March 31, 2011


Part 3 in the series, "Secrets".

There are conversations we need to have that never take place. They swirl around in our head - like we're rehearsing them for an act in a play. But the problem is they stay there, camped out in our heart and mind, growing stale and infected. And the ultimate reason this takes place - the one we can hold responsible for this horrific decision - is ourselves. Our PRIDE. And let's make one thing clear: When there's a conversation that desperately needs to take place in your life - when there are words that need to be said - and they never see the light of day....that's what we call a SECRET. And this kind of secret will begin to rot inside your heart.

Secrets are why someone's marriage will end today. In fact, it's ending right now, while you're reading this. A wife is hurt because her husband has fallen into a pattern of coming home from work, falling into his chair, and like some entitled prince (or heartless sloth), he forgets that his wife and children need him more than his coworkers and his employer. But she doesn't have the courage to say, "Honey, I know you work hard every day. I appreciate it! But when you come home most days, I feel like you don't really want to be here. I NEED you!" And there's a husband who gets in bed every night in agony, wondering why his wife faces the other way - wondering if she even finds him remotely attractive anymore. He's crushed. Quite frankly, he's growing frustrated. But he climbs in bed, waits for a response that doesn't come, and rolls over to continue drowning in his pool of unspoken wounds. WHY? Why do these conversations never take place? Why do they remain there, in SECRET? Simple answer: PRIDE.

Something inside us has learned, accepted, and now cultivated into perfection this culture of WINNING. We can't simply say, "I'm sorry", because that would mean surrendering the victory. We won't even begin to consider uttering those words because they would imply that we were WRONG. God forbid! And to go along with this self-inflicted burden of checking one more off in the WIN column, we also refuse to allow the other person to know that we're hurt. Wounded. We don't want anyone to know that they've somehow penetrated our armor. That there's a possibility of a weakness in our defenses. And while all of this sounds ridiculous, juvenile, and petty...physically-grown adults play this game all day long. Marriages DIE over it! Teams go from winning to losing because of it. Companies are destroyed and go bankrupt because this seed is planted, watered, and ultimately grows into an uncontrollable beast. And what seemingly smart, intelligent, creative, sensitive, decent people don't seem to realize is that when WINNING is your goal in life, every body loses. Including you.

Secrets. As I alluded to a second ago, they're a simple seed. They don't start out as bitterness or resentment or deceit or heart-crushing, agonizing grief. But when they're planted - and especially watered - with time, they don't just grow. They grow out of control! And that's why I plead with you: Do NOT even allow them to penetrate the soil in your soul! Go to war against them! And understand that the greatest weapon you have at your disposal to destroy this disease before it ever gets HUMILITY. There's a reason why James says, "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God and He will lift you up," and then immediately follows it up with, "...casting all your cares on Him, because He cares for you!" Humility is WORK. It's WAR! It's a battle of the Spirit of God inside us against the selfish nature of our flesh. And it's a war that we must fight! But when WE fight for humility in our lives, HE fights for us! James 4:6  reminds us that God "gives more grace. Therefore it says, 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble'. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." When we stare our PRIDE straight in the face - see it for what it truly is - and refuse to allow it to have it's way in our lives - and when we allow the humility of Christ (Philippians 2:1-11) to reign in us and through us - the Creator, Redeemer, and Great Provider opens the floodgates...and allows every ounce of strength, comfort, courage, and peace we need to pour out on us like a raging river. Just make sure you hear this loud and clear: There is WORK to be done. And often, truly WINNING this war - claiming this victory in your life and relationships - will come in the form of SURRENDER. And this goes against all human logic. But when has God ever been about succumbing to our logic? [HINT: Never.]

Once we begin allowing the truth to see daylight - if we honestly cry out to God as David did to "Search us...know us...test us...and point out ANYTHING in our lives and our hearts that would be keeping us from truth and purity and holiness" (Psalm 139:23-23, paraphrase mine) - once we allow even ONE SECRET to be made known - we'll begin to have the eyes and hearts capable and ready of realizing that EVEN MORE SECRETS are buried there...eating away at us...killing our soul...feeding our PRIDE. And again, hopefully like David, we will see that our Redeemer desires "truth in the innermost parts - honesty from the heart - so He can teach me to be wise in my inmost being." (Psalm 51:6) The truth sets us free. Secrets enslave us. I encourage you today to choose to be FREE!

March 30, 2011


This is Part 2 in a series of posts I'm writing on the issue of "Secrets". I encourage you to read Part 1 first. I'm praying the Lord opens your heart and eyes to anything in your life that's been kept hidden. It's time to bring it to light!

Since we're laying things out on the table, I thought I should come clean about a few other things. And while I can't actually speak for anyone else, I think I'm going to. Of course this won't be for everyone - there are some out there who've figured this out already and made peace with it. But not most of us. Most of us are walking around with the feeling that we're trying to win a role in a foreign film in a country where we don't even speak the language. And ironically, while it may feel that way to those of us carrying it, it can comes across as arrogance or snobbery to others. Or to use the word that has been tossed out on more than one occasion to describe me:  You seem "Unapproachable". This SECRET that many of us are carrying - many of us who are called "Pastor" - is pretty simple: We do NOT know all the answers.

When I make this confession I should be more specific and clarify: When it comes to questions of faith - when it comes to every facet of theology, biblical interpretation, and church history - and when the issues, doubts, and conflicts arise within your heart or within the church - I do NOT know all the answers! And sometimes, as much as I want to live an honest, transparent, and humble life, I walk around and carry on as if I do. Let me be clear: I am VERY aware that I don't know it all. But there are times when the people who call you "Pastor" can make you feel like you're a little smarter, wiser, and more loaded with omniscience than we know to be true. [And of course there's also the irony that some of you reading this are probably thinking, "How in the world could he get that idea? I'm fully aware of how big of an idiot he is!" Ironic. I know.] Just the same, this is a disease of PRIDE. And I struggle and wrestle with my pride on a daily basis. But the important thing is, I continue the struggling and the wrestling. No, I don't know it all. But that's why there is not a day that goes by that I don't hunger and desire to draw near to God and be in His Word. I'm dead without it. I'm dead without Him!

I don't pray like I should either. More often than not, I feel ignorant and humbled in God's presence, pleading like Peter, "Lord, teach me how to pray!" And yes, I pray in my car. I pray over my children. I get down on my knees here in my office with the door closed and the world locked outside and I pray. But I don't do it enough. As Oswald Chambers wrote: "Prayer is not the preparation for the battle or for the greater work. It IS the battle! It IS the greater work!" And I don't just feel this way - like I need to pray more - because I'm a pastor and that's what pastors are supposed to do. I'm a child of God and there's no better place for me than to sit at His feet and seek His face. And if I'm being honest, I just don't do that enough.

No more secrets.

March 29, 2011


Well, here we are again. Coming out from underneath the rubble of the devastation caused by a pastor cheating on his wife. It's like one of the jaw-dropping tsunamis - creating this life-crushing, leave-nothing-in-my-wake waves of destruction. I have to be honest that I'm not sure how much more my heart can take of this. I don't think brokenness and anger are supposed to be mix like this. And I'm not even one of the ones in the direct line of fire. That said (and using the pastor's own words) he's "given the church a black eye". True. I can't write another blogpost about this. I can't spell ACCOUNTABILITY any other way - dress it up and draw more attention to it. It is what it is. [Whatever the heck that actually means.] You either want it - demand it of yourself - or you don't. You either live transparent, out in the open, in full view for the world to see - scars, wounds, and all - or you don't. You either live honestly and openly - desperate for integrity - or you live with secrets. Yes, that's right. Secrets. And this conclusion has caused me to come to the realization in my own life that there's just not any room anymore for secrets. NO MORE SECRETS!

In light of events of the last week and having to once again deal with this issue, I feel compelled to write a series of posts on "Secrets". In choosing to do so, I don't feel there's really any more appropriate place to start than with my own. And please understand, this is not at ALL centered on or anchored to sexual sins. Adultery and affairs - cheating and lying - start as something much smaller. They begin in corners that aren't quite as dark - in more acceptable places. They're birthed as little lies and exaggerations. They start out as something a whole lot easier to swallow: secrets. So I guess my thought is, let's lay them all out on the table.

If someone came to me right now and asked me, "Brian, what are the Top 2 or 3 things about your life that probably not many people know - that they might be surprised, shocked by, or even relieved to know? What are your secrets?" My first thought would be: "Is there any potential of this information encouraging them or strengthening their faith?" & "Is there any potential that sharing this will refine me & use me for the Kingdom?" Questions asked, contemplated, and answered. Fasten your seatbelt. Here we go.

I care about how I look. Let me rephrase that: I care too much about how I look. I watched my Dad become so engulfed and busy with ministry that he began neglecting his health and his fitness. I get really distracted and bogged down with knowing that I have that same potential. And when people say things like, "I don't know what you're so worried about. You don't seem to gain weight at all!", there are times I want to punch them in the mouth. Yeah, that's because I work out and run my butt off. ALL the time! I spent so many years as a youth pastor around 16 year old boys that I forgot that a 35-40 year old man really isn't supposed to look that way. I care about this too much. And I'm praying now (as I have been for several years) that the Lord will free me from caring about it at all. I'm more and more OK with that fact that I don't have "abs", I have an ab. It's more like a keg than a 6-pack. And that's OK. So, there's one secret that's out in the open.

Another thing you probably don't know is that for the last 10 months of my life I've been on an antidepressant. [And I realize that for some of you this one is a total shock to your system.] I've spent my whole life as an outgoing, extroverted, loudmouth, life-of-the-party, wild man. I'm a Type-A leader! How does someone like that wind up depressed? Great question. Simple answer. Your personality has NOTHING to do with your chemical, mental, or emotional potential for depression. Your personality has ZERO to do with circumstances in your life that may burden you or weigh on you in ways that you had never experienced before or were never prepared to handle. Especially on your own! Sometimes you realize that you're not as much "that way" as you were 5 years ago. Or 10 years ago! Some people almost suffocate under the weight of trying to be who everybody expects them to be rather than simply being themselves. Sometimes - yes, even for pastors - there are parts of us that we just don't understand. And no, medication is not always the answer. But sometimes it is the answer. And that's OK. You're not a freak! God doesn't look at you and think you've lost your faith. And anyone who says or thinks that He does has obviously never wrestled with depression. 

Now let me humorously - but sadly - connect secret #1 with secret #2. In December I started noticing that keeping weight off - that the results I was used to seeing from hours at the gym - weren't coming so easily. Then I saw a commercial for an antidepressant. I heard the 45 seconds of potential side effects. A light bulb went off in my head and I connected the dots. I called my doctor's office and asked the nurse, "Can my medication cause weight gain?" Her simple, to-the-point response: "Absolutely." And this is where secrets #1 & #2 met, shook hands, and became friends. And this is where I made the determination that follows: NOTHING could make me more depressed than gaining weight. So I'm taking myself off this stupid medication. [No, this was not my smartest moment.] In fact, when I shared this with a few of the men in my Men's Group this January, I thought they were going to collectively beat me! Which I'm now thankful for. STUPID, prideful move! And I know that my situation is not that extreme, but it dawned on me later: If you ever choose VANITY over your SANITY again, you may actually be insane!

These were secrets. They're not anymore. I refuse to be controlled or enslaved by anything that I have to keep hidden from the light of day. These struggles don't define me - they REFINE me. But only through the grace and strength and power of Jesus Christ living in me and through me. And I pray that laying my secrets out on the table might encourage you to do the same. You may not need to tell the world or blog about them. But you need to share them with someone you love and trust. And remember: lies, adultery, cheating, affairs, deception never start that way. They're planted as seeds called SECRETS!

March 26, 2011

The Little Nosebleed that Could

Disclaimer: In sharing stories from our lives like this, we ask that you not tease or patronize our kids over it. They're kids. They're hilarious! But they're sensitive and impressionable. You can laugh AT me while you laugh WITH them. Thanks!

Over the past 2 years my son has begun having nosebleeds. Like the kind where you're sitting there minding your own business and a stream of what feels like syrup begins running down your face. I've had those, too. No fun! But last night at 8:30 it was as if the Lord had cursed Nathan's sinus cavity with the Nile River plague. The blood just kept flowing. Which (again) I've seen before. Last time I broke my nose it bled for a good 45 minutes. (That's a story for another day.) But where this nose bleed turned from annoying to "Holy crap!" is when blood started coming out his eye...running from his tear duct...flowing down his face. Yes my friends, you heard that right. And that's where the screaming went from loud to deafening! Let's continue.

Both my children are incredibly panic-stricken. Nathan can run through a wall and laugh about it, but show him an ounce of blood and he comes unglued. Especially if it's his own. So the nosebleed was already a crisis. But when my wife's eyes got big - or HUGE, I should say - and she started saying, "Brian? Brian. BRIAN! BRIAN!!!", and Nathan had to see what it was his incredibly calm mother was getting a bit worked up over, and he caught a glimpse of the red river flowing out of his eye, it was all over. The adventure began.

Most of my friends know I have always had a slight aversion to blood. Aversion means I don't want to see it. And when I get my blood taken I get light-headed and dizzy. I've gotten better about this in the last years. But all of a sudden seeing blood flowing out my child's eye erased every ounce of progress I had made. Back to the story. I made Nathan sit back down on the toilet. I was holding ice on the back of his head. And then I felt that cold, tingly rush all over my body and running through my cranium that says, "You better look out. I'm getting ready to go all Paul Bunyan on you and hit the floor like timber!" I looked at Morgan and told her, "I've got to sit down. Like NOW!" And that was the last thing I remember. [Pause here for 45 seconds of unconsciousness.] I was suddenly awakened by my wife's normally soothing voice, screaming in an ear-piercing shrill: "MOM!!!!!" She' calling my mother-in-law in to come make sure I hadn't destroyed the plumbing - in the bathroom or on my face. Apparently - as if my nose needs anymore help being broken, deformed, or swollen - the side of my face met the toilet like the Coyote used to meet the bottom of the canyon after being schooled by that crafty Road Runner. BAMMMM! If I hadn't had my glasses on it probably would have broken my nose. For the 3rd time. But I regained composure and I was back in the game. Where were we?

We decided after the "blood coming from the eye" incident which only lasted 15 seconds or so, to call 9-1-1. I figure freak things like that deserve a larger audience. The paramedics AND the firemen came. It was very exciting. Sadly, I think most of the neighbors were scared that one of our 2 elderly neighbors were in trouble. But nope. It's just the Mayfields. (They'll get used to it, eventually.) This was just the beginning of our adventure. And so here, in bullet form, I'll give you the rest of the details of the story about "The Little Nosebleed that Could":
  • 9:30 - Decided to let the Ambulance take Nathan & Morgan to the ER. I drove the car. I beat them there by 15-20 minutes. And no, I wasn't speeding.
  • Nathan fell asleep 2 minutes into the Ambulance ride and didn't wake up for at least an hour.
  • While the word "Emergency" is the 1st word in Emergency Room, apparently the people who work in the Emergency Room at times operate under a different definition of this word. The words "urgent" & "hurry" do not necessarily apply. [And in all seriousness, we have to keep in mind that OUR emergencies are viewed much more objectively & professionally by these hard-working folks. There were easily 30 other families joining us in the ER for the late-night fun!]
  • Nathan is still asleep. We were offered drinks. I asked what the "hardest" thing they had was. Morgan got OJ. I had Diet Pepsi.
  • Midnight - A doctor looked at Nathan's nose. Every time she stuck the instrument up his nose it tickled so bad he couldn't hold still. Which was weird to me, since he shoves his finger up there all the time with no problem at all. 
  • She said they were going to give him Afrin. [This constricts your blood vessels. I know this from previous experience.] At home, retrieving the Afrin takes 30 seconds. In the ER it takes 45 minutes. I've heard of Afrin shortages at the hospital pharmacy, but never witnessed it firsthand.
  • 12:15-1:00 - They forgot about us.
  • 1:15am - We remind them about us.
  • 2:00am - Home. Bed. No more blood. Visions of pancakes.
Yes, everything in our family and in our home seems to turn into an "experience". While we're simple people, it always tends to get complicated. And no, I can't tell a short story. But you only live once. And sometimes - actually, a LOT of times - it's either laugh or cry. Or in our case, cry...then laugh. Laugh really hard! And times like these, I figure someone else should get to laugh along with us.

March 25, 2011

Do NOT Lose Heart!

Let me be quick and to the point: More often than not these days I feel like I'm falling apart. My neck is in constant tension, the scar tissue in my shoulder makes noises that would frighten a child, and my lower back now seems to have it's own mission of clamping down on my spine and unmentionable posterior like a vice in a junior high shop class. And that's just the upper body! I've still got 16+ months before I reach 40. This is getting old really quick! But before you ask me if I'd "like some cheese with my whine" - and maybe it's too late for that - let me just say this: I'm totally OK with it.

I reached the conclusion a few years ago that those 2 or 3 guys at the gym - or the ones they somehow manage to slap on the Men's Health cover (as if any NORMAL human with 1/2 a life has the time or metabolism to look like that) - are either 1 of 2 things: really, really lucky....or just plain flat not living. Sure, I want to be in shape. I want to run with my kids. I want to try and eat right. And I do. But I'm more concerned with actually living - tasting things that make me want to taste them again, showing my kids the proper way to devour pancakes, and just being there for them - than I am with looking like Ryan Reynolds. (No offense to Ryan Reynolds. Great choice for Green Lantern, by the way!) The question for us, even in the midst of our aches, pains, whitening hair, and blood pressure meds is this: WHAT are we really living for?

Paul exhorts us 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, "We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away ("Amen" to that!), our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen." (Amen mine) If we're living this life to the fullest - living each day, abandoned for the Kingdom of God - there are going to be aches and pains. We're probably going to get to know our Pharmacist better than we ever wanted to. You'll most likely see your chiropractor more than your hairstylist. It's OK. LIVE! We're wasting away, my friends. This "outer self" is a fragile earthen vessel. But THANK YOU LORD! In the midst of this temporary decaying process, "our inner self is being renewed day by day"! Is this true for you?

Are you finding your greatest joy and hope and rest in Christ?
Are you pursuing Him daily? Being renewed?

My hope is in Christ. Period. He is making me new. I can't see it most of the time, but I feel it and know it in my soul. He is faithful and good. His love for me is greater than anything. And so tomorrow morning, as I take my 4 pills, I will swallow them with joy, knowing that I'm alive and I belong to Him! And this is why I do NOT lose heart!

March 23, 2011


This past Sunday we wrapped up our series, Nehemiah :: Rebuilding. Spending the last 2 1/2 months studying, praying, and preaching through this book of the Bible has been incredibly challenging, encouraging, and renewing. I wanted to share some thoughts from the final message and just from the series overall. If you weren't there this past Sunday, I encourage you to take some time and listen to the message, "Bring the Best". Click HERE to listen.

The Cliffs Notes version of Nehemiah would go something like this: God gives Nehemiah a vision for rebuilding the walls and gates of Jerusalem. God grants Nehemiah an opportunity to pursue this vision with the help of the King of Persia. The Lord empowers His people to carry out and fulfill this vision - in a very short time - with great opposition - from outside and within. God shows His constant power and provision for His people! Through this, the people begin to hunger and desire to KNOW God and make Him KNOWN. They place His Word as the 1st priority in their lives. This leads to a series of things happening:
  • They are broken over their sin - begin confessing & repenting of their sin.
  • They worship God with humble, thankful, & grateful hearts.
  • They are changed & transformed.
  • They make a commitment to walk with the Lord & serve Him only!
And ALL of this - every piece of that puzzle - every step of that journey - began with one man being given a vision by God to physically, tangibly rebuild some broken down walls. But when the Lord gave Nehemiah this burden and conviction - when He planted this vision in Nehemiah's heart and mind - it wasn't the time to act on it. God told Nehemiah WHAT, but He didn't reveal HOW or even WHEN. And this brought what was possibly the greatest test of them all - the one that renders most of us unfaithful and disobedient: the test of WAITING & PRAYING.

Nehemiah spent a minimum of 4 months speaking of his vision to no one - no one except the Lord, that is. And once he revealed it to the King and asked for his assistance, then finally traveled to Jerusalem, had opportunity to meet the opposition, and carry on a full-scale inspection of the walls, he still "had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work." He waited. And he prayed. And he waited. And he prayed....

What vision is God laying on your heart for His Kingdom?
Do you have the ears to hear Him? The heart to obey Him?
Do you have the faith to believe that He can accomplish anything through you?

And maybe the biggest question of them all for you and I to answer: 
Will we follow Nehemiah's example and patiently pursue the heart of God?
Will we endure the WAITING & PRAYING?

For those of you who are part of our church family at The Brook, it has never been more evident that the Lord is growing our church and our city. We know that He has placed us here to worship, grow, and serve...together! We are here - in this city, right now - to "Bring His Kingdom Everywhere We Go!" But we are also waiting to see what He has in store for us. We are praying - that in HIS timing - He will reveal the next steps to us. I hope you will join us in the WAITING & PRAYING!

*There are still BRICKS available for you to take home as a reminder to join us in this journey!

March 15, 2011

Are We Really BORN This Way?

The last few days I can't stop listening to the new Passion album, "Here For You". It's amazing! But this morning I started thinking about the last album, "Awakening", remembering that Steve Fee was part of that conference and project. My heart broke last year when I found out that Steve confessed to having an affair. This led to his stepping down from leadership at North Point (in Atlanta), being removed from conferences and youth camps everywhere, and seemingly falling off the proverbial radar. And for the record, I support anyone who has fallen in the area of purity and breaking their marriage covenant being removed from leadership. Sin has to be taken seriously! (But so does restoration.) I also for some strange reason began thinking about another significant event in the life of "Christian music" last year. Long-time CCM star Jennifer Knapp had literally disappeared. She went from touring with Third Day and others to "No one knows where Jennifer Knapp went!" Until 2010 went she suddenly reappeared, only to shock the world - or at least the Christian world - with the headlining news, "I'm gay. And I've been living with my lover in Australia." [And this is where the disconnect enters the picture.]

What I find very confusing and disturbing about these 2 scenarios is that Steve Fee confessed sin, was removed from leadership - status revoked - and (I can only hope and pray) helped onto a path of spiritual restoration. Jennifer Knapp, on the other hand, confessed sin - only it wasn't confessed as "sin", but as a "lifestyle choice" - was reinserted into the public, and thereafter affirmed and encouraged by many artists who profess Christianity, "Way to go Jennifer! You're so brave and courageous." Is there not a gross misunderstanding of scripture, admonition, and sin in this scenario? Was anyone saying, "Way to go, Steve!"? 

These are symptoms of a much bigger issue. The issue is that war is being waged on our souls to contort scripture so we can conform to sin. It's the antithesis of Romans 12:1-2. It's the proof of Romans 1:18-32. It's the evidence of 2 Timothy 4:3-4. Let me explain.

If I began having an affair and a friend of mine found out about it, hopefully he would sit down with me, lovingly and compassionately confront me, and boldly exhort me to "turn from my sin!" (I know a couple of my friends who would threaten my life!) But what if I listened to what he had to say, paused for a few moments of awkward and painful silence, only to let him in on the secret I've been carrying and hiding all these years now: "I was born an adulterer. That's right. I've spent years hiding it, trying to convince myself it's not true. But it actually took me getting married, having 2 children, and spending years in the ministry before I could come to grips with it. It's genetic. It's biological. I was born this way!" Anyone in their right mind, after holding back the laughter, shock, and disbelief, would look me in the face and explain to me, "No. You evidently were born an idiot!" Before you cave in to or push back from my absurdity, please understand: this is the same logic and self-gratifying ideal and worldview allows or causes a person struggling with homosexuality to say, "I was born this way." 

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, the Apostle Paul tells us that "...those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshipers, adulterers, prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers - none of these will have a share in the Kingdom of God." (Further affirmed in Gal. 5:19-21, Eph. 5:5, Rev. 22:15) Use the same lens with any of these other sins. Would someone have the audacity to say, "Sorry man, I was born a drunk!" Or "This is just the way I was born - a greedy, swindling prostitute." No! You aren't BORN a drunk, an abuser, an adulterer, a liar, an idol worshiper, or a homosexual. You were born a SINNER! I came into this world depraved. ["Rooted is the seed of death in life's first breath."] "When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam's sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned." (Romans 5:12) A person can argue all they want that the particular sin they wrestle with was given to them at birth like a gift. This is self-centered and unbiblical. It's an unfounded lie. It's the Enemy's way of persuading us to contort the truth so we can conform to sin. I had to confess to my church family this past Sunday that before I began walking with Christ I struggled severely with lust. It was constantly defeating! But as a Christ-follower, I have gained more and more victory over this in the past 20 years than I can begin to explain. I wasn't born a professional agent of lust: I was born a sinner. Thankfully at age 19, I stopped buying the lie!

The GOOD news is that when I choose to follow Christ - the GREAT High Priest who "...offered Himself to God as one sacrifice for sins, good for all time" - He makes me "a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." On our own, we have no capacity, ability, or desire to overcome or walk away from sin. But when we come to know Jesus Christ - when the Spirit of the One, True, Living God inhabits our lives - we CAN overcome! 1 John 3:6 tells us that "No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him." This doesn't mean that when I begin to follow Christ that I'm done sinning. Hardly! But it does mean that I become more and more aware of my sin and my heart becomes more and more grieved over it and I confess and repent of it more and more, coming back to the path of holiness and righteousness that Christ died so that I could walk. "Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil." (1 John 3:7-8, italics mine)

I believe that many people are apprehensive and afraid of calling sin what it is because we are recovering from decades of the "church" losing sight of biblical and compassionate confrontation. Somewhere along the line, for some reason - fear, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, bad theology - Christians became angry. Righteous indignation is one thing. Venomous hate and condemnation is another! [And if you want to use Christ as your example, remember the only time He got seriously angry it had to do with corruption, greed, and money.] Christ loved. He loved the woman who was drug to Him by the Pharisees. He told them, "Whoever of you is without sin, you can be the first to stone (judge) her." And yes, they all crawled away with their tails between their legs. But do NOT forget the words of exhortation and love that Christ spoke to her as she began to walk away: "Go; and from now on...sin no more."

I love Jennifer Knapp. And I love Steve Fee. But I believe they have both been deceived into believing - at some point - that sin was (and is) something other than sin. We are warned that this temptation will come. It's been here from the beginning! "...they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator..." As Christ-followers, we are to live in constant victory over sin. Victory that we have to claim, embrace, and take hold of. Paul exhorts us in Romans 6:13, "Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness." There are people close to me - people that I love dearly - who are struggling with the sin of homosexuality. There are also people I love who wrestle with lying, cheating, jealousy, bitterness, and pride. Man, do I wrestle with pride! But I'm praying that we understand we have to keep wrestling! We are called to overcome! We are set free to "abide in Christ" and "go and sin no more". The question is, will we see sin for what it truly is: SIN. Will we realize that while we were born in sin, we are REBORN to overcome it? Or will we contort, distort, and ignore scripture so we can continue to conform to sin?

Dig Deeper:
1 John 1:5-9, 3:4-10
Romans 1:18-32, 6:1-23
1 Corinthians 6:9-20
2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Genesis 18:1-19:29
Hebrews 10:29-31
2 Peter 2:4-10

March 11, 2011

The Triangle of Life

As I sit here watching this mouth-dropping footage of the earthquake in Japan and the tsunami that followed it, I'm heartbroken and in awe at the same time. Living here in northern Alabama - or many places throughout the interior United States - we don't ever even give thought to a tsunami, earthquake, or anything like it (other than a tornado here and there) hitting close to home. And in reality, it might never happen. But consider this: How many tourists do you think are in Japan right now? How many vacationers were swept away in the tsunami several years ago? Thousands! Tourists, missionaries, businessmen and women - countless unsuspecting people - never giving a moment's thought that nature might be preparing to unleash destruction in the blink of an eye. Even though your neighborhood may never be shaken to the ground by an 8.9, I think there is immense wisdom in preparing yourself and your family for the prospect.

One thing I noticed more than any other in the footage from the Japanese quake this morning - and that I saw in the Haitian footage a year ago - was person after person crawling under desks and tables, taking cover. This may LOOK like a good idea, but it's misleading and potentially life-threatening. I'm not a disaster management specialist or emergency operations manager, but I've paid attention to what they say. I want to share with you the real advice that the experts give if you ever find yourself in an earthquake. It's called the Triangle of Life.

Think about it in these terms: If I'm under a table and the roof collapses on that table, I'm in serious trouble. And if that table is towards the interior of my home (or wherever I happen to be), I'm in even bigger trouble! Not only will my chances of being crushed go up, my accessibility of rescue is seriously diminished as well. The alternative? Get as close to the outside walls of your home, school, office, or whatever building or structure you're inside. This puts you as close to the point of entry for rescue as possible. And rather than getting under a table, desk, or bed, get in between them. Look at this picture at the right to get a visual idea.

If you're outside, rather than getting under your car, get beside your car or in between two cars. If you're in class at school, don't get under your desk, get in the aisle between the desks. Remember: roofs and ceilings cave in, but walls collapse with them. And it could be a seemingly insignificant 12-18 inch area of space that saves your life! This rule can also apply during a tornado. If you're going to duck-&-cover, don't do it hiding under something that could potentially crush you to death!

I'm sure you'll probably never have any need to know any of what I've shared with you here. But if you do, I'm betting you'll suddenly remember that day that Brian decided to use his blog to ramble on about earthquake safety. 

Please join me in praying for all those in Japan, Hawaii, and in the Pacific region who've been devastated by this horrible disaster!
For more info on the Triangle of Life, check out these articles:

March 8, 2011

A Cheap Imitation

Fat Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday. Pancake Day! Call it what you want, but it's the day before Ash Wednesday - the ushering in of Lent. Lent - not the nasty stuff you find in your belly button after a weekend of camping, but a season of penitence, sacrifice, and self-denial leading up to Easter. If you're a devoted follower of Christ, this 40-day period can be one of the most intimate and devout times of drawing closer to Him, leaning into the Word of God, and finding a refreshment in prayer that you've never known before. But if you're simply religious - if this is just part of what you do because you belong to a certain denomination or group - I want to encourage you to consider something: DON'T BOTHER.

I know, I'm harsh sometimes. But here's the thing: the last thing most people need (particularly in the Western Church) is one more piece to add to the puzzle of religiosity. Yet today - Fat Tuesday - will be for many an opportunity to GORGE and PURGE on something that beginning tomorrow - Ash Wednesday - they will torturously attempt to forgo for what will seem like an eternity. And during those 40 days, will draw no closer to God than they have in years. That's not sacrifice OR self-denial. It's a cheap imitation! The act of sacrificing and denying yourself - FASTING - are meant to be replaced with something else. When you hunger for that food, rather than indulging yourself, you pray. When you REALLY want that coffee and your caffeine headache is about to split your skull, rather than head to head to the prayer closet. Is about moving our dependencies away from things of this world and back to the One who sacrificed it ALL for us on the Cross. Is this your motivation for Lent?

My goal through this post is not to convince you to partake in Lent. But it's also not to dissuade you either. My hope, desire, and prayer is that if you choose to give something up over these next 6 weeks, it will be out of a powerful hunger and unquenchable thirst for more of Jesus Christ. Whatever you give up - lay it down, leave it behind, and walk toward Him. And if you want to take it a step further, don't tell anyone else. That's right. NO ONE! Don't make this about announcing to the rest of the planet, "That's right. I'm giving up chocolate for 40 freaking days! That's how much I love Jesus!" Uh, no. Jesus made it pretty clear that when we fast we're to keep it between us and Him. Wash your face. Don't look like someone shot your dog or sucked the life out of you. Be joyful. Draw near to Him! That's the meaning and purpose of Lent.

Dig Deeper:
Matthew 6:16-18
Isaiah 58

March 7, 2011

RANGO [Movie Review]

PREFACE: Let me begin by saying that I did not do my homework, read any reviews, or even wait for anyone else to take the bait. We saw some commercials, thought, "Hey, that looks funny!", and unwisely just went. That said, what follows is my review of the new animated movie, Rango.

Somehow, in spite of all I've seen, heard, and experienced, I still allowed myself to naively think, "Hey, a funny cartoon about a lizard in the wild west! That should be great!" Even after years of South Park, The Family Guy, and tons of other crap that's hit the airwaves, I let it slip past me that animated no longer equals "kid-friendly". Rango is no different! While this was a cartoon - animation at it's best - this was in NO way a "kids" movie. Let me explain.

I really love that many of the makers of kids movies these days provide what I'll call "A little humor for the adults". That said, this is a TOTALLY different animal than "Adult Humor". While Rango wasn't laced with sexual references or innuendo, or packed with uncomfortable moments like you experience when Viagra commercials come on as you're watching a football game with your 6-year old son, there were definitely some scenes (and dialogue) that opened the door to pique a kid's curiosity. I'm not OK with that. I have a 6 year old who never stops asking "Why?" and an 8 year old with keen and acute awareness of right and wrong. I don't need a cartoon's help opening up sensitive subjects with my children.

But more than anything else, the language in Rango was what stepped WAY over the line for me. There were at least 8-10 times a character used the word "hell" (Ex: "The hell you say!" or "What the hell for?" or [worst of all] "I'll drag you straight to HELL!"). For me, when the evil, vile, venomously hate-filled snake says, "I'll drag you straight to HELL!" - that's when I had finally had enough. And if I'm being honest, I let it go on way too long. I should have walked out WAY before then. There was also at least 1 use of the word "Damn". There could have been more after our family walked out. Not sure. Either way, this movie crossed way too many lines for me to be marketed for kids. And the criteria I use to determine whether something is marketed for kids - the reasons I viewed Rango in this light - is 1) there are commercials run for the movie during kid-friendly TV shows, 2) the commercials don't air ANY of what I've ranted about - they show only the cutesy kid-friendly parts, and 3) it's a flippin' cartoon about a lizard! I know - #3 doesn't hold water anymore.

Along with my Preface, I need to reiterate that if you actually take the time - and a magnifying glass - to look at the MPA Rating and it's description of WHY Rango is Rated PG, you'll see that it says, "Rude Humor, Language, Action and Smoking". So in all fairness, I was warned. You on the other hand, have been OVER-warned! Don't do it! If this had been an actual movie with real people, marketed to me as an adult, I probably would have laughed my head off. Johnny Depp would have played this character like mad! Too bad he was a frail lizard instead of a half-drunken pirate.

I would like to sing the praises of the Monaco Theater here in Huntsville. They fully refunded our money and were very gracious. We don't hold them responsible at all. It's OUR job to investigate the movies we take our kids to see. And they make some pretty mean popcorn, as well! 
Parents: do your homework, use wisdom and discernment, and PLEASE...guard what you allow to influence your kids' minds and hearts. It's a tough job, but you've got to do it!

March 4, 2011

Faith Like a Child

For several months now my 6 year old son has been asking about being baptized. When we've talked to him about this, we've explained that this is a step you take after you've trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior - once you've decided to follow Him. Each time we've had this conversation, his response has been the same: "I've done that!" While I am completely a believer in child-like faith - Christ wouldn't have talked about it and esteemed it if it wasn't a reality - I've wanted to be very sure that my children grasped the weight of this decision. And while I still see great wisdom in this approach, I've come to believe that there comes a time as a parent when you simply have to trust. You have to trust the Lord. But you also have to trust your child. This past Wednesday night we crossed this threshold!

We came home that night from First Wednesday at The Brook, the kids got ready for bed, and then the questions began. "Dad? When can I get baptized?" As I was about to start into my normal dose of cautious "Questions as an Answer to the Questions" routine, I stopped myself. I pulled out Nathan's Bible and told him to come and sit down with me. Our conversation lasted about 10 minutes. This is a synopsis of the questions that I asked him and the responses he gave me:
  • Do you believe you're a sinner? [YES]
  • Do you understand there is NOTHING you can DO to be perfect? That you can't un-do the sin in your life? [YES]
  • Who is Jesus Christ? [The Son of God]
  • Why do you think Jesus died on the Cross? [To pay for my sins.]
  • Do you believe that Jesus Christ died on the Cross for YOUR sins? [YES]
  • Do you believe that He rose from the grave and conquered sin and death - that you can have eternal life forever, but also have the strength and courage to live for Him now? [YES]
At this point we read John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, and John 14:6 together. I asked Nathan very pointedly, "Are you ready to follow Jesus? Do you want Him to be Lord of your life?" "Yes! I'm ready!" "Are you ready to be baptized and tell the rest of the world that you belong to Jesus?" "Yes!" And this is where it got GOOD! Libby had come into the room and witnessed all of this taking place. She began jumping up and down, shouting "WOO-HOO! Way to go Nathan!" Libby climbed up on the bed with us and I prayed for Nathan. I prayed out loud, "Lord, please don't just make Nathan and Libby good people. Make their lives EXTRAORDINARY for Your Kingdom and for Your Name! Give them courage to live for You. And Lord, pour out Your Holy Spirit on their lives, that they would always find the comfort, strength, and conviction to walk with you. And may we always lives this example in front of them, Lord. Amen."

We spent the next 5 minutes running around the house screaming and dancing. Libby asked, "Daddy, are we going to have a party for Nathan?" I told her we would absolutely be having a party! And then I told Nathan that there was already a party going on in Heaven - that his Papa was standing up, cheering and applauding! He liked the sound of that.

I share all of this with you so that you know, there is no textbook way to lead your child to Christ. It's a journey of faith, wisdom, and trust. Every child is different. Their journey that leads them to that point is unique. And their walk with Him from that moment on will be their very own as well. You want it that way. You want their faith to be THEIR faith! Show them what it looks like. Live it out in front of them. Speak the name of Jesus in your home. Pray over your kids. And know...that God is good.

Would love to hear your stories of your kids taking this step!

March 3, 2011

A Little Encouragement...

This last weekend I ran the Cowtown Marathon. Maybe saying I "ran" it is a bit misleading. I ran-jogged-walked-limped it. It was my worst marathon ever! The race, anyways. My first 3 races, my time, endurance, motivation, training, and even recovery always improved. This time...they all crashed to the ground like a fat guy falling off a ladder. A really fat guy. And a REALLY tall ladder! But ironically, I was never more encouraged and blessed by friends and family there cheering us on and keeping us going. At one point I even thought, "I hope I don't see them again because I'll have to keep going!" I'll share more about my race experience later, but with this post I wanted to give you a window into the world of the little Encourager that lives in my home and constantly lights up my day: my daughter.

Saturday morning we were getting ready to head to Fort Worth. Nathan was going to run the 5K - his first race ever! I was getting out of the shower and I saw a note card come sliding under the bathroom door. I picked it up and this is what I read:

Dear Whoever finds this,
Yes, I can write in cursive. And if you find this where I think you will, you might be on the toilet. So let me say this in the most clear way possible: cheer very hard for Nate, Mom, and Dad. 
Love, Libby

There probably isn't a week that goes by I don't find a note of love, encouragement, or affirmation purposefully hidden away somewhere so I'll find it at just the right moment. Her heart is enormous! And I'm trying to let it influence me to live this way toward others. And those friends I mentioned earlier are pretty great too! Many of them drove all the way from Kansas just to hang out with us, chase us down the road with Tootsie Rolls, carry our discarded sweaty running clothes, and cheer us on. It was awesome! I really don't know if I would have even finished if it wasn't for them.

Who has encouraged you lately?
Who are you setting your sights on to lift up and encourage today?
Remember, a little encouragement goes a LONG way! (26.2 miles, to be exact!)