Look Around, They’re You’re Best Shot

Here’s something scary you can do the next time you’re at church: look around. Take some time during the service and look at those sitting around you. Pretend you’re stretching your neck muscles or something. Look at the older couple sitting two rows up. You can’t remember their names but you see them every week. There’s the weird guy that seems way too happy to be at church. There’s the family with teenagers where the son has been playing games on his iPhone the whole time. Then of course there’s the young family who exercise their constitutional right not to take their kids to the nursery. Motley crew, huh?

8.6.14Here’s what’s scary: they’re you’re best shot at experiencing the fullness of God. Here’s what Paul says in Ephesians 3:

17 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

Paul hits the same theme a few verses later:

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:11-13,16.

Our best shot at attaining the fullness of God is in the midst of a biblically functioning church. Christianity isn’t an individual sport like golf, it’s a team sport like football or soccer. We rise and fall together. For better or for worse, your church, the body of believers that you belong to, are your best shot at attaining the fullness of God.

The Greatest Thing About Having Four Kids

I should probably put something sentimental here, something like ‘there’s always peace and joy in the house,’ but that would be a misrepresentation of reality. I’ve got four kids ages 7 and under. Sometimes there’s more crying than joy (especially when more than one of them gets going at once!). 7.21.14To be completely honest, parenting four young kids is exhausting. I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way, but my kids wear me out. Robin and I try and trade off nights to actually sleep (one of us gets to sleep, the other gets up with the kids if needed). In reality, Robin gets up a lot more than I do. Last night was my night to stay up. It was a typical night, getting up four times (three times with our infant Elle and once to stop a four-year-old trying to sneak into ‘mommy’s bed’). It can be exhausting at times, but I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s. I love how my life has unfolded.

Here’s the greatest thing about having four kids: you get over ‘you’ real quick.When you’ve got four young kids, the amount of ‘you’ time is laughable. I used to play golf a lot, then I had kids. I used to be able to watch whatever I wanted on tv. Now it’s a steady diet of Barney and The Wiggles. Robin and I used to be able to go out and eat whenever we wanted. We laugh at the thought now.

Our schedules revolve around nap time and bedtime. Even something simple like getting the family dressed and ready for church is a herculean effort. There is always another kid who needs something from the refrigerator, another diaper to change, another baby to be held. By the time we’ve successfully run the gauntlet and gotten the kids tucked in for the night, Robin and I usually fall down exhausted, coveting a full night’s sleep, knowing that one of us won’t get it.

Parenting four young children (simultaneously) is stretching, demanding, all-consuming, exhausting. And yet in the midst of this I find joy. I realize I don’t have to focus on myself to find happiness. As I empty myself out for the good of others, I discover a God who is ready to fill me up with a joy that never runs out. Once I get over me, I’m in a position to receive the blessings and joy and fullness that God promises me in Scripture. The trick is to remember that joy at 3 am when I’m changing a diaper while half-asleep.

QUESTION: How has parenting your children been a blessing to you?

Kicking and Screaming Into Monday

7.7.14Monday came too soon. That glorious weekend, full of laughter, replete with memories, chocked full of leisure. But now it’s Monday, splashing you with the cold water of reality. Now it’s back to work. Back to the grind. Back to the real world.

If you’re like me, the temptation is to be dragged into Monday kicking and screaming, already looking forward to the next weekend, the next getaway, the next opportunity to relax and do nothing.

Today may be nothing miraculous. You may be shuffling paperwork, catching up on emails, at home with the kids. But even in the mundane, God can create something glorious. God loves to work in the quiet moments, taking ordinary encounters and turning them into something extraordinary. But we have to have eyes to see it.

Like a kid desperately holding onto the blankets when mom comes to pull him out of bed, some of us will be thrown into this week, whether we’re ready for it or not. We can sulk, we can daydream about memories past, or we can tackle this week head on and make something memorable of this opportunity called life.

Monday isn’t a throwaway day. This week is not a throwaway week. Others may be on vacation, having more fun than you, but you’re where you are. You’re at work. You’re with your kids. And God wants to do something glorious through you. There are lives that need to be impacted, spirits that need to be lifted, the name of Jesus that needs to be spread.

So if you’ve been dragged into Monday kicking and screaming, you’re here now. Go make something of it.

Ask Me In 40 Years if This Worked

6.23.14I’m experimenting with my kids. I know we’re probably not supposed to do that, but I’m trying to be intentional about one specific phrase I say to them on a daily basis. The original idea came from another preacher who spoke about the power of a phrase his father spoke into him for years and years. The application was simple: repeat one phrase often enough to your children and it will become the defining phrase of their childhood.

Now I’m an optimist by nature. If I’m going to do anything, I’m going to go big. I shoot for the moon. So about a year ago I decided on a phrase that I now speak daily to my kids. Usually it’s the last thing they hear before they go to bed. My youngest ones are too young to understand it. My 7-year-old knows it by heart. When I start to say it, he says, “Yeah, yeah dad, I know . . . .” I introduced Zeke (my 7-year-old) to one of the adoption workers that helped bring him to us, and I said, “Zeke, tell Mrs. Nancy what I always tell you.” Zeke immediately referenced my phrase and repeated it to her.

What’s the phrase I speak daily to them? “God’s going to use you to change the world.” Optimistic, I know. A little over the top, I know. But here’s the experiment: I want to pump vision and a grand vision of God (and their purpose in life) into them until it oozes out of their pores. I want them to grow up with the given that God is going to use them to do big things. Change the world, even.

Then I’m going to sit back and watch. See if that holy confidence propels them anywhere in life. If their life turns out like everyone else’s, then I guess I wasted some words. But if their life soars, if they grab hold of a greater vision for what God wants to do through them and if they leave a footprint behind when they depart this world, then it will have been worth it.

Who knows? Ask me in 40 years if it worked.

QUESTION: What word are you speaking into your children?

Why Hollye Wants to Bulldoze Mt Vernon Church

You’re not reading the title wrong. She really does want to bulldoze Mt Vernon. But it’s for a good reason. Watch this incredible life change video and celebrate what God has done in Hollye’s life!

Why Hollye Wants to Bulldoze Mt Vernon Church

You’re not reading the title wrong. She really does want to bulldoze Mt Vernon. But it’s for a good reason. Watch this incredible life change video and celebrate what God has done in Hollye’s life!

The Difference 7 Years Can Make

IMG_0324Seven years ago, the narrative of Robin and I’s marriage was that we were the young couple that couldn’t have kids. Then our oldest son Zeke was born (seven years ago today). Two and a half months later we would meet him for the first time and take him home to adopt him. And then we met Shepherd two years later. Another two years went by and then God blew our minds and we had our first natural born son, Lincoln.

Today we’re meeting our little girl Elle who will complete our family. Her full name is Emmanuelle, and she is a living testimony that God continues to be with us. With kid number four, I think we’ll have to give up that narrative as the couple who couldn’t have kids. I think God’s proved his point. He can make the miraculous happen. He has blessed time and time again, and we look forward with breathless anticipation to see what He does over the next seven years.

May you be able to see and appreciate the miracles God has worked in your lives!

Noah: Why You Should See It

3.29.14WARNING: Noah (the movie) is a radical interpretation of an ancient story that directly contradicts our sanitized-VBS-idyllic notions of how we think the Noah story went. Now mind you, I didn’t say that Noah (the movie) directly contradicts Scripture. It just gives an interpretation different than we grew up with in Sunday School. It’s not a fairy-tale depiction of a doting grandfather with a flowing beard whose biggest dilemma is finding out where to put all the cute cuddly animals that made it onto the ark. It’s a movie about the end of the world. That’s what has the bloggers and talk radio hosts and Facebook prophets up in arms.

Here’s what I appreciated about Darren Aronofsky’s version of Noah and why I think you should see it (don’t worry, no spoilers ahead. If you want the spoilers, read Genesis 6-9):

  • He brought to life a vision of what the pre-Flood world could have looked like, something that’s always intrigued me. Aronofsky is if nothing else an incredible storyteller and filmmaker.
  • He told the true point of the story: the apocalypse. When we tell a sanitized version of the story to kindergartners, we keep it about all the cute and fluffy animals that got to ride on a big boat. He kept the focus on the tragic destruction of humanity. We may not be comfortable with that truth, but judgement was the central point of the story.
  • God was very much a central figure in the film. Now some are up in arms because they referred to him as “the Creator” rather than “God.” He has several names in Scripture, take your pick. They portrayed him in a way that we might not be comfortable with but falls (I believe) within the bounds of a biblical viewpoint. (I’ll admit, it’s right on the edge, but it’s just inside the edge).
  • Noah doesn’t whitewash the reason for judgment: the wickedness of mankind. I’d heard rumors that Noah would be portrayed as some eco-terrorist who was destroying the world because we were mean to trees. Not the case at all. The reason for the apocalypse was clearly presented: the wickedness of mankind.
  • Aronofsky did a beautiful job weaving in the dichotomous virtues of justice and mercy in a way that spoke to fundamental values in the human experience.
  • The last picture we see of Noah in Scripture has always confused me: a naked passed out drunk. Why not finish with the rainbow and let everyone walk away happy? Aronofsky’s interpretation of this event is the first I’ve seen that makes perfect sense.
  • Aronofsky portrayed Noah as flawed. I loved that. Too often we mythologize our Bible characters and forget the fact that they were sinners. This Noah struggled. He seemed, well, human. That gives hope.

Here are some things that made me scratch my head (a little):

  • Noah’s interpretation of the Nephilim in Genesis 6. When you watch the movie, you’ll encounter some characters that seem completely farfetched. But it’s not as farfetched as you think. Pastors like me avoid Genesis 6:2 like the plague because we have no idea what it means. He gave an interpretation of that verse. To be completely honest, it’s about as believable as all the animals joining together to help Steve Carrell build the ark.
  • The Bible is clear that the wives of all three sons were on the ark. In this movie, that truth came as a twist towards the end. Not as straight forward as we’d expect, but that doesn’t make it unbiblical. I mean, this is the same God who promised Abraham a son and then waited until Sarah was well beyond child bearing years to do anything about it. God loves a good twist.
  • In Genesis we see God’s commands given to Noah. But how were they communicated? Verbally? In written form? Through dreams and visions? Aronofsky definitely went the unusual route, but that’s his prerogative.
  • Perhaps my biggest beef would be Noah’s role vs. God’s role in deciding the fate of humanity. His interpretation is not one I’m comfortable with, but I’m not ready to throw him to the wolves for it. It’s the same tension we see between man’s will and God’s sovereignty. They’re both there, but reconciling them properly is difficult.

All in all, I’d recommend you go see Noah for yourself. You will not see a movie that is intentionally anti-biblical. You will see a movie that stretches our imagination and challenges some of our time-honored traditions about the Flood story. I’ve thought for years that those interpretations needed to be challenged, and Aronofsky has come along and done it. And he’s made a beautiful movie along the way.

But don’t take my word for it. Go see it for yourself. Just leave your flannel graphs and stuffed animals at home. A battle axe is a better choice for this movie.

QUESTION: What did you think about the Noah movie?

BIG Ideas of 2013 – Part 2

big_idea.250w.tnMonday I shared six months worth of BIG Ideas, one sentence statements that captured the biblical truth I was conveying that week. Here are the second half of 2013′s BIG Ideas:

“Mission Creep” Series

Jul 6 – Mission creep begins when you fear man more than you fear God.

Jul 13 – Mission creep gets crazy when you become lazy.

Jul 27 – Nothing fuels the fire of mission creep more than money.

Aug 4 – The problem with the church is that we’ve made church for church people.


“Front Porch Gospel” Series

Aug 11 – The world is won through Christ’s great love.

Aug 18 – Winning the world starts with seeing a world that’s winnable.

Aug 25 – Your actions illuminate what you adore.

Sep 8 – Invest and invite is the way to win right.

Sep 15 – The Kingdom explodes exponentially when we’re united in purpose.


“Picture Perfect Family” Series

Sep 22 – Your family has issues; deal with it.

Sep 29 – Where do you find your value?

Oct 6 – Are you doing the work required?

Oct 13 – Are you being salt and light?

Oct 20 – Are you committed for the long haul?

Oct 27 – Whom are you serving?


“Blessed” Series

Nov 3 – You’re blessed with a need.

Nov 10 – You’re blessed with a burden.

Nov 17 – You’re blessed to tell your story.

Nov 24 – You’re blessed to be a blessing.


“Advent Conspiracy” Series

Dec 1 – Spend less.

Dec 8 – Give more.

Dec 15 – Love all.

Dec 22 – Worship fully.


BIG Ideas of 2013 – Part 1

big_idea.250w.tnEach Sunday when I preach I give one BIG Idea from Scripture to the people, something tangible (and hopefully memorable) that they can hold onto. Some I’m proud of, some are honestly lame. Some rhyme, some should have been word-smithed a little more. Many are original, and some of the best are borrowed from other pastors. But, for better or worse, here are my BIG Ideas for the first six months of 2013:

“One” Series

Jan 6 – “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” (Nehemiah)

Jan 13 – There is nothing more valuable than the human spirit.

Jan 20 – “Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (prayer of the apostles)

“Catfish” Series

Jan 27 – Americans have the wrong idea about God.

Feb 3 – My God is for me.

Feb 10 – Good people don’t get into heaven; saved people do.

Feb 17 – God’s chief aim is to glorify Himself.

Feb 24 – God allows evil to exist because to destroy evil He would have to destroy humanity.

“Losing My Religion” Series

Mar 3 – Jesus hates graceless religion even more than you do.

Mar 10 – To stay off God’s last nerve, don’t allow tradition to trump the Word.

Mar 17 – For the church to be its best, it needs to treat newcomers as guests not pests.

Mar 24 – Jesus walked towards the messes, and so should we.

Mar 31 – Jesus fulfilled religion so that you don’t have to.

“Culture Wars” Series

Apr 7 – When the world presents you with only two options, take option three.

“Deep Roots” Series

Apr 14 – To know the root, check the fruit.

Apr 21 – The better the soil, the better the roots.

Apr 28 – To kill a weed, you have to pull it up by its roots.

May 5 – God prunes the good so that the best can flourish.

May 12 – To see spiritual gain: don’t strain, remain.

“The Other Guy” Series

Jun 2 – There is no church without the Holy Spirit.

Jun 9 – The Holy Spirit is our guide to help us experience our maximum potential in Christ.

Jun 16 – The Holy Spirit is God’s explosive power in your world.

Jun 23 – Spiritual gifts are the Holy Spirit’s custom-designed way for you to impact your world.

Jun 30 – We’re filled to be spilled.