Friday, August 6, 2010

Everyone wins when...

I am at the Leadership Summit. I am attending the Summit at a satellite location in Connecticut trying to serve two purposes: getting my leadership tank filled and visiting my in laws

As I left the house yesterday, I got a later start than I had wanted. Google maps said it was about a 35 minute drive and I wanted to leave room for margin, but left just on time. Then on my way I got lost. Although I have a bad sense of direction, the Connecticut road signs leave much to be desired and are non existent at times. In fact, I asked a woman for directions and the woman who told me she was a realtor validated my feelings on the lack of signage. Even when I thought I was going the right way, I was doubting myself because signage is so bad.

While driving and then doubling back and then realized I had been going the right direction and should turn around again, I said to God, “God, how do I get refreshed?” I was wondering if I had made a mistake and that maybe I was just being selfish in carving out this time.

Finally I found my way to the location, which is a great setting. Although a few minutes late, I didn’t miss the worship which I had felt I needed. During the second song, tears were streaming down my face. I just felt God minister to my soul as we sang Hosanna in the Highest.

Then Bill Hybels began the first session saying, “Everyone wins when leaders grow.” Again, that just spoke to my soul and filled me up. It is a reminder that investing in leadership conferences is well worth the effort. Everyone wins when leaders grow. Children win when parents invest in their own growth. Employees win when bosses invest in their own growth. Churches win when pastors and staff workers invest in their growth. It isn't selfish to invest in growth it is wise, practical and necessary.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Love of progress

As Americans we love progress; we love moving forward. It was a desire for progress that settled the West and landed us on the moon. We set a goal and move towards it. Desire for progress and moving forward is good. We serve a God of progress, who has a plan for history. However, the way God goes about progress often differs from how we go about it.

The message this weekend at Nativity is about the battle of Jericho and the preparations leading to Israel conquering the city. God gives Joshua and the Israelites several instructions of how they are to prepare for the battle. I read through last night the first 6 chapters of Joshua and found two instructions pretty interesting.

The first instruction was that representatives from each of the 12 tribes are to bring a stone with them from the Jordan River as a reminder of what God did for them. He tells them in Joshua 4:6-7, “When your children ask in a time to come, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the sons of Israel a memorial forever.” The stone reminds them to look back to the past on the faithfulness of God.

Then he gives another instruction before the battle takes place; God gives a strange command. He tells the men to be circumcised. The timing seems odd, but the action was a reminder of the promise he had sworn to Abraham that his descendants would possess the land of Canaan, the land Joshua and the Israelites were moving to conquer. The sign of Abraham’s covenant was circumcision. Every male had to be circumcised. In asking the Israelites to be circumcised, he was calling to mind the promise of the past and that he is a God that keeps his promises. He will bring to fruition his promises in his time, if not ours.

I read this week that we often see God’s presence and involvement in our lives only in retrospect. Only by looking back on our lives do we see God’s presence and activity in our lives. We often get so concerned about the destinations that we forget God. Instead, we just try and push forward on our own. The battle we fight is not over whether we will get where God wants us to go. If we follow God’s lead, he will get us to the good places he has in store for us as is seen by the incredible story told in Joshua 6. The destination is secure if we go where God is leading. The battle is whether we stick with God through the process. God leads us through a process that is not just about getting somewhere, but about changing us into people who trust completely in him and walk in his ways.

Monday, August 2, 2010

More Thoughts on Past Weekend's Message

This morning a few more thoughts came to me about the battle of good and evil.

1. God does not fight battles - at first. Michael and his angels fight the devil and his angels. Then God allows Adam to fight the devil, even gives him the charge to "guard the garden." However, when Adam fails and falls, God begins to make the plan of salvation, eventually sending his Son to battle the devil. His Son becomes man because it is God's will that man learn to fight and battle and defeat the devil and forces of evil. So just as in the first battle, God allows the angels to fight and choose whether they are with HIm or not, so now God wants men and women to fight and choose whether we are with him. We can only be successful because Jesus, the God/Man fought the devil and chose to give his whole life back to His heavenly Father. We can only succeed because Jesus' life is in us.

2. Evil is on the run. The devil's time is short. We should "Fear not" and take courage in our relationship in Christ. Jesus defeated the enemy by the cross. We still have to battle for our own hearts, but since Jesus lives in us we have the power to defeat him.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Life is a Battle

I just finished up on preaching the first Week of War of the Worlds. To hear the message go to Here are some other thoughts in my head related to the message that didn’t make it in.

1. The war is fought because the devil thinks he can make himself like God, he thinks he can be God, that HE can make himself like the Most High God. God wants to make us like him. God wants us to be like him. The big lie of the devil is that WE can make ourselves like God. God wants to make us like him, but that is God's work not ours.

2. Good things in this life will only come by fighting for them. If you want an excellent marriage, you will have to fight for it. (Men, that means you will have to fight for your wife’s heart. - especially after you are married.) If you want a great relationship with your children you are going to have to battle for it. If you want to succeed in a craft or skill, you will have to fight for time to practice it and fight against your own laziness. The fact you have to fight hints that it is something important and worth fighting for.

3. The devil and his angels, the demons are on the earth. They aren’t everywhere because the devil is not omniscient, omnipotent or omnipresent. He isn’t all knowing, all powerful or everywhere. That’s God it isn’t the devil. The devil’s power, presence and knowledge is limited. It is limited, but his presence is real.

4. My illustrations this weekend and the note above were intended to discount dualism. For a great refutation of dualism (that good and evil are equal) read Mere Christianity by CS Lewis.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Today I dropped my son Max off at Spy Camp. As I walked away, I saw kids coming for many different camps here at Carroll Community College, some carrying guitars. In one of the kids, I could see that he carried the guitar with pride. He had a look of knowing that he loved his guitar. As I saw him I thought, "I so badly want my kids to know what they love and have been gifted by God to do." Although what we do can never replace God, nor does God love us because of what we do, I think coming to know how God has gifted us is a vital part of our faith journey.

Over the last few years as I have discovered and continue to grow deeper in my knowledge that God has gifted me to write and speak, God has felt more real to me. So today, God, I ask that you reveal to Max, Gus, Nate, Elsa, and Kepha what you have wired them to do. I pray that Mia and I would help them discover their gifts and support them in mastering the natural skills and talents you gave them.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Battle of Good and Evil

I woke up this morning with some thoughts about the message I will be giving next week to kick off our series on Great Bible Battles. These are some random thoughts that will hopefully get tied together by next weekend.

1. The battle of good and evil is not between God and the devil. God and the devil are not equal players battling it out. A child's riddle says, "What is stronger than God and more evil than the devil?" The answer: nothing. Put another way, the opposite of God is not the devil, (God has no equal and no opposite)the opposite of the devil is Michael. Revelation tells us that it is Michael, whose name means "Who is like God?" who kicks Lucifer out of heaven.

2. So if the the battle of good and evil is not between God and the devil, who is it between and how do we understand God's role? The battle is fought between human beings and angels vs. the fallen angels. We battle to choose God and to serve him, we battle to set our hearts free. Since the devil and the fallen angels have failed in their absurd notion they could unseat God, they come to take us out. God who could sqash the devil like a bug and will at the end of time, allows us to battle and fight evil. God is making us into warriors.

3. God wants to fashion us into warriors who depend upon him and his power, who call upon his name for strength. Scripture tells us we will share in God's glory, but first we must recognize him as the source of all that is good. Throughout the bible, two groups are contrasted: the good who call upon God's name and the evil who try and make a name for themselves as the devil did.

4. It is incorrect to say that God is on our side. That is the ultimate hubris. If someone says, "God is on our side" then run away from them. They have bought the lie that we are the center of the universe. The battle we fight is that whether by our choices and decisions, we choose to be with God or not, whether we choose the good, the true and the beautiful. Saying God is on our side will lead to unspeakable evil. I.E. 911

5. We are not prizes in the battle between God and the devil or simply pawns in the game. As said above, God isn't fighting the devil, read Isaiah 14 to see how absurd that thought is. God has created us to be the warriors who fight evil. We fight for our own hearts and for our own destiny. We fight for the healing and restoration of our hearts and whether we will share in the glory of God because we have chosen him as our portion and our cup or whether we will fall for the worthless idols of this world.

6. Every good we try to do will be opposed. When we try to restore our hearts by getting rid of anger, greed and envy, we will be opposed. When we try to go on vacation and be refreshed and spend quality time with our family, we will be opposed. When we try and lead others to God, we will be opposed. Paul says in Romans, "I find this principle at work, whenver I try to do good, evil is there right along with me." We are opposed because we are in the battle of good vs. evil.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What's Your Integrity Worth?

Today, while working out I listend to a great message from Craig Groeschel on integrity. It was part of a series he did called, "Lost Virtues." (His message on honor in that series is excellent as well.)

Craig admitted some times in his life when he lacked integrity and then near the end of his message asked, "What's your integrity worth?" He said whatever you are willing to steal whether it be a ream of paper or anything from the office, that's how much your integrity is worth to you.

My integrity is worth $5. I didn't steal anything from the office, but this past weekend at a Pirates game, an usher who was very kind older gentlemen cleaned off our seats. I felt the need to give him something, but looked in my wallet and found a one and a five. The one seemed to little, but the five too much. I felt like I should give the five, but instead gave the one and for some dumb reason I then lied and said, "I'm sorry that's all I have." I didn't have to lie, but I did, trying to justify myself and my decision more to myself than the usher.

Psalm 19 says, "But who can discern his errors? Clear me of hidden faults. Keep your servants from presumptuos sins." This past weekend and Craig's message serve as a wake up call that I need to continue to work on my integrity. It wasn't worth it keeping the five bucks to lose my integrity.

I am also continue to be amazed at the greed in my own heart. I couldn't give five lowsy bucks away. Cash is emotional. Emotions are the language of the heart and this past weekend shows I still have a greedy heart and need to continue to listen to God's Spirit when he tells me to give.

Thank you, God, for flushing out this sins in my life, helping me to see them. I repent of my greed and dishonesty and ask for grace to walk in your ways.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What I learned on my summer vacation

This past weekend, I took my family to Pittsburgh to visit some friends. After going to a Pirates game on Sunday, we spent some time in a square with a huge fountain. Kids were playing in the fountain and so my oldest son Max wanted to jump in as well.

When Max asked, we said, "No." We had a long trip home in front of us and we were tired after a day that had included moving from one event to the other. Our "No" came more from fatigue than having a problem with Max jumping in the fountain. My wife and I both enjoy when our kids have fun and just enjoy life. After a couple of asks, my son Max received a "Wait." My wife Mia told Max to wait and that she would talk to me as I had stepped away to get some pizza.

Instead of waiting, Max jumped in the water anyway. Max played for a while before we made him get out and put him in time out. Max then asked, "When can I go back in?" I decided he couldn't go back in and told him I couldn't reward him for his disobedience. Then Max said in a voice that melted my heart, "I want to go back and play with my friend." Despite my empathy for him, I didn't feel I could reward him. Sometimes it is jokingly said when disciplining a child, "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you." Not allowing Max to go back in play hurt me more than him.

Yet, looking back I think two positive outcomes have come to not giving into the feeling of that moment.

First, over the last couple of days I think I have greater compassion for Max. In a strange way, it has filled me with more sympathy for him because I see the purity of his heart that even though he disobeyed me, he really just wanted to have fun and play with a friend. He disobeyed because he didn't have a way forward, he didn't have a skills to handle the situation of wanting a good thing, but being told no by his parents.

This leads to the second positive outcome of the situation. Yesterday, we told Max that this is what he is to do when he asks for something and he gets a "No." He is to say, "I will do what you want, but will you please reconsider." I based this off Jesus' prayer when he experiences the Agony in the Garden, where Jesus states clearly what he wants but tells his Father he will do his will.

Then yesterday, Max used the line and when I still said, "No" he accepted the answer.

One last thought - this is why we have to read the Scriptures and allow them to permeate our hearts. The Holy Spirit just spoke to me about the passage and made the connection. As we read the Scriptures and pray through them, God's word becomes more relevant and practical to our lives. We see how God is living and active.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Kids are better at...

My wife and I are working to make prayer time more of a priority for our family. As a member of a Church staff, you would think we would have already made it more a priority, but I have found that putting prayer into your life is a constant battle.

Today before we gathered the family for prayer, a neighbor friend of our kids came over to play. After playing for a while, we told the neighbor we were going to pray. He just stayed out on our front porch, while we went into our living room. I had thought about inviting him in, but figured he would say, "No." So I didn't invite him.

As we sat down to pray, my middle son Gus opened the window and said, "Cole, do you want to come in and pray with us?"

Cole said, "Nahh."

Gus said, "Why? Don't you believe in God?"

Cole answered, "I do."

"Well, come in and pray with us." Gus answered.

Cole didn't come in and pray, but I thought of how much of a struggle it would be to say the same things to my friends. I need to learn from my six year old son to invite more people into relationship with their heavenly Father. I need to learn from him his pure heart.

Kids are better at evangelizing because they naturally share their good things with others. Perhaps the key to becoming a better witness of faith is not to learn a technique, but to become more pure of heart so that we naturally share the good things we receive from a relationship with our heavenly Father.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Life is hard

Today I took home my fifth child from the hospital. We named him Kephas Christopher. Kephas is the Aramaic word for "Peter." It was the original langage in which Christ called Peter for the first time. It means big rock.

As I walked into the hospital room, a staff person from the hospital described to my wife the changes my new son was experiencing. She said that basically all his needs were met when she carried him, now he had to change from simply having food and digestion happen with no effort to processing food and having gas. Life happens that way. We have to constantly step to the next level of responsibility. From the next step we believe the last state was easy, yet from the first days of life, we face challenges and need to work to get past pain.

Life feels hard right now. Probably no reason to ever believe it won't. All I can do is keep fighting so that Igrow, change and move to the next level of where God is taking me.