Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Embarassing Dad

Occasionally something really funny happens in life that doesn’t seem spiritual at all and yet upon reflection you realize something lurks beneath the surface. I had an experience like that yesterday. Of course, one of my children supplied me with some great material.

I was dropping Kimberly and Zach off at school yesterday and we were listening to some songs on my IPod. Because we listen to it in the car often, I added some music specifically for Kimberly so she is not left out entirely in the selection process. Save your comments, but I added Kimberly’s CD of Taylor Swift because right now it is her favorite.

Zach had picked a couple of songs and we had the windows down enjoying a beautiful morning. I then put on a song by Taylor Swift. Zach got out of the car first and Kimberly looked at me and said, “Daddy, roll your windows up.” When I asked why she replied, “I don’t want people to think you are a weirdo listening to “girlie” music!” Suddenly I had gone from thoughtful dad to embarrassing dad.

I rolled up my windows, dropped her off and laughed to myself as I pulled out of the parking lot. My third grader is concerned about how her dad is perceived by people who don’t even know him. We all have those moments with our parents. Did your mom ever do the “spit in the hand” thing to clean your face in public? Did your dad ever wear one of those outfits that were a cross between Mork and Urkle? Maybe The Fresh Prince was right and “parents just don’t understand.”

As I thought about it, I think we respond to God in much the same way. God, please don’t do anything that is going to draw attention this way. What will people think? What will people say? How will I look? Somehow along the way we have decided that our Heavenly Father must not understand what it is like here on planet Earth. Somehow we envision that he is just waiting to embarrass us.

I am not really sure I have ever been conscious of this thought, but I am sure that it has seeped into my life. I want to be different. I want to change. I want to see things as God sees them and have others see Christ through me.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Life Goals

I love eating out!! My family and I always get excited (probably too much so) when we head out to one of our favorite restaurants. One of the parts of the process I love is when we find unique aspects of a restaurant and we begin to enjoy them as a family. When we go to a Chinese restaurant, we always laugh at the fortunes in the cookie and we try to make up our own funny sayings. When we go to our favorite burger joints we always debate who has the best fries (MacDonald’s) vs. the best burgers (Burger King).

The other night we went to Chipotle, rapidly becoming one of our favorite Mexican food planes. Not only are the burritos the size of a small boulder, but you can add in all kinds of toppings and sauces to make that bad boy sing some sweet music!! As we were eating we realized that Chipotle has little stories on their cups that tell about people the owners of the company know and some things that they have said or done that has made a difference. As we were reading our different cups, one quote hit me as profound and important.

“If your life’s goal can be accomplished in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough.” This is a quote from Wes Jackson, who runs The Land Institute. I know almost nothing about Wes Jackson, but I was drawn to this quote. There is something that resonates with me and that has some incredible spiritual application to all of us.

If we are focused on accomplishing something in our lifetime that will go to the grave with us, we are not shooting at a big enough target. Our goal should be to build into the next generations and into the world a purpose and a vision and mission that outlasts us. Our life’s work should go on much longer than our life here on this earth.

In church life we often get consumed by small ideas. We look at the next program, the next meeting, the next budget and building and our lives become consumed with things that eventually will fall apart. What would be the outcome if we began to focus on the next generation of leaders? What if our focus was the next generation of un-churched people who need to know Christ? What if our main concern was our legacy and not our reputation?

We need bigger dreams in the kingdom of God. We need people willing to put agendas aside and focus on eternity and not temporary outcomes. We need a long range focus and short range urgency. What if we began to have life goals that would outlast us?

What is your life goal? How long will it last?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Basic Belief

Sometimes in my own life I need to step back and remember some basic principle of my relationship with God rather than explore some deep, mysterious theological truth. In my simplistic mind I need to get back to a core foundation. It reminds me of something I heard once about the need of the average Christian: “Most people need to be reminded more than they need to be taught.” That may or may not be true, but I know that has been the case for my life.

This morning I simply needed to hear some simple truths about God, Christ, my life and my role as a pastor. I just felt the urge to read familiar scripture, to hear instruction from Jesus and to put some perspective in my brain. So with coffee in hand I grabbed my bible and sat down for a few minutes in the book of John.

I have read the entire book of John countless times. It is a great book. I tell people to read it when they are first beginning their spiritual walk because it allows us to get a glimpse of the life and ministry of Jesus. In fact, I won’t be offended at all if you stop reading this and go read John 1-3. This morning, some of the most familiar passages jumped off the pages and into my soul.

There were three key truths that I have known forever in my brain that I needed to be reminded of in my heart. These truths apply to everyone, but they especially hit me as a pastor. Here they are:

1) “The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it.” John 1:5

This is the exact position our culture finds itself in view of Christ. We live in darkness and like it that way. We are afraid of being exposed, convicted and forced to change. In my life I find that darkness creeps around my head and heart every day. Darkness is the absence of light. When we live in darkness, we are living in the absence of Christ.

2) “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” John 2:14

While the nation of Israel wandered in the desert because of their sin, God allowed a plague of poisonous snakes to infiltrate the community (Numbers 21:4-9). When someone was bitten they could look to a bronze snake that had been erected on a pole and they would be healed. In the same way, when we look to Jesus, who was lifted on the cross we can be healed of the sin in our life.

3) “He must become greater and I must become less.” John 3:30

John had it all. He was popular, held the political forces at bay, and could flat out preach. He had an entire group of disciples that followed him everywhere. When Jesus came on the scene, John pointed his disciples to Jesus and gave up his popularity so that Jesus may become famous.

It is very easy for us to build followers for ourselves and not followers of Christ. Satan uses our ego and pride to cause us to look to our programs, our ideas, and our ministry instead of Christ’s power. If God is ever going to do anything in our lives, he has to become more and we have to become less.

What basic lessons do you need to learn today? How can God use you to point others to Jesus? What do you need to do to become less so that Jesus can become more?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Game Day Sunday

Sundays are very interesting days for pastors, to say the least. We are filled with nerves, anticipation, challenges, fear, joy, and a thousand other emotions that cannot even be explained. Between 6:00 and 10:45 a.m. my mind races about a thousand miles an hour over everything that is going to happen that morning. Will the music be just right? Will the coffee, be ready? Will the computer work correctly? Am I sure I want to use that illustration? Why is my microphone cord so tangled up inside my shirt?

While Sunday mornings are restful and have a slower pace than most mornings for most people, for pastors Sunday is game day. Beginning on Monday the week is filled with planning, studying, preparing, writing, re-writing and stressing out over Sunday. Usually by the time pastors get home on Sundays all we want to do is sleep.

The awesome part of Sunday for pastors is hearing how God works through us to touch the lives of others. On Monday I almost always have cards, e-mails or phone messages from someone telling me how Sunday was special. I hear about how the passage of scripture used was exactly what they needed to deal with life at this moment. I hear how people make decisions that they want to give control of their life over to Jesus.

That is the pay off for Sunday. Sunday is a day where the divine meets the human and humanity is changed. In some small way I get to be a part of that. Pastors, worship leaders, children’s workers and a number of other people get to be a part of seeing God shape humanity. And at the end of the day, when all is said and done, game day has produced a victory because Jesus Christ was lifted up.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Covenant Marriage

One aspect of marriage that I hold to be vitally important but that has been lost in our culture is the concept of marriage as a covenant. Our western mindset and worldview far too often sees marriage as a legal contract and a business transaction. That has led to the establishment of prenuptial agreements and financial decisions in case the marriage doesn’t work out. In other words, before I commit to you the rest of my life I want to have an escape plan so that I don’t lose my stuff when someone I find more attractive comes along. We decide to fail before we ever begin.

The flip side of this trap is the idea that marriage is simply a tax shelter and if we are content to not declare one another as dependants then there is no reason to get married. Living together has replaced the marriage covenant because one person can simply move out without any obligation to the other. Instead of making lifelong commitments, we make business transactions.

When our view of marriage is one that defines marriage as a covenant, we establish that the only thing that will separate us is death. In a covenant in the biblical age, something had to die in order to seal that covenant. That led to the sacrifice of animals in worship as well as to seal business contracts. In our spiritual life, Jesus was the sacrifice so that we could live in a covenant relationship with God. That is why he said that he had come to establish a “new covenant.” (Luke 22:20). I contend that in order to have a biblical view of marriage we need to see it as a covenant relationship above anything else.

As you enter our house the first thing you see is a signed Marriage Covenant in a frame hanging on the wall. Alana and I both signed it and then our children signed it as witnesses. It is simply a piece of paper and has no legal value. However, it is a reminder that our marriage is not a business, but a relationship. It is a covenant. When things are tough, or we don’t agree, or stress has pushed us to the limit, the covenant we made to one another on our wedding day holds us together. I sometimes look at that frame and think about how important it is for me to live up to my end of the covenant so that my wife, my children, my family and most importantly my God will be honored.

How do you view your marriage? Is it a business? Is it convenience? Have you given yourself an escape route? If so, make a new covenant today that only death will separate you from the one you committed your life to love forever. Don’t settle for less than God’s perfect design of sacrificial covenant love.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Marriage Battlefield

As part of my “You Sermon” series at LifeQuest, I spoke this week on How to Get the Most Out of Your Marriage.” If you missed the message at LifeQuest, you can listen to it on the pod cast at This week my blog is dedicated to looking at issues that couples face in marriage.

It is a very challenging thing when men and women begin to stand up for Godly ideals. When we begin to put our faith out there and begin to share God’s Word to others, we have an enemy who is seeking to destroy everything he can. I am not a person who sees Satan behind every bush or who believes that every incident in life is some “sign” from God (remember, the Pharisees were chastised for looking for signs!) but I do take the Bible as truth.

In Ephesians 6, Paul said that we are at war with a spiritual enemy. In John 10, Jesus told us that the enemy comes to “steal, kill and destroy.” I honestly believe that one of the greatest battlegrounds in the spiritual battle is in the home of Christians.

Here’s how I see this work. Satan knows that he is defeated. He knows that there is nothing he can do to steal us away from the hand of God. But, he can seek to make our lives miserable and to destroy the work that God is trying to do in us and our children. He causes husbands and wives to become divided against one another. He makes pleasing the children the singular goal of our life. He causes us to be too busy to pray together, to eat together or to worship together. In the most extreme cases, Satan causes one spouse to decide that another person is better for them than their own spouse. He convinces us of the lie that our life is about being “happy” instead of about fulfilling God’s design for us which brings joy. Suddenly, families that once stood for the things of God are divided and destroyed. The enemy wins the battle, but never the war!!

As Christians, we must always remember that we are on the winning side. Jesus Christ won the war over Satan on the cross. We must stop losing battles in our own homes. Here are three tools to help you win the battle for your home:

1) Pray as a family. Pray for and with one another against the attacks of the enemy.

2) Sacrifice your own needs for the needs of your family. Nothing re-establishes love and trust as much as sacrifice.

3) Never leave the battlefield. One of the biggest issues we face is choosing to walk away instead of stand and fight. The truth is that when we leave the battlefield we are not the wounded. It is our children, our grandchildren and the reputation of Jesus Christ that is hurt.

Fight for your marriage. Fight for your home. When the enemy is attacking, drop to your knees and fight!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I Got Your Back

I love this little goofy cartoon. It has made the rounds on FaceBook and other places as a great joke, but I think there is some truth in this that can really help marriages. This week I am writing posts on “How to Get the Most Out of Your Marriage.” This is based off my message from Sunday morning, October 11. You can listen to the message at

One of the things I love about Alana is that she never leaves me hanging on an island by myself. Over the course of our marriage she has always had my back. Whenever times were hard, when I felt discouraged or afraid, when I felt like a complete failure, Alana has been the one who has supported, lifted, encouraged and propelled me forward.

If you really want your marriage to work, you need to have each other’s back. Make it very clear to everyone you meet, including your kids, that when it comes to you and your spouse, you watch out for one another. We live in a culture that values getting my own way, setting my own agenda, and blaming someone else for the outcome. That is not God’s design for our lives and certainly not for our marriages.

God’s plan is for us to have a deep, committed relationship that is supportive and encouraging to one another. The passage I spoke from on Sunday Ephesians 5: 23-28 has a definite role for a wife and a husband. And both roles involve sacrifice, love and devotion to your spouse.

Do you have your spouse’s back? Do they feel loved and supported in the decisions they make? Are they free to be themselves in all their beauty and al their failures? To get the most out of your marriage, have each others back.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Only Wanna Be With You

For the past couple of weeks I have been thinking a great deal about the subject of marriage. I have been speaking the last few weeks on topics submitted by people who attend LifeQuest. One of the most common topics requested was marriage. It seems like so many couples are struggling in their relationships. This week my blog will be sharing some thoughts and ideas about marriage and how to get the most out of your relationship.

God has blessed me so much with my wife. Alana is such a great partner and supporter. She has been my biggest fan and has helped me to develop the areas of my life that God knew I could never manage on my own. Alana is an amazing woman. She does so much and gives of herself constantly. I am so proud to call her my wife.

One of the lessons I have learned about marriage and relationships has been a very simple one. The first principle I want to share with you is this: make your spouse the only one you want.

It is really a simple lesson, but in our culture it is a lost art to only desire one person to occupy the most intimate places of your life. We live in a disposable society. If you don’t like your marriage, dispose of it. If your spouse doesn’t satisfy you, get a new one. We have made relationships transactions instead of investments.

To help remind me of how much I want to be with Alana, the song “I Only Wanna Be With You” is her ringtone on my phone. Now my marriage is not held together by Hootie and the Blowfish. It is held together by a choice to make sure that our relationship is a priority and that no other person gets a place of intimacy in our hearts. The song is simply a declared truth that I only want to spend my life with Alana. Alana has a ringtone on her phone set just for me. Whenever Kimberly hears it go off in the car, Alana tells me she laughs and says in a very sweet voice, “It’s your hubby!!”

If you are going to get the most from your marriage, you must make the choice that your spouse is going to be the only one to get a place in your heart. Love is a choice. Commitment is a choice. If you want your marriage to be dynamic, passionate, and full of life, you have to make the choice that your spouse is going to be the one you want to be with. You have to make the choice that your heart is set aside for that person only.

I encourage each of you to find your “song” for each other and let it become the soundtrack of your marriage.