Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Emotional Growth

I have been personally praying through a psalm a day for some time now.  I don't always identify with what David or God is saying because there's not always the same situation in my life as was happening upon the penning of the psalm.  But it seems like there's always a phrase in there or a declaration of who God is that catches me.

Pretty consistently, I find that the emotions David (or any other psalmist) go far beyond what I regularly experience or, at times, can even fathom.  I just don't get it sometimes.  He's saying words and I'm reading them but there is no connection between what he's communicating and what I'm getting.  I might as well be reading a particle physics book or my little brother's latest lecture on orbital mechanics.  I can read the words but have no idea what they mean.

Letters.  Spaces.  Punctuation.

No meaning.

But this is the Bible, right?  God inspired it and I, as a preacher especially, should be on top of it.  Right?

And this is one place where I see God growing me.  I know it's true textually and I've seen it before experientially, just never to this level.  God, through the psalms, evokes in me feelings and then gives me words for them.  And it gives me a sense of just how far I have to go in my relationship with God and how much more of Him there is to experience.

I will say this of my journey so far:  it has helped me understand what others are going through a little better.  Maybe I can move from my emotional adolescence and enter grown-up life.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Five kinds of suffering

As best I can tell, there are five kinds of suffering the Bible describes.

First, the kind where my consequences become my punishment.  You speed and get a ticket.  Or a million other examples.  Be careful that you don't call these consequences anything other than consequences.  They may hurt but it's not like you're innocent.

Second, the kind of suffering where because I live in a broken world I groan along with the rest of creation, longing for the redemption of the children of God (cf. Rom. 8).  Sickness.  Hurricanes.  Earthquakes.  Death.  Loss.  Grief.  All symptoms of living in a world in which we know how it's supposed to be (in the most eternal sense) but cannot change it to that kind of goodness.

Third, the kind of suffering that happens because we are believers and followers of Jesus.  Not only is the physical world broken, but so is the spiritual world.  The Enemy is exactly that:  an enemy.  He seeks to steal, kill and destroy.  He targets God's kids because he hates God.

Fourth, the kind of suffering we intentionally choose because we either want the challenge or see the benefit of it.  A quick and easy example would be a short-term mission trip to Haiti like our church is taking in December.

Lastly, the kind of suffering where God, our perfect heavenly Father, sends His children into suffering because He wants to grow them in a way or get something done that would not happen apart from suffering.  This is the hardest to trust God while in.  But Joseph did (Genesis 39-50).  Paul did (multiple examples, including Acts 16 where he shares Jesus with the jailer).  And Jesus certainly did in the Garden.

Which is hardest for you?

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, August 29, 2011

GWB on NatGeo

I just saw the NatGeoTV special in which George W. Bush was interviewed about his experience as President on 9/11.  If you haven't seen it yet, watch it.  Absolutely worth your time.

It's a reminder how hard leadership is, especially during crises.

It's a reminder of how much character matters in leadership, especially during crises.

It's a reminder that getting it right is difficult, especially during crises.

It's a reminder that people are watching reactions, especially during crises.

It's a reminder that government can be a big plus.

From my point of view, he did amazingly well in the fog of war.  I'll be happy to call that Providence and debate you if you feel differently.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sermon Notes from Sunday, August 28th

Here are the notes from today's sermon from Philippians 1.12-18.  To get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio, visit  You can also find the audio on iTunes via our podcast.

Part 3 – Advancing the Message
Philippians 1.12-18

What happened to Paul? (v.12)
  • He is in jail and in chains.
  • His grief is present but not preeminent, swallowed by the agenda of his King.

How did Paul respond? (v.18)
  • His heart-level response was joy.
  • He did not rejoice because of his situation or his hope of being rescued from it. 
  • His rejoiced because God was using it.

Why would Paul respond like this? (v.12)
  • Paul knew hardship brought clarity and growth (3.10).
  • Paul saw Jesus advancing His message through him.
  • Even through mixed motives, Paul saw God at work (v.15-17).
  • Sometimes our Father will send us into hardship because there are things we will never learn and things we will never accomplish apart from it.

What are the outcomes? (v.13-14)
  • The people around him knew about Christ’s work in Paul’s life.
  • Other believers became bolder in telling others about Christ.  

Friday, August 26, 2011

Snakes are Scary: What day is today?

I have no idea what to say.  Really.  You think he signed Rebecca Black for his book tour?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

God never turns away

This is yet another short blog entry.  Some of you wish I preached this short too, I know.

Consider this:  "Those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You" (Psalm 9.10).

For anyone and everyone who has come to God...

to ask a question

to try to figure something out

for help

for God to show Himself to them

for forgiveness

to know Him

He has never turned them away.  Never.  Not once.  He doesn't forsake those who seek Him.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

One thing

Many of you followers know that I have spent a good amount of personal time and am now preaching through the book of Philippians at church.

This challenged me today, and it's brief, so it's a double-winner.

If I could have anything at all from God, that one thing would be _____________________.

Happiness?  Success?  Fame?  Fortune?  A relationship?  Power?  A religious and/or spiritual experience?  Good friends?  A boat?  Health?

Paul's answer:  to know God (Phil. 3.10).  At the end of his life, in prison, maligned by many, body wearing out, all the man wants is to know God well.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

For the few Religious Nerds like me who read this...

If you're not up to speed on anything concerning SGM or you don't know what SGM stands for, this is a great time to stop reading, head over to Facebook or CNN or Google and find something useful to do with your time.  No seriously.  Leave.  Right now.  And just don't worry about today's entry.  These are not the droids you're looking for.  You are free to go.  Move along.  Move along.

Okay, for the three of you who stayed, I want to recant something that I said in an earlier blog entry.  In it, I mentioned someone who stepped aside from ministry leadership because of stuff he needed to get done in his own soul.  I applauded then.  I don't do so now.

An SGM insider challenged me, when I mentioned that I was going to post something about this, about the Kingdom value of such a post.  Point taken.  Here, as in most ugly ministry situations, are three observations.

First, everyone's guilty in this situation.  Brent.  C.J.  Dave.  Bob.  Josh.  The bloggers.  Challies.  Mohler.  Duncan.  I don't even know what to say about the Panel of Three.  The only goodwill I can offer them is that they had such a narrow charge that they answered the most legal definitions of their investigation, like a jury is restricted to answer a specific question.  So much for getting my book published at Crossway (just kidding, I don't have a book).

True, not everyone is guilty of the same sin.  Also true, what they are guilty of as individuals has different effects and consequences.  Blackmail is different than gossip in its effect and consequence.  Covering up sexual abuse of a child is different than slander in its effect and consequence.  All sin is sin in the eyes of God and its ability to separate us all from God is devastating.  But not all sin has the same effect or consequence.  So, I reiterate:  everyone's guilty.  Good to remind ourselves in the midst of ministry junk.  It's not an Apostle vs. a new believer.  It's one sinner dealing with another.

Second, everyone's been negatively affected.  See the same list above.  I don't hear anyone engaged in the situation who thinks this has positively impacted them.  I suppose Dave, who got a quasi-promotion in the ugliness, could see it that way depending on if he has ambition.  But no one is celebrating.  Again, good to remember in the midst of the ministry mess.  Paul with Philemon.  Philemon with Onesimus.  Paul and Peter in Galatia.  Acts 15.  No one is celebrating.

Lastly, no one on the internet that I have seen who is an outsider to SGM is talking about the real victims of this situation.  It's not Brent or CJ or Josh or anyone else.  The children and the families impacted by the tales of abuse at the hands of the church are the victims.  Anyone want justice for CJ or Brent or Josh?  Fine.  But let's get justice for the most victimized first.  I know CLC in particular is trying to reach out to some families and the effort's getting brutalized on the blogs.  I for one think it was a good gesture and effort.  And I know that there are unpublicized efforts to make things right.  But consider this a prophetic call from the outside by someone who cares about and shares some affinity with SGM.  Take care of the real victims first.  And here's a hint:  we don't know their names.

That also is important to remember when it comes to ministry messes.  Sometimes selfish neanderthals like me can make it all about themselves.  It's a good reminder that we're often not the only people offended nor are we the most victimized.  Eyes off of self.  Eyes on Jesus, who helps us see those who need to be seen.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Back to School

Well, today is the big day.  Back to school.  Rhythm.  Homework.  Lunches to be made.  All of that and a whole lot more.

WeatherBoy, is not excited in particular.  But he's cautious by nature.  Third grade.  He's too big.

Jedi has never met a stranger, will have 150 friends by 10:38am, and is pretty much seeing this as an adventure.  But there's no way he's supposed to go to kindergarten, is there?  Is it really that time?

Peanut has another week or two before she gets back to her preschool life.  She has no idea how great it's going to be this year being the only kid at home with mom.  Spoiled.  Rotten.

But for mine and yours and you teachers too, my prayer...

Father, thanks for education and learning, things we too often take for granted and shouldn't in light of the world we live in.  Thanks for teachers and other investors who will work their hardest to make it worthwhile.  We all need patience.  We all need heart-level insight.  For kids in particular, help them to see their place of learning as a place of ministry too.  Let their light shine to make Jesus look as good as He really is.  Amen.

Pics courtesy of my completely awesome wife (website here) who took these at our church's Back to School Bash on Saturday night.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sermon Notes from Sunday 8.21.11

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday's sermon.  As always you can find the audio on iTunes or  These notes in PDF are also available on our website.

Praying for Philippi
Philippians 1.1-11

Paul is praying for the Philippian church, both leadership and laity.

Prayer with Gratitude
  • Their memory prompted his thankfulness.
  • Whose memory prompts your thankfulness?
  • What memory prompts your thankfulness for our church?

Prayer with Joy

Because of their partnership in the Gospel
  • Evangelism
  • Hospitality
  • Support
  • Prayer

Because God finishes what He starts
  • He will finish the work of grace in your life, promoting our security.
  • He will finish the work of grace in another’s life, promoting our perseverance in prayer and evangelism.

Because of Paul’s affection for them
  • They stuck by him in prison.
  • They stayed by him in his proclamation.

Pray for Love
  • He wants love to abound with knowledge and discernment.
  • Purpose for this prayer:  that they choose what is best.
  • Result of this prayer:  being ready for the day of Christ and bearing fruit for the glory of God.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Snakes are Scary: Dude, let's do youth ministry!

Someone posted this somewhere and I didn't believe it.  But lo and behold, this is an ACTUAL job listing for an ACTUAL ministry position in an ACTUAL church.  Think I'm kidding?  Here's the link.  
Small, growing, easy going, no problem church. Seeking a young man (no experience, no education is no problem). Piercings, tattoos, hair, etc. is no problem. We are good at reaching the types of young people who are traditionally not welcome in churches. We can pay very very small amount, apartment in church available. The perfect place for a young dude who wants to step out into this kind of ministry, but thought he couldn't due to experience, age, education, looks, etc. We are no liberal, we are out of the box workers. all of us here at First Church of Christ are long since tired of churchy church, tradition, discriminating of people due to whatever, etc. If you are in doubt...give us a just may be surprised.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thought Provoker

My friend Doug preached a great sermon at the church where I used to be on staff (heard here).  In his message, he talked about how God is not just satisfying but all-satisfying.  You can easily see the distinction.

A satisfying God means there's a feeling like a belly full of pot roast, like a cold Dr. Pepper in the hot afternoon, like a hot shower after a long day of work.  Satisfying.  All conditions that make you lean back a little and let out that little part-moan-part-sigh of pleasure.  The only problem?  You get hungry again.  You get thirsty again.  Work happens again and you need to take yet another shower.  Satisfying?  Yep.  But you need more and more and then more and more and then more and more after that.  It's why some Christians live experience to experience, retreat to retreat, camp to camp, new album to new album, conference to conference, even Sunday to Sunday.  Like Tarzan swinging in the jungle, they live on the momentum of the last vine until it runs out and they have to grab a new one.

An all-satisfying God is different.  Our All-Satisfying God means that we don't have to run anywhere else or to anyone else.  It means that the only vine we grab is Him.  It means we can let go of the other things that we hold so dear and think that we need, like a kindergartner who leaves his stuffed animal at the house on the first day of school.  It means that every source we turn to seeking satisfaction, security, identity, and purpose is put aside for the All-Satisfying Source and Sustainer of everything.

So Doug put this out and it's worth pondering today:
Because God is All-Satisfying, __________________ doesn't have to be.
What goes in your blank?  And how does that affect your day, week, year, marriage, parenting, evangelism, Bible study, church attendance, worship, spiritual disciplines, employment, entertainment intake, and every other area of your life?

But that's just me (and my boy Doug) thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

There's Something about the Quiet

I love the quiet of the early morning.

I remember multiple times going fishing with my brothers and/or dad on this little lake that you had to walk a mile to from your car and just listening.  Birds.  Crickets.  Wind in the tall pines.  Squirrels scurrying.  Even the uh-oh-what-was-that-in-the-pine-needles?

I wonder if God looks down on our busy lives, packed full of media and music and meetings, and gets sad.  I wonder if He gets sad because in our race to entertain and amuse ourselves (what we call giving ourselves and our kids multiple opportunities) we miss the symphony of sound coming from the orchestra of things like an early morning in the woods going fishing.  Even at my house right now where I'm writing it's quiet. A ticking clock, the low whoosh of the fan on my MacBook Pro, and the birds I can hear through the window.

There's something settling about silence when you get past the part that unnerves you.  For me, I remember that I have a soul and that the meeting later might not be as important as I think it is and that visiting the baby just born in the hospital is a wonderful opportunity for ministry (two things on my plate today).

A couple of deep breaths.  Prayers.  Fuel from Psalm 2 this morning - "He who sits in the heavens laughs [at those who think they will have their way against God]."  Enjoying a few more moments of quiet.  Then to the rest of the day.  Try it.  You just might like it!

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why I preach through books of the Bible

This Sunday, we kick of a study of Philippians.  Four chapters.  104 verses.  And I can't wait.

Some have asked along the way why we as a church and I as a pastor preach through books of the Bible.  Good question.  A couple of brief reflections follow.

First, preaching through books of the Bible make us understand the entire message of a particular book of the Bible.  Granted, you may not walk away ready to write a commentary on the main theme of Philippians, but you have a grasp of it.

Second, preaching through books of the Bible has a glorious by-product of helping people learn to study their own Bibles.

Third, preaching through books of the Bible makes sure that I, as a pastor, don't skip the hard passages.  One time I was preaching through the Sermon on the Mount.  Pearls.  Pigs.  Wouldn't have gone there if it wasn't next in the text.  The fact that a text is upcoming is secondary courage for me - if I don't have the courage preach it, I have to preach it anyway.

Lastly, I believe that every word in the Bible is inspired and preaching through books (or at least significant portions like the Sermon on the Mount) takes that pretty seriously because, over the course of a lifetime of ministry, you should have engaged with the whole counsel of God and taught it to His people.

One objection arises:  but didn't I just preach a series of mini-series on different topics?  You bet.  I didn't say that I felt like I only had to preach through books of the Bible.  But I want that to continue to be a hallmark of the ministry that God gives me for as long as He allows me to preach.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Too Cool?

I have never been accused of being too cool.  Never.  As in, not ever.  Here, Rachel Evans puts out a great word about the church.  I'm not sure who she is but she got a lot right in this editorial.  I know we don't always get it right, but what a goal to pursue.  Posted in its entirety...

How a pursuit of relevance can undermine authentic community.
People sometimes assume that because I’m a progressive 30-year-old who enjoys Mumford and Sons and has no children, I must want a super-hip church—you know, the kind that’s called “Thrive” or “Be,” and which boasts “an awesome worship experience,” a fair-trade coffee bar, its own iPhone app and a pastor who looks like a Jonas brother.
While none of these features are inherently wrong (and can of course be used by good people to do good things), these days I find myself longing for a church with a cool factor of about 0. That’s right. I want a church that includes fussy kids, old liturgy, bad sound, weird congregants  and—brace yourself—painfully amateur “special music” now and then.Why?Well, for one thing, when the Gospel story is accompanied by a fog machine and light show, I always get this creeped-out feeling like someone’s trying to sell me something. It’s as though we’re all compensating for the fact that Christianity’s not good enough to stand on its own so we’re adding snacks. But more importantly, I want to be part of an uncool church because I want to be part of a community that shares the reputation of Jesus. Like it or not, Jesus’ favorite people in the world were not cool. They were mostly sinners, misfits, outcasts, weirdos, poor people, sick people and crazy people.  
Embracing the Distractions 
Cool congregations can get so wrapped up in the “performance” of church that they forget to actually be the Church, a phenomenon painfully illustrated by the story of the child with cerebral palsy who was escorted from an Easter service for being a “distraction.” Really?It seems to me this congregation was distracted long before this little boy showed up. In their self-proclaimed quest for “an explosive, phenomenal movement of God—something you have to see to believe,” they missed Jesus when He was right under their nose. Was the paralytic man lowered from the rooftop in the middle of a sermon a distraction? Was the Canaanite woman who harassed Jesus and His disciples about healing her daughter a distraction? Were the blind men from Jericho who annoyed the crowd with their relentless cries a distraction? Jesus didn’t think so. In fact, He seemed to think they were the point.
Jesus taught us that when we throw a banquet or a party, our invitation list should include “the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.” So why do our church marketing teams target the young, the hip, the healthy and the resourced?
We Are All Uncool
In Bossypants, Tina Fey describes working for the YMCA in Chicago soon after graduating from college. This particular YMCA included, “a great mix of high-end yuppie fitness facility, a wonderful community resource for families and an old-school residence for disenfranchised men.” Fey shares a host of funny stories about working the front desk. One such story involves one of the residents forgetting to take his meds, bumping into a young mom on her way to a workout session and saying something wildly inappropriate. Fey writes: “The young mother was beside herself. That’s the kind of trouble you get when diverse groups of people actually cross paths with one another. That’s why many of the worst things in the world happen in and around Starbucks bathrooms.”Church can be a lot like the YMCA—or a Starbucks bathroom. We have one place for the uncool people—our ministries—and another place for the cool people—our church services. When we actually bump into one another, things can get “awkward,” so we try to avoid it.  The truth is we’re all guilty of thinking we’re too cool for the least of these. Our elitism shows up when we forbid others from contributing art and music because we deem it unworthy of glorifying God, or when we scoot our family an extra foot or two down the pew when the guy with Asperger's sits down. Having helped start a church, I remember hoping our hip guests wouldn’t be turned off by our less-than-hip guests. For a second I forgot that in church, of all places, those distinctions should disappear.Some of us wear our brokenness on the inside, others on the outside. But we’re all broken. We’re all uncool. We’re all in need of a Savior. So let’s have some distracting church services—the kind where Jesus would fit right in.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sermon Notes from Sunday 8.14.11

Here are the notes from this Sunday's sermon.  The passage in Acts 16 kicked off our sermon series on Philippians.  As always, you can find the sermon audio on our website at or via our podcast on iTunes.  These notes in PDF are also on our website.  If you'd like to view the video I mentioned in the sermon, you can do so on Facebook here.

Part 1 – How to Plant a Church
Acts 16.1-40

Most people plant churches like an entrepreneurial venture.
  • Get the right people involved.
  • Find the right place to do ministry.
  • Envision and execute the best plan.

People:  Everyone is valuable because everyone is valued.

Place:  God makes clear your locale for ministry.

  • Preach the Word
  • Power of the Kingdom
  • Perseverance in Suffering

Friday, August 12, 2011

Snakes are Scary: Anyone can honk, right?

Financial advice in the midst of the roller coaster ride of our economic times?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Share a story

While at family camp at Pine Cove this summer, my wife found a little gem of a gift to our family called Just Add Family.  The essence of it is little "recipes" for activities you can do as a family, whether traveling, at dinner (where we do most of ours), or any other number of scenarios.  Like I said, it's a great little gift to our family and always gives us something to talk about (just ask my middle one what Fat Cat is and then get ready for the silliness to ensue).

A night or two ago, our family activity called for talking about our spiritual stories and, if there was a particular verse or passage that stuck out in part of that story, to share part of the story and that verse.

Throughout my college years, I got to sit under and with a tremendous minister and his wife.  He is one of the most gifted communicators in the American evangelical scene right now and has been used by God to do mighty things, particularly among college students.  One of the more shaping conversations I got to have with him related to 1 Thessalonians 5.24.  And then I got to learn to believe it.

When I was trying to pay for a mission trip to South America and needed $1050 but only had $1000 allocated, I went ahead and sent the check for the full amount.  For those worrying, I had extra money so it wasn't going to be a hot check.  But that money was allocated for bills and school, not mission trip.  I walked the literal 25 feet from the blue box mail drop to my school PO box and, upon opening, found a check for...wait for it...$50.  Faithful is He who calls you; He will surely do it.

At 20 it's one thing.  At 35 it's different, right?

As we waited and waited and waited and waited on our paperwork to come through to adopt our daughter from China, paperwork delayed by Swine Flu and the Olympics and all sorts of other things, it was brutal on our family.  In a way, it was doubly so on me because not only did I carry my own pain but the pain of seeing my wife wounded and weeping when the next round of paperwork came out and we weren't included in the approved list.  The temptation to quit the process came from the Enemy daily.  Daily.  What I held onto in those days was, "Faithful is He who calls you; He will surely do it."

And I have many other stories about how I held to that truth and saw God move.  Thank you, Father, for being a faithful and amazing God who does what He promises without fail or fault.  Amen.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

One blade of grass

I mowed my lawn yesterday evening after it got below 212* F.  Thank you, God, for coastal breezes.  This morning, I was walking in after working out and I saw it.  One blade of grass.  Stupid little blade.  Smack in the middle of my freshly mowed lawn is one little blade of grass, sticking up in defiance, taunting me with that, "You're never going to get me clipped to the same height as the rest of the yard so don't even think about it" look.  Stupid little blade of grass.

And as I sat down to write this morning, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a conversation from yesterday and a verse I quoted in it.  Song of Solomon 2.15:
"Catch the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom."
In churches, little foxes can become big devourers because the Enemy uses them to divide, promote gossip, and cause distraction from our focus on God.

In marriages, little foxes can build up over time to become big problems when issues aren't dealt with, repentance doesn't happen, forgiveness isn't granted and received, communication suffers, hearts turn away from one another, affirmation ceases to exist inside the marriage, pursuit is put aside and coexistence becomes the new norm.

In my own heart (and yours too), little foxes can still devastate the vineyards in blossom where God is bearing fruit by thinking that little sins don't mean that much, one look doesn't matter that much, one thought isn't all that bad, one idol in my heart is better than 4 or 5 like John down the street has, and my kids turned out okay so I must be okay.

Little foxes.  Vineyard spoilers.  God's command through the poetry of Solomon?  Catch 'em.  Deal with them.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Church is hard!

I wrote about this in brief in the Midweek Memo for our church this week.  But I can't quit thinking about it for various reasons.

Church is hard.

And I don't mean the gathering of the church.  I don't even particularly mean the administration or leadership of the church (though those present their own challenges and problems).  I mean Church.  CHURCH.  Life together.  Relationships.  Connectedness.  Community.  Family.  However you want to frame it or conceive it, that's what I'm talking about.

Church is hard.

Have you ever thought about the one another commands and how hard they are?

Forgive one another.  Even the no-count, no-good lazy person?  What about the Pharisee?

Bear with one another.  Like carrying a Space Shuttle on a crop duster - that's what it feels like sometimes.

Pray for one another.  What if I forget?  What if I don't like them?  What if I don't want to?

Encourage one another.  But that person is clearly not gifted in that area.

Outdo one another in showing honor.  Even to the person who deserves no honor?  Even my spouse?

Live in harmony with one another.  Even when we're more like a car horn than a quartet.

Don't judge one another.  Though I'm perfectly suited to do so.

Accept one another.  Warts and all.

Comfort one another.  But that requires me entering into someone else's pain and I've got enough pain on my own!

Serve one another.  As long as it comes back to me, sure.

Be kind to one another.  So the standard, "How are ya?" in the hallway doesn't cut it?

Always seek to do good to one another.  Always?  In all the ways?

Stir up one another (to love and good deeds).  I could stir someone else up.  But that parenthetical part gets me.

Don't speak evil against one another.  What if it's in the form of a prayer request?

And those are just a few.  Church is hard.

But it is so worth it.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Doorbell video

60 seconds worth your time and reflection...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 8.7.11

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday, 8.7.11.  To get these notes in PDF or the sermon audio, visit  You can also find the audio on our podcast via iTunes.

Taking Aim at Money
Part 2 – Skills You Need and Use

Everyone uses the same set of skills to handle money.

Everyone starts the process of handling money at the same point.

  • When it’s me-focused, idolatry and enslavement result.
  • This is why we need the Gospel:  changed hearts and changed habits.
Dedication:  earning in light of eternity.

  • We recognize that everything belongs to God and is under His authority (Prov. 18.10-12).
  • Our response is to thank and honor Him with our wealth.
  • We dedicate what we acquire and how we acquire it to God.
Planning:  thinking in light of eternity.

  • Myths about money management:
1.     Money management didn’t work for us the first time.
2.     Money management isn’t for us because we live on a variable income.
3.     We are not mathematically inclined and don’t know enough about business.
4.     We are counting on God to take care of us.
5.     We don’t earn enough to warrant money management.
6.     We earn too much to worry about money management.
7.     Money management can’t plan for everything.

  •       Planning with godly counsel and pursuing godly goals is His normal way of provision (Prov. 21.5).
Giving:  spending in light of eternity.

  • His priorities are reflected in our finances through tithes and offerings (Prov. 3.9-10).
  • Tithe:  10% of earned income given to local church.
  • Offering:  gifts for opportunities that grab your heart.
  • As a byproduct, giving breaks greed.
Saving:  spending in light of the future.

  • Faith-filled saving is a means of God’s provision (Prov. 13.11).
  • Save for unpredictable emergencies.
  • Save for predictable needs.
  • Save for a planned future.
  • Don’t let saving become hoarding or self-sufficiency.
Spend & Repay:  spending in light of the past.

  • The debts we owe bind us to the payments (Prov. 22.7).
  • Possible reasons we have debt:
    • We lack contentment.
    • We lack discipline.
    • We search for security.
    • We search for significance.
  • Most of the time, our debt problems are behavioral and not monetary.
Enjoy:  spending in light of the present.

  • God is good and intends for us to enjoy His blessings (Prov. 10.22).
  • Reminder:  the best blessings are not material.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Things I learned as a dad and husband while my wife was in China

It's a long title, but here's what I have for you...

Kids and their dad can survive on cereal, pizza, and peanut butter sandwiches for a week.

Eating cereal for breakfast is a great idea, too.

Hard work is keeping house, keeping people fed, and keeping sanity.  Major props to my wife who does it 3-4 times a year when I'm gone.  And for all who have traveling spouses, bless your hearts.

Kids are incredibly resilient.  Stress and strain don't cause them much harm (at least in this case).  Two days at a maximum, and all will be perfect in their world.

Seeing pictures of God's work abroad makes me long to be in it more, not less - more intentional about getting myself and others there.

Watching God work through my wife and hearing the stories about it is awesome.  I love her more because of that.  And I love God more too.

I am incredibly grateful for ministry to orphans worldwide.  I don't think we'll ever stand before Jesus and say we gave too much in ministry to orphans.

She's home tonight.  I can't wait to see her.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Snakes are Scary: Marriage Advice Edition

Posted without comment.  I'll leave those to you.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

There's no crying in baseball!

My Astros are set to lose about 110 games it looks like.  They've traded away everyone whose name I actually recognize, have a second baseman the size of our junior high students, and couldn't pitch air conditioners in Phoenix.  But, to quote that classic line from A League of Their Own, "There's no crying in baseball."

And this morning I saw another place there's no crying:  Philippians 3.  Paul says he counts everything loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus.  O, for that attitude and perspective in my life!  To know Him as the treasure of treasures and pleasure of pleasures!  He's far better than what the world has to offer and, therefore, to trade anything to gain Him is a win.

And here's the statement that got me:  "For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ..."

Suffer.  Loss.  Those are sad words.  No one loves to suffer.  No one loves loss.  Grief comes with loss.  Brokenness comes with suffering.  I can't remember the last time I spoke with someone in my office who was in the midst of suffering and loss who didn't at least get misty-eyed if not go to full-on weeping.

Paul?  He suffered the loss of all things.  But he didn't cry, because he judged those things to be trash.  No one weeps over taking out the trash except in three cases.

My mom tells a story about me weeping when the trash man took my bottle away when I was however old I was.  My little blonde-headed self walked outside and watched the mean man carry away my bottle, throw it in the truck, compact it, and drive away.  Babies weep when the trash goes.

There's a TV show on called Hoarders:  Buried Alive.  So unless you're psychologically sick, getting rid of trash is a good thing.

And now the one where it gets down for most of us.  We might be immature.  We might be ill.  Or we just might love the stuff we are throwing away too much.  We might know it needs to go but are unwilling because of some emotional, relational, financial, or spiritual attachment.  We think it might be turned around and used for good because Anakin Skywalker turned out okay in the end, right?  We might rationalize that it's not all that bad in the end.  The grief of letting go might overwhelm us.  We might buy the lie that it really can meet our needs if we'll try better or harder or differently.  But the truth is:  it's still trash.

So what garbage needs to go in your life?  In mine?

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

If you aren't tired...

I just got off of Skype with my amazing and lovely wife who is in China right now on a mission trip, hosting special needs orphans at a camp (read about it here on her blog).  She and our children's minister from church have been hard at it since Monday, directly on the heels of a 27-hour plane-to-plane journey on Saturday and Sunday.

They've dealt with lice, unspeakable fear from a 12-year old who had never left the grounds of the orphanage, questionable decisions by folks on the ground, crazy food, and any number of other things I could tell you about.  And she's exhausted.

She's not complaining.  Trips like this aren't supposed to be vacations with surf, sand, umbrella drinks, and a nice tan.  Granted, I've bumped into more than one person who, after a mission trip, tells me the highlights - none of which actually include God stuff.  They'll tell me about where they stayed, who was their roommate, how hard traveling was, and what non-ministry-related stuff they got to do.

If you don't come home physically and emotionally exhausted yet spiritually full (even if it's the kind of fullness that's brokenhearted over what you've seen, heard, felt, and sensed), you may have had a great trip but you might not have had a mission trip.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Love Done Gone

I like country music.  I really do.  I can barely stand most music that gets played on Christian radio these days.  Country feels more real, more honest, and a heck of a lot funnier.  On occasion, though, I run across a country song that I think just about gets everything wrong.

Here's one example of that song.  It's an affront to marriage.  It sentimentalizes love (I mean, when your wife gets cancer or breaks her neck and is a quadriplegic, is it okay to say what this guy says in the song?).  It's reflective of treating marriage more like a junior high dating relationship than a covenant before God.  It pretends that love is always easy, always fireworks, and a quantity you can run out of instead of a daily choice you make.  And don't get me started on the Bachelor/Bachelorette fiascos.

Enough frustration on my part.  For all the places it gets it right, here's a swinging, jazzy, beeboppy example of getting it wrong.  Lyrics on the video.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Greatest Need of the Church in 2011

The greatest need of the church in 2011 might have been addressed in the 1950's...

In my opinion, the great single need of the moment is that light-hearted superficial religionists be struck down with a vision of God high and lifted up, with His train filling the temple. The holy art of worship seems to have passed away like the Shekinah glory from the tabernacle. As a result, we are left to our own devices and forced to make up the lack of spontaneous worship by bringing in countless cheap and tawdry activities to hold the attention of the church people.  (A.W.  Tozer, Keys to the Deeper Life) 

Where are the guys who write like that today?  Father, raise up some prophets!