June 12, 2019

The Motivation of Validation

Validation (n.) — the act of proving or seeking affirmation of our feelings, opinions, or our worth; actively looking to others for approval

Motivation (n.) — the reason for acting a particular way; the general desire for someone to do something

Last night we had some friends over. We cooked out, sat by the pool & the fire, had some great conversation and just got caught up on life. In the midst of this, one thing we discussed was how social media & technology — specifically smartphones — have changed everything. And not for the better. To be clear, we weren’t having one of those “old people griping about the good ole days” conversations, but more of a “Are we parenting and leading our kids the best way possible through this?” type of talk. We talked about the dangers of the psychological impact of the endorphin hits. We spoke about the constant vitriol spewed out on social media and the numbness that comes with thinking you’re saying everything into a vacuum and the passive aggressiveness that comes along with the apparent anonymity and the lack of personal communication skills that are becoming more evident all the time. Are we letting our kids — and ourselves — wander mindlessly into this mine field? Or are we carefully walking with them and protecting them? 

Great questions.

Great conversation. 

And as it was all happening, I vividly remember being hit with the thought: 

I need to take a picture!

We need a picture of us and our friends.

We need a picture of hamburgers and beach towels and key lime pie and friends with smiles.

And no sooner did all those thoughts rush through my head, my favorite question trailed right behind: WHY?


WHY did I — a 46 year old man — think I needed a picture? 

To post on social media. Instagram. Facebook.

WHY did I — a redeemed child of God — think I needed to post on social media? 

So you and all my friends, acquaintances, followers, and even people I don’t know from Adam will affirm me. 

And WHY did I — a supposedly content husband, father, and friend — feel I needed your affirmation? 

Because…I have unconsciously begun to live for everyone else’s VALIDATION.

Our greatest MOTIVATION has become VALIDATION.

We all want to be LIKED. That’s nothing new. What is new is we feel we need to know that everyone else LIKES what we’re doing, what we bought, what we ate, who we ate it with, where we bought it or ate it, what we were wearing when we ate it, and how what we bought now looks in our house. 

We want the favorable things to be seen. All of them. And for everyone else to LIKE them.

We want the unfavorable things to be guarded, hidden, and unknown. 

Our motivation — so often for so many of us — has become VALIDATION.

We’re longing for someone else to affirm our feelings, opinions, and (more often) our value and worth. 

We desperately want someone (everyone) else’s approval.

We are so living in a false reality with a false sense of worth and approval that we unconsciously — but still very genuinely — don’t feel like we’ve actually eaten, purchased, or experienced something unless or until we’ve POSTED it and everyone else has LIKED it. 

Think about your last vacation.

Reflect on the last dinner or party you attended.

Think about your kid’s last game, tournament, award, or concert. 

How present were you? 

I’m not saying that we should never take pictures or that we should never post about these things. 

I am saying that we need to take a serious look and thoroughly examine WHY we take these pictures and make these posts.

My dinner and conversation with my friends last night was very real. It was much needed. It was refreshing. And you don’t need to know who it was, what we were wearing, or even what we ate. I don’t need your approval. I don’t need you to LIKE it for it to actually matter, or much less have actually taken place. That said, I’m not saying any of this because I actually think you want to know, but because somewhere in the depths of me I still keep thinking I need you to know. And I need you to approve. 

My flesh keeps longing for VALIDATION from the people behind the smartphones.

My Spirit says that my worth, approval, value, and validation are found in Jesus Christ.

Maybe you think I’m blowing all this out of proportion. That’s possible. It’s happened before.

But I’m seriously betting that many of you feel what I’m feeling and believe what I’m saying. And if that’s you, I encourage you to seize control over every thought, word, action, and motivation that guides you today. Paul says that through the Spirit and the power of God we are to “take every thought captive”. Every thought. Every motivation. All of them. 

You don’t need everyone to know every detail about every moment of your life.

You do, however, need to be fully present and live every one of those moments to the fullest.

You & I don’t need one another’s approval to find our value or know our worth.

We can find that totally and fully in Jesus. Nowhere and in no one else. Just him.


And the last time I checked, he isn’t on Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook. Crazy! 

March 4, 2019

Attendance, Engagement & the Body of Christ

There’s a trend in the church in recent years. All the data, surveys, and research tell us that ATTENDANCE does not necessarily reflect ENGAGEMENT. In other words, where 20 years ago someone’s attendance had a direct reflection on how deeply they were connected to your church, this no longer tells us the same story. While a family may only be there in person 2 out of every 4 Sundays, they may still be faithfully giving, serving, and possibly even growing & walking in gospel community with other believers. Sunday morning attendance does not necessarily equate to living on mission for the gospel & the Kingdom. While I cannot in any way argue with this data, I think that we have to consider these things from a different angle. Allow me to explain.

As the parents of a young man who plays tournament baseball, there is a 3-month window where my wife and I have determined that our son (and usually my wife along with him) will miss several Sundays with our church family. While we would always prefer to be present on Sundays, we have also determined that the Lord has opened relational doors for us to pour into other families on our team who do not belong to a church, and possibly don't know Christ. We prayerfully try to make the most of these opportunities.

Living in Huntsville - a city with a very large population of government contractors, defense workers, software developers, and business people - there is a lot of business related travel. Many of our folks, having early Monday meetings in places like D.C. or Houston or Seattle, are forced to head out of town on Sundays. This isn’t their preference, but on those particular days, it winds up having to be their priority. 

Several times a year our families are going to go on vacation, be at the lake or the beach, wake up sick, attend family reunions, and things of this nature. This is called LIFE. There are many reasons why, on any given Sunday, some of us just might not be able to be present. This doesn’t have any bearing on how deeply we are engaged or committed to our church.

On the other hand, I’ve known people who are there every single time the church gathers. If the doors open, they will walk through them. And yet, this does not necessarily mean that they are deeply or meaningfully engaged to the church or the Lord. There are actually some people who just show up because it’s what they’ve always done. If they’re not there, they feel guilty. And some people would rather feel anything other than guilt. 

Attendance does not necessarily equate to engagement.

True statement. 

But there’s more to it than that.

In light of all the specific and hypothetical situations and scenarios I’ve thrown out, there are many folks and families who simply wake up some Sunday mornings, look out the window, turn on the TV, curl back up under the covers, and ultimately make the decision: I’m just not going today. And this, my friends, is a much bigger issue.

I will readily admit that I’m a pastor. I’ve been in full-time vocational ministry for 25 years. And I grew up in the home of a minister. So without question, I realize that I’m writing from the experience that this consideration of just “sleeping in this Sunday” has never really even been on my radar. That said, I don’t think me being a pastor is what cultivated or sustained that decision or way of life. I believe the basis of this commitment in my life and in our family has been our determined commitment to the body of Christ. So yes, my perspective is definitely subjective. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Back to the “bigger issue”.

What this tendency, in many cases, is exposing is a skewed perspective of the church and an ignorance to the scriptures. It’s also giving credence to the notion that we are becoming more and more self-centered all the time. Let’s go to the Apostle Paul for some objectivity and clarity.

Paul writes to the Ephesians - the church family that is closest to his heart - and he declares to them in Ephesians 4:11-16:

"And he (Jesus) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Italics mine)

While attendance does not always equate to engagement, attendance - physically, mentally, emotionally, literally, tangibly being there - is very often evidence of engagement. 

You can’t lead if you’re not there. You can’t serve if you’re not there. You can’t look someone in the eye, see that they’re hurting, and feel the Spirit lead you to pray with them if you’re not there. Being there matters.

What very often is clouding our ability to see this is the self-centered perspective that we have of church. We think, “Well, we’re doing great. We don’t really need community.” We’re wrong. And here’s the other side of this issue. On many days, maybe it’s not about what you need or can get, but about what God is calling you to give. 

Paul said that we are to be “growing up in every way into Christ” and that when we are, each part - each person - will be “working properly” to “make the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” 

It’s not about YOU! It’s about the CHURCH.

It’s about the Body of Christ functioning properly.

It’s about the evidence of the power of the gospel made visible through our love for one another, which can only happen when we are frequently together.

Long distance relationships suck. They’re painful. They’re difficult. That’s why the local church isn’t built on them.

Don’t let the research and the data and the statistics define and justify things for you. Just because Lifeway or George Barna did a poll and this is what the numbers tell us, that doesn’t mean it makes it right. It seems like we are folding like a blanket these days to whatever the trend or tendency is. The culture doesn’t define our standards or priorities; the scriptures do.

I want to challenge, encourage, and exhort you: If you are, if you’re trying to be, or if you have even the slightest desire to be engaged with your church family…BE THERE. Make the commitment and be there. Be there to worship. Walk in community with other believers, growing in Christ. Serve other people - inside the church and outside. BE THERE! And let your attendance be one of the evidences of your engagement.

For more:

Matthew 18:20, Acts 2:42-47, Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 10:24-25 

February 5, 2019

Lessons: Your Bitterness is Killing You

“Not forgiving someone - hold onto bitterness - is like drinking rat poison and expecting the other person to die.”

This famous quote has been attributed to Gandhi, Jesus, Nelson Mandela, Anne Lamott - probably even your mom. We aren’t really sure who said it first, but we all wish we had. Why? 

Because it’s so dang right on the money.

Bitterness is a poison. 

Bitterness is a poison dressed up like a big, tall glass of lemonade on a hot summer day.

We think it’s going to taste good. We actually think we deserve to sit on the porch, in the shade, with the breeze blowing, and slowly turn the glass back and drink it down. And that when we do, we’re going to be refreshed. Thirst quenched. Satisfied.

Not a chance.

Not a snowball’s chance in Honolulu.

When Paul wrote the Ephesians - the church closest to his heart - he cut straight to the point. Look at what he says.

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:31,32).

Get rid of all bitterness.

Is there anything confusing about that? Is there any discrepancy? No.

Get rid of - throw out & destroy - all - every little bitty morsel of - bitterness. 

And...forgive each other. As God has forgiven you.

The Letter to the Hebrews:

"Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many" (Hebrews 12:14,15).

We cultivate bitterness. And when we do, it causes trouble & desecrates & destroys.

How about what Peter says:

"When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:23).

Jesus didn’t retaliate. 

And speaking of Jesus not retaliating, look at what he said:

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing..." (Luke 23:34).

"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14,15).

Read that last one again.

If you won’t forgive, neither will your Father forgive you.

We all have these moments - maybe even seasons - when something happens. A word is said. Or maybe nothing is said…and that’s the point. Our expectations are blown, our feelings are hurt, our pride is wounded, our heart is broken. 

And a seed falls to the ground. A seed of bitterness. 

It falls into the fertile soil of our injured, vulnerable heart.

The question is: What are we going to do about it?

Those wounds and feelings and hurts pour the poison into the glass.

The question is: Are you going to drink it? 

You and I want and hope that the other person will drink it. That the person who wounded us or let us down or stabbed us in the back will be the one to painfully swallow the disdain. And that we’ll get to watch the happiness drain from their face as it goes down their throat, filling them up with sorrow and regret and brokenness for what they did to us. We would never verbalize this, but it’s actually what runs through the depraved caverns of our mind.

We have to stop it. We have to take an axe to that bitter root. We have to put it to death.

You have to decide you’re not going to live this way.

You have to realize, living this way is not actually living.

You have to realize, your bitterness is killing you. Only you.

It’s taking moments - maybe even days, weeks, months - of your life and poisoning them. That’s like death. You can’t get those back.

The gospel reminds me…I need not be bitter. Jesus demonstrated his love for me in that while I was still a sinner, he died for me. He forgave me. Pursued me. Restores me. He gives me his Spirit so that I don’t have to be a slave to bitterness. 

Don’t water that seed or root. Take an axe to it.

Don’t drink the poison. Pour it out at the feet of the one who gave his life so that your sin, your betrayal, your rebellion, and your failure would no longer be held against you.

Forgive one another, just as in Christ, God has forgiven you. 

January 28, 2019

Lessons: You Are Your Own Worst Enemy

Over the last few months, I've been thinking through some of the most obvious & beneficial, yet often brutal & painful, life lessons I've learned so far in my 46.5 years of life. I'm going to share some of them in a series of posts. If you haven't read it yet, go HERE to read the first one. This is the second.

You are your own worst enemy. 

Don’t believe me?

Who will make the decision to sleep in instead of go to the gym? 

Who decides to eat that entire box of muffins?

Who keeps saying, “Next week.... I’ll start next week!”

Who chooses to be a virtual zombie rather than a personal and interactive human - to stare at a social media screen rather than talk to the human across the table?

Who forced you to watch Netflix for six straight hours?

Who allows themselves to believe, “I just can’t do this!”?

You. 

Yes. That’s right. You.

The same you...

Who can determine to get up, get your butt out of bed, and go lift some weights, punch a bag, or walk around the block.

Who can throw all that crap out of your pantry and eat an apple. A banana. Anything but that garbage.

Who can determine TODAY is the day!  Who cares if it’s a Wednesday? Or Saturday? Get on it...NOW!

You can decide to be there. Fully present. 

You can do this!

You. ONLY you.

Set goals. We have to set goals. But, we can’t just set goals…

Make a plan. Keep revising the plan.

I’m going to lose 5 pounds this month. That’s a goal.

I’m going to lose 5 pounds this month by cutting out unnecessary sugar and bread, getting rest, and exercising four times a week. That’s a goal with a plan.

You can do this. ONLY YOU can do this.

Paul told Timothy that everyone who surrenders his life to Christ has not been given a “spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 

We have to have self-control. We have to cultivate discipline. It takes time. But it also takes one tough choice after another. Don’t focus on the time it will take; focus on the decision you have to make today.

Paul told the Galatians that one of the fruits of the Spirit in our lives - one of the evidences that we have the Spirit of God refining us and bearing fruit in our lives - is self-control. 

Self-control knows that a piece of dark chocolate is good for you. But an entire candy bar of dark chocolate is not.

Self-control and discipline knows that small choices and decisions over a long period of time pay off, bear fruit, and make a difference. 

If you want the inspiration and motivation to conquer that beast, the best thing you can do is get up tomorrow, set the goal, make the plan, tell someone you love and trust to hold your feet to the fire and not let up, and get after it. And then do it again the next day.

Stop waiting. 

Buy a Carpe Diem t-shirt, for cryin out loud.

Make Eye of the Tiger your alarm song, ringtone, and play it 10 times a day.

Put your burden at the feet of the Lord and ask him to give you the strength, discipline, and self-control to see it through…for your own good and for his glory!

You can do it.

Yes. That’s right. YOU! 

January 24, 2019

Lessons: You Do Not Know Everything

Over the last few months, I've been thinking through some of the most obvious & beneficial, yet often brutal & painful, life lessons I've learned so far in my 46.5 years of life. I'm going to share some of them in a series of posts. This is the first.

Possibly one of the most liberating days in your life is the day that you discover you do not actually know everything. It’s a serious chain breaker! The weight of the world is lifted off of you.

Somewhere, typically not too far behind the day previously mentioned, also comes the day that you discover no one actually expected you to know everything. In fact, it’s quite possible that those surrounding you not only knew you didn’t know everything, and didn’t expect you to know everything, but we’re praying for the day when you would make this discovery for yourself – and that it would come as soon as possible.

In the spirit of the chicken & the egg dilemma, I’m not sure if the appearance that we think we know everything is fueled by our constant necessity to have something to say to fill the void, (or) if our inability to stop talking and start listening is the catalyst behind our know-it-all nature. I actually don’t think it’s a chicken and egg situation at all. I think it’s a both/and issue. Let's break it down.

Lesson #1
You do not know everything.

You do not need to know everything.

No one expects you to know everything.

No one wants you to know everything.

It’s permissible - read that, beneficial - for you & me to utter the words, “I don’t know” every now & then. Especially when we actually don’t know. 

If we're humbly learning & growing in this area, phrases like the following will possibly become part of our regular vocabulary:
  • That's a great point.
  • Could you tell me more about that?
  • I'll have to think about that and get back to you.
  • I'm not sure, but I will find out for you.
  • What led you to that conclusion?
  • I'd like to hear what you think about this.
Let's be clear: don't patronize people. Don't say anything I've listed above - or anything reminiscent of these statements or questions - unless you are genuinely ready, willing, & wanting to listen & learn.

Finally, I think there are really just 3 kinds of people: those who are constantly aware of their need to grow in this area who know it & are working on it; those who become aware out of the realization that they haven't been working on it; and those who are so void of self-awareness that they may read this entire post, never giving any consideration that this might be describing them, all while thinking about the other 10 people who need to read it and heed what it says.

If you're the latter, please return to the beginning of Lesson #1.

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. 

Here's the thing: YOU ARE NOT THE HERO! I AM NOT THE HERO!

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

EITHER/OR (OR) BOTH/AND?

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.