Monday, June 30, 2014

Ministry Monday: Playing Basketball is Like Church Involvement

My basketball game is like my church involvement; I'm the worst player out there. 

Allow me to go deeper. When I show up to play ball with some guys, sometimes the only positive I bring is making the teams even. I don't mean by picking the teams or by skill level. I mean they would have an uneven number of guys without me. 

Oh, I have a few moves. I make a few shots. Even a blind dog can find the hydrant every once in a while. But in terms of skill level, I'm not bringing a whole lot to the table. 

The same goes at church. 

I do make the teams even.
Okay, even in this sense is different, because not all churches have the same attendance. But what they do share in common is that never has a church had everyone show up on the same Sunday. I'm making that factoid up, but seriously, could you imagine. 

Let me tell you an insider secret to being a pastor. We all have the same conversation with our spouse after every Sunday. It goes like this;

Hey honey, I didn't see _______. Then we imagine what church would be like if everyone showed up. When I say the teams are even in church, it would be more apt to say complete. If every person matters, then it matters whether or not we show up.

I do change the outlook of the game.
Closely related to making the teams even, each person changes the outlook of the game. In basketball, it may mean my skill turnovers will mean a loss for my team. 

But in church, it means that every gift God has intended to be there will be there, working together to reveal God's love to other people, who each have their own gift. If each person is a part of the body of Christ, as Paul pointed out in 1 Corinthians 12, then every church is missing body parts on any given Sunday. 

I do give my all, no matter what. 
There is really no getting around this point. On the court, I can hustle and try really hard to score, rebound and defend. The 2 or 3 points I score are 2 or 3 points more than my team might have had. 

In Church, the math works even easier. We give our best and we trust God to do the rest. The Apostle Paul said as much in 1 Corinthians 3:7 when he wrote that we're all insignificant except for God, who makes things grow. 

So it would seem that your involvement in church is much like my involvement in basketball. It is valuable for us, and for everyone else, that we show up, no matter what we think of our game. If only God's promise to make things grow also included my height.

Friday, June 13, 2014


I am going to a break from posting for a week, maybe two. I'll be back. While I am gone, you could fill your time by reading this awesome book by Rick Lawrence called Sifted.

Had I not read this book on a kindle I could have shown you a worn and dog-eared copy. When I read a book, I have a pen or pencil handy. I underline and write in the margins. To assure I can find again what inspires me, I fold over the page I marked.

The kindle allows me to highlight and bookmarks, which I use, but sadly you will not see those. But here are just a few of my many highlights.

Danger is an essential aspect of any adventure; without danger, it’s not really an adventure.
(Referring to Job and his friends) And if it seems crazy that mere men would dicker about their relative greatness while God sits a few feet away with a bemused smile on His face, then you don’t know yourself well.
 It’s so important to remember the makeup of this man—otherwise, all that happens next is lost on us. “Simon Barjona” represents all the man has been; “Peter” represents all he truly is. One is the name of his first birth; the other is the name of his second birth.
 (On why everything happens) It turns out that hurricanes literally keep our planet alive by roiling the waters of our oceans so deeply that their nutrients are widely redistributed, causing rapid growth of the carbon-dioxide-eating phytoplankton and, thus, keeping the earth from boiling over. Everything in the created world is a parable.
 In the garden and in our lives with God, the goal of grafting is intimacy, not behavior change.

Seriously, these are just a few.

Rick Lawrence bears his soul, to a degree that sometimes left me feeling bad for him. Don't get me wrong, this is superb writing and his honesty and vulnerability are what makes this book an incredible read. In fact, to write about being sifted without acknowledging your own dark moments might be considered dishonest. But Rick has been very honest, letting us in to his own baggage, inviting us to accept where we are, where God has placed us, knowing that it is for our own good.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tell Me What You Think

Do you know why people ask what you think? So they can tell you what they think.

There are times when people ask my opinion. That is just stupid, for so many reasons. But I have come to realize that what they really want is to give their opinion. That's why they ask. In my opinion, they should simply ask me if they can present me with their thoughts. They would get to talk and I would get to save my breath.

Someone, anyone really, and I will have a conversation that goes like this.

Someone: What did you think of this book?
Me: I liked it for the following reasons.
Someone: Well, I hated it.

Or they may ask about a movie we both recently saw.

Someone: What did you think of that movie?
Me: I thought it was epic for the following reasons.
Someone: Here's why it wasn't good at all.

Oh, ok.

Perhaps if I took the advice given in James 1:19.

"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry."

If, when asked for my opinion, I simply shrugged and asked them their opinion, I could fulfill all three of these directives in one simple move. I'd be listening, which means I wouldn't be talking. Plus, I wouldn't have any reason to get angry when my opinion was shown to be the thoughts of an imbecile.

I don't know....what do you think?

Monday, June 9, 2014

39 Things I Am Thankful For

Every so often it behooves us to write down a list of the things we are thankful for. Why now? Because it is my birthday today! Why 39 things? No reason at all.

Without further adieu, here are the 39 things I am thankful for:

  1. Jesus. You didn't seriously expect a pastor to start anywhere else, do you? As you can read here on a regular basis, I readily acknowledge my insignificance without Jesus.
  2. My wife. No intelligent husband would put his wife any lower on such a list. I could give non-sarcastic reasons, but then this post becomes really long and sappy. Plus, Jennifer would wonder who actually write this. 
  3. My oldest daughter. The older the get, the more fun they get.
  4. My son. Just knowing there's a mini me to inflict on the world makes me happy.
  5. My youngest daughter. It's a little scary just how quickly she is taking on my sarcastic wit. 
  6. My home. 
  7. My vehicles.
  8. Even my scooter. I know exactly what I look like when I ride it. But when I can drive over 100 miles without filling up, I stop caring what I look like. 
  9. My job. Yeah, it's crazy, but I do enjoy 88.7% of it.
  10. My calling. Yes, it matches up with my job right now, but it's not something I take for granted. 
  11. Cheesecake. Especially the kind my wife makes for my birthday, Reese's Peanut Butter Cheesecake.
  12. Other foods. I punish myself with exercise, but don't be fooled. I love to eat!
  13. My co-workers. I don't resent going into the office, which is more than some people can say.
  14. My office. It has a lot of touch of me in there, with a Star Wars clock and Superhero action figures (not dolls).
  15. My parents. The upbringing they gave me and the discipline they instilled in me cannot be overstated. 
  16. My sisters. It's amazing how the annoying girls of my childhood have become fun to talk to. Who knew?
  17. My extended family. You have to know I have stopped putting things in order of importance at this point. 
  18. Even my wife's side of the family. If nothing else, they accept my craziness. 
  19. My church family. Again, they accept my more insane moments and normally laugh it off.
  20. My tech. I love how it makes work easier. But I do love to play with this stuff too.
  21. Wazoo. I have this friend from high school. He knows who he is. He makes the Biblical passages about friends and brothers make sense to me. 
  22. Facebook. Yeah I know all the reasons it's evil, but do any of you have a better way of keeping up with so many friends and family in such a convenient way?
  23. Mealtime conversations. You'd be surprised what comes up over a plate of tacos. 
  24. Clothing. Like Will Smith, the difference between you and me is that I make this look good. 
  25. Exercise. Not only do I need it to keep up my habit of eating, it makes me feel good. 
  26. My youth group. There's nothing like an army from the next generation, rising up.
  27. My volunteer team. Teaming other adults with children and teens is nothing short of awesome. 
  28. Music. I very much see life with a soundtrack.
  29. My guitar. Like Wayne's friend Garth, I like to play. 
  30. Basketball. Playing it. Watching it. Talking about it.
  31. Power tools. Not that I know what I'm doing with them (I'm actually sort of dangerous with them in my hands) but they are handy to have around. 
  32. My kids playing sports. Even though we run into those parents, little girls playing soccer is fun and funny to watch, like a bunch of kittens chasing a ball of yarn. 
  33. Books. There's s much to learn.  
  34. The universe. Seriously, I love thinking about how immense God's creation is, so much so that it boggles my mind.  
  35. Housework. Cleaning a toilet keeps you humble. Plus the entirety of housework gives you opportunity to teach your children teamwork. 
  36. Yard work. Not because I enjoy all....but at least you can see instant results from your hard work.  
  37. Art. Pictures,'s all beyond my ability to make, but fun to marvel at. 
  38.  Entertainment. TV, movies, blog posts, apps...whatever. Life is fun. 
  39. My list is over. You're probably mighty thankful as well.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Nobody Listens to Lyrics

When teens tell me that profane lyrics don't matter, I scoff. They say they can't understand them, since of course they neglected to see the explicit label when they purchased the song or have no reason to ever consider what these singers are talking about. Or, as one of my fave youth ministry gurus, Jonathan McKee, like to point out, teens see the absence of an explicit label and assume it must be all good. Besides, they only like the beat.

I just roll my eyes.

If lyrics don't matter, then all these thug rappers could be singing about lessons they picked up from watching Barney the purple dinosaur, right? If lyrics don't matter, then rockers could just as well be singing about good times they had while on the swing set. If the only thing that matters is the beat, then why do singers feel like a message they feel passionate about is so important to communicate?

Lyrics do matter. They tell us what the singer cares about. It reveals where their passions lie. But let's not kid ourselves. This teen generation is not alone in not paying attention to lyrics.

Let's take one song for example. Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. Does anybody know what this song is about? Does anyone care, except for the fact that it says Hallelujah about 1,000 times. Do you know how many countless church people, especially from the older generation, have sent me links of various people, including younger children, singing this song, because of how beautiful it sounds?

Would these people still advocate for someone to sing this in church if they realized it talked about sexual love? has some insightful meanings to the lyrics, which you can read if you're interested.

My purpose in mentioning the song is not to justify or condemn it. My simple point is that people, of all ages, might think differently of the song if they thought for two minutes about the lyrics.

Teens as well, if they considered the message of a song, and if they cared enough to contrast that message with their own core values, might listen for more than just the beat.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I Am Not Caring For My Lawn

I have never been a huge fan of yard work. I like it to look nice but anything beyond mowing is just not something I am going to see the need for. Lucky for me, I have a wife who sees the need. Yep....lucky. for. me.

I am so lucky, in fact, that my wife and I decided our kids should be involved in the care and maintenance of yard work. We decided this because misery loves company we believe in the power of teamwork. So while my wife would yield the larger power tools (think mower and trimmer) we'd show our kids sticks that needed to be collected or weeds to be pulled. What's going to work? Teamwork!

This past weekend I was teaching my older two kids to use the lawn mower. I dream of a day when I will sip lemonade and watch the servants, or as my wife likes to call them, the children, mow the lawn. So I showed them how to pull the string to get it started, to press on the handle to propel the motor, etc. I showed them back and forth and then handed them the mower.

What I didn't show them (because I assumed too much) was what a straight line looked like. I pointed out what looked like small green mo-hawks across our lawn and had them get most of them.

But here's the thing. As much as I am not a perfectionist about my lawn, my wife is. She wondered aloud how I could be okay with what appeared to be crop circles my son had designed in our front lawn.

I reminded us both were not actually caring for a lawn. We were training children to become capable and responsible adults. We were teaching our children the value of hard work, accomplishing more together than we could alone.

It took more time to teach them to mow than it would have to do it myself. It took more gas. It took more patience. I am a long way off from that tall drink of lemonade while my kids handle it all, but we are making progress.

Who are you training, either at home or on the job or even at your church? Who are you leading along, so they can do what right now only you can do? Especially in ministry, they say leaders should be working themselves out of a job, teaching others to do. But I believe families should have this mindset, unless of course you'd like to be driving across town (or further) to mow your kid's lawns for them.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Where Can I Get No Thinking Done?

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. ~Ecclesiastes 9:10

Maybe this will be a good way for all of us to let out our frustration today. After all, it is a Monday.

When I first read this verse, the part about no work and no thought instantly stood out to me. The second thought to hit me was that this verse makes complete sense when you consider Sheol, or Hell, is where people go who don't choose God. (It's Monday, can we keep the deep theology to a minimum today?)

The only place devoid of God would very much be lacking in wisdom and knowledge. Clearly nobody down there is thinking. And much to the chagrin of some guys in my youth group, there is no work in Hell. I say chagrin because I recently shared with them scripture that talks about us doing work in Heaven. I also say chagrin (now 3 times) because it makes me sound smart.

Solomon was correct to encourage us all to do what we do with all our might. It is especially true for those who do not know God, because this very well will be the last place they can do so, that which we were created to do.

But hold on. I said this was my second thought? So what was my first?

My first thought when I read Solomon's wisdom was how much fun it would be to fill in this blank.

No work? No thought? No wisdom? So that makes this like __________________.
Feel free to fill in the blank with whatever place you think is most devoid of thought or wisdom or work. Here's a few that I thought of:

  • my office on Fridays.
  • a preschool.
  • a college dorm.
  • board meetings.

Maybe I should stop before I get myself in trouble. How would you fill in the blank?