of betrayal and separation. We are never to get so complacent in our lives that we take the step too close to the fire.

In what areas are you flirting with the fire of betrayal? Where are you standing in your following of Christ?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Be Carful What You Pray For

Be careful what you pray for!! I have been praying over some ministry stuff for a couple of weeks and the last few days I have been putting some structure to ideas God has been brewing in my heart. It has been overwhelming the response that has been generated as I have shared some of the vision and some of the plans God is putting together.

I have also seen God begin to make some of my dreams become a reality. Just last night God accomplished the first of 320 things that I have been praying for lately. It is very cool to see. It is also extremely scary at the same time.

The scary part is in thinking “what if God actually does what I am asking for him to do?” How will I handle it? Will it overwhelm me? Will I be up to the task? Can our church handle it?

I am not worried about failing because it is not my plan. Without sounding super spiritual or anything the plan I am dealing with comes directly from the mouth of Jesus in scripture, so I know it is his desire for all of us. But what if God really meets my desires?

I see major stretching in my future. I see change, challenges, and conflict. I see joy, jubilation and journeys that I can’t fathom. My response: BRING IT!!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Imagine

God has been all over me the last few days. I have been wrestling with where we are and where we need to head as a church. I am sensing that God wants to do something bigger than I could ever imagine. To be totally honest, it scares me to death. To be even more transparent, it is going to take all of my courage and all of my attention to make this a reality for us. I also feel that if I choose not to do this 100% I will fully be out of the will of God.

My brain keeps hitting on Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21.

I am praying that God does more at LifeQuest than I can imagine or ask. I know the success or failure of spiritual endeavors rest of God’s power and our obedience. My prayer is that I and our church have the will to be fully obedient to the ridiculous vision that God is establishing in my heart. My prayer is that I am fully convinced that my heart is in tune with the heart of God.

God keeps putting things in my path to remind me of the vision. He keeps putting people in places to speak to my heart and he is establishing in me something that I pray will change us but most importantly change eternity.

Fear of failure is powerful. Fear of disobedience to the call of God is even more powerful. Let’s strive to imagine that God wants to do great things in us and through us.

What can you imagine?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Comfortable Confrontation

Confrontation is never comfortable. It is never fun to have to confront a person, an issue or a fear in our life. When we think about confrontation our stomach churns, our palms sweat and we try to find any excuse we can to avoid it. But confrontation is necessary and healthy.

To clarify, confrontation from a biblical approach, out of love and humility is healthy. Confrontation out of blame, defensiveness or anger is decidedly unhealthy. I believe there are three aspects to healthy confrontation that will help us all to deal with the problems that come along in life in a productive and healthy fashion. These may not be new, but they are principles God has been showing me in my own life and ministry.

1) Deal with the conflict quickly.

Don’t let your moods simmer and your brain run away with thoughts of destroying the other person. When a long period of time passes between an offense (or a perceived offense) and the resolution, anger begins to set in. Scripture warns us that anger in our hearts gives the devil a foothold in our lives. We need to deal with issues quickly, not hastily, in order to avoid falling into the trap of sin.

2) Deal with conflict in love.

Remember that most of the time (not all the time) you and the person you are in conflict with have the same goals in mind. Typically conflict results from the process of how to achieve the goals, not the goals themselves. When we remember that we have the same thoughts in mind, we are able to move forward in resolving the issue.

3) Deal with conflict with a calm tone in your voice.

Yelling never solves anything. I was watching a TV show the other night where people were in conflict with an airline that could not get them on a plane. I was amazed at how people were yelling at the counter attendant because the weather would not allow the plane to take off. Now everyone loses it occasionally, but that approach rarely fixes the problem. God has called us to speak to one another in love. When we calmly explain ourselves tensions are lowered, emotions are calmed and we can seek reconciliation at a quicker pace.

So, how do you deal with conflict? Are you willing to take steps to resolve it, quickly, lovingly, and calmly?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Burning Issues

Occasionally God begins to stir things inside my heart that I don’t understand or know how to interpret. It seems like I continually get bombarded with thoughts, ideas, images, songs or articles that have a consistent theme connecting them. I begin to see God pointing me in directions that I am not always sure I desire to travel. It is those moments that I need to be fully aware of the movement of God in my heart and mind.

I am not someone who sees spiritual messages in everything. I don’t see things as being necessarily blessings or curses from God. I don’t have enough wisdom to make those distinctions all the time. I simply know that god is big enough to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, for whatever reason he wants. If I understand it or not is not part of the equation.

Lately I have been deeply impressed on two areas that have been put in my face over and over again. They are not earth shattering revelations or are they specific to me, but God has been stirring my heart about two areas: marriages within the church and reaching people who don’t know Christ. It seems like every article I read, every blog I scan and every Twitter update that I follow deals with one of these issues. It as if God is stirring within me something that is on his heart.

Marriages in churches today are falling apart. Life is stressful on its own, but when you add in the current economic situations it is creating a level of stress that is almost unparalleled in people’s lives. I don’t know of anyone that is not impacted by all that is going on. Therefore the relationships at home are deeply affected by the strain of the economy.

One of the aspects that I feel must happen is that the church must be intentional and passionate about communicating biblical solutions to this issue. We must confront head on the idea that divorce is a financial option and teach the biblical principle that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). The church must be the vanguard of the covenant of marriage. If not, we will never see the family structure be united and strong in our society again.

The second aspect that God has laid on my heart is that people are going into eternity without Jesus. Every day thousands of people die separated from God. The church is the only remedy for this crisis. It is not the church as a corporation, but the church as individual members living on purpose and with the attitude that we must make a difference in the world around us. We are here for the purpose of worshipping God and helping others come into relationship with him.

This week ask yourself the question: “What am I doing about these two issues?” Then, follow the leading of God’s Spirit as he speaks truth into your life.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Strength and Love

Even when we think we are strong we are really relying on someone else’s strength to keep us going. I see it over and over again in my life. When I am frustrated in ministry or when I feel like a lousy dad or husband someone comes alongside me and gives me a word of encouragement to help keep me going. When I am tired and feel like quitting my workout, the trainer on the DVD reminds me to breathe through the pain.

I saw a news program about three Americans held captive in Columbia. They were hostages of a terrorist organization for five years. Every one of them said that the thing that kept them going was the thoughts of home and their family.

We often think that it is our love for Christ that keeps us going. We believe that we do all the things we do because we love God so much. Most of the things we do may be legitimate responses to God, but they are merely that: responses to his love.

We are propelled forward by God’s love. It is not our nature to love and to serve. It is our response to him that strengthens us. Our feeble attempts at love for God are always reactionary because as scripture says, “he first loved us.”

I was reading this morning from Walt Wangein’s book “Reliving the Passion.” He speaks of Jesus telling the disciples that they will all fall away and how Peter adamantly denied that he would. Wangerin makes the point that what motivated Peter’s love was the love he experienced from Jesus. It becomes the motivating factor in our lives. However, our response to Jesus love is a response to something that Jesus initiates and preserves.

I was drawn from the passage in Mark 14 to 1 John 1. There we are told that our confession of sin brings about God’s forgiveness of sin. But all the action of payment and forgiveness rests on Christ. Our responsibility in the process is simple acknowledgement that we cannot pay for our sins on our own.

I am often arrogant enough to think that my life somehow demonstrates how much I love God. It is in those moments that I am fully puffed up and full of my own pride. My life is a reaction at best to God. We must be careful to understand that the power to overcome, to continue and to follow Christ is not found in ourselves, but in the power of the eternal character of God.

Monday, March 9, 2009

She Calle Me Sir!!

I turned 40 this year and didn’t really think that much about my age. I feel good, I am content with the major areas of my life, and the number of years has never really bothered me. Until Saturday.

I went with a group of friends from church to see the Florida Panthers hockey game. After the game BarlowGirl was doing a concert in the arena. We had been having a blast. I love arena food, the action on the ice was fun, and my kids were experiencing their very first hockey game so it was all new to them. Plus Alana and I were getting to hang out with some people we don’t get to hang out with very often.

After the game we moved from our nosebleed seats to the lower arena for the concert. We got settled in our seats and then it happened. This young teenage girl came up to me and said, “Excuse me, sir. Are these seats taken?” I was crushed. Sir!! She called me sir!! Doesn’t she know that I am actually a very cool dad? I had jeans, a hoody and my cool new glasses on. My glasses say young and cool all at the same time. They are the cool new frames that are a cross between Dilbert and Elvis Costello. Sir!! I was about to smack someone.

I was content to let her and her friends sit and simply let it go. Then my “friend” Carlos, sitting a row behind me and ten seats on the other side said, “Did she just call you sir?” Then everyone else in the group started. It was a good thing the concert started shortly or we would have been having the whole sweater over your head, ice hockey brawl right there.

We got home at 2:00 in the morning that night. I had to be up at 6:30 and ready to preach the next day. After church I had a three hour nap. I realized I now routinely go to bed at 10:00 and I can’t eat anything with onions after 8:00. I need coffee to really wake up and to be honest hair is growing out of my body in places hair was never designed to grow. As much as it hurts to say it, I guess I am a sir after all. Does anyone have any prune juice and a Snuggie I can borrow?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday Night Brain Drain

· Fun weekend… lots of fun family time.
· Went to a hockey game last night…BarlowGirl played after.
· Got home at 2:00 a.m.
· Great worship today, even though I was wiped out.
· Love leading LifeQuest Church.
· Spoke on what a “Real Church” looks like.
· Challenged our body to be more focused on evangelism.
· People were excited today.
· I HATE this time change.
· I LOVE having more daylight in the afternoon.
· Had some new families in worship today.
· Took a great nap today!!!
· Had a good walk with the family and Murphy the Wonder Mutt today.
· I miss Emily…she has been at the SEC women’s basketball tourney.
· Driving to Orlando tomorrow to pick her up.
· Look forward to this week….cool stuff coming up.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Church of the Future

I have always held some strong convictions about students and children being viewed as second class citizens in church life. It makes me want to slap people when I hear them say “They are the church of the future.” No, they are the church of today, moron!!! As adults we get so wrapped up into our stuff that we forget that we are shaping future church models by how we treat younger generations.

At LifeQuest we have always been committed to involving students in ministry. We have them play in our worship bands, run our computers, and serve in our children’s ministry regularly. It is awesome to watch a middle school kid sitting with a group of elementary age kids and lead them in a group activity or read to them from the bible.

We have started having middle school boys help out each week in our pre-school class. This past week my son Zach who is in sixth grade was in there to help. I got an e-mail from the teacher telling me how much she enjoyed him helping out and how much the kids responded to his leadership. Awesome!!!

I believe that the earlier we can help students and children see that they are contributors in ministry the more likely we are to help them understand service, sacrifice, calling and purpose. I also believe this will help us to retain them as they go off to college and in their futures. When they are trained to serve at a young age, are appreciated for their service and are valued for their input, I believe it will help keep them connected as they become college students, young adults, and parents of their own. It lays a foundation for future generations of the church.

Leaders, what are you doing to connect young students into ministry? Does it involve having them stack chairs? That is important, but we have to cast a bigger vision. We have to make it memorable. We must make it important in their eyes so that they can see how faith in Christ leads to service in his kingdom. That is what shapes the church of the future.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Crosses and Kingdoms

“Jesus has many who love his Kingdom in Heaven but few who bear his cross.”
Thomas `a Kempis.


How true that statement really is in the 21st century. We love the idea of what Jesus has in store for us in the eternal kingdom, but the price of actually carrying the cross is so high that we usually simply acknowledge the cross and move on. In not actually picking up a cross, we are missing the requirement of Jesus to follow.

Our spiritual lives in America have been boiled down to church attendance, bible reading, token involvement and slight giving. Jesus on the other hand called us to be “fishers of men,” the “salt of the earth,” “cities on a hill,” and “his followers.” There is nothing passive about that!!!

To say yes to Jesus is to say no to satisfaction found in this life. It is to say no to mainstream ideals, pop philosophy and comfortable contentment. To say yes to Jesus is to take up his cross (with the pain that accompanies) and to carry it to the society in which we find ourselves immersed. In order to get to the Kingdom, we must persevere through the cross.