Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Feeling Tense

Our lives are filled with tension and not just the angry, "I didn't get my way so I'm going to take my ball and go home" kind of tension either. It's a conflict that we have due to the gaps in lives. It's a realization that there is a distance between the reality of our relationships, expectations, finances and spirituality and where they could, would or should be.

It's the gap between where we are right now and where we thought we would be. A distance between the needs of your spouse and what you are providing to meet them. A chasm in the expectations of your boss and what you feel you are capable of doing. A gap in where your finances are currently and the anxiety you feel in trying to make it better. Tension you try to manage as the parent you want to be so that your children will grow into all that God has planned for them. The space between where your career is right now and what you dreamed it would be.

At the core of all of this conflict is the tension within our spirit. This is the pull that we feel from the Holy Spirit and the distance that we can see (if our eyes are opened) from who we are and who God truly wants us to be.

Managing all this tension in our life can be exhausting.

If we would focus on the one gap that matters most-allowing our spirit to be transformed by the Holy Spirit on a daily basis-I would wager that the other tensions in life would start to fall in line at the same time.

Monday, March 21, 2011


I am reading in Leviticus this morning and God is explaining through Moses the different sacrifices and how to perform them the right way. In Chapter 10, Moses says to Aaron in verses 10-11, "You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses."

It was the responsibility of the priest to make this determination in his own life and then to communicate that to the rest of the people. With the gift of the Holy Spirit through baptism in the New Testament, we are all now charged with the same duties as priests for the King. We are to push away from what is common and unclean and instead live a life that is marked by uncommon holiness. It is a spiritual separation from the world by the power of the Holy Spirit within us, and a physical separation in attitude, thoughts, words and actions that reveals to the rest of the world who our true Master is. It then falls on all believers to teach that truth from God as it is revealed by our earnest searching for what is right.

Don't settle for commonplace. That isn't the lifestyle that Christ paid the price for us to have.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Take Action

We pray frequently asking God to do big things in our lives. We want Him to heal our marriages, strengthen our relationships, fix our children, make our finances better, increase our faith and reveal His will for our lives. There is nothing wrong with asking God for these things. In fact, He tells us that that He wants to bless His children and reveal His great glory through His love for all of us. Psalm 37:4 tells us that if we will delight in Him that He will give us the desires of our hearts.

I think the step that we often miss in seeing God's answer to our prayers is the step of obedience. We need to realize that God is the only one that can provide the solutions to our dilemmas, but we also need to be ready to take action. If you are asking God to protect your child and set them on the right path for their life, you need to be investing in them and speaking those truths to them as you pray. If you want God to heal your marriage then you need to be communicating with your spouse and talking about God's plan for you both. When you seek God's help in your finances, you need to set a budget and be faithfully tithing. If you want people to know who Christ is, you have to be willing to share that truth with them.

God can certainly work in spite of us (He does it all the time), but it is when we act in alignment with what we are asking from Him that He provides His greatest answers and we see our faith increase the most.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Soulprint by Mark Batterson

I have been a Mark Batterson fan since I first read In a Pit with a Lion on a Snow Day, and was excited to read his new book, Soulprint. I was certainly not disappointed in his latest work and gladly recommend it to fans and first-time readers alike. It was a challenging and yet encouraging book that has given me a renewed perspective on who I am and what God is doing in me and through my own life.

The basic premise of his book is that we all have a specific uniqueness that has been given to us by God and it is a combination of our gifts and talents, our experiences and our character. All of this is specifically designed by God and is intended to draw us close to Him and allow us to fully utilize who we are in His great plan. We are all a work in progress and we can be shaped through all of our experiences to discover our true identity and destiny. Batterson explains that God already has this design and is working for our benefit as Christ-followers to reach that end saying, "So while you live your life forward, God works backward."

Batterson uses the Biblical example of the life of David and how God used his weaknesses as well as strengths to strategically position him for spiritual growth. He shares how God was able to redeem David's mistakes and develop his character through his mistakes and still have him leave this earth as a man after God's own heart. It is an encouragement to me to see how God worked so clearly in the life of David and know that He has that same passion for me.

I would highly recommend this book for church and ministry leaders as well as anyone who wants to focus on developing into the unique and Spirit-led Christ followers we were created to be.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Intimate Greetings

We have different levels of intimacy with people that we know. There are some that we would wave to if we saw them across the room. There are others that we would see and work our way to them to embrace them.

Our relationship with God isn't so different from that. There are times when we see Him from a distance and give Him a wave or a wink and a nod. We are comfortable knowing Him, but don't want Him to get to close to us out of fear, apathy or selfishness. There are other times when we would run across the room to see Him and grab Him in a big bear hug that might make other people around us uncomfortable.

What is the difference between these two scenarios? It can't be God-He doesn't change. The shift then is in us. It is in our character-our willingness to be righteous people through His Holy Spirit. Andy Stanley put it this way in his book, Louder Than Words, "...character paves the way to intimacy with God."

It makes me give thought to how I would greet God if I saw Him from across the room today.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Average Prayer

If Bill Gates would tell you that he is going to share his resources and help your family, you probably wouldn't waste an opportunity by asking him to fix you a sandwich or buy you a gallon of milk. That would just be stupid.

Why is it that we limit our prayers and petitions to God in the same way then? Is it that we have forgotten who we are praying to? Has our faith in His ability to answer gotten so small that we simply ask Him to heal someone's toe or get us out of situations that are a result of our own decisions? We have stopped praying prayers that are worthy of the God that we are praying to. No wonder then that the answers He provides seem small-they match the faith that we are praying with.

We need to be reminded that God is the Creator of the universe and that He wants to provide big answers to bold prayers. Not only because He wants to bless His children, but so that the world might know who He is.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


It has been a stimulus filled week. God has been communicating to me in so many different ways and the truth is that I need some time to decompress. I feel the stirrings in my heart of the things that He is telling me through His Holy Spirit and I am excited (and a little anxious) about what they mean. I am still actively listening to Him and know that He will let me know when it is time to take action. For now, I simply list the blessings of this week:
  • Good friends who blessed my wife and I with tickets to the Hillsong United worship event
  • Good friends who watched our girls overnight so that we could go
  • The power of worshiping with thousands of people and hearing voices throughout the arena
  • How God spoke to my soul in the middle of that arena as if it were just the two of us there
  • Lyrics from the Aftermath album that are more powerful every time I listen to them
  • The enrichment from reading His Word and the way it ministers to me
  • Lists of thoughts from books, blogs, worship and prayer that I am still working through
  • Financial blessings from God due to our trust in Him
  • Another adopted child from Compassion-a sweet girl from Kenya named Fiona
  • A packed house on Wednesday night for The Next Level-God is using that to grow us all
  • Being challenged in worship & teaching at Newspring Church and the Unleash conference
  • Unexpectedly seeing old friends from Florida at Unleash
  • The camaraderie of staff traveling to and from the conference
  • A lead pastor that I am proud to follow and serve alongside
  • Springtime weather that has enabled our family to spend time outside together
  • Family meals and hugs and love from my girls
  • A wife that is more beautiful and loving than I deserve
  • Holy Spirit filled worship this morning that is stretching and growing us all
  • A Savior that loves me in spite of my many failings and still allows me to serve Him as a pastor.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Don't Wanna Miss a Thing

Part of my problem (at least one of them) is that my brain is constantly working. Not that other people's brains aren't working too-although sometimes I wonder (insert Charlie Sheen cultural reference here.) It's just that I have a difficult time just being in a moment and appreciating what is happening right now in my life. I get caught up in the "to-do-lists" of the day/week/month/decade and can miss out on engaging in the present. Sometimes I focus so much on what is next and on improving ministry that I can miss a lesson that God is trying to teach me right now.

I always told my wife when we were serving in Florida that God had a specific direction for us and that I was trying to learn as much as I could before He revealed the next step. I feel the same way now. There is wisdom that I need to gain and faithful obedience that I need to follow through with so that God can continue to mold me. It's not always a fun process, but it is necessary for my spiritual growth, my family's development and for God-focused ministry to take place.

I have glimpses of the future and where God is leading me and sometimes that picture is more clear than others. What I don't want to do is miss out on the experiences, relationships, faith-stretching, learning opportunities and simple joys that He is showing me right now. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Seeking Unity

My head is spinning with so many different things: the list of things that must get done, studying for preaching & teaching, planning for camp and mission trips, stuff that I would like to do, increasing family time, counseling, the future for my family and the church, etc. All of it whirls around inside my mind and guides my planning and goals. It can sometimes be a struggle though-trying to be the pastor that God is calling me to be and also growing as a follower of Him, a husband, father, son and friend. I pray all the time for balance in those areas and would wager that most people do the same. Trying to stay focused on where God has called us to serve in life and yet giving our family the same level of importance is a tightrope that most of us haven't walked very well.

What if it's not supposed to be about balance though? What if true success isn't measured in the person who can juggle a busy schedule and be actively engaged in family time? Perhaps part of the reason that we fight this internal battle is that we keep trying to compartmentalize our lives into separate areas when God is trying to get us to open our lives up fully to Him. Until we stop marking off the "church", "work" and "family" areas of life as separate entities, we won't truly be successful.

We say all the time that we are seeking unity in the church and how hard that is to find. What if the biggest obstacle to the unity we are called to is the lack of unity in our individual lives? That's why God tells us that the most important commandment is to love Him with our heart, soul, mind and strength. He knows that the only way for us to truly be "one" is for our whole being to be focused on the pursuit of Him.

That kind of singular purpose in individual lives leads to a thriving Church that even the gates of hell can't stand against.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Into the Woods

When my wife and I were dating in college we decided to drive to Kentucky from Nashville and take a tour of Mammoth Cave. With a great lack of planning on our part we arrived before lunch to find out that the tours were sold out for the day. Not wanting to simply turn around and drive back we decided to walk around the park for a bit.

It wasn't long after starting our hike that we decided to check out a small path leading deeper into the woods. Naturally this led to a multiple hour adventure of trying to find our way back to our vehicle and hoping that we weren't stuck in the woods of Kentucky without a hope of rescue. After several hours we had circled back around (not knowing it) and were able to see where our car was parked and go home.

This past weekend I heard about someone who described their spiritual life as being lost in the woods. You are unsure of which direction you are going in, you are starting to get hot, thirsty and tired, and you wonder if you will ever find the right path again. It can be a frustrating and lengthy journey and sometimes you wonder if it's worth fighting to find your way again.

The church (not an organization, but God's people) are supposed to be a help for those lost in the woods. We're supposed to send out rescue parties and find ways to help people find the right path. This isn't done out of superiority, but simply as people who have managed to find their way out of the woods at one time and are passionate about helping others do the same.