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 undone...it'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 fellowship...it 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 pastors...it 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 (http://www.ijm.org/).

I have been addicted to a few songs off disc 1...so 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