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12/29/14

CHRISTMASAPALOOZA

This past Tuesday, Crosspoint held its CHRISTMAS @ CROSSPOINT services...three of them, at 4:30, 6:00 & 7:30.  We had a nice crowd at 4:30, and even with childcare for Pre-Schoolers, we had SRO in the next two services.  In all, we had almost 1800 people in attendance that one night.  It was a very, very cool evening.

So, the question that rattles around in my brain is...WHY?  Why did we have 1800 people in attendance on one evening?  We never have 1800 people on any normal Sunday.  Sure, it was Christmas.  But, I don't think 1800 people just showed up on December 23rd at Crosspoint Church because it was Christmas.  Let's face it, December 23rd is not the day people are searching for a church to go celebrate Christmas at.  In fact, I know for certain there were a number of folks not in attendance because of sickness, leaving town early or previous engagements.  So, the question remains...WHY?

So, why the big crowd on a Tuesday night?  I think there can be one explanation and only one.  INVITATIONS.  At Christmastime, people feel much more comfortable inviting others to join them in attending a church service.  I suppose it's a socially-acceptable thing to do...or at least we perceive it that way.  And it works.  Just look at the results.

So, that brings my brain to a second question: It's the old, "WHICH CAME FIRST, THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG?" question.  Or, in this case, "DID THE PEOPLE COME BECAUSE IT WAS CHRISTMAS, OR BECAUSE THEY WERE INVITED?"  That's a pretty important question.  We tend to assume it's because it's Christmas.  But, is that true.  Or, is that simply our assumption.  It's just as likely that they came, not simply because it's Christmas, but because they were invited.  If that's the case, it reveals the power, not just of the season, but the power of the invitation.

So, one more question: WHAT IF WE HARNESSED ALL THAT POWER, NOT JUST AT CHRISTMAS AND EASTER, BUT THROUGHOUT THE YEAR?  In other words, what would happen if we were as militant in our inviting this week and next week and the week after as we were for Christmas?  What would happen to our church?  What would happen to every one of us?  What would happen to our community?  What would the effect be on the Kingdom of God?  How many lives would be changed?  How many marriages would be saved?  How many addicts would be set free?  How many messes would be avoided?  How much hopelessness would be replaced by fearlessness?

WHAT IS THE POWER OF THE INVITATION?  We will never find out until we give it a try.  What if you started today...and tomorrow...and the next...one a day for the next month?  Wanna give it a try?  Who's in?

12/22/14

BEING RICH

Most of you are aware that recently I challenged my church to BE RICH...to be generous and willing to share.  I challenged them to do 3 specific things:
     *Give $20,000 to the Non-Profit selected as the agency doing the best job of meeting the needs of
       the poor and needy in our community
     *Adopt 100 families in need and bless them at Christmas
     *Commit 4,000 hours to serve our community

Our goal was to learn generosity, practice generosity and become known, as a church, for our generosity.  So, how'd we do?
     *Our church gave almost $31,000 to the Neighborhood Center
     * We adopted and met the needs of 116 families (that we know of)
     *We had so many people volunteer to serve the needs of our community, they ran out of things for
       us to do

Success?  In the short-term, absolutely.  In the long-term, it remains to be seen.  My hope is that we learn the great gift of generosity...for a lifetime.  It would change our lives and the life of our church forever.

12/7/14

PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES

GOD IS NOT IMPRESSED BY ZEROS, BUT BY PERCENTAGES.
     When Jesus and his disciples sat outside the Temple watching people throwing coins into the offering box, what do you think was going through the minds of his crew?  Kind of like watching paint dry or grass grow or a fence rust.  Excitement.
     But, Jesus had a point to make, and that point was simple.   God isn't impressed by the amounts we give away, but by the percentages we give away.  Makes sense if you think about it.  $10,000 to a millionaire is insignificant when compared to $100 given by someone with only $200 in their bank account.  The difference?  Percentage.
    So, you need to know your percentages.  In other words, you need to know...

What percentage of your income do you:  LIVE ON?
                                                                   SAVE?
                                                                   GIVE AWAY?

What percentage of your time do you:  LIVE?
                                                               WASTE?
                                                               GIVE AWAY?

Do you know them?  You need to.  Why?  Because if they're important to God, they should be important to you...right?

So, figure it out.  It may surprise you.  It may excite you.  It may concern you.  Whatever it does, you have to know it.

12/3/14

WHY CAN'T IT BE CHRISTMAS ALL YEAR LONG?

OK, don't get me wrong.  I'm not one of those Christmas fanatics that has their tree up in October and refuses to take it down till February.  Yeah, you know who you are.  That play Christmas music incessantly in their house, in their cars, in their iPods...EVERYWHERE!  That send out their Christmas cards before it's even December and have every gift wrapped immediately after Black Friday.

I am SOOOOOOOOOO not one of those people.  I actually rebel against most things Christmas.  I go along with the tree and the stockings (that's my favorite part...all those kids and grandkids) and whatever Susan forces me to do.  But, I do so with some sense of rebelliousness.

Why?  Because I truly hate what the world has done to Christmas.  So, as a result, I have a tendency to throw out the baby with the bath.  Guilty as charged.  Don't worry,...I'm not going to kick over you're bigger than life manger scene in your front yard or deflate your Frosty the Snowman giant, glowing, singing blow-up (although, I'd really like to).  I'll just keep my opinions to myself...mostly.

However, there is an aspect of Christmas I like.  (I know, I was shocked too!)  It's the way that most people start thinking about being generous.  How people start being actually concerned about those that are less fortunate than ourselves.  We think about the poor and the hurting and the underprivileged.  My only question is, Why do we wait till Christmas?  Why do we get all happy and generous one month of the year.  And, why don't we make the connection...HAPPY and GENEROUS?  They go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Why do we only connect them when it's Christmas?  Don't we want to be happy 12 months a year?  Wouldn't that be better?  Isn't that the goal?  Are we happy because it's CHRISTMAS or because we're GENEROUS?  Ever think about that one?

Seriously, the great joy...the GREATEST JOY that comes from Christmas is not the trees or the music or the lights or the cookies or even the things we receive (can you tell me what you GOT for Christmas last year?)...it's the joy of giving.  And, if that is true, why aren't we doing it all year long? That's the part of Christmas I wish would stay with us all year long.  So, why not?  Good question.

11/24/14

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

Yesterday I challenged my church to practice BEING RICH over the next four weeks, just in case they ever actually get rich...that way they'd be good at it.  The reason is that most rich people aren't very good at being rich.  So, I challenged them to give away money and time over the next four weeks...just give it away...no strings attached...pure generosity...like a good rich person would do.

I challenged them to give $20,000 to a local non-profit organization that's doing great things in our community, to adopt 100 families for Christmas and to commit 4,000 hours to serving our community.  

So far...we've raised almost $13,000, adopted 55 families and committed a bunch of hours (how many, I have no idea).  Not bad for Week 1.  I think we're going to be pretty good at this BE RICH thing.

11/18/14

HOW TO BE RICH

YOU EVER THINK ABOUT THAT?  HOW TO BE RICH, THAT IS...
OK, I didn't say HOW TO GET RICH...different church for that one.  I'm talking about how to BE RICH.  That's different.

A lot of Americans are rich.  Many of those are Christians as well.  But most of us aren't very good at it.  You may not be rich yet, but when you get there I really want you to be good at it.

For the next four Sundays we'll be talking about HOW TO BE RICH.  And...we'll be practicing for when it happens.  As a church, we're about to embark on a pivotal moment in our church's life.  I think this month will be one of those experiences that we'll look back on and talk about for years and year and years to come.

So, there's only one thing you can't do...MISS IT!  You absolutely cannot miss the next four Sundays.  You have my word that you'll regret it if you do.  Four Sundays.  Four opportunities to be a part of something that will alter the lives of 100's for who knows how long.  Four Sundays to make a difference for eternity.  Four Sundays that will change YOU and your whole FAMILY.

11/7/14

10 SIGNS YOU BELONG TO A GREAT CHURCH

Saw this and has to share it.  I want to pastor THAT church.  Then again, maybe I do...

1. It is lead by a team of godly leaders, not a Lone Ranger pastor who gathers Tonto-type leaders around him to say “Yes, Kemo Sabe” to his each and every idea (Titus 1:5-9).

2. The Gospel is central to every sermon, program and meeting (1 Corinthians 15:3,4), and the advancement of it both locally and globally drive strategic initiatives (Acts 1:8).
3. People are using their spiritual gifts, not just watching the “stage team” exercise theirs (1 Corinthians 12:12-31), resulting in disciples being made and multiplied (2 Timothy 2:2).
4. It, like the early church, is integrated, fully representing the demographic of the community in which it resides (Ephesians 2:11-21). By the way, my buddy Derwin Gray has got a lot of great material (blogs, sermons, etc.) on this particular point.
5. Love, demonstrating itself in friendliness, generosity, internal/external care programs and community involvement dominates the atmosphere (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).
6. Most likely there is a thriving small group program where members truly can have great biblical conversations, share struggles and pray with/for each other (James 5:16).
7. The people are being inspired and equipped to share their faith relationally, resulting in more and more new believers being added to the church (Acts 2:47).
8. The teaching/preaching is biblical, theological and immensely practical (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:1-4).
9. Ministry to children and teenagers are top priorities, not afterthoughts (Titus 2:1-8; Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
10. Intercessory prayer fuels everything. It’s the engine, not the caboose, of how the church rolls from top to bottom (1 Timothy 2:1-8).

10/31/14

ANY PARENTS OUT THERE?

GOT KIDS?

Have you ever wished you could ask someone just one question about what to do with your kids?  What's a reasonable curfew?  What do you do if they break it?  What's the best way to discipline children?  When should kids date?  What happens when your kids have gone wrong? What do you do when you've blown it as a parent?

What is it you really want to know?  Now's your chance to ask...and get an answer.  You can ask any question you want an answer to.  But, you need to ask it now...this week.  Susan and I will try our best to answer them on Sunday, November 16th.  

You can text your questions to 22333 and begin your question with the word PARENT.  Your questions will be totally anonymous.  If you're not worried about the anonymous part, you can email me direct at tom@crosspointchurch.tv.  

All questions are on the table.  Nothing off limits.  All you have to do is ASK...so ask NOW!

10/28/14

Great Words from Rick Warren


Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple
And that God’s Spirit lives in you?
. . . God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17

      “Button up your overcoat, When the wind is free, Take good care of yourself, You belong to me,” are the famous lyrics penned by Johnny Mercer.  Embodied in those words is a basic human longing: the need to belong to someone who cares about us.  As teenagers, most of us dreamed of the day when that special someone would come along and say those magic words, “you belong to me.”  Sadly, however, for some of us that dream negated the responsibility of self-care.  After all, at some point in time, someone would come along and be responsible for our happiness.  For others, the longing for someone to love, appreciate, and value us turned into an endless cycle of being in love with love.  Although we usually think of love as a positive emotion, the exhilarating feelings associated with “being in love” can alter our moods and allow us to escape reality.  When used in that way, love addiction is every bit as destructive as drugs and alcohol, compulsive overeating, or binge buying.  Instead of trying to fill the emptiness inside our soul with a substance, we vainly try to fill it with relationships—and a compulsive need to be in love.


      Sadly, when we look for love in all the wrong places, we travel further and further away from the only One who can satisfy our hungry souls.  In our search for Mr. or Ms. Right, we often forfeit a right relationship with God, and in the process we fail to hear our loving God crooning daily, “Take good care of yourself, you belong to me.”  Throughout Scripture, we are assured that God wants us to take good care of ourselves because we belong to him.  We are important to him; so important, in fact, that he sent his one and only Son to die so that we might have life and health and freedom.  And, as objects of the Lord’s never-ending love, we have a responsibility to care for ourselves as he commands.



      The Apostle Paul reminds us that God’s temple is sacred, and that we are all his sacred temples.  God no longer dwells in buildings built by human hands; he dwells in our hearts through faith.  We are to be as diligent in caring for our physical bodies as the ancient Israelites were to be in caring for God’s temple.  And, should we fail to do so, we will suffer the same consequences the Israelites experienced when they allowed God’s temple to fall into disrepair.


      Part of living a life pleasing to God is loving what he loves and caring for what he cares for.  And our Lord is very clear: he cares for you and me—and calls us to love and care for ourselves as a reflection of that love.  Our prime motivation in caring for our bodies should always be so that we can offer them as living sacrifices to the One who died for us so that we can live for him.  God’s temple is sacred and we are that temple!


      Today, as you listen for God’s voice, I pray you will hear him crooning, “Take good care of yourself, you belong to me. And, having heard his instructions, I hope you will not put off until tomorrow what your Lord is asking you to do in the calendar square called today.

To accept the responsibility of being a child of God
is to accept the best life has to offer you.
~~Stella Terrill Mann

10/17/14

WHY HAITI?

As I write these words there are 16 representatives of Crosspoint Church on the ground in Haiti.  They paid their way.  They took vacation time.  They left their families behind.  They're sleeping in less, far less, the 5 Star conditions, eating peanut butter sandwiches and working long, hard days serving people they've never met and, possibly, may never see again.  They give to people who have absolutely nothing to give back...ever.

Why?

I'm not sure I can explain that in words.  This Sunday, our Missions Pastor, Adam Bateman, Doug Barker, the guy who introduced me to Mission of Hope, Haiti and I will try our best to show you and tell you why.  Maybe it will be something you hear.  Maybe it will be something you see.  Maybe you'll see why people would head to a third-world country and come home richer than when they left.  Maybe you'll find your place in all of this.  Whatever the outcome, please listen and watch and see what God will do with your heart.

Se you Sunday!
Tom

10/7/14

FOLLOWING

This week we'll be finishing our series, MORE THAN A FAN.  So far Jesus has invited us to follow him, no questions asked...unless by us, of course.  Unbelievably, Jesus says,"Tag along, watch me, ask questions, even if you don't believe, just come follow me.  It's OK.

He warns us that, at some point, he's going to ask us to trust him.  Not with anything life-altering.  Just enough to let him show us who he is and what he's capable of...and that he can be trusted with so much more.

He'll challenge everything we ever thought about faith...that it's not just a matter of believing.  It's about living...fearlessly.Then he'll show us that the antidote for fear is to love unconditionally.  Love who Jesus loves and love like Jesus loves.

So, now what?  What else is involved in moving from the FAN column to the FOLLOWER column? Well, there's one more thing you need to know before you set out to follow Jesus.  In the spirit of full disclosure, you can't be expected to follow him unless you know all the details, good or bad.  So, look at the sticker price.  Price, you ask?  Oh, yes, there's a cost involved.  You definitely need to know the price before you check-out.

Can't wait to show you this Sunday.

9/19/14

WHAT YOU GOT FOR ME?

"As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

Sometimes people followed Jesus just to see what he could do for him.  Interestingly enough, Jesus never condemned them or rebuked them or told him their motives were wrong.  In this case, he healed the blind men.  In essence, he was saying, "I'm glad you realized I have the power and capacity to heal blind eyes.  You must have been listening to me and following me for a while.  Now, you actually BELIEVE enough to approach me and ask me to restore your eyesight.  Good for you...I'll do it!"  

You may be following Jesus to see what value he can add to your life.  And Jesus says, "Come on.  I can add unbelievable value to your life.  If you're looking for a BMW, I'm not your guy.  But, if you're looking for a better life...come along".  

Looking for something....someone who can add value to your life?  Jesus is the guy.  Follow him.  Even if you're just curious.  Even if you don't believe him.  He invites you to come along anyway.  

FOLLOW HIM.

9/18/14

FOLLOW THIS...

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,  leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift."    Matthew 5:21-24

     I'm sure Jesus had their attention when he spoke about the Law.  Especially that part about murder.  No murderers here!  We're good.
     Then Jesus threw them a curve.  "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment."  Wait a minute...if I'm just angry with my brother or sister, I'm guilty of murder?  According to Jesus...pretty much.  Well, he didn't exactly say you're guilty of murder.  But, he did say you're just as guilty as if you'd committed murder.  Jesus took the standard, the expectation up a notch.
     What Jesus was saying he was, God's goal is not that you just don't kill someone....it's that you actually love them.  That's the goal.  Not just the absence of the negative, but the presence of the positive.  Not that you can check off what you didn't do, but what you actually did do.  
     Loving someone is a LOT DIFFERENT from just not killing them.  Jesus is saying that following him is more about doing than not doing.  It's more about relationship than simple moral laws.  
    You can't follow Jesus in a vacuum.  Jesus was a lover and a healer and valued people.  To follow him means we must as well.

9/16/14

THE GOD WHO WANTS YOU

Jesus referred to us as "children of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:45),  "sheep and a shepherd" (John 10:14), and "a vine and its branches" (John 15:5).  In other words, it's all about relationship.  It's all about intimacy.  It's all about coming close.  

Jesus came to reveal God to man.  The religious of his day thought they knew God and His heart.  He was distant and was simply about rules and reward.  Follow His rules, he throws you a bone.  Fail to keep the rules and He'll slap you down hard, at best, or disown you completely, at worst.  

Jesus exploded the myth and broke the mold that God refused to fit into.  God wanted to be a father that was closer than our earthly fathers ever were capable of being.  He wanted to be a shepherd to protect, guide and feed us, His sheep.  He wanted to be the vine out of which we grew, gained our life and sustenance and were able to live a truly fruitful life.  

God wants to come close.  He wants a relationship.  Whatever you thought of God, Jesus came to reveal who God really is...not some concept we drew up in our minds, or some caricature that was foisted upon us.  

Follow him.  Observe him.  Watch him.  Listen to him.  Check him out.  He invites you to.

9/14/14

FOLLOWING

"As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him" Matthew 20:29

There's "following" and then there's "following".  If, when you refer to "following", you mean drawing a crowd, a group of interested onlookers, then Jesus was both extremely successful and unbelievably disinterested.  He could draw a crowd at the drop of a hat.  Perform a miracle.  Heal a blind man.  Feed 5,000 with a box lunch.  The list goes on and on.  Instant crowd.  An instant following.

Yet, as soon as the crowds gathered Jesus would say something that would turn them away as fast as they got there.  You and I would probably relish the crowds and strategize how to get past the next growth barrier.  But, not Jesus.  He wasn't looking for a crowd....for followers.  He was looking for people who would actually follow him.

So, the question that faces each of us at the beginning of this journey is, "Am I a part of the crowd, or am I actually following?"  Put another way, "Am I a FAN or a FOLLOWER?"

9/4/14

WHY DO WE DO THAT?, Part 8

Q:  Why don't we have Sunday School?

For years (and years and years) churches everywhere have had Sunday School.  If you grew up in church, you need no further explanation.  For those of you who didn't grow up in church, some explanation may be necessary.  Sunday School is simply age-graded bible study/discipleship programming that usually takes place right before or right after the Sunday morning worship experience.

When I grew up, it was unheard of for churches to have more than one Sunday morning worship service, so it was, basically, 9:30 Sunday School & 11:00 Worship Service.  It was just assumed that's the way Jesus did it, so if it was good enough for him, it should be good enough for us too!

So...why don't we do it that way?  Let me give you several reasons:

1.  We have chosen not to spend millions of dollars on adult educational space to be used only one hour a week.  That doesn't mean that any church that chooses to do that is wrong, wasteful, less wonderful than we are...it's just a stewardship choice we've made.  We'd prefer to spend those millions elsewhere...like on Children's facilities, Student facilities, ministry, missions, etc.

2.  Rather than having a discipleship ministry that's only available one time a week, we've adopted a strategy that uses homes and is only limited to the days and times that people are willing to open their homes.

3.  Rather than building space that is limited to the square footage of the building built, we use homes, so that as we grow, the space we use will be limitless, as new families are added and new homes open up to group life.

4.  Although we don't do it on Sunday mornings (actually, if someone wants to have a group meeting on Sunday morning, I guess we could), it in no way means we place less of a priority on meeting in small groups for spiritual growth.  In fact, by making it more available, we believe we place an even higher priority on it.

5.  We believe that rather than having an hour on Sunday morning (which usually turns into about 30-45 minutes of real content), we would prefer to have a longer time (90 minutes, which often turns into 2 hours) for discipleship, bible study, meaningful relationship building, accountability, care, etc. which we believe is preferable and more life-transforming.

9/3/14

WHY DO WE DO THAT?, Part 7

Q:  Why don't we pass the offering plate?

A few years back a survey was done that asked people who did not attend church why they didn't attend.  Here were their top answers:

1.  All they want is my money
2.  It's irrelevant
3.  I don't trust the childcare
4.  It's boring

Guess what?  For the most part, they were right.  During the time this survey was taken, we were at the height of the televangelist craze, where far too many greedy charlatans were painting the church in the worst way possible.

At Crosspoint, we've tried to address every one of those indictments of the church and build bridges rather than walls.

As to the charge that the church is irrelevant, the truth is we can be and often are.  If you're lost, you're probably not sitting around wondering what that Greek word means or who Lazarus' sister was.  However, you do want to know how to be a better parent, have a better marriage, get your finances in order and live life with less stress and more joy.  We try not to answer questions that no one is asking, but instead, show that God's Word is the most practical how-to book ever written for how to live a real life and have real relationships.

Regarding childcare, we have the most exciting areas of our church for kids, do background checks on anyone who works with kids, have high security in every area where children are, and have invested in the best check-in/check-out systems we can find to assure the safety of every child.

As to boring, well, we're a lot of things, but boring just isn't one of them.  Everything we do comes with a question: "Will this engage people and keep them engaged?"  If not, we're just wasting our time.  For those of you that grew up in church, you may not see the need for the lengths we go to to produce our services, but you have to remember that we're attempting to reach people who see life in 30 minute segments with commercials every seven minutes.  Attention spans are at an all-time low.

Now, the bucket issue...If unchurched people already think all the church wants is my money and 10 minutes into the service we tell them it's time to take up the offering and stick a bucket in their face, while the person on their left and right watch to see what they do with it, what do you think they're thinking?  "See, I told you all they wanted was my money.  Point proved."  They are now tuned out to anything else that will be said that day.  They came with a preconceived notion and we proved them right.  To you a bucket may say, "Give if you like", but to that person it says, "We're watching to see if you give...and give a lot."

We make it really clear how people can give, but tell our guests right up front that we DO NOT EXPECT THEM TO GIVE ANYTHING.  Just enjoy yourselves.  This is our gift to you.  WOW!  Preconception smashed.  "They don't just want my money.  In fact, they went as far as to tell me NOT to give.  I wasn't expecting that.  I think I'll listen to the rest of what this weird church does".

And that's why we don't pass the plate.

9/2/14

WHY DO WE DO THAT, Part 6

Q:  Why do we ask people to make videos before their baptism?

Another good question.  Most people hate to make videos.  Many years ago a study was done of the greatest fear people face.  #1 Fear: Dying.  Years later, the same study was done, but this time the answer was surprising.  #1 Fear: Speaking in public  Times have changed and fears have changed.  So, the natural question arises, "Why would we make people do the thing they fear the most when they come to Christ and want to be obedient to him in baptism?  Are we just trying to make it as hard as possible on them?  Doesn't that seem to be a little contrary to our purpose?"

So, why do we make people do what they most don't want to do just to get baptized?  I'll try to explain:
1.  First, we don't just sit them in a chair, put the brightest lights possible in their face and say, "OK, roll 'em.  Be good!"  A pastor always sits in with them, asks them questions and they answer him.  If they don't like the answer, they can do it again as many times as they like.  It's just a conversation, you just never see the other person in the conversation.
2.  Everyone has a story of how they came to Christ and this is the very best time to hear it.  Otherwise, it may never be heard.
3.  Every person's story resonates with someone sitting in that auditorium.  That video, ...that story...is the most important thing someone will hear that day.  Far more powerful than any message that I could ever preach.  That person's story relates to someone I never could.
4.  When you make a baptism video you should do so with the express understanding that someone will come to Christ because you were willing to tell your story.  Someone will listen to you and say, "They just read my mail.  They just told my life story.  If God can save them, He can save me.  I want  what they have."

Kind of puts it in a whole new perspective, doesn't it.  I....yes, even I, hate being in front of a camera. Those little 30 second spots I sometimes make usually make me more nervous than 50 messages.  I usually use up about 10 takes just to get it right.  So, I understand why people hate them.  I just hope people love to see people come to Jesus more than they hate making a video.  You'll probably never hear what your video accomplished.  You'll just have to trust me...it did.

8/31/14

WHY DO WE DO THAT? Part 5

Q:  Why doesn't Tom preach every Sunday?

Once again, I have to give it to you...you ask good questions.  There are a lot of pastors, I mean a lot, who preach 51 times a year.  They think they have to.  They think they need to.  They think it's their job.  They think they'd be letting their congregation down or shirking their duties or being lazy or...whatever, ...you fill in the blank...that they HAVE to preach every Sunday.

They do so with diligence, a tender heart toward their people and a true desire to be a faithful steward of what God has called them to do...preach.  But, what are the ramifications of that, good motives and all?

*They burn out early
*They see themselves as indispensable
*They sacrifice QUALITY on the altar of QUANTITY
*They never give their people the opportunity to hear another person with another perspective and possibly an important and pertinent message just for them
*They never allow themselves to be fed
*They never develop other communicators other than themselves
*They, unknowingly, see themselves as more important than they really are
*They model an unhealthy lifestyle to their people

I know this, because, for many years I was "it".  Their weren't any other guys to step up and step in and take my place.  I did it all because I had to do it all.

This year I made a commitment to my staff...I would, at least, take one Sunday between series to allow someone else to speak.  I would provide myself some down time to recharge my batteries, as well as hours to be preparing for the next series that I wouldn't have otherwise.  Not only that, but it would provide some much-needed time to attend to some of those other pastoral duties that got pushed to the sidelines for the sake of message preparation.

What's been the hardest part of this?  My ego.  Given the opportunity I'd speak 53 Sundays a year. (yes, I know there are only 52)  That's just me.  But, that's not what's best for me, for Crosspoint or for my staff.

So, you're mostly going to hear from me on Sundays.  However, when you don't, approach it this way:
*This means my pastor can do this longer
*This means my pastor can do this better
*This means my pastor is putting his ego in check
*This means my pastor is not just about being a great communicator, but about training others as well
*This means my pastor believes there are others who have something to say to his people other than himself
*This means my pastor has chosen the wise road over the road he prefers
*This means my pastor is still teachable (old dogs CAN learn new tricks)

8/28/14

WHY DO WE DO THAT? Part 4

Q:  Why does Pastor Tom teach using a TV?

When we moved from our temporary facilities at Turner High School to our permanent location, I was asked if there was anything that I personally wanted addressed as far as Audio/Visual components went.  I truly believe that they assumed my answer would be "no".  They were surprised when I said, "Absolutely.  I want a large screen TV on a stand that I can use as a teaching tool!".

They asked the same question as many of you...WHY?  Great question!  Here's my answer...

As a communicator I strive to do a number of things all at the same time:
*Be relevant
*Engage the audience
*Be true to the text I am using
*Relate to the crowd
*Make eye contact
*Be as independent as possible from any notes and speak passionately from the heart

Over the years, I've spoken from behind a pulpit, from behind a Bible (with notes inside), from behind an iPad, etc.  You see the constant here?  Always "BEHIND" something.  Always something between myself and my audience.  People love to be "behind" something, whatever it is.  We feel safe and protected and less vulnerable when we're "behind" something, whatever it is.  Go to a party where you don't know anyone and you feel naked.  But, put a red Solo cup in your hand and everything changes.  However, there's also something always "between" you and your audience.  Large or small, you're separated.

The TV allows me to have nothing between myself and the audience I'm speaking to.  It allows me to "read along with you" rather than "reading at you".  It allows me to be less dependent on any type of notes and just speak from the heart.  My hope is, it allows me to be a better communicator.

Love it or hate it, that's my reasoning.  I love it (when it works), and I hope by understanding my reasoning for it, you will too.

8/27/14

WHY DO WE DO THAT? Part 3

Q:  Why did we quit doing the welcome in our services...the part where everyone shakes everyone's hands around them?

A:  I'm like you.  I like shaking hands.  I like welcoming people.  I like saying "Good morning", "Welcome", "Glad to have you".

Sometime back I attended another church of a different ilk than ours.  At one point the guy in charge told everyone to welcome everyone around them.  It was, for me, the most awkward and uncomfortable moment of the entire experience.  These people had been sitting around me for the last 30 minutes and hadn't even acknowledged my existence.  Now, because someone publicly told them they had to, they did.  AWK...WARD!

I think that's exactly how guests feel when they get greeted on command.  There are basically two kinds of guests who visit our church:
     1.  The INCOGNITO GUEST.  They want to slip in and slip out without unduly being noticed or
                                                         fawned over.  Some remember the old days of church when guests
                                                         were made to STAND UP so someone could bring them a Visitor
                                                         Card, complete with a peel-off, stick-on lapel rose so everyone
                                                         would notice then, they'd stick out like a sore thumb, and
                                                         it would be apparent to everyone that they were different and
                                                         didn't actually BELONG here.

     2.  The I WANT TO SEE JUST HOW FRIENDLY YOU REALLY ARE GUEST.
                                                        These folk give no points for being welcomed on command.  They
                                                        have an internal scoring system that tallies up the number of folks
                                                        that somehow recognize they are new, approach them, introduce
                                                        themselves, and tell them how great it is to have them there.  If
                                                        they feel they were inadequately greeted and made to feel
                                                        welcome, they usually note that in response to my email I send to
                                                        them.  Usually with, "No one spoke to me".  "I felt unwelcome".

So, how do we handle both groups at the same time.  Here's our strategy:
1.  They are directed and welcomed in the parking lot at least once, sometimes twice (if they ride the cart)
2.  They are welcomed by an outside Greeter as they approach the building
3.  They are greeted by a Lobby Greeter once inside and given any directions they might need
4.  They are greeted at the Check-In if they have children
5.  They are greeted at the auditorium doors and handed a program when they enter
6.  They are greeted inside the auditorium by our ushers

OUR GOAL:  That every guest to Crosspoint Church receive 7 touches (verbal, physical,
                         emotional, etc.) before they leave.

OK, so I only counted 6 at best.  How do we get the 7th?  That's where you come in.  We're counting on you to say "Hello" to everyone you see.  I know what you're thinking, "But, I don't know who are guests and who are members".  Me neither.  So, I just try to speak to everyone.  "Hello, how are you?" works fine for either.  "I'm not sure if I've met you" is a good one.  "Hi, I'm _____________" is great as well.

BOTTOM LINE:  They all beat "Now shake hands and make to feel welcome all those around you whom you've ignored up to this point".  

I think BEING a friendly church actually trumps ACTING like a friendly church every time.  Now, YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION TO COMMENCE WELCOMING FOLKS.

8/20/14

WHY DO WE DO THAT? Part 2

Q:  Why is our music so loud?

That's another good question, and it doesn't have one simple answer.  However, I'll try to do the best I can to answer to the best of my abilities.  Several factors are at play...

1.  The System.  When we opened our new campus we went from an analog sound system to a digital system.  That's the gold standard in the sound world.  That's great.  Only problem is, we don't have anyone in our church that is trained to run a digital sound system.  THAT'S A PROBLEM.  We've got great servants who are working hard to learn the system, and we've had people come in to provide training for our volunteers.  And, they're doing a great job.  We've learned how to balance the system and bring it down.

2.  Music is loud.  Crosspoint is not a traditional church and we don't have traditional music.  We have rocking, moving contemporary music.  That kind of music is served up loud.  Not eardrum bursting loud, but loud.  Susan and I recently attended a concert at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.  It was a lot louder.  I can hear you right now..."Yeah, but that was a rock concert!".  I also went to the Rodeo and stayed for the concert and it was much louder.  "Yeah, but that was Country music!".  OK, been to a Hillsong concert or Jesus Culture or Third Day or even sweet little Kari Jobe?  I could go on and on....  It's all loud.

We don't want to promote permanent hearing loss, but music today is loud.  Bottom line:  If you're looking for some sweet quiet hymns, a nice choir and some handbells....something out of 1965, then there are plenty of those churches on every corner.  Crosspoint's not going to be your church.  But, if you want something that's cutting edge, heart-pumping and celebrates Jesus in a loud way, you're gonna love it here!

8/19/14

WHY DO WE DO THAT?

Oftentimes people ask, or at least think to themselves, "Why do we do that at Crosspoint Church?".  Sometimes the questions come because we don't understand.  Sometimes they come because we disagree.  Whatever the reason, it's good to know the WHY behind the WHAT.  I'm going to try to answer a few of those.

Q:  Why do we play secular music before our Worship Services?

That's a great question.  As you walk up the sidewalk toward the main building on any given Sunday, you'll hear either a playlist selected to coincide with the current series (EX: During the ULTIMATE ROADTRIP series we had traveling songs) or you will hear simply a collection of Top 40 tunes.

But why?  Why not worship songs?  Why not songs glorifying God and preparing our hearts for worship?  Wouldn't that be more appropriate?

Sure, those songs would be appropriate.  But, they wouldn't be strategic.  We have made a conscious decision that we want to see lives transformed by the power of God.  We want to introduce real people to a real God.  And, most importantly, we want to be a church that unchurched people want to go to.

What keeps unchurched people from going to church?  They don't know anyone.  They don't know what to expect.  They don't know any of the songs we sing.  They don't know where to go.  They're afraid they'll do the wrong thing, stick out like a sore thumb and embarrass themselves.  Most of us have followed Christ and gone to church so long that we've totally forgotten (if we ever knew to begin with!) what it's like to be lost and unchurched and make that 100 ft walk up to that front door in absolute fear...fear of the unknown.

So, how can we say to them, "It's OK, you'll be fine, we're here to help you, everything won't be unknown to you?
1.  We can have great people in the parking lot that give them directions as to where to park and where to go
2.  We can have greeters that welcome them and direct them to the proper places they need to know about and go to
3.  We can have people at the Information Desk to answer any questions they have
4.  We can play music that they may have heard before.  In fact that may be the only thing they see or hear when they arrive that they are actually acquainted with

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with a couple who had visited our church and who, ultimately, came to know Christ as Lord of their lives.  They'd never gone to church and were really fearful about their first visit.  What made the biggest impression on them?  One of them told me, "Any church that played Imagine Dragons before its services was a church I felt comfortable at and I decided right then I wanted to come back".

I know many of you will still say, "But, I'd prefer to hear worship music playing when I walk up to my church on Sunday morning".  That's fair and honest.  That's what you'd prefer and that would make your heart happy

A question for you: What makes God's heart happy?  The answer has nothing to do with what music we play before our services.  When lost people that Jesus died for get found and fall in love with their Creator...that's what makes God's heart happy.

So, a second question for you:  What's more important to you...what makes your heart happy, or what makes God's heart happy?

At Crosspoint Church, we're going to do everything short of sin to see as many as possible come to Christ.  PERIOD.  We will preach the gospel with power, sincerity and unwatered-down straightforwardness.  At the same time we will unapologetically cater to lost, unchurched, fearful people who give us one shot to show them God's love.

8/18/14

86

     Yesterday at Crosspoint Church we celebrated baptism.  It's not as though we never do it.  We celebrate those who've chosen to follow Christ and "Go Public" with their faith every month.
     But, this time was different.  We did it outside.  We did it in two pools we had set up right outside our auditorium.  We encouraged everyone who had made a commitment to Christ, but had never been obedient in baptism, to do so.
     People came ready to "Go Public".  But, then, I asked others to join them.  Those who wanted to follow Christ.  To decide right then...that day...in that moment... to follow Christ and be baptized.  Just like the Ethiopian Eunuch who wanted to follow Christ and be baptized as a expression of his commitment to Jesus.  Phillip told him, "Here's some water.  What's keeping you from doing it now?"    I asked them the same thing that day.
     And they did.  Some who had planned to.  Some who hadn't.  31 people who had no plans to follow Christ that day, did.  Some who had never been to Crosspoint Church before yesterday.  Some who'd never been to church before anywhere.  Husbands with their wives.  Fathers with their children.  86 people all together.
      I prayed and asked God if He could do a miracle and bring 50 people to follow Christ in baptism that day.  He said, "No".  He's bigger.  He had bigger plans.  He had plans for 86.  86 people will never be the same.  86 people followed Christ and "Went Public" with their faith.
     There were 1200 people watching them.  They'll never be the same either.

8/14/14

THE RUMOR MILL

     Rumors are funny things.  Sometimes they're just gossip (but, rumor sounds so much more palatable).  Sometimes we start them rolling without even knowing it.  Like a tiny snowball that starts rolling down a hill, picking up a little more snow as it goes, until it becomes a giant boulder of power leaving destruction in its path.
     OK, so I guess I started this one...innocently enough.  I recently mentioned about a succession plan I had for when I retire.  Retire?  No one puts together a succession plan for when they retire unless they're thinking about retiring...right?  Absolutely true.  I am thinking about it....in 10 or 11 years.  
     Here's what you need to know:

1.  I go to the gym most every day.  I don't go there because I like it (well, I'm starting to).  I go there because I want to keep my body in shape to do the job I love as long as is humanly possible.

2.  Most people, when they consider retirement think about what's best for them.  That enters into my thinking as well, but my #1 priority is what's best for Crosspoint.  I love this church more than any of you know.  I have no intentions of just leaving and hoping you figure it out and do good after I'm gone.  I'd like to see there be a smooth, seamless, well thought-out, well prayed-out plan in place for when I do hang it up where the wheel gets gradually and wisely handed over and Crosspoint never misses a beat.

3.  I don't want to outstay my welcome, but I don't want to leave a day before I need to either.

4.  Someday I'll step down from being the Lead Pastor of Crosspoint Church.  However, I have no intentions of ever retiring from ministry.  I believe that's a life-long calling.  I want to do that till I take my last breath.

So, for those of you who thought I was about done....tough break.  You're stuck with me.  I ain't going no where.  In fact, I think my best days are still ahead!

8/13/14

DISAPPOINTMENT

     Whether they are written on our calendars, on our Bucket Lists, discussed with those we love or just assumed somewhere back in the recesses of our minds, we all have PLANS.  PLANS of how parts and pieces of our lives will go.  When we will marry.  When and how many children we will have.  Where we will work, where we will live, how much money we will make...what our lives will look like.
     The problem is, seldom do they go that way.  Sometimes there are little detours along the way.  Sometimes we are totally sidetracked.  Sometimes they explode in our face and it seems as though EVERYTHING...EVERYTHING we planned has blown up.  Sometimes it's the "by this time we will" things that don't go as planned.  Sometimes it's devastating when the children we planned for don't come.  Health, finances, relationships, relocations outside our control, downsizing....all of these and more can adversely impact our plans and send us reeling.
     Some adjust better than others.  Some are incapable of adjusting at all.  The plan wasn't a dream or a hope...it was etched in stone.  Which one of those describes us determines, not whether or not we are DISAPPOINTED, but rather the depth of our DISAPPOINTMENT.
     The real problem we face is the assumption that OUR PLANS ARE GOD'S PLANS.  In reality, however, God's Word teaches us the absolute opposite.  God plainly states, "My thoughts are not your thoughts and my plans are not your plans".  It's right there in black and white.  Not much room for misinterpretation.  His plans for us are different than our plans for us.  The DISAPPOINTMENT comes from our assumption that either a) Our plans and God's plans are the same, b) Our plans are superior to God's plans or c) If God loves us and is a good God, He will make sure our plans come to fruition.  All three of those assumptions are wrong and lead to DISAPPOINTMENT when things don't go as we planned.
      What if we changed just one letter in that word... From DISAPPOINTMENT to HIS APPOINTMENT?  Small change...huge difference.  What if we determined the success of our lives and the ensuing happiness we derive less by how well they fulfill OUR PLANS and more by how well they fulfill HIS APPOINTMENT for our life?  When the detours and hardships and deviations of life come, what if we saw them less as our plans going down in flames and more as God having His way in spite of us?  Might it change DISAPPOINTMENT into HIS APPOINTMENT? Might we be moved from confusion to joy?  Might we think, "My plan was good, but I know God's is better". 
     Here's an absolutely crazy idea...what if part of our exalting Jesus to the position of LORD over our life included bringing all our plans, all our assumptions and all our preconceived notions and laying them down at his feet.  In essence saying, "Here's all my plans for my life...all my wants and dreams and expectations.  I bring them as a sacrifice to you.  I lay them down in lieu of your BETTER plans for me.  That way, since I have no expectations except that you would be glorified through me, I will have no DISAPPOINTMENTS along the way.  Do whatever brings you glory and I'll be happy with that."  
     Crazy idea, huh?

8/12/14

LESSONS FROM A LIFE

     Yesterday the world was shocked, saddened and totally caught off guard at the death of Robin Williams.  Not just his death...his death at his own hands.  How could that possibly happen?  How could someone so full of laughter and wit and humor and LIFE come to a place where they would take their own life?  And, in the middle of our sadness and confusion, is there anything we can take away with us from such an event.
     I think so.

1.  People are not always as they seem.  The cover is not necessarily the best indicator of the book.  There are a lot of smiling, laughing, sad people.

2.  As a culture, we have made great strides in understanding and accepting diseases.  Diseases of the brain are not necessarily one of those.  If Mr. Williams had cancer we would have understood.  We understood, somewhat, his battles with addictions.  We seem to understand and feel OK with diseases of any portion of the body other than the brain.  Mental illness is a term we are very uncomfortable with for so many reasons.  On a personal level, I remember with great clarity when I faced a battle with anxiety and depression.  I was OK until my wife called the doctor for some information and was told to refer to the phone number on the back of my insurance card for Mental Health.  I was doing OK until I heard that term.  Suddenly, it was as though all the wind went out of me and I thought to myself, "I'm mentally ill?  Will they put me in a rubber room?  Am I going to be institutionalized?  Will I be kept away from my grandkids?  What's going to happen to me?"  It was the most helpless and desperate moment of my life.

3.  The Church has to become comfortable with diseases of the brain.  Jesus was.  As his representatives on this planet, we must be as well.  We've made some progress, but we have a long way to go.  Support Groups for virtually every kind of disease known to mankind are springing up in churches everywhere.  Good job.  But, what about diseases of the brain?  I'm a proud pastor to know that Crosspoint Church has a Mental Health Support Group.  These are people who God loves and Jesus died for.  These are people like us who struggle with a disease.  They're not damaged goods.  They're not to be avoided or feared.  They are people like me, who have a disease of the brain.  If it was anywhere else we'd be a lot more comfortable with it.  Too bad.  Maybe we need to aim a little higher....like COMPASSION rather than COMFORT.

5/28/14

THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT MARRIAGE

We've all heard the statistics.  At least 50% of all marriages end in divorce.  You've heard them.  I've quoted them.  We all know them...or, do we.  Here's the scoop on what's really going on.

According to the Census Bureau, 72 percent of those who have ever been married are still married to their first spouse! And the 28 percent who aren’t includes everyone who was married for many years, until a spouse died.

No one knows what the average first-marriage divorce rate actually is, but based on the rate of widowhood and other factors, we can estimate it is probably closer to 20-25 percent. For all marriages (including second marriages, and so on), it is in the 31-35 percent range, depending on the study.

Another myth that is begging to be debunked is the notion that “Barna found that the rate of divorce is the same in the church.” Actually, the Barna Group found no such thing, and George Barna himself told me he would love to correct this misunderstanding. Because he wasn’t studying people “in the church.”

The Barna Group studies were focusing specifically on the divorce rates of those with Christian and non-Christian belief systems and didn’t take worship attendance into account.

Barna re-ran the numbers: and if the person was in church last week, their divorce rate dropped by 27 percent. And that is one of the smallest drops found in recent studies: Overall, regular church attendance lowers the divorce rate anywhere from 25-50 percent, depending on the study you look at.

Those of us who work with marriages may secretly wonder whether there is reason for our ministry if the news about the divorce rate is better than we think. And the answer is a resounding yes.
Because I have seen in the research what every marriage counselor knows intimately: Divorce isn’t the greatest threat to marriage.


Discouragement is.

5/6/14

MOONSHOT THINKING

    Carey Nieuwhof calls it MOONSHOT THINKING.  Craig Groeschel says it this way, "If you want to reach people you aren't reaching, you have to do things you aren't doing".  But, the reality is, the Church, even that portion of the church that thinks it is indeed innovative and thinks outside the box, mostly simply fails to realize the restrictions of the boxes we have built around ourselves without even knowing it.

     Much of the church proudly announces that it "does not do it the way we've always done it before", then, with great gusto, we proceed to do it "almost like we've always done it before".  YIPPEE!  That's the spirit that took us to the moon!

     Take a look at this video if you will...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uaquGZKx_0&feature=youtu.be&ct=t(Get_More_Vo
lunteers_10_21_2013)

     Where does that kind of thinking exist in the Church today?  If our goal is to keep our head above water and stay in business for another year or another decade, then the status quo will do just fine.  But, if we feel we're called to reach the world for the sake of Jesus in our lifetime, then our methodology is not only antiquated and outdated, it's just WRONG.  Yes, it's very comfortable and memorable, and it may even feel RIGHT to us...but, only to us.  Not to the world we're called to reach.  

     Fifty miles to a gallon thinking in a 500 mile a gallon world just won't work.  We need those with the courage of the Polynesian in the dug-out canoe that one day said, "Let's go that way!", even though no one had ever gone that way...and no one knew what that way held. 

     MOONSHOT THINKING. 

     

4/15/14

CONFESSIONS OF A PASTOR

I read a story of a pastor (fictitious, I believe) that went to the train station every afternoon, watched the train leave the station, and went on his way.  Finally, someone asked him, "Pastor, why do you come here every day, watch the train leave the station and go on your way?".  The pastor answered, "I just want to watch something that's moving that I'm not having to push".

That may seem ridiculous to you, but not to me.  Sometimes, as a pastor, I feel like nothing would move if I wasn't pushing it.  Doesn't matter if that's true or not, if that's the way I feel, then that's the way I feel.  It's a pastor thing.  And, these are Confessions of a Pastor.

In reality, I battle that.  I realize it's a strategy of the Enemy.  He tells me that everyone is standing on the sidelines cheering for me and telling me they're praying for me and that I'm doing a great job and keep up the good work...but, no one is helping push.  It's not completely true, but it's still a struggle.

Nothing delights the heart of a pastor like when he sees someone pushing the train.  Sweet!

4/4/14

IWANM.....Listening

Q: As a man, it is very difficult to understand and ONLY listen to my wife.  How does a man get better at not trying to fix her problems and just listening?

A: This is a great question and really illustrates one of the biggest differences between men and women.  Men are by nature fixers.  We like to fix things, build things, find solutions.  We find satisfaction in problem-solving.  We also have word quotas that are much lower than our female counterparts.
     To tell a man to be quiet, listen and DON'T  solve the problem is like telling a bird not to fly or a dog not to chase a rabbit.  It just cuts totally against everything that comes naturally.
     Women, on the other hand, don't run on factual fuel as much as emotional fuel.  They feel loved, not by their spouse ignoring the facts and solutions, but first and foremost by their spouse validating their feelings and emotions.
     Husbands, when you simply problem-solve, that makes perfect sense to us, but what it says to our wives is that their emotions and their feelings don't matter, aren't valid, and aren't really worthy of your time and attention.
     Guys, if you're like me, you sometimes wonder if you even HAVE feelings, much less understand someone else'.  I just want to say, "OK, listen.  Here's what you need to do.  1....2....3...."  I remember one time I did that with Susan.  I thought I gave her some great advice and it took a lot less time my way.  So, I was blown away when Susan looked at me and instead of saying, "Thank you honey.  That was just what I needed", she said, "Gee, if I needed a dad I would have just kept the one I already had".  OUCH!!!
     Understand, guys, that doesn't mean you have to become a girl and just get all touchy-feely and sit there and listen.  You're a guy.  Go ahead and fix.  Problem-solve.  But, first just shut-up and listen.  What she needs most from you is to know you love her enough to listen to her and by doing so, to let her know that her feelings are OK, valid and normal.  WARNING: You may have to actually develop an Emotional Vocabulary beyond happy, sad, mad and hurt.  That's not going to take you too far.
     And ladies, let Mr. Fix-It do his thing.  If he can't problem-solve, you might as well cut off his hands.  If you don't want solutions, you should have married a girl.  Not suggesting that.  But, since you married a man...let him be a man.  You can ignore his solutions if you want, but at least listen to them.  It's what we guys do!

4/1/14

IWANM...Abuse

Q:  Can God fix a marriage where one spouse is physically abusive?  What does the Bible say?

A:  First of all let me begin by saying this is definitely more than one question.  Let me address them separately.

Can God fix a marriage where one spouse is physically abusive?  Absolutely.  God can do anything.  Easy.  No-brainer.

What does the Bible have to say?  It has a lot to say.  Which subject were you concerned with particularly?  If you just need to know what the Bible says about God's ability to heal a marriage...or anything else for that matter...it says He's able.

If you're wanting to know if God expects you to stay in an abusive marriage, the answer is absolutely NOT!  God never DEMANDS or EXPECTS or even DESIRES that anyone would divorce.  But, He also makes allowances for it in certain circumstances.  I believe those circumstances include (but, are not limited to):
Adultery
Abandonment
Addiction
Abuse

My word to you would be that if you are in an abusive relationship, GET AWAY FROM IT!  I did not say GET OUT OF IT.  I said GET AWAY FROM IT.  God can still heal it.  God is able to change hearts and minds.  But, you need to have enough self-respect to refuse to put up with abuse.  LEAVE. NOW.

3/31/14

IWANM...Pride

Q:  How do you build your spouse's pride in their work if you are in a very difficult financial situation and he/she is not making enough money?

A:  That's a great question, and one that has a variety of answers.  I suppose to answer your question, I'd have to ask you a few questions  myself.  
     1.  Is he/she the primary or secondary source of income?  For instance, until recently, my wife was 
          a Project Manager for Dell Computers.  She was very good at what she did and very well paid.
          However, her job was high-pressure and very stressful.  She quit and went from a very 
          substantial salary to nothing...as in $0.00.  She's beginning a career in Real Estate, but that 
          takes time and doesn't pay bills yet.  It's caused some changes in our lifestyle.  However, its 
          been easy for me to tell her how great she's doing, how great she's GOING  to be and to 
          encourage her to hang in there, I'm rooting for her.  As the main bread-winner, I'd do 
          whatever it takes to provide for my family.  I've actually worked 2 or 3 jobs at one time
          to provide.  It's my job and my delight.
    2.  Is the problem one of lack of drive or laziness?  If so, you can encourage them in what they 
         ARE doing while at the same time, building up their confidence to do more.
    3.  What are YOU doing?  Are you helping out financially?  If not, why not?  It's difficult to 
         condemn your spouse for not being a good provider if you're not being a good helper.  In
         today's world it often takes two (or more) incomes to make things work.  Even if you can't 
         contribute financially, you can cut costs at home and save money for your family.  Everyone
         can and should help.

3/29/14

IWANM....Neatness

Q:  My husband is very neat and organized and I am not.  I know my stuff everywhere bugs him, but that's how I've always been.  What should we do?

A:  First, let me say this is a very interestingly worded question.  Let's look at a few telling terms.
"I know my stuff everywhere bugs him".  This is your spouse.  If you know something that you are doing really bugs your spouse, then the question is, why would you want to do it?  If your goal is to create animosity and discord in your marriage, then keep up the good work.  Sounds like you're being successful.

"I've always been that way".  Apparently, this disclaimer makes everything OK.  By this logic, if I've always been a nose-picker or verbally abusive or.....well, you fill in the blank...you get a pass.  So much for marriage making you better.

"What should we do?"  Here's the problem with that statement, I'm not talking to "we".  I'm just talking to "you".

So, here's my answer to you...You need to decide whether you want to be messy or happy.  Pick one. If you know something bugs your spouse, stop.  This isn't rocket science.  Why would you want to do anything that would harm your marriage?  Pick up your socks.

One more thing I need to add.  You asked, so I'm answering you.  If your spouse had written and told me he's really neat and organized and it bugs his wife, I'd tell him to decide whether he wants to be neat or happy.  I'd tell him to lighten up.  Life's too short to be all puckered up all the time.  But, he didn't ask.  You did.

If you can find a compromise, that's really the key to a happy marriage.  Most likely, one of you needs to loosen up and the other needs to pick up.  Meet in the middle.  That's where sanity lives.

3/28/14

IWANM...Distance

Q:  Do you have any advice for a marriage separated by distance (military deployment)?

A:  I have to admit, this is not anything that I have experienced personally.  However, in talking with Susan, she reminded me of times I was out of the country doing mission work which, although not nearly as dangerous as your situation, was still in the realm of the unknown, and caused her some trepidation.

Some things that we tried and also some suggestions for you that you might find helpful:
1.  Find a daily devotional that both of you can use, so that you are reading the same thing each day and praying for the same things each day.  This can be so very beneficial in that it keeps you both on the same page spiritually.
2.  When you have an opportunity to communicate, be sure to share what God is teaching you, in general, but especially, in regard to your devotional studies.
3.  Share prayers, prayer requests and answered prayers with one another.  If possible, keep a prayer journal, to help you remember what God is doing and be able to share it.
4.  Possibly, acquire accountability partners...a guy for him, a girl for you, where you are.  Ask them to ask you the tough questions that your spouse would if they were here.

Being apart is hard...I can't even imagine.  But, there are some things you can do to help.  The best thing is that you already have realized that, and that's half the battle!

3/26/14

IWANM....TRUST

Q: How does one build trust again after one spouse had an emotional affair with someone from work?

A: That's a great question, but one that I can't answer for you.  That's the bad news.  But, here's the good news...You can answer it for yourself.  In fact, you're the ONLY one who can answer it.

The question you asked was "How does one build trust", but the real question isn't what does he/she need to do to build your trust?  Honestly, they could do things right and left all day long, and it might, or it might not build your trust.  Only YOU know what you need from them in order to begin to trust them again.  To force them to read your mind...or even for me to read your mind, is cruel and unusual punishment.

So, here's what I suggest you do.  Ask yourself one simple question, "What would it take for me to trust this person again?"  Sounds simple, but here's what it requires:

*You have to be HONEST.  Don't sugar-coat this.  Be real.  Be true to yourself.  You have the right and the responsibility to be honest enough to ask whatever your require.  Even if it's more than the other party is willing to do, it's best they know that right up front, rather than trying to guess and hitting a brick wall.

*You have to be ALL-INCLUSIVE.  You need to tell them everything you require.  This can't be an ever-changing list....a moving target.  Say what you mean and mean what you say.  No amendments.

* You have to give a TIME FRAME.  It can't be, "I want you to quit drinking" or "I need you to see a counselor" or "I need you to have no contact with this other person".  Whatever it is that you require of them to begin to trust them again needs a specific time frame.  Do you mean for a week, a month, six months, a year....what?  Otherwise, when they've done what you require of them for a week and you don't trust them, they'll think you lied to them.  Also, they need to know exactly what the requirement is and if they're willing to pay the price to win you back.

*Put it in WRITING.  That way there's no misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

*You need to be a person of your WORD.  If you say, "I need you to do A, B, C & D for six months in order to win back my trust", and they do it, then you need to trust them.  You laid the ground rules, and they played by them.  Now it's your turn.  Be careful what you ask for...you just might get it.  Once they jump through your hoops, they need to know they can trust you.

3/25/14

IWANM....Secrets

Q:  Should you share a secret with your spouse from the past that you know that would destroy them and your marriage?

A:  That's an excellent question, and my answer may surprise you to some extent.  I'm big on the necessity of unfiltered, unconditional, honest, get to the heart of the matter communication between every husband and wife.  Communication is key.  It's our secrets that make us sick.  So, obviously the answer is an unequivocal "yes"....right?

Well, possibly, but there's a few other components to take into consideration.  Here's the biggest one:

What is my purpose in sharing this?

If your motivation is to be open and honest in your relationship, then the answer is yes.
If your motivation is the fact that you have done something that could be harmful to your spouse and/or family, then the answer is yes.
If your motivation is that this is causing a break in your relationship with your spouse, then the answer is yes.
If your motivation is that you have sinned and you feel miserable about it and simply want to make your spouse share in your misery, then the answer is NO.

Confession is honest, freeing and cleansing.  But, we also need to remember that every bad thing is a good thing perverted.  Confession can be used as a tool to inflict pain..."Well, I'll tell you what I did.  What do you think about that?  How does THAT make you feel?"

There are stupid things I've done in the far distant past before I knew Susan and that in no way impact Susan.  Although brutally honest with my wife, I don't use her as my personal conscience washing machine.  You have to decide what your motivation is in confession.  Although 99% of instances of honesty and confession are appropriate, necessary and healing, and very few can be just to take a load off our shoulders and put it on the one we claim to love.

Be honest.  Be real.  Come clean.  Just don't be selfish.

3/24/14

IWANM

Yesterday, we culminated our series, I WANT A NEW MARRIAGE with a Q & A with my wife Susan and myself.  You texted in 100's of questions, so we couldn't get to every one.  Over the next few weeks, I'll try to answer as many as possible.  So, here we go...

"How can you get romantic time when your spouse insists that not ONE, but TWO kids under age 5 sleep in your bed?"

That's a great question.  This is a practice referred to as Co-Sleeping, where the child or children are invited into the bed with the parents.  The ideas behind the practice are to further promote bonding between parents and children, boost emotional health and build self-esteem and independence later in life.

In answer to your question as to how to promote romance in your marriage while practicing co-sleeping, I have no answer for you.  My belief would be that the practice of co-sleeping, although not biblically forbidden, is in direct contradiction to at least two biblical concepts.

1.  It makes the parent-child relationship superior to that of the husband-wife relationship.  I believe that cuts directly against the biblical priority structure.

2.  The Bible tells us to love our children, but our main over-arching goal is to raise independent, God-honoring adults.  Anything that precludes that is in direct contradiction to the scripture.  As we look at these little bundles of joy it's difficult, at best, to be reminded of our responsibility toward them.  ANYTHING that inhibits our raising them to be independent, God-honoring adults is counterintuitive and should be avoided at all costs.

I believe common sense should rule here.  If our marital relationship is to be the primary relationship, then co-sleeping is simply a bad idea.

Beyond the simple idea that it's not best for a marriage and places the child's needs (or in more cases than we want to admit, the parent's needs) above that which is best for the marriage, the American Pediatric Association warns against the dangers of any such practice.

Personally, I believe co-sleeping puts a child at risk of being smothered in more than one way.  It's a bad idea.

3/8/14

IWANM

IWANM.  That may mean nothing to you, but for the people of Crosspoint Church it has come to be something of a war cry...I WANT A NEW MARRIAGE!  One important detail...we're not talking about a new spouse.  Quite the contrary.  NEW MARRIAGE..SAME SPOUSE.

Hundred's of couples have made a priority of their marriage and decided to make an investment of time and attention by taking the 30 Days to a New Marriage Challenge.  Thirty days worth of topics we seldom talk about, but desperately need to.  The beautiful thing is that if a wife or a husband brought up most of these topics, the other spouse would automatically go on the defensive.  But, this little innocent book is able to do what neither spouse is able to.  It's amazing.

Fun?  Not always.  Needed?  Certainly.  Life-Changing?  Absolutely.  When we're forced to deal with our "stuff" that we've ignored and denied, it can only do amazing things to our marriage, no matter whether it's a good one, a not-so-good one, or it's on life-support.

Wanna join us?  All the messages and the 30 Day Challenge are available online @ crosspointchurch.tv.  Do it!

2/24/14

TATTOO TESTIMONY

I had surgery on my shoulder two weeks ago.  When I went back to have my stitches taken out, the nurse said, "We were talking about what you had written on your shoulder during your surgery."  (nice, but I hoped they were paying more attention to the inside of my shoulder than the outside!)  She said they were trying to figure out what language it was.  She asked, "Is it Russian?"  I told her it was Greek.  (did I get a smart enough doctor?)  "What does it say?"  Doulos.  "Doulos...what does that mean?"  It means Slave.  "Oh..(pause)...Do you mind if I ask why you have 'Slave' written on your arm?"  Not at all.  You see, I'm a Christ-follower, and as a Christ-follower, I believe there's no greater heights that a man can attain in this life than to be the slave...the bond-servant of Christ.
"Wow, that's pretty cool.  Most people just have things on them that don't mean anything".

Then, I told her about my next tattoo.  I told her the next one would be Ouios.  "Ouios, (pronounced wee-os) what does that mean?"  Well, that means Son.  You see, that's the other side of the coin.  For a Christ-follower you are both a Slave and a Son, all at the same time.

She stopped and looked at me, said, "That's so cool", then told me the doctor would be just a few minutes.  I know, you thought the story was going to be a lot cooler.  You thought she was going to ask me, "How can I become a Christ-follower?" and we would get down on our knees right there in the office and pray and....  Well, that's not the way it happened.  Sometimes you plant.  Sometimes you water.  Sometimes you fertilize.  Sometimes you reap.  But, you have to always be ready for every opportunity that God gives.  Even if it's just a tattoo testimony.