30 December 2005

With 2006's swift approach I've been thinking about amends.

Have you ever been unwilling to make amends because the cost seemed too real or too precious? I know I have. Most of the time I've found it easier to over-estimate the cost of making amends and underestimate the cost of allowing unforgiveness, bitterness or other unhealthy emotions to live rent-free in my heart, in my mind, in my life.

Proving once again that math is more "rational" than "emotional" and that when rooted in emotion instead of truth, "estimates about the cost/benefit ratio of doing the right thing” are more often "off" than "on".

Making amends is probably the closest most of us will ever be to being a medical doctor ("I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV ... and in my own life!") Using our senses, our intellect, our experiences, and our hearts to "make a diagnosis" isn't "risky," enough to avoid doing it … despite what psychoanalysts say.

We are not helpless children, wandering through life – constantly looking for a hand to hold onto. We are adults. Not invincible, but strong and true, and in many ways wanting the best for ourselves.

Yes we all struggle with sin, but despite this bent to try and live life on our own, our search for wholeness and redemption isn’t always rooted in selfishness. And it’s in our moments of clarity, where our longings to “set things right” trumps our desire to “get our own way” that we can choose to turn our sails into the wind of God, so our ships can chart new courses of purpose and vision.

So let's not be afraid to diagnose our own conditions and then take the medicine we need, that we want. For it is in swallowing our pride and then this soul-prescription of making amends where healing begins.

Walking through difficult chapters of life brings us a certain kind of medicine we cannot find on any other road. In fact, much of the medicine we have the opportunity to digest during tough chapters (ie., hearty doses of compassion, honesty, determination, loyalty and trust) are what will later (usually just when we most need it) bring forth the discernment and courage we need to live into the amends needed.

During thorny circumstances it’s as though God softens our hearts, and stiffens our resolve to be different kinds of people. And without the episodes of pain and struggle, we seldom have the insight needed to stay on the God-path with passion, character and freedom.

I mean, damn, even a blind man can stay on the path if he has the right cane. But we need more than a cane. If we’re to begin trusting our leadings, become people of amends, and proceed through life without fear, we need a new pair of eyes.

God, give me a new pair of eyes. Eyes to see myself, others and You with the clarity I need. Give me a heart to be a repairer of bridges burned, a reblazer of relationship-paths that have been too-long neglected, and a restorer of the belief (in my own life and in others) of the reality that You care about the day-to-day stuff of my life – and that the closer I remain to You, the less of a mess my life will be.

God, help me to live life with fewer regrets by becoming who doesn’t fear making amends. Godspeed.



13 December 2005


If we want an easy faith, there are plenty to choose from. But following Jesus Christ isn’t one of them. Rewarding? Yes. Fulfilling? Without a doubt. But easy? Hardly ever. Which brings us to the second ship I believe God calls us to burn if we’re going to begin living life and faith with a sense of DESTINY instead of FATE. Christ calls us to BURN THE SHIP OF EASY, FEEL-GOOD RELIGION so we can get on with the work and discipline of being His disciples.

Oh, we love it when Jesus invites us to take His yoke upon us because after all, He’s the One who said in Matthew 11:28, that His “yoke is easy and His burden is light.” And for far too many Christians, these words sound exactly like the kind of connection with God we want: Where we go is up to us, not God. What we do is up to us, not God.

But I don’t think for a minute that Jesus was talking about a light, tranquil, non-demanding, airy, easy, feel-good religion in Matthew 11:28 …
What about the context of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11? He’d just been focusing on the sin of unrepentance and on people who couldn’t wait to see Him do outward, physical miracles, but who didn’t want to have a thing with the inward, spiritual miracle of the new birth.

And so it’s to these people … and to any of us who might be in need of this exhortation today … that Jesus Christ is saying … and I’m paraphrasing here …

“Hanging onto sin – now that’s hard work. Why would you choose to cling to sin when you can cling to Me instead? I died and came back to life to free you from the weight of sin. If you choose to walk in the dark, then get ready for a spiritual workout. Following and obeying Me is easy compared to the day-to-day drama of sinning as a way of life. But it’s not easy in the way most people think of easy.

It’s easy in the way that mastering Bach on the organ is easy when compared to mastering the moral bankruptcy it takes to rob a 7-11 or beat your spouse. Sure it takes work to become spiritually mature, and maturing adults instead of falling-down-all-the-time runny-nosed Jesus-toddlers. But take My word for it – it’s a pursuit that will invigorate you instead of depleting you. Come, on what do you say?” In Romans 8:29 Paul says, “God, in his foreknowledge, has chosen us to take on the family likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.”

And if we want to “take on the family likeness of Jesus Christ,” then there are some things we must first begin to “take off.”
So don’t deceive yourself into thinking that this “taking off” is easy. It’s a lot of things, but easy isn’t one of them.

In fact, BURNING THE SHIP OF SELF-RELIANCE is the “working out of our salvation” that Paul talks about in Philippians 2:12 and it’s the work Jesus spoke of in John 6:27 when he said, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but work for the food which endures to eternal life.” (italics mine)
Now I know that we don’t work for salvation.

But you know what? We do work toward maturity. Or as my friend from the coal-mining mountains of Pennsylvania, Kelvin Mays used to say, going after maturity in Christ, “ain’t no ride in no pink duck.”
So Jesus calls us to BURN THE SHIP OF SELF-RELIANCE and begin depending on Him.

And Jesus calls us to BURN THE SHIP OF EASY, FEEL-GOOD RELIGION and begin understanding the weight of our sin and the cost of discipleship.

But Jesus also calls us to BURN THE SHIP OF SPIRITUAL PRETENSE. But more about that later ... Godspeed.



13 December 2005
1:30 a.m.

One night in the summer of my 14th year, I stayed up late at a friend's house and watched a movie that managed to confront and shape some of what I now think about life, death, and the often times strange intermingling of the two. In Cold Blood, a shadowy black and white film made in 1964, starred Robert Blake and Scott Wilson.

It was based on Truman Capote's book of the same title, and in 134 minutes it told, in chilling and documentary-like fashion, the true story of two men who went on a crime-spree in Kansas in the late 1950's or early 1960's —a spree which ended in their taking the lives of an entire family. I've never been able to forget four things about director Richard Brooks' movie.

  1. The slain family's last name: “Clutter”.
  2. The killing scenes in the house.
  3. A scene minutes before his execution in which Blake is staring out a window and the reflection of the rain drops running down the outside of the window looked like the tears that should have been streaming down his own cheeks.
  4. The execution hanging of Robert Blake at the end of the movie.
Tonight I've stayed up late once again. This time in my "home-away-from-home" in the SE Michigan town of Adrian. And the drama that’s been played out before me the past several of hours has been the real-life drama of Stanley Tookie Williams.

Tonight at 12:01 a.m. Williams was strapped to a gurney at California's San Quentin Prison, and at 12:16 a.m. he was put to death for the murders of four people he was convicted of killing in 1979.

Over the past weeks, as William's execution has moved nearer, and as California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made it clear that he wouldn't stand in the way of the State of California's right (by the vote of the people) to follow through with the execution, I've found myself vacillating back and forth on the issues involved.

“People who murder people deserve to be killed,” I say to myself in moments of reflection on what it must feel like to be a relative of one of the victims. People left behind with scarred memories and raped dreams.

“People are made in the image of God, and only God has the right to enforce justice to the point of taking a life in some kind of unholy exchange for the life taken” I answer when asking myself if I could administer the injection, if I could throw the switch, if I could fire the bullet.

By the news accounts, tonight's execution of Stanley Tookie Williams was textbook smooth; hospital clean —nearly “antiseptic” one television reporter put it. How odd it seems to compare the seemingly peaceful way Williams died and the violent ways in which his four victims died.

But tonight as I get ready to close the chapter on this day of my life, I'm questioning if the victim's families now feel any closer to God right now than they did at 12:01 a.m.? I'm wondering if Tookie feels any closer to God than he did at 12:01 a.m.?

I'm wondering if the words “I am innocent,” the three little words Tookie continued to speak until he drifted toward death, spoke only of his resolve that he hadn't committed the crimes he'd been convicted of, or if they also spoke to an inner healing he'd found, and longed to somehow pass onto the families of the victims ... the ones who watched ... the ones who waited ... the ones who for so many years had known such seemingly irreparable ways?

Tonight I feel a lot like I felt when I watched that movie so many years ago: scared, a bit distant from God but longing to be closer, unsettlingly uncertain about issues of good and evil, and tired. But in my heart I also think I believe that the killing of Stanley Tookie Williams was as wrong as the deaths of the four people he'd been convicted of murdering.

As I go off to bed, the names of dead are running through my head, and I picture them as people gently created by God, as people intimately known by God, and as people passionately loved by God. Albert Owens , Yen-I Yang, his wife Tsai-Shai Yang, and their daughter, Yee-Chen Lin.

And as I'm thinking of these people I have an unshakeable picture in my mind that if I was in heaven right now and had the opportunity to see God looking out a window, I wouldn't have to rely on the mere reflections of rain or gimmicky camera angles to see tears running down God’s cheeks. Godspeed.



23 November 2005


Christ calls us to burn the SHIP OF SELF-RELIANCE so we can live a life of dependence on Him, not only as our SAVIOR, but also as our LORD. And if we’re serious about growing up before we grow old, then we’ve got to be willing to burn the SHIP OF SELF-RELIANCE.

Friends, God wants to raise us up to spiritual maturity, but it won’t happen if we refuse to admit that Jesus Christ is the Teacher and we’re the student. It won’t happen if we refuse to admit that Jesus Christ knows everything, and that we have everything to learn – that He is God and we aren’t.

In fact, using this student/student teacher analogy about Himself and His ongoing relationship with us following salvation, Jesus said in Luke 6:40, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”

As we burn the SHIP OF SELF-RELIANCE, we not only tell God, but we also show God that we understand and accept the Truth that He has the complete right to tell us how to live life, how to shape our priorities, how to define success, how to chart our goals, how to treat others, how to adopt His principles and take on His character.

And this really hits at the core of who we are. Because if we’re honest, everyone of us will admit straight up that we’re stubborn, selfish people, who want our own way, who want to map-out our own objectives, who don’t want anyone telling us what to do, where to go, or how to spend our money.

In an exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat, in his book Alice’s Adventure In Wonderland, author Lewis Carroll tells us that where we’re going at any given moment has got to dovetail with our goal of where we want to finish up at the end of all our given moments. Carroll writes …

“Which way do you want me to go?” Alice asked the Cheshire Cat. “Would you tell me, which way I ought to go from here?” “depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the cat. “Oh, I don’t care much where,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” replied the cat.

If we want the result of spiritual maturity, then it matters which way we go and who we’re depending on for our directions.

So God calls us to BURN THE SHIP OF SELF-RELIANCE and let Him be at the front of the bike, our LORD, guide and teacher. Godspeed.



19 November 2005

Philippians 3:8-9, 12-14The New Living Translation

8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ
9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God's law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith …
12 I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be.
13 … I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
14 I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.

Let me summarize Paul’s thoughts for us today …

God is at work in our lives and nothing we can do on our own can compare with what He’s up to. He longs to have our whole hearts and for us to allow His Holy Spirit be alive and active in our lives. And the goals God has for us that are for our own good and for His glory. God is into partnership.

We shouldn’t get discouraged about how far we have to go to meet God’s goals for us – but we should be encouraged by how far we’ve come. Otherwise we won’t end the race … we won’t end up hanging onto God, when He’s done so much to hang onto us.

In his book "Point Man" Steve Farrar tells the story of Hernando Cortez. Hernando Cortez was a man with a plan. He wanted certain results, so he did some very specific things. Wanting to sail the Mexico and take it’s treasures as his own, Hernando approached the Spanish governor and asked him for 11 ships and 700 men.

Well it didn’t take long for the governor to get as excited as Cortez … and with greed in his eyes he said “yes.” But Hernando Cortez hadn’t told the governor his whole plan.
In the spring of 1519, following almost a year at sea, those 11 ships landed in Vera Cruz, Mexico.

And after the ships were unloaded, Cortez let everybody in on the rest of his plan. He burned the ships. All 11 of them. That’s what you call “a commitment move.” He wasn’t going back. He had come to Mexico and he was going to stay in Mexico.

Sure, maybe Hernando was also nuts … as author Brennan Manning is so fond of saying, “maybe his cheese had just slid off his cracker” … but when Hernando burned those ships he made what in rock climbing is called “a commitment move.” When he burned his ships there was no turning back. When he burned his ships, he had no other option but to go forward.

And it wasn’t like Cortez had ever been to Mexico before. In fact, he didn’t know what to expect. He didn’t have much more than a clue about what he’d encounter once he left the beaches and began hiking into the interior of Mexico. He didn’t know a thing about the people he assumed he’d be fighting.

But he did know this: Once the ships were burned, there were no escape routes for him and his men. And no matter how hard things got, he knew that none of his crew would be able to sneak back to the ships and head home to Spain.

And so, in that one act of burning his ships, Hernando Cortez not only eliminated all of his options, but he also created a powerful motivation to succeed.
Friends, if we’re going to begin and continue on the journey of spiritual maturity … this plan that Paul talked about so clearly in Philippians 3 … then we need a plan. If we want to forge on in our quest toward Christ-likeness, then as Oswald Chambers has said so well, “there are certain things we must begin doing and there are certain things we must cease doing."

Or, to put this truth in the language of Steve Farrar, “If we want to arrive at specific spiritual goals, with our integrity in tact, with our lives having made a difference both for the Kingdom and in this world in which we hang our hats … then we’ve got to be willing to burn some ships. We’ve got to be willing to make some commitment moves.”
You see, burning our ships makes our commitment to God tangible.

Commitment is saying that “no matter what’s around the corner, we’re going to stick it out with God.” Commitment is saying to God and others that “we’ll make good on the vows and covenants we’ve taken before God.” Commitment is our personal guarantee that we’ll do what we’ve promised …

A few years ago, when Peter Graves (Mr. Phelps on the old TV show "Mission Impossible") was asked how he and his wife had stayed married for so long within the Hollywood culture of divorce, he gave a simple, two-word reply, “We promised.” He promised. Wow! Talk about a lost art! He made a promise, a commitment and he was willing to do whatever it took to see that he kept that promise.

And so, working from the belief that many of us gathered here this morning have already begun journeying with Christ, I want us to look at being honest with God and with ourselves about how we’re doing in our commitment to stay on the course of moving toward spiritual maturity … and I want to begin this discussion by talking about FATE and about DESTINY and then over the course of my next three postings I want to share about three ships, that depending on whether we’re seeing life and faith as FATE or DESTINY we’ll be able, or not able to burn. FATE OR DESTINY?
Have you ever thought about the differences between FATE and DESTINY? Listen to what the dictionary says about these two words. The differences are subtle, but if we’re going to get on with this journey toward maturity in Jesus Christ, then they’re differences we need to understand.

FATE ...
Something that unavoidably happens to
a person; their fortune or lot.

Something that is planned for a person, but
which must be pursued in order
to be
captured and realized.

Now as you look at these definitions … which word best describes the perspective you have toward your spiritual growth? FATE or DESTINY? Have you resigned yourself to the FATE of “growing up” in the faith? Are you just hoping that day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year, you’ll move toward Christian maturity at a somewhat predictable pace without much real effort on your part? Well if that’s your mindset, then you’re viewing your spiritual journey as FATE … as something that will unavoidably happen to you … your fortune or your lot as a Christian.

But guess what? There’s another road to Christian maturity that you and I can choose to travel. And it’s a road called DESTINY. It’s a harder road to be sure … but you know, higher roads usually are harder. It’s a road of discipleship. It’s a road of one-on-one interaction with God.

It’s a road where we have to wrestle with our faith, and with our doubts. But it’s the road we’ve got to choose if we’re going to grow up before we grow old.
It’s a reality of the world that most kids, after being born grow up. I mean if you take care of their basic needs, they grow taller, get stronger … they grow up. But how many of you know that there’s a huge difference between a kid who just grows up and one who is raised up? Let me share with you some of the key differences between FATE and DESTINY.





Which best describes your attitude toward your spiritual journey? FATE or DESTINY? Are you self-reliant or God-reliant?

In the movie “City Slickers,” three modern-day guys look for the meaning of life by hiring on as hands on an old-fashioned cattle drive. To show us how desperate and fate-driven this trio of Hoappalong-Cassidy-wanna-bes are, the movie begins by showing us their job problems, their family crises and their relationship meltdowns.

One of the main characters, played by Billy Crystal, hates his job at a radio station where he sells advertising. This is especially unfortunate because his fourth-grade son has invited him to share in his school classroom on “Career Day.”

Billy Crystal reluctantly tells him that he’ll do it and the morning finally comes – and he has a well-rehearsed speech – which is basically a string of lies about how exiting his job is.
But when the construction-worker dad speaker just before him gets a near standing-ovation by promoting the thrill of watching job-site accidents, Crystal gets intimidated, and to his son’s horror, gives that classroom full of 9 year olds a talk, not about his career, but about his view of life … which begins, ends and struggles to find it’s meaning in FATE.

“Value this time in your life kids –
‘cause this is the time in your life
when you still have your choices.
It goes by so fast. When you’re a
teenager you think you can do anything
– and you do. Your twenties are a blur.
Your thirties you raise your family,
you make a little money. And you think
to yourself, ‘What happened to my 20’s?’
Forties, you grow a little potbelly, you grow another
chin. The music starts to get too loud. One of your old
girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother.
Fifties, you have a minor surgery. You call it a “procedure,”
but it’s a surgery. Sixties, you’ll have a major surgery.
The music is still loud, but it doesn’t matter ‘cause you
can’t hear it anyway. Seventies, you and the wife retire to
Ft. Lauderdale – start eating dinner at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
You have lunch around 10:00 – breakfast the night before.
You spend most of your time wandering around malls looking
for the ultimate soft yoghurt and muttering, ‘How come the kids
don’t call? How come the kids don’t call?’ The eighties, you’ll
have a major stroke. You end up babbling to some nurse who your
wife can’t stand, but you call ‘mamma’. Any questions?”

Imagine going through life believing that everything just kind of happens to you because you don’t really have any choices? That’s depressing. And yet, Crystal’s words so accurately mirror the mind-set of people who’ve resigned themselves to FATE, not only in the natural realm, but also in the spiritual realm.

Except that in the spiritual realm, the ramifications are far more deadly – because when we resign ourselves to FATE in the spiritual realm, it’s just a hop, a skip and a jump to hypocrisy, blasphemy, and living a life of spiritual phoniness.

But oh, the benefits of living life and faith with a heart toward DESTINY. It makes all the difference in the world. Living life as a journal, active, looking forward, being partnered with God.

In my next posting I'll share about these three ships Jesus calls us to burn if we’re going to stay on the course of moving toward spiritual maturity … remembering that if we’re living our lives and our faith as FATE, it will be nearly impossible to ever see the need to burn these ships … or have the courage to do so … but as we choose to live our lives and our faith with a sense of DESTINY, we’ll be able to let Christ bring us to the place where burning these ships seems like something we can and must do.




12 November 2005

In Genesis 22 God tells us a story about His testing of Abraham’s faith -- and what a test it was! God wanted to see if Abraham was as committed to Him as he said he was. And as Abraham and his son Isaac walked up Mt. Moriah, Isaac asked, “Dad, I see that we have the wood and the fire, but where's the lamb for the sacrifice?” (paraphrased)

Today I hear Isaac's question coming to you and to me as God asks, “I see your zeal, your spiritual gifts and your 24/7 life. But what are you willing to sacrifice for Me? Will you lay your very lives on the altar and give Me all of who you are?”

In the Old Testament God asked His friend Jeremiah to write a letter to a group of exiled Jews living in Babylon. Out of a desire to remind thesediscouraged folks that even in difficult times God’s love for them remained, Jeremiah wrote in Jeremiah 29 ... “For I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In these days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me (NLT).”

Today I hear Jeremiah's hope-filled words coming to you and to me as God asks, “I see all your plans and dreams. I see all your hopes and purposes. I see all your goals and desires. Will you invite Me into these precious parts of who you are? Will you allow Me to mold them around My heart and My will?”

In Joshua 1, as Joshua was about to lead the nation of Israel out of the Negev Desert and into the promised land of Canaan, God spoke some incredible words of challenge and focus meant to strengthen Joshua with his power ...

Be strong and very courageous. Obey all
the laws Moses gave you. Do not turn away
from them, and you will be successful in
everything you do. Study the Book of the Law
continually. Meditate on it day and night so
you may be sure to obey all that is written in it.
I command you – be strong and courageous! Do
not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your
God is with you wherever you go (NLT).

Today I hear God's words to Joshua coming to you and to me saying, “Proceed without fear! I do not call the equipped, I equip the called. Are you willing to let your callings be born out of your relationship with Me? Are you hungry to discover My heart for you as revealed in the Bible? Are you ready to uncover My love for you in godly relationships and in the nurturing strength of a faith community? Press into Me and you will find success in your life.”

In John 1, while reading about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, we Him traveling from His home in Nazareth out into the wilderness, to where His cousin John was challenging everyone who would listen to him to give up their own way, so they could be joined to God in His way.

Signifying Jesus’ willingness to submit to the plans God the Father had for his life, Jesus asked John to baptize Him. And as John saw Jesus coming toward him he yelled out for everyone to hear, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (NIV).

Today, keenly aware of how God has gifted us, called us, and filled us with hopes and dreams, I hear God asking, “My Son Jesus came and demonstrated My love for you. Through his life, death, and resurrection he has made a way for you to come near to me. Will you give Him your plans from this day forward? Will you invite His righteousness to be your standard and your guide?”

Prayer ...

Father God, thank You for loving me with
an everlasting love. With passionate resolve,
I say that I choose to love You.

Jesus, thank You for dying for me. I know
that apart from You I can do no good thing,
and that through You I can do above what I
can ask for or imagine. With a heart set on
holiness, I say that I willing choose to be
yoked to You, to stay close to You, to follow

Holy Spirit, God’s revealer, and my empowerer,
thank You for equipping me to live a life that will
honor You and further the Kingdom of God.
With an obedience that is one half discernment
and half courage I say to you today that I choose
to be obedient to You all the days of my life.




11 November 2005

Pat Robertson's recent comments about Dover, Pennsylvania remind me of a bumper sticker I've seen several times the last few years around Portland, Oregon, "Jesus, save me from Your followers."

Earlier this Fall Pat used the platform of his daily show, the 700 Club to call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. About two years ago Pat suggested that the US State Department should be blown up with a some sort of nuclear device. And I also remember Pat saying a while back that feminism encourages women to "kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."

I don't believe I'm better, smarter or less uncouth than dear old Pat. My own track record for saying stupid things can certainly rank among the best of them. But here's some of what I think about Pat and his recent and his not-so-recent comments ...

Oftentimes people rise to positions of power and influence more because of timing, money, or maneuvering, rather than because they are have integrity, are discerning, or because their character is rooted in truth and they have a heart for serving others.
But when people begin sensing that their levels of power and influence are diminishing, they easily become motivated by fear and ego instead of God and selflessness.

Maybe they're getting older, and the reality of feeling younger people nipping at their heels while reaching up for the next rung of success has them panicking.

Or ...

Maybe they've disappointed or disenfranchised the folks who've always been loyal to them, and their responses (both public and private) to seeing their "flock" shrink becomes impetuous instead of thought out, nutty instead of centered, and unfocused instead of purposeful.

Or ...

Maybe they've bought into the lie that "once a person is powerful and influential", they are entitled to be so until they die. The reality however, is that everyone has "chapters" to their lives ... times when they are up and times when they are down.

So not knowing how to paddle through the white-water of change, these kinds of people all too easily try to pretend that either the rough water isn't real, or that they can walk on water. And the bottom line is that both of these choices make us look "foolish" in the short-term and "over" in the long-term.

Pat Robertson is getting old and he's trying to hang on. Thinking that these kinds of recent "proclamations" will make him look "discerning, hip and in-tune" instead of "uninformed, out of touch and irrelevant" Pat has showed everyone that he's being led through this recent chapter of life more by fear than by God.

I don't want to be like this when I get old. And I'm convinced that the way to avoid it then is to admit my own proclivity to it now. These are my thoughts and I'm sticking with them. Godspeed.



07 November 2005

God's presence was very close to me yesterday. I heard His voice speaking to me several times ... offering peace and encouragement in concrete ways.

Yesterday was also my son Ian's 17th birthday today. I'm so blessed to have him as my son -- he is growing into a fine young man. Through all the ups and downs of being a teenager, I see his heart bent toward God and his choices bent toward righteousness. The past 8 months of uncertainty have been hard for him -- so please say a prayer for him today.

It's my prayer that my experience with God yesterday will set the precedent for tomorrow and for the days that follow. It's not raining today, so I just returned from a 4 mile walk. I need to continue walking more. Seriously.

We serve an amazing God Whose eyes never wander away from us, Whose ears never turn away from us, Whose heart never stops yearning for us to draw close to Him. I've also been thinking about Jesus' words in Matthew 7. They seem so right for where I'm at in life right now. It's like when Jesus spoke them up on the mountain with His disciples all those years ago, I was on His mind. Here they are both from The Message and from the J.B. Phillips New Testament In Modern English ...


7 "Don't bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. 8 This isn't a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we're in. 9 If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? 10 If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate?

11 As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing. You're at least decent to your own children. So don't you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?
12 "Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God's Law and Prophets and this is what you get.

13 "Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. 14 The way to life - to God! - is vigorous and requires total attention.


7-8 "Ask and it will be given to you. Search and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened for you. The one who asks will always receive; the one who is searching will always find, and the door is opened to the man who knocks."

9-11 "If any of you were asked by his son for bread would you be likely to give him a stone, or if he asks for a fish would you give him a snake? If you then, for all your evil, quite naturally give good things to your children, how much more likely is it that your Heavenly Father will give good things to those who ask him?"

12-14 "Treat other people exactly as you would like to be treated by them - this is the essence of all true religion. Go in by the narrow gate. For the wide gate has a broad road which leads to disaster and there are many people going that way. The narrow gate and the hard road lead out into life and only a few are finding it."

Good words. Good words to live by. Good words to fall asleep dreaming about. Good words to wake up to and live in. Thanks for your prayers and support these past many months. Godspeed.



When we find Christ, we most truly find ourselves.

Luke 1-2 tells the story of Jesus’ birth and the events that surrounded it. And in vv. 40, 50 we read, “And the Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him ... And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

Hear Luke’s words from Kenneth Wuest’s Expanded Translation of the New Testament …

“And the little child kept on growing and
kept on increasing
in strength, being constantly
suffused with wisdom. And God’s grace was upon Him ...
And Jesus kept on hewing a pioneer path ahead, making
steady progress in wisdom and maturity and in favor in the
presence of God and with men.”

Luke wanted us to know that just like you and me, Jesus had a life of growth and change, a life filled with choices and decisions, a life of paths and progress, a life filled with opportunities for intimacy with God and with other people.

From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is filled with stories of people’s spiritual journeys. We see people SEEKING God through, conversations, probings and quests. We read about people FINDING God – sometimes discovering and embracing Him.

We discover people TURNING AWAY FROM God – disillusioned and maybe even disgusted because He wouldn’t neatly tuck in all the edges and corners of their lives.

But we also read about people STICKING WITH God –– people whose faith that stand strong even in the midst of challenges, defeats and seemingly overwhelming odds.

I don’t know about you, but I love to read people’s stories ... finding out where they came from, who they turned into, what they overcame, what overcame. It’s fascinating.

But as you probably know, it’s a lot easier to read somebody else's story than it is to read our own. But God not only invites us to read our own stories, He also invites us to join Him in writing their plots. How many times have you read a story in the Bible or heard a teaching from it and said to yourself, “You know who really needs to hear this? So and so! This is just what they need to hear!”

Been there.

But my admonition is for us to wake up and stop living like God’s involved in other people’s lives but He really isn’t connected to ours. We’re ALL ON a journey whether we’re willing to admit it or not. Each day, through the choices we make, we’re becoming more and more like Jesus Christ or we’re turning our back on Him in ways big or small. No wonder Jesus said in Matthew 12:30, “The person who is not on My side is against Me.”

I’m really in kinship with Kenneth Wuest’s translation of the Luke 2 verses because I believe God has given us ALL THE chance, the opportunity and the ability through Him, to “hew a pioneer path ahead of ourselves, making steady progress in wisdom and maturity and in favor in the presence of God and with men.”

A few summers ago two of my brothers and I climbed the highest sand dune in Oregon, at Cape Kiwanda, on the Central Oregon Coast. It was the same sand dune we used to climb when we were kids, but somehow it had grown much taller since then!

Back in “the day” we knew each trail on that dune-top, and we’d use all of them to play “Hide And Seek” for hours. Finally, in the heat of the afternoon, we’d come as close to flying as humanly possible while running down the dune and collapsing in a heap of laughter and joy at the bottom. But that was then and this was now.

Now, when we got to the top and started blazing through the Salal bushes and the scratchy branches of scrubby, wind-blown pines we discovered that in time trails become over-grown, paths once well-blazed become hard to find – and that which used to be exciting, clear and adventurous all-too-easily become claustrophobic and difficult.

And so after about 90-minutes of doing our best to emulate the spirit of Lewis and Clark, we finally broke through the thick brushwood, found ourselves on the front-side of the old-friend-colossal-dune, looking down onto the beach, the surf and beyond.

Jesus “grew up and matured”. He gave up His life so we can find life. And today He invites us on the adventure of our lives, but we’ve got to be looking, believing and applying the Truth of His WORD. Sure the journey is hard. Sure we’ll often find the path overgrown with the scrub-branches of tradition, complacency and the undisciplined life. And sometimes on the trail we get so scraped-up, worn-out and pressed-down, that we all-too-easily forget that we’re not alone, and that Jesus is hiking the trail, not behind us, not ahead of us, but beside us.

But believe, me, no matter what you’ve heard, it’s harder to navigate the dune-top paths of life without Jesus.



06 November 2005

My grandfather was fond of saying, "Life ain’t no ride on no pink duck.” Think about your life for a minute, 'cause I'm willing to bet that if you're honest about it, you'll quickly admit that life — even while living it right in the very center of God’s call — isn’t always easy.

Some recent examples come to mind: Trying to lead a meeting whose agenda was left in the dust of disunity. “Raising” kids instead of simply allowing them to “grow up”. Wanting business decisions to be shaped by integrity not greed. Listening for God’s voice in the midst of so many others.

For most of us, the question resting at the center of this reality isn’t "whether it’s God’s plan for us to live lives of ministry", but rather, wanting to be authentic, and in the midst of the reality that our lives frequently contain chapter titles we’d never write, the heart-question is "how can we purposefully let our form flow out of our substance rather than merely hoping that substance will flow out of our form?"

In dedicating his book "Meditations Of The Heart" to a friend of his, professor, philosopher, theologian, poet and mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Howard Thurman says a most wondrous thing ... “To Eleanor Lloyd Smith, in whom the inner and the outer are one.”

This is what I am talking about.
Basically, it’s the old “Which came first ... the chicken or the egg?” scenario. The chicken, what’s inside the egg, is the substance. And the egg, the shell, what we see on the outside, is the form. Whether we’ve thought of it in these terms or not, we all know the difference between "form and substance." Some folks might also refer to this reality as the difference between "form and function."

And so, wanting to be faithful to whatever ministry we’ve been called to (and maybe especially when things are difficult, or aren’t turning out the way we think they should) it’s often the fear of failure or of other’s shallow critique which leads us to settle for "form" while God keeps yelling ...

“Substance! I want you to be people of substance!
I care more about what’s inside you than what you’re
trying –– in your own strength –– to look like on the outside.
Let Me work in you first and then what I do
through you will be Me coming out, and not you."

In II Timothy 3:3 the Apostle Paul says that many people involved in ministry will have “a form of godliness but deny its power.” Form without substance. Projecting religiosity but denying the inner reality of Christ. We've all lingered or even camped out in this place. Sometimes more often that we'd like to admit.

Form is based on our own intellect ... substance is rooted in God’s power. Form leads to performance ... but the result of substance is godliness. Every day we choose, but like truth over fiction, substance is often stranger than form, although usually less popular.

Form is what we look like. Substance is what we are like. Form we can fake — often very well. Substance is never homemade. And whether we’re willing to admit it or not, the difference between the two is obvious to us, to others, and to God.

Sure it’s tempting to sacrifice substance for form. Wanting acceptance without question and praise without evaluation, we settle for cosmetic alterations instead of obeying Christ’s call to be transformed to the very core.

Form is shaped by our own abilities and talents, but substance is made up of, and shown through our spiritual gifts and our willingness to operate within them as we are called to do so. As we minister, form can take the breath away of those on the receiving end, but substance will feed their souls.

As we pursue lives of substance and throw off the emptiness of form, we are hit with the reality that even the most mundane tasks are often more sacramental in nature and eternal in potential than that by which the standards of form appear to be far more lofty.

The tables are turned as the important becomes the impotent and the last becomes first.
How we are perceived by others is important, but only as we give supremacy to the consideration of how we are perceived by Christ. Holy Spirit speaks with clarity, making known the mind of Christ and calling us to nail form to the cross and pursue lives of substance. Beckoning us from the inside out, God forever seeks our attention.

Speaking through friends and enemies ... through Truth printed, spoken, sung, prayed and pondered, God seeks our heads and hearts through waiting and through doing. Through work and play, through reason and through idiocy, through eternity and through any given moment God summons us to understand the difference between form and substance. Are we listening?

In our busyness we must let the realities of our lives and the commands of discipleship to Christ settle us down to where we’re able to listen and shake us up to where we’re willing to change.

God, help us seek a spirituality of substance brought about not simply by adjusting our vision to the blur we so often find ourselves in. But rather, by looking in and looking out and looking in and looking out, may we come to a place of focus, clarity and resolve. May we be people of courage, our choices reflecting a willingness to examine our motivations and our fruit by a standard which dares to seeform as chaff and substance as wheat. Godspeed.



05 November 2005

In the winter of 1966 I and my gang of other big-eyed, small-brained, thrill-seeking 8 year-olds flew down a snow-covered hill in central Washington holding on for dear life to the blanket-wrapped edges of a flipped over car hood from a 1940-something Chevy.

I don’t know whose idea it was to turn that car hood into a toboggan, but when we arrived at the bottom of the slope we all thanked God we were alive. And then we dragged it back up the hill and did it again. And again. And again.

I always thought the blanket was a nice touch … the illusion of protection can be comforting. It’s not too often that safety and insanity hold hands as tightly as they did that frosty, unsilent night.

Since resigning from George Fox University five months ago, my life has reminded me many times of that cold, square, iron bobsled ride. Tightly packed. Bumpy. Exhilarating. Tears created by joy and fear flowing in unison.

Recently I've been thinking back to that nearly-four-decades-old night, and each time that memory-smile comes on my face I tell myself that I'd sure welcome the chance to head up that hill again … partly because I'd love to relive that night when we laughed in the face of sanity and barreled down a frosty hill while screaming our heads off … but also because I've thought that staying distracted during this current season of waiting might be just what the doctor ordered.

But today, thinking more about it, I’m seeing that what I need more than distraction, is focus. Yes, I need to do some “fun stuff” right now too. But for purposes of recreation and re-creation, not distraction. I think that I need to focus on David’s admonition to “forget not God’s benefits” (Psalm 103:2), remembering how God has concretely and consistently provided for me and my family throughout the many chapters of our life together. I think I need to focus on, and be thankful about the simple truths ...
  • That I'm alive.
  • That God has given me a wonderful family.
  • That God chose to send His Son Jesus Christ to the world so that people like me might have to opportunity to share in eternal life with Him in the future, and experience a fulfilled life with Him and others in the here and now.
If you were here right now with me in my living room, I’d have three little words for you ... HOLD ON TIGHT! — HOLD ON TIGHT! to Jesus. And HOLD ON TIGHT to the blanket-wrapped edges of whatever particular "car hood of life" you find yourself flying down the hill on right now. HOLD ON TIGHT! Godspeed.



04 November 2005

This weekend I re-read a poem by Wendell Berry that I come back round to every so often ... inviting it to “do it's truth” on me in the way only good poetry can.

A Warning To My Readers

From A Part (1980)

Do not think me gentle

because I speak in praise

of gentleness, or elegant

because I honor the grace

that keeps this world. I am

a man crude as any,

gross of speech, intolerant,

stubborn, angry, full

of fits and furies. That I

may have spoken well

at times, is not natural.

A wonder is what it is.

When I read Wendell's words, I see myself. No, I don't think I'm a phony, a poser, or a spiritual chameleon — conveniently changing colors to blend into my circumstances, or nefariously character-shifting to fit whatever the flavor of my current companions.

But I do know that I'm not as consistently Christ-like as I want to be. And I have a feeling that 'fessing up to that reality might be the first step towards greater congruity of where I am and where I want to be.

I've never met Wendell, but I'd like to. He lives on a hillside farm in Henry County, Kentucky, upside the Kentucky River, and he sounds like a man whose human paradoxes are humbly and honestly admitted, not awkwardly and ashamedly hidden.

All of us are in the “process of becoming” and because of this reality, both who and what we are in any one given instant cannot accurately or ultimately define us. But just as an acorn falls from it's parent-branches, nestles into the ground, takes root, pushes up through the soil and reaches its first leaf skyward ... so too, you and I can move from one phase of life to another knowing that as we continue to press into Jesus, we are maturing toward greater Christ-likeness.

And so as we nestle into the ground of whatever "new beginnings" are part of our story, let’s hang into Jesus and take root in the stability of His Word. And as we courageously push up through the soil of suffering and adversity, let’s live into God's dreams for our lives.

That we all can change when partnered with God … it's not natural. A wonder is what it is. Godspeed.



About one year ago a friend and student of mine at George Fox University (www.georgefox.edu) drowned in the cold waters off the Central Oregon Coast. Her name was Karissa Edwards. The past few days I've been thinking about Karissa, and missing her.

Here are some thoughts about time that I shared at Karissa's Memorial Service. I offer them as a testimony to a life intentionally lived for the Kingdom of God, to a life sacrificially and compassionately poured-out in nearly countless ways to the people God sent across her path, to a life that stands out like a candle in the darkness as an example of the transformation power of "joy" (see Galatians 5:22-23).

Here's what I shared ...

There are two primary words translated “time” in the New Testament. One is chronos and the other is kairos. Chronos is the ticking of the clock hands – it’s the passing of time. Chronos describes that yesterday was Tuesday and then some time, some chronos passed, and now it’s Wednesday.

The other word for “time” is kairos, and kairos is something altogether different than chronos. Kairos is the kind of time that doesn’t have anything to do with Palm Pilots or calendars. Kairos is God-time.

Kairos is the kind of time spoken of when a woman’s water breaks and she yells out to her husband, “It’s time!” It’s the kind of time Modecai spoke of when he said to Esther in Esther 4:14, “And who knows, but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this.” Kairos is time orchestrated and held by God and by God alone. No clocks are ever involved in kairos.

While here on earth we’re trapped by chronos – but God desperately wants to teach us about kairos, about listening to and obeying His promptings, even when life continues to swirl around us. Learning to live in kairos doesn’t mean ignoring the realities of this world while straining to see the reality of God. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

When we look at all of life through the lens of kairos time, through the lens of a life bent toward the heartbeat of God – it’s then and only then that we begin to …

live fully-present with God, and
talk with God as a way of life, and
listen to God with the regularity of drawing breath, and
obey God consistently and passionately

In other words, it’s only as we begin to live fully aware of kairos, that chronos will begin to make sense.

Karissa Edwards knows kairos full-time now. She’s all done with class schedules, wristwatches and floor hours. But if you knew Karissa, even a little, then you already knew that she lived pretty fully in kairos here on earth. In fact I’d say that she lived in it as completely as almost anybody I’ve ever known.

And I don’t think she’d like anything better than if you or I followed her lead and learned to be kairos people, people not bound by chronos, people set-free by the beauty of living life more fully aware of kairos, more fully engaged with kairos, more fully alive in kairos ... in God-time. Godspeed.



"… make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands." - First Thessalonians 4:11

"If you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet, they're about to announce the lottery numbers!" - Homer Simpson

Read Genesis 22:1-19 / Jehovah Jireh ... “the God whose provision will be seen”. How is God providing for you and how are you partnering with God in this provision?

It's a pretty fine line really ... the line between depending on God and depending on myself. Time on my knees in prayer and time on my feet being industrious. Keeping the focus on my relationship with a God I can't actually see and keeping my eyes on what's right in front of me so I don't trip and look like a doofus.

I'll be the first to admit how challenging it can be to remain keenly aware of the Kingdom of God, while living in (and sometimes feeling like I'm being held hostage by) the kingdom of this world. And yet, to settle for anything less is to remain unengaged by who God is and what God is doing -- and it's to ignore the potent reality that God is, in moment-by-moment ways, inviting us to parter with Him in what He's up to ... both in our own lives and in the world swirling all around us.

My God, do you see the immensity of this invitation? It's absolutely central, pivotal, axial and critical to us living into the reality of everything else in our lives. When we refuse to become and remain intentionally partnered with God in the day-to-day stuff of life, we will always remain isolated, disconnected and unfocused. And who wants that? I mean we settle for it. But who wants it?

And so may we be blown away by God's offer of joining Him in this Holy-Unlimited-Partnership. May we be drawn into the beauty of God's immediate and tender Presence. And may we know, really know, that we are the "beloved", and that without God as our center and passion, nothing else will make much sense. Godspeed.



03 November 2005

Breathless Tales
Janet Chester-Bly

I would rather wait my turn in party clothes,

prim and proper,
safe and clean.
But a pulsing hand keeps
driving me over
ravines and spidered brambles …

so that one day I will pant up to the

pearled gates,


and full of tales.

There once was a chap from Vancouver
Who vacuumed his home with a Hoover.
He vacuumed his mat.
But when he vacuumed his cat,
His Hoover would no longer maneuver.

02 November 2005

On Sunday morning, 4 February, 1968 exactly two months to the day before he was assassinated while talking on the balcony of his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee – Martin Luther King Jr. stood in the pulpit of his congregation at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, George and delivered a sermon he entitled The Drum Major Instinct.

If your High School didn't have a Marching Band, or if you haven't seen many NCAA Division-1 football game half-times, or if you haven’t ever watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, then you might not be clear about what a Drum Major is.

Simply put, the Drum Major is the person who stays out in front of a Marching Band, leading with their voice and body language -- every step, movement, intonation and gesture inviting the band members behind him or her to stay focused, purposeful and moving in the same direction. This is the image Dr. King was referencing in his sermon.

The whole sermon is only 19 ½ minutes long; short by much of today’s standards. But King's words speak powerfully of the desire of Jesus to bring integration between what we say we believe, and how we actually live out our lives ... about moving past “good intentions” toward being Christ-followers whose words, deeds, and very lives, find both their genesis and rootedness in the Kingdom of God and its priorities.

Certainly, none of us can be measured accurately and completely simply by what we say … but by the congruity of what we say and what we do. None of us is perfect in this arena, but when it comes to our faith, if we’re going to grow up before we grow old, congruity of words and deeds has got to become the desire of our heart, the direction of our affection, and the goal we’re shooting for.
  • How are we actually doing at listening for His voice and obeying Him?
  • We say we want to “die to self and live for Christ,” but how are we actually doing at saying “NO” to the desires of our ego, our flesh, and to the impulses pressed into us day by day by our society?
  • How consistent are we becoming at saying “YES” to Jesus Christ, even when, or maybe most importantly when, He asks us to think and act differently than so much of the rest of the world?
Jesus Christ longs to help us bring our words and our deeds into agreement with one another so that we can live life with undivided hearts and minds. But back to the Drum Major ...

The Drum Major marches out in front of the band with a baton and a high-stepping gate. They’ve got everyone’s attention and nobody watching doubts that they’re leading the band, that they’ve got one purpose, and they’re not giving up. But here’s the thing … while the Drum Major is out in the front of the band, they’re not supposed to be what’s focused on. That honor belongs to the band ...and ultimately, to the one who wrote the music. And so if the Drum Major is really going to accomplish their job, they not only have to lead, but they also have to get out of the way, letting the music shine, and inviting the real focus to be where it belongs.

When Dr. King preached this sermon, he began by reading a story from Mark 10:35-45 – which is the story where two brothers, James and John, came to Jesus and asked Him if He would do them a favor. And Jesus, being the smart guy that He was, replied, “Well, tell Me what you want Me to do, and I’ll let you know.” And then James and John told Jesus that what they wanted more than anything else in the world was this: Once they were all in heaven, they wanted the honor of sitting on His right side and on His left side.

Now, when Jesus heard this didn’t seem ticked off … but He basically told them that they evidently didn’t get it, that they'd somehow missed the point of why He’d come and what He’d come to do, but that while they would be with Him again someday, that He wasn’t really in charge of the seating arrangements.

Now when the other ten disciples heard about this, they were ticked off. And so to try and cool things off Jesus called everybody back into a huddle and said the words found in Mark 10:42-45 ...

You know that the so-called rulers in the heathen world lord it over them, and their great ones have absolute power. But it must not be so among you. No, whoever among you wants to be great must become the servant of you all, and if he wants to be first among you he must be the slave of all! For the Son of Man himself has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life to set many others free.” (The New Testament In Modern English / J.B. Phillips).

After Dr. King read this passage from Mark’s Gospel, he went on to point out some of the positives and the negatives of what he called “The Drum Major Instinct” that everyone of us is born with – this desire deep within us to lead … but not only to lead ... but to also get all the attention.

The negatives to the Drum Major Instict are obvious. When we’re out in front of the band it’s so easy for us to think we’re the big deal and soon we try to get all the glory ourselves. We couldn’t be further from the truth.

But there are also some positives to this Drum Major Instinct – and while they’re less obvious, they’re important for us to connect with. And the positives go something like this ...
  • God needs you and me to go after leadership positions.
  • God wants His people to lead the charge, to be at the head of the pack – both within the Body and out in the world.
  • God isn’t "anti Drum Major", but as Paul told Timothy (his friend and the pastor of the church at Ephesus), “We’re not called to a spirit of timidity, but to a Spirit of power and strength and a strong mind.” (Second Timothy 1:7)
  • When we say “yes” to God and move into positions of leadership, our vision, our determination and our purpose have to be found and rooted in God’s heart, or soon we’ll be crippled by all the dangerous side-effects of ego: arrogance, covetousness, and judgmental comparisons.
Don’t tell me that you don’t know what King was talking about. Don’t tell me you can’t relate to this temptation to cross over the line and get a big head, and begin to think that it’s all about us instead of remaining all about God and serving others. Dr. King was right.

It’s interesting that Dr. King used this image to describe himself and the role God asked him to fill. Dr. King wasn’t flashy like a real “decked out” Drum Major, but as he pastored his church and as he led the nation and the world in redefining peace, change and righteousness
  • He was willing to stand out.
  • He was willing to lead the way down roads that hadn’t been traveled before.
  • He was willing to let people’s eyes focus on him so that then he could then point them to God and to God’s heart and plans.
  • He was willing to take risks – huge risks – for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
  • He was willing to be put up to ridicule.
  • He was willing to let God entrust him with much for the sole purpose of being a steward of God’s gifts – learning along the way both the benefits and the costs of faithfulness.
After listing off all the things we don’t need to possess in order to serve … (a college education, subject-and-verb-agreement, an intrigue with or understanding of Plato or Aristotle, or a familiarity with physics), Dr. King reminded us of two things we do need ...

A heart full of grace
and ...
A soul generated by love

And it was that definition, that Dr. King said, made it possible for everyone to become a servant … to be a single-hearted, a single-minded, Drum Major for God.

Grace is the love of God that takes away our sin. Mercy is the love of God that takes away the pain of our sin. People with “hearts full of grace” come to God often for confession and forgiveness. Because who, if not the contrite person, knows more about God’s grace? In other words, as we begin moving toward greater servanthood, we will develop an intimate awareness of our own tendency to live out the sinful, ego-driven realities of the Drum Major Instinct.

And as this happens there will also be a growing desire and a deepening willingness to be “roused to honest thought” (cf., First Peter 3:1 / The New English Bible) about whether we really want all the glory to go back to God, or whether we’re holding onto it for ourselves. And as this happens, we will become equipped to ... Keep our focus on God and off ourselves, keep our priorities Kingdom shaped instead of self-shaped, and keep our vision rooted in the confidence of Christ instead of in the arrogance of pride.

Are you pursing "a heart full of grace?"

Dr. King went onto say that the person who serves as Jesus served will be a person whose “soul is generated by love.” And here we come back to this integration of what we think and what we do. Our soul is made up of ...
  • Our mind ... what we think -- What are we putting into our minds?
  • Our will ... what we decide -- How do our decisions reflect God’s heart?
  • Our emotion ... what we feel ... Is our faith shepherding our feelings or are our feelings steering us through life?
Now just to let you in on something … I struggle with this just as much as anybody else. Being a pastor-teacher doesn’t mean that I have the Spiritual Gift of Discipleship. There’s no such thing. If there was, I would be praying night and day for that gift instead of writing these words. But there is no such gift. It’s a choice each Christ-follower has to make each day … to serve Jesus or to not serve Jesus.

Listen to me, seriously … the opposite of love isn’t hate, it is self. To live life for ourselves as ego-driven Drum Majors, or to die to ourselves and live as broken, humbled, useable Drum Majors for Christ. How are we inviting God to generate, fuel, focus our minds, our wills, our emotions, with His love?

Bob Dylan was right when he sang that we “Gotta Serve Somebody”. It might be the devil, it might be yourself, it might be the wishes of somebody you feel indebted to … or … it might be the LORD. It’s your call. It’s my call.

Prayer ... God, we want to stop living life for our own reasons … we want to join You in new ways in the things You are doing. Teach us to take risks with You. Teach us to be instructed by You, shaped by You, corrected by You, trained by You. Give us "hearts full of grace" and "souls generated by love." We love You. Thank You for loving us, today and even when we weren’t giving You the time of day, or when we were actively working against You. It’s a miracle that You want to use us at all. Thank You for entrusting us with important work to do … work that may not get done in any other way if we ignore Your callings and purposes for our lives. Amen." Godspeed.



God calls each of us into a "teacher-student" relationship with Him. The Old Testament book of Proverbs says over and over again that the defintion of a fool is "one who rejects instruction" (ie., Proverbs 10:17). In the New Testament, Jesus Christ said, "A student is not above his teacher, but when students are fully trained, they will be like their teacher." (Luke 6:40).

People who enter into the Jesus-Way for what they can get out of it, seldom understand the "teacher-student" reality that genuine discipleship calls them to. But when men and women begin to glimpse and embrace the reality that the With-God-Life is about us submitting to God, turning-over to God,and learning from God (see Luke 10:38-42), then only everything begins to change.

I'm no saint.
I'm as much of a ragamuffin as the next guy, that's for sure. In any given day I fall short about as much as I hit the mark. But wanting to grow more consistent in this key area of discipleship and daily answer God's call to intentionally enter into and stay in this kind of teacher-student relationship with Him, I am trying to come to the place where I'm systematically looking both to Him, and to others, for ways to more effectively live into this life of faith and live out this life of faith.

There are so many creative flocks out there today -- churches, shepherds, pastor-teachers, and staff members (both paid and volunteer) who are responding to this call of embracing this teacher-student relationship in ways that are compassionate, creative and at times, even downright funky. Wanting to learn from these folks, I offer the following list, which I've adapted from the good folks at www.churchstaffing.com.

Tony Morgan from Granger Community Church and Terry Storch from Fellowship Church recently put their heads together to come up with what they think are the top ten innovative churches in America. It is interesting stuff...

Here is the baseline for how the list was generated. "We decided to define church innovation like this ... Church innovation is the introduction of new, fresh, and creative ideas and practices which are intended to be used for reaching people for Christ. The main driver for innovation is often the courage and energy to better the world through the local church."

"An essential element for church innovation is that its application generates results by helping people meet Jesus and become fully-devoted followers of Christ. Another measure of this is considering: Who is leading whom? In other words, what churches are becoming the benchmark for innovative ministry strategies and helping to resource other churches?
It's unscientific. It's just our opinion." But that's what Ben wanted.

So here is Terry and Tony's America's Top 10 Innovative Churches ...
  • Seacoast Church (www.seacoastchurch.org). The church has nine locations throughout South Carolina. Led by Senior Pastor Greg Surratt, Seacoast Church started in 1988 in Mt. Pleasant, SC.
  • Willow Creek Community Church (www.willowcreek.org). The main campus is located in South Barrington, IL with three additional locations in the Chicago metro area. Willow, which started in 1975, is led by Senior Pastor Bill Hybels.
  • New Spring Community Church (www.newspring.cc). Located in Anderson, SC, Senior Pastor Perry Noble leads this innovative church. New Spring Community Church started in 1999.
  • National Community Church (www.theaterchurch.com). The church launched in 1996 and now meets in two locations in Washington, DC. National's senior pastor is Mark Batterson.
  • Buckhead Church (www.buckheadchurch.org). Located in Atlanta, GA, this is a satellite campus of North Point Community Church led by Senior Pastor Andy Stanley. Buckhead started in 2001.
  • Mosaic (www.mosaic.org). Mosaic meets in five different locations throughout the Los Angeles, CA area including their location in downtown L.A. at Club Mayan. Erwin McManus is the lead pastor.
  • Bay Area Fellowship (www.bayareafellowship.com). Located in Corpus Christi, TX, Senior Pastor Bill Cornelius leads this innovative church. Bay Area Fellowship started in 1997.
  • Journey Church (www.journeychurch.cc). The church is led by Senior Pastor Clark Mitchell. Journey Church started in 2001, and it's located in Norman, OK.
  • Daybreak (www.daybreak.tv). Located in Hudsonville, MI, Senior Pastor Wes Dupin leads this innovative church. Daybreak started in 1989.
  • Life Church (www.lifechurch.tv). The church currently has five locations in Oklahoma and soon will be opening two new sites in Phoenix, AZ. Craig Groeschel is the church's senior pastor. Life Church started in 1996 in Oklahoma City, OK.
  • Granger Community Church (www.gccwired.com). The church is located in Granger, IN near South Bend. Granger's senior pastor is Mark Beeson. Mark started the church in 1986.
  • Fellowship Church (www.fellowshipchurch.com). Located throughout the heart of the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex, Ed Young leads this innovative church and its four locations. Fellowship Church started in 1990 in Irving, TX.