Showing posts from 2014

Rob Bell, Suicide, and Reconciliation

Last night Ashley and I watched The Rob Bell Show.  If you don't know, Rob Bell is an author, speaker, and former pastor who has faced some significant criticism from evangelicals for his thoughts, writings, and theological evolution.  Recently he has surfaced with the Queen of quasi-spiritualism herself Oprah Winfrey.  His new show even airs on Oprah's network.

This blog post is not about the beliefs of Rob Bell.  You can find plenty of information regarding Rob with a simple Google search.  I thought the show was typical Rob Bell. He said a lot and very little at the same time while keeping me engaged throughout.

What caught me by surprise last night was one of the people Rob interviewed for his episode on reconciliation. Rob interviewed a young lady named Rachel whose father was a pastor who went through a moral failure, lost his family and church, and eventually took his own life. His name was Doug and he was a friend of mine.  Rachel was just a child when I knew Doug.


Levi's Genes

I am speaking this Sunday from the genealogy of Matthew. I guess I could call it Levi's Genes (see what I did there). I love the story behind the Christmas story that Matthew provides.  The genealogy Matthew offers is more than space filler or a list of names we tend to ignore. It is a narrative comprised of some of the most sordid and shocking tales in Scripture - outrageous, immoral, reprehensible stories of scandal and depravity.

Why does Matthew chose to highlight what most historians attempting to prove the Messiahship of Jesus to a Jewish audience would want to omit?  We get a hint in 1:21 where Matthew records the angel's instruction to Mary to name the child Jesus "for he will save his people from their sins."

God the Son entered the messiness of our world in order to save sinners. Matthew's scandalous inclusions in the genealogy of Jesus are just another reminder of this grace-filled truth. He highlights what we would hide so that we are reminded that th…

A White Man's Perspective

I am white.  I see the world through the eyes of a white male.

Let's take it a step further. I was raised in a prejudice environment.  I grew up hearing the "n-word" used regularly by family, friends, and many in the southern culture in which I was raised.  Sadly it was also an occasional part of my vocabulary and attitude until after high school.  That's my reality.

I can't understand how a black man feels. I do not see the world through the eyes of a person with a skin color different than my own. I do not know what it feels like to be singled out because of my race. I have never been publicly profiled.  I have never felt labeled because of my skin tone. I have never lived as a minority in a nation with a deep-seated history of prejudice attitudes and actions.

I have a couple of close black friends who have described to me how they are consistently made to feel. I can't relate to them. Frequently searched at airports. Followed around in stores. Unnecessari…

The Second Time

I am speaking this Sunday from Jonah 3. Jonah is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. It is clear gospel in story form. 

God calls ~ Jonah runs
God wants to include outsiders ~ Jonah wants to exclude outsiders
God loves ~ Jonah hates
God pursues ~ Jonah flees
God forgives ~ Jonah whines
God provides second opportunities ~ Jonah needs second opportunities

God is the only hero in the story of Jonah. The only example Jonah provides is what NOT to do.  He is the epitome of a self-absorbed, self-righteousness, self-concerned God follower. Even his prayer in chapter two is self-focused and self-serving.  God on the other hand repeatedly imparts unconditional grace to the undeserving in the story - the righteous (Jonah) and the unrighteous (sailors, Assyrians).

One of my favorite statements in the book is found in 3:1 where it maintains the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time.  I love that phrase "the second time."  Those three simple words tell us so much about God…

One Game Short

As I write this blog, the Alabama 5A High School Girls' Volleyball championship game is being played and my daughter Kayleigh is not playing.  Her team is not playing. Even though they finished the season with 52 wins and ranked #1 in the state, they lost in the semifinal game last night.  My daughter cried. My heart ached.  Losing hurts. And watching my daughter lose hurts even more.

Six years ago my daughter Kayleigh decided to play recreational volleyball. We were living in Las Vegas at the time and we had a group of friends who enjoyed getting together on Sunday evenings and playing sand volleyball at one of the local parks.  Kayleigh and one of her friends decided it would be fun to play and so we signed them up at the local rec league and sat through multiple games of girls basically struggling to get the ball over the net any way possible.  Competitive is one of the last adjectives I would use to describe these games.

And then life happened and we ended up in North Alabama…

To: The Pastor Considering an Extramarital Affair. From: Me.

I read an interesting article yesterday entitled To the Pastor Considering an Extramarital Affair.  As someone who as the culprit has lived firsthand through this reality, I was interested in what Dr. Degler had to say.  Her perspective is spot-on for the most part.  Here are a few of the thoughts that stood out to me.

1. The real issue when it comes to sins like adultery is my own brokenness. 

I can blame my former spouse and our unhealthy relationship on my choices (and those issues are not totally irrelevant) but in reality my own brokenness caused me to make the choices I did.  While my wife loves and understands me at a level that I have never experienced, it is only because of what God has done in our lives that I can make that statement.  What caused us to get involved with each other initially was rooted in our own selfish hearts and actions.

2. Your sin will be exposed.

I can't describe the pressure of living with the realization that you are on the verge of getting caug…

Ready, Set ... SIN!

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (Romans 6.1)

Have you ever wondered why Paul had to address this question?  Here's why: Paul taught a message of grace so scandalous that it naturally led followers of Jesus to conclude it makes logical sense to increase our sinful activity so that God's extraordinary grace can be further displayed. More sin = more grace.

Here's an unnerving thought for those of us who prefer our list of rights and wrongs: when you proclaim a message of genuine grace, some people will assume a life of indulgence is the best path to experience grace at the deepest level.

Obviously Paul quickly corrects this misunderstanding by instructing his readers that dying to sin and living for Jesus are natural by-products of experiencing grace - not the opposite.  In other words, when I truly capture the magnitude of God's radical grace it propels me toward right living not away from it.  When I sin, I am taking a step back…

My Thoughts on Mark Driscoll

*If you are not familiar with "church world" and the Mark Driscoll situation, this blog post may be meaningless to you. 

"What I did was indefensible. Thanks be to Jesus it is also forgiven." Mark Driscoll

Social media, the blogosphere, and news related to evangelical Christianity have been abuzz in recent months with the supposed demise of Mark Driscoll - the infamous pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  Accusations of bullying, verbal abuse, inappropriate behavior and language, improper use of church funds, plagiarism, and a number of other charges have been leveled against the mega-church superstar.  Yesterday he announced to the church that he is taking a 6-week leave of absence as pastor. 

I have spent some time with Mark and was even part of a small group of young leaders who were mentored by Driscoll and a few other prominent pastors.  The church I started in Las Vegas was and still is a part of the Acts 29 church planting network that Mark started.  I h…

A Mistaken Mentor & A Wedding Ring

"You will not make it three years! Your so-called marriage is destined for failure."

The words leaped off the page at me. They hurt deeply. They angered me. This remark was just a small part of a long grace-less diatribe I received from one of former mentors.  I had reached out to him to seek his forgiveness after a year of silence.  Like many, he contacted me shortly after my sin was exposed and harshly informed me how wrong I was and how deeply disappointed he was in me.  And then I didn't hear from him again until I reached out to him a year later to seek his forgiveness and convey how God had been working in my life over the previous year.

His response? A harangue on how unrepentant and narcissistic I was and how my second marriage was destined for failure. I guess I wasn't surprised. We tend to talk about grace more than we display it.  He really didn't know what steps of repentance, restoration, and healing I had taken so he didn't really know the state…

Passports and Sovereignty

We just returned from an incredible family vacation to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I love taking my family on great vacations.  We try and make our vacations memorable. In Cabo we snorkeled, went sailing, swam with dolphins, rode ATVs on the beach, ate great food at fun restaurants, and stayed in a nice resort. It was an awesome vacation...that almost did not happen.

We did not have an easy time getting to Mexico...because I am an idiot.  Last year we went out of the country by boat which means my two younger kids did not need a passport to leave the country.  I assumed the same was true when leaving the country by air.  BIG mistake.  When we arrived at the airport at 5:00 am on Saturday morning, we were informed all three kids needed passports.  I was in shock.  I had made a huge mistake.

What is ironic is that I normally research things to death and still cannot believe something so obvious slipped my attention. It looked like our much anticipated vacation might not happen. But to make…

I Attend a TRADITIONAL Church

I attend a traditional church.

Don't get me wrong. On an average Sunday you will not find a choir, organ or pulpit in our gatherings.  Padded chairs replace pews. There are no hymnals and the pastor will not be wearing a suit. More than likely you will hear the latest Elevation or Hillsong tune. The room will be dark and the stage will be lit and people will raise their hands during the songs.  Jeans are the most common choice of clothes and most of the audience will look at the Scriptures for that day on their smartphones or the screens. Few will bring an actual Bible to church.  And yet the church I attend is traditional. Let me explain.

Traditional can be defined in a number of ways but the general idea is that a tradition is something that is handed down from a previous generation. When it comes to doctrine, you want traditions. After all, the gospel itself is a tradition that Christians believe has been embraced and passed down to every generation since Jesus and the apostle…

Happy Broken Father's Day

I love being a dad.  I love my kids unconditionally. I believe in them, support them, provide for them, take care of them, encourage them, and protect them. I am not sure what qualifies a dad to be a "great" father but I do what I can to try and be the dad my kids deserve. And guess what? I fall miserably short.

I am not a perfect father. I am a sinner. I make mistakes. I overreact. I lose my temper. I say things I should not. I am sure my decisions are not always the best ones.  In essence: I am broken.

Several years ago, I made the decision to walk away from a marriage. And as a result, the mother of my children divorced me. I guess it is fair to say I abandoned our marriage. I made choices that impacted my children in a deep and lasting way.  I never abandoned my kids (even though people love to throw around that phrase in situations like mine). As a matter of fact, I am probably more intentional with the time I spend with my children than I ever have been. But I did make…

Getting Caught

Time for a soapbox moment...

I was talking recently to a young man who was caught in an affair, subsequently fired from his church, and is wrestling with his next steps.  He wants to do the right thing and is seeking reconciliation with his wife.  He served on staff at a fairly large church.

I asked him how his lead pastor responded to the situation and his reply came as no surprise.  The pastor was harsh, chastised him, and then proceeded to inform him that the only reason he was coming clean was because he got caught.  Let's be clear: that statement is TRUE.  If he had not been caught, he did not plan to come clean.  He was not overwhelmed with guilt and confess his sin without first getting caught.  For this reason, the pastor felt justified in his less than gracious response.

"If you had not been caught..."

This preface to whatever words follows it drives me crazy.  It is a statement I heard repeatedly when I went through a similar situation over 3 years ago. Here…

Beware of Church Leaders?

I have been somewhat detached from "ministry world" for quite a while now.  I haven't really had the time to keep up with the latest headlines in the tiny slice of the world we know as evangelical Christianity (and if you don't believe it is a tiny slice then you haven't spent much time outside of that world or outside the bible belt). 

Honestly it has been somewhat refreshing for me.  

However with a couple of weeks of downtime before I begin a new position, I have been playing catch up. I'm not sure it is the best use of my time because I have read copious reports of church leaders manipulating numbers and manufacturing baptisms, pastors building seemingly oversize houses with questionable resources, disingenuous practices to land books on the NYT bestseller's list, abuse of power, unwise use of church funds, self-promotion, undue harsh criticism of other leaders, limited accountability, and multiple other underbelly realities of ministry that most chu…

Our Next Step...

Ashley and I are about to take a new step in our journey.  For the past 3+ years, I have worked in real estate seminar world. Looking back, it was exactly what we needed for that season of our lives. However I have officially resigned from my current position and have accepted an offer from a different company outside of seminar world.  We are so excited about what lies ahead.

Here are some of the positives from the past 3 years:

- The Schedule.  My normal schedule involved leaving on Thursday afternoon and returning on Sunday night.  This schedule allowed us to have the kids half of the week.  And when I was home, I was able to focus primarily on the family.

- The Speaking.  The one thing I miss the most about ministry is speaking. I love to speak. I believe I am a gifted speaker.  Seminar world allowed me to continue to exercise my gift (even though my topic was very different).

- The Money.  God provided me a job that allowed me to make solid money. We needed that financial stab…

Our January

Ashley and I decided to take the month of January and recharge our batteries by saying yes and no to certain things. The primary purpose of our month long commitment was to focus our lives spiritually, relationally, and physically. Here are some of the things to which we said no and yes.

Regarding our health:

- We said yes to water and no to any other beverage.

During the month of January, we abstained from all beverages except water.  On a couple of occasions we did drink a cup of coffee as a reward and Ashley drank a little tea along the way but other than that, we only drank water.

- We said yes to healthier food and no to desserts, fried foods, and bread.

Because I travel so much, this commitment was the toughest one for me.  Restaurant eating is not exactly conducive to healthy eating, but I was able to make healthier choices and maintain our commitment. We also chose to avoid starches and carbs as much as possible. I didn't give up meat but I even made better meat choices.