“Every day in life is beautiful.”

We spend a lot of energy on the dark things of life. We complain. We belly ache. We wallow in spoiled milk.

This is where the enemy of darkness wants us to be. The enemy wants us to see this life as awful, worthless and hopeless.

But there are some like, Alice Herz-Sommer, a Holocaust Survivor, who begin to see things differently.

She says things like, “Every day of life is beautiful.”

She reminds us that, “Hatred only breeds hatred.”

What a beautiful woman that has a refreshing perspective that has been molded by tragedy, pain and relationships.

May you and I see the beauty that surrounds us today, tomorrow and all the days of our lives. God has not left us…He is in our midst and He is beautiful!

The Power of Persuasion

A friend of mine shared a with me that I find very interesting:

Many years ago, a man was traveling across the country by sneaking from one freight train to the next. One night he climbed into what he thought was a boxcar. He closed the door, which automatically locked shut and trapped him inside. When his eyes adjusted to the light, he realized he was inside a refrigerated boxcar, and he became aware of the intense, freezing cold. He called for help and pounded on the door, but all the noise he made from the inside the car failed to attract anyone’s attention. After many hours of struggle, he lay down on the floor of the railroad car. As he tried to fight against the freezing cold, he scratched a message on the floor explaining his unfortunate, imminent death. Late the next day, repairmen from the railroad opened the door and found the dead man inside. Though the man had all the appearance of having frozen to death, the truth was the repairmen had come to fix the broken refrigerator unit in that car. Most likely the temperature of the railroad car had never fallen below fifty degrees during the night. The man had died because he thought he was freezing to death.

After reading this story I did some research and found that most likely this story is not true. You can find a similar story at snopes.com.

With that said, I believe it still says a lot about our minds and the way we arrive at conclusion, beliefs, theologies and even understandings of people and God.

This story is about the power of persuasion. Our ability to persuade ourselves and even others to belief something that may or may not be true. This is a dangerous thing. We can persuade ourselves to believe anything really. We can lay in bed at night and mediate on a new truth…a new idea…and by the time we fall asleep we believe it.

The dangerous thing about our world today is both a curse and a blessing; the massive number of opinions.

This is good.

It’s great to have several opinions come to the table. It’s fantastic to have people thinking through things differently and seeing things from different angles. Questions and challenges are good.

But, it’s a curse as well because you can find “proof” to back up anything you can think of. There’s entire groups of people that believe the holocaust never took place. There’s an entire group of people that believe the south will rise again. There’s an entire group of people that believe Elvis is still alive. There’s an entire group of people that believe anything that you want to believe… And they have a very persuasive argument to re-assure you that your idea is true.

What scares me most is the fact that we can do this in our churches and with matters of faith as well. We can persuade people to believe a certain way. We can persuade people to believe in God. We can persuade people to buy into our core values.

The reality is, if you have a charismatic leader, you can create a following and persuade people to believe every word. This scares me.

So, how do we make sure that we are not being persuaded and the conclusions we have made are true. Here’s some steps that you can take in order to discern between an idea that is truth and an idea that you have been persuaded to believe is true.

1. Scripture
This is where we should always start. Take an idea and compare it to the whole of Scripture. Study the hebrew and greek meaning of the words. Always read for context. Don’t pick a verse out of the whole. Read the chapter before and the chapter after. Try to understand the story.

2. Community
Have a group of people that you go to for wisdom and discernment. If they tell you your idea is crazy and off base you might want to re-evaluate. God puts these people in your life for a reason. Use them.

3. Church History
Compare these ideas with the whole of Church history and Church theology. Remember, there’s nothing new under the sun. If you think you have come to a new revelation that no one else has ever seen…you might want to re-evaluate. There are a lot of smart guys and gals out there right now. They have great thoughts and ideas…but be sure to compare them to the guys and gals that have gone on before us. We don’t want to be a product of our generation alone…we want to be a product of the entire story.

4. Take it Slow
Let it simmer. We jump to conclusions way too quickly. We write on stone before even testing it. The process of is a lot longer, slower and more tedious then most people like. So, let that new idea sit for a while. Wrestle with that challenge to “what you have always believed about something” until it hurts and then wrestle some more. Slow down!

5. Compare it to Jesus
Jesus says things like, “Remain in me and I will remain in you.” “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.” If a new idea does not hold up when you compare to the Gospels and the life and teachings of Jesus then throw it away. You might say, “Yea but Jesus did say anything specific on this situation?” Take that situation and look behind it. There’s always a thing behind the thing. What’s the root of the situation? What’s at the foundation of this situation? And then take the root and the foundation of that situation, that idea, that new found belief and compare to the teachings of Jesus.

I practice these 5 things to protect my mind and heart. I practice these 5 things because I know that I am a sucker for new things, new ideas, new ways of seeing things…new, new, new.

But I’m finding that although God does make things new every day…He also remains steady. He is a firm foundation. His Word is a firm foundation. His ways have been the same yesterday, today and will be tomorrow.

I have made it my personal goal to read more and more books and commentaries by dead people. Why? Because I want to make sure that I compare what I’m hearing today, what I’m thinking today, to what God did before I was a twinkle in my momma’s eye.

We can persuade ourselves to believe anything. We can be persuaded by charismatic communicators and writers to believe anything. We must guard ourselves or we’ll be believing a man made religion that does not include God at all.

A Reminder…I need a Savior

Last night I was discouraged…just feeling overwhelmed, tired, conquered, not wanting to sleep, abandoned and confused…you get the picture.

So, I opened my Bible and it fell open to the prophet Jeremiah. I started reading in Jeremiah 37 and this paragraph jumped off the page at me ::

“This is what the LORD says: Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, ‘The Babylonians will surely leave us.’ They will not! Even if you were to defeat the entire Babylonian army that is attacking you and only wounded men were left in their tents, they would come out and burn this city down.”

During this time in the story of God’s people the Babylonians had their foot on the Israelites throat. I’m sure the Israelites felt overwhelmed, tired, conquered, not wanting to sleep and confused.

But something else interesting is taking place in Jeremiah 37. The Babylonians start to run. They begin to flee.

And it seems to me that the Israelites started to become slightly puffed up…thinking to themselves…that’s right, we’ve run them off, we’ve beat them, watch them run with their tails between their legs.

I tend to become puffed up at times.

Thinking that I’ve conquered my sin. Conquered my struggles. Conquered my insecurities. Conquered my fears. Conquered my questions. Conquered my doubts. Conquered my loneliness.

I think that I’ve left the darkness debilitated…paralyzed…bloody…wounded and beaten back to never return.

I think pretty highly of my self from time to time. To be honest…I become my own savior from time to time…I fight my own battles and feel slightly successful…maybe just like the Israelites.

And then God reminds me…I need a Savior. I need Another.

God says, “Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, ‘The Babylonians will surely leave us.’ They will not! Even if you were to defeat the entire Babylonian army that is attacking you and only wounded men were left in their tents, they would come out and burn this city down.”

He reminds me that I cannot conquer my sin, my fear, my insecurity, my loneliness. And the moment that I think I can…it will come back to bite me, defeat me, attack me.

God reminds His people that He is the one that will fight for them…He will be the one that Conquers.

Over and over again through out the story of the Israelites God reminded his people that He alone is their Savior, Lord and King. Over and over again God reminds His people that He is their God, the One and Only and they are His people.

Last night I needed a reminder…

I need Another to fight for me. I need Another to conquer my fears, insecurities, loneliness and sin. I need the One and Only to hold me and be my fulfillment. I need Him. I can’t live without Him.

I need a Savior!

The good, the bad & the ugly

“There is little romanticism to community life.”
-Henri Nouwen

Living in community is hard work.

It takes flexibility. Forgiveness. Conversation. Time. Effort.

And maybe most importantly an understanding of two things ::

1. You and I are different and that is ok.

2. You and I are not perfect and we will screw up and hurt one another…and we can work through it.

What I find is that most people are not ok with these two things.

I want you to be more like me. I want you to believe exactly the way I believe. I want you to see the world exactly the way I see the world. I want you to relate to God exactly the way I relate to God. I want you to be more like me…Or I want to be more like you.

And…

I’m not ok with you screwing up. I say I am…but I’m not really. When you hurt me…I cut you off. When you stab me in the back…I seek revenge. When you lie to me…I refuse to trust you.

When we live like this then true, beautiful, whole community is not possible.

I think we live like this because we have a terrible misconception of what community is meant to be.

We believe that community is supposed to be easy, clean, puppies and fluffy couds.

We believe community is an uninterrupted romance.

I love what Henri Nouwen says, “There is little romanticism to community life.”

That is so true.

I will tell you this…there is a lot of…

hurt…

pain…

dirt…

mess…

lies…

gossip…

judgement…

rough times…

valleys…

arguments…

disagreements…

doubts…

misunderstandings…

perspectives…

…in community.

This is what true community looks like.

It’s a group of people that do life together no matter what circumstance arises.

They do life together in the honeymoon stage and when they’ve been together for 64 years.

In the words of the author of the book of Hebrews, they refuse to give up on one another.

Does this describe your community?

Does this describe what you expect from that community?

Does this describe you?

Is this how people describe the Church?

Are we seen as a group of people that live life together with all of our baggage, junk, disagreements and mess?

Are we seen as a group of people that are defined by our love in the midst of the mess?

Is our love for one another described as a love that always perseveres, always hopes and never fails?

I believe this is what Jesus had in mind when He declared a new way of living life. I believe this is what he had in mind when he sent his disciples out to be the Church. I believe this is the way of Jesus and the perfect portrait of His bride.

It’s the good, the bad and the ugly…

All wrapped into ONE.

I Adhere to a False Doctrine

I subconsciously adhere to a false doctrine…

A false doctrine that I believe controls many of us…

A false doctrine that leads down a path of guilt and shame rather than grace and mercy.

What is this false doctrine?

It’s this ::

I subconsciously believe that when I sin God removes his blessing from me.

And…

I subconsciously believe that when I do right God blesses me.

Honestly that was very difficult for me to confess out loud.

I have ran from that belief and hid that belief for years.

There has been an ongoing battle within my soul because of this belief.

You’ve been there…haven’t you?

When you do right…when you help someone, tithe, serve, go to church, listen to the right music, talk the right way, think about the right things, flee from sin so many times in a row…you know for certain that God will bless you.

But…

When you sin…when you do what’s not right…when you blow it for the hundred thousandeth time…you know for certain that something bad is coming down the pipe, that life is going to throw you a curve ball, that God is going to remove his blessing from you.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Even that question blows up the idea that this false doctrine could be true…because…it’s not God that does this to us…it’s us. We do this to ourselves. We place the guilt and shame on ourselves. We have placed these unrealistic expectations on ourselves. We beat ourselves up. We destroy ourselves. We convince ourselves that we are not worthy of God’s blessing, grace, mercy, forgiveness and love.

We deem ourselves un-worthy of God’s relentless, unconditional, never-ending grace.

I believe this false doctrine that you and I adhere to…it keeps us at arms distance…it keep us from experiencing the Father’s full embrace.

I believe that this false doctrine enslaves us…it enslaves us to a “earn my salvation” attitude.

If I can do what is right enough times in a row than I will experience salvation.

But…

If I do what is wrong enough times in a row than I will experience damnation.

This is a false doctrine that leads to guilt and shame.

This is a false doctrine that leads us away from grace and mercy.

This is a false doctrine that leads us away from our loving Father.

Guilt says you blew it.

Guilt says you’re not good enough.

Grace says you’re loved.

Grace says you’re accepted.

Grace says you’re blessed.

God is not guilt.

God is grace.

Live in that reality!

Henri Nouwen Quotes (2)

I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found. Why do I keep ignoring the place of true love and persist in looking for it elsewhere? Why do I keep leaving home where I am called a child of God, the Beloved of my Father? I am constantly surprised at how I keep taking the gifts God has given me–my health, my intellectual and emotional gifts–and keep using them to impress people, receive affirmation and praise, and compete for rewards, instead of developing them for the glory of God. Yes, I often carry them off to a “distant country” and put them in the service of an exploiting world that does not know their true value. It’s almost as if I want to prove myself and to my world that I do not need God’s love, that I can make a life on my own, that I want to be fully independent. Beneath it all is the great rebellion, the radical “No” to the Father’s love, the unspoken curse: “I wish you were dead.” The prodigal son’s “No” reflects Adam’s original rebellion: his rejection of the God in whose love we are created and by whose love we are sustained. It is the rebellion that places me outside the garden, out of reach of the tree of life. It is the rebellion that makes me dissipate in a “distant country.”
-Henri Nouwen, The Return of The Prodigal Son

I am the prodigal son.

I often read the story Jesus told and see myself as another character in the narrative.

I miss the first point of the story.

I miss the mirror that sits in front of me.

I think too highly of myself

I forget that I need to be rescued…welcomed back…delivered…loved…embraced.

I forget that I am the prodigal son.

We are all the prodigal son.

Henri Nouwen Quotes

“Constantly falling back into an old trap, before I am even fully aware of it, I find myself wondering why someone hurt me, rejected me, or didn’t pay attention to me. Without realizing it, I find myself brooding about someone else’s success, my own loneliness, and the way the world abuses me. Despite my conscious intentions, I often catch myself daydreaming about becoming rich, powerful, and very famous. All of these mental games reveal to me the fragility of my faith that I am the Beloved One on whom God’s favor rests. I am so afraid of being disliked, blamed, put aside, passed over, ignored, persecuted, and killed, that I am constantly developing strategies to defend myself and thereby assure myself of the love I think I need and deserve. And in so doing I move far away from my father’s home and choose to dwell in a “distant country.”
-Henri Nouwen, The Return of The Prodigal Son

3 People…

Here are 3 people I wish I could have had dinner and conversation with. They lived out the things they wrote and spoke. They proclaimed the Gospel with their lives. They sacrificed. They surrendered. They loved. Their writings have changed the way I view God, life, the Church, people, ministry, leadership, being a Pastor, friendship, being a husband and father.

If you could have dinner with someone that has left this earth who would it be?

1. Henri Nouwen


2. Mother Teresa

3. Dietrich Bonhoeffer


addiction, conflict, hope

I know without a doubt that we have all had this experience…

A person we love, care for, would lay our life down for is living in the midst of a destructive life style…

And we are faced with a monumental decision…

What do you do?

Do you confront?

Ignore?

Pray?

Let them work it out?

Stay silent?

Bring it up?

And if you choose to bring it up…

How do you go about doing that?

How do you communicate truth, love, grace, mercy and hope all at the same time?

How do you say the hard things with love?

And finally…we all know what scares us the most…

The risk of destroying this relationship.

Is that risk worth it? Worth confronting…

Do we take the risk and confront those we love?

Here is a video of Rob Bell sharing about confronting his brother Jon about his addictions.

The video was originally posted at HeartSupport.com.

What are your thoughts and/or experiences on confronting a loved one that is living an addictive/destructive lifestyle?

Dis-satisfied

So many of my friends are dis-satisfied with churches.

This is the thought that came to mind on my way to the office this morning. I tried to ignore it and mark it up to my leanings toward cynicism. But I started naming off my friends in my head and realized that so many of them really are dis-satisfied, dis-engaged and have chosen to dis-connect from a “local church”.

They’re in a season of de-tox. I guess they would be described as de-churched.

Many of these friends live in Charlotte where there is a new church in every theater and school. There is a baptist church on every corner. The shortage of churches isn’t the problem.

I’ve often heard that more churches is the answer. I hear statistics thrown around to justify another new church. “There are 1,000,000,000 people in this area…there can never be enough churches.”

So, church after church goes up. And my friends try them. They attend for a few months. They try a small group. They serve. And then they leave…dis-satisfied.

Why is this?

Here’s my thought…a few years ago when the church planting boom was in full force I saw a problem. They wanted to be different then the old, traditional, hymn singing, piano playing, pot luck eating, Sunday school attending church. So, they scrapped all those things. They re-decorated the church.

I watched as this took place. The outside looked completely different. New music. Loud bands. Stylish preachers. Cool venues. Coffee. Donutes and bagels. Small Groups. It looked great!

But here’s the problem…I’m not sure the inside changed. In fact I think when the new church threw out the bath water they might have thrown out the baby with it.

Not Jesus. Not the Gospel. Not God.

Here’s why my friends are dis-satisfied.

A lack of community.

They go to a great worship service on Sunday, maybe even a small group on Tuesday night. But these two things do not mean you have community. Community happens when a group of people do life together.

This is what the little white church on the hill got right. They did life together!

Sure they only had 75 people at church, the piano was out of tune, the worship leader wouldn’t make it in Nashville and the preacher was a little boring. But, they did life together. There was community. All the time. Every where. And this is what my friends desire. This is what my friends miss. This is what the church was intended to be.

I’ve been wrestling with a passage of Scripture in Luke 10 for the past month. Here’s what it says ::

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’

I’ve always thought that the apostles in the book of Acts were the first church planters. But then I read Luke 10 and realized these 72 men and women were the first church planters.

And how did they plant a church?

A worship service?

A new small group plan?

A cool pastor?

A worship leader?

A fun children’s ministry?

No. Luke 10v7 was Jesus’ philosophy of ministry…his church planting blue print…the foundation for a healthy church.

“Stay in that house, eating and drinking…”

That’s community! Be in one another’s homes. Do life with one another. Eat together. Drink together. Party together. Mourn together. Laugh together. Celebrate together. Do the mundane together. Study together. Worship together.

This is why my friends are dis-satisfied. The church has great worship. Great preaching. Great environments. But most of the time the church lacks community. And this is what we are created for. We were created for relationship. We were created to rub elbows with one another. We were created to do life with one another.

Here’s the deal…here’s what my friends and I would like to tell the church of today.

We don’t care how many people come to your church. We don’t care if you have the best musicians money can buy. We don’t care if you, the preacher, is “on” every Sunday. We don’t care about your fancy designs.

We want community. We want to see that community is the most important thing you do. We want to see the staff and leaders of the church lead by example by living in community with the other people of the church.

I pray that we, the Church, can begin re-creating Jesus’ church planting model. Let’s re-create what Jesus had in mind. If that means we have to scrap some things…then scrap them. Because in Jesus’ book…all the flash and glamour is meaningless compared to His people loving one another and learning how to live with one another.

Let’s be the Church.

A holy and chosen PEOPLE!  Son’s and daughter’s of our loving Father. The family of God. A people dearly loved so that we might love.

Let’s be a community!