June 30, 2010

An Ugly Lie

An ugly lie is running wild in our churches & in our lives. It's the reason why there doesn't seem to be real connections & relationships happening. It's why so many worship leaders are frustrated that those they lead seem to be going through the motions or disengaged. It's part of the reason so many believers & church members are so tired. Ready for the lie that we so often believe? Here it is:

Spiritual Maturity=Self-Sufficiency

Now remember, you would never say you believe this with your lips, but what about with your life? We sometimes think that a solid, mature Christian either has no problems or can handle all of the problems that they do have. However, deep inside, in those places where we actually face reality, we know our lives are a wreck, but we can't let anybody know. What will they think? Afterall, a growing, mature believer shouldn't deal with this. So we try to fix ourselves. The only problem is that we couldn't fix ourselves before Jesus, & we still can't fix ourselves after Jesus. Only Jesus transforms us. Could it be that the heights of spiritual maturity are actually marked by radical self-insufficiency, a radical awareness of our deep, constant need for the work of God in & through us?

Consider these words from Lamentation 3:22-23, "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." How about that? God extends new mercy to His people everyday. Maybe that's because we need His mercy poured out, like new, everyday. We have to guard ourselves & our churches from the lie that the goal is self-sufficiency. In fact, it's just the opposite; we're to grow more & more dependent on God as we become more grounded & more mature in our faith.

June 29, 2010

Why We Need Leaders

I heard it again today, another story of a church leader who was brought on board to follow a former leader who wasn't a bad person, in fact, everybody spoke highly of him. He simply was no longer effectively leading. However, it wasn't long until the new leader was being advised to follow in the footsteps of the former leader, "So and so did it this way," or "We've always done...". Every leader has been there. You've been brought in to lead, sometimes because the person you're following has failed to lead, yet there's the strange gravitational pull to what's known, familiar, or comfortable for those you are leading. As a result, there's a pull on the new leader to conform.

Don't do it! That doesn't mean everything your predecessor did was terrible, but you've been positioned by God to lead. Part of that leading is challenging the status quo, pulling people out of their places of comfort & familiarity. The fact that the status quo exists is why leaders are so desperately needed. At one time the status quo you're challenging was innovative; it was like breaking glass, but over time that innovation became the "new normal". That's why you're leadership is so desperately needed right here, right now, wherever God has positioned you.

Somebody out there needs to read this today, & at some point all of us will need to read it to remind ourselves of the importance of what we do as ministry leaders.

Think about this question: How do you challenge the status quo in a way that honors the past but still blazes a new trail into the future?

June 22, 2010

Putting Band Aids On Cancer

Lately I've been reading in the Gospel of Matthew. It's good stuff from the very beginning; yes, even the genealogy is cool. As I was getting into the Sermon on the Mount, I came to those very well known & convicting statements that Jesus made:

"You have heard it said, 'Do not murder'...but I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment."

"You have heard it said, 'Do no commit adultery'. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

These are some depressing verses for most of us because it shows us just how deep our sin goes. It reminds us that we're not sinners because we sin, but that we sin because we're sinners. It's practically ingrained in us, & the problem that Jesus encountered was that people, especially religious people, liked to give the impression that they're OK. It's as if we believe that as long as our sin doesn't become one of the "BIG" or "PUBLIC" sins, we're good, but Jesus says the complete opposite. Jesus says that we're worried about our actions (can people see our sin), while God is concerned about our heart (the root of our sin).

In essence, we try to put band aids on our cancerous, dying lives by acting like we've got it all together. Even after we trust Jesus & accept His gift of forgiveness, we continue this pattern. We try to look healthy even when our lives are drying up. Jesus is concerned about our hearts, not simply our actions. Jesus understands that if He owns our hearts, our actions will eventually be transformed to look like our transforming heart. So how's your heart?

What heart issues are you struggling with? Don't think just about your actions; what is it in your heart that is coming out in your actions? What needs to change in your heart "intake" so that it can be transformed? Rip the band aids off & target the real issue in your life with the power of the Light of the World.

June 18, 2010

The Myth Of "The Natural"

One of my favorite movies as a kid was The Natural with Robert Redford. In the movie he was this ridiculously gifted ballplayer who overcomes some obstacles & bad decisions & finally makes it to the big leagues. I loved that movie. I've seen it countless times. But as I've grown I've realized that it's a myth. There really is no such thing as "a natural". In fact, that message is in the movie. Robert Redford's character, Roy, was often told by his dad that "he had a gift, but that it wasn't enough."

A lot of us have been blessed with incredible gifts, but the gift itself is not enough. We have to work at it. We have to cultivate that gift & sharpen those skills where we excel. The problem is that we don't communicate the fact that we're good at something because we work on it. Too often we allow people to simply acknowledge the gift without recognizing the work that goes into the gift.

Leaders, you need to communicate to the people around you that the things they think you are a "natural" at only appear to come naturally because you work on it. In my world, that area is in the realm of speaking. God has blessed me with the gift & the passion for it, but there is so much work that goes in that no one ever sees.

If you want to continue to excel in an area where you're considered a "natural", you have to work on it. You also need the people around you to know that working on that area is a priority to you. If you're a gifted artist, you might be able to crank out a project quickly, but would it be as great  as the one that you had time to really prepare & work on the project? I know I can pull off an impromptu talk, but the talk that has been prepared extensively, fine tuned, & prayed over will always be better.

What area are you considered a "natural"? Have you helped others around you realize the work that has to go into that skill? Have you helped them recognize their "natural" gifts? Have you taught them how to work on it & sharpen it?

June 15, 2010

What Are You Married To?

Yesterday I heard a powerful & convicting quote from a somewhat surprising source. Andy Stanley told a group of Southern Baptist pastors, "Most of us are married to a model of ministry, & we flirt with the Great Commission." It's a surprising source because Andy & Northpoint are so closely connected with a model of ministry. It's copied all across America, people flock to conferences so that they can be taught the model, & churches are split over that model & countless other models for "doing church". Andy's quote is a sobering reminder that the WHY of ministry is bigger than the HOW of ministry.

If you're reading this & are either overtly or subconsciously connecting your model as the way to accomplish the Great Commission, you're missing the point. There is no absolutely foolproof model. Models are tools & just like the ones in your toolbox, none of them can handle every job. Models depend on your history, your resources, your culture, but the Great Commission transcends all those things & goes straight to the heart of God: a desire to see people changed by Jesus.

The moral of the story? I think its twofold. First, we shouldn't disregard other models of ministry simply because we've never done it that way before, but secondly, we shouldn't get so wrapped up in our hip, cool, cutting edge model either. In a few years, the world will have changed again & today's cool model may be obsolete. It's the why of ministry that has stood the test of time. When we make that our priority we can free ourselves up as leaders to embrace different methods & models to take care of the how of ministry.

Take a good hard look at the  church & ministry you serve in. Are you married to the HOW or the WHY?

June 14, 2010

The Stronghold of Jesus

Our church just wrapped up week 2 of our series "Streams" with a look at the stronghold in David's life. In 2 Samuel 5, the Philistines are bringing their full forces against the David, the new king of Israel. David's response to such a threat wasnt' to call together his chief advisers in the situation room. Instead, verse 17 says that "David ran to the stronghold." The idea of the stronghold is a constant theme running through the life of David. It was the place he & his men would retreat to while on the run from Saul. In fact, if you read through the Psalms you'll find it all over the place. David knew that God was his shield, his refuge, his fortress, his stronghold, & his salvation. At the stronghold David found refuge from danger, renewed strength, & a revelation from God. It was a place of safety, a place to regroup, & a place to seek God's direction. As this part of David's story closes, God gives David the guidance & instructions he needs for victory over the Philistines.

The really powerful truth is this: David's stronghold was a place, but our stronghold is a person.

David had a place where he could go to draw near to God, but in Christ, we have the opportunity for God to live in us day by day. The fortress & stronghold can accompany us no matter where we go or what our circumstances may be.

We will encounter battles in life. The question is "What will we do?" & "Where will run?" Will we trust in our own strength & wisdom, or will we run to our stronghold, Jesus Christ, to rest in Him, live in His strength, & discover His will?

June 7, 2010


It was 7 years ago today that I married the greatest woman in the world. Thinking back a couple of things stick out about that day. First, it was me that picked out the bridesmaid dresses. Anyone who knows Valerie knows that she's not the greatest it comes to making decisions & dress stores present too many options. So I stepped up & made the selection. The second thing is that months & months went into planning a wedding that only lasted a few minutes. Seriously, the ceremony was really short; that's how we wanted it. But there was still months of planning, most of which I thankfully didn't have to deal with, that went into it. I pretty much picked out the bridesmaid dresses, checked out on the planning for a few months, then showed up on the wedding day with my tux.

Oh yeah one other very vivid memory of my wedding is that I didn't get one single bite of my groom's cake. My family took home the leftovers of it, but by the time we got back home from the honeymoon, it had somehow vanished.

Seven years later, Valerie is more amazing now than she has ever been. She's not only a wonderful wife, she's a crazy awesome mother to the two most amazing little girls in the world. I'm truly blessed to have her in my life. I'm like a lot of husbands in that I probably take her for granted too often, but thankfully we have days like today not just to buy cards & gifts & to go out to dinner but to be reminded of the blessing of a wonderful & godly wife.

I love you Valerie.

June 1, 2010

We'll Miss You


Every morning for the last several months my phone has awakened me bright & early with a text message. I have to admit that sometimes it was irritating. After all, everybody wants to sleep in every once in awhile. Sadly though, I won't be getting that text with a quick thought & Bible verse every morning anymore. Stephanie Parmer, the student who sent it out everyday to everybody in her contact list passed away yesterday & is now with the Savior she loved so much. She was only 16 & hadn't been following Jesus that long, but in that short time she impacted so many lives. She was silly but unforgettable. Stephanie will surely be missed by everyone who knew here, but let's not forget who she lived for. Let her witness & example challenge & motivate us to live for Christ as she did. She was never ashamed of her Savior, may we follow in her footsteps.