Thursday, December 29, 2016

This is Why Christmas Happened

Imagine being in the best place ever. Don't get hung up on it looking like other people's best place ever. Just imagine a place that you never tired of, never grew weary of being and could never imagine some place better.

Best place ever.

Now imagine the best person ever. Don't make this about a boyfriend or girlfriend. Forget the possibilities of tension. Just imagine a person that you never grew tired of, never grew weary of being around, and could never imagine someone better to hang out with.

Best person ever.

In the best place ever.

Now imagine a scenario in which I could give you something to stop hanging around with the best person ever, in the best place ever. What kind of trade would it take? What kind of deal could I make you?

Seems ridiculous, right? What could I possibly have to trade you for being in the best place with the best person? You'd have to be a fool...or at least be fooled into thinking there was something else...something more.

Maybe this sounds stupid to you. Maybe you're sitting there thinking to yourself, 'If I am content thinking I have the best possible situation, why even consider the possibility of something better? Why want for more when I'm already perfectly happy?'

Or maybe you want to at least hear me out. Perhaps the offer intrigues you. Upon hearing the trade offer, which is little more than a curtain hiding a lie, imagine what the best person ever thinks as you actually take the trade.

What would have to happen to cause you to hide from the best person ever in the best place ever?

But this is basically what happened in Genesis 3. I was reminded of this truth as my awesome wife reminded the kids of our church that the Christmas story began in Genesis, where we see the reason why Jesus had to come in the first place.

This is why Christmas happened.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Party!

It seems everyone is busy all the time these days. And then December comes and we all believe we have some superhuman ability to squeeze 25 hours worth of stuff into a 24 hour day.

Sorry, I don't know how well you math, but it doesn't work so well. As a church, we often attempt to remove some of our regular programming to afford families more time together.

So what do we do when Christmas lands on a Sunday? How do you cancel when the holiday is supposed to be about Jesus? I have seen larger churches do so, and I understand. When you depend on a large volunteer group week in and week out, giving them a break seems like the right thing to do.

We also depend on volunteers, but somehow it doesn't feel the same. So, if you look below, you'll see an invite to a Birthday Party on Christmas morning. I know you have your normal Christmas traditions. So does my family. I'm encouraging you to join us as part of your family tradition this year.



Monday, December 12, 2016

Overjoyed or Disturbed?

In Matthew 2, the Magi come to visit King Herod. They ask about the King of the Jews. We’re told King Herod is disturbed and all Jerusalem with him. He asks the chief priests and the teachers of the law for details on where the Christ was to be born.

Why are the chief priests disturbed?

Why all of Jerusalem?

King Herod being disturbed, I get. He was a king, and the mention of another king coming would naturally be seen as a threat. King Herod responds and acts throughout this story just as we should expect him to act.

But the teachers of the law? Were they not focused on the prophecies at all? Jesus came quoting the Law and the Prophets. I assumed God’s people would be about looking for the Messiah. They knew enough to tell Herod the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem.

And why didn’t they go to Bethlehem? They hear that a star has been seen, and that foreign kings are coming to see this baby born, but we have no record of them checking it out for themselves. Understand, this is before Jesus said anything offensive. This is before He focused on children and sinners and tax collectors. This is before He exposed the evil hearts of those who were supposed to be Israel’s shepherds.

I didn’t see Cubs fans waiting their entire lives for a World Series championship and then skipping out on the celebration. We’ll celebrate the next one.

Something very wrong was going on in the hearts of these teachers of the law, these followers of God, that they chose not to respond to the movement of God. Something was amiss when they heard about the coming and decided to simply not go.

The Magi continued on, found Jesus, and worshipped Him.

        The teachers of the Law decided not to go, not to seek, not to worship.

The Magi are described as being overjoyed when they found Him.

        The teachers of the law were disturbed.


Where is your heart this season? Are you seeking? If you were to accidentally stumble upon God moving in your midst, would it bring you joy? Or would it disturb you?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Oh, No, I'll Never Let Go

I came across a song that used the phrase 'God of Jacob'. I wondered why. Why that phrase to refer to God? I mean, I know Jesus referred to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But if you were to rank them, wouldn't Jacob come in a distant third? 

Let's think about this. I know Abraham wasn't perfect, but he did have that whole faith thing going on. Isaac, except for maybe missing his mom too much, was boring enough not to lose this 3-man race. 

But Jacob? Not only does his name actually mean 'deceiver', he seems to work hard to live up to the name. Yet as he gets older, we start to see a change of heart, which brings him back home. And that's when we run across this story.

That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
~Genesis 32:22-26

Never mind, for the moment, how much great God is that He takes on a form that Jacob can compete with, while still showing him who's the boss. Do you see just how focused Jacob is in going after what he wants?

I will not let you go unless you bless me.

I know who you are, God.
I know what you're capable of, God.
I want what only you can give me, God. 

You know what? Maybe I do want to sing to the God of Jacob. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hearing God in Conversation

Image result for hearing God in conversation book

The email said it was a book about hearing God. The subtitle is How to Recognize His Voice Everywhere.

How do you turn that down? I like conversations. I believe in the idea of a relationship with God being important. So if I could do that even better, I want to hear the idea.

I'll admit I was a bit skeptical when I got the book. I was afraid I would be halfway through when the weird would come out. But it didn't happen. Samuel shared his story, which involved listening for God's voice in natural ways.

He share about how meditation can work, how to study God's Word, and why we should be trusting God more than we trust ourselves. Along the way, Samuel discusses the difficulties, the roadblocks and the detours we take in a relationship with God. But through it all, he points us to what can be.

Knowing that doubters gotta doubt, Samuel even goes the extra mile, with two appendixes to answer potential arguments. All in all, I would recommend this for anyone who thinks they'd like to hear God's voice even more.

You can check out more from Samuel Williamson using the links below. I got this from my good friends at SpeakEasy. They give me books and ask that I say something about the book.

Sam Williamson's online home - Beliefs of the Heart
Beliefs of the Heart - Facebook
Beliefs of the Heart - Twitter 
Hearing God in Conversation on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Wk3qNb


#SpeakeasyHearingGod 


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Be Strong in the Lord

At our church we have a preschool. As one of the pastors, I go in about twice a month and lead a chapel time, where I share a teaching with them. In the past few years, I have found a list of verses to bring a focus for the entire year. For example, I've done the Fruit of the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 13, and one year I told them many stories of Jesus interacting with people. Each year, we work on memorizing several verses along the way.

And even though these kids are all age 2 through age 5, they can do a great job.

This year, I've decided to go through the Armor of God with them, found in Ephesians 6:10-18. I'll post them here, or at least some printable version of what I say here.

Be strong in the Lord. 

That's where we started. I came in, complete with sweatbands around my head and wrists, and told the kids I was getting swole for Jesus, because the Bible said to be strong in the Lord.

As the silliness subsided, I talked to them about depending on God for their strength. It struck me that this age group might not struggle with this teaching, since they depend on stronger people all the time to do basically everything. Those stronger people are usually family members, teachers, older siblings.

They are used to depending on others to accomplish anything, so I wasn't expecting a huge response or an altar call. Really, it's we adults who assume we can do whatever needs to be done. We have meetings, to-do lists, and if we're parents, we have people depending on our strength.

So, I shared it with the kids, but I'm sharing it here as well, because I think we all need to be reminded of where our real power to accomplish anything of worth is really to be found.

"Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power."

Here's the rest of what I said to the kids...

How do we show that we depend on God? If we are in a car and we’re going super fast, do we say we’re able to run that fast? No, we say the car can go that fast. And we just to get to go along for the ride.

If our dads lift us up and we touch the ceiling, do we say we can jump high enough to touch the ceiling? No, we say our dad is tall enough to help us reach.

The same is true of God. He gives us lots of things, like power. But God doesn’t give us that stuff so we can brag about ourselves. When we see beautiful things in the world, we don’t say that we created those things. We thank God for creating those things. So when we can do good things for someone, we know that power also comes from God.

I believe that God supplies power for all of us to good things, to accomplish all He wants us to do. And we’re going to learn all about how we can depend on His power this year in chapel.

‘Be strong in the Lord.’

Monday, September 19, 2016

73% Sounds Like A Lot

Hey Parents. I'm going to be a little blunt today. This post may sound self-serving, but there's a truth you need to hear.

I was reading Barna research today. You can see the article here.

They have done their homework and found that 73% of us Americans identify as Chistians. Woo Hoo, let's celebrate! That means 3 out of every 4 people in American are professing to follow the commands of Jesus. Never mind that most of us can turn on the evening news or look at our newspaper and readily see that 3 out of 4 people are certainly not following the commands of Jesus.

73%. That's a lot. Even if that many people were simply trying to be like Christ, we would have a pretty good thing going on.

Oh....wait a minute....

Barna doesn't stop with asking people what they profess to believe. They ask them how they are practicing their professed beliefs. So Barna defines a 'practicing Christian' as someone who identifies as a Christian and attends a church service at least once a month.

Once a month?!? The rant you are about to read is not against Barna. They have to set the standard somewhere, but can we all agree that if people who say they love Jesus are only able to drag themselves to a community meeting of Jesus-followers once every four weeks, then we are clearly not expecting much? And certainly not enough??

We, as Christian adults, are expecting children to grow up and live out the principles taught in the Bible. How are they supposed to do that when they have only been to church once a month?

By the way, when Barna factors in the once-a-month attendance, the number of practicing Christians in America drops to 31%. Does that sound a bit more like the America you know?

So parents, I don't mean to sound harsh, but kids can't drive themselves to church. They don't dictate the family calendar. But they can rise up to match our expectations. My children haven't complained about going to church in years. They know it's expected. And if you're muttering to yourself that pastor's kids would obviously have no choice, let me tell you that my good habits were instilled in me by my parents, neither of whom were pastors. (By the way, thanks Mom and Dad!)

We can't expect to train up a child in the way they should go by exposing them to training once a month.

I'm not sure I want to even know how low the percentage would get if we knew how many professing Christians were attending every week? So parents, what can you do?

1. Make church attendance, as a family, a priority. 
Lionel Richie told us this would be easy like Sunday morning. Anyone who has a kid knows that Lionel Richie wasn't talking about wrangling kids in the car to go to church. But make it a habit. You get them to school, sports, dance and a few meals every day. Just make this a priority.

2. Schedule something during the week for the kids.
 
Most likely there is a church in your area with some sort of kid's club. Get them there! They'll have fun with other kids and receive training they'll need later in life to defend their faith.

3. Talk about it at least twice a week during a meal.
I know, this means making sure you have meals together. That's another good habit. But take time to read a verse or two and discuss how it applies to your family.

Some of these things may be small things, but they will add up to big things in your family's life. And it's a pretty good percentage chance that it will all be for the better.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

What Should We Do With the Truth?

I want to remind us what Church can look like, by viewing a few different examples of the early Church in the book of Acts. Before Paul was standing before Festus, a group of people were making a name for themselves, living out their mission, sometimes in ways that look very differently than anything we would be comfortable with.

As we glimpse at these truths, it will be up to each one of us to decide what we will do. And my hope is that if we, like the crowd in Acts 2, ask 'what shall we do?', then we'll be quick to respond as well. For when Peter told that crowd they should repent and be baptized, they did, and 3,000 people were added to the Church that day.

Point 1 - We should never shy away from the Truth. Tell the Truth

In Acts 3, Peter and John are heading to a prayer service (something Rick Hurley is wishing more people would do) and they run into this guy who was totally lame. I mean, really uncool. Just kidding, the guy couldn’t walk. So Peter heals him in the name of Jesus and a crowd forms because they’re so amazed at what just happens.

For you basketball fans, you know those players who, if they have the ball, they must be open? Well Peter is like any good pastor, where, if there’s a crowd of people around, it must be time to preach. Because that’s what he does.

Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd. “People of Israel,” he said, “what is so surprising about this? And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness? For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of all our ancestors—who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this. This is the same Jesus whom you handed over and rejected before Pilate, despite Pilate’s decision to release him. You rejected this holy, righteous one and instead demanded the release of a murderer. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. And we are witnesses of this fact! ~Acts 3:12-15

Peter didn't seem too concerned with offending those who were listening. He made it abundantly clear to the crowd listening that it was their fault Jesus was crucified.

The truth, in both the personhood of Jesus and the absolute correctness of everything he taught, is the only thing of which we can be sure. We would scoff at an arrogant child who was sure 2+2=5, but when we see people distort truth in other areas of our life, all of the sudden we want to say 'to each his own'.

Tell the Truth, all the time and in all places. And I’m not discussing your desire to lie to get out of trouble. I’m talking about the fact that we live in a society and in a generation that God would describe as ‘only listening to what their itching ears want to hear’, and what they really need to hear is the truth. Not with a protest sign while we yell at them that their final destination is hell or that God doesn’t like them or any of that nonsense. They need to hear that God loves them, that some of the stuff we do is messed up, and that God has a plan for our lives.

Because if we don’t Tell the Truth, then where exactly do we expect them to hear it?

If we Tell the Truth, eventually it will get us into some trouble, as it did with Peter and John.

Point 2 - Live the Truth

Peter and John are actually arrested mid-sermon. The next day they are brought before the Sanhedrin, a religious court. They ask Peter and John what they think they’re doing. Peter sees a crowd, so he continues his sermon. He gives glory to Jesus and tells the Sanhedrin that Jesus is where salvation is found.

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. ~Acts 4:13

They recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. If only this were how we are all described. But here’s where it gets interesting. Peter and John are released, meet up with believers and pray. During the prayer, they ask this of God…

And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. ~Acts 4:29

It is interesting that the council saw boldness in Peter and John, yet the apostles left and prayed for boldness. We should display qualities only God can give us.

If we offer people wisdom that comes from men, they will find it elsewhere and be satisfied. If we offer them wisdom that can only be found from God, then we become a unique supplier of what they need.

Point 3 - We should leave people thinking twice. Respect the Truth

The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade. But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them. Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women. As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed. ~Acts 5:12-16

Imagine a church where new people were afraid to join. What would we say of such a church? Clearly, people kept joining the church in Acts. So why does Luke say this? I believe it is to show that people were taking the Church seriously. They didn't join without thought. They didn't mindlessly sign up to be a member, without considering the cost.

What is the cost of joining with believers today? How can we on the 'inside' love people yet show that this relationship is something we take serious enough to invest in?

Perhaps when people see us Tell the Truth and Live the Truth, they will believe we Respect the Truth we proclaim, and they will respect it as well. When a message is seen as credible, at least then it will be considered as a solution to the problems we see in the world.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I Was At A Loss

I got the privilege of preaching this past Sunday. This was just the intro...if you like it, I may post more of it later this week. 

Do you want to hear one of the saddest verses in all the Bible? Let me tell you a story.

Paul had been arrested for preaching Jesus and he is being tossed from one court to another as Roman judges spent their time coaxing one another's egos and skirting around justice by passing the question of what to do with Paul on to each other. In Acts 25, we find Paul standing trial before Festus, who is planning to pass him along to Caesar. Before he does, King Agrippa comes along and they discuss Paul's case. Festus admits that Paul's case has to do with religion.

17 “When his accusers came here for the trial, I didn’t delay. I called the case the very next day and ordered Paul brought in. 18 But the accusations made against him weren’t any of the crimes I expected.19 Instead, it was something about their religion and a dead man named Jesus, who Paul insists is alive. 20 I was at a loss to know how to investigate these things, so I asked him whether he would be willing to stand trial on these charges in Jerusalem. ~Acts 25

Did you catch it? "I was at a loss to know how to investigate these things."

We have this guy, who was intelligent enough to become a judge, a governor in the Roman Empire (and I'm going to leave aside all of the political jokes running through my head). Festus had judged other cases, and as history records it, he showed wisdom in governing.

But when it comes to matters of religion...he is "at a loss to know how to investigate these things."

When it comes to knowing what is true or false "about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive", he had no clue how to figure it out.

Festus had before him a guy whom we refer to as one of the greatest missionaries the world has ever known, but Festus has no idea how to proceed.

What questions should I ask? How can I verify who is making up their story? Does Paul belong in a looney bin? Are the religious leaders accusing Paul simply jealous of their waning influence over other people who acknowledged the truth of Jesus? Festus is "at a loss".

We are less than 50 years from when Jesus lived, died, and rose again. The church is exploding in growth around the Roman Empire, largely because of Paul, and one of the Roman governors doesn't know "how to investigate these things."

The man has no direction in discovering truth...or at least in accepting it when he heard it. This got me thinking. How many people does this describe in our world today?

  • How many people are as God described the Ninevites, unable to discern their right from their left? 
  • How many people are so engaged with our polytheistic culture, that to single out one truth as absolute, would be an impossibility?
  • How many people are so persuaded by lies of sin, entangled in what they must have, must keep, must use, that to consider an alternative would seem disastrous?
  • How many people are so stuck in their habits and comforts, that to investigate such matters would be very uncomfortable?

How many people can't seem to figure out the most basics of truth (am I a boy or a girl? how did God make me?)? People struggling with the basics who try to answer questions about creation, purpose, truth and absolutes, will seem to be in deeper waters than they can swim.

Is there any hope for them?

If only there were an organization that could handle such matters. Of course, it would have to be filled with people. It would need to be global. It would need people who are dedicated and committed to a cause greater than themselves. Perhaps something where they meet each week, and throughout, to encourage one another, to grow in their faith, and then to be prepared and ready to provide the answers to people's questions. 

If only such an organization existed. 

Sigh...if only.

Monday, August 29, 2016

As the Deer Strains to Get One Last Drop of Water Before it Dies


Image result for deer desperate for water

I used Psalm 42:1-2 as a call to worship yesterday, but as I said then, it wasn't the whole story. The first 2 verses might seem like a nice scripture to put on a pillow, or a painting with a deer in a forest, to simply indicate we love being with God.

But if you read the rest of Psalm 42, this is written by a guy who has felt abandoned by God and longs desperately to be in His presence.

Better than picturing a deer, peacefully roaming the forest, we might rather picture a critically wounded person reaching out for one last grasp towards life.

He recalls a time when he was happy, singing praises to God. He was with all of his people, singing, dancing and generally having a great time. Now, in verse 5, he asks his soul 'why are you so downcast?' One can almost hear the painful mock, as he knows why he is disturbed.

Unlike many who abandon any hope to be found in God, this guy reminds himself that hope is eternally to be placed in God. Though the times are tough, and God is seemingly silent, he recalls the moment when the real God felt as much, and he refuses any other solution to his problems.

I'm not accusing anyone of taking Psalm 42:1-2 out of context here. But the picture of a deer drinking at a stream does not match the tone of this song writer. An emaciated deer straining to get even a drop of water to bring some small relief to his parched mouth and throat would not look all that great hanging up in our living rooms and church lobbies. Then again, neither would accurate portrayals of the Genesis account of the flood.

Truth is begging to be told. The truth is there is no hope outside of God and we should all be desperate to meet with God every single chance we get.

'When can I go and meet with God?' If only that were a question more people were asking and eagerly seeking an answer to.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Born to Be Together

I couldn't believe it, even as it was happening. We bounced a rubber ball against a bell for an hour.

Before you scoff, I believe you've been there yourself. Maybe it was before Netflix was a thing, and there were no Olympics to watch. Perhaps you were bored beyond belief. But all of the sudden you found yourself doing something that should be simple over and over again. Add a twist, and you suddenly find yourself challenged to do something admittedly less than spectacular.

I doubt Whaley Ball will ever find its' way into the Olympics. (The game is named after the person at camp whose memorial bell we were using to play the game. Yes, we played on a memorial bell.) I also don't see myself training to get better. But on that last night at camp, teens and leaders worked together to bounce a small rubber ball against a bell.

How was this challenging? We couldn't let the ball drop to the ground. And we had to throw the ball again while the sound of the bell still rung.

Soon 15 people were unified to go completely around the circle. We spanned a few decades in age, but in that moment, age didn't matter. We were each invested and one of us wanted to be the person that kept us all from failure.

On that night, I chalked up the entertainment value to tired leaders and campers after a long week at camp. Only the craving of ice cream tore us away from this activity. Otherwise, we might still be playing.

Now that I've had time to consider it more, I think I know why we all were so invested. There was a challenge to be overcome (bounce the ball to everyone at least once without the ball being dropped). It was cooperative. It was team. It was engaging.

It was harder than it looked and our ultimate success depended on everyone doing their part.

Does that sound similar to anything you're involved in? A sports team? A business? A church? A ministry? A family? None of these are successful in isolation. For even those who compete in solo sporting events work with a trainer.

Every area of my life depends on someone else. And the success of any of it depends on Someone, who initially defined solitude as not good. (Genesis 2:18)

So look around. Who are you depending on? Who is depending on you? Perhaps it's time to lift your head up, Maybe someone around you needs encouragement. Forgiveness may need to be offered...and accepted.

Stop thinking just about yourself. We were born to be together.

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Word of Encouragement to Parents of Teens

There's something that I have never fully come to grips with in youth ministry. It's how there don't seem to be enough opportunities to eat pizza.

Just kidding.

It's parents. Sort of.... Let me explain.

When I was a teenager, I was in church whenever the doors were open. Actually, my parents were such sticklers for time management, that I was often there even when the doors were not yet opened, because we would beat the pastor there.

Eventually, my parents received keys to the church. Now, instead of simply waiting for others, we could be useful and set up chairs or tables for whatever event was about to happen. Thanks mom and dad!

Now, don't get me wrong. I wasn't rebelling against anybody and not wanting to go to church. I had friends there and I liked my youth pastor and I wanted to be there, generally speaking. But I also knew that it didn't really matter what I wanted  to do. Unless I was sick, I would be in church.

Fast forward a couple of decades and I am now the youth pastor. And as cool as all my teens obviously find me, they still find reasons to miss church activities. On occasion, I've checked in with parents to find out what's going on.

Please understand, from this point forward, any resemblance between what I am writing and any conversations I may have had with you as a parent is purely coincidental. Any names have been changed to protect the guilty and all that....

When I have asked parents what I can do to attract their teens back to youth group (or sometimes Sunday morning services) I'm often met with one of the following;


  • I told them they should go.
  • They were sleeping when I left.
  • He knows we want him to be an active part.
  • Is that something you do every Sunday?
If you're still reading and not feeling judged, let me offer a couple pieces of advice wisdom encouragement.

1. They still need you to parent.

Imagine any response you would have for your teen not being in church. Now imagine using that reason when they were a baby. Or a 5-year old. It wouldn't happen. 

We don't leave decisions like this to little children because it's not their role. If it were, my wife and I, even in ministry, might not have had our kids with us ever in church. 

Every parenting book teaches that kids need boundaries. When our kids were young, we kept regular meal times, precise bedtimes, and had rituals for almost every part of every day. As they got older, we became a bit less rigid, but we are still filled with routines. 

2. Your role as parent comes with an expectation.

It's not an expectation from your teens. It's not the comparison game from other parents and it's not even the perceptions of any youth pastor. 

It's an expectation from God. 

18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. ~Deuteronomy 11:18-21
If you believe in God and have a relationship with Him that means anything at all to you, then pass along the importance to your children.

Because it's important.
Because it's commanded.
Because it comes with a promise.

Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it. ~Proverbs 22:6

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Atonement of God



The Atonement of God; Building Your Theology on a Crucivision of God is the latest book I have read. Written by J.D. Myers, it is about a new way to view the crucifixion of Christ, which Myers argues is actually a very old way to view things.

Starting out by arguing why the Penal Substitution theory is incomplete, Myers presents to us the Nonviolent view of atonement. For the sake of space here, I will drastically over simplify things this way; the nonviolent view of atonement says that God did not will Jesus to the cross, but we humans did. God then used the sacrifice to defeat sin and death, but apparently this was not necessary for forgiveness, since God had already given us that.

The theory is needed, of course, to help us make sense of a God who is love but also demands justice. At least, this is what J.D. Myers argues.  The book is set up with alternative views of the atonement, with some discussions, some very important discussions, left out, ostensibly for other books to be written at later times.

Some of his arguments seem to be summed up as 'I like this theory over that interpretation, so it must be correct.'

In discussing the wrath of God, a problematic notion to the nonviolent view of the atonement, he theorizes Paul using a technique of writing that uses a second voice in the writing for Paul to argue against. While Paul does indeed use this technique in some very obvious ways; for instance, when he says things like, 'some could say' or 'it has been said', J.D. Myers seems to lump any difficult verse into the mouth of the fictional person Paul is arguing against.

It is a dangerous game, especially when discussing foundational truths in scripture, to argue that all the difficult verses for us to understand are simply straw men to be knocked down.

I would have preferred, in a book discussing scripture, to see more verses printed out and parsed, than to simply have verses listed as backing up the authors theories.

Much liberty is taken in coming up with what certain Biblical stories meant and what verses actually mean. When all of those liberties grate against traditional views of the Bible, as well as a plain reading of scripture, I start to grow very concerned about what I am reading. This, of course, is not a bad thing in itself, as we should always be thoughtful Christians, knowing what we believe and why we believe it.

This book does get one very big truth correct. What we believe will impact how we live.

I was given this book by my friends at SpeakEasy. They give me books and ask that I review. If you like to see more information about this book, check out the links below.

Book site: RedeemingGod.com
Reviews and Excerpts from The Atonement of God
The Atonement of God on Facebook
Jeremy Myers on Twitter
The Atonement of God on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1ThcG43


#SpeakeasyTheAtonementofGod

Monday, August 8, 2016

Is That a 3-Point Sermon My Kids Hear?

I turned 40 over a year ago. I'll give you a moment to process that. I know you're not supposed to ask a youth pastor how old he is, but I offered.

Why is that significant? Except for the increasing pain in my knees, it's not. Really. I think I handled turning 40 better than I did turning 30. Don't ask me why. The best I can venture is that by the time I reached 40, I understood I was viewed as older by the teens I work with and I simply stopped caring what other people thought.

I feel good. Honestly. The worst part is increasing the exercise to compensate for the amount of cookies I eat. One might wonder why I don't just eat less cookies, but I don't really have time for people who ask questions like that.

Here is what has changed. I now have 2 of my own children who are part of my youth ministry. So when other teens look at me and marvel that I'm old enough to be their dad, they're not wrong. In fact, I'm older than some of their parents.

One might assume that when you double as parent and youth pastor, your teenage kids must love you, help you invent new games and your sides all hurt from all the laughter that is had.

You might also assume that having family devotions are automatic and easy. But you would be assuming way too much.

Do you know those teachable moments that all the great parenting advice authors have told you to look for with your kids? I do. I've even encouraged other parents to take advantage of those moments, only to have those parents come back and tell me their kids saw it as a lecture. They have assumed my family would be different.

It's not. My kids don't refer to those teachable moments as lectures, however. They refer to them as sermons. Pastor's got to preach! I get the same eye rolls, the same long sighs and the same exasperated and held out 'Daaaaad!'

Sermons or lectures. I'm sure my kids find themselves humorous when referring to my shared wisdom as sermons when collectively whining with their friends. And that's fine.

But what is a parent to do?

1. Look for the teachable moments anyway.

That's right. Do it anyway. Bore them if you have to, but don't let the moments pass by when your child can learn something from you. You didn't let them run with knives (or in traffic) when they were younger, despite how much they tried to buck the system.

You kept regular bedtimes and forced them to go to school and (hopefully) church and made them eat their vegetables. They very likely whined about all of it at some point. So why did you do it? Because you're a parent. And God has tasked parents with passing on wisdom from one generation to the next.

So, don't stop now. I'm not saying you should prepare a 3-point sermon teachable moment every single day, but don't let the moments pass you by when you can share truth.

2. Don't assume the eye rolls mean they aren't listening.

The eye rolls, the sighs, the crossed arms...it's all part of their job, since, as teenagers, they clearly know better than you. Hopefully you understand sarcasm.

I'm not saying you should simply accept disrespectful attitudes, but don't let their mannerisms keep you from fulfilling your role. Assume they are listening and be pleasantly surprised when they reflect that is something they say, or in a correct action they live out.

Besides, as I tell my kids all the time; we do the right thing for the right reason. Parenting is our role. Pretending to be above it all is theirs.

I'd offer a third point, but I wouldn't want you to think of this as a sermon.

Monday, August 1, 2016

My Drivel

Hey Rick, remember when you used to post more than just book reviews to your blog?

Ummm....yeah?

So, what about that? Are you ever going to do that again?

What?

Are you ever going to blog an original thought again, or are you simply going to review other people's thoughts for us?

When you put it like that, it sounds kind of harsh.

It's the voices in your head, so you should be used to that by now.

Good point.

So, stop avoiding the question. Are we ever going to see you blog regularly again?

This question leaves so much room for disappointment. In my head, there are 3 groups out there.

  1. Those who fear I'll say no and be faced with a blogosphere without my drivel.
  2. Those who are scared I'll say yes and be faced with reading more of my drivel. 
  3. Those who wonder if a 'yes' from me is only temporary.
So I am going to answer with a maybe. I intend to. I have some more thoughts to inflict on share with the world. But if you're looking for a daily thought, I'll tell you as I tell my kids all summer. I have this thing called a full time job

I usually say that when I've come home for lunch and am ready to go back when one of them, usually still with bed head, asks where I'm going. 

So be on the lookout for some new thoughts. But don't expect that I've become any more significant than the last time I was regularly blogging. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Bride(zilla) of Christ



Have you ever heard someone say, "I really like Jesus. It's His bride I can't stand?"

Yeah, I used to laugh at that. Because it's ironic, right? Loving Jesus, yet disliking the people He has called us to love, which, by the way, includes you.

Then someone asked me to consider saying that to any other man on the planet. Go ahead. Walk up to any guy, tell him how much you like him, then tell him you can't stand his bride. Better yet, try doing this on someone's wedding day.

I can't imagine it goes over well. I also can't imagine any scenario where Jesus simply shrugs off the comment and laughs.

So when I saw the title of this book by Ted Kluck and Ronnie Martin, I was hooked fast. The subtitle helped; What To Do When God's People Hurt God's People.

Like anyone else who has been a part of a church for longer than 18 verses of I Surrender All, I have seen God's people hurt God's people. Ted and Ronnie have been a part of the church for a long time and write about their experiences and what they have learned.

But if you come looking for a juicy tell-all, just keep looking. They share from their own personal stories, but this is not National Enquirer. They leave the sordid details out and paint with a broad stroke.

Why? Because hearing more bad examples of church people isn't helping anyone. You can confirm that in the comments section of almost any page on the internet. What Ted and Ronnie offer is a series of reminders that will help us as we attempt to remain focused on what brought us all together in the first place.

Here is one of my favorite reminders;

Church is messy.
I wish I didn't have to say it that way, but since most of us default into believing church shouldn't be messy and then are shocked when it is, I feel the most appropriate thing to do is call it what it is and discuss how God desires us to live out our call in it.

I'd recommend this book for anyone needing such a reminder.


I did receive this book from my good friends at Blogging for Books. They give me books and ask that I review them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Parenting Without Regret



Have you ever felt like you were falling short of all your parenting goals? Ever recalled all your statements of what kind of a parent you'd be before you had kids, and then realized you were striking out on all of them? Ever looked around at other parents and wondered what kind of voodoo magic they were using to create such normal human beings who contributed to society?

Are you a parent? If your answer is yes to this last question, then it has, in your most honest moments, been yes to all the previous questions as well.

Parenting Without Regret: Raising Kids with Purpose, Not Perfection is a book by Jimmy and Laura Seibert, which may or may not help. I know, I know, that doesn't sound like a glowing endorsement of a book. But hear me out.

I liked this book. I think you should read this book. If other books read more like practical how-to's, then this was more like a book on theory, which is very important. We all need parenting hacks, but we also need to stop and consider what our habits and outlook on life are producing in the next generation.

Jimmy and Laura take turns telling us about successes and failures from their own experiences, letting us inside all of their own doubts, and who hasn't had those? Yet they talk about the downsides of parenting with as much openness as the victories they have had. One can get the sense that you're gleaning wisdom from parenting experts who would never consider judging you, because they've been there.

They take you on their journey all the way from finding your purpose to helping your children find theirs, defining moments along the way and everything in between. It's a simple read with some hard truth, both reasons you should add this to your stack.

I received this book from my good friends at Speak Easy. They ask me to provide a review but don't tell me what to say.

Book site: parentingwithoutregret.info

Interview with Jimmy and Laura Seibert on Parenting without Regret

Parenting without Regret on Amazon

#SpeakeasyParentingNoRegrets

Thursday, June 16, 2016

52 Ways to Connect With Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid



Yes, please!

That's the answer to the question of whether every parent should have this book in your hands. It also answers the following questions;


  • Can any and every parent put this book into practice?
  • Will this book give me a renewed focus and energy into my parenting?
  • Will this book give me a few ideas for asking questions? (How about hundreds!)
Jonathan McKee has offered up a tool with parents, teens, and all of our busy schedules in mind. Each chapter is concise, full of stories, ideas and lots of good discussion starters. 

I'm not exactly sure how he does it, but somehow McKee manages to show his expertise and experience while still making the reader feel like he is just one of us. I'm sure he would say that he IS just one of us. 

By sharing his successes and his failures, he opens up the possibilities of what could be happening between parents and their teens. Giving us each hope that today's drama doesn't have to be tomorrow's certainty. 

I could see this book being useful for parents to read together, even just reading a chapter a week and then implementing the idea. Or a small group of parents would be able to use this as a useful encyclopedia of ideas, even adding their own. 

I would encourage every family to be reading this book, no matter if your family resembles the Bradys or the Kardashians. There is something here for everyone!

You can find the book right here!

Monday, May 16, 2016

College Rules!



College Rules! That's why I am going back!

Ok, not really....at least, not anytime soon...that I know of...

But College Rules is the latest book I've been reading. It's called College Rules!: How to study, survive, and succeed in college. Here's part of what it says on the back;

College can be the most exciting time in your life, but it also throws you into the deep end, with new academic and social responsibilities often seeming impossible to juggle. 

Honestly, I requested the book because of the college ministry I lead. I thought it might be a great book to pass along. I was right. This book, by Sherrie Nist-Olejnik and Jodi Patrick Holschuh, both PhD's, is packed with all sorts of great stuff.

Since both authors are college profs, they have seen many a student succeed, and many a student fail, in college. This fourth edition offers all the advice on what to expect, how to choose a major, how to study, handle stress, manage your time and money, and even an early chapter on dealing with professors.

They have written this for high school students about to enter college. But they realize it might be stressed out college students who turn to this book after they're already in trouble, so they have a lot of cool features, knowing most students won't read a book from front to back.

They offer true stories of sad students from yesteryear, insider secrets from profs and graduating seniors. They offer tips and tricks for forming good habits and using the latest tech. They acknowledge the non-traditional students who may be returning to school, complete with real-world problems and families.

And for those who really like to skim, they offer some really concise notes at the end of each chapter, detailing what you just missed by skipping pages. Nobody has time for everything, and shouldn't college be teaching us to prioritize?

If nothing else, this would be a good book to have on hand for college students, so they're not getting all their ideas from social media.

I received this book from my good friends at Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing. They give me books and I offer a review.

Monday, April 25, 2016

It's Not Going To Come To That

It's not going to come to that.

That's what I told myself. I would turn out to be incorrect.

I have been wrong plenty of times in my life, but in this particular instance, I was travelling south on I-65 with my family. We left northern Indiana for the middle of Tennessee, telling ourselves we would stop when we were a) close to Murfreesboro and b) tired of driving for the day.

Having run into several traffic jams and being reasonably close to fulfilling both a and b of our requirements, my wife started to search for hotels on her phone. Her search turned into despair quickly as we realized that apparently everyone in the Midwest decided to travel south in I-65 on the same day. A few phone calls revealed there were no vacancies within 50 miles of where we were.

At this point, we had reached Murfreesboro. I went into the last few hotels around, only to be told, "Sorry, we have no more room in the inn." It was like being told, "Welcome to your new life as a travelling hobo." The deep and anxious thought, the one I told myself would not come to reality, was about to become our reality.

My family slept in our van. We found a truck stop designed for this kind of thing, found a parking spot and, chuckling to ourselves, renamed our van the Red Van Inn.

Given the fact that sleeping in the driver's seat does not offer great comfort, I had plenty of time to think about what had caused this turn of events. Sure, it was our choice not to book ahead on a planned stop. I can own that. But hours before, I had prayed for God to take care of us. Did I now think God hadn't answered my prayer?

Interestingly enough, I have been finishing a book called Astonished: Recapturing the Wonder, Awe and Mystery of Life With God by Mike Erre. When discussing Jesus' words encouraging us to be like the birds of the air and the grass of the field when it comes to worrying about God taking care of us, he wrote;

Many have succumbed to the lie that if we follow Jesus, everything will be okay; and we define okay as comfort, security, and safety. Obviously that is not the biblical testimony. What do we do when we follow Him and it doesn't work out the way we planned? Where else are we going to go?

Clearly this applies to matters of greater concern than where I sleep for one night. Mike then reminds us those birds Jesus talked about would often be used in sacrifice. And the grass? It's "here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire" (Matthew 6:30).

I don't think the point is about the security of birds and flowers. The point is the carefree-ness of the birds and flowers. They don't worry about being taken care of. They live fully because they don't fret about their dying.

Half sleeping in my van that night, the truth was that I still had plenty for which to be thankful to God. He may not have answered my prayer in the way I would have preferred, but God did not stop caring for my family that night. Aside from remembering to book hotels ahead of time, I am left wondering what else God may have wanted to teach me from this experience. I know that I want to stay fervently alert and pay attention to all God has for me.

One last quote from Mike Erre's book, though not his, leaves this desire firmly planted in my heart.

Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe in the God idea, not God himself. ~Miguel de Unamuno


Monday, April 18, 2016

God vs BAE

If someone were to make a realistic movie based on the book of Judges, no responsible parent would let their teens see it.

That's how I started my discussion with my youth group last night. We looked at the life of Samson, a guy with such anger issues, he makes the Incredible Hulk seem rather friendly and docile by comparison,

And let me just say how much fun it can be to introduce teens who clearly only think they know the Bible stories. Just telling the story of Samson left so many shocked looks on their faces, and his story is only 4 chapters long. Judges 13-16 if you want to read it yourself.

I told the teens over and over again how we all have to make a choice. God vs BAE. For those of you wondering what BAE means, it's slang for before anyone else. We're discussing how each of us has to make a choice to put God before everyone, including the crush and the guy and the date and, yes, even the spouse.

BAE gives you a narrow focus where you only have energy for BAE.
God gives you a broader focus where you can properly love all people.

So we examined the life of Samson, a man chosen by God. Sadly, Samson chose to focus on BAE for most of his life, even if it mostly meant avenging his imagined slights.

Here were the application points I gave them;


  1. If BAE keeps you from coming to church/youth group/etc, BAE has become an idol.
  2. If BAE narrows your focus so you don't think about anyone or anthing else, BAE has become an idol.
  3. If BAE wants you to have sex or do anything that you wouldn't normally do in front of your parents or youth pastor, BAE has become a sin. 
  4. If you lose your BAE and you slaughter whole towns of people, then you have probably learned the wrong things from the life of Samson. And BAE has become an idol. 
Don't choose BAE over God. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Hey Nashville, Who Is Your Neighbor?

Jesus tells this story of a guy who gets beat up along the road to Jerusalem. Maybe you have heard the story. In case you haven't ever heard the story, here it is in a nutshell.  guy gets beat up and left for dead. Then, as Jesus tells it, 3 people pass along this road. Two of them claimed to be followers of God, leaders even, and they saw him and just kept walking. The third guy, a Samaritan, came along and helped the man. 

Maybe you know the point Jesus is trying to make. I have heard, and even taught, many lessons distinguishing those who think they are religious from those who actually practice loving their neighbor. 

But do you know what led to the guy getting beat up? What if the guy who got beat up made a poor choice that led to his downfall? Does that change how we see the situation? Do we at least understand how otherwise religious people might do nothing?

See, it started out with my van getting towed, while I was in a restaurant, in another city, in another state. Nashville, Tennessee, I'm looking at you. Actually, it started out with my not seeing the sign that said my van would get towed if I parked where I did. But if you're going to judge me for that, there's probably better blogs for you to read out there.

So my family is now without a vehicle in a place that is not home. We are clearly in need of help. The robbers...er, the company that towed my van, were clearly not going to be of any help. They don't care how I get to their place to pay a high fine and get my van back.  

Finding the place on my phone, we discover the place looks to be within walking distance. For all of you biting your nails, I will tell you now...it wasn't. But we started walking. In a strange city. With no signs of help.

We walked about a mile and a half before realizing some of the path was going to take us along highways. You know, the kind with lots of speeding cars. So we walked to a gas station where we saw a bus, with nobody on it. When I explained my situation to the driver, he explained that he could not transport non-government workers. If we're connecting stories here, he was the Levite who saw the beat up man and decided to cross to the other side of the road.

Then I looked up the bus company. When telling them where I was, they told me there was a bus stop right across the street. There was only a vacant lot. But because they were looking at a map, they must have been correct. Then there were the taxi cab companies that don't answer their phones. Yes, multiple companies.  

With time running out and options being few, I led my family along a part of the highway that no father would consider, had we not been desperate for solutions. We actually had a guy pass us by and yell at me to get my kids off the highway, as if that is the place I wanted to be with my kids. 

Keep in mind, the guy who got beat up in the story Jesus told didn't choose to get beat up. He needed a neighbor. Who is your neighbor?

I did make one obvious bad choice. Walking along a major highway. Again, you can judge me if you want, but you might be missing my point. We see people make bad choices all the time. Oftentimes we can even properly label it sin. But what caused the person to make that choice? I was walking along a major highway, because I felt like all my other reasonable options had been exhausted. 

As Christians, we can only yell at people to stop making bad choices for so long before we become part of a system that leaves them feeling stuck in their bad choices.  

So now I found my family in a grassy area, stuck near the on ramp of a major highway. I actually dialed 911, because who else was going to help me at this point. The officer gave me a non-emergency number to call, which, of course, didn't work.

So, who was my neighbor? It was Michael Hall, this singer in the band Levon the Music who happened along in his conversion van. I can only imagine how the beat up man in Jesus' story felt. I have wondered what he thought, knowing a Samaritan had paid for his expenses while he was unable to help himself. I don't imagine they ever ran into each other again. 

I may never run into the band Levon the Music again. I'm not much of a country fan, though I did look them up and found a trio with some pretty sweet harmonies. (You should check them out as well!) But he was a neighbor when I needed one most desperately. 

Is there someone out there you can help? You may not ever know what led them to were they are, but does that stop them from being your neighbor?

Monday, April 4, 2016

A Man Named Man

Acts 13 lists a guy by the name of Manaen and we are told he was a childhood friend of a Herod who would be King. Manaen is listed in Acts 13 among the prophets and teachers of the church in Antioch. If these two facts combined don’t raise some eyebrows, then maybe you’re not familiar with the name Herod.

From the Bible, we’re not given anything more about the life of Manaen. He was a leader in church and he used to play tag with Herod, who was decidedly not a leader of the church.

Can you imagine the background of Manaen? Did he go over to play at Herod’s house? What was that like? What did he overhear? Did he know about some baby Messiah? Were there rumors?

What did this guy grow up believing about the world? About Judaism? About John the Baptist? About Jesus?

Using other ancient texts, some believe Manaen’s family and Herod’s family had been connected for a few generations. Manaen was likely educated by private tutors along with Herod and his brother. What brought him around to become a believer in the book of Acts? Now he’s a leader of the Church?

I’ll likely not hear the many details of this man’s story until Heaven. What we do know is Manaen had a story that somehow led him from childhood friend of Herod to follower of Jesus.

Have you ever considered how much we don’t know about one another? Ever wonder about the highs and lows of each person…each week? Are the smiles pasted on for a Sunday show? What are the current struggles and pain for those with whom we share a pew?

Better yet, what are the past stories? How often have you wondered about how each person came to know Jesus? Were they born into a Christian family? Or were they born into a family that never even considered church?

If we’re not paying attention, Manaen is little more than a weird name tucked away in the New Testament. He may not have been significant enough to have his story in print. Yet he was a guy, with a family, a job, hobbies and a passion for Jesus. His life did have significance. He did impact people around him, even if we don’t get to know their stories either.

How differently would we act towards one another when we gathered if we thought more about this? I sometimes imagine Heaven lasts forever because it will be an eternal party with each of us sharing stories that all begin with, ‘Let me tell you how I came to know about Jesus.’ 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Yesterday Was Not Leap Day

Here is the advice I gave to my wife yesterday morning.  

Happy Leap Day wife! Yes, I often call her wife. It's February 29. This only happens once every 4 years. So take advantage of it. Live it to the full. It's a gift from God. 

But if you feel like you need to correct somebody who comes to you expecting a little too much from Leap Day, then feel free to remind them that today is not actually an extra day. That's right! Today is not Leap Day!

How can you say that, Rick? It's Leap Day. This day only comes along once every four years. 

Assuming we are all going to survive this year, and yes I realize that's an assumption, today is not the extra day. For all of us living this day, we would have lived this day even in a non-leap year. We simply would have called it March 1. 

If every year has 365 days, then the extra day we are given this year will be the 366th day. That would be December 31. So the extra gift is not coming our way for another 10 months. 

Does that deflate your balloon a bit today? Here is why it shouldn't. 

The simple fact is that every day is a gift. No one is guaranteed to make it to December 31. No one should wait 10 months to celebrate life. 

Today is still Gods gift, whether it was given a special label or not. The calendar may not often read February 29, so live it to the full. But do the same tomorrow, because there will not be another March 1, 2016. So live tomorrow to your fullest potential as well. 

Oh, and the next day.

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Nerve of Some People

Have you ever come across someone who was really bold, but not necessarily in the good way? It's the person you agreed to give a ride to, and along the way they ask you if they can make a second stop. It's someone asking for money and then you watch them spend it on something they didn't need. It could be the child who comes to the dinner table and announces why they don't like what you cooked. Maybe it is the people who refuse to help, yet criticize the work being done.

The nerve of some people, right?

It's the guy being crucified next to God. This guy being crucified for being a thief. Yeah, the guy who, according to Roman rule, deserved to be there. We're given no indication that this guy, this thief, had anyone there who was about to miss him. That guy. He turns to Jesus and asks if he can get into Heaven. 

Do you believe that?

The only thing more incredible than his request is the answer he receives from Jesus. 

Yes. Yes? 

Are you kidding me? I feel bad asking God for a day without any garbage. That request comes from me when I feel like I'm in some sort of place to ask it. You know, like after I've attended church, read my Bible and said something encouraging to someone. (Don't even get me started on how messed up that kind of thinking is.)

This guy on the cross next to Jesus has some boldness. If I was the kind of guy who had some sponsors, this might be a perfect place for some product placement, maybe a chip company who believes they offer bold flavor. But I digress. This request takes guts.

What makes the request even more unbelievable is that this guy on the cross understands his predicament. He is just finishing his reprimand of the third guy on the cross, someone who clearly didn't believe Jesus had what it took to answer any questions, much less requests about the after life. This is what he says;

'We're up here because we belong here. But Jesus did nothing wrong. Hey Jesus! I just got an idea. Could I come with you into Heaven?'

Seriously? Bold. You can almost imagine Jesus looking over at the guy and responding with, "Are you serious? I'm dying over here." But, of course, He doesn't. Because He's Jesus. The thief asks a bold question and Jesus gives a bold answer. 'I tell you the truth. Today you will be with me in paradise.'

Incredible.

The nerve of asking this question, at that moment, almost feels like a sin. Perhaps the greater sin is that I, in all my understanding of a God of grace, choose not to make such bold requests. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Love is Not Rude

About once a month I go into our preschool and teach a lesson to a group of 2-5 year olds. There are about 60 of them, so question and answer time can be pretty fun. This year I am taking them through 1 Corinthians 13 and we're learning about love.

Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not brag or boast.                          ~1 Corinthians 13

The next part of the verse we’re learning is ‘love is not rude.’

I asked them what it meant to be rude. One kid said when you blow someone up with a tank. Yes, I suppose that would qualify as rude. 

Another way to say it would be that love does not dishonor. This means that we should treat people with respect and show them, by what we say and do, that we value them.

I asked a volunteer to squeeze a tube of toothpaste for me until the tube was empty. I picked a sweet young girl, who squeezed until the tube was empty. Then I said, "Now I need you to put all the toothpaste back in." And I just looked at her, as if waiting for her to try.  

She looked back at me as if I was the biggest idiot in the room. Who knows; it could be true. When she spoke the obvious and said it couldn't e put back in, another kid offered that we could use duct tape. Someone's been working with their dad.

I acknowledged that the tube of toothpaste could not be reused and the toothpaste would not go back in. Then I explained;

It’s too late, isn’t it? This is just like when we are rude to someone. When we say something that isn’t kind, we can’t put those words back in our mouths. Even when we apologize, people will still remember that we said it.

I think Jesus wants us to show we love people by being careful about what we say, so we’re not rude or mean to people.

Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not brag or boast. It is not rude.    ~1 Corinthians 13



Prayer

Monday, February 8, 2016

What's The Cost?

This is what I shared with my youth group just before the halftime spectacle of Super Bowl 50.

Coldplay and friends will have 11 minutes to perform. Does that sound ridiculously short to you? It does to me. We have this big game that everyone wants to be a part of. The NFL teams work all year to make it to this point. Broadcasters and analysts desire to be a part of this game. Companies pay millions of dollars to show a 30 second commercial at this event. People plan ahead to be a part of a party to watch it all. And bands are honored to be selected as the half-time show.

11 minutes.

That’s all the time they have. No wonder too, because there are commercials to show, game analysis to talk about, interviews to be done, field prep and stage set-up….and don’t forget about that game needing to be played.

The planners of this game squeeze it all in because they want to grab our attention. The companies want us to notice and purchase their product. The band wants us to like and purchase their music. The analysts want us to esteem their opinion…to buy in to what they say. The NFL wants us to like their product (football) and purchase all that comes with it (clothing, tickets, accessories, etc.)

So they squeeze all they can into one unforgettable night. But don’t forget there is a God who is also vying for your attention. The NFL wants you to buy their stuff. But God wants you to know the purchase has already been made.

The Bible declares that “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy the show. Let’s just remember there are two forces at work here. One wants us to buy in. The other has already bought us. One paid with dollars and production time. But God paid with His only Son.

Monday, January 25, 2016

This is Why Most Resolutions Should Fail

Much is said about the rush of the Christmas season. Do we even take time to slow down and remember why we asked for new tech from our wife? Or why we gave out gift cards when we didn't know what else to get our friends?

What I think gets missed is that the New Year comes in with as much noise as all the Christmas songs ever could. Even if we had slowed down to read again about God become a man, the hectic pace picks up exactly where it left off once the calendar year turns over.

And why not? The work our boss was kind enough to let slip in the last week of December will now require our full attention the first week of January.

And those resolutions aren't going to write themselves. While I have no problem with people challenging themselves to new things this year, I wonder if we should start by resolving to know why we're resolving.

My fear is that the new diet, the new exercise habit, the new reading goal, the scary business opportunity, the money saving idea....along with a myriad of other potential ideas out there, might all have one common goal.

To get us noticed.

That's right, I wrote it! While all the resolutions could have good and sound reasons behind them, many of us might settle to just be seen bettering ourselves. As if we could improve on what the Creator created.

I'm not going to tell you I'm resolving to not do anything. I have goals. I have dreams. But I am making it my goal to not set any goal without knowing why I am setting the goal.

It's a big world out there. It's ok to feel small. It's ok to be small.

As February looms, seeing most of us needing to make new resolutions, after our New Year's resolutions were scrapped, don't let that knowledge get you down. God made you. He loves you. I believe He has a plan for your life. But don't ever get confused into thinking that it requires 15 minutes of fame, or even the notice of anyone besides your Heavenly Father.

Friday, January 1, 2016

You Don't Want To Be Left Out

As we were driving along one day, I told my teenage daughter that the decisions she made today would have an impact for years to come. Specifically, the choices she made now to work hard on her classes and her grades would have a direct impact come time for high school graduation.

Nobody thinks about what the valedictorian is doing on an average Friday night in October their sophomore year. In fact, nobody wants to think about the hours of research and study that it takes to earn high grades. But when it comes time for the awards and recognition, then everyone wants a piece of the action.

I told her to consider now how she wanted to feel later on.

Life works in a similar fashion. There will be some rewards handed out for all eternity. Nobody wants to think right now about the work, the self-control, the earnest longing it takes to be a committed disciple of Jesus.

But some day....