Monday, March 30, 2009

Amazed and stunned? Tame and tepid?

We’re starting a new worship service at our church. It starts on April 19th. I’m going to be part of the teaching team. The first series is going to be called “Seriously”. It’s a look at biblical encounters with Jesus.

Remember the story of the paralyzed man lowered from the roof to the feet of Jesus? You find it in Mark 2 but you can’t really understand it until you read Mark 1. That’s my text for week #1. It’s one of my favorite stories. It’s visually rich and hits on some key themes.

The growing reputation of Jesus.
You've got to pay attention to the authority people heard as they listened to Jesus teach.
Everywhere Jesus went he was leaving people amazed and stunned.
Jesus has one of what will prove to be many, many difficult encounters with the religious establishment.
Jesus heals people inside and out. He has little time for evil and wants to free people from sin.
There's something downright inspiring about the folks who carried the paralyzed man to the roof and then lowered him down to Jesus's feet.
Jesus saw the faith of the mat carriers not the faith of the paralyzed man.
People expected Jesus to speak and act.

I’ve been asking myself some questions as I relook at Mark 1 and 2. I’d love to hear how you’d answer them.

Am I ever amazed and stunned by the workings of God?
Is my faith big enough? Do I expect God to speak and act with authority?
Who am I carrying to the feet of Jesus?
Am I so religious that I can no longer see or care about what God is doing outside the box I’ve created for Him?
When I need healing who are my mat carriers?

Do I need to step up my game when it comes to dealing with sin and evil?

The truth.

I am often too busy to be stunned and amazed.
I want God to speak and act …but all too often I don’t expect it.
Carrying someone to the feet of Jesus is something I do help facilitate …but do I feel the passionate desire to do whatever is necessary to help someone discover the living God?
I have to work hard at not boxing God in because when I do I box myself in. I have to fight hard against drifting into religious ‘stuff’ at the expense of life-giving relationship.
I think there are plenty of people who would carry my mat. Will I let them?
Jesus confronted evil and sin all the time. Why am I so silent when it comes to these things?

What about you?

Are you amazed and stunned by the work of God?

How big is your faith?

Are you so religious that you’ve become tame and tepid?

Got God boxed in?

Who are you praying for –that person you desperately want to meet Christ? Will you go to the mat for that person?

Who’s walking with you in good times and in bad?

Do you believe in the presence of evil and the damage that sin does in people's lives?
If you do believe in such things do you speak out when you encounter them?

Would love to hear how you answer these questions. Let me know. You just might help me write my sermon.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Can't do this alone anymore ...

People are lonely.

In this difficult time in our cultural life people are afraid. They need to talk, to connect. They tell me this. But, for many, the connections aren't there.

And so the loneliness feels like a suffocating isolation.

I had breakfast with a friend today. Someone I really like. I trust him. There were some things on his mind. I listened. There were things on my mind. He listened. We talked. No solutions. But I walked away feeling connected. It was friend to friend and man to man. Straight talk, I thought. Feeling talk and content talk.

It wasn't the sharing of mere opinion. That's too shallow. But I wonder how many people settle for the sharing of opinion...where there's no real listening, no feeling level stuff, no content beyond mere blabber? No wonder we're lonely.

I don't have the answer to loneliness. Wish I had a magic potion we could all take. My experience tells me that most people don't know how to do this 'relationship' thing so that it moves beyond shop talk, small talk, sports talk, and gossip. It's a set of skills some have never learned, others don't apply and a skill set many don't seek after. So, people settle and embrace the isolation even when they're with people they call friends.

God's blessed me. My wife is my best friend. She listens and cares. I have more than a few people I can be real with ...when I choose to do so. All too often I choose not to.

Last night 25 people were at our home. It was an Israel trip reunion. Some I've known for awhile. Quite a few are new in my life. I'm thinking today about why God brought them into relationship with me. Is there a next step I need to take with some of them? Or them with me? Or is the trip and the reunion all there is?

So, I'm thinking a lot about relationships. Is it true we are created for community? If we are has God gifted me to be a catalyst for authentic community where people move towards each other in ways they never before imagined? I already know the answer to that question. He has. But do I want to embrace that gifting and notch it up, living into its potential? That's a harder question.

And that gets me thinking about you. Some of you who read what I write are under-utilized for kingdom purposes. You could stir the pot of relationship, real and authentic. If indeed, our world is changing (and I think it is) we will need pot stirrers and catalytic leaders who step out connecting others to the possibilities God lays before us. Some of you are gifted in this area. No doubt about it. Do you want to embrace that gifting?

Thinking about all this scares me a bit. I've shared previously in other posts that sometimes I find comfort in the ruts I've carved out for myself. I find comfort but not satisfaction. The satisfaction will only come when I know I'm fully aligned with God's purposes for my life. Even when that means discomfort.

People are lonely. I've had too many phone calls, lunches, and e-mails recently where the message comes through loud and clear ..."I can't do this alone anymore."

So, I'm just thinking and praying and writing about and wondering ...and if you're reading this and you're feeling something stir in you ...maybe you should be thinking, praying, journaling, and wondering about what God is bringing to life in you. Let me know what you're thinking.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I often deal with people in emotional pain. They know that in order to heal that they’ve got to be honest with themselves, honest about their situation, and honest about the interpersonal issues weaving through their life. They also need to be real with God. It’s all a battle.

During these roller coaster times the pat answer, the Scripture verse remedy, the dutiful reminder to pray, the urgings to confess sin aren’t accepted. There’s something deeper going on. Reality has changed. And all of a sudden you find out that the faith you had isn’t up to the task of the healing and maturing that needs to take place.

So, how do you develop a faith that helps you to heal and mature? It starts with acknowledging your realitity, your pain, and the fogginess of life that accompanies a sense of being lost. With it comes a sense of 'yukkiness'. It's scary. This yukky, foggy place is a stage of faith that some call 'questioning'. It's not a faith stage that we welcome, but when it comes we have to embrace it with some degree of intentionality. We can't run from it.

The truth is that we like a faith that has answers, a faith that makes us feel good. and not a faith that allows us to experience discomfort, forces us to think, and expects us to pray. We want a faith that gets us through the week but doesn't alter our life.

I understand. My choice is always good news and a light load. When I open up my 401K envelope what I want to discover is my investment group found a way to make me 25% more, not 40% less. But sometimes life isn’t about good news and faith is about trusting God in the times when trust doesn’t come easy.

Sometimes our faith journey brings us to a place where we couldn’t find an answer if we ran smack dab into it. And yet God meets us in this place because there’s something he can do with us in the midst of it…and it might not be easy. And for those who want just a ‘feel good’ kind of faith …this is going to be problematic. Some deal with the problem by dropping out, drifting into a health and wealth, name it and claim it, pop-psychology meets spirituality nether land where they will never find what they’re looking for. For the god of this age only wants to rob you of what is real.

When you're in a 'questioning' stage of faith something happens and you move to a place of great humility. God works on our life always but I think he likes it when we're stripped down and not puffed up. It's when we get to that stripped down version of ourselves that God finally has something to work with. It then that we want what He can do. We're willing to let Him speak into our lives. Until we get there we will worry about our circumstances and our past ...making excuses for each. All God wants is our honesty in this present moment. And in that process God matures our faith by helping us give up control, to confront all that is false in our lives and will help us learn to surrender. Then we become clay in the Master Potter's hand. Something new emerges.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

10% More

Do you ever glide through life? I do. Hate to admit it. But I do. Sometimes I don't give my all. I don't like that I do it. I cheat myself and I cheat others. My potential goes unrealized.

I know people who can live at 90% of their potential because their 90% is more productive than most people's 100%. They're gifted. God has blessed them. And they show that appreciation by underutilizing their gifts and talents. Doesn't make sense does it? Are you one of these people?

God's been talking to me about living in and through the other 10% of my potential. I want to but I'm a little afraid. I'm used to living 'smaller' than I should. It's my rut. Breaking out of a rut can be difficult. And if I start living 'larger' that means everything changes ...everything. Every relationship is impacted, every program I'm involved with changes, and every dream becomes more possible. My world is impacted in big ways.

In all honesty, I think it's a spiritual battle. I happen to believe that any one who follows Christ has an enemy. That enemy wants us to glide, to go small, to not believe in the giftedness God has given us. When we live into our potential we become a threat. Any attempt to be God's man or woman will be met with opposition. I think I'm at a stage of life where I'm saying, "Bring it on". I say it because I believe God is telling me to say it.

Every once in awhile I sense God's presence in pretty profound ways. I get messages ...from books, from Scripture, from godly people. Recently, it's been messages about stepping up, being available, rallying people to action, and organizing for effectiveness. The challenge is to become the leader God intends me to be.These are messages to someone who needs to hear 'to whom much is given much is required'. It's sobering, exciting, challenging and humbling. And it makes me feel quite alive.

We live in a day and age that is going to require good people to step up, to go beyond their comfort zone and live into their God-given potential. You might be one of those people. What you've been doing might not be enough for the challenges before us. You might be asked to live into the remaining 10% or 20% or 50% that God has given you. Scratch that. You will be asked, not might be asked. You see, God doesn't want us to squander our giftedness.

So for me, 10% more. What about you?

Monday, March 09, 2009


So, how do you look at yourself? I mean, when you look in the mirror do you like the man or woman you see?

If we really liked what we saw we could save a lot of money on 'fix-it' stuff. Someone once told me that we could wreck the economy of world for sure and almost for good if everyone just stopped buying cosmetics and anything else designed to make us look better.

Most people I know have a healthy enough self-image. But not all. And even those who like that man or woman in the mirror might not if they were stripped of power, prestige, possessions or popularity (the currency of success in western civilization). The current economic crisis is going to wreak havoc on a lot of lives. There's a whole lot of folks who are going to have to redefine a successful life if they're stripped of the means to buy the stuff that makes them feel validated. What? No SUV, no 5 bedroom house for our two bedroom family, no country club, friends abandoning us? It's going to be a field day for therapists for those who can still afford one.

The other night I gave a talk and used Ephesians 2:8-10. It tells us that we are God's masterpiece. His workmanship. We're his. We're not a masterpiece because we've done good work in our lives, excelling at self-promotion and self-development. We're His workmanship, His masterpiece because of what He's done, is doing and will continue to do in our lives.

Lots of people don't believe any of this. It's just religious junk. God stuff. Bah. Humbug. And when I hear that I don't know what to do. I don't know what to say. In all honesty, my first reaction when people reject God's best is that I get a little testy. I wonder ..."What's this person thinkin'?" And I want to rush to God's defense.

God, however, can defend Himself. For sure though God will want to use us to help those who don't believe pick up the pieces when their life shatters. And then I've got to be ready. So do you.

People who looked in the mirror yesterday and smiled are finding out things today that makes them want to cry. Who's going to be there helping them, in the midst of their personal chaos, to know that God loves them, that He wants to create them anew in His image and likeness and fill their lives with purpose and meaning?

It's got to be us. Are we going to be ready? If not us. Who?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Relationship Questions

I have an interesting job. I work with married couples. I work with singles. The singles I work with are primarily in their 30's,40's and 50's. They're working. A few have never been married. Some widowed. Most have been divorced. They come to our church for good reasons I think. They want to meet people, grow, and to hear things from a faith perspective. Many are dedicated Christians. More than a few are 'searching' again. They'd say God has not lived up to expectations based on past experience. Some aren't sure if they believe or not. But all of them are here.

We try to talk about things that has direct bearing to their lives. So, we're doing a series called 'Realationships'. And so we're talking about love, sex, dating. We're talking from a biblical perspective and trying to address the real questions real singles ask.

What follows are the questions and concerns of the singles I deal with. These folks are honest, straightforward, and truly want their questions addressed. Let me know what you think, huh?

Questions about love, sex, dating, and relationships

Where do you go to meet people?

At what point is it appropriate to take a relationship to an intimate level?
How does one date in mid-life? What if children are still living in the home? What if their parents are living with them?

Any advice about dating someone who’s never been married?

How do you overcome the fear to trust again? Fear of intimacy, of judgment, of the unknown?

Why do people rush to judgment so quickly when dating?

What do men/women want on a first date? Who pays?

What does it mean to be a gentleman/lady in today’s world?

What qualities should you be looking for in a person?

Why are expectations so much higher when you go out on a date in mid-life?

How do you explain to your children that you are ready to date?

How and where do you find normal people to date?

AT what point do you get involved physically?

Who pays for a date?

How do you develop a dating relationship so you remain respectful of the other person?

What are the ‘communication’ issues that need to be addressed?

How do you have a relationship and not get involved physically?

Why would you not want to get involved physically?

Is it God’s best for us not to have pre-marital sex?

Is being married God’s best for us?

When should we introduce someone we’re dating to the family?

Once we’re in a marriage why don’t our attractions to those of the opposite sex get turned off?

When is the appropriate time to reveal our past?

How does someone know if they are ready to date?

What is the purpose of dating?

How do you assess the potential of a relationship?

Any tips on how to negotiate a relationship?

How can you find someone who will be ‘loyal’?

How do you find someone to trust and who will trust you?

What role do finances play in a dating relationship especially in light of the current economic climate?

How do you find love …God’s way? Is there a biblical way to do relationships?

How do you find out someone’s faith commitment?

What if the person you’re dating has children?

How do you deal with someone’s ex?

People have baggage. How do you know they’ve dealt with their stuff?

What’s the difference between lust and love?

What is appropriate dating?

How many dates does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop (when do you reveal your expectations)?

What are God’s standards for a relationship?

Do men view love differently than women?

How do you communicate with someone that you’re interested in them?

How do you know when it’s OK to open up your heart?

Sex- yes or no?

How do you screen out problematic people?

What is a kind way to end a relationship?

As a woman, how do I approach a man without him thinking that I’m a flirt?

How honest should you be about yourself?

Is there such a thing as casual dating?

How to give and get respect?

Do you think that any serious relationship needs to start as a friendship?

How important is the ability to accept differences and not want to control everything?

Who pays for what? Is it better to go ‘dutch’ in the beginning?

If I say ‘no’ to sex what is the possibility that the other person will leave the relationship?

I seem to make the same mistakes relationally over and over again? What do I need to do to break that cycle?

How do you avoid bringing your scars and wounds into a relationship?

How long should you maintain a platonic relationship before you begin dating?

How do you cope with your physical desires before marriage?

What is the definition of a date?

Can a woman ask a man out on a date?

Is there really a soulmate out there?

How do you recognized relational red flags? How do you make sure you’re not seeing red flags based solely on past experience?

How do you deal with a misunderstanding?

How do you know that ‘this person’ is the one?

How do you bring up STD’s?

What do you do when there’s too much chemistry and too much attraction?

What do men want in a relationship? What do women want in a relationship?

How do men/women change as they age from 20-60?

How do you remain true to yourself in a relationship and still compromise for the relationship?

Do you think men/women have different dating agendas?

What is a definition of love? For a man? For a woman?

Why marry?

How do you let someone down nicely if you’re not interested?

Why is it so difficult when you are in a relationship to define what it is?

How do you make a relationship successful when a woman longs for relational closeness and men seek a physical closeness?

As a single Christian can you have an intimate relationship outside of marriage?

Where in the Bible does it say that you can’t have sex outside of marriage? If you have sex outside of marriage will you burn in hell?

Is dating the same as when TV was black and white?

How do you recognize a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

How do you balance different expectations?

What’s the best way to resolve conflicts?

What are relational non-negotiables and boundaries?

What if two people have different sexual standards?

How long should singles date before commitment?

How in synch should you be in a ‘religious’ sense?

How do you compensate for differences in income and spending?

Age differences –what’s appropriate?