Showing posts from May, 2020

When We Wobble

Jenga is a game consisting of 54 wooden blocks stacked three wide and 17 rows high. Each player takes a turn taking a block from a lower tier of the tower and stacking it on top. As the game goes along, the tower becomes unstable. At some point, the tower falls, and the last player to take a turn loses the game. The game is pretty casual through the first several rounds, but it gets exciting when the tower begins to wobble. When things start to wobble, the players tend to slow down and become much more careful in their placement of each piece. Life wobbles. Marriage, family, finances , friendships, even your faith wobbles at times. The author of Hebrews penned his message for some people who were wobbling. At the time of writing, they are only about 30 years after Jesus' resurrection and ascension, but they are struggling to keep the faith due to the pressure of persecution. So the author shared some truths that would help them stabilize the situation. Let us hold fast the confess

Even After a Bad Experience Get Back In Church

You may have had a bad church experience and don't want to go back - to any church . I had a bad experience in a restaurant one time, but I still eat. I got sick from some bad tacos. The next few days were the most vicious way a human can lose ten pounds. My response to that experience has been to avoid that particular fast-food chain. Though I have no plans to eat THERE, I do still plan to eat! You may have had a bad experience in a church . If you haven't, give it time, and you'll get church hurt. And there is no way to adequately describe or diminish the pain of church hurt. When you have loved, worshiped, sacrificed, and experienced Jesus with a group of people, they become closer than family. The introduction of betrayal, division, gossip, and forsakenness into such closeness brings about a wound that is not easily healed. But it happens. In Ephesians 4, Paul spoke into a potentially ugly church situation. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander b

An Honest Lesson From a Dishonest Man

Jesus tells a story about a dishonest man. His application of the story is unexpected. According to Jesus, we need to be more like the dishonest man. "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.' And the manager said to himself, 'What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.' So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' He said, 'A hundred measures of oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.' Then he said to another . . . The master commended t

Secular and Sacred

A library in Massachusetts posted a picture of a Chuck E. Cheese token with the following caption. "This summer we've had a surge of folks attempting to pay fines and printing fees with tokens. Since they are not legal tender, we cannot accept them." It's like trying to pay rent with Monopoly money. Some things have value in a game, but they won't work in the real world. Sometimes faith feels like it works in the spiritual world but not in the real world. I believe, but I have bills. I pray, but I've got to pay. I worship on Sunday, but I have to work on Monday. Our Separation of Secular and Sacred When faith feels like it doesn't work well in the real world, we separate the secular (regular life stuff) from the sacred (God stuff). The Bible sees no separation between the two. In an interesting passage about navigating spiritual decisions in real-world situations, Paul bookends his instruction with two critical observations. For "the earth is the Lord

Don't Just Read the Bible, Do the Bible

Each new cadet at West Point receives a small book entitled  Bugle Notes . Bugle Notes  covers everything from information about miliary tradition to the academy's code of conduct. It contains 11 leadership principles, 66 Legends of the Corps, 100 words of army slang, and 20 quotes from iconic figures from Ronald Reagan to Robert E. Lee. Each new cadet, or Plebe, must memorize  Bugle Notes  perfectly, word for word. If an upperclassman asks a Plebe, "How many lights in Culman Hall?" The Plebe must answer, "340 lights in Culman Hall, sir." If an upperclassman asks a Plebe, "How's the cow?" The Plebe must answer, "Sir, she walks, she talks, she's full of chalk, the lacteal fluid extracted from the female of the bovine species is highly prolific to the nth degree."  What's the purpose of memorizing such an assortment of information, historical facts, and seemingly pointless statements about cows? It's a test of commitment.  A gra

God Never Wastes a Hurt

Our culture seeks to create a painless utopia in which everyone wins, there is never a loss, sickness is alleviated, and evil is eliminated. The problem with culture is that it has a limited amount to tools with which to work. If laws were able to achieve utopia, then we are subjected to an endless list of restrictions and regulations. The problem with law is that humans are rebels by nature. Is utopia achieved through economics? If so, then every person is subjected to the "same." We each get the same amount of provision, we live the same, make the same, and work the same. The problem with "same" is that we are all different. We are equal, but we are not the same. One day we will enter the ideal, but not by the regulation of law nor the limitation of economics. A world free of sickness, loss, and evil only will come about by redemption and renewal. It is through the sacrificial death of Christ, His resurrection, and triumphant return that we will enter a New Heaven

The Guidance of the Gospel for Families in Difficulty

The gospel gives guidance to families in difficulty. The recent coronavirus lockdown called for families to stay home and stay together for an extended period of time. What was that like for you? What were the conversations? Was there a lot of internal support within the family , or did everyone seem annoyed? In Romans 5, Paul speaks to a group of people who are facing increasing persecution. After explaining the power of the gospel to save us from the wrath of God, Paul begins to share the transformative effect of the gospel on our beliefs and behaviors. The gospel not only grants the lost soul salvation, but it gives us a new relationship with God that gets us through difficult times. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2  For a Christ-centered family, the gospel gives us three

Scrambled Eggs or Omelets?

For most of us, the coronavirus meant more time at home. What was your family's response to the crisis? According to a New York Times article entitled  Of "Covidivorces" and "Coronababies": Life During a Lockdown  we may see an uptick in the divorce rate following the pandemic.  A crisis has a way of putting families in the frying pan. So the question is would you describe your family's response more like an omelet (we pulled it all together) or more like scrambled eggs (it all came apart)? Psychologists use a method called Family Stress Theory to help families evaluate their outcomes during crisis. Researchers began using Family Stress Therapy in the 1930's to help them understand why some families pull together while others fall apart during tough times ( Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and Counseling ). Family Stress Theory measures three variables with each family. Stressors  - Demands (both positive and negative) placed on a family that forces a ch

Samson, A Man Headed for a Meltdown

If your manner of life doesn't match your mission, you are headed for a meltdown. Samson was a man headed for a meltdown.  Samson was born with incredible potential. But as Hall of Fame NFL coach, Bill Parcells said, "Potential is just a fancy way of saying that you haven't done anything yet." In receiving the news of the promise of his son, Samson's father asked a perceptive question. Now when your words come true, what is to be the child's manner of life, and what is his mission. Judges 13:12 Samson had the potential to begin to save his people from their enemies (Judges 13:5), but how would he have to live so that he could fulfill that potential? The reply to his father was a shortlist of disciplines and restrictions that would define Samson's life. Samson Despised Restrictions Samson was astonishingly strong and fairly intelligent. The combination of the two made Samson the ultimate "you're not going to tell me what to do" kind of man. 

Our Idolatry of Quality. The Church and Chili's

Our return to church in social distancing is going to be inconvenient. You may have to wear a mask. There may be limited seating and restroom facilities. Most likely, there will be no nursery or children's programs. Due to the inconveniences, many churches are choosing to delay their return. I will admit, as a church leader, it has been challenging to make decisions based on changing information. So I have been watching numerous webinars from pastors around the country sharing their ideas for a safe return to church. A common recommendation for return was to wait until your church could provide a quality experience. We should be concerned for quality. When we do something for the Lord, it ought to be our best. But if it's all about quality, what makes us any different than the restaurant chain Chili's ? Chili's is also trying to assure that people can return to their restaurants and have a quality experience. Like Chili's, your church will offer limited seating duri

What If? Another Story of Wasted Opportunity

The story of Michael Oher was made famous by the movie The Blind Side. Oher was just another kid growing up on the hard streets of Memphis until he was given an opportunity. He made the most of it and became an All-American left tackle at Ole Miss and played eight seasons in the NFL.   The film was based on a book written by  Michael Lewis . Though the book and the film tell a similar story, they do not tell the same story. In the book version of  The Blind Side , Lewis takes time to tell the stories many great athletes on the Memphis streets who didn't make it. It's an all too common story of great athletes swallowed up by poverty, poor education, drug abuse, and gang violence.  I would summarize the first part of the book with two words. "What if?" Samson is the Bible's biggest " What if ?" The Common Mistake of Samson's Story Most people misread Samson's story. They see a man of amazing strength, having made some mistakes, but atoning for his

Get Back to Giving

According to  Pushpay , we are not giving like we once were. We've got to get back to giving. The Apostle Paul rejoiced over a group of people who got back to giving. I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Phil. 4:10 The word "revived" refers to a tree that stops producing fruit, becoming fruitful again. People are like trees in that we can dry up. Paul doesn't cite the reason why they stopped giving. He only says that they had no opportunity. Maybe they couldn't get resources to him. Perhaps they went through a season where they lacked resources to give. But for whatever reason they stopped giving, they started again. Why should we get back to giving ? Renewed Concern. We can get burned out and burned up. We go through the motions of things that were once our passions. We know it's right, good and that we should. But for whatever reason, we just don&

Your Next Decision, A Distraction or The Difference?

We achieve our goals by making a million little choices. Here are two questions that will help you make wise decisions. Is this going to become a distraction? Is this going to make a difference? When  Dominique Wilkins  was done with basketball, so was I. I haven't watched 30 minutes of NBA basketball since the mid '90's, but I fondly remember the era of Bird, Magic, The Human Highlight Film, The Bad Boys, and Michael Jordan. So the release of the documentary  The Last Dance  caught my attention.  Michael Jordan  was the kind of player that seemed to be able to score 50 anytime he wanted to. The problem was that the team with the NBA's best player couldn't win a championship. So Jordan was faced with a decision. Did he want to win scoring titles year after year or NBA championships? If he wanted to win championships, Jordan would have to welcome an offensive strategy that called for him to distribute the ball more rather than take all the shots.  Jordan was the NBA&

What If There Was No Word?

What would happen if the sun suddenly disappeared?  Physicists say that due to our distance from the sun that we wouldn't even notice it for about 8 minutes and 20 seconds. The world would then go dark. The only light we would receive would be that of distant stars. Photosynthesis would end, and almost every plant on the planet would begin to die. 99% of all organisms are dependent on the sun. There would be widespread death.  At the end of the first week, the average temperature on the surface of The Earth would be 32 degrees Fahrenheit. At the end of the first year, the temperature would drop to -100. The oceans would freeze over, and the land would be a frozen rock.  The sun is important to our planet. Psalm 19 begins with a celebration of the sun. Day by day, the sun proclaims that God is faithful (v. 2). As the sun declares that God is powerful as there is not a person on the planet that can deny it's presence (v. 3-4). Like a bridegroom joyously leaving his chamber to mee

If Life Isn't Going to Get Better, Get Bold

There are times when life isn't going to get better. At those times, get bold. Peter and John experienced a miracle in the healing of the lame man (Acts 3). Some people praised God, but the authorities were annoyed. Peter and John were arrested, threatened, and released. When God does great things, it does not always lead to good times. The church knew that Peter and John's release might have been the end of that situation, but it was the beginning of a long season of persecution. So they gathered the church together to pray. They pray something that might sound strange to us. They didn't pray for God to prevent persecution, but for The Almighty to embolden them despite it. To do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesu

6 Words That Will Change Your Financial Future

If God had a Twitter account, it would be the Book of Proverbs. The Proverbs are short, memorable wisdom sayings.  They are simple, which means you're probably not going to hear anything you haven't heard before, but if you do them, you'll get results you've never had before. They are practical. You can start immediately.  They are verifiable. The Proverbs are observations of life that people have proven in both success and failure over and over again. There are plenty of examples you can choose from. And depending on your decisions, you'll be the next one. Best of all, the Proverbs are Biblical. As inspired Scripture, these are principles that please God and will bless you. There are a lot of Proverbs about money. An author at  Patheos counted  over 100 of them. Going through the book, I find six words that summarize all that the Proverbs say about money . These six words will change your financial future. Work In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only