Friday, April 30, 2010

Mirrors and Magnifying

The more I get magnified, the more my flaws show.  The more God gets magnified, the more His beauty shows.

With a face like mine, you don't do much mirror-staring.  Shaving is about it, really.  The closer I get to any mirror, the more I see gray hairs and nose hairs and that whisker I missed and how much I probably should see a dentist soon.

The more God gets magnified, the closer you inspect Him, the more beautiful, compelling, and majestic He becomes.  To "magnify God" as the Scriptures command us to do is not to make Him bigger (He's already big enough).  It is to see His immensity as well as savor His beauty.

Lastly, the more God gets magnified, the more trustworthy He becomes in our eyes.  The more we lean into Him.  The more we press on to know Him.  The more we rely on Him.  The more we have confidence in Him.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


No quip today.  Miracles happen.  Read about it here:

Chrissie's Story

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


God doesn't fit into my world or my life, I fit into His.

Solomon prayed when he dedicated the temple he had built for God, the I AM.  As he did, he made sure that the grandness and greatness of God were in perspective.  Even though there was an elaborate temple with precious metals everywhere, would God the I AM really live on the earth?  Could a temple really hold Him?  Could a building be His home?

There are times, it seems, when we forget the grandness and greatness, assuming that God is going to fit into our world or into our lives.  Instead, we need to remember that the world exists in Him, that it's in Him we live and move and have our being.  It's in Him that we have life.  We mold ourselves to Him, not vice versa.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Midweek Memo 4.27.10

Dear Sent Ones,

You are a commissioned people. That commissioning is a part of the transformational work Jesus has and is doing in us. We don’t hear His voice, receive His grace, and then sit back until heaven. There is work to be done. Because we are His, we get to join His story and Him in how He’s working in the earth. It‘s why the Bible calls us “ambassadors for Christ.” So this week, live as people who have been sent as an emissary by a King with news for a listening people. When you step out and share in the places you go and with the people you encounter, do so with the confidence that the Father is pleased, King Jesus is in agreement, the Spirit is at work.

How in the world can we draw such a conclusion? Because the Kingdom of God is at hand, near, present, right here. The spiritual reality of that is a stunning reality. Whatever you need in that moment is right on hand: boldness, prayers, encouragement, insight. When we step out to minister in Jesus’ name, we can absolutely and confidently trust that the resources of the Kingdom are available to us as we minister. That’s not crazy. It’s Bible!

My prayer for you and me is that we live with that unshakeable confidence. From the bedrock of that reality, our footing is sure, even when we’re having conversations that stretch us or see needs that overwhelm us. The Kingdom is available through trust in the King. Let’s follow Jesus together.


Rain and God's Presence

Sometimes He comes like spring rain, gentle and pleasant.  Sometimes He comes like a torrent.  Both are His ways.

God is unpredictable, that's one thing we can say about Him.  Aslan told Lucy in Caspian, "I never come the same way twice."  He does this, I think, because our tendency would be to begin to trust in the system of His movement rather than God Himself.  That's idolatry of the highest order and oh-so-easy to do.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ministry and the Kingdom

When you minister in Jesus' name, you can expect the resources of His Kingdom to be readily available for ministry.

When Jesus' came preaching, the words out of His mouth sound slightly strange to us, I suppose.  "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand."  Repent - turn from your own way to God's way; rethink your thinking in light of what I'm about to tell you.  Kingdom at hand - it's available right now, not in the sweet by and by or then and there.

That means that wherever Jesus the King is, the Kingdom is available.  For those who turn to Him in faith, everything the Kingdom offers (forgiveness, peace, deliverance, healing) is at hand as well.  That means I don't have to marshal my resources for ministry, I can rely on Jesus and His provision.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sermon Notes from Sunday 4.25.10

Message with Authority
Mark 1.16-34

2 Big Pieces

  • Jesus calls us to Himself.
  • Jesus calls us to Transformation.
  • Jesus calls us to Community.
  • Jesus calls us to Mission.
  • He declares and manifests the Kingdom of God.
  • He teaches as a person who speaks for God, not merely about Him.
  • He exercises authority over demons on behalf of the helpless.
  • He ministers compassion by healing the sick. 

3 Implications

Message Size
  • If the message isn’t big enough to catch people up, then it’s not the Gospel.
  • Gospel:  Christ’s righteousness for our forgiveness, peace, deliverance and healing through His death and resurrection.
  • There is inherent authority in the message of the Kingdom of Jesus.
Expecting the (Un)expected
  • As it was with Jesus, so it was with His followers (Mark 6.12-13).
  • We don’t because we’re scared to fail.  Jesus makes failure survivable and viable.
  • We don’t because we have little or no faith.
  • We don’t because we’re not sure He works that way today.
First Things First
  • The point isn’t manifestation – it is declaration and salvation.
  • The point is to declare the Kingdom and have people enter the Kingdom through confidence in Jesus.
  • Part of the danger of signs and wonders is that it doesn’t take a regenerate heart to be amazed at them.

Ready for Worship

Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, is anticipating the gathering of His people to worship Him.  Come ready.

Friday, April 23, 2010

More on God's Timing

God is hardly ever early but is certainly never late.  That is by design that our confidence would be in Him, not ourselves or our resources.

I was sitting watching the Caspian movie in the Narnia series and was struck (again) by the thought above.  Aslan shows up at just the right moment, but long after Peter had declared to Lucy that he had "waited on Aslan quite long enough" and led his troops into a defeat when they tried to ambush the castle.  

So it is with God.  He's hardly ever early but never late.  That keeps us dependent on Him.  It keeps us seeking Him.  It keeps us dialoguing with Him.  It keeps us hopeful for Him.  It keeps us focused on Him. Otherwise, we are prone to count our dollars in the bank (or 401k), count the contacts we can make, count the actions we might take to wield power, count the conversations we need to have for influence.  And we'd do all of those in the name of stewardship but without the dependent heart of the steward - the heart that knows a steward is someone who has received such things and is simply managing them, not owning them.  God forbid it in my life.  Keep me focused on You.  Amen.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

God's Timing

Both where and when are important in decision-making.  Meaning, God's direction and timing are equally important.

How true this has played out in my life.  For instance, we turned down the current position I hold once because we didn't sense God was done yet where we were.  What that did was open me up to more understanding of what it means to pastor as well as ready the church (in some profound ways - personnel, finances, etc.) for the ministry God was leading me toward.

With NASA on the ropes, jobs still questionable, and other economic stuff still shaky, remember that His timing and direction are equally important.  If you're jonesing for a relationship or a reset or a restart, remember that His timing and direction are equally important.  Whatever you're facing, it's true.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy Birthday and Other Thoughts on Kids

Every child, every one of them, is a blessing from the Lord. Grateful for my middle kid on his 5th birthday.

Our middle child turns 5.  He's a huge blessing, full of life, hilarity, and goodwill.  He's got a big heart that matches his big blue eyes.  I'm grateful to the Lord for him.

Sometimes kids cause us frustration.  Sometimes joy.  Sometimes they come planned.  Sometimes they're a surprise.  Sometimes they come in an order we wouldn't have chosen.  Sometimes they come naturally.  Sometimes they come with much hard work and prayer.  Sometimes they come through legal processes.  But no matter how they come, they're all a blessing from the Lord.  

The point for us as parents is to raise them in the fear and instruction of the Lord, letting the Lord build the house so we don't labor in vain.  Thank God for your kids today.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More on the Incredible and Idolatrous

It was pointed out to me earlier today (by 1 of the 4 people who read this) that my previous post made it sound like I was mad at Michael W. Smith or Paul Baloche.  For the record, I'm mad at neither of them.  They're both incredibly talented musicians and gifted songwriters.  We sang one of Baloche's songs this past Sunday in worship.  Amen and amen to all of that.  Please don't hear me calling for a banning of all worship songs or albums or anything of the like.

What I do need to clarify is this:  God loves us uncontrollably, zealously, passionately, and unstoppably.  No one would give us as much as He has given us in His Son if that were not the case.  The Spirit (in one of His greatest but least talked about ministries) outpours this love in our heart (Rom 5.5).  But He also loves us uniquely.

This kind of unique love sets us free, delivering us from ourselves.  The vast majority of people understand "love" as solely making much of the object of affection.  Thus, my issue with "He took the fall and thought of me above all."  If someone hears this differently, please let me know.  In this case, God would solely make much of us.  While He does indeed rejoice over us, celebrating us and investing glory and good in us, that's not the end of the story.  He liberates us from ourselves to return love to Him.

So no, I don't think He thought about me above all.  I think He pursued His glory in me by loving me with liberating love so I could glorify Him forever.  But, that's not exactly a lyrical hook, is it?

Midweek Memo 4.20.10

Dear Sought Ones,

Spring has sprung, April showers are readying May flowers, and all the other catchy sayings apply too.  New life is happening all around, including here at Heritage Park.

It was great to see the Body of Christ acting like the Body of Christ this past Sunday.  Several of you gathered to pray around those who are hurting and in need.  Sometimes, ministry to the Body that happens by the Body is exactly what we need.  Thank you for your honesty, authenticity, and willingness to pray.

There are lots of great happenings on our horizon.  Upcoming ministry opportunities include baby dedication (5.9) where we’ll get to pray for parents and children.  Don’ forget the church picnic (5.16), which is always a great time and a great opportunity to invite people who don’t come to church to come out and eat hamburgers and play.  And then there’s the men’s retreat (5.21-22), which is going to be a great gathering of men to “be strong and be men” (1 Cor. 16.13).  See you there at all of those.


Incredible (and Idolatrous) Thought

The story of the Bible isn't one of a God who has to pursue us, love us, save us because we're so great.  It's the story of a God who freely chooses to pursue, save and love because He's so great.

One of the big songs in worshipville over the past few years is the song Above All, made popular by Michael W. Smith and originally written by Paul Baloche.  The song is terrific through the verses, declaring God's supremacy over everything in the heavens, on earth, and under the earth.

And then it crashes in the chorus.  The line goes, "You took the fall and thought of me above all."  Not only is it contradictory to the message of the song, but it's biblically wrong.  If God thought of us above all, then He is guilty of the same idolatry He forbids.

I assume the songwriter closed with a good lyrical hook.  But I also know that its sentiment is pervasive in Christian thought today, primarily because we need to feel good about ourselves.  But the biblical line of thinking goes something much more like this:  you're worse than you have ever imagined, embrace the reality of that, discover God's love by His grace, and know that you're more loved than you have ever imagined.

Monday, April 19, 2010


It's not hard to love your neighbor as yourself.  Acts of kindness and generosity generally do the trick.

We have a great set of neighbors.  They're the people I enjoy most in this town of 5M.  We watch each other's kids, pull trash cans off the curb, pull down hurricane shutters, and generally look after one another.

Loving neighbor isn't really all that hard.  Some are more unlovable than others, but specific acts of kindness and generosity goes a long way in expressing God's love in Jesus through you to them.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sermon Notes from Sunday 4.18.10

Off and Running
Mark 1.9-15

On Your Mark – Baptism (1.9-11)
  • God the Son accepts His mission and establishes a symbol.
  •  God the Spirit comes upon Christ for the ministry ahead.
  • God the Father expresses to Him His pleasure in Him. 

Get Set – Desert (1.12-13) 
  • At times, the desert is exactly where God wants us.
  • In the desert, there is thirst, hunger, loneliness, and weariness.
  • In the desert, temptation and danger lurk everywhere. 
  • In the desert, you are not alone.

Go – Preaching (1.14-15)
  • Jesus’ Proclamation:  the kingdom of God is at hand.
  • Gospel:  His righteousness for our forgiveness, peace, deliverance and healing through His death and resurrection.
  • Our response:  repent and trust.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Easter and Apologetics

I've run into probably 3-4 people (none of whom are the same 3-4 who read this blog) who ask about Easter sermons and my take on them.  I think the message of Easter needs to be preached on Easter, resurrection being the core doctrine of our faith.  I heard of one pastor so committed to expositional preaching that he stuck with his series on the book of Genesis and did the little bit about Onan spilling his seed on Easter Sunday.  Bad idea.  And gross.

Here is my Easter sermon every year.  I do some apologetics on the intellectual integrity of believing in the resurrection of Jesus.  Those apologetics don't prove Jesus rose from the dead but make it the most plausible explanation, which is generally the limits of apologetics.  I follow that with some sort of teaching about how if it's intellectually possible, our obstacles in belief are mostly about us.  You can look for this year's Easter sermon below.

But why apologetics at Easter?  Some thoughts...

First, you can be witty and engaging with apologetics regarding the resurrection.  It's not astrophysics and the age of the universe stuff.  That's important because there are people in the congregation who hear maybe one sermon a year.  Having a little levity and humor helps them in some ways, generally speaking.

Second, that same group of people may classify themselves as the honest skeptics.  And they may be right.  This past Easter, I had at least 4 people that I know of who have intellectual issues with the story of Christianity, particularly the resurrection.  What's more, I minister in a place that's heady and values critical thinking, so answering their objections is Kingdom ministry.

Third, by doing some apologetics, you equip your people to answer questions they get around the water cooler in the middle of summer, not just at Easter.  One person said this past Easter, "That was a lot of information but it's going to help me tomorrow."  Isn't that part of why I preach?

Lastly, for those who don't qualify as the honest skeptics, you point out that their objections really aren't objections.  They're hiding behind a straw man.  What they have to deal with is the reality of the resurrection and the hardness of their hearts.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Eating Right, spiritually speaking

God's Word isn't just Truth, it's food.  Consuming it provides the spiritual calories we need to do what Jesus calls us to do.

My daughter woke up this morning lethargic, moody, and generally not looking good.  We had a similar incident with one of our sons who, upon further inspection, had low blood sugar due to some liver issues.  After a few bites of cereal and a CapriSun, the girl is on the up and up.

So it is with the Bible and us.  Intaking it means we consume the calories we need to do good, love others, bless those who curse, pray for those who persecute, etc.  You can (try to) imagine being on a week-long fast and working out, assuming you're going to build muscle.  It's just not going to happen, physically or spiritually.

So consume the Bible through hearing - that's easier than ever via podcasts and the internet.  Our own podcast and internet sermons can be found on iTunes and respectively.

Consume through reading - I'm currently reading through the Bible in a different translation than I teach from, precisely because it's different and fresh (not because I'd agree with every jot and tittle of translation).

Consume through study - again, easier to do today than ever because of the resources available.  The hardest thing about studying these days is slowing down, turning off the media inputs, and putting our noses in the book.

Consume through memorization - there is a quote from Dallas Willard, one of my literary mentors, that says if he had to give up scripture memorization, he doesn't know if he could grow spiritually.  Do it.  Glue your fanny in the chair and don't get up until you have something in your brain.

Consume through application - one of the best ways to know that the Bible is true, is good, is right, and is worthwhile is by doing it (John 7.17).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

God the Wishing Well

God is not a wishing well into which I throw my best effort or offering and receive my desire.  God creates and changes desires that are in line with His purposes.

I have this conversation at least once per week:  "I just wish God would do this for me.  I mean, I do what He asks and am a nice person, etc.  Why won't He give me what I want?"  "Do you think you're entitled to it?  Do you think He owes it to you?"  Implied answer:  no.

We deserve hell and punishment forever.  Everything else is gravy, right?  Well, sort of - He gave us Jesus and with Him all His promises confirmed.  God is so gracious, so giving, so loving that He gives us all sorts of things.  But the giving He does is not so we can be comfortable or find convenience.  He does it so we'll be conformed to Jesus' image and live for His glory.

NASA's future

It seems to me that not having a low-earth orbit option is a bad idea.  Paying $50M to the Russians for the equivalent of a taxi ride is an expensive taxi ride on both a fiscal and prominence scale.  It makes much more sense to me to keep flying the shuttle (I've been told for $2B per year) to ferry astronauts and cargo while pouring the other $16B into destination-oriented projects.  I'd LOVE to see a human on the moon again and then on Mars.  I wouldn't gripe about taxes for that kind of stuff.

But that's just me thinking thoughts.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Stewardship, in part, means not being guilty of treating the Lord's offerings with contempt.

I'm reading through the Bible again this year in the New Living Translation.  In 1 Samuel, Hophni and Phineas, the sons of Eli, are judged by God via death because they "treated the LORD's offering with contempt."  For those of us in professional ministry, that's often a temptation.  We forget that just because it's in our budget doesn't mean that it's our money.  God forbid.

But it's also true of all of us in another sense.  It's true when we treat the things the Lord gives us with contempt.  Possessions we trash instead of pass along.  Relationships we use instead of value.  Jobs in which we surf instead of produce.  That's contempt too for what the Lord has given us.

But that's just me thinking thoughts.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Burden of Guilt

A follower of Jesus weighed down with guilt is carrying a burden imposed by Satan, no matter the human source (yourself or others).

When Jesus died on the cross, He took our sin and gave us His righteousness, justifying us before God.  That means that there was nothing I could do to set myself right with God - which is why Jesus had to die. It also means that because Jesus does everything perfectly, He took my sin away perfectly and gave me His righteousness perfectly.

I see people in my office (and I myself struggle with this at times) who are laden with the guilt burden over choices they made in the past.  That burden can be brought to their mind by similar circumstances, physical reminders, times of the year, or any number of factors.  But it comes and, when it does, comes with a crushing weight.

The Good News for followers of Jesus:  you don't have to bear that load.  Jesus has already borne it for you.  Release it to Him (again and again and again) as often as you sense its weight.  You are not forgiven because you confess - you are forgiven because Jesus died and rose again.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sermon Notes from Sunday

Here was my outline.  You can also find this stuff on our church website

Prepare the Way
Mark 1.1-8

John’s Ministry:  Preparation

  • John prepared people for God to move among them.
  • John prepared people for the fulfillment of God’s faithfulness.
John’s Message:  Repentance
  • His message had a symbol:  baptism.
  • His message drew a crowd.
  • His message was rooted in God’s activity.
What is repentance?
  • Metanoia – rethink your thinking.
  • Changing thinking leads to changed actions and life (1 Thes. 1.9).
Who is God?  He is not who we think He is.
  • He’s not a wishing well.
  • He’s not my excuse for what happens to me.
  • He’s not irrelevant.
Who is God?  He is who He says He is.
  • He is mighty and worthy, but not for reasons we might assume. 
  • He is Son of God and Christ, the King who is our Savior.
What does God want? 
  • He wants to immerse us in His Spirit.
  • This is not primarily about manifestation.
  • This is primarily about transformation (Luke 3.10-14).

Midweek Memo 4.13.10

Dear Rescued Ones,

One of the great moments for me on Sunday was watching families approach the Communion Table together, pause, pray, and partake.  So much is symbolized there.  A big piece of that for me was the reminder that Jesus is enough. 

I don’t know what’s going to happen after Thursday with the mix of politics in a swing state, budget issues, and directional questions.  I don’t know what impact it will have.  I don’t know what Congress will choose to do, want to do, or prove incapable of doing.  I don’t know how many jobs it will cost.  I don’t know how it will affect the Houston economy.  I don’t know how house values will be impacted.  There’s a lot I don’t know.

This I do know:  Jesus is enough.  On the basis of His sacrifice of body and blood, we stand rightly related to God.  And He’s enough for the rest of life too.  If God didn’t spare His own Son, He will surely give us all good things (Rom. 8.32).

Trusting with you,

Master's Golf on Sunday

There are treasures greater than gold - those are the ones worth pursuing.

I watched, admittedly a little teary-eyed, on Sunday as Phil Mickelson birdied the 18th green and walked off into the arms of his wife Amy.  Amy continues to fight breast cancer and only made it out to the golf course on Sunday afternoon because of her strength levels.  They shared a long embrace - the kind that's so long that you get uncomfortable if you're watching because you feel like you're a voyeur.  Then came a long kiss and then some words that were private.

I think about that in relation to Tiger Woods and his adultery and his (hopefully) marriage-in-repair.  And I think about Phil and his third green jacket.  I think about how much Phil would trade for the health of his wife.  I'm not comparing the two men - Phil might be a jerk for all I know.  But that moment with Amy was powerful.

And then I think about the things that matter in my life.  Those are the things that matter.  Those are the things I want to pursue.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Giveaway Reminder

Just a reminder:  my wife has a cool giveaway on our family blog that is adoption-oriented.  Even if you're not adopting (or not now), check it out:

Friday, April 9, 2010

Apathy and action

When spiritual apathy reigns, it's best to act like your priorities are true until you believe they are. That's not faking it, that's faith-filled living.

As a pastor, I often get invited into people's spiritual journeys.  That includes the moments when they don't feel much, don't like God much, don't want to pray much, don't read the Bible much, etc.  The counsel I always give them is stated above.  

Priorities determine passions.  Jesus said it this way:  where your treasure is, that's where your heart will be.  Treasure - priorities, heart - passion.  

I get two versions of pushback.  The first one I answered above.  Isn't it hypocritical to act like you feel or want something when you don't? Sometimes it is, sometimes not.  It is when you're not being honest about it with God, yourself, and those who love you.  That's hypocrisy.  But when you're disciplining yourself based on the things you know to be true, even if you don't want it or don't feel it, that's faith.

The second pushback I get revolves around feelings.  "But I just can't make myself feel it."  They're right about that.  But feelings are terrible guides to life, which is the position we put them in way too often, straining their God-given role.  Feelings are great companions, letting us know when something isn't right in our world.  But guides?  No way.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

So much wrong with this...

There's so much wrong with this I can't even tell you.  The good part?  The guy singing has a good voice.  For the record, anyone who leads this kind of stuff will stand to give an account.  But that's just me thinking thoughts.

Excuse me while I go wash the vomit from my mouth...


My wife is giving away some cute stuff on her blog.  Check it out:

Ginny's Blog

It's adoption related and kid related.  Cool stuff.

For Jesus, To Jesus

Helping the helpless, giving to those without, serving the undeserving - righteousness in action that we do for (AND TO!) Jesus Himself.

This is a thought from Matthew 25 where Jesus equates doing acts of righteousness to others with doing those same acts to Him.  It's an amazing thought - we are serving Jesus (not just others) when we serve those around us.  

That's an incredible motivation to keep going, to keep serving, to stay in a marriage, to keep loving a frustrating child, to bless a coworker, to aid the lady reaching for the pancake mix on the top shelf at Kroger, and on and on we go.  Don't grow weary in doing good, Paul exhorts in Galatians 6.  Not only will we see fruit, but we serve Jesus.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Jesus didn't come to make us moral or moralistic.  Jesus came to transform us - the morals come with the transformation.

Mistaking Christianity for moralism is common.  The equation of the two happens when cultural Christianity replaces really following the Christ of Christianity.

What's true about real followers is that they're moral people (or on their way to becoming moral people).  But the morals don't come from an external conformity to a set of behavioral standards.  The morals come from a deep-seated, deep-rooted change at the level of the heart where they want what's moral, what's good.

Last thought:  I'm not dogging morals here.  They're good.  They're right.  They reflect God's standards and desires for how the world should operate.  And for sure, in society we'd rather have morality than immorality, but don't think that it will suffice as a substitute for truly following.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Midweek Memo 4.6.10

Dear Church Family,

This week, we wrap up the First 100 Days Challenge.  It has been a good challenge for me and for us as a church.  Thank you for your participation and willingness to step outside your comfort zones to engage with God and what He’s doing around you.  Let me give you some thoughts to ponder as we wrap this up.

First, it has worked in terms of seeing new people come join us for worship.  You’ll remember that the challenge included two parts:  telling someone about something God has done in your life and inviting them to church.  Well, I can statistically say that it worked.  Our attendance in worship is up 10%.  We’re reaching more people with the good news that Jesus reigns over everything.  Numbers only matter to me if they reflect the transformation that we pray for, lead toward, and teach about.  This number says something (see below).

Second, lives have been and are being changed.  There are prodigals coming home, like the single mom who’s been away from church for too long or the couple who can’t get enough of what they call “a real family” (that’s you, church, they’re talking about).  There are the battered, bruised, and burned who have had enough of institutions and religion and religious institutions who find the Spirit of God at work here and it gives them life and freedom.  And yes, there are the lost who have been sought out and who are pondering what it means to follow Jesus, like the parents who showed up because their kids “love it here.” Amen to all of those.  We’re not attracting the well-heeled and spit-polished nor are we getting people who were mad at their last church and are ready to come be mad at this one.  We’re seeing authentic transformation happen. 

Lastly, I would simply challenge you with this thought:  if you could do it every day for 100 days (or most every day), you can keep doing it.  One of the reasons we felt so strongly about extending it for such a long time was the life-shaping power of endurance.  We can keep at this – sharing stories of God’s activity and inviting friends to church – and keep seeing God work, transforming lives of people from various walks of life.  So keep sharing and inviting.  Let’s make it a normal part of our lives.


Sin and Forgiveness

Forgiveness is free to us but infinitely costly to Him.  Therefore sin is a big deal and grace a better offer than we could have ever dreamed.

I wonder how often in my own heart (too often, I'll admit) I rely more on my power to confess a sin than I do God, through Christ, to forgive it.  As if saying the magical words just makes it go away.  There is only one thing that makes it go away, the beauty of Jesus' sacrifice as an acceptable offering unto God that atones for my sin.

The fact that it took Jesus' sacrifice means it's a big deal.  The fact that it comes to me freely means it's a great deal.  Thank you God for your grace!

Starting a Worship War

Just because I thought this was really funny.  I think it's a cult in Ohio, but it's still funny.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Purpose and Passion: Two in One

Everyone breathing air on the planet has a passion to be satisfied.  Everyone also has a created purpose to glorify God.  The Good News of the Gospel is that both purpose and passion are united in one pursuit.

Our created purpose:  glorify God (Isa. 43.7).  We glorify Him when we see Him as He is and enjoy Him for who He is.  Our deep-seated passion:  satisfaction.  We are only satisfied when we are fulfilling our God-given purpose.  John Piper says it this way, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him."  They aren't two pursuits, but one.

Some think that satisfaction and glory are angry at one another, polar opposites in the life we live.  Some end up aesthetes who focus on duty and (often drudgingly) accomplishing their spiritual checklists.  Some end up hedonists who pursue satisfaction in every way in every corner of every their hearts, only to find themselves continually empty because they pour the finite into the receptacle of the infinite.  Our hearts were made for eternity (Ecc. 3.11).

Some think that satisfaction and glory are parallel pursuits.  They meet, for sure, but it's a long way off and generally not worth talking about until heaven.  So work work work until Jesus comes and occasionally you get to smile and laugh and enjoy things like steaks, golf courses, sunsets, good wine, the laughter of your kids on the swingset you just built them, etc.  But any satisfaction I draw from those things is disconnected from my purpose.  So much for, "Every blessing you pour out I'll turn back to praise," or "Whatever you do - eating or drinking or anything - do all to God's glory" (1 Cor. 10.31).

But the revelation of the Scriptures and what the Gospel makes possible is the uniting of those pursuits:  glory and satisfaction.  Because of Jesus, I can fulfill my purpose AND find deep delight in God and the life He gives.

John Piper, Rick Warren, and the Hoopla

The blogosphere is abuzz because of the invitation by John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, to Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, to speak at the Desiring God National Conference on the topic, "The Life of the Mind and the Love of God."

A bit of that last sentence, as wordy as it is, is overstatement.  The blogosphere is not abuzz.  There are some conservative, reformed followers of Jesus who are abuzz.  And for the four of you who are reading this, you probably have no idea what the heck this is all about.

For the record, I don't either.  I thought we were all on the same team here.  Warren is known for his best-seller The Purpose Driven Life.  Piper is known for his prolific writing, his seminal work being Desiring God.  They both love Jesus.  They lead their churches differently.  Why the ugliness and name-calling?

My problem with the hubbub is this:  how can you dare stand up in the pulpit or blog in your pajamas about pathetic level of political discourse when you do the exact same flippin' thing in this situation?  We have a name for someone who does that:  hypocrite.

It strikes me that there is a lot more to be worried about in the world than who is speaking at whose conference.  But that's just me thinking thoughts.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Funny Little Story

To spare all 4 of you who read this from dying of devotional overload, I include the following story.  I recognize that sometimes saying something worthwhile means levity in the right moment.

I was talking to some students in our church today that were laughing about almost getting arrested last night.  Why?  Because one of the boys wanted to ask a girl to prom by shoe-polishing the big question on her car.  The only problem:  the neighborhood had experienced some vehicle burglaries lately and the neighbors (along with the cops) were particularly vigilant.  Some shouting, some running, and some explaining made it all okay.

That reminded me of the night before I graduated from high school.  My friends David and Kyle and I found out that a big group of gals were slumbering at someone's house.  So we decided to visit, armed with an obscene amount of toilet paper, plastic forks, shoe polish, vaseline, and probably some other things I'm forgetting.  All went well until headlights sent us scurrying like roaches when you turn the light on.  And the headlights weren't all:  there were strange red and blue lights flashing as well.  When addressed by one of Huntsville's finest, we found out it was one of the guys who was our senior when we were freshmen.  Whew.

He even let us video ourselves in the back seat of the police cruiser.  I'm confident when I run for President that video will surface on YouTube.

Easter Sermon

Easter 2010
Mark 16.1-8

The women come to do something for Jesus but He is the one who does something for them.
  • Can you take Him for a teacher and not a Lord?  No.
  • Everything hangs on whether He rose from the dead, not whether you like His teaching or not.

The fact (of the resurrection) births faith (in the One resurrected).
  • Like veil, like stone – don’t fret on getting in because God’s already out.
  • There is no obstacle He hasn’t already moved.

Objection:  Death
  • Some say Jesus simply didn’t die.
  • The centurion said He did and His resurrected body got out of the tomb and walked to Emmaus.

Objection:  Body Snatchers
  • Some say Jesus’ followers stole His body.
  • This is the same crowd who deserted Him.
  • This is the same crowd that died for Him – and no one knowingly dies for a lie.

Objection:  Movement
  • Some say the authorities moved the body to a different place.
  • Why not produce it to quash the growing movement that still threatens your power?

Objection:  Location
  • Some say the women simply went to the wrong grave.
  • 3 of 4 Gospel records are clear they saw where He was laid.

Objection:  Record
  • Some say the scriptural records are inaccurate or fantasy.
  • The budding church has nothing to gain by the women as the first to carry the message.
  • Neither does the church gain by keeping the apostles’ foibles on record.

Response:  Surprise
  • This often happens to those who think they have Jesus figured out.
  • Even His own followers missed it – He can’t be contained or managed.
  • His invitation:  “Come and see.”

Response:  Guilt
  • Jesus wanted to see His disciples and them to know He was faithful.
  • These are the same disciples who deserted Him and denied Him on Friday.
  • You may have been unfaithful to Him, but He’s faithful to you.

Response:  Wreck
  • The mixture of emotions shows how big the Resurrection really is.
  • The women went on to be transformed and transform others through their message.
  • He will wreck your life so He can give you his life.


Today we celebrate Jesus' resurrection, by which He was declared the Son of God with power and through which He has become the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Jesus Christ beat sin on Friday and death on Sunday.  There's so much that the Bible says about those.  But our older brother, Christ Himself, also set the tone and pattern for us in being raised from the dead.  Whoever looks on Him in confidence receives the same kind of life, indeed the very same Spirit that raised Him from the dead (Rom. 8.11).

What is ours because of this?  We share with our older brother in the same inheritance from the Father.  We are loved as He is loved.  We are imbued with power as He has power.  We are unionized with Him in His victory.

Happy Easter everyone.  He is risen.  He is risen indeed.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Saturday

The air of Easter Saturday is heavy with the fog of doubt and confusion, grief and loss.  Yet there is a tinge of the aroma of hope.

Just about everything we know about Easter Saturday can be summed up in one word:  nothing.  The silence is deafening.  I can only imagine what's running through the individual and collective minds of the followers (and deserters) of Jesus.

"I guess we bet on the wrong horse here, didn't we?"

"All along I've been wrong.  How can that be?"

"I thought He was someone else, someone special."

"What in the world am I going to do now?"

It strikes me that most of those thoughts and ponderings that I'm imagining have at their core how I am responding to what's happened.  That's part of the problem I guess.  Easter Saturday is not about how I'm feeling about what happened on Friday.  It's about how God is at work even in the death, the grief, the loss, the devastation, the doubt, the silence.

There's a lot of patience required in those moments.  And confidence that the One who promised is Faithful to see it through (1 Thes. 5.24).

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

The man on the cross is no mere martyr who identifies with the oppressed - He is the Son of God being the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

Some would identify Jesus as the symbol of all who would suffer oppression, injustice, hardship, loss, grief, and hatred.  He certainly did suffer those things and promised that those who follow Him would as well.  But you can suffer and become bitter.  You can endure hardship and come out hard-hearted.  So no, He's no mere symbol.

He's the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  That's what He's doing on the cross.  He can be more for us than that as He agonizes there, but it must start there.  His atoning work becomes the portal for all the other things God will do (Rom. 8.32).

I write this at 3:01pm, the hour according to the Bible that Jesus cried His last words and breathed His last breath.  Indeed, it is finished.  Amen.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Maundy Thursday

Jesus on Thursday: In the world you will have trouble, but take heart because I've overcome the world (John 16.33). That's a perfect picture of the coming Easter weekend.

No one claims the first half of that promise:  in the world you WILL have trouble.  That's not framed, not on anyone's fridge, not on a coffee cup or Bible cover or any of the other inane things most Christian bookstores sell.  We love the back half.  It's the front half we have problems with.

But Jesus not only spoke it - He modeled it.  Thursday night into Friday is bloody and brutal.  Friday is death and darkness and separation and wrath.  Saturday is doubt and questioning and silence.  But take heart, because He overcame the world on Sunday.  

Prediction on the front end so we'll know He's faithful to His promise on the back end.  That's (part of) what Maundy Thursday means to me.