Monday, May 21, 2018

When Salt Loses Its Saltiness

Note: The blog I post today is used with permission from a blog posted by Teri McCarthy. You can follow learn more about her and also I encourage you to follow her great blog at - Teri's husband, Daryl, is a good friend of mine and my former college professor while I was attending what is now Kansas Christian College.  

Every Tuesday night I have a Bible study in my home for two high school girls. As soon as they walk through the front door I feed them a homemade meal. Around the kitchen table we talk about whatever is happening in our lives and fill each other in on what has happened from the week before. When we are done eating we move over to the sofas and study the Word of God. Right now, we are “just reading the red.” We are taking on the Gospels for the sole purpose of reading the recorded words of Jesus. If you want to get to know a person better, spend time with him and listen to what he says. That’s our guiding principle.

Last week we were reading Matthew 5 where Jesus is telling His disciples to do the opposite of everything that comes to them instinctively through human nature. Jesus’ words were revolutionary for that time, and for our time as well. Someone hits you in the face, be sure and offer them both sides; someone wants to borrow something, give ‘em more than they ask for; if a creepy Roman soldier asks you to carry his military equipment a mile (Yep! The same equipment he uses to oppress your people), carry it two. Oh yeah, and you get to walk that same mileage back home.

Things got a little more complicated with the girls when we read Jesus’ words, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” The girls wanted to know what that meant. What was Jesus trying to tell His disciples here? Well, I don’t know. I’ve always kind of taken that Scripture for granted, “…uh, well, we are the salt of this earth and when we are not salty we are not useful.” Okay. “Give us an example.” I drew a complete and total blank!

Be careful for what you pray for because later that night I asked God to give me an example for the girls that would make Jesus’ words clear and applicable. And He did! Boy! Did He ever!

Three words: Bishop Michael Curry. Remember the Royal Wedding? Yes, the one with Ms. Meghan and Prince Harry? Bishop Curry was the African-American Episcopal pastor who preached a 19-minute sermon at their wedding. Some say it was a record for the longest sermon ever preached at a Royal Wedding. I don’t know, I am not an expert on such matters.

Yes! I watched the Royal Wedding. I hadn’t planned on it, but we were having a huge thunderstorm and I had left my computer plugged in. I got up at 4:30 that morning to howling winds, thunder, lightening and pelting rain. I unplugged my computer and thought, “Hey! Why not?” I turned on the TV and started watching Royal Wedding watchers.

It hit me funny when I heard one commentator say that neither Prince Harry nor Ms. Meghan knew Bishop Curry. He had been selected by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. That was odd to me because both bride and groom had been intricately involved in every detail of the wedding – flowers that represented Princess Diana, the empty chair, Prince William had sat down with the couple and gone over every piece of music and helped them choose meaningful songs that well-represented the couple’s worldview and causes. Every.Single.Detail. But one – the selection of the man who would give the sermon at their wedding. Welby said he selected Bishop Curry because of Ms. Meghan’s African-American background. So, there was no personal connection between Curry and the Royal Couple. I guess you could say Welby’s selection of Curry was politically correct…a black man from America. You see, Ms. Meghan isn’t even Episcopalian. She was just baptized into the Anglican Church a week before the wedding. So, the choice of Curry isn’t even representative of how she was raised. But I digress…

The minute he took the pulpit, I knew he was a showman. That’s right. Something in my spirit reacted and it wasn’t just the overdose of caffeine I was using to stay awake.

As I listened to his words I kept asking the Lord, “Something is wrong with his message, but what is it? Something is wrong with this guy, but I can’t quite figure out what it is.” The teacher in me kept thinking, “Dude! Know your audience!” I was uncomfortable with his flair and drama in a setting like that. You never want to upstage the Bride and Groom, because the service IS really all about them, right? And I did not sense the anointing on him at all.

So, like any good evangelical Christian who doesn’t bear witness with someone, I googled him. WOW! OMW! It seems Bishop Michael Curry has quite the rap sheet.
–He believes in the ordination of non-celibate homosexual priests in the Episcopal Church.
–He not only believes in same-sex marriage, but has been a fiery advocate for same-sex marriage in both the Church and the political world. His rhetoric on the subject is to compare the plight of the LGBTQ community with that of black slaves in the USA.
–He believes in and performs transitioning ceremonies for transgender folk and is a vigilant spokesperson for transgenders’ right to chose which public restroom they want to use.
–He believes the Bible must be “culturally” interpreted and that each generation must interpret it according to present-day needs and circumstances.
–He doesn’t believe in inerrancy. It’s like how some people feel about “STOP” signs – they are more of a suggestion, not necessarily a command.
–He greatly admires and follows the teachings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Catholic philosopher and priest whose writings were banned by the Catholic Church. De Chardin’s writings proclaim that because of evolution, man’s spirit must also evolve until he too becomes a god. His philosophy was called “Omega Point” and it describes the evolution of man from matter to human to gods. Curry called de Chardin, “…one of the great minds, great spirits of the 20th century.”
–Curry studies, practices, and preaches classic “liberation theology” –a 20th century theological tradition inspired by Marxist thought that characterizes love as a necessary, chaotic, and political force that stops all perceived injustices of this world. Not exactly what Jesus was teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, but whatever.

Maybe I’m just getting old. Maybe I’m just cynical. Nothing is worse than a person who makes minor things major and major things minor. Remember Barbara Streisand’s character in The Way We Were? Annoying.

SO! Back to the Royal Wedding. Yup! The dress was simple and elegant. I love Doria’s hat. That Queen, she sure knows how to rock citrine! But those weren’t really the comments my evangelical friends were making on social media after the Celestial Ceremony. Nope. It was all about Bishop Michael Curry. “Wasn’t he amazing?!?” “Oh my! Did you hear the black preacher?” “WOW! The Gospel was preached!” “Jesus was exalted!”

The biggest shocker came when some of my most conservative friends, who would defend to death the inerrancy of Scripture and a literal six-day Creation, were saying “Love showed up at the wedding today! Bishop Curry preached it!” Really? Is that really the condition of the Church here in America? Is that honestly the state of Christianity? If so, then Rob Bell listen closely: #LOVELOSES! Especially if it is not based in Truth. Feeling good, feeling positive, feeling happy, feeling culturally cool – are these the only things that matter? Are these feelings more important than God’s Word?!?

Inflexible as it may seem, and intolerant and critical as it may sound, groovy Bishop Michael Curry believes in everything that the Church is supposed to stand against. Whenever friends of mine support, promote, do a shout out to Bishop Curry, I have a difficult time processing all the happy comments, “He’s such a godly man!” “Love was preached today!” “So awesome!” “I love that the ceremony celebrated ALL of Christianity!”

No! Curry isn’t awesome! He’s not godly. He did not preach love. Love, real Gospel love is based on Truth; it is based on the teachings of Jesus and it is not in conflict with God’s Word. Sorry, but anyone who believes a lie and preaches that lie, and that same lie holds people in darkness and bondage – that guy ain’t awesome. And promoting him on social media and hailing him as a “man of God” is not only error, but leads others down that dark pathway as well. Not only were my Christian friends’ pro-Curry posts horrific, but the comments they allowed from their friends were even worse!
“The Black Bishop had a message that was amazing- nobody under the sound of his voice can ever say they never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ!” “Yes! He was amazing! So wonderful to hear his message of love.”

I refuse to believe that the Body of Christ has fallen this far! Surely these superficial praises by evangelicals are NOT characteristic of what is happening in Christianity, are they? Because if they are they illustrate a vastly reduced expectation of the Gospel.

Daryl put it very simply, “You cannot separate the content of a person’s life from that of their message.” Jesus put it this way, “A little bit of leaven permeates the entire lump.” And remember, this was Jesus referencing the false teachings of the Pharisees.

Sorry guys, but I simply refuse to applaud and celebrate a man of the cloth who denies the inerrancy of Scripture, fights for same-sex marriage, splits his denomination down the middle, petitions for transgender restroom choice, and refers to the Bible as “culturally fluid.”

Do we honestly believe that the devil will appear to us wearing red satin, carrying a 666 branding iron and donning horns and a tail? NO! The Bible says he will come to us as an Angel of Light! He’s cloaked in false love and false tolerance convincing some of my closest friends that he is a gospel-bearing, love-preaching, cross-culturally significant “godly” man! Please! Lord have mercy on us. Love does NOT win when it is not rooted in the TRUTH! Truth alone sets the captives free and truth does NOT celebrate what the Word of God calls sin. Period.

I am heartbroken. I guess Believers have decided we want flare over holiness; rhetoric over truth and style over substance. What God says isn’t really that important. It’s the old Genesis 3 trick, “Did God really say…?”

SO THAT’s what Jesus meant! Suddenly in all of my conversations, text messages, FB dialogs it hit me, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Here in Matthew 5 Jesus is talking about US–you and me! The Church! That when we are bewitched by false doctrine and are mesmerized by pretty words then we, the Church, lose our saltiness. We lose our impact, preservation power, we cease to do the work we were designed and called to do: protect the world from deterioration and deception. We are to be Truth Bearers. That is the source of saltiness! We are to declare God’s Truth and to stand against that which is false. Otherwise we are useless and we are trampled underfoot by the enemy of this world. It was truly an “aha!” moment.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.”

We must be salty declarers of Truth and we as followers of Jesus must be proactive and deliberate in helping the lost of our world understand that the commands of God are not suggestions, they are not relevantly determined, they are not up for interpretation, they are not fluid, but the Truth of God’s Word is…“alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” God’s Word sets us free to “go and sin no more.” God’s Word is from everlasting to everlasting. It will not pass away. The idea of Christians being salt means that we participate with God in preserving every inerrant, holy, and beautiful Word of His Truth. THAT IS THE GOSPEL. THAT IS THE GOOD NEWS! THAT IS REAL LOVE! Peace.

PS - Well said, Teri, my friend! Spiritual discernment is sadly lacking. Lord, hear our prayer! 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Dealing With Christmas Losses

Recently, I reviewed the notes from a sermon preached by Ron Edmondson that addressed what to do with Christmas losses. I've excerpted portions of his message in this post. I hope it will be helpful to you and others. So many people around us experience losses of one kind or another. We often feel helpless to know how to respond, either to our own losses or the losses of others. This is especially true at a season of the year that we anticipate will be filled with joy and laughter. But it's often not true for so many. Here follows some excellent insight and advice.  

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. As the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year“. But, for some people, Christmas can be a miserable time. 
Many have lost a loved one, suffered the end of a significant relationship, or even had a severe personal loss of income or health. For them, Christmas is just another reminder of what they no longer have. If we aren’t careful, the joy of Christmas is covered over with the emotions of loss, and rather than appreciating what we have or looking forward to what’s to come, we find ourselves in Christmas misery.
With some professional Christian counselors advice and some of my own, here's some practical ways to overcome a sense of Christmas loss.
Ideally, Christ is the answer. Apart from Christ there is no Christmas and there is no peace. These suggestions are not designed to take the place of that truth, but rather to give some practical tips to help you deal with loss at Christmas.
Here are some ways to deal with and overcome Christmas losses.
List your losses – Death, divorce, injury, finances, children moved out this year – whatever they are – write them down. Admit the pain – write them down.
Share them – Certainly with God, but with a close friend, or with people who have experienced your loss. Don’t be ashamed to see a professional counselor. Find support in a Bible study group or prayer group. We were designed for community, especially for times like this.
Grieve the loss – Every loss must be grieved. The intensity of the grief may be determined by the intensity of the loss. Some form of depression is a normal response to grief. We’ve almost created a culture where we think suffering is abnormal. Don’t be afraid to grieve – even publicly at times. It’s okay to be human.
Resist falling into despair – That’s where you live in a false reality that all hope is gone. It’s not. By the way, you don’t do that by ignoring them.
Take care of your physical body– Eat well, exercise, and get adequate rest. It’s more important during a sense of loss.
Be aware of negative thinking – Catch the negative thoughts and replace them with thoughts that are positive and true. See Philippians 4:8.
Do something for someone else – There are many opportunities during the Christmas season to help people. Helping other people reminds us loss is universal and other people are struggling with you. Plus, something about giving fuels positive emotions.
Force yourself to participate in social activities – You won’t feel like it, but social support is critical in recovering from loss. No one benefits by becoming a recluse. In fact, you actually increase the likelihood you will become clinically depressed.
Avoid the comparison game – Don’t compare your losses to other people’s losses. Significant loss naturally makes us focus inward, but that never works. And, it’s dangerous.
Honor you losses with new traditions – Begin some new family rituals that will help you reflect on the good things you experienced with the person you have lost or will help you remember happier days to come.
And here's one final suggestion – perhaps more most powerful of all. It’s this:
We have to learn to worship in tears. You have to learn to worship even in pain. When you realize God is good – even when it doesn’t seem life is good – you are better equipped to face the storms of life, which are sure to come.
Obviously, Christ is the peace of Christmas, and He can fill your brokenness. You can trust Him. This Christmas, let the Christ of Christmas fill the void and loss you have in your heart and life.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Text of Message Shared at Funeral of Three Brothers, ages 16, 13, and 10

Note: This is the text of a message I shared at the recent funerals of three brothers who were killed in a car accident in the community where I pastor. Jamie, age 16, Carson, age 13, and Christian, age 10, were a gift to all who knew them. I offer this here as a word of hope and comfort to all who need it. 


We are, each one of us, at every moment, a heartbeat away from death.

It seems that for all of us here today that of all deaths, that of a teenager or a child appears the most unnatural and hardest to bear. We expect the old to die. When those who are old die, it is always difficult, but perhaps it comes as no surprise. But the death of a teenager or a child is a different matter. Life with its beauty, wonder, and potential lies ahead for them. Death comes as a cruel thief when it strikes down the young.

In a way that is different from any other relationship, a child is bone of his parents’ bone and flesh of their flesh. When a child dies, part of the parent dies too and is buried. When we lose a child, the effect is widespread. It not only deeply reaches into the fabric and heart of loving and caring parents, it also involves siblings, grandparents, friends and family, in incredibly unique ways. The specter of death reveals our relationships to be our most precious possession in life.

So, I want to begin today by naming some realities about this day and the circumstances in which we gather:
  • The hurt is deeper than the deepest hurt; 
  • The tears seem endless;
  • The pain feels unbearable;
  • There is a sense of powerlessness that is with each of  us;
  • We are trying to let go when what we really want to do is to hold on;
  • We have a sense of physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion that overwhelms, confuses us and just doesn’t make sense.
  • And we ask, Why? How come? What for? – And we are prone to say, It is not fair.

I am not telling you anything you do not already know and feel. But I also want to tell us all something else. While the things I just named are very real, please know today that they are NOT the final or ultimate reality. There is a dimension yet unknown to any of us, but very real to Jamie, Carson, and Christian - a life that brings the promise of Christ and with it the promise of resurrection.

I will tell you that there is no answer that can I can give or that you can give that can fill an empty mother’s heart or end a father’s longing or restore a brother to you. We come here today, not for answers but for comfort, for faith, for hope, and for love – and for a promise.

I am reminded of the words of the classic hymn written by Martin Luther – “And though the wrong seems oft so strong – God is the ruler yet.” The comfort we seek is the Word of the Lord that endures forever.

Sara invited me to share this little story. There was a mom who was approached by her child. “Mom, why do the best people die so soon?” Mom replied, “When you’re in a garden, which flowers do you pick first?” Child replied, “I don’t know.” Mom said, “You pick the most beautiful ones first.”

Aaron and Sara and Mackenzie and Garrett - your family compassion and love for Jamie, Carson and Christian - those are not simply choices - they are, I believe, divine qualities. They reveal the ongoing and active presence of God with you and in you. And none of you or us here today stand alone in these circumstances. Even in Jamie and Carson and Christian’s death, God is present with us. He is the God of resurrection life, love, and compassion.

Compassion and love are what brought Jamie, Carson, and Christian into this world and they are what allowed you, in the end, to let them go. That is the miracle in the midst of today’s circumstances. That, Sara and Aaron and Mackenzie and Garrett, is the miracle that has and will continue to let you entrust Jamie, Carson, and Christian to God. And, it is the same miracle by which you will forever be their mom and dad and brother and sister.

We all want our children to outlive us. No parent ever thinks the day may come when they must bury their children.  But the world in which we live is not about fairness or justice. What we expect from God is far above fairness and justice. It is mercy and grace. Mercy that is strong enough to bear our broken hearts and make them whole again.  Mercy that is strong enough to hold a hope of a reunion to come.  Mercy that is strong enough to fill our emptiness and teach us joy again.

In this real world of tragedy, trauma, sin, curse, destruction and death, God’s compassion and love for us are why, in the Christian faith, death never has the final word. Death is for sure our enemy - but it is NOT the final reality. It is why God says that he makes all things new.

Physical life has changed for Jamie, Carson, and Christian - but there IS a life that has not ended for these three precious boys. It’s the reality of a life found in the grace of God and the love of Jesus Christ.    

As real as the circumstances are today, the greater reality is the love of God, the power of Christ’s resurrection, and the healing of our lives. That is the greater reality into which we entrust Jamie, Carson, Christian and ourselves.

Tears are the words with which we tell God our pain. When tears fall, we entrust. When questions and doubts arise, we entrust. When circumstances overwhelm, we entrust. Over and over we entrust ourselves and those we love to God and the new life He is creating. And we do not do this alone. We do it together with and supported by family, friends, the angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven, of whom Jamie, Carson, and Christian are now one.

We come to God in our sorrow and in our mortality and He answers us with the gift of His own Son, Jesus. He gives Jesus to us, in our flesh and blood, to bear our suffering in His own suffering and to die for us the death that ends death’s reign once and for all.

When a child dies, all of us struggle with the purpose and will of God and rightfully so. Every person has a purpose in the divine design.

Marshall Shelley and his wife lost a child shortly after birth. He wrote about the brief life of their child and their grief. I want to personalize his words for us today. He said, “Why did God create a child to live sixteen years, thirteen years, ten years? He didn’t. He did not create Jamie, Carson, and Christian to live sixteen, thirteen, and ten years. He did not create me to live forty years (or whatever number he may choose to extend my days in this world). God created Jamie, Carson and Christian for eternity. He created each of us for eternity, where we may be surprised to find our true calling, which always seems just out of reach here on earth.”

The Psalmist describes children as a treasure from the Lord, gifts from God to the wombs, hearts, and our lives. No life and no teenager and no child is hidden from the Lord. No teenager and no child suffers without the Lord suffering and no teenager’s cry and no child’s cry is left unheard in the ears of our heavenly Father.

The gospel of Mark 10 tells us that people were bringing their children to Jesus, hoping that He might touch and bless them.  The disciples pushed the children away, thinking they were in the way. Jesus said, “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.

I know that we don’t get all our questions answered, but I also know that we must all become like a little child and come to Jesus… Bring your pain to Jesus… Bring your broken hearts to Jesus… Find your comfort not in explanations or reasons but in the hope and promise of a manger that held the Christ child, the cross on which Jesus suffered to put an end to our suffering, and His death that gives us life – life everlasting, eternal life – life that is never quenched by physical death.  He gives power to the faint. He fills the hearts of the empty and gives strength to the exhausted.

He will renew your strength… He will restore you… The pain of this day is real – but through the pain we can also find a way to the promise and hope of that which is to come. It is a day when tears will flow with joy instead of sadness. It is a day when all our questions of WHY fade away in the presence of the Lord, in the reunion with those whom we love who depart in the Lord, and in the unending future of joy He has prepared for us.

The pain we feel today says something to us not just about death, but also about life. Life, when it is brief, is a reminder that all of us can be recalled at any time. Life is transitory. Psalm 39:5 reminds us, “Each person’s life is but a breath.” Since we have no promise of how long we are given life and breath, surely we must maximize the opportunities God gives us. Count every day a blessing. Bless every day by counting.

Time will bring some healing, but it will not heal all the wounds.

Billy Graham wrote, “Time does not heal. It’s what you do with the time that heals … a long life or a short life are of equal importance to God.”

Time alone doesn’t overcome sorrow. So, we turn to the only One who can enable us to deal with our grief. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). Faith in Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life, gives us unexpected strength. We grieve, but not as those who have no hope.

Jamie, Carson, and Christian are in the Lord’s presence by God’s grace. And through Jesus Christ we will get there, too.

Jamie, Carson, and Christian have brought joy and smiles and energy and sunshine and a simple faith and believing and trusting, exuberant love – to you and to us all.

Jamie, Carson, and Christian have taught us so much about the precious gift of a teenager and a child.

Grief hammers and tears at our hearts today – BUT the memories we have will always be cherished and no one or NOTHING can take those from us. AND we realize, because of Jesus and his victory over death, that there will be a reunion. There is a song by Watermark that says it well - “We cling to God’s promise that we will hold them someday in heaven.”

A writer by the name of Kenneth McFarland told of an item he found on the obituary page of the newspaper in a small southern town.

It read, “Billy, it was just a year ago today that you left us and the sunshine went out of our lives. But, we turned on the headlights and we’re going on … and Billy, we shall keep on doing the best we can until that glorious day when we shall see you again.” It was signed simply “Love, the family.” No names, just a simple testimony to the kind of faith that enables a person to go on in the face of sorrow and death.

And today I want to say the same about Jamie, Carson, and Christian. Jamie, Carson, and Christian - you have left us and the sunshine went out of our lives. But we will turn on the headlights and we will go on – and Jamie, Carson, and Christian, we will keep on doing the best we can until that glorious day when we shall see you again.

Until we come to that day when all mysteries, purposes, and plans of God are sorted out for us in the day when we shall see God face-to-face, let us be thankful that the lives of Jamie, Carson, and Christian have enriched us and made us the better because of it.

Now Jamie, Carson, and Christian fully and completely belong to God. Today we release their hands as God has grasped them over there, and He will never let them go.

    Victor Frankl once said: “We cannot judge a biography by its length, by the number of pages in it; we must judge by the richness of the contents. Sometimes the “unfinisheds” are among the most beautiful symphonies.” 

    Jamie, Carson, and Christian – all of their brief lives touched each of you in their own way as sons, brothers, grandsons, nephews, cousins, friends, classmates, team players, youth group, neighborhood and town buddies.

    Their unfinished lives are among the most beautiful symphonies. That’s because they put music in our lives and it was a beautiful piece of music. And it plays on and on and on – and it is a symphony that will never end. And right now I believe it’s playing among the heavenly angels in God’s heaven, prepared for Jamie, Carson, and Christian.    

    And while we say goodbye to Jamie, Carson and Christian, we also say hello to the love and hope that is the meaning of Jamie, Carson, and Christian’s lives among us.  

Love may change its form, but it does not die.  We seek to find meaning. We feel pain and sorrow – beyond words.

But there is also love. Enduring love. Eternal love.

    In the rising of the sun and in its going down we will remember them – in love.
    In the beginning of the year and when it ends we will remember them – in love.

    So long as we live, they too shall live for they are now a part of us as we remember them – in love.

    Today is a closing and an opening— a saying goodbye and a saying hello again. So while we say farewell to the Jamie, Carson, and Christian we know, we greet the Jamie, Carson, and Christian who have become a part of us - the Jamie, Carson and Christian who lives on with us as the love which is in our hearts.

    “And now abides, faith, hope and love, these three: but the greatest of these is love.”  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Before They Go to School . . . Have This Conversation

(The following post is written by Lysa TerKeurst. She is a BRILLIANT author, incredible ministry leader and a great mom. Her new book "The Best Yes" just released and it is a great read! Every person I know could benefit from reading the wisdom in those pages. She recently wrote this blog post and I wanted to share it with you as well.)

"I look around the dinner table and feel that desperate ache not uncommon to women who deeply love.

Whether it’s my own family or those who just feel like family, I want so much for them. These young people who are so full of possibility and dreams and bright futures… they have my heart.

Yet my heart feels fragile in the hands of these young people. They are smart. They are grounded. But they are young.

It takes me back to me at that age.

And that scares me.

I remember feeling so grown up and crazy excited at the chance to be in charge of my own life. Ready for independence. Ready for love. Ready for the next chapter of my life.
Chasing what felt good and thrilling, I quickly learned the wind blows in dangerous directions sometimes. Going with the flow led me places I didn’t intend to go. And I woke up one morning ashamed of my choices, wondering how in the world I got to this place.


I cringe thinking back on it. And I cry. Because I don’t want that experience for these people I desperately love.

So, in the midst of the laughter and casual banter, I turn the conversation at the dinner table to a word I want them to know and live.


Decide today who you want to be. In this moment of togetherness, surrounded by family, and saturated in love — decide.

Decide what your answer will be when the talk turns ugly and the laughter turns mean against that girl who desperately needs you to be her friend.

Decide what your answer will be when someone invites you to the cool party full of drinks and drugs.

Decide what your answer will be when the boy says it’s no big deal to stay the night.

Decide what your answer will be when “friends” laugh at your Christian views and challenge you to lighten up.


Decide today who you are going to turn to if you do get into trouble. Remember, the people at this table. Remember, who truly has your best interest at heart. Remember who you are.


Decide today to turn around any mistakes from your past by asking for God’s forgiveness and walking in His grace.

Decide today to ignore the enemy who wants to trick you and trip you and take you out.

Yes, pre-decide.

And then we go around the table and tell what we are pre-deciding this year. And my heart feels less of that ache.

I’m not so foolish to think this will act as a bad choice immunization. We are all susceptible. But it is a way to infuse their heart with a memory of a pre-decision.

And with that the plates are cleared, the cookies are nothing more than crumbs, and it’s time to go.

So, I whisper a few last words that are a “best yes” for them…

Go where wisdom gathers, not where wisdom scatters.

Make decisions today that will still be good tomorrow.

And (insert voice cracking and tears welling up), remember how much I love you.

Here are some great Bible verses to pray for our kids as they head off to school this year:
  • Galatians 1:10 - For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
  • Romans 12:2 - Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
  • Joshua 24:15 - But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.
  • Proverbs 29:25 - The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:4 - But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:33 - Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
  • Acts 5:29 - But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”
I want to further equip you to have these kinds of discussions with your kids… your spouse… your coworkers… your fellow ministry leaders. My new book The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands will do just that.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Living Life Over Again

A long-time friend and ministry colleague of mine by the name of Rex Bullock is speaker and president of Dayspring Ministries ( He also has a blog that I enjoy reading when it comes along. Today, he posted a great piece that I share with you here. It's some great food for thought. And it struck all my heart strings as I sat in my Lazy-Boy chair, just taking some time to journal and reflect on the goodness of the Lord in my life. Rex's blog ( was words fitly written on a quiet Sunday afternoon after two worship services of preaching on how Jesus calls us to an "Upside Down" way of life - a different way to live. In the church I pastor, we are exploring this theme from the Beatitudes found in the opening recorded words of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. And yes, I let him know I would use it here on my blog!

Years  ago I read the testimony of an anonymous friar in a Nebraska monastery. His words didn't make much impact on me then, but at this point in my life they make great sense and I'm trying to take them to heart. This is not what you would expect in a "religious testimony"... Maybe that's why I appreciate it so much.

"If I had my life to live over again,
I'd try to make more mistakes next time.
I would relax, I would limber up, I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I know of very few things I would take seriously. I would take more trips. I would be crazier. I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers, and watch more sunsets. 

I would do more walking and looking. 
I would eat more ice cream and less beans. 
I would have more actual troubles, and fewer imaginary ones. 

You see, I'm one of those people who lives sensibly hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I've had my moments, and if I had to do it over again I'd have more of them. In fact, I'd try to have nothing else, just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead each day. 
I've been one of those people who never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat, aspirin, and a parachute. 

If I had it to do over again I would go places, do things and travel lighter than I have. 

If I had my life to live over I would start barefooted earlier in the Spring and stay that way later in the Fall .
I would play hookey more.

I wouldn't make such good grades, except by accident. 

I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies."

And in Rex's words: It's fairly safe to say, this old gentleman had his fill of stress. He realized that to break its spell one has to break the mold of a rat-race life-style. May his tribe increase. 
How about you? What's your life lessons learned about living life over again? 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Will You Take Up Something for Lent?

If you check out Facebook this week, there are a lot of people giving up something up for Lent.  Yes, there are quite a few who have said their FB “goodbye,” because they will be giving up Facebook.  Thousands, maybe millions, will be giving up chocolate, french fries, coffee, swearing, late-night snacks, food during the day, or some such other thing.

And they will do it in the name of fasting. You see, the idea of giving up something for Lent has taken on a certain cultural cache. I think it actually is sort of a strange phenomenon in our culture of overindulgence and excess and materialism. 

On the surface, I guess I see it as a good thing.  It seems for sure that self-denial, even of menial or luxuriant things, is a much overlooked virtue. So I really do applaud all of those that, in the name of God or their faith, are trying to give up something for Lent.

But I think we also need a word of caution right now. Don’t let your giving something up for Lent replace an actual relationship with the living God. And don’t let your sense of piety over giving up something for Lent keep you from taking a hard look at what God really wants us to be doing. The Good Book - the Holy Bible - actually has something to say to us about this.
This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families. (Isaiah 58:6-7, The Message)
So, I say just be careful. Really careful. Yes, it is great to do something for God. It is great to remember the sacrifice that Christ made for us. But we must do it for the right reasons. Don’t get caught up in the cultural trend of giving something up without also trying to take something up. We give things up to make room to take things up. Might I suggest that you give up something that is getting in the way of your relationship with God.  Give something up that is getting in the way of the Kingdom.

Give up chocolate.  Give up chocolate that is made on the backs of the working poor.  Give up choclate that enslaves children and puts them in dangerous working conditions. Give up Hershey.  And take up Fair-Trade chocolate.

Give up Facebook.  And take up a pen and piece of paper and a stamp, and write a note to a teacher, a friend, a loved one, someone sick, or someone lonely.

Give up TV.  And take up conversations.  Take up stronger relationships.  Take up the Bible.  Take up prayer.
Give up oppression.  Give up resentment.  Give up fear.  And take up justice.  Take up reconciliation.  Take up love.

And yes, mark your forehead with ashes – not to take up shame and guilt.  Mark your forehead with ashes – and take up your inheritance as a child of God.  Take up your task to do the work of Christ.  Mark the start of your journey to the cross, so that when you get to Easter, you can look back and know that this Lent, you did something with God.  Then sing “Hallelujah, The Kingdom has come.”