Saturday, November 19, 2011

You know what? Disappointment Sucks.

Yes, you heard me. Disappointment sucks.

It happens when goals are blocked. It happens when things don't turn out how you thought they should. It happens when people let you down. 

Iowa State's fans stormed the field after they defeated the number 2 team in the country tonight, savoring the joy, the pride, the pure pleasure of watching their team do tonight what OSU has done for the last 10 games: win. Throughout the game, it was clear. This was not OSU's night, and Iowa State was out to slay a giant. 

As I watched the game, I became increasingly depressed. The team that had everyone's praise, the one who was on track to meet LSU in the national championship, was not going to win the game, and their was nothing they could do about it. 

I've been there before, as a player. It sucks to loose. But I am no longer play football... so why did it suck for me, watching them loose? They lost the game, not me. Why do I care so much? Why does the performance of a football team boost my joy when they win, and sink me into the gutter of depression when they loose?

As much as I'd like to pretend that I haven't been caught up in all they hype, my heart ratted me out and told me the truth. My heart, which supposedly belonged wholeheartedly to God, had been caught in a worship affair with OSU's success. When OSU won big, I felt great! When they lost all hope of playing for a national title, I felt awful. Loosing sucks. But the thing that sucked more was coming to the realization that I had given my heart away after the performance of a football team. 

Disappointment sucks. It steals our joy. It wounds us. It is painful. It is... 
a blessing

While experiencing disappointment in and of itself sucks, it was a blessing for me tonight. Why? Because it caused me to turn from seeking pleasure from a stupid football team's win/loss record, and return to the Lord, the One who never fails, who always accomplishes His purposes, the One who knows no disappointment, the One who won't disappoint those who trust their lives with Him. As strange as it sounds, seek out disappointment, because when you are in it, it will point you back to Christ, to experience him like never before, to know Him better like never before.

OSU's loosing tonight was the best thing that could have happened to me tonight, because it caused me to turn my heart back to God, instead of chasing after the success of OSU. Through it, God gave me the ability to see how I had been caught up in the sin of idolatry, consumed with the success of the football team. It was a reminder to my very soul that I was in desperate need of a savior. It reminded how rich and wonderful it is to really spend time with God, and not cram him inside a 10 minute devotional that will let me "check the box". It caused me to reflect on these thoughts and how much I need to spend time with God.

It's been nearly two months since I've typed a single post on here. And it probably would have been longer, had OSU not lost, had I not experienced disappointment, and redirected to the One who will not disappoint our hope in Him. Winning may build class, but loosing always builds character. Disappointment realigns our perspective with reality. It reminds us that our help, our joy, our satisfaction, our peace come not from a football team's success, but from the Lord.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I get to

Have you ever noticed how much people complain? Hard not to go through a single day without listening to somebody gripe about something. I know its not just everyone else- at times I'm probably the biggest whiner of them all. Sometimes I wonder if I could make it through just one day with out complaining.  

My complaining often begins with "I have to".  I have to get up early and go to work. I have to stay home and watch the kids today. I have to clean the house. And on and on I go...
But what if I change "I HAVE to" to "I GET to"? 

Perhaps then I wouldn't see getting up early to go to work as a chore, but a privilege, thanking God that I am employed and have something to do that brings home a pay check. 

Perhaps then I would look at my children and count every minute with them a blessing, that they are healthy, that they are made in the image of God, that I get to be their daddy, and that I get to stay home with them one day a week while my wife works. 

And perhaps then I would really appreciate all that my wife does, staying home with three wonderful kids all day, knowing that when I come home to a messy house, it is not because she was goofing off and being lazy all day, but because she was pouring into our kids, teaching them, loving them, helping them learn, and just spending quality time with them because that is truly more important than a clean house. Perhaps then I would see it as a privilege to love my family by cleaning the house on the weekend, knowing that it will allow my wife and kids more quality time together instead of cleaning all day everyday.  

"I have to" is for whiners. "I get to" is for winners. it's all about perspective.  
What do you GET to do?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Just one raised hand - part 2

Last week, I posted about something that, to be honest, really bothered me. At the end of a very powerful and convicting message, which usually draws many non-believers to repentance and faith in Christ, only one person visibly responded to the call of salvation; just one raised hand. After considering many of the likely suspects, last week I concluded that the following is making a significant contribution to the problem I noticed:

While it is plausible that any number of reasons with various combinations may in fact be the root of the problem, I am convinced that the primary reason we see so few unbelievers respond to the gospel [at my church/campus] is not because of the experience, the message, or awareness, but rather due to the evangelical philosophy of the believers who attend our church each week.

Alright, so what is this "evangelical philosophy", or "evangelism philosophy?" I'm sure you won't find the term in any text book, but the idea is not a new one. It is simply a way to describe how people (Christians) think that they themselves and others contribute to non-believers becoming believers. Based on my observations of the attitudes of others and of myself, I have found that people generally have one of the following evangelism philosophies:

  1. Evangelism is someone else's responsibility.
  2. Evangelism is my responsibility.

Those who would say that evangelism is someone else's responsibility would most likely say that "someone else" is their church, and maybe other Christians who have the gift of evangelism. And since someone else like the church or someone with the gift of evangelism is probably more effective at sharing Christ with non-believers, then my evangelism philosophy would be to get non-believers to my church, or to those that are evangelists.

Others might look at Matthew 28:19,1 Peter 3:15-16, or 2 Corinthians 5:17-20, and many others similar passages  and conclude that evangelism is every believer's responsibility, noting that the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all the nations applies to all believers.

As I look at these two evangelism philosophies, I don't see it as an either-or choice; either I only bring people to church to hear the Gospel, or it is dependent upon me to evangelize the lost in my life. Seems like there is a third possible philosophy, a both-and view, that not only should I be prepared to give a reason for the hope that I have with gentleness and respect, being and ambassador for Christ in the ministry of reconciliation to God, but ALSO actively pointing my unbelieving friends, co-workers, family, etc. to my church or other resources where they might hear the Gospel clearly and faithfully preached.

But if I'm honest about this, I don't truly think the reason for just one raised hand at the call for salvation was due to confusion between either-or or both-and evangelical philosophies. No, tragically, that there were so few non-believers present and that there was only one raised hand was more likely due to a neither-nor evangelical philosophy; a philosophy cares neither for their responsibility to personally share Christ with the lost, nor for contributing to their salvation by bringing them to church. This view of evangelism is rooted in apathy towards the lost, and is expressed as such when we rarely if at all, invite non-believers to church or tell them about our God. While most would be offended by such accusations and who would argue that they care deeply about the lost, their actions often communicate a philosophy that is very different that what they profess to believe.

And I am no different.

Though I would adamantly attempt to defend myself of such an accusation if made against me, my actions would fail to do anything but convict me. Sure, I post a lot about God, theology, and other things with intentions that it will give people reason to pause and consider their relationship with God, to leave the gray, and be the real deal and be a true follower of Christ.  But its probably been over 2 years since I've invited a non-believing friend with me to church. And if given the opportunity to even give a hint at my faith and spiritual convictions with my non-believing friends, I often avoid speaking the name of Jesus and miss crucial opportunities to begin a conversation that might lead a non-believer one step closer to knowing Jesus as their Lord and Savior. No, given the evidence against me, it's pretty hard to for me to rebuke all the other followers of Christ who attend our church week after week without a guest with them, if I myself am unwilling to change.

Thankfully, there was one faithful follower of Christ who was willing to change, who had the conviction that the message of the cross really is the power of God  (1 Cor. 1:18), who was bold and courageous enough to ask his friend to come with him to church. And what a blessing he received, to know that his friend was the one hand raised, who at that moment received the gift of eternal life, who now knows our risen Savior.

By God's grace, I have been saved. And by God's grace, I am now aware of His call towards a real both-and evangelism philosophy, that is substantiated not by what I say, but by what I do. It is also by this same grace that I am willing to change my actions, and I pray that you do too. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Just one raised hand?

Just letting you know, this will be a long post. In fact, I’ll probably have to break it into parts because there is a lot of ground work that I need to do before I can get to the heart of what I want to write about. I do hope you’ll read though. I don’t have the capacity, patience, or attention to write volumes upon volumes, so rest assure, I’ll make the point as quickly and as succinctly as I can, and then you can get back to reading your twitter and facebook updates J.

This weekend at church, we heard a great message about praying boldly. Too often, we pray safe prayers, because we don’t want to be disappointed if God doesn’t answer our request the way we think He should, and secondly, we know that He can, but we don’t really believe that He will. Getting to the heart of the message, we say that we believe in God, but we live (and pray) as if He doesn’t exist. Does God give us everything we ask for? Of course not. But we who believe do not have a pragmatic faith; a faith that only believes if God meets our expectations and grants our every request. No, the faith that we have, if we have been made new, is a faith not of ourselves, not of our own mustering. The faith of the believer is the gift of God that enables us to utter such profound confessions of belief, such belief that many times cannot be explained but cannot be denied by our hearts and minds. And so, if we have faith that God can do the supernatural- forgiving our sins and enabling us to believe in Him, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect believers to have a similar faith expressed in the kind of prayers they pray? Not safe prayers; bold prayers. Not safe faith; bold faith. And most assuredly not faith in faith, but faith in God.

Needless to say, it was a sobering message to all. And like every other message taught at our church at any weekend experience, it was aptly bookended with a call for spiritually unregenerate individuals to make a bold demonstrated act of faith by raising their hand in response to the call of salvation, signifying to all present their confession of faith, acknowledging their sinful nature and need of a savior, and that they are placing their trust in Christ, to be the complete and final fulfillment of that need of such a savior; to be reconciled to God.

Experience tells me that when a strong message is given for believers to believe and live like true believers, and non-believers to leave their unbelief, there is a significant number of hands that would be raised (10 to 15 or more). This being such a message, I expected several hands to be raised. Want to take a guess at how many hands were raised?


Not two. Not ten.

Just one.

In light of what is at stake- forgiveness or remaining condemned in our sin, peace or enmity with God, heaven or hell eternity- this is a big deal. Our auditorium seats somewhere around 800 people. Granted, there was probably somewhere north of 500 in attendance last night, but to have only 1 person raise their hand was anti-climatic to say the least, in response to such a strong and well-articulated presentation of the gospel and call to Christ. The tragedy of the situation is that this isn’t the first time that this has happened. In fact there have been a number of times that no one raised their hand in a given experience.

So what gives? Why did only one person respond to the gospel? Was the message not clear? Was it not compelling enough? I don’t know for sure, and neither does anyone else. I am sure that there were likely several non-believers in attendance. I also acknowledge that not every non-believer will respond to the gospel when given the chance. Still, for a service as full as it was, I am compelled to believe that there were far more confessing believers in attendance than non-believers.

And this is really the question that I want to wrestle with: Why are there so few non-believers coming to our church services?

Is it because our church staff and volunteers are unfriendly and unwelcoming? Definitely not. From the moment you get out of your car, you are greeted by a friendly face, and offered a ride to the front door by one of the many golf cart drivers. From there, you are greeted by warm smile and welcome as they hand you a copy of the sermon notes and campus bulletin. From the child care staff, host team, and all the other volunteers in place, you can’t help but feel welcomed all along the way as you finally make your way to your seat.

Is it because the message is irrelevant and unimportant? Hardly. Real life is relevant to everyone, and every message that is taught is tethered to reality, and the Gospel. Each summer we spend a month discovering biblical principles found in current movies- it is our most effective series each year in terms of attendance and response to the gospel. And when we are not talking about movies, we are talking about sex, pornography, finances, marriage, parenting, purpose, belonging, and many other relevant issues that affect every person on the planet.

Are non-believers not coming because they don’t know about our church? That there isn’t room for them to attend one of our experiences? No and Nope. We have 14 campuses, each offering around 5 services each weekend, not to mention our online services that are ministering to thousands through more than 40 services each week, getting them to our services through the use of Google ad words and facebook. And our means of getting the word out is not limited to the bumper stickers, social media, and other mass media that is being used. Each week we put invite materials in the hands of those who attend one of our services so that they can invite their friends, neighbors, co-workers, family, and the random guy they run into at the convenience store.

While it is plausible that any number of reasons with various combinations may in fact be the root of the problem, I am convinced that the primary reason we see so few unbelievers respond to the gospel is not because of the experience, the message, or awareness, but rather due to the evangelical philosophy of the believers who attend our church each week.

This is the issue that I want to deal with, but needed to set the stage first. I’ll explain what I mean by this evangelical philosophy, and attempt to provide some biblical arguments for my conclusions, as well as identify some realistic solutions that might successfully address the issues I’ve noted.

So what do you think? Would this assessment apply to your church as well? 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Everlasting God

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV)

The Lord is the Everlasting God. He outlasts my struggles, my worries, my problems. Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord. His timing is perfect; His will never ceases to be accomplished. Choosing to remember this today- I pray that you would too.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Renewing our minds

Our perspective affects the way we live out every part of our life, and is most greatly affected by those things that shape our past (experience) and our mind (ideas).

1. What experiences and ideas do you need to remember?
2. What experiences and ideas do you need to replace?
3. What experiences and ideas do you need to create?

Often we will find that the distance between what we say we value and what our life says we value is determined by the strength of our mind to remember, to remember those things that caused us to establish our values the way we have in the first place. The stronger our mind is, the less distance we find between our mouth's profession and out life's confession. The weaker our mind's grip on the memories that shape and affirm our values, the more we grow in hypocrisy. 

What do you need to remember?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Does God want me to be happy?

This struck me as an interesting question: does God want me to be happy? I don't know. Is there a verse or Biblical passage that we can look to to find the answer? Perhaps, or at least one might attempt to identify those passages that might support the principle. But I'm not going to make a biblical argument either way, at least not in this post. Instead what I'd rather do is offer a couple alternative questions that might give us a broader context, or at least beyond the context of ourselves. So here they are:

Does God want us to be holy, or does He want us to be happy? Is it an either-or question or a both-and? 

So what do you think? Let me know your thoughts...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The game that everybody plays, but nobody wins

The trouble with money and wealth is that we always want to have more than others. We are in competition for a prize that no single person can obtain, in a game that no one can win.

The thing that we must come to grips with is that we are already rich. My thanks to Craig Groeschel for helping me to understand this through his book, Weird: because normal isn't working.

Until reading the part of his book about money, I did not realize that I had been harboring envy for a former co-worker who I found out is now making nearly twice what I am making. "if only I could make $x, then I would be happy." really? Why does my happiness dependent upon a dollar figure? Is it not enough that I have been richly blessed with a family that I love dearly, who also loves me? Is it not enough that, in spite of all the despicable things I have done, in spite of God's holiness, in spite of the judgement that I deserve- is it not enough that in spite of all these things and more that through the cross, through the blood of Jesus that I now have peace with God, that I am forgiven, that there is now no condemnation due to me because of Christ? Is it not enough that the Lord has placed me in a vocation that I am best equipped to serve Him, that I have an opportunity to be faithful in doing what God has uniquely equipped and called me to do, to offer my life as a song of worship through obedience to what he has given me stewardship over?

These are the things I forget when my eyes are on myself and others and not on Christ. I need to remember this so that I can have a proper and eternal perspective that enables me to live with complete satisfaction and joy, in spite of however much or little income I make. To say the least, I have been challenged by this. I pray that you too would be challenged and moved to change your mind about this as well.

#remember #money #wealth #weird

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why I need to remember

Why do I need to remember? Because I will soon forget. 

There are so many things, so many thoughts that, though recognized as profound and of great worth, have passed on to the sea of forgetfulness, never to be recalled by my mind again. But why should those precious things be treated so casually? Why should they be forgotten? If it truly matters, then why do we not do more to act as if it truly matters?

Every day, I battle against my flesh. Though I have been made new by the risen Christ, there is a battle inside me that rages on; the desires of the Spirit versus the desires of my flesh. My flesh says thine will be done; the Spirit says Thy will be done. My flesh says, give in to temptation; the Spirit says flee from temptation. My flesh says, give full vent to your emotions, your rage, your anger; the Spirit says be not a fool, to be angry and sin not. My flesh says, do what is easy, what feels right; the Spirit says find the narrow road and follow Me.

And every day, by the decisions I make, I am reinforcing to myself what are the most important things to remember. When I neglect spending time in God's word and renewing my mind, I am reaffirming the law of my flesh, pursuing whatever my flesh wants to do, clinging to the darkness and running from the light. But when I renew my mind with the truth, the word of God, I am being made new, I am gaining a foothold on the truth, giving me eyes that truly see, and obtaining a perspective that sees things with more clarity, closer to how they actually are.
When I remember how greatly that I have been forgiven, I am able to forgive others. When I remember how desperately wicked my heart is, I remember how greatly that I am in need of a Savior. When I remember that God's kindness has lead me to repentance, I become kind and patient with my children. When I remember that God is causing all things to work together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to his purposes, I can have peace and contentment in any struggle, in any situation. When I remember that God is good, that He is sovereign, and that he loves me, I can trust in Him and be without fear, no matter what comes. When I remember that in this world I will have trouble, I can take heart as I remember that He has overcome the world. 

I need to remember because these gems of truth, of life, of hope are more valuable than any treasure found on this earth. But I don't just want to gather these stones, these precious gems of remembrance. I want to stack stones. I want to build monuments for myself and others to see, so that when I see them, I remember what God has done. I want to build so many monuments and memorials of the faithfulness of God that it would be impossible for me to forget all that He has done, and all that He has revealed to me. 

And the list goes on, and it will go on, because these are the kinds of things that draw me back to Christ, that draw me back to the greatest monument of all time; the cross. For on it, I can shed every accusation, every guilt, every regretful memory, every burden of condemnation, placing them all on the cross, for good, and remembering that there is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death, remembering that my sin, past, present, and future, was once and for all dealt with on the cross. And what joy that I now have, that I am the workmanship of Jesus Christ, having been made ready and equipped for such wonderful service to the One who gave it all, so that I could have life in my All in All, the Lord Jesus.

The struggles will come. How will I fare? Will my faith wilt? Will my will flee? That will all depend on how well I train when the battle far off, when peace is at my door. I pray that the Spirit would increase the strength of my memory, of my conviction, of my faith, of my will to follow Him. I pray that you would have the same clarity that I seek, so that at all times, in all places, in every way, I might have a proper perspective, so that I can respond to life in a way that is pleasing to the One I serve.

My hope is that in however many days I have left here in this world to do what God has created me to do, I might capture some of those things and store them here, so that my friends, my family, my children, and all who would listen. My desire is that my collection of thoughts might be of use to others, as I hope it will profit me, so that they could have the renewed mind and proper perspective on all of life that I aspire to possess. I haven't got it all figured out; my theology isn't perfect. But my hope is that at least i am advancing it, that I am moving it closer to reality, that I am understanding things closer to how they actually are.

I'll be posting those things that I want to remember here at

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Questions about pain, suffering, and loss

I've seen a lot of loss recently. A lot of suffering too. Hundreds affected by tornadoes in Missouri and Oklahoma, just this week alone. A friend from work lost everything he had. Everything. Another family lost one child to injuries from the storm. The other was separated from his mother when the tornado hit their home and is still missing.

Things don't seem to be getting any better. In the last year, Haiti and Japan were devastated by earthquakes, Alabama was hit with the worst outbreak of tornadoes in US history, a leaking oil well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico was finally plugged after months and months of unchallenged damage that may never be repaired- and that is just a few of the things that have happened in the last year. Looks like pain and suffering and tragedy are here to stay.

So what are we supposed to do when it happens? How are we really supposed to cope, to deal with it, especially when it hits us square in the face? Counseling from the other side of the table is easy, especially when we have verses like Romans 8:28, which remind us that God causes all things to work together for the good of those that love Him, that are called according to His purposes. It's easy to quote that. It's easy to say that, but in the moment those words are empty, and meaningless at best, when you feel as if your heart has been ripped out of your chest after loss and tragedy strikes.

I don't know if this any kind of an answer, and I don't know if there's any answer that will be sufficient. But as I think out loud with you as you are reading this, I wonder: would we know what joy is if we did not know suffering? Would we know peace if we did not know turmoil? Would we know love if we have not been hated? Would we know victory if we did not know loss? Maybe you could answer and justify a response that would say "yes", but it seems to me that at least we would not know how sweet joy is if we had not known suffering, or how precious it is to be loved if we had not experienced being unloved.

Seems to me that we come to God with some unrealistic expectations. We expect that God would allow us, a   creation who's inherent goal and joy is to satisfy oneself,  to do whatever the heck we want (which He permits), AND never have to experience any pain, suffering, loss, tragedy, or any other negative emotion from the actions of others, who only truly at their core care about themselves, and will gladly walk all over you to preserve and protect themselves and pursue whatever they fancy. We have this built in expectation that we will always be happy, and that God owes us, that He is obligated to bless us. And when that doesn't happen, we unload and let Him know.

Maybe another question: Would we know mercy if we did not know justice? Or what about grace if we did not know fairness? And if we truly know mercy and grace, would we really still complain when justice and fairness are not satisfied in our lives? It's a curious thing, how we demand the "goodness" of people's hearts to give us mercy and grace when we trespass, and are ready to play executioner at the drop of a hat when someone offends or hurts us- but that's another post...

Seems to me that we lack a proper perspective sometimes. When our perspective is that this world is all that there is, then it would seem reasonable for us to live it up and make the most of it, pursuing whatever makes us happy and scorning whatever would take that away from us. But if we are truly following Christ, having been made new, we know that this world is not our home, that this life is not all that there is. If Christ has defeated the grave and secured victory over the grave for all who are found in Him, then why do we loose so much hope when we experience defeat on the battle field? If the war has been won, then why do we loose heart if a battle is lost?  This isn't to say that there is no pain, no hurt in defeat on the battle lines, but if we aren't able to look up above the trees and see the forest, to see that Christ has conquered the grave, we will understandably drop our heads in defeat and remain defeated. But let's not loose heart, for Christ has overcome this world! We must remember that we do not live for this life, but for the One who gave His life, who gave His life so we can have eternal life with Him.

When tragedy strikes, morn over your loss. Grieve deeply, for the human heart knows that this is not the way things are supposed to be, that pain and suffering and loss are not supposed to be here. But don't grieve alone. Let the Body of Christ love you and encourage you. Let the Holy Spirit lift up your head again and wipe your tears and help you remember that He has overcome this world, that our hope is not in man, but in the God-man; Jesus the Christ. Ask the Lord to give us a heart that understands, and eyes that see. Pray to see the sorrow of life as the means of seeing the sweetness of joy and hope fulfilled in the life to come, and thank the Lord that He truly does cause all things to work together for the good of those that love Him, that are called according to His purposes.

A brutally honest answer to a brutally honest question

The Bible is filled with many commands about how we are to conduct ourselves, how we are to act, and what we should do as Christians. There are many such passages, but arguably the most famous one is the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians chapter 5:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

And since we want to be good Bible-believing and obeying Christians, we strive to carry out the instructions that God has left us in His word. We try really really hard to love others after they just threw us under the bus to save their own skin. We try really really hard to be patient and self controled when the repo man comes and takes away our possessions. We try really really hard to have peace and joy when we just found out that our family was killed in a car accident, or that the company is letting us go and we have no way to make it to the end of the week. 

Fruit of the Spirit? How in the world could I possibly have peace and joy in the midst of circumstances like that? Sure, I might be able to "will" myself to think that way, but it would only be a matter of time for what I was truly thinking to come out. If those things had happened to me, my first response wouldn't be to bless those that curse you or to be self-controlled. I'd rather like to take that fruit and smash it in the  face of whoever just turned my world upside down. 


Now that we have been brutally honest about life and about our struggle to follow God, let's take a step back and ask a basic question: Why? Why would love be a fruit of the Spirit? Why would joy, and peace, and the rest of the list be named among the things that are characteristic of a follower of Christ? Admittedly, these are very difficult questions to answer. But I have found that if you take time to consider these things, to consider why a Christian would have joy and peace and faithfulness, and all the others, If you take time to reflect on who God is and what He has done for us and is doing in us, I am convinced that you will find not just reasons for Christians to be this way, but solid ground for YOU to stand on and BE the kind of fully devoted follower of Christ that is described in this passage.

It's all about perspective, and we have to have an accurate view of reality, one that extends beyond the limits of our world as we know it. If we only focus on our own perspective, then we will only ever see the trees. But if we learn to see things from God's perspective, and to have an eternal perspective, we will then begin to see the forest for all its grander, all it's beauty, and discover how richly blessed we are to know the Lord, who is forever on His throne, working through all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes, who loves us beyond imagination and who is forever good and holy, holy, holy.  

It is at this point that we stop trying to create fruit in our life apart from the Vine, and start pursuing the Vine and abiding in Him- Fruit is not the point; the Vine, Jesus Christ, is. When we abide in Him, all these things will become evident in our lives, because the fruit of the Spirit is no longer our goal. Jesus is. We won't have to "try" to be kind and patient and love others and have joy-- it will simply happen when we live surrendered to Him and continually remember who God is and what He has done. The waves will crash, and tragedy will come. But the follower of Christ, who has been made new by Him, will have a hope secure, a solid Rock to stand firm upon, that will enable him or her to endure the struggles and pain of this world and hear our blessed Lord say at the end of our life, "well done, my good and faithful servant."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I double-dog dare you...

Good morning everyone:) Just wanted to share a passage from Galatians with you all - i've been reading there a lot recently- kinda like John 6; I can't seem to move on... :)

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,21 envy,t drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:16-25 (ESV)

"walking in the Spirit" is kind of a tough thing to do, let alone describe it.  Recently though, I have been listening to The Vow series that Craig did a few years ago- definitely one of my favorite series that he has done. In the first message, he talked about the vow of priority- God is my one, and my spouse is my two. Craig interviewed Amy about this, and she went on to talk about this very passage - about walking in the Spirit. So... how do we do this? There may be many other answers that get us here, but the first and foremost is that we put God first- the vow of priority; God is my one. Before all things, God comes first.

When we seek God first with our best, we are practicing the vow of priority. When we make time for Bible study and prayer, we practice the vow of priority. When we clear our schedules for lifegroup or church, we - you get the idea...

So then, does the vow of priority, by doing all these things, automatically cause us to walk in the Spirit? Of course not. But I double-dog-dare you to do them and see if you don't notice a greater awareness of what God is doing in your life, experience a greater intimacy with the One who knit you in your mother's womb, and if you don't have a greater joy and sense of gratitude for all that Christ has done, and all that you have in Him. There's much more i want to say, but i think this is plenty long enough for today... agreed? Let me know your thoughts-

1. What things have you done that help you to walk in the Spirit?
2. Describe a time when you noticed the fruit of the Spirit in your life.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Leaving The Gray... Again

Its been a couple months since I've posted here, and probably better than a year since I've posted on a regular basis. With the many changes at work, ministry growth, and expecting our third child, I can't say that the break from regular posting is due to a lack of content. So why the silence? Why the break? Answer: I care too much about what you think about my posts.

We are in a series at my church called: "Weird, because normal isn't working." The basic premise is centered around the Matthew 7:13-14 passage which deals with the wide road that leads to destruction (Normal), and the narrow road that leads to life (Weird). If you want what normal people have, do what normal people do. If you want what few people have, do what few people do. Don't be normal, like everyone else; be weird, in a God way.

So what does this have to do with my lack of posts? Well I'm so glad you asked :). Week 2 of the series dealt with the constant pressure to conform to the norm-
1. The inward pressure: the need to please.
2. The outward pressure: criticism.

It took me over a week to realize this, but I had stopped writting because I wanted to write something of great value, but didn't think what I had was good enough. Hence, both of the above were at work in me, but I was clueless. Couldn't see it. I had found myself drifting back to normal, drifting back to comfortable risk-free safe living, back to the insignificant life, back to the gray.

After going through a spiritual gifts assessment in our small group, I had my beautiful and wise wife remind me that one of the things that God has equipped and called me to do is write. Combining that with the countless sermons, books, and many other profound nuggets of wisdom and spiritual insight I have heard and contently acknowledge as a "good word" but then live as if it were irrelevant, I have determined that is time to get back to writing about the things that God is challenging me with, with the hopes that it will not only help me apply what I'm learning, but also encourage and challenge you along the way in your pursuit of seeking and following Christ.

Its time to get back on the narrow road that God has called me to, to get back to being weird (or maybe weirder), and leave the gray... Again.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A To-Remember List?

I make to-do lists almost everyday at work. There are often many things that need to get done in any given day, and while i often will remember a few of them, there are many more that I forget about if i don't write them down. To-do lists are for things that have a beginning and a measured ending. When the task is complete, we cross it off; things on the list are either done or they're not.

But not everything goes on a to-do list. "stop forgetting things" doesn't seem to fit on a to-do list. Sure, you can be intentional about doing this for a while, but then you forget about it. Then sometime later, you will realize that you forgot something, and then you will remember that you still haven't stopped forgetting things. Kind of a silly example, but I think it is helpful to distinguish this type of thing that we want to remember from a finite to-do task.

It seems like there is a growing list for me of things that I wish I would remember, that I would do, but can't seem to turn the corner so that it becomes second-nature, a habit, something that i don't need to worry about remembering anymore. These things have to do with the kind of person that I want to be. They are things that affect my relationship with Christ and with others. They affect how I respond to my circumstances, and my response when things happen to me.

In Romans 12:2, Paul tells us not to be conformed to the patterns of this world, but to renew our mind. It's easy to think like the world and live in fear, to doubt, to hurt others, and to concern ourselves with what everyone else thinks about us - this is the pattern of the world, the very thing that our sinful flesh tells us to do. But God's will is that we grow in righteousness, that we be conformed to His image, that we abide in Him. When we think on these things, it becomes easier and more natural for us to be the ambassadors for Christ, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and all the other things that He's called us to be. But it starts with renewing our mind.

So instead of spending all of our time and effort in this life on completing relatively meaningless of things to do, what if we spent this time working on a list of things to remember- a "to-remember list"? What if, instead of listening to a great sermon and giving a hearty "amen" at all the good points, what if we actually exherted a little effort in trying to remember those things and actually applying them to our life? I wonder how much different Western Christianity might look if we spent a little less time concerning ourselves with doing the things on our to-do list, and spent more time working on remembering things on our to-remember list?

Here's a few things that are on my list of things to remember and why i want to remember it:

God is sovereign, God is good, and God loves us - God allows bad things to happen everyday for reasons that I cannot begin to understand. But recognizing all of who God is, i can rest in assurance that he knows what He's doing as He is causing all things to work together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes.

What you fear the most reveals what you value the most, and where you trust God the least - I often spend time "thinking" about stuff that isn't going right. Some of you might use the word "concern". Others of you who are more honest might use the real word; worry. When i begin to worry about something, i need to remember that God is in control, and that this is something that i need to trust with God.

God's grace is sufficient for me - All of us are sinners, even those who have placed their trust in Jesus. We sin everyday, and it's easy to let our hearts condemn us when we do, and retreat into hiding from God. God wants us to walk in the light as He is in the light, to confess our sins before God and men so that we might receive forgiveness and healing and fellowship with one another. There's no sin we can commit in Christ that the blood of Jesus hasn't covered. He covered them all, and His grace is sufficient; more than enough for my sin.

What things do you need to remember, to add to your "to-remember list"?