October 27, 2009


In 2 Corinthians 10 Paul reminds the Corinthians that we are not in a war of flesh and blood, but wrestling and fighting a deceitful spiritual enemy. In this exhortation he proclaims, "We are human, but we don't wage war with human plans and methods. We used God's mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil's strongholds. With these weapons, we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we conquer their rebellious ideas, and we teach them to obey Christ." (vs.3-5)

What's interesting (maybe frustrating is a better word) is that our enemy lives and moves and breathes and finds his satisfaction in discovering new ways to deceive us into using these weapons for harm rather than good. Often as Christ-followers we find ourselves with the tables turned against us - we've somehow allowed the enemy to convince us to use these weapons against each other! 

We have been called and equipped by God to fight this spiritual battle against the author of lies and deceit. He has given us ALL we need! So we must make sure that we aren't misusing these weapons - that we learn to handle them correctly - and that we don't allow the enemy an opportunity to turn them against us or each other.

This November at The Brook we begin a brand new series, "Weapons". Come join us as we expose the lies and tricks of the enemy and as we discover how to "use God's mighty weapons...to knock down the Devil's strongholds." If we don't remember who we're fighting against - if we foolishly wage war with each other - these weapons are useless. As Christ-followers we've got to know which weapons to aim & fire...and which ones to lay down. "We are human, but we don't wage war with human plans and methods."

Who are you fighting against?
Who are you fighting for and with?

2 Corinthians 10:1-8
John 13:34-35
Ephesians 6:10-18

October 22, 2009

The Sabbath

As I'm hoping most people realize, for those of us in ministry Sunday does not usually serve as our Sabbath. In fact, I'm usually more wiped out by Noon on Sunday than I am after a 12-hour Wednesday. So as a Pastor part of leading by example is making sure that I fully embrace and protect my Sabbath. For me, this happens when the sun goes down on Friday night.

I'm sharing this for a couple of reasons. First off, to give you a couple of specific things I'm feeling convicted need to happen for me to more fully follow this biblical mandate. And second, in sharing this it opens the door of accountability. Once you share it with the world, there's no going back!

One sore spot I have felt the Holy Spirit pressing His finger in on lately is my time with my face planted in my MacBook. Mainly, checking email. Part of my Sabbath is fully enjoying and taking time with my family. So many of us are so guilty so often of "being there" physically, while mentally our mind is somewhere a million miles away. I want to BE THERE! I want my kids to know that if I'm throwing the baseball or bouncing on the trampoline with them that I'm not daydreaming about that meeting I'm having next Tuesday. They need me and my attention. And I need them. My wife needs to know that I am more devoted to her than I am to my Gmail account. So, if you ever need me on Saturday (which may happen) - if there's an emergency or it's urgent - you're going to need to call me. I won't get your email. (Not that day anyway)

[Please hear this: If you need us, call! Sometimes things happen out of our control and that's OK.]

If you're like me and you haven't really been honoring the Sabbath the way the Lord intends you to, it may be time to think through your priorities and WHO or WHAT is really in control of your life. The Lord's not messing around with this - He's serious! He knows that you and I are in desperate need of rest. And try arguing with that last statement.

Dig For Yourself:
Exodus 20:8
Isaiah 58:13-14
Mark 2:23-28

October 19, 2009


Pastors & leaders,

There is much to do. Meetings for you to lead. Vision for you to cast. People you need to go to lunch with to encourage to take steps of faith. Other leaders to cultivate. Sermons you need to plan, map out, and study for - you better be studying! There is much to do!

In the midst of the busyness - if we're not careful - we can actually start thinking that it all depends on us. US! Are we serious? Not intentionally. But yes, we actually start thinking this somewhere down in the depths. As if we are the last great hope of actually communicating the Word of God and the single-handed catalyst that will unleash the Spirit of God on our people. Or the flip-side is that we begin feeling like we are the most incapable, ineffective leader to ever walk the planet. We begin feeling like every last ounce of creative juice inside of us has been squeezed out like a Florida orange and we have nothing left to give. Ever been there?

Most often - when we find ourselves floating on the seas of ineffectiveness - the hard cold reality is that somewhere in our life we have removed the Word of God from it's place on the priority list. I know it's painful to hear this - argue with me if you like. But when a pastor or minister or leader begins to substitute anything for the Word - meetings, creativity, vision, events, books, hanging on the word of some other leader you are NOT called to be - it will inevitably lead to a place of disappointment.

The other morning I was reminded of the most important thing I can ever remember as a pastor. In 2 Timothy 2:9, Paul proclaims to his young disciple that even though he has suffered for the Gospel and is in chains, "...the word of God cannot be chained." Read it again. You CANNOT chain or tie down or paralyze the Word of God! Not you or anyone else. It is sharper than a sword, it is perfect for training and correcting and encouraging, it is the strongest foundation anyone has ever built upon, and it endures forever. It cannot be chained!

So when you begin feeling incapable, inefficient, unmotivated, scatter-brained, or like you couldn't possibly lead anyone because you're living in a fog yourself, my encouragement to you is...remember where the POWER is truly found! Remember that it's not about your strength or charisma or persuasiveness. Remember that when the Word of God and the Spirit of God are leading the way, you will be the leader that He has called you to be. The creativity, the vision, the words of encouragement, the passion - they will come. But there are times when they will run dry, disappear, or become chained. And you will have to wait on them to return. But not the Word of God. It CANNOT be chained! It is what our people need more than anything! And if the Lord has called you to preach and proclaim His Word - eat it, breathe it, meditate on it, talk about it, memorize it, and live it! Unchained!

Dig Deeper:
2 Timothy (yes, read the whole book)

October 8, 2009

Making the List

Warning: Once in awhile I get a little fired up. This is one of those times.

Recently I got my latest copy of Outreach Magazine. Somewhat confused when I received it, I thought I must have accidentally gotten a previous copy or edition. This couldn't be a NEW issue. Hadn't I seen this front cover 12 times before? Once again Outreach was asking me to spend my time reading about the churches that they had strategically pinpointed as the Top 100: the biggest, the fastest growing, the most strategic....the bestest, fastest, mostest, coolest! Seriously?

Let me say right out of the shoot that I hold nothing against any of the churches mentioned in any of Outreach's top anything lists. So many of the churches identified and highlighted are bringing and growing the Kingdom in their communities and are seeking - above everything else - to "make disciples". But that's just it. Isn't THAT what we're in this for? Making disciples? Leading people to an authentic life of following Christ? Aren't we in this (as pastors and leaders and churches) to put ourselves at the end of the line, remove ourselves from ANYONE'S pedestal, and humbly love the lost and preach the Word?

How does this edify the church?
What does a Top 100 list do for the sake of the Kingdom?
I know for many - probably thousands of pastors and leaders everywhere - it does one of several things:
  • It gives us the idea that we must become like someone else's church rather than what & WHO Christ has called us to be
  • It puts misguided goals in front of us - not that we would admit it, but come on, we're freakin humans with egos - that to truly "make it" we've got to "make the list"
  • Many start buying the lie that "Well, if it works for them it will work for us!"
  • It puts leaders who are already at war with their flesh and their pride into an even more ferocious battle for humility
  • It sets some of the most precious, unique, gifted, and wonderful people up for failure that they never deserved or asked for
Maybe you're thinking, "Brian, you are WAY overblowing this!" Maybe. But probably not. And if you're tempted to think (or say) that, I would bet you're either a) fooling yourself, b) currently following someone on the list more passionately than you're following Christ, or c) new to the list and haven't figured out all the crap & baggage that's going to come along with your newly found status. 

I know, we're in a time of strategic movement and courageous leadership and innovative presentation and yack yack blah blah. Jesus Christ made it very clear what it means to follow Him and come after Him. And as pastors, if we're not setting that example, who is? And if what we're reading and buying into is pumping our heads & hearts full of false ideals, why not everyone else? Is this ridiculous ranking not something that Christ would (and did) preach against?

I write this mainly for anyone out their who's been discouraged, misled, or disappointed because you're not someone else or you didn't make the list or because the person you lofted too high finally fell back to earth. You are not called to make a list! You are not called to status! You are not called to amass 10,000 followers on Twitter! You may one day - but God help you if/when you do! There are very few who are actually CALLED to be in that position. And of the few who are called, even fewer actually survive what it will cost them.

Hey Outreach, I love you! You've done some great things for the church and for leaders. But please stop kicking the masses in the gut to loft high the select few. I know this is NOT the motive - but it's the end result for many. And I know, there are some "nuggets" in there for us to learn from. But you've got to start being real about what it's doing an a subconscious level to so many who are fighting to humbly walk and serve and lead. 

Go out - get really stinking dirty - and get in the trenches with the unknown guy who's faithfully leading his 100 to take their community for the Kingdom. That's the guy I want to read about! The leader out their washing feet, not getting his shoes shined!

October 5, 2009

Forgiveness is FREEDOM!

Yesterday at The Brook everyone who entered into the Worship Center was given a penny and told to hold onto it. "Can I put it in my pocket?" No. Hold it in your hand. "What's this for?" You'll find out. "What in the world is the Pastor up to now?" Curiosity was about to kill the cat. And dog!

The sermon began with a drama on "The Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor" from Matthew 18. In the end, the debtor who was granted grace, yet couldn't extend the same mercy to his own servant, was ordered to pay back every penny and was hauled off to prison.

We asked a couple of very important questions during the message:
  • What is Christianity without forgiveness?
  • What is a Christ-follower who can't forgive?
The answers we came up with? Pretty simple. "Christianity" without forgiveness is NOT Christianity. And a "Christ-follower" who can't forgive is NOT a Christ-follower. Period. Let's do the math: Jesus Christ calls us to "come and follow" Him - to pursue Him and live, walk, talk, give, serve, and FORGIVE as He did. If we claim to know Him and be His "followers", by nature we are going to desire for our lives to be a reflection of His. This isn't always easy, but it's something we choose to do as His disciple. [See Matthew 6:14-15, Ephesians 4:31-32, 1 Peter 3:8-9, Romans 12:17-20]

At the end of the message everyone still had their penny in hand. (I should note that I preached both services with a penny in my hand - making it extra fun to hold my Bible). Thinking about the debtor who held his servant's debt over his head, I asked everyone to prayerfully consider releasing themselves from the slavery & bondage of bitterness - to finally surrender the right to get even or repay the offense. And yes, forgiving someone releases YOU from slavery, not the other person. Forgiveness is FREEDOM! It changes things. It changes YOU!

"...not forgiving is like drinking rat poison & waiting for the rat to die." - Anne Lamott

I encouraged everyone - if they were ready - to respond to the Lord by bringing their penny to the front and dropping it into a glass bowl. [To hear the sound of pennies - one after another - clanging in the bowl was worship!] But if they weren't ready to forgive - if they just couldn't take that step - to have the courage to keep that penny in their hand until that time had come. Yes, KEEP IT IN YOUR HAND! While you're driving. In the shower. On the phone. Brushing your teeth. Keep it in your hand! And then of course we acknowledged how difficult it would be to carry on - to function - to truly LIVE while trying to hold onto this penny.

I love the "A-ha" moment.

When we hold onto bitterness - when we're unwilling to forgive - our grip (and our heart) has no ability to truly reach out to the heart of God. We become consumed and paralyzed. We throw ourselves into prison. The shackles around our feet are self-imposed. We CHOOSE slavery! We hold it over our own heads. No one wins. But when we have courage - when we trust that the Lord is good and faithful - when we surrender to Him and release it - everyone wins!

Forgiveness is FREEDOM! It changes you.