September 27, 2018

Girl, Wash Your Face (And Read My Review)

My mom used to tell us, “Don’t go outside with your head wet. You’ll get pneumonia.” Did your mom tell you that? Over the last 25+ years I have learned that this isn’t true. My mom wasn’t lying to me, but she wasn’t stating the truth either. We all understand now that where this logic or idea came from was the actuality that if your pores are open & your immune system is vulnerable & you allow your body to get chilled, this can make you much more susceptible to getting sick. It’s not wet, sweaty head + cold air = pneumonia. Sorry, Mom.

For any & every mom who ever sold this inaccurate information to their kid’s, if they were confronted about it - the fact that it wasn’t really rooted in solid medical information or evidence or truth - they could not fall back on the excuse, “Well, I’m not a doctor.” That’s precisely the point. If you’re not a doctor and you’re going to make such a substantial claim, it most certainly ought to be rooted in solid, verifiable, trustworthy evidence and information. NOT being a doctor doesn’t give you a license or free pass to share inaccurate medical information. It just means you’re wrong. 

In recent years, this has also become the case with biblical principles & theological truth. Things get said about God, scriptures get tossed around in a blog post, or plain flat false claims or bad theology are written in a book and the fall back excuse becomes, “Well, he wasn’t writing a theology book.” Or as I recently saw someone comment that a writer wasn’t “putting her book out there as theology.” Here’s the thing: When you make theological claims - when you, with great influence, say or write things that are going to have heavy sway over the way people (immature or otherwise) are going to understand the scriptures or what they’re going to believe about God - regardless of your intent, you’ve gotten “theological”. 

A couple of weeks ago I made a mistake. I posted a book review about a book that I had not read: Girl, Wash Your Face (Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be) by Rachel Hollis. A couple of my friends called me out (to an extent) over the fact that I was passing on secondhand critique. They were right. I had not read the book. Moreover, the tone of my post probably came across as condescending & condemning. And sadly, some mildly vitriolic banter ensued as a result. While I was incredibly aggravated with myself for posting something in that manner, I decided I would do something about it. I ordered the book, opened my mind, and read it. I’m fairly certain this is the first time in my life I’ve ordered a book for girls - specifically written for women - and read it cover to cover. But as a shepherd of God for both men and women - and knowing that this book is gaining momentous influence in female Christian circles - I felt compelled that I needed to do my due diligence. Having now read the book for myself, I would like to share my thoughts with you on Girl, Wash Your Face.

First off, let me just say that I’m pretty sure that I would really like Rachel Hollis. Some of my friends know her and speak very highly of her; specifically of the involvement she has in doing tangible work to help people in need and to share the love of Christ. This post is in no way an attack on her character. I don’t know Rachel. I have nothing bad to say about her. These are my views, opinions, and insights on her book, not her person.

One thing I like about this book - or the approach that the book takes - is exposing lies that girls/women tend to believe and attempting to shed light on a better, more accurate view, while also laying out how to either avoid buying that lie or even how to counter it with truth. This is a very compelling way to grab attention, make connection, and get your point across. That said, one of the major issues I have with the book is that in several instances, those “lies” are countered with other lies. Or maybe I should say, half-truths. Let me explain and be specific.

In the very first chapter, the lie Rachel addresses is Something Else Will Make Me Happy. (Man, do I sell myself that lie all the time!) The aim of this chapter - and honestly, much of the book - is finding contentment. I’m all about that. But just a few pages in and this is what we’re told:

“The precious life you’ve been given is like a ship navigating its way across the ocean, and you’re meant to be the captain of the vessel…. This is your life. You are meant to be the hero of your own story.”

To be clear, these words are also surrounded with exhortations like “this doesn’t mean you become selfish” or don’t “discard your faith or quit believing in something greater than yourself.” Those words were lost on me. As a Christ-follower - reading a book from someone I know is a Christian - these words fly straight into the face of what Jesus said. In Matthew 16:24, Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” I have a very difficult time reconciling ”taking up my cross” and “losing my life” to be found in Christ with the idea that this is my life, or that I - Brian Mayfield - am the hero of my own story. I spent the first 17 years of my life attemption to be my own hero and captain my own vessel. I sucked at it. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:20 that “…you are not your own. You were bought with a price.” Maybe the root issue causing a lack of contentment for many girls and women - and boys and men, for that matter - is actually believing that I am the hero of my own story. That I’ve (technically) given my life to Christ, but (technically) it still belongs to me. 


If I’m the hero of my story, the hero is always going to fall short and let me down. But when Christ is the center and the climax and the purpose and the pursuer and the hero of my story, then that’s a story worth living and telling. [See what Paul (the Jew of all Jews) says in Philippians 3.]

The next major issue that I believe needs to be confronted is tolerance & relativism. Mainly, it’s major flaws. In her chapter, I’m Better Than You, Rachel is sharing about her realization that she very often judged people with little (or no) information, and her conclusion that none of us are in a place to judge. In spelling this out and in sharing instruction on recognizing this, she says:

“…just because you believe it doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone. In so many instances judgment comes from a place of feeling as though you’ve somehow got it all figured out when they do not. Judging each other actually makes us feel safer in our own choices. Faith is one of the most abused instances of this. We decide that our religion is right; therefore, every other religion must be wrong.”

There are major theological flaws in these statements and claims. This is important because when we allow major flaws in our understanding of God, His Word, His Church, or our relationship to Him &/or to one another, this can have serious consequences. 

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Jesus is the truth. He’s the truth for me. He’s the truth for you. He’s the truth for everyone. Whether we want him to be or accept him to be, he is the truth. I do happen to believe this. No - me believing it doesn’t make it true for everyone else; however, it is true for everyone else. Being in a right relationship with God depends on whether we believe this or not. This doesn’t mean that we walk around spouting out “judgment” on others, but it does mean we prayerfully labor to lead them to understand this truth. Jesus is the TRUTH. In Chapter 5, Rachel uses the words “my truth”. I don’t know if Oprah coined that phrase, championed it, or is just the most known person out there using it all the time, but if you’re a Christ-follower - someone who believes in Jesus & has chosen to follow him - I would highly suggest eradicating that phrase (my truth) from your vocabulary. Here’s why: It implies that truth is whatever you want it to be. I know that’s not what is meant many times when it’s said - probably not what Rachel was meaning here either - but that’s what’s being implied, advanced, and believed by most. Truth is whatever I want it to be. 

Sorry. That’s a lie.

Rachel goes on to specifically address people judging other people “within the same church…for not being the right kind of Christian. I don’t know the central tenet of your faith, but the central tenet of mine is “love thy neighbor”. 

This sounds culturally plausible (mainly because it’s part truth). Yes, Jesus did say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But he said it after saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” If we don’t love God - and know, follow, obey, and worship Him the way He has laid out in His Word - then we won’t truly be loving others the way He intends either. I am supposed to love my neighbor, but I’m also supposed to confront my brother's sin. He’s called to confront mine. Jesus said that through His Spirit and His Word He was placing the “keys of the Kingdom” in our hands. We are to hold one another accountable, bear each other’s burdens, speak the truth in love to one another, and build each other up toward maturity in Christ. That’s painful sometimes. It can get awkward and uncomfortable. But when you think about it you realize that growth requires those things: awkward, uncomfortable pain.

Many people today who claim to be Christ-followers are bending and twisting what they say they believe (and what they actually believe) the scriptures say to be true (which Paul said would happen in 2 Timothy 3-4) because they bring offense to someone else. People’s motive & sentiment is something to the effect: "I want to be loving. I don’t want to be judgmental." The fact is, if Jesus is who He says He is - He is the truth and His Word is truth - but you or I bend it or twist it because we don’t want to offend someone, what we’ve actually done is offensive to God. And it’s not loving our neighbor either. It’s basically saying: I just want everyone to be comfortable. 

No such thing.

Let's be clear: The gospel is offensive to those who reject it. Paul says in 1 Corintians 1, "The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." The gospel is offensive, but we don't have to be. Let's not confuse the two.

Let me stop here, take a breath, and say this: Rachel Hollis’s book, Girl, Wash Your Face, has some really inspiring, motivating, and painfully hilarious encouragement throughout it’s pages. She has some not only really great, but seriously important things to say to girls and women. But the question that won’t stop nagging at me and eating my lunch is this: Why can we not share these things - why can we not express this encouragement, disclose these stories, deliver this exhortation, and say these things - and also care about theology? 

Why does it many times have to be an either/or deal, rather than a both/and? 
Why do we have to be theologically reckless in order to be culturally relevant or "shockingly honest and hilariously down to earth”? 

The answer is: We don’t.

NOT being a theologian doesn’t give you a license or free pass to recklessly or incorrectly misrepresent, teach, or believe God’s Word. It just means you’re wrong. 

But as Christians - as sons and daughters of the Most High God - as followers of Jesus Christ - we are all theologians! We are ambassadors for Christ. We are all representing Him with our speech, our actions, our influence, our relationships, and our lives. 

Girls, I would totally recommend actually washing your face. But I would also encourage & exhort you to study the scriptures, die to yourselves, surrender to Jesus, stand on His truth, walk in His Word, live by the Spirit, and know that because of the cross, you already have the hero you need. You are not good enough...but He is. Thank you, Jesus!

I believe Rachel is my sister in Christ. I hope her next book is as theologically sharp as it is honest and encouraging and hilarious. That’s a book I would recommend. 

June 25, 2018


My friend, Ken Huffman, and I have been having a raging debate for quite some time now. In fact, it’s bigger than that. We’ve been recruiting and evangelizing others into our debate, further escalating the intensity and determination that we both have to prove that we are right. This debate, of course, is the 30+ year old question: Which is the greatest Def Leppard album of all time: 
Pyromania (OR) Hysteria?

Now, while it’s pretty clear that the correct answer is Pyromania, that’s not really the point of this post. I could bring up another just-as-long debated album war. What’s the greatest 80’s movie soundtrack: Footloose (OR) Top Gun? Enjoy that one with a group of friends over dinner. 
I have. On multiple occasions.

The point is not the debate, but the way of thinking behind the debate. While Ken and I are honestly debating just as much to simply harass one another as to prove our musical preference is right, we are nevertheless caught up in doing just that: proving that we’re right. Forcing the issue that one has to be greater or better than the other. The mindset in this is what we would call EITHER/OR. It’s the idea that one of those two albums has to be better than the other; that they could not possibly both be great. Or that yes, they can both be great, but one has to be even greater!! And so it goes….

Allow me to encourage you to consider that there’s possibly another alternative.

Let’s go back to my friend, Ken.

Several years ago we were building houses in Juarez, Mexico. We stopped at a food stand on the side of the road one day after working. While most of us ordered the standard street tacos - which were always amazing, by the way - Ken ordered a hamburger. Yes, that’s right - a hamburger. Like my teenager ordering chicken nuggets at the Mexican food restaurant. We were all giving Ken grief, until he bit into this hamburger and changed both our lives forever. His eyes got big. He looked at me and said, “You’ve got to take a bite of this. It’s incredible!” I wasn’t buying it at first. It’s a hamburger. I’m from America. We teach other countries how to make hamburgers. But Ken persisted. So I finally indulged. And my life has never been the same. 

Overcome with palatable bliss, and desperate to discover what it was that made this particular roadside burger so delicious, we decided to look under the bun. In complete and utter astonishment, what we found redefined our definition of a hamburger forever. 

It was…a hot dog.

That’s right. A good, old-fashioned hot dog. I don’t know if it was Oscar Meyer, Hebrew National, or some nasty cross the border hot dog company I’ve never heard of. I just know it was amazing.

Fast forward to last night.

I was at the lake with our students. We were having hot dogs and hamburgers. I was standing there behind 2 teenagers who were wrestling with that age-old dilemma: Should I have a hot dog…or a hamburger? I quickly stepped in - as any pastor should - and evangelized them. I showed them the Burger Dog. (And yes, it should be capitalized!) I liken this to Obi Wan showing Luke the ways of the force. What I was really showing them was that it doesn’t always have to be EITHER/OR. 
What if sometimes it can be BOTH/AND?

What if you can have BOTH a hamburger AND a hot dog?

What if the right thing is BOTH a brownie AND ice cream on top of it?

What if BOTH Pyromania AND Hysteria are great GREAT albums? (I know, right.)

And what if it can be bigger, deeper, and way more important than that?

What if we can BOTH speak the truth AND love people at the same time?

What if loving them actually meant telling them the truth?

What if we can be BOTH concerned about illegal immigration AND compassionate toward immigrants?

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. 

Dan & Chip Heath, in their book Decisive, put forth this challenge: “When life offers us a ‘this or that’ choice, we should have the gall to ask whether the right answer might be ‘both’.”

Here’s the thing: this isn’t always the case. Sometimes…BOTH/AND isn’t an option.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

To find salvation, there isn’t BOTH Jesus AND ______________. It’s just Jesus.

For your soul to be truly satisfied, it isn’t BOTH Jesus AND money. It’s just Jesus.

To find hope in this life, it’s not BOTH Jesus AND security or success. It’s seriously just Jesus.

But let’s talk about Jesus for a minute.

Jesus BOTH forgave the woman caught in adultery AND told her, “Go and sin no more.” He had great compassion and mercy, while also correcting and rebuking.

Jesus BOTH put mud on the man’s eyes AND told him to “Go, wash…” himself. He fills us and empowers us through His Spirit, but still expects us to act and step out in faith.

Sometimes, it’s clearly EITHER/OR. But maybe other times, it’s BOTH/AND.

Slow down. Think outside the box. Ask the Lord for wisdom and perspective. It might just change the way you look at the world. And you might just discover the next Burger Dog. 

June 6, 2018

The Great Cultural Epidemic of this Generation

Next time you’re out to eat, if you want to find where the teenagers are sitting, just look around. They’re hard to miss. Heads down. Eyes glued to their phones. Almost unaware of each other’s presence. It’s honestly bizarre. If a group of my 15-year old friends had peeked into the future and seen a group of 15-year old friends today, physically all together, yet somehow on different electronic planets, I honestly believe we would have thought we were looking at zombies. 

But to be fair, I don’t know that we can single out the teenagers on this.

Because in many cases you’ll find the exact same picture and scenario with a group of adults. Even husbands and wives. Heads down. Eyes glued to their phones. Almost unaware of each other’s presence. It’s quite sad.

In many cases and situations, my kids are the weirdos. We don’t allow phones at the table. Very often it seems like we’re the only ones. And we not only have a hard time enforcing this rule with them; it’s just as difficult policing ourselves on it. We have all been drawn in, mesmerized, drugged, and are now full fledged addicts. I know you’ve sensed the tension. You’ve read the data and statistics. You’ve felt guilty, and at the same time, pleasured. And yes, I mean pleasured. We all seem to be on this endorphin-firing ride together. So everything I’m about to say to you is out of empathy, participation, and self-indictment. With all that said, let me throw out a monumentally important question for all of us to consider in this moment in history:


We’re allowing our kids to become the walking dead.

We’ve put access to porn right into the hands of our teenage boys.

We’re watching our girls unknowingly feed the beast of self-loathing because it’s disguised as self-worth.

We are failing to teach our kids how to communicate with & relate to other human beings.

We can’t remember or recall anything because we’ve just allowed ourselves to Google it.

We have succumbed to the most lazy form of behavior modification in history.

Here it is in blunt force black & white:
We are teaching (by allowing) our kids to gratify their flesh rather than to satisfy their souls.

And the #1 reason and way that we are teaching them this is by doing it ourselves.

We are becoming the walking dead.

We don’t think something has actually happened unless we’ve “posted” about it. And then, once we’ve posted about it, we’re not actually gratified by what we did or where we went or who we were with (which we’ve proven with our pic) until a whole bunch of other people Like it. I don’t really even believe I’m typing this. It sounds so utterly bizarre, which is what makes it so much more ridiculous and sad.

Can I encourage & exhort you with what I’ve sensed the Lord admonishing me with lately?

Let’s be fully present. Right there. Where we are. What we’re doing. Who we’re with. Fully live it.

Give your kids all your attention. I mean, be reckless! Get on the floor with them, go have a catch in the backyard, get in the pool or in the ocean, drink that milkshake and eat that pizza, watch that movie, and have an absolute blast without worrying about what everyone else is doing or if anyone else even knows or cares!

Know that every moment I neglect being fully present, someone else or something else is discipling my kids. And whatever that something else, we can wager that it won’t be discipling our kids to walk with Jesus.

If your teenager has a cellphone or tablet or device of any kind, CHECK IT! Go through it. Let them be totally aware that that device actually belongs to YOU and that they’re gaining the privilege to use it. And that you are going to scour every app, every text, every search, every nook & cranny of that phone because if you don’t, the Lord is going to hold you accountable. And yes, He is.

If your kid has a cellphone, I would encourage you to totally rethink that. If your kid can't do pre-algebra yet, I don't think she should be on Instagram or Snapchat. 

This is the great cultural epidemic of this generation. The only way we can keep them from drinking the Kool-Aid is to stop drinking it ourselves! As of this moment, we are our own kid's drug dealer. I'm not OK with that.

I want to highly recommend to you Andy Crouch’s book, The Tech-Wise Family. I’m reading it right now, and when I’m done I’m going to have our entire family read it together. The book begins with Andy's 16-year old daughter explaining, “Tech-wise parenting has added wonder to my life…. The real world is so fantastic that getting a taste of it makes even the most jaded kid want more.” If that doesn’t grab your attention and suck you in, I’m not sure what will.

I also encourage you to find friends - other parents - who are fed up and ready to do something about it. Hold each other accountable. Encourage one another. Give each other ideas and support. And don’t give up!

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”

What is getting the most of our time? Our attention? What are we treasuring? 

Whatever (or whoever) it is…that’s what we worship. That’s where our heart is. 

May 15, 2018

Whatever You Do... Don't "Unhitch!"

Andy Stanley has greatly influenced my life. Several of his books (Next Generation Leader, Visioneering, Communicating for a Change) have made a huge impact on how I think, lead, and even how I preach and communicate. But over the last couple of years, Andy has taught some things that I have a very hard time reconciling. Very recently this has happened again. As a pastor and preacher myself, but also as someone who knows the level of influence that Andy has and the magnitude of his platform, I feel I need to address this issue.

In a recent sermon over Acts 15, Andy made the statement that Christians need to “unhitch the Old Testament from their faith.” To be clear, Andy did not say we need to throw out the OT or that it is completely irrelevant or anything of the sort. In fact, he acknowledged that the OT is the divinely inspired Word of God. That said, in (what I believe to be) stark contrast to those assertions and beliefs, he then proposed some other ideas & thoughts that seem to be in direct conflict. Here are a few of them:

"Peter, James, and Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well.”

“First Century church leaders unhitched the church from the worldview, value system, and regulations of the Jewish scriptures.”

This is only a small sample.

What I believe Andy is attempting to do and to communicate is that many of the First Century Jewish Christians were making it incredibly hard for the Gentiles to come to faith because they were continuing to impose many of the regulations of the Old Covenant on these Christians. Whether it be circumcision, celebration or observance of certain festivals and offerings, or even some of the Pharisaical laws that were added to the Old Covenant by the Pharisees, there were unnecessary stumbling blocks being placed in many of the Gentiles way of coming to Christ.

Paul constantly refuted this. He rebuked Peter for it. It diminished the power and necessity for the atoning work of Christ. This is why the Jerusalem Council was held in Acts 15. Which brings me back to Andy’s sermon. A sermon on Acts 15.

Leading into the sermon, there was an appeal made to anyone who has “lost faith, is leaving the faith, or who has already left their faith” and almost an apology along with it for the possibility that the Old Testament - or the preaching of it - was the catalyst behind their departure from their faith or the church. So to be clear, the starting ground and launch point for this sermon was that there are those out there for whom the Old Testament - the divinely inspired Word of God - has become a stumbling block for them to follow Jesus. The meat and message of this “sermon” is that it is solely the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead that brings us salvation and that we should care to share with those who don’t know Christ. For full disclosure, here is the sermon in it’s entirety if you’d like to watch it:

Allow me, if you will, the opportunity to share why the message this sermon is sending is off target and point out some of the dangerous ideas - even ignorance and hypocrisy - that I believe it communicates.

First off, the fact that many First Century Jewish Christians were legalistically still clinging to much of the Law rather than embracing the atoning work of Christ, does not in any way justify that we - 21st Century Christians - need to negate the message, power, effectiveness and fulfillment of the Old Testament (or Old Covenant) in and through Christ. To be quite honest, I know countless more Christians today that lean toward antinomianism (recklessly abusing the grace of God) than toward legalism. I have a feeling the makeup of the people in Andy’s church is quite similar. I’m not saying that there are countless heathens in our churches, but that if the majority leans one way or the other, it’s toward the abuse of grace and not the practice of a legalistic, black and white adherence to the law.

If Andy had actually preached an expository sermon on Acts 15, everyone there that morning would know that Paul actually used the Old Testament (Amos 9) to communicate the prophesied call of God to save the Gentiles, and as a result, the necessity of the Jews not to impress unnecessary demands on them. This was a perfect opportunity not to “unhitch” from the Old Testament, but to actually preach it and make the point. But this is one more example of coming up with what you (we) think needs to be preached and going into the scriptures to make our point rather than allowing the scriptures to make their own point and us (as preachers) calling attention to it. This is expository preaching.

The irony that this sermon was actually preached from Acts 15 is (in my opinion) quite deep.

Let’s go a bit further.

Andy constantly makes the point that, during the First Century, the people didn’t have the scriptures. Of course they didn’t have the New Testament yet; they were living it out. Paul hadn’t written or sent his letters yet. The Gospels were penned during these days. But they most certainly had the Old Testament. They had the Prophets. They knew the Psalms. They chanted and sang the Songs of Ascent (Psalm 121-150) on their way to the Temple. They recited the Proverbs. They told their children and their children’s children the story of the Exodus. When you have a right understanding of the Old Testament - that from creation to the Garden, to the Flood, to the Exodus, and to the Kings and through the Prophets it was all pointing to Jesus - you understand how powerfully the Old Testament came to life for the First Century church.

The entire book of Romans is catalyzed by Habakkuk 2:4, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

The entire book of Hebrews is a celebration of the fulfillment of the Old Covenant in Christ.

Let’s go back to the resurrection.

After Jesus rose from the dead, 2 of his followers left Jerusalem and went back to Emmaus. Jesus appeared to them on the road, but they were kept from recognizing him. They began (in deep despair) explaining to Jesus what had happened: that Jesus (yes, himself) had been crucified. And (my paraphrase) "we thought he was the Messiah, but obviously not. And some of his really crazy followers are claiming he rose from the dead. But we haven’t seen him. We won’t believe that until we see.” At that point, what does Jesus do? I’ll let Luke tell you:

“Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27

When Peter stood up at Pentecost, under the power and outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and began to preach the gospel, what did he do? He begins quoting Joel (the prophet) and David (the king) - the Old Testament. And Peter points out that David “foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of Christ…” Part of the power of the resurrection of Christ is that God - through the OT prophets - had continually for years and years and generation after generation revealed, prophesied, and foretold that that was exactly what He was going to do.

Friends, the last thing on earth we ought to do is “unhitch from the Old Testament”! It is the glorious revelation of the rebellion of man, the insufficiency of our own efforts to ever be able to make it right, the simultaneous mercy of God to constantly pursue, restore, and save His people, and the ultimate plan (from the very beginning) to redeem them (us) and reconcile them (us) back to Himself through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son.

 The Old Testament is all about Jesus! 

You don't want to unhitch from Jesus!
If the Old Testament is a stumbling block for someone to come to Jesus, it's because it's not be rightly preached or understood or both. It all points to Jesus.
Andy Stanley is possibly one of the best communicators out there. I believe he loves the Lord with all his heart and soul. I am praying that he will begin to see that the Old Testament is not a stumbling block, but a building block, to reveal the eternal truth of the redemption of mankind through Jesus Christ. His life, death, and resurrection.

May 8, 2018

Stop Underestimating Your Kids!

Recently, I’ve had multiple conversations with different parents who’ve expressed a similar & troubling sentiment or idea. To put it as plainly as possible, when talking about their family’s lack of engagement or participation (in something that the parents themselves claim to be important and priority for their family), the very short, but simple reason given for not attending or participating is something to this effect:

My kid(s) doesn’t want to come.
My kids don’t really enjoy that.
My son has a hard time sitting still.

These conversations have ranged from everything from going to see a math tutor, attending an extracurricular or sporting event their sibling was participating in, or even participating in corporate worship together as a family. The circumstances and situations have been all over the board. The reasons have not. And I think we need to give serious consideration to the implications of these ideas and reasons.

I have ADD. I struggled with this as a kid, first expressed in hyperactivity and then later on during middle school days more with a lack of being able to pay attention and to focus. That said, I would say the effects of it in my life have never been any more than what I will classify as mild. I use that word because I have had the opportunity to see people who have truly wrestled with ADD and ADHD who have been all but paralyzed by it without medication. That wasn’t me. But it was definitely a struggle, especially because no one knew what it even was at the time. If you ask my friends from that part of my life if they could look back and see that in me they would probably all laugh, but at the time no one knew what to name it other than “Brian can’t control himself.” I’m pretty sure I could have had my own cubicle in the Vice Principal’s office at Bailey Junior High School. Maybe I did. I don’t remember.

That same kid (me), from probably age 3 on, also sat through church worship services every single Sunday of my life. Sometimes on Sunday morning, and then again on Sunday night. I’m quite positive that in my lifetime I probably drew 1,000 pictures, played 100 connect-the-dots games, and wrote countless notes during sermons. Not about the sermon. I’m quite certain I daydreamed in church just like I did in class at school. My mind went all kinds of places. But here’s what I’m also certain of: while there were many times I was not actively listening, and there were even times that I was listening, but possibly not understanding, I was constantly absorbing the Word of God. It was echoing in my thoughts. It would reverberate in my heart and mind. For years. And at some point, through the power of the Holy Spirit, it came to life!

As a pastor, but more importantly as a Christ-follower trying to disciple my own children, here’s why I think this is relevant and so important.

Remember what Paul told the Romans in his letter (10:17): “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.”

We’re giving our kids too many free passes. We’re giving them too many outs.

We’re making up excuses for them that they don’t even know to make.

To be honest, we’re selling them out because we underestimate them.

We’re validating what the culture is teaching them rather than reinforcing what the Lord wants to teach them.

Along with that, we are underestimating the power of the very Word of God.

I know. 35 minutes is a long time to sit still. 

Unless you’re watching TV or a movie. Unless you’re reading a great book. 

Unless you’re in a hammock enjoying the breeze or on a beach listening to the waves.

Parents: Part of Proverbs 22:6 (“Train up a child in the way he should go and in the end he will not depart from it”) is understanding that your children need to hear the Word proclaimed. They need to see you worship. They need to know the reason(s) we gather together as the body of Christ each week to worship, seek, and honor the Lord. They need you to get in the car afterward and generate gospel discussions with them about what Jesus has done for them and how he’s changed your life.

How he’s changed your life.

He is changing your life, right? Jesus? The good news of the gospel? The hope of Christ?

Can I shoot straight with you? I think most of the time we’re not just selling our kids out; we’re giving ourselves a way out. What I’m seeing is that most of the time a parent gives their child a free pass or a way out, it’s because they really don’t hold that thing to be a priority either. Your child's issue may be self-control or hyperactivity - like mine was for so long. But my concern for you as a parent is that for could just be apathy. 

Parents: There are 2 things that bring kids to the place of engaging: Desire & Discipline

Your child may not have the desire. That’s OK. That’s when we still have to show them what’s important, what’s priority, and that what’s good for us - what we need - may not always be what we think we want. That's what discipline looks like.

Lord, give us courage and vision to lead our children. Give us strength to stand for what’s right and good and to lead them in the way everlasting. May they see the light of the hope of the gospel shining through us and through our church families. May they not only hear the life-changing news of the gospel; may it come to life through faith within their hearts! 

April 4, 2018

Walking With Others in Grief

In my last post, I shared some thoughts on the difficulty we have allowing ourselves to grieve. If you haven’t read it, might want to start HERE. As I’ve spent the last few days walking through a very close friend passing away, I’ve also noticed that at times we have (possibly even more) difficulty walking with others in grief. 

I very purposefully did not call my wife on Monday to tell her that our lifelong friend Mike had died. She was traveling on business. I did not want her carrying that weight alone. I also didn’t want her driving down the road all by herself with that heartbreak and burden. So I came home as soon as I could to tell her in person. It was hard. We cried. And then we told our kids. My kids knew Mike, but they didn’t KNOW Mike. He wasn’t someone they saw frequently or had a relationship with like we did. As I told the both of them individually, it was apparently clear: I need to teach my kids how to walk with others in grief

My daughter is overflowing with compassion. When my dad passed away, Libby wept. Yes, she was sad that Papa was gone, but she was most broken over the idea of her Nana being alone. There’s a HUGE heart in there! But she didn’t have a filter or context this week for Mom & Dad grieving over their friend. 

My son wants everything and everyone to be right in the world. He wants no one’s feathers to be ruffled and wants peace on earth and in every relationship. When you’re hurt, he wants you to be healed and well. When someone’s upset - especially his momma - he wants things fixed. So when Morgan came in from the back porch, clearly upset and crying, and started trying to cook dinner, he insisted that she “just come sit down on the sofa and relax!” Witnessing all of this, I began to realize: I need to teach my kids how to walk with others in grief.

For a moment, travel back about 6 hours with me on that Monday.

Not long after I got the phone call about Mike, as I was trying to avoid my grief (which I admitted in my last post), I began trying to work on my sermon for this Sunday. I tried to study. I tried to outline. I tried to focus. Honestly, I was just trying to remember what I was doing. I quickly became aware of the fact that I was in shock and there would be no focusing today. Or probably tomorrow. Not long after this I found myself in Chad’s office. I shared with him what had happened. As I did, there were 2 very specific things he said to me:
  1. I am so sorry to hear this.
  2. Is there anything I can do?
These statements may seem very trivial to us. It may feel insignificant in the grand scheme of things to utter these words to someone. But the truth is, if you mean them - if you’re truly burdened for your friend, family member, neighbor, or coworker’s grief AND you truly would physically, tangibly do something if you could to alleviate their burden - then those words mean something. When Chad asked me, “Is there anything I can do?”, without a moment’s hesitation I asked him, “Can you preach for me on Sunday?” He said absolutely. Then he prayed with me. He lifted my burden.

Now, back to the dinner table that night.

As we sat down to eat the meal that my son didn’t want his mother to cook while she was upset, I shared this with my kids: "I need to share something with you guys. You’re not in trouble and I’m not rebuking you or anything like that. But I realized earlier that it’s my job as your Dad to teach you how to respond to other people’s grief. When someone you love is hurting or grieving - when you hear that someone you love has lost someone close to them - there are really only 2 things you need to say to that person: I am so sorry to hear this (&) Is there anything I can do? This doesn’t mean you can bring someone back from the dead or make the hurt go away. But it lets them know that you’re there, you care, and you will carry the burden with them.” I went on to share with them how Chad had responded to me earlier in the day. It was such a beautiful and powerful example. I believe they understood.

Friends, we don’t have all the answers. We can’t bring people back or make the hurt go away. But we can carry the burden with our brothers and sisters. There is an old Jewish practice called Sitting Shiva. I won’t go into it in great detail, but over the seven days of observing grief and mourning in Judaism, there is great value placed on simply being there with the grieving. Just being present. Possibly even just sitting. No talking. No thinking you need to have all the answers. Just being present. Sitting Shiva.

This is very, very hard for us. 

Just being there.

Just sitting.

We want to fix things. We want to make it OK. We want to have all the answers.

We can’t. And most often, we don’t.

That’s not what the grieving need. We don’t need answers or fixing or everything to be OK. What we need is to know that someone else is walking with us through the confusion and the brokenness and the pain. Maybe not talking. Just walking. Just being present. 

Lord, help us to have the wisdom to know how to walk alongside one another through the valley of the shadow of death. Help us to be OK with only being able to offer you and offer ourselves. Let that be enough. Walk with us as we walk with one another in grief. Amen.

April 3, 2018

Jesus Wept. So Why Won't We?

Yesterday morning - the day after Easter - I woke up still thinking about resurrection. THE Resurrection! It was still fresh on my mind and flooding my thoughts. My heart was truly full. And then my phone rang. My friend Amy called to tell me that her brother, Mike - one of my lifelong friends - had passed away unexpectedly. She was in shock. So was I. In fact, I still am.

You're never ready for these phone calls. We aren't wired to be OK with a young husband and father of 2 suddenly being ripped away. It doesn't make sense; at least not in the way we want the world to make sense. These things never do. As I hung up the phone with Amy I immediately felt a wall going up. As I began making phone calls, letting friends know what had happened, trying to answer people's questions with answers I didn't have, I could already feel it happening within me. I've felt it before, so I knew what it was. My heart began erecting a barrier and building a dam. I have to be strong. I have to be here for others. I have to hold it together so I can tell Morgan. Morgan needs me to be strong. Everyone needs me to be strong. I'm sure sometime later I'll allow it, but right now...under no I going to allow myself to grieve.

I tell myself things like:

Mike's in a better place.

Mike is with the Lord.

Mike is home, for cryin out loud! He's with Jesus! How awesome is that!?

It's incredibly awesome for Mike. But the fact is it really really sucks for the rest of us. It's hard. It's painful. It's like ripping a hook out of your heart and your intestines. It's mind-numbing. Unexplainable. It leaves you wanting answers and placing blame. Grief takes every physical, mental, emotional, chemical, and spiritual fiber and synapse in your body and ignites them all simultaneously. We know this. And yet, we will call upon every stubborn resource within us to attempt to suppress, beat down, and contain this eruption. 


Why won't we just allow ourselves to grieve? To hurt? To cry?

I really don't know. I actually don't have that answer. 

But I do know we somehow have to get past this. We somehow have to learn to grieve.

In Psalm 56:8, King David describes the depths at which the Lord cares about our grief:
"You have kept count of my wanderings; put my tears in your bottle. 
Are they not in your book?"

There is not one single moment or instance or morsel of grief that I walk through that the Lord does not walk through with me. There is not one single drop of a tear that you or I shed that the Lord does not take notice of and shed with us. He doesn't just take notice; he grieves with me. He knows my pain.

Take note and consideration of this, though:
If I refuse to actually walk through the grief, he can't walk with me.
If I refuse to vulnerably allow those tears to flow, the Lord can't "put my tears" in his bottle.
The Lord can't grieve with me if I don't allow myself to grieve.

In John 11, Jesus returns after his friend Lazarus has died. His sisters are beside themselves. They don't understand why Jesus didn't come and heal Lazarus. [Of course, we know that Jesus winds up bringing Lazarus back from the dead. He allowed a death so that he could bring about a resurrection. We know this. They didn't.] As Jesus is swarmed by the crowd of friends and family, he asks them to take him to the place where they've buried Lazarus. When they arrive, everyone breaks down. Tears are flowing. Grief is there. Fully present. And what did Jesus do?

"Jesus wept."

Friends, if we think Jesus was weeping because Lazarus had died, I think we're wrong. He knows that Lazarus was about to walk out of that grave. Jesus knew that his own death & resurrection would ultimately defeat the grave! Jesus wasn't weeping or broken for Lazarus. He wept for his friends. 

He saw their heartbreak and felt it erupt within him. 

He saw their tears and he could no longer hold his own back.

Right before this, John tells us: "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled."

Jesus grieves with those who are willing to grieve.

Jesus wept. So why won't we?

I think something within us has incorrectly connected having peace about death with having a refusal to grieve. Like if I know the Lord and I have great peace about eternity, that this somehow also means I can't be sad or broken when someone I love - who also shares that peace about death - dies and is no longer here with me. This is messed-up thinking. A peace about death DOES NOT EQUAL a refusal to grieve! 

This Friday - and for the immediate forseeable future - I will celebrate my dear friend Mike's life. I will remember our friendship. I will laugh about memories and tell stories and share his legacy. But I will also grieve. I will hurt. I will cry. And my Lord and Savior will be right there with me. He'll put those tears in his bottle. He will bear the weight of my sorrow. He is there. He is always there in our grief.