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Showing posts from 2012

Christmas amidst Tragedy

"In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not over come it" (John 1:4-5).

I have been reflecting on this non-traditional Christmas passage the last few days and spent some time talking through John's Christmas account with my wife and kids last night. These verses seem particularly relevant considering the tragic events of recent days.

- 26 innocent adults and children slaughtered in a school by a deranged madman
- 22 children slashed in a knife attack outside a Chinese school
- Shootings in a mall, a casino, and a hospital
- Just last night a 16-year-old athlete in my daughter's school dropped dead on the football field of cardiac arrest

And on and on and on ...

Evil permeates every facet of our world and as a result death pervades our everyday lives.

My heart has hurt this week as I have thought about the harm that evil instigated on harmless children. Sin and its counterpart Death know no limits in …

My Thankful List

On this designated "thankful" day, a few particular blessings come to mind:

- Ashley. Statistics say we will not make it - grace says otherwise. I love you.

- Kayleigh, Ragan, and Zac.  I have never loved you more deeply and felt more pride in who God has created you to be. I love each of you more than life.

- Jesus. "It's all because of Jesus I'm alive" has never had more meaning in my life.

- Provision. God has provided above and beyond what I deserve. 

- Grace. It is the thread that weaves my life.

- Hope. I have tasted life without it and now I live life in it.

- Second Chances. My life is marked by them.

- Redemption. The story of the Bible has become my story.

- Small Moments and Things.  I am learning to cherish what I once took for granted.

- Freedom. Condemnation's grip has been released by love's liberating power.

I cannot even begin to describe how far God has brought us this year. His limitless grace and healing knows no bounds. Wh…

Speaking at The Nines

A few months ago I was asked to submit a 5-minute video for The Nines - an online conference where dozens of ministry-related leaders share insight on a variety of relevant topics. My assigned subject matter relates to dealing with a "fallen" pastor.  Needless to say, I have some experience on this issue from the wrong side of the equation.  I agreed to submit a video on this very personal topic for a couple of primary reasons.

1. Experience is a teacher. 

I do not want anyone to go through what I have been through in the last few years. The pain created by my sinful choices can't be described. It can only be experienced. And I honestly do not want anyone to endure the unnecessary consequences I have faced. I pray my experience can help someone else avoid the potential outcome such choices create.

2. Knowing how to deal with someone who has fallen is difficult. 

One thing I learned through my experience is that many ministry leaders simply do not know how to deal with situ…

Divorced? Remarried? Me too.

I am divorced.

I am remarried.

This is my reality (and the reality of many others).

The circumstances that led to my divorce and remarriage are not pretty. I was unfaithful to my first wife. I sinned against her. I allowed my heart to grow hard and refused to turn from my sin and trust God. And as a result, my first wife rightfully filed for divorce. I did not fight it. I simply allowed the process to happen in order to get my way.

I live with this reality every day.

Unfaithful. Divorced. Remarried.

Over the last 18+ months, I have listened to multiple sermons on divorce and remarriage. When I was a pastor, I preached several messages on this difficult subject. Heck - I even wrote a 300+ page PhD dissertation on the subject. And yet, my reality remains: unfaithful - divorced - remarried.

Of the many homilies on this subject I have listened to or presented, almost all of them deal with the "how to avoid it" side of the issue. Most approach it from a preventative perspecti…

A New Marriage

And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Revelation 21:5

My wife and I are reading Paul David Tripp's What Did You Expect? It is one of the best marriage books I have ever read.  To be honest, I often feel a level of guilt for reading a book on marriage in light of my own sins and shortcomings in my first marriage.  Shame loves to rear its ugly head in certain moments and yell, "Why are you reading a marriage book now? If you had been as focused on your first marriage as you are on your second, then maybe you would not be in this situation!"

Guilt and shame hinder and prevent healing, redemption, and growth. They love to remind us of past sins in hopes that we will stay focused on our failings and regrets instead of the liberating work of Jesus on the cross.  Guilt and shame are brutal wardens.

While reading Tripp's book yesterday, I was moved with this incredible reminder:

"Perhaps the brightest, most wonderful c…

A Few Thoughts on Aurora & Tragedy

Another shooting. More innocent people dead. No real explanation why.

This weekend's tragedy is becoming more and more commonplace. While my heart is saddened for the unnecessary loss and pain, I am no longer surprised when this type of tragedy occurs. It seems these type of vicious episodes occur more and more frequently. And I don't think any of us are naive enough to believe it can't happen to us.

I'm not going to pretend to have all the answers and I am not going to use this tragedy as an opportunity to lecture about how we have kicked God out of society or the need for more or less gun control or the consequences of violence in movies and video games.  There are plenty of opinions to read and listen to on these matters and their connections to these type of disasters.

What I have been thinking the last day or two is how fragile life is, how broken our world is, how vulnerable we are, and how desperately we must trust that God is in control. 

The truth is what hap…

Preaching from a New Perspective

Yesterday I took another step on my journey.

On Friday morning, my friend Dave, who pastors the church Ashley and I attend, called and asked me if I would be willing to preach for him on Sunday. Dave and his wife Dana were headed to Mexico to celebrate their anniversary and the guy who was supposed to preach had to bail out for a last-minute emergency so Dave called me and just asked. No expectations.

I was supposed to be out of town this weekend but my trip was cancelled last minute - not the first time that God has done something huge in my life at a time I was supposed to be somewhere else. Sovereignty 101 - God is in control and His plans supersede mine. 

I have been asked to preach or consider preaching before Sunday. But up until this time, my immediate response has been no. I know my heart has not been ready and to be honest I do not want to jump back into the world of ministry.  But because of what God has been doing in my life in recent months in particular, I knew I needed …

Coming Out of the Closet

"Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, 'Where are you?'"  (Genesis 3:7-9).

Sin - Shame - Hiding.  It is a pattern that began in the Garden of Eden and continues today. Sin often leads to shame which inevitably results in hiding.  It is a cycle that is difficult to break and potentially crippling for a Jesus follower.  My wife and I have lived this cycle.  Our sin has generated a lot of shame in our lives which has caused us to hide in so many ways.

Who will we see? Who will see us? What will they say about me? What if they knew the whole story?  These type of self-imposed questions make you want to withdraw and hide.

How did you t…

Gospel Danger

After a few extremely busy work weeks, I have had a few days off which usually means I peruse the internet and catch up on the latest buzz in the evangelical church world.  A couple of prominent issues captured my attention and reminded me how we evangelicals love to attack each other.

For example, a well-known and influential pastor who has an impeccable history of fidelity to orthodox beliefs and the Bible is under severe attack for what he did NOT say in a single message within an 8-week series of sermons (yes you heard that correctly). Wow.

I was listening to a friend of mine this week on a discussion panel of a popular reformed conference  define the inevitable dangers of the recent resurgence of gospel wakefulness among evangelicals. His answer was telling. He warned that one of the dangers is that those who claim to embrace and believe in the importance of the gospel tend to become legalistic with our own understanding of how the gospel should and should not be preached, lived…

He began it in you. He will continue it without you.

Philippians 1.6 "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (ESV)

Recently I have been processing how this verse applies to my life. Almost a decade ago God planted a vision in my heart that eventually became Grace Point Church. It is a vision that was birthed in my heart alone, and yet it is a vision I was disqualified to lead because of my own sinful choices. I forfeited the right to continue a vision God planted in my heart.

A couple of thoughts to ponder:

- Did God know I would disqualify myself before He planted that vision in my heart?
- Is a God-planted vision discontinued when the leader disqualifies him/herself?
- Is God capable of raising up other people to continue a vision He planted in someone else's heart?

Here's a reality I have been processing lately: God is continuing a good work without me that He began with me. 

Grace Point Church started in one person's heart. Nothing…

Easter and Wounds

This Sunday Christians around the world will celebrate Easter - a day set aside specifically to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, the lynchpin of the Christian faith.  Easter is about life: the God-man died for our sins and is now alive and offers eternal life to those who believe in Him. That truth is Easter Theology 101. However what is lost sometimes in the bigger picture of this truth is what accompanies this cardinal doctrine.

Easter goes beyond the doctrine of the resurrection. The life Jesus offers also has to do with restored Jesus followers living life to the fullest - being made whole and complete in Him.  Most of us are satisfied with and justify incomplete living - a lack of wholeness.  Instead of allowing Jesus to heal our wounds and scars, we tend to adjust to them. Usually it is because we feel like we deserve our scars at some level. And as a result, our spiritual wounds often mark and plague our lives.

We feel like we deserve to live with our wounds. "I am who…

Dealing with the Fallen

I was asked recently what suggestions I would give to people who are trying to reach out to someone in their life who has made or is making a bad decision or who has fallen into some type of sin. How should we approach the person? What is or is not effective and appropriate in those moments? How can we love a person while disagreeing with them?

I can't tell you how to deal with these situations in every circumstance but I can share what I have learned through my experience.  Here are some things I would encourage you to consider when dealing with someone you love who is choosing self over what appears to be God's best:

Guilt is rarely an effective motivator.  Guilt rarely generates true change. And even if you are able to "guilt" a person into making the right decision, rarely will that decision change or sustain their heart.

You do not know the whole story - don't assume you do.  There is always more to the story than what you know. Embrace that reality when you a…

I forgive you, BUT...

It is amazing how one small conjunction can change everything. The word "but" is a small word, BUT it is a word that can support or contradict everything that precedes it. For that reason alone, the word but is small in size but huge in meaning.

Consider these examples:

I forgive you, but...
I love you, but...
I support you, but...
I believe in you, but...
I want to be your friend, but...

"But" changes everything.  What each of these phrases screams is conditional forgiveness, love, support, belief, and friendship.

Does but always imply conditions? Not necessarily but usually - even if the conditions seem warranted. For instance, a parent might say to their rebellious child: "I love you but we will not tolerate drugs in this house."  But does not necessarily negate the original expression of love. Yet this type of "but" statement tends to be the exception to the rule.

Only God can exhibit and enable true unconditional love, grace and forgiven…

God is on Our Side

I have not blogged in recent weeks. To be honest with you, I still have a lot of ups and downs in my journey and sometimes I simply do not feel like writing. Usually it is because I am struggling with something God is teaching me.  I have been processing a lot in recent weeks and asking God to clarify my next steps. I am not sure I have an answer but I was reminded this past week that God is in absolute control and I can trust Him.

The tone and content of most of my blogs reflects my life experience. I teach and write in a way that reflects what God is doing in my heart. Oftentimes that means that what I write or say is raw and authentic. I believe that's how most people want it - raw and real.  Anything else just seems too contrived and ideal.

I want to encourage some of you today who are struggling with God's direction for your life. For the first time in my life, I am really unsure of God's next step for me. There are a lot of people in my life who have personal opinion…

Life is Short. Have an Affair.

A few days ago I started receiving e-mails from AshleyMadison.com. I didn't really pay attention to the first few because I just thought they were ordinary spam e-mails sent from some random furniture or weight loss or whatever kind of company. But then I noticed in one of the emails that it indicated I had an account with them so I looked more closely at the e-mail. At first I thought it must be some type of mistake. But then I realized that AshleyMadison.com is the "Life is short - Have an affair" website that generated so much publicity several months ago for providing a service that allows married people to search for other individuals looking to have an affair.  Suddenly it dawned on me - someone had actually taken the time to set up an account for me! They used my name and birthday as a username - my wife's name as the password - some of my personal information for the profile - and my personal e-mail for the communication. In other words, someone intentionally…

A Herculean God

I have been revisiting the Old Testament story of Samson - what a jacked-up dude! Samson had all the God-given potential in the world yet he threw it all away to pursue his own desires. His life reads like a Jerry Springer episode on steroids: sex, debauchery, prostitution, brutality, murder, rebellion, and just about any other sin you can name. Samson's life was marked by a thrilling, supernatural birth, a turbulent self-indulgent life, and a tragic premature death. Samson seemed to make all the wrong decisions in life.

Check out Samson's Herculean destructive life pattern:

- He was constantly in the wrong place
- He was constantly looking for a fix in the wrong way
- He consistently rejected wise counsel 
- He continued down the wrong path even when repeatedly given the opportunity to turn around
- He was far more hormone-driven than Spirit-driven
- He repeatedly compromised his own values and God-commitment for his own pleasure
- He frequently ignored his weaknesses and re…

Behind the Facebook Status

A lesson God is teaching me...

Godliness is more than a pithy Facebook status.
Godliness is more than a public persona.
Godliness is more than tweeting a Bible verse, a song lyric, or a quote from a popular book or Puritan.
Godliness is more than the image people have of you.
Godliness is more than what you say or even what you do.

You see a pithy Facebook status may get you the ever-popular thumbs up from a select group of your "friends" but it may not communicate the true status of your heart.  Your public persona does not often reveal the secret sins of your private life. Tweeting a Bible verse, song lyric, or quote may win me favor with others but it may not portray my own lack of faith and failure to apply that particular truth.  The image people have of you does not always expose the rest of the story. What you say and do may contradict what you claim or promote.

I have been guilty of talking godliness while living idolatry. I have been guilty of seeking human approval…

Luke's Bookends

I've been thinking recently about what God is like based primarily on the empirical evidence provided. Sometimes it seems difficult to get an accurate depiction of God in the harshness of life. I have said on more than one occasion that I understand why there are so many skeptics - just look around. Sickness. Disease. War. Murder. Rape. Child molestation. Violence. Abuse. Slavery. Genocide. Corruption. And the list could go on and on. The world in which we live can be a cruel place.

Because we live in such a broken world I understand why the skeptic, or even the average person with a somewhat normal sense of human justice, might scratch their head and question what kind of God this God is. And to be honest, I'm not always sure the answers we construct in the name of theology do much to answer the heart of these concerns. We want to think our answers are sufficient and so we argue and defend and uphold and guard our sacred theological moorings in a way that even renders them p…

Speak the Truth. In Love.

"Speaking the truth in love"

This phrase is one that we hear tossed around a lot in Christian and non-Christian circles. I have used this expression multiple times in regard to parenting, rebuking a fallen Christian, calling out some pet sin, and a number of other circumstances when I felt a need to justify my words or tone. In more recent times, it has been a frequent axiom others have repeated to validate their words and/or actions toward me.

Although this particular phrase is seldom used in Scripture, the biblical principles of speaking the truth and being loving toward those with whom we are communicating are recurrent and important.

However applying both of these congruent principles can be a difficult balance to strike. Based on our own personality and how we tend to deal with conflict, we will usually fault to one side or the other.  For those who are more forthright in their communication and take a more direct approach when it comes to conflict resolution, speaking …

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

This post is kind of a part two from my One Year Later post earlier this week. I want to qualify my words again because it is so important to remember. I write primarily as a form of healing. I received tons of positive feedback from my last post. It is my most read blog ever but please know that I do not write to receive praise. I am encouraged when someone is helped through my words but I lived in the world of seeking to please humans too long. I write primarily to express what God is teaching me so that a) Jesus is lifted up, b) people are reminded of our continual need of His grace, c) healing can take place, and d) someone who is following the path I took might second guess their decisions. 

In light of everything that has happened, let me share with you some of the good, the bad, and the ugly (although I am going to mix up the order - sorry Clint Eastwood). I will be candid.

THE BAD 

When I think about the bad, I am reminded of my own sin and my continual need for repentance an…

One Year Later...

*This blog has been written out of the sincerity of my heart. Writing is usually natural for me but this particular blog took me quite some time to process and write. I know that some will judge its content and others will find it healing. To be honest, I wrote it more for my own healing and reflection than for anyone else. God knows my heart and ultimately He is my audience. Hopefully it will give those who care a glimpse into what God has been doing in my heart this past year. So here it is:


 January 9th 2011 was the most difficult day of my life to this point.

On that day, I walked off the stage of Grace Point Church for the last time.  Ironically, my last Sunday as the Founding Pastor of Grace Point was also our 5-year anniversary as a church.  Grace Point is a vision God planted in my heart years earlier that became a reality in 2006 when about 135 people gathered in a middle school cafeteria in North Las Vegas and Grace Point Church was officially born.  

For over six years, G…