Thursday, January 31, 2013

Faith Stories are Inspirations

People of faith really inspire me.

I had someone in my office last night who is walking through a tough season in his job.  He faces it with faith.

A dear lady who is walking graciously through cancer and it seems to be winning rather than her.  But a deep-rooted, evident faith.

A person burned by the church (not ours, thankfully!) who knows that the Bride isn't perfect yet and so isn't letting bitterness take root, festering into something toxic.  That's serious faith.

A guy who I enjoy very much who has seen God move and provide, is looking for more of the same as a new job venture unfolds, and is doing it without worry.  Confident faith.

The family from our church who took a month to minister on the mission field because they thought they should and there was a need.  Global faith.

And those are just five.  I have many more stories.

And they all inspire me to want to be a better man, a man of faith.  That's why faith-stories are important in churches, small groups, neighborhoods, etc.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mawidge (HT to the Princess Bride)

I've done a lot of thinking about marriage this week.  I have two friends for whom I get to perform the ceremony this weekend, so I've been working on a wedding sermon.  I have spent a lot of time reflecting over the past 2 weeks about how well the Queen and I seem to be doing in the marriage department, enjoying our kids, the challenges, and one another.

I guess you can say I'm a fan.

Part of the reason I'm such a fan is how much it works on me and gives glory to God.

Yes.  I put them in that order because it so often works on me that you could call it constant.  I know that God doesn't always get the glory He deserves from my marriage, though I want Him to.

Marriage is a process, a proven tool of sanctification.  If that's a big Bible word for you, it simply means the process of being made holy like God is holy.  Marriage does that.

Through the demand for selflessness.

Through the call to other-thoughtfulness.

Through the surrender of desire A in place of outcome B.

Those are all Christian traits.  And marriage, maybe more than any other Christian environment, has the capacity and the success rate of driving The Golden Rule down into the soul of an individual.  And here's the kicker:  that happens even if it only goes down into one spouse and the other remains a total oaf.

Marriage is also a great mirror from which God can receive reflected glory.  I'll never forget a relative saying one day to me in another relative's kitchen, "I sure appreciated the way you just talked to the Queen."  And without much thought, I simply replied that I was given her by God Himself so my verbal responses needed to reflect that.  All of my marriage should be a demonstration of that, bringing God glory.

If you're married, take a moment and thank God (no matter the blissfulness of your wedded bliss at this moment).  If you're not, pray for some marriages around you because they surely need it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Calling Him Father


That's how the Peanut starts some of her sentences to explain what's going on or how something happened or how she's feeling about something.  It's so cute.  Adorable.  And funny sounding coming from a 6-year old.

And then there's the Ninja, whose team I am coaching in basketball.  He has the emotional intelligence to know that Coach Daddy yelling to get on a man or shoot the basketball makes him feel the same as when Daddy Daddy has to tell him for the third time to put his shoes on (and yes, on occasion, the voice does raise a little bit).  But he doesn't have the emotional intelligence to discern that encouragement and coaching on the court isn't the same as frustration at home - he's seven and I don't expect otherwise.

And the Bear lives in a sometimes imaginary world where he thinks about doing stuff and even can see himself doing it, then tells a story like he's actually done it.  The vast majority of it is innocent exaggeration of a kid who's trying to find his place and understand his role in the world.  Trying to help him navigate waters between the Scylla of truth-telling and Charybdis of the loss of creativity is a hearty task.

I love my kids.  They are so much a force of joy in my life.

And then it hits me.

I have a Father too.  He enjoys my funny sayings.  He knows I don't have the capacity to handle everything that's in front of me right now and He's pretty okay with that.  He is wise enough to shoot a narrow gap with me and enjoy the company along the way.

For me, in this moment, that's what it means to call Him Father.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Hard Road

Have you ever noticed that when you take the harder road, the more difficult path, the steeper incline, you feel more accomplished when it's done?

When you take the more difficult path, it's more satisfying when it's done.

How about spiritually?  Have you ever noticed that you have a keener sense of God's presence and sustaining power when you're in the midst of hardship, suffering, persecution, and difficulty?

When you take the more difficult path, we find Him more satisfying.  Need strength?  He's got it.  Forgiveness?  In spades.  Power?  They don't call Him Almighty for nothing.  Courage?  Look at the cross.

So here's the question of questions (at least on this topic):  if we get "more of God" and find Him more satisfying if we walk down the harder road, why do we so often take the easier one?  Or, framed differently, when was the last time you did the hard thing God asked you to do and then said to yourself that you'd never do that again?

It's not because we're spiritual masochists.  It's not because we're spiritual ascetics.

It's because we know a good trade - a little (or a lot) of comfort for a big dose of all-satisfying God.  That's worth selling everything you have and joyfully buying a field (Matthew 13.44).

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sermon Notes from 1.20 and 1.27.13

I started this sermon as a single but it ended as a double, so here are the notes for both 1.20 and 1.27.13.  You can get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio at  You can also find the sermon audio on our podcast via iTunes.

Part 3 – When a Prophet Plays Hide and Seek 
1 Kings 19.9-18

How do you hear God?

Have a relationship with Him
  • He has made a way to be right with Him through Jesus, His Son.
  • He invites us into His family, becoming our Father.

    Put yourself in a position to hear
  • Elijah came honestly and humbly.
  • Pastorally, do your best to minimize distractions.
  • Two idols you will fight: location and experience.

    Expect that He will speak

    How will He speak?
  • It is not always in the miraculous.
  • The thin silence is often where He speaks.
    o This is something like a thought, though you know it is not your own.
    o Enemy uses darts, coming from a long way away, fiery weapons.
    o This is much more like a conversation – an honest talk between friends.
  • Pastorally, if you have a recurring thought that you wouldn’t call your own, it might be from God.

    What will He sound like?
  • Quality: a sense of authority
  • Spirit: a sense of power with goodwill
  • Content: a clear tie to the Bible
  • Pastorally, this does NOT mean He will say what you don’t want Him to say.

    What will He say?
  • He might ask a question – often to confront or convict.
  • He might say something beyond you
  • He might say something uncomfortable
  • He might say something comforting

    Ready yourself to obey
  • Faith is required in the following
  • Obedience is not optional 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Snakes are Scary: Not quite MLK I have a dream...

But still pretty good from the pencil of a 3rd grader

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Heart Melting

What if God responded to you, His beloved children, as I responded to this?

What if you believed that He does?

My heart is turned over within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. (Hos. 11.8)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Frustrating Prayers

Here's a little window into my prayer life these days.

I have been praying some prayers for some situations and God hasn't moved yet.  So, in my most honest moments, I might-just-might be getting a little frustrated.  So I thought I might-just-might say them out loud.  I intend no disrespect toward the Majestic One.  In fact, I kind of hope saying them out loud might give me more faith to persevere in prayer and Him more of a reason to answer more quickly (I'm reasonably confident about the first one, not so much the second one).

So here they are:

I have been asking for the salvation of a few people for a while.  Some for months.  Some for years.  But not yet.

I have been asking for the salvation of many around our church (again, months and years).  But not yet.

I have been asking for relief (at the very least) or complete healing for my kids.  But not yet.

I have been asking for cancer to be destroyed in people that I love.  But not yet.

I have some of the same sins that I've seemingly always had, struggling with the same junk.  Transformation seems winterized-molasses kind of slow.  Growth.  But not yet.

I have godly, honest business men that I'm praying for a blessing to fall, even a windfall kind of blessing.  But not yet.

So many prayers.  So little perceived progress.

It's the "not yet" that gives me hope and makes me want to persevere in prayer.

But that's just me spilling my guts...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Someone worth dying for?

There's a song on Christian radio right now (I heard it this morning at the Y where my friend and I work out) that I thought was blogworthy.

The end of the chorus is a plea from the singer for the Lord "to help me believe that I am someone worth dying for."

I get the sentiment.  No one should ever feel like they are beyond the pale.  God's word is clear that all types, sizes, shapes, pasts, presents, stripes, and colors are very much within God's reach.  There is no one beyond the reach of God, because His arm is long enough to save even those farthest away (Isa. 59.1).

So, I get the sentiment.  But it's exactly that:  a sentiment.  Instead of grounding the redeem-ability of anyone in the nature of God, the song grounds it in the hope-to-be-redeemed one's faith.  And I don't know about you, but my faith can get a little shaky sometimes.

Because the truth is none of us are someone worth dying for.  I cannot think of a single person who qualifies for the God of the universe to leave heaven, slaughter His Son as a sacrifice that brings justification and reconciliation to rebellious people.

But that doesn't exactly sell songs.  The fact that He did all of that, though, is what changes everything.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, January 21, 2013

For MLK Day: Remembering

I love both of these speeches.  And I love that God used them for His purposes to accomplish some justice on the earth.

I have a Dream (MLK starts at 1:00).  Don't skip over this.  Listen to it.

And this is a brief quote from the last sermon/speech he ever gave.  He was assassinated the next day.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Snakes are Scary: Jesus needs an iPhone

He needs an iPhone.  And the apps to go with it.  Otherwise, how does he explain...

To link to the original Snakes are Scary post that explains the Friday insanity, please click this link.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Funerals and Sanctification

I have two funeral this week, which for me is about what I typically do in a year.  And not that these funerals are about me, but I was thinking last night about how good they are for my soul.  There's something sanctifying about them.

God has this habit of taking the events of our actual lives and using them to shape us into who He wants us to be.  One of those things, for me, is the funeral.

When I think about the loss, the grief, the surge of emotion, and the finality of it all, I have to wrestle with the human condition of the sin that is in us and the consequence that falls on us.  But I don't just have to wrestle with it for "them" (because that would be sanitary - even easy if I didn't know them well).  I have to wrestle with it for me.

Staring down death means I have to reckon with my own mortality, to prepare myself to meet my Maker.  And that has an effect of making me think about things that are ultimate, things that matter.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gratitude for the Honest People

I am so grateful for honest people in my life.

I'm not talking about people who don't lie.  Although, those are good people to have in your life too.  I'm talking about the honest people who don't mind what other people think, don't need to "shape" their story to make themselves sound particularly heroic or victimized or ________.  I'm talking about people who share about struggles and joys with the same amount of passion and conversational time, neither one nor the other dominating the themes of their chats.  I'm talking about people who ask the difficult question and bring up the difficult topic.

I'm not a lover of conflict so I create strategies to avoid it, on a personal and professional level.  I've also been around long enough to know that conflict is one way the Kingdom advances in lives and in churches.  Honest conversations can create the conflict, but they also can be the way the healthy things grow out of it.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Nature Like Ours

I have been so encouraged by this phrase in James 5.17:  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.

Why is that encouraging?  Because if God can (and did!) do great things through Elijah, maybe it wasn't the "nature like ours" that qualified him...or more pointedly, disqualified me.

John the Baptist doubted from a jail cell.  "Is it you or should we be looking for someone else?"  He wondered if he had bet on the wrong horse, been drafted by the wrong team.  He knew the guy named Jesus.  But did he know Him?

Job wanted to die because he felt like he had done it all right and it all gone so wrong.  It would've been better had he not been born.  He couldn't even get compassion from his wife, who apparently wanted Job's life insurance money since she told him just to go ahead and curse God and die.

Jonah wanted to die because God had shown mercy to people that Jonah didn't like and Jonah hadn't grown past 8th grade spiritually and so was still acting like he was in junior high.  The repentance of the Ninevites was more obedient than the squawking of the prophet of God.

A nature like ours.

Like mine.

I can find myself in the situations above.  And God used every one of them.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Why we want to be busy

My friend and all-grown-up college student from college ministry days, Christina Gibson (whom you can follow here), put this fabulous post together.  I asked for her permission to post it.  And it's powerful...

At the top of my pet peeve list is unproductivity.  I hate it when I’m still wearing my pajamas at noon.  I can’t just talk on the phone with a friend, or hang out on hold with AT&T, I have to start a load of laundry, unload the dishwasher or walk the dog with my cell phone taped to my ear.  The real sign that I’d crossed over into hyper-productivity mode was when I asked for a Fit Desk for Christmas.  It’s essentially a stationary bike with an attached desk, so I don’t have to waste time exercising—I can return emails and update my Facebook status with the funniest one-liners I can think of.  It’s not enough to read a book by Thomas Kelly—I have to be biking 40 miles as I’m reading about the contemplative life.
I think I like being busy.  There’s something about it that gives me purpose when I wake up.  I’m important.  I have things to do.  I have people who expect me to be at a certain place at a certain time.  I do hate the over-commitment or the over-involvement.  I hate the stress that comes from promising things I don’t know how I’ll fulfill.  But I’ve found that what I hate more are the snaky questions that come when I’m not busy.  Why don’t I have something to do today?  Why have I accomplished nothing this morning when I could have been solving world hunger?
Almost three months ago, I had a completely different life.  I was in seminary, I had a wonderful job working as a pastoral associate at Baylor University.  I was a Zumba instructor, a bible study teacher and preparing for the adoption of our third daughter.
Then, Brett took a job in Richardson.  Overnight, I was friendless, unemployed, done with my graduate studies and dealing with the loss of a disrupted adoption.  My overflowing plate was now starkly empty.  And I hated it.  I hated the idea that I wasn’t preparing for another baby.  I hated the idea that I had no one to invite over, no people who would miss me if I didn’t show up, no one who knew that I have an uncanny knack for mixing theology and profanity.
I was alone.  And it was annoying.  Worse, I was no longer busy and that meant I wasn’t productive.  I wasn’t making money.  I wasn’t writing books.  I wasn’t counseling people or even teaching them Latin-inspired dance moves.  I was in my pajamas til noon.  The only people I spent time with were 3 and 5 and often whining that they hated the food I’d just made.
I spoke with my dear friend in Austin, navigating similar waters and she said, “I think God might be asking you if its enough just to be with him.”
What if I am in here just to be with God?  Is that enough?
It wasn’t a question I felt the need to answer.  It was a question I needed to sit in.  And by “sit in” I don’t mean ride my Fit Desk while dying my own hair and knitting blankets for poor kids.  I mean the real sitting.  The kind I’d been afraid of.  The kind of sitting where it’s eerily quiet and you recognize that the shadows in the corner are actually your insecurities you’ve tried to avoid.
Silence and solitude are the agreed upon enemies of those who are busy, because solitude calls our schedule into question.  Silence reveals that we wear busyness like it’s a badge of importance.  Silence asks us why we want to be seen as busy.  It exposes our motives—revealing our deep, insatiable thirst to be noticed, loved, and included.  How much of what we do is done to feel better about ourselves?
Silence strips off the wall paper of our desperate attempts to be important.
And the bare walls are shocking.
Who am I if I don’t belong?  Who am I if I don’t even work?  Who am I if I’m not recognized as busy?
Solitude and silence birth the question we’ve tried to suppress.  Finally. Our souls can breathe enough to say what we’re really most afraid of:  Do we matter if no one else thinks we’re amazing or productive or multi-talented?
Rest, quiet and space are lights on the path to discovering our identity as those loved by God.  Until we can sit in the question, we’ll keep running faster and faster out of fear of the answer.
But in solitude, when there is no one to distract, nothing to demand your attention or your leadership, you can stop running.  And hear the shattering truth that you’re just as loved when you build an orphanage as you are when you’re hibernating for all of winter.
And in this place, we finally see that it isn’t God who despises unproductivity—it’s us.  Maybe we have a completely different value system than the Creator.  And maybe that needs to change.  But you can’t change what you value if you don’t stop long enough to remember who you are.  We’ve gone hoarse screaming through our busyness how important we are.  But God never stops reminding a forgetful creation that it really is enough just to be with him.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 1.13.12

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday, 1.13.12, the second in the series I'm preaching on Elijah.  You can get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio at  You can also get the sermon audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Part 2 – When a Prophet Gets the Blues
1 Kings 19.1-8

Elijah’s Struggle
  • He was exhausted physically (18.42, 46)
  • He was exhausted emotionally (19.2) 
  • He was under spiritual attack 
  • He was exhausted spiritually
  • When such a powerful event happens, there’s often an accompanying and equally as powerful energy shift

Elijah’s Condition
  • He is relationally depleted (v.3)
  • He is emotionally depleted (v.4) 
  • He is spiritually depleted (v.4) 
  • He is physically depleted (v.5)

Elijah’s Hope
When you’re in this place, how do you respond?
  • Know you’re not alone.
  • Know you’re not abnormal.
  • Look to God for help

o   God gives His Presence
o   God gives Provision
o   God gives Purpose – a reason to live

What do you need most?
  •  Do you need a long nap?
  •  Do you need a good meal? 
  • Do you need a reason to get up?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Snakes are Scary: Next Worship Leader


She's grateful.  I have no idea if she's doing this for show (e.g. Old McDonald) or if she just had a stream of consciousness worship moment.

But I did LOL (quite literally)...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Is it loving to tell someone what they don't want to hear?

I had this conversation with a friend yesterday about this little gem in Mark 10:
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing:  go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heave; and come, follow Me." (v.21)
He said this to the Rich Young Ruler who wanted to be right but wouldn't surrender his possessions.  Was it hard for him to hear Jesus say that?  Obviously yes, because he walked away sorrowful (v.22).  Was it necessary for him to hear Jesus say that?  Obviously yes, because Jesus wasn't blogging about His thought for the day or tweeting pictures of what He had for dinner the night before - every word was intentional.  But in our day of culturally defined tolerance, telling someone the Truth is unloving if somehow they are victimized by it.  But the Truth is still the path of liberty, and so it still needs to be said.

And that leads me to this conclusion:  sometimes the most loving thing Jesus can do for us is tell us what we don't want to hear but desperately need to, even when it's hard, even when it hurts.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Clarity of the Call

And He called to Him the crowd with His disciples and said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me." (Mark 8.34)

The invitation from Jesus to everyone - the crowd and those who had already committed to Him - is to deny self, die to self, and follow Jesus.

Some people think that discipleship is the second step in a relationship with Christ, as if it is reserved for super-believers in Jesus.  Not according to this text (and many more in the NT).

That is the essence of Christianity, not the add-on.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Dateline Craziness and Adoption as Pro-Life

I love the fact that we have adopted our daughter.  Last week, she turned 6 which is crazy.  She chose to go on a trip rather than have a traditional party, which is an option we give all our kids (and it actually works out in our financial favor!).

We came home to a strange story on Dateline.  It was about a fertility clinic that switched embryos of a couple.  The couple who got pregnant had the other couple's baby and carried it to term.  Crazy story.  As you can imagine, it was devastating to the couple who carried and then gave up the baby.

I immediately thought of my Peanut's mom.  What a sacrifice.

The couple who bore and gave up the child wanted so desperately to have a fourth child.  And everything in me did everything I could not to scream at the TV:  "Then go adopt a kid!"  "There are children who need your love!"  "Going with a high-risk pregnancy and high-cost IVF is not the only option!"

Disclaimer:  I have nothing against people who have kids later in life, use their resources to pursue IVF, and who want a biological child.  Nothing at all.  For any who think my e-screams above betray my true feelings, I hope you'll give me the benefit of the doubt.

What I am is a huge fan of adoption.

And so I encourage you to (a) consider it for yourself if your quiver isn't full and (b) encourage others to consider it if their quiver isn't full, no matter their biological capability.

It is the greatest expression of being pro-life.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, January 7, 2013

Really Great. No. REALLY Great.

It was an incredible gathering with the church yesterday morning, particularly when the gathered saints honked off on How Great Thou Art, the hymn of Stuart K. Hine.  And I do mean honked it off - filling up lungs and vocally getting it done.

What I love about that moment, in particular, was the people who were singing it.  Because I know some of their stories, I know how difficult it is to sing How Great Thou Art for some who are struggling with sickness in their body.  I know how hard it is for a few to sing it when they're wondering about their job situations that might change for the worse this week.  I know some have a hard time singing it when their kids are struggling, when their marriages are hurting, when they are saying goodbye this week to those they love.

I point that out to challenge you (and me!) to not let the circumstances we face this week change our perspective on God's character.  He is who He is, no matter what happens this week.

He really is that great.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 1.6.13

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday, 1.6.13, from a sermon about Elijah.  You can get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio on our website  You can also download the audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Part 1 – When a Prophet Talks Trash 
1 Kings 18

  • Ahab was in trouble for his idolatry, though he saw Elijah as the problem (v.17-18)
  • The people were in trouble for their idolatry, though they were keeping God around (v.19-21)
  • Sinful Spiral: idolatry leads to immorality, which leads to more idolatry.
  • There is no answer for the people’s idolatry (v.21)
  • There is an expected answer in the ritual (v.22-24)
  • There is no answer from the people’s idol (v.25-29)
  • There is a powerful answer from God (v.30-38)
  • It is amazing that fire fell and the sacrifice was consumed
  • It is more amazing that when the fire fell, the people were not consumed with the sacrifice
  • There was another sacrifice on another hill that led to repentance and the faith-filled confession of His Lordship 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

God is good, right?

I brought this up Sunday in the sermon I preached on prayer.  I don't want to beat a proverbial dead horse, but it might be worth considering again.  

Strike that.  


It is worth considering again.

Like me, you've probably been on Facebook or some other social media (this even happens via that old communication chain called email) when someone will light up your screen, news feed, notifications, or some other icon with this kind of declaration:

God is SO good!  He just answered my prayer by doing X!  God is good!  Amen!

First, let me say that I get the sentiment.  I get the idea.  I'm not opposed to either and the comments I make that follow are not regarding the celebration of answered prayer.  The Bible commands us to rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12.15).  Count me in the "I'd rather be rejoicing than griping" camp.  


And you knew there was a but coming...

But, I cringe a little bit.  It's internal.  And writing it here and saying it this past Sunday make it external, I know.  But the cringe isn't directed at the celebration of answered prayer.  It's directed at the theology that maybe-just-maybe underlies the tweets, posts, blogs, or emails of that ilk.

Here's my one (and only one) question:

If God hadn't done X, in your heart would He still be good (or as good)?

What if He had done Y instead?  Would that make Him something else altogether?  Or what if He had done the exact opposite, a 1/X (and yes, my mother was a math teacher)?  Would that mean He would be the inverse of good to match His inverse of X?

Followers of Jesus, one and all, come and hear:  we do not pray so that God will be good or faithful or merciful.  We pray because He is good and faithful and merciful.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...