Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Labels may explain you, but they don't define you.

We all attach labels to ourselves and others.  Culture places them on us, sometimes for good reason and sometimes arbitrarily.  Labels categorize. They explain.  They create common bonds.  They help us understand.  But if not tempered, labels can begin to affect our identity and sense of worth.  They can hurt.  They can stir up prejudice.  They can misrepresent with unfair generalizations.

My wife and kids were at the museum the other day for "Sensory Day" - a day especially designed for special needs families to enjoy the museum with a bit less noise and chaos.  A group of students and chaperones from a local special needs school wore light blue t-shirts that said "Autism doesn't define us…"  And as a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, it reminded me of the power of labels.  They explain, but they don't define.  They can help and they can certainly hurt.

I love how the Apostle Paul explains in Ephesians 2 that "we" are now one in Christ.  The context of course speaks to the Jews and Gentiles of his day, those struggling with an identity conflict in the 1st century.  The Jews had been "chosen by God" and knew it.  The Gentiles knew they hadn't.  But this new Jesus thing resulted in perpetual enemies being asked to gather together under the banner of Christ.  To see themselves as brothers and sisters.  To reconcile their differences and come together for one mission.  Not as easy as it sounds.

Why was it so tough to get past the labels?  Because, like us, they depended on the labels for comfort, familiarity and identity.  For better or worse, they functioned with a view of themselves and others based on things that really didn't matter.  The protective walls were beginning to crumble.  The old ways were being challenged.  There was a new identity at hand…one that depended completely on things outside their control.  This identity was based on the work of Christ on the cross.  And it had the power to transcend all labels that men had created.

So what's your identity based on?  For many, especially guys, our identity is tied to our vocation, our family, our accomplishments in this world.  Maybe our educational level or bank account balances.  For others, it's based on how others see us, whether true or false.  Are we "successful" according to the standards of this world?  Or do we see ourselves and our identity through the lens of the Cross.  The old is gone, the new has come.  Jesus made one person out of two.  Those far have been brought near.  The alien is now the citizen.  All have access in one Spirit to the Father, no matter what label or labels you carry.  That's pretty awesome.

Do you identify yourself as a follower of Jesus?  Does your identity depend on you, or do you rest in the work of Jesus in creating a new you?  One where the only label that matters is being called a child of the Most High God.  The rest really doesn't matter.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What's your Flavor?

Ice Cream....yummy!  It's a weakness.  It's one of many things that my wife Amy and I have in common.  Nothing beats a bowl of ice cream late at night, or a chocolate shake at just the right time.  Do you remember the first time you tasted ice cream?   Check out this video:

I was thinking about ice cream the other day in light of all the "flavors" of church that are out there.  Especially in the middle-upper class community where I serve.  All types of churches come this way, whether as start-ups or multi-site campuses.  Why?  For the people.  Where there are people, there are stories.  Opportunities for life change.  Oh, and resources.  And each new church does its best to attract the folks who aren't engaged in the existing churches.  And maybe even steal a few from other churches.  We try our best to convince the audience that our "flavor" is it!  What happens in reality is this...people settle in where they feel most comfortable.  We all have a go-to flavor.  One that does the trick or hits the spot.  And at the end of the day, as long as we're enjoying the wonderment of ice cream, does it really matter if we pick different flavors?  Can't we agree to disagree about which is the best?

What about our churches?  What about the people in our communities that have never even tasted church?  They don't know of the goodness of God.  They've missed this thing we call a relationship with Jesus.  They're not trying to decide which flavor they like....they don't like any of it because they've never tried it.  Who's out there introducing them to it?  Are we offering a chance for people to experience it in its purest, most enjoyable form?  What if they don't like it?  Are we ok if they choose NOT to partake ever again?  Or what if they try our flavor and end up choosing another?  Is it good that at least they're enjoying it in some form or fashion?

May we as the Church find fun and creative ways to expose people to the goodness of church.  The truth of the Gospel.  The power of community.  The blessing of giving our lives away and showing up for others.  May we help them discover the joy of something they've been missing out on.  May we worry less about whose flavor is better and just be glad people are eating.  At the end of the day, isn't that what really matters?  May we not cause anyone to decide that ice cream just isn't worth it.  And choose to go without.  How tragic that would be!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I'm a Bad Dad

OK, so it's confession time.  We had a 15 year old poodle named Avery that was drawing near to the end of a good life here on earth.  He had lost his sight, had congestive heart failure, coughed a lot, and sometimes couldn't stand on his hind legs, especially if startled from his slumber, which was the extent of his daily routine.... eat, sleep, go outside to do his business.  We had all decided it was about time to do the deed.  Avery hadn't been to the vet in a couple years because there wasn't much they could do for him without spending our grocery money every month on medication...sorry, just wasn't gonna happen.   So when I decided to schedule the appointment, I found that several clinics in the area required an exam BEFORE euthanasia...just to be sure, right?  Well, I was already sure.  No need to spend more money to be told he's in bad shape.  So I ended up finding a clinic on the other side of town that didn't ask questions.  It all worked out.  I woke up Monday morning intent on helping Avery pass from this life to doggy heaven, wherever that may be.  But I forgot one thing.  And here's where the indictment comes...  I also have a 13 year old son who spend the first 11 years or so of his life caring for and loving on Avery.  They were buds.  Bunk mates for a while.  And although he knew this fate was inevitable, it didn't dawn on me to give my son a chance to officially say goodbye.  He had already left for school and my schedule for the day included the long drive north with Avery.  It seemed only logical to take care of it while it was convenient.  As I sat in the room with Avery, the itty-bitty tinge of emotion sprang only from the thought that I had neglected to provide my son with this much needed "moment".  Epic fail.  No one else really cared.  No one else would probably notice much.  Only one guy still really had any sense of connection with this decrepit flea bag (and I mean that in the nicest way).  What had I done?  On my way back home (sans Avery), I pondered how my son would feel.  Later that night, his only response to my question, "are you mad at me?" was a teenage grunt and small head nod.  I am sorry Son.  My bad!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

We Are Family!

Well, I'm 3 months into my new position as Lead Pastor at River Pointe Church Missouri City.  It's been a great, exciting, busy time in our house.  Phew!  Transitions are always tough.  But in the words of McDonald's, "I'm lovin' it!"

We started a new small group about a month ago with some amazing folks.  A dozen or so people who are all working on this thing called faith.  A couple with a young daughter, another couple expecting their second very soon.  An Asian couple and an Indian couple.  Two families with special needs children.  Another couple a year away from empty-nesthood.  A neighbor of our host home who popped in for the first time last night and contributed greatly.  Great times so far and great days ahead.

We spent a little while last night talking about Adoption.  Yes, briefly we chatted about child adoption and how it has impacted us all in different ways, from having parents who were adopted, other family members and a few who have considered adoption themselves.  This led naturally (and perhaps a little intentionally) into a talk about our Adoption into God's family when we become followers of Christ.  Ephesians 1:4-6...

...even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  

Amazing! That God loves us so much that he brings us into his family, as co-heirs with Christ.  We are chosen! We've been picked! We are special!  It's an awesome thing, that in the midst of our brokenness and helplessness, He drew us to Himself and wants us to be in His.  That should mean something.  

Then we flip over to Matthew 9 where it says...

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every afficition.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."  

Considering the peace, comfort and excitement that we all have about being "in the family", do we remember what it feels like to NOT be in?  Do we remember the "harassed and helpless" feeling?  The feeling of being without a shepherd?  If we do, then our standing with God might compel us to figure out how to make sure others experience the sense of belonging to His family that gives us such peace and acceptance.  The harvest is plentiful.  Jesus is the Great Shepherd.  Where are the workers?

May the rights and privileges of Sonship move me to action in order to help others join the family.  Everyone wants to belong somewhere.  Let me help them discover the lavish love of a great Father and a great family!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It Begins With Me

So I'm sitting in a hotel room in Frisco Texas after a long day at the D6 Conference. It's been great. Why am I here? To glean as much as I can about Family Ministry...after all, the conference is based on the passage in Deuteronomy 6 that talks about the home being the place and the parents being the primary faith trainers of their children.  Seen it, read it, preached it, used it, love it.  What a great passage!  And it's even been a source of frustration when I can't seem to get why parents won't step up and make it happen.  It's your responsibility. (notice I didn't say "our"'s easier to point the finger isn't it?)  But I had one of those epiphany moments today... but not necessarily out of the blue.  You see, it's been stirring in my heart lately, over the past few months I'd say.  It just all came crashing in on me today. You know how sometimes when you get away from normal everyday life, things sometimes get clearer.  So here it is...

"Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength.  (are you ready?)  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts..."  Ok, stop.  This is the part when I normally jump to verse 7 and start harping on parents to do what comes next... "impress, talk about, etc. etc."  But wait...don't miss what it says.  They are to be upon your hearts...oh yeah, and mine.  Have I heard this before?  Yes.  Do I know this already?  Of course.  Am I practicing this?  Hmmm.... Do I love the LORD with all of who I am and do I know His Word myself?  Am I equipped to lead my own family?

OK, so then here's what popped into my head.  When will I know enough?  When will I feel prepared enough?  Am I going to be equipped enough (in my own mind) to effectively lead my family, let alone others in the church?  No way!  So what do I do?  I guess it's time to throw in the towel, right?  Why bother if I can't do it all the way.  Then I realized this... when I surrender myself to Him daily, when I "abide in Christ" as John 15 talks about, when I make it a priority for ME to love HIM more than anything or anyone, He will equip me just enough to lead those who are following.  I can stay a step ahead and bring them along.  Do I need to be miles and miles in front to lead effectively?  Do I have to have all the answers?  Will I ever feel prepared enough?   What about the old school game "follow the leader"?  How far in front was the leader?  Just steps, right?  Close enough for those following to see, hear and be in relationship with the leader.  Am I leading from the front?  Do I know where this crazy train is headed?  Do I have direction?  Is my compass pointed to True North?  Am I "in Christ" enough to follow His lead as He uses me to lead my family?  Wowzers!  Humbling to say the least.  Now what?  My family, my ministry, my vocation, my goals, plans, dreams, all of won't matter one stinkin' bit what I accomplish, how important I think I am and how many great things happen on my watch if I don't lead out of a place of humility because of the grace of God through Christ.  If I don't love Him with ALL of me, then I won't be worth following.