Category Archives: Observation

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.

Tagged , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , ,

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

Tagged , , ,

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.

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.

Tagged

Plant Fungus and God’s Mercy

I could never be a farmer. The only thing I can plant is my tail on the couch.

But I know farmers. They work all around me. My house is next door to the farm headquarters of a farmer named Leech. (Or is it Leach?) He and his employees work from dawn till well after sunset on big green pieces of metal.

They make designs in dirt. They put little things in the dirt. Then it looks like they spray stuff on the dirt. Then green things grow. Rice. Cotton. Corn. Soybeans. All of these are a rock’s throw from my front deck depending on the time of year.

It looks like hard work. It’s supposed to be. It is the only job that God expressly said He would make hard.  A very small thing can render months of money, sweat and acres of dirt useless. Too much chemical. Too little chemical. Too much water. Too little water. And don’t dare forget plant diseases. Did you know plants can get strange fungus spots just like humans?

How would it feel to gaze as far as you can see and observe months of effort to be in vain?  I have never felt that. At least not about crops.

But haven’t we all felt like our efforts weren’t giving us the results we wanted?
I do. Even right now, I do. I feel like some relationships are pointless. I feel like my job is stretching my faith. I feel like I have wasted days.
I feel like it is harvest time and
there are no crops in the stinking field.
And then I am reminded of the two words at the beginning of the previous four sentences. “I feel.” I. Feel.  My mind and emotions are hard at work raising my frustration and annoyance.
I need grace to respond to life from a place of hope.  Look at what the prophet Habakkuk says:
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.
I do not know where your herd is or how your olives are doing, but I know where your joy and strength should be. I know where mine needs to be.
This week, I was talking with a friend whose crops are worse than mine. She was discouraged yet hopeful. She recalled to me that she has a friend whose marriage is in shambles and another friend whose young child was recently diagnosed with cancer. Her observation was that in her “merely financial” trial, she felt God’s mercy. She gratefully recognized that her marriage is source of stability and her children are at this moment very healthy. She saw hope where she could have seen despair. Instead of resentment, she saw mercy. She said,
 “God’s trials are often full of mercy.”
I don’t always see so clearly.
I struggle to see past dying fields of withered feelings. My once vibrant expectations now lay rotting on twice-plowed ground.
But Salvation is not found in the fulfillment of my self-centered dreams.
Salvation is Jesus. Hope is in a Higher Place.

What if?

What if Jesus actually lived? What if Jesus was the greatest person ever? What if he was more than a person? What if Jesus was exactly who he said he was?  What if his death made it possible for me not to spend eternity in hell? What if the best thing for me is to be in relationship with Jesus?

What if the Bible told me that faith in Jesus and repentance of my sin would secure my place with God forever? What if I believed that was good news for you too?  What if, apart from faith and repentance, eternity separated from God in hell was your future too?

What if I didn’t tell you because I did not want to impose on you? What if I felt like it was too personal a matter for pizza conversation? What if I felt like …

…a conversation like that might make future conversations awkward?

What if I said nothing because I was too busy? Or because I like our relationship the way it is now? What if I felt like I was too close to you to bring up the gospel now after all this time? What if I felt like I didn’t know you well enough?

What if I decided to tell you but first I needed to tweak the gospel — to modernize it for the 21st century?

What if repentance, faith, sin and hell  sounded too judgmental so I used other words? What if I just told you  you are okay? That you simply need to feel good about yourself?

What if I told you God is love and nothing else? What if I then asked why you couldn’t love a God who loved you? What if I said that was the only truth you needed?

Or what if I told you the Gospel is that Jesus wants to be your friend? What if it sounded good to you and was easy for me?

What if I told you Jesus promises money, health and happiness to all who believe he is Lord? What if you wanted money, health and smiles and heard me say that?

What if I asked you to change the words you say, the clothes you wear, and the beverages you consume but said nothing of the cross or of sin? What if I told you heaven will be yours if you live rightly?  What if I felt like repentance and faith were old words and this is a new day?

What if I told you salvation was found in social change and public involvement? What if I told you abolishing hunger, poverty, abortion, slavery and negative thinking is the way to make things right in your soul?

What if I spoke with you about Christian doctrine because we both love logical thinking and critical analysis? What if we could speak cogently about ideas of original sin and the sovereignty of  God but never spoke of the repentance and faith?

What if I was happy to keep talking about the gospel the way I always have?

What if, at my death, God asks me what I did with the good news of the Gospel while on earth?

What if He asks you?

Are Video Games Stupid? Or Waging War in my Heart: True Combat Evolved

Mark Driscoll said video games are not “sinning, they are just stupid.” Specifically, he made these comments about video games:

Driscoll made some people mad apparently. Ok, not mad, necessarily. Some people just “took issue” with it. Pastor Drew Dixon, who plays video games and has “written about their value” has this rather lengthy response to Driscoll’s youtube clip.

As for where I stand, I’ll tell you. I play video games. I like to play video games. I have two consoles in my den and if I get a chance to play Madden, Assassin’s Creed or Wii Bowling, I enjoy it. I even enjoy getting slaughtered in a slayer match of Halo if I am at a place that has Xbox live. So I am not anti-video games. I have other issues to attend to. There are great injustices, false gospels and broken people that require urgent care and attention. So the anti-video game coalition will not get my membership dues this year.

But that having been said, I’m with Driscoll on this one…exactly because there are urgent issues at hand with  eternal consequences. Video games are stupid by comparison.  So is playing tic-tac-toe. And reading the comics.  And eating doughnuts.  And watching the Superbowl (ouch.) And playing fantasy football. (bigger ouch.)

It’s a matter of faulty comparisons.

Because there should be no comparison.

Ignatius said “Apart from Christ, let nothing dazzle you.”  A.W. Tozer, in concluding the second chapter of his Pursuit of God wrote an appropriately convicting prayer:

Father, I want to know Thee, but my coward heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all Those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival. Then shalt Thou make the place of Thy feet glorious. Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Isn’t that what Driscoll is saying? Give up the toys.  Not because they are sin, but because they are rivals to an unimaginably greater cause.

Don’t break your new controller just yet. Don’t go burn your Halo collectors edition box set.

But instead do deep inventory of your heart. Ask God to show you if you have rivals in your heart. Be scared at what He might reveal, but be honest and ready to deal with what He does show you.

Maybe you need to put down the controller for awhile. Or the doughnuts.

I need to put down both.