Friday, April 30, 2010

You Can Change 10

God is gracious - so we do not have to prove ourselves
I so easily fall into religion, believing that God treats me according to my actions. I believe this lie, which then leads to me try to earn God's favor. The problem is that there's nothing that I can do to earn God's favor. It's already been done. Christ did it when he died on the cross. It's enough.

It's in this amazing grace of God that I can find ultimate rest and freedom.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

You Can Change 9

God is good - so we do not have to look elsewhere
One of the greatest lies our culture is fed is that sin satisfies us in greater ways than God ever can. Augustine, speaking to God, said, "You have created us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You." As I said in yesterday's post, if we don't fill our void with God, then we will most definitely fill it with something else. The problem, though, is that nothing, and no one, other than God can truly fill it.

The answer is not to give up on trying to be satisfied. It's to go the source of true and lasting satisfaction: God Himself. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that the water that he offered was the only thing who could quench her thirst. I like how Chester puts it:

Sin is like the distorted reflection of a beautiful sunset that shifts with every movement of the breeze across the water. God is the sun itself in all its beauty and glory and energy.

Finding your rest in God; going to God for ultimate, lasting satisfaction and joy - these are two ways of talking about worship. Chester writes:

Worship is about what you desire most, what you think has most worth. Every time you look to God to satisfy your longings, you worship him in spirit and truth. Every time you look elsewhere, you commit idolatry.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

You Can Change 8

God is glorious - so we do not have to fear others
Chester says, "One common reason why we sin is that we crave the approval of people or we fear their rejection." We tell little white lies to make people think more highly of us; we put on a facade even around those closest to us because we shudder to think what people might actually believe about us if they really knew us; we so often compare ourselves to others; peer pressure still affects us. The Bible calls this the fear of man, and the answer is not to try to bolster our self-esteem but to have an ever-increasing fear of God.

We were created to worship God. We were created to find our ultimate approval in Him, and when that isn't happening, there is a void that we will desperately try to fill with someone else's approval. Do you know the majesty, glory, holiness and beauty of God? Do you think about these things?

Oh fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Psalm 34:9-11

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

And the winner is...

Not us.

We unfortunately did not win the "Cutest Family" contest. Even so, thanks again to all of you who voted for us!
Parenting can be such a challenge. Our newest challenge is the word "No." Micah has recently learned this word, and I must say that it's pretty hilarious. He doesn't know many words, but this one is up there on his favorites, right after Momma and Daddy. Last night he and I were outside, and I asked him if he was ready to go back inside. His response was no. I then asked him if he wanted to stay outside and play. His response once again was no. He's learning how to communicate, and right now it's very cute, very charming.

Now Adam, on the other hand...

Last night I told him it was time to go to bed, and he said, "No." This is the second time he's done this. The first time was Sunday night. This was neither cute nor charming. I told him that this was disobedience, and it was not acceptable. His punishment was that he couldn't watch tv this morning before school. He cried and tried to tell me that he was sorry and he wouldn't do it again, but I had to insist on the discipline. Our bedtime routine of talking, praying and singing lasted a little longer than normal. We talked about why it's important for him to obey us, as well as what God thinks about it. I made sure that he knows that I love him, and then he went to bed.

Now here's my dilemma. I don't want to create a double standard. It's not fair for Adam to get punished for saying something that gets a laugh when Micah says it. Now granted, the attitude (the heart) is the core issue here, and for Micah it's different than for Adam. However, I want to be consistent for Adam's sake.

Now for the even bigger dilemma: What about my obedience to my Father? What about when I say "No" to God? May my heart be sensitive to the Spirit's direction today. May I be quick to respond in obedience in whatever my Father says to me today. And I pray that my sons will come to know that I am this kind of man.

Fight Club Session 3

I love starting my Tuesday morning with Fight Club. This morning proved to be an injection of energy that I desperately needed. JB gave 25 practical ways to be a servant leader. Before I get to a few of those, though, I will recap the theme of the series: A man is not passive. A man takes initiative in all things, especially his family.

I could offer thoughts to all 25 ideas he gave, but I'm going to pick three for now.

A servant-leader takes the time to give his children practical instructions about life, which in turn gives them confidence with their peers.
One of the wounds that many men have is that they were not equipped for life by their fathers. I wouldn't necessarily say that I have wounds when it comes to this, but there have definitely been some areas where I've been ill-equipped in dealing with the world. There were some pretty significant life skills that I had to learn on my own. So my desire is to begin brainstorming now what life skills I want to teach my boys. Then comes reverse engineering: How do I teach them these skills? When do I teach them these skills? Finally there comes the reality that I will fail them in some ways, but I rest in the grace of God to fill in the gaps.

A servant-leader joins a small group of men who are dedicated to improving their skills as a man, husband and father.
This statement will quite possibly be my biggest take-away from these five weeks of Fight Club. This is what I've been wanting for the guys that I know, and for myself. I have friends who don't necessarily believe the same things as I believe about God, but all of them want to be better husbands, better dads. What would it look like to have some friends who agree to pursue this together, with great intentionality and encouragement.

A servant-leader takes the lead in establishing with his wife sound, biblically-supportable family values.
Here's a huge "AHA" moment: I've taken a lot of time thinking about and writing out values for Neighborhood Church. I've done the same things with businesses I've started. Yet Mandy and I have never written out our values for marriage or for raising children. Of course we've had conversations about this, and of course we have unspoken values, but there's been nothing strategic about it. I'm thinking a lot about this word "strategy." Most men I know do a lot of strategizing during the 8-5 hours. Why don't we do this with our family, during the most crucial hours of our day? Why don't I put the same strategy into being a husband and father as I do in being a pastor/entrepreneur?

You Can Change 7

God is great - so we do not have to be in control
This is the first of four truths that Chester writes about in chapter 5 of You Can Change. Here's how he begins this section:

Traveling at the speed of light (186,000 miles a second), you would encircle the earth seven times in one second and pass the moon in two seconds. At this speed it would take you 4.3 years to reach our nearest star and 100,000 years to cross our galaxy. There are thought to be at least 100,000,000,000 galaxies in the universe. It would take 2,000,000 light-years to reach the next closest galaxy and 20,000,000 to reach the next cluster of galaxies. And you have still only just begun to explore the universe.

Oh, how my heart needs to know this beyond anything else. God is so much bigger than I realize! In light of this, why do I so often feel that I have to make things happen. Why do I feel like I have to be in control? This is why we end up stressed. It's because we quickly learn that we're not in control, that we can't "make" things happen. Yet this is an amazing realization if we have a grand view of God.

This is why I so love Psalm 62:11-12. It's one thing for God to be strong, for God to be able to help me. It's another thing for Him to also be loving, for Him to want to help me!

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong,
and that you, O Lord, are loving.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Have you seen these pictures?

Here are three pictures from the volcano in Iceland a couple of weeks ago. For more go here.

You Can Change 6

The title of chapter 5 is "What Truths Do You Need to Turn To?" The premise of the chapter is that there is some kind of lie behind every sinful behavior. Uncovering that lie is key to overcoming the sinful behavior that results from believing that lie.

We sin because we believe the lie that we are better off without God, that his rule is oppressive, that we will be free without him, that sin offers more than God.

The key to overcoming sin and negative emotions is to trust God. It's starts with our beliefs about Him, and as Chester points out, this is not just what we believe about God on Sunday (confessional faith), but what we believe about him on Monday (functional belief). He says that we need to begin to preach to our hearts. I've always found this to be a helpful discipline. I have to constantly remind myself of what I know to be true God, especially when I don't necessarily feel it.

The remainder of the chapter focuses on four truths. I'm going to write individual blog posts on each of these, but for now, here's the list.

1. God is great - so we do not have to be in control
2. God is glorious - so we do not have to fear others
3. God is good - so we do not have to look elsewhere
4. God is gracious - so we do not have to prove ourselves

Friday, April 23, 2010

You Can Change 5

Chapter 4 of Tim Chester's You Can Change is titled "When Do You Struggle?" In the first part of this chapter he reminds us that God cares about our struggles. He doesn't simply make Himself available when we are good and then give us the cold shoulder when we struggle. He's here. And He got involved in a tangible way by sending Jesus into the madness that we call humanity. Jesus faced every kind of trial and temptation that we will ever face, yet He did so by staying dependent on the Father.

We all struggle, but the good news is that God uses our struggles for His glory and our benefit. Romans 5:8 says that suffering eventually leads to hope. James 1:2-4 says that we can count as joy the trials we go through because they lead to maturity. Romans 8:28-29 says that God takes all things, even those things meant for evil, and can bring good out of them. And He uses those things to conform us to the image of Jesus. And 1 Peter 1:6-7 says that God uses our trials to make us more like Jesus and bring praise to Him.

Now before I go any farther with this, let's talk about this word "struggle." In the context of the book so far I have imagined the word in a very negative sense. It's talking about sin. We struggle, we fight. Sometimes we overcome, and sometimes we're overcome. But as I was reading, and especially reading the passages noted above, I remembered that the primary Greek word translated "trials" is also translated "temptations." The Greek word I'm referring to is πειράζω (πειρασμός) for those of you interested.

In passages such as James 1:3-4, 1 Peter 1:6, Luke 8:13, and James 1:12, this word is most often translated as "trials" or sometimes "testing." Yet in passages such as 1 Corinthians 10:13, 1 Timothy 6:9, and Matthew 6:13, the word is translated "temptation."

Why does this matter???

This is huge. I don't like suffering (trials), but I know that God uses it to make me more like Jesus. Further, He can bring beauty and blessing out of it. This is why I can say that it is good. However, I never look at temptations as a good thing. Perhaps it's because it's easy to be overcome by temptation instead of overcoming it. Yet God wants to use this kind of struggle for His glory and my benefit.

So God can use all of our "struggles" for His glory and our benefit. More on this chapter tomorrow.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

You Can Change 4

In chapter 3 of Tim Chester's book You Can Change we're presented with the question "How Are You Going to Change?" Tim Keller says that religion leads to either pride or despair. Chester has so far talked a lot about pride. But at some point, we realize that we can't check off all the boxes. We come to the conclusion that change is not really possible. The pride that we had in our achievements now turns to despair. And that's where the gospel comes in. Chester writes, "The glorious good news of Jesus is that you and I can change" (41).

The problem is that we try to change in the wrong way, and for most of us, this involves the law (legalism). We believe that if we just try harder, or do this and don't do that, or make lists that we can check off, that we eventually will see change. The problem is that the law was never meant to bring change. The purpose of the law is to show us that we can't change ourselves, that something else is needed. And that something else is Christ.

This is why we must not only repent of sin, but repent of our righteousness as well. In other words, we repent of trying to make ourselves "right with God" based on our efforts. This is the foundation for change. It's understanding that it's impossible on our own, that we are completely dependent on God for anything good to happen.

This is where God's sanctifying work through the Holy Spirit comes in (2 Thess. 2:13). Whereas we often try to change our behavior, God goes straight for the heart. That's the only way lasting change can happen. Ezekiel 36 says that God has removed our heart of stone and given us a new heart of flesh.

But not only has God given us new hearts, He also sent Jesus to die on the Cross so that sin would no longer reign. Paul says, "We know that our old self was crucified with him (Jesus) in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin" (Romans 6:6-7).

Because of Christ's work on the Cross, and the Spirit's continual sanctifying work in our hearts, we do not have to be slaves of sin. By the grace of God, we can change because we are changed. We can be led by the Spirit instead of the flesh. We will of course continue to face temptation (Chester says that we're like a former prisoner who still wakes at prison hours, or like a freed slave who still jumps at his old master's voice), but we don't have to sin. The key is repentance, which is a daily activity for God's people. Every day we remind ourselves that it is only through God's work that we that we have abundant life, that we have forgiveness, that we have freedom. And this repentance opens the door for God's Spirit to move in our hearts.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You Can Change 3

I divided chapter 2 into two posts. In the last post we looked at three reasons that we often give for wanting to change, and in this post we'll look at what Chester said is the true motive for change:
to enjoy the freedom from sin and delight in God that God gives to us through Jesus

He breaks this down into four parts:
  1. Growing in holiness is not sad, dutiful drudgery. It's about joy
  2. Change is about living in freedom
  3. Change is about discovering the delight of knowing and serving God. Chester writes, "All too often we think of holiness as giving up the pleasures of sin for some worthy but drab life. But holiness means recognizing that the pleasures of sin are empty and temporary, while God is inviting us to magnificent, true, full, and rich pleasures that last forever" (36). Amen!
  4. Becoming like Jesus is something that God gives to us. It has nothing to do with our achievement.

Chester ends this chapter by comparing two feasts that we're presented with every day. On one side is the feast of sin. It calls out to us, promising a satisfaction yet never delivering. On the other side is the feast of God. This is the only feast that truly satisfies, and it's given to us freely through Christ.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On Productivity

I think most people would say that they'd like to be more productive. I know it's true for me. Being that I don't have anyone that I report to, and neither do I have set office hours, this is even more important to me. I serve as my own accountability, which is nice at times, but I’m always tweaking things in order to be a better steward of my time. So here are five things that I'm learning when it comes to productivity:

  1. We're most productive when in a place of rest. Stress never leads to increased productivity (see this post for more)
  2. Know what fills you. It's important to work hard, but it's equally important to play hard. I’ve learned that being at home with my family fills me, though it’s also nice to be away at times (not talking about you so much, Mandy – just the little people)
  3. Know what time of day you do your best work. Mornings for me are the time to do study or writing. Admin tasks, which come pretty easily for me, can happen in the afternoon, when the energy level is a bit lower
  4. Multi-tasking on some things is great. For example, when I get into admin mode, multi-tasking is a friend. However, multi-tasking as a primary method of work is a bad idea (see this article, which I've linked to before). When I really need to get work done, I shut down email and web browsers.
  5. Technology can be a help or a hindrance. Here is some technology that is currently helping me be more productive:
  • iPhone - it is amazing just how much work I can do with just this one gadget
  • Evernote - I use the desktop software on my laptop as well as the iPhone app (both free). I take notes there. I have a reminder list for our upcoming trip to Cancun there. I paste web pages there. Really great piece of software.
  • Toodledo - This is the best To-Do list that I've found (and I've tried several). Once again, there's a web version that syncs with the iPhone app ($3 I believe). I have three folders set up (Home, Neighborhood Church, & Real Estate). I set up tasks with due dates within the respective folders, and can even set up short-term and long-term goals.
  • Kindle - I've written a lot about Kindle in the past, but here are two ways it makes me more productive. First, it's great to be able to order a book and have it instantly show up on the iPhone. No waiting for shipping. Second, since I always have my iPhone, I'm never without a book. I get a lot more read this way.
  • ReQall – This became my replacement for Jott once it ceased to be free. I have a ReQall phone number programmed into my favorites list. When I’m driving and remember something important I need to do, I call the number, then say “Add” after hearing the lovely lady’s voice. I hear a beep, then remind myself of whatever just entered my brain. When I get back to my computer I have an email with the transcription and recording.

Fight Club Session 2

This morning's session was on the role of men as husbands. JB did an awesome job once again. He began by showing a video about initiative. This once again goes back to the root sin of passivity that was talked about last week. A man must take initiative in all parts of his life, and this is none too true when it comes to marriage.

First great point of the morning: In relating to and understanding your wife, operating on the principles of what comes naturally to you is a big mistake. Women are very different from men, and treating her like you would treat another man is not going to work. Might seem like a no-brainer, but it's a no-brainer that I need to be reminded of.

The biggest take home for me was going through the core needs of a husband and a wife. The number one need for both is the same. It's Companionship. But after that, everything is different. For husbands, the next three are:
  • Admiration
  • Support
  • Physical Responsiveness

For wives, they are:
  • Security
  • Significance
  • Emotional Responsiveness
JB then closed by giving a "Must Do", "Can Do" and "Courageous Do" for each of the four core needs for wives. I'll save that for a later post, but it was an excellent reminder. Biggest thing I appreciated about this morning was the emphasis on initiative. This doesn't come naturally, and it's something that we have to work on.

So with that, I wrote three questions that I left with, and that I'll leave you with:
  1. Now what? What am I going to do with what I've learned/been reminded of?
  2. How am I going to make this a part of my vocabulary and then my lifestyle?
  3. Where am I doing well? What do I need to work on?

You Can Change 2

Chapter 2 of Tim Chester's excellent book You Can Change is titled "Why Would You Like to Change?" He begins by giving three common reasons.

The first is to prove ourselves to God. We want to change because we think that by doing so we will gain favor with God. Perhaps that favor is salvation, or maybe it's just daily blessing. The problem with this is that it's nothing more than religion, which says, according to Tim Keller, "I obey in order to be accepted." Religion is not the Gospel. The Gospel says that we're accepted because of what Christ has done. That's it. There's nothing we can do to make God love us. And there's nothing we can do to make him love us any less. The work has been done.

The second reason we have for wanting to change is to prove ourselves to other people. We want others to be impressed, so we wear a mask, because if people knew what we were really like on the inside, they would be far from impressed! The problem with this is that it is possible to deceive people with our impressive masked-man living, yet when we do that, we no longer need a Savior. We might be living up to their standards, but we need to seek a higher standard - that of God's.

The final reason Chester gives for why we want to change is to prove ourselves to ourselves. Sin brings shame, and none of us likes to feel bad. We want to change so that we no longer feel bad. The problem with this is that we've forgotten that our sin is truly an offense to God, not just to ourselves.

The big problem with all of these is that it's about me. It's about my glory, which, according to Chester, is the definition of sin (living for my glory instead of God's). With all of these, we become our own savior and have no need for Christ. We have no need for the Cross. Chester quotes John Gerstner here: "The thing that really separates us from God is not so much our sin, but our damnable good works" (25).

Change can only come when we realize that the work was completed by Jesus. Jesus' work allows for true change to take place. Chester says, "Holiness is new affections, new desires, and new motives that then lead to new behavior. If you don't see your sin as completely pardoned, then your affections, desires, and motives will be wrong" (28).

Monday, April 19, 2010

You Can Change 1

I just started reading Tim Chester's You Can Change. So far an excellent read, one that I'm going to recommend everyone at NC read. Here's what Tim Keller says about the book: "A book about Christian growth that is neither quietistic nor moralistic is rare. A book that is truly practical is even rarer. Tim Chester's new volume falls into both categories."

In this post I want to give some observations from chapter 1, which is titled "What Would You Like to Change?" Chester starts out by saying that most of our answers to this question (our appearance, new job, less anger, etc) are not ambitious enough. The reason? Because we were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Remember, at the end of each of the six days of creation God said, "It is good," but at the end of the seventh day, after creating humanity, He said, "It is very good." Anything less than God's ideal for us is settling.

Yet we have a problem, and it's the same thing I posted about in the review of week 1 of Fight Club. It's that humanity is broken because of our rebellion against God. We've fallen short of reflecting God's glory, which was the creation intent (Romans 3:23). Because of that brokenness, we're no longer able to be the people we were created to be.

I love the beginning of the next paragraph: "Enter Jesus." He is the true image, the One who did live as we were meant to live, the One who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4) and radiates the glory of God (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus not only shows us how to live the life we were meant to live, but through the Cross He provides the means for us to do it. Hence, we call this good news!

Here's my favorite quote of the chapter: "Jesus isn't just good for us - he is good itself. He defines good. The secret of gospel change is being convinced that Jesus is the good life and the fountain of all joy. Any alternative we might choose would be the letdown" (15).

So the key to change is first understanding that we, as Switchfoot says, "were meant to live for so much more." Second, we have to understand that because of sin's reign in the world, we're incapable of doing this on our own (bad news). Third, we have a Redeemer who has conquered sin and death and provided a way to live as we were meant to live (good news). Finally, the key to embracing this is to turn to Jesus, the author of our salvation and the perfecter of our faith.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Mandy!

I suppose this post should have been written yesterday, since that was technically Mandy's birthday (not sure why I just used the word "technically"). But better late than never, right? Actually, I'm glad I waited, because something hit me last night that I'm truly thankful for. Last night three of Mandy's closest friends took her out to eat. She returned home almost three hours later. Now, for me, three hours at a restaurant is not a good night. But for Mandy, it's great.

I've discovered over the last year or so that my wife is a very relational person. I'm not sure why that fact has eluded me over almost 11 years of marriage. I think it's because she hasn't always had this deep a level of community. So I'm thankful that my wife knows how to fill herself up, but I'm even more thankful for the fact that she's in a place to do it!

One more thing I've discovered over the last year or so: my wife is pretty popular. I'm happy about that. She's an awesome lady. But I told her yesterday over lunch that I felt honored that she chose to spend her lunch with me. And I truly was. Happy birthday Mandy!

Fight Club - Session 1

JB started with this quote: "When men become men, everything else gets better. The tragedy, and reality, is that the opposite is also true."

Amen to that. I'm really glad that John Carroll told me about Fight Club a couple of months ago. Going into 2010, I really wanted to provide an outlet for the guys I know to hear what the Bible says about men. As soon as I read the manifesto from Fight Club, I knew that this what I was looking for.

So this morning at 6:30 the new 5-week session of Fight Club kicked off. Here are my notes from this morning's talk.

Genesis 1-2 reveals the five noble pathways: Manhood, Womanhood, Marriage, Parenthood & Calling/Vocation. Genesis 1 is all about God creating. Genesis 2 is all about him giving his creation mandate to Adam. Now it's Adam's turn. Sin enters the picture in Genesis 3, and the good relationship and the good work is broken. JB said that Genesis 3:6 is the most damning verse for men in the Bible. Here's the paraphrase: The serpent came to Eve and deceived her. So she ate of the fruit, then gave it to Adam, "who was with her", and he ate. It was Adam's biggest opportunity to be a man, yet he failed to step up. He was passive.

The results of the fall are two-fold. On the one hand, we have people like Eve, who decide that they know better than God what they need. They rebel and want their own way. This is like the younger brother in Luke 15. He said that men who fall into this category never become true men. In our culture today we have the phenomena of extended adolescence. These are the "dudes" who go away to college and then move back in with their parents. They don't get a job. They don't have any responsibilities. Their lives are marked by laziness, video games, and consumption.

On the other hand, we have people like Adam, who decide that they will look the part in order to please God. This is religion, and it mirrors the older brother in Luke 15. These are the cowards. They can talk a big game, but they are scared to make their lives count for something. They have problem making decisions for themselves, much less for anyone else. And many of them turn into critics (many through the blogosphere).

That's the bad news. Here's the good news: the original plan of God has not waned. The call to create and cultivate still goes out. And the even better news is that God has a plan for our brokenness. It's the Gospel, and we first see indicators of it in Genesis 3. The fig leaves that they had made to cover their nakedness did not do what they hoped it would do. Their sin was still apparent to God. They still felt shame. So God took the skin from an animal and clothed them with it. He then sent them back into their work, only the work would now be difficult because of the brokenness now present in the world.

So much of this brokenness has marked me through the years, yet I know that God is working on me. How I am grateful for the Gospel!

Fight Club Begins

Several guys from NC took part in Fight Club this morning. If this morning's session was an indicator of the rest of the series, it's going to be great. Here is an excerpt from the manifesto, which can be downloaded here.

Rejects passivity - Pursues responsibility

Rejects lust - Pursues purity

Rejects debt - Pursues generosity

Rejects playing the victim - Pursues redeeming his past

Rejects isolation - Pursues community

Rejects marriage mediocrity - Pursues loving his wife

Rejects parental passiveness - Pursues discipling his kids

Rejects self-sufficiency - Pursues an abided relationship with Jesus

Rejects a meaningless life - Pursues the work God has for him

Sound interesting. Join us on Tuesday mornings at 6:30 at the Vue

Monday, April 12, 2010

TK Primer Study Begins

Our community groups have just begun going through the TK Primer, which was written by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, who also wrote the blessed book, The Tangible Kingdom. I'm really looking forward to seeing how God shapes us for mission through this study.

Cutest Family Update

Just found out that we won regionals for the Cutest Family Search. Go here, then to page 4 and you'll see us. Thanks to everyone who voted for us! And thanks to Kristi for making it happen!

Side note: we actually won the contest just about the time I was first experiencing the agony of a kidney stone. Not sure if there's any relevance there or not.

Friday, April 09, 2010


Last night, at around 1:00 am I woke up with a lot of pain in my side. For the previous two days I had experienced a bit of pain, but nothing like this. I immediately thought it was a kidney stone. In June, 2003, right after graduating from seminary and moving to San Leandro, I had my first kidney stone. Thankfully I have not had another. Until now.

At 3:00 I drove to Methodist Hospital and checked myself into the ER. By 5:00 I was finally feeling good (loopy good I should add), and Joe Currier came and picked me up about 7:30. I've slept most of the day today, once again thanks to good medication. It could definitely have come at a worse time, since this was going to be a down weekend for the most part, but I do have to make some adjustments.

I imagine that I'll be down for the count for a few days until the stone passes. Thankful for a loving wife and two loving kids, as well as for some good friends.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Good Kind of Control

As a Christian, I know that dependence on God in all things is good for me. Whenever I get to the point where I feel as if I have to make my life happen, I'm one step away from bondage. I'm learning that taking control of one's life is in direct opposition to the Gospel. The goal is to give up control, to become completely dependent on the only One who can truly meet my needs. I love the way Eugene Petersen paraphrases Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-30:
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
Having said that, I've been giving a lot of thought recently to the good and healthy kind of control that comes as a result of this. As I said a couple of days ago, I have been in a great place of rest the last few weeks, and the outcome has been great productivity. The principle once again is this: It's only after we've rested in God that we can work with God in the way He intended. And the amazing thing is that within this place of rest we actually have more control than we've ever had before.

Here's the irony. We think we have two options. Either we're in control or God is in control. But that's not completely accurate. When we think we're mastering something, we so often discover that we are actually the ones being mastered. Let's use money as an example. The cycle goes like this: (1) We work in order to make money so that we can pay our bills; (2) As is so often the case, either not enough money comes in, or the bills are higher than expected; (3) We worry. We freak out. Sound familiar? And here's how it's related to our time: (1) We work long hours to make more money; (2) We don't have time for those closest to us; (3) We're stressed out all the time; (4) We use money to buy things for those closest to us to make up for not spending time with this.

But here's the flip side. Rest and dependence leads to freedom, and freedom is not overrated! Freedom leads to a healthy sense of control. In this place of freedom we realize that we can make decisions. Some of those decisions lead to more freedom, while some lead to more bondage. In that place of freedom we are no longer being controlled by things.

You and I were never meant to bear the responsibility of running our lives, of making our lives happen. When we truly begin to believe this, we experience great freedom in seeing our lives lived out as they were meant to.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Vote for Us!

Apparently we're in the running to win the regional portion of a contest. The following is from Kristi Vickers, fellow NC member and owner of BluOrchid Photography:

As many of you know, we have participated in the International Search for North America's Cutest Family. This search has already helped to raise thousands of needed dollars to support the non-profit organization, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. But we can't stop now! Tomorrow is the last day to vote and every vote really counts. Not only does it raise money for this amazing organization, but there are some fantastic prizes involved!

Click here to be taken to the voting website. Click on Gallery and enter gallery to view families and vote. Click the drop down menu for tour city and click Memphis. Click "vote" next to the photograph to be taken to the secure voting screen. The votes are only $1 and every dime of that money goes to benefit Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. The prizes that the families win are all donated by sponsors. You can vote as many times as you like and there is no limit to the amount that you can enter!

If you have been looking for an organization to give to, we can't think of any that would be better. Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep offers infant bereavement portraits to families that will never leave the hospital with their babies. All of the photographers that work with this program are volunteers but there are still many needs to keep the organization going. This contest is their biggest fundraiser of the year and we can all help by voting!

Votes will be taken until midnight (mountain time zone) on April 8! Which ever family for each city has the highest number of votes will move on to the finals, where the photographs will be judged by a professional panel of photographers. The final winner will be awarded the grand prize....A NEW CAR!

Great Idea Thomas Nelson!

I received the book Derailed, by Tim Irwin, in the last Catalyst Filter Aqua Box. Last night I decided to start reading it. When I opened it up I discovered NelsonFree, a new concept from Thomas Nelson Publishers. If you buy a book in the NelsonFree line, you get a link to download the audio version as well as the e-book. It's very refreshing to see a book publisher thinking so far outside the box.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Striving and Social Media

You might have noticed that I've been absent from the social media world for the last six weeks. I decided to fast from the blog, twitter and facebook as a part of Lent, and I have to say that God taught me a lot during this time. During much of the six weeks I taught on the Kingdom of God, and one sermon in particular was I think more for me than anyone else. My main point was that God's Kingdom is advancing, and it's in no way dependent on us. I shared that it is so easy for us to get caught up in believing the lie that this is all up to us (by this I mean our lives, our relationships, our passions, etc.).

After saying all of that, I began to be tested - just how much did I believe it? So the next week I spoke on God's view of work and rest, that working with God can only happen after we've rested in God. I realized just how much striving I do: "If I don't do _____, then it won't happen." I've come to realize that this type of living just brings me into bondage, not the freedom that God desires for me. And I realized that for me, social media feeds that striving. So the fast was more needed than I first realized.

Over the past few weeks I have experienced powerful sense of rest, which has led to a peaceful yet productive sense of working with God. I thank God for that, and I hope that my working (and even my social media) stays rooted in this rest. More to come...

A plug for my favorite new blog...


Hint: it features my eldest child

Monday, April 05, 2010

Kindle or iPad

I've become a real fan of the Kindle. I should say that I don't actually own a Kindle, but I do have the free app for my iPhone and laptop. And I've purchased quite a few books from Amazon. When I first heard about the iPad, I wondered if the Kindle format would last, and more importantly, if it didn't, what did that mean for the books I, and many others, had purchased.

Well, Amazon has released a free app for the iPad, which in my opinion is a good thing. And this article from CNET encourages people to continue buying ebooks from Amazon instead of Apple. So for now, I will continue to purchase ebooks from Amazon.

The Father's Love...and Basketball

I'm a big Duke fan, and I hope to be celebrating a national championship about eleven hours from now. But until then, I have to share the most powerful moment of Saturday's game with West Virginia. Halfway through the second half West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler twisted his knee and went down in agony. The guy was in both physical and emotional pain, knowing this was his last college game and that he wasn't going to be able to help his team.

At that moment his coach, Bob Huggins, came out and, after yelling at the refs for a moment, knelt down, cradled him in his arms, and began whispering truth to him: that he loved him, his teammates loved him, and things were going to be ok. It was one of the most uncomfortable, yet powerful, moments I've ever witnessed in sports.

Last night Neighborhood Church came together with Cooper Church to celebrate the Resurrection. Bill Ganus and I taught on Luke 15, the story of the two lost sons. I closed with this story, as it gave me a picture of the Father who is in passionate pursuit of us because of His love for us. I am still quite uncomfortable with this kind of intimacy, yet I am extremely grateful for it!