September 30, 2010

"If Momma Ain't Happy..."

I was having lunch with a friend several months ago and we were talking about some decisions that their family had staring them in the face. As he shared with me many of the thoughts, convictions, and feelings he had toward the matters at hand, one thing suddenly became clear: there was one person essentially making the decisions and steering the family boat. Momma. I know this because he put the exclamation point at the end of the very long sentence by reminding me that, "If Momma ain't happy...then nobody is!" Heard this before? Said this before? I have. But I'm beginning to question the potential pitfalls of such thinking. Let me explain.

Like most men who are at least making an attempt at being an unselfish, supportive, loving and Godly husband, I hope that my words and actions (or lack thereof) never upset my wife. To offend or hurt or frustrate my partner in life by being insensitive, negligent, rude, or self-centered is definitely not something on my agenda for the day (or year for that matter). But seriously coming to the conclusion that my wife's "happiness" is the epicenter and aim of every decision we make - whether as a husband & wife or as a family - is going out on a limb that is eventually going to split right underneath your feet. Now, allowing your wife to decide where you're going for dinner or what's going on top of the pizza is one thing. But when there is a monumental decision to be made - one that affects your entire family (like moving to Oregon or deciding "the Lord is leading you to another church") - the first person you better be consulting and considering is the Lord. And here's the number one reason why: 

What if Momma is wrong?

Let's change seats here for a moment. I think most guys would readily admit that we're prone to the temptation of making decisions based on our pride. Some of us have been known to do this. Are we dumb enough to think that our wives don't struggle with this as well? Do you think your wife isn't tempted at some point in her life to listen to her wounds or her fears or her emotions more than she's listening to the quiet whisper of the Spirit? Seriously? Make sure you hear me - every major decision that my wife and I have made together since we've been married has been an opportunity for us to seek the Lord's direction and wisdom together. And I really can't remember one of those instances where we ultimately disagreed. Whether selling one house & buying another, moving from Texas to Kansas, or 10 years later moving from Kansas to Alabama, answering the calling to Pastor a church, or putting the stamp on the envelope with the adoption qualification papers inside and mailing if off just weeks ago - we don't make these decisions without agreeing that the Lord is directing and leading us. And probably most of you reading this would say the same thing. So maybe you'd ask, "What's all the fuss for then?" It's pretty simple. Sometimes it's just easier to make someone happy than to patiently seek the Lord.

Husband: If you're spiritually leading your family - setting the example of believing Proverbs 3:5-6 and Jeremiah 29:13 and Ephesians 5:25-30 - there will most likely be a time that you have to lovingly sit down with your wife and say, "I really don't agree with you." But also humbly accept that your spouse may face the dilemma of having the same conversation with you. I'm not picking on women or wives here. I didn't title this article "If Daddy ain't happy..." because no one ever says that! The bottom line: sometimes this invisible emotion we refer to as "happiness" can be rooted in something other than Godly wisdom and humility. And as a husband and father, God has called us to seek, pursue, and even BEG the Lord for wisdom and humility in leading our families. Period.

You want a Proverbs 31 wife? Be an Ephesians 5 husband!
I assure you - THAT will make Momma happy!

September 27, 2010

What To Ask For?

You may have heard that Pastor Steven Furtick (Elevation Church in Charlotte) has just released his first book, "Sun Stand Still". It's #1 in the queue, waiting for me to finish the 2 books I'm reading right now. I'm really excited about ingesting what the Lord laid on his heart to pour into these pages. I've heard great things. And yesterday our Youth Pastor here at The Brook (Josh Britt) preached on the verses that inspired this book, Joshua 10:1-15. If you don't know the story, here's the synopsis:

Joshua makes an agreement with a group of people without consulting the Lord.
He is then later (because of his integrity and promise) forced to defend these people from attacking countries. The Lord promises victory.
The battle that ensued was not moving along as quickly as the day, so Joshua literally asked the Lord to "Let the sun stand still..." until Israel had defeated their enemies. And Joshua didn't go into a prayer closet in a tent and make this request either. It's says that he "prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel." GUTS! And here's where it gets good - God answered his prayer! Scripture tells us that "the sun and the moon stood still" - "the sun stopped in the middle of the sky, and it did not set as on a normal day. Never before or since has there been a day like that one...." Amazing!

Last night in my Men's Group, as we talked through the implications of this on our own lives, we asked the question, "Is there reason in my life right now that I need to ask the Lord to cause the sun to "stand still"? And as we talked through this on a literal level - is there some reason why I would need God to actually extend the day - the only answer I could really come up with was "No". But that's not really the point for you & me. The reality is that there IS something in my life I need to ask of him - something that is far bigger and greater than my frail human mind can wrap itself around. And while I may not at this moment even have clarity over the WHAT or the WHY, I'm called to ask. As a child of God, I am literally called by Him to request of Him to do things for the sake of HIS own glory in & through my life that only HE can do. [Meditate on that one for a moment.]

But here's the greater challenge. Have you wondered, "What do I need to ask God to do in my life?" "What is this great thing I should be requesting of Him?" Don't wonder. Don't sit and ponder and make a list. ASK HIM! Yes, ask Him! I know - "'re saying I should ask God to tell me what I'm supposed to ask for?" YES. Sound strange? Welcome to the reality of walking with and serving the Almighty Creator of the Universe! Welcome to the world of following the One who readily admits to us that our "ways" are not His ways and our "thoughts" are not His thoughts. But think on this - Romans 8:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit "prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words" and that "the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will". We don't even know what the heck to ask for half the time. But God knows. And if you dare to ask Him...and you dare to patiently wait for Him to reveal it to you in HIS timing...He will blow your mind! 

I don't know about you, but I'm not really in need of the sun to stand still today. (In fact, my son wears me out fast enough that some days I'm ready for it to go down a little quicker! Sometimes we may actually want to yell, "Sun...GO DOWN!") But there is something in my life - some area or circumstance or person or change or work - where I am in desperate need of Him doing a radical work that I could never manufacture on my own. And when I don't know what it is, how it will work, or even why it needs to happen...I ask God to reveal all that to me when He's ready and I'm ready. 

What are you asking the Lord to do in & through your life?

September 22, 2010

Is This Really the Hill to Die On?

Here I am, once again reading the denominational newsletter (from the denomination I was born, raised, and schooled in) from the state where I currently live and serve. And here I am, once again, wanting to scream at the top of my lungs because they've taken up 1/4 of the paper to shout from the rooftops that singlehandedly gambling is going to loosen Alabama from it's hinges and send us spiraling hopelessly into the pit of Hades. Forgive me, but did I miss the biblical mandate to take the message that "Bingo is a tool of Satan" to the corners of the world? Do you very nice people not understand that there are MUCH more important things for us to spend our time raising our voices about? And what really chaps my butt is that many of the people who decide to constantly picket and protest are members of churches where the very people doing the screaming will go out and bet on a golf game, spend $150 on dinner, never blink one eye toward helping the poor or a single mother, and yet still have the audacity to decide that this is what their entire denomination needs to be known for! 

[If you haven't picked up on it yet, this aggravates the ever-loving fool out of me. I'm already very aware that we ("we" meaning me & my church) are the jet-blackest black sheep in this club of ours. And about that, I could not possibly care less. I would need CPR if I found out any of those folks ever read my blog anyway.]

Don't get me wrong - I know that there are a ton of people who are so addicted and consumed by gambling that their right arm might as well be a slot machine lever. And there are families ripping apart because someone's Dad is (right this minute) betting the house on the St. Louis Rams for this Sunday. (Even if you don't gamble you know that's a bad move. Right?) Gambling can mess people up. And so can cigarettes and diesel fumes and all that freaking chocolate and lard that someone is uncontrollably stuffing in their mouth right now. Not to mention poverty and homelessness and porn and all that TV you're watching. And did I mention cigarettes? Don't you get it people? They don't need you to tell them that the Tradewinds Casino is going to be the Devil's tool in the demise of their neighborhood. In fact, Satan is probably loving every minute of this. Why? Because it's one more thing in the eternal list of many that has distracted us from the real mission we're called to be on and the life-changing message that people really need to hear: JESUS LOVES YOU! 

Why on God's green earth would anyone who doesn't know Jesus give one flying flip about a bunch of "apparent" religious zealots telling him or her what he or she should & should not do? You think you're protecting your kids? You're not. Getting rid of a casino doesn't protect your kids. YOU teaching them biblical, ethical, and moral responsibility does. YOU exemplifying for them what it means to be a steward of all that God has given you does. But yes, I'm well aware of the fact that yelling and screaming (or even tactfully and lovingly protesting) is just a whole lot easier. Too bad it's not biblical.

If you want to make a sign, holster a bullhorn, start a petition, or (for heaven's sake) start burning things...please do it under YOUR name and not His. The 
"Kingdom of God is advancing rapidly"...and I can assure you, there's not a casino in the world that's going to stop it!

September 20, 2010

Worst Case Scenario

Several months ago I asked a question to all my friends and acquaintances on Facebook and Twitter. Basically what I wanted to know was, "If you could describe your Worst Case Scenario in life...what would it be?" While I received a ton of feedback - many different responses - there seemed to be a common thread running throughout: selflessness! I didn't hear or read a lot of "To find out I have cancer" or "To have my life savings taken from me" or "Getting fired from my job". Mainly it was parents longing for their kids to outlive them and to never have to suffer the agony of making the same mistakes they had made. And Christians who have been praying for a family member or friend to come to know Christ - paralyzed over the idea that their loved one may choose NOT to choose to follow Christ. While I believed in the months leading up to this series that it would be meaningful, I can honestly say I had no idea how deeply it would resonate.

To give you an idea of the topics we tackled, here is the rundown from the series:
"A Broken Marriage" - When Divorce Hits Home
"Losing Someone You Love" - Facing Death
"You're Fired!" - Losing Your Job
"When 'Plan A' Fails" - When Life Doesn't Work Out The Way We Expected
"You're Not Ready" - Christ is returning. Are You Prepared?
"A Wasted Life" - Life Is a Race We're Called to Finish!

We very appropriately wrapped this series yesterday with the acknowledgement that not one of us would want to reach the end of our life and realize that we had wasted this precious time and opportunity the Lord has given us to make a difference - to make an impact for the Kingdom of God. And while we're running this race, the way we endure is by "keeping our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith". We have to FIX our eyes on Him. We run with purpose and intent! And we run knowing that OUR race is going to make an impact on the way that others are running. I love what Paul says to his friends in Philippians 1:24, "'s better for you that I live." Paul expresses how deeply he would love to be with Christ, but a peace and confidence in knowing that it was actually better for his friends that he go on living. I want to be living a life that would allow me to look at those around me and say, "It's better for you that I live!" 

What's your Worst Case Scenario? Did we miss it?
Do any of these topics or subjects hit home harder than others?
We'd love to hear about it. I'm guessing this series may return again.
At the end of it all, I really believe that our confidence in Romans 8:28 - and our deep understanding of Paul's words - are where our hope truly lies: "We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes for them." 

September 9, 2010

Love is LOUDER!

This Saturday is that day that will forever be plastered into my mind. I remember standing there in my bedroom, trying to get ready for work, on the phone with my Dad, watching the buildings burn...knowing that the world (at least the little one I had convinced myself I lived in) had suddenly changed. 9/11. They can rename it "Patriots Day" or whatever they want to call it, but worldwide all you have to say is 9/11 and people stop. They know. As this day has been approaching and the news has been gorged with debate about a mosque being built essentially a block from the monument and memorial of this tragedy, an uproar has begun. And not only is there great division over this issue - a building - now there is a group (which I refuse to refer to as a "church") in Florida that has decided the best thing they can do to supplement the hostility and hatred is to burn the Quran. I'd like to offer my thoughts on this.

Warning: The following words are mine. You might not like all of them. 

Just this morning I sat in a conference with many other pastors and leaders. We were in a breakout session talking about the delicacy of "speaking the truth in love" to one another. We often use this verse as a Stamp of Approval to share our strong opinions with others about something they've done or said or made the mistake of wearing. This is off-base. Mainly because Paul expressing this exhortation (and the words surrounding them in Ephesians) was in regards to sharing the Gospel. Paul is saying that in every effort and attempt we make at speaking the Good News of Jesus Christ to others in this world is to be done WITHOUT "bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as malicious behavior." He goes on to explain that we are to be "kind" and "tenderhearted". Nowhere does it say a word about lighting anything on fire!

I've heard the arguments made about Moses coming down from Mount Sinai and throwing the golden calf in the fire and that this is in the same vein. WRONG! We must remember that these were GOD'S people turning against Him and crafting their own idols and devices. These were people who had already been delivered from the hand of slavery and were (supposed to be) on their way to freedom. They knew right. They chose wrong. God often uses radical means to awaken us from our sin through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

[Looking back, that pyromaniac outburst I had in my backyard in 8th grade with some of those devilish rock 'n' roll tapes really didn't have much of a spiritual, eternal impact on my life. I think I actually own most of those albums again now. And they're amazing!]

Here's where I have to make a frustrating turn. The rest of what I want to write would be aimed at this anger-driven mob in the Sunshine State, shoving a piece of "Jesus Loves You" Gospel pie in their face and showing and telling them how wrong they are and how they're ruining it for the rest of us who are sane and rational. But I'm not going to do that. Why? Simple. They'd never listen even if I got their attention. I know - that sounds really pessimistic (maybe even fatalistic) - but you and I need to realize that there are some people in this world who have determined to preach a false gospel - one that calls people to burn books and protest mosque-building - rather than visibly, whole-heartedly, powerfully showing people the love of God through Christ Jesus. There are some people in this world (and sadly they have found some off-base justification in calling themselves "Christian") who are hardened, burned, and just mad as hell at the world and they're not going to take it anymore. They're toxic. And yell as loud as you can - scream it at the top of your lungs with all your might - and it won't matter. They are NOT going to listen. Which leads to the frustrating and lingering question: So what do we do about it?

Simple: Stop trying to prove all the wack-jobs wrong and focus your heart and mind and life in on proving God RIGHT! Know that Jesus was serious in John 13:34-35, that the world would know that we are His by our "love for one another". (And don't confuse being a "light in the darkness" with being a "burning trashcan full of books". This is not what He meant by being a "city on a hill".) Stop trying to scream louder than the idiot with the bullhorn. He has a BULLHORN for cryin' out loud! Have the overpowering faith that God's LOVE speaks much louder and clearer than someone else's fear. No, I don't believe the Quran is going to lead anyone into Truth. Yes, I desire that my Muslim friends come to know Jesus. But the idea that anyone has ever come to faith in Christ and been drawn into the Gospel through hatred and protest and barbecuing books is just as ridiculous and ludicrous as it sounds. Ri-dink-u-donk-ulous, even!

This Saturday, as our nation remembers a day that awakened us to the fact that not everyone in the world likes us, LOVE someone. Love your neighbor. Do something for someone who can't pay you back. Be a blessing to someone else. Ask the Lord to give you an opportunity for your actions - and HIS love - to speak louder than the hatred and the fear. And believe that they can!

My friend Sarah Cunningham wrote an article recently about this for Q. Check it out HERE.

September 2, 2010

Have You Met Phyllis?

I like the Christian bookstore. I could spend hours in there looking at all the books I want to read that I will later go home and order off of Amazon. I also like browsing the many witty sayings on the T-shirts that must have taken some creative genius hours (if not weeks) to come up with. All this and more are available to you and me, the Christian consumer, just down the street. But without a doubt, my favorite thing about my visits to Books-a-Jesus is the nice lady behind the counter!

While she is not alone (there seems to be a small army of these semi-retired church ladies who have overtaken the P/T Christian bookstore job market), the one who sticks out in my memory from earlier this week is Phyllis. One thing that thrills my soul about Phyllis is that she calls me Pastor Mayfield. (Of course, this is only after she reads it off of my debit card and sees on the computer that I'm the Pastor of The Brook.) That's OK, though. That's just Phyllis being Phyllis. 

There are a couple of things that I believe Phyllis has been told (trained...brainwashed...) to say to us as customers that leave me scratching my head, though. [OK, seriously - I rarely ever scratch my head. There are some things they do that irritate & confuse me & once-in-awhile make me want to laugh out loud.] These are what I like to call "On-the-Spot Tactics". Let me give you an example. About a month ago I went into said bookstore and when I finally got to the register and Phyllis (yes, it was her) started to check me out (don't go there) she pauses and asks me, "Would you like to donate $5 to give a Bible to one of our soldiers?" UUhhhhhhhhhh, what? I stood there for a moment and hesitantly replied, "Well, I'm not sure how anyone could say 'No' to that request. Yet, I find myself having to say, 'No'." This could have been one of the Top 5 Most Awkward Moments in my life. Or at least the month of August. 

How do you get people to donate $$? You trap them!

Then yesterday, Morgan and I were in the same bookstore. My wife - not knowing of my experience and knowledge of bookstore employee practice & protocol - failed to get into Phyllis's line. Oh well. So rather than interact with Phyllis, I got to be an observer. Here's what I observed. The nice man at the counter who was attempting to purchase the book he'd come in for (and not leave with 10 other items) was blindsided. Without notice...Phyllis moved in for the kill. "Sir? Do you like Praise & Worship music?" So let's get this straight: man comes into CHRISTIAN bookstore, he's surrounded by CHRISTIAN strangers (one of whom is supposed to be simply ringing up his order) and you ask him, "Do you like Praise & Worship music?" Seriously? Is he going to say, "No. I think it sucks!" This isn't like asking a hillbilly if they're into hip hop. She might as well have asked him, "Would you like to spend more money today sir, or do you hate Jesus?" The purpose of Phyllis's question was to see if the man wanted to pre-order the new Chris Tomlin album. This is the retailer's way of taking your money before they're even ready to give you anything. They're good at this. But why not simply ask, "Would you like to pre-order the new Chris Tomlin album?" One of two reasons: intentional tactical guilt maneuvering...or just plain ignorance. 

Do people THINK about what they're saying? Do we think through the options of response (or lack of) that we often leave people with? If you're trying to sell someone a bag of goods then come out with it. Don't dress it up like it's a birthday present and then let me open it only to find the bill waiting on me. Occasionally ask yourself, "How would I respond to this question or situation?" It might go miles toward helping someone actually consider buying what you're selling. 

As I said before, I like the Christian bookstore. I can find out what NOT to say, what NOT to wear, what NOT to put on the bumper of my car, and to read the Intro of the book I've already ordered online. But mainly, it's because I really like Phyllis.