Friday, May 31, 2013

Snakes are Scary: Soccer Fail

Just because we're wrapping up soccer season in our house...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

7 things I'd tell incoming seminary students if they'd listen...

I'll digress from my normal thinking today to reflect for a moment on preparation for ministry.  To all regular non-ministry readers, thank you for the indulgence.

I'm 15 years removed from pursuing my MDiv. degree at seminary.  Technically 13, since I graduated in 2000.  But I took only a couple of hours that last semester, having had 2 years off while we got the Queen through graduate school.  My graduating class was 1998.  So 15 it is.  Anyway...

Consider this the Convocation Speech that I'll probably never give.  Here's what I'd tell incoming seminary students if they'd listen to me...

1.  Your character matters more than your calling and certainly more than your grades.

2.  Your character will certainly show up as you exercise your calling and in your grades.

3.  If you think seminary will be a source of spiritual growth, you're wrong.  If you grow from your seminary experience, the primary reason you will be because you persevere faithfully.

4.  Being rooted in a church will do your soul more good and more for your growth than any book you read.

5.  It'd be better for you to work a "secular" job and figure out people and service than it would to work at a church in your first year or two of seminary.

6.  Your professors will do more to shape you outside the classroom than inside.  So if they're willing (and the majority are), stop by with a cup of coffee and two good questions to ask.

7.  Openness of mind and engagement with ideas does not mean you have to cede ground on your convictions.  You're not stupid, arrogant, or lazy if you hold some convictions with a large helping of humble certainty.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The very definition of Christian Maturity

The very definition of Christian Maturity might be a strong title for a blog post.  I intend it as such.  I don't know too many people who talk about the goal, the aim, the target.  I suggest that no better understanding of Christian maturity can be found in the NT than Ephesians 4.13.

In the ESV, it reads, "...until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."

Want to know the goal for Christian maturity?  The measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

There it is.  Until we are all grown up like Jesus.

We believe like He believed.
We think like He thought.
We feel like He felt.
We act like He acted.
We relate like He related.

But it's more than that...

We believe like He believes (present tense - because Jesus does believe and see, knowing what is truly real and what is faux reality).
We think like He thinks about current situations.
We feel like He feels about circumstances that we encounter.
We act as He is acting, or at the very least would act if He were among us.
We relate like He relates to the people around us.

In short:  Christian maturity is living as Jesus would live if He were in our shoes.  Or, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Saving Grace, Sending Grace

The grace that saves us is the same grace that sends us.

I should maybe say that again:  the grace that saves us is the same grace that sends us.

That which brings us into right relationship with God also pushes out into the world with the message of reconciliation.  As we've been studying Ephesians at our church, that thought has caught me over and over and over again.  The grace for ministry is also the grace for our salvation.

There remain two implications for me:

1.  I can't go about ministry in my own strength.  This is true for everyone, not just pastors.  Those who are doing ministry in their workplaces and neighborhoods, those who are serving and sharing in the rhythms of their everyday lives, they can't do ministry in their own strength either.  Just as my salvation is not by my doing, so is ministry.  It's a simple lesson but important:  apart from Jesus we can do nothing that lasts and matters.

2.  One of the ways to magnify the grace of God is to share it with others.  Life-giving water, in a sense, is really only life-giving when people partake of it.  So the grace that propels us outward doesn't propel us to be nicer, more moral, or socially polite people.  It sends us out with a message and the authority to bear witness to that message.  And sharing it is one way to show just how valuable that message really is.

So one more time for the road:  the grace that saves us is the same grace that sends us.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

P.S.  Thanks for hanging in there with me for 1000 posts.  Seriously.  Thanks.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 5.26.13

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday, 5.26.13, on Ephesians 4.11-16.  To get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio, please visit our website  You can also download the audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Part 14 – Ministry Mindset
Ephesians 4.11-16

Ministry Mindset means… (two affirmations)

Leadership in the church produces ministers of the church (v.11-12)
  • Who are the Leaders?  Those appointed by God to fulfill the reaching and teaching roles of the church
  • Who are the Ministers?  Every follower is called to ministry and should be equipped for it
  • What is Ministry?  Simple Defn:  works of service that build up the Body of Christ
  • Why would God use me?

1.     Most of the ministry that needs doing is not upfront and not inside
2.     Your ministry will involve unique conversations and circles
3.     God gets double-glory by using us

Ministers of the church bring maturity to the church (v.13-16)
  • We grow up to look like Jesus
  • We are solid in our faith
  • We are marked by Truth

A Very Happy Memorial Day to Everyone

Get out.

Enjoy the sunshine.

Thank a vet.

Give gratitude to God.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Snakes are Scary: Men in Labor

I couldn't have laughed harder.

And been more grateful.

Two guys go through a labor simulation.  3 minutes of hilarity.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Today is my 15th Wedding Anniversary

So a big, celebrative Happy Anniversary to the Queen.

She has tolerated me for 15 years.

She loves me and our kids well.

She has a divine sense of right and wrong.

She bore two incredible boys.

She wanted to adopt first.

She has supported me in more ways that I could enumerate.

She is more of a risk-taker than she lets on at first.

She is the most certain earthly sign of God's favor on my life (Pr.18.22).

She has the kind of intuition that is an asset and not nosy.

She is more enjoyable the more we age together (like fine wine, they say).

She's mine.  I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ugliness in Oklahoma

If you're like me, you can't take your eyes off the TV showing the images of devastation in Oklahoma nor can you get the images to go away when you close your eyes and try to sleep.  It's ugly.  Brutal.  Tragic.  Devastating.  Jaw-dropping.  Insert your descriptive adjective here.

I told a friend yesterday morning how I just can't imagine the parents who kissed their kids for the last time, putting them on the school bus with backpacks and lunch boxes and a hair-tussle.  That was it.  No more conversations.  No more hugs.  No more kisses.  Gone.

The other part that's just so ugly to me is the kids who died in the water while doing everything they possibly could to be safe.  Getting underground and dodging the tornado went great, but it all went sideways and they drowned.  As a parent, I cannot imagine living with the thought of my kid being in that kind of panic and all alone, scared to no end as they take their last breath.

It's gut-wrenching to me.  Quite literally.  I don't feel well when I think about it.

Here's the one affirmation that I have come back to multiple times since Monday:  God is in the heavens and He does what He pleases (Ps. 115.3).  I don't have to understand it all.  I can't theologically say that Satan made the tornadoes.  I can affirm that death isn't the best of God's agenda, thus He beat it at the cross and will forever reverse it in the end.  In the midst of all that's senseless, I have a confidence that God has this.

No, I don't feel that way.  But I have confidence in it (because He said it).

And that helps me pray for people in Oklahoma and churches working there.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Unifying around Unity

I promise you that I'm 100% for unity in the body of Christ.

I don't think unity at all costs is what Paul means when he says to work diligently to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  Unifying around Unity is not really unity at all, it's relational apathy.

Let me give two examples.

First, two women are in a church and having a discussion.  One states that God is sovereign and in control and effusively glorious (okay, she probably didn't use those exact words, but you get the idea).  The other states that she doesn't really worry about theology - she's just glad that God needs her.  Unifying around Unity wouldn't sneeze at that, not even blink.  Each has their individual experiences of God and off we go down the yellow-brick road.

But there's not true unity there.  Because for either to cede theological ground to the other would be to invalidate their own stance.  Choosing not to talk about it can be relationally harmonious (as with some topics at the Thanksgiving Dinner table), but no sane person would call it unity.  And to carry on the merry way is to choose apathy toward the other, saying one is wrong but not doing anything about it.  And yes, this actually happened in a church I know personally.

Second, a group of men are sitting around talking after Bible study.  One glibly confesses porn usage "every so often" and keeps going in the conversation.  The others shift uncomfortably because they fight their guts out to keep that poison out of their homes and eyes and lives.  Unifying around Unity would say that everyone's an adult and should be able to do their own thing.  So change the subject to baseball and keep on trucking.

But there's not true unity there.  Saying nothing means porn is not a problem.  Saying that everyone has to do what he has to do is a cop out and the same thing as saying porn isn't a problem.  The only thing that unifies in a situation like that is to call for the godly standard of purity.  Again, a true story with the names changed to protect the guilty (and innocent).

Relational Apathy does not equal unity.  Thinking otherwise is self-deceptive and relationally destructive.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Jesus, the Ruthless One

Why is Jesus so ruthless sometimes?

Have you ever thought that?  Had that question?  I have.

"Take up your cross daily..."
"Die to yourself..."
"Sell everything you have..."
"Lose your life..."
"Hate your family and even your own life..."

All very much biblical.  Red letter material, every one of those statements.  And everyone of them ruthless.

But why?

Because if Jesus were more romantic than ruthless, we'd do our best to have two loves.  He know it won't work that way.  Jesus can be romantic in a sense - a wooer, tender, gentle.  But my experience and my reading of the Bible point me to belief that his tenderness has to do with our pain, not our sin.  When it comes to pain, romantic.  When it comes to sin, ruthless.

He knows it's killing us.  Even if we don't know it, He knows it.  Sin always has death as its endgame.  So Jesus chooses to play hardball.  It's a strange kind of mercy, but it certainly is His mercy.  Thinking otherwise leaves us entangled rather than free.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sermon Notes for Sunday, 5.19.13

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday, 5.19.13, on Ephesians 4.  You can get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio on our website:  You can also find the audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Part 13 – We are Unified
Ephesians 4.4-14

3 Unifying Factors

We are unified by our confession
  • God is Trinity
  • God is Active
  • God is Clear

We are unified by our commission
  • The grace that saves us is the same grace that sends us
  • He provides us gifts and uses our willingness
  • His authority is our resource for ministry

We are unified by His agenda
  • His target is our transformation
  • He provides leaders to help us along
  • Transformation protects us from spiritual danger

Friday, May 17, 2013

Snakes are Scary: this is NOT okay

Jellyfish.  One more reason to hate 'em.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Is furious too strong a word?

I don't know if you've seen the story on the Manhattan wives who have hired a dubious company to help them get around Disney World in a more timely manner.

That's the nice way to say it.

Here's what I really wanted to say:  over-indulged and over-resourced Cows of Bashan pay over $1000 per day to have a disabled person as a part of their group so they can skip the lines.  No FastPass.  No waiting with the "normal people."  They hire a person in a wheelchair so their family doesn't have to wait in line.

What a load of...well, a load of something.

As the dad of two special needs kids, one of whom I have pushed around a theme park in a wheelchair, I could not be more furious.  First, at the spoiled, entitled families.  Then, at the company that would pimp out such people.

Steam is pumping out of my ears.  I just had to wipe the humidity off my computer screen.

And then a little bitty quiet voice.  "But you're not entitled to anything, right?"

I just don't want to talk about it right now...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My tribute to Dallas Willard

The saying goes that bad stuff happens in threes.  I have mourned the passing of three people this month.  George Jones.  Brennan Manning.  And now Dallas Willard.

Dallas Willard, for those who do not know, was a professor of philosophy at USC and a writer of important things in both the academic world and the realm of spiritual formation.  I have heard him a dozen or more times in person, the first time in the late 1990's as a seminary student.  I have heard dozens upon dozens of speeches/sermons/presentations that he has given thanks to the internet and CDs.  I have consumed every word that he has written that is available for consumption.  His book The Divine Conspiracy has stained me.

I owe him a lot.

He taught me about life in the Kingdom of God as a present reality when all others had pointed me to a Kingdom that was yet to come.  No doubt the fullness of the Kingdom isn't here yet, but the honest student of the Bible can't dismiss the present reality of the Kingdom Jesus declared and made available to those made right with God through confidence in Him.

He taught me about saying things in a way that make people think.  My favorite by far:  "Oh, I think God will let anyone into heaven who can stand it."  That sounds like damnable heresy at first blush and the most glorious truth of God's renovative conspiracy when you think about it longer.  In case you need help, think of it like this:  those who will want to be in heaven when it's available are those that God is in the process of transforming; and those who continually spurn Him won't want to be with Him until it's too late for them to join Him.  But saying the Truth in a way to make it stick is crucial.

I have certainly caught some grief from friends about my near-idolization of Dallas Willard.  But I don't mind their critique.  Even when I might quibble with something in writing or speech, I always knew I needed to think longer about it before picking too big a fight over it.

But my favorite thing about Dallas Willard was his generosity.  I have no idea how generous he was financially but I do know how generous he was relationally.

I spent an entire evening with him around a dinner table at a Shoney's restaurant.  There were about 4 college and seminary students right in the palm of his hand.  But we never felt that way, because he was always asking questions of us.  He genuinely cared and wanted to know about our lives.  When I shared about some of the college ministry we were doing, he specifically asked more questions about it and then gave me his email address to send the answers.  Although we tried to get him out to our church a couple of times and the schedule wouldn't allow it, I cannot help think about that three hours at Shoney's.  It shaped me.

Rest in the Kingdom, dear Dr. Willard.  You were a friend and mentor from afar.  And I'm the better man for it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Working Hard at Unity

According to Ephesians 4.3, we have to work hard at preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  Contrary to popular belief or cultural hope, we cannot all just get along.

Two things of note about this unity.

First, it's the direct result of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.  Not only did the death of Christ reconcile us to God, it also provided the means by which we are reconciled to one another.  He broke down the barrier of the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile (2.14-16).  We forgive each other as God in Christ forgave us via the cross (4.32).  On and on I could go.  The hope of the earthly reconciliation of human relationships is the cross.  Therefore unity in the church is as important a pursuit as most anything we do.

Second, the unity is fragile but beautiful.  It requires pursuit, diligence, every effort.  But it's absolutely worth it.  One of the main reasons it's so worth it is because unity is its own witness to the Gospel of Jesus (John 17.21).  The world doesn't see the kind of unity that should be on display in the church anywhere else, so unity is an apologetic for the Truth of who Jesus is and what He has done.  Yes, the Enemy would love to destroy it.  He'll use any tool in his arsenal to do so - gossip, self-righteousness, a need for control, and general jealousy to name just a few.  And that's precisely why the Holy Spirit commands us to work hard at this unity.

It really is that important for a church to be healthy.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Good News on Two Sides

I love the two-sided Gospel in Romans 3 and 5.

First, the cross demonstrates the righteousness of God (Rom. 3.23-26).  What Paul argues in that text is that God would be unrighteous if He were just to let sin slide.  If it could go on without punishment, it's no big deal to Him.  Furthermore, if He justifies sinners then He obviously is unrighteous because who wants to be on the side of the Judge that declares clearly guilty offenders to be innocent before Him?

That's where Jesus the Propitiation comes in.  Propitiation means that God's wrath is satisfied by the sacrifice of Christ and God's favor is inclined toward us.  It's both removal of guilt and release of favor.  With sin punished, God is no longer guilty of unrighteousness.  An amazing solution to a complex problem.

And that's just the legal side.

Second, the cross displays God's love (Rom. 5.8).  It's not enough for us to be legally right before Him. Because of His love we are relationally right as well.  He has drawn us in, adopting us into His family, making us heirs with Christ.  This broad, long, high, and deep love is the kind of covenant love that God has for His people from the beginning.  It precedes any love that we might have for Him and actually causes the love we have for Him.  His love motivated Him to rescue us and, for many, has been His conquering force in their lives.

So we're legally justified before God and relationally adopted by Him.

That's why the Good News is so good.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sermon Notes from Sunday 5.12.13

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday's sermon on Ephesians 4.1-6.  Truthfully, I only got to v.1-3, so that's why it's a shorter outline.  To get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio, visit  You can also get the sermon audio on our podcast via iTunes.

Part 12 – Walk Worthy
Ephesians 4.1-6
Mother’s Day 2013

Walk Worthy of Your Calling
  • The calling is from God
  • The calling is to Himself and into the world
  • Our activity is based on our identity

The Portrait in the Church 
  • Its form:  Humility and Gentleness 
  • Its colors:  Patience and Bearing with Others
  • Its effect:  Diligence in Preserving Unity

Friday, May 10, 2013

Snakes are Scary: Treadmill Awesomeness

I hit the gym 3x a week, but I have never seen this...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The depth of God's love

I wrap up these musings with a question about how deep is the love of God.  Probably the best way to understand how deep is the love of God is to understand how deeply we have sunk in our lives.

Ever been in a pit?  (Ps.40)  Ever descended into the depths?  (Ps.139)  Ever had a cycle turn into a spiral, sucking you down and more violently with each revolution?  Ever slid so far that there wasn't daylight?  Ever been stuck with no way out?  Ever been so mired that the only thing solid to stand on is mud that's not really solid at all?  Ever grieved so much that your muscles ached from your convulsing?

Deep in depression?  Deep in addiction?  Deep in sin?  Deep in despair?  Deep in trouble?  Deep in darkness?

God's love is deeper than that.  When Peter speaks of love covering a multitude of sins, he's talking about the depth of our depravity - God's love is deeper still.

Here's the best part for me.

He doesn't just rescue us.  That's amazing enough.  But it's the way He does it.

There's no rope thrown from afar to get us and drag us into the boat before we drown.  No!  He jumps into the water to save us.  He enters into our calamity.

He becomes human.

He dies.

He rises.

He didn't just pull us up, He carried us out.  I think that is a different kind of love altogether.  One worth remembering and celebrating.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The height of God's love

How high is God's love?

It extends to the heavens according to the psalmist (see Psalm 36).  I don't know exactly how high that is in feet or miles, but it feels pretty high to me.

The picture that comes to mind when I see that text and think about God's love is seeing mountains (which just so happen to be mentioned two phrases later in the Psalm).  We loved to go skiing when I was a kid and being from essentially flatland Texas, mountains were huge deals.  We'd scan the horizon for them and then get giddy when we got closer.

The thing about mountains is no one stands before them and thinks how great they themselves are.  They think about how awesome the mountains are.  They are majestic.  Awe-inspiring.  Overwhelming.  Reaching to the heavens.

God's love is like that.  High.  Majestic.  Awe-inspiring.  Overwhelming.  But no one stands before that kind of love and thinks how lovable they are or deserving of love they are.  They only think about the love that's out there before them.

That's why the cross is so powerful.  A permanent display of this heavenly high love.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Quick Addendum from a midmorning prayer:  Isaiah 54.10 says, "For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you..."  Not just majesty, permanency. Amen.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The breadth of God's love

God’s love is broad.  But how broad?  When you think about your worst enemy, the person you despise the most, God’s love is redemptive and passionate in moving toward them.  Who is it for you?  An ex-spouse?  A politician?  A business partner?  A parent?  A terrorist?  An abortionist?

As much as it’s good to celebrate, remember, and hold onto the fact that God loves us – heck, let’s make it very personal:  that God loves ME – it’s crucial for us in ministry and in life to realize, celebrate, remember, and hold onto the fact that God loves that person too (whoever that person is).

Forgetting that is forgetting the breadth of God’s love, one thing that is never good to forget.  Why?  Because we were once that person to God, now redeemed by the blood of Jesus.

But that’s just me thinking thoughts…