holy.scoffers

Something has been bugging me. I’ve been careful to think about this “issue” before discussing it. I’ve been a Christian for a while, having come to Christ as a teenager who lived a violent and vile life. I’ve seen both sides of the cross – those who follow Christ and those who do not. While I have experienced radical transformation in my life, I am not perfect, so I try to give grace to others. But, like I said, I am not perfect.

Unfortunately, I am not alone in my imperfection, and grace is not as pervasive as I would hope in the church.

You’ve seen/heard the sensational stories of churches gone on the attack. We can see that animal. We can compartmentalize it. However, there is a more stealthy beast in the house. He (or she) does nothing so grand. Yet, he is just as dangerous, maybe more so. He sits in judgment of other Christians. He makes wild assumptions of motives, and uses those assumptions as fodder for scoffing. He wears cynics glasses and views his faith family through mocking lenses.

1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
(Psalm 1:1-3)

It almost seems “cool” to be cynical about church people and their endeavors. We mock Christian movies. We mock Christian advertisements. We mock Christian business. We mock Christian religious practices. We mock Christian websites. We mock Christian music. We mock Christian piety. I can go on and on!

It’s been bothering for weeks, and then just today, I saw someone who is supposedly in the business of making churches better, who made a huge assumption of an unnamed customer’s motives and publicly mocked them. Let us not walk in the way of the wicked, scoffing and mocking. Let us walk in encouragement. Let us endeavor to lift the bar with one another, not over one another. Let us truly put others’ interests first.

In confession, I am sometimes that “holy” scoffer. The recognition of this in myself only fuels my concern about it and sensitivity to it. God, forgive me, and transform me as I recognize my failing.

guest post for taterhouse

When my daughter was in the first grade (she is now 22), I decide that I should get involved in her spiritual education. So, I volunteered to be an assistant teacher in her Caravans class (a Christian scouting program). The guy who taught the class, Gavin, was amazing and really loved the kids. I really began to respect him highly and wanted to be as helpful as possible to him in these classes. A couple of times, he asked me to fill-in as teacher when he could not make it during work. I enjoyed it an discovered that I do pretty well at teaching kids.

Every year they have a award ceremony where they award the kids the various sashes, patches, and badges that they’ve earned during the year. It really is quite an event and parents even invite family members who don’t normally come to that church to share in cheering the kids on. It’s really cool.

That year, Gavin called me minutes before the ceremony to tell me that he was going to have to work late, so he needed me to stand up i front of all those people and lead the kids in the various recitals they had to do to get their awards.

The problem was that I get absolutely horror-stricken when it comes to speaking in public. I just can’t do it. I get physically sick and I actually nearly passed out that night from anxiety. Thankfully, the director of the program took pity on me and led my groups part of the ceremony for me.

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

Today, I get up in front of a crowd every Sunday and pour out my heart as I preach the Word of God to my closest friends. I have no fear. In fact I am pretty euphoric before the hour arrives. I am 180-degrees the opposite of what I was back then. God took a pretty unremarkable person and equipped him for His purposes. He put power where there was fear. He put strength where there was anxiety.

By His grace and power I can do what He called me to do. He will do the same for you. Go, follow his calling for your life, and lean on Him to get it done through you.

unremarkable.me

Ryan Tate gave me the honor of guest posting at his blog today. Thanks, Ryan! Here’s and excerpt:

When my daughter was in the first grade (she is now 22), I decide that I should get involved in her spiritual education. So, I volunteered to be an assistant teacher in her Caravans class (a Christian scouting program). The guy who taught the class, Gavin, was amazing and really loved the kids. I really began to respect him highly and wanted to be as helpful as possible to him in these classes. A couple of times, he asked me to fill-in as teacher when he could not make it during work. I enjoyed it and discovered that I do pretty well at teaching kids.

Every year they have a award ceremony where they award the kids the various sashes, patches, and badges that they’ve earned during the year. It really is quite an event and parents even invite family members who don’t normally come to that church to share in cheering the kids on. It’s really cool.

(Continue reading at Ryan’s blog)

in.him

There is a man named Jim Bayless who will always occupy a deep place in my heart. My love for him is rooted in his treatment of me when I was a young, married man, working my way up in an architectural firm. He was well-respected in our church, a leader of men. By appearances, you would consider him a man of influence. He was always in the middle of the things going on with the church – land, buildings, ministries, budgets. Compared to him, I was just a naive, young, inexperienced pup.

But, he did not see me that way – at least he never portrayed that. In fact, quite the opposite. He recommended me to the building committee and would publicly ask my opinion about things being discussed, as if I were as experienced as anyone. He would give me public credit for good ideas we spoke about privately. He would say things like “men like us, Herb” when discussing life. He was an unofficial mentor to me, expecting great things as if I could live up to them.

Continue reading in.him

oxygen

God often brings to my mind people for whom to pray. Sometimes He brings specific people to mind, like Kevin. Sometimes He asks me to pray for a “general” group, like teachers, soldiers, and waiters/waitresses. Today God asked me to pray for another “general” group: those who were called to ministry, but for one reason or many, are not yet doing what they’ve been called to do. Continue reading oxygen

press

My two kids are now grown, one in college, one finished college and now in the workplace. I had them both home last weekend. Sunday night, I prepared myself for their departure. I took on a disinterested attitude thinking it wouldn’t hurt as much when they drove away. I was wrong. I cried after they were out of sight. Continue reading press

grateful

This morning as I was listening to the radio on my drive to work, I heard the story of a soldier. He was the point-man for his unit as they walked across a bridge. As they were crossing, they were attacked, and he was severely wounded.

He is now a quad-amputee. I listened to this soldier, who lost parts of all four limbs, talk about how grateful he was. He was grateful to be alive. I did not hear any sadness over his injuries, or lament of an altered future. All I heard was a man grateful to be able to share life with his wife.

I heard his wife speak too. She is overjoyed that he is alive. Her only “negative” statement was that she couldn’t do anything but pray while he was still in-theater. Now he is home, and she can’t even imagine a life without him.

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)

When Jesus said those words, he was fully aware of what he was going to do very soon – die on a cross, first for his friends, but ultimately for every human being to ever live.

Try as I might, I’ll never understand what it means to be that willing. In my mind, I feel sure that I would be willing to give my life for my family, and my friends. But for people I don’t know? Hard to say. Jesus decided to do just that for people who were not even born yet. Yes, he knows us before we are even conceived, but that is not the same thing as an abiding personal relationship. He had that with the disciples, but not with me or you – not yet anyway. I cannot begin to express the depth of gratitude that I have for God’s grace.

Back to that soldier. Perhaps the only people who can truly understand that kind of love are those who have put their lives on the line. But, what I do understand is that an incredible depth of gratitude wells-up in me today as I consider what men and women like him are willing to do. Politics aside, that guy is a hero to every person who loves freedom. And what’s even more amazing is that there are about a million other men and women willing to place life and limb on the line.

Happy veterans day to all who have put on a uniform in our armed services. May God bless you, richly and immeasurably.

photo.journal

About this time last year, my bride and I were given a precious gift by the people of Thrive Church – a mini vacation. We didn’t spend a lot, and we didn’t go far, but it was a precious gift to us – a much needed rest.

We spent the first day with friends in Nashville, then caught a flight to Atlanta, where we spent a few days. We spent some time at a few tourist favorites, like the Georgia Aquarium. But mostly, Angel and I spent some time together. We talked about things – our children, Thrive Church. We never hurried, and while we had a list of things to do and see, we determined that we would do them if we felt like it. Time was our slave, even if it were just for a few days.

I took a lot of pictures, and I really do look at them often, bringing my mind back to that peaceful and rejuvenating excursion. Recently I decided to get a personalized, hard-cover photo-journal printed (thanks, iPhoto). It arrived today, at the office. I spent a few minutes sharing it with coworkers, smiling at the memories released by each tuned page. We’ll have this tangible reminder for years to come.

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”
(Isaiah 40:8)

Isaiah had the privilege of announcing the coming release of the people from a long captivity. His words are a mix of warning and celebration. “We will be free soon,” he says. “But let’s not forget why we went through that.”

While they endured their exile, God did not abandon them. He sent men like Isaiah to urge them towards repentance and change – making them ready for they day they resume their call to be the priesthood for the world. Through it all, God continued to speak to them through His Word. Nations may fall and people may sway in the wind. But God’s Word is forever.

No matter where we find ourselves – in exile or the mountaintop – God’s word is with us. Just like that nifty photo-journal, always at hand. With each turned page, God’s grace is released into our lives, encouraging us at life’s bends and slopes.