Thursday, January 31, 2008

Drinking and Driving

What is value to me? I've been asking myself that question a lot lately. Ministry often requires precision fine tuning. What the heck does that mean you ask? Well, it's really easy to look around at all the 'successful' ministries and determine that they are successful because of a certain thing they do. Logic dictates that, if you do the same thing, it should breed success for you to, right? Wrong. While what they are doing may be the reason for their success, it isn't a bottled formula (like the elixirs the traveling show men sold many years ago that purportedly healed everything) and so may likely not work for you.

At it's core, the reason it works for that church or ministry is because it is value to them. Simple, but true. Whatever is value to you will be evident by what you pour your heart into. I've often said that The Well's primary focus is on the lost, the hurting and the next generation. Lately I've been getting a ton of phone calls from hurting people and from young people, many of whom have never met me, but were referred to me by someone else that suggested I might be able to help them. I love it! I'm developing a 'reputation' for being someone who can help the hurting and the next generation. How cool is that?

So I've been thinking about what is value to me, and what I'm willing to pour my life out for with no expectation of reward. I know what it is. Whether or not it makes me successful is irrelevant, but I am committed to touching the lives of the lost, the hurting and the next generation not only as the lead pastor at The Well, but in every waking, functioning moment I have, wherever I may be. This is my legacy being carved out in the lives of the people I am privileged to serve no matter where I am or what I'm doing. I want to be able to confidently say, like Paul said in his letter to the Philippian Church, "I am being poured out as a drink offering for you..." So my friends the big question of the day is: What's value to you? Are you driven to be poured out as a drink offering for something or someone?(okay 2 questions) Do tell!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

dirt, glorious dirt!!!

I seem to recall somewhere in distant memory writing about this very idea. If so, and you read it back then, please don't think I'm being repetitive. This is, to borrow a well worn phrase, called "progressive revelation." I'm at a conference in Atlanta, and yesterday I heard one of the speakers, a guy from Liberia, West Africa, talk about Jesus putting dirt and spit on a blind man's eyes to heal him. Now I've taught on this many times in the past and really enjoy the shock value of watching people respond to the revelation of why He (Jesus) did it.

Today however, I wanted to highlight something the speaker brought to light that I'd never really seen before. He was talking about a ministry of compassion to people less fortunate than us, and he gave as an example the suffering, often forgotten people in Darfur and other war ravaged areas of the world. He showed a heart-rending photo of a morbidly emaciated child, barely able to crawl trying to get to a food supply center about a mile away. In this award winning photo, a vulture is patiently trotting along behind the child, waiting for him to expire so it can feast on his flesh.

Then he opined that, in a ministry of compassion, Jesus always tended to use whatever local resources that were available, to bring about restoration. He reminded us that, with a wave of His hand, Jesus could have healed the blind man but instead He chose to use the dirt. Common, plentiful and free! Then he looked dead-pan at the audience and asked, "Is there any dirt where you do ministry?" Dirt being the operative word for whatever local resources you have available to you. Wow! That revelation was canorous music to my ears. Suddenly I'm brimming with ideas about all the "dirt" that I have available to effectively involve myself in a ministry of compassion just like Jesus. I can spend less so that I can give more for one thing. Is there any dirt where you do ministry?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Well worn slippers

Lately I’ve been getting phone calls from old friends that I haven’t spoken to in quite a while. The conversations pick up right where we left off, as if we’d been together the day before. Good friends are like well worn slippers: they fit really comfortably and make you feel warm and fuzzy inside (okay maybe I exaggerate slightly). As I’ve been thinking about old times and good friends, I’ve been corresponding via e-mail with a really dear friend of mine in Colorado Springs. We’ve been catching up on one another’s lives and families and reminiscing about old times.

Over the last few years we sort of drifted apart, but as we’ve been corresponding, I’m reminded of all the fun stuff we used to do together. The reason I play golf is because of him! We’ve climbed to the top of Mt. Sinai together, swum in the Dead Sea together, played golf in Nigeria together, hung out in London together… wow! We’ve cried together, laughed together, yelled at each other, comforted each other…. I realized how much I miss my good friend because of all that we’ve been through together. There’s something about friendships that convey a powerful, deep and intimate sense of relationship. The Scriptures tell us that “There’s a friend who is closer to you than a brother.” (Proverbs 18: 24)

Jesus, speaking to His disciples declared, “I no longer call you servants… but I call you friends…” (John 15: 15) Clearly, at some point in their relationship a transition occurred that strengthened their bond and made them more His friends than His servants or understudy’s. So, as I’ve thought about all my old friends that I’ve reconnected with, it brought to mind a definition of friendship I once heard that truly resonated with me: A friend is one who has eaten a bowl of salt with you grain by grain. That elicits such a powerful word picture for me.
What’s your favorite definition of a friend?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Diaper dandies!

So, I really love my Lead Team! That is definetely not a glib remark, for all you skeptics out there. Yesterday after service we 'retired' to my house for our first Lead Team Retreat of the year. We started at 1.00pm and finally dragged ourselves away from the meeting at 8.00pm. The meeting rocked and we got so much done. All our team building and communication exercises went fabulously well, and we came up with so many great ideas on what we can do to better serve our community and the amazing people at The Well. We also came up with some great ideas about what we need to stop doing! As if just having a great meeting wasn't enough, there was great food too (what's a gathering of Christians without food worth?) which, sadly we couldn't do much justice to since we have only recently come off our 21-day Daniel fast and so our stomachs have shriveled quite a bit.

The thing I love most about my team is not the fact that they are godly, gifted people, which they most certainly are. Many of them are great speakers, and they all possess tremendous spiritual gifts. What I really admire though, is their servant hearts. Their gift of serving and hospitality is unparallelled. We are a mobile church that sets up and tears down a pretty elaborate set every weekend. They do it without complaining. They sweep floors, lug heavy equipment, make sure bathrooms and common areas we use are cleaner after we're done than they were when we came into the building... the list goes on and on.

Servant Leadership models Jesus. To look more like Jesus isn't only about preaching great messages, or demonstrating spiritual gifts. Sometimes, it's simply changing a dirty diaper, picking up the trash strewn all over the floor after service, or simply just leaving the facility in much better condition than we found it. My Team gets that! They can tell the difference between exercising their spiritual gifts and just plain servanthood, and they excel at both!
What are the things that strike you as being the difference between spiritual gifts and serving? Do you even think they are different?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Nauseating nuances

Is it just me or did you notice it too? I mean, did you notice that it's Friday already? Over the next nine days we will be inundated with Superbowl trivia ad naseum. Don't get me wrong I like football. But I like football, not the hype, marketing, and exploitation that surrounds games of this magnitude. I mean, Tom Brady's 'booted' foot and his bouquet of flowers have become the topic of media attention? These people need to get a life (or at least a hot girlfriend like Tom's) so they can focus on more important things.

Why do we live so vicariously through professional athletes? Why do we make the issues of their personal lives our own issues? Why do we think that because we watch them perform on TV we have a right to determine how they live their lives? Tony Romo is being villified for going to Mexico with his girlfriend before the game against the Giants (which Dallas lost). Tom Brady is being suspected of gamesmanship, whatever the heck that means, because he was seen with a 'boot' on his right foot when he went to visit his girlfriend in New York, but was without it when he went out 'partying' later that evening.

I'm sorry... did I somehow give you the impression that I had the answers? Hey, I'm just asking the questions here hoping that maybe you might have the answers. Whatever the case, I'm just looking forward to a good game of football. Personally, while I find the creativity of the Superbowl advertisements intriguing, I am dubious as to the long term value of investing in multi-million dollar ad campaigns that make or break businesses. Also, if any of you have any sort of influence with the half-time entertainment providers, I can certainly live without the half-time "wardrobe malfunctions." Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Putting life in perspective

Wow! This video was sent to me by one of my Lead Team. Talk about an emotional tug at the heart strings. 13 year old Logan called into a Texas radion station to share what he felt God had shown him through the process of having to "put down" his calf that had broken its back as his dad roped it.

This young man is no doubt wiser than many of us, as he is able to put the proper perspective on his struggles and find the good in them. Sadly, some people that I know would rather whine and complain about their struggles, while potentially missing the vital life lessons that would no doubt move them closer to their destiny.

There's not much left to say except, I hope that we'll take a page out of Logan's book, and use our life obstacles as learning lessons as well as sources of encouragement to others that might be struggling. Have a great day!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Steak (or shrimp) anyone?

I'm finding that the greatest balancing act for me as a pastor is figuring out where to draw the line on being culturally relevant, and spiritually intuitive. I hunger for experiences like Elijah's at the Brook Cherith, but I hunger just as much to impact the lives of the people for whom that experience bears no relevance or holds no meaning, until they can experience it too. I want the supernatural that transforms, heals, and redeems. But I also want to sit with the people that hurt, hate, and are skeptical about the power of a God they can't see.

Today, we come off our 21-day Daniel fast. Did anything earth shattering happen while we were on it? Not if you don't count the fact that an avowed vegetable 'hater' somehow managed to have everything taste like chicken. Seriously though, the most 'earth-shattering' thing that happened to me on this fast is the fact that I have fallen more in love with my God, my wife, my family, and my church. Now if that isn't miraculous, I don't know what is. What's miraculous about that you ask? Well, the human heart has the capacity to love only so much. The kind of love that I am experiencing goes beyond the ability of the human heart. Words cannot communicate it's depth and so I know that it comes from a place beyond my comprehension.

So, yeah I can eat steak and bread again (even though it isn't delivered by Raven Mail), but beyond the practical and the immediately obvious, the benefits of this fast will be seen in the ability of our church to make the difference that we are destined to make. I am pumped about what's in store for The Well over the next few months. Steak or shrimp anyone?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

...This is your life

I recently read a post on one of my favorite blogs titled Your Message. I was particularly impressed by the simplicity and candor that the author expressed, as he explained why he would listen to your message. I must admit, if you have no message to deliver, then the post holds little or no relevance to you. Since my entire life is a message, his post got me thinking about my message and my life. His message inspired me to write today's post.

If your life has something valuable to teach me, I want to learn from you.
If you've experienced things that I'm experiencing, you have something to teach me.
The way you live your life, and not how you say you live your life, earns you the right to teach me how to live mine.
If you've made mistakes then you have more to teach me than you realize.
Your life is only one among many that influence my life.
Sometimes, my personal experiences teach me more than your life can.
I despise pretentious and two-faced lives
I admire and identify with lives that reflect some failure in their track record
Your life doesn't have to be perfect for me to learn from it. It just has to be honest.
Your humility is an endearing quality
Who's life are you emulating, who are you learning from?
Don't assume that you know what I'm struggling with.
Your life must bear a measure of relevance to mine for it to matter enough to impact me.
Don't give up on me because you think I don't get it.
Be transparent with me, so I can be vulnerable with you.

Monday, January 21, 2008

An unplanned picnic

I don't want to begin the week off with a "heavy" post, so I'm going to try and make this as light hearted as possible, even though I am trying to communicate a powerful truth. We had a great service yesterday, and I concluded my series on prevailing prayer. We end our 21-day fast on Tuesday this week and so it really worked out well for me to tie our prayer and fasting season into the idea of prevailing prayer. My primary text was the book of 1 Kings 17. It's the story of Elijah informing king Ahab that he was going to pronounce a drought on the land because of the way he (Ahab) had turned the people from worshipping God and instead resorted to worshipping idols.

On so many levels this seems suicidal. First, Ahab was a spineless, ungodly king. He was led around by the nose by his wife Jezebel, and she was not partial to 'Christians' or their God. This assured that, at the very least, Elijah was risking serious harm to himself, and at the worst, death. Gulp! Secondly, Elijah had heard from God... supposedly. What if he was wrong? It's not as if God came down at some point, sat with Elijah, and outlined this elaborate plan to scare Ahab into submission. However Elijah heard from God, whether as a quiet voice whispering in his ear... an impression on his heart... however he heard from God, he was convinced it was God that had spoken and he was committed to obeying that voice. So I ask again, what if he was wrong?

In a modern day application, this smacks of the sanatorium. I mean, it's bad enough that you somehow manage to wangle a personal appointment with the President of the USA, only to inform him that, because of his ungodly policies and decisions, which are leading the nation astray, God is about to make life extra difficult by suspending the natural course of nature for the next three years. "Mr. President, there's not going to be any rain 'cos I said so!!!" Then you inform your nearest and dearest friends that you are heading off to a brook called "Covenant" where you will be hanging out for the duration of the drought because God gave you personal directions on how to get there and He instructed ravens to bring bread and meat to you every morning and evening... What???

This is the stuff of fairy tales right? No, this is the true story of Elijah and his encounter with the wicked king of Israel, whom, up to that point was classified as the most evil king Israel had ever had. "Bravo Elijah, good for you and congrats on your boldness," I hear you say. Well hold up a second. His story indicts you and me. You see in James 5: 17 the Bible says "Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years." So what does that mean for you and I? Seems pretty obvious to me, or wouldn't you agree?

Friday, January 18, 2008

But I digress...

Alright! This weekend is the precursor to Superbowl Sunday!! This weekend hosts the AFC and NFC conference championship games. This year, the games will be followed more closely than ever before because of the potential history-making, undefeated season of the New England Patriots. The Pats will be playing against their arch rivals, the Denver Broncos... calm down I just wanted to make sure you were awake. They'll be playing against the San Diego Chargers since the Broncos took the season off and decided to play in the CFL (Canadian Football League) instead. (Judging from the way the Broncos played this past season, they couldn't even have won the CFL Championship Game). But I digress...

The New England Patriots remind me of church planting (Now that's a stretch, you're probably thinking). Think about it though. They are sort of a journey man team, that get very little credit and recognition for their amazing efforts. They are not a "sexy" team like the Dallas Cowboys of the nineties, or the Los Angeles Lakers of the Ervin 'Magic' Johnson days. They just plod along, putting the wins behind them and looking on to the next task. Few people pay any attention to the herculean efforts that sorround each weeks win, and in fact, when they win 'ugly' they are villified as being not such a great team after all. Some pundits have even predicted that they won't win the Superbowl. I, on the other hand, know that they will, and I'm rooting for them.

Church planting is an unheralded, difficult and often thankless venture. The wins are not long-celebrated, and there are many (believe it or not) rooting for us to fail, so that their contentions that we were never meant to do this in the first place, are justified. Like the Pats though, "We will not falter, and we will not fail" (Credit to President Bush for the quote). Church planting might not be "sexy" but nothing is more fulfilling to see, than a transformed and refocused life. So with each life that is impacted by a church plant, we celebrate the win and then move on to the next "game" until all have heard, and the gospel is preached to every nation. The Patriots remind us that taking new territory is never easy for the pioneers, but they pave the way for an infinitely easier and better life for everyone that follows. How aptly named that team is, especially if they succeed in going undefeated in their last two games of the season. Go Broncos, I mean Pats!!! Oh, before I forget... have a great weekend.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Goodmorning God...

I was hoping I'd get your attention with the title of my post. I know that a number of you read my post and watched the inspiring video of Charlene Hornsby's testimony about her faith in God through this incredibly difficult season of cancer she's battling. I also suspect that the majority of the people that take the time to visit my blog are Christians. I must admit though, that I fantasize about the number of irreligious people out there who stumble upon, or for whatever reason find themselves reading what I write. It's to those precious people that I write todays post.

Charlene's testimony does not come from her sagacity, or from her committment to attend church every Sunday. It comes from a deep place of intimacy and understanding of who God is. Charlene has settled some core values in her heart. Among other things, she knows that, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1: 21); she knows that His plans for her are perfect even when she doesn't understand them (Jeremiah 29: 11). This kind of understanding stems from making it your life's priority to seek God and know Him. The first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is to communicate with those you love, that share your life and live with you. You cultivate relationships by spending time connecting with those that you're building a life with.

My wife, my kids, and I have made it a habit to say "goodmorning" to each other the first time we see each other at the start of the day. Now don't misunderstand me to be advocating some pedantic approach to living. What I'm talking about here is a genuine desire to connect and establish an intimacy that carries through the day. It's a great habit to cultivate, especially since it gives us an opportunity for further dialog. Making communication with God a priority is what helps us through the darkest seasons of life (such as the one Charlene is going through at the moment). If you've never tried it, I urge you to consider the fact that you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by giving it a shot. So, why don't you wake up and say goodmorning to God tomorrow? Take a moment out of your unparallelled busy day and communicate with the One who gave you the opportunity to live that day!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ambushing the enemy!

A while back I read a book that contained some fascinating information about the names of groups of animals. Before you tune out, thinking I'm forcing you to relive the trauma of your school years, just bear with me a moment. To give you insight into the kind of guy I am, my favorite TV shows are found on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and the History Channel. Hey, don't knock it. Just remember that people like you, call people like me when you're on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and you have to phone a friend! Now that I've convinced you that my cause isn't entirely irredeemable, let me tell you what I found out.

It's common knowledge (unless school was even more traumatic than I thought) that a group of lions is called a pride. A group of birds is called a flock. A group of cattle is called a herd and a group of fish is called a school (there's that dreaded word again). But did you know that a group of buzzards is called a committee? Were you aware that a group of tigers is called an ambush, or that a group of rhinos is called a crash? That is pretty amazing stuff (Nat Geo kicking into high gear). What does all this have to do with anything, other than the fact that you've just acquired some 'useless' tit bits of information that would only serve you well on a trivia game show?

Well, I was thinking about this in relationship to the way some Christians tend to be so quick to highlight others people's mistakes, and gossip about them under the guise of "Praying for them." It never ceases to amaze me how judgmental we tend to be, while claiming to be "hearing from the Lord." It's no wonder that observers of Christianity are often repulsed by our 'hypocrisy' especially since we claim to love all people with the "love of Christ" and yet appear to specialize in just the opposite. So I came up with this quote:

Don't be a committee of buzzards waiting to feed off the carnage of other peoples mistakes, pointing out all the things everyone else is doing wrong while exonerating yourself. Choose instead, to be an ambush of tigers or a crash of rhinos wreaking havoc against Satan's kingdom."

What an amazing word picture that evokes!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

When Life hangs in the balance...

When you've been around Christian circles long enough, you learn to recognize "Christianese" (Christian rhetoric that says so much but yet says so little). I've been in many Christian circles on just about every continent. I've preached or spoken in some of the largest churches on the planet, and attended some of the largest Christian gatherings in the 21st century. But all of that fades to insignificance when life hangs in the balance. I met Billy Hornsby about a year before we actually moved to Florida to plant The Well. He was (and still is) one of the most unassuming men I have ever met. He was so authentic and likeable that, at our launch, he was kidding around with my youngest daughter (nine at the time) and "pulled" a five dollar bill out of her ear, which he then gave to her urging her to remember "uncle Billy".

I marveled at how a man so focused on his purpose, and so busy serving the Body of Christ on a global scale, could be so down-to-earth and so delightful. Then I met Charlene, and it all made sense. These are the people you want to sit around the dinner table with at Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is the family whose home you want to watch the Superbowl at. These are the kind of people who's house you want to hang out at with your friends. Amazingly, this is the same family you'd want beside you on the mission field, or planting a church, or nursing you through a difficult season, or simply talking about how good God is. The Hornsby's have always fascinated me by their simple and transparent love for God and His people. Now, as they face one of the greatest crisis of their lives, they again exemplify the Christianity they have preached and reflected so eloquently with their lives.

Charlene's story puts life in its proper perspective. It distills the vital from the irrelevant. It forces you to look at your own life in the context of your mortality. You know what impacts me the most about their story though? It's the fact that, knowing that she might have a short time to live, she isn't afraid of dying, nor does she want to change anything about her life. Wow! That suggests to me that the life she is living, fulfills everything that God called her to live, and so she is satisfied that it continue just the way it is until He sees fit to call her home. Charlene and Billy, you are amazing examples of what Christian's should look like. Your lives confidently say, "Follow us, as we follow Christ." We (My family and our church family) are praying for you and your family, and we know that in the end, if we have laid claim to the name of Jesus, we all win!

Monday, January 14, 2008

New Beginnings!

This is a significant and pivotal year! Where did that come from you ask? Well, I've been reflecting, reading, and praying a lot about the process to Christian maturity, and I am increasingly convinced that, for me, as indeed for many others, 2007 was a year of 'preparation.' Preparation for what? That's exactly the point. Boot camp typically doesn't prepare you for a specific battle, it just prepares you to be the most effective soldier when the need to go into battle arises. When God prepares us for battle, it implies that there is new ground to take, territories to 'conquer,' and lives to transform.

In the prophetic timetable of God, the number eight represents the number of new beginnings. So that you don't think this is some hocus-pocus, spiritually-weird, mumbo-jumbo, let me explain it like this: God created the heavens and the earth. The Bible tells us that He completed that process in seven days. The eighth day represented a new beginning for the world He had made. 2008 represents the eighth year in the new century. A new beginning. Whether or not you are given to believing in these types of prophetic pictures, I am deeply persuaded that God is up to something special in 2008. For this reason, among others, our church began a 21-day fast on January 2, 2008. We have set aside this time to seek His face, and to cry out for His will to be done in our lives, so that we will be fully prepared for whatever He has in store for us.

This season of waiting-on-Him in fasting and prayer, has created such a sense of expectation in me. I am enjoying an uncanny peace and sense of direction. I seem to have crystal clear clarity concerning my purpose and His leading. His voice rings like a mellifluous cello, playing its distinct chords on the strings of my heart, drawing me closer and closer to Him. That, is His primary purpose for us! That we may know Him, and the power of His resurrection.... If it worked for Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, then it sure as heck works for us. What do you sense 2008 holds in store for you and for the Body of Christ?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Heavy lifting

Okay, I promise, this is the last of my airplane analogies. (At least for the week!) I was thinking about the physics involved with lifting a massive metal behemoth into the air. Fighting against gravity, weighed down by fuel and lots of people who haven’t missed a meal in a long while, why does it take off into the air with such ease and grace? I speculate that it has something to do with the law of lift and drag. The actual details behind it are ‘rocket science’ to me, but I do know that it is a constant, irrefutable and consistent law that enables the plane to take off every time.

Imagine if you would, that the laws governing lift and drag and the law of gravity were ill defined and nebulous. Imagine if, every time a plane trundled down the runway the pilot hoped that by the end of the tarmac he would have enough speed and that the laws would be in his favor that day to enable him to take off. Flying would be a pretty short-lived and harrowing experience if that were the case. Flying analogies (as overused as they are) are excellent comparisons to our faith walk with Jesus. Imagine what life would be like if the Bible gave us no defined parameters for how to walk in intimacy with Jesus.
What if we all just had to speculate as to what He wants and just hope that we are on the right track?

I for one am grateful to the folks who discovered the physics behind lift and drag: They have made my life infinitely easier and my world significantly smaller (before the demise of the Concorde I could have breakfast in New York, lunch in London and dinner in New York. I could. But I didn't). I am even more grateful though, to the God who created the physics of lift and drag, the One who hung the stars in the heavens and positioned the sun and the moon to give us the seasons. He fashioned and modeled His creation after His own nature. He is just as constant as the laws that He created. No matter what you do, you cannot change or alter these laws. Because of them, we can rely on the guarantee that our planes will take off every time. In much the same way, we can rely on His faithfulness to do whatever He said He will do. Enjoy the journey!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

How's your cooking?

I fancy myself as somewhat of a decent cook. My greatest culinary triumphs are when I take a recipe and tweak a few ingredients here and there, and actually manage to improve the taste of the dish. I have been known to convert avowed shrimp haters into shrimp lovers, with my ‘secret’ bacon-wrapped-shrimp recipe. The real key to being a successful cook, I believe, is your willingness to take risks. Ultimately a dish works because of what you put into it. It really is all about the ingredients. Some things work really well together and titillate the palate in the most amazing ways. Other things, you politely smile at, and push them around on your plate until the requisite amount of time has passed so that you can excuse yourself from the disaster masquerading as a meal.

One of the key ingredients to being a successful Christian is faith (or trust). The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. That puts a bit of a damper on trying to live a Christian life based solely on what you can see, or fully comprehend. That means that your ‘Christianity recipe’ is always going to taste slightly off, if the ingredient of faith isn’t present. I’m still on this theme of flying that struck me as we landed in Charlotte a few days ago (in case you didn’t recognize it and you were thrown off by the cooking analogy), and I’m convinced that all of us who venture out into the wide open blue skies, exercise a huge measure of faith in the wisdom of men. Why else would we trust our lives to two people in a tiny 4X4 cockpit with a bank of instruments that, to us, might as well be rocket science, flying a thin metal tube with two rather flimsy wings attached, unless we trusted implicitly that they knew what they were doing?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never checked the credentials of a pilot before boarding the flight. I trust implicitly that he knows what he’s doing. If I can have faith in fallible and mortal men, why on earth do I struggle so much with exercising the same faith in a God who has demonstrated over and over again, His love for me? I so 'badly' want to be a good Christian, and like cooking, I already know the ingredients necessary to make the recipe turn out great. Now I just need to be willing to take the ‘risk,’ mix it up, and jump in with both feet at the deep end. How’s your cooking… I mean, your faith?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I can see clearly now...

Yesterday I flew to New Hampshire and my connecting flight went through Charlotte, NC. As we approached Charlotte International Airport on the descent, the pilot’s voice came over the public address system to explain that the weather conditions in Charlotte were "extremely foggy." (How’s that for a professional weather report?) I’ve flown often enough that I paid little attention to the announcement, thinking that the cloud cover would probably be around 100 feet or so. We kept descending in clouds and fog so thick that I was suddenly and unexpectedly jolted by the wheels touching down on the tarmac. I was shocked! I literally couldn’t see the end of the wing from my window and yet we had landed safely.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that, if I couldn’t see the tip of the wing, then most certainly the pilots had the same limited visibility too. How on earth did they have the confidence to land the plane with such incredibly poor visibility? I mean, I don’t want to be morbid or anything, but if you can’t see the runway upon which you are planning to land, isn’t that tempting fate and inviting a potential ‘pancake’ onto the hard tarmac? The answer to that question is: not if you have the inside track on flying! You see, planes are equipped for instrument landing, which, in lay man's terms is an electronic guidance system that brings the plane in safely (to all you real pilots out there don’t get technical and hung up on the details of my description).

The only problem with instrument landings is that they go against everything that is natural to the mind. You want to be able to see where you’re going but in a heavy fog, you must learn to trust your instruments. Their precision under such circumstances is unparalleled by the human mind and vision. This means that you must be willing to give up control and trust that the instruments will do what they were made to do. It reminds me a lot of my own life. I’m often cruising in clear blue skies, but sometimes I hit a 'fog patch' and then I wrestle with whether or not to trust my ‘instruments’ (my knowledge of God and His word) to bring me in safely. The reality is though, that God’s faithfulness is unparalleled, and His desire for me to accomplish my purpose is greater than mine. So in the final analysis, because He guides me, I can see clearly, even when I can't! What’s your story?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

It really is that simple!

I'm a little late posting today because I'm actually traveling. I'm writing todays blog entry from Charlotte International Airport. I've been reading a few blogs lately that talk about the upcoming presidential elections. Some of them make bold predictions based on trends, others merely conjecture as to what might be, while others jump ship from a particular candidate and 're-speculate' after each caucus vote. Of all the blogs I've read, I most enjoyed Perry Noble's take on it. In a post titled, I'm not endorsing your political candidate he very succinctly explains that too many Christians get the process wrong when they vote based solely on political parties or propaganda. He contends that too many of us vote someone into office and then pray that they will do the right thing. No! He emphatically states. What we should do is pray THEN vote.

I like that. It is in keeping with my contention that in order for us to be more effective Christians we must learn to simplify. There is nothing that exemplifies simplification more than prayer. A lifestyle of prayer says that I know that I don't have the answers nor do I have to come up with them. Instead, I can simply trust that God has my life in His hands and has a better plan for me than any that I can come up with. Ann Jackson, on her blog, talks about the idea of not doing more for God but instead doing less so that He can do what He wants to do through us. It seems to me that the general idea is to simplify. When our lives are so cluttered that we can't remember whom we told what (much like the politicians soliciting our vote), it's time to slow down. It's time to simplify. It's time to pray. It really is that simple!

Monday, January 7, 2008

I think, therefore I AM.... Or are you?

I recently read a blog that inspired me to revisit the title of todays post. Blogging has become some what of a cultural pastime, affording many of us the opportunity to express ourselves, for good or for bad, at the click of a button (okay maybe it takes a little bit more than that). The blog I read simply stated: "I blog therefore I am, isn't that how it goes these days?" As I pondered those words, I realized how true it is to say that there are entire 'blogging communities' that have inspired people to build relationships, and to live life vicariously through each other, simply because the internet provides direct, and apparently unlimited access to the whole world. The psychology behind why we do it isn't my interest in today's post. In fact today's post has little or nothing to do with blogging other than the fact that I was inspired by a blog.

The phrase "Cogito, ergo sum" or "I think, therefore I am" is attributed to a seventeenth century philosopher/ scientest named Rene Descartes. He actually wrote the phrase in latin which was the language of science of the day. Now I'm probably not nearly as smart as Descartes, but I can confidently say that his statement is incomplete. You think, therefore you are what, I ask? There is only one who can lay claim to the title "I Am." When Moses inquired of God concerning what he would say to Pharaoh about who had sent him, God simply said, "Tell him 'I Am' sent you." Now whatever Descartes may have meant by his statement, I am confident that he 'usurped' a title that belongs to God alone.

"I Am" is an emphatic statement of Deity. But I guess when you have created the heavens and the earth, the fish, the birds and all the animals; when you have set the stars in their place and instructed the oceans where to set their boundaries; when you have created man "fearfully and wonderfully" in your image and likeness, you have every right to lay claim to the title "I Am." You would need no further introduction if creation were your handiwork, for creation itself would be sufficient introduction. So, Mr. Descartes, I am taking it upon myself to officially rewrite your statement to read: " Because I Am exists, I exist. I am not I Am."

Friday, January 4, 2008

Who's Driving?

Life can be so utterly confusing sometimes! I remember when I was growing up, I would watch my parents intently as either one or the other would be driving me somewhere. I kept thinking to myself, "It doesn't look that hard, I wonder why they say kids can't drive." The first time I got behind the wheel of a car, that misinformed childhood notion was quickly dispelled. I grew up in a country where most people drove manual transmission cars. It never occurred to me that, shifting the gears, engaging the clutch to shift the gears, accelerating, steering the vehicle, watching for traffic, applying the right amount of pressure on the brakes at the right time... all required major coordination and concentration. Fortunately for me, my very wise (and patient) mother, recognizing that my childish insistence that I could drive was merely empty machinations, allowed me behind the wheel in a vast open parking lot where I could do no damage (except to my pride).

Did I mention that I was 9 years old when all this happened? I quickly learned to be truly grateful for my parents who would shuttle me anywhere I needed to go, instead of trusting me to drive myself there (we won't get into the issue of needing a driver's license). Anyway, I was reminded of that event because of something I read this morning:

"Christ did not give you a car and tell you to push it. He didn't even give you a car and tell you to drive it. You know what He did? He threw open the passenger door, invited you to take a seat, and told you to buckle up for the adventure of your life. Don't let stumbles stop you. Come and keep coming. Drink and keep drinking. Ask and keep asking."

So what's the point of the story? It's simply this: Real life often lulls you into the misguided notion that living successfully is easy to do. All you have to do is make a few right decisions here and there, right? Well, you quickly discover the fallacy of that notion (just like I did about driving a car the first time I got behind the wheel), when you have to contend with all that life throws at you, all at once. Wise men and women have discovered that the only way to navigate through life successfully is to get into the "passenger" seat, buckle up, and prepare for the "roller coaster ride of life." Have a great weekend, and enjoy the ride!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Hide and Seek (Part 2 of 2)

Picking up on yesterdays thoughts about being 'hidden' by God for a season, I often find myself wondering what it must have been like for Jesus. Fully God yet fully man, for thirty uncelebrated years He submitted to what appeared to be a delayed destiny. All that observers saw was the tip of the iceberg, occasional glimpses of His power. Like the time when He walked unseen through a crowd that was calling for His head and had quite literally pushed Him to the edge of a cliff. Even glimpses of greatness such as these occasions did not come close to indicating the measure of greatness that lay just beneath the surface of Jesus' unapplauded life. As soldiers spat on Him, kicked Him and mocked Him; as Herod and Pilate played 'tag' with Him as they sent Him back and forth between them, could any of them have even imagined that they were mocking their maker?

What does obscurity and hiddenness build in us? What grows under the surface between our true capabilities and our current realities? If you're like me, a 'pause' from God in the midst of my circumstances (as I perceive they should be), often sends me spiraling into self-doubt and recrimination. But the truth is, it's in the anonymous seasons that God builds the greatest character. Don't take my word for it, just ask Joseph what Egypt was like before he became Prime Minister. Consider this insightful statement by Maltbie D. Babcock:

"The workshop of character is everday life. The uneventful and commonplace hour is where the battle is lost or won."

The greatest testimony to the value of hiddenness comes from God Himself. After thirty years of obscurity, as Jesus stepped into the Jordan River to be baptized by his rugged cousin, John, a voice from heaven declared, "This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased." (Matt. 3: 17) Jesus hadn't preached one sermon, healed one leper, opened one blind eye, nor done any of the things for which we refer to Him as Savior. God's affirmation, pleasure, and applause were for the hidden years. Out of hiddenness comes the humility to serve selflessly. Out of hiddenness comes the character and integrity to make the right choices even when they are unapplauded or unseen (by everyone except God). The same principle that applied for Jesus in the murky waters of the Jordan, still applies for us today. God is saying to you, "Your are my child, I love you, with you I am well pleased." Is there a greater testimony that we could desire to hear in the midst of obscurity than that?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Hide and Seek (Part 1 of 2)

As I have surveyed friends and family alike, across the spectrum I have heard people say that 2007 was one of the most difficult years of their lives. Many of my friends in ministry felt like the pain and hardship they had endured during 2007 was comparable to the pain of forcefully pulling out healthy teeth (not entirely sure how they know what that feels like since they haven't had it done to them). Many of my ministry friends have been hidden in 'obscurity' and, like me, have wondered why all their labor seems to have gone unrewarded. Well, it's my hope that today's post will be an encouragement to any one who fits the 'obscurity description' as you look forward to what God has in store for you in 2008.

I recently read an article that explained that only 10% of an iceberg is typically visible above the water while 90% of it is submerged. Because of their mass, those proportions make icebergs virtually indestructible. This fact was likened to Jesus' life, the most influential life in all of human history. Ninety percent of His life on earth was spent in obscurity (submerged or hidden from public view), while ten percent was spent in the public eye. All of His life was, and still is, absolutely indestructible. The writer of the article, further opined that when we pray "to become more like Jesus" we seldom equate that prayer with the thought that we want to spend 90% of our lives unapplauded, underestimated, uncelebrated and in anonimity.

The character and authority of Jesus, which we desire so much, cannot be isolated from the 'mundane' and obscure seasons of His life. They are as much a part of His life as the seasons in which He was heralded. Evidently, a season of hiddenness is vital to the formation of Godly character (remember Jesus' wilderness experience?). Why else would God wrap heavens greatest Gift in plain wrapping and place Him in a manger and then in a nondescript village whose greatest testimony was, "Can anything good come out of...?" The danger many of us face is our tendency to equate being hidden with being unimportant or irrelevant to God's plan and purpose. Nothing could be further from the truth. We'll pick up this thought tomorrow. While you're pondering this idea though, I'd like to ask you, "Do you feel like you're in a season of hiddenness?"

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


Welcome to 2008!!! For those of you who waited up to see the proverbial ball drop in New York... you have my sympathies! For the rest of us who got a good nights sleep, we're raring to go, and to get the new year off to a great start. I have lot's of extremely important things planned for today (like 'vegging' in front of the TV all day watching college bowl games).

Any way, what on earth are you doing here reading my blog??? You need therapy if you can't stay away from the internet for one day. :) Now slowly shut down your computer, back away from the desk, and go hang out with your family and friends. We'll talk later in the week. Oh, and before I forget... haaaaaaaappy New Year!!!