Behind the words…

behind words

Yesterday I got to deliver a spoken word at Seacoast’s Mount Pleasant Campus and I had a blast. The poem that I shared is one that I wrote around 6 years ago, but it still has a ton of relevance for me. Here are the words…

The task seems too great to relate or consider….the time has come to pull the trigger….yet we find ourselves standing in front of insurmountable odds and giants of the unseen world…..we feel hurled into a fight we know nothing about….now is the time of desperation when counting on God is no longer an option it’s a must…trust cannot be manufactured….it must be born and implanted…Throughout time a battle has existed and persisted…..the casualties are numerous and cannot be listed or counted but they shall not be discounted… we’ve been endued with supernatural ability and power to capitalize on this our final hour….our moment has arrived and it is divine….the moment is here and its yours and its mine….what direction shall we take….how shall we proceed…..to begin with we must humbly concede that our understanding cannot contain or maintain the scope of the task….we must not mask our frailty or weakness for it will be used as strength in the eternal hands that carry out the eternal plans that crash into human existence from a dimension unseen…..the eternal dream proceeds and arrives……it dives into our imagination from the source of all life….dear Savior let it convict us like a knife…let it rip out our pain and strife….let it bring revolution and victory to the hearts of your precious children…sons and daughters of grace….let it reconcile creation to behold your face that all may know the secret place where you dwell….our hearts swell with praise as our hands raise to bring you fame and renown….our crown we lower and cast at your feet….again and again we repeat our thanks….our story of your glory!

One of the reasons I love this poem is because it accurately reflects how I feel on most days….overwhelmed. There is a lot that I feel called to and yet, I’m acutely aware of the fact that apart from God’s grace, it just ain’t gonna happen. That’s where the poem starts…”we feel hurled into a fight that we know nothing about.” What I love about the Christian life however, is that it doesn’t end there. That’s where the poem goes in the second half. “The eternal dream proceeds and arrives….it dives into our imagination from the source of all life.” It’s God’s dream…it’s his power…it’s his vision that compels us to fight. A Christian is someone who should be living in levels of increasing victory and yet, have in their spirit a deeply embedded humility as they realize that it is not their power that is carrying them.

One of my favorite quotes is by Watchman Nee and he said, “Christianity is not the removal of weakness, nor is it merely the manifestation of divine power. It is the manifestation of divine power in the presence of human weakness.” That pretty much sums it up. I hope that encourages you this week. Here’s the video of the spoken word I delivered yesterday. Have a great week!

When all is said and done….

said and done

In Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus told some of the religious leaders of his day what the 2 most important commands are….love God and love people. You can read his actually words by following the link above, but that’s the basic idea.

I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t want to waste the limited amount of time I have. There are a lot of things that we can invest our time in on this earth, and not all of them are worthwhile investments.

I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to do a lot more weddings than funerals. I’ve only done a few funerals, but I’ve probably performed over 40 weddings. I do remember one funeral though, that really stuck with me.

I was the pastor on call with Seacoast and I got a call that I needed to go visit a guy in ICU. He was a relatively younger guy, but he had drank so much that his body was giving out. I visited the family and prayed for them. I found out not long after that the man had passed away.

They wanted me to do the funeral so a day or so later I met with some of the man’s family to help plan the service. Because I didn’t know this gentleman, I wanted to find out some stuff about him. I wanted to know what funny or pleasant stories I could tell in the service to help people remember the good times. I was sitting in a room with his sister and daughters. I asked them to tell me the good times. I’ll never forget what one of his daughters said to me. She looked at me and said, “Honestly, there really wasn’t that much good about him.” Whoa…….how tragic.

Apparently, this guy had drank and lived for himself for so many years that he didn’t spend much time investing in the things that mattered. I remember sitting in the office that night writing the last formal words that would be said about this man. I found myself feeling a combination of sadness and anger.

I found myself wanting to talk to this guy. I wanted to say, “Dude, it didn’t have to be this way. Why did you live your entire life investing in the wind? You didn’t have to go out like this. Now some guy, that you don’t know, is going to try to pretty up the ugly truth about you. Why did you waste the time you had? Why didn’t you invest wisely?”

Now, I know I don’t know the full details of this man’s story. There may be a lot of mitigating factors as to why this guy lived the way he did. I don’t know about his childhood or why he made the choices he made. I do know however, that the day after her father died, his very own daughter couldn’t think of a few nice words to say about her dad.

Something about this experience will always stay etched in my memory. I don’t want to be like this man. Jesus told us the 2 things that we can invest in that will transcend our own limited existence….loving God and loving people. We breathe in the love that God has for us and then breathe it out to God and to the world around us. I want to spend my life investing in my relationship with God and pouring out my time, talent and treasure into a hurting world.

Some day, each of our clocks will run out. The last grain of sand will fall to the bottom of the hourglass. Someone like me will sit with your family and ask them about you. Words will be spoken, people will try to remember the good times and then they will do their best to carry on. Each of us will then give an account of our lives to God and Jesus has already given us insight as to the nature of that conversation. Questions like these will be what matters….

Did you give your life to Jesus Christ?

Did you invest your time in loving God and loving people?

Did you care for the broken?

Did you surrender to God’s will?

Did you follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership?

Did you pour out your life for others?

Are you investing in the accounts that matter the most or are you investing in the wind? That man had invested in the wind and not a lot could be said about him when the smoke settled…we all get to decide each and everyday what will be said about us. Invest wisely…

Living and active

two edged sword

So this morning I was doing my normal Bible reading and I came across this passage….

Romans 12:9-18 says,

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction,faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

I love these verses. There was a time in my spiritual journey when I mistook knowledge for application. I figured that if I could quote a verse, then I must be living it out or something. I’ve since found that not to be the case. In fact, I’m confident that my life would be significantly different if I simply applied the truths that I already know.

The Bible is a powerful book. If we simply took this one passage above and lived it out, each of our lives would be dramatically different. Think about it…

  • If our love was sincere all the time, our relationships would be so much better.
  • If we hated evil and clung to what is good, our lives would be infinitely richer.
  • If we honored others above ourselves, so much relational strife would cease. Marriages would grow and the divorce rate would drop dramatically.
  • If we were faithful in prayer, imagine what God might use all our prayers to accomplish…not only in us, but in the lives of others.
  • If we rejoiced with those who rejoice and mourned with those who mourn, imagine the sense of unity that would be created all around us.
  • If we chose to not be proud, but embraced those who are in a low position, imagine the difference it would make in our churches. The whole culture would change.
  • If we decided that as far as it depends on us, we are going to live at peace with everyone, imagine the relational discord and gossip that would die out.

I didn’t even use all the verses, but I think you get the point. Scripture is powerful and there is a lot at stake. If only we would just obey it….if only we would just obey God.

Just breathe

just breathe

It’s so simple. We do it all day, every day. We don’t even think about it. And yet behind the simple practice of breathing, a great principle can be found.

In the same way that the air we need to survive is invisible, so is the God we need to survive. Really all God wants us to do is breathe in and breathe out. He wants us to breathe in his love, acceptance, power and grace. He then wants us to give it away to others.

If all we ever do is breathe in, something is wrong. If we always find ourselves in church services, Bible studies and in other Christian environments, but never in contexts where we’re giving it away to those who need it, there is a problem. Conversely, if we are always trying to give stuff away and serve others, but never taking in anything for ourselves, there is a problem there too.

Breathe in, breathe out. God has so much for us and there is a rhythm that he wants us to live by. God wants us to get our needs met by him. We each have needs. Needs for acceptance, encouragement, value, significance and adventure. It’s not wrong to derive some of these things from the world around us, but God wants to be our primary source for our primary needs. Sin is actually looking to illegitimate sources to get legitimate needs met. For example, God wants us to experience peace and serenity. There is nothing wrong with needing and wanting that. But when someone turns to alcohol for that instead of God, we have sin.

On the other side of the coin, God wants us to give to the world. He wants our lives to have an impact. He wants us involved in high impact ministries that make a huge difference in the lives of others. He wants us to breathe out. The problem comes when that’s all we do. For some reason, many of us have believed the lie that it’s selfish to take care of ourselves. We think that unless we are giving, serving, volunteering or working, we are being lazy. This is not the case. It’s interesting to note that in the order of creation in the book of Genesis, the Sabbath takes place the very next day after man is created. God created us to breathe in before we breathe out. God created us to rest before we work. He wants our work to come as an overflow of his presence and grace in our lives.

Breathe in, breathe out. Which do you struggle with most? Breathing in or breathing out? Here are some ways that I breathe in….prayer, reading, time with friends, taking a walk, exercising, playing golf, having a cup of coffee and just being still. Here are some ways that I breathe out…..teaching, leading a small group, writing, serving my family and my church, going on mission trips and other ways as well.

Breathe in, breathe out. That’s the rhythm that we were created to live by. How are you doing with it?

Marriage Under Fire

marriage under fire

It feels like everywhere I look recently, another marriage is struggling to survive. The issues are varied and far reaching. Spouses that once felt so much in love are now questioning whether or not it’s worth the fight. Others have given up completely.

What in the world is going on? Lately, seeing a healthy and growing marriage has been extremely rare. What are the core issues that are causing this complete breakdown? Why are so many couples struggling? I don’t consider myself to be some marriage guru, but here are some of the reflections that come to mind….

1. Couples are not taking the time to invest spiritually.

The core of marriage is found within the realm of spirituality. This goes even deeper than emotions. If both spouses do not have a growing relationship with God, they won’t make it for long. If they do stay together, there will be an extreme lack of intimacy.

The husband and wife need to be growing together and as individuals. This means they should read and pray together. They should see a counselor together, even if they’re not struggling at the time. Any investment they can make in their spiritual vitality will not be wasted.

Both spouses also need to invest in themselves as individuals. This is not selfish. On an airplane that is in trouble, oxygen masks deploy so that the passengers can continue to breathe. You’re not supposed to administer the mask to others until you first take care of yourself. The same principle applies here. God is the source of oxygen for a marriage and each spouse needs to  be growing in their walk with Him if the marriage is going to thrive.

2. Couples aren’t allowing themselves to be vulnerable.

I see a lot of couples that spend countless hours trying to fix peripheral issues. I’m not saying that finances, kids, jobs and everything else are unimportant issues, but they’re not the main thing. What ultimately leads to dysfunction in a marriage is two messed up people trying to make life work together.

The couples that experience synergy and growth are the ones that allow themselves to be messed up and love each other through the mess. These couples are able to see through the pretenses of their spouse and they operate without a mask on. They know each other and love each other exactly as they are. They want to help each other grow, but their love and affection for one another is not contingent upon that growth.

They operate under the idea of a Covenant and not the idea of a Contract. A contract says that I will do my part just as long as you do yours. A covenant says that as God loves me in my sin and brokenness, so my commitment to you is to give the same unconditional love that I’m receiving from my Heavenly Father.

3. Couples don’t know who or what they’re supposed to be fighting.

I see plenty of fight in the couples that I’m with, but many of them don’t know who or what to fight. They fight each other….they fight their kids….they fight God….they fight everything except what they’re supposed to be fighting.

This world is a constant war zone. We would all love to embrace the notion that the world is a big cruise boat and everything is just fine…but this is a delusion. A pleasant delusion…but nonetheless a delusion. We are at war. I don’t have time to expound on this, but it’s real. The nature and intensity of this war would put history’s most famous battles to shame.

The fight is against our own sinful nature and spiritual entities that the most frightening horror movies don’t do justice to. I realize that this may be something you disagree with or it may make you feel uncomfortable, but it’s true. For further study on this, check out Ephesians 6:10-23.

Couples need to gradually become aware of the real battle that is going on or they will be consumed by friendly fire. We’re fighting each other and the real enemy is resting quite undisturbed.

Marriage is under fire and the normal methods of operation are not working. Normal is broken. If the tide is going to change, we need to be praying for couples who will begin fighting the battle the way that it needs to be fought. This is not for the faint at heart….but if we link arms and do it together, we can win this war.

The Artist and his work

wow

I don’t know about you guys, but I have had to struggle through a very anemic view of God. Seeing Jesus constantly depicted in stained glass windows and cheesy looking pictures can have some negative effects. One thing that has helped me over the years is learning about God through his creation. Now, his creation is not him in the same way that a painting is not the artist. That being said, you can learn something about the artist through his painting.

Psalm 19:1-2 says, The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” This psalmist is saying the same thing here. God’s creation is constantly proclaiming messages to us regarding the different attributes of God.

For example, you can learn a lot about God through the ocean. The ocean is vast and powerful. It can be enjoyed by a child playing at the beach, but it can drown the bravest of sailors in it’s unfathomable depths. The wind is another great teacher if we allow it to be. It can be enjoyed as a gentle breeze, but it can also be a hurricane or a tornado that brings about unthinkable destruction.

The moon has some things to teach us as well. By itself, it may not seem like that much to look at. It has all kinds of craters and may not be considered that lovely in form or feature. But when you add the sun’s light to it, it becomes a beautiful orb that adorns the night sky. Isn’t this a perfect picture of what it means to be a Christian? In our own lives we have cracks and craters because of the wrongs that we have done and those that have been done to us. We may not be much to look at in and of ourselves, but when God’s light shines on us, we suddenly become beacons of light that can lead many back to Him.

Animals have a lot to say as well regarding their Creator and our journey as Christians. A rhino can run 30 mph, but can only see 30 feet in front of itself. In the same way,  we may only be able to see a little bit into the future, but when we follow God we can charge forward in boldness and victory. There are animals as gentle as a household cat and as fierce as a bear robbed of it’s cubs. Trees have a ton of things they can teach us as well. In our culture we love the idea of instant growth, but check out Psalm 1 when you get a chance. The author uses a tree to give us a metaphor for spiritual growth. Trees don’t grow overnight. They grow as a myriad of factors combine in just the right way. They grow through seasons and elements and different natural processes. This teaching flies in the face of all the 3 step self-help books that fill the shelves of countless bookstores. It takes time to grow and different seasons. It takes different elements and lots of patience. You should not expect overnight success. What a great lesson for our fast-paced and consumer-driven culture?!

The list could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the point. The painting can tell us a lot about the artist. The artist is not the painting and the painting is not the artist, but the painting is a great teacher in the hands of a careful interpreter. What lessons have you learned about God through his creation? I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Dip

dip

So I recently went through a book by Seth Godin called, The Dip. I loved it! The basic concept is that there is a dip that all of us have to go through when we pursue goals that are worth pursuing. The greater the objective that we have, the greater and harder the dip. There is a dip when it comes to marriage, parenting, our vocation and basically any endeavor we engage in.

The dip is characterized by discouragement. It’s when we realize that there is a mountain of information that we need to acquire. In the dip we realize that it’s going to take a long time to learn how to do our job. In the dip we realize that marriage isn’t as easy as we though it would be. We begin to understand that parenting doesn’t come naturally to us. The dip is real and it can be brutal. This is where vision comes into play.

The people that survive the dip have a strong vision as to what life will look like on the other side. They see the strong marriage on the other side of the struggle. They see a vision of a strong family on the other side of the parenting challenges they are going through. They see themselves shooting a 72 on the golf course on the other side of the painful and expensive golf lessons. They see the sweetness of life on the other side of the dip and that picture compels them to press onward.

The dip is not a passive entity. It responds to our hard work and perseverance. If we will engage the dip with tenacity and focus, we can press through more quickly and efficiently. I want to give you a few tips that I have picked up over the years in persevering through my own dips.

1. Get ready for a fight.

Sometimes you catch all the breaks and the process is painless and fun, but don’t expect it. If you encounter a dip that you need to go through, get your war face on and prepare for the fight of your life. You don’t want to be the guy that storms the beach of Normandy with a towel and beach chair….you’ll get annihilated.

2. Find your vision.

The dip is much easier when you can envision life on the other side. I love this quote…”If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”  (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry) What is your vast and endless sea? Can you see it? Can you feel it? Can you taste it? Having this picture in your mind and heart will put wind in your sails as you navigate through the dip.

3. Gather the right people around you. 

You need people around you, but not just anyone. You need soldiers who are ready to go to war with you. They need to understand the battle that you’re facing and how to help you win that battle. Our Senior Pastor at Seacoast, Greg Surratt, says that “a friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and is able to sing it back to you when you forget the words.” Who knows the song in your heart? Having this community around you is vital if you are going to survive the dip.

4. Accept the possibility that you may not survive the dip.

You know, success isn’t guaranteed. In some cases, you can’t control whether or not you get out of the dip. You can put in all the practice and all the time, but things still may not work out. In the dip you have to doggedly focus on what you can control and leave the results up to God.

5. Take one step at a time.

Every step that you take in the dip is to be celebrated. The dip is hard and you will get discouraged if you try to bite off more than you can chew. Keep your eyes focused and take one deliberate step at a time. This is the way that mountains are climbed.

We’ve probably all been in the dip before. The trick is making sure we know which dips are worth persevering through. You can’t make it through a million dips at a time. You need to identify the battles that are worth engaging in and then fight with all your might to make it to the other side. Our culture loves the idea of success that comes quickly and easily. It’s a lie. Anything worth having has a cost associated with it. Take the time in the beginning to count the cost and then make sure you engage the battle wisely….with the right resources.

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