Saturday, February 28, 2015

(Trying To) Wave the Flag

Each month on the last Saturday our church invites men to get together for breakfast and a chance to grow. There are no strings attached as it is simply a place to be part of community, hear a teaching intended to help men mature, and engage in conversation around a table. I always tell guys if they get nothing else from the experience at least they will eat a great meal for $2.

This morning we talked about the tough topic of surrender and how we are called to live a life that is increasingly surrendered to the call of Christ. This is admittedly not easy for most people, but part of the nature of men can make it even more difficult. Our stubbornness can inhibit our willingness to submit to God's authority. Our pride can build up enough resistance and prevent us from choosing God's path even if it's clearly the better option. Surrender is not a one time decision either, but must be a consistent part of our journey of faith.

I will admit my own struggles with the practice of surrender. I recognize that God's way is more perfect than mine and yet still have difficulties with following Him completely. I won't always get it right (who ever does?) but hope that my continual awareness and intention of surrender will lead me right where I need to be. As I decrease my level of control in my life, He must increase. It's the only way I can be assured of ending up where I belong.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Speak Up

We are all affected by words spoken to us. How we react depends greatly on who is doing the speaking. If it is a complete stranger it will probably not have as great of an impact. On the other hand, if we are close to the person their words will carry more weight. If this is an individual that we respect, we will listen more carefully even if what they share is very difficult to hear.

This should be an active part of our path to maturity as we seek out wise counsel and invite others to be part of our life's journey. We need to develop trusting relationships with people and then give them the freedom to speak into our lives. This is not always an easy process and it certainly doesn't happen quickly. Instead, we build this level of helpful communication through shared lives and the willingness to work through easy and difficult trials. In a mutual relationship this is one of the most beneficial pieces of personal growth.

To whom do you give freedom to speak into your life? How have they earned that right over time?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Prep Time

I once read an article about Peyton Manning, NFL quarterback, and his thoughts on his role. He said there were times after a game when he wished he had made a better decision at a particular moment, but he never wished that he had prepared more. Peyton's message was that he always prepared effectively even if his execution wasn't perfect.

I am certain that my execution in my role will not always be perfect. This is true whether I'm describing my parenting, teaching, leading, or pastoring. I will most certainly stumble and make mistakes, but I can focus on being as prepared as possible. I can be sure to pray intentionally, meditate carefully, read voraciously, and examine myself daily as I work to prepare for whatever may come my way. I don't want my regrets to be based in laziness.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Real Success

"It doesn't matter how much money you have when you die, how many people know your name, or what position you held. If you never got around to doing and being what your destiny is, then all you were was a successful failure." Tony Evans

We can accomplish many things, but if we aren't following our calling we're missing out. We can have a great resume, but if we fail to lead our families towards Christ we've missed the real objective. It's not that we aren't successful, but that we aren't successful where we're supposed to be.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

All You Can

My (old) standard line was that my favorite restaurant was a free buffet. It's actually kind of sad how much I used to enjoy a buffet. I would rate the various ones by the offering of food and the amount we could pack in to our bodies for the cost. I even have several stories of buffet times with different groups of friends. Even though the food might have been good it was more about the mentality of getting the most bang for my buck. I would go back for multiple dishes even when I had obviously hit my food saturation point. At the end of all that there still had to be one more trip for dessert.  

The buffets always advertised "all you can eat" and I certainly tested that mentality. It probably would have been healthier for me to approach it with the idea of "all I should eat." That would have changed my tactics and been healthier for me in the long run. It's a good practice for many things in my life. There are many things that I can do, but I need to discipline myself to think carefully about what I should do first. It's a principle echoed in the Scripture -all things are permissible, but not everything is beneficial.

Monday, February 23, 2015

As One

There were over 20 people who gave up a good chunk of their Monday night to work together on improvements to a local community center. Our church has been engaged in this process for a few months and we moved much closer tonight through our combined efforts. It was a powerful sight to see people from Northridge and from that community step along side each other to serve. We discovered more common ground than we might have originally thought and were able to team up to accomplish more than we expected.

I believe night's like tonight are the best way for our communities to improve as a whole. We have to find ways to stand together for what matters most. The process begins with our open willingness to build trust with each other and the follow through to get the work done.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Man Made

I've been reading in the Old Testament and there are numerous instances of people worshiping gods they have made themselves. They construct them out of wood, stone, and metal and then devote themselves to these objects. As hard as it may be to believe they were devotedly giving honor to something they had created and not something with any power. 

This seems foolish to us now. How could someone do something that doesn't seem to make any sense? The problem I encounter when I start throwing around my disdain is that I am forced to confront my own idol worship. 

I also worship gods of my own construction, but they just aren't as physically tangible. They are found in the measurement of my accomplishments, retweets, blog hits, Facebook likes, pats on the back, people who like me, and reputation. These man made distractions are dangerous because they reveal my own selfish nature. I have chosen to honor something that is less than deserving instead of focusing my worship where it belongs.

The physical substance may not be the same as an Old Testament idol, but the spiritual substitution is still what pulls me away from true devotion to God.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

I've Got a Plan

“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord, “who carry out a plan, but not mine...
Isaiah‬ ‭30‬:‭1‬

I like to have a plan. It can be a detailed plan for a particular day or for a bigger event. There is just something settling about having an idea of what you want to happen and how it should take place. The problems set in when we fail to seek God's wisdom in our planning. 

Far too often I am guilty of forging ahead with my own ideas and best practices and fail to bring God into the equation until the end. Asking God to bless what I have planned without any input from Him isn't really what He has in mind. How much better off would I be if I took the time to seek His counsel through prayer, meditation, and study of His Word? God would be deeply involved in the process then and not just sought out for His rubber stamp of holy approval.

Friday, February 20, 2015


We have three dogs in our home with two of them being under a year old. I didn't plan on that happening, but sometimes things move in directions you can't predict. One of our dogs, Annie, really belongs to my youngest daughter Olivia and is a rescued dog. She had been in a shelter where our girls volunteer and we brought her home before Christmas.

She is definitely an energetic dog who loves to run through the house and then jump on the furniture (and people.) Annie loves to play enthusiastically with us and the other dogs even though our old dog doesn't want anything to do with her. She knows when it's meal time and will wait by the bowl (not so) patiently. Olivia and I were talking about her ebullient attitude today and I suggested that part of it is related to her time in the shelter. She is still astounded by the freedom and love she gets here and is appreciative of each part of it.

It's not that different than when we experience the grace of God. Remembering where we used to be and how far God has brought us only makes us more appreciative of our present position. It's when we forget where we were before we tasted God's grace that we lose our enthusiasm.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Faded Crown

In high school I entered and won the "Mr. Mainland" contest during my senior year. It was a pretty big deal at the time even though it doesn't necessarily translate into too much today. The memories of that time matter more than the actual event did even though I didn't realize it until many years later. At least it allows me to share an old picture and have a good laugh at myself.

The funny part about something like that is that the actual awards from it didn't last long. The crown and trophy fell apart a long time ago and eventually ended up in the trash. I think there's still a video somewhere (VHS of course) that has the evidence of that night, but the footage is a little grainy. Somewhere in storage is a yearbook with other photo evidence, but even those pictures would be unrecognizable by most people. While the title of "Mr. Mainland 1989" was a nice bit to share back then it doesn't bring me much benefit today either.

It's not that the Mr. Mainland moment wasn't a big deal to me because it genuinely was at the time. Now I have an understanding of the temporary currency of those moments and yet still appreciate the value of it in my memories. I don't equate my present value with this past event, but recognize it for the happiness it brought then and the laughter and fond memories it brings now. It's still a part of my history, but it isn't the defining moment either.

That's a safe, healthy place to keep such events. We should appreciate them for being part of our lives without allowing them to be the defining characteristic of who we are today.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Great I Am

I often need simple reminders of what matters most. As a Christ follower, I know the truth of the God that I follow and yet I still need to center myself on the power of who He is. This helps me to overcome any obstacles I might face and any discouragement that might come my way. It's that focus that reminds me of the big picture of who I am blessed to serve.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Continually Broken

I heard a quote from Charles Stanley a few weeks ago where he essentially said, "When God wants to use a man for something great, he breaks him over and over again." 

The thought of this is a bit frightening as I think it's a natural desire of many men to do something great. It doesn't necessarily mean that we all want to rule over others or have our position elevated, but that we want to see our lives have a substantial impact. I know I want my life to be one of influence and positive impact and I have also come to understand the responsibility that comes with that desire. Part of that realization involves my recognition of my own failings and the need for continual improvement. I believe that's where God's power comes into play.

For any man to be used for a higher purpose we have to shed our unhealthy, selfish practices and beliefs. This is a process that involves some level of pain, but which is absolutely necessary to transform us as leaders. Ignoring the journey of refinement might protect a man from tough lessons, but it will certainly prevent him from lasting impact.

We can't expect to do great things without paying a personal price.

Monday, February 16, 2015

I'm Here

It's often said that showing up is half of the battle. The problem with this philosophy is that you will lose a battle in which you only fight 50% of the time. We've convinced ourselves that our presence is enough when it doesn't necessarily indicate our engagement. "Being there" isn't adequate to develop a relationship or have a substantial impact if we refuse to invest ourselves into the moment.

Our children need more than a parent who is merely present and they desire someone who cares enough to discipline and encourage them. An athlete isn't going to improve their skills by standing at practice in full gear, but never engaging in any drills. You won't mature in your relationship with Christ by checking off church attendance on your to do list and ignoring God the rest of the week. Standing in the right place without putting in the right effort will cause us to lose every time.

Don't just show up, but learn to engage in something worthwhile. If it's important enough for your presence, it's important enough to work at it.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Need An Adjustment?

Our attitude changes our experiences. If we expect to walk into a room and find something positive we can almost be assured of it happening. If we anticipate that only negative things are going to occur then we are most certainly going to end up seeing it in that light. Most of the time we set ourselves up to react to our environment before we ever get there. I don't think we can change every set of circumstances just by adjusting our expectations, but I think we'll find more good than bad when we align ourselves on a positive path.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


Twenty three years ago was our first date even though we had been anticipating it for a few weeks. Twenty two years ago she said yes when I proposed even though I knew she was the one months before that. It's been a roller coaster of a journey together with many more blessings than disappointments. I couldn't have predicted all that we have experienced, but I can't imagine the journey without her wit, her intelligence, her beauty, and the way she makes me a better man. Twenty three years seems like a blessing of a lifetime and yet far too short a time together as well. I'm grateful that she has made me the luckiest of men.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Adjust Your Pace

I've implemented some lifestyle changes in the last six months as I work to get a more permanent handle on my health. I started with riding a stationary bike and then progressed to running the steps outside our campus church. In the last month I've moved to running the streets in the downtown area. I've been concentrating on my distance, but also on the pace I keep while running. On my last two runs I have pushed my intensity which leaves me more tired and also decreases the distance I can run. If I want to run farther I'm going to have to slow down my pace.

That's good advice for other areas of my life too. I enjoy the thrill of pushing a little harder in seasons of life and ministry, but I recognize that it shortens the time I can operate at that level. If I want to succeed in the long term, I've got to regulate my pace so I can keep going. This requires self-awareness and the willingness to rest when it's needed. It's a commitment to endurance instead of a short burst of energy that is soon forgotten.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Arizona Missions

 The Apache reservation in Arizona has been an important part of my life since 2004 when I led my first mission trip to Show Low. Since then I have been part of 15 different teams and will now have my entire family out there this spring. It's a life changing event for each team that goes out west and we still share stories of what happened.

The best benefit is in the lives that we get to impact while there. I believe in the power of short term mission trips especially when you make a consistent effort in one area. The relationships we have built with the long term missionaries is an encouragement to them as they work faithfully each day in a tough area. We are also able to see the benefits of building trust with the Apache people as we 
continue to make an investment.

I'm excited about the group we have assembled this year and know that the total experience will have elements of newness mixed in with our familiarity with the area. Now comes the hard work of preparing for us to go.

My wife & I have prepared for years by asking for a simple donation of $5. We have been able to take care of our trips (even with expanding family members) each year through this simple plea. Anyone who would like to help with a $5 donation can do so through Paypal by clicking the link below. Thanks in advance for any help you can give as we prepare to head west.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Facing the Right Way

I talk with my girls quite frequently about our personal attitudes and how they affect everything around us. They determine the relationship status of our friends and family while also coloring our view on what happens to us. The circumstances of our day and the words and actions of others can quickly derail us if our attitude isn't in the right place. It can either cause us to react poorly or to patiently breathe through adversity while finding peace and understanding.

It isn't always easy to maintain a positive attitude. As much as I share that truth with my lovely ladies, I don't always practice it myself. Part of it is a reflection of my lack of consistent focus. When I neglect to keep the guardrails up on my attitude it tends to slide off the road and cause damage. It's only through careful monitoring and an effort to stay on the path that it's possible to stay in between the lines of positivity.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Working Together

Seeking independence is part of growing up. It starts at a young age when your child tells you, "I can do it myself!" and increases from there. It's an admirable characteristic in one regard as we want people to learn to stand on their own feet and not be forced to lean on others for everything. We applaud people for their independence as they figure out what it means to be self-sufficient. We even equate maturity with the level of personal independence.

Perhaps a better indicator of maturity would be in realizing our need for interdependence. It doesn't mean that we aren't capable of doing things on our own, but that we strive to work together with others in community. Instead of touting our ability to things on our own we find ourselves saying, "I need you and you need me." Strong willed people are usually only good with half of that statement while mature people recognize the value in mutual investment.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Forgive Me

My wife & I periodically visit another church on Saturday nights here in town. Their Saturday service is focused on communion and is very liturgical. It's a refreshing addition to our weekend as we can focus together in a more meditative fashion on the practice of communion. I've also been moved by the power of the recitation of meaningful words together with other worshipers. My blog yesterday shared a portion of that experience that resonated deeply with me this past weekend.

There is a portion of the service where we seek forgiveness from God as part of receiving communion. Speaking these words aloud while on your knees in prayer is a moving experience that reminds me of the depth of God's forgiveness that is available if we would only ask. It is one of the most honest prayers I have prayed and a guide for the peace of grace we all seek.

Jesus, forgive my sins.

Forgive the sins that I can remember, and also the sins I have forgotten.

Forgive the wrong actions I have committed, and the right actions I have omitted.

Forgive the times I have been weak in the face of temptation, and those when I have been stubborn in the face of correction.

Forgive the times I have been proud of my own achievements, and those when I have failed to boast of Your works.

Forgive the harsh judgments I have made of others, and the leniency I have shown to myself.

Forgive the lies I have told to others, and the truths I have avoided.

Forgive me the pain I have caused others, and the indulgence I have shown to myself.

Jesus have pity on me, and make me whole.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Focusing Thought

Christ be with me.
Christ be before me,
Christ be behind me,
Christ be inside me,
Christ be beneath me, 
Christ be above me,
Christ on my right hand,
Christ on my left hand,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I rise up,
Christ all around me.
Christ in the heart of everyone who beholds me, 
Christ in every eye that sees me,
And Christ in every ear that hears me.

Saturday, February 7, 2015


There are three significantly powerful words that have changed life as we know it. They may not seem like much, but when they are spoken by the right man they are transforming. When they are uttered at the right time in history they signify a shift in the value system of the world. Those words are simply:

It Is Finished.

These were spoken by Christ on the cross at the moment of His death. It is a statement of power and a declaration of the completion of a phase of history. From that point forward our entire concept of religion, forgiveness, and devotion were radically altered. It was a unique moment that delivered present and future impact. The immediate physical task at hand was finished and this part of Christ's journey was complete. He was also declaring to the world that any future charges of sin and guilt for the sin of His people had ended. In three simple words Jesus Christ was dismissive of our sin and the voice of the enemy. 

Perhaps we need to remind ourselves of this simple phrase more often. It contains the hope we are often searching for.

Friday, February 6, 2015


Social theory states we are never more than six relationship connections from anyone on the planet (often referred to as six degrees of separation). This is evidence of our human connectivity and the smallness of the world around us. I fully recognize this and yet still enjoy seeing it become a reality. 

This week at the Next Level Conference further cemented that while providing me with evidence of the impact we can share when those relationship lines intersect. It reminds me to be intentional in my interactions and to pay attention to the stories people share. Not only will there be crossover in people groups , but the chance of future impact will increase as well. It helps to shape a mindset of genuine human compassion when we realize we are all connected. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Stretch Your Mind

I am at the Next Level Conference at Savannah Christian Church this week with part of our staff. It's always a challenging and encouraging time when you are exposed to great leadership. It's very practical and also mentally stimulating with a variety of experiences. Part of the difficulty of the week is gathering all of this information and then determining what to do with it once you return home.

Any learning experience poses the same dilemma. There is a need to be receptive to innovation and personal transformation while not overreacting to what we hear. It's the discerning mind that is able to sort through, find the most valuable piece of knowledge, and then put it into practice for lasting change. When we aren't able to do this effectively we end up hearing a lot of good information and never changing anything at all.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

That's Mine

The picture above brings back fond memories of my athletic training days at Mainland High School and the great staff I worked with. What makes the picture exponentially special is the Olympic gold medal around my neck. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that allowed me to snag a picture for posterity's sake. It's a picture sitting prominently on my shelf in the middle of other important memorabilia.

While the picture might portray a different reality to the unknowing observer the gold medal doesn't belong to me. I did nothing to earn it and even though I wore it briefly, that didn't make me an Olympian. 

Genuine faith is the same way. We can call ourselves faithful because of our family heritage or our regular church attendance, but without personal experience it doesn't mean much. It's not genuine to say we have faith because our grandmother did or because we never missed a Sunday service. Faith only becomes our own when we put the effort in to battle through understanding and real life application. 

Without individual investment we're just wearing what someone else has earned.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Owning It

I wrote yesterday about the ill-fated decision of the Seahawks that cost them their second consecutive title. While that choice is still being ripped to shreds by many I have to give Head Coach Pete Carroll credit for standing tall. He didn't try to pass the blame off any his players or assistant coaches. Pete quickly took credit for the decision and accepted any responsibility that comes with it.

This is what good leaders do. They don't try to place the blame on others around them or avoid any responsibility for their poor choices. As difficult as it may be, they step up to receive the negative criticism and admit their contribution to the mess. This type of transparency builds respect with the team you work with and strengthens loyalty. Any other response would erode those relationships and weaken the foundation of the team.

As a leader you won't always make the right decision, but you can always choose to take responsibility for your choices.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Timing Matters

Last night's Super Bowl was an incredibly close contest from start to finish. I truly believed the Seattle Seahawks were going to eke out the win especially when they were on the 1 yard line in the closing seconds. Even though they had one of the best running backs in the league they chose to throw the ball close to the goal line. The defender made a great play and intercepted the ball sealing the win for the Patriots. The decision to pass instead of run the ball ignited a firestorm of criticism and debate. It quickly blew up social media and has been the talk of sports journalists and water cooler quarterbacks all day long.

Even though it was an excellent play by the defender the attention has been focused on the play call more than anything else. It reveals a true leadership principle: leaders are not only judged by the decisions they make, but also the timing and location of those decisions. Making an unwise choice in the first quarter of a game at midfield doesn't garner the same attention and criticism as one made as time and opportunity are disappearing.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Swinging Hard

There's an expression we would use on the golf course when we were facing a long hole. We would grab our biggest club, step up to the tee, and say, "Grip it and rip it!" It was an encouragement to hang on to your club and swing hard for maximum impact. It may not have been the best counsel in every situation, but it helped us focus on the distance of the task at hand. This philosophy could actually be helpful when you were swinging with intense purpose and aim.

I don't know that this is the very best advice for every life situation either, but there is some wisdom in it. When we are assessing difficult circumstances we should exhibit commitment to the process of overcoming. We need to adjust our gaze down the horizon and put our best efforts into finding the solution. Applying maximum effort with intense purpose and aim will help us to be successful even when it appears as if we have a long way to go.