Archive for April, 2009

Defenseless Cities

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

This piece is dedicated to all people who have been hurt in any way and have decided to erect cities and walls to protect themselves from being hurt again. To people who are hiding their real selves behind fortified cites. To people who have become professional image managers because they are afraid of not being accepted. To ragamuffin souls who desire to just be, to live authentic and transparent lives, but are afraid to tear down the walls and leave their fortified cities.    

I have built a fortified city
Where the walls are constructed of the mortar of 
Missed opportunities
And inconsistencies 
Uncried tears 
Selfish motives 
Pride and fears 
I am safe within these walls
After all 
These walls are 
Trackless, Pathless, Wayless
Would-be intruders are laughable 
I have erected a fortified city 
I am safe within these walls 
However, an undesired fate awaits me behind these walls 
I no longer desire to be safe within these walls 
Today, Jesus, I invite you; Lord, I invoke you; Savior, I need you 
To scale these walls 
Fell these walls
Assail these walls 
Break these walls 
Shake these walls 
Lord, please earth-quake these walls
I know I have erected these walls and 
All my life I have protected these walls
Now, I need you to inspect these walls
Demolish these walls 
And then resurrect these walls 
Tear down these walls 
Lay bare 
and pare down these walls 
Burn these walls 
Help me unlearn these walls 
I need you to day by day 
to dismantle these walls
implode these walls 
and expose these walls  
Reconstruct these walls 
By your grace rename these walls 
By your resurrection power reframe and reclaim these walls 
Until it’s a defenseless city, where there are no walls 
of vanity
none of suspicion 
none self importance and none of inhumanity  
No walls of inferiority 
none of arrogant superiority
No walls of jealousy 
none of envy 
None of self-consciousness 
and none of self-pity
Jesus is erecting a defenseless city, where the walls are constructed of 
Unconditional acceptance, Undying love, Untamed grace 
His reign, his authority. 

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Lord, Disturb Me

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

do not disturb 300x250 Lord, Disturb Me








I follow the Radical Rabbi named Jesus, but I am too safe, too comfortable, too undisturbed. I hang the Do Not Disturb sign on the door of my life because I don’t like my comfort, safety and status quo living being interrupted by the turbulence of big dreams, the deep waters of radical obedience, the rough seas of suffering, and the dark nights of uncertain adventures.  

The other day, I ran across a prayer, written by Sir Frances Drake (explorer and naval pioneer during the Elizabethan era), that disturbed me. This prayer affected my spiritual equilibrium so much, that I want to share it with you, in hopes that it will disturb you like it did me. Don’t just gloss over the words; sit with it for a minute and then spend some time, dissecting and parsing its content. Then ask God to help you identify “smooth sailing” areas of your life.  Next, ask him to disturb the places in your life where you are safe, comfortable, undisturbed. Here’s the prayer: 

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore. 

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity; and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim. 

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.  

I know I have been sailing too close to the shore lately and I am asking Jesus to disturb me to action. 

In what areas have you become too comfortable and need to pray: Lord, disturb me?In what areas in your life have you been traveling too close to shore and need to pray: Lord, disturb me?”

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Prayer Killers

Monday, April 27th, 2009

For me, prayer is hard work! Yeah, I’m a pastor and I know some think that pastors have this spirituality thing all together. It’s just not true. We struggle like everyone else. Some of the struggles you have staying connected to God through prayer, pastors have them too. Can I be honest with you? You know, sometimes my prayer life sucks! It’s not God’s fault; it’s mine. Sometimes, my prayer life is not as effective as it should be or can be because prayer killers are living large in my life, snuffing out, drowning, and suffocating, picking off my pleas and cries to my heavenly Father. The following list identifies the most common prayer killers in a believer’s life.

1. Unconfessed sins (Psalm 66:18) – So confess 
2. Lack of faith (Mark 6:1-6) – So trust 
3. Disobedience (1 John 3:21-22) – So obey
4. Lack of transparency with others (James 5:16) – So risk 
5. Failure to forgive (Matthew 18:21-22) – So forgive  
6. Failure to pray (James 4:2-3) - So pray 
7. Selfish motives when we pray (James 4:3) - So scrutinize  
8. Setting up Idols in our lives (Ezekiel 14:3) – So destroy 
9. Unresolved conflict (1 Peter 3:7) - So get it straight 
10. Ignoring God’s complete control (Jeremiah 1:5) - So rest 
11. Stubborn will (Psalm 139:22-24) -  So surrender  

My prayers tend to be picked off by the snipers and assassins of lack of faith, prayerlessness, wrong/selfish motives, and a stubborn will. Now, it’s your turn. Look over the list again. Which ones tend to cause problems in your prayer life most frequently? What things have you done to prevent your prayer life from falling prey to prayer killers?    

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Singles Are Not Unfinished Business – Part 3

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Please forgive me for not posting for a while; I have been a little busy over the last several weeks. Preparation for Resurrection weekend, baseball season beginning, kids’ field trips, writing for several publications, speaking and working on a book proposal, have all rendered me MIA in the blogosphere. I promise to do better.

As in the previous post, there are some specific advantages to being single. One advantage to being single is you are spared the emotional stress that many married couples endure. Another upside is that singles can serve God with razor laser focus and eagle eye attention. The church has done a poor job in demanding greater service from singles but not giving them an equal position at the table of decision and change.
Contentment is key in being a joyful and fulfilled single. Again, contentment is not accepting your plight or becoming satisfied where things are. As you wait for God’s hook up, you continue to move toward your purpose and destiny. What do I do while I wait for God’s “hook up?”

Instead of focusing on finding the right person, you should be becoming the right person for your future spouse. This includes being emotionally healthy, physically fit and spiritually strong. We all carry baggage of some sort, and for those of us who are married, brought 3 or 4 “carry on” bags into the plane of our relationship. The more emotional baggage you can discard before marriage, the more time you can spend on building a new relationship together with your spouse rather than dealing with old conflict that has grounded you for years. Some naively think that marriage is the magic bullet that is somehow going to fix all of their personal problems. This is fantasy, and If not dealt with through counseling, mentoring, and personal obedience, marriage will only highlight your “issues” and expose what’s in your “carry on luggage.” So, spend time identifying your “issues.” In fact, I would suggest that you not seriously date anyone until you have allowed God to heal you of some of your past emotional wounds. You can identify your issues and heal through prayer, close friends telling you, counseling, strength inventories, and self-examination.

After you have identified, have begun dealing with your issues and baggage, and started healing from past relational wounds, what should you look for in a potential mate? This is the $64,000 question for singles, isn’t it?

If you are a follower of Jesus, then your priority should be to pray and look for someone who has a love for and devotion to Jesus. Although I know that there are some “saved dogs” out there, this doesn’t change the biblical command to marry someone who is a genuine believer in and a follower of Jesus. Non-believers inevitably draw believers away from Jesus more than believers draw non-believers to Jesus. This does not mean a believer can’t draw a non-believer. In my experience, I have seen it work the other way more times than I care to remember.

Look for someone who has similar likes, values and interests. If your interests include sports, traveling family, children, education, then you are probably going to enjoy the company of someone with similar interests. Similar interests and values increases the enjoyment of your time alone with that individual. Very few things are as painful and boring as being with someone who you have very little or nothing in common with.

Now, incompatibility is not all bad. I have found the old adage that opposites attract to be true in my own marriage. I am a sports fan; Tonia is not. I was an English major in college; Tonia was an engineer and math major in college. Tonia likes to cook; I like to eat (well, I suppose that is more compatibility than incompatibility). But we made a decision early in our relationship to be open to learn from one another and grow from each other’s likes and strengths.

But, how can you increase compatibility in your relationship? Here are some key questions to help you increase compatibility. How you answer these questions will determine whether incompatibility will enhance or create unsolvable conflict in your relationship.

Are you willing to make adjustments or will you have a posture of selfishness and stubbornness?
Are you willing to make emotional progress?
Are you growing emotionally and spiritually? Or, will you remain stagnant?
Are you willing to put in the work to learn from one another?

Other things to consider:

Before you a start seriously dating, determine what you want in a potential spouse. Create a realistic list of qualities and attributes that you want in a spouse. As you make your list, determine what are the deal breakers and those things that are negotiable. Tonia’s lack of zeal for sports wasn’t a deal breaker for me. She had so many other qualities that overshadowed her lack of passion for Louisville Sluggers,(baseball) Pig Skins,(football) and “the Rock” (basketball), that I wasn’t going to run the risk of losing a good woman.

Place your life and future spouse in God’s hands. Through prayer and obedience, place your life and future in God’s hands. He can see the future and we can’t.

Clarify your life’s purpose, mission or destiny. According to Andy Stanley, direction determines destination. Where are your headed? What path are you taking?

Commit to God’s standards, especially in the area of sexually purity. Spend time alone in God’s word on a regular basis.

Commit to debt-free living. Money and communication conflicts are still top the list of the things that destroy marriages. If you can get a handle on God’s instructions regarding your finances now, you would have dealt a serious blow to an issue that can deal a serious blow to your relationship. If this is an issue for you, sign of for Good Sense Class or Financial Peace University. These personal stewardship curricula will transform your financial lives.

Connect with network of positive and godly single men and women.

Hang out with godly, but normal married couples. As you hang out with these couples, you get to experience real time marital interaction, conflict and conflict resolution, cooperation, laughter, and marital joy. You will find out that marriage is not a fairy-tale, storybook fantasy. But, it is a God-ordained human relationship that has deep valleys moments and Everest type experiences. On May 30, 2009, from 6:30-8:00, our church (Tabernacle Community Church) will be having a gathering for Singles and Marrieds to dialogue, answer questions, laugh together, eat together, and pray for one another. I am so looking forward to this event.

What can you add to the conversation? What other questions do we need to ask and answer? What are talking points or questions would you include for the Singles and Married event? Thanks for all the feedback you have given.

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Singles Are Not Unfinished Business – Part 2

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

In my last post I gave you three categories of singleness – some are single by creation, some are single by circumstances and some are single by choice. The one point I wanted to come across loud and clear was that singles are not incomplete or unfinished business, but many have carved out well-adjusted lives for themselves. Based on the hits and comments, I am convinced that the church needs to do more work in helping singles feel more a part of Jesus’ body. As the church does its job, singles, you can do some things to help maximize your singleness as well. The first thing is to: 

Don’t live in denial. 

Refuse to allow the weeds of resentment and the root of bitterness to grow in your heart. 
Refuse to let the world define your life for you. The world says that if you are still single by a certain age, then something is wrong with you. The world is not the boss of you.
The Bible says that it is legitimate to be married and it is legitimate to be single. There are benefits and responsibilities to being married and being single. The secret to these benefits and responsibilities is contentment. We are not naturally content. Therefore, married and singles alike have to learn the art and secret of contentment (Philippians 4:11, 13)
What does it mean to be content? Glad you asked. It does not mean pretending to be happy when you are not. It does not mean that I say I like everything the way it is, when I don’t really like the way things are. It is not wanting everything to remain the same. If I am single, what does it mean for me to be content?
It means that you are not waiting on your circumstances to change in order to have joy and be fulfilled. It means that, although being in a committed relationship that’s moving toward something more serious would be nice, you are not waiting to exhale or waiting for a man or a woman to blow some magical relational dust in your eyes to make you happy. It means you will not let a man or a woman define you as a human being and make you happy. Sadly, I have seen so many single men and women lose themselves – their personalities, their humor, their lust for life and knowledge, their love for God and his people – because they were so desperate to be loved and feared being rejected by another person. This desperation and fear caused them to relinquish themselves and they lost their true voice and simply became an echo and an imitation. Don’t you just want to shake them and say to the alien version: “What have you done to our friend, brother or sister. Give them back to us.”      
Contentment, joy and fulfillment are choices. You are as joyful and fulfilled as you choose to be as a single person. Your joy and fulfillment as a single person are based on you staying connected to the True Vine (John 15:1-10) and choosing the right attitude (James 1:2-5). If you are unhappy as a single, then it may be that you are not staying connected to Jesus and allowing his life to flow through you, and because you are choosing the wrong attitudes or hanging around people with toxic attitudes. 
For the most part, you cannot control the circumstances that caused your singleness, but you can control how you respond to your circumstances. Someone once quipped: “Life is 10 percent of what happens to us and 90 percent of how we respond to what happens to us.”  
Many single people, not all, have put their lives on hold because they are waiting for the right person or just the right circumstances. They have put their education on hold or delayed a mission trip or simply have not been fully present in the moment because of “what if” and “when I” The problem with living off “what if” and “when I” is we miss all that life has to offer us NOW! If this is you, I beg you to stop putting your life on hold and start living in the moment, now. Be fully present in your life today. Stop waiting for that life-changing event and person. Accept where God has you right now, and choose to respond with joy.  
Thanks for joining the last conversation. What can you add to this conversation?   

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Singles are Not Unfinished Business

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

All right, I have given a lot of love (no pun intended) to married couples over the last couple posts. Because so much attention is given to “mainstream” married life, some singles can feel alienated and even treated as “the other” or second class citizens. Many followers of Jesus don’t believe in the legitimacy of singleness. In fact, the church has inflicted much pain on singles by treating singleness as a disease for which the only cure is marriage. Directly or indirectly, subtly or not so subtly, we have ascribed to the notion that singles are unfinished business. You’ve heard it: “Girl, you ain’t married yet?” “You need a good wife.” “You know you are not getting any younger.” “Found anybody yet?”You better hurry up and find somebody so you can have some kids.” These kinds of statements from family and friends can put a lot of pressure on a person and lead people to believe that singles are incomplete people. One of our members (LA) reminded me as we were running one day, “We (singles) are not these desperately unhappy and lonely people.” Based on my many conversations with single men and women, I am convinced that most singles have carved out well-ordered lives for themselves. With no demanding family responsibilities or possessive spouses, many singles, most singles enjoy a degree of freedom which married couples can’t enjoy.     

I have a lot of love for those who are single, and I want to show them some love as well. Therefore, these next couple posts will be dedicated to singles. If you are single, these next posts will not be musings about trying to fix something that I think is wrong with you. I will try to center these posts on encouraging you and helping you maximize your singleness, for the sake of Jesus. Because I have not been single for a while, it will be imperative that you bring your voice and experience to the table.  
Singles basically fit into three categories:
Single by creation (1 Corinthians 7:7). The Bible says there are some singles who have the gift of singleness. These are individuals who God has created to live happily ever after, single. These are individuals who have no yearning and burning desire to get married. Listen, the three greatest men in the Bible were single – John the Baptist, Paul and Jesus. How can you tell if you have “the gift?” You an live your whole life without the desire for and preoccupation with marriage and sexual relations, and it doesn’t frustrate you. You are not a time bomb, waiting to explode. If you struggle with sexual temptations and have a desire to be married, then you don’t have to wonder if you have the gift. You probably don’t have it. I can’t explain the mystery of this gift. All I know is that this gift is rare.
Single by circumstance (1 Corinthians 7:15). These are single individuals who would like to be married, but for one reason or another, due to various circumstances, are still single. People look at you strangely because you are single and with no children. They think something is wrong with you. For many, circumstances have caused you to be single. Relationally, things just have not worked out for you. Maybe you have not found the right person. Maybe you have not found someone worthy of you. Maybe you would like to be married, but simply have not been asked or no one has shown serious interest in you. Or, maybe you have been divorced, widowed or abandoned by a spouse. Whatever the reason, you find yourself single by circumstances of life. Hang with me over the next couple posts; I want to encourage you. 
Single by choice (Matthew 19:12). The Bible talks about people who could be married if they wanted to, but have decided that something else is more important. Now, people can choose to be single for good reasons or they can remain single for selfish reasons. Just as people can get married for the right or wrong reasons, single people can remain single for the right or wrong and selfish reasons. 

Here are some reasons why some might remain single:
Making lots of money/personal belongings/financial independence
Avoidance of responsibility of marriage
Having sex without the commitment of marriage 
Not wanting to compromise and make adjustments in a committed relationship 
Fear of commitment 
Non-biblical divorce 
Fear of losing a spouse through divorce or death
Marriage is inconvenient right now 
Loves privacy and freedom 
Leaving and returning with questions 
No In-Laws 
You only have to “do you”
Fear of marital failure
The Bathroom (enough said, right?)
However, there are some other reasons for remaining single:
Family obligations 
Commitment to serve others 
Working on personal problems so you won’t hoist those problems on some one else
Finishing your education
Waiting for the right person  
The highest motive for choosing to remain single is to have more time to serve God (Matthew 19:12). I absolutely love being married. I have a wonderful wife and beautiful children. However, there are days when I envy singles because, as Paul says, they don’t have the demanding family responsibilities that married people have. These demanding responsibilities prevent married couples from giving themselves wholly to the service of God. Singles are not inconvenienced by spousal needs and children vying for their attention, but are free to serve God fully. 
Singles, you have a great opportunity to give our heavenly Father all of you. Take time to thank Him for the power and freedom of your singleness and ask him to use you to make Him famous to our world.  
Stay tuned for how singles can maximize their singleness. What can you add to this conversation?    


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