December 31, 2013

Make the Most of This Opportunity

The following is an email I sent out to our church family today - part of a series of posts & emails we've sent out in preparation for Resolution 2014.

This is it. 2013 is rapidly coming to a close and a New Year is here. As a church family, we are going to make the most of this opportunity. As we resolve to spend every day with Jesus - as we seek Him like never before this year - I want to encourage you in a few specific areas and ways that I believe will set you (and us) up for success:
  • Have a plan. As we emailed you yesterday about one example (the YouVersion reading plan) and have posted several others on our website, the important thing is to have a plan. For many of us (who find great motivation and normalcy in structure) this can give you direction and even a bit of inspiration. What's your plan?
  • Write it down. On one hand, I highly encourage you to WRITE DOWN YOUR GOAL/PLAN. If you already keep a journal, write it down. You can go back and remind yourself of WHAT you committed to and WHY. And on the other hand, if you don't keep a journal - a written record of what you're learning in God's Word, what you are praying about & who you are praying for - make this a priority. I have struggled with this in the past, but when I have taken this step it has been incredibly powerful. And if you're a parent and don't want to do this for yourself, do it for your children or your grandchildren. Keep a journal that you would want them to read 10-20 years from now. If that doesn't motivate you, nothing will.
  • Find a friend. Don't walk this road alone. For several reasons, there is great power in walking this journey with someone else - in a friend (or friends) knowing the goals we've set and encouraging and challenging us to stick to them. There is no greater or more foundational place to find this than in a Missional Community. As the New Year begins, there is no better time or opportunity to find the biblical fellowship and focus that come with living on mission together.
  • Live under grace. Over the next 365 days, while our aim is to spend "Every Day With Jesus", that is not our ultimate goal. What we truly aim, hunger, and long for is to KNOW GOD - to know Him more today than ever before. We desperately desire to know Him - His heart, His character, and His will for our lives, our families, and our church. And mark it down: You will mess up. You will have a bad day. A really bad day. You may very well miss a day of Bible reading. You may abandon your journal for weeks. God will not be mad at you or condemn you. This is not a new law for you or me to follow, but a plan to lead us where we desire to be. Live under grace. With yourself and others.
Have a plan. Write it down. Find a friend. Live under grace.

2013 was a great year. 2014 is going to be amazing!
Happy New Year!

October 10, 2013

Hiatus

No, I haven't forgotten I have a blog.

I've had people ask me over the last weeks & months, "What happened to your blog?", "Why aren't you writing on your blog anymore?", "Did you run out of things to say?" I'm pretty sure we all know that last one is the farthest thing from the truth. That said, I haven't really had an emphatic or exclusive answer or resolution to this question. Truth be told, the only answer I could give is a very short one: I don't know. So I've started looking back, retracing steps, and trying to pick up the trail of when and why I began neglecting this online mouthpiece of mine. Here are the things I have sensed have played a role in all of this.

1. Busyness
At the beginning of 2012 I had to take on some responsibilities at The Brook that I had not faced in quite some time. This wasn't anyone's fault or the result of anything other than just the Lord allowing us to walk through a new season with new mountains to climb. But over time - as you walk with the Lord - you begin realizing that most mountains He leads you up are going to be worth the trek up the hill. It has definitely been worth it. And while I've actually had some folks tell me along the way, "Brian, it's not your job to have to deal with all of that!", I see things differently. While I understand and appreciate the sentiment (and I do ultimately believe that we should be working toward "Doing the things that only we can do"), there are times as a leader that you have to be the one to roll up your sleeves, hammer through it, and just plain flat work hard. Life gets busy sometimes. Leadership gets even busier.

2. Changes
While most of my life has been an open window over the last 5 years, there are changes and challenges we have walked through over the last months in our family that I have chosen to keep private. Not hidden, just not plastered up publicly for everyone to see. To give you a 2 cent version of a million dollar story, here are just a few of the changes that have gone on in the Mayfield home:

  • Last year we chose to homeschool Libby & Nathan. It was one of the greatest decisions we have ever made. (That's a blogpost for another day) This year we enrolled them at Providence Classical School in Huntsville. So far, it has been amazing. (Another blogpost for another day)
  • Last year we began working with the Harris Home for Boys in Huntsville. There we met a young man named Dre. At Christmas, for the first time, Dre came and stayed with us. This began an almost every other weekend ritual of Dre coming to our home. Finally, through much prayer, conversation, and counsel, we came to the conclusion in the spring that Dre was supposed to come and live with us full time. The government would call him our "foster son". We don't really care about those words. He's part of our family. This is Dre's senior year in high school and Morgan is homeschooling him to help him prepare for whatever the Lord has ahead.
  • At the beginning of this year I began developing a tightness in my leg muscles that would not go away. After months of trying everything I knew to try (stretching, massage, chiropractic, inversion, more stretching), my doctor and I came to the conclusion that in all likelihood the statin drug (most famous name-brand cholesterol drug on the market that starts with an "L") I was taking was causing this inflammation. I'll spare you all the tests and doctor visits I went through. Thankfully, with the drug out of my system, I am now beginning to see some return to normal. I've gone running 3 times in the last 8 days. That hasn't happened in 8-10 months.
  • My mom made the decision to move away from Texas after 33 years. That was an incredibly difficult decision for her. We've been neck-deep in it, walking with her, praying that the Lord will give her guidance. It's tough to close a chapter of your life, especially one that long and that good!
I'll stop there. Just writing it all down is starting to make my head spin again.

3. Priorities
I really think that as a leader your priorities are going to change. As you enter new seasons, you take on new responsibilities and challenges. And then...your priorities will change again. To cut to the chase, I have had an underlying conviction over the last year that 2 things were clearly more important than me writing on my blog:
  1. Spending more intentional time investing in the lives and leadership of our staff at The Brook. We've gone through a major transition and we've walked through it together. In fact, in the last 3 years, we've made what I believe are the 2 most important changes in the life of our church: transitioning to being an Elder-led church (&) transitioning from small groups to missional communites. This has required our full time, attention, and most important, unity.
  2. I also felt clearly that I simply needed to "Shut up and listen". There are times - seasons - when the Lord gives us something to say. Something important to whisper. Maybe something life-changing to shout from the rooftops. But other times the world needs our ears more than our mouth. And not only that, we need to begin to learn to listen all over again. Think James 1:19 on steroids. Really listening takes practice and discipline. It's worth all the hard work.
4. Unknown Reason
There has to be a 4th reason I'm not thinking of or subconsciously supressing. And besides, preachers always have 3. I'm going with 4.

While this is definitely not an all-encompassing and completely thorough disclosure of the reasons behind my blog hiatus, these are certainly the most prevailing factors involved, none of which am I the slightest bit in regret. God has, is, and will continue to work faithfully in and through our lives as we seek Him first and focus our lives intentionally on living for His Kingdom and reaching out to those who don't yet know the hope we have in Christ. So keep seeking and keep reaching.

Be back soon.

July 31, 2013

The Way I See It

A couple of weeks ago I began to notice that the vision in my left eye was going bad. I'm near-sighted, so I can't see things far away. But now everything was starting to go blurry - far away and up close. And it wasn't just blurry; I was almost like seeing double. I was seeing a bright light. And you're not supposed to see the "bright light" when you're standing upright and feeling otherwise healthy. So just 2 weeks after seeing the optometrist for a routine eye exam, I went back for another one.

My optometrist started me through the standard eye exam questions:

DR: What's the smallest line you can read? Guessing is fine.
ME: None.
DR: Which one of these is clearer? One.......or two? [PAUSE] One.......or two?
ME: None.
DR: If you cover your right eye with this, tell me what letters you can make out.
ME: None. Zero. All I see is a big, blurry white light.

At this point I could begin to sense some concern on her face and in her voice. Finally she paused for a few seconds and then said, "I don't think it's your vision. I think it might be your eye." So she squirted some dye in my eye, waited 30 seconds, shined what I thought was a light saber straight into my face, and said, "Ah ha! Now it all makes sense."

I thoroughly enjoyed the next thing she said. Without hesitation she asked me, "Did you rub sand in your eye?" All I could think of to say in response was, "Not that I'm aware of." After all, I had been to the beach, laying in the sand for a week. I could have unconsciously grabbed a handful and unknowingly given my cornea a deep tissue massage, I suppose. And before that I had been in Guatemala for a week building a house, sawdust flying everywhere, dirt blowing in our faces. And I have been known to rub my eyes now and then. For the love! What had I done?

However it happened - who knows when, where, or how - the surface of my eye had been scratched. Scratched bad! Like Jam Master Jay's turntables at a Run-DMC concert. (Insert wicky-wicky-wicky noise HERE). She told me with educated certainty: "You really did a number on this eye!" So she sent me home with the instructions: No contacts for a week, prescription eye drops 4x a day. If not better in one week, come back and see me. That was 9 days ago. I'm still looking through a foggy haze. Heading back to the optometrist next Monday. Until then, I'll forge ahead like a pirate and share another thought with you.

The way I see it, there are things in our lives that we consider to be on the "surface". They are things that take up our time, fill our mind, and most often, we think have no bearing on what's going on underneath. I can't tell you what those things might be in your life. I'm not supposed to. But I can tell you that in my life, I often live on the surface of things like TV, movies, and coveting all the things that so & so has that I think I need. We live on the surface. We sit in the kiddie pool while God is calling us to the depths. And it's like we're completely oblivious to the fact that our life on the surface - wading through the cesspool - is decaying and rotting what the Lord desires to do in the depths - in our hearts. The surface is being scratched way too much and it's affecting our vision.  I have felt the great press of the Holy Spirit on my heart lately, whispering to me, "Brian. You've got to stop rubbing sand in your eyes!"

I'm praying for the discipline and desire to reach for the ointment and the salve rather than the sand. 

I'm desperate to finally be done with living on the surface.

I want to see God! I want to see Jesus more clearly!

What do you want to see?

June 25, 2013

Respect

As a leader, the idea of demanding respect is ludicrous. Respect can't be demanded any more than I can wake up tomorrow and demand that the sun come out or the rain go away. Commanding respect, on the other hand, is a road that many leaders successfully learn how to navigate - gaining respect through courageous action or decision. I think General Patton or Michael Jordan are just two examples of millions of leaders who have managed to pull this off. That said, I'm seeing several leaders these days who are quite possibly misunderstanding what it really looks like to command respect. The bottom line - especially if you are leading other leaders - is that someone's respect is a treasured prize that you and I have to earn. I believe there are some clear distinctives to help us make sure we're not assuming or expecting other people to automatically follow right behind us. How can we make sure we're not assuming, demanding, or even inappropriately commanding respect?

First off, in any leadership role, you're going to have to make tough decisions. You will have to be the one to decide "NO" we're not going to go through with that event or "YES" we're going to take the risk and spend that money. And while there are times (thankfully) that a board or team can corporately make these decisions, there are other occasions where leaders can't hide behind these teams. YOU have to make the call. But this is when and where the HOW comes into play. We have to make these decisions humbly and prayerfully, while also making them confidently and courageously. Make no mistake: Most of the time, people understand the burden of the decision you're facing. They don't envy you. At the same time, if you've assumed and accepted the role and responsibility of leading, they expect that you expect to have to make these decisions. Why else would you be a leader? HOW we face and make these decisions play an enormous part in whether or not people trust us, want to follow us, and ultimately respect us. 

Another foundational ingredient to earning someone's respect is to actually and genuinely care about them. We often preach and tout that PEOPLE are more important than programs or products. Yet, there are times when a person needs our time and attention, only to come up feeling like the task at hand was important than they are. And where this ultimately leads someone is to the conclusion that they are being used - that they're a pawn rather than a person. Don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean you're going to have an hour to give everyone during your week. But if you organize and prioritize, you can find a way to give 15-20 minutes. You can take 10 minutes to genuinely listen. You can spare 5 minutes to pray with that person in need. When the people you're leading know that you care about them, you don't need to worry about demanding - or even commanding - anything. When you're honest with them about who you are and what you're dealing with, they may not understand it, but they respect it. They respect you. The question is: What (or WHO) do you genuinely care about most?

Lead courageously. 
Lead with integrity.
Know that integrity - more than anything - fosters credibility.
Credibility inspires trust. 
Trust earns respect.

"But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all." - Jesus (Mark 10:43)

Are there other things that you can do to earn the respect of those you're leading?

June 19, 2013

Church For Sale?

If you decided to take on the challenging, yet rewarding task of teaching English to a group of immigrants (ESL, as we call it) you would (hopefully) go into this situation with an already established bedrock of patience. It's going to take time. They don't speak this language. And if we're honest, we have the most ridiculous language on the planet. This might have something to do with why 1/2 the people actually from this country can't even speak it correctly. Bottom line: Learning a second language is a tough road to walk.

Now let's talk about "church" language. Anyone with any common sense should not expect someone without some level of theological training or study to know what words like sanctification or atonement - or even theological for that matter - mean. That said, a lot of churches operate and act like those folks should be completely down with the lingo. But this shouldn't come as a surprise to us. Why? Because it's painfully apparent that much of the church doesn't even know what the "church" actually is.

Headed to the gym the other morning I drove past a sign much like the one above: Church For Sale. And yes, I get it. There's a "church" that's building a bigger, better building a few miles away and so now they're trying to sell their buildings and property. I get it. But guess what: Other people don't get it. There are multitudes of people out there - lost people who have never entered into the fellowship of the "church" - who still believe wholeheartedly that the "church" is a building. Not only that, there are multitudes - yes, millions and millions of people - who actually enter those buildings week in and week out, Sunday after Sunday, still under the misguided delusion that the building is the "church". And this language is driving home an idea - a theology - a worldview - that is reinforcing years and years of decay to the "sentness", mobility, and movement that Jesus breathed into His church - His people.

The Church = The People

Pastors - Please STOP talking this way!

Living in Alabama, I remember a few years ago as the arguments over legislation on immigration heated up, hearing people say ignorant things like: "If they can't learn the language, they ought to just go back home!" Really? What if Jesus said, "If you guys can't learn the language, you should get your sorry selves out of the Body!" Mull that over for a second. "You keep calling my Body a building! What's up with that?"

Here's the deal: If the "Church" is actually "For Sale", we're in big trouble! And if it's not, then stop saying it is. Get another sign. Stop sending a misleading, brainwashing, toxic message. Stop reinforcing years and years of lazy language. We're digging a hole that we're very soon not going to be able to see out of anymore. 

Stop saying "The blessing" and start "Giving thanks". Sorry, but God's not going to "bless" your slab of ribs, cole slaw, beans, and sweet tea. Enjoy it, nonetheless.

Stop telling the kids that you're "going to church". Start telling them you're "going to meet with your church family." 

We call the buildings The Brook. We call the church our "church family".
We're deliberately and intentionally trying to teach the language - to some who have never learned it and to others who are having to unlearn years of misguided grammar. It's going to take time. It's going to take patience. But it's worth it.

By the way: There's a great building for sale in Madison, Alabama, if your church family is looking for a place to gather, fellowship, and come together.

June 17, 2013

Lead the Way

Mark my words: The Miami Heat will lose the NBA Finals.

It's not even so much that the San Antonio Spurs will win, but the Miami Heat will lose - they will hand the NBA Championship over to their opponent and will come up possibly 1 game short of winning it all - IF...Lebron James does not step up, set the pace, and lead the way.

A great percentage of the time that the Miami Heat lose it's not because Lebron doesn't attempt to get his teammates involved. It's not because he's a ball hog or a prima donna. It's because - before deliberately working to get his teammates engaged in the game - he doesn't set the pace himself.

Lebron is not just a leader. He's THE leader. And when he steps onto the floor from the tipoff and plays to the height of his ability, will, and determination, everyone else follows him and strives to reach that level as well. When he leads the way, everyone else follows. This is what set Michael Jordan apart (and always will). He never tried to push his teammates past where their abilities had taken them before until he first pushed through those limits himself. He said - without ever saying a word - "Go this hard! Push this far! Leave it all on the floor!" Lebron James can be this leader. The question is, "Will he?"

Leaders must first set the pace and lead the way.

You can think and say all day long, "Do what I SAY, not what I DO." But that doesn't hold water in leadership. No matter what role of leadership you're in, there are moments when you have to sweat it out, clean the floor, edit the video, pick up the chairs, push through the tension, and say by your actions, "This is how we're going to do it!" Lead the way! Show people WHAT, HOW, and WHY it is that you're going to walk that road, take that path, and push to new heights. Step up, set the pace, and lead the way.

Jesus said, "Follow me." He first showed them the way. Then pointed them toward it.

How can you tangibly and courageously lead the way today?

June 7, 2013

Today

Today.

Today is a gift. It didn't come wrapped, but it was freely given to you.

Today is an opportunity. It's a one-time chance to face whatever it brings.

Today is unique. There's never been another like & won't be again.

Today is fleeting. Just look at the clock. It's almost gone already.

Today is also a liar. It often whispers to you, "Hey, just wait for tomorrow!", as if it knows that tomorrow is a sure thing. 

Today is always promising tomorrow.

Today is a pathological liar. It tells you that yesterday defines you. 

Today.

Today is what you have. 

Stop regretting yesterday and stop waiting for tomorrow.

Stop living in yesterday. Or 20 years ago. You were probably living for tomorrow then.

Stop thinking tomorrow will finally be the day. Today is the day!

So....

What are you going to do with it?

Hebrews 3:12-13
James 4:13-17
Matthew 6:25-34

April 10, 2013

Chronic Lateness

Late.
Coming or remaining after the due, usual, or proper time.

I grew up believing that arriving somewhere on time was the proper thing to do. In fact, I'm fairly certain my father taught me that 5 minutes early was on time. The reasons behind this were many, but the most important being that other people's time is valuable. And when I'm late, I'm implying that their time isn't valuable. And when I imply that their time isn't valuable, essentially what I'm saying is, neither are they. I'm wasting your time. You're not valuable. That's the message. Don't get me wrong: that doesn't mean that every time we're late getting somewhere it's out of disrespect or selfishness. Sometimes the kids spill milk all over the kitchen. Sometimes the dog eats a pack of gum and you spend an unexpected hour at the vet. (Don't get me started on that one.) For new parents, you actually have to go through a whole period of reorientation. You will no longer get ANYWHERE as quickly as you used to. And sometimes life just happens. That's not what this post is about. It's about what I only know to refer to as Chronic Lateness.

Now some will argue that this is a personality trait or some form of genetic wiring, like the way I have hypoglycemia or mild ADHD, others are born with chronic lateness. While I admit, I hold no scientific data in my hands to debunk this idea, I'm firmly convinced it's because there is no scientific data. Much like I regrettably allowed myself to become harsh - to ignore for years that a fruit of the Spirit was gentleness, and that God could teach & transform me in that area - many have allowed themselves to become late. And in an attempt to better understand this, I have some questions I'd like to ask:

Are you late for work? If so, do you understand that this is probably affecting the way your coworkers look at you and is sending a clear message about your work ethic? I would dare say your boss has possibly noticed as well. And if you ARE the boss, what does this say to those you're leading?

Do you make other people in your family late? I coached a kid in sports that I knew would NEVER be on time to a practice or game. Was it his fault? Nope. 

Are you late for movies? When you've paid $9 to see a movie, do you get there late? I'm going to bet you're there for the previews.

What about sporting events? When I go to Tennessee Football games, we get there 2-3 hours before kickoff. We don't just go for the game, but for the whole experience. I know people who start tailgating 5-6 hours before games. It seems that this could possibly be a reflection about priorities and what we value.

Do you show up late for dinner parties? Birthday parties? Parties that are actually in honor of someone other than you? But by showing up 20-30 minutes late, make it more about you? Or is it actually more about you?

I'm not asking these questions to condemn, but because I seriously want to understand. I want to know if it's something you're working on or if in all honesty, you just don't care. I want to know if I should give you the benefit of the doubt and wait to begin, or I should just start without you. There's an incredibly significant amount of the population that sits. And waits. And waits. For you. How much longer should we wait?

If you have any desire to work on this, any desire to eliminate the rushing around, leaving in haste, forgetting something important, and annoying people when you finally show up, here's a great article that I think can provide some solid tangible help: 7 Tips If You're Chronically Late. And here's more great insight in an article on WebMD: Help For the Chronically Late

We want to know.
We want to help.
But we are really getting tired of waiting.

What are your thoughts?

April 6, 2013

Stop Waiting for Peace

Sometimes you have to have one of those conversations. You know it's the right thing to do. You love the person and can no longer sit by watching them self-destruct. No way around it - there are knots in your stomach that aren't going anywhere. You're probably going to lose some sleep. Possibly lots of sleep. It won't turn out to be the Tuesday or Friday that you were planning on. (Does it ever?) But you know in your heart - because you live by a standard that is never moved or shaken - that this conversation has to take place. And it's probably going to hurt.

[I think it's important to clarify that what we're talking about here is known sin - a friend or family member who claims to be a "Christian" clearly rebelling against the standard of God. This is not a license to confront anyone and everyone who falls short of our own expectations. 1 Corinthians 5:12 and 1 Peter 4:17 tell us that as believers, we are called to confront sin - in our own lives and in each others.]

You'll begin looking for every loophole, exit strategy, excuse, or way out that you can find. Something or some reason to finally say to yourself, "Wait a minute. This isn't my responsibility! So and so can deal with this." Good luck with that. So and so probably already had the chance to deal with it and blew it. Or possibly didn't care like you do. And that's why you're going to have this conversation.

At some point you'll begin praying for peace. You'll quote Philippians 4:6-7 like my son quotes Nacho Libre - asking God for that "peace that passes all understanding..." Guess what. If by "peace" what you mean is that your stomach will feel better, you'll fall asleep and rest like an angel, and that you'll just begin to have this overall good feeling that, "You know what, this isn't going to be so bad after all. I'm going for it!", then stop waiting. That's not peace. That's a fairytale of some sort that I've never been part of. And peace is not something you can have that's birthed from your emotions or your guts. Peace comes from something unchanging and unmovable. That would be God's Word.

Read Matthew 18:15-20.
Check out Galatians 6:1-3.
(And while you're at it, take a look at Philippians 4:4-9.)

There will be a moment when you cross a threshold and (to put it bluntly) there's no more praying to do. You have to trust that the Holy Spirit's going to be "interceding for you" and is going to give you the words to say. You also have to trust that the Spirit of God is preparing, humbling, and breaking the other person's heart already - preparing them to receive it. If the Lord has been prodding and convicting you that you must confront, then He most certainly will be preparing that person's heart to be confronted. This doesn't mean it won't sting. It also doesn't mean that they won't be defensive. 

Is it possible you've prayed enough, and now it's simply time to make that call, look that person in the face, and have that conversation? 

Stop waiting for peace. You'll find the peace of God in doing what is right out of love.

Proverbs 28:23

April 1, 2013

Will We Ever Google Again?

As you have probably heard by now, Google made the unfortunate decision yesterday - EASTER - to make the "Doodle" on their main page an image of Cesar Chavez. Chavez was a Mexican-American who played a significant role in advancing Latinos and the American Labor Movement. You can read more about him HERE. (Or you can Google it. HA!) Several years ago, March 31st (Chavez's birthday) was named a national holiday in California, Colorado, and Texas in his honor. And while Google's decision yesterday was (as I labeled it in the first line) an "unfortunate decision", what was and is even more unfortunate about this situation is the way we as Christians have once again chosen to REACT rather than RESPOND to the secular culture we're living in. As I've said before (The Method & the Message) and will most certainly wind up saying again, I don't believe WHAT we've said or done in response has been the biggest issue, but HOW we've once again communicated our disappointment and offense. Allow me to explain.

Think about this from a different angle:
Is it possible that the decision-makers at Google - maybe somewhere below the surface - had a thought of, "Just watch how the Christians respond to this one!" I believe that John 13:34-35 and 1 Peter 2:11-12 completely affirm for us that the world is constantly watching to see HOW we will respond. As "exiles" (foreigners, aliens) in our culture - residents of our city, but citizens of Heaven - it's almost as if we're supposed to be living like guests here. This doesn't mean that we throw discretion or conviction to the wind and just say, "Well, when in Rome...". (1 Peter 2 speaks clearly about that as well.) At the same time, it's like we keep expecting people who clearly do not know Jesus - people still blinded by sin and the Enemy - to live and act and make decisions based on the same standard we do. That's NOT going to happen. And I'm more convinced daily that anger and defensiveness do not speak louder than love or compassion. We keep acting like a world that we've done nothing to earn trust from owes us their ear and attention. We're getting it backwards.

I believe that there are still God-ordained circumstances when and where He calls us to stand on a stage or a street corner and preach repentance. But even in those situations, the appearance of anger, hate, arrogance, or condemnation aren't going to gain us an audience. What stops people dead in their tracks and commands the attention of even the hardest heart is the response of unwarranted and unexpected love. Unconditional love. Love that says, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together in Christ." We love Ephesians 2:4-10. But we don't so much like the verses before this that remind us that WE were once dead in OUR trespasses. I think we forget that the ones who are offending us actually used to be us. We were "by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." 

And when we get angry because Jesus was slighted - when a Mexican-American leftist labor organizer steals the attention of our Jewish carpenter rabbi - I think we need to remember that Jesus never asked us to TAKE offense for Him. He said that the Gospel will be offensive to those who "are perishing". Jesus will be offensive. Not Jesus will be offended. I think what offends Jesus most is when His "followers" go back to acting like they did before they began following Him. He said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven." But you see, when we do that, it completely takes control out of OUR hands and places it in HIS. Love & pray. Don't hate & yell. The latter is easy and expected. The former is hard - very hard - and humbling and shocking. Jesus was humbling and shocking.

So how can we respond differently?
What would it look like to shock the world because we didn't react for once?
What if what they got from us was unwarranted and unexpected love?

Maybe it would look like the teacher, down on His knees, washing the feet of the disciple that He knew would at any moment walk out the door and betray Him. Maybe it would look like the risen Messiah sitting on the beach, frying some fish, waiting on the one who had days before denied even knowing Him - waiting to restore him and love him.

What are your thoughts? 
Are you never going to "Google" again?

March 27, 2013

Preach the Gospel

Easter Sunday. 
The day we celebrate the Resurrection.
An observance that Christ died, but did not stay dead. 
Not only was DEATH conquered, but SIN was overcome.
This Sunday is Easter. Right?

I just saw a post on Twitter that read:
"If ever there was a weekend to preach the Gospel, it's this one. Failing to do so would be a huge miss!"

Let me first say that I agree that Easter Sunday most certainly should be a time and opportunity to preach the Gospel. You would hope that to be a no-brainer for anyone called to preach. But here's what's under my skin like a burr on a horse's butt: EVERY SUNDAY is an opportunity to PREACH THE GOSPEL! Failing to do so would not simply be a huge miss, it would be criminal. It's inconceivable and contemptuous for anyone who takes on the responsibility of rightly communicating and preaching the Word of God to preach anything but the Gospel. What else is there to preach? 

How to have a better marriage? That starts with the Gospel.
Being a steward of what God has given us? Who cares without the Gospel?
Overcoming lust or sexual sin? Definitely NOT going to happen without the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ transforming the heart and mind.

Is this stemming from a grotesque misunderstanding and ignorance of the Word of God and the whole of the Gospel? Is there only one day a year when pastors are called to actually communicate salvation? Is there part of the Bible that's void of the Gospel? I just don't get it. 
Have you read 1 Corinthians 1:17 or Galatians 1:9? Whether to pagans or priests, Paul preached the Gospel.

I know there is much aggravation for many pastors over the folks who show up once (Easter) or twice (Easter & Christmas) a year for our worship services. Let's be honest. Sometimes you (pastors) really want to call them out from the platform. I understand. But is it possible that, because we treat Easter like it's the "Super Bowl" - like it's that ONE Sunday when everybody better bring their A-Game and the sermon better be out-of-the-park and the music has to be through the roof - that could possibly have something to do with why some people only show up on those days? They know what you're up to. They know if there's ever a day when it's all going to be top notch, it's gonna be Easter. WHY?

As a believer - as a follower of Jesus Christ - isn't every Sunday about Easter?
Forget Sundays. Isn't every single day I wake up knowing that I HAVE BEEN saved, I am BEING saved, and WILL BE saved about Easter?

Please hear me: I understand that much of WHAT we do and WHY we do it on Easter is the realization that, if there's a day when we might have more guests and "seekers" than normal, it's this Sunday. I get it. But let me ask you this: How are you going to explain it when/if they show up the next Sunday and, compared to Easter, it sucks? Or maybe it doesn't suck, it's just high-level mediocrity. Shouldn't every single time we gather be rooted in and regenerated by the fact that Jesus died, rose again, and is offering us NEW LIFE? 

This Sunday should be awesome. But so should every Sunday.
Pastors - Preach the Gospel this Sunday. But please, preach it every Sunday.

February 21, 2013

Enough

Do you have enough?
Enough what, you may ask. 
Enough anything. Enough everything.
If that one more of whatever it is would finally be enough, wouldn't the next one more just eventually take it's place?

These are conversations I have with myself.
Sermons that I preach to myself while I'm driving down the road.
(That's multi-tasking right there, my friends.)

I was talking with a friend a couple of days ago and he was sharing with me about the frustration of looking for a new house, trying to sell the old house, and all that comes with it. As a ripple effect from our conversation I found myself, later in the day, just driving through neighborhoods, looking at houses, admiring the newness - whether new to the world or simply new to me - getting lost in the lure of hardwoods, granite, and sprinkler systems. Then I began having that dialogue with the invisible person in the passenger seat (which if we're just being honest, you could call a monologue), throwing out all the justifiable reasons why I should at least consider that, at this moment in the course of history, our family could seriously benefit from a little more room to breathe, spread out, entertain guests, and call home. I NEED this!

PLEASE NOTE:
I am not telling you to never move or buy a new or different home.
There are occasions and circumstances when it may actually be the best option.
Owning something NEW in no way makes it BAD.
This is not a blogpost about houses. 
It's about the painful reality that very often I lack contentment.
It's the punch in the face when you realize that you're allowing yourself to be pulled into the trap of the never-ending need for "one more".

Paul told the Philippians (4:11-12) that he had "learned how to get along happily...with much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing." He also wrote to Timothy and told him that "there is great gain in godliness with contentment." (1 Tim. 6:6)

That's the heart and life that I want. I want to be able to say (and mean it from the depth of my inner being), "What more could I possibly ever even think to ask for? I am the richest man in the world!" Not because I finally brainwash myself into thinking it's true, or that I finally figure out how to make you think I look at the world this way, but because it's actually TRUE. I have ALL I need!

Today is Thursday, February 21, 2013. 
Today I am laying down my "need" for "one more".
Tomorrow I will intentionally and out of necessity be given the opportunity to lay this need down once again.

Paul said, "I have learned to be content..."
All I can say right now with a truthful heart is that "I am LEARNING to be content."
Lord, please keep teaching me. You are enough.

February 14, 2013

The Best Bad Idea We've Got

I recently watched the movie "Argo". This post is not a movie review OR a recommendation to watch the movie. But if you are any student of history and don't know this backstory about the Iran hostage crisis in the late 70's, I would highly encourage you look into it. It's fascinating to discover that because so much light was being shed on one aspect or side of a story that another side of it that most didn't even know existed was overlooked, overshadowed, or possibly just plain flat ignored. For the sake of shedding enough light on this post, allow me to share with you a brief rundown from our friends at Wikipedia:

"Militants storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979, in retaliation for that nation's sheltering the recently deposed Shah. More than 50 of the embassy staff are taken as hostages, but six escape and hide in the home of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber). With the escapees' situation kept secret, the US State Department begins to explore options for "exfiltrating" them from Iran. Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a CIA exfiltration specialist brought in for consultation, criticizes the proposals. He too is at a loss for an alternative until, inspired at home by watching Battle for the Planet of the Apes on TV with his son, he plans to create a cover story that the escapees are Canadian filmmakers, scouting "exotic" locations in Iran for a similar sci-fi film." Sounds crazy, right? Because it was.

As Tony Mendez is confronted by two members of the Cabinet, one of them hits him with the sarcasm-laced question: "Don't you have any other bad ideas?" In quick response, Mendez's agency boss (played by Bryan Cranston) replies, "It's the best bad idea we've got!" This statement and conclusion - that we're in a situation where there appear to be no "good ideas" - and the willingness to act in spite of this conclusion, are great insight into a necessary characteristic of leadership. Sometimes, you simply have to be willing to do something.

I think we often forget that NO response - that doing nothing, not caring, not acting, pretending a problem doesn't exist or standing with our hands in our pockets because there's just no real way to come out a winner - is still a response. Leaders are often revealed and refined in times where there are no good options. They still see that something must be done, a need must be met, a wrong-doing must be confronted, and they act. They move. They go. They don't wait for someone else to exhort them; they exhort by example. (Another great example of this is Mel Gibson's character, Lieutenant General Hal Moore, who led 400 young soldiers into a fight against 2000 North Vietnamese at the beginning of the Vietnam War. While they flew in knowing that this was potentially a lose-lose situation, Moore's feet were the "first to hit the field, and the last one to come off".) In Argo, we learn that Mendez, acknowledging that there "are only bad options. It's about picking the best one." is also the one to say, "I'll go. I'll get them out." While everyone else stood by, paralyzed, he acted. And ultimately, he saved 6 lives.

God may not call you to fly into a foreign country like a spy and rescue hostages. But He may very likely give you to opportunity to what's RIGHT rather than what's EASY or CONVENIENT. You will most definitely get the chance to STAND when everyone else remains SEATED. And to put it another way, as Christ-followers, you will constantly be called to walk the road that's NARROW while countless others keep stumbling down the big, wide path to nowhere. And when it happens, there is great likelihood that you will face more opposition and criticism than support. For encouragement in this area, remember that Jesus knew this scenario very well. 

When all you have left in your arsenal is "the best bad idea we've got", will you still be ready and willing to use it? 

February 11, 2013

What I See in My Son

As a parent, it's a beautiful and powerful moment when someone - often a complete stranger - will approach you, point to your child and say, "He looks just like you!" And of course I hear people all the time telling me, "Man, you look so much like your Dad." It's awesome to see that very visible evidence that you "belong" to someone - that you see your parent, cousin, grandparent, or child and somewhat feel like you're looking into a mirror in time.

And of course, this goes way beyond just physical looks and appearances. You watch your child's habits or personality traits and don't have to wonder very long as to where they inherited or learned them. I have a couple of mannerisms that I'm becoming aware of that were 100% my Dad. Ironically, one of them used to drive me crazy. How's that for paybacks?

Several years ago we started noticing my daughter (who's the firstborn) in a constant battle for control. She not only wants things done a certain way, she wants to do them herself. There's just no way you're going to pull it off in quite the right fashion. Better let her handle that. Not long after becoming aware of this behavior in her, I began to be mortified over the fact that I was actually watching myself in motion. Why is my daughter a control freak? Because her father is an expert! As your kids start getting older, you begin realizing more and more the extent of the personality traits and learned behavior that they've either inherited from you genetically or have soaked up like a sponge, watching you so powerfully model and put on display. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be a great thing! We just have to be aware that it's constantly happening and probably won't let up.

In light of this, the other night I had possibly one of the weightiest conversations I've ever had with my 8-year old son. He REALLY wanted something he saw at the store: a jersey of a very popular NFL player. You see, Nathan would wear nothing but wind pants and football and baseball jerseys if we let him. It's his thing. But for several reasons (which I will spare you in this post) I didn't think he should spend his money on this item. He had just shared with me the day before of something very special - something very selfless for someone else - he wanted to do with his remaining money. Now he's telling me that he "needs" this jersey. "But Dad! I really really want it!" We debated - and I use that word graciously - for quite a bit of time in the store. Finally I told him, "Son, it's your decision. But please understand, I'm not just trying to teach you how to spend your money. I'm trying to help you learn how to make wise choices. And I don't think this is a wise choice."

As you might have guessed, he bought the jersey. And of course, he wore it the next morning.

The whole way home from the mall and most of the evening I was incredibly agitated. And it seemed to be focused like a laser in Nathan's direction. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew it was something much bigger than just the jersey incident. If I'm being honest and transparent with you, I have a great struggle at times having grace, patience, and compassion with my son. He puts me to the test. And I sat there Saturday night, frustrated and distracted, wondering why I was in this condition. And then Sunday morning came and it hit me like a brick upside the head.

When I look at my daughter, I often see some of my quirks, personality, and mannerisms. But when I see my son - when I have to discipline him, teach him the same thing over and over, and sometimes feel like I'm not getting anywhere, I don't see my personality, my facial expressions, my love of laughter, or my easily-distracted zeal for life. What I see in my son is my SIN.

Please understand, this is not to say that my daughter always acts like an angel OR that my son is always in trouble. But my son struggles with the need for other peoples approval. Guess what? So do I. He is constantly at war with a pride that hates to lose and selfishly wants to be first. So am I. My son is often tempted to buy into the lie that if he just gets his hands on that ONE LAST THING...that happiness will arrive like a gift with a bow on top. That a new jersey or pair of Vans or one more game for the X-Box or an iPhone 5 (to replace this dinosaur relic of an iPhone 4) is finally going to bring the satisfaction and elation that will eternally sustain the sunshine of my heart! And of course you know, that's all a big, fat lie. Those moth-eaten, rust-destroying, temporary idols I place on the throne in my heart momentarily will never satisfy me. Only Jesus can. Only Jesus will. And I want my son to know this. I want him to see it so evidently lived out in my life, in my actions, in the way I spend and save money, in the way I value people, and as I intentionally and deliberately pray for God's Kingdom to reign in my life instead of my own. This will not only bring very painful moments where I have to confront his sin, but incredibly humble times I have to confess my own. He doesn't need to think I'm perfect; he needs to know that Jesus is.

This struggle - of seeing my own sin in my son's life - is not going to just disappear. But I'm reminded this morning of the opportunity I have to look at his life, the joy he brings me, the constant laughter he provides everyone around him, the bursts of selfless generosity that come flooding out of him, the passion he has for anything he sets his mind to, and the heart-wrenching love I have in my heart for him, and to remember that I've only seen or experienced but a glimpse of the Father's love for me. And because of the great love of the Father, I now know how to love my son. And now, as I look at him, what I see in my son doesn't have to be my own sin, but that overwhelming, grace-filled, life-changing love of my Savior. Thank You, Jesus.

January 31, 2013

Where Relationships Begin


This is a post from Karen Walther, our Preschool Minister at The Brook. I hope it challenges & encourages you as it did me. Thanks Karen!

Yesterday I was driving to Atlanta. It’s always nice to be in the car by myself for a long drive because it gives me time to think. Most days I do my thinking in 5 minute increments, which isn’t long enough to finish one thought normally. On the drive I started thinking about the stress times in our home. We have most of our melt-downs and arguments in our mudroom as we try to either enter or leave home. Why is this? 

I think a big part of it is ME. I am a Type-A/task-oriented/organized/structured individual. Add that to three young children who are doing three different things, trying to have three different conversations with me and the outcome is not usually prettyBig realization on the drive today: I often put my to-do lists and my schedule before a relationship with my children (hanging my head with shame). 

When they get home from school, they have their routines of putting away lunches, book bags, and homework. I try to get this done before they start telling me about their day. WHY? My thinking was that if they get their stuff done, then we can have a nice conversation without anything we need to do pressuring us. In reality, I am squelching their enthusiasm – and our relationship – by not making the time for them and putting my desires first. And that time of uninterrupted, nice conversation…it rarely ends up happening.
My relationship with my children is a common reflection of my relationship with God. I wake up with things already piled on my plate and the race begins. It’s all about my schedule for the day or what I think I need to do. How many times do we ask God what He would like us to do that day? If we took the time to ask, I wonder how differently our days would look. By not looking for a relationship with our Father first thing in the morning, I am squelching our relationship and what He wants to tell me as well.  If we are to have loving, selfless relationships with others, we have to start with a dedicated, passionate, and selfless love for God. This is where relationships begin.

If we are desiring for our children to grow into a passionate relationship with their Father, we have to take our relationship withour Father very seriously. They are watching us. Listening to us. Looking for a difference in our lives. What are your children seeing when they look at you?

January 24, 2013

The Waiting

In conversation yesterday, a young lady I've known for awhile was sharing with me about some new direction in her life. Looking for a church home and searching for some friends that she could connect with as a Christian, she's felt quite a bit of conflict. While she feels like the Lord has answered some of what she's been asking him for guidance and direction over, in other areas she just seems to be waiting. And waiting some more. She told me, "I've told God, 'I'm listening. Whatever it is you want to tell me - wherever it is you want to lead me - I'm all ears!'." Have you been there before? Have you had this conversation with Him:

Hey God. I'm here. I'm listening. 

And the waiting begins.
And the waiting continues.
And the waiting just seems to go on and on and on.....

Why does the Lord work this way? Why does He choose to speak - or often remain silent - the way He does? If we're open, tuned in, ready and willing to listen and to hear, then why doesn't He crank out the answers or the message? I there's a couple of reasons He chooses to allow the silence to linger.

First off, I think there are times we THINK we're ready for the answer, and we're still miles - maybe even hemispheres - away from actually being willing to submit and follow the direction the Lord places in front of us. Think about it: How many directions and instructions has Christ already placed in front of us that we continually ignore, as if He must have been talking to someone else? Are we telling others about what He's done in our lives? Are we ever inconvenienced from going out of our way to feed the poor or take care of someone's basic needs? Have we done anything to actively and tangibly LOVE our neighbors? Are we faithfully giving to the Church and living generous lives? If no, then how is it we're perplexed when God doesn't deliver further instructions? Check out these verses for more on this subject:

Luke 12:48 (35-48)
If we're not faithful with what we've already been given, why are we struck dumbfounded when we're not given more?

Matthew 7:7-13 
If you're praying for God's will, what if what you're asking isn't actually His will. What if the answer is "No"?

Another possibility as to why God sometimes remains silent - why He doesn't send us the neon sign or the lighted arrow pointing in the direction we're looking for - is because He's aware that as soon as He speaks - as soon as He answers - we'll stop listening. I think there's a reason why God came to Elijah (1 Kings 19) not in the wind or an earthquake or a fire, but in a whisper. He wanted Elijah to listen. And while the instructions He was going to give Elijah - WHAT He was going to tell him to do - was important, God was much more concerned with WHO he was becoming. God speaks to instruct us...but He remains silent to refine us. When we're waiting, He is refining.

This doesn't mean that the waiting and the praying will be any easier, but what an awesome thing to know that God's silence in no way implies God's absence. So don't grow weary from waiting. Don't grow impatient in praying. 
The waiting and praying are refining us.
So keep seeking, knocking, and asking. 
And be ready.

What are you praying for? What are you waiting on God to do?

January 18, 2013

Be Present.

This week has been heavy. It's funny how the Lord, right after you teach, preach, study, or have some revelation over something will plant it right in your path. As if life is a better teacher. We started the year off at The Brook looking at the story in Mark 4 of Jesus calming the storm and acknowledging the WHEN, not IF, about it in our lives. There's a storm on the horizon. Are we prepared for it? So like I said, this week's been heavy because several people in our church family sailed right into the squall. And what I think the Lord has struck me with is that more often than not we need to be prepared to grab someone else's sail with them - to bear the burden of another - than to walk through our own storm.

Some friends are living part-time in the NICU, praying for their daughter, born Christmas Eve at 25 weeks. (1 lb. 11 oz.) When she arrived it had to seem like Jesus was in the stern of the boat "asleep on the cushion". But He is calming the storm, as we are collectively praying that this little one will be a walking miracle, testifying to His glory and power. PLEASE pray with us for Varissa! Lord, nurture, raise up, and take this little life and use it to bring glory and honor to Your Name!

Another friend was taking her elderly father to an appointment early this week when he suddenly passed away. While he was not in good health, there are certain things you're just never fully prepared for. She was with her dad when he went home to be with the Lord. There's no description for the grief that's somehow wrapped in peace in those moments.

And even another young lady new to our church family found out yesterday that her dad passed away in St. Louis. Storms don't go away. They just subside for awhile. I think they just want to lull us to sleep to see if we'll be seduced by the imaginary horizon.

Here's why I'm writing this. In those moments, we very often are at a loss for words. We don't know what to say. You might think, "I guess this is what pastors are for." WRONG! We often don't know what to say either. None of us are sure if we should send flowers, go by and visit, take them a meal, tell a joke, or shed tears. We don't know how to dress, how to act, or what to say. Yes, Romans 12:15 tells us to "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." And so we do. But we're just not sure if we did it right. And often, our fear, apprehension, and uncertainty leads us to do the one thing that in those moments is simply unthinkable: NOTHING.

When someone you love - someone you care about - is hurting, grieving, mourning, or walking through the struggle, the most important thing you can do is also the most simple thing you can do: BE THERE. BE PRESENT.

Years later, they're not going to remember (or even care) what you wore to their mom's funeral or what it was you cooked for them and brought over. (Can you imagine. 5 years after your dad died. You're all sitting around and your cousin says, "Man! Do you guys remember that cream corn casserole that lady made? WOW!" I don't see it happening.) Most people are not going to remember what you said - as if in the midst of grieving we're all looking for that golden philosophical nugget. They will NOT remember what you said. But they WILL remember that you listened. That you were there - FULLY PRESENT - and available.

Don't misunderstand me; the Lord often gives us a word to heal, comfort, or soothe the aching, ravaged heart. But when the words aren't there, you still can be.

Has the Lord given you an opportunity to BE PRESENT?
Would love to hear about it.

January 17, 2013

Living Missionally [Part 2]

If you haven't called your mother lately, get on it. My Mom just got back from several weeks of visiting my brother and his family across the Pond, so we were catching up on the phone last week. On occasion, our conversations can be a bit "random". Out of the blue she hits me with, "So...what's all this missional community about? I've heard you talking about it - I've read it several places. How is it different from small groups?" And then she added this to the inquiry: "I know at our church they're always telling us they want us to 'Do life together'." Her last statement gave me the perfect opportunity to attempt to answer her question. Here's my response:

You can take a group of Christians - 6, 8, 10, 12 - men, women, couples - however you want to mix it up - and have them begin meeting together. They can come together weekly, study the Bible, pray with and for each other, be there when someone's struggling or hurting, provide meals when someone gets sick or loses a family member, and truly love each other. They can DO LIFE TOGETHER....and somehow, in the midst of all that, NEVER reach beyond that circle of people to share the Gospel with anyone. Because of this, we don't really want or encourage anyone to DO LIFE TOGETHER anymore; we want to lead people to LIVE ON MISSION TOGETHER. There's a huge difference.

As we began laying this issue on the table with our church family over the last several months, I believe we've had some confusion about missional community, living on mission, and how it all comes together. We will be working diligently over the next weeks and months to makes things as clear as possible. Allow me to begin that now by pinpointing a few things:

  • "Living on mission together" does NOT necessarily mean a group of people finding a common service project or "mission project" where they corporately focus passion and attention. Don't get me wrong; it may result in just that. A missional community may find that they all have a common interest in serving the poor, taking care of widows, working with Habitat for Humanity - the list could go on forever. But this is not the MISSION of Missional Community.
  • I was asked this question the other night: "If my husband has several people that he's investing in, building relationships with, and I have a different group of people that the Lord is giving me opportunity to invest in for the Kingdom, are we supposed to somehow bring ALL those people together for Missional Community?" Great question. And the answer is a resounding NO! Not that it would be a bad thing, but if you have a missional community made up of 8, 10, 12 people (couples, families, a widow, etc...) and you're able to reach 1-2 of those people who different members of your community are investing in, praise God! That said, you are probably not going to pull into your Missional Community ALL of the people you are investing in as YOU are living on mission. 
Here's the thing: If you're in a Missional Community of 10 people who are all living on mission in their daily lives (at work, at home, at the gym, on their kids ball team, serving on the HOA, etc...) and you, as a group, are living on mission TOGETHER, you are going to reach people. But not ALL people.

And the MISSION that brings us together, while it may (and most likely will) result in your community serving others in some way together, is much bigger than that. The MISSION is the Gospel! The MISSION is that you are a community bonded together by the fact that you have been saved, redeemed, and SENT by Jesus Christ into a world - a neighborhood, a workplace - filled with people who are not. Not saved. Not redeemed. Hopeless. Desperate to know the truth that the God that created them also loves them and longs to restore, renew, and redeem them. Let me put it in the plainest of terms: We are surrounded by people who are DEAD in their sin and we know the only hope they have for being made ALIVE: Jesus Christ. THAT is the MISSION!

"Doing life together" falls incredibly short of a Kingdom-sized view of the life that Jesus has planned for us as His people. It's like trying to achieve Acts 2 while removing the salvation of Christ and the power of the Spirit. What's the point?

"Living on mission together" is what happens when the people of God, pursuing the Son of God, filled by the Spirit of God, GO! When this happens, look out world!

Are you ready?
What's keeping you from living on mission?


January 10, 2013

Living Missionally [Part 1]

Living Missionally.
What does this mean?
What does this tangibly look like?
How do I put this into motion in my life?

As we are walking down a path of transition at our church from a small group mentality to encouraging, fostering, and leading missional communities, we do a lot of talking about "living missionally". What we mean by this is pretty simple, yet requires a complete change in the way we look at life. As Christ-followers, every day we wake up we are on mission. Our neighborhood, our workplace, our kids ball team or boy scout troop, our classroom or gym, they are all places where the Lord has given us opportunity to get to know, reach, and love people around us for the sake of the Gospel. People who are lost, hopeless, weary, and desperate to know that there is a God who not only created them, but loves them and has already redeemed them. ALL of this begins by simply looking around and getting to know people. Allow me to give you an example.

Several weeks ago before Christmas, Morgan and I wanted to do something to not only try to get to know our neighbors better, but to give many of them an opportunity to meet each other. We wanted to invite them into our home and essentially throw a party where they would all feel comfortable and welcome. So we planned a Dessert Drop. Here's what we did.

We made invitations, personally delivered them to everyone on our street, and prayed that the Lord would stir many of their hearts to come and join us. Our friends Dan & Ellen (who are in our missional community) not only helped us make some of the desserts, they came that night as well. When 6:30 arrived, I'm not gonna lie; we were pretty scared that no one was going to show up. But then the doorbell rang. And people kept coming. Of the 15 homes on our street, we had 7 of them represented there that night. We met one couple that has lived on the street longer than we have, but we had never taken the time to reach out to. And Dan connected with him because they have very similar jobs. There were great connections and conversations going on in our kitchen, dining room, and living room. We have neighbors now waving at each other who didn't even know each other a month ago. And all we really did was throw a party. Now, we are praying the Lord continues to give us opportunities to love them, serve them, and ultimately share our story with them, that Jesus Christ has completely changed our lives!

I feel I need to fully disclose that I did not make the dessert shown above.
In fact, I didn't make any of the desserts. We wanted our neighbors to actually enjoy the food, not get sick over it.

This is one incredibly simple way to start living missionally.
Are there other ideas you've tried?
How could you start living missionally today?