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11/5/13

LIFE IS IN THE MESS

Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss life, plans, disappointments, shattered dreams, etc. with someone.  I decided to write out pieces of the story of my life, from one plan and one experience to the next.  What I discovered totally caught me off guard.  When I started putting it down on paper I suddenly realized, NOTHING IN MY LIFE HAS GONE THE WAY I PLANNED IT!  NOTHING!

My life is the sum total of my plans that got blown up or never quite turned out the way I planned.  It's a stream of broken dreams, broken promises, broken plans and HUGE MESSES.

I also realized another thing...if given the opportunity, there is very little I would change.  Very little happened the way I planned, dreamed and wanted it to.  But, it happened.  Here are the truths I've discovered:

*Life is not about getting around the mess that thwarts our wonderful plans we make for our life.  Life is the mess.  Life is found in choosing to live life in spite of the mess.  Life is found right, smack-dab in the mess.

*Joy in life is not found in sitting on the sidelines and trying to figure out what they next play is.  It's about moving from the stands to the field of play and getting into the action.  It's about getting dirty.  It's about getting your nose bloody.  It's about completing a pass now and then.  It's about losing and winning...but, playing the game.

*Many of the things we categorize as DISAPPOINTMENTS would more aptly go into the category of HIS APPOINTMENTS.  Too often we see God as just the God of the "WIN".  But, He is just as real and just as powerful and just as present in the "LOSS".  Sometimes, more so.  I actually believe some of the things we sweat and stew and stress and cry over are the things that make God smile.  I don't think He smiles because we're crying.  I think He wonders why we're crying when He has us right where He wants us.  We interpret the situation as a DISAPPOINTMENT, because it wasn't the way we planned it.  God sees it, rather, as HIS APPOINTMENT...what He appointed for our life.  A better plan.  His plan.  One that may possibly bring us less glory, but bring Him more.  Is that a win or a loss?  It's all a matter of getting God's perspective.

My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  Isaiah 55:8 (NLT)

ENJOY YOUR MESS TODAY!

11/1/13

THE POWER OF PLEASE

Last Sunday we had 25 first-time guests (that filled out a Communication Card).  I email all our first-time guests, and many respond (maybe just to see if it's really me!).  I was amazed at some of their responses.

"We are so glad we came.  We just want to know how we can be members".

"I was invited by my friend _______.  We've been friends since 2nd Grade.  I'd put my spiritual life on hold for a long time, and knew I needed to renew my relationship with Him.  I'm so glad my friend invited me.  It's just what I needed.  I'll be back next week and am so excited to start my relationship with God again".

"As soon as the service was over, I couldn't wait to call my daughter and tell her, You've got to try this church!".

Those are pretty awesome responses.  But, the point is, none of those responses would have been possible without the fact that someone said, "Please".  They just took a minute to invite someone.

Sure, we were having our GRAND OPENING.  That helped.  But, the point is, all it took was an invite.  A simple, "Please come to church with me".  And, people said "yes".  Not everyone, but some did.  But, more importantly, it made a difference.  It started something.  It gave them just the push they needed to do what they had been meaning to...putting off...thinking about...thinking they wouldn't like, but did.

And what did it take?  Just the power of Please.

10/25/13

WHAT'S SO GRAND ABOUT A NEW BUILDING?

NOTHING.  It's that simple.  There is nothing grand about any building.  A building is just a building.  Take the ASTRODOME for example.  It started off as the 8th Wonder of the World.  Today, it's just an eyesore that sits unused, costs millions of dollars to do absolutely nothing and has a city paralyzed and divided as to what its fate should be.  There's lots of emotional attachment there, but absolutely no practical worth.  The REASON: IT'S JUST A BUILDING!!!!

So why is this Sunday such a big day at Crosspoint Church?  Because we've got a cool new building?  Of course not!  Then what's the big deal?

The big deal is this: We have an OPPORTUNITY.  If you read through the New Testament, the men and women that God used to reach people never missed a great OPPORTUNITY, no matter what it was.  When Paul was in Athens he saw all the idols to the various false gods.  Rather than condemning them, he saw them as an OPPORTUNITY.  He used the idol to an unknown god to explain to them the name and identity of that God they didn't know.

LESSON: Never waste an OPPORTUNITY.

We have an OPPORTUNITY to invite people.  That's what makes it a BIG DEAL.  So, don't miss it. People will come to a GRAND OPENING that would never come to "Church". 

It's just a BUILDING.  No big deal there.  The OPPORTUNITY it brings: Definitely a big deal!!!

10/2/13

SO MUCH TO SAY, SO MUCH TO SAY...

That great theologian Dave Matthews seems to have written about my life.  Sometimes it seems like everyone around me has so much to say, so much to say, so much to say, so much to say, so much to say....  I hear voices.  Don't worry.  They're connected to people.  They say things like..."Do you have that for me yet?...When are we going to get away?...What did you decide about hiring that guy?...I think we should buy this, don't you?...Can you meet with us at 7:00?...Here's where I think we should go with this...Are you coming to my ballgame?...When can we get together?...What do you want for dinner?...Have you sat down with her yet?...I think we have a problem...Have you..,Will you...Why didn't you...Did you forget?

All good stuff.  But, the reality is, it's just as easy to be totally overwhelmed by good stuff as it is to be overwhelmed by bad.  The reality is this: Sometimes, there are so many voices speaking at us at once, that we fail to hear the one voice we need to hear.  It's easy to get into sensory overload.  Take all the great people who tend to "say what they need to say", throw in a little television, some music on the iPod, a little talk radio, catch a movie, check some emails...and you've got sensory overload.

And, of all the voices that get crowded out, the first to go is that still small voice, as it's referred to in the scripture.  God never screams at us.  He never demands our full attention.  He just says, "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest".  That last word is the key.  REST.  All these other voices tire us, overwhelm us, make us anxious, make our to-do list unbearable.  Not-so with the still small voice.  It calms our fears.  It says, peace, be still.  We know when we're listening to His voice when we are not weary or heavy laden.  When we are rested and ready for what life has to bring.

Are you weary and over-whelmed and feel like there's too much on your plate for three of you?  Then I don't know everything about your life, but I do know one thing...you're listening to the wrong voices.

Turn some things off today...and listen.  Listen to the quietest voice.  There's plenty of voices with too much to say, too much to say....  Turn them off.  Get somewhere that you can hear the voice of God.  It's really the only one that matters.

9/19/13

LIVING, GROWING THINGS

I have watched in amazement as our new campus has been built.  From the first turning of the dirt to pouring the walls right there on the foundation and hoisting them into place to painting and lights...all the way to, at least externally, the finished product.  But, nothing has made the entire construction project come to life like what has happened over the past few days.  LANDSCAPING.

Trees and shrubs and grass and flowers.  This beautiful, but dead, concrete building has come to life.  There's something about things that are alive...that live and grow and change...that changes everything about a building.  I think it's an outward reminder of an inward reality.  IT'S NOT ABOUT A BUILDING...IT'S ABOUT PEOPLE.

During his presidential campaign, Bill Clinton's campaign manager had a huge sign printed and hung in the campaign headquarters.  It was to help keep the candidate focused and on message.  It simply read, IT'S ABOUT THE ECONOMY, STUPID.  Maybe, we need to hang a sign somewhere in our building that reads, IT'S ABOUT PEOPLE, STUPID.  It's not about buildings or programs or if we sang our favorite song or if "I'm being fed" or, well, ...whatever.  It's about PEOPLE.  People who are lost.  People with messed up lives.  People who are obnoxious.  People who don't get it, but will.  People with hurts, habits & hang-ups.  People you wouldn't want to hang out with, normally, but you do, because they matter to God

IT'S ABOUT PEOPLE, STUPID!

Let's not forget that.

9/16/13

MORE THAN A FAN

We live in Texas.  In Texas, the number one sport is Football.  The number two sport is Spring Football.  You get the picture.  Football is BIG!  HUGE!  It's not LIFE & DEATH...it's BIGGER THAN THAT!!!

We don't just love football, we love OUR TEAM.  We're FANS.  FANS is the shortened version of FANATICS.  That perfectly expresses how we feel about "Our Team".  We bleed red or green or orange or maroon...whatever our team's colors happens to be.  They win...life is good.  They lose...life is bad.  We are true-blue, honest-to-goodness, cross-our-hearts-and-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-our-eye fans!

Count me in.  I'm an Oiler fan (the Pearland variety).  I'm a Bear fan (the Baylor variety).  I'm a Texan fan.  OK, so I don't paint myself. And I don't make that many games.  And, if they should lose, I never contemplate ending it all.  But, I am a fan...at least, I think so. Being a fan is great.  But, even so, it appears that Satan is always looking for any opportunity to divide and conquer.  Even if it's along color lines.  (Not skin color....school color)  It appears it is possible for Satan to take yet another good thing and turn it into a bad thing. (Every bad thing is a good thing perverted)  It goes like this, "If you don't cheer for who I cheer for then you hate me and my team and I'm offended and can't be your friend and you have disrespected me and everything I hold near and dear to my heart.  We can't be friends, much less brothers.  Go away!"  This is nothing new.  The church in Corinth faced the same dilemma centuries ago.  Paul writes, "I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 11 For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. 12 Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter” or “I follow only Christ.”13 Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not! 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 for now no one can say they were baptized in my name."

It appears that in the first century, they were already picking teams and dividing up the church.  Paul writes them and basically says, "That's great that you have favorites, but your favorites can't compromise the unity of the Body of Christ.  When that happens a good thing has become a bad thing".  

In other words, be a fan.  But, when it comes to Jesus, his church, and his plan for this world, you need to be MORE THAN A FAN.  Cheer your heart out on Friday night or Saturday afternoon or Sundays, but keep it in perspective.  IT'S JUST A GAME.  I know to many of you those words are blasphemous.  But, they're true.  There's something much bigger at stake than the final score of a football game.  It's literal life and death.  It's eternity.  

When it comes to your team...BE A FAN.  When it comes to Jesus...BE MORE THAN A FAN.

9/12/13

CLOTHES

I have to admit, I was a little excited when they told me we were getting our clothes back yesterday.  When the fire happened, we were told to pull out "emergency clothes", and the rest would come later.  What does "emergency clothes" sound like to you?  A few days?  A week, maybe?  I had no idea that it would mean a month.  I've worn the same pair of shoes every day since the towering inferno.  My wardrobe was a bit repetitious as well.  So, needless to say, I was happy at the thought of wearing different shoes today.

One thing I wasn't prepared for.  As the gentlemen brought the stacks of hanging clothes up the stairs, I felt like it was a scene out of Jesus' feeding the 5,000.  Our clothes were the stand-ins for the loaves and fishes.  They just kept coming and coming and coming...  I'm pretty sure there were numerous basketfuls left over.  WAY over!

My emotions went from joy to total embarrassment.  We have too many clothes.  As I hung them up, I said to myself, "Half of these are gone".  There were things there that, for the life of me, I didn't know I owned...that I hadn't seen in years...that I didn't want to see, ever.

I realized in that moment, I am a typical American.  A consumer.  A collector.  A hoarder.  No, not like on the TV show.  But, a hoarder, just the same.

If you need something, sizes L & XL, let me know.  I need to share.  I need to simplify.  These things need to get worn, and there's only one of me.

These are, hopefully, the confessions of an ex-hoarder with too much stuff made evident by a tiny closet.  That's what it took to open my eyes and, hopefully, change my heart.

9/4/13

30-DAY PRAYER EXPERIMENT

I've asked my church to be part of a 30-Day Prayer Experiment.  For those who opt in, they will receive a text message each morning with one thing to pray for.  We started on Monday, praying that our church would be a family.  Yesterday's prayer was that God would provide for us financially as we move into a new campus.

Usually, the Sunday giving totals come in on Monday, but with the holiday, they arrived yesterday.  What's normal?  Around $25,000-$30,000.  But, the report read almost $50,000.  I asked to make sure it was correct and was assured it was.  Almost simultaneously, someone walked into my office with 2 envelopes that had just arrived in the mail.  One was a check for $1,000 and the other a check for $15,000.

Normal expectations:  $25,000 to $30,000
This day:  Almost $65,000

Coincidence?  Maybe.  But, then gain, we prayed for financial provision and it came.  So far, GOOD EXPERIMENT.

Want to be a part?  Text PRAY30 to 4411.  You'll get a prayer text every morning.  It's an experiment. Results depend on your willingness and God's faithfulness.

9/3/13

AUTUMN IN THE AIR

College football has begun.  The calendar has rolled over to September.  The kids are back in school.  Starbucks has broken out the Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  IT'S FALL!  Can't you just feel it in the air?  The Dog Days of Summer are over.  There's a crispness in the air.  Soon the leaves will be turning.  Time to pack up those summer clothes and break out the cardigans.

I WISH.

My thermometer in my truck read 101 yesterday.  Not quite the picture of Fall I was having.  No rush to cut firewood.

OK, so it doesn't feel like Fall...but it is.  (sorta)  School is back in session.  Football has, indeed, started.  And, in two Sundays it will be NATIONAL BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  Thousands of churches around the nation are involved in this...program?...celebration?...movement?  What do you call it?

So, what is it, exactly?  Does this mean that, as the church, we recognize and endorse the fact that many of our members will simply take the summer off.  That missing community, worship, and ministry for 3 months out of the year has become the norm, and that we're simply going to call it that and assign a day (like the beginning of school) for everyone to return?

Or, are we simply recognizing reality...that many folks get out of the habit during the summer and need a boost to get them "back in the saddle".  To have a problem with that would simply be arguing with reality, as I like to refer to it.  Fact is, many people see Summer as an opportunity to drop out, and even worse is the fact that many never return.  Sadly, church life is not an essential, but an option.

BOTTOM LINE:  If you're a Summer Drop-Out, please drop back in.  You don't even have to wait till September 15th.  We'll celebrate your return this Sunday...or any Sunday.  We just miss you!


8/27/13

SIMPLIFY

My wife has...had...this sign in our kitchen for everyone to read every day.  It simply said...SIMPLIFY.    I'm not certain what she had in mind by that, but in the last week we've gone from ...
*2800 square feet of living space to 1200
*Several sets of dishes, and silverware to 4 cups, 4 plates, 4 bowls, 4 spoons, 4 forks, 4 knives, etc.
*A huge closet that would barely contain all our clothes to 3 pairs of jeans, 6 or 7 shirts, 2 pairs of
  shoes, socks and underwear
*The furnishing we've accumulated over a lifetime to some rented stuff
*Downstairs and upstairs to just upstairs

I could go on, but you get the picture.  I'm not sure if that was her idea of simplifying, but we've SIMPLIFIED.  Not by choice, but success none the less.

The lesson?  Life is all about PERSPECTIVE.  We don't see ourselves as going "down" from all we had.  We see it as moving "up" from the Holiday Inn to a place of permanence.  A KITCHEN!  A REFRIGERATOR!  A COUCH!  Nirvana!!!!!

In our case, we had everything taken away in order to see that there is great joy in little.  Hopefully, you'll just trust me and believe me and find joy in little and skip the blazing inferno.

The word for today:  SIMPLIFY

8/20/13

WHAT TO DO WHILE YOUR HOUSE IS BURNING

1.  If the fire is on the first floor and wienies or marsh mellows are available, you may consider roasting
     (however, if the fire is on the second story, roasting is contraindicated)

2.  You can play "Pass the Hat", saying something like, "Come on people, we really need to help these
      poor, unfortunate folks".

3.  You can start singing, "Saw varsity's horns off" while swaying back and forth.

4.  You can slip into the cab of the fire truck, engage the loud speaker system and yell, "OK, we've got
     the place surrounded.  Come out with your hands up!"

5.  (Suggested) You can stand in the street and thank God that you own your stuff, rather than your
     stuff owning you.

(Hint) #5 changes everything.

8/9/13

THAT'S A RAP!

This past Sunday we had a rapper at Crosspoint.  His name is Ray and he was awesome.  He sang with our Worship Team, and then, a couple of times, he just busted loose.  He was great.  OK, I have to preface that...I do not claim any expertise in gauging the art of rapping.  I own a total of 0 rap albums (unless you count that thing that LL Cool J does with Brad Paisley on Accidental Racist).  I just thought he was good.  In fact, I wanted to keep him.  We couldn't hire him, so I offered to adopt him.  The offer's still good.

I read the Communication Cards from last Sunday.  Lot's of really good stuff...LOTS...except for a few.  So, why do I even mention the few?  Because they were insightful and puzzling at the same time.
Here was a puzzling one:  "I'm sure he was very good at what he does, I just don't like rap".  I'm not sure what to do with that.  If someone writes, "I'm sure all the donuts are good, I just don't like donuts", then do we get rid of the donuts?  Or just make a mental note that there's a member who doesn't like donuts?  Maybe offer a Vegetable Tray?

OK, that's not my point.  So, what is my point?  I found the responses puzzling, but more than that, I found them extremely encouraging.  Here's what I read:  "Your musical choices weren't all about me".  BINGO!  We did it!  That's what we've been shooting for.  We finally are getting there.

Here's what hopefully is driving this church:
1.  Our strategy is not to win the won, but win the lost
2.  Therefore, if you're a Christ-follower, you're really not our target
3.  Which means, to the Christ-followers in the audience, "It's not about us"
4.  If we are to reach other races and cultures, we must speak their language
5.  The universal language is music

Please memorize the 5 things listed above.  It will help everything we do make sense...even rap!

Peace Out!

8/1/13

WHAT'S YOUR CQ?

Most people know what an IQ is.  Some even know what their IQ number happens to be.  But, CQ, that's a little odd.  Well, if your IQ is your Intelligence Quotient, then your CQ would be your Church Quotient.  Do you know what yours is?  Look at the scale and see where you fall:

ESSENTIAL:  The Church is an essential part of my life and health and is a necessary element in my spiritual growth, service to God and to others.  It is a place I both receive and give.

IMPORTANT:  The Church is an important part of my spiritual life, growth and health, and I place it on the priority list of my life.  Though not essential, it is important, and a priority.

OPTIONAL:  I see the benefits of my Church life, and place it on the list of beneficial activities, yet it is one of many and would not be categorized as a priority.

UNIMPORTANT:  Although I believe Church is a beneficial thing in theory, practically speaking, it is not particularly on my radar as something of importance in my life and is only an option when there are no other activities available to me at that particular time.

Where do you fall on this scale?  What is your CQ?  What do you think it should be...and does that match up with what it actually is?  Have you made any correlations between your CQ and your Spiritual Growth?  Spiritual Health?  Personal sense of fulfillment?  Family stability?  Personal joy?

Unlike your IQ, you can decide what you want your CQ to be, and make it that.  Just do it!

7/17/13

IN THE END...IT KILLS US ALL

The other day I was with my family and my youngest son just wasn't himself.  I asked if he was feeling bad.  He just said he was tired.  No reason to be, just tired.  He wasn't himself.  He was quiet, withdrawn, never smiling, little response to anything.  We thought he might be sick.  But, I kept probing. (it's what I do)  Are you sick?  Are you worried about something?  Are you stressed?  He didn't think so, but then again he didn't know what stress felt like.

I remember those days.  I used to think stress was something other people had.  Mainly, I just didn't know what stress felt like.  That, and I didn't know that the source of stress wasn't from just negative stimuli.  We accumulate a certain amount of stress points for the death of a loved one or the birth of a child.  Stress can just as easily come from losing a job or from getting a new one.

Let's see:  He's about to start a new job, sign his first mortgage and buy a replacement for the car he has.  Stress, stress and stress.

No matter what the coroner says about us, we all die from stress.  Whatever gets us was stress-induced. Think of yourself as an egg and the world around you like two big hands, holding you.  Every time a major change comes in our life, those hands put a little more force into holding us a little tighter.  New job....squeeze.  Moving to a new city...squeeze.  Divorce...SQUEEZE.  Promotion...SQUEEZE!  Unexpected Root Canal...SQUEEZE!  Enough squeezing and your shell is gonna crack.  And, trust me, that's a mess.  BEEN THERE. DONE THAT.  GOT THE T-SHIRT AND THE SCARS.

So...what's the answer?  Here's God's prescription: "Don't worry about anything.  Just pray about everything.  Tell God your needs and don't forget to thank Him for His answers".  Yes, I'm aware it's easier said than done.  But, if God asks us to do it...then it's doable.

1.  Recognize that every change brings stress...victories as well as defeats
2.  Acknowledge them
3.  Rather than internalizing them, pray about them
4.  Prayer is the spiritual exercise for your soul and mind.  Physical exercise is for the body.  Get
     moving.
5.  Understand this is waging war on your mind and body.  Take it seriously.  But don't worry about
     worrying.

7/2/13

BLUE AGAVE BELIEVERS

OK, so it's no secret...I love cactus!  I have a cactus garden in my back yard.  Of course, with a pool, some people think I've lost it.  But, when everyone else's petunias are wilting and burning up, my cacti are soaking up the sun and loving it.

One item in my garden is blue agave.  These are beautiful succulents that have those blue-green leaves.  I love them.  However, they have been a frustration to me.  What I want for my garden is for them to get big.  However, that doesn't seem to be their priority.  Rather than putting all their energies into growing themselves, they prefer to put their energy into making more blue agaves.  They are constantly "pupping"...sending out shoots that will become new agaves.  Frustrating to this gardener, but teaching a great lesson.

I'm only a part-time cactus gardener, but a full-time pastor.  I like cactus, but I love Christ-followers.  However, the frustration that I have with Christ-followers is exactly the opposite of what I face with my agaves.  Rather than being overly concerned with "pupping", Christ-followers have a tendency to be more consumed (or should I say, self-consumed) with their own personal lives, many times to the exclusion of spiritual reproduction.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard from believers the complaint, "I'm just not getting fed".  I suppose my response to that should be, "How many "pups" have you reproduced?".  In other words, if this Christ-life you've found is so great that you want to grow in it, then how many people are you telling about it?  That may be a better indicator of your growth, or desire to grow.  Spiritual maturity is more than just a constant whining, "Feed me!".  It should possibly be measured in reproduction.

What frustrates me in agaves is exactly what I want to see more of in Christ-followers.  I want to see more blue agave believers...exerting more and more of their energy on making more blue agave believers and less on just getting "bigger".  That's real growth!

6/25/13

CUSTOMER OR OWNER?

I've been a pastor for almost 33 years.  I've had the opportunity to pastor thousands of people over that period of time.  After seeing all shapes and sizes and personality types, I've realized their are basically two types of church members: OWNERS & CUSTOMERS.

What's the difference?  Simple...

               CUSTOMERS                                                                           OWNERS
*Are there to be served by the owners                             *Are there to serve the customers
*Are concerned that their experience is good                   *Are concerned that the customers' experience
                                                                                            is good
*Have no loyalty to this place                                           *Have total loyalty to this place
*Tied to quality of the product                                          *Tied to quality of the relationships
*Tendency to voice complaints                                         *Tendency to fix problems
*Refers to church as "They"                                             *Refers to church as "We"
*Main concern is what "I want"                                       * Main concern is what "they need"
*Consumer                                                                       *Producer
*Asks "What do you have for me/mine?"                        *Asks "What can we do for them/theirs?"
*Taker                                                                              *Giver
*If absent, would not be missed                                       *If absent, would leave a void
*Important part of the crowd                                            *Imperative part of the team

All in all, where do you see yourself?  Are you a CUSTOMER or a OWNER?  The answer to that question is more important than you think and says volumes about your maturity and value to the Kingdom of God.

6/24/13

VACATE & RECREATE

Susan & I just returned from a week off.  We ventured into the Great Smokey Mountains and then a few days in Nashville.  We saw some of God's "showing off" with a beautiful part of this world, had a little adventure white-water rafting and visited a city we'd only heard about.  We VACATED & RECREATED.

Sometimes we miss the necessity of those two things.  Sometimes, you just need to "get out of Dodge".  I think that's even more important for a pastor.  I find as long as I can be found, work will find me.  I got lots of emails and texts telling about situations and what I needed to do while I was gone.  Everyone's expectations.  But, "I'm in Tennessee" got me off the hook.  It's necessary to get away physically, emotionally and mentally.

But, we didn't just get away...we played.  We recreated.  We hiked, we rafted, we explored, we enjoyed beauty, we re-connected with one another and did things outside the norm.  Recreation.  We overuse that word without realizing what we're saying.  We "re-created" ourselves.  God created us.  But, the world tears us apart.  Sometimes, we need the creative process in our lives all over again.

I believe that was God's idea when he set up the Sabbath...a day of re-creation on a weekly basis.  But, sometimes we need an extended stay for the re-creation process to be fulfilled.  I hope you take advantage of that opportunity this summer and come back re-charged, re-juvenated and ready to go.

6/10/13

STUFF HAPPENS

STUFF HAPPENS
LIFE NEVER TURNS OUT THE WAY YOU PLAN IT
BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE
IF IT CAN GO WRONG, IT WILL
MURPHY'S LAW RULES

Stupid stuff happens that shouldn't happen.  Some are devastating.  Some are painful.  Some are just inconvenient.

Right now, I'm sitting in Panama City Beach, Florida, expecting 125 students and sponsors to roll in any minute.  ONLY PROBLEM:  They're stuck on the side of the road in Covington, Louisiana.  FUN.

Why?  Because we live in a fallen, sin-soaked world where stupid things happen.  It's frustrating.  But, it's our world.  It's the only one we've got.

6/4/13

I DON'T UNDERSTAND...BUT I SHOULD

It breaks my heart when I see couples, but especially women, who struggle with infertility.  It can be the most devastating thing in a person's life.  I partly have problems understanding because I'm a man.  Although that desire to have children is real in men, it is totally different in women.  So many women feel like less than a whole woman when they face fertility issues.  Again, I'm not a woman and will never completely comprehend how that would make a woman feel, so I won't even try to address it.

My point is, even though I don't understand it, I should.  That same desire that God built into women to bear children is built into each one of us who call ourselves a Child of God.  We were created to reproduce spiritually.  We were created to "give birth" to new Children of God.  We were created to bring new disciples into the world.  And, if we aren't or can't or don't, that should stir some emotions in us.

Paul called Timothy his son.  Not a physical son....a spiritual one.  How many "spiritual kids" do you have?  Do you want more?  Do you take as much joy seeing a new believer "born-again" as you did seeing your physical children born?  Spiritually, are you childless?  Does that in any way bother you?  It should.  If you're having spiritual fertility issues, it should be a cause for concern.  If it's not, ask God to stir your heart and make you want to make kids for His Kingdom.

6/3/13

IT'S MONDAY

OK, it's pretty easy to be a Monday Hater.  It's just...MONDAY.  Kinda rhymes with MUNDANE.  Same idea.  For me, Monday isn't coming off a great weekend, it's following up the start of my week and the biggest day.  For most folks, your week builds to a climax.  For pastors we start off our week (on Sunday) on all cylinders, then, splat, down to earth with Monday.

Maybe that's why most pastors resign on Mondays.  Nope.  Didn't make that up.  Fact.  It's a little like sky-diving, knowing your parachute is going to fail to deploy.  You love Sundays so much, you jump anyway.  But, then there's always the Monday landing.  For me, Mondays usually mean staff meetings, followed by Strategic Leadership Meeting, followed by lunch (sometimes a meeting), followed by an occasional Creative Team meeting, some individual meetings and ending with a Service-Planning meeting.  (Who said this job isn't sexy?)  Oh yeah, one more meeting this evening.  And you thought your Mondays were bad.

Lots of pastors take Mondays off.  I always took my cues from something I heard a pastor say, "I don't want to feel that bad on my day off".  Ditto.

"This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it'.  Mondays get a bad rap.  For all their faults, I wouldn't want to live without them.  They are a very nice buffer between Sunday and Tuesday.

5/29/13

WET SEAL

You ever been to one of those stores?  I don't even know what they sell at WET SEAL.  But, I've seen them in the mall...just never paid much attention.  But, I like the name...WET SEAL.  Reminds me of baptism.

That's, in many respects what baptism is all about.  Of all the practices of Christianity, baptism may be the most misunderstood of all.  There is more misinformation, bad theology and superstition surrounding baptism than any other practice.  Ask someone what baptism is all about and you may get one of 100 answers...all of which may have missed the mark.

Since it's a command of Jesus, it must be pretty important.  At least, you'd think so.  So, I guess we ought to get it right.

This week we'll look at the ACT and the ART of BAPTISM...and just what Jesus had in mind for it when he commanded us to obey him and submit to it.  What we find out may not be the Sunday School answers you've been carrying around most of your life and dishing out when pressed on the subject.

We'll move from "I've always thought that...." to "What the scripture says is...".  BIG DIFFERENCE.

5/21/13

IN A MOMENT

I was sitting at my desk working away when my cell phone rang.  It was my sister-in-law.  She never calls me.  Probably a mistake,  She said, "How's Noah?".  Strange.  I said, "Fine, I guess.  Why do you ask?".  She had just landed in San Diego and saw televisions everywhere talking about the devastation in OKC.

I immediately hung up and called my son.  He answered and said, "Call my wife and tell her I'm OK".  I tried to ask a question, but he insisted, "Just call my wife and tell her I'm OK".  So, I did.  Phone lines were, naturally, blowing up there.  I got through and found out she was fine, told her he was fine, the kids were fine...but, life was not fine there.  It was anything but fine.

A 2-mile-wide path of power and destruction had just come within half a mile of their home.  My son had hidden in the bath tub with a mattress over him hearing an unforgettable noise come closer and closer, only to pass him by.  He could see it out of his window.

In a moment, I had gone from busying myself with the stuff of another Monday, to feeling my heart in my throat.  In a moment, I was reminded of how short and fragile and precious life really is.  In a moment, all my very important stuff was reduced to irrelevant.  In a moment, everything changed.

As you go through your life today, please be thankful for every breath you take.  Take nothing for granted.  Do not presume on the future.  Do not put off till tomorrow what needs to be done or said today.  Because, everything...everything can change IN A MOMENT.

5/8/13

WHAT IF...

Here's a question for you to think about today...What if our Church went out of business?  What if Crosspoint Church decided to close its doors and hang it up?  What difference would it make?  Would it be missed?  Would there be a noticeable hole in Pearland?  Would it be a devastating blow, or would people just find other places to worship on Sundays and go on with business as usual?  Would it make a big difference?  Would the landscape and spiritual temperature of Pearland, Texas be negatively affected forever?  Or, would it be forgotten in a few months?

OK, while you're thinking about that one, let me give you one more to ponder...What if YOU went out of the church business?  What if you stopped being a part of Crosspoint Church?  Would you be missed?  Would there be a sizable hole to fill because of your absence?  How long would it take for someone to call and say, "Where are you?"  What ministry would suffer?  Would there be a noticeable hole left because of your absence?  Or, would everything just roll along like it already does with you or with out you?

How sad to think we are a church that could cease to exist without anyone noticing.  How much sadder to think we live a life as a believer and member of the Bride of Christ, that if we just checked out, it wouldn't make a difference.  The Church is a Body and you are a Body part.  If one of your body parts stops functioning, you would notice.  They call that disease.  But, what about you?  Are you a functioning Body part, or is the Body of Christ diseased because of your lack of functionality?

Do you need to be EXERCISED or AMPUTATED?

5/6/13

CHANGE

I remember my first pastorate.  It was in a small town.  Correction:  A tiny town.  Let's try again:  A village...population 469.  They had a mayor they called "Boss Hog".  No one that I ever spoke to liked him.  So, how do you get to be mayor (an elected position) if no one likes you?  I found out the answer to my query...no one ran against him.

Well, finally someone did.  A young, well-known, well-liked guy from the community.  We would finally have a new mayor.  Results:  "Boss Hog" was reelected in a landslide.  How could this be?  No one liked him.  So, I asked.  The answer:  "At least we know what we don't like about "Boss Hog".  We don't know what we wouldn't like about the other guy".

Let me translate:  CHANGE IS TOUGH.

It doesn't matter what the situation, we're not wired for change.  We don't like our world disrupted.  We don't care to have anyone "move our cheese".  In many cases, we'd rather live with disfunction than risk the unknown variables of change.

Change challenges us.
Change is risky business.
Change ruffles feathers.
Change is uncomfortable.
Change is a little scary.
Change requires us to venture into the realm of the unknown.

But, for the committed Christ-follower, change is an absolute necessity...
It requires faith.  Without this it is impossible to please God.
It provides growth.  This is God's plan and desire for all His children.
It involves submission.  We have to yield to God's plan above our own.
It demands trust.  Change doesn't come with guarantees.  We have to trust ourselves and our God.

Change will never move into the category of FUN.  If it does, that's another issue.  But, it's part of God's plan for us and a necessary part of walking with our God.

The one thing that never changes is the fact that things always change!

5/3/13

A TOUGH BALANCE

According to Jesus, we're supposed to be SALT & LIGHT.  You know, preserve and enlighten.  Protect society from itself.  Also, according to Jesus, we 're not supposed to JUDGE anyone.  Which is it Jesus?  Pick one!  It appears to be a Christ-Follower requires a bit of self-imposed schizophrenia.  This can't be right...can it?

How do you live in the world, be salt and light in the world, hold firmly to the moral and spiritual imperatives that Christ demands without being a compromiser, and at the same time, not come accross as the MORALITY POLICE?

Sounds impossible, but it's not.  Let me show you what God's Word has to say about it.  This Sunday, I'll show you how to keep the balance and hang up your MORALITY POLICE badge, once and for all.

4/23/13

REALITY BITES

I had a conversation with someone yesterday and I had to be "that guy".  You know, the guy who deals in the realm of stark reality.  The guy who says, "That sounds good but it won't work.  It doesn't add up".  

I think sometimes as Christ-followers, we decide that guy is the "Anti-Christ".  Following God is about just hearing whatever we think we hear, dreaming whatever we want to dream and going for it...full steam ahead, damn the torpedoes, don't look back, don't let anyone distract you, don't let anyone steal your joy....etc.

But then, there's this little book called Proverbs.  It's written by this guy who was told by God he could ask for anything, and he asked for wisdom.  Pretty clever.  Pretty wise.  

He says things like "there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors".  There's a prevailing theme throughout the book that says "get counsel...get wise counsel...get a multitude of counselors...".

Elsewhere we find that, "We make OUR plans, but God DIRECTS our steps".  Jesus himself even said, "No one builds a building without first counting the cost....or goes to war without first making sure he can win".  You gotta have "that guy".  In fact, you need to become "that guy".

Faith is not a leap into the dark. It is taking one well-lit step, not knowing exactly what the next step will be, but having the assurance that the first-step was well-lit and made plain, practical and obvious by God and trusting that there will be a second well-lit step to follow.  And until there is, we just stand still.

The world's motto is, "Don't just stand there, do something".  God's Word says, "Don't just do something, stand there".  "Be still and know that I am God".

4/16/13

MORONS

     Much of the world views Christians as MORONS.  I have to give them credit, they're half right.  I would define Christians more as OXYMORONS.  What is an OXYMORON, you ask?  Well, here's what Mr. Webster says...
     : a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (as cruel kindness); broadly : something (as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements
      It comes from two little Greek words...oxys, meaning keen, sharp and moros, meaning dull or stupid.  Two concepts that are totally opposite and mutually exclusive.  
     Here are a few examples of oxymorons:
Jumbo Shrimp
Clearly Confused
Deafening Silence
Random Order
Original Copy
     You get the picture.  Two things that absolutely do not go together.  That don't fit.  That make sense separately, but not together.  Those are oxymorons.  
     Christians are oxymorons.  We are a combination of two things that do not go together.  That don't fit.  That are, seemingly, mutually exclusive.  
     What are those two things, and how do they come together in the life of a Christ-follower?  Well, you're just going to have to show up at CROSSPOINT CHURCH this week to find out. (don't you just hate that!?)  I realize that's a pretty awful way to put this, but please don't get all passive-agressive on me.  I promise, it will be awfully amazing!

4/12/13

THE HARDEST THING

If your boss pulled you aside and said, "I've been watching you and you're doing a great job.  Here's $100, and take the rest of the day off", what would you do?

How many of you would say "Thank you", head back to work, and later, take home the $100 and either frame it to admire from time to time, or simply put it in a drawer and pull it out every now and then to remember that great moment from the past?

May seem like a stupid question, but it's exactly what many of us do in the church world.

One of the HARDEST THINGS to do in ministry is to gain MOMENTUM.  The only thing that may be even harder is MAINTAINING MOMENTUM.  But, more times than not, we're like a dog that chases a car.  If he ever caught it, he wouldn't know what to do with it.  We're the same way with MOMENTUM.  We work like dogs to achieve it, but if we're successful, we don't have a clue what to do with it.

Here's an example:  Recently, like every other church, we celebrated Easter.  It's a big day.  It can be a day to achieve MOMENTUM.  We set a goal of reaching 1500 people that day.  We've never had 1500 people in attendance...ever.  We had around 1700 people that day!  Instant MOMENTUM.  You can't buy this stuff. It's worth its weight in gold.  So, what do you do with it?

Well, for too many of us, we simply go back to work, get right back to the status quo, frame it and every now and then say, "Remember back in 2013 when we had all those people? Yeah, that was awesome.  Yeah, I'll never forget it.  Can't wait for next year".  And...there goes all the MOMENTUM.  We worked so hard to achieve it, but have no plan, and certainly, no clue, how to keep it.

What's missing?  We have this TEMPORAL view of ministry, rather than a LINEAR view.  Ministry isn't about an event, it's about life-change.  It can't be about "how many people did we have show up for our event?", but "how can we channel that MOMENTUM we just created to maintain it and use it to fulfill our mission of seeing lives transformed by the power of God?"  

But, that requires a plan, a strategy and a desire.  It requires a viewpoint that this isn't the end,  but rather the beginning.

What about you?  You were part of achieving MOMENTUM.  Are you a part of maintaining MOMENTUM?

4/9/13

AND THAT'S WHY...

I listen to people publicly dumping on and dissing christians from every angle and for every reason imaginable.  It breaks my heart.  It makes me mad.  It frustrates me.  Think of an emotion...I've felt it.  Why are christians always the target?

This week, unspeakable tragedy and pain came into the life of a christian.  One that many of us know.  One who is, because of his success as a pastor and author, a public figure.  His name is Rick Warren.  He pastors Saddleback Church in Lake Forrest, California.  He is the author of THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE.

I could go on and on with his accomplishments for the Kingdom of God, but this week, none of that matters.  This week, all that matters is the fact that his 27 year-old son, who had struggled with mental illness, took his own life.

I'm not sure how it can get any worse than that...but, it has.  Fellow christians...don't miss that fact...fellow christians have responded to this tragedy and its ensuing pain by using it as ammunition to judge, hate, ridicule and make all kinds of accusations against the Warrens.  How in the name of God can anyone with a conscience, anyone with the love of God in them, anyone with a heart and a brain, (or at least one of them) do such a thing?

That, my friend, is HATE.  It is VENOM.  It is UNHOLY.  It is SIN.  What happened to "Weep with those who weep"?  What happened to "Share one another's burdens"?  What happened to "by your love they will know you"?  I guess that doesn't apply here.  Then again, if it doesn't apply here, where would it apply?

And we wonder why the world doesn't want any part of what we have?  We hate when we're called to love.  We kick one another when we are at our most vulnerable.  We publicly ridicule a family when they are at their deepest point of hurt imaginable...and we call ourselves CHRISTIANS.

AND THAT'S WHY...the world isn't interested in what we have.

4/2/13

I LIKE QUESTIONS

I don't think most pastors would agree with that statement.  Some like to ask them.  Few like to be asked them.  Pastors, as a whole, are more into making statements than being asked questions.  So, the church becomes a place where you can come with your questions...Just don't ask them.  Sit back and listen and, I'm certain, we'll answer every question you need an answer to.  Just be patient.  If you don't hear the answer to your question, you can pretty much assume it was unnecessary at best...stupid, at worst.

However, the big sign on the front of the Church building should read...QUESTIONS WELCOMED!    The Church's motto should be, THERE REALLY ARE NO STUPID QUESTIONS...REALLY!

To make matters worse (or better, based on your perspective), the Church should constantly be asking itself questions.  For instance:

*Are we really all about JESUS...him and nothing else but him?
*What's running this show...fear or faith?  Are we in control, or have we subjugated ourselves to the Holy Spirit, following His lead, even when we don't understand it? (or even agree with it)
*Do we embrace and love people who are different from us, no matter how repulsive their lifestyle may be to us?
*Are we capable of growing up and getting over our own preferences being met for the sake of winning a messy, messed-up world that doesn't understand, embrace or even like our religious stuff?
*Would we be defined as risk-takers by those outside looking in, or play-it-safers?
*Are we more passionate about fixing people or loving people?
*Who is our audience, those inside the building, or those outside?  

Questions are tough.  That's why we don't like to ask them...much less answer them.  The real problem with questions is that the real answers reveal the actual condition of our heart.  The one thing we thought we'd hidden so well.

Today, ask yourself some tough questions.  If you don't like your answers, don't feel too bad...you're in good company.

3/29/13

I'M CONFUSED

OK, so I've read all those things, like why do you Drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?  Why do they put expiration dates on Sour Cream?  

All funny and interesting and entertaining.  But, as a pastor, I have to admit, I'm legitimately confused.  Why do we call the day Jesus died GOOD FRIDAY and the day that big bargains are available BLACK FRIDAY?  Am I missing something here?  Isn't that backwards?

I'm thinking Jesus would agree with me.  He prayed, "Father, let this cup pass from me".  Translation:  "I don't want to do this...at all...no way.  I'm requesting you reconsider and please come up with a Plan B."

Sorry, from my perspective, this is a true BLACK FRIDAY.  But, God, in His power and wisdom has turned BLACK FRIDAY into a very GOOD FRIDAY.  

OK, so I guess I'll just remain a CONFUSED PASTOR.  By the way, isn't that redundant?  CONFUSED PASTOR?

3/26/13

ZOMBIES

Biblical language can sometimes be confusing.  Jesus and Paul both talked about people who were "asleep", but neither was talking about sleeping.  It was the first century way of referring to death.  They weren't just sleeping, they were SLEEPING!

Have you noticed how pop culture seems to go from one thing to the next.  One minute everyone's a vampire.  Then, vampires are yesterday's news and zombies are the new cool thing.  Zombies are the new cool thing. However, they are not new, by any means.  (See Night of the Living Dead)  I guess interest in zombies runs hot and cold.  Today, they're hot.  Tomorrow, who knows.

Culture aside, the zombie problem has been around longer than any of us realize.  This Living Dead idea is not only a Hollywood phenomenon, it's a biblical reality.  God's Word proclaims the fact that all those around us who are without Christ are dead men.  Literally, spiritually dead.  They walk.  They talk.  They look perfectly normal. (I think the fact that none of their body parts are falling off and none of their flesh is rotting throws us off)  But, God's Word is perfectly clear...they are DEAD.  SPIRITUAL ZOMBIES.  Living right next door, or working in your office or sleeping right down the hall or even in the same bed as you.  SPIRITUAL ZOMBIES.  

Probably not something you give much thought to.  We'd rather watch the latest Zombie movie or catch an episode of the new Zombie series than wrestle with the idea of this being a real condition.  ESPECIALLY, when the same Word reveals to us that we have been trusted with the antidote that brings these Zombies back to life....not just life, but abundant life.

So what's the problem?  We're not sleeping dead...we're just sleeping duds.  We need to WAKE UP!  We need to start seeing these people as WALKING DEAD, not just WALKING WEIRDOS or WALKING JERKS or WALKING PROBLEMS or WALKING ____________ (you fill-in the blank with your favorite brand of disgust).  They just need to be alive.  And God has commissioned you and I to wake them up, give them life and set them free.

Before you go and volunteer to drive a stake into their hearts (although, in some cases that may seem to be the most logical scenario and quickest fix), you need to know what they need is not a stake to the heart, but a cross.  Not driven with a hammer, but with love and truth and the power of God.

But, Step One is, WE have to wake up.  Me and you.  We have to realize we are surrounded by the spiritually dead and we have the antidote.  We have to WAKE UP and SPEAK UP, or be satisfied to live in a world of spiritual zombies for the rest of our days.  

You're right.  Somebody oughta do something about this situation...and that somebody is YOU!


3/25/13

CHRISTIAN NARCISSISM

What's a narcissist?  Sounds bad, doesn't it?  It is.  Let me give you the simple nickel definition: It's a person that's totally in love with themselves.  Yep, you were right.  It's bad.  It comes to us from Greek mythology, where a guy named Narcissus was bending over a pond and saw his reflection and thought, "Wow, that's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen!".  You get the idea.

So, why do I bring it up?  Well, because I believe the whole concept is one we battle against on a continuous basis.  If you're like me, there are some names and faces floating through your mind right now.  Pretty sure yours isn't one of them....but, you can think of a few without much trouble.

Here's one for you:  Christian Narcissists.  Isn't that an oxymoron?  Can you be a Christian (totally in love with Jesus and those he died for), and a Narcissist (totally in love with all things ME)?

Well, let's see.  Jesus gave us some very real orders before he left Planet Earth...Go...Tell...Teach...Love...Reach.  He basically turned over the reigns to us.  He said, "the Church is yours...now do exactly what you saw me do...love like I loved, lay down your life to reach anyone and everyone who is far from God.  Do whatever it takes."

How we doing with that?  How's that working for us?  Honestly, not so good.  Most churches are in decline in the US.  Many will close their doors this year.  More are going unreached than are being reached.  But, why?  Because we don't care?  Because we don't believe correctly?  Because our theology is bad?  Because our strategies are poor?

No, we pray for the lost, study the Word, reach out, strategize, etc.  So, what's the problem?  Well, to borrow a phrase, You might be a Christian Narcissist if...You really want to reach the lost, but...
     *You don't want to hear secular songs on Sunday morning
     *You don't want to have to park far from the building
     *You really want to be fed deeper messages
     *You don't want to sit in another place or attend another service
     *You demand more hymns
     *You're not going to put up with homosexuals attending your church
     *You don't like the pastor wearing jeans on Sunday morning
     *You don't think someone should be allowed to bring a donut into the auditorium
     *You think the music is too loud

I know, I know, you really want to reach the lost, but, you really want church to be all about you.  Face it, you just might be a Christian Narcissist.  Sound bad?  It is.  But, you'll have company.  Just read anything that mentions Pharisees in the New Testament.  You'll get along well.
   

3/19/13

IT'S GOOD NOT TO BE KING

I remember a great quote from Mel Brooks in the movie, History of the World, Part 1.  After doing whatever he wanted with absolutely no checks and balances, he simply stated, "It's good to be King!".  I guess it would be.  Have everything you want and do everything you want, with no impunity.  Sweet gig.  You don't always do the right thing...but, whatever you do is the right thing, for one simple reason...you're the King!  Sweet gig.

I look at it another way.  I guess my mantra would be, "It's good not to be king!".  I met yesterday morning with the staff.  We discussed what we were doing, what we need to be doing and what we better be doing better or even different.  We agreed and disagreed and challenged one another...sometimes liking it and sometimes, not so much.

Then, later, I met with my Executive Staff.  I heard about things I did well, things I should have done better and choices I could/should make that would be better for the church and for me.

Last night, I spent several hours with the Elders of our church.  I heard...this is good, this is great, this...not so good, this could be better.  I heard "Yes" and I heard "No", and I heard "Maybe, but not now".

In every venue, it was made clear that I was the leader.  All wanted me to lead.  All honored my leadership and affirmed my leadership and followed my leadership.  But, at the same time, it was clear that I was not the King.  I don't want to be King.  I want to be Pastor.  That's where God has called me. That's where I'm most usable to Him.  It's also where I'm most comfortable.

Being King might be a lot of fun, but there's a lot of pressure to being King.  I like having people in my like who exist and have the freedom to say "No".  To say, "Not now, that's good, unwise decision, more of that, less of this".  

It's good not to be King!

3/18/13

PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING

Life is not so much about what happens, as it is the direction that you're looking at it from.  I've seen, as have you, people's totally opposite reactions to the same event.  Both saw the same thing.  Both heard the same news.  Both experienced the same stimulus.  But, they responded totally oppositely to the same thing.

The Resurrection is one of those things.  We, as Christ-followers, celebrate the Resurrection every Sunday.  But, we REALLY celebrate it on EASTER.  We build our calendars around it.  We plan for it.  Some get all dressed up for it.  Others, plan a feast for it.  We plan outreaches around it.  We, unapologetically invite everyone we know to join us in worshipping our risen Savior on this most special day of all days.

Jesus' disciples got to experience the Resurrection up close and in person.  So, how did they get ready for Resurrection day?  By hiding out, laying low, feeling sorry for themselves and rethinking the purpose and plans they had for their lives.  Their plans didn't include celebrating.  Theirs centered more around mourning.  A quiet early morning visit to a tomb to recollect what could have been and how it had all come to an inauspicious and unexpected end.  Their joy had been turned to sorrow and their hopes and dreams had all gone up in smoke at the foot of a cross as they stared at the one they'd left everything for come to a sudden and crushing end.  It was over.  Everything was over.

Those are two very different ways of living out the days leading up to the Resurrection.  The difference?  Which side of the Resurrection you live on.  It's one thing to live as we do, looking back on it.  We do that with joy and hope and anticipation.  It's quite another thing to live, looking forward to it.  By that, I don't mean expecting it, anticipating it and looking forward to it.  In reality, the Resurrection took them totally by surprise.  Sure, Jesus had left some pretty good hints.  It's a lot easier to see them looking back after the fact.  Looking through the lens of the Resurrection makes everything much clearer.  But, they didn't have the Resurrection to see through and to hear those hints through.

Still today, which side of the Resurrection you live on makes all the difference in the world.  If you find your hope in that Resurrection, then it becomes the defining moment, not only in history, but in your life and your history.

Yet, still today, if the Resurrection of Jesus is not your hope for forgiveness and eternity, then it's just another day, only one with a fable attached to it and religious holiday.  It still all centers on which side of the Resurrection you chose to live on.

Is it just a nice story or the answer to everything in your life and future?  That one answer to that one question changes everything,

3/15/13

WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?

There's a thought for you.  You're probably thinking, "If you don't know what a Christian is, what are you doing being a pastor?"  Good question.  But, I'm asking you.  Here's the honest truth, if you asked 50 CHRISTIANS what a Christian is, you might get 40 different answers.  And that's from CHRISTIANS!  If we're not sure, what chance do those who don't follow Christ have of getting it right?  For that matter, what chance do we have of winning the world if we're not sure what winning looks like?  

CHRISTIAN.

Is there any other word in the English language that is so emotionally charged?  Just the mention of that one word makes some smile, while it makes others curse.  It conjures up images of grace-filled, loving people in one person's mind, while at the same time, in another's mind comes pictures of judgmental, hypocritical, and non-tolerant hate-mongers.

How can one word mean so many different things to so many people?  One thing everyone can agree on in regards to Christians...everyone has an opinion.  

Beginning in April, we'll ask the question that no one in the Church ever asks, "What, exactly, is a CHRISTIAN?"  In Genuine CHRISTIAN Brand, we'll ask the hard questions, like:
     *What is a CHRISTIAN?
     *How do you BECOME a CHRISTIAN?
     *Is being a CHRISTIAN more about what we BELIEVE or how we BEHAVE?
     *What is the identifying CHARACTERISTIC of a CHRISTIAN?
     *How do you STAY a CHRISTIAN?

That should give us a little bit to talk about.  So, what do you think a CHRISTIAN is?

3/12/13

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME

Personally, I like Daylight Savings Time.  But, every morning, I'm reminded that it's a misnomer.  When I get up it's dark.  After I've been up a while it's still dark.  That sun takes its pretty little time getting up.  This is, obviously, not Daylight Savings Time, but, rather, Daylight Postponement Time.  I know it's just a technicality, but I feel a need for accuracy.

This is either the idea of the government or a woman...possibly a woman in the government.  The government can grow its expenditures by 20% and cut out 3% of its spending and tell us it saved us money, all while the deficit continues to pile up.  A woman can find an item she may or may not need, on sale for $10 off, buy five of them and come home after spending $100 she didn't intend to spend and announce to you how proud she is that she was able to save you $50 dollars.

OK, so I've now successfully offended all government  workers and all women....my audience is being weeded out rather quickly.  That's OK ladies.  Your man will counter with the fact that he's only bought one thing for himself in the last 3 years.  The fact that it was a $50,000 truck is irrelevant!

(How do I get these places?)  Like the Daylight issue, we prefer to postpone rather than save.  We prefer to postpone rather than confront.  We prefer to postpone rather than recognize.  Postponement is preferred to finding real answers, grappling with the issues at hand and finding real solutions.  Tomorrow is our mantra.  Someday is our creed.  When I get around to it is our motto.

Like turning up our clocks and saying, "Look, we made more sunshine!", we have the tendency to assign the important, life-altering, relationship-changing issues to tomorrow.  Yet, when tomorrow gets here, it's today...and an excuse to postpone one more time the things that matter most.

Don't just get up in the dark and call it Daylight Savings.  Seize today.  Start.  Start what matters.  And leave the minutia of life to tomorrow.

3/11/13

MY NEW YELLOW TRUCK

It must be Spring.  Yes, I know it's barely March, but it's Spring.  How do I know?  My truck is yellow every morning.  I believe my sinuses are approximately the same color, although I can't prove it.  There may be a tree already have sprouted there.  I may be trimming the leaves growing from my nose soon. (But, as I am prone to do...I digress)

Spring brings a lot of challenges to those of us who are allergic to life.  But, it also means that everything is coming back to life, turning green and starting to bloom.  It also means that Easter can't be far behind.  Easter is THE DAY.  It's the DAY OF ALL DAYS.  It's Christmas & the Fourth of July &  President's Day & Thanksgiving all rolled into one....only BIGGER!  It's the RESURRECTION OF JESUS.

For a Christ-Follower, it's everything.  There's nothing bigger.  Nothing better.  Nothing in the same league.  The guy we trust with our lives and our sin and our future and our eternity....everything...all our hopes and dreams, walks out of a tomb and everything changed in a moment, forever.  

If nothing else, the Resurrection should make us bold.  A dead guy just came back to life.  Not just any dead guy...our dead guy.  That puts a little swagger in your step.  Don't misunderstand, I'm not talking about cockiness.  I'm talking about boldness.  Nothing should make you bolder to open your mouth and speak the truth about salvation, hope and forgiveness than the one you're putting your trust in walking out of a tomb.  That one simple fact turned a bunch of mealy-mouthed, defeated, cowards into a band of world-changers.  Why can't the same truth do the same to us?!  Be BOLD!  Give someone a reason for hope.  Tell them about Jesus!

3/8/13

IGNORANCE IS BLISS, BUT...

They say "Ignorance is bliss".  OK, I'm not sure who they are...but they say it, and some people believe it.  In some ways it's true.  As long as you are totally ignorant of a situation, how bad it is, how much you can do about it, what Jesus would do, and, therefore, what a true follower of His would do, etc....it's sooo much easier.  The SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL, SPEAK NO EVIL mode of living has its benefits.  Ignorance is definitely easier.  You get to concentrate on YOU, YOURS, MINE & OURS.  You're not bothered by all those problems of somebody else out there in the world.  You can tuck yourself away in Suburbia and your greatest causes of concern are big things like Property Taxes, whether your kid makes the football team or the dance squad and how your 401K is doing in these trying economic times.  Yep, it's tough, but we get through somehow.

Then, you go and blow it.  You venture out of the bubble...out of Suburbia...out of the First World...into the Third World.  And, you find there is a whole different world out there.  In the Third World there are none of your First World problems.  No one is comparing school districts...there's no public education system.  No one is looking at floor plans...one room is still one room no matter how many times you look at it.  They're not wondering what to cook for dinner....they're wondering if there will be dinner.  None of our First World problems even exist for these people.  They would love to have our problems.  Never in their life will they have to choose between the Ford or the Toyota.  But, they may have to choose whether to watch their child die or give it away.

Suddenly, where to go for dinner isn't as important as it was a week ago.  Ignorance was bliss.  But, now it's gone.  I've seen with my eyes.  I've felt with my hands.  Some of the unknown, unseen ice on my heart has started to thaw.  I can't undo what's been done.  I am RUINED.  It is not possible for me to do nothing.  I am the same, yet I am different.

We can't fix it...that is true.  But, we can do something.  We can make a difference.  I must.  We must.  We will.  

As the t-shirt I picked up says, I have a LOVE HAITI RELATIONSHIP.

3/7/13

HOW CAN WE NOT?

I've spent the last 3 days in the country of Haiti.  Adam Bateman, our Missions Pastor and I came here to "spy out the land" and see if this was a place we should engage in doing work for the Lord.  Our purpose in coming was simply to be the "eyes and ears of God", that He might give us, hopefully, a resounding "Yes" or "No" as to what we are to do.

What we've seen is unbelievable poverty, people who are going nowhere ("Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained"), and the needs are great.

So, what's the word from God?  We have been looking for a word like, This is where I have for you to work...This is what your assignment is in my Kingdom's service...Here is the village you are to serve...this is the task I have destined for you...or even, This is a great place of service, but it's not the place I have destined for you.

That would make things so simple, but God is often either not that simple, or more likely, more simple than we expect Him to be.  What have I heard from Him?  Not a this or that, here or a there.  It was more of a How can you not come?  How can you not help?  How can you not make a difference?  

RESULT OF MY TRIP:  I've been ruined.  I've been broken.  I can't not return.  I realize that's a double-negative, but it's a properly used double-negative.  Sometimes God just ruins us, he ruins our heart and ruined for eternity.  No matter where we go, there will be a part of our heart that is owned by this island.

Like Arnold....I'll be back!

2/27/13

SEX

I thought that title might get your attention.  Bill Hybels once said, "There are three topics I can preach on that I'm guaranteed will draw a crowd...Sex, End Times and will there be sex in the End Times?".  That little three-letter word packs a wallop.  It turns some heads, grabs some people's attention, makes a few really squeamish, but seldom has no response at all.  SEX gets your attention.

The power of sex cannot be overstated.  Recently, I have been reading some statistics regarding sex and  our sexual activity in the U.S.  They are amazing, eye-opening and disgusting, all at the same time.  The Church points to culture, pointing a harsh finger, but there are a few fingers that need to be pointed back at the church.  By either our silence on the subject, or our party-line of "Just Don't Do It!", we are complicit with the magnitude of the mess.

Someone once said, "Every bad thing is a good thing perverted".  That was never more true than in the area of human sexuality.

Let me unpack some of the damage that is being done, two of the biggest lies our society is falling for that have had the biggest negative impact on people's ability to lead healthy, happy, fulfilled lives...and how God's Word offers practical help to expose the darkness to the light and give help and hope to your life, your marriage and your home.

Join us this Sunday as we continue, LOVE, SEX & HAPPILY EVER AFTER... with The Big Lie.

2/22/13

LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD, PT. 2

Last week, we looked at some key mistakes that people make to sabotage our ability to have lasting, loving relationships, as well as some keys to make sure our present and future relationships have a chance to go the distance.  This week, we'll pick up where we left off.  But, this time we'll take it up a notch.

This Sunday we'll look at what God has to say that may just be the most important key to not just falling in love, but staying in love for a lifetime.  I don't think I'm overstating it when I say, this could be life-changing.  If you want to have a marriage that lasts a lifetime, DO NOT MISS IT!

See you Sunday!

2/21/13

GIVING GOD THE TIME OF DAY

I'm writing my blog a little later than usual.  However, what's later than usual may become the usual in the days to come.  I realized something...My writing time was cutting into my praying time.  My talking to you was taking precedence over my talking to God.  I didn't kill my prayer life, it just infringed upon it.

I was reminded recently, of the important and the power and the absolute necessity of prayer.  I think most of us would agree with #1 and #2, but would, at best, give lip-service to #3...the absolute necessity of prayer.  Most would easily agree its important and powerful, but absolutely necessary?  That's a bit of a stretch.

What happens when we're faced with the dilemma of prayer or work, prayer or breakfast, prayer or sleep, prayer or productivity?  In most of those cases, prayer usually gets relegated back to the important and powerful, but not the absolutely necessary.

Martin Luther once said, "I have so many things to do today, I must spend 3 hours in prayer".  Just the opposite of what most of us would say.

Here's the question for you: Do you believe, in some forms, the power of God is released in you only through prayer...through asking and receiving?  Do you believe that there are some things that will only be accomplished through prayer and nothing else?  If so, is there any more important activity that you will engage in on any given day than to spend time with God in prayer?  

Here's my prayer for you today: "Lord, I pray you will convict everyone who reads these words that prayer is as necessary to life as the oxygen we breathe.  Make it an absolute necessity in our lives."
Amen!

2/20/13

EUREKA

Do you ever have those "Eureka" moments in life?  Those times when the lightbulb goes on.  When you want to hit your forehead and go, "Why didn't I see that till now?"  Maybe for you they're "duh" moments.  Moments of sudden clarity, when something comes into focus...finally.  When you suddenly "Get it"!

Eureka is an interesting word.  One of my favorites.  It comes from a Greek word that sounds a little like e-hu-rees-ko....EUREKA!  It means, "to find".  Like, suddenly, out of the dark, possibly by total surprise, I find something.  Maybe something I've been looking for.  Maybe not.  Maybe something I thought I had found, only to discover I hadn't...but, now I have.

I LOVE eureka moments in life.  When out of the blue something crystalizes and becomes absolutely, unmistakably clear.  Sometimes, they can be a little scary.  I think to myself, what if I didn't have this moment.  What if the universe hadn't lined up properly, I hadn't read this chapter or heard this person or scripture hadn't come alive like never before...and I'd gone on in my theretofore ignorance.  That "What if" can be a little frightening.

You've got to be ready for the eureka moments in life, or you'll miss them.  They'll pass you by.  Every moment of your life you must live with an openness to the fact that God may be about to use any source He sees fit to teach you an unbelievable life lesson...at any time, at any place, through any source (remember Balaam...God used his donkey to teach him).

Yesterday, I had a eureka moment.  I was listening to a guy preach on a passage I would be preaching on this Sunday.  I was just looking for a little help, a little insight into the scripture, or maybe a new tilt on an old passage.  What I got was eureka.  I had to call my wife, sit her down, share my new-found understanding and confess to her..."That's me!  I'm that guy!  That's what I've done for the past 30-something years in our marriage....and before that.  It makes sense.  I get it!  Wow!".  

Ever been there?  Well, if you've got things all figured out, don't expect much.  But, if you realize there's more out there that you don't know than what you do, and you're open and desiring to learn it, expect God's eureka moments.  But, one warning: Expect them when you least expect them.  Just sayin'.

2/19/13

THE CHURCH IN AMERICA

We like to think of ourselves as a Christian nation, even though our President likes to go abroad and announce to the world that we aren't.  However, a recent study may lend credence to such a pronouncement.

For years, Gallup polls have indicated that about 40% of the American populace attend a Christian Church on a regular basis.   A new study, done by the Director of Church Planting for the Evangelical Covenant Church indicates that on any given Sunday the percentage of Americans in a Christian Church is actually closer to 20%.  Taking into consideration population growth patterns and declining Church attendance trends, the study estimates that if projections continue on this track, that by 2050, only about 12% of Americans will attend a Christian Church on any given Sunday.

Those statistics are sobering.  So, we ask the logical question, "Why?".  One answer may be helpful.  The oldest churches and denominations have shown the greatest decline.  In essence, they have failed to adjust to a generation who wants less liturgy and more relationship with Christ.  The Church in America, for the most part, has failed to be relevant to a people who demand relevance.  And, sadly enough, the Bible...the book God has given us to guide us and to be our NorthStar is unbelievably relevant.

What should we draw from this study?

1.  America is a great Mission Field.  What Jesus said has never been more true for us, "..the fields are white for harvest.  Ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the fields".  (that's you and me)

2.  If we can't find lost or unchurched people in our lives, we're just not trying.  We need to venture outside our little Christian cocoons.

3. As busy as Americans are with everything they deem necessary, they are jettisoning everything they deem unnecessary.  The Church must make itself, not only relevant, but essential.

4.  We have to be the Church 24/7.  If the world doesn't see a difference in us, they will have no desire to be a part of something that only matter one hour a week.

So, go and BE the Church today...and tomorrow.  BE the difference.

2/18/13

INNOCULATIONS

In early March, I'm taking a vision trip to Haiti.  Our Missions Pastor and I will travel there for several days and see what Mission of Hope, Haiti is doing and if it's something God is calling us to join in.  One of the things you have to do before you travel to such an under-developed country as Haiti is acquire all the proper inoculations.  That's shots for the less literate.

Interesting how most inoculations work.  They take the virus or bacteria that they want to protect you against...a small amount, sometimes live, sometimes dead...and shoot it into your bloodstream.  Then your body goes to work and your own immune system builds up the necessary antibodies to fight off what it's been tricked into thinking you have contracted.  Rather than the whole disease or the live disease, you get just enough to fool your body into thinking, "I've had this before, no problem".  Then when you're exposed to the real thing, your body just kind of goes, "Yeah, I've seen this before.  No, thanks".  It's the big Fake Out. And it works.  (At least, I'm certainly hoping it works)

For disease control, I think inoculations are great.  We're surrounded by people who have been inoculated to a number of things.  One of them is not so good, however.  Every day, we encounter hundreds of people all around us who have been inoculated to the gospel.  They've been introduced to just a tiny portion of the truth of the gospel, or in many cases, they've been injected with something that sounds similar to the gospel, but is dead and sterile and useless, only to see them build up a resistance to the real thing.

For many, their resistance has come from being surrounded by too many "self-professed Christians".  What these people call Christianity is far from the real deal.  It's more of a dead virus than the living Good News.  It mainly comes in judgements, bigotry, condescension and rule-keeping.  Far from the living, life-changing grace of God.  But, that's what they've heard and that's what they've see...Just enough to build up a resistance and to know whatever this thing is, they don't want to catch.

What's the answer?  They have got to hear the real Good News above all the fake stuff.  They must be exposed to the real love of God so strongly that it overwhelms and overrides their inoculations.  They desperately need to "catch it".  The real thing.  Not the dead virus...the Living Word.  Please, before you speak, rather than simply railing against the newest bad thing that pushes your personal buttons, stop, and see beyond what you don't like to what God loves and share God's love and God's hope to a loveless, hopeless world.

2/16/13

CAUSE FOR CONCERN...CALL FOR ACTION

One of the ways our government is considering dealing with the financial hole we have dug for our selves into is to limit the tax deduction for our charitable donations.  If I thought this was being done to do something about our National Debt, I might, at least, have some sort of compulsion to try and understand.  But, it's not.  It's simply a means to raise revenues (that's the new code word for taxes) to fund the enormous programs that the administration outlined this week.

Of all the things to stick a fork into, why would we choose the one good thing Americans do...give generously to charities.  Isn't that behavior we would want to reward, not punish?  In a recent article, it was summed up like this...


Results of a recent national study conducted by Dunham and Company show that the American public are strongly against the proposed cap on charitable deductions. Sixty-one percent of Americans polled feel strongly against capping current tax reductions. Nine percent strongly disagree. Only 20 percent believe such caps will help America's national debt.
The House of Representatives is set to discuss such a cap this week. President and CEO of Dunham and Company Rick Dunham said that, "regardless of household income, education, age, race, or gender, Americans do not want the deduction to be hurt in any way as Congress and the administration debate how best to deal with our national budget crisis."
Executive editor of The Christian Post called the proposed cap "a dagger aimed at the heart of America's charities."
"All Americans concerned about the enormous danger that would be done by such a reckless and short-sighted policy should take time from their holiday activities to contact their elected representatives in Washington and tell them to cease and desist from such malignant foolishness,"
wrote Land in December.


I believe that if this is not stopped at this point, in the future the only charity Americans will be able to fund is the Federal Government.  I think a few calls are in order.  Speak now..of forever hold your regrets.

2/14/13

THE EASTER PROJECT

Are you a project person?  I know guys who build boats in their backyards and airplanes in their garages.  I know women who always have a project going, whether its painting the Living Room a new shade of whatever, to making new curtains for the Bedroom to refinishing that piece of furniture that's was sitting by the side of the road.

You can fill in your own story.  Some people thrive on projects.  Some people just married people who thrive on them, and thus, get sucked in.  Some people actually need them, or else they would never get anything done.

My son was recently talking about a guy he knows and likes, but who is extremely antagonistic to organized religion, and thus, to Christ and His Church.  They've developed a friendship and enjoy spending time together, so rather than being turned off by his anti-Christian rants, or just changing the subject to save the friendship, he's made this guy his Project.

He purposely spends time with him, listens to his objections, often agrees with them, offers another side of things, draws lines of demarkation between religion and a relationship with Christ...but, mostly, just loves the guy and doesn't run away when the subject of faith comes up.

That's the kind of Project every believer needs.  Can you imagine if every Christ-follower had just 1 Project person in their life intentionally.  Just to love them and show them Christ and offer perspectives they may never have considered, but most of all, just hang in there when running in the other direction seems a lot simpler.

Here's a challenge for you:  Intentionally take on an Easter Project...a person you know, and hopefully even like, but who is lost.  If you don't know any lost people, then you need to get busy and find one.  They're everywhere...at your kid's school, at the gym, at the grocery store, on your block, in your classroom...everywhere.

Your Project:  Hang out with them.  Talk to them.  Play golf with them.  Have a Play Date with your kids.  Be to them what Jesus would be if He was here in the flesh.

Your Goal:  Get them to church this Easter.  It's the easiest invite ever.  It's just a one-shot thing.  No long-term commitment.  One hour...One day...One time.  Can you handle that?  I'll be asking you.  This will be our secret.  You don't say, "Hey, you're my Easter Project".  I assumed you knew that, but I try to never assume.  If you like, shoot me their name and I'll pray for both of you.  (tom@crosspointchurch.tv)  This could be fun...and life-changing!