Holiday Weekend Reading

I have not posted one of these in a while, but I continue to save articles that I find thought provoking. Here are a few for you to enjoy over the Memorial Day Weekend.


What if my kid doesn’t have any friends at church?

Should Churches Pay Off Medical Debt for the Poor? (I have been thinking a lot about doing this)

Nearly There

The Reason You’re Bored with the Bible

18 Things to Tell Your 16-Year-Old Son about Sex and Relationships

7 Things to Consider When God Calles Your Beloved Pastor to Another Ministry

A Few from Seth Godin

A letter to your future self


The consequence

The urgent changes

Several about Marriage –

3 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Divorced My Wife

25 Quick Ways to Show Your Husband Love–or Your Wife Love!

6 Ways to Improve Your Marriage

3 Ways to Make a Better Bid for Connection

You Love Your Phone More Than You Love Me!

Finally – I enjoyed this video about Solomon’s Temple. Great visuals for understanding a major part of the Old Testament.

I Still Love the Church

Being a leader exposes you to some of the ugliness of the Church.  The more someone gets involved in the activities of their faith community, the more unsightly parts are going to be exposed. 

I think of it this way.  When we were recording our sermons to go online, the product on the screen did not look anything like the room where we recorded them.  What was shot in front of the camera was clean, clear, and without flaws, but the other side was a different story.  There were cords everywhere, light stands, blankets to reduce the sound, computer monitors, and what might look like a total mess.  There was beauty with the right camera angle, and when someone came into the room, they were surprised to see the chaos. 

That can be a picture of the Church.  On Sunday morning, everything is pleasant, but behind the scenes can be personal struggles, inflated egos, sin, and unpleasant conversations.  Through the years, I have witnessed young, and naïve people become Church leaders and later leave the Church entirely from what they experienced.  I wish it were not true, but I have witnessed it, and sometimes I have contributed to it. 

The blood of Jesus is the only thing that unites us.  The Church is not a group of people who come together because we are perfect and have a great idea to change the world.  We are people who come together because of his grace, and he is transforming us. 

Occasionally things happen that restore your joy for the people of God.  Like a dysfunctional family who somehow, every holiday, has these glorious moments of love and connection.  If you hang around the Church long enough, you will see the ugliness, but you will also see the beauty. 

Over the past three weeks, my family has been blessed by the Church I lead.  People have shown grace and mercy through my failures, given gifts to my son, become friends with my mother, and been an enormous blessing to my life.  I could spend pages telling you the stories of how I have been reaffirmed in my love for the people of God. 

The Church is a flawed group of individuals who get it right every once in a while.  This week I am thankful for my family of faith.  Thanks to everyone who has blessed my life. Thanks for looking beyond the mess and sharing the love of Jesus.  I pray that one day everyone gets to experience the Church the way I have recently because then you would know why I still love it. 

Giving Extra Grace

I made a joke to a man one time, and he didn’t laugh.  It was not until sometime later that I learned the topic I made fun of was something he struggled with in his life.

I spoke with her about issues involving Church, and she was short, angry, and noncompliant.  Later I discovered her marriage was falling apart and had reached the breaking point. 

My conversation with her went completely wrong after an innocent question, and it left me mad and confused.  The following week she told me about her struggles with depression and the lows she had been feeling.

There have been so many times that I have left conversations and encounters angry, confused, and resentful only to find out later that the person was profoundly hurting themselves.  Often, we do not know the darkness someone is walking through in our casual encounters.  Their lives may be a mess, and they hurt other people in their efforts to make sense of it all. 

To be a Christian means that we treat people with the grace we have received.  Sometimes we need to be reminded to give extra grace to the people who frustrate us the most.  They are likely walking through something painful themselves.  The old saying is that “hurt people, hurt people.” If that is true, then grace-filled people should meet these people with grace upon grace.   

Four Reasons Discipleship is Difficult

The Apostle Paul writes a second letter to Timothy, and he says,

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV – 2011)

First – you are sharing the word of God.  The Bible is living and active, and it penetrates the soul of a person.  It slices, punctures, and is painful for people to hear at times.

Second – sometimes our words are “out of season.” That means we are attempting to help people grow in their faith when no one is taking growth seriously.

Third – our teaching of the word will contain correction.  There are people in the community of faith who are teaching incorrectly.  They need to be told they are wrong and shown the truth and how to understand it. 

Fourth – growth will sometimes require rebuke.  Occasionally, people will need to be reprimanded for bad behavior.  The word implies harsh words and intense tones. 

All these combine to make discipleship difficult.  Most Church people want growth to be easy and focused on the final word in this passage:  encourage.  Unfortunately, that is only a tiny part of helping people grow; the rest of it puts leaders at risk of being hated by the people they lead.  If people are unwilling to accept the word, their heart is out of season, and they will not listen to correction or rebuking, then the work of discipleship can turn ugly. 

I believe this is why his instructions at the end are so powerful to anyone who wants to help other people grow in their faith.  The work of discipleship takes great patience and careful instruction.  The project is slow and tedious, but nothing can be more rewarding.  Making someone a disciple is challenging but worth all the headaches. 

Always More to Say

As a believer, I continually feel the pressure to explain more about the faith than time allows.  Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a group composed mainly of people who do not attend Church.  Many of them have no interest in faith, while others are negative toward people in the Church.  Let me ask, “What would you say to them?”

The temptation is to say everything you can about why you are a believer and why they should become one today.  While that method is sometimes needed, it is rarely effective.  You cannot take someone who is not interested in faith and make them a follower of Jesus with a 30-minute sermon on a random weeknight. 

My approach has always been simply to open the door to possibilities.  What if faith were true?  What if you need what Jesus has to offer one day?  What if Christians are people who want the best for others?  My goal is not to say everything about what I believe but to say one thing that might later connect to a deeper spiritual conversation. 

Every time I speak at something like this, inevitably, someone will get up and try to add to what I have said or fix it in some way.  They can’t handle loose ends and unanswered questions.  An old teacher used to say, “They like to hit the ball and then run around the net and hit it back.”

One of the things I see in the ministry of Jesus is that he told parables without explanations, asked questions without answering, and performed miracles without giving a sermon.  It is like he trusted the work of God in their lives without having to force it.  I believe that our job is to plant seeds and water them, and God will give the increase. 

Final Son’s Graduation

This Sunday, my youngest of four boys will walk across the stage a receive his high school diploma.  My wife and I are finally finished with nine solid years of high school and over twenty years of having kids in school. 

I usually do not write about my family, but today I will. It is an odd feeling to close this one chapter in my book, and before I do, I want to say a few things about my youngest son. 

First, never judge anyone by your first contact.  My son is an introvert like me.  He is deeply introspective, and he is brilliant.  He is incredibly intelligent, and you might not know it by his shy behavior and humble spirit.    

Second, he is extremely quiet, even with his family.  There are times I have ridden in the car with him for hours and not heard him say a word or only a few comments in response to my questions. 

Third, he is close to his brother and one friend.  He has a few really close relationships, and my wife and I love that his brothers are on the list.  They enjoy hanging out, playing games, and whatever else they do not tell us. 

Fourth, he was challenged to grow up quickly.  His older brothers pushed him to play sports early, learn things quickly and run with the big boys.  He has never complained when being forced to move beyond the little boy phase before other kids. 

Finally, my wife and I could not be prouder of our boy.  He is kind and sweet to his mother and a hunting buddy to me.  We have never had to beg him to attend Church or serve there.  He is a self-starter, and we have never had to ask about his homework.  He loves to sleep, take long showers, and stay up late.  He is spoiled as the youngest, and we would not have it any other way. 

Soon the house will be empty, and he will be off to college.  Michelle and I are excited to enter a new phase of life, but the house will not be the same without our son.  I pray for him daily, and I am thankful for the Christian people who have poured into his life through the years. 

Share Your Support

There is a lady I know who volunteers at the Church I lead.  She does so many wonderful things for people and is a blessing to the ministry here.  Recently she led a project, and because of several issues, she made a couple of decisions that made a few people mad.  They were pretty upset, and they told a few friends and family, and then they told a few more people, and they told more.  Now a large group of people is relatively upset about a decision this volunteer had made in the ministry she was leading.  

She is frustrated and is ready to quit her work as a volunteer.  She wonders, “Why waste my effort on people who do not appreciate it?  If I am going to get criticized for my decisions in the ministry I am leading, then why do it at all?” She is discouraged and is ready to quit helping. 

Why is it that we share negative stories so easily?  Why are we so quick to criticize the work of others?  Why do we think we could do everything better when we have never done it at all?

How would the Church be different, and the people of God be strengthened if we only shared positive stories?  What would happen if we told others about hard work, commitment, effort, and leadership? 

I think it would be great if the next time someone complained to you about another person in the Church, you stopped them and said, “I don’t want to hear it!” Then you start telling them about all the positive things that person has done.  How about the next time you want to share your unhappiness; instead, you share your support?  That would be far more helpful to the Church and make it much easier to keep volunteers.

Remembering That One Bad Thing

Christians universally agree that we are all sinners.  Each one of us has done and continues to do things that break the laws of God.  We fail and fall short daily.  The good news of Jesus is that God offers forgiveness and grace to us in more significant measure than our sin. 

That also means that personally, I have done things that I regret.  My words have been unkind, and my lips have lied.  There have been moments of lust, anger, greed, and idolatry of which I am not proud.  I have sinned.  And so have you.

With all that said, if I were to ask you about a particular person, what stories come to mind?  You have one of two choices:  remember the bad or remember the good. 

I have found that when I ask about someone, quite often, I am told about one bad story that happened with that person that we cannot forget. “Oh, he is the guy who shouted angrily at the meeting,” we recall. “That is the lady who shared that piece of gossip that hurt my feelings,” we share. “Remember when he was in trouble with the law, and the police came to his house?” The list of possible stories goes on and on.  

It does not take much effort to remember that one bad thing someone did because we all do them every single day.  The challenging work is to practice forgiveness and grace.  It is difficult to choose to forget the ugliness of someone’s life.  To say to the world, I will not let that story define their life or my relationship with them.  Being a Christian requires us to act like Jesus, especially when we have been wronged in some way. 

It is easy to find a group of people who have negative stories about others.  It is more challenging to find people who will share positive stories.  It is near impossible to find a group that will practice forgiveness of every incident of lousy behavior.  But this is what the Church seeks to become, a collection of forgiven people who offer forgiveness to others. 

You and I may have done that one bad thing, but that should not define us.  I know I don’t want it to define me, and I am pushing myself not to let it define you.

Meaningful Words

I told my professor that what he said was so meaningful because it helped shape my heart and mind.  Then I told him what he had stated with such confidence that meant so much to me.  He smiled and replied, “That sounds like something I would say, but I don’t remember saying it.” 

I was shocked that he could not recall his words that I had memorized and written on the walls of my heart.  Then I entered the ministry and found the same thing happening to me.  People would approach me and tell me how much something I had said impacted their life.  Meanwhile, I could not remember ever saying it. 

This phenomenon happens for several reasons.  First, someone who speaks for a living, like my professor and me, tends to forget the specifics of what we say.  I can tell you all the big picture information but not the details of what I say.  Second, sometimes what connects with people are what I would call “throwaway statements.” These are made at the moment as my mind moves over the material and has little forethought.  Finally, the power of God’s Spirit working when someone speaks on his behalf is unpredictable. He might take something and change a life by words the speaker thought was meaningless. 

To communicate information about the kingdom of God is a unique task.  You never know when God will take the words you said and use them to further his work in someone’s life.  The best thing to do is to keep talking about God while he does his mighty deeds through you.  God only knows when that will happen or what you will say, so keep speaking till the meaningful words arrive.

People Who Change Us

Certain people walk into our lives and change us for the better.  These people can range from teachers and professors to coworkers and friends.  They are not planned for and often not sought after.  Something happens, and suddenly this person is helping us to think, believe and live differently. 

These people speak the truth into our lives that everyone else was ignoring.  They confront our crazy ideas with facts and reason.  They inspire us to attempt new ventures.  They calm the madness in our lives and encourage us to keep moving forward despite our issues.  They bring joy and laughter when we are down.  They inspire, instruct, and guide us in ways we never imagined.

We are always looking for ways to improve our lives.  We often search for more information, better advice, and convenient hacks that can be digested on our phones while waiting on our next event.  What if the way to grow was found through people?

Maybe we do not require more information; perhaps we need better people around us.