January 28, 2010

I'm Going to Court!

In December I was pulled over for "failing to stop at a Stop sign". It was seriously frustrating due to the fact that I DID actually STOP! After realizing the officer had predetermined that he would be kindly handing me a citation, I decided to sit quietly take my lumps and go on. That lasted about 10 whole minutes! Then the internal war began over the principle of the matter - I can't just roll over and take it! Can I? Of course not! I would fight this to the death!

[It doesn't take long to become so overwhelmed, exhausted, distracted, and consumed with the important things in life that you just begin to not care anymore about exerting the effort to fight for principle]

I arrived at the courthouse this afternoon (yes, today) with the plan of walking in, paying my fine, and going on with life as usual. Let's just get this dumb thing behind us, shall we. And then the nice lady behind the counter disrupted my whole plan - she screwed it up royally! She looked at me and simply said, "You realize that by paying the fine...you're pleading GUILTY?" [Very LONG PAUSE at this point] The hand with debit card extended began to draw back. The apathy that had allowed me to finally say, "Screw it! I'll just pay this and get it over with." was now gone. Vanished. But I still continued rationalizing. I told her, "I just don't want to make a fuss and argue about this". I even said, "I'm a pastor. I don't know if I feel right about fighting this." The other lady behind the counter - who evidently had nothing better to do - joined in by asking me, "Are you GUILTY?" - to which I defensively retorted, "NO!" Which led me right back to the question staring me in the face: WHY? Why would you take the easy way out? Why would you essentially say, "OK. I'll pretend I did it."? Especially when compromising was going to cost $144? Seriously.

So thanks to my 2 new friends at the courthouse speaking up - and the unwillingness of my integrity to simply lay down and roll over - I now have a court date. I don't want to argue. I have no desire for a fight. I simply want to share the truth and believe that it will set me free! Sure, I want out of paying this stupid fine. But more than that, I don't want those 2 ladies behind the counter at Madison City Hall to think I ran that Stop sign! As if!

[And at worst, maybe the Judge will cut my fine in half. That would be AWESOME!]
Been there? Struggled with this? I'd love to hear about it!

January 25, 2010

Avoiding Adultery: Making Much of Your Marriage!

Adultery. Have you ever noticed it's just the word "Adult" with "ery" on the end? Sorta weird, huh? The word just screams images of sneaky, creepy, Do Not Disturb signs and older women in fishnet hose. Sorry. But if you grew up with Mrs. Robinson stamped in your mind, it's unavoidable. Yesterday I had the distinct - and uncomfortably awkward - privilege of preaching against this moral disease that has infected so many people in our culture. Here are some of my thoughts.

The Journal of Psychology and Christianity reported that "Up to 65% of husbands and 55% of wives will commit adultery by the age of 40". Did you absorb that stat? Yet, yesterday I asked for a show of hands: "Who is planning on committing adultery?" Not one hand. No one! (Thank God! I hadn't prepared myself for how to handle that one.) What this exposes is pretty cut and dry and simple: almost NO ONE who commits adultery is ever "planning" on it. The greater problem is, no one has a plan to AVOID falling on their face in this area. If you need help with this plan, take some time and listen to the message from yesterday: www.thebrookchurch.com/pages/podcasts.html

I challenged our men with this question: Have you stopped dating your wife? Sadly, many men - after several years of getting seriously comfortable co-existing - begin to love their chair and remote and SportsCenter more than their wife. I know, it sounds bad when I write it. That's because it IS bad! It's criminal. But it's FACT. Husbands have to understand that the young lady they chased and pursued still wants to be pursued. (Regardless of what they tell you - they want you to still want them!) This exhortation was warmly welcomed by the ladies, of course. But it was followed with this encouragement to the wives present: If you want your husbands to chase & pursue you, give them a reason! If everyday is "cotton pajamas and house shoes" day, things need to change! Ladies need to remember that one reason your husband was attracted to you is because he was ATTRACTED to you! You were trying and working hard to attract him and reel him in. So why would you start trying to REPEL him now? This is a 2-way street. This is NOT 50-50 - this is 100-100. This is marriage! It is 2 people working to grow and serve each other and give each other countless reasons to say, "I would never do anything to break this commitment or to crush this person's heart." It is willingly emptying yourself and putting someone else first. And THIS is the essence of what it means to be an "Adult". And in case we're not all connecting the dots, ADULTERY has NO place in that mix. Period. It is a KILLER! Adultery makes an adult a whole lot less of an adult. Sorta weird, huh?

Has your life been affected by adultery? Has it personally hit home?
I pray that the horrifying statistic I shared with you earlier begins to plummet as the people of God go to war for the sake of their marriages.

Go Deeper:
Proverbs 5
Matthew 5:27-29

1 Corinthians 7

January 21, 2010

The Greater Tragedy

The earthquake in Haiti this last week has given us one more opportunity to see the church - the people of God - mobilize and stand quickly to come to the aid of those in need. You really see what people are made of when crisis and disaster strike. We saw this with Hurricane Katrina, with the tornado that hit Greensburg, Kansas, and the tsunami a few years ago. Even during this shaky and turbulent economic time, people step up. And shouldn't this always be the case? But as I've been burdened by this over the last week and prayed, "Lord, what can I do?" I have begun to sense this haunting message that He keeps whispering back to me: "What about the BIGGER disaster?"

I shouldn't really wonder why the images from Haiti shake me to the core - or be confused by the stirring and outpouring of aid and help that comes at a time like this. But what I wonder about is why this sense of urgency and disaster doesn't overwhelm me on a daily basis knowing that people all around me are desperately in need of Jesus Christ. Seriously - do I believe what scriptures tells me? Do I believe Peter when he declares that "the end of all things in near"? And what about the fact that Christ made it clear that when "the Good News about the Kingdom of God is preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it" that THEN "finally, the end will come"? Do we think Jesus was just talking to hear his head rattle? Would He make this sort of claim just to raz us - get our attention - to only drop the "Just kidding!" bomb on us later? No.

Why are we not daily wrecked by the lost? Why do I sit in a restaurant more concerned with the service of the waiter than his salvation? And I know that meeting people's needs - being the "hands and feet" of Christ - reaching out and serving the "least of these" - is part of bringing the Kingdom of God wherever I go. But is it not also announcing that Jesus Christ died on a bloody cross for the sins of the world and is the only way to find salvation and peace and redemption? 

Is it a greater tragedy that someone died in Haiti who will be eternally separated from their Creator and Redeemer? Or is it a greater tragedy that someone lives next door to you (or me), works in the cubicle next to you, sits in the bleachers at your kids game with you, walks through this life with you...not knowing their Creator and Redeemer...and we just don't care? What is the greater tragedy?

If we are moved and changed and wrecked by the Gospel - by the love and salvation found in Jesus Christ - it's time to prove it! This story I'm writing called MY LIFE - I want it to be filled with risks and laughs and faith and failures...but NOT tragedy. Especially not the tragedy of opportunity lost and words left unsaid. 

What story are you writing?

January 6, 2010

The Moment the Wrecking Began

Just 2 months ago in our "Weapons" series we talked about the worldwide crisis of fatherlessness - that there are 100's of millions of orphans sleeping alone tonight all over our planet. This does not sit well with the Creator and Redeemer of the universe! And for the last couple of years it has caused me to lose some sleep. I'd like to share with you where all of that began.

It was June 2007. 12 of us headed out for Nassau, Bahamas, to work with Mission Discovery. And trust me, this was not an "island getaway"! We knew going in that we were going to be working at a home for children (nice way of saying orphanage), but none of us knew how bad this was going to wreck our hearts and lives. You don't hardly ever knowingly plan on being wrecked! One of my very close friends almost had to be convinced not to try and smuggle one boy out with us. And I think she prayerfully and tearfully considered going back and getting him for months after we left. Even with all of the emotional attachment and love that spread through my heart like fire that week, my wall was still standing. God hadn't hit me hard enough yet. And then...we started toward home.

On the plane on the way back I knew I had the grueling work ahead of me of taking all the video I had shot - playing it back - and putting it together. If you've been on a mission trip you know this video - the one that you show so that everyone who went can feel good about what they did and everyone who didn't go can either a) feel bad they didn't go or at least b) feel good that they gave someone else $25 to help pay their way. I began going through the thousands (and I mean thousands) of songs on my iPod, trying to find just one song that would sum up or capture the heart of what we'd experienced - this painful marriage of happiness and horror. And then - never expecting it or seeing it coming - I found this song. This was the moment the wrecking began.

For years I have listened to the band Tonic. Most people say, "I don't know their music". Actually, you do. They're one of those bands that - as my friends Andy and Dee discovered this fall when we saw them in concert - wrote a bunch of songs you've heard but didn't know who was singing them. I scrolled past the song, "Take Me As I Am". Scrolled past it again. And again. And it was like someone started whispering the words of the song into my ear, reminding me of what was being said. The moment I hit play was the moment God finally turned to the guy operating the wrecking ball and said, "Let it fly, Larry!" (Larry might not have been his name, but I think it's a good name for a wrecking ball operator). I don't know Emerson Hart's story or even what he intended or meant when he wrote these words. But here's what the song says:

I never knew my Father, I never knew his pain
Or when an empty home life would break him down again
So when I feel like running I have to look inside
I want to find the answers, I want to break me line

Fear falls down like rain...and makes me whole again
Fear falls like rain

Take me as I am, I'm not broken
Pieces of my life are not tokens
I want to let you know I'm still learning
How to love again and stop hurting

It hit me like a tsunami and - at 30,000 feet in the air - ripped through my heart like a knife through water. These words were not something I knew - this was NOT my life. But for millions of children all over this world - in my world, my country, my time zone, my city even - there's a desperation and hunger inside that's crying out, "I want to love! I want to stop hurting! I want to BE loved! I want someone to save me and prove me wrong - prove to me that I'm worth saving!" And sure, like millions of others I've sat and looked at their faces on television...millions of miles away...far from my reality and just at a safe enough distance they I didn't have to let them in or even come to grips with the fact that they were actually real. But they are real. And my television can no longer sustain the illusion of the distance. There is no more distance! Can you get any closer than your heart? I guess before we answer that question we have to ask another one: Is your heart open to being reached? Are you even the slightest bit willing to be wrecked? Because sadly, many of us spend a great portion of our lives with trowel and mortar in hand, just waiting on God (or anyone for that matter) to try and start slamming away at our wall - waiting on God to even think about having the audacity to try and break us - so that we can patch up and repair any damage that our heart might incur. Are you breakable? Are you heart and soul? Or are you brick and wall?

Why am I writing about this? Many close to us know that the Lord has been whispering to me (and Morgan) about this for some time. Why did I need to share this today? I'm not sure. Maybe it's because the Lord keeps on wrecking me. And me writing this - and you reading this - is one more step toward the obedience Christ is calling me to when He says that He cares about the fatherless. They aren't ON His agenda - they ARE His agenda. The question is, will they be MY agenda?

Is He wrecking you, yet?

January 4, 2010

Put Your Butt Where It Belongs! (Please)

I posted something on Twitter today that got quite a bit of feedback and seemed to evoke some emotion & frustration in people - which is what made me post it in the first place. What I said was, "I am fed up w/ppl flicking their cigarette butts out their window. If u need an ashtray, I'll buy u 1!" Let me give you some history on how bad this has been burning my butt (pun intended) for quite awhile now.

Several years ago while I was still living in Wichita, we were on a "Burn Ban". It was such a hot, dry summer that they basically said, "Unless you have permission from the Fire Department, you can't burn anything!" Period. Meanwhile wildfires were breaking out all over California, burning entire zip codes to the ground. One day that summer I was on my way home from work. It was probably 100 degrees easy. I pulled up to a stop light and the gentleman in front of me - older, and obviously headed home from a rough afternoon of playing golf - had finished his cigarette and decided to launch it out his window...straight toward the grass-covered median. I was furious! I put my Jeep in park, got out, and walked up beside his car and stomped out his cigarette. He sat there paralyzed - in disbelief. When I got back in my Jeep I could see his eyes staring into his rearview mirror, probably wondering, "What in the heck just happened?" This was the day I finally decided that I'd had enough of this.

Ever since that experience - one that I'm not incredibly proud of by the way - it seems that every smoker on the planet who chooses to do this winds up driving right in front of me. I even had a woman launch one out her window and it landed on the hood of my Jeep. Insane! I'm like a cigarette butt tractor beam!

I guess I've been trying to figure out WHY this chaps me so bad. Is it the vivid memory I have of my grandmother being able to fill her ashtray in her Cadillac to the point it looked like Mount Vesuvius? I figure, if she could use her ashtray so effectively in 1979, why can't you do it now, 30 years later! Or maybe it's that we're living in a world where we're being bombarded by "Clean up the environment" messages and all the while people are doing something this juvenile, ridiculous, and irresponsible...and no one seems to be yelling and screaming about it. Just the crazy pastor in the Jeep!

So, to you Mr. or Miss Smoker, keep your butt to yourself! After you're done sucking on your butt, dispose of it properly. Your butt belongs in an ashtray! We don't want to see your butt - especially laying on the curb still smoking! [OK - enough butt jokes.] In all seriousness, is there a reason for this? Is it just laziness? Did they stop putting ashtrays in cars? If they did, my offer still stands. I'll buy you one!

Does this drive you crazy like it does me? If not, what does?

January 1, 2010

Most Resolutions Suck! (Yes, Even Yours!)

Well, it's a new year. Therefore I feel there is some (unwarranted & self-imposed) pressure to write or say something contemplative or deeply profound. Which first of all has me questioning if anything I have to say is "deeply" profound. Can it just be mildly profound? Or does deeply automatically go in front of profound? I'm not sure. Either way.....

At this juncture each year people are resolving and promising to make changes and adjustments to their life that will make this year better than the one in the rearview. As a pastor, there are many aspects of this that I applaud: God's desire and plan to make all things new, a hunger in us as Christ-followers for change and transformation, and so on. We need to be re-evaluating and scrutinizing the progress of our walk and our journey. But - in my perspective - there's another side to this story - this once-a-year proclamation of progress.

Here's what I mean. If this is the eleventh year in a row that you're swearing to "join the gym, starting eating healthy, and lose those extra 20 pounds", I have some bad news for you: YOUR PLAN ISN'T WORKING! And here's more bad news: your NEW plan isn't going to work either! If this is the year you're finally going to read through the Bible (and yes, I started that today), spend less at Starbucks and quit smoking...you're probably going to fail miserably at that as well. Are you excited and encouraged yet? Ready to sign up for my 5-step Inspirational Conference? More on that later. The point to all of this is simple. Here goes:

If the first thing on your agenda & resolution list isn't FINDING ACCOUNTABILITY - finding someone to walk with you, challenge you, see through your BS (and by that I actually mean, "BS"), ask you the tough questions (like, "Have you spent any time in God's Word today?" or "Are you even entertaining a single thought about that woman who is NOT your wife?" - the 2nd question being a little "tougher" than the 1st) - then you are on a 365-day course toward your same stupid list next year. The cycle is endless. The resolutions are a haunting echo. You are not meant, wired, or supposed to do this on your own. STOP THE MADNESS! Break the cycle. And make your first resolution this year to beg the Lord to bring someone into your path and life to walk with you through fire.

There is much wisdom in Ecclesiastes 4:12. Read it. Study it. Live it.

You CAN do this. You CAN change! This is your year to kick some butt and take names - and to conquer that lifelong goal. But if your plan is to go it alone....quit while you're ahead. And save the money from the gym membership for donuts and coffee!

So, what's your resolution? And WHO is going to help you make it happen? Love to hear about your journey!