Your 2017 goals won’t matter…unless…

If you are a believer in Jesus- every goal you set for 2017 is pointless if your primary goal is not growing in your spiritual disciplines. We should long for the glory that is heavenly, keeping an eternal perspective.

Look at it this way- considering the most popular goal made at the start of every year.
The diet! A desire to lose weight is temporary. It won’t stick. It usually ends at King Cake season here in Louisiana. But- a desire to honor God with your body. That is eternal. That is the change and motivation we need. We don’t need temporary goals but Godly, spiritual disciplines. They are vital to experiencing God’s best for your life. They are crucial to fulfilling the proper Gospel-mission God has for you in your family and in your circles of influences.

Here are 7 reasons why spiritual disciplines matter:

  1. They reveal our heart. If we don’t spend time with God daily, that choice tells us something about ourselves. Perhaps we are more self-dependent than God.
  2. They strengthen the church. People who spend little time with God tend to spend less time challenging others to be with God. Their stories of personal victory are often more past tense than present tense. We want 2017 to be the best ever for Fellowship? It depends on you.
  3. The Bible is all about hope and life. We hear every week about the promise of resurrection and new creation, all the while wondering if even God can revitalize stagnant (or even spiritually dead) people. We need to be reminded regularly through the Word that God brings life out of death.
  4. They strengthen our faith. Reading the Word and praying are more than just disciplines; they are lifelines to the Father. Knowing that God divides seas, collapses walls, slays giants, and empties tombs strengthens our trust in Him. Talking to Him and recognizing He listens to our prayers magnify our wonder of Him.
  5. Prayer builds our relationship with, and dependence upon, God. When we pray, we express the truth that we cannot do in our power what God has called us to do. The reverse is also true- our lack of prayer is an expression of idolatry of the self.
  6. Disciplines don’t allow our circumstances to take the focus off of God. It’s the apathetic man or woman that is headed to destruction. Unless we are regularly focusing on God via study and prayer, then any trial we face will throw us into the wind.
  7. Disciplines help to turn our heart outward. It’s hard to read the Bible consistently without seeing God’s heart for our neighbors, friends and the nations who are far from God. The resounding message of the scripture is that the God who desires a prayerful, intimate relationship with us loves the world. We follow suit.

Let’s make eternal goals- and be spiritually disciplined people of God in 2017 and beyond!

Finding Joy in the Chaotic Pace of Christmas

Image result for christmas stress
I need a nap. Seriously. Like many of you, my calendar is overloaded from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  I am busy and am certain you are. I actually narrowly fitted in the time to even write this blog.  It is as if we are just hanging by a thread to our sanity. The phrase I hear most often from people when I ask, “How are you doing?” is “I’m so busy.” And that’s the common answer before anyone even breaks out the Christmas decorations.

Busy-ness is not sin. However, it can reveal a lot of hidden mess in your life by bringing on stress. There is also a very dangerous addiction many people have to being busy. Here are a few red flags:

1-      You define your success by how busy you are and revel in its glory. Your favorite compliment is “Oh, you’re so busy.”

2-      You are more obsessed with gadgets than God. Many people would rather lose an appendage for a day before the dreaded horror of not having access to your phone or computer.

3-      You don’t have time for your loved ones. This is the worst sign of all. Never neglect people for the sake of your calendar.

Here is what you CAN do to find satisfaction and joy in the chaotic pace of Christmas.

1- Lower your expectation of others- Don’t set everyone else’s standards. Don’t expect everyone to operate at your pace. People, even the best of us, will disappoint us at some point- especially in the chaos.

2- Increase your investment in others- God does supernatural work through His people when they are generous. Our spiritual maturity is proven in caring for others above ourselves.

3- Fix your eyes on the prize- Jesus. Don’t make me get cheesy and say it…ok…I will. Jesus is THE reason for the season. Speak His name every day this month. Every. Day.

4- Never lose the wonder of what God did for us. This is my prayer through all of the chaos. Just like I was amazed every Christmas morning as a child- and my heart was filled with expectation and joy…that is what I want every day as we count down to Christmas morning. Never forget how amazing the Glorious Gospel is. God, sent His Son, who was fully God and fully man to come. For us. With all of our failures- He came.

May we never lose the wonder. Wide eyed and mystified may we be just like a child, staring at the wonder of our King.

When your community hurts…

…build a longer table, not a higher fence.

If you are like me, you can’t shake Sunday (or any of the last few weeks) from your mind. The brokenness of our world is being magnified for us through terrible acts in our own community. In MY community. In YOUR community.

And today- you still feel grief. I am with you. But my grief is shifting. I am filling up with hope. And I am asking you to join me. Why?

When God brings dead things back to life or when He brings broken things back to full repair- WATCH OUT! Something BIG is about to happen. And His church needs to be attentive, ready and active.

I believe that our community is coming awake. I believe our community will be strengthened. I believe God has our attention.

We all know- something needs to change. And it starts with the church.

It is time to dig deep into the Word of God and to share loudly the truth and hope and love that lies within.

It is time to pray- without ever stopping- for the salvation of our city.

It is time to make it a priority to fill our churches and exalt the One who actually deserves to be exalted- repeatedly and regularly. It is time to invite the people into our community to fix their eyes on Jesus WITH US.

It is time to get back to loving our neighbor more than we love ourselves.  When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.  We could all see that too many fences were being built. Now it is time to make a table & invite someone to dine with you. Use every resource given to you by God to bless someone. And I don’t mean only the people that look or act like you- But the person in the coffee shop you wouldn’t normally speak to. The person in your office that you have little in common with. Set your phone down when in the waiting room and have a conversation with someone next to you. It is time we see ALL PEOPLE as image bearers of God our Creator and start living as if we believe that He loves every single one. He loves Republicans and Democrats and black people and white people and Latino people and Asian people and on and on. Why won’t we? Jesus ripped down fences for love. So should we. We can’t love someone on the other side of the fence. It’s time you invite someone else to your table.

If you say you love Jesus- then consider this perspective this week (and every week). What if we stopped looking at difficulties as experiences to escape and more like opportunities to let that which lies at the core of who we are shine through as an example and blessing to others? What a time to show where our lives are rooted. Will we stand firm in our weakness, rooted in the strength of Christ or will we succumb to a life built on the fragility of our fallen nature? When the storms of life come your way what will shine through you?

Darkness will flee & life is returning. Cold hearts are bursting into flames. It is SO on!
God is good and He is fighting for us. And He will win. And He will use the church to accomplish it. Be that church.

pray for br

We don’t say the word “hate”dear…

I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. [Galatians 1:10]

I started saying this some time back and Jessica loved it (not really). So it stuck. And this picture is hanging in my office. (I know- not super spiritual- don’t hate).

But at home…I’m not certain why, but we’ve decided the word “hate” would not be allowed. We come up with all kinds of alternatives for our kids when they say it.

My kids: I hate that show.
Me: We don’t say “hate.” We say “we are reluctant to desire to watch this show.”
My kids: *weird look at dad*

Or…

My kids: I hate when people are mean to me.
Me: We don’t say “hate.” We say “I passionately disapprove of their actions toward me.”
My kids: *weird look at dad*

Or…

My kids: I hate the Dallas Cowboys.
Me: We don’t say…wait…that is actually appropriate. Well done. Booooo Cowboys!

Honestly, it is kind of silly if I think about it, but I know why we ban the word- because we want God to be our greatest desire. We want to please Him. We want to act in ways that please Him. And God is love. We’d rather speak and give our attention to LOVE over HATE.
But, the world is filled with haters.

Believe it or not- there are people who hate me. You have people who hate you too.
Even though I know this, I am always surprised to hear when someone doesn’t like me.
Me? C’mon. I am nice. I am funny, at times. I care about other people. I don’t think I am selfish. I feel like I am a man of integrity- what you see is what you get.

But I know one time I may have said something wrong. I may have not followed through with a good intention. I may have come across a certain way on social media. I may have done something or gone somewhere that doesn’t fit your bill of approval. I have my faults. I do. But so do you. And so does everyone.

There is a great trap that comes from being hated. We often fall into the trap of desiring to please the haters over any other. We obsess over getting people to like us. We desire to WIN them to ourselves.

When you are a people pleaser, you have allowed something other than God to take first place. All of a sudden it becomes god in your life, because you are allowing the opinion of others to matters more than God’s opinion. What they think of you matters more than what God thinks of you.

You and I will NEVER be able to please everyone. Someone reading this has already decided, maybe long ago, that they don’t like me. Should I give my life to change their mind? No, because all of that effort would be futile.

Life is much simpler and satisfying when we give our lives to please the one who loves us without fail.  Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

This is what we need to know, deep in our souls:
When people hate you for no reason, remember God loves you for no reason.

While we were his enemies, God saved us. [Romans 5:10]

When people are treacherous to us, we must focus on God’s goodness, not on man’s badness. Leave all judgment to the Lord. Continue to bear fruit for God, and praise Him in the midst of trouble. You can be victorious when others target you with their hatred. The next time someone treats you with hate, focus on God; leave the matter in His hands and praise His name.

I almost ruined Easter for everyone!

It was EASTER morning! As a worship pastor, you have to understand, this is one of the 2 biggest days of the year. I am filled with great anticipation. I can hardly sleep the night before. I wake up at 4:30am to prepare my heart. At 5am, I get ready. It takes a lot of work to get as average looking as me.  I am trying to get to the church for 5:30am to lead our great worship team volunteers.  I feel the pressure to hurry- but I am still sneaking around the house in the dark, so as to not wake my wife and kids. I put on my “flyest” outfit, which isn’t much, well- because I am a terrible dresser. I check my pockets to make sure I have enough guitar picks to give me a feeling of security to get through the morning. Only one thing I need before I can go. My keys.

My keys. I lost my keys. So I begin to look, everywhere.

Now, let me make one thing very clear. I am horrible at finding things. Absolutely horrible.  It’s like this…

duck

After 15 minutes of panic, I begin to sweat, thinking that Easter will be ruined. Nobody will worship. And people will forget that Jesus is alive. All because of some lost keys. I had only one option but to wake Jessica up. She popped up off the pillow merrily (not really) and said, “Did you look in your truck?” Now what kind of fool would I be to leave my keys in my vehicle? I denied that it was possible. Quick, give me some better ideas. But she insisted. Apparently she knows me better than I know myself. I strolled outside and found my keys, in my truck, in the ignition. I refuse to tell you if the truck was running. How foolish do you think I am?

Easter was saved! In just the nick of time!

So, what’s the point of this really long story?

Here is what I learned:
Why do I continually try to run my own life when I can’t even find our keys in the morning?

Serious question.

God’s ways are higher. His ways are better.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! [Romans 11:33]

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. [Isaiah 40:28]

You can’t deny it. You are just like me…struggling with the great temptation to run “the show.”

To find satisfaction in your marriage.
To define the boundaries for your children.
To determine which corporate ladder you should climb.
To decide how often and how invested in the church you and your family will be.
To decide where and how you will spend your money.
To pick which diet or gym you will try to get the specific image you desire.
And on and on and on…

But if I can’t even find my keys, and we all have our stories, what makes us think we are going to do anything of eternal significance apart from God?

Apart from Him? Emptiness.

My marriage will never be fulfilled apart from Him.
My kids will be lost without knowing Him.
My career is worthless if not giving glory to Him.
The church and my family will suffer with my indifference to it.
My money is a waste if not honoring and building His kingdom.
My body is but an empty temple to myself without His leading.

And I die. Empty. But at least I found my keys.

I don’t think any of us desire that life.

Trust in God, even when it is hard. He is far better at leading you than you are.

I have something I need to tell you.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. [Romans 8: 1-2]

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. [Hebrews 10:22]

My son Isaac (almost 6 years old) has some qualities I envy. He is very, very honest. But not the kind of “kid honesty” that demoralizes people- like many kids have. “Dad, you look and smell funny.” Not that kind of honesty.

Ike2
This kid is honest about himself. About his own failures. He admits his faults. When he and his brothers do something he knows is wrong, he actually comes to me and lets me know. Meanwhile, my other boys are running for their lives, jumping fences into neighbors’ yards, trying to camouflage themselves with sticks, mud & debris.

But Isaac? I don’t even have to stumble upon the mess he has made. He comes to me.

This trait of his definitely benefits me. It keeps me from losing my temper. But even more, this trait of his benefits him. His admission of guilt magnifies my love for him and keeps him from shame (but not discipline- that’s another blog post).

Here is what God is teaching me through my boy He has entrusted to me: God deeply desire us to come to Him with our failures. Too often we wait until we’ve been “found out.”

We are guilty, but we need not be ashamed.

You see, shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt says, “What you did was bad.” Shame says, “What you did was bad, so you must be a bad person.”

Shame is not the same as regret. Regret says, “If I could go back and do things differently, I’d do this … or that.” Shame says, “I’ll never get it right. I’m a failure.”

Guilt is connected to our behavior, while shame is connected to our identity. While guilt draws us toward God, shame sends us away from God.

God cares about what you do. He does. But remember this: what you do doesn’t determine who you are. Who you are determines what you do. And God is at war for your heart first, because therein lies who you are.

You are not defined by your feelings. You are not defined by the opinions of others. You are not defined by your circumstances. You are not defined by your successes. You are not defined by the car you drive, or the money you make, or the house you own.

And you most definitely aren’t defined by your failures. You are defined by our Father who is rich in mercy and slow to anger. You are defined by Jesus and everything He’s done for you. You are defined by the powerful Holy Spirit that lives in you.

So, child of God, run to Him with your guilt. Don’t run away from Him in shame. Don’t run from the church in shame. He is faithful and just to forgive you. He will remind you who you are. And only then can you do what He desires for you to do.

#ipromise devotional 2/11/16 – The investment that truly matters

ipromise

This week’s #ipromise principle: God’s promise to finish what he started is a promise to live not a position to attain.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. [Colossians 4:5-6]

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
[Ephesians 5:15-17]

Every one of us has the same amount of time. What amount of your time is wasted, spent, or invested? God’s call is for your investment. I once heard this statement that stuck to my soul.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

Because we have been given limited time, wisdom calls for us to evaluate our lives and rid them of the unimportant. We should not pay with time for things that should not be done at all.

While some things should not be done at all, there are things that must be done but are not the most important (like mowing the yard). When the least important dominate someone’s mind, they receive more attention than that which is truly important. Mowing the yard needs to be done but should not receive your best energy and attention.
[Eric Geiger]

I fall into this trap at times, and I bet you do too.

Things that matter the most can never be sacrificed at the altar of the things that matter the least.

So don’t waste, or spend- but invest. Invest in what matters. And what is it that matters?

Eternity.

Put your time into discipling your family over taking on extra work.
Put your time into serving the church over serving yourself.
Put your time into living out God’s mission and meeting needs of others over your own needs.

Kingdom Invested time is the only time yielding a return that lasts forever.

God, redeem our time. May we make the best of it as we consider You to be THE BEST.