faith

A Citizen with a Purpose

I've recently struggled with how to speak into and about the deeply broken climate of these un-United States of America. I wrote a social media post recently, then removed it after a few comments clearly revealed I was risking not being endeared...and I was, based on my own fear, not “keeping peace.”

But, to fully embrace my personal purpose - "to guide Human Beings back to their True Self, embraced by, embracing and reflecting LOVE" - means I must speak for those Human Beings who are in multiple ways being denied their unique purpose to live out their Truest Self as image-bearers of God.

I'm deeply concerned and angered by... 

I Vote Everyday. What Am I Voting For?

I just took down a Facebook post from an hour ago. I was rather straight-forward about my growing frustration with our political reality. After a few comments I realized my desire to “voice” my heart to defend people who have been disrespected, marginalized and even dehumanized was tangled up in a seemingly no-win debate among people - who really care about our country. Because my desire wasn't to begin a political conversation, creating side-taking banter about candidates or partisan preferences, I deleted

Lasagne Lessons

If you were in our home last evening, I’m not asking you to send me an email or text or Facebook message, telling me how flavorful pasta can be without enough sauce to call it lasagne. It’s okay. Really. You didn’t fail me by not praising my attempt at dinner.

However, the truth is this: I still want approval. About my cooking, about my training, about my appearance, about my life. I still want the satisfaction and accolades that come from performing.…

Room at the Table

I think I’ve always grown up hearing that people matter. At least most people. 

I’m pretty sure the people I attended church with, the leaders and pastors in my life wouldn’t say “most people.” They’d say all people matter. It’s just that the language I heard (and I used) and the approaches I watched (and I participated in) didn’t always reflect that every person matters to God…and to us.

When I was a kid, what I heard went something like this…

  • “They practice a false faith.”

  • “Their doctrinal system is wrong.”

  • “They are sinful.”

  • “They are lost.”

Honest in Church?

Church is too often the most risky place to be spiritually honest. - Peter Enns

It's a challenging statement. And yet, most of us know exactly what it means. Of course, we are complex beings, thoroughly connected: body, mind, spirit. So being spiritually honest can be as difficult to as revealing our mental illness, our emotional insecurities, our addictions.

How does this risk exist in too many churches? What contributes to our mask-wearing? Perhaps some of the following are true...

  • Do we expect only joy should be expressed in corporate worship?
  • Do we say "how are you?" with any intention of hearing what's true - regardless?
  • Do we believe that Christ-followers should never feel depression, anxiety or suicidal ideation?
  • Do we value closure and convincing over journey and process?
  • Are we afraid our question of faith...

I Don't Want to Stay Where I Am

This past week was a staycation during "spring" break. You know what I mean. Don’t spend the money you would on a trip away. Lay low. Sleep in. Get projects done around the yard and house. Watch more TV and movies. Drink more. Coffee.

I did lay low. I didn’t sleep in – at all. I got some chores done, but no projects to speak of. Yes, The Voice is headed into final competition and Designated Survivor still has Keifer Sutherland in the Oval Office. So, I enjoyed my normal TV viewing with my wife, Laura (and relished lunch with her nearly every day). And I absolutely drank more coffee. More coffee in various coffee shops, not just a cup at home. I tried new flavors in new places with the same special people in my life.

But the week wasn’t about being lazy while taking in abundant portions of caffeine.

I’ve read...

Eyes to the Soul

I've been looking into these eyes for nearly 35 years. These are the eyes of my treasured wife, Laura. They still get me. They comfort me. They help me understand what's going on inside of her. When these eyes look deeply into my own, I know my wife is seeing more than an iris or pupil. She sees deeply inside me. If I'm honest, my eyes say more than I wish they did sometimes.

You've heard this before: the eyes are a window into the human soul. We look at someone, regardless of the depth of relationship we share, and say things like:

  • "He had a smile on his face, but his eyes didn't say the same thing."
  • "Her eyes lit up like a

Stepping off the Stage

 This isn't news: I'm a recovering Pharisee. That is, I'm a long-time "wrapped-in-religion people-pleaser." If you don't quite understand me yet, that means that too often in my life my motivation for most anything has come from trying to make others happy with me. Approval. Acceptance. Smiles. "Isn't he awesome?" kind of stuff.

Sick, I know. I lived that way for more years than I want to admit. So I won't. But I did.  

For years I dismissed myself from Jesus' audience of Pharisees. After all I wasn't putting on a show. I wasn't making a big production out of my serving or leading or caring for people. But if I'm waiting for accolades or bothered by the lack of them, well... welcome to my stage.

Truth is, I am still tempted to live out of that paradigm... that identity. 

Tests and Trust: A Fresh Look.

We’ve long understood from the Scriptures that our personal faith gets tested in this broken-on-itself life. It’s not as though Christ-followers get “targeted.” Jesus said “it rains on the just and the unjust.” Or in more current terms – “everybody gets crapped on – Christ-followers, too.” And when the rain pours and the crap flies, our trust in God is tested. After all, it’s one thing to soar with a smile, believing God loves you when everything is going like you hoped it would. It’s quite another to believe

Courage. In Spite of.

Courage doesn't always look bigger than life. it often leads us through the valley of the shadow of death. Courage sometimes feels utterly weak as we admit that we cannot ... without God's Spirit.

 My friend, Don Reynolds, has given me the gift of sharing journey and life together for some time now. This past weekend he courageously shared a glimpse of his story

The Gospel. Scandalous Grace.

There's a reason we affirm and sing the phrase "amazing grace." But it's almost unbelievable how unamazingly we treat grace. The Gospel Grace. God's grace.

What's so amazing about grace is that it is absolutely scandalous. It's not reasonable. It's not fair. It's supernatural.

  • An adulterous king is declared to be "a man after God's own heart." 
  • A man who gave his wife up as his sister for sexual relations with another man was "the father of many nations."
  • A prostitute makes it

Discipleship & the Story of Two Sons

We're weeks away from launching a new disciple-making initiative at Granger Community Church. We're ramping up for a life-long journey of new normal, not merely a three-semester classroom of teaching. We're currently training guides who'll journey with others, extending grace, understanding, and encouragement. 

I helped with the training last week and my assistant, Julie, reminded me of the story of "the Prodigal Son" (as we church peeps tend to call it). It's a beautiful and challenging picture that helps us in our role of guiding, helping, coaching others with whom we journey.  

I had a college professor who taught that the parables of Jesus had one and one point only. It was wrong to try to read too much into the details of Jesus' stories. Take the ever-popular story of "the prodigal son". Point: God the Father is a forgiving, unconditional loving God. According to my prof, the story's elder son character was merely added in to round out a great story. I think he may have missed a point or two in the parable.

Cancer, Chemo, and College | A Daughter's Reflection

Our family has always been tight. We communicate. There are no secrets. We're accepting and forgiving. We share meals together, vacation together, run errands together, enjoy Starbucks together...we do life together.  

Our only daughter, Liv, was in Arizona visiting her boyfriend's (Jacob) family when we received the news that my wife, Laura, had breast cancer. Laura had the painful task of telling Liv over the phone. Liv experienced the equally painful reality of hearing the news about her Mama - over the phone. 

We're facing the truth: this is cancer. But, there's more. 

Space for Silence & Wonder

I heard Jason Miller say it this weekend: sometimes in my private worship, I manage to fill the space.

I have the capacity to fill my own silence with noise. I bring the noise.

  • Sometimes I use my iTunes playlist and fill the space with music. It's good noise, but it's noise.
  • On some occasions I bring my own bias to Scripture. I look up verses that I know. That say what I think I need or want to read.
  • Other times I bring my list with me. My "Please God… will you please…?" list.

I'm quiet. I'm alone. I'm listening to Creator-focused music. I'm reading my Bible. I'm praying.

But it's not quite silence. I fill it with my own stuff.

Do I Love Quiet & Hate People?

I've been trying to find the rhythm that honors the way God wired me. I'm an introvert. A connections pastor introvert. I like people. Love people. There's nothing fake in the way I interact with people, particularly around our gatherings as a church.

But as an introvert, I need down time. Alone time. Time to be, to think, to create, to rest. (Of course we all need this time - it's what Sabbath is about - even for extroverts.) I refuel by being away from people, especially lots of people. nd it's helpful to my "spiritual maturity" thermometer to see my inclination toward introversion as "contemplative." It is what it is, I suppose.  

However, sometimes my effort to find rhythm turns

Original Sin vs. Original Grace | Part 3

I began this article a couple days ago, so if you're just tuning in, you may want to read Part 2 and Part 1 first (I'd start with Part 1).

Growth is process for all of us. Just look around you. It's spring; time for new birth. Blind, helpless birds wait open-mouthed for mama to provide food. Ducklings waddle in mass, following eagerly, learning to find food. Nature's newborn are immature. 

We're no different.

If we’re willing to honestly reflect on the incremental nature of our growth, we’ll have to admit that it’s taken a very long time to really accept and practice some areas of “next steps” that we’ve known cognitively for…well, a long time. If we’re honest, we’ll learn more tomorrow, next month, next year and the year after that. We’re not yet who we’re going to be.

When we’re honest about our own experiences, we realize

Original Grace vs. Original Sin | Part 2

I began this article yesterday, so if you're just hopping in, scroll down or use this link to read Part 1.

You know that little "x" that says "you are here" on the directional map at the mall? It's the "x" that identifies where you're standing at the moment, so you can navigate your way to a destination - whether it be your car or favorite store. t's true at the mall and it's true in life.

Everyone has an “x” that defines where he or she is.

nd we all arrived there through a journey. Maybe the journey seemed somehow unintentional or perhaps it was methodically plotted. Either way, a series of many steps has landed us where we are. 

It’s amazing that the scriptures are so filled with themes of journey and story, and yet we often fail to see the value of journey in someone else’s life. It’s easy to expect that once people have heard the truth, the only thing left to do is to obey. After all, Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). So they think, “You want to be free, you want to live life to the full? Then hear the truth and obey. Period.”

But it’s seldom that simple.

Original Grace vs Original Sin | Part 1

I’ve been wrestling lately with the crap inside of me. My own broken places. The effects of shame that rear up to suck me back into a hole of “you’re not good enough.” I’ve fought with my own besetting sin and the distractions that are triggers for me.

I’ve witnessed my sister going through the painful process of chemotherapy. I’ve read text reports of a family member’s baby fighting for his life. I’ve read the devastating reports and watched the wreckage video of tornadoes in Oklahoma. And I’ve read the tweets and heard the rhetoric of Christians pointing to the "justice" of God. His punishment for sin. I’m sick about the suffering and fed up with the judgment of people who speak for God.

Pharisees, Denney's, & Discipleship

Larry Osborne, senior pastor at Northcoast Church challenged the audience of shake-up-the-norm church planters to be cautious of the risk of becoming accidental Pharisees.

He noted that in our exuberance to rush to the front of the Jesus-line, we easily begin to look behind us at those who aren’t where we are and we judge and despise them. We risk projecting the conviction on our own heart as judgment on people who aren’t where we are.

We forget that we had to learn. We deny