Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How to Repent

Repentance is a life skill.
In the original language of the New Testament, the word literally means, "with new mind."

If you can't change your mind, you die as a human being and become someone hard, rigid and stuck. Who wants to be around someone (for long) who can't change their mind?

Martin Luther, the protagonist of the Reformation wrote in the opening paragraphs of his 95 theses famously nailed to the door at Wittenberg, "Our Lord and Master...willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

And here's how George Whitfield, one of the leaders of the 18th century Spiritual Awakening in both England and America practice repentance (he usually did this each night). He once wrote, “God give me a deep humility, a well-guided zeal, a burning love and a single eye, and then let men or devils do their worst!”

Deep Humilty (vs. Pride)

Have I looked down on anyone? Have I been too stung by criticism? Have I felt snubbed and ignored?

Repent like this: Consider the free grace of Jesus until I sense (a) decreasing disdain, since I am a sinner too, and (b) decreasing pain over criticism, since I should not value human approval over God’s love. In light of his grace, I can let go of the need to keep up a good image—it is too great a burden and is now unnecessary. I reflect on free grace until I experience grateful, restful joy.

Wise courage (vs. anxiety)

Have I avoided people or tasks that I know I should face? Have I been anxious and worried? Have I failed to be circumspect, or have I been rash and impulsive?

Repent like this: Consider the free grace of Jesus until there is (a) no cowardly avoidance of hard things, since Jesus faced evil for me, and (b) no anxious or rash behavior, since Jesus’ death proves that God cares and will watch over me. It takes pride to be anxious, and I recognize I am not wise enough to know how my life should go. I reflect on free grace until I experience calm thoughtfulness and strategic boldness.

Burning love (vs indifference)

Have I spoken or thought unkindly of anyone? Am I justifying myself by caricaturing someone else in my mind? Have I been impatient and irritable? Have I been self-absorbed, indifferent, and inattentive to people?

Repent like this: Consider the free grace of Jesus until there is (a) no coldness or unkindness, as I think of the sacrificial love of Christ for me, (b) no impatience, as I think of his patience with me, and (c) no indifference, as I think of how God is infinitely attentive to me. I reflect on free grace until I show warmth and affection.

Godly motivations (a single eye)

Am I doing what I do for God’s glory and the good of others, or am I being driven by fears, need for approval, love of comfort and ease, need for control, hunger for acclaim and power, or the fear of other people (Luke 12:4–5)? Am I looking at anyone with envy? Am I giving in to even the first motions of lust

or gluttony? Am I spending my time on urgent things rather than important things because of these inordinate desires?

Repent like this: Consider how the free grace of Jesus provides me with what I am looking for in these other things. Pray, “Oh Lord Jesus, make me happy enough in you to avoid sin, and wise enough in you to avoid danger, that I may always do what is right in your sight. In your name I pray, Amen.”


Monday, November 29, 2010

The New Frontier

People don't think there are frontiers anymore. There are. Being a church that serves our community is ours. We could happen in North County because of us? We'll need Pioneers to lead the way and Settlers to develop the territory. Which one will you be?

Friday, November 05, 2010

Starts Sunday

Our series in November. Excited to talk about this beginning Sunday. I'm looking forward to three things in particular:
1 - Giving people hope about their finances so they see how to keep money from keeping them from the things money can't buy.
2 - Overturning the preconceptions people have about money and the Church (There has been and still is a lot of people in the Church who misuse this--namely, prosperity preachers.
3 - Bonus: It's a chance for me to learn too. My wife does a phenomenal job managing our finances. (I married up!) And during this series, I'm looking forward to be learning more about how to better manage our finances so we can pour even more of our money in the direction of God's kingdom.

The Decade of Growth

Admittedly, this is seriously long. It's loosely a transcript of the vision I cast last weekend (audio will be up soon). I wanted it available to circulate and share.


I talked a few weeks ago about a 40 year vision for our community—how a community of God’s people who know who they are, know their calling and know how to work could literally change the face of our area. I don’t think that’s a pipe-dream. The Clapham Sect did just that in England 100+ years ago. It’s time for Jesus’ disciples to do the same in our day.

But something that big needs to be broken down into bite size chunks. So I talked last Sunday about our next decade together. I’m calling it the decade of growth—an unprecedented decade of growth personally, relationally and as a church. As Trinity’s pastor, I am 110% committed to your growth over the next decade. Many people, instead of growing for 10 years, live the same year over and over 10 times. I don’t want that for you. In 10 years, I want you to be out of debt, healthy, in a great relationship, and loving God and loving people more than you ever have. We’ll have to do that together. You’ll need help. So this is a talk about the next 10 years we need to experience together to get there. Here are the 6 things I think we must do if that’s to become a reality.

Trinity has a great history. Over the last 8 decades, thousands of people have been impacted and millions of dollars has been raised to meet needs. We honor that and are aware that anything we do in the future is built on the foundation of committed leaders in the past. There is an amazing, amazing track record of what God has done here. So the question is, what do we do now?

#1 Realize we are a mature church. The growth cycle is huge when you are a baby and an adolescent but slows down when you are an adult. This is completely normal. So we first have to realize where we are in the growth cycle. We are—in the language of development—an adult church. That is our current reality.

#2 BUT, we have to refuse to be comfortable. We all like comfort. That’s just part of being a human being. For instance, I don’t like it when I’m all settled down for the evening with a book or a show and then one of my kids starts crying for me. I love them, but frankly, it’s annoying. However, if I consistently ignore their needs I stunt who they become, favoring my comfort over their needs. In the same way as a church we have to refuse to be comfortable. I think God’s blessing is on the church that cares about others.

Here’s three things to keep in mind in that respect. 1) The church that doesn’t grow stagnates and dies. It’s a simple fact. No growing=dying. This requires incredibly unselfish people; People aware of other people’s needs and willing to do something about it. 2) God commands us to grow and bear fruit. Jesus told his disciples that we are to show ourselves to be his disciples, bearing much fruit. (John 15:9). 3) The needs of people—now more than ever—demand that we grow. People are desperately in need of hope, purpose, meaning & strength. We will grow as a church—grow as followers of Jesus.

#3 We have to restart a new bell curve by reaching the next generation. Again, the growth cycle is like a bell curve: A steep path of growth on the front end, a peak, followed by a decline. It happens with a piece of fruit: ripening, peak flavor, then decay, and it happens with your own body: growth, peak years, then the aches and pains of age begin to set in.

So how do you grow when things naturally decline? Two things: 1-You start a new bell curve at the peak! We’ll do that by actively and intentionally leveraging the skills, experience and wisdom of the current generation to train, lead and reach the next generation. 2-Raise the evangelistic temperature. Evangelism has gotten (probably rightly so) a bad rap as of late. In many people’s minds it raises the image of shoving God down someone’s throat. But it’s coming back into vogue in our culture—Apple even has a position called “Chief Evangelist”.

At its best, it simply means “messenger.” We want to help you recognize that you are a messenger and representative of God’s Kingdom—both with your actions and your words, in every place that you go. So we want to teach you how to use Jesus’ strategy in Luke 9 & 10 (known as the Person of Peace), finding the people near you whose hearts are ready to hear about God’s love through your kindness, genuine friendship and words.

And then we want to help you use the weekend service as a tool both to grow personally and a tool to help your friends, family and neighbors grow. We’ll do our best to make the music great, the message relevant, and be prepared to experience God’s presence together. In fact, during the month of December we’re gearing the services specifically toward people who are un-churched, de-churched, and no-churched (we always try to do that, but especially gearing it that way during December.) We’ll be talking about how Love has Come—to your hurts, to your doubts, to your relationships—and want to challenge you to invite a person of peace to the service with you and then go out to lunch with them afterwards. It’s all about the relationship!

And on Christmas Eve, let’s pack the place out—having at least 400 people present. And Christmas Eve, seriously easy sell! J We’ll have hor’s doeuvres before the service, candlelight, a great atmosphere. Make it happen!

#4 We’ll do that by focusing on developing people. We’ll do that 2 ways:

1 – By renewing and revitalizing our core. All of us need renewal. A new heart. A new spirit. A renewed sense that we are loved by God, we have a purpose God is calling us to and that it can happen. At any point, we can turn to God and he will give us freedom and a new start. If Jesus isn’t a normal part of your conversation, you don’t find yourself talking or thinking about him and doing what he said is best--—then it’s time for renewal.

We’ve talked about abiding (see John 15) several times and want to help you learn a rhythm of life that is sustainable and ties you to your basic identity as the child God dearly loves. Get that--the covenant relationship God invites you into, let it grip your heart, and you become unstoppable. The Apostle Paul said it to the Corinthians like this: though we are outwardly wasting away (on the down side of the bell curve), inwardly we can be renewed every day. (2 Corinthians 14:6). Tap into God’s Holy Spirit for renewal. We’ll help you do that. We’re working on a retreat for our entire church family and a way to help you regularly follow the rhythm of Jesus’ life: Engagement and renewal, engagement and renewal, engagement and renewal.

2 – By paying attention to how Jesus did it. For the last year+, I’ve been studying how Jesus made disciples and doing my best to exactly imitate not only what he did but how he did it. So I’ve spent time every week with 6 guys that I’ve invited to learn with me and from me how to follow Jesus. We call it a huddle.

The great invitation of the huddle was (and is) that we’d learn together and that they wouldn’t be left behind. The high challenge was that they’d do exactly the same for a few others. The next rounds of huddles have just begun. What we’re developing is an incredibly strong base of deeply Christ-like disciples who have a clear sense of who they are and what God is calling them to do. This discipling culture we’re building is the foundation of the church. To put it in computer language, discipleship is the operating system of the Kingdom of God and the Church is the killer app. (We often get it backwards—thinking the Church is God’s operating system that spawns multiple programs—discipleship being one nice thing among many.)

Making disciples first is how Jesus did it and he gave no Plan B! Make disciples who do everything I commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20). And since he’s the smartest man to ever live, I’m going to go ahead and defer to his methods. J

#5We must reposition our church for a new decade. There is a point at which a church can define what they are known for, but that soon becomes something they can no longer control. Other people decide what a church is known for. For Trinity, I think it’s fair to say that if we asked someone in the community what we are known for they’d say something like:

· Friendly (we are an incredibly friendly church—I hear that over and over again)

· The annual Live Nativity

· On Shackelford Road

That’s certainly not bad. We’re friendly, have a reputation for putting on an annual community event, and people know where our building is located. Ok, good. But to what degree do those things reflect what the Church is meant to be? Do those things naturally lead to people becoming followers of Jesus?

So what will be known for in the next decade? Let’s be known for these three things:

· Meeting Needs – if someone needs food, a job, is addicted, is grieving, is going through a divorce…whatever, let’s be known as the people who help meet those needs. In the next 2 months, we’re doing a food drive for a partner church in the city that houses a food pantry that is deluged by need. Bring food every week in November and December. And we’re having a coat drive in early November and packing gift boxes for Operation Christmas Child. That’s just the start.

· Young Families and Students – The natural cycle of life is Baby->cute kid with lunch box->Student->college or trade-> Married->kid->raise your kids->watch them go through the cycle->grandkids. Admittedly, this is not how it happens for everyone, but it is the basic reproduction cycle of the human race. Raise kids well, you raise a whole culture well. In the next decade we want to reach the next generation and do everything in our power to help them succeed. We’re targeting them to develop and renovating our space they use and the way we teach their kids and develop them as disciples and parents who know how to love and raise their kids.

· Radical Love – Let’s be known for loving God, loving each other, loving the unlovely and the unloveable, loving the despised…in a radical way. Here are 3 ways we are going to start that now:

1-We’ve adopted Coldwater Elementary School just around the corner, and are again going to be providing Christmas for three families (they have several families who are homeless!). We’ve even had someone offer a house they own to us to use as a way to bless a family that just needs a leg up for a few months to help turn things around financially. So in a few months, we’ll have a home we can offer to those families—rent free—where they can begin to turn things around financially (and for their entire future!). Wow. Only God could do that.

2 – In January, we’re going to be “Regifting Love” by challenging you to serve 3000 hours in our community. That works out to each person (that would be YOU) serving about 2 hours/week in January. We’ve contacted 10 agencies in the area and will have a catalog listing tangible ways you can serve. Make plans now to clear your schedule in January for 2 hours a week.

3-We’re hosting a free community health fair January 29. It will be run by health professionals and offer everything from nutrition and exercise help to diabetes screening (you can serve some of your hours there, by the way).

Radical love. Let’s be known for that.

#6 Renovate our space. I mean two things by that. One, we’re going through the building and updating the spaces—starting with our kids area (it’s had several different looks over the years—again, this is about reaching a new generation!)—so they look clean, modern and welcoming. When the community uses our building, when the guests come that you are going to invite, we want them to realize that we were already thinking about them and the experience they’d have while in our building. We want to communicate that we care about them by having facilities that say “we care.”

Two, and more importantly, we want to renovate our space by extending our space. I don’t mean building a large sanctuary or bigger gym for $5-10 million (do you know how many people we could feed, how many people we could retrain for a new job, how many churches we could plant with that kind of money??), but sending you out as God calls you to have little communities of mission that meet in homes, coffee shops and other spaces. You and the mission that comes from God’s heart for you to fulfill are the truly “renovated space.” We’ve talked about these before. They are called missional communities. You won’t be thrown to the wolves. In fact, to lead a missional community, you have to go through a huddle first. So you won’t be on your own. You’ll be trained, helped, supported and equipped.

That’s what’s on my heart. I am praying it will now be on your heart. Peace.

The audio of the message will be up soon. And we’re excited to launch our new website,, in a few weeks that will include a sermon player where you can listen to the messages.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Stephen Colbert on immigration

Stephen Colbert using his satirical gift before Congress. Well done Stephen, well done.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Evangelism - a four letter word?

I've grown up--for better or worse--in what is commonly called the "Evangelical World."
Evangelicals are thusly named because we are evangelistic--that is, we want to tell people about Jesus and see people follow Jesus.

Enter irony.

For a number of valid reasons, evangelism has now become a dirty word to those of us in the younger evangelical set. Our skin crawls when we hear it and fear and anxiety grips our hearts. So with a tip of the hat to Stuff Christians Like, here's why that happens for me, maybe you can identify.

1-It's been about guilt. The way I heard it preached sounded an awful lot like religious cold-calling on an unsuspecting, uninterested soul who was just trying to get a new DVD player at Best Buy. "Sir, I can see you are looking for a new DVD player...can I tell you about the DVD player that never dies?" And to motivate us, our willingness to walk up to complete strangers was used as the measure of the fervency of our devotion to Jesus. I'd put the tenor of the pitch at roughly the same level as those guilt email forwards that tell you that you really love/aren't ashamed of Jesus only if you forward this immediately to 10 friends. And to underscore that this was possible (and to underscore how I was failing) there was always that one special speaker who'd led about 3,000 people to Lord in DVD section of Best Buy in the last year.

2-It's sounded an awful lot like sacred one night stands. Since the ultimate goal was souls in a disembodied heaven, all that mattered was that you got people to pray "the prayer." And if you got a lot of people to pray the prayer, then you were a successful Christian. Who cares if you knew or loved the person (or even liked them), if they prayed the prayer, then you and Jesus and the person's eternal destiny (hey, no pressure) were good . You love 'em, leave 'em and move on. There was even a thing that could serve as a prophylaxis against actual interaction with heathen: A tract. It earned us a reputation of ironically not actually caring about the people we were supposed to love.

3-It wasn't natural. Honestly, the messages were mixed. "Friendship with the world is enmity against God." "Separate yourself from among them." "Now go love them in Jesus' name." Holy whiplash Batman! I vividly remember walking down my High School hallway carrying my Bible completely torn up about the eternal destinies of my classmates, but not wanting to contaminate myself by actually being friends with them.

4-It's been about what to avoid. The pitch was most often centered around avoiding hell, not loving Jesus. Jesus, in contrast, talked most about what it meant to follow him and embrace God's kingdom, reserving his talk about hell mainly for the religious people who felt so smugly in the right.

To add irony to irony, the word evangelist is now hot. Apple even recently had a Chief Mac Evangelist. The business world routinely talks about being an evangelist for this or that product or service. What they mean is actually the original intent of the word: you love and believe in something so much that you can't help but share it.

We need to rescue the word and the practice. We're sent by God (the root meaning of the word evangelistic) and so need to reclaim our mission of announcing God's kingdom. Here are three ways I'm working toward doing that.

The person of peace. Jesus--and can anyone actually argue he isn't the greatest evangelist of all time?--has a strategy we've basically ignored. In Luke 9 & 10 he sends out the 12 and the 72 with the instruction that when they go somewhere, they are to look for the man (or woman) of peace. "You enter a house and announce peace to it," Jesus says. "If a person of peace is there, your peace will rest on them. Stay, build relationships, announce God's reign over all things. If not, move on."

Here's what Jesus was saying. "As you go about your life and find someone you like and who likes you, start there. Build a relationship with them, and in the context of that relationship, tell them about God's love and care for them. If you don't find someone who likes you, move on." Heaven came down and glory filled my soul when I realized how simple and natural Jesus was making it. Focused intention, zero pressure. I am now always on the look-out for a person of peace.

Increase my powers of observation. In John 4, Jesus meets the woman from Samaria at a well. He observes several things (1) She's alone. Women didn't go places like that alone in that culture. (2) It's the middle of the day in the heat. Women went together in the morning when it was cool. (3) Based on 1 & 2, he notices that she is an outcast of some sort. When his disciples come back from the store and he unpacks with them the secret of having profound spiritual conversations, he says "open your eyes and look at the fields!" In other words, notice the things going on around you. It's there that an encouraging word, a smile, a kind conversation can open the door of someone's heart.

Serve people while being normal. When I serve people, I change their perception, change my perception and break down barriers. And I serve because I love, not because I hope we'll talk about Jesus (though I do hope that happens). A great interview on ABC News about the new face of American Evangelicalism underscores this.

So what about you? What comes to mind when you think of evangelism? How do we reclaim it without all the baggage?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Monday Thoughts

  • Started a new series yesterday: Hope For Your Work. The framework is from the brilliant insights of Tim Keller. Everyone gets their stuff from somewhere. I get some of my stuff from him. Simply brilliant pastor.
  • I'm glad I love what I do, but have had plenty of work that I didn't.
  • All good work that helps people flourish (some work frankly doesn't) is a form of gardening (see Genesis 1-2).
  • If you don't understand how your work fits into your faith, you are left with a gaping hole in your practice of following Jesus.
  • Been wrestling a lot with the Celebrity culture we live in--specifically the church celebrity culture (it exists). This quote from Tim Keller helped me see the task ahead of me. Our celebrity culture comes because we think their tremendous success comes from a certain skill set the person has (that we then covet or try to copy):
    The difference between a solid church and a terrible church is pretty much up to you. The difference between a solid church and incredible success has almost nothing to do with you...It’s like you are out there paddling on your surfboard, and suddenly the wave comes and you ride in, standing up like you’re a Greek god. That has everything to do with the wave.
  • Joseph went through three stages of character development. 1-Wow, look at my talent and how great I am! 2 - Wow, look at the talent God gave me. Now let me show you how great I am. 3-My insights are meaningless. Only God can do what needs to be done. If I'm honest, I think I'm somewhere between stage 2 & 3.
  • I loved having a date with my wife on Friday night. A great student gave us the gift of a night of baby-sitting/month so we could go out. We took an inventory...and it's been way too long since we've been on a date. Regular dates now go into my life plan. I don't want to use my wife or my family to lead a church.
  • From Saturday's Marriage/Parenting Seminar: A great marriage is built on three things. 1-Knowing your partner's inner world intimately. 2-Building a culture of fondness and admiration (over against a culture of "constructive criticism" and contempt). 3-Being aware of your partner's "bids" for attention and affection and doing everything you can to turn toward them.
  • Lots of administrative stuff needing attention right now. I am not an administrator and find myself frequently drained by the demands. I'm having to really monitor my time and energy levels. I really want to serve the people I lead well and this means getting us past this necessary strengthening of our processes and systems regardless of how it makes me feel.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Inequitites, Part 2

These are reflections on my previous post about some inequities I experienced the other night from about 3 feet away on the Metro coming home from Busch Stadium. It raised some serious questions for me:
What does it mean that there are massive inequities in the world?
Am I supposed to feel "white guilt" for my station in life?
Am I supposed to feel sorry for my African-American brother and his station in life?
What can I even do to address inequities on this scale?

Where I am born and to whom I am born is beyond my control. A large part of what I experienced the other night was due to factors of our birth. We like to think that we are largely self-made people, but that's really a myth of the modern world. While we are certainly responsible for making something of our lives, and this is without a doubt the 'land of opportunity', the material we start with and where we start with it determines more of who we are than we care to admit.

Things don't make a person happy. A cultural myth that is heavily marketed to us is that money+stuff=happiness. Love, relationships, family, warmth: These are all ingredients money can't buy. If you've ever been to a third-world country, you've likely walked away thinking: how can they be so happy?

The American Dream is really a new form of aristocracy. The things we've come to expect out of life are things that for the majority of human history were only available to royalty. It's great that a higher standard of living is available (who wants people to intentionally suffer?), however a short reflection on history will hopefully fill us with gratitude.

Feeling sorry for someone is a waste of energy. Feeling sorry for someone often has the effect of making us feel superior. "Oh, those poor people!", which really can mean "I'm so much better than them. I'm glad I'm not like them." And when we feel superior, we can no longer move to help as a fellow human being. Our help comes tainted with self-righteousness.

Admit the disparity. It doesn't do any good to refuse to acknowledge the inequities. Look them square in the face and say that they are there. Then do something. The inequities would have been even greater if I'd talked about the families I've met in third world countries. Hand-wringing over their existence does nothing. Act.

True living means giving. In God's economy of things, giving is actually a better way of living than receiving. Jesus says it's actually the best way to go about life. The consumerism of our society wants to reverse God's economy and tells us that it is better to receive than to give. In contrast, if we follow Jesus and have, we give. We work for justice. We pay attention to inequities. We live simply so that we can give.

What are your thoughts on the inequities you see in life?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Monday Thoughts (on Tuesday)

  • Since our August month of abiding, I've been out of my rhythm in terms of weekly speaking. I see how a rhythm helps with communication. I felt "off" on Sunday. It happens. I really love speaking and love the challenge of getting better.
  • Really challenged the way we see Church yesterday. In the west, the way we see Church is typically like a fortress. We want everyone to come into the fortress, we might send out raiding parties to get new people into the fortress, but we've basically failed to see that living thusly leaves massive territory completely in our enemy's hands. I think Mike Breen is right. Satan has made a pact with the Western Church. He'll let the church get as large as it wants in the fortress model as long as we take no new territory.
  • Conservative stats say 60% of America does not attend fortress, I mean church, on Sunday.
  • Theological proviso here: This does not mean God is not present or working in that 60%. It means we are not present or working in that 60%. And for some reason, God chooses to do the majority of his work of setting people free through people.
  • I'm an ENTP on the Myers-Briggs inventory, which means I have to fight, fight, fight to do things the same way again and again. (I'd drive home a different way every day if I could) This is important because systems that allow leadership to expand and grow require doing the same thing over and over again. The apostle Paul said it: I die daily.
  • To lead means to be heavily involved in your own sanctification, which means painfully facing your shortcomings everyday.
  • My job description: growing leaders who are like Jesus.
  • Leaders are measured by the number of leaders they produce, not the number of followers they have.
  • My Huskers are back. Go Big Red!
  • Been wrestling with the implications of a word given to me at the Senior Pastor's retreat a couple weeks ago: "Your first sermon is your marriage. Your second sermon is your family. Your third sermon is what you say on Sunday." Painfully, I don't think I've had the order right. I'm thinking differently so I can live differently.


Someone gave us four free tickets to last Friday night's Cardinals Game, 13 rows up from the 3rd base dugout valued at $400. An incredible job perk. I did a funeral and the funeral director passed on tickets to me.
He and his wife worked the Cardinals game in concessions, by the grease pit where they could only hear the cheers when the Cardinals routed the Padres 14-4. A job perk, I guess.

*We took our two boys for a fun night out which meant they'd stay up much later than little kids should. It was a special treat that we paid for with grumpiness for two days, but totally worth the experience.
*His two kids were watched, like they are most nights, by someone while their mom and dad worked, staying up much later than little kids should, like they probably do most nights.

*We were all wearing happy, fun Cardinals gear--St Louis Camouflage, as it's called--to get in the spirit of the game.
*They were wearing concessionare, grease-saturated uniforms.

*We rode the Metro down to the stadium because it would be fun for our boys. They loved it.
*They rode the Metro down to the stadium because its there only means of transit, standing for the most part because the train was packed with exhausted fans who were filling all the seats.

*We bought the boys a memento bat each, a hot dog, cotton candy and a root beer. About $40 worth of fun.
*They earned a little more than that for their night's work.

*While on the Metro I stood gingerly in the packed crowd on my right foot I'd recently pierced with a large nail. It still hurt, but my insurance is good and I was able to get the care I needed easily with relatively little cost to me.
*While on the Metro, he had a band-aid on a sore that topped a grotesquely mis-formed set of veins on his left arm. I don't know this for sure, but given his circumstances, I'm going to guess the band-aid was his form of "care." It was what he could get at relatively little cost to him.

*My wife was worn out and beaten down from a week of running after three little ones (a huge job, to be sure).
*His wife was worn out from the constant drain of looking after two little ones, while holding down a fast-food job. I heard her mutter about the strength she needed to carry on in what seemed like an unending future.

I could go on. Tomorrow, I'll reflect on what this all means and specifically what this all means for me as a follower of Jesus.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Thoughts

Working as a Pastor, I have a gig I do every Sunday. Kind of goes with the deal. And it will help me to reflect on what's transpired in the last week, so here goes.
  • Kyle Rainbolt brought it yesterday, helping us understand the learning circle Jesus outlines in Mark 1:15. Kyle has an uncanny knack for making the complex simple and is a natural communicator. I'm honored to be serving with him.
  • Get the learning circle and you have a life-long tool for processing everything life throws at you and consistently seeing breakthrough in your life.
  • Loved being in Myrtle Beach, SC last week at this hotel with these people for their Senior Pastor's retreat. Come on Lord! Still feel a bit weird being called a Senior Pastor.
  • Especially thankful for the owner who made it available for pastors for $50/night. Hands down the best Hampton Inn I've ever stayed in.
  • Felt like massive breakthrough for me personally this morning in our staff meeting talking about the prophetic and praying for healing. I'm promiscuously and indiscriminately going to be praying for people to be healed in the next 6 months (and beyond). Feeling more comfortable with the prophetic personally as I'm beginning to understand how God speaks to me.
  • Theological clarification of the above statement for you aren't from the charismatic stream of Christianity (like I'm not), the ministry of Jesus involved healing the sick as a sign of the coming Kingdom, and the regular giving of encouraging insight about what God wants to do in a person's life. Hearing the voice of God is the birthright of every Christian (and a thing very often maligned and misunderstood). But, read the New Testament and it's very quickly evident that Jesus' disciples did what Jesus did. Ergo, if we are his disciples...
  • Without truly spiritual lives, church leaders are religious programming directors. I'd like the life of Jesus to consume mine please. I feel something bubbling in our church and community in this regard.
  • My goal: to get as regular and good at blogging as Ben Arment. Always love and am challenged by his blog.
  • Our church structure has undergone a massive overhaul in the last 18 months. Looking forward to seeing the fruit of that this year. We've intentionally built it to support thousands. This is forcing me to make massive internal changes in how I think and operate as a leader.
  • Leaders go first.
  • Even more than that, looking forward to seeing the beginning fruit of our efforts at building a discipling culture. Single most significant thing I've ever undertaken in ministry.

Blogging Sins Confessed

I've been away.
For a while.

A long while. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've committed some sort of blogging sin, alienating my tens of readers with my lack of content.

Now I'm back with a renewed sense of what this blog and what it's for. I'll unpack what I'm learning as a follower of Jesus who is a husband, dad & Christian leader. So a bit more focus, and a bit less theory.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

God is still God

The Story of Zac Smith from NewSpring Media on Vimeo.

Can you say God is still God and he is good?

May Zac's story change you as it has changed me!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why A Group Of Christians would....part 2

To prepare for something like this!

Fingerprinting | Bike Safety | Helmet Check | Dare | Fire Truck | Ambulance | Water Safety| Short Baseball Clinic | Egg Hunts every 30 minutes | Chick-Fil-A Cow and free Chick-Fil-A food |Hot dogs and it's all FREE!!!!!

April 3rd from 11-1 at Trinity Church.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Experiencing Lent Beyond Fasting

If you haven't ever looked at Relevant Magazine or visited their website I would encourage you to do both. It will encourage, challenge, inspire you and even make you laugh! I read this post by the author Matthew Paul Turner about his experience with Fasting and I thought it might benefit you and your fast this season of Lent. - Kyle

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wrong Paths in Prayer

In some times of the church's history "it was considered good for the young Christian to be challenged with the marathon records of Jesus and the saints. This could be humbling, but it could also cause the young prayer-warrior to buckle under the weight of the armor he felt bound to assume. In such cases prayer was not an expression of faith in God's grace, but an monument erected to attract his attention. Trust was not centered on the God who constantly oversees our paths and knows our needs, but on prayer itself, which must be used as a magical lever to pry answers from an unwilling God." (italics added)
--Richard Lovelace in Dynamics of Spiritual Life.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Not Giving in to Fear

The Lord of the Rings is filled with unbelievable passages. If you've never read the books, buy them or check them out now. They are worth every minute. The movies are good too, but its just like they always say: the movie is never as good as the book.

There is an incredible dialogue between Aragorn (one of the heroes of the story) and Eowyn (daughter of the King of Rohan) that illustrates the power of fear. In one sense, fear never truly goes away. What matters is not that you fear, but what you fear. Scripture talks often about the Fear of the Lord. in fact, the writer of Proverbs says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdome. Does fearing God mean being afraid, even terrified of God? On one level, yes. He is a mystery and a consuming fire. If we fear God above everything, no other fear can take root in us. But what we find is that when we fear God--the word literally means "to reverence", we grow to love God. And that perfect love drives out fear.

Here's the dialogue between Aragorn and Eowyn. The Lady Eowyn is pleading to join Aragorn on a dangerous journey when she says these amazing words:

"I fear neither death nor pain."
What do you fear, my Lady?"
A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all
chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

So Much Noise

Several nights ago my four year old daughter came into my room and woke me up. She said, "Daddy, I can't sleep. My noise machine went off." I stumbled into her room, turned her noise machine back on and tucked her into her bed. I couldn't help to think, even at 3 am, that I have set a horrible pattern in her life.

The next day, I thought about it even more. I started thinking about my own life and how I struggle in silence. I always have noise on: the tv, music, texting or twittering, the computer, etc. Rarely ever do I find myself sitting in silence. However, it's not always a physical noise that I hear. Sometimes it's the noise of worry, or fear, or confusion, or people around me complaining or arguing. I many of us have a problem with silence.

When Jesus was teaching his followers how to pray he said this in Matthew 6:6 -

"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your father, who is unseen."

Jesus also would go off by himself and spend time with the Father, away from the noise of other people.

Here is how I am trying to apply this to my life and would challenge you to as well:

1. Have a place to go pray. Maybe it's a spare bedroom in your basement, or a walk in closet, or your porch. When you want to spend time with your Father, go to this place. This doesn't mean it's the only time you can pray, but have an intentional place.

2. UNPLUG: This one is the hardest for me. However, I understand I need to change and I am trying to do that. I am going to attempt to not listen to the radio as I drive to my office in the mornings. I am going to unplug on my day off, which means not twittering (writing or reading them.) What technology do you need to unplug from?

3. Pray through your emotions: For me, worry has been one of the main things I have had to deal with. The noise of worry can be loud and overwhelming at times. I have learned to turn my worries into prayers. What would it look like for you to pray through your emotions? To pray when you feel tired, or stressed, or worried, or afraid of the future, or regretting the past. Physical noise can get in the way of communicating with God, but I think the noise in our head can be even a bigger barrier. Try today to turn your feeling and emotions (noise) into prayers.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In the middle

I love The Lord of the Rings. The books are a literary treasure and the movies are cinematic genius. If you know the story, Hobbits, Elves and humans inhabit a place called Middle Earth--a somewhat dangerous and difficult place filled with treachery and beauty all at the same time.

A lot, strangely, like the world we inhabit.

For many of us, we look at the past and know that it contains both pain and joy--for many of us, more of the former than the latter. And we look at the future and are filled with either hope or fear and uncertainty--for many of us, more of the latter than the former. We are, as JRR Tolkien so ably described, in Middle Earth. We realize it's where we are and we often find it very difficult to navigate.

The shift from the present to the future leaves many of us caught in the middle with unending feelings about the future flourishing of our lives and overwhelmed by the changes that need to take place to see it happen in a good way. Yet, in the middle of it all, Jesus' message and presence is with us. In fact, as we walk through Lent, we look forward to the Resurrection--a sign and reality from God that all will be well.
Full Disclosure: The idea for this post is an adaptation of an article in The Communicator, a regular newsletter for pastors published by these people.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Oh, to pray like a child

What would change in your life if you could see God as a good dad instead of something "out there?" The challenge is to become like a child. - Kyle

Friday, March 05, 2010

Lenten Reflection

If you have stopped doing something for this season of Lent, you have made it through 14 of 40 days. Congratulations! Maybe you have messed up a few times or maybe you didn't realize it was going to be as hard as it is, but keep going.

The hope, however, is that you have started doing something as well. We hope that you have placed an emphasis on scripture, began reading a book, spending more time in prayer, or serving in some way. Jesus is about change, as Scott just blogged about. I found a great reflection that highlights what Jesus can do in your life and in mine.

Give up complaining——focus on gratitude.

Give up pessimism——become an optimist.

Give up harsh judgments——think kindly thoughts.

Give up worry——trust Divine Providence.

Give up discouragement——be full of hope.

Give up bitterness——turn to forgiveness.

Give up hatred——return good for evil.

Give up negativism——be positive.

Give up anger——be more patient.

Give up pettiness——become mature.

Give up gloom——enjoy the beauty that is all around you.

Give up jealousy——pray for trust.

Give up gossiping——control your tongue.

Give up sin——turn to virtue.

Give up giving up——hang in there!

- Kyle

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


We live in a world where the only constant is change. It's even a reality in our bodies.
As we age, we have a tendency to live more from memory than imagination (Brain science has confirmed that the neural pathways in your brain literally harden unless you "exercise" them). For many of us, change is difficult. Social scientists say that 70% of us prefer the past and the present to the future. It's too risky/different/unknowable/uncertain/_______.

But here's a reality. To be Christlike is to change. John, Jesus' cousin who became a prophet in the desert said it this way: "He must increase, I must decrease."

If I follow Jesus, this will always be true. Less of my influence. More of Jesus' influence. Less of my desires. More of Jesus' desires. Less of my thoughts and opinions about things. More of Jesus' thoughts and opinions about things.

So how do you do it?

Dallas Willard says change always happens in this order.

Vision - A vision of God that lets me see both how good and how immense God is and how my little life might become a part of his goodness and power.

Intention - The decision to do something about that vision and move toward it.

Means or Method - Some tangible way to bring the change into my life. For example, begin serving the poor because I see that God cares about the poor. Or begin praying to God as a good Father and let pray become a relational thing (what we are doingn together) instead of a functional thing (what I need or want). Or begin reading Scripture every day to be soaked in God's reality.
Where are you on the change cycle?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Are You Proud?

It is extremely scary to surrender. When we think of surrendering we often think of losing, or failing, or giving up or missing out on something. However, when you surrender your life to Jesus and you allow him to be first in your life, you actually gain something!

I think one thing that keeps us from surrendering to Jesus is our pride. We tell ourselves, "I can take care of that," or "God can help me in all of these areas but I think I know how to deal with these issues better than he does," or "I know God forgives me, but I can't forgive myself." In all of these areas we are struggling with issues of Pride.

The scriptures say this in 1 Peter 5:5-6

“God opposes the proud, but favors the humble." So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.

As you are thinking about your life in this season of Lent, I would encourage you to ask yourself, "Do I have the characteristic of humility or do I struggle with pride?" Here are 8 questions to ask yourself when it comes to being prideful:

1. Are you teachable?

2. How do you respond to correction and rebuke?

3. Are you considerate of other people?

4. Do you admit when you are wrong or make mistakes?

5. Do you serve and receive service well?

6. Are you consistently aware of God's grace in your life and the people around you?

7. Do you disagree in an agreeable way?

8. How much attention and affirmation do you require?

May we all understand that we are people of pride and that we must pursue humility by the grace of God.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Did you mean it?

On Vision Sunday (2 weeks ago), we closed by saying the above declaration togther. You could leave, take a copy home, frame it, make it into a paper airplane, whatever.

The question is, do mean it? It's a game-changer for your life if so.

So you know we borrowed the language from Rick Warren's declaration at the Radicalis conference who borrowed the language from this well-known declaration (often sourced to an African pastor).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Tiger’s story is not that different than mine"

I have been a huge fan of Tiger Woods for a long time. I enjoy watching his desire to be the best in the world at what he does. However, after the news came out about his personal life, I sat in disbelief reading about all the mistakes he had made and the double life he had been living. Unlike many people who only wanted to condemn Tiger, I felt sorry for him. I felt sorry for him that he seemed so unhappy having EVERYTHING you could want in life: success, popularity, a beautiful wife and children, being the best golfer to ever play the game. In all of that he was still left feeling unsatisfied and therefore turned to sex.
Someone referred to me an article written by Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. Here is just a small part of it, but I would encourage you to read the rest of it here and then ask yourself the question Michael presents.
During this season of Lent, my church prays an ancient and beautiful prayer by St. Ephraim the Syrian (ca. 306–373). It says,
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. “But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to your servant.
“Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sin and not to judge my brother, for You are blessed from all ages to all ages. Amen.”
I have been especially struck by the last sentence. Consequently, I am trying to avoid the sin of unforgiveness, especially during this season. Jesus stated plainly: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14, 15).
During the season of Lent, may you become a person of forgiveness and someone who sees there own sin and the need of a Savior.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Talk is Cheap

I love pizza!

I love Starbucks!

I love the Oklahoma Sooners!

I love my wife and my daughter!

I think we have used the word love for so many things we have forgotten the real meaning behind it. We have exchanged love for like. When this happens we lose sight of what it means to really love someone and therefore don't really know how to show it. We are quick to say, "I love you" but then our actions do not always support our words! John, one of the authors of the bible, says this,

"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

I think what he is saying here is talk is cheap! Don't just say you love your wife, or your kids, or your neighbors, or your coworkers, or your teachers, etc., show it. What I really think John may be saying here is don't call yourself a follower of Jesus who claims to love him and love others, and then not change the way you treat people. So in a very practical way how can you love with action:

1. At home: Randomly clean the bathrooms for your parents without being asked, clean your teenagers room (ok that may be extreme, stay out of there), clean the dishes after dinner, be patient with your children, rub your wives feet, learn to forgive, etc.

2 At work or school: Give grace to your boss or teacher that you don't really care for or get along with, pay attention to the person others often avoid.

3. Your neighborhood, community and world: bake cookies for your neighbor, babysit for a single parent, volunteer at a local shelter or retirement home, tutor a child at a local elementary, deliver meals for meals on wheels, become a big brother or sister, donate shoes to solesforsouls, begin donating money to provide clean water to a community.

The Christian community for to long has been known only for what we are against. I long to be a part of a church, a group of people, who are passionate about living out what we are for! So, may we all stop just saying that we are about loving people and begin to actually love people.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Diagnosing your life with the 23rd Psalm

One of the reasons we don't grow is that we don't assess. We just kind of hope growth will happen. We don't know how we are doing, don't know our own barriers, don't know what we need to do next--because we don't assess.

A caveat: We don't make ourselves grow, but we do have a lot to do with removing the barriers to growth. We are our own lid.

So if you looked at Psalm 23, arguably one of the most famous passages in the entire Bible, as a tool for diagnosing your barriers to the growth God means for you, what would it tell you?

Verses 1-2: Are you going so fast there is no time to be led to still waters or green pastures so that your soul is restored?

Verse 3: Are you so fixed on your path that God couldn't offer a course correction to a new (or renewed) one filled with right living and relationships?

Verse 4: Are you so gripped with fear that you are overwhelmed by constant nagging thoughts about "the worst that could happen"?

Verse 5: Are your enemies (people, things, circumstances) so in front of you, so in your field of vision that you can't imagine any sort of restfulness in the middle of them? Are they a reason, for you, of a scarcity mentality that keeps you from seeing God's abundance?

Verse 6: Do you believe God's love, mercy and goodness are in such short supply that most of your life will need to be lived with neglect, striving and proof of your existence...and that experiences of love, mercy and goodness will be few and far between rather than the things that chase you every day?

Good news. Figure out your barrier, and turn to the Lord who is a shepherd able to lead sheep like you and me through any seemingly insurmountable barrier. Or as the Psalmist said it:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. That's something to write on a life, not a tombstone.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

You are weak...and so am I

Brennan Manning explains in his book "Posers, Fakers, & Wannabees", that Lent is... "a symbol of admitting our failures and weaknesses and renewing our attempt at trusting God through thick and thin..."

It is often the hardest thing to admit that we are need of anything. We like to make everyone think we have it all together. However, until you understand that you (and I) need God, you will constantly be replacing that need with other things: money, sex, things, jobs, status, etc. It is a beautiful thing when we realize not only do we need God but God is available. That God isn't some out their deity, but a loving and personal father. Where in your life are you trying so hard to make something work, when what you may need to do is really trust God and see him as "daddy"? In this season of Lent may you begin to understand His grace and how it covers all our weaknesses and failures!

Friday, February 19, 2010

5 Ways to use Lent as fertilizer for your growth

1. Stop doing something you normally do. Use the space you would normally give to that thing (Facebook, drinking coffee, responding with sarcasm, etc) to 1) pray and 2) remember Jesus' sacrifice on your behalf. Do it for 40 days and you'll be overwhelmed at what Jesus did when you weigh against how difficult it is for you to stop that one thing.

2. Start doing something. Reframe Friday from TGIF! to a day of blessing. Bless someone intentionally. Hold the door open for them. Buy the order of the person in line behind you at the drive-thru. Take your neighbor's trash container back to their house. Your creativity is the limit.

3. Read Scripture. If you don't already have a plan, you can follow the daily Scripture to the right in the Scripture feed, get the Scripture sent to your phone each day by sending follow stltrinity to 40404 or picking up a Scripture card on Sunday or by clicking here to download a copy of the Scripture reading card.

4. Examine your heart. Pray and ask God for insight. To help with that, our series through Lent is a look at the Lord's Prayer called Prayer: The Heart's Home. Write out your goals for your life. What do you want to contribute? How committed are you to God's kingdom? To what degree do you understand the calling on your life? What do you want people to say about you at your funeral? What do you want your kids to say about you? It's never too late to become who you were meant to be.
5. Suffer. No one likes this. No one wants it. No one would welcome it. Honestly, it's the manure of life. And who wants to step in that? But there is something to be said for it. Ask a farmer or gardener and they'll tell you, 'manure is the best way to stimulate growth in a plant.'
The story of Joseph found in Genesis 37-47 (the scene of him meeting his brothers again after they've sold him into slavery--effectively leaving him for dead--chokes me up every time) is a prime example. Only after going through intense suffering is he able to say to his brothers, the one's who were the source of his suffering, "Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you." Genesis 45:5

Thursday, February 18, 2010

For all the right reasons

"Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it." John Wesley

What Jesus Said About Fasting

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught a lesson about how and how not to fast:

"And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:16-18).

We see that it is important to not brag or boast to others about fasting. The Jews of Jesus' day used fasting and giving to make everyone think that they were more spiritual than others. But Jesus tells us that fasting should be done in secret, so that it can't be used as a way of bringing glory to ourselves. Fasting should make us humble instead of proud. In the end, it is not our works but our hearts that matter to God. God promises to reward openly those who fast and pray in secret.

May this be a great 40 days of giving up something so you may gain something!