October 11, 2013

Car Bombs and Faith

In my inability to stay focused on the task I'm working on, I just looked at my Yahoo news page.  Listed there was yet another car bomb attack in some foreign land.  It seems that every day there is a new bomb delivered by someone who was prepared to die for whatever cause they were bombing for...and they did die because they delivered the bomb.

Understand, I am completely naive on the extremist perspective of life.  I don't know what makes them tick.  I don't know if they are forced into being destruction delivery people or if they freely choose to be a dying sacrifice to the cause.  I simply know that the news continually has report after report of such people blowing up other people for a reason.

As I was reading, my mind ran a little, which it happens to do quite often.  I wondered if Christians, while not into car bombings, had that all in, willing to die capacity in their faith?  I'm would guess the car bombing people have some struggle getting people to sign up for the job.  But what about the other things they need help with?  In the church, it is sometimes a challenge to get people to sign up or commit to anything.  Even the simple things like shaking peoples hands at the door once a week.

It seems we have an attitude like this:  Yes, God, I love you and I revel in your grace!  You want me to do what?  No, I can't do that.  I have this going on or that going on.  Billy needs this so I can't give that money.  I don't have time for that because it will interfere with my golf.  My vacation will be during that time.  I need to save money for it rather than give to this initiative that the church is doing.  I can't get up any earlier to make it to church to pray before worship, God.  Sunday is only one of my two days off.  You know that.  Those two days are my Sabbath....

I am no more innocent of this type of attitude than anyone else.  I am just as good as the next person in justifying my faith so I don't have to fully commit at times.  We all do.  We are human...or at least that is our excuse, which is pretty poor if you think about it.

When will we allow our faith to take root in our souls?  When will we get and understand Paul's call to be a living sacrifice in Romans 12?  What would the church look like if we got that and lived it?  If we traded our worldy stuff and wants for things of the Kingdom?  We can read in scripture and see what the disciples were able to do.  What more could we do?

We are called to be living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12).  Jesus tells us that if we live out life following his actions, we will be persecuted, which could lead to death, just as it did for him and many of his disciples (Matthew 5:1-12).  Paul tells us to live is Christ, to die is gain (Phil 1:21).  In living or dying, the idea is that we are sacrificing our person, self filled lives to live out the Kingdom of God.

May that thought not leave your mind for hours.  May it make you squirm and struggle today.  May it challenge you to make changes in your life so that you are living it out.

October 10, 2013


This morning I was in the process of connecting my phone to Flickr.  They are giving away one TB of photo storage space for my pictures.  Yes, that's right, 1000 gigabytes of space.  Thank you, Flickr (yahoo).  As I was uploading pictures I found the one shown with this post.

Each week at South, when we take communion, we get to enjoy this.  It is homemade communion bread.  Nope, we don't have that nasty prepackaged white, icky, bland Jesus bread stuff at our church.  We have the real deal--homemade, just as good as any pie crust you could imagine, pie crust Jesus bread.  Seriously, this stuff is the bomb.  It makes communion even more enjoyable!

Sometimes, I will accidentally miss communion during worship.  When I'm done leading, I head into the kitchen to take communion, because that's where the leftover communion goes when the guys are done serving.  Lucky for me, there is no one in there.  I know they throw out what isn't used each day because of all the hands that have been in the plate.  Its such a waste.  I don't want to see Jesus' body wasted.  Not at all!  Its sacrilegious.  So, to make sure this doesn't happen, I pound Jesus' body by the handful.   It is so good!

The beauty of all of this is the love that goes into the bread.  A lady here at South takes time every couple weeks to bake this bread.  She gets it.  She understands that this meal we are having is something more than made than Jesus body in a box that comes from who knows where and who knows when it was made.  She wants communion to be the best that it can be for our people.

She is no different than our children's ministry workers, our youth workers, or the people I get the privilege to lead beside on the stage each week.  They understand that they are here to serve.  We are living out our worship in the things we do, the passion we have for the Kingdom.

How are you living out your passion for God?

October 9, 2013

To Be Known

If you were to go back in the blog and read, you might see some patterns.  You will see that I seem to continually talk about the same things.  I continually talk about how I'm way too busy and lose time as I turn around.  You might also see that I'm not consistent.  I'll blog a few days or weeks in a row and then go totally dormant for months at a time.  The only time this isn't the case is when I blogged almost a whole month while studying through the Gospel of Mark, which I have not finished....because I don't have/didn't make the time.

My blogging is a lot like my journaling.  I started journaling a long, long time ago.  I used to use simple notebooks with the spiral wire down the side of them.  At some point I graduated up to actual hardback journals, and from there, the Moleskine.  I try to sit down every day or two to converse with the pen and paper, writing down my thoughts, my struggles, and my prayers.  Sometimes I do well and I have a good stretch of writing.  Other times I go weeks at a time without writing.

A few weeks ago, I was cleaning out a drawer in my office and came across all my old journals.  They dated back to the early/mid 90s.  I read my thoughts a few days before I got married.  As I read, I remembered where and when I wrote it.  As I looked through all the journals, I came to notice some patterns, just like one could see if they read my blog.  I'm inconsistent.  I'm always whining about not having time, I'm always wanting more.

As I read, it felt like I am no farther along in my walk, faith, life than I was back in the 90s.  Sure, I understand that I've done things.  I've grown spiritually (and physically).  I've had a positive influence on people in their lives.  But, as I read, I couldn't help but ask the question, "What more could you have done if you hadn't been distracted, overly busy, or had you simply put your priorities in a different order?"

In the last year or so, I've been having these types of thoughts.  What more could you have done?  When I hit the 10 year mark here at South there was lots of these thoughts.  Ok.  You did some things, but what more should you have done?  When I turned 40 last August more of those thoughts bubbled to the surface.  I don't know that I dealt with them, other than thinking, "You can't go back and change things."

Unfortunately, thinking that didn't stop the thoughts from coming.  They have seemed to press in on me and frustrate me.  The past, that I can't change, grips me and at times paralyzes me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Can you relate?

As a minister, my goal in life is to help others realize the presence of God around them.  I believe that in all things, we can see God if we choose.  I think we can show God in all we do, if we choose.  The point in that is that its our choice to see and live the Kingdom of God in us and around us.  The kick here is, if we choose.

Here's where it gets serious.  What happens when one who feels he is called to do this, gets lost in the past, gets lost in the busy-ness and can't see what it is he's challenging others to see and live?  What happens?  You get almost nothing.  You get more thoughts of "What more could you have done?"  You get the timidity.  You get frustration.  You get a big fat mess.

This is how I have felt on and off the last few years.  I've tried to take it on myself.  I've won the battle sometimes.  I've faked my way through it at other times.  All in all, I find myself wanting more, wanting to do more, wanting to be more, yet not being able to do anything.

Last week I traveled to Atlanta, GA to attend the Catalyst Conference.  The theme this year was To Be Known.  The big picture idea is that to be known by God fills our need for approval, gives us hope in the Kingdom, and helps us make sense of our messes.  Of all the speakers I heard that week, there were four that really chiseled on my soul and situation.  I don't have the time or space to lay all of them out here.  I wish I did.  They are messages that I think everyone should hear.  Instead, I'm going to give a conglomeration of their talks.

God created and wanted to create.  He created us in the image of himself.  We are creations of God with a NATURE created by God to display God's NATURE--greatness, beauty, and worth.  Our identity is made in displaying God's greatness and worth.  That means God knows me.  He knew me before I was made.  He wants me to understand what it means to be known and how that reshapes how I live--to display His NATURE in my life.

At times though, as I talked about above, we lose sight of why we were created and what our purpose is.  We get it.  We understand it.  But, we forget it.  We lose our identity, a lot like the prodigal son.  He chose to squander his identity and being.  He went and lived the life he wanted to live to the fullest.  In the end, he realized what he wanted was empty.  He wanted to return to his family and simply be a servant.  Yet, when his father saw him returning, they threw a party and danced, because the son had returned.  The father put the son back in his place, as a son, not a servant.  God wants us to realize that if we continually return to him and seek him, he will restore us...just as he illustrated in the story of Hosea, having Hosea go and buy back his wife and make her his wife again.  God wants to restore us to our created NATURE--to glorify him.  That nature is fed through learning more about his nature and reveling in his nature.

In all of this we have a shift in life--I've had a shift.  Our eyes are opened and our living is empowered.  As God calls us to dance and live our rightful place, as sons and daughters, He helps us to let go of the past.  "...the old is gone, the new is here" (2 Corinthians 5:17).  He's calling us to live!  In our living, we realize the opportunities we still have.  If a jar of marbles represents the weeks of life you have with family, friends, your church, and so on, you come to realization that looking back caused you to focus on the empty space in the jar, what has already been done, rather than in the marbles left, what is yet to come--the space of life that you still have to live out God's NATURE.

Catalyst was everything I needed and more.  It really helped me frame some things that I knew, but had forgotten or couldn't see because of where I am.  God loves me.  He wants me to engage in him.  The way to draw me out is to find my joy in Him again and push forward in my feeding on Scripture and reading.  In doing so, I will allow him to lead forward.  I needed to hear the messages that people like John Piper, Reggie Joiner, Jud Whilhite, and Judah Smith shared.  I needed to realize that I was looking at my life through the eyes of the older brother, rather than seeing that the Father wanted me to not allow the past to shape who I was.  Rather he wanted me to dance and revel in the fact that he still sees me as a son. I needed to realize that its not about the past, its about the opportunities I still have left--the marbles I still leave in my jar.  

I need to get over the past…the things that I can't change.  I need to love with reckless abandon right now.  I need to lead right now.  I need to do everything I can to put good time in on the things that I think matter.  I need to learn how to deal with urgent and important so I can focus on the stuff that makes my heart sing--the important, yet un-urgent.  it needs to become my urgent!  

A few nights ago, when I was laying in bed, I felt the urge to write myself a letter.  As I laid their and thought, it went something like this....

Hey moron,

Remember this.  Yes, you are 41.  Yes, you have lots of regrets.  There is lots more you could have done if you had not allowed yourself to be distracted from the life you had been called to live.  You've lost focus on the one thing at times.  And, in all of that, you've allowed yourself to become a reactor rather than a catalyst.  You shouldn't be focused on the past anymore, other than to allow you to push forward from it--to use it as motivation to engage in life and do something more than you have in your last 41 years.  You still have a lot of life left.  Its time to get busy.  Its time to get serious.  Its time to lead those around you.  Its time to be the light that God has called you to be.  You want to do this.  You need to do this.  Not so that people will remember you and how you led, rather so that they will be moved closer to the father…so they will know what it looks like to LIVE as the lost son who was found.  Learn to be still again.  Learn to be bold again.  Learn to love recklessly.  Take others on this journey with you.  Help them to understand this, "worshipping Him with my life".  You understand it.  You know what it is.  You can do it.  Do it and help others do it.  God will take care of everything else.

Worshipping Him with my life,

Let us live and be known!

October 2, 2013


I am addicted to my electronic devices.  There I said it.  I've been honest with you.  That's not the point of this post.  The point of this post is how apps work.

On my iPad, I have four or five note taking apps.  I have the ever awesome Evernote.  It is the primary place where I put things.  I'm working to move all of my paper files into Evernote.  It is really the place where everything can be.  I like the interface, its easy to use, what more could I want?

Today I downloaded the Moleskine notebook app.  If you are into cool things, you certainly know about Moleskin journals.  They are overpriced, leather bound, quality paper journals that come in many fashionable colors, sizes and paper styles.  It is the journal that I have been using for my hand written journal now for probably 5 or 10 years.  I do my best to find them on clearance at the bargain books store because I can't stomach the $15 pricetag other places.

Because I use one in real life, I figured I would give the digital version a whirl and see what it could do.  In the few minutes I messed with it this afternoon, I was rather impressed.  It has the ability to do many, many notebooks, all cool looking on a shelf with color coding and your choice of digital paper--lines, no lines, storyboard boxes, graph paper, and weekly agenda.  What more could one want?  Even more, you can type through a keyboard, like I am doing now, or there is a handwriting function that will allow you to draw, paint, write, puke, and what not on the page.  Then, if you get all the settings right, you can sync it to Dropbox or Evernote.  I haven't tried it yet.  I didn't want to lose too much time in messing with it.

As I was screwing around with the app, I came to this realization.  I've had three or four of these apps on my iPad at any given time.  Each time I installed one, I thought, "This will give me a place to write and so on when I have down time or I need to write without distraction, like that is even possible.  The problem is, I never use them.  I have good intentions to use them, but I never do.

I think that is the hangup I have with my electronic devices.  Everything is always new and shiny.  Developers are always updating things and making new apps that make me believe I'm going to be more productive.  I think I am going to get more done and be more efficient, when in reality, all I do is waste more time being wowed by the shiny appeal rather than being undistracted.

So, thank you Moleskine app.  I don't know how helpful you are going to be in my life, since I already have the ever powerful Evernote.  But, you did engage me enough to spend some time to blog, which I needed to do.

What else should I do....where's my iPhone?