Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Do & Be

There are certain things that a leader does-thinking strategically, being observant, listening well, casting vision, organizing events & people, setting goals, etc. Anyone with the time and talent can do these things and assume the title of leader. These responsibilities alone don't necessarily make someone a leader however. It's not just about the things that you do, but it's about who you are. So many people become consumed with the competency and talent level of a high powered individual that they forget about the most vital mark of a leader--their character. Effective & influential leadership isn't just about the "doing" but also about the "being." One can't exist without the other although far too many people falsely believe one can compensate for the other. As growing leaders we have to continually work to strengthen both areas-our abilities and our integrity.

What are you doing each day to develop your competency and character? Daily purposeful focus is the only way to become someone worth following.

Monday, April 29, 2013


I'm currently reading through the book of Judges and just recently finished the story of Gideon. There are a lot of real life examples for us in his history, but one in particular speaks to our need to depend on God to find success.

Gideon has been charged with engaging the Midianite enemy force in battle. The Israelites are ridiculously outnumbered, but God goes through a process of whittling down their fighting force from 30,000 to 300. It's not the best military strategy I've ever heard of, but God doesn't exactly follow textbook principles anyay. God's motivation (as He shared with Gideon) was for the victory to be credited to Him and not to the might of people. It's not because God is narcissistic, but that in His perfect nature and awesome power there is no one else who is worthy of such honor. Naturally, God's people overcome these obscene odds and rout their enemy on the way to monumental victory.

Too often we assume that our successes are only based on our hard work and abilities. I don't discount the need to leverage what we have been blessed with, but when we only credit ourselves with our victories we are ignoring the God who orchestrates it all. Honoring Him is the prudent way to remain humble and focused on following His intent for our lives.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

It's New

You wouldn't necessarily be able to tell by looking around my house, but I like new things. I like to buy new clothes, to snag the latest technology, the smell of a new car, and the initial attachment to something I haven't had before. New excites other people too--whether it's just new to us or brand new. 

I think that God's ability to make us new through Jesus is the most appealing aspect of His character. It's the way that He is able to take someone who is flawed & imperfect and mold them into something that is better than we imagined. He works through our hurts, our sordid pasts, the things that have been done to us, and our regrets to shape something beautiful. It's not always an easy process and it requires humility to submit ourselves entirely to the work God is doing. We have to learn to trust His passionate desire for us more than our nature to resist. 

Turning ugly into beauty doesn't just describe God's ability. It's the complete story of His creative genius and His detailed work to save us from ourselves. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013


"It's not good for man to be alone." -God

I spent the morning with fantastic volunteers as we hosted a 5K race through Chick-Fil-A on our main
campus. A group of us met at 5:00 am to begin the setup and some stayed throughout the day to complete the tear down after close to 200 runners hit the course. The sense of community was strong, but in so many diverse ways. There was a camaraderie among the staff from Chick-Fil-A that was evident in the familiarity of their humor and organized responsibilities. Our church volunteers were comfortable with each other (although perhaps not the level of conversation at that hour of the morning) and shared chicken biscuits with each other as the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. The racers themselves shared a common bond of running in local races together. We were all part of one crowd as people crossed the finish line to cheers, high fives, and celebrations. We ended the morning with a group prayer with the race staff and the volunteer stalwarts and congratulated each other on a successful event.

It's all reflective of our need for community and the different forms in which we find it. It's not always perfect and it certainly never progresses exactly as we anticipate, but it's an essential part of our social development and it helps us maintain our connection to something that is real. We weren't meant to go through life alone and if we pay attention we'll see that we have more connections around us than we often realize.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Real Life

I heard someone say once that life is either Disney or Dickens. One is the most magical place on earth where nothing ever goes wrong, but people randomly burst into song and dance numbers while dressed in colorful costumes with perfect hair. The other is a depressing, difficult existence of striving to overcome insurmountable odds while the world around you is driven by hopelessness and despair. While real life may occasionally reflect such disparate comparisons, it's more likely that there is a third descriptive qualifier--God. 

Life isn't all wonderful & magical nor is it always drowning in gloom, rejection, and hopelessness. The most accurate reflection of our life's roller coaster is that it all belongs to God. It's a promise of hope for desperate times and joy found in the most trying of circumstances. It's confidence in a King whose power and influence are not affected by the status of our bank account, our most recent medical report, or the patience-fraying, stress-increasing situations we face. Instead of quick ascensions and death-defying plummets we can find peace through uplifting and trying times by recognizing His divine sovereignty and being content.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Just Go

Judges 6:14  The Lord turned to him and said,"Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?"

We won't know all the answers nor will we be able to accurately predict the future. We can use this as an excuse to sit back and wait for full clarity (never going to happen) or we can forge ahead in faith. We should take what strength, abilities, and wisdom we have been given and step forward in trust. When God is the One doing the sending we are guaranteed to see success even if we are unsure of the exact path that will lead us there. Has anything great ever been done without faith & obedience?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Getting Better

Most people want to improve their lives in some way-their marriage, parenting, finances, health, and personal development. We see the vision of a "better person" but don't know how to do the work to make the improvements. We hear what sounds like a better place, but aren't sure how to get there from here. 

I don't have all of the steps laid out, but I do have two thoughts that might help in the process:

1.     Get equipped: be purposefully engaged in life-to-life relationships that are helping you to grow

2.     Take a leap: You may need to take a leap of faith. A wise friend of mine said that too many of us are looking for a zip-line of faith--clearly able to see both ends of the journey w/a set beginning and end point. A leap means that you have to jump and trust that God has the landing set for you before you land.

If you have a glimpse of how God is pushing you to grow, you need to be ready to move into better mentoring relationships or an even bigger leap of faith to find extraordinary results.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Carpe Diem

Seizing the moment isn't just about taking advantage of rare opportunities. It's about recognizing
potential interactions and making the most of the choices we face each day. Leaders choose to be opportunistic. They look for new ways to do things instead of being content to keep doing what has worked to this point. Leaders seek out moment with their families instead of going through the motions of a full calendar and weekly routine. They are aware of the potential for influencing people around them--even those they don't necessarily know--instead of passing blindly by on the way to the next appointment. Leaders see the God-possibilities in each part of the day instead of dismissing it as benign and trivial.

When we recognize and seize opportunities we open ourselves up to new levels of growth and increased momentum--both personally and organizationally. What new thing are you looking for today? God will give you opportunities to do, see, and say new things today. Don't miss them.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Iron sharpens iron, but aluminum sharpens nothing. This isn't a lesson in physical science, but a
simple truth about life-to-life mentoring. To increase the effectiveness of a blade there has to be some solid material to work with. If you want to improve yourself there has to be evidence of fortitude and integrity no matter how small it is in the beginning. Start with what you have and spend time with those that have the same objectives. It's the only way that character will be strengthened, resolve forified, and maturity achieved.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Invisible

We move past people every day who might as well be invisible. They slide through our day without making a ripple or disturbing our rhythm. It's a learned behavior for all--those that keep their head down to avoid attention and those that have trained their eyes to glance over others without pausing. The invisible are deformed in ways they have been conditioned to hide-whether it is a physical, spiritual or character infirmity. Sadly, we affirm their self-image when we neglect them and the path of regret, pain, poor choices, and abuse that have led them here. It's a general lack of compassion embodied by ignorance, apathy, and self-serving social calendars.

True compassion refuses to settle for pretending to ignore. True compassion won't settle for false concern and platitudes offered from the comfortable safety of social clubs and padded church chairs. True compassion is the action of looking someone directly in the eyes and acknowledging that they exist. By simply saying, "I see you," we communicate that they are a person of value. We recognize that they are exactly as we are--fellow travelers on this road of imperfection, pain, and redemption. It's the murmur of one heart to another that says, "I know you're in there. I won't ignore you or shove you aside no matter what you look like and no matter what's been done to you." This reflects genuine desire to engage another life with the motive of human compassion and healing love.

I see you. Are there any three words that contain more power to someone who is used to being overlooked and ignored? Opening our eyes and engaging with the wounded is the first step in transforming and developing authentic community.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

An Ounce of Prevention

The most important job of an athletic trainer is prevention. While we are schooled in injury evaluation and rehabilitation we would much rather invest our efforts in making sure they don't happen. That is why (in my former career) I spent time coaching athletes in nutrition and hydration for the best physical fueling. It's why we emphasize training and physical conditioning that is sport specific. We evaluate playing conditions and correct improper technique that could lead to debilitating results.

The thought hit me the other day that my calling as a pastor isn't that different. While I might get caught up in dealing with problems after they happen, most of my time should be spent in teaching and preparing so that damaging decisions don't occur. Much like athletic training I can't guarantee a trauma free event, but I can invest my time in prayer and preparation to set people up for the best possible outcome. I know that I would much rather spend time in leadership and character development instead of crisis management in the aftermath of injurious decision making.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Your circumstances can change very quickly. In early Hebrew history there was a man named Joseph who had been sold into slavery by his brothers, rose into a position of leadership as a slave, was falsely accused of sexual assault and thrown into jail. He spent 13 long years in this prison (not the comfy standards of modern America) and then his entire world was remade. He was brought out to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh and was immediately promoted to be second in command in all of Egypt. In one day he went from the (literal) pit of despair to the pinnacle of success and power. In one 24 hour period his entire world was transformed.

This isn't just an incredible story of God's deliverance, but it's also a model for our preparation. Joseph may not have realized it, but he had been steadily training for that moment his entire life. He set an example for us in patience, development of character, integrity, work ethic, and devotion to God. It was all of these factors that set him up for an epic comeback fueled by God's intricate plan.

His circumstances didn't always reflect it, but God was in perfect and complete control and was waiting for right time to redeem Joseph. I feel confident that the same applies to us. God can bring us opportunity and transformation more quickly than we believe is possible. What are we doing to get ourselves ready? Are we maintaining our character and refusing to allow our integrity to be blemished? Are we blaming God for all of our current circumstances and cursing His name or do we cling to our faith in His providence and plan? Our lives can be dramatically shifted in the blink of an eye, but we need to be ready to faithfully fill our role as well.

What seems sudden to us is the perfect convergence of God's plan in our lives. We should be focused on being ready for that moment.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


My whole life is a result of being given more than I deserve. I know that I haven't done anything to earn the magnanimity that my life is filled with, but I certainly reap the benefits. This one blog
couldn't possibly describe the generosity of other people that have given to me from my childhood until now. I have friends who are loyal, genuine, and faithful. We have continuously lived in homes that are a direct blessing from other people in our lives. The ministry that I have been part of at Mainland High School, Tomoka Christian Church and now Northridge are all shining examples of unearned blessing. My family is a daily reminder of the gift from God that they are to me & how my efforts could not possibly have brought me this beautiful, loving wife and outstanding daughters.

There really is only one word to describe all of this: grace. It's a perfect gift from a Heavenly Father that is modeled in every other part of my life. They aren't just generous blessings for my own life's sake, but are poignant reminders of the rich gifts of a King that loves to spoil His children. All of these things lead to my greatest need and His most fantastic and elaborate blessing--my salvation. 

His grace has covered me and I am grateful.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Changing Speeds

Our staff was treated to a day at the Atlanta Braves baseball game today by Christian Financial Resources. It was a way for them to show their appreciation to church staffs as we continue to work together. As a life-long, devoted fan of the New York Mets I wasn't invested one way or the other in the outcome of the game with the Royals. I do love a good baseball game though & a day at the ballpark is never a bad thing.

There was a lot of talent on the field today on both sides. There are some good young hitters and pitchers and the game ended with KC winning 1-0 after their closer struck out the side in the 9th inning. There were a few pitchers who were throwing in the upper 90's--pretty impressive. Honestly, there are a lot of good fastball pitchers who can throw heat. What elevates the better pitchers to another level is the ability to change speeds. If you only throw hard heat the batter will eventually get his timing down and crush it.

The same could be said of our lives in relationship to our daily devotion, our relationship with our family, our physical activity, and our commitment to our jobs. If we only operate at one speed we will tire more quickly and find that we are losing interest. To be the most effective you've got to change the tempo and your approach to relationships now and then to keep things moving forward in a positive fashion. Organizations that fail to do this eventually lose influence and buy-in. Relationships that fail to do this become stagnant and allow outside factors to infiltrate and disrupt their rhythm. We've got to learn to change speeds now and then to generate momentum and not fall into the trap of treating every life circumstance the same.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Finishing Assignments

My children often complain about the work that they do in homeschooling. It's not an inordinate amount of work, but there are subjects that cause them to groan whenever they are brought up. We do share with them the truth (even if it is somewhat cliche) that they won't fully understand how they will use these things until much later in life. The assignments they work on now are building a
foundation of knowledge and experience that will matter later in their lives even if it doesn't seem like it right now.

It's amazing how life lessons are the same no matter what age you are. While I'm not building a foundation by developing my basic math skills or expanding my science knowledge, I am still learning things that will make a substantial impact on my future. Much like my children, I'm not always thrilled with the subject and I can find myself wondering how it all applies. Fortunately, I have the advantage of life experience and (some) maturity and can see how God has worked through things before. I've got a life of evidence that points to how it all makes sense in the end.

"And that takes us right back to the fact that God is in control of every assignment of my life. Every assignment is part of the plan. That doesn't mean that every assignment will be exciting or fulfilling. But it does mean that every assignment is preparation for the ultimate work that God has for my life. 

Steve Farrar, God Built

Monday, April 15, 2013

What Now?

Can you imagine what the Israelites were thinking when they fled from Egypt? They had been set free and given treasures, livestock, and food. They were told that they no longer had to be slaves and could go live their own lives. Imagine their terror when they realized the Egyptian army was now bearing down on them. The Israelites were not an army-they were a community of families moving towards a future home. I'm sure that panic set in as they ran from the hordes chasing them. Their forward momentum was halted by the Red Sea. What doubts set in people's minds as they felt the fury of the pursuing enemy and the immovable object of the sea?

What do we do when we find ourselves against a wall of water with the enemy close behind us? Do we turn back to the enemy and beg for mercy? In our haste do we throw ourselves recklessly into the sea in front of us and end up drowning? If we truly believe in God's infinite mercy and have confidence in His sovereignty, we will wait. God has a habit of showing up at the exact moment of need and not a minute early or late. If we trust in His ability to intervene at just the right moment we have the incredible opportunity to witness a miracle.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Too Long

My wife and I are lovers of music and have varied musical tastes. We often equate listening to my iPod on shuffle as giving you musical whiplash as it shifts genres. We also love to put together playlists of songs for each other for occasions and seasons of life. One of the recent playlists my wife made for me had the old Otis Redding song, "I've Been Loving You To Long" on it. I do love some old R&B and soul music and this song in particular has a great groove to it.

I was thinking about the words to the song today, "I've been loving you too long, to stop now" and how even as they affirmed the love of my wife & I, they were an even stronger statement from God to us. So many times we feel abandoned because of our circumstances or confused by what we feel is the silence of God. We wonder why a relationship has ended, how our loved one could have died, or why this depression won't seem to lift. We end up feeling completely alone and isolated from others and particularly from God.

While we won't necessarily get an answer that makes it all easy to understand, God does offer us the comfort of us steadfast love. He doesn't leave us or abandon us, but simply says, "I knew you before anyone here ever thought of you and my love is just as strong today in your sorrow as it was when you were born. I have invested my power, my love, and my Son for your sake. No matter what you may think or feel, I have not left you. I have been loving you too long to stop now."

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Speak Up

I recognize that it's a gift from God, but I am particularly proud of my speaking voice. It has a deep resonance and I have learned how to use it to get people's attention and create volume in crowded places. As a perfect example, last year our Arizona mission team was in the Atlanta airport waiting to receive our boarding passes. I needed the group to gather closer to me so I called out, "Hey guys, gather over here so I can give you some instructions." I was pleased to see my team of 20 step closer to me, but also greatly amused as another 20 people joined them in response to my vocal commands.

The thing about my voice is that I won't have it forever. At some point age will decrease its power and I won't be able to utilize it in ways that I can now. I've got to take care of it to make sure it lasts as long as possible and that I don't waste it by yelling and abusing it now. 

Our influence is also our voice. Unfortunately we forget that we won't have this exact position forever so we waste the opportunities to speak truth and have an impact in the right moment and time. We wantonly use it to further our own selfish agenda instead of thinking of the best overall goals. We ignore our children because "right now" isn't convenient for us while they grow another day closer to leaving our home. We give up our voice of influence when we act rashly out of anger and belittle people instead of taking the time to understand their point of view and listen to what they are trying to share with us. We decrease our volume when we stand boldly on what the church is against and forget to share the grace and mercy that Jesus always stood for. 

We need to recognize what we have while we have it and start speaking so that others will choose to listen while we still have the voice to speak.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Rest Up

Today was the first day in over three weeks where I didn't have anything on my calendar to accomplish. I was able to sleep in, leisurely enjoy my coffee, catch up on website reading, and lay in my hammock. I
wasn't productive at all, but I also don't feel guilty about it either. We all need rest and too often I am foolish enough to believe that I can just keep going and everything will be fine. Not only do my relationships suffer from not having the time off, but I don't operate at the same speed and efficiency without that rest. There are times when the demands of life and ministry make it difficult (if not impossible) to maintain this weekly rest. However, I am reminded each time I rest how important it is in more ways than I can tangibly count.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

You Alone

I'm always thinking about what it means to be a better husband, father, friend, and pastor. I can see how much work God has done in me and yet realize how much more is still to be done. I struggle with the big sins that most men do--pride and lust--and have to be diligently focused on the Spirit or they will overwhelm me.

I was praying today and thinking about the things that hold me back from future growth & maturity. I prayed, "Lord, please change my heart so that I can be a better pastor and leader." I heard God's answer to me, but it was definitively different from my prayer. 

"I want to change your heart, but not so you can be a better pastor & leader. I want it changed so that you know me more. I want you transformed for your own relationship with me and not for the sake of anyone else. Everything else will flow out of this. Let me search your heart and make you new so that you can be with me." 

This wasn't a shocking revelation, but it was a message I obviously needed to hear. My desire for transformation is genuine, but my motivation continues to need work.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Searching for Hope

We were in Arizona this past week working on the Apache reservation with an incredible crew of 13 dedicated people. We spent one afternoon on the Blue Bus picking kids up in the Dark Shadows community of the reservation. The name alone reveals some of the characteristics of this particular location--it's a place that feels heavy spiritually. The surrounding scenery is breath-taking, but the living environments are much rougher. It feels as if there is an oppressive spiritual blanket that dims the light in the neighborhood and presses down on your shoulders. The playground we park at has broken pieces of equipment and is littered with trash and empty liquor bottles. The drug dealers walk around the playground while we are there (only during daylight hours--I wouldn't go there after dark) as if to remind us that the park belongs to them and that we are there by their grace alone.

As we were packing up to leave at the end of our playtime I saw a women helping a young 4-5 year old boy take off his roller blades. Her face was mostly hidden by her hoodie and hair while she worked to help her son change into his shoes. I assumed that she had walked down to take him home (as often happens) until members of our team made it clear that she was obviously high and incapable of taking care of him. While we were momentarily unsure if we needed to intervene, the boy ran after his mother as she walked away to give her a hug before coming back to our bus so we could take him home.

My wife was able to see this woman's face and recognized that things were in worse shape than we realized. This mother was very strung out and on a pathway that will most likely lead to her death. At the same time there was a depth of sorrow in her eyes that revealed her love for her son and her understanding that he is lost to her forever. In the act of changing his shoes she was able to step away from the fog of the drugs running through her body and simply act as his mother. It was a desperate act of clinging to something normal when her entire world is entangled in the addictive power that will take her life. She was searching for a moment of normalcy in an abnormal existence and managed to gain it even if only for a few moments. It was a heart wrenching glimpse into a life that is desperate to be saved and yet unwilling (or unable) to cry out for help. This momentary motherly duty was a hint of the life that she and her son could have had. The pain in her face revealed that she knew this while her son only knew that his mom was walking away again, but he was thrilled to have her even for this brief time. 

It was a peek into the sad existence of someone who has lost all hope and is clinging to the last vestiges of who she might have been. It was a heart-breaking insight into a culture where the loss of hope is more frequent than it should be. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Joy & Suffering

Our leadership team attended a lunch & information session hosted by Serenity Hospice today at the hospital. It provided some interesting insights into hospice care and the parallels to the Christian life & ministry.

  • Hospice care and hope have to work together (isn't this supposed to be the church's motto too?)
  • Often patients wait much longer they should before seeking hospice help (in the church people wait for things to fall apart before they seek help)
  • The key to good care is to listen and pay careful attention to the family around them (sometimes the church is so quick to talk about what they are doing that they forget to listen to people first)
  • We want people to be able to say, "It is well" at the end of their life (do we even understand what this means as a church?)
  • Sometimes your presence is enough to help (are we caught up in doing so much that we forget about just being there?)
  • Successful hospice care takes focus and selflessness (is the objective to truly help or just make ourselves feel better because we made an effort?)
  • Take the time for a positive touch-it helps keep people connected and grounded to today (are we moving quickly through a room or phone call or are we stopping to touch an individual life?)
  • When we give great care our reputation speaks for itself (not only is this true, but it should be a measurable, tangible goal for God's church)

Monday, April 8, 2013

A New Family

It is never easy to leave the reservation and our time in Arizona. Over the last ten years it has become a second home to my wife & I as it's a place where we feel comfortable traveling and providing benefit to the people that live there full time. I have made 16 trips there in the last decade and each one gives us an opportunity to build a bridge of trust and to make an impact in some way.

I love the experience that we have, but I also love leading teams of people out there. There is a ridiculous amount of physical beauty that I look forward to sharing with them, but it is the growth of the team together that I value the most. Each team develops its own unique personality and culture and there are always surprises as people step up to lead in unexpected ways and step out in spiritual growth. We share laughter, tears, quickly evaporating sweat, and sometimes blood. There is deep satisfaction in a finished job and in the tears and hugs from the staff we encourage. While we are ready for the comforts of home & routine and the love of our friends and families, there is also a sadness as our temporary family disbands.

It's the nature of these mission trips to end, but I hope that we all return to "normal" with a bit more insight into what matters and a Holy Spirit adjusted perspective that will lead us to make decisions a bit differently than before we set out. It's a growth opportunity that can only come from a sacrifice of self for the sake of others.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mission Reboot: Ugly Duckling

I am leading a mission team in Show Low, AZ this week working with Apache Native Americans. Several posts from my blog this week will be a re-posting of the most read blogs from the past year.

When you only hear the negative things that people say you start to believe that is who you are. As an adult it becomes further validation of the ugly things that were part of your childhood from family, bullies, schools, and friends. You begin to believe you can never be good enough, that you were a mistake, that you'll never measure up to (fill-in-the-blank). Your weaknesses become the things that people are quick to point out instead of your positive potential. Your past actions & attitudes threaten to overwhelm your personal estimation of worth. We fall victim to the lie of defining ourselves by what we have done and what has been done to us.

This is heavy stuff. It can derail the momentum of a changed life when we refuse to believe that we have value simply because we are sons & daughters of the King. The truth is that our past (and sometimes our present) is ugly. We don't need to run away from that truth. We find hope when we realize that God is in the business of transforming our ugliness into beauty. In fact, it's what He specializes in. His power over our sinful circumstances and His willingness to reach into the mess of who we are is what makes Him a Father like no other. He sees the inner potential of His creation and is able to compassionately complete our transformation. 

He makes beautiful things out of us. Thank you, Abba.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mission Reboot: Gentle Rebuke

I am leading a mission team in Show Low, AZ this week working with Apache Native Americans. Several posts from my blog this week will be a re-posting of the most read blogs from the past year.

I was sitting in church this past Sunday and had just shared a communion thought for Advent that reflected on the hope found in Christ. I have to admit that I had been struggling through a few personal things that morning in my prayer & preparation. I had spent time committing it to God, but knew it was going to be a continual process. As I sat there I felt God speak directly to me and giving me a gentle rebuke. I wrote it down so that I wouldn't forget that moment & the truth of what He is saying:

"You preach this all the time, but do you really believe that there is hope in me? Do you believe that my love for you is unfailing and can't be outsinned? Why do you carry the weight of hopelessness when I have offered you my true hope?"

I confess that there are times when I wrestle with the veracity of God's hope for me and my family. I know in my heart that it is true, but that doesn't always translate into my spirit. I suppose my response to God would simply be:

"I know that my only true hope is found in You, but sometimes the weight of ministry, the journey of parenting, the burden of my sin, and the details of life overwhelm me. Forgive me, Father and thank You for restoring my confidence even when I can't see the end of these st

Friday, April 5, 2013

Mission Reboot: Too Soon

I am leading a mission team in Show Low, AZ this week working with Apache Native Americans. Several posts from my blog this week will be a re-posting of the most read blogs from the past year.

I experienced one of the coolest athletic feats at a CIY Move conference several years ago. We had a team in the annual dodgeball tournament and were actually playing pretty well. We had moved through the first few rounds and were playing against the worship band. Five of the six members of our team got knocked out very quickly and it looked like our run was over. What happened next was incredible to watch and is a story that I have shared with many people since.

Our one remaining team member was a young man named Trent Turner. Trent was a natural athlete with an incredible arm. He realized how the odds were stacked against him and seemed to take his intensity up a notch (as if it could be any higher for him.) He started methodically mowing down the opposite team by catching everything they threw at him and then knocking them off one at a time. He was throwing so hard that the ball bounced off of their chests as they tried to catch it. When he knocked out a few of them and we realized that he had a shot at pulling this off our cheers grew louder. The crowd surrounding the court started to grow as people came running over to witness this great comeback. When Trent knocked out the last opposing team member we rushed the court with shouts of victory and picked him up to carry him around. It was like we had won the World Series or the Super Bowl.

Trent passed away this week in a car accident-another life taken from us far too soon and my heart is heavy for my own grief and for that of his family & friends. I think back to that day of dodgeball and see how it encapsulates my thoughts of Trent. He lived life with passion and intensity. He drew people to him-we all loved him and his infectious personality and laughter. He would fight for those he loved and for those who couldn't fight for themselves. When he was fired up about a project or goal there was no stopping him from getting it done. All of us wanted to see him succeed and to cheer him on when he did. He lived life at full throttle and I treasure the times of laughter, tears, sweat, worship, and service that we shared together.

You will be missed my friend. I am grateful for the gift that you were to the lives around you.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mission Reboot: What a Waste

I am leading a mission team in Show Low, AZ this week working with Apache Native Americans. Several posts from my blog this week will be a re-posting of the most read blogs from the past year.

We grew up fairly poor by most standards. There wasn't an excess of food, clothing, or new things as we struggled to meet our day-to-day needs. We very rarely threw things away as we would use them until they fell apart or were handed down to someone else. It was a common understanding that we needed to be careful with what we had because we couldn't afford to waste it. We knew that our supply was very limited so being profligate wasn't an option.

Unfortunately, this attitude of cautious usage isn't the norm. Societally we tend to be wasteful people with our food, money, energy, and relationships. Spiritually, our repetitively sinful actions reflect our waste of God's grace & mercy. We cast them aside as we seek short-term pleasures and then beg God for more as these temporary visions fall short of fulfillment. We squander His forgiveness through our own selfishness and then fall before His compassionate nature in desperation

How fortunate are we that God is recklessly extravagant with His gifts for His children? Even as I continually stumble, I am grateful that God's supply of grace is bigger than the demand of my sin.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Mission Reboot: Straight Aim

I am leading a mission team in Show Low, AZ this week working with Apache Native Americans. Several posts from my blog this week will be a re-posting of the most read blogs from the past year.

When we partnered with Vaughn Chapel to host a camp for underserved children in Milledgeville this summer, we went to a camp that had a ton of activities. One of the most fun for the campers (and staffers) was when we got to shoot the BB guns. It was enjoyable for a bit and then they put up some paper targets and aluminum cans for us to aim at. That transformed a fun activity into something that quickly got serious. Several of our male staffers were suddenly very interested in shooting the guns (including yours truly) and spent several minutes and dozens of BBs trying to see who could hit the most targets. Once we knew what we were aiming at it changed our focus and intensity.

It's no different in a Christian life either. We can meander through attending church services and going to events and yet feel that something is missing. When we choose to purposefully read God's Word, determine how it impacts our life, and then do something about it, things change. Identifying the targets that God wants us to focus on and then working on them will put emphasis on the life-changing principles that matter. Much like shooting BB guns, the challenge and excitement of working towards something is pretty rewarding.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mission Reboot: Something New

I am leading a mission team in Show Low, AZ this week working with Apache Native Americans. Several posts from my blog this week will be a re-posting of the most read blogs from the past year.

I want something more. This isn't a statement of greed or desire for physical pleasures, but a yearning for an increase of God's power and direction in my life. My eyes have continually been opened to the great changes that He has worked in me and yet it only heightens my awareness of how much more needs to be transformed. The journey is difficult, but I am longing for the next phases of discovery for me & my family. I feel that we are on the cusp of something powerful in our faith progression and calling, but I know that this will also call for new, bold moves of living out our faith. I don't know the details of what that looks like, but I know that it impassions me to see the potential of  God-given vision become a reality. I have full confidence that He will do this great work and I know that our obedience in attitude, word, and deed are required as well. The deliverance of a preferred future calls for an increase of active faith in our present reality.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Family Matters

My wife & I are in Arizona on our annual mission trip to work at the American Indian Christian Mission in Show Low. This is my 10th year and 16th overall trip to Show Low and I never get tired of the experience. This year is different because we are sharing it with our oldest daughter, Lindsay. This is her first mission trip and I am pumped to show her the places we have only talked about for a decade. Her sisters will make this journey over the next two years as we go through this rite of passage. It's a great way to share with them the need to sacrifice financially, physically, and spiritually to help share Christ with other people. It teaches them the value of hard work and doing something that truly is for the benefit of others, even if it does make you feel good in the process. I love that our family gets to share in this and while I don't want to wish time away, I can't wait for all of my girls to be out here with us on this journey.