The Missional Church And The Super Bowl

I believe the primary mission of any Bible believing church is equipping the children of God in accomplishing the gospel mandate of the Great Commission. So first, let me say I love my church and I fully affirm the truth that the local church is the bride of Christ and I should treasure it as such. I believe Biblical obedience mandates that I should support the mission of my church with attendance, tithe and sacrificial service.

That’s a lot of “mission” talk. But that mission talk is what reminds me that I am supposed to be a missionary in a culture that is generally not friendly to the Bible. I am sent by God to be a light to those who need Christ. Loving. Building. Knowing. Caring. Relationships.

It seems like an obvious thing for a missionary to India, the Congo, or an Indian reserve in South Dakota to reach the people while showing respect to their culture and traditions. I wouldn’t serve food that highly offends the people of that community. I would not dress in a way that violates the social norms in that land. As long as it didn’t violate Gods law, the difference could be embraced.

Why then is there a knee-jerk reaction to churches changing their schedule for the Super Bowl? The Super Bowl is the largest, most viewed event in the United States. Maybe the world with exception to the World Cup. Would it not make sense to use the culture’s obsession with the game to facilitate an opportunity to spend time with friends, family and people who need loving, positive relationships? I would love to see a church that tells its members to go home and have Super Bowl parties. Invite neighbors, co-workers, churched and unchurched friends, and have conversations. Learn about their souls. Build a rapport. Be a missionary.

Is that having an agenda? Absolutely. But if my friends don’t know I have a gospel-oriented agenda in my life, I have deeper, more fundamental, issues. The lost are not impressed with our church attendance. Nor are they reached if we are not reaching. I am encouraged and taught in my church. But I am not witnessing when I am sitting on a pew. I am not meeting my neighbor when I am at a place where they are not. I am not more righteous when I take a stand against something that is not sin.

I am not advocating doing away with church. I love, need and embrace the local church. I am saying that our lifestyles, ministry approach and church schedules should reflect a mission more than a tradition.

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How To Be A Better Husband

I should mark this post with the hashtag #thingsmydadtaughtme. My father is a great husband, father and friend. In addition to being my father, he has been my pastor for 29 years. His instruction has been consistent from the pulpit and in the home.

But things were not always grand between us. My father and I were often at odds. During my teen years, I thought my struggle was for his respect and to be treated with more dignity. Actually, the hard truth was I was independent, proud and resistant to his authority at every turn. But then a most profound change took place in the months surrounding my wedding. I had many questions and he had many humble, life-tested answers. Even now, when my marriage ventures into unsure terrain, Dad provides knowing guidance. His biblical advice has consistently been a pole star for me.

His advice has been so influential that I wanted to share some of it. By sharing, I do not meant to imply I have mastered these principles but rather when I apply them, my marriage benefits greatly. So here are five #thingsmydadtaughtme.


1. Be a Server, Not a Sitter.

My father never felt entitled to time off at home. Or at least I never saw him express it. After putting in long days that were exhausting both physically and emotionally, he would walk in the door ready to do the most menial of tasks. He would vacuum, cook, fold clothes, do the dishes and whatever else needed to be done. He was always willing to care for us kids, settle disputes that may have occurred in his absence or discipline us (probably me) for disrespectful words or disobedient behavior. Never a complaint was heard. Still haven’t and I have 34 years worth of observation of him.

Ephesians 5:25 tells us men that we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church. But our attitudes are often selfish, lazy, entitled, self-serving or harsh. We rationalize and point out silly principles that authorize us to sit on our behinds and expect ice tea and silence. What lies we are preaching of Christ’s love for the church. The next phrase in Ephesians 5:25 is “and gave himself up for her.” In regards to Sacrifice, nothing is off limits. Nothing is too much. Never did Jesus get a break. And last time I checked, none of us husbands are out forgiving sin, raising the dead and atoning for sin during our workday.

I need to know how to empty the dishwasher even when work is stressful. (Shame on you if you if you only take silverware out of the drawer.) I have to do laundry after I put in extra hours at the job. I must be ready to give my bride a break from the kids even though I may not have had a break all day. If I am like Christ, I give myself up. I do not have expectations. I do not have rights. I do not have an attitude. Give it up.

Most homes have a divisions of duties where one spouse does some work and the other spouse performs their list of tasks. That is certainly not sin. It is efficient in fact. But dad taught me that loving like Christ means stepping over the line of efficiency into the world of sacrifice. Sure its her job to do laundry, and sure I’m tired but towels wont fold themselves, and by doing it, I can exemplify Christ and teach Christ and love Christ and glorify Christ. I can also bring a smile to her face and that is worth more than a few minutes with my feet up.

2. Be a Sponge, Not a Hammer.

A hammers strikes. It makes harsh contact. It affects other things while remaining unaffected.

A sponge absorbs. It soaks up whatever is around it.

Hammers are very unspongelike. Can you imagine trying to sink a 4 inch nail into a 2 x 4 with a sink sponge? Can you imagine trying to clean up spilled milk with a hammer? Both are silly nonsense. But there is a lesson for husbands here. One that dad taught often.

In the movie Phenomenon, a wise old man is reassuring a doubtful woman that John Travolta loves her. He points to Travolta’s house and said “He bought your chairs.” The lady looks and realizes that his house and front porch has been stacked to the brim with the rocking chairs she made and had been selling on consignment in town. She had no idea that he had been purchasing them all.

When it comes to knowing our wives, we need to be sponges, not hammers. We need to buy their chairs. Or as 1 Peter 3:7 puts it, “Dwell with your wives according to knowledge.” Dad was a good listener. He knew what mom wanted. He knew when she needed a break. He knew what she wanted for her anniversary…most of the time. He could tell when she was unhappy or unsure. He was an example of a man whose tuner was always on his wife’s channel.

Learning this skill is difficult because I am not a good listener. I tend to move fast through conversations and pick up the high points, or what I deem the high points, and then move on. I have male friends who tell me that I never listen. Its a problem.

But when it comes to my wife, I need to slow down. Make notes. Not mental notes. Actual pencil on paper notes. One benefit of a smart phone is that if she says she wishes she had a nice pair of slippers because her feet hurt, I can buy her some that moment on Amazon and have them in her hand in a couple of days. When I give them to her, she knows I was listening and that brings a smile to her face.

I need to learn what her frustrations are. I need to investigate what parts of her day are overwhelming. I need to know what type of vacation would make her thrilled. I need to know what flavor candy is her favorite. I need to be able to order her drink when she goes to the restroom before the waiter takes our order. I need to know body language, face language, clothes language, leaving the room language and a thousand other languages.

I have got to know what she expects for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, Valentines …

…and Easter. On Easter during my childhood, I put on a white shirt and if there was a bright colored tie, I wore it to church. Boom. Done with Easter. At Candice’s house, everybody got a new outfit. Everybody. Every year. They also gave gifts. To everybody. Every year. I know that now. I also know that when Candice says “Let’s not do anything this year for our anniversary so we can save money” — she means it. She would be happy with a hand-written card. I do not know it all, or maybe even much, yet, but I am still learning. And that’s the point. Keep learning. Keep absorbing. Keep being a sponge. Dwell with knowledge.

3. Be a Teacher, not a Warden.

Christ sets the captives free. Husbands should set their wives free. Free to learn. Free to fellowship. Free to create. Free to serve.

Christ also corrects and teaches. Dad taught me that husbands should use their God-given role as head-of-the-home to teach. Husbands should teach the scripture. Husbands should teach the kids. Husbands should teach by example.

A teacher doesn’t imprison. I need to find ways to let Candice go. If you know my wife, then you know it would take more than chains to contain her. But my attitude and availability will send her subtle messages about her freedom. Am I begrudging of her time? Do I resentfully compare her freedoms to mine? Do I pout as she walks out the door or when she returns?

A couple of ways to “set them free” are to encourage Godly and challenging relationships outside the marriage. I need to encourage creative expressions of her hobbies and artistic style and skills. She is humbly unique for which I am grateful. I need to assist her in ventures she may attempt. Could a Proverbs 31 woman be profitable in trade and real estate if she had no freedom to make decisions or lacked a certain entrepreneurial independence? I must hold all things loosely.

However, the husband’s headship also includes teaching. As husband, I am the primary tool God uses to explain, instruct, challenge and explore biblical realities in the life of my wife and children.

Dad taught me at every turn as my pastor, coach, father…and principal when needed. Husbands must be teachers. Dad taught me that it is not the primary function of the church to disciple the wife and children. That is the non-delegable duty of the husband/father. It is not an option for husbands to delegate the training of the souls in their care to anyone. Anyone. Sure, other teachers, pastors, authors, and speakers will have a positive influence–hopefully. But the ultimate responsibility over these matters lies squarely on the shoulders of the husband.

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Easter Parenting

Louie Giglio says we are all worshippers. Whether it is golf, the Grizzlies or girls, we are prone to worship things. For those of us that would call ourselves Christians, it is an easy admission to state we should worship Jesus Christ above all. We should not worship Him merely because He is kind and good and strong. We should worship Him because He is the Redeemer at the center of our gospel. The most dramatic display of His power in the gospel is His resurrection. The resurrection is the exclamation mark at the greatest climax in God’s epic history.

So as we walk through Walmart and see the world persuading our children to associate Easter with poorly made plastic eggs and chocolate in the shape of fictional cottontails, do not settle for a godless Easter. Much is at stake. The truth of the Bible is more exciting than any hunt for candy-filled eggs. You are not a bad Christian if you buy your child a fluffy Easter bunny or help them find little treasures in the grass, but you are a misguided parent if you’ve failed to teach your child that the greatest celebration of Easter is Christ’s resurrection.

“Apart from Christ, let nothing dazzle you.” -Saint Ignatius

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From Nemesis To Friend

Good heroes are hard to find. In early times, my heroes were wearing capes or masks and had Halloween costumes in their honor. Later, my heroes excelled on the court, field, or diamond. (I miss you Michael Jordan!) But as I got older, I realized I would never be a super-hero zooming through the clouds to save the day. It also became apparent I would never be able to dunk, tackle or throw a 95 mile an hour fastball. I got older and life became exponentially more complicated. Relationships and responsibilities filled the day. Crushes turned into dating turned into husbandry turned to fathering. Playing hide and seek turned into studying turned into more studying turned into testing and then a job and then owning my own business. I might watch Avengers now, but I have a different understanding of what a hero is.

Let me introduce you to one of mine.

Joanna Fuhrman is my sister. In ancient days, she was my mortal enemy. I found great pleasure in her misery. I shot at her with BB guns. I played pranks on her. I made attempts to embarrass her in public and was often very successful. I vomited on her because, as I remember it, it was hard to distinguish the difference between her sleeping face and the toilet. Those were hard days for her…I hope.

Because we were home-schooled the majority of our childhood, we were together constantly. I watched her grow up all the while thinking she was stupid for doing it. Then an amazing transformation took place.

I started growing up too. I needed girl help. Joanna was always willing to listen. And she gave great advice.

Home-school turned into college and life was throwing curves left and right. I needed help. Joanna gave great advice.

College turned into law-school and serious girl relationships. I was beginning manhood. I was developing independent spiritual disciplines that would establish my direction for years to come. It was heartbreaking and confusing, but she gave great advice.

It was around then that I realized that she who was once my nemesis was now my friend. And I have had no better friend.

She is steady. She is grounded. She is devoted. She is faithful. She loves Jesus. She is a super mom. She cooks, cleans and rides. She teaches, cheers and cries. She games…and loses…to me.

She thinks. I love a good thinker. She is a great thinker-listener combo. Unless you are trying to get her to listen to a song. Good luck with that. But she talks politics and books and theology and all the while listens and respects my opinions.

Joanna cares for her family. Her extended family too. She makes time with us a priority even when it is difficult. Or inconvenient. Or expensive. She always has time for talk. Or advice. Or a laugh.

Oh, the laughs. I told Candice I rarely feel prouder of myself than when I make Joanna laugh. Laughing over dinner, over Rook, over Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy. All at 2 o’clock in the morning knowing the kids will be up by seven.

God gave us our children, parents and siblings for a deliberate reason. In His sovereign goodness and design, he chose from the infinite possibility of souls and placed her in my life. Though her childhood was likely worse because of me, my life is infinitely better because of her.

So this October 24th, wish a Happy Birthday to Joanna. My sister. My hero. My friend.

Imaginary Wars Among The Mothers

The Bible and Christ’s example is filled with calls to unity and love and togetherness “especially among the brethren.”  So why do so many Christians see conflict where there is none or imagine ill-will where none exists?
Specifically, I am referring about this supposed rift between stay-at-home mothers and employed mothers. I think people are to quick to see attacks when what they should see is encouragement, sovereignty and faithfulness.
Full disclosure: I am the son, brother, husband, nephew and cousin of stay at home, homeschooling mothers.  So now you know where I stand — and with whom I stand.  But in 33 years of life, I have never once heard one person in my family utter a disparaging word about a family’s decision that the mother be employed. Not one word.  I would not waste my keystrokes if it were not so.
I speak for me and my wife when I say we love and respect many precious mother-friends who have made the decision to obtain employment.  They feel like it is right for them. They feel God has led them there.  Some choose to do so for various reasons. We do not judge them.  Do not imagine that in the dark closets of our home, we malign and curse the working mother. No. We do not judge.  If that is the path you have prayerfully chosen, then God speed. It is not a lesser one.   We assume You are serving the Lord in different ways and different places.  What a blessed diversity!
But let the mothers who have similar callings encourage each other in their journey.  If my wife talks, blogs or tweets about home-making or home schooling, she does not intend to insult other moms who make homes and educate children differently.  Can missionaries talk about being missionaries without plumbers getting hurt? Can doctors talk about being doctors without lawyers screaming about insults?  Of course.  So let a home-maker talk about her home-making. Let a home-schooler talk about her home-schooling. It a unique challenge with unique needs for encouragement.
Are there unique challenges that come to the employed, working mother. Yes! You should be able to talk about them without my wife getting her feelings hurt.  Your skin should be as thick.  Not just for your own well being and mental health, but for the sake of the kingdom of Christ.
Bear up together and embrace the different journeys on which God has placed us. All of us, from the lowly to the theologian and scholar should encourage unity and love among the different walks of the sisters and brothers.  While the conflicts may be imagined, the casualties will be real.

Eight Years and Eight Reasons Why I Love My Wife

Eight years ago, this day in about half an hour, I married Candice Hair. Consider this my praise of her (Proverbs 31:28.) In celebration of our eight years, I’ll give eight reasons why she is the love of my life.

First, Candice loves me. This could be enough by itself. I have never once, not for one day, doubted that Candice loves me. She tells me often and shows me even more that her heart is mine. I can tell the way she looks at me, talks to me and smiles at me that she loves me. Everything is better because of it.

Second, she loves Christ. Her love for me is anchored in her love for her God. I know the first is nothing without the second. Her precious heart is tender with affection for her Savior. It is good for this often emotionally reserved husband to see Candice’s heart swell with love for Jesus. I can see it in her reading, hear it in her worship, and feel it in her service. I know she loves me because she feels that He first loved her. So I am grateful to Jesus for Candice.

Candice loves my children. Oh how she loves them. She has given up much to love them. She studies and reads and learns how to love them better. She trains them, washes them and now schools them. And does it all so very well. What a blessing that I can leave my home and never, even for a moment, worry about the care, nurture and training that my children are receiving from their mother. She could be successful in the workplace but has humbly taken on the high calling of motherhood. She embraces the role of homemaker with grace and pride. It is her desire to be the best mother she can be that makes her so special to me.

She loves my family – meaning my parents and sisters and nieces and nephews. (Of course this is easy because my family is awesome and without flaws.) She has taken them as her own and loved them as she does her own sweet family. She truly enjoys fellowship with them and looks forward to the late-nighters sharing tears of joy over games and conversation of our spiritual journeys. She gives, goes and sacrifices for them because she loves them. I cannot imagine how we got along without her.

Candice loves my church. My church is like most churches. It has members that are imperfect people. While I have been a member since 1987, she started coming in 2004 shortly before we got married. God, in his sovereignty, saw fit to test and try her early on with certain relationships within the church. But Candice never gave up. She endured. I love that she loves the church even when the church did not seem to love her. She endured hard times. In moments of pain, she has asked me to consider other churches. But through prayer, she endured. She is like a pearl who has gone through silent suffering to emerge a beautiful reminder that “God brings his dear children along.” What was once born out of duty and obligation to me is now a gracious participation in a community of believers that she deeply cares for. I could not be more proud of her.

Candice loves my friends. Some are harder to love than others. Some are loud. Some are moody. Some are sarcastic beyond tolerance. Some are proud, stubborn and insensitive. But they are my friends. And she loves them. And she prays for them. She makes brownies for them. She cleans the house before their arrival and after their departure. She makes them feel welcome. My friends are her friends because she loves me.

Enough of what she DOES. The last two reasons are what she IS.

She is beautiful . Inside and out, there is no comparison. She makes me smile with her smile. She can still take my breath away. I love that she wants to look beautiful for me. In a day when Christian women are fighting to find balance between selfish vanity and legalistic homeliness, she walks the line like a queen among her peers. She wants to be the object of my eye. I like that. And she is.

Lastly, she is my safe place. There is no place I would rather be than with her. Sure, she will tell you, I have other interests, other hobbies, other relationships. I play video games, poker and share good times around afire with many a fine friend. But there is no moment better spent than with Candice. She is worth far more than rubies. While there are many women who do noble things, she surpasses them all.

Witnessing: What Would You Say?

Have you ever been in a situation where the topic of religion came up? Did you wish you had better responses about Truth and Jesus Christ?  It happens to me often.  My lack of speaking out is the result of ignorance or cowardice, but either way, it does not serve well the kingdom of God.

I believe the best remedy to both cowardice and ignorance is preparation.  So when I saw this clip on TV last night, I thought what would I say if I were the third person in this conversation?

 

It is worth knowing what you believe and worth knowing how to communicate it. What would you say?
 

How Did Jesus Love?

Part of parenting, marriage, living and being is learning to love. I have much to learn about loving my children and wife. But what I know of love, I can say I love that little blonde-haired trouble maker in my arms.

But often, love is not that simple. Those who have benefited most from God’s love often do not spread it.  On the other hand, it is a dangerous mistake to believe that feeding the poor and helping the sick and rooting out racism accomplishes the whole of the Gospel. It is not so.

So what is love all about? I know it’s good.  (You should read what Jill has to say about the necessity of love in the church.)

So what did Jesus think love was? I was surprised at the answer in John 17:26.

Jesus said love was making known the name of the Father. Love is making God known. I can’t do one without the other.  I can’t love without making God known. But I shouldn’t confuse John 17:26 with the converse — I don’t necessarily make God known by “loving.” So many try to define love as some sort of gushy acceptance of another that would always avoid controversial topics such as God.

Is love more than talking about God.  Absolutely.

Can I love someone and never speak of God? Jesus might say no.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

The alarm went off for the third time so I decided to roll over and deliver a mortal wound to that beeping sound. I tapped all the right places on my Iphone with the precision you would expect from a sleepy, ninja assassin. Game over. I win.

My morning routine is typically the same — give Bentley a bottle then take a shower.  So I whipped up four scoops of gross with 8 ounces of water to make a nice warm bottle of nasty. I gave it to my third-born bundle of loudness.  (She is cute, but she is not soft.)

Then I stumbled back downstairs.  When I walked in the bathroom to start the cleansing, the thermostat on my space heater said 68 degrees. I felt comfortable, cozy and generally happy to be starting my day.  My shower gloriously passed all my expectations. Then it was over.

As  I stepped out of the shower, I was chilled. I was not comfortable. I was not cozy. And I was certainly not happy.  What global warming catastrophe had caused this horrendous change in the intimate climate of my bathroom?  I would guess the butler changed the temperature except that I am not Donald Trump and I do not employ a butler. Yet.  Maybe I left a window open in my bathroom? But I have no window in my bathroom so that option seemed immediately unlikely.  I shot an icy stare at the thermostat. What?! It said 69 degrees! I was as incredulous as a chilly naked guy can be. That can’t be right. That Ivory body wash must not have effectively gotten the rheum out of my eyes. Surely it was not warmer than before? Or was it?

This experience is not unique to me.  We have all been chilly, naked guys one time or another.  We have all searched the internet for the answer why this happens. Maybe some of you geeks already knew why.

Nevertheless, the phenomenon reminded me of something I read recently. J.I. Packer, in his classic tome, Knowing God, wrote a few pages about six common pitfalls to knowing God’s guidance for life.  The third and fourth pitfalls are illustratively related to my chilly morning learning time.  The third pitfall is an unwillingness to take advice. Proverbs 12:15 says “the way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.”  Packer comments that “it is a sign of conceit and immaturity to dispense with taking advice in major decision.”

The fourth pitfall is an unwillingness to suspect oneself.  Packer observes that “we dislike being realistic with ourselves and we do not know ourselves at all well.”  He goes on to say that we see rationalization in other people but rarely recognize it in our own life.  Psalm 139:23-24 is right on point:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

If even King David, a man after God’s own heart, couldn’t know himself, then what hope do I have?

How often do I think I know the right answer, the right way or the right words, but I do not first prayerfully seek God? How often do I set a course of action or pass judgment on others based exclusively on my feelings? Am I so conceited to think I need no advice? Do I really think I have a better grasp on my own heart and mind than the writer of the Psalms? Yet, that is exactly how I behave.  I think I have all the wisdom. I think I know most answers for me and all of them for you.

That is some scary ignorance for a person who is easily fooled by his own skin in the confines of his own bathroom.

I need to remember the words of Packer and David and be slow to judge others and very quick to be suspicious of my own feelings.

How Can My Thinking Be Useless?

fu·tile

adjective

1.  incapable of producing any result; ineffective; useless; not successful: Attempting to force-feed the sick horse was futile.

2. trifling; frivolous; unimportant

Romans 1:21 says, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. ”

I can know God and still not honor him. I can know God and not give thanks to him. I can know God and still have a foolish heart. I can know God and all my thinking be completely useless.

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