Dec 4, 2009

Avoiding God

"One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it."

An intriguing quote from one of the great philosophical movies of the last several years...Kung Fu Panda. It's intriguing because at times it can be reflective of our experience with God. At least it has been that way with me. There have been moments in my past when I tried to run away from the calling God had on my life. Several thoughts and emotions creep in and influence the choice to flee.

Fear. Hurt. Frustration. Disappointment. Doubt. Disinterest.

But as much as I tried to go in any other direction, one thing became clear. God wasn't interested in my excuses. And he wasn't going to leave me alone until I surrendered to Him. Why do we think we often know better than God? Why do we try to fool ourselves into thinking we will be more happy or more fulfilled as long as we stay in control of our lives?

What do you think would have happened in the lives of people in Scripture like Paul, Peter, or John if they chose a direction for themselves other than where God was calling them to follow? God dreams bigger than we can even begin to imagine.

And He simply waits for us to join him on a road that will lead to an unavoidable Kingdom destiny.


Nov 24, 2009

The Sermon

One more time...a quotation from Francis Chan's Crazy Love: "We've conditioned ourselves to hear messages without responding. Sermons have become Christian entertainment. We go to church to hear a well-developed sermon and a convicting thought. We've trained ourselves to believe that if we're convicted, our job is done. If you're just hearing the Word and not actually doing something with it, you're deceiving yourself" (p. 184).

Is that what the sermon is, "Christian entertainment?" A few weeks ago I was privileged to hear a preacher par exellence. He is a homiletics professor, has written several best-sellers and is a outstanding man of God. As I listened and observed I was impressed by how good he was--easy to hear, friendly, engaging, etc. It's almost as if I was critiquing his message, style, mannerisms, and so on. This preacher was giving me a WORD from God and here I was checking out his style. I almost missed the word from God.

How do you listen to sermons? Ever hear/say any of these? (1) "I just wasn't into it today." Really? Was God for some reason unworthy of your praise on this day? (2) "I just didn't get anything out of the sermon today." Ok, did you give God anything or was it all about you? Worship is designed far more to give God something (praise) that to give you something (good entertainment). (3) "I had trouble staying focused during the sermon." Ok, is that because you stayed up late last night, had plans after church or maybe didn't want to see God and be challenged by his glory? Worship, including the sermon, is not about you. Anyone who comes to worship looking for God will find him. Anyone coming to worship for entertainment will find himself.

The sermon is all about bridge-building, connecting God's eternal world and our world in the anticipation that the gap between the two will be narrowed. The sermon is about learning to reflect God, to look like God, to smell like Christ. The sermon is not about entertainment. Or if it should have any entertainment value at all it is that of entertaining God by displaying him and his calling to hearers.

So, next time you hear a sermon try this: ask yourself what God is calling you to do or be or change as a result of that sermon? Rather than judging the sermon, how about letting the sermon judge you? At least that's what I'm going to try to do the next time I hear a sermon.

Nov 13, 2009

Even In Death...

...I am reminded about what it means to live.

This past week we ventured to Oklahoma to attend the funeral services for Sara's grandfather. It was a beautiful time of remembrance and celebration of a life lived to the glory of God. As much as we often fear death though, it is funny how death often has the potential to teach us so much about life.

Floyd was a man who gave of himself as much as he could. He loved the Lord. He loved people. He loved his church. He loved his family. The more stories I got to hear about grandpa, the more I found myself being reminded of a few simple truths. Life is short. He lived a good life and was blessed in many years, but I am reminded that we never really know how long we have on this earth. So, what am I going to do with this life I have been given? How am I going to live? What will be my legacy?

I believe we are called to Live Intentionally and not just live with good intentions. I want to make conscious decisions every day to live for God and for others. Life goes by too quickly to choose not to live intentionally. I'm also reminded to take time to love others. Even when it might not "fit in my schedule."

I remember playing with a pair of my dad's shoes when I was a lot younger. I remember how big they seemed compared to the size of my own feet. I would put them on and try to walk around. It felt awkward, clumsy...I would even stumble and fall a few times. But there was a simple joy to be found in doing my best to try to walk around in my father's shoes. Sometimes I think that's how we feel about our life with God. The shoes can seem so huge, even overwhelming when we try to follow in his footsteps. As we try to live out his way of life in this world we can feel awkward, and clumsy...we might even stumble and fall from time to time. As we continue to wear the shoes on a daily basis though, eventually we will begin to grow into them. But we have to be intentional about walking in them even when it feels uncomfortable and it may not feel like it's the right fit.

I believe God wants us to dream walk forward in faith, trusting Him to do great things! But I think He also wants us to be mindful of the simple things life that as we continue to learn to die to ourselves and follow Him, even in death we can be reminded about what it means to truly live.


Nov 11, 2009

Transforming Waters

I just read a story about a convicted felon who was baptized while in prison. He was lowered into a wooden coffin that had been lined with plastic and filled with water. He carefully stepped into the water and was immersed. His dead body was given new life by the power of God. The man sat in the coffin weeping, saying "I want to wear these clothes as long as I can. I am now a free man...this (razor) wire can't shackle my soul. I know that I deserved to come here, to pay for what I did. But I also learned here that someone else paid for my crimes." (Hicks & Taylor, Down in the River to Pray, 216). A similar coffin would hold his body again but death would have no power over him at that time.

The power of God at work in baptism is more powerful than our wickedness, more powerful than all the wickedness of the whole world. Uniting with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus through our own death, burial and resurrection is a powerful act of faith, submission, obedience in which transformation into the image of God is powerfully displayed. All who experience this new birth have new hope and new life. Everyone! I truly mean everyone. Including the above prisoner who had molested his 10-year-old daughter. But who am I to cast the first stone? All sinners, regardless of the nature of their sins, are in need of the transforming power of God which is uniquely unleashed in baptism. So let's drop the rocks in our hands.

What do you think?

Nov 4, 2009

Can A Christian Be A Patriot?

Interesting question, huh? Maybe you've never thought about it before? Maybe you don't see it to be an issue at all and wonder what's the deal? Maybe it sounds unChristian or unAmerican to even ask the question? Anyway, it's being discussed more in Christian circles nowadays and we should welcome the discussion and be civil in our participation.

Over 100 years ago David Lipscomb questioned to what extent Christians should be involved in civil government. After all, what do the kingdoms of men have to do with the kingdom of God? So, Lipscomb opposed Christians running for political office, voting, etc. He most certainly would have opposed any American symbol being a part of a religious service, such as a flag.

What brought this to my attention again is the latest issue of Restoration Quarterly wherein an article by an ACU professor, Victor McCracken, is titled "Can A Christian Be A Patriot?" It's an interesting read. He notes how the American flag has sometimes received recognition in churches and schools and wonders whether Christians should question this activity. One of our national mottos, often seen as a bumper sticker, is "God bless America." Shouldn't we want God to bless all nations? McCracken shares the development of his own view as he has considered this subject.

Personally, I beleive we should be proud to be Americans--just like a dozen songs proclaim. Not arrogant though. Maybe rather than proud, perhaps we should think "fortunate." Then again, to be fortunate or blessed has little to do with geography and culture and is far, far more a matter of spiritual inheritance. In the kingdom of God there are no "Americans." God's people are "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female" (Gal. 3:28).

As this kind of discussion will continue, you might be thinking about your first allegiance. Our first allegiance must always be pledged to God. All other allegiances pale compare to this. Let us never forget that we are first patriots of the kingdom of God.

Oct 30, 2009 opportunity to help!

Have you ever heard of Kiva?

Kiva (from their website) "is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website empowering individuals to lend to unique entrepreneurs around the globe." Their mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Isn't that in part what followers of Jesus are called help any way we can to take care of the poor all around us? Poverty is such a huge issue, sometimes it can seem so overwhelming. I mean where do we even begin? But here is one opportunity that we can participate in, helping others in even the smallest of ways. And hopefully a discipline as small as this, can train us in ways to have our eyes and ears open to other opportunities to help those in need around us. After all we don't have to just help people halfway around the world, because there are poor in our own backyards. But, this is one way we can be proactive and choose to try to make a difference.

If you don't know much about it...check out their website:

It's a great opportunity to use what God has blessed us with to be a blessing to others!


Oct 23, 2009

Flash Forward

There's a new show I've gotten sucked into on ABC called Flash Forward. The premise is that one day a mysterious event causes everyone on the planet to simultaneously lose consciousness for 137 seconds, during which people see what appear to be visions of their lives approximately six months in the future - a global “flash-forward." Some people respond to their glimpse of the future out of fear. They are afraid the visions will actually come true and their lives will be dramatically and even negatively altered forever. Others are filled with confidence as they look forward to the exciting possibilities the future apparently has in store. Either way, everyone starts to make decisions about their lives based on what they believe is yet to come. They act in ways they might not normally (both good and bad), because of the information they have received. The whole world in one sense is united because of this shared, common experience as they wait to see what the future will reveal and how it will continue to change everyone and everything.

Would you want to see a vision of your future? How do you think you might respond? Do you think the information would change the way you live?


In a way as Christians, we live in the context of our own "Flash Forward." God has given us a glimpse into the future. And it is a future that boldly proclaims God's victory over Satan, sin, evil, and death...a future of restored relationship between God and his people...a future where the kingdom of God is fully established on earth as it is in heaven. The crazy thing is that knowing that "insider" information doesn't seem to change our lives. For whatever reason we don't believe the "vision" is true. Somewhere in our head we know what the future holds, but we get too easily caught up in ourselves to allow the outcome to shape the way we live into the future. In talking about the book of Revelation and the idea of the "end times," Randy Harris sums it up this way: In the end "God wins. Choose wisely. Don't be stupid!" I think that's about as simple as it gets. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the simplicity.

Do we live in ways that point people forward to a future of God's reigning presence on earth? If not, we better be careful, because anything else might lead us to look back on the emptiness of our lives and see that it was all gone in a flash!


Oct 16, 2009

Choose This Day...

(It might be helpful to view the video available through this link before continuing).

Choices. Every day we are faced with all types of choices. Those choices can lead us down a road to any number of outcomes. Whoever broke in to our building the other night had a choice. They chose to act in a way that might give them temporary satisfaction, without much concern for the negative implications. They will only continue to be faced with choices as they move forward wherever they go.

As those who have been wronged, we also have a choice. How will we respond in the midst of unfortunate or frustrating circumstances? The world would expect us to be angry. Maybe in some way we might actually be justified in that feeling. But, should we choose to feel that way? Or do we have a responsibility, a calling even, to choose to respond differently than those around us might expect? Sure, the initial feelings are ones of frustration. It's a hassle. It's inconvenient. There's immeasurable value in what was's more than just the price tag on the box. Even still, in the end it's just stuff. What does it really matter? What matters is how I choose this day to respond, whatever the circumstances...whether good or bad...mountain or valley...victim or thief. What matters is that I have a chance, I have a choice, to act redemptively even when I'm not at fault, even when there is an obvious someone else to blame, even when an enemy chooses to spit in my face.

After all, Jesus did. And he's the one I choose to follow. He's the one I decide each day to try to imitate. So don't be angry. Life's too short to chase that train. Instead, take a deep breath, and be reminded of this simple refrain: "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him." -Deut 30:19-20.


Oct 14, 2009

Night Time Visitors

Had any night time prowlers lately? Not the ones that invade your home without an invitation. I'm talking about people and happenings that invade your sleep. Come to think about it, I guess dreams do invade our homes without invitations. Like an intruder they can interrupt sleep, cause restlessness, and even create fear and dread.

In my lifetime I've had three very troubling dreams. Sure, I have the same dreams lots of people have, like falling off something only to awaken startled just before I hit the ground. And I don't know what this one means--I'm sometimes getting up to preach only to realize that I'm not fully dressed. O how much I hate to share that one since no doubt someone is bound to conclude something about my sexuality that cannot be positive.

The first dream that really troubled me came maybe 20 years ago when I dreamt that my wife died. I awakened crying with real tears in my eyes. Even after I collected my senses and checked to make sure mshe was beside me, still breathing, it took several minutes for me to calm down. I still fell those emotions. Nightmare it was!

A second dream came several years ago that really troubled me; only my wife knows about it and she has probably forgotten. I'm glad. And then last night another interloper trespassed my rest. It was really bad. I've told no one about it. May never.

I'm not superstitious. I don't believe last night's dream will happen. But I would truly enjoy studying dreams more thoroughly. Maybe someday I will.

So, what are your thoughts about dreams? Does God still speak to us through them? Might they reflect some inner struggle? Do they reflect reality as we'd like it to be? Or maybe they are expressions of our greatest fears? How can God use dreams?

Come on now, don't be shy. How about sharing one of your dreams with the rest of us? And what do you think it means?

Oct 9, 2009

"A Sense of Responsibility"

The title above was a quote from an interview in TIME magazine with the President and First Lady, addressing the need for more 'volunteerism' in America. The interview overall was fairly interesting because of the emphasis on the good that comes from opportunities of service, both for those being served and those doing the serving. It was suggested though that volunteerism is probably down in large part because of the prevalent worry that exists during these unsettled economic times. Many people might be thinking they need to focus on taking care of themselves which apparently makes it more difficult to give your time, money, and energy to others. However, President Obama argued that this is exactly the time that Americans should offer a helping hand to their neighbor and their communities. You can read the full article by clicking here.

This got me thinking about a few things. As Christians we are supposed to be identified by how we love God and love others. In doing so, we are to live differently from the world around us. Almost everyone recognizes that serving others is a good thing. Even non-Christians find value in giving of yourself to others. So, how are we supposed to live different than the world around us when it comes to service? What makes us unique in this area as Christ-followers? We as Christians can be just as caught up in the economic instability as everyone else. It's hard not to. The reality for a lot of people is that times are tough. Plenty of people are losing jobs, money is tight, and religion isn't even a deciding factor. Believers and non-believers are both affected. Yet there is tension there. As people who follow the way of Christ in this world, we are called not to that possible? Most of the time our worry doesn't look much different from those who don't profess a foundation of faith. Sure, I have a little bit of's "easy" for me to ask these questions. I'm not trying to judge or belittle other people's struggles or difficult circumstances, but I think we have to wrestle with these questions.

As God's people, how are we leading the way when it comes to living our lives uncontrolled by worry and insecurities? As God's people, how should we be out front leading the way in living for others and not for self? President Obama is right...NOW is the time to reach out a hand to help someone in need, not reach in to clutch what "precious" things we have left. NOW is the time to offer who we are and what we have to others around us, not circle the wagons and fortify our own economic standing. Tough words, I know. But, shouldn't we feel our own "sense of responsibility" to live as reflections of the One who continually gave of himself so that others could share in a new way of life? Shouldn't the church be providing everyday evidence that "volunteerism" will always be alive and well in the world through the lives of God's people? Shouldn't our lives as Christians be so defined by service and trust, that we buoy whole communities struggling to stay afloat in the waters of uncertainty, by offering hope and inspiring love?

At the very least, it's something worth thinking about...


Oct 6, 2009

Crazy Love

I'm hooked. Francis Chan has hooked me with his Crazy Love. And you'll love the subtitle: Overwhelmed By a Relentless God. Chan's style is simple and his words are powerful. His questions are provocative. There should be a huge warning sign on the front cover. Here are some of his thoughts:

"How many of you have read the New Testament and wondered if we in the church are missing it?" (p. 19)

"God never had an identity crisis. He knows that He's great and deserves to be the center of our lives. Jesus came humbly as a servant, but He never begs us to give Him some small part of ourselves. He commands everything..." (p. 22)

"But know this: God will not be tolerated." (p. 28)

"Worry implies that we don't quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what's happening in our lives. Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control. Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it's okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional." (p. 42)

In his discussion of the Parable of the Soils, Chan asserts: "Do not assume you are good soil." (p. 67)

Commenting on Lk. 14:34-35: "When salt is salty, it helps manure become good fertilizer...but lukewarm and uncommitted faith is completely useless. It can't even benefit manure." (p. 81)

"Leftoevers are not merely inadequate; form God's point of view (and lest we forget, His is the only one who matters), they're evil. Let's stop calling it 'a busy schedule' or 'bills' or forgetfulness.' It's called evil." (p. 92)

So, maybe some of these thoughts struck you; maybe not. One thing is certain--if you read all of Crazy Love you'll find yourself more excited about your relationship with God and more challenged to love him in return.


Sep 16, 2009

Surrendering in Prayer

In my lifetime I suppose I 've prayed for about everything imaginable--people, pets and medical procedures as well as life, death and the suffering in between. And if I know my God the way I think I do, I'm confident he never tires of hearing his childrens' prayers. But I've been recently challenged by a little book titled Praying Like Paul. (Actually, I'm a little envious of the class that is studying through this book right now; wish I could participate.)

Author Jonathan Graf writes a simple, profound book in which he simply highlights almost 30 of the Apostle Paul's prayers as recorded in his letters. He does this under four categories: knowing and praising God; spiritual growth through suffering; the ministry of the gospel; and praying for other believers. Here's what strikes me most--while Paul certainly prayed for people and churches in a variety of settings about a variety of issues, his prayers tend to focus on big themes. God's praise and glory, gratitude for God's work in Christ, the preaching of the gospel, that people become Christ and Spirit formed, etc.

Now I plan to continue praying for specific people, circumstances of health, wealth and suffering, needs, family and so on. But I want to pray more about the big themes like kingdom, peace, the lost. Of his own prayer walk, Graf writes:

"I began being struck more and more by the prayers of Paul...(who) had people with huge problems under his care, people who were facing life-and-death situations. Yet in all his recorded prayers, nowhere do I see that he prayed for specific answers to everyday situations. (Yes, he prayed for himself, that his 'thorn in the flesh' would be removed. But remember, God said, 'no,' so he stopped praying about that.) Don't get me wrong. I would be surprised if Paul didn't pray for some specific things for people he knew, so I am not saying we should never pray for specific answers. But, since all of Paul's recorded prayers were in a different vein, I wonder if a majority of our prayers for ourselves and people shouldn't be of the same kind."

Next time I pray, I want to place my personal requests for specific things in the greater context of the kingdom and the honor of God. I'm just wondering what difference that might make.


Sep 11, 2009

Surrender Week

Many things in this world call for our attention. Some draw us closer to the heart of God and challenge us to become more tomorrow than we are today. Others distract us and lure us away from what can be most important. Everything around us leads us to live busy lives. So it can be even more important for us to surrender all that we are and all that we do to God.

Next Sunday we will begin an intentional week of surrender. Terrell will start us off on the 20th by challenging us to prayerfully pursue surrender in all areas of life. As a church family, we will cover 36 hours in prayer from Friday evening the 25th to Sunday morning, the 27th. We will then have a special service that morning and conclude our surrender week together with a prayer walk Sunday night.

We hope you will commit to being intentionally involved throughout the week as together we offer our lives, our families, our church, and our communities in surrender to God.


Sep 3, 2009


Slow down just a minute. Pause. Listen. What do you hear? Can you hear the AC unit? A clock? Traffic? The TV? Kids? It's hard to get away from noise. I remember one day back in 1983 when I spent an entire day, long before sunrise and long after sunset, in the woods alone. I saw no humans, heard no voices and was too far from a road to hear traffic. But it's not too often I get to spend a whole day in the Missouri foothills. Otherwise, noise fills my life. Why, just this week one of my neighbors has been building a new driveway and the trucks have rolled in at 6 a.m. One morning a jack hammer was thumping away at 6:10, yes, A.M.

I think all of us would do well to find a little solitude. I know it's hard to do. And some have even been critical of solitude since it appears to be more of a withdrawal from than engagement of the marketplace. Yet, I fear we may be so engaged in the marketplace sometimes that we fail to regroup. At its worst, solitude is selfish. At its best, however, solitude is not escapism; it is essential preparation for service. It is being quiet to make sure your divine signals are correct. Some of the greatest biblical heroes spent time in the dessert (Moses, Elijah, John, Jesus, Paul). But they were not escaping; they were preparing.

Could you consider planning a day sometime when you get off alone somewhere (anywhere) simply to pray, read and write about spiritual matters. Surely we occasionally find time to spend an entire day with someone we love; I know we did when we were dating. What difference might it make in our spiritual formation if we spent an entire day with God? What if we began right now making a list of the things we'd like to talk about with God? Do you think that might excite God?

I'm not talking about spending a day navelgazing. I'm talking about a day of spiritual solitude, when I use of my mouth to speak to God only and my spiritual ears to listen to Him alone. Sound appealing? Sound easy? I wonder if it just might be possible that constant noise reflects spiritual laziness whereas periodic solitude and quiet reflect spiritual passion and maturity. Maybe it's time to be lazy for one day so that our spiritual journey isn't quite so hazy.


Aug 28, 2009

A Prayer to Ponder...

...from the devotional book "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young. Hear the words of Jesus to you:

"Be willing to go out on a limb with Me. If that is where I am leading you, it is the safest place to be. Your desire to live a risk-free life is a form of unbelief. Your longing to live close to Me is at odds with your attempts to minimize risk. You are approaching a crossroads in your journey. In order to follow Me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your tendency to play it safe.

Let Me lead you step by step through this day. If your primary focus is on Me, you can walk along perilous paths without being afraid. Eventually, you will learn to relax and enjoy the adventure of our journey together. As long as you stay close to Me, My sovereign Presence protects you wherever you go."

Sometimes we forget that the kind of life Jesus calls us to can often be anything but safe. It was risky for fisherman to drop their nets, along with everything they knew, to follow Jesus. It was a risk for many people to trust that Jesus could heal the sick and raise the dead. It was a risk for Peter to step out of the boat toward Jesus. It was risky for the disciples to take Jesus at his word after his death and resurrection and lead the beginning of the early church.

I have to wonder...What am I willing to risk?


Aug 27, 2009


Bottlenecks provide great opportunities for deer hunters because they offer changes in the terrain by funneling game into a smaller area where savvy hunters can set up an ambush. Deer are more comfortable in big woods and thickets because they feel hidden and secure. They can be a little edgy in bottlenecks because they have less deep cover. And a hunter smiles when sitting in a bottleneck watching the trophy buck pass through his (or her!) rifle sights.

But bottlenecks are not so good at church. And one common cause for church bottlenecks (or traffic jams) is the leadership structure. Say someone gets an idea about something she'd like to do for the Lord. Now what? Take it to a deacon? An elder? The preacher? Then what, one of these leaders take it to the infamous "next meeting" where it will be discussed, possibly tabled until the "next meeting?" Why, by the time the person gets a response she may have lost her passion for the project!

One of my preacher friends once said that no one needs man's permission to do something God has already given him permission (or command) to do. Great idea! So what is it you want to do for the Lord's honor? What is your idea? If you could do anything for God, knowing you couldn't fail, what would you do?

Let's let the deer hunters enjoy bottlenecks or we may find ourselves stuck in the neck of a bottle at church with great ideas and energy dying all around.


Aug 21, 2009

Don't Worry, Be Light!

In a little over an hour I'm headed up to the high school to help with a special event. The school is hosting a Fall Kick-off event for all students and their families involved in fall sports. They needed volunteers to come up for a few hours to cook and prepare food for the evening. I like to be able to jump at those opportunities. In fact, I love to be available, if at all possible, any chance I get to help out and be visible in our surrounding communities.

Tomorrow I will be up here at the building around noon to help with another activity. Some of our ladies had a wonderful idea to partner with the Greyhound Family Resource Center and host about 15 students here at the church. Some of us are going with these students to help them find new clothes and shoes for school. Others will be available when they return to feed them lunch and play some games with them. I'm already looking forward to the couple of hours I will spend with everyone.

I tell you about these two opportunities, not to try to make me look special or significant, because I'm not. I tell you about them because these are the types of things we all need to be involved in as much as possible. People all around us in our communities need to see people who live out the story of Jesus in their lives on a daily basis. It's easy to get caught up in our own things and our own life schedules, so because of that we must be intentional about finding ways to be involved in the lives of others. If we aren't intentional, life can so quickly become only about us. I know that's not what we want. Sure, there are a lot of things we do regularly that are important and good. But we must ask ourselves how much of our time and energy are we spending to bless the lives of people that are not named "me, myself, and I." I know sometimes it is not easy...not practical...not always logical...maybe not even realistic. But Jesus came to introduce the world to a new reality, to a new way of living in the world. It was one that often seemed like foolishness to so many others.

If we want to be a "church without walls," we have to first be a church who is all about loving and living for God and others...before and above self! It's radical, I know. But it can start small if we just open our eyes to opportunities like these. Because when we say yes, we have the chance to be present to people who may really need to see God living in us...who may really need to meet God's love afresh through us.

I might just be flipping burgers. I might just be taking my place in a serving line. I might just be playing games with kids. OR...I might just be taking advantage of a God-moment to be a little light in the dark places of someone's broken life. It can be simple. I just have to make myself available to be used by God whenever and however he can. And I believe He will! Do you?

So for a change, be challenged not to worry about your own life, and step out toward some opportunities to shine bright that others might see the LIGHT living in you, and in turn encounter our Father in heaven!

Don't Worry, Be Light!


Aug 13, 2009

Institutional VS. Relational Motivation

Some of you may need to sit down before you read any further because I seriously doubt you'll believe your eyes . . . Ready? I never really liked school! I was so glad to finish high school. Really didn't plan to attend college. Didn't really know what I would do for a living. Being a preacher, however, was always the most prominent possibility. Problem--I didn't like school.

After graduating from high school (1974 for those who just have to know!) I visited Freed-Hardeman College (now Univeristy). After make last-minute application I was accepted. Then I got sick. The thought of having to go to school more was overwhelming. I dropped more paperwork in the mail and then decided I would not go. Ever tried to retrieve something from the Post Office once you dropped it in the box? Trust me, it is no longer your property and you can't just get it back.

When I registered for classes at FHC I remember my advisor saying, "Well that's a good schedule; it ought to keep you busy." Yuck! I didn't want to be busy in a classroom. And I didn't stay too busy; I've got the GPA to prove it. I graduated, then entered a 90-hour Master of Theology (the most demanding Master's Degree offered in any field) program at Harding Graduate School in 1978. Then I entered the Doctor of Ministry program at Harding in 1991. A lot of academic discipline for a guy who never liked school!

If you've not sat down yet, you really need to gets more shocking. Why all that education? Why do so much of something that I never really relished? First, please accept that I'm not sharing this autiobiographical insight to brag about any accomplishments; I just don't know how to make my point any better than through sharing this information. I have focused much of my life on academics because I want to understand God and Scripture as well as possible. Good enough, but not really. You see, I always felt that my salvation was conditioned upon obtaining the right information and then practicing it to the letter. Therefore, if salvation is mine it will be because I believe and practice everything correctly.

Imagine my surprise to learn that salvation is far more relational (that is, God loves me and I love him and my neighbors), than institutional (that is, get all the right information and practice it legalistically). Institutional religion cannot save; relational trust in the adequacy of God's love saves me.

Guess what? Learning more about relational faith has become a passion! Go figure.

Aug 7, 2009

The Ministry of...

Reconciliation. But what does that mean for me?

From 2 Corinthians 5:14-21...
For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
God is in the business of redemption. Each and every day he longs to restore all he has created back to whole relationship with him. On one hand we are invited to share in writing redemptive stories for our lives and the lives of others around us. On the other hand, we are not simply invited...we are EXPECTED to. For us as God's people to take on the heart and character of God, we must be a people who are excited about living redemptively. I know it can be hard. We live in a world that doesn't often cast a second glance toward the idea of redemption. But this should not be our BURDEN, instead it should be our BLESSING. I should care deeply about restoring people to relationship with God. I should care deeply about making sure relationships in and around my life are reconciled. It is God's gift to me each and every day that I might have the opportunity to call people out of the old and toward new life! If I want to chase after the heart of God, I have to remember that redemption is the rhythm to which God's heart beats!

My words, my actions, my presence, my prayers...all have the power to speak new life into the "dry bones" of people's lives. I can't be content to remain on the sidelines. I can't be satisfied to sit back in the audience and watch the story unfold. I've got to be a player. I've got to be an active participant in the story. There is a world out there ready to taste redemption in a way they may have never seen. God is always waiting for me (and you) to join him. I can't just watch...I have to write. God's love compels me!


Aug 5, 2009

A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Hebrews 12:1 is sometimes understood to mean that those who have already died are in the celestial world looking down upon earth, paying close attention to the way those still alive are living their lives. While such an interpretation is nothing akin to heresy, there is another way one might interpret the text.

After sharing a lengthy list of departed saints in chapter 11 who lived "by faith," the author then writes: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." It seems more likely to me that those still alive who have not yet completed the race are looking to those who have completed the race successfully in order to find inspiration and hope so they will endure. Therefore, those alive look to those dead and find encouragement to "run with perseverance" in order to finish the race.

Would you like to spend eternity with someone who died as a faithful believer? If so, the call for us is to look to those departed saints and consider how they lived. And ultimately, we "fix our eyes on Jesus...who that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Heb. 12:2-3).

Think about it. Grandparents and parents, children and grandchildren, aunts and uncles, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors have run the course of faith and endured. Consequently, they are in the celestial realms as those who successfully and faithfully overcame Satan through victory that comes through Jesus. As we remember their lives we also remember how much we admire them, how much we'd like to be with them again. And we find reason to push forward.

Who has departed physical life that meant a lot to you? Who endured faithfully that you'd like to be with again? Why are these people important to you? Share a story with us of someone you love and admire who has finished the race and now you look to them for inspiration.


Jul 31, 2009

I'm For You

Last week I was blessed to take 6 of our teens to Six Flags. The trip (for me anyway) was interrupted by a blown tire 10 miles out from the theme park. Thankfully it was a back tire and God's hand of protection was upon us, so I was able to ease the van to the side of the road and off the interstate. Inside I'm thinking "oh brother, of all the things that could happen on this long is this going to put us back?" What happened next actually somewhat surprised me. Two boys jumped out of the van and went to work changing the tire and replacing it with the spare. They weren't asked. They didn't hesitate. They just went to work and did it all themselves. The four girls were there to give them encouragement and moral support. The whole time not one of them said anything negative or discouraging about the experience. They were just happy to be together and knew they would make it on to Six Flags eventually. That's the kind of spirit I wish all of us could have more regularly. It's easy to become cynical or negative when things in life don't go our way or go differently than we expected. But life is love God. Love Others. Live Different. Those six teenagers reminded me of that simple message in the moment.

I proceeded to drop them off at Six Flags 45 minutes later. But my work wasn't through. I then left for a tire repair place in order to get everything repaired. Three and a half hours later I made it back to the park to join them. I think I got to partake in two rides that day. On one level it was easy to feel frustrated. On another level I was reminded of their positive attitudes and the fact that everyone was safe and accounted for. Even though I missed a lot of the day I did make it for the Tobymac concert in the evening before we left to head home. Music is a big part of who I am. I find myself blessed by it in so many ways all the time. Well God spoke another simple message to me through the words of one of the songs called "I'm For You." I'll leave you to (hopefully) be blessed as well by the heart of the lyrics...

Tell me where its hurting
Are you burning?
Running just to catch your breath
And going nowhere
It's getting old when you feel like you got nothing left
Well it ain't over 'til it’s over
I told you since the day we met
So let me be the voice through all the noise
Whatever I gotta be
I'll be for you

Whatever you need from me
To see you through
Everyone of us has stumbled
Everybody's humbled
We hit the ground and our lives crumble

Whatever I gotta be
I'll be for you
I'm for you
If you never knew
If you never knew
I'm for you
You know it’s true

I know the feeling
I know it’s real when the drama's all in your face
You see a mountain
I hear a promise – it’s never more than we can take
Well it ain't over, 'til it's over
We can learn from our mistakes
So let me be the voice through all the noise

Everyone of us will fall
Have our backs against the wall
And everyone shares a need to be loved
You’ve always been for me
So I will be for you
That's just what it means to love

Whatever I gotta be
I'll be for you
I'm for you
If you never knew
If you never knew
I'm for you
You know it’s true

Everytime you fall, I'll be for you,
If you back's against the wall, I'll be for you,
Cause you've always been for me, I'll be for you,
I'll be for you, I'm for you.
If you never knew,
If you never knew,
I'm for you.

I'm for you, like your for me, like I'm for you,
I'm for you, like your for me, like your for me, like I'm for you,
I'm for you like your for me, like I'm for you,
I'm for you like your for me, like your for me, like I'm for you,
I'm for you like your for me, like your for me, like I'm for you,

I'm for you.

May you be reminded once again of the simple message that in all things, whatever is happening in your life or all around you...God is for you!


Jul 23, 2009

Blessed to Be a Blessing

It is always hard to adequately express in words our experience at Camp Barnabas. It is exhausting, tiring, long and draining. But it is rewarding, filling, memorable and life-changing! It is a week that has quickly become one of my favorite of the year. I look forward to it. Our teens look forward to it...more than Palmetto, Celebration and Winterfest. You would be hard pressed to think you could love others so deeply after just a few days together, but it happens. You come to love those you serve with because you go deep with them, way beyond the surface. And it definitely doesn't take long to fall in love with the campers. The fact that they live with difficulties like 'autism' and 'downs' quickly disappears and all you see are beautiful creations of our God and King. We go to love on them and show them the love of God. But really...they show us what it means to love unconditionally...they reveal to us what it looks like to have a heart like God's.

I wish everyone could experience it...because it's just too hard to do it justice if you haven't. By far it is one of the best things we do together each and every year. I'm always so proud of our teens. They lead the way with open arms, willing spirits, encouraging smiles, and servant hearts. I truly believe it forms and shapes our young people in ways I will probably never fully be able to comprehend. And no matter what else happens I know, at least for a week, they get it. They see what it's like to choose to live for others and not for self. They feel what it's like to love without condition. They taste what it's like for heaven and earth to collide. They know what it's like for God to bless them to be a blessing.

Pure love. Deep joy. Abundant Life.

If you don't know...check it out!

If you want to know more...ask! I know there's at least 17 other people that would love to tell you about it!


Jul 21, 2009

I Try Not To Say "No"

I love one-liners, especially well-timed ones. For some people they just fall from the sky; for others they don't come quite so easily. And you know the really good ones because they're followed by someone thinking or saying, "Wish I'd said that!"

One of the best one-liners I've ever heard came in a casual conversation earlier today. Not a typical one-liner but priceless nevertheless. Dale, one of my best friends, told me about something he'd been asked to do. Not knowing whether he really wanted to accept the responsibility, he prayed about it and concluded that he couldn't really tell if God was leading him that direction or not. However, he decided to answer the call anyway and agree to a two-year stint. Why? His explanation was simply, "I try not to say 'no'." Priceless!

I know a lot of people who live by a different philosophy, one more like "I try not to say "yes." And why? Saying "yes" opens you up to being available, to giving up time, to living beyond your own walls. And if word gets out that you tend to say "yes," why people might call on you and prevent you from getting to do what you want to do.

O, and then there are the people who say "yes" but don't follow through. They can't say "no" with their lips, but they can't say "yes" and really mean it. So they say "yes" but they really mean "no." How can you know they really mean "no?" Simple--they never follow through.

So the next time someone asks something of me or if I see someone needing something, I hope I'll try not to say "no." I believe that's the way Jesus would do it and I want to be like him more than I want to breathe. Thanks for the lesson Dale.


Jul 16, 2009

Blindsided by Unexpected Blessings and Surprises

I like being in control. Knowing what's coming next, with no surprises, gives me a sense of peace and security. But God is a God of surprise. Sara having a son in her old age? No way. God convincing Pharaoh to release Hebrew slaves without "firing a shot?" Get real. Or, a virgin giving birth? Surely not.

I have received just such a surprise. Didn't see it coming and can't really describe it even now. For three days I participated in a spiritual feast that came as a surprise. I would not have attended this retreat without a friend urging me several times to give it a try just once. Just not the kind of activity I would normally participate in. But, wow, was I surprised! And blessed! I heard raw confession, preaching, teaching, sharing, prayer and hurt. And singing that gets no better this side of heaven. Materials, ideas and encouragement were all shared and received freely. We laughed, had a talent show and listened as a 73-year-old preacher keep all of us in stitches for 20 minutes. Someone that age can say things others can't!

About 100 people were present and when it was suddenly over Thursday night I found myself with a couple dozen of new friends. I have been blessed and I thank God. I hope I can go again next year. But don't expect any advertisements? There won't be any bulletin announcments. Your won't read about it in the papers. It's a well-kept secret and I feel privileged to have participated this year. Thank you Lord.

I'm eager to hear about some unexpected blessings that have come your way. How has God blessed you and you never saw it coming? A gift from someone? A word of encouragement? A new friend? Don't be bashful; share a story.


Jul 8, 2009

My Mom

My mom is great. She continues to be one of my greatest encouragers. For example, she still believes I'm one of the greatest basketball players of all time. She thinks back to my high school career in basketball (which honestly wasn't too impressive, except maybe for my jumping ability) and recalls the highlights; she simply doesn't think about the unimpressive times. And when I started preaching (at 16 years of age) she told me to look at her when I preach and she would help me through the process. From that I learned to select a few good listeners when I preach and look at them. I also learned not to look at certain people because they discourage me in my preaching. (Just curious--which kind of listener are you?)

Today I'm in Nashville. My mom has congestive heart failure and is scheduled for a heart cath tomorrow--perhaps a stint or even open heart surgery may be required. I'm feeling some emotions I've never felt before; don't really know how to describe them. But for now I say that if everyone could have a mom like mine all of us would live richer lives.

Tell me about your mom. I'd love to hear about some shining moment in your life when your mom helped define and shape you. Your thoughts would be a blessing to all readers. And my family would be delighted to have you pray for my mom.


Jul 1, 2009

Life Lessons from the Forgotten Piano Fingers

When you are young and "wise" beyond your years, there are some things you think you know better than others. Often when someone older offers some advice you might take it as merely a suggestion. So you think you already know who you should or shouldn't date, what major/career you should pursue, how to spend your time, what sport to play, what friends to hang out with, and whether or not you should spend time learning to play a musical instrument. And these are just a few of the issues that can be significant in the lives of 12-18 year old teenagers.

When I was younger my mom really thought I should try to learn piano. She always said I had the fingers for it. At 13 and 14, I didn't have much interest in spending my afternoons "tickling the ivory," not to mention that it seems like teenagers are wired to try to do everything opposite of what their parents suggest. But now, years later, I regret not investing some time learning to play and appreciate the piano. I guess I didn't know everything after all.

There are plenty of times when we interact with God in similar ways. We are convinced that we know what is best for our lives. We decide what direction to go without first giving it over to God, and then ask him to bless our own pursuits. But we need to be reminded that just like we realize we didn't know as much as we thought we did when we were young, we also still have a lot to learn about trusting God and walking forward in faith in all things. As much as we hate to admit it, we don't have all the answers. In fact, life often invites us to wrestle with more questions, than it allows us to come up with satisfactory solutions.

I've recently decided to give learning the piano another try. I've got another chance to follow the advice of someone who may have had greater insight into my life than I did at the time. That's also the beauty of our relationship with God. He's always waiting for us to come to our senses and return to the one who knows what's best for our lives. After all, he did create my piano fingers!


Jun 29, 2009

Man in the Mirror

Though I recognize his unique talent, I've never have been a Michael Jackson fan; since Johnny Cash died I've been lost. But I do confess that sometimes I've found myself humming "ABC, 123..." or "Billie Jean." And "Thriller"... when I saw the video I was really impressed. At the time he released "Thriller" he was a faithful door-knocking Jehovah's Witness; granted, he tried to conceal his identity when doing his door-knocking. Who could blame him?

All the hype regarding his death has really saddened me. Not so much that he is dead but the tragic circumstances of his life. One thing uniquely stood out in all the news I've heard; I heard it Sunday afternoon on the Michael Medved Show (re-broadcast) on WKYX (while I was waxing my wife's van!). MJ told one of his spiritual advisors to record some of their conversations with the intent of publishing them someday so people would better understand and appreciate his spirituality. And during one of the sessions he explained to his mentor that the reason he worked so hard to be the best he could be, the reason he was so driven, was because he wanted people to love him. He even felt that he had to excel to get his own family to love him. He did all that he did to obtain the approval of others. Tragic. An impossible goal. Something not even Jesus could accomplish.

But here's what I learn from all this. I am now resolved to try harder, to be more intentional about letting people know that I love and approve of them. No one should have to work to earn another's love. Sadly, celebrities frequently receive lots of attention, but very little love. "This is love: not that we love God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 Jn. 4:10-11). Even many of us who are no celebrities understand the loneliness in Jackson's life. Such a sad thing.

So what have you learned from the life and death of Michael Jackson? Has something been heavy on your heart?


Jun 26, 2009

The Ants Alarm

Anyone else know the feeling? You're surrounded. Everywhere you turn, they are claiming new territory. You realize it won't be long before there will be nothing new for them to discover. So, they make themselves at home, and set up camp. Your mind starts to race. Strategies begin to take shape. You at least think to yourself, if you haven't already said it aloud..."they won't take me alive!" There are only a few things that tend to more easily break me out of my pacifist shell...and ANTS are near the top of the list.

Apparently this particular tribe of wandering ants had good VBS teachers, because they seem to be familiar with their Bible stories. I can just envision them cresting the gentle slope between my tile and baseboards as they gaze out over what they want to claim as the 'promised land.' It's like my kitchen is Canaan and at first they just send out a few scouts to get a feel for what they are up against. You know, three or four scurry across the counter. A few more across the floor. They fool you into thinking they may be harmless because after all they are just a few. And then they wait...just long enough for you to assume they are gone. But in an instant, the moment you leave just one measley plate in the sink...the smell of 'milk and honey' invigorates the sleeping beasts and the troops move in.

Now they really are everywhere and I feel the disorientation start to settle in as the 'antsraelites' march round and round my kitchen. Only this is where they begin to get their Bible stories wrong because they are not being silent. They are mocking me. Okay lest you think I've really gone off the deep end, they aren't actually talking to me, but they are mocking me nonetheless. At this point the pacifist in me is really starting to lose the argument. So the other night when I came home late to find the not so hospitable ants with torches and trumpets preparing to take up permanant residence, I concluded that something would have to change...there would be a different end to this ancestral story!

I found my weapons of choice in the valley of walmart and returned to proceed with my own strategic counter-strike. I thought I successfully knocked back their initial defenses and so I decided to go to sleep...albeit now a little more happier of a camper. That is until 6:30am this morning when the smoke alarm started going off....LOUD! I ran into the hallway expecting my kitchen to be in ashen ruins with the ants singing their familiar victory refrain, "the ants go marching 1 by 1 hurrah, hurrah!" But...there was plundered ruins. The alarm had quickly shut off, so I went back to bed. Ten minutes later the alarm sounded again. Back in the hallway...nothing....nada....zilch. Back to bed, this time a little more angry and frustrated than before. Another ten minutes pass and the alarm sounds once again. I make up my mind that this time I'm changing the battery. So I find a new one, grab the step stool, pull out the old battery and replace it with the new one. As I'm re-inserting the alarm cover back into the ceiling...I'm not kidding about this...a few ants come scurrying out of the alarm and head toward the wall! What? Conspiracy! These wiley ants found a way to really get me by rigging the alarm to wake me early from my sleep! If it wasn't's ON now!

Unfortunately for the ants, they are about to realize they are living out the wrong Bible story. Instead of the Antsraelites overtaking the promise land of my kitchen, they are about to get a crash course on the story of Gideon. Put it simply God will place his hand of blessing upon Gideon (played by me) and prove again that God is mighty to save (in this case 1 against "thousands") by destroying the "midiants" once and for all! I like that story...

Yes, I know it is silly. But, sometimes it is important to sit back, relax, and enjoy the simple reminders in life that God is still God, he is still in control...even if ants invade every corner of my life!

May God uplift your spirits this week, and restore to you a joy to live for him in all things, big and small.


Jun 22, 2009

Picking and Choosing What I Believe and Practice

Scot McKnight recently published The Blue Parakeet, a book that challenges Bible believers regarding how they read the Bible. After a powerful testimony regarding God answering his prayer to send the Spirit into his life and how this led to his passion for reading, the author takes his reader on a brief tour of how Christians pick and choose what they believe and practice. He writes: "What I learned was an uncomfortable but incredibly intriguing truth: Every one of us adopts the Bible and (at the same time) adapts the Bible to our culture. In less-appreciated terms, I'll put it this way: Everyone picks and chooses. I know this sounds out of the box and off the wall for many, but no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, it's true. We pick and choose." While McKnight grants that "picking and choosing" must be done, he wants the reader to ask what guidelines or principles of interpretation allow the picking and choosing as we apply the text today. Are we free to pick and choose and it pleases us?

McKnight then offers some illustrations of picking and choosing: Sabbath-keeping, tithing, foot washing, charismatic gifts, surrendering possessions, and contentious issues. Here's one that struck me as interesting. Leviticus 20:13a prohibits homosexuality and Lev. 20:13b requires death for the offenders. How does one pick and choose which parts of this verse to apply today? Do you believe 13b should also be applied today?

So I'm curious about your experiences with picking and choosing religious practices today? How have you seen this done? How are you doing it?

Jun 19, 2009


The theme at Palmetto Bible Camp this year was "Heroes!" We explored the book of Judges and learned how even when the Israelites turned from God to pursue their own way, God graciously raised up a judge (hero) to lead the people and turn them back to Him. One of the important ideas was that God could use anybody for his purposes. In fact, more often than not, God chose to use the weak to shame the strong, and the foolish to shame the wise. Over and over again, He would stack the odds against himself simply to show that He was a God who could take the ordinary and do something extraordinary. Still today God is searching for modern day heroes to rise up and answer the call He has on their lives. You may think you are not good enough. God says you are. You may think you are not strong enough. God says you are capable. You may think that there is nothing special about you. God says you are perfect...and He has something extraordinary in mind for you!...If you are simply willing to be used by Him.

No matter our age we have all types of heroes in our lives...

From superman, to Martin Luther, and Corrie Ten Boom to Mother Teresa. From Martin Luther King Jr. to Bono, and our service men and women to our school teachers. From mom and dad, to little league coaches, and ministers/pastors to young people with special needs.

It doesn't matter who we are, where we've been, or what we've done to this point in our lives. God has a word to speak to all of us and it is both good and bad news. The good news is that even we can be heroes! The bad news is that God expects us to be heroes! Okay you're right, "bad news" isn't an appropriate description. The only thing bad about it, is when we refuse to open ourselves up to be used by God as everyday heroes. It may be BIG, or it may be small.

Either way God is waiting for you to rise up and be the hero He has already prepared you to be!

Jun 17, 2009

Accept One Another (Rom. 15:7)

How are we to accept those different from us? Can whites, blacks and others really accept one another? Or, can Christians who differ with one another over a hundred and one issues really accept one another? Who must give ground? Who will lose ground? Is this just some pie in the sky admonition from the Apostle Paul, that we accept one another, one far easier to debate than to practice?

It seems Habakkuk 2:4 is Paul's "lesson text" on which he builds Romans. It might even be argued that Romans is a divine commentary on that Old Testament text. Literally, Paul's word order is "The righteous by faith will live" (Rom. 1:17). The first eight chapters of Romans fleshes out the theological meaning of that text, chapters 9-11 discuss the intricacies of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles, and chapters 12-16 show how the text applies on a day-to-day basis as one lives out life.

Without going into depth, let me summarize by saying that the key ingredient in the life of a believer is faith, specifically, faith is belief that God has accomplished our salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus; at least this is the way I read Romans. But here's what we might want to consider. It is not through law-keeping that we live; it is by faith. It is not through works that we live; it is by faith. It is not through 100% agreement that we live; it is by faith. It is not through believing exactly the same thing that we live; it is by faith. It is not through approaching Scripture with the same methods that we live; it is be faith. Paul wrote that it is "by faith" that we live.

We can accept one another because we all live by faith, not because of all the things I listed above. So as I reflect on Habakkuk's statement and Paul's explanation of it, I'm wondering how you might fill in the blank: It is clear that by faith we live, therefore it is not by _____________ that we live. What do you think? How would you fill in the blank?

If all of us increase in our faith in Jesus, so also we will increase in our mutual ability to get along with and accept one another.

At least that's what I think. --Terrell Lee

Jun 11, 2009

Sir Campalot

We weren't a huge camping family when I was growing up, although we did do it from time to time. When I was around 10 or 11 I was involved in an organization called "Indian Guides" which I guess is similar in many ways to Boy Scouts. We had a few camping outings here and there, but it was enough to know "tent-camping" probably just wasn't my thing. However, as I got a little older I was introduced to a different philosophy of camping...SUMMER CAMP! Now I could do that. Some of my best memories as a teenager involved spending a week or two of time in the summer at Central Florida Bible Camp. It probably has a special place in my heart too because one summer after a wonderful week at camp I came home a different person than I was before and that night I knew I wanted to be baptized and give my life over to following Christ.

Now fast-forward a few years and I still love the summer camp experience. For all the stress, planning, organization and responsibility that goes into taking a group of kids to camp, it is well worth all of it to witness them sharing a week with other kids who want to grow in their relationship with God and be challenged in their walk with Christ. There's just something different about summer camp that you can't experience in other places (of course there are pros and cons to that--but the good by far outweighs the bad). Seeds are planted. Friendships are cemented. And hopefully, lives are forever changed!

I know once we return home this week I am going to be worn out, exhausted, and dog-tired. But there's no other place I'd rather be, because I know God is working on and in the hearts of all our young people and I eagerly await for the day when each of them return a different person than when they first came.

What camp memories/experiences have made a difference in your life over the years?


Nature vs. Nurture

It's the old nature vs. nurture issue again. Why are we the way we are? Personally, I believe both nature and nurture are a part of who and what we are. Theologically, it's a pretty hot debate and has been for hundreds of years. Likely, it won't go away soon. Let's consider one application of the debate, sexual orientation.

Is one's sexual orientation because of nature or nurture? Personally, I believe it's nurture though I can't prove it to everyone's satisfaction. One commonly hears a homosexual talk about always having had the sexual feelings he has, that he cannot remember having heterosexual feelings. It's not uncommon for one's sexual orientation to be established by as early as three years of age, meaning that a homosexual is telling the truth about not remembering any heterosexual feelings. If nurture leads to one's sexual orientation, what does that suggest? Might one be a victim of some things beyond his control? Someone who gets mugged in a dark alley might find himself conditioned (nurtured) to fear dark alleys. Supposed a little girl is abused by a man and becomes conditioned (nurtured) to trust only women and cannot have relations with men.

Blogging doesn't allow for every angle to be addressed adequately. But one thing above all is important: what is an appropriate Christian response to homosexuality? Regardless of why or how one develops or is born with her sexual orientation, it is always right to respond to every human being with love, kindness, grace and compassion. Hateful rhetoric, fear, crude joking, wrong assumptions and volatile speech do not bless and are not loving responses. I suggestion that all humans deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, whether one agrees with their values or practices. I can maintain my personal convictions, disagree with others, and be kind and polite at the same time. At least Jesus was that way in his interactions with others.

At least that's what I think. --Terrell Lee

Jun 5, 2009

Compartment-Sized Jesus

We live in a world that pulls us in so many directions. A world that entices us to participate in all kinds of activities. A world that invites us to become different people depending on the circumstances. Before long we may feel divided. We feel the pressure to be one person at work, another at home, and still another at church. Sometimes our environment demands that certain aspects of our personalities come to the forefront in order to be more productive or successful. Every day our culture makes it easier to be comfortable in the compartmentalization of our lives, from the way our society functions, to the way we "do" church, and on down to the daily activities of our lives. Generally, we just think it works better if everything were to fit in nice, neat, clean boxes. Then when the time comes we wade through our stack until we find the one we are looking for... Let's see, this box is for my job. This one is for weekends at the lake with friends. This box is for school. This one is for home. Ahh, here it is...this dusty one is for Sunday morning.

Paul talks about it in terms of old and new (Colossians 3). We used to live a life that was easily divided by worldly values and priorities. But now that we are clothed in Christ the old is gone and the new has come. We put to death the old way of trying to compartmentalize our lives to suit our own desires. Instead, this new life is full of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, peace, thankfulness, and love. Sometimes I think we get confused by the "clothing" language. Clothing to us still suggests that we are in control of what we wear. If it is cold outside we might put on a jacket. If it's warm maybe a t-shirt and shorts. We choose to put on or take off our clothing however we see fit. I think Paul would suggest that being clothed with Christ is a way of life, it's like new skin. You can't take it on and off...if you are clothed in Him, you are done shopping for life!

See, Jesus makes it difficult to compartmentalize our lives. It isn't possible to follow him one or two days a week. He demands my soul, my life, my all. We're not perfect. We will mess up. But He wants every moment, every breath, every movement of every day to be surrendered to living for Him. Unfortunately we still try to stuff Jesus into a compartment of our own construction. He probably sits back and shakes his head. He loves us even through our attempts to shrink-wrap him. But he loves us in a way that continually calls us to more...more love, more surrender, more faith, more trust, more selflessness...more room for Him to do more in us than we could ever ask or imagine!

May we live each day with Jesus as our tailor...


Jun 3, 2009

Where Goes My Money?

Two five-day passes to Disney World cost about $450. For that one gets access to all the shows, rides and daily May/June thunderstorms. Food comes extra so rather than spending $2.50 for a bottle of water, Fred (our ugly green cooler) carried ours. Add to this some more expenses like airfare and car rental and you can see that a Disney World vacation is not for the unemployed.

More than 65,000 people work for Disney (in Orlando alone) on its 47 square mile piece of former, swampy real estate. Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Mickey, Donald, Goofey...they're all there. We have autographs. And I have an image of a four-year-old granddaughter who staired at many princesses in disbelief that she was finally seeing the "real" ones with her own eyes. Her expression was priceless. Did I mention a birthday party in Cinderella's castle where we met Snow White and Jasmine? Or Animal Kingdom where we met Pochohantas? And, ever hear of the "hidden Mickey's?" And, no, Walt Disney's body is not frozen on-site in a cryonic chamber full of liquid nitrogen awaiting the day when medical technology can re-animate him.

My son-in-law mentioned how happy people seemed to be in giving up hundreds, yea even thousands, of dollars (depending upon your taste and preference). For me, the expression on my granddaughter's face was absolutely priceless, metaphorically speaking.

This was my third trip to Disney World; it's a small world after all, you know. And I have no regrets. We planned, saved and executed right on schedule. My wife didn't travel much when she was a kid. She'd heard there were 50 states but was only personally aware of TN and KY. Therefore, traveling and seeing are important to her. So we drop the bucks and go! No regrets.

I'm curious. On what do you unroll the bucks with no regrets? Maybe it was just a one-time thing or maybe it is a hobby that you enjoy. Sometimes the experience is worth it.

At least that's what I think. --Terrell Lee

May 28, 2009

Chasing Elusions

Sunday was a wonderful day! As a church family we were able to recognize, encourage, challenge, and pray over our graduating seniors. It was emotional for sure because this group of young people was the first group I got to be with all throughout high school. But it was also inspiring to witness how God has worked in and through these students over the last four years. I can't wait to see how God will use them as they step forward into the future!

I titled the message I shared Sunday "Chasing Elusions." I like this play on words. All too often we get caught up in chasing so many things in this life. In a lot of ways what we try so hard to chase though, only continues to elude us. We aren't really ever satisfied. There is always something else to chase after. Before long we are like a dog chasing a rabbit, and we lose sight of everything else going on around us. Is it good to have dreams and goals? YES! But if we are not careful the dream becomes an end in itself and we forget what it means to chase after the heart of God.

What have you found yourself caught up chasing in this life?

How do you make sure you are first and foremost chasing after the heart of God?

-Mike D.

May 26, 2009

Another Round of CARE

May 24 was both exciting and sad. This round of our CARE groups met for the last time, awaiting reorganization later in the summer (new leaders, new members, etc.). I'm deeply grateful for the time I had with my group. And my, oh my, we went through a lot together.

We watched people come and go. Some came searching for a place to belong and we made intentional efforts to provide just such a place, while others moved away and took pieces of us with them.

Here's some of what I remember from our time together:
...we celebrated several marriages
...we brought several into fellowship with our church family
...we witnessed baptisms
...we helped one family find a place in a church in their own community
...we birthed a 6 pound 11 ounce, 18 1/2 inch girl
...we watched a teenager and senior saints interact as if there was no age difference
...we moved from one house to another (about 3 times)
...we grieved when one of our kids moved to Germany
...we suffered through job changes
...we encouraged an empty-nester to go back to college
...we cooked for each other
...we laughed and cried together
...we were painfully honest at times
...we opened our homes
...we ate and ate and ate--you name it, we ate it

And we grew closer to God and to one another!

So how about sharing some of your group experiences? How has your group blessed you? What is one of your best memories? How were you challenged? What would you say to someone who has never been in a small group?

Our small group ministry provides opportunities for us to be about as close to original Christianity as we humanly can.

At least that's what I think. --Terrell Lee

May 22, 2009

A Hummer of a Song

My mom is a hummer. No this isn't intended to be a mama joke comparing her to a large off-road vehicle. What I mean is that from as far back as I can remember my mom would hum songs wherever she was...around the house, in the car, at the mall, you name it. Often she didn't even know that she was doing it. She had a song in her heart and it was like second nature for it to spill out for others to enjoy during her daily routines. I am my mother's child. Except the song in my heart is not usually as muted as a hum. Usually, whoever is around me (and it only takes a few minutes) should be prepared to be serenaded. It may be a real song I have stuck in my head or it may very well be one I've made up in the moment. After all, everyone needs someone who has a song for everything at any moment, right? At least that's what I keep telling myself.

By now (married 6 years this summer) Sara is used to it. She probably has even learned to tune me out! Most friends expect it at a moment's notice. But I...I value it. For me a song gets inside of me and in some unexplainable way it becomes a little more a part of me today than it was yesterday. The songs that we sing on a Sunday morning are more than enough to last me through the week...over and over and over again. I love the imagery in Scripture where all of creation "bursts" out in songs of praise to the Creator. That's me! Sometimes all that God is and all that He does in my life can't be contained inside, but must "burst" out of me in the form of song.

For me it is as normal as living and breathing. For whatever reason, God placed in me a love and joy for life that can only fully express itself in song. And for that, I wouldn't have it any other way, than to be a hummer like my mother!

What song has been in your heart lately and how has it been meaningful to you?


May 19, 2009

Three Ss--Shimmy, Spirit, Signs

For several weeks my van has been acting up. Nothing bad...yet. While driving at various speed, suddenly it feels like the vehicle ran over a washboard-type surface. The steering wheel shimmies for about half a second and then it's over. No, it's not the road suface--bumps, holes, gravel, etc. I'm stumped, but I know something is up.

Life's like that too. Driving along at various speeds suddenly, strangely there's a little shimmy. Maybe it's just intuition but something doesn't feel right. O well, maybe it's nothing. But then again, maybe it's something.

But who has time for reflection and introspection? We're always in a hurry when it happens. My van never shimmies when it's parked, only when I've got to go somewhere and then I don't have time for a breakdown. So, I journey on. A shimmy here, a bump there, a strange feeling that something isn't right. So we think about possibilities: stress, not enough rest, or maybe we just ignore it; after all, we're in a hurry to get somewhere.

Then the shimmies become more regular, like my van. I drove it about 10 miles a few days ago and it shimmied several times. A friend drove it and suggested the transmission may not be functioning properly. Ouch! Can you count George Washington's face 2,000 times?

So this shimmy thing is causing me to wonder if there's a shimmy in my life, not just in my van? I've noticed a couple of bumps there also. What about your life? Is there more need for prayer, Bible study, service? Is there a temptation you've been flirting with? Is the shimmy the work of the Spirit as he endeavors to send a warning that everything is not well? Maybe it's time to pay attention to the "check engine" light (or is that a "check spirit" light)? Maybe God is already giving us a sign that we're moving too fast and too far without him. I have a hunch that if we don't pay attention today we may find ourselves on the side of the road tomorrow with a sticker on our window.

At least that's what I think. --Terrell Lee

May 15, 2009

The Trek of the Star-Crossed Soloist

I like to try to fix things. Now by "things" I should probably clarify that I don't really mean in the "handyman" kind of sense. While it can be rewarding to experience some handyman pride, in that area I usually end up breaking more than what I initially set out to fix. Instead, I mean I like to fix problems, come up with solutions for all sorts of situations. I am a peacemaker at heart and I like to help usher (sometimes occasionally nudge/shove) people into a greater sense of shalom (whole life peace). Like the great life philosopher Vanilla Ice says, "If you have a problem, yo I'll solve it."

While there are plenty of positive things about this mentality, the cons can be numerous as well. Sometimes my wife just wants me to listen. Ministry continually humbles me by reminding me I can't always be in control. Some people don't really want you to fix them anyway.

In life you quickly learn there is PLENTY of brokenness to be fixed...but ultimately I am not the fixer.

I saw two movies recently: "The Soloist" and "Star Trek." On the surface it may seem they don't have a lot in common. However, both of them had something similar to impart to me after leaving the theater. I can't always fix the problems of people all around me. In fact I'm not even sure it's my responsibility to try. There's already a Savior and he has a pretty high success rate even without my help! But what I am called to do, even when I'm frustratingly reminded that I am incapable of saving them from their brokenness, is to simply BE with them. BE a friend. BE someone who cares. BE a shoulder to lean on. BE the tangible hands and feet of the one who has "fixed" all things then, now and throughout eternity. BE in the the the mile...and in the trek. Don't BE in it for yourself, but just BE for God's glory.


May 12, 2009

When God Calls a Beauty Queen

I'm not a beauty pageant fan. I'd rather watch NCIS or Monk. But I've become somewhat of a fan of Miss California, Carrie Prejean. The 21-year-old from San Diego didn't wake up one morning and decide to become Christianity's new spokesperson for traditional marriage...but she did. And she's not the most vocal advocate, just the most visible. During the Miss USA contest, which Miss NC won, Carrie affirmed her conviction that marriage should be between one man and one woman. Since then, a very questionable, semi-nude, topless photo of her (when she was 17) has been published, followed by a dozen more; the dozen more were photoshopped (fake). The other was taken by a female friend. Ok, there's a lot more to the story (such as whether she violated Miss California pageant rules) and all the details may never be known. I certainly don't have all the details and I'll leave them up to people who have nothing better to do with their time.

More to the story . . . Alysha S. Castonguay, now Miss Rhode Island USA, intentionally posed for similar pictures but no one is calling for her crown. Castonguay stated on CBS' The Early Show that Prejean's stance on gay marriage is the issue, not the photos. Really? Surely not! The state pageant is also investigating possible contract violations in her public appearances with groups that oppose same sex marriage.

Now to the point . . . when no person of faith was around, God once used a pagan named Abraham to begin a people of faith; he used a prostitute to protect twelve spies; and a sinful woman washed Jesus' feet, who himself preferred to be with tax collectors and sinners. Is this one of those times when God used a beauty queen to uphold traditional marriage? I don't know Miss California. Don't know what kind of person she is. And I have issues with her chosen direction in life which has called for her to (un)dress before millions of people and parade in a bikini on a catwalk. Yet, I love her statement to all of us regarding our faith: "Do not be silenced." So, I'm not going to judge Miss California. Rather, I'm choosing to thank God for her. She took a stand. She suffered tremendous emotional pain because of her stand. But she took a stand and then defended her stand.

Unbelievable! God decided to use a beauty queen who shows off entirely too much skin before millions of people on public TV all for the purpose of impressing judges and getting their vote of approval. Now, if God had asked me I would have chosen a different spokesperson. But he didn't ask me. He called Miss California, who said she sensed God's calling her to stick by her convictions when the question was asked. And she did. She did not disappoint. I applaud her. It would have been so easy to compromise. It would have been so easy to be politically correct.

God called a beauty queen. And she answered, "Yes, Lord, here I am."

At least that's what I think. --Terrell Lee

May 5, 2009

Three Words. Two Nerds. One Heart.

Beyond the Walls. Mike and Terrell. The desire to see people live out the way of Jesus wherever they are.

And we have.........liftoff!

It gets old trying to live within the "mike-made" walls I've constructed in my life. I know why I try though. It's simple. Clean. Familiar. Safe. But after a while, especially when you rarely leave the "house," you realize new appliances, light fixtures and a fresh coat of paint aren't as appealing as they once were. You can only makeover the inside so many times before you find yourself wondering if there is something more to life beyond these walls. Sure, it can be more complicated. Messy. Vulnerable. Risky. I'm well aware of that. But that's the kind of life I want to live. One that follows Jesus into all the nooks and crannies of this world. I don't want to be content with just coming to meet God in a building on a hill. Don't get me wrong. That has an important place for multiple reasons. But I want more. I want to join God as he holds the heartbroken in our community. I want to meet him as he loves on young people who are so often viewed as unlovable. I want to be where He is already at work, drawing the last, lost and least of these closer to his heart. And that means...stepping outside the walls...becoming a little more comfortable with the uncomfortable...and trusting God to lead us into the unknown.

Terrell and I plan to use this blog as a means to encountering God more meaningfully in everyday life. At times there could be anything from exploring the humor in the ordinary and mundane to deep spiritual insight as we attempt to reflect on how God is at work in our church, in our community, and in our world. We invite you to join us in this formative process. We learn, grow, and are shaped best in the context of community. So please take time to comment and reflect with us on the God we love and serve and praise in everyday life.

We hope to see you beyond the walls!