Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sacred or Sacrilegious

My youngest daughter will be two tomorrow.  It reminds me of something funny my older daughter said when she was two.  She was in the bathtub and I had the bright idea to read the Bible to her.  So I started in John and read "the Word became flesh."  She immediately said "I want to flush the toilet."

Recently, we were about to take the kids to Chuck E. Cheese's.  The older daughter said to the younger daughter "want to go to Chuck E. Cheese's?"  The younger daughter says "baby Jesus."

Coming from an adult these could be considered sacrilegious.  Coming from kids I consider them sacred.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Parties

We had our annual Out n About Christmas party.  In case you don't know, the Out n About group is the church's group for older adults.  It was a fun party.  I experienced my first cookie exchange and our very own April Geiger sang Christmas songs while we decorated the boxes the cookies went in.  It sounds kind of cheesy and it was, but it was a good cheesy. 

As always, the food was delicious.  They had this honey turkey that was just amazing.  I really appreciate the group and the joy they bring at this time of year.  I have another Christmas party tonight, it will be much different.  Its a business type of Christmas party.  We are hiring a babysitter.  It will be nice to spend some time with the wife and chat with some of her co-workers. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Manhattan Declaration

A declaration worth reading and worth signing.  Check it out at

I signed it and would love for you to join the movement.  Let me know in the comments section whether or not you signed it and why. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

God hates...

Yes, God hates sin and God hates divorce and God hates pride, but that's not what I'm referring to. Perhaps even more than those things, God hates loneliness. After proclaiming everything about creation good in the first chapter of Genesis, in the second chapter the first thing God proclaims not good is man's alone-ness: "It is not good for man to be alone." (Genesis 2:18)

For the Jewish people in the Older Testament, a large family was a sign of blessings from God and childlessness was thought to be a curse. In Psalm 68:6, we see the proclamation that no one is without a family when David writes "God sets the lonely in families."

In the New Testament, the author of the book of Hebrews reminds us of a promise from God: "I will never leave you; I will never abandon you." (Hebrews 13:5) That means we are never alone.

If you are feeling lonely this Christmas season, be reminded that God sent His son to die for you AND raised Him from the dead to prove His power over sin and over death and over evil and yes...even over loneliness.

If you are feeling lonely , be reminded that God is with you whether you feel Him or not. Whether you are single or married, have a large biological family or no biological family, whether you are rich or poor, employed or jobless, God is with you.

May you be reminded that Jesus was and still is our "Emmanuel," which means, "God with us."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Paul was a fool

Paul said it about himself several times in 2nd Corinthians (especially chapters 11 and 12):

11:1 "I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that."

11:17 "In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool."

11:21b "What anyone else dares to boast about - I am speaking as a fool - I also dare to boast about."

12:11 "I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it."

The people of the Corinthian church drove Paul to use sarcasm because they questioned his authority as an apostle. Paul boasted about himself (as a fool would) to show them that he had the authority as an apostle so that they would take him seriously. There were false teachers speaking negatively of Paul and apparently there were a group of Corinthian Jesus followers who started questioning his legitimacy as an apostle.

Paul stooped to sarcasm to legitimize his ministry. Paul loved the church so much that he had to defend himself in a way that would get them to take notice. Sometimes we have to stand up to the forces that oppose God's calling on our life, even if that means using sarcasm as a weapon.

More times than not, sarcasm is a detriment to the faith and to the goodness of God, however, it is a relief to find that there is a place for it in the church when used correctly.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Discipline and Choices

Colin Cowherd said this morning that its not the most intelligent, or most gifted, or most talented people that are the most successful, its those who are most disciplined. He went on to say that with so many choices before us in our culture, discipline is even more important. I couldn't agree more.

Colin is not one of the most spiritually mature individuals in the world, in fact, some of you might be offended by some of the things he says. But I immediately connected with this. It convicted me.

I think it is harder to be disciplined when there are more choices we are faced with. Its not easy to be disciplined, its often easier to eat fast food then it is to make and bring your own lunch. Its easier to sit down and watch TV then it is to get up and exercise or read. Its easier to get extra sleep in the morning then it is to get up and read scripture and pray.

Discipline always involves a choice. God help me to make better choices.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I don't have to be here...

I recently attended a required event for continuing in ordination as a United Methodist Pastor. They brought in presenters to talk about various aspects of being a pastor. The pastor that presented on preaching said at the beginning: "I know you are required to be here, I know you have to be here, but I don't, I am not required to be here, I'm here because I want to be here. And I want to be here because I believe preaching is the single most important thing a pastor does. I'm here to help you be better at it."

She had my attention. I loved how she acknowledged our predicament and at the same the same time communicated her own passion for what she was about to teach us. I don't like anything "required" of me. It just seems forced and I naturally rebel against it. But anytime someone can acknowledge where you are and let you know with sincerity that they aren't going to waste your time, it gets your attention.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Halloween Shaft

When I was a kid, I always wondered why Halloween wasn't considered a holiday (to be honest, I still wonder that sometimes). Forget the lack of a legitimate historical event to perpetuate the day. Lets face it, people get dressed up, put out decorations, have parties and give and get candy on Halloween, these sound like perfectly legitimate reasons for it to be considered a holiday. On an official calendar level, Halloween gets shafted. However, on a practical level it is treasured (just look at all the pictures your friends post on Facebook after Halloween).

While growing up I was always more excited about Halloween than I was Thanksgiving. On Halloween you get to dress up, stay up late and watch scary movies, all while getting and eating too much candy. Honestly, it was the candy that set Halloween as a more revered time than Thanksgiving.

Don't get me wrong, I love fact, I try to practice it everyday. On the other hand, practicing Halloween everyday might be a little too much (except for the eating candy part). Actually, if you think about it, we do practice Halloween everyday...the pretentiousness, facades and lies we display are just a different kind of mask.

Some people think Halloween is evil. I can see that side of the argument. For me though, the everyday practice of it will always be more poisonous than October 31st.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Enhance your Love Maps

Gottman says a love map is the part of your brain where you store important information about your spouse. It's like a mental notebook where you write down unique traits of your spouse and things about him or her you want to remember. It includes your spouse's dreams, goals, joys, fears, likes, dislikes, frustrations, and worries. Things like your husband's favorite breakfast cereal or the name of your wife's best friend are important "points" on the map.

Why are thorough love maps so important? Because they strengthen marriages. Couples with extensive love maps remember important dates and events, and they stay aware of their partner's changing needs. They constantly seek updates on what the other person is doing, feeling, and thinking. Being known in this way is a gift each partner gives the other, bringing great happiness and satisfaction. It also makes couples better prepared to cope with stresses on their marriage.

For example, in one study Gottman interviewed couples around the time of the birth of their first child. For 67% of couples this stressful event was accompanied by a significant drop in marital satisfaction. But the other 33% did not see such a drop, and many felt their marriages had improved. The difference was the completeness of the couples' love maps. "The couples whose marriages thrived after the birth had detailed love maps from the get-go. . . ," says Gottman. "These love maps protected their marriages in the wake of this dramatic upheaval."

Couples who had established a habit of finding out about each other's thoughts and feelings were likely to continue doing so at a time of change. Their deep knowledge about each other and their practice of staying in touch protected their relationships from being thrown off course. They grew to love each other more deeply because there was more about each other to love.

Are you connected to your spouse on this level? If not, why not start talking to each other about how you've changed over the years, how you've stayed the same, what unrealized dreams you have and how you want to change.

What everything Gottman says boils down to about happiness in marriage is being best friends. May your spouse be your best friend.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Solvable and Perpetual

Gottman (see previous post) says all marital conflicts fall into one of two categories: Solvable and Perpetual. Unfortunately, most of the conflicts in marriage are perpetual, which means they are issues that probably aren't going to change. So what does a couple do?

Gottman says "Despite what many therapists will tell you, you don't have to resolve your major marital conflicts for your marriage to thrive." You can have a good, strong marriage even when perpetual conflicts exist. The key is finding ways to cope with those perpetual problems.

One way to cope is to uncover and share significant personal dreams you have in your life. Gottman believes that "urequited dreams are at the core of every gridlocked conflict."

When is the last time you talked to your spouse or significant other about they're hopes and dreams in life? If its been awhile, make it a point to catch up. Be open and honest, you might find that the perpetual conflict is easier to cope with if its connected to your partner's hopes and dreams.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Current Read

I'm reading an excellent book on marriage called The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, PH.D. Normally, I do not like books with titles like that. I have a natural disdain for titles that offer a number and a promise, however, the reason I checked out this book is because of Gottman's research and the reviews on it from Amazon. Gottman is regarded by many as the nation's leading relationship expert. Just so you know, he is not writing this book from a Christian perspective. I actually like that, because it means his research does not have a Christian bias (or Christian agenda) it is based on observing marriage relationships (both new and old) unfolding before his very eyes.

Gottman has a "love lab" at the University of Washington where he observes married couples and develops his research and priniciples from those observations. The "love lab" is a series of apartments with cameras in them so they can film and observe willing married couples. He started researching marriages in 1972 and claims to follow 700 marriages from seven different studies.

I'll be writing some of the highlights of the book over the next couple of blogs, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Jesus at Creation

In Colossians 1:15-16 we learn that Jesus was not only present during the creation we read about in Genesis 1 and 2, but that he was the creator: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." (Col. 1:15-16)

We tend to think of Jesus only as a human. We must not forget that Jesus was, is and will always be. I know, its hard to get my mind around too, but that doesn't mean its not true.

So, next time you think about Jesus, remember, he was just as much fully divine as he was human. Jesus is worth giving our lives too , not just because of what he did on the cross, but because of what he did before that event and what he continues to do since that event.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I've seen this in an e-mail...

but wanted to share the video version. I couldn't figure out how to put it on the blog, so just click here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

100th Post

This is my 100th post. It seems like such a milestone, which got me thinking about other milestones in my life, so here some of them (as they come to mind) in no particular order:

-Thursday, February 7th: my first blog
-August 21, 1999: wedding date
-May 2004: graduated seminary (Gordon-Conwell)
-Dec 31, 1976: my birthdate
-July 8, 2004: my first daughter's birthday
-Dec 28, 2007: my second daughter's birthday
-Dec 2006: The greatest 30th surprise birthday party ever thrown
-Don't remember the date: skydiving
-June 2006: first appointment as a UM clergy (unofficially started in March)
-May 1999: graduated college (UNC-Wilmington)
-Summer 2000: bought our first house (still living there)
-This morning: our 5 year old made her bed by herself for the first time

I'm not feeling well today. However, making this list perked me up a little bit. How about you? What would your milestone list look like? Why don't you make one, you might just find you've been more blessed in your life than you remember.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Latest Read

I just started reading Don Miller's book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I'm really enjoying it. Here's two paragraph's that I absolutely loved:

"I've wondered, though, if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don't want the responsibility inherent in the acknowledgment. We don't want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn't remarkable, then we don't have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants.
But I've noticed something. I've never walked out of a meaningless movie thinking all movies are meaningless. I only thought the movies I walked out on was meaningless. I wonder, then, if when people say life is meaningless, what they really mean is their lives are meaningless. I wonder if they've chosen to believe their whole existence is unremarkable, and are projecting their dreary life on the rest of us."

So my question for all of us is this, do we want to be unwilling victims or grateful participants?

God wants to write a story with our lives, what story is He writing with your life? Is it boring, controlled, mundane, lifeless and selfish, or is it adventurous, exciting, generous, Spirit-led and purposeful?

If your life were a movie, how would it end? How would you want it to end? If you see a discrepancy in the answer to those last two questions, why don't you start living life in a way that has the ending you want, instead of the ending you're heading to now?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

This is a passage I read to people in the hospital or in nursing homes quite often. Its an excellent pastoral scripture that brings people comfort. I used to think it was about Jesus taking away our burdens and giving us rest, actually, its about Jesus offering himself.

Sometimes we can become so familiar with a passage we forget to look at it closely. That what had happened to me on this one.

Jesus never even hints at taking away burdens and weariness, he does however offer Himself. Now I know he offered himself on the cross for us years ago. But this offering is a daily offering. He is available for us to come to Him for rest AND for learning. Taking Jesus' yoke means submitting ourselves to his teaching, his way, his will, his hope, his ideal life. And that ideal life is only found in him. And our part is simply to come to him with a willingness to learn from him.

This passage isn't so much about our circumstances, as it is about the one we turn to when our circumstances cause weariness and seem heavy. In those moments in time and seasons of life, Jesus offers himself. His promise is that if we come and offer our weariness and burdens to him, he will be the gentle and humble savior we need him to be for us at that time.

May you see through your circumstances, to the one who wants to walk with you through them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

When you don't know what to pray

I lead a ministry called GriefShare that helps people who have lost a loved one. We had our first session of the semester last night. At the end of the class, after people had shared who they had lost and the intense hurt, pain and sorrow that was there, I didn't know how to to pray. I didn't know what to say.

So I thanked God that he knows how to pray and what to pray when I don't. We are told in Romans 8:26 that "We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." Just a few lines later, in verse 34 we are told that Jesus himself is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

So if there is ever a situation where you do not know how to pray or what to pray just ask Jesus to do the praying for you through the Spirit. Afterall, Jesus was pretty good at it while he walked on this earth and promised us the Holy Spirit to be His presence with us once He was no longer physically present.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Soul Sharing

As part of the process of ordination in the United Methodist Church, I have to participate in a R.I.O.M. group (Residency in Ordained Ministry). The group consists of fellow clergy at a similar professional level and we are led by a mentor.

Today was the first meeting of our 2nd year together and the mentor basically just let each of share what was going in our lives and ministries for the first 3 hours of our time together. There was a lot of gut level soul sharing that happened. It was good.

I know I needed to hear some things and share some things and it was helpful to me both personally and professionally. How about you? When is the last time you did some soul sharing and soul listening? If its been awhile, call that person you can trust, better yet, schedule a breakfast, lunch or dinner together just to get caught up. Reconnect with that person and get some stuff out and let some stuff in. It will do you good!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Nines

So there was this online leadership webcast/conference on 9/9/09 called The Nines. It was a series of Christian leaders who were asked this question: if you had nine minutes to tell other Christian leaders anything, what would you tell them? It went on all day (I think from 9-9pm).

I watched for about an hour and wanted to share two of my favorite ideas from the conference.

1. Brian McLaren asked "what is the gospel?" He then said "the gospel is about transformation not evacuation." So many pastors think Jesus' message was about getting off this earth and either going to heaven of hell. That idea couldn't be farther from the truth. Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God coming on earth as it is in heaven. That means Jesus is concerned just as much about our lives here on earth as he is about our lives in eternity.

2. Sam Chen (I think that was his name) said that thing that separates pastors of a healthy growing church and pastors of other churches is the pastor's pain threshold. He said for growth to happen you have to have change and change means pain. So he said the more pain you can endure, the more likely your ministry is to grow. He said that if you talk to pastors of large churches, they have story after story of pain and have been able to endure it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

First Advice

Paul (a guy who wrote most of the New Testament) in a letter to his mentoree Timothy, wrote towards the beginning of his letter "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."

Paul's first advice to Timothy and the church was to pray for "everyone." Now obviously, a literal "everyone" would be impossible, but the point is to pray for those in authority. I often forget to pray for the leaders of our city, state, country and world. I also forget to pray for the leaders in the church, both paid and volunteer.

I have a confession: I don't always think prayer changes anything. How can my prayers make any difference? I'm just glad that what I "think" is not what "is." I believe in the power of prayer because I believe in the power of God. It doesn't matter what I think or feel as long as God is in charge. Its not about the prayers I pray, its about the one I'm praying too. Thank you God!

Sunday, September 6, 2009


How we handle our money is a spiritual issue. In 1 Timothy Paul says "For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." Even if you haven't "wandered from the faith," its absolutely possible that you have "pierced yourself with many griefs" based on how you have handled money.

Money is a spiritual issue (like so many other areas of life) because it can either lead to a life of holiness and generosity or a life of fear, worry, jealousy, anger and pride.

The church I am a part of is offering a class this Fall dealing specifically with money from a spiritual perspective. Its about so much more than setting a budget and living within your means, its about your relationship with God and how that effects your relationship with money. Its called Financial Peace University and you can go here to learn more and sign up.

Maybe the statement I should have started this post with is this: "The way we handle God's money is a spiritual issue. Afterall, he gave us the money, we're just stewards of it. Money is a gift from God and if we are good at something, its at screwing up God's gifts to us. So many of us have screwed up God's gift of money and it has led to anger, frustration, jealousy, fear and worry.

May we use God's gift of money wisely so that we get back to recognizing it for what it is: a gift.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Peggy McRee

Peggy was a friend of mine and a member of the church I serve. She died on Saturday. I conducted the funeral service today and gave the eulogy. In the eulogy I talked about what a generous person she was. Not just with her material possessions, but with her love and time. She was genuinely interested in people's lives, it didn't matter if she knew you or not, once you met her, you were a friend.

I don't think I've ever met an unhappy person that wasn't generous. Generosity just seems lead to a life of joy and contentment. Peggy was a generous person and she was able to make the most of every situation. She was full of life and joy and anyone that met her loved her. She was a natural encourager. She always told me I had "pretty eyebrows" and that I was "handsome." Maybe that's why I miss her so much!

Rest in peace Peggy, I will miss visiting you.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dealing with Problems

We all have problems in life, some major some minor. Some are physical, some are mental, some are social, some are psychological. It is my biased opinion that all are somehow related to a Spiritual problem. Whether its a spiritual problem in the sense of where we are in our spiritual life (i.e. sin), or a spiritual problem that involves a more general association with the existence of evil in the world in which we live.

I have found that focusing on problems (or a problem) is not helpful. It only makes the problem bigger than it already is. Denial isn't the answer either. I think a healthy recognition of the problem with a focus on God is the best way to work through whatever the problem is.

I have a confession to make: I've been terrible at focusing on God in the midst of problems. Its so easy to focus on the problem and seek the sympathy of other people when I should be focusing on God and seeking the prayers of other people. It is healthy to recognize a problem, its detrimental to let that problem become the focal point of your life.

Didn't Jesus says something about seeking first the Kingdom of God? And didn't Paul write something about dwelling and thinking about whatever is good, pure and lovely? Yes and Yes. May we become the kind of people that seek God and focus on worshipping Him even in the midst of facing problems.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Integrity is one of those virtues that once you lose it, it is almost impossible to get back. The only reason I say "almost impossible" is because I believe God can change people's hearts in drastic ways. Proverbs 10:9 says "The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out."

People of integrity can "walk securely" because they have nothing to hide. They have no conscious fear of negative consequences due to immoral or unwise actions. And even if there is immoral or unwise behavior, the person of integrity accepts the consequences knowing full well that it is the result of their actions.

A person of integrity strives to be honest, just and respectful, even if that means being uncomfortable and/or inconvenienced. Integrity is not a gift that we're given, rather, its a virtue created by the life we live. Its created by making wise lifelong decisions that are based on having the best interest of others in mind. For a Christian integrity should be assumed. Its sad and unfortunate that Christians do not have the reputation of being men and women of integrity. In fact, "normal" people (meaning people who don't call themselves Christians) view Christians as hypocritical, judgmental, homophobic, sheltered and agenda driven (for more on this, buy this book).

Those accusations are all too often accurate, which means more than ever Christians need to step up and live lives of integrity. Its not always easy to keep our integrity, but its worth whatever the cost.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Beautiful Mess

The church is a beautiful mess because our lives are beautiful messes. My life is a beautiful mess. Beautiful because God has blessed me so much and a mess because I'm human. There's a book about the church titled This Beautiful Mess that got me thinking about this idea. I just started reading it. It feels as though no matter how much I get done in a day I feel like I could've done more or even prioritized better-I feel like a mess. The amazing thing is that God's grace turns that mess into beauty. I'm not the perfect husband, father or son. But I have a beautiful relationship with my wife, children and parents. I'm a mess, those relationships get messy, but it seems like beauty always prevails. Thank God.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bible Study Website

I recently discovered (as of yesterday) this website. It is one of the best websites I've found for doing some serious bible study quickly. My favorite part is that it is so easy to use. It has boxes you can click on to take you straight to whatever resource you want to use. I've found other websites for Bible study that may have just as much or more information, but most of them aren't this easy to use. Biblios is simple and user friendly. Just to be clear, I am not associated in anyway with the website, I just like the layout and available resources that are there. It must be fairly new, because the Hebrew interlinear is not up yet. Check it out for yourself and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Values, Goals and Interests

In a class I lead every Sunday we just finished up a portion of a book called Boundaries in Dating. I do some pre-marriage counseling and discovered something I intend to add to the sessions. I intend to ask questions about shared values, goals and interests. As they say in the book, it is possible to fall in love with someone that does not share similar values, goals and interests. When you marry someone that you have nothing in common with, it makes the marriage extremely difficult and often leads to divorce. I believe this is the core reason faithful Christians who have not encountered a moral failure (such as unfaithfulness) get divorced.

This idea helped me evaluate my own marriage. My wife and share similar values: we both want to be excellent parents, we both want to support causes we believe in, we both want to have a great marriage, etc. We share similar goals: we both expect our children to go to college, we both hope to one day live in Wilmington, NC, we both want to be successful in our careers, etc. While we have less similarities in our interests, if I had to pick one area of the three to disagree on it would be that one, especially because interests change. Some areas of agreement are: we are both interested in developing our faith and the faith of our children, we are both interested in our childrens lives and invested in giving them the best childhood we can, we both enjoy playing scrabble, etc. I wish I could get her interested in football and I'm sure she wishes she could get me interested in gardening, but I digress.

Here's the deal:
If you are single, it is important, no matter how shallow it may seem, to align yourself with someone who shares your values, goals and interests.
If you are married, it is essential to get on the same page if you aren't already, even if it means compromising what you like or dislike. Its worth it if it means saving your marriage.

Monday, August 3, 2009

NT Wright on Homosexuality

NT Wright is the Bishop of Durham and one the foremost Biblical Scholars in the world right now. Some people have described him as the modern day C.S. Lewis. While I understand the sentiment, I think the comparison does neither of them justice. Anyway, he's an author and teacher I respect, admire and make it a point to pay attention to. I was glad to read his recent comments on the decision of the Episcopalian Church in the United States to allow in principle the appointment, to all orders of ministry, persons in active same-sex relationships. To read the complete article, click here.

As I read the article I sensed his grieving the schism and his desire for Christians to remain loyal to orthodox faith.

One of his best quotes of the article: "We must insist, too, on the distinction between inclination and desire on the one hand and activity on the other — a distinction regularly obscured by references to 'homosexual clergy' and so on."

If you're interested some of his brief thoughts via video, here ya go:

Friday, July 31, 2009

Letting go of the good for the better

For people who have a deep and abiding relationship with Christ, the decisions between right and wrong are usually pretty easy. Its the decisions between what is good and better that are often difficult. For example, lets say my wife and I both had a long week and have been unable to spend quality time together. That same week my friends are having a get together on Friday night. We know Saturday is family day and Sunday will be busy. I have a decision, I can hang out with my friends on Friday night (which is a good thing) or I can hang out with my wife on Friday night (which is a better thing).

Or how about the decision between reading a magazine like Sports Illustrated (for men) or Better Homes and Garden (for women) instead of picking up the Bible. Reading SI or BHG is good, but reading the Bible is better.

I have a daughter starting school this year. As my wife and were weighing our options, we came up with three: 1. private school, 2. public school, 3. home school. We had to make a decision not between right and wrong, but between what we felt was best for our daughter.

There's a lot more examples I could give, but you get the point. Its often the decisions between something good and something better that are often far more difficult than the decisions between what is right and what is wrong. The reason these decisions can be hard is because we have to give up something that is good. Hopefully, the payoff is something better. Hopefully the results of spending time with my wife instead of my friends has a high payoff. Hopefully by reading the Bible we learn something new about God and our relationship with him even if it means missing out on an interview with Lebron James or skipping the latest home fashions.

I think the key ingredient to making the decision that God wants us to make is wisdom. That's why Proverbs 3:13 says "Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold." And Proverbs 4:7 says "Wisdom is supreme, therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding."

May we seek Godly wisdom and may God honor our seeking by granting it to us.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Favorite Lyrics

For some reason, there are random song lyrics that pop into my head to fit a certain situation. For example, any time I'm counseling a married couple whose having problems and they say "I love you but..." Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to do With it" often pops into my head.
Which got me thinking, here are just a few of my favorite lyrics:

"I've spent all my resistance on someone I can't resist."
The Waiting - Hands in the Air

"Sometimes You're further than the moon
Sometimes You're closer than my skin
And You surround me like a winter fog
You've come and burned me with a kiss"
David Crowder - Obsession

"Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things
Grace finds beauty in everything "
U2 - Grace

"Only You can make every new day seem so new."
Five Iron Frenzy - Every New Day

"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above."
Come Thou Fount - Robert Robinson

"Throw your hands way up high, wave 'em side to side like you glad to be alive, and if you know where you going when you die say everything's alright"
rod.laver - Fifty Five

It’s undeniable how brilliant you are
in an unreliable world you shine like a star
it’s unforgettable now that we've come this far
it’s unmistakable that you’re undeniable
Mat Kearney - Undeniable

"He carried me home and threw me a party
A party so loud like the greatest love story
Oh my dear friend applaud now please
I've invited your heart to announce you are free
He takes your chains, busting you out of prison
Just open your heart, let your heart come and listen"
Charlie Hall - Hookers and Robbers

What are some of your favorites? Please share in the comments section.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Motives are a funny thing. We all have them, we all operate out of them and yet so many of us are unaware of them. Proverbs 16:2 says "All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord." The last part literally says "but the Lord weighs the Spirits."

In other words, God isn't just concerned about external behaviors, but about internal "motives" or "spirits." God cares just as much about what is happening internally, as he does about what is happening externally.

So many Christians think the Christian life is about what you do, but I would suggest that its more about who you are. Surface Christianity is about rules, deep Christianity is about what God is doing inside of you and as a result through you.

In any relationship there are motives behind the behaviors. Those motives may be pure, but externally carried out in a way perceived to be negative. Or, those motives may be negative, but externally carried out in a way that is positive.

Let me give you a scenario for negative motives being carried out in way perceived to be positive. Lets say I'm meeting a friend for lunch and I decide to buy it for him. That's an external behavior that looks good and pure, however, what if the only reason I am buying it is to soften the blow when I tell him that I've been dating his fiance'. That's not a pure and good motive even though the external behavior looks good.

Now let me give you a scenario for pure motives being carried out in a way perceived to be negative. Lets say I want to give my wife a day for herself. I wake up one morning and surprise her before she wakes up by taking the kids to my parents house. I leave her a note telling her I wanted to give her a day for herself, that she can do whatever she wants to do all day. Well, lets say my wife works full-time and this a Saturday. Also, lets say my wife does not like surprises and gets energy by being around the husband and kids. She may wake up, read the note and be furious. That's a pure motive in the husband that had the opposite effect of its intention.

Now, I know those scenarios aren't perfect, but what I'm trying to convey is that God does care about who we are and what we do. Have you checked your motives lately? They just might need a tune up.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Become the person you want to marry

This was some advice given in the SAM Sunday school class this past week. And it wasn't advice that I gave, it was mentioned by someone in the class. Our current curriculum is called Boundaries in Dating(if you are single and haven't read it, it can really help you with your dating relationships).

I just thought the advice was appropriate. If you are struggling with being single, the best thing to do is work on yourself. If you want a person that loves God and lives for Him, then maybe you should be that kind of person. If you want someone that is fit and active and likes to exercise, then maybe you should be fit and active and enjoy exercise. If you want someone that is chill and laid back and would rather watch a movie than exercise, then maybe you should be that kind of person too.

It sounds simple really, but so many people fail to follow it. Why? I think its a matter of negative thinking, specifically that we have to have someone in our lives to be happy. We are so afraid of being alone, that we settle for someone that doesn't have similar values and priorities and hobbies so that we don't have to be alone. The problem, as the authors of Boundaries in Datingsuggest, is that dating won't cure a lonely heart. If you have to have a romantic relationship to be happy, then you have some issues that need to be resolved before you pursue marriage.

If that's you, pick up the book and you'll find yourself on the right road.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Its just a Coke

I was getting a propane tank for the grill along with some mulch and soil from Home Depot the other day and accidentally stole a 20oz Coke. You see, I got the propane tank first and as I cruised to the other side of the store where the mulch is located I grabbed a coke along the way to drink.

As I was checking out, I totally forgot about the Coke (which was buried under the mulch and soil). Turns out I didn't pay for it. I didn't realize it until I was on my way home. I took a sip from the Coke and realized what had happened.

My first thought was "go back and pay for it." Then a second thought creeped in: "its Home Depot, they make a killing off me every year, its just a Coke. They'll never miss it."

I actually thought about not going back to pay for it and to be honest, I didn't go back until the next day (not because I was wrestling with whether or not to go back, I knew I would go back and pay for it). The point is, its so easy to justify small sins. Stealing a Coke seems so much smaller than stealing a car. But, spiritually its just as big. Notice I didn't say "Morally its just as big." While I do think its also a moral issue, for me, spiritual issues always trump moral issues and this was definitely a spiritual issue for me.

It was a spiritual issue because there was something inside of me that could justify not going back to pay for it. It was an automatic thought. This experience revealed that something inside of me is not right. That I still need God to work in my life and purge me of some junk that's there. Junk that's as simple as whether or not to steal a Coke. It still seems like a little thing to me even now, but I still believe something bigger was going on. Something bigger than myself.

It did feel good to go back and pay for that Coke. Maybe sinning isn't the only thing that feels good after all.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I was reading Philippians the other night and something really jumped out at me. Halfway through the second chapter Paul says "Do everything without complaining or arguing." Ouch. Suddenly I remembered all the times over the past week and month that I had argued or complained or done both at the same time. And I thought to myself "why?" What good does complaining do? What good comes from arguing, especially when its over something trivial. So I decided to try not to argue or complain, Ouch again. I haven't been very good at it.

It is hard not to argue or complain. At least it is for me. Following Paul's advice and wanting to follow Paul's advice are two very different things. I want to follow Paul's advice and I'm going to try, because I think its good advice. Especially when you consider the reasoning: "so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation."

The world has enough arguing and complaining, it doesn't need me to chime in. Lord help me be the blameless and pure kind of Christian that you are calling me to be by helping me resist the temptations to complain and argue.

Monday, June 29, 2009

MJ in Paradise

This is from the Provocative Illustrated Blog you see under "Blogs I Recommend."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson

I couldn't put my thoughts any better or agree more with what my friend had to say about MJ, check it out here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

People in our lives

There's people in our lives that give us energy and there's people in our lives that suck energy out of us. Ideally, its wise to make a concerted effort to navigate our lives in a way that we put ourselves in situations where we are around the kind of people that give us energy.

However, some circumstances put us in moments or seasons of life where we are around more people that drain us dry than that speak life, encouragement and support into our lives. During those seasons, I think we basically just have to suck it up and rely on God. As Jesus said "Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest."

If you are in one of those seasons where you feel weary, drained and sucked dry, God can give you supernatural rest and restoration.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Can you be a holy Christian and...

Does it make me less holy if I listen to secular music? I was counseling someone recently who often feels like a fish out of water in the church because she enjoys listening to Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Metallica and other popular alternative rock bands. She adamantly does not like specifically Christian music.

I can relate. While there is some specifically Christian music I like, a lot of it seems cheesy and inauthentic to me. I could also say that specifically Christian radio stations overplay a lot of songs, but all radio stations do that.

Two of my favorite bands of all time are Linkin Park and Rage Against the Machine. Both hard/alt/rapcore/rock bands. If you know either band, you know that some of their lyrics are quite colorful (especially Rage Against the Machine). Does that mean I'm not holy?

Early on in my College days, I felt convicted about some of the music I was listening to (I loved Nine Inch Nails at that time). I felt like God was telling me to get rid of it, so I sold all of my secular music (which was most of 90 some CD's if I remember correctly). A few months later, I felt God was telling me I could listen to secular music again. So, I started listening to it again, but with different ears. I began to hear the message in the music: broken relationships, depression, anger and big questions that came from just living life. I started thinking about how the music relates to being a Christian and it actually brought me closer to God.

For some Christians, it may not be wise to listen to secular music, but I would never say its immoral. I hope I am humble enough and teachable enough to let go of the music I really enjoy if God ever asks me to do so again, however, at this time I enjoy "plundering the Egyptians" by thinking of ways much of the music can be redeemed and used for God's kingdom. (For more about "plundering the Egyptians, check this post.)

Love is more...

There's a line from a Jars of Clay song that often comes to my mind whether I want it to or not. Its a line that's convicting and challenging to me: "Love is more than your good intentions." So true.

As Andy Stanley once said "your direction-not your intention-will determine your destination."

I almost always have good intentions and the right motivations, but I often fail to follow through on those good intentions and right motivations. I'll say it wrong or forget to act or if I do act it will be with a bad attitude.

Thank God for grace and forgiveness. And thank God that he went beyond his good intentions and demonstrated His love for us. God's good intentions alone would've gotten the human race and His kingdom nowhere.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I preached this past Sunday on the idea of being "sheltered." Our church has been in a series of sermons called UnChristian based on a book of the same title. The book is all about the negative perceptions that outsiders have of Christianity and Christians. Each sermon has addressed a specific way that Christians have typically acted unchristian.

So I talked about the perception that Christians are "sheltered." Many outsiders use words like old-fashioned, boring, club-like, out-of-touch and irrelevant to describe Christianity. Its easy for us as Christians to get into our "christian bubble" and remain there. This is not good, because Jesus calls us to be more than a member of a club and do more than just hang out with other Christians.

Jesus calls us to be salt and light in the world. He challenges us to engage people with the same love and wisdom he did. When we are sheltered, we aren't doing that. We are called to be "unsheltered." To be engaged and involved in people's lives and in the culture around us.

Ask yourself how you are sheltered (because most of are in some way) and then seek ways to move out of it. When you do, you will fulfillment, purpose and blessing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Suffering and the Older Testament

"The Old Testament isn't written in order simply to "tell us about God" in the abstract. It isn't designed primarily to provide information, to satisfy the inquiring mind. It's written to tell the story of what God has done, is doing and will do about evil."

This is from a small but insightful book about suffering and evil by N.T. Wright called Evil and the Justice of God. What we see true in Job is true for all of the Bible, evil is not explained.

Even if evil was explained, it would still be part of our world so it wouldn't help us out too much in the midst of it.

The exodus of the Hebrew people out of slavery from Egypt is a formative narrative for Judaism about what God is going to do about evil. It all starts with God hearing the cry of his people. Here are God's initial words to Moses:
"I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey...and now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."
Exodus 3:7-10

God doesn't explain why the Hebrews went into slavery, he just says he has seen their misery, heard them crying out and that He's concerned about their suffering. Then He wants to do something about it. But He needs help. Moses is the answer.

God uses people to relieve suffering. How does God want to use you?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Suffering: The story of Job

Job was "blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil." That's how he is introduced. We are also told that he is richly blessed with possessions, family and has a genuine love for his children (as shown by his willingness to do the equivalent of praying for them every morning: vs. 5).

To Job's surprise, everything (except his own life and his wife) are taken away: his children, his possessions, his servants and even his good health. What happened?

Unknown to Job, God and Satan have a bet going on between them (interestingly enough, it was egged on by God, not by Satan). God brags about Job's faithfulness and righteousness to Satan and Satan says Job's faith is only based on how God has blessed him. He bets that if everything is taken away he would curse God to His face. So God lets Satan take everything away from him and Job still worships God. Then Satan approaches God a second time and bets God that if he strikes Job physically that Job will curse him to his face. So again, Satan makes his move and puts Job's body through hell (so much so that job scrapes off painful sores with broken pottery). Job still doesn't curse God. At this point the narrator focuses in on a series of conversations between Job and his friends. The story concludes with God speaking to Job, Job being humbled and God once again blessing Job.

One interesting part that I have to highlight is after the second bet, Job's wife has had enough and her advice to him is to "curse God and die." Job's response? "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" Not exactly a Proverbs 31 wife. Then the narrator says that "in all this, Job did not sin in what he said."

How does Job respond to all of this? Well, even though he doesn't curse God, he does go through deep depression, questions God about why its happening and persistently communicates his innocence.

I want to correct something. "The patience of Job" is a terrible cliche' because Job isn't patient! He doesn't curse God, but at times he does have some demanding requests of God that aren't exactly descriptions of waiting in patience. Also, Job never asks for his family and possessions back, what He asks for is actually fair, he asks to hear from God.

So, what does all this have to do with the question of theodicy (see previous post for definition)?

First, I think one of the major points God intended for us to get out of Job is that it is too simple and limiting to conclude that sin causes suffering. Job is an example of an innocent man who still experiences terrible suffering. I believe God wants us all to know that there is more to suffering than just a cause and effect relationship with sin.

Second, I believe Job is a pre-Jesus example of how to suffer well. He grieves. He suffers deep situational depression. He's honest with God about his frustration, anger and sadness. He boldly questions God about why it happened. He asks to hear from God. He shows integrity by maintaining his innocence before his friends that are incessantly unwavering in their assessment that he has an unconfessed sin that brought this suffering upon him. Once he hears from God, he is humble and repentant about his attitude. Job shows us how someone mature in their faith can and should handle suffering.

Third, we see that Satan has limited power on earth. The only way Satan can touch Job is with God's permission. I'm still not exactly sure what that means, but its interesting to think about. I understand it by thinking of it this way: God lets Satan borrow power for a specific purpose. The question then becomes, does that make God out to be manipulative? If so, then it doesn't fit a perfectly loving God, because manipulation would not behaviorally fit a God who loves perfectly. (See the comments section at the bottom of the post for more on this).

Fourth, God teaches us both how to be with someone who is suffering and how not to be with someone who is suffering. Job's friends show up at the end of chapter 2 and do a great job of comforting him just by their presence. They weep, tear their robes and sprinkle dust on their heads; all three are Hebrew ways to show someone you are with them in their suffering. Then, they just sit with him for seven days. That's how to be with someone in suffering. As soon as they open their mouth and try to teach Job pop theology, they become an unhelpful nuisance to Job. They're common cliche's and bland platitudes do no favors for Job during his suffering. That's how not to be with someone in suffering.

Fifth and last, God uses Job to remind us that He is God, which means he does not have to answer our questions, but we have to answer His. When God does speak, He puts Job in his place (chapters 38-41)and Job is humble enough to declare his lack of knowledge before the almighty. God uses several examples of creation to remind Job that He is much bigger than one persons suffering. I think it is also intended to remind Job that there are things going on that he can't understand, that only God can understand.

I would encourage you to read Job for yourself, its just before Psalms. Its probably my favorite book in the Bible. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments either about the post or about the book of Job in general.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


I've had a lot of questions lately about suffering. Throughout the year, the question about suffering comes and goes, but it just seems like lately the question is on a lot of people's minds. Just to make it theological and show that I did graduate from seminary, I want to give you a big theological word that has to do with suffering: theodicy.

Theodicy asks this question: if God is is perfectly loving and all-powerful, then why is there still suffering in the world? Logically, either God is perfectly loving but not all-powerful or he's all-powerful but not perfectly loving. Because a loving and all-powerful God would have both the desire and the ability to get rid of suffering.

The answer isn't an easy one, but its one I want to explore over the next few posts. Actually, I don't hope to come to an answer, because I don't know that there is an adequate one, however, I do hope to write about it maturely and deeply in hopes that it will help some of you in your thinking.

So here's my first comment about it. C.S. Lewis said (and probably also wrote it somewhere) that "pain is God's megaphone to arouse a deaf world." In other words, God uses pain to get our attention. Now, there's definitely problems with this, I mean, can't God get our attention in other ways. If God wants my attention, he could just drop a million dollars out of the sky and into my lap (neatly folded in a large briefcase please). Or He could audibly speak to me. Or he could've turned the non-alcoholic beverages at our wedding reception almost ten years ago into alcoholic beverages (he's done that before). Okay, I know I'm being silly, but there has to be more to it, case in point: Jesus felt pain and God already had his full attention.

Shouldn't the life, death and resurrection of Jesus be enough to draw our attention to God? Even though I agree that C.S. Lewis's quote (and to be fair C.S. Lewis says a lot more about pain, evil and suffering in his book The Problem of Pain) is limited, I also agree that its part of the answer.

Its a part of the answer because pain can take us to terrible places. Pain can empty us of the desire to seek anything other than relief. And when we've exhausted all of the unhealthy resources to find relief, we often turn to God. Because once we've exhausted those resources, he's often the only resource left to turn to that offers any hope.

So, I definitely think God can use pain to get our attention, but I also think there is a lot more to the discussion than that.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


In a recent class, as an introduction to a book study on Messy Spirituality (written by Mike Yaconelli) we talked about the Biblical call to holiness, the reality of sin (and its power) and what freedom means in light of the delicate balance between the two.

In Matthew chapter five, in verse 48, Jesus says "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

If your like me, at first glance you might think "well, that's impossible, so I guess I should just give up now." Teachers have answered that sentiment with statements like "Jesus was speaking in hyperbole, which means we don't have to take his statement literally." Another, more extreme teaching is "yes, Jesus demands perfection, we should take it literally and seek to be perfect." Neither are at the heart of what Jesus was saying. We need to look at two very important aspects of the context to understand Jesus' words.

First, we have to look at the word translated as "perfect." The word in greek is teleos which does not mean moral flawlessness. It means fully grown, mature or complete. Elsewhere, teleos is used to speak of fruit maturing (Luke 8:14) and a fully realized unity of believers (John 17:23). Think in terms of complete or full grown as opposed to partial. Jesus is talking about being mature, complete and fully grown in our love for people. To "be perfect as God is perfect" means to love as God loves: impartially, completely, fully and without necessity of that love being reciprocated.

Second, this statement is made in the context of what mature love should look like in relationships with those that it is typically difficult to love. Jesus has just said to love your enemies. He has also asked rhetorical questions about how easy it is to love those that love you pointing to the truth that Godly love is more than just typical easy love.

Jesus was talking to mostly Jewish people each with a different status in their culture. The type of love he's talking about was not being shown either from those in power or those who were at the mercy of those in power. However, if both parties loved the way Jesus is telling them to love, then the great chasm that existed because of a broken system could've been closed and God's love would've been the new system.

What does this mean for us?

Jesus does not expect us to be morally flawless, but he does expect us to love him and love others in a way that is reminiscent of how he loves us. So, be free from thinking you have to live a perfect life, but know that you're calling to perfection (or should I say to impartial, counter-conditional Godly love)is a much higher and often a much more demanding request than that of moral perfection.

The good news: we aren't expected to love people perfectly on our own. The Holy Spirit lives in those of us that are new creations in Christ and that's why Jesus can call us to love the same way he does.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Loosening Suspicion

I often make calls to people I've never met, its part of my job. Often, they do not know who I am either. I can usually hear some suspicion in their voice when I'm talking on the phone with them to set up a time to visit. Its expected. Before they even ask why I want to visit, I tell them that there is no agenda except to get to know them, visit with them and pray for them. That usually loosens suspicion.

Its ironic really. I mean I say I have no agenda, but I do, its just that the agenda is clear and it involves building a relationship. I think that's what matters in ministry, forming relationships. I enjoy listening to people's stories and being in the moment and people seem to appreciate that. One thing I think I'm good at is being authentic. I've found that the most important component of loosening suspicion is just being yourself. It sounds cheesy, but sometimes cheesy is true.

So when I honestly tell the person I'm visiting that I just want to get to know them and pray for them, whether they hear that as an agenda or not doesn't matter, what does matter is that they hear that I am genuinely interested in their lives.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wrestling with Wrestling

I often wrestle over what to wrestle over. Let me explain:

There are so many theological, biblical, political, economic, social and personal issues that I would love to research, explore, study and process that I often don't do anything because its too hard to decide.

I think that's why I will start a book and not finish it.

So, I find myself wrestling with what I should study. Sometimes I just pick something, but at other times I pick nothing because I don't know where to start.

Anyway, it helps to set goals. I set a goal this year to read some books on Depression and Anxiety. I haven't done it yet, but I hope to do it soon.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Good Friday

I'm preaching this Friday's Good Friday service. The theme is What's good about Good Friday? If Jesus suffered a torturous death that could've been avoided after a mockery of a trial, then what's good about Good Friday? If Jesus said from the cross "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?" then what's good about Good Friday. If Jesus said from the cross "I am thirsty" then what's good about Good Friday.

Want to know the answer, then come to the service this Friday at 7pm.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Is God Still Creating?

My 4 1/2 year old daughter just asked me this question yesterday. I loved it. I don't know where it came from, but it was such a great question.

You have to realize that I am extremely careful not to overload my family with "God talk." While I try to be a spiritual leader and teach God's truth, I have never and will never teach them to superspiritualize everything or make all our actions and decisions result in a spiritual lesson. I love Jesus and my greatest desire for my children is for them to love Him too, but I want their faith to be their own, not something that was forced on them.

I write that because this question (and others like "what does God look like?") she asks to do not come from an effort on my part to get her to ask them, they come straight from her own mind. Which makes the question that much more enjoyable. She's thinking about the same theological questions that I'm thinking about. Its a beautiful thing. I hope she always feels that she can ask me anything. I promised myself long ago that I wouldn't get mad or impatient about her questions. Sometimes they can be frustrating, especially when she asks the same thing over and over again. But I'm careful to handle it in such a way that she feels like I will always answer her willingly and honestly.

Of course the answer to her question is "yes!" In more ways than we realize.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Words I don't like

Obedience: When I think of obedience, I think of a dog going to obedience school. I don't know why, but I really wrestle with the word "obedience." I just get an image of a dog lowering his head under his master who is disciplining him to force obedience. Even though I know theologically God is not like a dog trainer, this is the image that comes to mind.

Niceness: Niceness is overrated. Don't get me wrong, I'm a nice guy and I appreciate nice people, but I would rather be described as holy, warm, compassionate or caring rather than nice anyday. Part of this idea comes from a scene from C.S. Lewis's The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. It goes something like this: Lucy asks if Aslan is nice. The answer is that Aslan is not a tame lion, but he's good. Again, I would rather be good, than nice, anyday. I don't think Jesus was always nice, but he was always good.

Moderation: Jesus didn't teach moderation. He didn't. He taught wisdom. He taught and lived what it meant to have a close relationship with God. He taught love without limit. Not only did he teach love without limit, he demonstrated it by willingly going to death for the sake of the rest of the human race.

Your thoughts...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Three Aspects of Love

I recently attended a marriage conference led by Les and Leslie Parrot. They talked about three aspects that define love: passion, intimacy and commitment. The passion aspect of love is the desire for physical closeness. The intimacy aspect of love is the desire for emotional closeness. The commitment aspect is the shaping of the will to love no matter what.

They shared an exercise they do routinely based on these aspects of love. They start by writing down on a scale of 1-10 where they are at the moment with each aspect of love. So he may give passion a 6, intimacy a 7 and commitment a 10. She may give passion a 4, intimacy a 6 and commitment a 10. Then, the couple can talk about why they are where they are on the scale.

I will be the first to admit that this little assessment has its limitations, but it may be helpful for opening up the communication lines. My wife and I have yet to try this, but its not because we aren't willing. I'll let you know how it goes when we do try it out.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Making vs. Revealing

My wife and I recently looked at a workbook from a marriage conference. In a side note of one of the fill-in-the-blank points it said something like this: Your spouse does not make you feel a certain way, they simply reveal those feelings. I thought it was a powerful statement. And it fits with the message of this ministry, which has greatly influenced how I counsel people.

If you're like me, you've said: "You make me so mad sometimes." Its not an entirely accurate statment. While their actions may influence how you respond to them, their actions just reveal who you are and the feelings you are feeling. Saying someone "makes" you mad is giving that person a lot of power over your life. I mean, if a person can "make" you mad, imagine what else they can make you. They might have the power to make you depressed, misereable, suicidal, murderous, hateful, oppressed and a range of other negative emotions.

With that said, I don't doubt the influence my wife has in my life. She does have some power in my life. But ultimately, my thoughts, actions and feelings to her are a revelation or revealing of stuff that I already carry with me, more than it is something that is being made.

As Rage Against the Machine says "We've got to take the power back." Now, I know Rage wan't talking about ownership of our feelings, but that's what I mean by stealing their lyrics. Take the power back from allowing other people to "make" you something and have the awareness to know that their comments and your reaction is "revealing" something about you that has always been there whether you knew it or not.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pursuer or Pursuee

Stereotypically in the dating relationship the man likes to be the pursuer and the woman likes to be the pursuee. The man likes the challenge and excitement of trying to win a girl's heart. The woman likes to be won because she likes to feel cherished. Its fun while they are dating. If things get serious and they are married, its easy to stop pursuing and easy to stop being pursuable.

The husband believes he has won the challenge, he may think to himself "I have won her heart by claiming her as my own in marriage." He may stop pursuing. The wife thinks.....well.....I don't know what the wife thinks, but she can make herself difficult to pursue by rejecting him when he does pursue her. This creates a quandary for the husband. From the husbands perspective, if he pursues her and gets rejected he has to live with that rejection. However, if he doesn't pursue her, he has to live with a spouse who doesn't feel cherished by her husband.

From the woman's perspective, she should be worth pursuing whether the pursuit is rejected or not.

So what happens? Both individuals stop submitting to each other (See Ephesians 5:21-33 for Paul's teaching on mutual submission). When that happens the temptation is to become selfish and meet your own needs and desires regardless of how it effects your spouse.

So I have a question for you:

What kind of position have you put your spouse or significant other in?

Husbands, have you given up on pursuing your wife? Even if she rejects you, you must choose to love her whether its reciprocated or not.

Wives, have you given up on respecting your husband becuase you don't feel cherished. Even if his pursuit doesn't meet your needs, it is important to respect him by recognizing the effort and communicate clearly what makes you feel cherished. (Abuse and/or adultery is an obvious exception to submitting to your husband).

And if you are not married or in a committed relationship, you can apply this same thing to how you relate to your friends, because whoever you marry should be your best friend.

May God grant each of us the will to love our spouses well.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Pet Jellyfish

In the movie Seven Pounds starring Will Smith, the main character has a pet jellyfish. Specifically, a box jellyfish. I instantly connected and wanted one. On my daughter's first trip to the aquarium she was fascinated with the different types of jellyfish. She liked them more than any of the other creatures.

So I looked into getting a pet jellyfish and I'm sad to say that its not happening. They are hard to keep, they have short lifespans and the specialty aquariums are extremely expensive.

I did find this alternative. Very cool. I might just have to get one someday...someday.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Progress and Loss

I have gotten better at tennis. I've used my recent membership to the Rock Hill tennis center to hit on the ball machine four or five times since mid January. My backhand was horrible and since hitting on the ball machine its moved to bad. Doesn't sound like progress, but it is.

However, as much progress as I feel I have made, I still lost last weekend to my neighbor. The very first time we played I won. Since then, he's beaten me everytime (probably 7 or 8 times in a row). Its the same pattern each time. I win the first set and he wins the next two. I thought for sure I would beat him last weekend since I have been hitting on the ball machine.

Practically and spiritually all this is to say that even though we may feel like we are losing a battle, it doesn't mean we aren't making progress towards ultimate victory in the war. If you are progressing in you relationship with God, don't worry so much about mistakes you may be making in your life. You see, if we focus on intimacy with Christ, much of the change that needs to happen in our lives will come from within. That's because when we submit our will to God's will the Holy Spirit works within each of us to transform us into the image of Christ (see Romans 8:28-29). Because as scripture says "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you."

May you live a life exemplary of the Spirit's work from the inside out. And if you would like to learn more about the Holy Spirit, join us here for our current series called "Without Limit: Messages on the Holy Spirit."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Picture in Office

I have this picture hanging in my office. From the first time I saw it, I loved it (you should be able to click on it to enlarge it). It reminded me that it is the church's responsibility to bring Jesus to people who don't yet know Him. There are many people out there who aren't just going to come to church, which means the church has to go to them. So that's why its hanging in my office.

I recently found a combination of words that immediately made me think of the picture. It came from a preaching conference yesterday led by Brian McLaren. One of the things he said about preaching is that ancient-future is better than traditional or contemporary.

I think that combination of words "ancient-future" describes this picture perfectly. Bringing the unchanging ancient message of Jesus Christ to the ever changing culture of the future.

Hope you like the picture too.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jesus Wants to Save Chrisitans

I'm reading this book right now by Rob Bell. Its been good. I'm at chapter 4. So far Rob has basically just summed up the story of the Bible up to Jesus' death and resurrection. He's made some important connections between the history of the Jews and Jesus' life.

The title of chapter 4 is intriguing: Genital-Free Africans. His titles are often provocative and bizzare. I'm not sure why, but I'm looking forward to it.

Anyway, more to come about the book later.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Power of Words

In a recent staff conversation the word "mandatory" came up. I hate what it means. I naturally rebel against it. Bitterness starts to creep in. I don't like whatever its referring to before I even know what its referring to. "Mandatory" is an evil, evil word in my mind.

Yet, its helpful. It brings clarity. When someone who has authority over me says something is "mandatory," the message is clear. I know its something that has to be done whether I like it or not. Now, obviously, I still have choice as to whether or not I do it, however, the consequences of failing to do something designated mandatory is always more severe than the results of fulfilling the required action.

So I have a naturally critical response to a helpful word. When someone in authority over me tells me my attendance at an event is "mandatory" my internal response is in conflict with good communication. Its easy to let the rebellious part of me make it personal with the person who has the power to make something mandatory, however, the real issue is not with the other person, the real issue is with me. I'm the one rebelling against it and thinking negative thoughts because of the designation of "mandatory."

Its my issue. I have to deal with it. I just have to think more about this. Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 4, 2009


I turned 32 on December the 31st. My daughter turned 1 on December the 28th. She got a brownie cake thing with pink icing (thanks to my wife), I got one of the best homemade German Chocolate cakes I've ever had (thanks to my mom)! I think I got the better end of that deal.

Birthdays are strange now. I want to be younger, not older.

I remember recently having a conversation with someone over 50 years of age and I asked her this: if you could be any age what would it be? Surprisingly, she said 30. I was happy. I asked her why. She said because she thinks people are the most attractive in their 30s. Again, I was happy.

It was encouraging.

I don't like getting older, but at least there's someone older than me that wants to be my age least its only 2 years younger than my age.

I've decided that I don't like getting older. I know there's nothing I can do about it, but still, I really don't like getting older.

How about you, if you could be any age, what age would it be and why? I would go back to being 18 again. I remember the feeling of independence and the lack of a whole lot of responsibility. If only I could take the Xbox 360 back in time with me...all that freetime and the 360, a dream come true. Seriously, I enjoy video games that much.

One really good thing about this Birthday was Facebook. It was so encouraging to hear (more accurately "read") happy birthday from so many people. Some were close friends, others were people from my past: like people in high school that I barely ever knew but felt inclined to accept their friend request so I don't look like a loser with only 3 friends on Facebook (the power of desiring a reputation). It was good. I even called my wife over to show her all the happy birthday wishes. I highly recommend putting your birthday in your Facebook profile (or getting a Facebook profile if you don't already have one). You will know you were thought of by all the poeple that wish you a happy birthday, its a good feeling, you should try it if you haven't already.