The Consequence of Character

Today I read 1 Chronicles 3-5. The history of our life is usually determined by our actions and the impression we leave on the people we leave behind. How we choose to live our life not only has consequences for the present, but for our future and the future of the generations that follow us. We tend to have a short term view when it comes to the choices and decisions we make today. That perspective can cause us to think about what we think will make us happy now only to find out the downside is worse than any kind of happiness we may have gotten in the moment.

In the lineage of the tribes of Israel and Judah, each descendant is named in each of the tribes. The tribe of Reuben is mentioned not as the great tribe of the first born son of Jesse, but rather as the tribe that should have been the first born but was no longer considered that because Reuben lost his birthright to Joseph because he chose to sleep with his father’s concubine. So in a moment of passion that probably felt right to him (or he was able to rationalize away why it was wrong) he sinned and that sin which he probably felt was done in secret became a permanent mark on not only him, but on his family lineage as well.

When I think about the choices I have made in life that were based on how I felt in the moment instead of doing what I knew was right, those choices have had consequences, some obvious and some not. There is something to be said for consistency and building into our lives things that keep us from going the wrong path or doing the wrong thing. Having regular contact with God and not living in the dark or hiding small parts of ourselves is one way to build into our lives things that keep us on the right path. When I choose to do something else or let my mind be occupied with distractions, those things keep me from doing what I need to do to stay consistent. Sometimes apathy or doing what I feel instead of what I know I should do can be things that start me on the path towards sin. I must always keep in front of my mind what happens when people compromise or when they get lazy. Finishing well is not so much about what you have accomplished in life. Rather finishing well is about how you accomplished the huge task of living a life of character no matter what your accomplishments or achievements.

Lord, please help me to be a man of character. I would rather be steady in who I am and end this life as a man of integrity than to become famous and sought after and lose my integrity along the way. Please keep me sensitive to what I do and the impact it has on others. Amen.


Putting God in a Box

Today I read Job 14-16. I find it interesting how our good intentions to help can many times end up being a disaster. Here you have Job who is going through misery in just about every aspect of his life. He lost his kids, his house, his servants, his health. He has his wife tell him he should just curse God and die. He is going through every loss imaginable and now his friends are stepping in to set him straight on his theology. I almost wonder if they were doing it out of concern for him or in an effort to convince themselves that the right answers still applied given all that Job had gone through. On the surface there was no reason Job should have gone through what he did. He was righteous and lived the life God commanded in every way. Yet even with that, Job experiences all of these losses and pain. The formula didn’t add up. It shouldn’t have been that way. God should have been blessing this guy or at a bear minimum protecting him. Yet here sat Job the guy whose life circumstance couldn’t be answered easily with the standard lines of reason.

To make matters worse, this guy starts challenging the pat answers and points out the seeming injustice of the whole situation. When your world is built on your ability to understand it and have answers for all the anomalies the last thing you want is someone to challenge those answers. What if they are found wrong? How will you explain life? The problem was his friends put their faith and ability to navigate life in their answers not in God. This is a very dangerous place to live because putting your faith in your own understanding and having the right answers makes your faith vulnerable because it only takes one circumstance that you can’t explain to cause you to doubt and ditch your faith. This is what I see all the time in people who want to debate and fight over theological systems of thought. There is a desperation and anger in many cases with anyone who threatens the system. We have seen it though the centuries as men have murdered others over cries of heresy or fiercely ruined reputations and fortunes because the ideas that were shared were threatening. I believe that our faith should be in God and him alone. Our understanding does come from his Word and can be understood and applied. But when it comes to understanding God’s reasons for allowing things or working miracles, that is the realm we can’t enter because there is no way to fathom God’s thoughts. When our understanding of God’s reasons and our answers become more important that simply trusting God’s heart, we have wandered to a place of living under our own control dressed up in theological reasons and answers. There is value in having some answers or thoughts on why things happen but when those thoughts HAVE to apply in all cases, we put God in a box of our own creation, a box he refuses to stay in.

Lord, help me not to put you in a box. I want to be in awe of you every step of my life. Please help me to let go of my attempts to explain everything you do and trust you more. Let me faith be evident in my life and please help me to seek you every step of the way. I want to follow you with all I’ve got. Amen.

Greatness & Significance

Today I read Numbers 17-18, Psalm 29, Mark 4 and the last chapter in Refuel. Several things struck me this morning as I read. The first was the way in which God set up a system to take care of the priests and Levites in Israel’s time. The people brought their gifts and offering and their tithes. The priests and Levites then took a portion of what was brought for themselves. They took the tithe that was given and gave a tithe of a tithe back to God. Very similar to how it works today being a pastor in ministry. People tithe of their income and I tithe from what I receive as a salary. Interesting stuff.

The thing that I am kicking around in my head right now is this concept of God designing us for greatness that Doug talks about in his book. As I look at the disciples who we would say today lived a great life and lived it all out for the Gospel of Jesus Christ were really pretty ordinary guys. No, they were actually below average by the worlds standards. Yet God used them and they became the founders of the Church. Each man had his own flaws and things he seemed to stumble at. Peter was impulsive, James and John sought position, Matthew was a tax collector, etc. Yet it was the miracle of God that he could use these ordinary men for greatness. I think about my own life and how God is using me. So many times I strive for more and forget to look at what God has done and is doing now. I forget the fact that he used me to start a college ministry at my home church when I was still in college. I even led a houseboat trip and did all the teaching at that retreat! I forget that he used me as a spiritual advisor and counselor of sorts at the insurance company I worked at. I forget that he called me to ministry in a series of very clear messages that I can now hang onto when times get tough. I forget that he had me help develop the care system at my former church and come on staff and do various aspects of ministry. I forget he had me be a part of an awesome online community that explored life and faith in a postmodern world, a group that really set in motion much of what young generation people doing today. I forget that he called me to Saddleback Church and had me develop materials that are being used by small groups all over the world. Or that He brought me to Trinidad to help spark some small groups there and set up a life long friendship with a pastor and his family. I forget that He helped me to develop a marriage process that is now helping couples in their marriages. Those are just the career type of things he has done in my life not to mention the miracles of my wife and I getting together, married, and fighting through conflict. Or my twin boys who were miracles as we thought we were infertile and who came through a scare that they may have had physical issues.

When I think back on all the things God has done in my life I am so filled with a sense of joy and purpose. I don’t reflect enough on what he has already done in my life so that I don’t move forward aimlessly but with passion. I know we will never know what actions in this world will be celebrated in heaven but I do know that my life has been full and fulfilling when I choose to follow the Lord.

Father, continue to work in my life and make me your man. Use me for ministry to the people in the church and outside. Help me to be bold in how I approach life knowing that you are guiding my steps. Help me to be sensitive to your Spirit’s leading in my life. Amen.

Walking in Step with the Spirit

Today I read Exodus 35-36 and Acts 10. In Exodus the people are to bring their offerings to God to build the temple of the Lord. God chooses a guy who he fills with all wisdom, knowledge and the Holy Spirit to oversee the project to make sure it meets all the requirements God has. So this guy was given skills that far exceeded his own in order to do the task. In Acts, the Holy Spirit gives Peter a vision and then, when he visits Cornelius the Holy Spirit fills he and his family as Gentiles. It is fascinating how important a role the Holy Spirit plays throughout Scripture and how often we forget about Him and/or take Him for granted.

I know in my own life the Holy Spirit speaks to me more through impressions and thoughts than verbally. I know in my call to ministry I could feel the Holy Spirit’s lead the whole time and I spent a lot of energy trying to run and negotiate so that I could stay in charge of my plan for my life. It was through a series of events, my own fleeces that I threw down that were answered, and impressions that guided me to where I am today in ministry. It is so easy to ignore or stop listening to the Holy Spirit in my life but no matter what I might try, He always seems to get my attention. I need to figure out how to better listen and obey what I know the Spirit is asking me to do and to seek guidance on a more regular basis so that I am not fooling myself into thinking I am doing what God wants me to do when I am really wasting time or doing my own agenda. Why is it so difficult to just listen?

Lord, help me to listen to your Spirit more in my life. Help me to move forward only after I have spent time in prayer and listening. Help me to develop a sensitive spirit that can sense your moving in my heart and life. I want to walk in step with you. Amen.

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.

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.

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.


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.