Why do bad things happen?
“If God is so good, then…”
Of all the questions I’ve been asked in 30 years of pastoral ministry, this is the one I hate the most.
It’s not because it’s hard to answer, because from a theological perspective, it’s actually not hard to answer. The brokenness of the world, the original sin that cursed creation, the free will of man to do harm and damage to others, the spiritual warfare we are constantly battling…the answer is really as easy as 1-2-3…BUT the answer never stops the pain.
As a pastor you care for people, you love people, you want to see people find their hope in God, and rest in his care. When people ask this question they aren’t asking for a treatise on original sin, they are asking because they hurt. Today, you may very well be hurting, and understanding the doctrines, theology, or whatever isn’t going to change that. So, let me take a little different path with you.
Although in this moment God might feel far away, I promise you he is not. He also is not unaware or unfamiliar with what you are feeling. He is grieving right along side you, in Isaiah 53 it says that Jesus is familiar or acquainted with grief. In the New Testament, Jesus calls himself the good Shepherd, who cares for, holds, and is even willing to die to save his sheep. You are precious in his sight, and your pain, your hurt, your grief has not gone unnoticed.
What you are feeling is natural and normal, don’t run from it or hide from it. Grief is a gift from God to helps us work through the pain that we cannot put into words. Grief helps us process the un-processable and allows us to, eventually, get back up. But, in your grief, Jesus is there…
2 Corinthian 1:4 NLT
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
This little passage is powerful, and it can give some sense of purpose to our pain. One day, once you work through your grief, once you are back on your feet again…never whole, but healed…you can step into someone else’s grief and give them comfort. The moment of your biggest hurt may one day be the area of your most impactful ministry to others.
So, my counsel to those that are grieving:
- Be honest with yourself and those around you, don’t hide your pain.
- Believe that even in the moments when you are most alone, that God is there, because the presence of pain does not mean the absence of God.
- Know that one day the wound will heal, and God will use you to help heal another.
Unlocking the Power Within!
Tucked into a section of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus is a little side-note in Paul’s thoughts and a very short explanation of a passage in Psalm 68…
Ephesians 4:7-10 NLT
7 However, he has given each one of us a special gift, through the generosity of Christ.
8 That is why the Scriptures say,
“When he ascended to the heights,
he led a crowd of captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
9 Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world.
10 And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.
Paul’s little detour holds profound truth for those of us who know Jesus Christ. We find a powerful reminder of the limitless potential that lies within every human being who’s placed their faith in Jesus. Here’s three thoughts..
- Remember Where It Came From: As believers, we are told that our potential is rooted in a divine source, “He has given each one of us a special gift”. We are not limited by our own abilities but empowered by the presence of God within us. This realization fills us with hope and inspires us to embrace our unique gifts and talents.
- Rise Above Your Limitations: “He ascended far above all the heavens.” This phrase signifies the exalted position that Christ holds. Similarly, it speaks to our ability to rise above the limitations that often confine us. Our potential extends beyond societal expectations, self-doubt, and the constraints of our circumstances.God encourages us to dream big, break free from self-imposed barriers, and reach new heights in our lives for Jesus Christ!
- Remove The Boundaries: The verse concludes with the purpose of Christ’s ascent, “that he might fill all things.” We are commanded to imitate Christ. Jesus didn’t settle for a limited impact. Instead his purpose was to truly impact the totality of the world. Within the context of our human potential, why do we always place limitations on ourselves? If we really are following Christ, the only limitations we should have are the ones Jesus places upon us. We have the power and the responsibility to bring love, compassion, and positive change to the lives of those around us and within everything we are a part of.
The journey towards fulfilling our potential is not without hardships, struggles, and obstacles to overcome. It requires personal growth, perseverance, and a willingness to embrace transformation. God invites us to align ourselves with His purpose, to lean on His power, to accept His authority, and along with that will come his power to overcome!
In a world that often tries to confine us within limited expectations, isn’t it refreshing to hear from our Maker himself, and that he ‘doesn’t see it that way!”
Your potential is not limited by your own abilities or the constraints of your circumstances. Instead, it is rooted in the divine source within us and has the power to transcend boundaries and bring positive change to the world. Let’s embrace our potential, trusting that as we rise above limitations and walk in alignment with God’s purpose, we will unlock the power within and fulfill the unique calling placed upon our lives, knowing that we are capable of far more than we can imagine.
New Podcast Interview!
I recently spent over an hour with a friend who was launching a new podcast specifically geared towards helping Christian men take positive steps forward in their walk with Christ.
Ron was a part of Friendship several years ago and we’ve kept in touch. I would highly recommend you giving the podcast a follow. He’s got a lot of great guests lined up, and hey my full interview drops tomorrow!
Ron and I will be talking about men and church, and how specifically for the last 20+ years I’ve been working on making Friendship a place where men not only come, but actually want to come and be a part!
Give it a listen and let me know what you think!
It’s the end of the world as we know it!
In November of 1987, the band R.E.M. released a crazy, string of consciousness kind of song bearing this title. How many times has that song played in your head the last few weeks? Seriously, how many people that you know are literally acting like this is the end of the world? Maybe…that’s you?
First, let me assure you, it’s not the end of the world. In spite of what the news media or your cousin ‘who knows someone in the Pentagon’ tells you this pandemic is actually very minor compared to what we’ve gone through in the past. Don’t believe me, well then believe the people that actually catalog these things. This article here by Live Science ranks the top 20 pandemics of all time, Covid 19 does not make the list. In fact, two recent pandemics actually make the list that most of us already lived through, Zika and Swine flu. So, see, you’ve already lived through worse…and probably didn’t even know it, Congratulations!
Second, this however, doesn’t diminish the fact that we are in fact going through something, but hopefully it gives a little perspective. As humans we always overdramatize the present and under-represent the past, it’s just human nature. People, primarily those who are susceptible or have lower/diminished immune systems are not only getting really sick, but many people have died. Contrary to some who are running around saying every life is precious in one breath, and then saying that abortions are somehow essential, I actually believe that every life is precious. In fact, I believe every life was created by God, with a plan, a purpose, and significance.
So, finally, I also believe that God has clearly given those of us who follow Jesus Christ guidelines as to how we are to treat the pinnacle of His creation (ahem, that’s you and me btw). Jesus himself made this statement when asked about what was most important to God:
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-21 NIV
Now, I feel that when Jesus says something as definitive as this that you and I should pay a lot of attention…don’t you? He says, the most important thing, the most vital thing you can do in this lifetime, and with your life that you have been given is to love God and love people! I actually think the order is pretty important too, because there’s a lot of people in this world that I would struggle…do struggle…loving if it weren’t for my love for God. The love of God that I have received enables me to show, share, and spread love to others. If your connection with God is intermittent or loose, your love for others will reflect that.
So, maybe take a deep breath before you bash that person on Facebook today. Ask yourself, am I being loving? Is this how God has loved me? God’s not asking you to agree with him, in fact, you probably don’t, but aren’t you so thankful for God’s free will in your life? But maybe instead of calling them a ‘doody head’ or an ‘ignorant neanderthal’ you choose to creatively but respectfully disagree…or better yet…maybe just don’t reply at all…just a thought!
What Should We Do?
By now you’re probably on season 4 of whatever show your binge watching, and the novelty of staying or working at home has already grown more stale than the aroma of your teenage boys socks! So, what should we do?
First thing I would say, is to do as much of your normal routine as possible. Yes, I know that some of it isn’t possible, but much of your daily routine you can still do. I love the words of Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, who said this when staring into the face of his own mortality:
So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands…Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion! For the living know that they will die,but the dead know nothing…Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do….Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days…Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. – Ecclesiastes 9 NLT (selected verses)
Nearing the close of WWII CS Lewis, the author and theologian, famously wrote:
“How are we to live in an atomic age?” Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation…the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies but they need not dominate our minds.
The second thing I’d challenge you to do, and I believe God would have us do, is to reconnect with both God and our family. I’d like you to open the calendar app on your phone and look at your schedule prior to two weeks ago. How many of those ‘extremely important’ events have been pulled from your life without you, your children, or your spouse dying?!
Maybe one of the greatest gifts from this craziness is that many of us reclaim our lives! When everything is taken from you it becomes really easy to see what matters most! And, when it comes to God, you’ve always been saying how you WANT to set aside time each day…well it looks like your day is pretty wide open, maybe start that life-giving habit now?
Third, be productive! Don’t just sit around in your PJ’s waiting for the Door Dash dude or the Grub Hub gal to knock on your door, do something. Ephesians 5:15-16 says:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of your time, because the days are evil. (ESV)
In 1665 a young college student named Issac Newton…yeah him…was sent home because the Black Plague was spreading like wildfire across Europe. He could have easily wasted his time, gone on Spring Break with his boyz, or just walked around all day in his Sponge Bob Square Pants pajama bottoms, but no, he choose to apply himself.
During the year he was in quarantine he invented calculus, began studying the idea of light refraction and wrote his theories on optics, and there was one other thing…what was that? Oh Yeah, he discovered and started formulating the Laws of Gravity!!! Later in his life others coined his time away from college for the plague as the ‘annus mirabilis’ or the Year of Wonders. He returned to college and the rest as we say is history.
Seize the moment my friends! Live, Reconnect, and Make something happen!
Coronavirus & Christianity
Well this is a first time for me, writing about a virus. Now, granted, I actually have written about many spiritual virus’ and soul-sucking diseases, but never on one that was specifically a physical virus.
So, first a disclaimer: The virus is real, it has caused people’s deaths, and it is something that can be caught in the United States no matter how powerful or careful we are. Each of us should be wise and use caution by not being in people’s faces, washing our hands, and if we are sick, stay home for crying out loud!
I probably shake more peoples hands than most and I do it each and every weekend. Additionally, if you watch me I also use a whole lot of the antibacterial foam that is placed in multiple locations all around our foyer at Friendship Church (which have been there for years). I’m not paranoid, but I also don’t want to get sick. I have a wife that has two auto-immune diseases and I don’t want her to get sick. So I tend to bathe in the stuff each weekend, and I know I shouldn’t, but I actually put that stuff on my face sometimes…again I don’t want to get sick.
BUT – being wise and cautious is a far cry from what we are witnessing in many circles today. I’m old enough to remember a few other times that people reacted like this. For instance, there was this thing called Y2k. It was a computer glitch that was going to shut down the world, throw us into the dark ages, cause mass havoc, undermine national security. Interesting enough there were certain sectors of our markets that made billions off of supposed ‘fixes’ to the Y2K issue, and guess what, when the clocks rolled over to midnight and it turned 01/01/2000…nothing happened. Hysteria and panic make people do stupid and unwise things.
So, seriously though, how should Christians react to this? First, be smart. I love it when Jesus tells the disciples to be “…innocent as doves but as wise as serpents”. Now, he was specifically talking about how they ministered to people, but I believe it is applicable here too. For example, it’s probably not a great time to reinstate the “…greet each other with a holy kiss…” idea!
But most importantly I believe that Scripture compels us to be calm, to not fear, to not panic, or act as if we are abandoned. I remember several years ago I was undergoing a procedure, it was a small issue and it was with local anesthetic so I was awake the whole time. After the procedure was over, the doctor came back in the room and began to have a conversation with me. This was peculiar because before he stated, “I won’t see you after, I’ve got 7 more minor surgeries to do today.” Yet, there he was…he even sat down on the counter. After a few moments of chit-chat he said the following, “I don’t believe in God. I actually have several pastors as patients and they all pretty much react the same way everyone else does when they hear bad news. (and here is the kicker) But you were calm the whole time, it’s clear that you actually believe what you preach. I’m not saying this is changing my mind or anything, but I’m not going to lie, your reaction made me think.”
I’m not sharing this for you to be like, “Wow, Dave is such a super-Christian!” nope, I have good days and bad days, and that one was apparently a good one! My point is, my reaction to a non-optimal situation spoke volumes about the God I serve to a man who didn’t even believe he existed! (take two seconds and read that again)
Every cultural hysteria, crisis, disaster, etc… is an opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ to shine. To shine our love, our care, our courage, and yes our calm.
Luke the author of Acts records an amazing moment in the early church when Peter and John were standing in front of a court, literally with their lives hanging in the balance:
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. – Acts 4:13
Then Paul gives us a command, notice it’s not a suggestion, but a command:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
I know stuff like this can be scary sometimes, I get that. But the situation around you does not change the God within you! He is still the same yesterday, today, and forever. He’s still in control, he still holds all things together, and yes indeed he is still the Great Physician.
PS – Just to wrap this all up, be wise, be cautious, and be calm, because your response speaks volumes about the God you say you believe in!
Marriage is easy…
…said no on ever!!! If you think marriage is easy then you are one of the following:
- A single person
- A child
- A newlywed (like honeymoon night newlywed)
The reality is that marriage is hard, and far too many people give up on marriage way too quickly. This last year I celebrated 25 years of marriage with my bride, and I’m not going to lie to you it’s not been easy sometimes…for either of us. But, in the same breath I can tell you with unwavering confidence that this last year was, quite possibly, our best year ever!
You see over time you learn what to and what not to do that pisses off you spouse. You begin to understand their body language for both the potential positive (intimacy) and nasty negative (I just ticked them off). You grow comfortable, not the bad comfortable, but the ‘I can be completely honest and vulnerable with you’ comfortable, where you can drop your mask at the front door, take off your makeup, remove your shoes, and just sit on the couch with a glass of wine and talk about your day comfortable! Do you know how good that is?
In a world where everyone is judging, attacking, and trying to change you to be able to just…BE…is priceless.
Listen, if you are married and going through a rough patch, take a deep breath. Each day is a new day to start over, determine right now that you will be the change your marriage needs. I firmly believe that every marriage is just one or two small changes away from being amazing. Don’t wait till made up holidays to express your love, improve your marriage, or create a little romance, do it every day, one day at a time. You just may find that person you’ve been searching for has been there all along.
PS – Thanks honey for sticking with me, you rock!!
PSS: You should check out the marriage series I’m currently teaching at Friendship Church: http://experiencefriendship.com/messages/from-this-day-forward
Impeachment, Christ-Likeness, and the Constitution
Okay, so here’s the deal, ya’ll need to stop! Seriously, stop posting, especially when you post in ignorance (def: lack of knowledge or information). Everyone has an opinion, and everyone is most certainly entitled to their opinion, but on some things its actually better to leave your opinion in your head:
Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent. – Pro 17:28
The mouths of fools are their ruin; they trap themselves with their lips. – Pro 18:7
So many of you love Jesus and want to be used by him, but your public rantings are literally alienating you from people that Jesus may want you to be helping. But, because you couldn’t resist posting something you will now not have that chance…is that really worth it? Do you think when you stand before God that he will ask you if you supported the impeachment of the 45th President of the United States? My money is on no!
As Christians we should be amazing citizens of whatever country we are born or chose to live in, of that there is no doubt. According to our Constitution, one of the most amazing human documents to ever be penned, your power rests in your vote, not on how many likes your Facebook post gets. You might think, “Oh I’m informing people”…no your not, you’re irritating people or getting people who think like you more wound up, how exactly does that advance the cause of Christ…just stop.
The people on the right scream, “The House proceedings were an absolute scam! They didn’t even let the Republicans call any witnesses!” The people on the left vent, “The Senate proceedings are an absolute scam! They didn’t call any witnesses!” Maybe your both right, maybe your both wrong, maybe you need to actually stop listening to what the other social media ranters are saying and brush up on the Constitution.
Here’s what I do know, you are called to act like Christ, so maybe you need to just stop!
PS – Here’s a couple other posts you can read if you are interested that might help:
5 Reasons I’ll ‘Never’ Preach Politics!
Donald Trump = Jesus 2.0 Right?
Makes You Stop and Think!
I was never really a fan of Kobe Bryant, it was nothing personal, he just played for another team that wasn’t my team…the Pacers, and he along with Shaq squashed my Pacers in the 2000 NBA Finals, so no I wasn’t a fan of him as a basketball player.
Now, as a leader, a legend, and his work after basketball, I was a huge fan! You don’t have as many titles as he accumulated, as many people who followed as he had, and as much of a difference in a community/nation as he did if you’re not what we would call a ‘good dude’!
I am a father of two incredible women, so I know a little bit about the relationship of father and daughter, and by all accounts his daughter Gigi (Gianna) was following in her father’s footsteps as a ball player and a leader. And this picture encapsulates the joy the two of them shared for the game they both fell in love with.
Kobe was 41 years old and his daughter was 13, they both are now in eternity. This picture was take just over a month ago, and now they are gone. It makes you stop and think doesn’t it?
He was just beginning his life without basketball and she was just beginning her life. I cannot even begin to imagine the feeling he had when he realized what was happening as his daughter sat next to him on that helicopter. I cannot fathom what his wife and three surviving children are going through today, but it makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?
None of us are promised tomorrow, only the moment we live in right now. How will you spend the moments you are blessed with today? Will you squander them scrolling through the internet, squabbling with your spouse, or sifting through hours of unwatched ‘streamable’ episodes of the latest binge-worthy show. It makes you stop and think…doesn’t it?
You…yes…you, were created by God to make a difference, an impact, a change on this world. You were designed to leave a legacy of substance to those who know and love you. So, today, and from this day forward will you continue to live as if “I’ve got 30 or 40 more years” or will you seize all of the divine moments given to you and become all that God created you to be…it makes you stop and think. Doesn’t it?
What can we learn from Game of Thrones?
So, let’s begin with the question that most of you are asking yourself…does Dave watch GoT? Some of you are asking because you watch it and enjoy it, others because you can’t believe a pastor would watch such a thing. (more…)
Peeled: The Fruits of the Spirit
This next Sunday I’ll be launching a new series where we are going to look into all 9 ofthe Fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. (HCSB)
As you look at those 9 characteristics I’m fairly certain that all of us wish we had more of each of these in our life…especially that last one, right! So, you may be asking the question, “What do I have to do, change, work on, or be so that I can have more of those?” Well honestly, that’s the wrong question.
Notice, that Paul calls them “fruit”. When was the last time that you saw a fruit tree working at being a fruit tree? Seriously, have you ever seen a grapevine straining to produce grapes? No, of course not, that’s a silly thing to suggest! You see for the tree or the vine producing fruit just comes naturally…as long as it’s healthy and it gets the nutrients it needs.
Jesus says in John 15:
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” (HSCB)
A couple of really important things to notice; first off God is the one who is doing the work on you, not you! He is looking at your life, trimming away stuff that isn’t being productive, removing things that are stealing your energy, and making sure that what you are producing is what He wants you to produce.
Second, notice the key, “Remain in me”! Your job as a follower of Jesus Christ is not to produce fruit, your job is to stay connected. When you stay connected and in close relationship with Jesus, it is him that produces the Fruit in you through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Stop trying so hard to be the ‘perfect Christian’ and simply spend time with Jesus. Allow him to do what only He can do, so that you can be the person He created you to be!
It Is Finished!
I’ve had several people ask if my talk on Good Friday was recorded anywhere. Unfortunately, that night we had a lot of technical issues and it did not get recorded.
However, although I rarely do this, I actually did write out my talk for that night, so I decided to simply put it here. Feel free to share with others:
33 years…3 1/2 years of incredible miracles and teachings…12 Apostles…70 Disciples…Hundreds of followers…Thousands of lives transformed, healed, changed forever
Hungry were fed…Blind made to see …Deaf could hear…Lame began to walk…Sick were healed…Hurting were given hope…Dead were raised
Religion as a whole was changed forever:
- He broke the rules
- He confronted the arrogant
- He exalted the forgotten
- He made the wise foolish, and the foolish wise
Cultural norms were challenged
- He welcomed the poor
- He listened to the powerless
- He mingled with the wretched
- He sat with the outcast
This one man who had done immeasurable good, was now hanging on a cross. He was not there because he committed some heinous crime, or lead an evil scheme, he hung there as the one and only innocent man from beginning of time till the end.
He hung there as all of the sins of every guilty man, woman, and child from eternity past to eternity future were dropped onto his shoulders. His Father, God, had chosen him to be the sacrifice for your sin, my sin, the sin of the whole world, and he hung there and took every blow, absorbed each attack, and endured each insult…without one single complaint, without one inch of resistance, without one moment of regret…The Prophet Isaiah poetically puts it this way:
He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.
Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared…
But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal;
It is finished…final…complete…done
Yeah, but you don’t know what I’ve done…but His hands bore the nails, to undo every wrong you’ve ever done, to prepare good works for you to do
You don’t know where I’ve been, the company I’ve kept, the path I’ve chosen to walk…but His feet were pierced, to give you a new path and a new way
But no one can even begin to know the thoughts I’ve had, the things I’ve imagined, fantasized, dreamt about…but the crown of thorns was smashed into his skull, to give you a new mind, to help you think pure thoughts
But the things I’m carrying around, the burdens that I can’t get rid of …but He was whipped as his back was torn to ribbons and bled so you could share those heavy burdens with him, you were never meant to carry them alone
But the feelings I have inside, the hate, the anger, the hurt…He bled from his side as a soldier thrust a spear through his heart so you could be renewed, transformed from the inside out, so that you could be given a new heart and new hope
It is Finished…
Galatians 3:13 NLT
But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing.
It is Finished…
2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
It is Finished…
Romans 8:1 NLT
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
It is Finished!!!
The Crisis of Masculinity
I have linked below to an incredible article on Desiring God. The author, Tony Reinke, details how twisted and corrupted our concept of masculinity has become, and calls us to redeem it back to God’s intended purpose:
The Trials We Face
My daughter with some killer thoughts!
There are so many storms that in this life we have to weather. Ranging from relationships, work, education, spiritual doubt, and much more. Our instantaneous reaction can often be to ask God to pull us out of the storm, to rescue us from all of these hardships we have to go through because surely God would not leave us in a storm that we could not handle, would HE? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I have learned recently that line of thinking is false. I know it is a little bit of a downer.
It says in James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.
“Pure joy..”, seriously?…
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Leadership in a Emoji World
Okay, I may come across as a little bit of a fuddy-duddy, but hear me out. Better yet, take a look around. No matter where you are; in a restaurant, waiting in line, sitting at the BMV, eating dinner at home…everyone around you is on their phones. Typically the younger the crowd the higher percentage of those who’s faces are hauntingly lit by the blue or white glow of their screens.
Much of what we are doing on our phones is ‘communicating’ with others. However, that communication is sterile, bereft of human contact or facial cognition of the little nuances and inflections when people talk. Those things tip the intent listener to at least a sliver of the motivation behind the words being spoken; joy, sorrow, sarcasm, pain, et al. Because of this emoji’s were developed, little icons meant to depict the emotion we are feeling at the moment to those we are texting, snapping, facebooking, and whatever other new thing is out there. We do this because we don’t want what we are typing to be misinterpreted. Sometimes we are honest, sometimes we simply saying something nasty and plaster a yellow teethy smiley face to cover up our ugliness,
All of this has led to a decreased ability for the average person to have a conversation with someone else, in real life, and ‘read’ their face correctly. It has also lead to an increased lack of etiquette and courteousness. Our texting patterns have lead to one word answers; okay, yes, no, later, maybe, which come out as cold, uncaring, and simply rude. For the average person, this isn’t good, for a leader its suicidal.
A leader is an influencer. Your conversations, attitude, demeanor, tone, looks, mood, influence either positively or negatively those around you. If you don’t look people in the eye, if you walk into a room and don’t greet people with a smile, if your answers are one word, clipped responses your being a bad leader…period!
I know, I can hear the pushback as I write this, ‘What if I’m having a bad day…I’m not a outgoing person…I don’t want to be fake…’
- First, everyone has an off day every now and then. I have off days, and if I blow it by being moody, cranky, or short with someone, I have to go an apologize to them, because I didn’t do my job well that day.
- Second, you don’t need to be ‘bubbly’ but you do need to be outgoing as a leader. By that I mean you can’t wait for others to approach you, your the LEADER for crying out loud! As a leader you are probably a little intimidating, even if not physically, more than likely in your persona. Ive NEVER considered myself scary or intimidating, but guess what, people (even my own family) tell me that I am, especially if people don’t know me. So, I can’t just sit back and wait for others to engage me, it allows negativity to breed and questions to brew, which undermines your cause.
- Third, I am so tired of hearing this garbage about being fake. You don’t have to pretend that everything in your life is peachy keen, but how about showing the joy of Christ on your face? How about the command, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.”? (Phil 4:4) How about you getting over yourself, pulling up your big boy/girl pants and start being the leader that God’s called you to be?
You see as a leader your job is to help people be better, do better, to build them up. If you are so absorbed in your own personal issues that you cannot do that, then you need to stop pretending you’re a leader, your not. You are a dragger (my own made up word, followed by my own made up definition). A dragger is someone who is like a weight in a room. When they walk into the office everyone clenches waiting to see what ‘mood’ they are in that day. They are so concerned and consumed with themselves that they can’t or really won’t take the time to make those around them feel like they matter, that they are special. They discourage people without saying a word. I feel like this verse is written directly to the draggers out there masquerading as leaders:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4 ESV
It’s so easy to show appreciation, gratitude, and kindness. To say hello, thank you, nice to see you…these are easy simple things. If you are a leader and you don’t do these things…you’re not a leader, your just some guy/girl with a title or position. Great leaders show and do these things, they intentionally make others feel important. Selfish, self-absorbed people don’t, they are too concerned with protecting or projecting their own perceived self-importance.
So, to all the leaders out there, take a page out of the life of Christ (He’s a pretty good example to check out), He walked slowly through our world for 33 years. He talked to the lowest of the low and the highest of the high. Everyone mattered, even those who hated him, hurt him, and conspired against him. He looked people in the eye, and asked people to look him in the eye. He never allowed his personal stuff to be an excuse to abdicate his role. Lead like Jesus this week!!!
Acorn Ridge Is Applying for 501c3
I know that many of you are aware that we began a journey about a year and a half ago, of starting a ministry that serves those who serve others. Our big dream is to positively impact hundreds of churches, communities, military units, and fire stations by giving their spiritual leaders time away to heal, refresh, and continue to lead. You can read about our vision in this previous post: The Birth of Acorn Ridge
We are now on the cusp of getting our 501c3 which will allow us a lot more leverage in the realms of tax deductible gifts, donor base, and grant proposals. The total cost will be somewhere between $3,500 – $5,000. Would you be willing to partner with us in making this a reality and being a significant part of impacting the world by helping those who serve others? Would you pray specifically for God’s leading, direction, and help in getting over this significant hurdle? Would you share the idea and the vision of Acorn Ridge with others who might also partner with us? Would you be willing to help us financially make a positive difference in the lives and the families of those who serve?
Feel free to ask any questions and we will be happy to answer them, if you’d like to be a financial partner you can do so here: Acorn Ridge 501c3
Parenting with no end in sight!
“I can’t wait till my kids graduate and are out of the house and I can stop having to be a parent!”
Okay, I know you’ve never said that out loud, but you’ve thought it haven’t you, I know I’ve thought it on occasion! Well, I hate to break it to you/us but the job of a parent is never-ending and constantly shifting. Once you had a child everything changed, you became responsible for taking one of God’s prized projects and equipping it to become one of His masterpieces.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Eph 2:10 NLT
After being a parent for over 20 years there is something that I have learned, I’ll never be the enough for my girls. I’m imperfect, impatient, and often impossible to deal with, I’m simply incomplete as a person and therefore woefully inadequate to give them everything they need. My only hope is if I’m not doing this alone. Now, my wonderful wife most certainly is the ying to my yang, the white to my black, and the strength to my weakness, but even when two incomplete people work together, we are still not enough! We still fall far short of being the master artisans necessary to finish God’s masterpiece, our kids.
So, I’ve had to learn the hard way that what I must do is my best, and then believe that God has all the rest covered. Although I am an incomplete and imperfect father, I must point them to their heavenly Father who is both complete and perfect and loves them far more and much deeper than I ever could. My job as a parent isn’t to fix my girls, but to point my girls to the one who can heal every hurt, bind every wound, restore every relationship, and guide them down any path. If I can accomplish this, then I have done my job. That doesn’t mean that I’m done as a parent or that my girls will never need me again, quite the opposite, because just like our heavenly Father I’ll always be available for my girls whenever they need me as long as I have breath. But it does alleviate a whole lot of pressure that I put on myself, and I’m guessing you probably do to. My prayer for all of the moms and dads reading this is that you’ll be okay with not being enough, because you know the God who is more than enough, and if you do everything in your power to connect them to Him, I promise you He can handle it!
My prayer over you today:
Dear Father, for every mom and dad who reads this give them peace. Show them that you are enough for them, that they are not alone. Allow them to rest in your sufficiency when they feel insufficient. Challenge them to do all they can to point their children to you and equip them to become the parent you’ve called them to be. God, remind them today that you choose them to be the parent(s) of the children you gave them, and that if they rely on you, you will never abandon them. Bless them beyond all measure today as they strive to become all you’ve called them to be!
Why you’ll never be happy and won’t find rest!
This last weekend I talked about how God has commanded those of us who believe and follow him to simply rest. That rest begins with our ability to trust that He is in fact in control and that it’s not all about us or up to us. You see when we believe it is either about or up to us we can never truly rest and we will never be happy, because if we stop we loose. If we rest we miss opportunities. If we fall short it’s because we didn’t try hard enough, so we need to try harder next time, work longer, push farther…you get the picture.
Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.
Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.
It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. – Ps 127:1-2
I believe that the key to finding happiness and being able to rest begins with confronting 3 lies that we tell ourselves that are represented in the above passage. The first lie goes something like this, “I can do this!”. This sounds great doesn’t it, self confidence, self reliance, oh the joys of the self help book! Here’s the problem though, in a very real and all encompassing sense you can’t do this. You and I are hopelessly ill equipped to conquer life, or for that matter just navigate it without massive tragedy. The primary reason is that the vast majority of the things in your life are beyond your control. Until you realize that without God you can’t do squat, you’ll never find rest and never experience genuine happiness.
The second lie is a small variation of the first, “I have enough or I know enough to do this”. The problem here is that we are assuming that we know what is actually needed to accomplish the task. In the verse the author refers to guarding a city, inferring that someone was coming to attack it. But, there is the unknown, how many, how strong, when will they attack, what war machines do they have. All these questions are unknowable, and when we think we’ve got it we end up moving forward unprepared and end up unsuccessful. Until we admit that we can’t possibly know enough, we won’t be able to rest or be truly happy.
The final lie is like one of those horrible children’s songs that just repeats itself over and over. You know, “This is the song that never ends…” I cringe just hearing that begin in my head. But that’s exactly what we are doing when we buy into the lie, “I just need to work harder!” The bottom line is, there are some things that no matter how hard you try you’ll never be able to accomplish, no matter how smart you are, how wonderful of a strategy you espouse, how many hours you work, it just isn’t going to happen. That can sound very defeating and deflating, but realizing that the end results aren’t all up to you can actually be an incredibly liberating thing that, well, opens up the door for you to rest and rediscover happiness.
Take a breath this week and confront the lies that steal the rest you need and the happiness God desires!
7 Things We Learned This Election!
Hello my friends, and I do mean friends. Whether your right or left of me doesn’t change that I appreciate you as a person, as a productive member of society, and as one who bears the image of our amazing God.
Over the last several months, on this blog and in church I’ve challenged you to look at everything from a Biblical standpoint, to respect each other even if you don’t agree, to honor and pray for those in authority, and never forget that God is always on the throne. Now that the election is over I wanted to share some insights on what I saw as interesting this election cycle. So, without further ado and in no particular order 7 things we learned this election:
- Strong leadership still matters. The exit polling said that for a majority of Americans this was their #1 reason they voted the way they voted. Now, some voted for Trump and some for Clinton, but people believed that leadership was really important.
- Money can’t buy you everything. Clinton raised and spent more than double of what Trump did. In all each vote ‘cost’ Trump a little under $5 and ‘cost’ Clinton a touch over $10. That is an astounding reality. In a culture like ours when money essential allows you to do anything, it still can’t simply win you the Presidency.
- You can’t believe everything you hear. At the beginning of the evening just about every news, polling, and political site said that Clinton was going to win, and possibly win big. I don’t for a second believe that all of these places were lying and ‘in the bag’ for Clinton, maybe some but not all. I’m certain it will take weeks for pundits to drill down into the why’s, but the bottom line is just because someone says it, and just because some data may support it, doesn’t mean that it’s 100% true or that it couldn’t change on a dime.
- Never give up! Winston Churchill famously once gave a speech that ended like this, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” It would be easy to give up when everyone is saying that you can’t, but as long as you still believe you can, don’t give up.
- Age isn’t a limiter. Both Clinton and Trump should be, by conventional wisdom, enjoying their golden years on the beach and golf courses. They are both plenty wealthy and don’t need to do a single thing but relax. However, both of them took on the biggest most demanding challenge in the world, winning the US Presidency. Those of you that are ‘seasoned’ don’t buy into the lie that just because your of retirement age that you need to act like your old! You can do great things and conquer great challenges even if you’re on Social Security.
- Our country is divided. When you look at the popular vote it is essentially split in half, and I’m not sure that you could get two candidates more diametrically opposed than these two. President-Elect Trump has a huge job on his hands in bringing this nation together, we should pray for him and our country.
- People are people. I find it quite ironic that the most vocal people bashing and attacking those on the right for disagreeing with Obama, or those who were talking about how Texas should succeed, or suggesting impeachment, et al, are now the ones out there going absolutely crazy. Not sure what I’m talking about just look up #assasinatetrump or check out this article detailing all of the protests.
I don’t know which way you voted, and at this point it really doesn’t matter because it’s all over with. In 70 some days America will inaugurate a new president and our country will more than likely head in a new direction. These things you have very little control over. However, you have complete control over yourself, so exercise that control. Show that you are lead by the Spirit of God and that you are filled with the fruit of Self-Control. Don’t loose your permanent testimony over a temporary election…it just ain’t worth it folks, and beside, Jesus is still the King!
Other articles you may be interested in:
- 5 Reasons I’ll ‘Never’ Preach Politics!
- The Demagoguing Democrat VS. The Rancorous Republican
- An Open Letter To My Left-Leaning Friends!
- An Open Letter To My Right-Leaning Friends!
Kait’s New Blog
Just wanted to let you know that my eldest daughter, Kaitlyn (Kait) started a new blog. She’s got a couple of posts up and I would highly encourage you to check it out. Especially if you’re a 20-something, a woman, or a teen. Some great stuff over there, here’s her most recent post: 6 Things You Should Know Before You Date Me
Check it out and share it!
Abortion is not a political issue, it’s a sin issue
I am not a single issue voter, and on typical policy issues I am silent publicly because of my
role as a pastor. As a pastor I am concerned most with people’s relationship with Christ and never want to put an unnecessary wall up regarding politics because politics and government have never once saved a persons soul.
However, after watching the debate last night an issue came up that is not a policy issue, but an issue of morality, an issue on which neither God nor the Bible is silent and therefore as a Christian and pastor I will not be silent. It is important that we never succumb to cultural pressure to elevate man’s opinion over God’s commands, period!
- The Bible states that all humanity bears the image and the mark of God (Genesis 1:27).
- God has said that because of this it is a sin to take a human life (Exodus 20:13), unless as a punishment for murder (Genesis 9:6).
- The Bible considers the killing of an unborn child murder, even if it’s accidental (Exodus 21:22-25).
- God’s relationship with each human begins at the moment of conception and extends throughout the entirety of their life (Jeremiah 1:5).
The Psalmist, David, writes in beautiful poetic form the tender relationship that God has with each unborn child in Psalm 139, read these words:
For it was You who created my inward parts;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. – Ps 139:13-14
According to the Bible, every unborn child has a purpose, was given life for a reason, and can make a difference in our world. How many things have we missed out on, lost out on, and been robbed of because of the millions of innocent lives who were never given breath? How many parents, mothers who have believed the lies of our culture telling them it’s their ‘right’ or it’s just ’tissue’ have been indelibly scarred and broken after the fact. You see the reality is abortion is not just something that affects the child itself, it has far reaching and devastating effects on all those involved with it. It is a scourge that has gouged a hole in the very fabric of our national morality, psyche, and spirituality, and left millions upon millions in it’s horrific wake.
If you or someone you love has been involved in this in some way shape or form and are feeling a level of guilt or despair over your decision, know this, God still loves you, has a plan for you, and wants you to receive His forgiveness. If you are contemplating doing this, I challenge you to reconsider, to realize that the child within you is a precious gift from God to you, he/she is not a mistake or an accident, they were planned before you even knew.
Finally, for all of you, if someone who has pledged to ‘defend and protect’ is not willing to do so for the most vulnerable and innocent of us, will they do that for any of us?
Another High Profile Pastoral Resignation…
Man, it’s been a tough 18 months for pastors! First, Mark Driscoll the founding and senior pastor of Mars Hill resigned over allegations of abusive leadership. Then just a few months ago Perry Noble, the founding and senior pastor of Newspring Church resigned because he was using alcohol to self-medicate. And, just this last Sunday, Pete Wilson, the founding and senior pastor of Crosspoint Church resigned because he is completely ‘burned out’. These men represented 3 churches that reached well over 100,000 people combined.
I don’t care what you think about these men, but let me tell you something, they all were used by God in ways most of us could never imagine. Are they, were they perfect, no…and that makes all of us! The role of a senior pastor is at times suffocating, overwhelming, emotionally draining, and makes you feel sub-human, because you cannot act like you really want to when someone attacks you or your family. Being a pastor’s wife or kids is often even more difficult because they rarely get to see the resolution of things, like the pastor does.
I’m well aware that all jobs have stresses that are unique, and I am in no way saying that pastor’s stand alone in having a job with pressure. But, there is something uniquely different when you are in full-time ministry. How do I know this, well during 20+ years of full-time ministry I’ve brought numerous people on staff who were in the ‘secular’ workplace. Their struggles, their stories of how radically different, lonely, painful, and secluded they felt (which they had never experienced before) convinced me of this. You see for most church-going folks, church is a place of rest, refreshment, and friendship. For pastors, their families, and other in full-time ministry it’s anything but. Their feelings are rarely considered; their friendships hardly, if ever, are allowed to go beyond superficial; any conversation at any time can morph into yet another counseling session…even at the grocery store (it’s happened people, more than once actually!).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I wouldn’t change what I’m doing or what God has allowed me to do for one minute! I LOVE being a pastor!!! But, it doesn’t mean that it comes easy, or without a very, very, high price. So, whatever church you call home, take time out this week and just send a thank you note to your pastors, AND their wives. Be a friend to your pastors, AND their wives. Treat them like normal human beings, because…newsflash…we are!
Check out this blog written by a fellow pastor Rob Shepherd: Another Pastor Bites The Dust
Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, and Usain Bolt…what makes them special?
Many Americans have stayed up late over the last two-weeks watching live event coverage of the Olympics from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. As a sports fan it’s like binge watching your favorite tv show for 14 straight days, exhilarating and exhausting all in one!
Each Olympics has their own heroes (Simone Biles) and villains (Ryan Lochte…nuff said). But occasionally we get to see something special, Like a 42 year old (now 43) mom Kristin Armstrong, who fought back from multiple surgeries and moments after crossing the
finish line for the gold collapsed, only to be comforted by her young son. You can’t make that up, no hollywood script could have been better written and no musical score could have made that moment more dramatic!
If we’re lucky, however, we get to see greatness. Athletes who are so dominate, so incredible that they transcend their sport. They become the thing of legend. During this Olympics there were three such athletes. Each of them winning gold in multiple Olympics and each ones performance so dominating that when they performed it was hard to look away.
Katie Ledecky won her first gold medal in 2012 at the age of…15! Can you believe that?! Can’t even drive yet and she’s whoopin’ on the best swimmers in the world. This year her swims were so dominate that she could have probably had a 44oz big gulp down before second place finished! She won a total of 5 Golds and one Silver, and became the first woman to win a gold in the 200, 400, and 800 meter races in the same Olympics.
Usain Bolt is another legend, but his greatness has extended over 3 Olympics. He is not only regarded as the fastest man ever timed, but he is also the only person to ever win the 100, 200, and 4×100 in three straight Olympics! No one has ever done it in back to back Olympics, much less three in a row. He has figured out a way to sustain greatness over a significant period of time on the largest stage in the world!
Finally, there is Michael Phelps, love him or hate him, he’s the best that’s ever been! Phelps has been swimming on the Olympic stage for 4 Olympics…that’s astounding in any sport, and especially a sport where the young ones are almost always dominant. Phelps has said that this was his last, but it wasn’t his least, he still won 5 Golds and 1 silver and showed very little drop off in dominance. Overall, Phelps has won 28 Olympic medals, 23 of them being gold. Additionally, he’s won gold in multiple strokes and multiple lengths. In a sport where specialization is king, it’s almost unheard of.
So, what makes these three so…special, so dominant, so legendary? Well, obviously their DNA has something to do with it. They were gifted with great natural ability, but my guess is that’s true of anyone that makes it to the Olympics. What sets them apart? I believe it is two things:
- First, each of them is notorious for their training regimen. If we did in a week what they do each day, I think we’d die! They have learned that putting in the time, energy, and effort when no one is watching means that when everyone is watching they’ll perform their best. Under Armour has done an incredible commercial specifically focusing on Phelps and gives you a glimpse of what I’m talking about, you should check it out: Phelps Under Armour Commercial
- Second, none of them are willing to set limits on what they can do. They don’t see boundaries, they don’t think in terms of what is possible. Ledecky has famously said, “I just like to swim fast, I don’t think about the distance”. Bolt has said on multiple occasions, “I don’t think limits.” And Phelps, well he actually wrote a book entitled No Limits, The Will To Succeed.
These athletes can teach us something about life and our walk with Christ. Often times we see the fanfare that others receive and we get jealous. But, what we don’t see is all the hard work, the behind the scenes effort that got them there. If you want to succeed in life and grow stronger as a follower of Christ, you’ve got to be willing to do what’s necessary without the accolades or audience. You’ve got to spend time just you and God, sometimes early in the morning and other late at night. Sometimes is joyful communion while other times it’s painful intercession. It’s in the moments when no one is watching that the strength of your character is forged, that the foundation of your soul is laid.
I also think it’s important for us to begin to remove all of our self-imposed limitations. Stop saying what you can’t do and start doing what you can. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you just start moving towards your goal. Stop whining and complaining about how others have it easier, you don’t know that! You don’t know what their quiet struggles are, what their times in the dark are like. As the Apostle Paul says so eloquently, “Run the race set before you!” Don’t look at others, look ahead at what God has for you!
3 Weeks off makes you think!?
I just wrapped up a three week ‘stay-work-ation’, yeah I just made that word up, it’s my blog I can do that! Essentially, we have a ton of work to do on Acorn Ridge to get it ready to serve those who serve. So I spent the last several weeks painting, patching, sanding, weed whacking, and etc. During the weekends I spent my time luxuriously relaxing pool side…in a bleacher seat watching my youngest swim at three back to back to back meets. So, to say that I had a lot of time to think, is an understatement!
Each weekend I was gone I logged onto ExperienceFriendship.com and either watched or listened to one of our amazing elders deliver God’s Word in a powerful and challenging way. It was awesome, and I was so encouraged with what an amazing job they did. What I found myself missing though was the music, yeah you read that right! I found myself this last Sunday, my first Sunday back, just overwhelmed with the amazing sound of nearly 400 people joined in public, loud, joyful, and enthusiastic musical worship of our great God! I reflected on people whom I’ve heard say things like, ‘you don’t NEED to go to church to be a Christian’, or ‘my church is on tv’ or something to that effect. I never bought that excuse, yes that’s what it is, but during our time away I realized just how sad it must be to never experience the joyful worship of God’s people.
During our time off we did see and or ‘hang out’ with people that go to Friendship, but there is something special about wandering the halls on Sunday morning and taking in the buzz of excitement as people are using their gifts to serve our great King. There is an electricity in the air on Sundays at Friendship that just can’t be duplicated, it must be experienced. I, of course, am a little bias on this front, but it has been confirmed to me by others over and over again. I even had a family tell me just this last weekend, that they cut their trip to Kentucky Kingdom short just so they wouldn’t miss this last week. Okay, that’s awesome!
The bottom line is, I really missed being a part of the experience at Friendship, there was a hole in my heart each weekend. The old saying is, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’, I don’t know if that’s true in every sense, but I’ve gotta say, being away from you all sure did whet my appetite for getting back!