Monday, July 18, 2011


I know it's been awhile since my last post, but since the flood, it's been chaos...things have since calmed down. As an update, Holly and I are expecting our first on September 24th and are moving into a three bedroom apartment at the end of the month.
Below is a video of the sermon I gave yesterday, July 17th. Be sure to watch it and leave me some feedback.
I apologize for my inconsistency. Blessings upon you all...

"Hungry? Thirsty?" Jeff Lathrop, July 17, 2011 from Grace Methodist on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


'Do to others as you would like them to do to you. If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.'
-Jesus of Nazareth

“If you aren't good at loving yourself, you will have a difficult time loving anyone, since you'll resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren't even giving to yourself.”

-Barbara De Angelis

As we think about Christ's sacrifice for us leading into Easter, I can't help but think about a profound sense of love in his actions leading up to the cross. You see, Jesus had a choice, but decided to follow through with God's plan knowing the end result.
What gets me is that I don't have that sense of dedication and committment. Sure, I'm committed to doing the best that I can, but if I'm honest, usually it involves preserving my own sense of self-what's in my best interests. I don't mean to sound cold in by any means, but there times when I do things for show-even as a youth pastor. Shocking I know, but there are times when I'm running on empty and have very little 'love' to go around.
While I won't go into details, I know this isn't something that only I struggle with. I think we all do as Christians. We struggle in our daily lives to line up our words and convictions with our actions. It's hard to compare ourselves to Jesus and sometimes it can be mind-numbing...especially when you consider that 'for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God'.
That happens to be my favorite verse. Why? Because it's humbling to me. It means there's a level playing field in the realm of life. It means that no one has plateaued in their understanding of God and in their relationship with God. I think it's important to realize this truth.
I think that you and I should examine the four types of love found in our day to day interactions. I think by doing so we can peel away some of our misconceptions and mis-steps too.

EROS-is considered to be physical passion, gratification, and fulfillment. C.S. Lewis called this type of love as 'indifferent' and 'desires the sexual aspect of a relationship'. 
STORGE-is considered the 'natural bond' between mother and infant, father and children and kin. 
PHILEO- is considered a love of affection. The delight of being in the presense of another, a warm feeling that comes and goes with intensity.
AGAPE-is a love that seeks the welfare and betterment of another regardless of how we feel. C.S. Lewis felt that this was the 'greatest of loves' and sees agape 'as a specific Christian virtue'. 

After reading about the types of love that are found in our relationships, take some time to evaluate your various relationships with friends and family members. As a matter of fact, I want to leave you with this challenge: Go and grab your Bible! Open it up to 1st Corinthians 13 and read it through once-slowly. Now, pick up and pen and a in the places that you see 'love' (verses 4-7) substitute it out and insert your name. After doing this, read that section...does it ring true? Again, take a good long look at where you are and how you feel. During Lent we are supposed to 'give up' certain things we try too hard to control-what can you give up in your life that would enhance your 'love' quotion and fill you up?
*I know the love challenge doesn't 'ring' 100% true for me, but it's a good reminder of the many things I need to work on in the areas of love.
Good luck!!!

Monday, March 21, 2011


“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

-English Proverb

“If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, you can bet the water bill is higher.”


So many of us feel that 'the grass is greener on the otherside' and too often we think of the 'what if' situations we passed up on in our lives. Some of us spend way too much time thinking about our past that it begs the question: How is it that you and I are able to live a full life if you and I constantly keep looking back on what might have been instead of where we are now and why? An interesting conundrum isn't it?

Jesus said: 'The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.' (John 10:10) Yet, in our attempt to life to fullest you and I continue to struggle in our day to day choices-between what's right and wrong, between what we think we can get away with and things we think are so innocent that we haven't the foggiest concerning how it will affect us weeks, months, and even years from now. The interesting thing here is that most, if not all, of our struggles come from our own selfishness. James puts it this way: 'What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.' (James 4:1-2)

So what is it that you've been personally struggling with lately? Does it concern school, work, the internet, a guy, a gal, or something you wish had or haven't done?

We only need to look to the book of Gensis to understand that this is an ancient problem-original sin (Genesis 3). You and I constantly struggle with guilt-sometimes guilt for things that we've done or left undone and even guilt for things we're about to do knowing full well it isn't the right thing to do.

When we examine the case of Adam and Eve we find out that God tells Adam that he can eat from any fruit in the Garden of Eden with exception to the tree 'of the knowledge of good and evil.' And that if he does eat from this tree he would die. (Genesis 2:15-17) Now, shortly after that, God created Eve (Genesis 2:18-23) who would be Adam's life long companion-his wife as we might consider her today. Anyway, in chapter three things get interesting in that the serpent creates doubt in Eve's mind. He plays with the 'verbage' of God's instructions concerng the fruit from the 'tree of knowledge'. He asks Eve: 'Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?' And after her reply of truth he goes on and says: 'You won’t die! God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.' (Genesis 3:1-7)

The rest is as we would say...'history,' but I would be inclined to disagree. Why? Because when God was searching for them as a parent might for their lost child in a mall or grocery store, God continues to ask 'where are you'? He asks that of you and I even today. Like Adam and Eve who were convinced they weren't good enough (naked, ashamed, confused, and worried of judgment), we too are convinced we aren't good enough to be loved or forgiven by friends, family members, and God. We find ourselves feeling as though we're too guilty or too sinful to be loved or forgiven.

*We need to note that once they were 'busted' the blame game began...Adam blamed Eve and then Eve blamed the serpent...this type of thing still exists today. Sometimes we fail to take responsibility for our own actions and place the blame on others and some of us even place too much blame upon themselves.

Now, the grass can seem greener on the otherside, but you and I already know what lies on the 'otherside'. We've seen the brokenness of others who have made some poor choices and many of us have endured our own misadventures there and back too.

I liked the second quote better concerning the grass being greener and that there's a higher price to pay for it. Too often we don't think about the price we might have to pay-loss of sleep, friendship, health, and even love.

For far too long you and I have listened to the seeds of doubt created by fears (in our past and near future) and have made ourselves too timid and unsure of our worthiness as 'the beloved'. Some have let this become too crippling and debilitating that it's cost them more than they ever imaged. It's time to stop listening to the 'great deceiver' who whispers seeds of doubt and hope we nurture it.

You and I can live life to the fullest and have it abundantly, but we must stop reliving the past and thinking about the 'what if' scenarios in our lives. If we continue to live in the past we will surely have a sad future filled with regret.

Remember, the grass may be greener, but there's always a price to pay...pray about it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


'So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.'

'Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.'

Now, depending on which tranlsation you have, the first quote may actually use the word 'anxious' instead of worry. What's interesting is that they aren't the same-yet worry and anxious is used interchangingly. Worry creates anxiety in my mind...but lets take a closer look at the words themselves:
Worry- to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts; a cause of uneasiness or anxiety...
Anxiety-distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune; psychic tension occurring in some forms of mental disorder.

So is David writing about how there is no fear right? I don't believe so...I think he's talking about how while he is in the midst of great dispair he will 'fear no evil' because God is with Him. Yet, in today's world, we live in constant fear-whether it's at work, at home, or at school. Teenagers constantly fear they aren't good enough-not only emotionally, but physically too. Guys and girls worry about what they look like or 'seem' to convey to their peers. And adults fear they'll lose control of their children, not get the promotion or bonus, or can't keep up 'with the Jones'. The point? That it doesn't matter your age...we all suffer the paralyzing thoughts and affects of  fear in our lives-sometimes daily.

When many of us think or hear-even from Jesus, that we should worry or fear...our knee jerk reaction is: 'it's always easier said than done' however, I would submit to you that it isn't. Just like the discipline of prayer, we need to work on how we let our emotions affect our faith. Now, did I just turn a page or two ahead here? Did I lose you? Let me be clear...I'm saying that we let our emotions affect our faith. To clarify I will give you some biblical examples: Peter walking on water, then sinking. Jesus calms the storm. Treasure.

Now, I realize that two of them were great examples, powerful examples in fact, but the last one hits home too-in that, Jesus ends his little talk on treasures and possessions with: 'Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.' I feel that's the perfect transition for what I'd like to talk about-emotions. For Peter, it wasn't until he let his emotions get the best of him that he began to sink, and even after they had witnessed Jesus peform great miracles the disciples woke Jesus up to save them and after these two instances Jesus asked them: where is your faith?

So where is your faith? Is it emotional or fixed upon the promises of God? Even the disciples struggled with their emotions getting in the way of their faith. I'm not saying that emotions are bad, but they do tend to get us off the prize and distracted. So what does one do when their emotions get the better of them? Remember His promises-go and read the scriptures again. You may find that Jesus himself took up the practice of really listening to his Father-our God, even in the midst of death.

We can hear God through prayer and His word, but none of  that matters if we're going through the motions. None of that matters if we aren't truly open and have an attitude of expectations here and now. And I think we know when we're going through the motions; it's when we let fear take hold in our hearts and minds when it comes to the things we face each and every day...

So take control and don't lose sight of His promises. Jesus told us: 'For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.'  Whatever it is that continues to through you off your 'game' as a Christian, focus on how it can change and needs to change. Don't let your emotions guide your into a dark hole or into denial, learn to control them and give your anxiety to God. Again, how do we know our emotions get the best of us-check your focus in tight situations or throughout your daily lives. A good time to 'check' would be when you pray...are you a 'scatter brain' and can't seem to focus? It's time to shut it down and decompress.

So there is my challenge-I dare you to take control of your emotions...David was in a bad spot when he wrote the majority of the Psalms. Again, emotions aren't bad, but they can be when they distract us from His truth and His promises.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


'Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.'
-Jesus of Nazareth

'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.'

Do me a favor and take a few minutes to look over the picture. I realize it's not the picture many have seen, but many of us have seen a similar picture of Jesus standing at the door...

The reason I picked this particular picture was to illustrate something that is usually missed or overlooked-especially when compared to other versions of Jesus standing at the door, what do you see? You see Jesus, holding a lamp, knocking on the door-do you notice something 'missing' on the door? Do you notice something crowding the door?

I will ease your suspense if you haven't already caught it: there is no handle on the outside of the door and there are weeds and other plant life crowding it. When the painter panted this picture he was told he messed up-that he had forgotten the door handle on the outside, but that wasn't the case. He knew all too well that he had done...for as the scripture says: 'If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in...'

So lets think about this for a second...what does that mean? Well for many of us it means that we miss the point too-that we've assumed too much in life and about Christ. I think many of us assume that if we think warm and fuzzy thoughts about Jesus that he will make things all better. While there is truth to that, we forget that it means really letting Jesus in. It means that we need to stop demoting Jesus to the 'side seat driver' and that it is us who need to stop driving.

Many of us struggle when it comes to our prayer life. We neglect certain aspects of this discipline and have often shuffled it off to 'prayer before bed time'. Now, that's not to say that I haven't done it or that I don't do it...but why is it that God is so important to us...yet not? How is it that we want to get married in a church-in front of family, friends, and God? Why is it that when we go through Confirmation, it involves family, friends, and God? Why is it that God is important in our lives, but not important enough to have him apart of all of our lives?

On Sunday's we attend church, but forget to worship, go to Sunday School, but fail to let anything we learn take hold in our everyday lives...we 'show' that God is important to all the 'right people,' but not our God. God spoke of his people to the prophet Isaiah and lamented: 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.'

Have we become so dry that we forget to worship? Does our cup overflow anymore? Is there joy in what we say and do? Or is there more fingerpointing and judgment among us? Jesus is knocking and I fear that we've become too busy to hear his call. Especially in our times of need...we feel as though we're so far away from him that we forget to let it go and let him in...

My challenge is for you to figure out what that 'it' is for you...what is 'it' that is seemingly separating you from the peace and joy that passes all understanding? What sin or burden do you carry from your past or carry for someone, but fear it's too much? You're not alone for Jesus is knocking...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


'If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.'
-1 John 1:8

'It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.'
-Jesus of Nazareth

Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket?
While driving have you ever been passed by a vehicle going way faster than it should?
Did you think to yourself 'where is a cop when you need one!?!'
I know, I have...what's funny is that we all have this wicked sense of justice-an innate sense really. Ironically enough though, I know that while I've said it about others, I know the same could have and may have been said about me.

What about you? Perhaps you can relate or perhaps you're fortunate enough and don't find yourself speeding because you're behind schedule or it's an emergency...perhaps you merely roll through an intersection you know isn't busy-ignoring the stop sign, or maybe you don't let someone in the lane when you know you should-while at a stop light backed up in traffic.

Regardless of whether or not you're patient enough while driving or fortunate enough to be along for the ride, I think we can all agree that at one point or another we've done some things-the very things that we ourselves hate or find annoying about others. *Name something you can't stand and then ask yourself-do I do that?

What I want to focus on is that we all deceive ourselves...maybe not intentionally and maybe not on a daily basis, but we all claim or compare ourselves to someone else-even if we don't advertise it. As mentioned before I think we have an innate sense of justice, but it's more how Ian Percy said it: 'We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions.'

I know it's not the first time I've used that quote, however, I think it's fitting. You and I have a tendency to compare ourselves to others around us and claim to be 'better' or not as bad as. As Christians...we should be better than that. When I think of scripture concerning this, I can't help but think about the parable about the Pharisee and Tax Collector going to the temple...I especially like the version found in The Message translation. Regardless of which translation you choose, the bottomline is the same, who is more righteous at the end of the day? You or them? You because you're being so humble about it as you compare notes or the other person whom you and I often don't know, but assume to know all too well because of their behavior-convienently forgetting our own behavior.

So why do I bring this up? Because you and I have bought into the Pharisee's game on a daily basis. We have played the game more than once and can't seem to give it up. As you and I go about our day, are we mindful of our actions and words? Do they line up or are we deceiving ourselves and the ones we love?

The word we search for here is hypocrite. If you and I continue to say one thing and do another we are lying to ourselves and the truth is not in us. As a Christian we are called to more-something better than playing a game that has been around since the beginning of man. We are called to love one another as we love ourselves-yet we continue to struggle with that. We try to wrap our heads around why everyone can't see things the way we do-as though it is so obvious.

The truth is, we can't know everything and there will always be different views and opinions. Just as cars pass in the other lane-regardless of speed, there will always be different ideas and views as to how things could be done or should be done. At the end of the day though, it isn't about who is more justified. It's about whether or not you and I are humble enough to swallow pride and truly listen-not just to God, but those around us. We shouldn't live as though we know it all...
Which brings me to this question: What is in your heart? I have heard that 'character' is defined by who you are when no one is looking. The problem is, Jesus is always there and we act as if He isn't. Truthfully, what comes from our mouth is what comes from our heart. Sure, that's not to say that certain things don't get us bent out of shape from time to time, but how we react to things that aren't in our control says a lot about us. Our need to control warps our preception of those around us and our expectations of them.

Interestingly enough, I think our need to control and feel justified is what 'defiles' us. Now, I'm not saying that I'm perfect or that I don't have issues-in fact, I'm saying the exact opposite...we ALL have issues we need to work through. Remember it is what comes from within-what we truly harbor on the inside that we usually speak from. Again, that's not to say we don't say things we don't mean, but if that's the case we found something else to work on...

My challenge for you is to really challenge yourself! Think long and hard about the things you do and the things you claim you dislike-but you yourself do too. You should no longer deceive yourself and honestly strive to become more humble-as Christ was. Your words and my words shouldn't be of judgement, but of openness and love. I know you and I have said something we wish we could take back, but what's done is done and can't be's time to forgive, grow, and let the healing begin.
Remember, as Mike Yaconelli once said: 'those who pretend, have pretend relationships'.

Enjoy this bonus video:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


'I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.'-Paul (The Message)

'I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'
-Jesus of Nazareth

What would you say if I told you that many churches are 'too efficient'? Allow me to explain...when you think of your church-whether it's your home church, the one you currently attend, or have been attending off and on and consider it your place of worship, do you remember why it's 'your church'? What drew you in? Was it because you had no choice-you were born into and raised in this church or were you at one time a 'seeker' of a church family?

As you think about that...lets fast forward to today. When you think about today, what do you think 'seekers' see and or hear about your church now? As you look around at worship do you see a lot of young people 18-34 years of age? If not, it's cause for concern. Why? Because that age range is supposed to be trained up to become the next leaders in God's church.

I recently attended a 'RETHINK Church' workshop and I can honestly say that many of the things that was presented wasn't new to me, however, it was new to a great deal of those who attended. You see, it's a message that many of us youth pastors and young pastors have been trying to share wtih God's churches all across this great nation. The reason for so many generational gaps and slow progress is simple really...too many assumptions on the part of current leadership within the church and not enough open and honest dialog.
Communication is key in any family and in any relationship, yet that is usually the one major barrior which prevents change and real growth.

I'll give you a couple good examples-one that isn't mine...but I feel it is a good snapshot of how so many churches view outreach opportunities. Like most churches, we have an annual Turkey Dinner. This Turkey Dinner takes months to plan and many people are involved. It is open to the community and all are welcome.
While the church sees it as an opportunity for people in the community to enter the church, to enjoy some great food and par-take in the isn't true outreach. Why? Because what seekers see and hear is that it isn't free-it's just another fundraiser.
Now, that's not to minimize the Turkey Dinner...because great things do come of it, but it usually entails the same folks inviting the same friends, sitting with the same friends, and not much else. Food is a great way to entice folks to come visit, but it isn't necessarily the best way to retain them for much longer than just an annual meal/event.

The second one is about the Angel Tree. This year we had such an outpouring of support that all the names on the tree were taken and only donation cards remained. Each person was to drop off their present(s) at the church office by a certain deadline (the office was overflowing with gifts). Then the church secretary would orgainize the gifts for children by school. She would later call the 'usual suspects' to help her-usually two or three people and they would load up the gifts in their vehicle and then deliever them to the schools.
If you don't know what the Angel Tree is please click the link.

Again, not to minimize the good that was done for the community-specifically the children who otherwise wouldn't have gotten any presents for Christmas, but this 'well oiled machine' minimzed it's own impact. There was a thank you in the newsletter and in the bulletin, but that was about it.

Which gets me back to the beginning of my post. Do you remember what got you 'hooked' on the church you're at? Was it because of the many great things they offered to you and the rest of the community? The thing I would like to point out is that many of the things the church was known for then might not be the things they're known for now. You may know the deep history and traditions, but there are those who don't. There are many who sit in worship now that can't articulate or even share what the church is about now-what they're doing in the community.

The challenge is to ReThink Church and to share your experiences with others. It isn't enough to invite someone to church anymore-many seek something more than just worship on Sunday, they wish to be deployed and join a cause. What better 'CAUSE' than the one of Jesus Christ?

Enjoy the video below...I enjoyed it and I think it fits for all denominations-it should be how all of God's churches are-invitational, welcoming, and empowering.

Monday, January 17, 2011


'Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.'

-Deuteronomy 31:6

'No punishment anyone might inflict on them could possibly be worse than the punishment they inflict on themselves by conspiring in their own diminishment.'
-Parker Palmer

When I go to checkout at the Christian Bookstore here in Sioux City, I'm usually given a box that's just for youth contains some awesome resources. I'm also asked if I would like to purchase any additional stuff near or on the checkout counter for $5.00. While I usually pass up the offer, I didn't this time...there was something too good to pass up. I saw a cd called 'FREEDOM' by the Artists United for International Justice Mission (

I have been addicted to a few songs off disc addicted that I haven't even listend to disc 2 or watched the bonus dvd (disc 3). The one I'm most drawn too and find myself playing over and over again is called 'AMAZING BECAUSE IT IS' by The Almost. Now, I've always liked the classic hymn: Amazing Grace, but in this song...when you get to the 'amazing grace' part there's this calm. When you watch and listen to it you'll know what I'm talking about...

But I think I'm attached to this song because if you listen to the lyrics you'll find a truth that many of us dare not speak of...fear. We live in a world of uncertainty. Where everyone around us lives and acts as though things are going well and that they're in control-that there's this element of certainty in all that they say and do. The sad thing is, it's an illusion that you and I have bought into one too many times. You and have have spoken as though we were right when it didn't matter because our need to be right was so wrong.

We have become so blinded by this illusion that we can be so certain yet so wrong. All of us struggle with fear on some level. It's usually fear that keeps us in line when it comes to asserting ourselves. It's fear that tames our passions for more and it often prevents us from trying because rejection lies right around the corner. In truth...we all are fearful on some level, we just don't like to talk about. As if someone were to find out our dark secret our world would be turned upside down...we would be less of a person.

Mike Yaconelli, one of my favorite authors, wrote: 'Those who pretend have pretend relationships'.  I think he hit the nail on the head! We are pretending to have it all under control and fear losing what little control we actually have in our lives. In the song I mentioned above, there's talk about how he 'lets fear drive'. While I know it's hard to stop pretending...we need to stop. We are in so deep no one quite knows who we really are and we have way too many 'pretend relationships'.

My challenge is that you might stop pretending. That you might let go of the fear that controls you-that hinders you from making progress. Sure, rejection may be right around the corner, but without mistakes and mis-steps...what would we have learned in life? How much growth would've taken place in our lives if we had played it safe? Jesus told us to pick up our cross...He doesn't call us to comfort.

So stop seeking comfort and reach out...start living and grow beyond the confines of your comfort zone...

*Below is the music video along with the scrolling lyric. Enjoy...


The Almost lyrics - Amazing Because It Is lyrics

Monday, January 10, 2011