“Go Sterilize Yourself”

Sometimes the world can be cruel but the Internet takes it to the next level.  I’ve tried to make it a practice not to get involved in debates on social media.  In my younger days I would engage in conversation and it almost never helped anything.  Online debate never goes well and people are usually cruel.  Online debates are like two toddlers fighting over a toy with no parent to moderate.

I think Twitter is perhaps the vilest of the social media world.  Recently on Twitter I broke my own rule and tweeted back at a political figure when I probably should have just scrolled on or better yet delete the app.

But alas there are certain hot buttons that make my anger rise up.  Abortion is the main one.  This politician said we should elect more women who will make sure women get the ‘reproductive healthcare’ they need.  She is an outspoken advocate for abortion and her name rhymes with Billary.   I gave a two-word response tweet, “Let’s not.” That was it.  It was snarky and perhaps I shouldn’t have done it but the fury that ensued was enlightening.

My two word reply gained dozens of responses.  I was told to ‘go sterilize myself.’  I was told that I was a weak man who was afraid of women.  I was told I hated women.  Many of the responses said that they felt sorry for my girls that I was their father.  And on and on it went.

As I looked at a number of the accounts of the people that were saying super cruel things I noticed that most of them didn’t have real names and many of them were accounts set up in a way that you couldn’t know the people commenting.

The Internet really allows people to say what they feel.  Maybe there are good reasons we don’t always say what we feel.  Maybe that is why we filter our words and choose them carefully before we fling them into the world.   If we always said what we felt most of us would be unemployed and divorced.  Social media creates a troll society in which people hide behind keyboards and say whatever they want.  It’s like a drive by shooting in which they can injure others with their words and move right on by.  Every person knows that old nursery rhyme is NOT true, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.”   So many of us have recovered from attacks by sticks and stones but words that were said decades ago still reverberate in our subconscious.

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 8.05.06 AM.pngI imagine if I met these keyboard warriors who were saying incredible things about me online they would probably be less brutal face to face.  In fact I would guess that we would probably get along and they might not find me as atrocious as their comments would indicate.  We could probably even be friends.  I have been all over the world and encountered people who look different than I do, dress different, smell different, and believe different that I do.  In all the people groups I’ve met I’ve always found common ground with people when I took time to listen to their story and engage with them on a personal level. People are amazing!   Social media strips people down to the naked root of their worst moments. 

Again, this is a problem with social media.  We think we know people based on a few things that the Internet says about them.   We find out their faith and political preference and we assume that’s all we need to know to sum the person up.

I would warn that it’s so important to be kind online.

I think perhaps the only way to be on social media is to be kind.

Part of the staff culture at the church I work at is something we say, “Don’t email hard stuff.”   I have just found that there’s so much room for misinterpretation through written emails that if there’s something going on that could possibly be misinterpreted through a text or email we ask our staff to pick up a phone or go to talk to someone face to face.  This usually makes the margin of misinterpretation much smaller and we are almost always more kind through face-to-face interaction. 

While social media has done amazing things in connecting the world, like money, it’s a tool that can be used for good or for evil.  Be very careful with your words on social media.  Don’t assume you know the person you don’t know.

If you’re a Christian remember that you never have the privilege of being unkind.  Don’t be like me and engage in fruitless debate and make snarky remarks.  You have better things to do with your time.  Bake a pie. Read a book.  Go on a walk.  Talk to your family.

If you must stay on social media engage in one simple rule.

Use your social media to encourage others.

Like pictures.
Leave encouraging comments.

Scroll past stuff that makes your blood boil and maybe even remove it from your news feed.

Be salt and light in our wicked culture.  Don’t be a troll.

 

 

Run It Back!

“Run It Back!” was the phrase we would hear on hot days at high school football practice.   Whether it was a drill we were doing or plays we were learning it meant that we didn’t do it right so we would do it again until we got it right.  We would practice the same drill over and over again until, for that day, we learned something.

High school football teaches you a lot about life.  Now I feel like my life is on an unending loop with my children.  I tell them the same basic things over and over again.  I even find myself quoting my high school football coaches in the process.  It’s simple stuff like cleaning a room without putting all the clothes under the bed or loading the dishwasher the right way.   The more they do it wrong the more I have to tell them to “Run it back.” This is how we learn.  We do it over and over and over again.

God teaches us the same way in our faith.   He shows us great spiritual truths about life or He gives us a spiritual breakthrough and if we grow we get to keep moving forward but if we don’t ‘get it’ then we have to run it back.

The Gospels can be almost comical when we look at the lives of the disciples.  They always have to “run it back.”  They seem very thick skulled and constantly frustrating Jesus with their lack of understanding.

They weren’t dense; they were just like we are.  Seeing yet not believing.

One particular example is in Mark 6 where Jesus fed 5000 people.   The people were hungry and Jesus told the disciples to go get them something to eat.  They were dumbfounded and completely clueless to how to accomplish this feat.   Jesus would then perform a miracle and feed the 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish.  Just 2 chapters later in Mark 8, again Jesus is with a group of 4000 people with no way to feed them.  So what does He do?  He basically repeats the drill with His disciples.  Unfortunately they have the same boneheaded answer, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”

They had witnessed Him feed 5000 people and have 12 baskets left over but now with 4000 people in front of Him they had no clue how these people would be fed.   Boneheads!

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 7.59.12 AM.pngThese boneheads are just like me.  God shows me something and teaches me something about life and about His Kingdom and then I forget. 

The lessons for me that are the hardest to learn are the lessons of FAITH.

He took care of my child last time she was sick, surely He can do it now.
He got me through the last time I was anxious, surely He can do it now.
He met every need last time I was in a pinch; surely He can do it now.

God is constantly having me “run it back” when it comes to lessons of faith. 

It’s crazy because just like the disciples I have clearly recorded examples of where God has come through in my life.  He’s answered my prayers.  He’s been with me.  He’s come through.  I even keep a prayer journal with answer prayers to remember how God has come through.

Yet, here I go again. When the test comes I look at Jesus like those disciples.  I come to Jesus and say, “what are we going to do?”

Jesus is always gentle and He gets me through each trial teaching me the same lesson over and over again.  I think in heaven there must be a sigh and an eye roll of the angels and they say, “run it back.”  Rick sill isn’t getting it.

What about you?

Can you identify some areas in your life where maybe you keep coming to the same test?

What is it you need to learn?

What is keeping you from getting to the next drill?

When A Prophet Gets Political

In the Bible prophets were those who spoke a message from God to people.  Most of the time these prophets and their messages were unpopular.

Today the voices of Pastors and Prophets have been diluted to the point that they have little power. It seems that many of God’s prophets have aligned themselves with politicians.  When this happens their message becomes diluted and weak.  The last couple of presidential cycles have exposed a lot of people that used to be my heroes.  Many of the ‘men of God’ that I looked up have cashed in their prophetic voices for political points.

In America it’s sometimes tricky to know when and when not to be involved in the political process.

Pastors are called to be the voices of truth in the culture.   When something is wrong we speak up no matter whom the politician who may be in office.

We pray for leaders.
We encourage leaders.
We also rebuke leaders when the need calls for it.

Mark Chapter 6 gives us a picture of one of God’s greatest prophets, John the Baptist.   It’s a hard chapter to read because in the chapter a wicked King named Herod would behead John.

I think there are some particularly interesting things we learn about what John did.

His primary job was to prepare the way for Jesus to come.  He did this with one message he preached that was essentially one word: “Repent.”

Repent is a Bible word that means to turn away from sin and turn toward God. He called the religious and political leaders of the day snakes and told them to repent.

No matter who was in front of him he preached the same message.

If you were rich, “repent.”
If you were poor, “repent.”
If you were old, “repent.”
If you were young, “repent,” and so the message went.

I think we can learn some things about the role of a prophet that have been lost on today’s preachers and prophets.

  • Prophets have a clear message. Speaking the message is the most important job of the prophet.  John was called, “a voice.”  A prophets job is to tell the truth.  They are truth tellers.
  • Prophets stay on message. The prophet did not change the message based on the audience.   John confronted King Herod not only with the message of repentance but the personal message of what Herod needed to repent of.   Sexual sin with his sister-in-law.  This very direct confrontation would land John in jail. Eventually he would lose his head.  The pressure he faced being in front of a king would have swayed most ‘prophetic voices’ of our day.  Maybe they would have said things like, “we are not electing a Pastor but a President.”  Wrong is wrong and the prophet always says so.  Voices from God should always say what God says.
  • Prophets pay a price. Being true to the message is almost always costly and even deadly to the prophet. Do a little study of the Old Testament prophets and you will find that they were not glamorous people but usually men that had incredibly difficult lives calling people to do what they did not want to do.  Most of them would die trying. Screen Shot 2019-06-13 at 8.02.51 AM.png

Pastor and Preachers are the prophets of our day.   It would do most of us well to stay on the point of the message of the Gospel.  We are kind when we can be kind but we always tell the truth even when it can damage us personally.

The mighty Twitter prophets clamor for follows and likes.  They seem to be more interested in fighting with each other than standing on the promises.

We speak out against injustice, murder, sexual immorality, lies, slander and the like no matter who is in office.  Our message is the same message of John and of Jesus….Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

Refusing Help

Sometimes I watch the Dr. Phil show.   It’s mind blowing to me how Dr. Phil can confront people with cold hard facts in an overwhelming way and they still deny the facts he’s presenting to them.  I was watching a clip from his show recently where he was confronting a lady who thought she was married to a man overseas but in reality she was being scammed for hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Doctor Phil and this woman’s family laid out all the facts and showed her evidence after evidence of how she was in fact being duped and used.  She held on to her fantasy because perhaps the truth was too painful.

This is an extreme example but I think we all don’t like to be confronted with areas of our life that are toxic. Screen Shot 2019-06-12 at 7.57.40 AM.png

In the Book of Mark Chapter 5 Jesus came to a village and set a man free of the bondage he was in. The man had been full of demons for years.  Jesus cast many demons out of this man and the whole village was in shock.

When this miracle took place instead of getting excited about it the people of the village asked Jesus to leave.  The people were afraid.  Jesus came to help these people and to set them free.  He came to offer them salvation but they would end up begging Him not to stay.

The great irony is that they were kicking out of their city the only one who could help them.
They thought they were ok but they weren’t.
They thought they didn’t need help but they did.

Have you ever been guilty of pushing someone away who was there to help?
Have you refused the good advice someone was giving you because you didn’t want to hear it?
Have you gotten angry with a friend or family member because they told you a hard truth about yourself that you did not want to deal with?

I know I have!

My wife has a way of telling me things I don’t want to hear about myself.  I usually get defensive but upon further reflection she is almost always right. The truth hurts.  I think there have been times when we have all said or done something to push the person away who is sent to help.

Why?
Why do we do that?

We do it because change is hard.
We do it because it exposes our motives.
We do it because sin is fun.
We do it because we want to stay the ruler of our own kingdom of self. 
We do it because we don’t want to admit we are wrong.
We do it because it may hurt our pocketbook.
Pride.  

Are you doing this now?

If Jesus came to your house today would you want Him to stay or leave?

It sounds simple enough but the reality is that when Jesus comes things change.  They always change.  The closer you get to Jesus the more your life will change.

He is a great big light that exposes what is in the dark of your heart.
He is the doctor that tells you that you have the cancer of sin and it must be cut out.
He is the one who pulls back the rug of your life and exposes all the dirt that is underneath.
He is the Dentist you have been avoiding that has to do a root canal to fix the problem.

Today, if Jesus came to you exposing all the junk that is inside of you would you want it fixed?

He offers to fix you but in order to fix you, you must come clean about your sin and repent. There is no other way to let Him fix you.

People hated Jesus. They wanted Him to leave their city.  Ultimately they wanted Him dead.   We never like our sin and wicked self exposed.  So much so, that we would be willing to kill an innocent man to keep it a secret.

This almost sounds silly but this is what millions of people do everyday.  They are confronted with truth and rather than live in the light of the truth they simply ignore the truth or just deny it.

You can ignore truth. You can ask Jesus to leave.  You have the freedom to make those choices.

But you can never make bad choices and have good long term results.

Eventually your sin will find you out.  Eventually you will reap the bitter fruit you planted.  Eventually you will have to pay for your sins.

It’s better to invite Jesus to have control now then for you to end your life separated from God.

Do not ask Jesus to leave.  Today, let Him come and do His work in your life.  Let Him deal with your ‘demons.’  Let Him expose your sin.  Let Him love and forgive you.  It will require some pain and change but in the end it will mean the difference in life and death.

A few steps:

  1. Listen when people you love tell you that you have a problem.
  2. Read your bible and identify what needs to change in your life.
  3. Confess your sin and repent.
  4. Get help.  Go to church. Find a small group.   See a counselor.  Get in a recovery program like this one https://www.christplace.com/chance2/
  5. Follow Jesus.   Make time each day to seek Jesus in prayer and reading the Bible.

 

 

The “What About Them?” Disease

One of the most basic principles I see over and over again that is lost on most people is a principle that Jesus taught about investing what is given.

Mark 4:24 and he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

I think what Jesus was saying was simple.

Pay attention –> Use what you learn –> When you use what you learn you will be entrusted with more.

He said this in a number of different ways in the gospels.  He talked about three different individuals that were given money (talents/minas) by their master. They were told to invest the money while their master was gone.  One was given 10, one 5, and one 1.   The one with 10 double his money. The one with 5 doubled his money. The one with 1 was fearful and buried his money so not to lose it.

When the master returned he rewarded the two servants who had invested his money and gotten a return on it. He punished the wicked servant who buried his money and the master gave the money to the one who had 10.

This is such a picture of life.  Some of us are born with many gifts and abilities some of us are born with few. The focus is not on fairness. Lots of people today want to focus on the fact that some have many talents and some of few.  The best question is not how to make everyone equal, but what am I doing with what has been entrusted to me?

When I am faithful with the gifts, talents and knowledge the Lord has given me then He will give me more.

If I take the gifts that I have been given and I don’t use them or I simply get upset because another guy is more gifted than me I waste my gifts and I dishonor the giver of my gifts.

Many people today who want more gifts but have not invested the ones they have.  They want more responsibility but have not been faithful with the little responsibility they are given.

If you want to one-day run the company then start by cleaning the toilets.
If you want to preach to 1000’s then start by leading a 6thgrade boys Sunday School Class.
If you want to have a family then start by getting a job and taking care of yourself.
If you want to run a marathon then you better start walking a little more each day.
If you want to be a scholar then spend time reading today.
If you want to have a lot of friends then find someone to be friendly to.
If you want your kids to grow up to be awesome individuals then take time today to teach them something meaningful.
If you want to be a great musician then you must practice everyday.

We all know it takes thousands of bricks to build a home, but homes never get built unless someone starts laying some bricks.  If a house builder focuses on the heat, how big the house is, and how few helpers he has then he will never lay bricks.

You will never get to the future that you want if you don’t do now what you are supposed to do.

So many people focused on others that they waste the talent that has been given to them.  They have the “what about him” disease.  This disease infects us all and over the course of our lives we must learn to eradicate it from our lives.  I see it so clearly in my children.  If I ask them to clean something up I can expect within a short period of time the question to come from one of them, “what about ____________ they are not doing anything?”   To which I always respond, “It is not your job to worry about _____________.  It is your job to do what I asked you to do!”

When you worry about others you steal from your ability to do what you have been gifted to do and you bury your talent.

What are you good at?
What do you want to be good at?

Be faithful today to do something today and you will see growth tomorrow.Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 7.33.04 AM.png

 

 

I See You

How do you see people?
Do you see people as they are or as they could be?

Have you ever had someone believe that you could be somebody or do something that you didn’t think you could be or do?

…Maybe they called out a particular gift they saw in you.
…Maybe they asked you to do a job you did not think you were capable of doing.

When people have called me out in positive ways it has always resulted in growth in my life.  If I did not believe in myself then I would borrow their belief in me.

Jesus had a unique way of seeing people.

In the book of Mark chapter 2 Jesus is beginning His ministry and He calls a guy out named Levi. The Bible says that Jesus “saw Levi…sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow me.’”

Jesus SAW Levi in a way that other religious leaders would never have seen him.  Levi was a tax collector.  In those days a tax collector was a despised thief of his own people. He would have been picked last for any potential role as a spiritual leader.  He would’ve been seen as the worst kind of sinner.

But Jesus SAW him differently.

Like new parents watching their child, Jesus saw, not who he was, but who he could be.  Jesus made a huge ask of him.  Jesus essentially asked him to completely change his life.  Jesus was saying, “leave the tax collecting business…leave everything and follow me.”

Levi would go on to be a world-changing disciple of Jesus Christ and would write the book of Matthew in the New Testament.

Jesus sees you differently than anyone else sees you.  He loves you more than your mama.

At some point in time we get stuck with a label of who we are.

Slow.  Fat.  Dumb. Lazy.  Angry.  Loser.  Just Like Your Mom/Dad.  Not popular.  Ugly.  Pretty.  Skinny.  Smart.  Black. White.

There seems to come a time in our lives when we’ve been told enough who others think we are and we start believing their voices.  The people that tell us who we are have great impact for good or for evil in our lives.

Be really careful whom you listen to.
Be reminded today of how Jesus sees you.
He knows you better than anyone and He loves you.
He knows the deepest darkest part of you and He still offers love and forgiveness.
Screen Shot 2019-06-08 at 7.34.02 AM.pngHe calls you to be who you can be and not who you are.

The call is the same today as it was in the time of Levi.  If you want to be whom Jesus is calling you out to be there are two words that will make all the difference, “Follow Me.”

When you say yes to follow Jesus you are saying “No” to the other voices in your life who are telling you what and who you should be.

You get to choose the voice you will follow.

Today my prayer for you is that you will be able to see how much Jesus loves you. My prayer is that you will also see others, not as their label or their outside, but as Jesus might see them.

Speak life into others! There are some pretty bright lights in this world that may just need an encourager to flip their switch on.

 

How To Have A Drama Free Thanksgiving

When should a Christian speak up and when should they shut up?

At the time of this writing it is just a few days away from Thanksgiving.  It’s a time of year we get to spend time with our family, be thankful, and argue meaningless politics over a family meal.  Whether it is at the dinner table or on social media, our culture is full of political opinions and division.

As a Christian how do we balance Romans 12:18 which says, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone,” with our great desire to tell everyone we know our great wisdom on who to vote for that will save the country?

My friends and family are like yours; they are passionate about political issues. As a pastor I often wrestle with when to speak up and when to shut up.  I am a person who speaks more than I listen. This can get me in trouble.

The older (and hopefully wiser) I get the more I keep my mouth (and social media account) shut when it comes to political opinions. There are no lack of pastors and spiritual leaders speaking into politics. Some even run for office themselves.
Jesus told His followers how to live but that is not the same as telling a nation how to govern. The disciples of Jesus and the crowds on multiple occasions tried to make Jesus their political leader (king). He would have none of it. He clearly showed the path to have, ‘God’s Kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is In Heaven’ was not through any political means. It would be through His disciples living differently and sharing the gospel that would be the change agent in the world. Christians would not take up arms but lay down their lives as sheep to the slaughter.

Here are a few things I am learning from watching years of endless political debate on TV, online and in person.

Political debates/arguments are almost never helpful and almost always cause further division.

Whether you believe the President is an orange buffoon or if you believe that Hillary Clinton should be locked up, or both, telling everyone probably will change no ones mind.  I know that when I put something on social media I have many friends with many different political beliefs. I don’t want to risk a greater wedge between a potential friend and myself over a fruitless argument. I would rather be a bridge builder than a wedge driver. The gospel of Jesus is by its very nature offensive. The gospel reveals our sin in order to give us the good news of repentance and faith in Jesus. Politics just divide and hurt.  I see it everyday online from all parties.

Jesus chose to stay out of explicitly political arguments and this is a great principle for me to follow.

Jesus always spoke spiritual truth. When He would address spiritual issues of the day it would often bleed over into addressing the political issues of the day. He could not have been clearer about the fact that His kingdom was not of this world. Ours should not be either.

Both Parties have flawed platforms

The fear of elevating a party and arguing its points is that you can become part of group thinking that never opposes your party.   I often disagree with policies and people on both sides of the aisle.  As a Christian, you should too.

My job is to speak Biblical truth and when that spills over then it spills over but it should not be my aim to get tied up in political arguments.

If someone really cares about my opinion about a political matter then they will ask me. If they ask me I will tell them.  For a Christian the goal of life is not to support an elephant or donkey. We have allegiance to a Lamb. We lay down our lives so that others may know Him. My political leaning could be a stumbling block for people knowing Jesus. I don’t want to be a stumbling block.

A few guiding questions:

Is speaking about politics your calling? 

God specifically calls out people to speak to certain issues.  If this is you, then go for it, but this is not most of us.

Is this helpful?

Is what you’re about to say going to help anyone or is it just sharing your opinion?  

Did you take a day to think about the repercussions?

Most of the time when share something that offends or “triggers” others it is because we did it in hast.  Whatever you share on the Internet is forever…even if you delete it. Screenshots can be made of whatever you post and can come back to hurt you later.  If you think your post might cause unnecessary division then take a night to think and pray about whether to say or post it.

Does your spouse think you should say/post it?

My wife is great at telling me what is and what is not helpful…if I would just listen to her.

Will this drive an unnecessary wedge between you and your friends and family?

Will people you love lose respect for you because of your engagement in this discourse?

One of the hardest things about the last Presidential cycle was how many spiritual heroes I lost great respect for because of how they voiced their political opinions.  In my eyes many of those leaders showed blatant hypocrisy in their politics.  These are leaders that I now no longer look up to as I once did.  I do not want what I think politically to make me lose spiritual influence with someone who may look up to me.

When it boils down to it the Thumper rule is always a powerful rule.  You remember Thumper from the movie Bambi.  His mother told him, “Thumper, if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all.”    If we all lived by the Thumper rule oh how different our world might be.

Screen Shot 2018-11-19 at 6.35.39 AM.pngSo for the most part, I will simply keep my mouth shut about things political.  I will speak for life and I will speak for issues, but I will try to stay above the drama and hurt.  There is a wise Proverb from the Bible that can really help when it comes to this area of life.

Proverbs 17:27-28 “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.  Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”

After looking at everything, if you are still unsure whether you should speak up or not…it is probably best to just keep it to yourself.

 

 

 

Lessons From The Bouncy House

As a parent, I see a bouncy house as a huge air inflated, germ infested, loud, injury waiting to happen. However, all my kids see is FUN!  Recently, our church had a block party complete with, you guessed it, bouncy houses.   My kids were overjoyed with excitement, particularly my 4 year old.  Joy (my 4 year old) was ready to conquer all of the bouncy houses.   She quickly ran from one to the next with excitement overload, as she couldn’t decide which one she wanted to try first.   She knew nothing of the lines of children who were politely waiting their turn. She ran right to the front of the line as if they had all been waiting just for her.  Each time I would pick her up and take her to the back of the line and instruct her that she needed to wait like everyone else.

Lesson One: Waiting Is Hard.

For some reason, my daughter thought she was entitled to the front of the line.  She thought, in her little 4-year-old mind, that it was her party and everyone else

IMG_1086was just an extra.  As a parent, most of my days are spent trying to teach my children a lesson that I am still learning.  Here is the lesson: this is not your party and the world does not revolve around you. From the time we are born we have a selfish inclination to want to put ourselves at the front of the line.  We would rather others wait than we wait.  To follow Jesus means you let others go first. The Bible teaches us to do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility we should think of others as more important than ourselves.   The good thing about waiting is that if you take the time to look around, God has probably put you in line with people you can make friends with.  The wait may be better than the bouncy house.

Lesson Two: Obstacles Are Part Of Life.  Tackle Them With Excitement.

I loved watching Joy continue to get knocked down and bounce right back up and keep going.  She has always been very resilient.  She tried to climb the wall of the obstacle course and fell multiple times.  She smiled and giggled and got back up and tried again.   I know that life is no bouncy house.  Over the years I have also learned that so much of life is not about the obstacles in our lives, but about how we respond to them.  Life is really hard.  Life is better for those who can keep getting up and moving forward.  I wonder if you and I might make more progress in life if we had a different attitude towards obstacles.

Joy did not let the obstacles slow her down or discourage her, and neither should we.  We should know that on this crazy bouncy house called life we are going to fall, get knocked over and even get run over.   Get up.  Smile.  Move forward.

Lost your job, get up and find a new one.

Lost your hope, it may be right over the next obstacle.  Keep moving forward.

Friends let you down, find some new ones.

IMG_1079

You get the idea.

What is the obstacle of life today that is knocking you down?   Identify it, acknowledge it, make a plan and move forward.

For the Christian, the Bible gives hope and meaning to the obstacles we face.   It says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Lesson 3: You Might Not Want Help But You Need It

Her favorite bouncy was the obstacle course.  This was a big one with lots of little areas she had to go through and climb over.  I was nervous about Joy going on this obstacle course because she is small for her age and she has Down Syndrome, both of which Joy is completely oblivious.   I didn’t want her to get hurt as older and bigger children raced through the course.   I did what I often do.  I sent her big brother (Ty) with her to make sure she would make it through safely.

Joy is very headstrong and stubborn.   She would not quit, but there were a couple of barriers that no matter how hard she tried she wasn’t going to get over them.  She didn’t want help but she needed it.

She couldn’t quite make it over a certain wall so her big brother gave her a gentle nudge (yeah right, more like a mighty shove).  This was enough to help her make it to the next obstacle.  It does something to a father’s heart to see one sibling helping another.

There are times in our life when we all need help!

When the obstacles of life come along and we get stuck, we need a gentle push, or a helpful hand to pull us through.   Sometimes we need a mighty shove!  So many people get stuck and can’t move because they don’t have anyone to help them along.  They’ve chosen to isolate themselves and they think they can make it through life by themselves, but they can’t.

None of us can.

My little daughter with special needs will always need help, but so will all my other children.  They will all experience hurt, disappointment, setbacks, fears, and the hardship of life.  This is why family is important.  This is why a church family is important is as well.

The Bible says “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

It blows my mind to think that we are more connected than ever and yet people feel lonelier than ever. The suicide rates in the US keep going up as more and more people find themselves hopeless.  We all have a deep need for the help of others but most of us are too prideful or afraid to ask.  God hardwired the need for friendship and community into every person.

If you have made it to an obstacle in life and you keep trying but keep getting knocked down, it’s time to ask for help.

Start with your family. If you have someone in your family that will help you, reach out to them and ask for help.

There is another family that is often stronger then blood relatives, it’s a church family.   Many times people are estranged from their own family and don’t feel they have anywhere to turn.  If you find yourself in that situation go to a local church. Meet some people.  Find a friend.   A loving church is the best place in the world to find real community.

I would love to meet you at Christ Place Church.  You can find out how to find some friends here www.christplace.com

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The Glamorous Life Of A Pastor

If you are considering a call of God on your life to be a pastor or Christian leader, I would encourage you to count the cost and then remember that Jesus is worth it all.

If you are wondering if God is calling you into a vocational ministry role then maybe this will help you.

I had a lot of dreams growing up of what I wanted to be. As a small child I wanted to be a professional football player.   Size and skill would not make that possible. Then, I set my sights to be an artist or a comedian. I loved to draw and make people laugh. That didn’t work out either, but there was one career that was never on my radar.

I never wanted to be a pastor.

Not that being a pastor was a bad thing, I just saw pastors as people that weren’t real people. They had to live differently than everyone else. Growing up, my pastor was well known in the community, a strong leader and a wise sage all rolled into one.  His career was not like other people who had normal jobs. He was set apart. He was my pastor. He was an honored man. The calling to be a pastor would have been like the calling to go to Mars. It just wasn’t something I saw myself ever doing. It wasn’t something I could ever see myself as worthy of doing.

It’s really interesting how God has a way of guiding your path. Growing up I went to church because my mom and dad loved Jesus and that’s just what we did. We never missed. I didn’t particularly like going to church, but when I was around 15 my Sunday School teacher, who was also one of my high school football coaches, told me one day out of the blue, “Hermann, you going to be a preacher one day.”

The seed was planted.

I had never once thought in my life about being a preacher but that little statement would be a mustard seed planted in my heart that would be watered in the coming years.

When I was 16, I begrudgingly went to church youth camp at my mom’s request.

It was at that camp that God really captured my heart.

It was during that week of my life that I gave God my “yes” to whatever He wanted from me.

It was at that camp that I heard that still small voice of God watering the seed of faith that was planted a year earlier from my coach.

I talked to my youth pastor and told him I thought God might be calling me into ministry.   He committed with me to pray about it. I spent a year praying and asking God if that was what I was supposed to do. I returned to High school with a new passion to honor God with my life. I became friends with a guy I had known all my life but never really liked.   His name was Carson. That summer Carson had a very similar experience at a different youth camp and was committed to being a pastor.   Carson and I played football together against each other and we became inseparable friends. It’s neat how God does that.   We helped lead our local Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Youth group, and we even started a morning bible study at the local McDonalds for other students to attend.

As time went by we went to junior college and Bible College together. Now I am 20 years down the road since those days in high school.   Thanks to God’s mercy, Carson and I are both still Pastors. Carson is the pastor of a church in Wrens, Georgia and I am a staff pastor at a great church in Flowery Branch, Georgia.

Ministry is not at all what I had in mind at age 16. When I said yes to the call to ministry I thought I was saying yes to be a preacher.   I wanted to boldly proclaim the word of God, like Billy Graham, and see thousands of people respond in faith to my great preaching. Well, it didn’t take long to find out that ministry is much different than what I had in mind. I have always loved to preach but preaching is a very small portion of what happens during the week.   Preaching is what every pastor is passionate about and would do for free.

The ministry is so much more than preaching.

It’s hard.

It can be brutal and not many people last.

The average tenure for a pastor in America is less than 2 years! Ministry is not for the faint of heart.

Here are some things I have learned over the years of what ministry really looks like. If you are contemplating a life of serving Jesus in vocational ministry then you should take time to read this list and see if God has gifted and wired you to represent Him in vocational ministry. This is what they never told me.

No one told me that I would have to visit the house of a 12-year-old boy whose mother had just been murdered and try to help him find some kind of comfort.

No one told me that people would appear to love me and my family but would turn to despise us because I might do something that they didn’t agree with.

No one told me that Church people are mostly loving and amazing but there is a small pocket in every church that are mean as angry snakes and they will spew their venom towards the pastor. You still have to love those people.

No one told me that I would get to name a baby on a mission trip in India.

No one told me what it would be like to preach at churches in Haiti that were overcrowded and dark and dusty.

No one told me about having to beg a customs agent to let the mission team I was leading into Canada because of a misunderstanding.

No one told me what it would be like to be in the room of a person who is dying and looking to you for comfort and words of peace.

No one told me about how hard it would be to preach the funerals of those you deeply love.

No one told how much joy I would feel when I got to marry young couples that I had known for years.

No one told me the joy of watching those couples I married start families and teach their children about the love of Jesus.

No one told me about the endless phone calls, visits and emails to try to help plug people into the church.

No one told me how ministry would affect my family. No one told me that when people spoke ill of me it would hurt my wife twice as much as it hurt me.   No one told me that my children would always have unrealistic expectations set on them by others simply because their dad was a pastor.

No one told me how hard it would be to visit a couple that I love who just delivered a stillborn child.

No one told me what it would be like to be sick in India and try to preach through sickness in a foreign country with an interpreter.

No one told me how hard it would be to see friends who you went to Bible College with become a statistic of pastors who didn’t make it.

No one told me how it would feel to know of 1000 needs and only be able to help a few.

No one told me what it would feel like to be robbed while on a mission trip in a third world country.

No one told me that my life would consist mostly of meetings to further the work of the ministry.

No one told me that my best work would not be done in the pulpit, but in the trenches of having hard conversations with people who needed someone to be honest with them.

No one told me of the heart wrenching conversations I would have with so many couples who were on the brink of divorce that were looking to me to help them keep it together.

No one told me how hard it is to deal with suicide, how hard it is to help a family that is so destroyed and broken and angry all at once.

No one told me how hard it would be to know the words to say to comfort broken people when I was the first on the scene after tragedy struck.

No one told me about the joy I would experience to see middle school students that I had the chance to invest in grow up and serve Jesus.

No one told me about the frustration and helplessness you can feel in a church business meeting.

No one told me of the joy I would receive when I would go to the hospital to meet new babies that were born.

No one told me about how much fun it would be to work together with people I love to see a big vision come together.

No one told me about the satisfying joy of seeing a family changed by the power of the gospel.

No one told me of the countless hours of study and continuing education it would take to be a pastor.

No one told me how I would wake up each day energized to go to work knowing that the Gospel I carry can change a person’s life.

No one told me that I would get to work with some of the world’s most awesome people.

No one told me how much the church would love and embrace my family and meet our every need.

No one told me how amazing it is to baptize a new believer.

There was so much I didn’t know…I couldn’t know.

I could go on and on for days about the up and downs of this hard calling to ministry.   I was told not to get into ministry unless God would allow me to do nothing else.   I was told not to do it unless I was sure I was called. The life of full time vocational ministry is not always easy, but it is always worth it!   I would not trade it for the world.

I am so grateful to be called Pastor.

If you are considering a call of God on your life to be a pastor or Christian leader, I would encourage you to count the cost and then remember that Jesus is worth it all.

I have had many people ask me, “What is it that you do during the week?” Well, come spend a week with me and I will be glad to show you.

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Why Change?

I’ve been fortunate to experience many cultures in the world. Most of the places I’ve been were on mission trips. It’s a humbling and frightening experience to go to a place a long way from your home and meet people you’ve never met before that think very unlike you.

I think the most dissimilar place I’ve been is India. The smell is the first thing you notice when you get off the plane. There is always the smell of smoke in the air (this is also true of Haiti). All the food is very spicy with tons of curry powder.   The people of India have a head bobble that is not up and down but kind of all around and it can mean a number of different things.   The people are so humble that few of them look you in the eye. Most of the people I met lived in extreme poverty. Many of the people had actual physical idols that they worshipped in their homes.   There are millions of gods that are worshipped in India. The roads are chaotic, filled with cars, bikes, people, cows and anything else you can imagine.   It’s hot, really hot.

In all of the diversity of this place the thing that stood out to me so clearly is all the things I had in common with the people of India. Finding common ground was not hard and when I met the people face to face I felt a great love for them. In order to tell them the message of Jesus I had to contextualize it.

I had to figure out a way to explain the Gospel message in a way that they could understand.

When I was preaching I couldn’t use the same American jokes. Those jokes didn’t make sense to them. They have a certain way to dress that is not like how I would normally dress. Our team prepared for months in advance learning little things about the culture so that we would not offend our hosts when we were there. At first it was uncomfortable to me because I had to change my preferences in order to connect with these wonderful people. I never really liked the food in India, but I ate it because our hosts, who had little to eat, gave it sacrificially. In the end, the value of the relationships I gained and the souls that were saved far outweighed the light and temporary afflictions I faced as a result of changing things that were preferential and normal to me.

This is really just what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9: 19 “Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. 20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law.21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.”

When we think of change in the context of being a missionary then it seems obvious that a change in our behavior and approach is needed. When we think of change in the context of the culture in which we live we cling to our preferences.

Why?

I can think of a couple of reasons:

First, we know that when we go on a mission trip it is usually short term so we endure change for a small season knowing we will go back to what is normal. 

Second, and maybe more telling, we don’t see where we live as a mission field.We stop contextualizing and we just live. We stop reaching out to our culture and we start cursing the culture for being lost.   We want them to be like us. We see our American Christian subculture crumbling before us. This frightens most long time Christians who’ve grown up in the south.   Because of this we see our changing culture and the people in it as the enemy instead of the reason for the church.

I don’t like change unless it’s change I like. That may sound a little funny but here is what I mean.   There are some changes I like but all the changes I like are the changes I dictate in my life. I usually don’t like change when I feel like I am losing something that is out of my control.

I have heard it said that people don’t fear change they fear loss.

I work at a church and I see this pretty often. Our church has been in a season of change and some people don’t like the changes. These are good people, many of who I look up to. These are Godly people but they like what they like and sometimes changes are just hard.

It is hard to like something and have it taken away. (certain traditions, musical style, buildings, programs, musical instruments, lighting, even names, etc…)

It is hard when the church is the central hub of your spiritual and social life and it changes on you.

It is hard when your preference is no longer the church’s emphasis.

These are all hard things, so…

Why Change?

The answer is pretty simple. We change in order to attempt to better reach people for Jesus.

Changing to chase a fad is a reckless.
Changing to copy someone else is shallow.
Changing out of personal preference is superficial.
Changing to water down the message is sinful.  
Changing to upset people is wrong.

When it all gets down to the simplest level we change in order to honor God and reach people. As a Christian when we come to Christ we enter a season of change called sanctification. It’s the process of us becoming like Christ.

Less of me, more of Him.
Less of my wants, more obedience.
Less of my plans, more of His.

This whole process is very uncomfortable. Like the caterpillar struggling to free itself from its cocoon, we struggle to be more like Christ.

We change in order to reach people but where is the line?   When is the change too much? When do we need to be afraid that the church is just becoming like the culture instead of reaching the culture? These are very important questions that church going Christian people should be asking.

I believe there are at least two simple lines.

The first is the scripture. Churches must never compromise or violate the scripture in order to reach people. The message never changes. If the church begins to water down the gospel then the church is in trouble.

The second is sin. Churches must not engage in sinful activities in order to reach sinners.Jesus modeled this perfectly.   He was constantly around sinners yet without sin. Jesus preached to all who would listen, but only those who repented in faith became children of God.  The church must open wide the doors for the message to be heard, but only those who repent and believe become part of the church.

The Apostle Paul was a man that knew about changing. He went from a Jew of Jews to a man called to reach the Gentile (Pagan) world.   I am sure he had to do things that he never thought he would have to do. His life was constantly changing as he went from one area to another.

He was willing to do whatever it took to reach people for Christ. I know he was often criticized. Paul himself said, “There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.”

It is hard for all of us to accept change but we must be willing to ask the question of ourselves, “Am I struggling with the change because it is a deviation from scripture or leading our church to sin or am I struggling with change because I am losing my preference?”

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Let’s struggle together as we see God’s church reach more people with the Gospel.