Thursday, May 31, 2012

Give It Up

Jesus called Peter, James, and John into ministry at the same time. They were fishermen by trade and had been fishing all night with no success, which was an aberration for men of their experience and skill. After teaching from Peter's (Simon's) boat he told him to push out into deeper water and put down their nets. Peter mentioned that they had been fishing all night with no results for their efforts, but agreed to do so. When they lowered their empty nets into the water they were filled with so much fish that their nets began to break. Jesus then issued the challenge to follow Him and they obeyed by walking away from their lives to pursue this new adventure.

Jesus showed these fishermen what worldly success looked like. He allowed them to gain a glimpse of great fortune and the fulfillment of all they had been working for and then asked them to give it all up to follow Him. I believe He provided this opportunity so that they understood exactly what they were walking away from. It had to be an active choice to leave behind something that was good for what was best.

The request is no less for us. God wants us to make a choice with a full understanding of what we are doing. If we don't realize what we are giving up it isn't truly sacrifice.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Circular Thought

Riding on a carousel is enjoyable when you are a child. There is something magical about the lights, the music, and being able to ride up and down on a variety of creatures. As I've gotten older the appeal of this ride has faded. A carousel loses some of it's glamour when we realize we aren't really going anywhere when we ride it. There is no sudden drop, change of pace, or big excitement. It is a repetitive cycle that doesn't really make any progress.

While our physical desires may change, we still choose to follow that merry-go-round pattern in the rest of our life. We stick with routines of ease and comfort, foolishly thinking it will take us to the destination we desire. We keep riding around the same track and even get frustrated when we don't end up where we want to go. We have the sense of moving, but those circular patterns of thought, behavior, and sin will never take us further down the road. This is true in our finances, marriages, parenting, and spiritual development. We've settled for acting like children and pretending that we were maturing.

The only way growth happens is when we realize that the soundtrack hasn't changed and this ride we're on isn't taking us anywhere. We have two choices at this point: ignore our lack of progress and maintain status quo or get off the ride and start moving towards a different future.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Taking a Chance

Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: "God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age. Matthew 28:16-20 (The Message)

Even though the disciples knew Jesus and the evidence was right in front of them, some of them weren't willing to take the risk of fully engaging Him. If that was true of people who had the risen Messiah in their presence should we expect any less from us today? 

The truth is that there is great risk involved in following Christ. Changing our life focus can mean giving up our reputation, the security we have worked to create, our social status, our family position, and even close relationships. If we choose not to take those steps of faith however, we see that Christ continues ahead with His plan. The Great Commission was given even in the face of people who were unsure of their commitment. The challenge remains the same: to reach the world. God's success doesn't hinge on our faithful obedience even if God desires to use us to bring it to fruition. 

The irony is that unwillingness to gamble everything on Christ is actually an ill-advised risk that you are right about eternity and God is not. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Performance Anxiety

I struggle with the need to constantly prove myself. It is a misguided notion that my value is only measured in my contributions to other people or to an organization. It is an endless trap that can potentially cause damage in relationships and in my job. It actually reflects a deeper dissatisfaction and misunderstanding in my relationship with God. I think it is a fundamental issue that many people struggle with-believing that God loves us no matter what we do or do not do. 

As a reflection of our earthly relationships, I think that we expect God to toss us aside after we have struggled with the same sin for the 117th time or because we didn't react the way a "good Christian" should. Because so many of our human interactions are evaluated on the "what have you done for me lately?" scale, we tend to think that God is terribly disappointed in us and treats us with disdain. 

While there is value in constantly striving to improve and being diligent in our work ethic, we can't determine our self-worth with God by these measurements. The foundation of spiritual maturity is confidence in our kinship with God and His adoring love for us as His children. I love my own children regardless of their attitude and actions and nothing they can do would remove them from me. Our self-esteem can be boosted by this same assurance in our position in Christ.

We aren't part of His family because of our performance. We are lovingly included in His plan because of His unconditional love that was fulfilled on the cross.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


It's hard to push away from the table when the food is particularly good. There is an enjoyment to the taste of a freshly grilled hamburger and all the fixings that go with it. Our normal reaction can be to eat past the point of easing hunger and on to ridiculously full. We will keep going back until there is no possible way to fit anything else into our stomachs.

The same principle applies to us spiritually. If we continue to stuff ourselves with our own agenda, selfish ambitions, and self-gratification, we leave no room for God. God can't fill a person that is filled with themselves.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What Are You Waiting For?

In his book, The Rules of Management, Richard Templar says, "If you are a middle manager, you should be acting and talking as if you were already a senior manager." He is referring to a principle of preparation that will eventually lead to success.

If you aspire to be something greater than you presently are, don't wait for the opportunity to fall into your lap. Instead start acting like that is your reality today. If you desire to be a better husband and father, you should start doing the things that man would do and you'll start to see the change take place. Don't sit and wait until God gives you the opportunity before you begin to lead, pray, develop, strategize, and dream like that person.
When you start to develop those attributes and skills, God will lead you into the right opportunity for change.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Don't Be That Guy

In Matthew 15:16 Peter is asking a question that he should have known the answer to. Jesus responded by asking, "Are you being willfully stupid?"

When does that question apply to us? It is when we ignore the truth of God that is in front of us. We conveniently forget what we already know to be true & start living out a lie that makes us feel better about the choices we are making.
We see it in our financial decisions and when we neglect family issues & hope they will resolve themselves. The evidence is in the slow fade of purity through lustful thoughts & actions. Being willfully stupid is demonstrated as we nod our heads in affirmation on Sunday, yet live the rest of the week as if we hadn't bothered to come to church at all.

Our dissatisfaction with our current life standing can't be blamed on other people or projected on our circumstances. It is often due to our own willful stupidity that ignores the teachings of Christ and what we know to be right.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


In Matthew, Jesus was followed by two blind men who cried out for help. He asked them if they really believed that He could heal them & they cried out in their belief. As He touched their eyes He said to them, "Become what you believe."

We want to become something more yet we struggle with belief. We lack confidence in God's ability to heal marriages, bring children back to Him, or remove the sin from our lives. It's a tentativeness on our part to fully accept what God is offering. We won't be changed, restored, or redeemed if we don't have confidence in His ability to follow through on His word. For us to be transformed into what we believe we need to have a firm faith in God's supernatural abilities and honestly reach out to Him. It's in those moments of faith that God works in ways that we cannot.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Other Side

In John chapter 21, the disciples had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. Jesus appeared on the shore and told them to drop their nets on the other side. The disciples replied that they had caught nothing, but listened to what Christ told them and were rewarded with a full net of fish.

When we move forward solely under our own efforts & plans we will come up with empty nets. It is only under the direction of God that we see true, long-lasting success. We have to be tired from doing it on our own before we humble ourselves to hear His direction however. Our humility increases when we realize the fruitlessness of doing things with our self-fueled plans.

We often make the mistake of letting our empty nets hold us back, but the failures of our past are learning experiences that have prepared us for this present time. The emptiness isn't a sign of God's failure--they often reflect our own endeavors that moved forward with out God's direction. 

For true fulfillment and Christ-like success we must listen to His voice tell us where our nets should be dropped. Our obedience will meet His promise on the other side.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Run the Course

I found myself reflecting on my days in sports medicine earlier today. For some reason I was thinking about the first day of football practice back in the mid 90's. We were wrapping up with some conditioning and had set some cones up for our team to mark their running course. I was standing at one end with our assistant athletic trainer (Angie) and we saw a couple of our team captains run by and cut one of the corners instead of running around the cone. It saved them 3-4 steps at most, but had a deeper meaning in my eyes. 

I told Angie that we would not be winning a championship that year if our leaders were already looking for shortcuts on the first day. That corner wasn't the most important in their conditioning, but it was a reflection of their work ethic and heart. My prediction came true as we had a good regular season, but lost in the 1st round of the playoffs. 

I wonder where we are cutting corners in our lives now. Is it in our finances-trying to keep up appearances and standards of living that are beyond our income? Is it hoping that a mini-vacation with our spouse will make up for not investing in our relationship all year long? Is it buying things for our children instead of intentionally parenting them each day? Perhaps it is found in the way we manipulate our relationship with God to be a matter of convenience instead of an intimate, daily event. 

Having the discipline to do the right thing every day doesn't just lead to championships. It builds a foundation of God-honoring and Christ-following lives that are successful by Kingdom standards.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Seasons Change

While our May temps drift back into early spring mode here in Milledgeville, I know it is only a brief respite from the progression of summer. I can see the signals as humidity increases and the water temperature moves northward. My mind is also racing in full camp preparation mode for the 2nd week of June-another sure sign that summer is almost upon us.

While I can readily identify the upcoming season, the real question is whether I can recognize changes of season in my life and in ministry. I know that I'm not alone in this dilemma. Part of it (echoing the wise words of Wayne Cordeiro in his book, Sifted) is that we have lost understanding of the significance of changing seasons. In farming communities, it is essential to recognize the time of year and the responsibilities that change as the seasons also shift. There are times when your daily tasks and goals will vary and to do anything other than what that season calls for would be foolish.

We have neglected the importance of changing seasons to our own detriment. We tend to do the same things each week/month/year with great ferocity until we run out of energy and take a vacation (or collapse.) Once that very brief rest period is over we resume the exact same activities that consumed us before our break. There is no wisdom in this and no focus on what is important at this time. 

Just as you can't wisely roll through December and act like it's mid-summer, you won't find success by acting if the seasons haven't changed in other areas of your life either.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


We all share a common malady-we have a sin problem. 

Sometimes Christ followers forget that we all fall short of the grace of God. We can become guilty of spending most of our resources of time, energy, and finances pointing out people's diseases without ever steering them to a solution. We aren't called to identify the individual problems of the world-it's the same diagnosis inside & outside the church walls. No matter what flavor of sin we identify with (gossip, substance abuse, infidelity, lying) we all have a sin problem and Jesus is the only solution. 

If God is the Great Physician, let's stop trying to diagnose the world and instead share with them a prognosis for treatment. There is complete recovery and redemption in Christ. We should join in the goal of seeking His Kingdom so that righteousness will be given to us. 

Pointing out disease and not offering the solution is cruel and selfish. Those who have been healed should strive to share healing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rumor Has It

Job answered God: "I'm convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, 'Who is muddying this water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?' I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, 'Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers. admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand--from my own eyes and ears! I'm sorry--forgive me. I'll never do that again, I promise! I'll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor."  Job 42:1-6

Are we living in the truth we have experienced with God or only in the rumors we have heard from other people? The power of testimony draws us in to find God, but we aren't saved by someone else's story of salvation. Stop believing the rumors and find your own God story.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What Matters

What is really important? I find my focus wandering to the small details of far too many things. The urgency of these tasks in front of me can be overwhelming. My schedule can become repetitive as we get caught in the current of the stream of "got to keep pace." In the process it becomes easier to march forward checking off the same patterns of thought and behavior from week to week.

I believe this is one of the greatest traps of satan. He doesn't necessarily need us to wander off into horribly destructive lives of sin. He just whispers and urges us to stay so focused on keeping up with the same thing from week to week that we forget what really matters. We end up neglecting the motivation behind our lives and the excitement of following Christ. We ignore God's voice telling us to take risks and reduce it to a mere whisper that we can cover with the volume of our life of routine. 

Intently following the King is what matters. Placing our full confidence in living a life that is worthy of our calling is a grand adventure worth chasing after. It reorganizes our agenda and adds an element of risk and faith that makes this life exciting. When we lose sight of that we are no longer swept along in the speed-driven current of the Holy Spirit, but are instead sitting in kiddie pools of poorly disguised contentment. 

Fast moving water is refreshing and challenging. Small, shallow pools of still water fill up with stagnant filth as we become too timid to move.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Open & Shut

I am asked to pray for people quite often as they make decisions for their future. Sometimes it is for a new job opportunity, a financial increase, or wisdom for something even bigger in their lives. Most of the prayers are focused on asking God to open a door so that we know which direction to move forward. We get excited thinking about the potential of these open doors and new opportunities.

Sometimes God's answer is not to open something else up to us, but to close doors we shouldn't go through. It may be a job opportunity we shouldn't strive for, a relationship we should no longer engage in, or a financial opportunity we should avoid. In our stubbornness we will often make the error of shaking the doorknob on that closed off path. We bang incessantly on the entryway to something because we have convinced ourselves it is the best thing for us. 

The closed door may provide the very solution and miracle God has been showing us as we prayed. It is His way of narrowing the pathway He is calling us to travel and leading us to trust in His providential guidance.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mama's Love

I have been tremendously blessed by the mothers in my life. There were several wonderful women who were 2nd mom's to me that I still care for very much. These women were mother's of my friends growing up & were willing to love on me and include me in their families-Ingrid Hinman, Georgina Fox, and Doris Godbey are still close to my heart.

There are four specific women who are more intimately intertwined in my life: my mother-in-law Nancy, my grandmother Margaret, my own mother Joyce, and my wife Dana.

My mother-in-law is an incredible woman. She is tough, smart, shrewd, generous, kind, protective, and loving. She has made me a part of their family from the time I first started dating her daughter. I respect her and appreciate her passion and wisdom more than she knows.

My grandmother has been gone from us for 15 years now, but I still have many great memories of her loving laugh and her continual kindness to us. Her marriage to my grandfather is a model that my wife & I strive to live up to. She was a persevering, kind-hearted example of loving family.

My mother is a kind-hearted & loving woman. She has battled adversity and poor choices, and has worked hard to improve for the sake of her family. She loves her children very much & continues to pray for each of us daily. I never doubt that she is proud of me and has my back. She would be here in an instant if I called and said I needed her. She is a model of perseverance and endurance and her sweet (and often crying) heart is a reminder of her love for us all.

My wife certainly doesn't count as my mother, but it has been a tremendous joy to parent our three gifts from God with her. She gives her best to them each day and understands how God has positioned her to love and teach them. She is an excellent mother striving to do her very best when it's not easy as a pastor's wife & stay at home mom.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you. Thanks for your sacrificial and giving love-it continues to make an impact that is greater than you know.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Wedding March

I have officiated a number of weddings and always enjoy the opportunity to be part of such a special day. Even though my primary responsibility that day is to marry the couple, I also step into the role of being the cool, calm voice of reason. When nerves start to fray and anxiety kicks in, I work to keep things moving forward and people relaxed. 

The nervous bride is almost always anxious about the day & what is about to happen after months (years?) of planning. I give her simple verbal reinforcement: you have already done the hard part by showing up and looking beautiful. Your next job is to walk when it's your time to walk & say what you're told to say. Before you know it, you'll be married and the true relationship can begin.

There are parallels to this in our relationship with God. We're here in the process now and might be feeling some anxiety about what is next, but being obedient is the first hard step. Not that there won't be difficult steps along the way, but sometimes we need to be reminded to walk where God wants us to walk & to say what God wants us to say. It takes the pressure off of us & causes us to rely on His ability to make things happen. The relationship that follows after we make this public statement of our intentions will be better than we dreamed of when we began.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Events Collide

This week is momentous for my wife every year as it rolls three celebratory occasions into one. We honor her cancerversary, her birthday, and Mother's Day, and all three are forever intertwined. 

If you read my wife's blog or have followed me for some time, you will know that my wife is a cancer survivor. This is her 16th cancerversary meaning that she has now been cancer free for that period of time. It is why she celebrates her birthdays with such intensity and joy-each one is a gift and she recognizes how God has chosen to bless her with another year. I don't believe it is a coincidence that this all happens in the same week that we celebrate motherhood either. Our children are a daily reminder that medical science can be wrong about some things, and their beautiful faces and hearts serve as reinforcement of God's miracles to us.

My wife loves the celebration of these life events and I am eager to spoil her while we commemorate together. It's a week that keeps God's healing fresh in our minds and causes us to not take any year that passes for granted. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I pray Psalm 51:10 frequently--"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."

I usually pray this out of a desire for a clean heart when I find my thoughts drifting into areas that I want to stay out of. It becomes a reflection of things that I have done & yet don't truly desire to do. I want a clean heart before God because I know it opens me up to communication with Him and allows me to walk more closely with Him in the process.

It was the second half of that verse that really impacted me today though. It is the principle of having a steadfast spirit. It is one that is able to endure difficulties and maintain connection to God. It is a spirit that is consistent and does not constantly waver between old patterns of sinful behavior and thought. There is an implication of constancy and an equilibrium to our hearts. It reflects perseverance and the faithful trusting in God that will enable us to maintain our relationship with Him regardless of our circumstances.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Just God

In Genesis 15:1, God said to Abram, "I am your shield, your very great reward." He was telling Abram that He was the true gift and not the blessings that He can give to Abram and his family.

Do we worship God more for what He does for us or just simply for who He is? Can we separate the two? His gifts are a reflection of His generous nature, but we should pursue Him more than what He can give to us. We become nothing more than spiritual blessing junkies craving the next fix if we only focus on what comes out of the God-vending-machine. We excise true joy from our relationship with Him when we only seek the blessings from His hand and neglect to simply seek His face.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Screen Time

Now that more movies tend to add sneak peeks at the end, I tend to sit through the credits more frequently. They will roll by starting with the actors and then move on to everyone that had a part in the production of the film. Usually no one can identify who the "best boy" position was filled by and in fact, would not even be looking for that credit.

I saw an interesting parallel to that while reading through the Old Testament. So many books list numbers of people in tribes and long lists of family that I can't possibly remember. While I may skim over them, they still represent important people in God's timeline. They fulfilled a purpose and were part of something larger than themselves and their own ambitions. Much like a gaffer or best boy on a movie set they won't receive top billing. That doesn't negate their importance and the contribution they made to the whole picture. 

This only reinforces God's principle of each person making a difference and having a higher purpose to attain to. We may not always understand how & why it matters, but if we are trusting Him to guide each step we can be sure that our efforts play a significant role in the grander scheme of His perfect plan.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Spilling Out

My wife and I are fans of the show "Friends." We laugh and quote lines from it and do the same with other fans of the show. It's the same thing another friend of mine does with movies--always ready with a quote or famous line.

As I am reading my Bible this morning (and as a follow up to Friday's blog) I was convicted by the thought that famous quotes, movie & TV lines come to mind more frequently than Scripture does. I don't like to admit this, but my hesitancy doesn't negate that truth. 

My interaction with family, friends, and community would be richer if my mind immediately went to Scripture. Difficulties would be handled with peace and wisdom if God's Word flowed out of my mind and mouth. My vision would become more clear and sharply focused if Biblical truth was the true meditation of my heart and mind. Opportunities to serve God would increase as I become more attuned to the rhythm of His Spirit.

It's a challenge for me to accept--the willingness to engage God's Word so deeply that it is the source of the spring of words that flow out of my own life.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Tuck Rule

Psalm 119:11 says, "I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." It is a reference to diligently studying God's Word so that it becomes implanted in us. It transfers Biblical truth from written words on a page to something that is applicable and real.

We will face temptations and trials and from my own experience I can assure you, faithful reader, that we will not have the strength on our own to endure. Our willpower will fail and our resolve will weaken when we rely purely upon our human capabilities. We gain strength from ingesting and meditating on Scripture so that it becomes the key foundation of our response system. When we are able to read and apply Biblical truth we change its impact from a concept to reality. 

If we aren't tucking God's Word away for future use, we will most certainly not be prepared when the time comes.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Full Disclosure

God desires a relationship with us that is fully engaged. We are the ones that tend to compartmentalize and keep parts locked away in our brain & spirit in an attempt to hide from Him. Theologically speaking this is impossible, but we still convince ourselves that we achieve it. It doesn't prevent God from knowing us, but it will prevent us from completely knowing Him. 

We become fully exposed to God when we humbly engage Him at every level and area of life. This changes our interaction with Him by making our faith commitment more authentic. We struggle with this total surrender because we believe the lie that we can control/limit our sin to parts of our existence. We fail to surrender because we are ashamed of the sin that has entangled us and don't want to relinquish it or don't believe that God can heal us from it.

Removing our mental & spiritual barriers leads to a familiarity with God that will transform our opinion of His desire to be engaged in real life with us. It will open us up to a relationship that is deeply powerful and genuinely intimate. It becomes a force that we live with in all of our life environments and not just a convenient stop-gap on Sunday mornings or when life gets tough. 

Full disclosure leads to full engagement.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Off Track

When we feel that we have gotten spiritually disoriented or distracted, we might describe ourselves as "off track." We get discouraged when we feel this way & can feel that our misplaced priorities have taken us away from the story that God is telling in our lives.

While we might feel that way (and I have in the past) I think it is an erroneous assumption on our part. We have convinced ourselves that we have delayed God's plan for our lives and therefore messed up what would have been a grand tale of faithfulness. In actuality, our current and future choices are the story we are living. It is the exact tale that God knew before He created us. He knew (and knows) the ebb and flow of our faith and still works in grander ways than we can imagine to shape us on the path we have chosen.

We aren't disappointing Him with our choices-that would mean that He didn't see them coming. In His inimitable fashion He is redeeming us through our faulty and flawed steps. We are operating from a present-based perspective that limits our understanding while He reigns from the end of our novel, having seen the triumphs that await us through our own imperfect and yet perfectly-written-for-us story.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


When I worked at Mainland, we won three state basketball championships. This was a result of dedicated athletes, great coaching, perseverance, hard work, and attention to detail. One of our team mantras was captured in four letters: "D.T.L.T." This was often repeated to keep our focus where it belonged. It was a reminder that for us to be successful we needed to "Do The Little Things."

I believe this principle is even more significant in our spiritual life. We desire to dream big dreams and accomplish great things for God's Kingdom, but can often miss that opportunity because we aren't focused on doing the small things each day. It was Jonathan Golden who said, "Every once in a while God gives us something big to do. Every day He gives us something small to do." 

When we are willing to commit to doing the small things that develop our faith on an everyday basis, I believe that God will give us the opportunity to step into something much bigger than we imagined. It won't come accidentally, but as a result of continued obedience towards the same objective. This constant sharpening hones an active faith in us that sets us up to make an impact for God's Kingdom. 

It is in disciplined attention to small details that great things become possible.