Fearing God More Than People

Today I read John 12-14 and chapter 9 in Integrity. As I read the chapters in John there were two things that are rolling through my brain right now. First was the statement John made that there were Pharisees who believed that Jesus was who he said he was and yet they would never admit it for fear of the other Pharisees who would throw them out of the temple. Then he goes on to say they feared the praise of man more than the praise of God. I can understand how these guys felt. If they admitted they believed Jesus they would be marked by their own group as heretics or deceived and if they didn’t get reconvinced that the Pharisees way was the right way, they would be cast out and used as an example of what happens when you get “weak” or let the “world corrupt you.” Groups and organizations are powerful things in our lives. No one likes to be on the outside and the topic of negative discussion. These guys probably knew how it would go and knew how the other guys would talk about them because they had been parts of those conversations many times in the past. I have seen this happen with the christian “watchdog” groups. We had a guy come to Saddleback who saw that what he was writing about was off and that we did do things to grow people and presented the gospel. He quickly realized that he could not go back and say what he saw or he would be chastised just as he had chastised others over his years in this group. So, sadly, he went back and continues his ministry of bashing churches. Why do we all sacrifice our character for the sake of staying connected to our group?

Part of integrity is knowing when something is not right or working and being willing to change your mind to fit your new reality. It is a strength of character that gives you conviction and confidence without being arrogant or narcissistic. That type of person does not worry about who people think he/she is but rather is concerned with being true to who they were created to be. I really want to strive to have that kind of character in my life. Where what you see is what you get. Where failure is just a means to growth and moving towards the right thing. Where my reputation is not build on others perceptions but on the truth of my character and transparency. That is the only way not to get caught up in the “politics” of any one group and to be free to think and respond from a place of truth. That can be hard at times in ministry because people don’t always want the boat rocked or they have their own plans and desires that might not include yours, etc. Yet I have found that when I am true to who the Lord created me to be and not try to aspire to something I am not, I feel the most alive and passionate because I am living into my strengths and I am enjoying what I am doing now instead of wishing for something different in the future.

Lord, help me to maintain my character not matter what others think. I don’t want to shrink back on what I know is true for fear of how others will respond. Help me to be governed by the Holy Spirit and the conscience you have given me. Don’t let me fall into the trap of please people and judging my mood by how others feel about me. Amen.

The Gospel in Real Life

Today I read John 2-4 and chapter 9 in Integrity. I am always fascinated how Jesus talked to people about life and faith. He always had a way of first understanding who the person was and then framing their world in light of the gospel. With Nicodemus who as a Pharisee, he talks with him about the more technical aspects of faith by talking about being born again or born of the Spirit in order to have eternal life. I am sure Nicodemus felt very comfortable talking on that level due to his own knowledge and understanding. Yet he was uncomfortable in that he could not come to grips with it and understand how being born a second time could work. So even though Christ talked with him in his language and based on his circumstances as a spiritual leader, he still challenged him to think in light of faith instead of in light of all he had known.

Then Jesus has his conversation with the Samaritan woman. With her he deals with her past and lays out for her the main issue in her life of trying to find life in men. That was what she needed to help her in her faith. He then goes on to explain what it means to have water that quenches our true thirst. She then goes on to tell others what she heard and saw and that she believed Jesus was the Messiah. In both cases he uses analogies to help people understand complex truths in a way that made sense to the person he was speaking with.

In each case Jesus met people where they were instead of asking them to catch up to where he was. I think about all the ways we have attempted to share the gospel as the church at large. As I sit here right now writing this in 2008, almost 2009, the church at large tends to demand that people catch up to our understanding of the gospel. There are certain things that people have to say or they are not presenting the “true” gospel. It is almost like a secret handshake or some special formula. Any attempt at contextualizing the gospel is met with suspicion or harsh critique and criticism. There is almost the thought that because God’s word is timeless, anyone should be able to understand the truth as it was presented years ago. The problem with this school of thought is first, everyone who does not speak or understand greek has gotten an interpretation of the gospel as every translation is an interpretation. Second, the gospel has been contextualized throughout the life of the church. There is no problem with looking to new analogies to explain the gospel to many who, in our time, have never even cracked the bible or gone to any church. I like the fact that Jesus first started with the person and then explained the gospel in light of who they were. If the gospel is timeless, then it should stand up to the test of the changing language and lives of people. Besides, if the Holy Spirit is the one who does the calling and convicting my role is simply to listen, share, and testify.

Lord, help me to be quick to listen to others and understand their lives so I can share my faith with them. Give me your eyes to see the opportunities to minister to others and allow you to use me however you see fit. Thank you for the example you have given me in your word. Amen.

Being Content in Faith

Today I read 2 Peter, John 1, and half of chapter 9 in Integrity. Todays theme is one of judgement and redemption. It is kind of fitting today as I write this it is pouring outside. The thing that struck me most was how easy it can be for people to go astray and have their faith weakened and then return to sin or see their faith as a means to an end instead of an end in itself and then use their faith to make money or to get people to follow them so they feel like they have worth and power. Peter points these issues out and talks about how serious it is not to play around with our faith like that. He refers to it as a dog returning to his vomit. It is so easy for me to get lazy in my faith or to allow my mood or circumstances to dictate how close I feel to God. In those times I am very vulnerable to temptation or to checking out when it comes to my faith not realizing as Peter says in other places that testing is what builds my faith and should not be something that destroys it. With my responsibilities as a pastor I have to be even more conscious of the ways in which I can make ministry my God and people’s responses to what I do in ministry my slave master. With my tendency at times to want people to like me and feel good in my presence I can tend to avoid the hard topics or see ministry as successful or a failure based on how people respond. If I do that then I am not holding to my integrity and my view on the world and ministry gets skewed. The best I can do is create the potential for maturity to happen. The Holy Spirit is the one who does the work. I always have to remember that. Who I am is not determined by what I do, I am who God created me to be and what I do should flow from who I am. People’s responses are up to them and the impact is up to God. It is so freeing when I really embrace that fact!

Lord, help me to be a man who bases his faith on you not my circumstances. I pray that I never lead anyone astray and that I don’t bank who I am into what I do. Please make me as effective as you need me to be. I am your servant and I want to use the gifts you have given me in the way you need them used. Give me patience when things don’t go my way. Give me strength to resist turning back to sin. Give me character to be who I am not matter what others think. Lord I want to be your man. Amen.

Communicating the Gospel with my Lifestyle

Today I read all of 1 Peter and Chapter 8 in the book Integrity. It is awesome sometimes reading a whole book of the bible in context to get the big themes of the book. In Peter, his central message is living a life that represents the gospel. We are to live holy lives that cause others to notice and inquire instead of a non-holy one where they dismiss and accuse us of being hypocrites. Peter spend a lot of time explaining what that life looks like and includes things like how we work with others, how we live in this world, our respect of the government, how we treat our bosses (slave masters in this case), how we treat our spouses, how we live together, etc. In all of this he points out that God is the judge not us and we need to live at peace with everyone as much as possible.

What is fascinating about this is that it is so relevant to today. In the world of blogs and instant news reports, people are definitely watching to see if our lifestyle lives us to what we say we believe. The media loves to build people up and then look for ways to tear them down in order to build sensational news stories. There are bloggers who dissect every word that is said and how we live our lives is written about and displayed for all the world to see. As I sit here in Starbucks writing this I am thinking about my own life and what people would say my lifestyle says about my faith. What areas would they find to quibble with? Where does my walk not match my talk? What a convicting concept. When you think about Peter is literally saying that how I live could effect someone’s picture of Christ and their desire to pursue or ignore him. That is why I really believe that there are two aspects of discipleship, an individual aspect which relates to my walk with God and the personal spiritual disciplines, beliefs, etc. and lifestyle discipleship which includes how I live at work, home, with my wife, my kids, etc. These two things should go hand in hand which is what I think was James’ point from yesterday.

I see so many people who have no level of self awareness and just go about life destroying the name of Christ in the name of defending the faith. These people have so compartmentalized their faith down to a narrow set of rules and what should be said that they evaluate everything from that perspective without realizing the attack and angry style they use to convey those “truths” gives away their blindness to the lifestyle piece. They can’t see how angry they have become and how the issues have become more important than people. Still others just compartmentalize their faith period. They figure that God is one part of their lives and the rest is their to do with as they wish. They have no way to tell that their behavior is not matching what they say they believe. So the world looks at them and figures that God really only impacts one’s schedule and they don’t need another meeting in their lives. They are doing just as good with their lives as this person who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ. What a convicting thought when you really think about it. My prayer is that my lifestyle line up with what I say I believe and whom I serve. I don’t want to bring shame on the name of Christ by how I live. I know I fail over and over again at this but I also know that I need to admit my failure, confess it and learn from it. Then I will represent the grace and forgiveness that Christ has given me. Be honest about who I am and live my message of the gospel instead of just talking about it, that is what I need to focus on today.

Lord, help me to be a living example of the gospel to others in this world. Help me not to shrink back from talking about my faith but also help me not to fall into the trap of thinking evangelism is all about talking or arguing a point. Help me not to compartmentalize my life but rather be who I am in all situations. Give me greater self awareness. Amen.

Faith and Works

Today I read James 1-5 and the next chapter in Integrity. Reading the whole book of James, there are many things floating through my mind right now. One of the themes that stood out loud and clear was the idea of having integrity in your faith, that your actions should match what you claim your faith to be. Over and over again, James makes it clear that our faith cannot just be a pronouncement or right belief. Rather our faith must be displayed or followed or shown in and through our good works. I know there are many who rightly emphasize grace in the process of salvation. It is true there is nothing that we can do to earn salvation or God’s favor. It is truly by his grace, a grace I don’t deserve, that he saved me and called me to himself. I was not more loveable than others, or more valuable. It was purely an act of love and grace.

That being said, far too many feel like grace gives them license to be whoever they want to be just so long as they have faith and the right doctrine. As a result we see so many Christians who wear the label and talk a good fight, but when it comes to examining their lives, they look no different than those in the world who have no faith. This comes to mind right now when I think of the religious police we have on the internet who have a very narrow determination of who is saved and who is not and spend their lives harshly criticizing anyone who does not use the right words or says things from quotes that seem off. These same people who profess to have it all together and have “true” faith show some of the most discourteous behavior and attack people who are fellow believers whom they deem are not “true” believers. They label, insult, and look down on these people claiming they are false teachers while they themselves are displaying behavior that does not fit their profession of faith.

As I take all of this in, I want to make sure I am always dealing with reality in my own life. Where am I really at? How am I fooling myself? Where are my actions or thoughts not in line with the faith I profess? How do I act like those who are the judge and jury of others? Can I truly get into another person’s shoes and understand them? These are big questions because it is so easy for me to want to reason away people who don't agree with me as if I have all the answers and I am always right. I have to be very careful that I don't let pride slip in the back door under the guise of input or feedback or ideas. I need to humble myself and continue to realize it is by grace that I stand today and that grace should be reflected in how I act if I truly believe in Christ and have faith that he will take care of things in this world.

Lord, help me to be a man of integrity whose actions line up with the faith I profess. May people not only hear the gospel from me but may they see it in how I act. Help my life to be as big of a witness as my words. Amen.

Cultivating Faith

Today I read Philemon, Hebrews 1-4, and the next chapter in Integrity on being in touch with reality. There are several things floating through my head this morning from what I read. The first is the importance of cultivating and reinforcing faith in our lives. In Hebrews he talks about the Israelites who were saved from Egypt, saw the miracle of God and all the things he did to rescue them from the Egyptians. Yet with all of those miraculous things, they still did not trust or believe God. They complained about the conditions and even said on numerous occasions that they wanted to go back to Egypt. As a result, God told them they would not see the promised land and waited for that whole generation to die before he fulfilled his promise. The author of Hebrews then goes on to say that we must continually remind one another of our faith and renew it on a regular basis so we don’t go down the same path the Israelites went, even though they physically saw things that we haven’t.

I know in my own life, there are times where I doubt or float in and out of trusting God and trusting myself. Faith is not something I did at one time like an event or signing a contract. It is a very real thing that must be embraced and grown as I walk through the ups and downs of life on this planet. I have seen God do so many things in this world but just like the Israelites there are times I doubt if it was God or try to think of other explanations. I want to stay connected to Christ and cling to him because I don’t trust myself to stay consistent. What a wonderful advantage I have though as follower of Christ because I have the Holy Spirit guiding me. What a wonderful gift God has given me!

Lord, help me to grow my faith instead of trying to trust my own ideas or logic. Help me to be in touch with reality instead of trying to create my own or lie to myself and refuse to confront the truth. Make me a man after your own heart. Amen.

Giving Up My Plans for God's Plans

I had to write a devotional for the small group blog at Saddleback on Luke 1:26-38. I did this for my devotional this morning and here is what I wrote:

In this passage the angel comes to Mary to tell her that she will become pregnant and give birth to the Messiah that the entire nation of Israel had been waiting for, a man they expected would over throw the Romans and set up an earthy kingdom and re-establish Israel as a sovereign nation again. Now I am sure it was overwhelming enough to have an angel show up at all, but to be the mother of the Messiah? I’m sure there were a ton of feelings and questions going on in her mind like, why me? Are you sure you have the right Mary? My cousin Martha is really wanting to be pregnant right now and I am just trying to get married, wouldn’t she be a better choice? Yet Mary’s first question was not about why but how. She asked how it would happen since she was a virgin. We don’t know why she asked that question but I wonder if she was concerned she would not be married to Joseph because God had someone else in mind to be the father. Or, maybe she thought that someone had started a rumor that got back to God that she and Joseph had slept together before their marriage. We really don’t know what was going through her mind but her response to God changing the plan for her life is an incredible example to us.

She could have been concerned with what the neighbors might think and could have asked for a little more time so they could get married first so she wouldn't have to deal with all the grief she would get from other people. Knowing that her reputation could be at stake makes her reply even more incredible. Instead of negotiating with God, she said, “I am the Lord’s servant and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true.” What an incredible servants heart to give up the life she had planned to submit to what God had for her, even when God’s plan messed up her own plans. I wonder how often we miss the miracles that God has for us because God’s plan does not line up with our own. I think many of us are afraid to tell God we will go and do anything he wants us to do for fear that God will mess up our plans. We tell God later, or I will do what you want after I get this job, or get to this place in my career, or have enough money to retire and serve full time, or until I get married, or have children or... We have a lot to learn from Mary this Christmas season on what it means to trust God with our very lives knowing that his plan may not be clear to us and we may not understand how he is able to make things work in our current circumstances but we know God’s love and heart for us and his plan is way beyond any plan we could devise or think up. As you think about your own life circumstances, here are some things to consider:

1. How have I tried to negotiate with God to get him to go along with my plan?
2. How willing am I to accept whatever God wants for my life?
3. What are the things that I refuse to surrender to God?
4. In what ways do you feel God has messed up your plans?
5. Do you really trust that God has your best interests at heart?

Living an Integrated Life

Today I read 1 Timothy 5-6, Titus 1-3, and chapter 6 in Integrity. As I read this morning one of the things that struck me was the importance of relationships and making sure you are leading from a place of integration instead of compartmentalization. In both Timothy and Titus, Paul is laying out the importance of choosing leaders who lives model what a follower of Jesus Christ should look like. He talked not only about their personal spiritual lives, which is very important, he also talked about their home lives and the importance of running the home as a representation of what it means to run a church. If you can’t run your home, then your ministry will reflect that inability. Not only that, but you will constantly be distracted by the problems of home and, as is the case for many men, you will probably spend more time with the ministry and neglect your home because that is where you feel the most respect and sense of accomplishment. With those distractions it is only a matter of time before a leader will burn out or crash and burn in their personal life.

Then Paul goes on to model this concern with living and integrated life and seeing how you would normally live your life through the lens of our faith by sending Onesimus back to them who was a run away slave. He tells them to treat him like they would treat Paul himself. Paul recognizes that he was problem for them in the past, but lets them know about this man’s changed life and that he needs to be respected as a brother and in Christ and given a chance. Paul stands up for this guy even in the debts he owes his masters by telling them that he will repay Onesimus’s debts himself and then reminds them that they owe Paul their very souls due to the ministry he did there among them.

What struck me about this was the way in which Paul was a man worthy to follow. Not only did he come and lay down the agenda for the church and lead a very aggressive church planting ministry, he also was real and vulnerable with people and showed that he loved them and would step up to the plate for them if they needed it. Here was a slave who deserved to be punished harshly and have fines levied against him for his disobedience and Paul, one of the apostles, goes to bat for him and puts his own reputation on the line for him. I bet this slave felt so loved, supported, and validated there was no way he was going to do anything to let Paul down and I bet he lived an inspired life as a result of that support. I pray that I am a man who inspires people that way and lives and integrated life where people know my weaknesses and know that I have their backs and will support them when they need it. As the Integrity book said, the balance of strength and vulnerability those are the traits of someone with integrity. I pray that my home life and every other aspect of my life will always be integrated to the person people follow as Pastor is the same person at home and everywhere else in his life. There is true freedom and trust in having no hidden issues or hiding how you feel at various points in your life as long as those things do not burden or distract others from the mission and call (appropriate vulnerability).

Lord, please help me to be a man whose life models the gospel no matter what snapshot people see. May even my failures be evidence of grace that points others to you. I know I can do nothing apart from you even though I try to sometimes. Please help me to depend and rely on you more. Help me to be a man of integrity. Amen.


Today I read Ephesians 1-4 and chapter 5 in Integrity. There is a huge theme of grace running through my mind right now. The fact that Christ came to secure for me a future that I could not secure for myself and one that I didn’t deserve is the ultimate expression of grace. Jesus looked out for me even when he didn’t have to and I wasn’t asking him to. He did so as a humble servant who showed me his love in the ultimate expression of his grace to me. Not only did he do this for his people the Jews but he did it for us Gentiles as well showing that his grace and love had no bounds. The Lord is trustworthy and it makes me think about my own trustworthiness.

In the Integrity book Cloud talks about this grace that builds trust with others and looks out for others needs regardless of whether or not they deserve it or are even thinking about it themselves. This type of trustworthiness and grace solidifies relationships and lets others know that you are in their corner and you will look out for them even when they are not looking and even when you don’t have to. That allows people to have great relationships together because they ultimately know you have their back. Reflecting on this in light of several situations I am dealing with right now I can see places where I do have grace and look out for people and I also see times when I have not done as good of a job as I should do. In my current situation I am struggling with someone who will do a great job validating people verbally but then goes on to block the things that were validated if the person does not understand or it is not going in the direction this person thought it should go. That sets the tone for the rest of the group and causes people not to respond as they normally would. I have another situation with a person that I know would never have my back when I am not there unless it was a benefit to that person. The person will get things done and even help at times but if push comes to shove, that person is only going to look out for their personal interests.

Thinking about this, the reading this morning on grace really strikes home. Grace looks out for the other person even when they are not grateful, are spiteful, take you for granted, etc. There are no real conditions on true grace, it just flows out from out character when it is present. I really want to be a person of grace on a consistent basis. It is easy for me to have empathy for others and to figure out how they are feeling as I engage with them as long as I am focusing on understanding instead of making a point. If I am focused on making a point or debating, it is easy for me to miss the things that would give me clues into what the other person is feeling. If I don’t empathize, I end up invalidating what they think or how they feel and that just leads to a bad outcome where I will have to apologize later. I really want think about this more in light of the people I know above and my own responses to others when things are not going my way.

Lord, help me to be a man of grace who gives unmerited favor others. I want to be someone who is trustworthy and who models the grace that I have received from you and receive from others. Give me your eyes to see what is happening for others so I can respond with grace. Amen.

The Power of Faith

Today I read Romans 9-12 and finished chapter 4 in Integrity. When it comes to the life I have been given the joy I have in my faith in the Lord I know that I am extremely grateful that God called me to himself at the age of 5 and has continued to hold on to me through the ups and downs of my life. It is so easy sometimes to be complacent about my faith and live for the next spiritual high or even get distracted by the things in this world to the extent that I even put my faith on the back burner. Yet I know deep down that God is using me in ways I don’t imagine or probably wouldn’t even count from my perspective on this side of eternity. In Romans Paul talks about the importance of faith in our relationship with God and that we are not just born into the family of God as the Jews had assumed based on their heritage. He goes on to explain how God chose to bless all nations through Abraham and that he has grafted the Gentiles into his family because the Jews rejected his way and stumbled over their own sense of nationalism and attempts to obey the law in order to make themselves right with God.

As I think more about this I realize that I too struggle at times with trying to obey God and use my own litmus test for whether I am following God well or not by what I do. Now obedience is important and I am called by God to serve him with my life instead of just taking up space and resources, but that obedience is not what sustains me or even saves me. It is my faith that drives, sustains and saves me. It is faith that I must lean on when things do not make sense to me or I am feeling distant from God. It is faith that comforts me in times of distress or no answers. It is faith that allows me not to continually beat myself up for my mistakes knowing that God is still in control and he can work through the messes I make in life. It is faith that gives me a sense of calmness and contentment in the midst of the storm.

This is a big deal for me right now because I have been feeling like I am not as close to God as a should be or even want to be and I have been trying different things to generate that feeling of closeness. When I think something is missing or out of place then I feel a level of apathy and anxiety at the same time that colors everything else I am trying to do. But now I realize it is faith that brings a sense of perspective and keeps me from spinning my wheels trying to come up with my own plan or explanation for everything that seems out of place. What a wonderful gift God has given us!

Lord, help me to realize on a minute by minute basis the depth of the faith that you have given me. Help me to lean on my faith in you in the times where I don’t understand what is going on and I want to give up. Help me to live by faith so I am more aware and responsive to your Spirit’s presence and movement in my life. Amen.


Today I read Romans 5-8 and another section from the book Integrity. As I reflect on what I learned today it strikes me how much God empathized with us and loved us that he would send his own son to take care of our sin. He didn’t wait until we cleaned up or act or obeyed all his laws but instead came while we were still sinning and disobeying him. Instead of a response of judgement and justice which I know is part of God’s character, he understood the struggle I was having with sin and he came down to earth and lived with us and with our sin and empathized with us and understands and then proceeded to die the death we should have died and deserve to die. As I reflect on all the things Jesus did as he interacted with people he always empathized with the person first, did a miracle in their lives (or in the case of the religious leaders pointed out their true motives which is also a form of empathy), and then told them to go and sin no more. Far too often we want people to experience the agony of their sin and convince them they are sinners until we are satisfied that they “get it” and then we present the gospel to them because we feel like they cannot understand their need for a savior unless they truly understand their sinful state. The problem with that as I look at it now is the fact that we get things out of order and never do we empathize with people and seek to understand who they are and where they are coming from. Yes understanding sin is important but to lead off with that or even push it hard as if we are the judge of when they actually understand it shows that we tend to want to play the role of judge instead of loving people and understanding their situation. I thank God that Jesus did not come to this earth wielding a scepter demanding we get our acts together and deeply understand our sin. Instead he came carrying a towel and modeling for us what it means to serve others and to empathize with others situations which then allows us to speak into one another’s lives when it comes to things like sin.

The integrity book focused on empathy today as well and the importance of putting yourself into another person’s shoes and then communicating to them you understand and the power that has in the lives of those you lead. This is something that I feel God has gifted me with. I have a way of putting myself in someone’s shoes and understanding how they feel. The problem I have is that I can also get so busy and wrapped up in what I am doing that I don’t take the time to use this gift. So I can be unempathetic if I am not conscious of the other person and really focused on understanding. When I do focus on this, however, it leads to great connection with others and I find that I can help others in deeper ways which in turn builds a friendship and relationship with them. I really want to be a better leader who not only leads and helps set direction, but does so in an environment of team, friendship, and understanding.

Lord, thank you so much for your love and empathy for me. I am so thankful that you did not send Jesus to condemn me but to show you loved me and wanted to save me. Words cannot express what that means to me but you know the gratitude in my heart which I wish was not so fleeting when I am not focused on you. Help me to be a leader who has empathy for others first. Make me a man who shows others the love I have experienced from you. Amen.

Trusting God or My System

Today I read Matthew 1-4 and part of chapter 4 in Integrity. There are several things that stood out this morning in my readings. First was the fulfillment of prophesy we see in the life of Christ. Matthew is very careful to document all the places that Jesus fulfilled prophesy about the Messiah. Looking at teach of those passages, I can see where people who studied prophesy must have been confused on how all of this would fit together and whether these passages really were a part of the Messiah coming or something else. Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem, called a Nazarene, children would be killed, etc. I don’t know a lot about Jewish writings on the Messiah, but I am sure they had sophisticated systems of thought on these prophetic passages that probably made a lot of sense with charts and drawings. Yet with all that study, wisdom and longing for the Messiah to appear, they missed him because everything did not fulfill their own expectations of how it should go down. They didn’t see the angle that the kingdom of God would be in their hearts and they certainly did not grasp the idea that the Messiah would be the ultimate sin offering that would complete and get rid of the sacrificial system that was in place at the time.

As I think about that in light of our own times I can’t help but think in many ways we are like the Jews in those days. We have our systems of end times prophesy complete with charts and verses to support our view. There are many different views out there all of which have some holes or things that just don’t quite click with sophisticated explanations for those holes. There are many who hold their views as the only correct view and even hint that those who do not agree are heretics at worst, deceived at best. Some are so certain of their system, that I wonder if they too will miss the things that God has laid out for the future and his reasons for putting those things in the scriptures. For too many we trust our view of future events and our ability to prepare for them more than we do God Himself. One of my favorite examples of this was the whole y2k event where people were afraid the computers wouldn’t be able to handle the change over to the year 2000 and we are so dependent on computers that it would shut everything down. Instead of trusting in the Lord, many Christians stockpiled gas and dried food to get ready for the event. Some even packed up and moved to remote locations where they could be self sufficient and live off the land. As I thought that through I realized that for many of us we are far more concerned about our well being than we are what God’s best is and it is in times that are trying that our true source of trust and dependency shows itself.

Lord, help me not to be so caught up in having the right answers or preserving what I have that I miss you in the midst of it all. I know that my very soul is in your hands so I pray that as hard times come I can live as if that is the case. Help my life to point others to you and trust that in the end knowing and trusting you have a plan is where I want my heart to rest. Amen.

The Pull to Be Famous

Today I read Psalm 124, 2 Corinthians 11-13, and the start of chapter 4 in Integrity. One of the things that is bouncing around in my head this morning is the need to be trustworthy and connect with people. In Corinthians, Paul is defending his position as an apostle and chastising the Corinthians for believing those who came along wanting to be “famous” and trying to undercut Paul and his colleagues in an attempt to raise their own status and position. As a result, Paul has to go on and on about his own qualifications and remind them of all the ways he helped lead them to Christ and how he never tried to build a name for himself or make money off of them. He continually apologizes for what seems like boasting by saying he was acting like a fool because he didn’t want it to look like he was doing the same thing those other teachers were doing.

As I think about this I am wondering, at what point does our desire to serve God in ministry become something we use to become famous or well known or a “global ministry?” I can remember early in my 20’s wanting to be someone famous. I thought I could be like a Gary Smalley and do relationship seminars or be like other famous guys and make a mark in the world. But as time went by I began to realize that those kind of roles in the kingdom of God are God’s to assign or take away. If I pursued those things and all that came with it, recognition, money, books, etc. then I would be selling the kingdom for personal gain instead of doing the work to which God called me for his benefit alone. Rick is such a great example of that because he has made sure that he doesn’t let the fame and money change him too much which I am watching and greatly respect. It doesn’t mean he will be perfect at it, but just knowing his heart and desire makes me proud to be on his team. I know there are others in the church who struggle with this desire to make a name for themselves and want to get their hands in everything hoping at some point one of those things will stick and be a ticket to recognition and fame. I pray for those guys that God would keep their hearts close to himself and that they would not see the ministry and people as a means to their own end. No one ever starts out that way but if left to our own devices and the right opportunity, we could get to that point. I want to be a guy who others can trust because who I am is who you see so you will never have to wonder what I am really thinking or whether I am playing some kind of game behind the scenes. I want to have integrity and integration in every aspect of my life.

Lord, help me to be more enamored by you instead of the things that can be gained through ministry. I want to more concerned about your reputation and the ministry of the kingdom than building my own reputation or kingdom. Help me not be naïve but also not territorial. Help me to discern the higher things of the kingdom so I don’t get taken off course. Amen.

Discerning Truth

Today I read 2 Corinthians 7-10 and chapter 3 in the book Integrity. One of the things running through my head right now is the need to honest and up front in relationships and not being manipulated or fooled by others but being willing to speak the truth. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he refers to his first letter which was basically a letter to discipline them for the ways they had gotten off track and needed to be brought back. He states in his second letter that he was glad he did it even thought it was hard for him to write and hard for them to hear because they were better off as a result of having received that letter. They got back on track and they too were thankful for the discipline.

This ties into what I read in the book on integrity today. Integrity is not just moral character, though that is a part of it. Rather it is the integration of the whole person and includes things like:

Connecting Authentically (building trust)
Being oriented towards the truth (operating in reality)
Getting results and finishing well (reaching goals)
Dealing with the negative (ending problems & transforming them)
Oriented towards growth(leading to increase)
Being transcendent (enlarging the big picture)

Again I see on this list the idea of dealing with the negative and the truth so that you are not taken advantage of or get caught in a loop of solving problems all the time. I have a situation in my life right now where I am trying to figure out the motives of another person and want to make sure I am not being taken advantage of or being led to think one thing only to be blindsided down the road. My initial response is to give the benefit of the doubt and just move forward on the assumption of trust but there are some things that are sending up warning flags that I need to think through. Motives are such a hard thing to get a handle on and understand and I have been taken advantage of in the past and don’t want that to happen again, not so much because of me but more importantly because of the cause and all the elements that go along with it. I guess I have to pray about this and decide whether and how this thing would be addressed.

Lord, help me to be able to discern the truth and motives in the situations I face. Please help me to be a person of integrity who is able to use the gifts and passions you have given me to further the kingdom. I don’t want to be closed off or selfish so please align my heart and eyes with yours Lord. Amen.

Knowing Myself

Today I read Job 39-40, 1 Corinthians 13-14, and Chapter 2 in the book Integrity. Knowing who we are in relationship to the people and situations around us is so important. I find that having that awareness is the difference maker in relationships and in living out the roles we play in life. The most obvious place this is important is in our relationship with God. I find far too many times that I get to a place where I either forget God in my everyday life or I ask Him to go along with my agenda instead of trying to get in line with His. Job was in that place where he complained about God’s plan in his own life and all the suffering he was going through. If you looked at Job’s life from a cause and effect perspective I would definitely say he was getting a raw deal. Yet when we try to figure out God’s reasons and even critique Him, we are on dangerous ground because we can never even begin to understand Him. So Job had to go through a lesson in who was wiser and who should be telling who how things should go. When you really think about it I am glad I am not in control of all the details of life as I would only mess them up and end up hurting a bunch of people. So even when we don’t understand why or what God is doing, we have to trust his heart and his love for us. So, I definitely need to make sure my relationship with the Lord is such that I am the follower and He is the leader and I decide to do whatever it takes to make Him first place in my life. Very hard to do with a sinful heart like mine.

The other thing that really spoke to me today was Cloud’s analogy of the wake in his book on integrity. What wake do you leave behind you when it comes to what you accomplish and the relationships with people around you. While performance is important it is only one piece of the equation. How we deal with relationships and whether or not people like being around us and feel honored as our co-workers is just as important as getting the task done. This is such a huge concept in so many places especially in ministry. It is very easy to get caught up in task and to allow relationships to go by the wayside. After all, even in ministry we are judged by what we produce or what we have done lately for the kingdom. As a result there are some people who are very task driven but at the same time don’t look out for relationships or see relationships as a means to an end. Did the people they served with want to serve with that person again? That is a huge question.

So I want to strive to be a man who leaves a great wake behind him. Who knows and continually strives to put God in first place and bring my awareness to a place where I know he is always in charge and his ways are always well above and beyond my ability to understand them. I also want to be a man who people say they would serve again with me in a heartbeat with no hesitation because I loved them and looked out for them ahead of myself.

Lord, help me to be a man who leaves a good wake. Help me to have the character and live a righteous life like Job did. There are so many things at stake in the life that I live that I pray you would guide and direct my path and help me to be so in tune with your Spirit that I respond to the situations of life like you would Lord. Amen.

Using Airdisk as a Time Machine Backup

I have been wanting to get around to setting up a Time Machine back up for my laptop that allows it to work like Apple’s Time Capsule and happens wirelessly. I never liked the idea of getting a router with a hard drive enclosed because I know drives will fail that that will only set an expiration date on my router by the life of the hard drive. I have usually resisted getting all in one solutions for that reason (can anyone say a television with a VCR built in?). So having an Airport Extreme router and a drive connected to it, I set out to try to make this happen despite Apple Support saying they don’t officially support that kind of set up. For those of you trying to do this, here is what I did:

1. Reformat the Hard Drive
I took the 250GB drive I had connected to the Airport Extreme and attached it to my Macpro directly, Using Disk Utility I erased the drive and made sure it was Mac Os Extended (Journaled). If you want to set up partitions you can do so at the same time on the partition tab.

2. Plug the Drive Back Into the Airport Extreme and Mount it
Next I plugged the drive back into the Airport Extreme only, powered it up and waited for the Airport Extreme to show up in the shared section of the sidebar in the Finder. Once it showed up I clicked on it to mount it (if you have a password you will have to put in your password to get it to mount).

3. Add the Airdisk to the Devices Section of the Finder

Once the drive is mounted you have at make sure it shows up in the devices section of the Finder. Just click on the folder for your Airdisk drive and drag it to the Devices section. Once you do that it will show the drive with a new icon in the devices section. This will allow Time Machine to see the drive.

4. Make sure the Airdisk Shows up as a Device Every Time You Login

To make sure the airdisk always shows up when you login, go to System Preferences and click on Accounts. Once in Accounts (you may need to push the lock button in the bottom left corner and give your system login to unlock your preferences) click the tab that says login items. On the list that comes up, click the “+” sign in the bottom left of that window to add an item. Browse to the Airdisk you just added to devices and click add. You will now see it on the list of login items. Make sure the box next to it is checked so that you will automatically mount the Airdisk on login.

5. Set the Airdisk as your Time Machine Backup
Now go to System Preferences and click on the Time Machine Icon. On the Time Machine screen click Change Disk. You should now see your Airdisk in the list of available Time Machine Volumes. Select the Airdisk. Now Turn Time Machine on if you haven’t already and it will begin to prepare the disk for back up! Remember this will take a long time as you are doing the initial back up of your entire hard drive over the air. It took me 14 hours to back up 116GB of data. You may want to set your Energy Saver settings to not let your computer sleep while the backup is going on (System Preferences-Energy Saver-Set the time to sleep to never).



Today I read Job 35-36, 1 Corinthians 7-8, and Integrity chapter 1. One of the things that has been on my mind lately is how to maneuver in an organization where there is so much going on that many of the great innovations in the church are missed. I wrestle with how to address the issue and talk through how we could get better at this as a church, especially from the point of view of someone who is lower in the leadership hierarchy. So today I read in Job about a well intentioned friend who takes to scolding his friend in the name of protecting God. Many of the things he said about God would be seen as true and even good theology, yet they missed the mark in this situation because the friend couldn’t possibly have known all the things that happened behind the scenes like God allowing Satan to do what he did to a righteous man. It is a dangerous thing to speak for God and try to defend him as if we really know all that was going on in his head at the time something happened. Yet we do that sort of thing all the time. One of the lessons I learned this morning was that there are some things that need to be left unsaid even if you think you have every angle covered. Sometimes it is good to say nothing or keep your thoughts to yourself for the sake of the person you are ministering to.

There is also the issue of freedom underlying all of this. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians talks about our freedom to marry or not marry and the advantages and disadvantages of each. While I thought it was kind of funny to hear Paul talk about marriage as a single guy and down play it a bit, he did make it clear where he was speaking from his own opinion or wisdom as opposed to speaking the very word of God in everything he said. It is important for me to remember the same thing when I am talking to others. I need to make sure that I am ok with being wrong or even having my ideas rejected knowing that the ultimate outcome of all of these things is in God’s hands. Also, it is important to have a huge awareness of others so that I don’t push my freedom on those who may not see it or experience it like I do. As Paul says about the food sacrificed to idols, if anything causes another Christian the potential of stumbling then I will steer clear of those things. Far too often we try to make a point to other people and push our freedom on them as if they are somehow judging us if they don’t quite agree or can’t partake in whatever it is because they know they will stumble. That is an abuse of freedom and is a selfish way of viewing it. I want to make sure I am aware enough that everything I do points people to the Lord instead of towards temptation.

Finally, Cloud talks about integrity as that intangible thing that some people have that causes them to live up to their full potential. I am fascinated by that because I have known people who don’t seem to have integrity and yet still lived up to their potential at least as far as success was concerned. I look forward to exploring this more as I read the book.

When it comes to this issue at work I know I need to pray about it and think through the best way to get the word out and figure out ways to get innovations on the radar. I know I need to know when to speak and when to keep silent. I also know that I can’t push this agenda or try to prove some kind of point. Rather I need to understand the situation and the people involved and look for the way they might hear it best while keeping my own emotions and potential cynicism out of it. I am confident that it will all work out because I serve with such an awesome group of people!

Lord, help me to be a man of integrity who leads from a place of authenticity and awareness of others. Please help me not to ever push my own agenda or freedom to the place where I cause others to stumble in anyway. Don’t allow me to get cynical when things are going slowly or not going the way I think they should. Help me to be the man you want me to be Lord and use me in whatever way you want. Amen.

Relationship Weekend

I had quite a fascinating weekend this past week doing talks on relationships. The weekend started with talking to the singles at a retreat they were having. I talked about the fact that we all have been trained to some extent to see male-female relationships from a romanticized point of view. We see romantic comedies that show us that soul mates do exist if you look hard enough for Mr. or Mrs. Right and you will have one big conflict and then your life will be a happily ever after. The problem with thinking that God has one right person in the world for you is that it only takes one person to marry the wrong person to mess the whole thing up. So we spent a lot of time talking about how how men and women relate and how to have a healthy relationship.

On Saturday I got to talk to women in the church whose husbands are not believers on the topic of “Appreciating an Imperfect Man.” We had a large turnout for that event and it was fun looking at Abraham and Sarah and wondering what their conversation might have looked like after Abraham asked Sarah to pretend she was his sister to save his own skin. We talked about the fact that Sarah could have defined Abraham by his successes or his failures and that too often we define our spouse by his/her failures and rarely celebrate his/her successes. It went very well with 45 minutes of Q&A and I stayed another hour and a half answering questions.

Then on Monday we did our next Married Life Essentials Event on Spiritual Intimacy and talked about how we relate together as a couple to help one another become more like Christ. It was another great turn out and I had more questions after that not only in person but also by email the next day!

In all of this I can see that it is important for us to see our relationships as part of our spiritual health instead of a means to get us what we think we want. With all the people I talked to person after person had issues because somewhere along the way they believe that relationships should go the way they have scripted them in their minds instead of seeing them as opportunities to grow us to be more like Christ. My prayer is that these events and training’s will help more couples to be able to see and articulate what a healthy marriage looks like so they in turn can help other couples to get out of this distorted view on marriage.

Do Others Feel the Love?

Today I read Job 26-27, Mark 15-16, and RPJ Chapter 40. Relationships and how we treat other people says a lot about our faith and where we put our trust. Many times we may be well intentioned in what we are doing but we put the task or the principle in front of the person/people we are interacting with. When we do that, we end up hurting or using people to get to the end we have in mind. I think about Job who had to defend his own innocence to his friends who should have been comforting him instead of defending their perception of God. For some reason they felt his theology was off and felt they should spend their time correcting him instead of just being with him and supporting and praying him through the process of pain he was in. The Pharisees were more concerned about their position and maintaining all they had built up than they were with Jesus as a person. Their demand that he be crucified showed the extent people will go to in order to defend their own status or what they feel are their rights. Right in the book of Mark it says that Pilate knew that they wanted him dead because of their envy. It was obvious to everyone but them. In fact I bet they felt they had good theological grounds for demanding his death. Why do we get so caught up in ourselves that we forget to love others as Jesus commanded us to? Why can’t we seem to think of the other person before we respond?

This why it is such a powerful statement that Jesus makes that they will know we are his followers by our love. Do I love others enough for them to see the gospel in my interactions with them? Or, do they sense when I feel like they are interrupting what I really want to accomplish at the moment? Something as simple as loving others, which sounds too simple when we hear it, is one of the most difficult and profound things we could ever take on. And I know that I cannot be that person on a consistent basis without being so in tune with the Holy Spirit that I actually see the other person as God sees him/her. On this election day there are many Christians who have placed their hope and trust in the political system and they will be devastated if things don’t go their way today. Just as Israel put their trust in being rescued by Egypt in the Old Testament it feels like God is saying to us as he said to them, I am your only salvation. You are to put your faith, trust, and love only in me. When I do that I am free to love others as God loves them and begin to see the world through his eyes realizing that all of this stuff is temporary and my role is to share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ whether times are good or bad. That sharing starts with my life. Do they know I am a follower of Jesus Christ by my love? Or, do they know only because I told them?

Lord, help me to see others through your eyes. Make me a person of love who sees people as a priority not as an interruption. Please help me to harness my good intentions especially if those intentions are put in front of loving others. I want people to know I am your follower by the way I love them. Amen.

Remembering the Cross

Today I read Job 25, Mark 13-14, and RPJ chapter 39. The story of the Last Supper, Jesus’ betrayal, and Peter’s denial leave me with thoughts about my own life. Jesus predicts his own death and talks about the horrible circumstances that will happen in the future. The disciples want to know when these things will happen and rather than a date, which is what I am sure they had in mind, he gives them signs to look for and stays only the Father knows. Then Jesus redefines the passover for them by stating the bread is his body broken for them and the wine, the blood of the new covenant.

I wonder what these guys where thinking when Jesus taught all this stuff. First he talks about the end of the world which I am sure caused a lot of anxiety for them, then he talks about a new covenant. What I find fascinating is we have no record of them asking him what he was talking about. Either they already understood (highly unlikely based on their surprise at his actual death) or they were so confused and concerned about his earlier talk about the end of things and the bomb he dropped on them that one of them would betray him. Part of me wonders if any of them were really listening after he told them that! In this midst of this confusion Jesus models one of the most incredible ordinance of the church that we celebrate today. The new covenant with God in which Christ’s death is remembered as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, replacing the former sacrificial system and giving us the Holy Spirit and access to God without the need of a human priest. The disciples could not have even imagined exactly what Jesus meant by what he was doing at the time. The idea that the temples system as it was then would change was mind blowing, not only that but the fact that the Gentiles would be let in on it was not even on their radar.

As I reflect on all of this I am overwhelmed right now with a sense of gratitude. The fact that the God of the universe loved me enough to die for me even while I was still sinning and blowing him off. God did not wait for the ideal circumstances to be in place before he loved me and took care of the problem my sins had caused. Instead he came down into real life, lived a real life, and died a real death for people who rejected him and could care less. In Tom’s book he talks about not waiting for ideal circumstances to love but to love in our everyday messy lives. We need to get rid of unrealistic expectations. I know there are times I have very unrealistic expectations of how things should go in our family. When they don’t work out the way I envisioned them I can get mad and sulk or get discouraged and feel like a failure. There are so many things I have wanted to do but for one reason or another, they have not come to reality. It is frustrating. I was just beating myself up last night for not having a consistent time in the Word with my boys. Of course I imagine all kinds of problems they could face in the future when it comes to their faith and I started to get mad at myself. Now as I think about it, I am doing a lot of things to build faith into their lives in the everyday circumstances that come their way. So I am not as bad as I thought I was (though I am still badHappy. I need to remember the grace that God has given me in what he did for me on the cross, a kind of daily communion, and allow that grace to move me in loving others and having integrity in the way I live life.

Lord, thank you for your love for me. That you would die for me a sinner is humbling and reminds me that I need to love others in the same way, especially in the messiness of life. Please help me to remember you in the midst of my everyday life and especially when it comes to raising the boys you have entrusted to my care. Help them to become great men of faith who embody the love and sacrifice you have given to us. Amen.

The Risk of Faith

Today I read Job 21, Mark 5-6, and RPJ Chapter 38. The theme today throughout my reading is faith. I often struggle with this issue of faith because I want to be in control of all of the things that happen in my life and I am not big on surprises. Yet in all these readings today it is faith that carries people in and through difficult circumstances. Job argues with his friends over God’s fairness in how he deals with people. The wicked do not always get punished for their sins and lack of faith. Instead they seem to prosper and live peaceful lives and enjoy all that life appears to offer. Job laments that they never seem to feel the punishment from God for their wickedness and yet her he was a righteous man going through hell in his own life. From that perspective it does seem like God is unfair. Yet in the midst of all of Job’s questions and his assertions about the fairness of God he still had faith that God would work this out somehow and he still recognized that while things looked bad from his perspective, God was ultimately in control and he could trust Him.

In Mark, everywhere Jesus went there were demonstrations of faith and a realization of Jesus’ authority. People brought the sick to him to be healed, Jarius came to him to come heal his daughter (who ended up dying but Jesus brought her back to life), the woman with a hemorrhage touched his robe and was healed because of her faith, etc. Yet in the midst of all of this those closest to him wrestled with their own faith. The very men who saw all of these miracles pile up and heard Jesus say over and over again in different ways, “your faith has made you well” didn’t get how he did those things and still had hard hearts according to Mark. How could they have hard hearts and not understand the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on water and calming the storm?

It is easy for me to throw stones on this side of the story. I have a narrator telling me what is happening and what people where thinking. When it comes to real life, I don’t have that luxury. I too struggle with my own faith in God from time to time when things get rough or they are not going the way I think they should. I have struggled over and over again with having enough faith in what I feel God is calling me to do to step out and take a risk. For me sometimes it is like diving off a high dive that has been proven is safe for me, I know how to do it, on the ground I was confident I could do it, but when I get to the top and look down I am suddenly flooded with all the reasons why I shouldn't do this and I begin to doubt all the things I know to be true. Risk is not always something I am good at taking for various reasons. In some cases, I lack confidence. In others, I am afraid to fail. In others, I feel I am unworthy to do something that big or I fear the change it would bring about.

Yet deep down I know that my Savior and Lord loves me. I have seen him come through time and time again on things that I thought would never happen. I have closed my eyes and jumped off the diving board only to find that the exhilaration of taking the risk and trusting God gave me more a sense of life than walking back down that ladder and playing it safe ever would. I find that my faith grows more every time I step out for the Lord but there are many areas of my life and circumstances where I can learn faith more and the more I explore that faith, the more I see how great and awesome my God is. So I will continue to challenge myself in my walk with God to risk more, surrender more and allow my faith to move me.

Lord, help me to be a man who trusts you enough to take risks. May my faith be expressed as much as it is believed. The life and ministry you have given me are yours. Please use me how you see fit and help me to stay away from the games and pulls of significance, recognition and territorialism in ministry. Amen.

What is My Motive?

Today I read Job 20, Mark 3-4, and RPJ chapter 37. The theme this morning is motivation. It is so hard sometimes to get a grip on where my heart is. There are many times I think I am doing something for the right reasons only to get angry later when it didn’t go my way or someone didn’t respond the way I thought they should. There are other times when I see the right thing to do and can see how we could get there but I get blocked by someone else which causes me to try to figure out a way to get them to agree with me which then basically causes me to bypass the true relational piece in exchange for getting agreement. I then am tempted to process my frustration with others which, when I have failed, is gossip.

So here in these passages I read about the Pharisees and their desire to “get the truth about Jesus” out in the open so they could convict him and get rid of him since he was an obstacle to their plans. Now I don't think the Pharisees where demons disguised in human skin. They actually were human, and as such had plans that they probably felt where the best thing for the nation of Israel to do to fulfill God’s plan for them. They probably started out with great motives and a desire to obey the law and the prophets. The problem came in when they put their plans above the people and they tied their entire reputation and status to the fulfillment of that plan. At that point it became a matter of pride that drove them and with the new guy in town stealing all their thunder and saying he had a “new plan” they just couldn’t let that happen. So twice in this passage they try to get something on Jesus so they can discredit him. They saw healing on the Sabbath as work which would violate the Sabbath. Jesus confronted them and did it anyway. They attributed his work of casting out demons to him being guided by the power of Satan himself. Jesus pointed out the flaw in their logic in front of everyone.

In those passages it said they wanted to kill him. So how did these guys go from being pastor types to becoming the mafia? I think it all goes back to their motives and getting wrapped up in who they were based on what they did (of course prophesy played a role too). I think of my own situation in ministry. The more I base who I am on what I do, what I produce, how much I am recognized for what I produce, or “making a mark on the world,” the more I am concerned with getting people to go along with my “plan.” The more I don't care who gets the credit or how we get to the best for the people in the church, the more I am able to be real in my relationships with others and actually live life in all its fullness. Motives are so tricky sometimes that I find I fluctuate sometimes and find I am more wounded by things that should be no big deal. Ultimately I just want to be where God wants me, doing what he wants me to do, and enjoying where he placed me moment by moment. As one of the other pastors on staff told me yesterday, “I don’t need to have big dreams because today has enough excitement for me.”

Lord, help my motives to be pure in serving you. Don’t let me go off the path to a place where I am so wrapped up in the ministry that I will defend an idea or program to the “death.” Keep me in a place where relationships are the most important and being real in those relationships and with you is my primary goal. Amen.

Relationships are the Ministry

Today I read Job 18, Mark 1-2, and RPJ chapter 36. The theme for today is relationships. It seems like everything we struggle with in life is linked to or comes from relationships with other people. Job struggled with his relationship with God, wondering why God was punishing him, and his relationship with his friends who seemed to want to convict him to “solve” his problem and get him back on the right track. As Jesus performs various miracles in the book of Mark, he has people who are coming to see him just to get their needs met. He has others, the Pharisees and religious leaders, who are challenging his every move because he is braking all the “rules.” What is it in our approach to relationships that gets us all mixed up and causes the worst in us to come out at times?

Tom in his book talks about all the rules we set up for relationships that we use to get what we want instead of following the “Golden rule” and realizing that I won’t truly get my needs met unless I choose to meet the needs of others. I have come across so many situations lately where people don’t want to have relationships with others. Instead they want to use others to further whatever agenda they have at the time. It is as if people where objects to be manipulated instead of people to be loved. We see it in Job’s friends who couldn’t have their paradigm of how God works rocked so they attacked their friend Job instead of just sitting in silence and being there for him in the midst of his extreme pain and loss. The Pharisees couldn’t have anyone challenge the rules they had set up for how people should “behave” to make sure they were spiritual so the Messiah would come back sooner. Not only that, but their status as religious leaders and the authority that came with it was being challenged every time Jesus broke one of the religious rules they had set up. They were so concerned with protecting those things that they missed the very Messiah they were hoping would come soon. Just yesterday I talked with someone about a wife who is so used to getting what she wants that she is able to manipulate her husband. When he refuses to be manipulated she shouts him down and criticizes him. He gets angry and she starts sharing he could be emotionally abusive not realizing her own selfish desires are causing the problems in the relationship and her putting down her husband in front of her son is having a negative impact on him.

As I think about my own life, I can see many places where I blow it relationally. I can get so wrapped up in what I am working on or the stress of some situations in my life that relationships in my life take a back seat. The furthest thing from my mind in those moments is meeting anyone’s needs. Instead I am concerned with me. Other times I get upset when people don’t do what I think they should especially when it inconveniences my life. In those moments I don’t put myself in their shoes to understand why they are acting that way or maybe even if there are other things going on that I don’t understand. I hate it when I do that because I really want to empathize with people and love being around them. Today is a good reminder to see people as my ministry. That way relationships will never feel like an interruption to the real work, they are the real workHappy.

Lord, please help me to be a man who is able to empathize with the needs of others and to see people through your eyes. Help me to not have hidden agendas or look for ways to manipulate or control others. Please help me to make people more important than things, goals, or rules. Amen.

Faith That Leads to Faithfulness

Today I read Job 18, Psalm 114, Acts 27-28, and RLJ chapter 34. I am struck this morning with the sense of faith and confidence displayed in the lives of the people I read about this morning. You have Paul whose tremendous faith allowed him to stay calm no matter what the circumstances. Here he is a prisoner, knows the ship he is on will be ship wrecked, but has the faith that God will do what the angel told him and everyone will survive. In the midst of the story he calmly tells the sailors to eat and that as long as they stay on the boat they will be safe. I am sure they were pretty amazed as his sense of calm, but it was that calm that displayed his faith. In the midst of the storm, his life was a beacon of hope which was based on his faith in God. Not only that, but God then uses him to show his might to the people on the island through the snake bite and his healing of the people on the island. I can only imagine how incredible that must have been for them. Then Paul goes into Jerusalem and holds a meeting with the leading priests to talk about Christ, knowing many of them would not believe, yet his faith in Christ made him faithful to the Gospel.

As I think of my own life I can see where my faith in God shapes how I respond to the challenges that come my way in ministry. When I am spending time with God and talking to him in prayer and actually in a place where I make Him the priority in my life, my vision and passion changes and I step out in faith more and I am able to see the beauty in the small things in ministry instead of complaining over what appears to be large problems. In those moments I have a sense of anticipation and a willingness to do whatever it takes for the cause of the kingdom regardless of whether everything else lines up or not. The sense of the realness of my faith in those moments, motivates and drives me to be faithful. When I am not in place of experiencing my faith and my time with God is more a thing of going through the motions, I find I am more cynical and the obstacles and concerns are the things that stand out more than the opportunities and the little ways God is working.

I want to be a man who literally walks by faith, so much so that my vision is consistently in line with God’s. Because I know that vision is what will cause me to be a man of impact for the kingdom and faithful to my calling. If I don’t, the results are damaging not only to myself, but to the kingdom and those around me.

Lord, help me to be a man who walks by faith. Help me to live a life that is characterized by faithfulness. Give me your vision for the ministry you have called me to and help me to see the beauty of your hand working in and through the circumstances of life. Amen.

Welcome to My Website

Well I have finally gotten around to creating my own website and blog. In this space I will share my thoughts on all kinds of things including my devotional thoughts, marriage & family, and technology stuff. From time to time I hope to post some write ups of the programs I use and how I use them and maybe even experiment with video podcasting as a way to help my dad and father-in-law.

I have included a section on my writing and speaking which I love to do as a Pastor at Saddleback as a way to archive and share some of the things I am doing in ministry. It is an incredible blessing and challenge to be a Pastor not to mention a Pastor at a very large church (21,000 on the weekend as of this post).

Another thing I will use this site for is to publish some of my devotional thoughts as I spend time with God. I follow an annual reading plan which I will make available on the site if you want to follow along and then I journal the things God has placed on my heart that I am thinking about and wrestling with. To only see the devotional pieces just click the link in the sidebar under categories that says devotionals. I usually journal 4 times a week, Monday through Thursday and would love to have you read along!

I hope this is start of a habit that I can eventually pass on to my kids so they can see the things I was thinking and writing about. Keep checking back as I will try to add and update things as much as possible.