Working toward restored relationships

Working toward restored relationships

After my sermon on Sunday I have been wrestling with the message I preached. I love how much Jesus loves us, and I long to know that in the depths of my being. I can get my head, all day, around the idea that God loves me and when I sin, he forgives me, and when I betray him or ruin things, that he not only forgives me, but restores me. He restores our relationship, and restores my calling, allowing me to continue to serve Him and His Kingdom.

But what has given me pause this week is that this selfless love, this love that works towards restoration that we long to receive, MUST be directed towards those people in our life who have betrayed us, wronged us, broken us. This is master’s level love. This is what it means to not simply love others as we want to be loved, but to love others the way Jesus loves us.

So here is the hard work. Who in your life has wronged you? Who has broken relationship with you? Who have you closed the emotional vault on? Who is that person? _______________________________

Everything takes time!

Everything takes time!

My dream is to be fit like Brad Pitt. :) Truthfully, I would just like to be fit enough to feel good in my clothes, and be able to do active things without feeling like I am going to have a heart attack. Both the moderate attempt at health and the advanced attempt at health only happen with intention.

All growth only happens with intention. And even more than intention, is time and effort.

Think about a goal that you have had. Why haven’t you accomplished it? Usually it is because you got bored, didn’t see results fast enough, or you lost the will. Whether it is losing weight, playing an instrument, or mastering a skill, going from dream to accomplishment takes effort and time.

The exact same thing is true in our walk with Jesus and our pursuit of godliness.

To whom is God calling you to serve?

To whom is God calling you to serve?

I wish that God would speak clearly to me and tell me what he would like me to do. At least, that is what I tell myself I wish. The truth is, nobody wants that. In fact, anybody who approached Jesus with a specific ask, his answer was always too challenging, and often left the other person distraught.

If we are honest, Jesus has been incredibly clear in his teaching about the kind of people he longs for us to be, the values he longs for us to have, and the people he longs for us to serve. The problem is that each one of these things is not about power or status. Following Christ into these things will never result in a larger bank statement, in career advancement, or in more status in your peer group. In fact, it will cost all three.

This passage in Philippians is so challenging because Paul doesn’t just teach this, but uses Jesus, our Lord and Savior, as the illustration, the example. Jesus, who was in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. In fact, took on the form of a servant, even to the point of death.

With all that in the background, what would happen if we ask the question again, “To whom is God calling me to serve?” Who are the people in your your world, your work place, your neighborhood that you can leverage your privilege and power to see, empathize with, and care for? That is a great place to start.

Every one of us should have people in our lives who we are to expend our resources and capitol on to serve for the sake of Christ.

God's love isn't what changes our lives

God's love isn't what changes our lives

For as long as I can remember, everyone in ministry has been trying to communicate to this broken world that there is a God and that this God loves them very much.  So much, that He gave His only son to pay for our sins so that we can be in a restored relationship.  And in this restored relationship, we can now be fully embraced by God and live in the spotlight of his love and affection.  We sing our anthem, "Reckless Love," and our congregations swoon and weep as we celebrate over and over how much God loves us.

It is nice that the warriors who have worked so hard at transforming God's image from a one of judgment and wrath to love have won!  In fact, they have gained so much that nobody in the western world would even consider that there is a God who has anger or wrath.  Ok, maybe some old skool boomers, and for sure some old skool boomer Catholics.  But everyone else has a one-dimensional view of God, and that is that God is Love!

Instead of our culture reciprocating God's love and returning His affection, we have become spoiled brats.  

We love that God loves us, and that means that he is never to stop pouring grace and blessing on us.  But when that gravy train ceases either by God's providence or by our dumb choices, we freak out and throw in the towel.

I think being a pastor in our cultural context is simply hospice ministry

I think being a pastor in our cultural context is simply hospice ministry

The church is dying. We have a terminal disease, and as a ministry professional, I think our best course of action is to provide incredible hospice care as this generation of Christians and the churches we have built die a slow death.

How is that for a dramatic opening statement. :)

In case you are missing it, there is a gigantic tectonic shift occurring. In fact, it is more than a simple shift, it is a world-altering shift where half of California drops into the ocean sort of shift. Humanism has won the world view war, technology in general, social media and AI, in particular, are disrupting long-held assumptions, and everyone in church leadership has chosen deconstruction as the place to put their best thoughts and efforts.

The result is that all the young and idealistic Christians have been taught not to trust the institutional church, and to expand their theology in ways that have moved them way outside of orthodoxy. Those still working in or connected to a functioning institutional church are having to change their ministry model to stay relevant in a fully consumeristic and shallow society. And without even knowing it, we have traded orthodox faith rooted in the person and work of Jesus Christ for Moral Therapeutic Deism.

What movies best reflect your life and ministry?

What movies best reflect your life and ministry?

We recently remodeled our offices at church. A complete teardown and rebuild. This means that all of us go brand new desks, furniture, and most importantly clean walls. The biggest question for me as I have been trying to make my new office feel more like me is what to put on the walls. And then a friend inspired me; Why not put up movies I love or that have shaped me in my life and in my ministry.

So that is what I am going to do. I have spent the last few days thinking about what movies I would highlight on my office walls, which ones have defined me, shaped me, and inspire me to run after all that God has called me to do and be, and I have come up with 5. (The problem is I only have space for 3)

Here are the five movie posters that I would post in my office and why. (I would love to know what movie posters would populate your walls.)

Cheap Justice is the new Cheap Grace.

Cheap Justice is the new Cheap Grace.

In my formative years of my Christian faith, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of my favorite voices. I loved his prophetic voice, and even more than his voice, but the power of his voice matched by his incredible integrity. In his famous book, Cost of Discipleship, he talks about cheap grace.

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. . . Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace with Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

The church has wrestled with this idea for almost a century. In our fleshly nature we will always slide back to cheap grace, and we need the prophetic voices to call us to true grace. In the same way, there has been a transition over the past 50 years where the church has increasingly worked towards having a faith that takes the work of justice seriously.

But, in the same way as grace, as time moves on, once strong movements get tweaked and deformed. And I am afraid that the important work of Justice is being co-opted by a shadow version of Justice, Cheap Justice.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO gave an acceptance speech, which on the surface was awesome. I was like, AMEN! And good for you! Here are a couple of statements that got the most applause:

  • "From the earliest days of iTunes to Apple Music today, we have always prohibited music with a message of white supremacy . . . Why? Because it is the right thing to do."

  • "We only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division, and violence: You have no place on our platforms . . . You have no home here."

  • "If we can't be clear on moral questions like these, then we've got big problems. I believe the most sacred thing that each of us is given is our judgment, our morality, our own innate desire to separate right from wrong. Choosing to set that responsibility aside at a moment of trial is a sin."

You can watch the entirety of his speech here.

Sabbatical: Week 12 (The End!)

Sabbatical: Week 12 (The End!)

Well, this is the end. As quickly as it began, my sabbatical is coming to a close. It is pretty crazy that it has been three months and my time of rest, restoration, professional development, and fun are coming to end. From here on out, NO MORE FUN!! HAHA.

Actually, from here on out, I am thinking way more fun, way more joy! And I think that is actually a possibility. If joy is a fruit of the spirit, a fruit of our expectant advent prayers, then maybe there is a chance that this next season of ministry can be marked by joy. As I round the final corner and begin to prepare for my life back in the saddle of ministry, I am leaning into a ministry marked by expectant prayer, connection to the spirit, and expressing itself in joy!

How am I going to pull that off? That is a good question. After three months of sabbatical, I have a couple of reflections that I will want to unpack and live more fully into in a normal work life rhythm.

Sabbatical: Week 11

Sabbatical: Week 11

Ok, I am about to barf up some serious first world church problems. I found this last week to be really challenging. It seems like such a luxury to be on “vacation” for three months. And the truth is, that it is. But sabbatical is not vacation. It is a really strange and unique discipline.

Sabbatical has been a time of refreshment and renewal. I feel like Jesus has met me in some really sweet ways and has done some new things in my soul as I get ready to embark on a new season of ministry. This has been great!

But what hasn’t been great has been being cut off from my church community. Something one of our pastors prayed over me on my last Sunday at church has stuck with me all sabbatical. He prayed that the church would have a sabbatical experience as well as they manage without me. And he is right, our church, and especially the staff I supervise should have the gift of not having a boss for three months. Now, as the end is in sight, I am starting to wrestle through the complexities of returning.

Sabbatical: Week 10

Sabbatical: Week 10

This was the week I have been looking forward to for my entire sabbatical. This was the week of our family road trip.  I decided for this blog to not really reflect on the deeper meaning of this time, but to simply share what we did for my own records.  

 It was our family road trip.  For Thanksgiving week, we rented a car, and drove it through desolate and open country.  It has been a really long time since I have intentionally gone on a road trip.  I guess it makes sense once you have kids that the less time in the car the better!

But now that my kids are old enough and we have the technology to keep them occupied, it seemed right to load up and hit the road.

Our trip began with me picking up a Nissan Quest mini van. We have never been a mini van family, or a new car family.  I never thought much about that until my daughter commented on how luxurious this car was with all the power outlets and leather seats.  Well, you know me, I am all about the luxury.  So we loaded our things and hit the road. 

Our first stop was Reno.  #notluxury.  But we had a cheap hotel and goofed around circus circus, and just enjoyed decompression from hectic weeks at school and poor air quality from the fires.  We watched movies, got late night pizzas, and soaked up having nowhere to be or nothing to be accountable for.  

Instant Family is the best picture of what the gospel looks like in a post Christian context. #fosteradopotion

Instant Family is the best picture of what the gospel looks like in a post Christian context.  #fosteradopotion

I just finished watching one of my favorite movies of this year. Instant Family has got to be one of the most relevant, heartwarming, holiday movie of the season. But more than just the funny dialogue (which earned its PG-13 rating) or the beautiful story that tugs at all the feels, this movie is the best picture of what the gospel story looks like in a culture that is entirely post-Christian.

Christians, since the time of the apostle Paul, have used family identity as ways to communicate the implications of the gospel. In Christ, we are adopted in, and our identity is as sons and daughters. We have a new identity as a daughter or son of the King with all the rights and responsibilities that come along with that. When we say yes to the adoption invitation we are grafted into the family and away we go! A tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme. :)

But in a post-Christian context, the story of adoption may have many similar elements, but the implications and applications are entirely different. You see, in a more “Christian” environment, being adopted into the family of God is pretty easy, and the assimilation process is quite painless. Most people have a good sense of right and wrong, are well acquainted with the pillars of the Judeo-Christian world, and now with this new sense of identity, forgiveness for their sins, and their newfound identity with adoption into the body of Christ is icing on the cake! This story runs parallel with stories of adoption where parents adopt babies and have their entire lives to assimilate them into the family, clarifying that all the rights and responsibilities are theirs because of their adoption.

The adoption invitation in a post-Christian context is not the same picture that many of us are used to when we think of adoption. Instead, adoption in a post-Christian context is much closer to the story of foster adoption. Here are a few reasons why:

Sabbatical: Week 9

Sabbatical: Week 9

I woke up early last week feeling like we are living through the apocalypse; Our national discourse has gone totally off the rails, our entire state seems to be up in flames, and some tragic situations are happening close to some people I love. With all that is going on, I have found myself clinging to Jesus in a deeper way than usual.

It is easy for me to live in my head and distance myself from difficult situations and tragic events. But in this season, rather than disengage, I am choosing to lean in. As I do, I have found that I have fewer answers. I have no idea why some people seem to be magnets for tragedy, why some communities get destroyed entirely, why some people are so much more impacted by situations happening in the news. And having no answers have left me in a really new and unique space.

Sabbatical: Week 8

Sabbatical: Week 8

Just like that, another week is in the bag. This last week was really special. It was 7 full days of doing nothing other than trying to love my family. A few weeks ago I went to New York with Kenzie, and this week was Katie and Noah’s turn.

I started this week on the coast in my pajamas for 4 days straight. Katie and I got some some great time together and she got some much deserved rest. The back half of the week was spent with Noah at Universal Studios in Orlando. It was a full week!

I have to say that these mini vacations with each person in my family is quite a unique experience. Usually I give Clark Griswold from Christmas Vacation a run for his money in outsized expectations that get run into the ground. And vacations that I have high hopes for to present like super dad, end up crashing and burning and instead of super dad, I end up the Incredible Hulk.

But these trips were nothing like that. And if I can remember this, I will be set for life!

How is a Christian supposed to navigate election day?

How is a Christian supposed to navigate election day?

Today is election day, and it seems like the whole world is freaking out. But, before you jump off the emotional cliff, as Christ followers, let’s take a step back.

First, let’s recognize that we have bought into our media’s scaremongering.

What I mean by “our media” is that each side no longer listens to news outlets that dissent from their own political worldview. And because of this, we have made the other side into characters. If you have Democrat leanings and are informed by mainstream news outlets you are convinced that Trump is basically Hitler and that his supporters are racist, bigots, homophobic rubes who want to make America white again. And if you have Republican leanings and informed by rightwing outlets and online media, you are convinced that the Democrats are Antifa without masks, a crazy mob of socialists, intersectional baby killers. What is a Christian to do?

Sabbatical: Week 7

Sabbatical: Week 7

As I cross the halfway mark I am finding myself at peace.

To be honest, to share this gives me such survivor’s guilt. I can not believe that it has taken 7 weeks to decompress, work through my anxieties, let things out of my control go, truly enjoy the moments I find myself in, and sit heavy with my family. What a luxury. Also, what a disaster I ended up being in this last season.

I can not be more thankful for my church to give me this opportunity and long to be faithful in caring for my body and soul so I can be the pastor, even more, the follower of Christ that our church deserves. I am continually humbled by God’s overwhelming grace and mercy extended towards me. And instead of feeling guilty about it, or sheepish about the amount that God has to heap on me, I am trying to live in response to it. Gratitude, and heaps of grace and mercy towards others.

I know this all sounds like christiany gobbledygook. But that is why I am processing this on my blog and not in real life, in front of people. With a heart of gratitude, I wanted to reflect back on this last weekend and a true highlight.

Sabbatical: Week 6

Sabbatical: Week 6

This week, halfway through, had it all. I had the opportunity to fly to Los Angeles and visit Hillsong LA Church, enjoy true rest as I watched an entire series of an unredeemable show, and then flew to New York with MacKenzie for our special, one on one date.


And in this week, with these three markers, I got to experience the full range of sabbatical:

Reflections on Hillsong, LA: This is the 5th different church I have visited while on Sabbatical. And with each new church visit, I am finding more and more joy simply attending another worship service, a worship service that I know nobody and am not in charge. I have been proud of my lack of judgment or cynicism as I have joined other congregations, and in the case of Hillsong, movements in the unique work that God is doing in and through them.

A diminished church is not going to make us more tolerant.

A diminished church is not going to make us more tolerant.

For my entire adult life, I have heard nothing but how awful the church is. We are judgemental, self-righteous, hypocritical, close-minded, a$$holes! We are racist, bigot, homophobes, and we must be put in our place. And, in fact, the larger culture has done such a good job at this, that even fellow Christians love to get in on it as well, calling out the small slights they see in Christian tribes that are different from their own, hoping to get some cultural street cred in the process. And the result?

The Church has been diminished, mission accomplished. But at what cost?

This last week there was an incredible article in The Atlantic called, "Breaking Faith." The tagline says, "The culture war over religious morality has faded; in its place is something much worse." It is a great article and I highly recommend it. The basic premise is that as church attendance has gone down what has taken its place in our culture is a more toxic tribalism that has almost no common values or aspirations.

Sabbatical: Week 5

Sabbatical: Week 5

Have you ever found yourself walking out of your house into your garage and not sure which BMW to drive, or opened up your wine cellar and bummed you have to open a Silver Oak because you have to make room for your next shipment, or that third night at the all-inclusive resort and having to decide between steak or lobster and feeling a bit of anxiety about that situation? I have never had any of those feelings, but I am feeling a little too bored and wondering if I have just too much time off. How jerky does that sound? :)

After 5 weeks I have accomplished all I wanted to accomplish in terms of my professional development. It was like training camp for my job and I loved it! But with my tasks being over, I have found myself spinning out. I mean there is only so many Burt Reynolds films one man can watch.

But, have no fear, just when my survivor's guilt was reaching its peak, I was able to spend some time on the golf course with a dear friend. This man has just retired, had his hip replaced, and brought his old guy wisdom to bear.

The false hope of growing your church by simply copying other churches

The false hope of growing your church by simply copying other churches

When I was a kid our homework was not on google drive, or even on xeroxed pages. We had math handouts printed on mimeograph machines. I don't even know if you know what that is. It is an old skool copier.

The way it works is simple. You have an original copy and then make a copy of that original onto an inked page. Then that ink page is put in a machine that prints a copy onto blank pages. For its time, it was an incredible technology and perfect for math pages. But as you could imagine, with every copy the integrity and quality would diminish. And I am afraid that is what is happening with the church today.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have had the privilege to attend a number of different churches. And one of the things I found happening in me was comparing my church to theirs. I immediately found a half dozen things they were doing better than us and scheming about how to improve the quality of our church ASAP. But after have the same experience over and over again, I realized I am getting caught up into a brutal and unhelpful death spiral.

Sabbatical: Week 4

Sabbatical: Week 4

I can not believe I am one month down. This last week I spent some time with a dear friend and attended his class at the University of Miami on entrepreneurship. Then I attended the Oceans conference. It is a faith-based conference for entrepreneurs. Seth Godin was the headlining speaker and he rocked my world! (Down the road, as I digest all that I have been learning, I will look forward to writing more about that as I process what this means for me and my ministry.)

With 4 weeks behind me I have had three big epiphanies: