I had a friend who got blindsided recently at her job. Basically, her boss sat her down and proceeded to tell her EVERYTHING she’s been doing wrong for the entire year.

I’ve had that happen a time or two where someone I know doesn’t give me any warning before reading me the riot act. I know you have, too.

Tonight in my Life Group, we talked about how Jesus has High Priest is able to sympathize with us in everything as He’s been through everything we’ve been through, temptations and all, and passed the test with flying colors. To put it in more churchy language, He didn’t sin.

If anyone could blindside us, it would be Jesus. He’s seen it all. He knows every false motive, every impure intent, every dark thought, every secret sin. He could sit me down and blast me into smithereens with everything He’s got on me.

But He doesn’t. He doesn’t choose to “blast” anyone. Hebrews says that Jesus as High Priest intercedes for His children. He prays for you and me.

Maybe that should change the way I act when someone blindsides me. Or when I feel strongly tempted to blast someone when I see all sorts of red flags popping up in their life.

The unfortunate part of blasting someone is that you might be able to seek and receive forgiveness, but you can never recall those words you spoke. You can never undo the wounds and scars you created. You can never restore the relationship to what it was pre-blast.

So maybe instead of letting someone else have it, try letting God have it. As in taking it to God in prayer, not blasting God.

PS Sometimes you need to vent out loud to God. He already knows what’s in your heart anyway, and He can take it.

PPS As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.


Who Do You Say That I Am?

When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16)

That’s an important question that Jesus asked His disciples. He had previously asked them who the people said He was and they gave Him answers like John the Baptist reincarnated, another Elijah, or Jeremiah.

Peter’s answer showed that he was on the right track, but his rebuke of Jesus a few moments later reveals that he still had a way to go in his understanding of Jesus.

I have to ask myself that question. Who do I say that this Jesus is?

If I say that He’s just another great guy, an inspiring leader, and a wise teacher, it doesn’t really affect the way I live. I can choose to emulate the parts about His life that I like and leave the rest alone. I can feel warm fuzzies about His example and nothing more.

But if I say that Jesus is Messiah, then that changes everything. That changes me.

I can’t say that Jesus is THE Messiah and then continue to live life according to my own terms. I can’t say that Jesus is Lord and not do what He says or pick and choose which of His commands I want to obey.

I can’t say that certain parts of me are under His control but not others, that I take Him with me to certain places but not to others.

If I say that Jesus is Messiah and Lord, then this is what it means:

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also].

For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting]” (Matthew 16:24-25).


When Helping Hurts: My Take So Far


My church life group recently started a new study on the book When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. So far, I give it two enthusiastic thumbs way up.

The premise of the book is that poverty around the world can be traced back to four broken relationships: relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation. The book then goes on to say that where most people go wrong is to treat poverty solely as a lack of resources with the solution being to give money, food, etc., and treat the symptoms without addressing the underlying ailment.

One of the most convicting parts for me was reading about how in this American middle-class mentality there is an almost subliminal “health and wealth gospel” belief that God rewards faith with prosperity, therefore these people are poor because they are sinful, much like the disciples questioning Jesus about the man born blind and how it must have been either him or his parents who sinned for him to be like that.

There is a sense sometimes where Americans have an implicit “god-complex” about serving the poor, as if I am condescending to serve the poor out of my benevolence from my lofty spiritual position, like the Pharisee who praised God that he was not like those other sinners. Sometimes, I personally need to be more like the tax collector who acknowledged his own sin and deep need for God.

The reality is that both those in need and those in position to meet that need are equally broken, just in different ways. One may have a better coping mechanisms for hiding his brokenness than the other, but they are both equally flawed and both need Jesus.

For me, the biggest revelation is that poverty brings about a sense of helplessness and hopelessness and the solution is to help people see their innate worth as those created, redeemed and loved by God as those who with God’s help don’t have to remain trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty.

I suppose at the end of the day, we are all poor in one sense or another. Jesus says that it is blessed to be poor in spirit, realizing that we have nothing in ourselves to offer God but ourselves, for to those belongs the Kingdom of Heaven.

Trust me. The book words all this far better than I have. I recommend it to anyone who has a heart for the poor or the least of these.

PS Here’s a link if you want to buy the book. The cover is different than mine, but the content is the same. I’d go so far as to say this is a must-read for any individuals or organizations who want to work toward alleviating poverty in the most effective manner.


The Kingdom Of God


“If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born both with in ourselves and with in the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it” (Frederick Buechner).

I think that says it way better than I ever could.

I posted this on Facebook two years ago today and it still has an impact on me. I still long for this Kingdom of God and for all the wrongs of this world to be made right.

I still think heaven will look a lot like Narnia with a little Middle Earth thrown it. Hobbits in heaven? I’d like to think so.

Lifeboats and Such


I heard a fantastic illustration regarding life groups a.k.a. small groups. They’re like being together in a lifeboat. Except by choice– hopefully.

When you’re in a lifeboat, you share things you normally wouldn’t share. You go beyond the surface-y kind of “how’re you doing” “I’m fine” conversation to the kind that asks the hard questions and doesn’t flinch at the hard answers and you learn not to be shocked at the candid honesty that results. It’s the kind where every person is dependent on every other person. You have to cooperate to survive and you have to learn to live in very close quarters and get to know your boat-mates very intimately.

I’ve been a part of a few life groups that were that unified and connected. I couldn’t wait until the next meeting to see the people in my group and be a part of sharing life together. I had one group where we all took turns sharing our life stories with the good, bad, and ugly parts included. That fostered a closeness and intimacy I’ve never seen duplicated in all the groups I’ve been in since then.

There are no Lone Ranger Christians. At least no thriving ones. We need each other. There are times we need extra hands to carry our burdens and share our loads. Sometimes, we get caught in dark places that we can’t get out of on our own.

Also, like the lifeboat, the life group is headed in the same direction– in this case, it’s toward spiritual maturity and Christlikeness. The group won’t get very far if each person is paddling in a different direction.

I’m currently a part of a life group that will be around for a long while. I’ve enjoyed getting to know everyone and share in their lives, even if it’s in a small way (so far).

Tuesdays Are Still Good


Tuesdays are awkward. They’re those misfit days between the dreaded Mondays and the (I think) vastly overrated Hump Days known as Wednesday.

But for me, Tuesdays are my favorite. That’s because Kairos is on Tuesday.

I’ve been involved with Kairos for 8 years. I’ve volunteered as a greeter for almost as long. I’ve seen lots of people come and go and been through quite a lot in that timespan.

The attendance numbers have soared way up, plummeted back to earth, then achieved a sort of happy medium. The teaching and music have remained consistently good.

The latest series was Letters to Me. It was based on the idea of what you might tell your younger self if you could somehow get hold of pen, paper, and a time machine. Or a 1985 DeLorean.

Probably, you’d tell yourself to avoid some people. You’d tell yourself not to do some things and not to go certain places.

I love the idea that there’s nothing in your past that is irredeemable. There’s nothing God can’t use and nothing God can’t turn into something good. Just ask Joseph. Or Jacob. Or Abraham.

My favorite line from Kairos is the one that says that God can take that worst moment of your life, the one you swore up and down that you would never tell ANYBODY about, and make it the very first line of your testimony.

If you’re ever in the Nashville area on a Tuesday night, check out Kairos. It’s at 7 pm in Hudson Hall at Brentwood Baptist Church, located off I-65 exit 71. It’s kinda hard to miss.

God willing, I plan to be there for at least the next 8 years.

Lessons from Lent


This may be old hat for you or not. I’m not sure. But stop me if you’ve heard some or all of this before: last year, I gave up only Facebook for Lent. This year, I decided to give up all social media. It turned out to be one of my best decisions ever. Although if I’m honest, I was being obedient to what I felt God was calling me to do. It really wasn’t my decision at all.

I don’t regret for one single second going without social media for those 46 days. I got in more prayer time, I read my Bible more, I read more books in general. Plus, I had a greater sense of peace from not being tied down to Facebook or Twitter.

I think sometimes in order to appreciate something more, you need to step away from it for a while. That was the case for me. I did sometimes feel out of the loop after missing all the news from Facebook. But I can always catch up on that.

Lent is more than just giving up. It’s replacing it with something better. It’s no good to give up social media if you’re going to fill up the time with television. Hopefully, you spend your extra free time in learning to hear God’s voice and hear His heartbeat and feel His love for you. Obviously, the best way to do that is through His Word.

I don’t claim that I was anywhere near perfect in that regard. I wasted too much of the time I had away from social media. But I’m not beating myself up about it. Instead I choose to focus on the fact that I was more discipline in regard to prayer and Bible reading than I’ve been in a long time.

I hope to be able to participate in Lent again next year. I hope that I can be free enough to walk away from anything that enslaves me and takes my eyes off Jesus, whether that be social media or TV or anything else.

Like I said before, it’s really not about giving up stuff or sacrificing what you love. More than that, it’s about prioritizing your life and making sure that Jesus and His Kingdom really and truly are first. Then everything else will line up and fall into proper place.

An Essay I Wrote


I may or may not have mentioned that I’m currently involved in an intensive discipleship training class at my church. Part of the class involved writing an essay.

I chose to write on the unique contributions that each of the four Gospels make to our overall understanding of Jesus and Christianity. It almost felt like a part of my brain got turned on that hadn’t seen much action since my seminary days of yore. Here is the result (with the reminder that it is an essay and reads like one):

“Each gospel has made its own unique contributions to the overall biblical canon and to our understanding of who Jesus is and what His purpose and mission were while He was here on earth. Although each of these is technically anonymous, there are enough clues and evidence, both biblical and extra-biblical, to safely say that these were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Matthew writes primarily for a Hebrew audience, emphasizing how Jesus is truly the prophesied Messiah. He brings in the genealogy of Jesus and parallels him to Moses on several occasions. Matthew brings out Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God and how it is both now and not yet. Many see Matthew as represented by a man, because he emphasized the humanity of Jesus.

Mark, the first of the Gospels to be written, focuses on Jesus as the Son of God, the true Messiah sent from God into the world. His Gospel is fast-paced, accentuated by his frequent use of the word “immediately.” He is represented by a lion, because he brought out the kingly nature of Jesus.

Luke writes to Theophilus, but likely his intended audience is both Jews and Gentiles. He gives a convincing defense of Jesus and the gospel for both evangelistic and discipling purposes. He is represented by an ox, the lowliest of animals, for his attention to the lowly and outcasts, such as the shepherds, and the Gentiles. His theme is the universality of salvation, how it’s not only for a specific race or region, but for all peoples everywhere.

All three of these Gospels are called the Synoptic Gospels because they share many similarities, such as miracles, parables, and teachings. Matthew and Luke probably borrow from Mark, who in turn uses a source of collected sayings and teachings, commonly referred to as “Q”, to build his own writings upon.

John writes to a primarily Gentile audience in Ephesus and is by far the most intentionally evangelical of the Gospels. He writes that His purpose is to show that Jesus is indeed the Christ that those who read may believe and have eternal life in His name. He is often represented by an eagle for his high Christology and his lyrical and poetic imagery, as well as his epic style of writing, as evidenced by the opening 18 verses of chapter one.

Each Gospel reflects the personality and background of the writers and brings out different aspects to the character, life, and teachings of Christ. Some emphasize his teachings, while others focus on His ministry. Yet all four together present a compelling portrait of Jesus as both God and man, Savior and Lord.”

Thoughts from Deuteronomy


I heard this from a pastor once: most people have every intention of reading through the Bible. Every intention.

They start off well, because Genesis has a good bit of action and intrigue and drama. Sort of Downton Abbey meets Ben-Hur. You get to see the story of God’s people unfolding and see where everything got its start.

Exodus is doable because it continues the storyline from Genesis. There’s more than a few rules and regulations thrown in, but there’s also the drama of God’s people making their way through the desert.

Leviticus throws most people for a loop. There are a lot more rules and a lot less action. A lot of what’s here seems far from relatable and applicable. I mean, who will be sacrificing a goat any time soon?

Numbers usually is like a punch to the solar plexus and Deuteronomy generally finishes the people off that Numbers didn’t. I mean, it seems so far removed from the mercy and grace of the New Testament.

But think of it as an unfolding love story between God and His people. At first, His people need boundaries and guidelines, as we all do when we’re growing up. We need to know that sin is serious business and that every sin demands a sacrifice and blood.

It’s the same God who shows up later in the form of Jesus. I admit I don’t completely understand how the different parts of the story mesh together, but I know that they do. All the loose ends of the plot get resolved and we do live happily ever after. Just not yet.

I see how Adam and Eve blew it in the garden. I see how the children of Israel messed up with God literally from day one. But instead of looking at the could-have-beens, I see the what-will-be. Where Adam and Eve and the Israelites failed, Jesus got it right and one day soon, everything that went wrong as a result will be put right.

That sounds like a happy ending to me.

This Is The Voice!


First of all, I bet you just sang those words. Especially if you’ve watched NBC’s The Voice, a reality singing competition. But this blog has nothing to do with that.

Here, The Voice refers to a new translation of the Bible that I’ve chosen for my annual read through the Bible campaign. So far, I’m up to Leviticus. Not bad for me getting a late start this year.

So far, I’m vividly reminded that those pesky Israelites never quite got it right. Even from the start, they were bowing down to idols, sleeping around, and whining like my cat.

Then I’m reminded that I’m a LOT like that. I may not bow down to little wooden statues, but I do have mixed-up priorities where other things and people get put ahead of God. I may not sleep around, but I’ve harbored a few lustful thoughts in my head from time to time.

And I do complain. Maybe not always out loud, but I do get grumpy occasionally and have bad attitudes every now and then (as in every other day).

I’m also reminded that God stuck with His people through all their growing pains and bad choices and outright rebellion. He kept His word, not because they were so faithful but because He was– and still is.

Side note: I’m extremely thankful I’m not bound to offer sacrifices every time I sin. For one, I don’t keep a flock of sheep, goats, and bulls in my backyard. Also, it’s a very messy affair. All that slaughtering and sprinkling blood and burning organs grosses me out a bit.

That reminds me that 1) the cost of my sin is never cheap and 2) the price Jesus paid for my sin was way too high, more than I deserved by a long shot. I should never ever ever take my sin lightly.

I recommend that if you read through the Bible every year that you vary it up and read different translations and different styles of translations. Maybe read a word-for-word version like the NASB one year then read a looser version like the NIV the next. Or possibly even The Message.

More to come on my Bible reading progress. . .