Saturday, December 30, 2006

The List

2006 is almost over and i'm feeling...well, pretty grateful. i'm not nostalgic or weepy or sappy or particularly reflective. just grateful. here are a handful of reasons why:
  • a new season of 24 is getting ready to begin.
  • stellar year for my beloved chargers.
  • my son got married. my son got married. my son got married. sheesh.
  • i have a daughter-in-law. i couldn't have picked a better partner for my son.
  • the grass in my front yard is almost all the way back.
  • the leaves are almost all picked up. almost.
  • i read about 15 really good books this year. really good books.
  • i still get to watch my other son play baseball. i love bleachers and seeds.
  • i needed to sell my old truck. i have another one now and it runs better. it's amazing how 235k miles can still run well.
  • fall arrived again.
  • 32 years of marriage.
  • 35 years of ministry.
  • 25 years of parenting.
  • 42 years of being a padre fan.
  • i own a house.
  • my dad always bought a real christmas tree every year. so do i. you can't beat the smell.
  • color television.
  • the internet. i am blown away by the access i have to books, resources, study helps, commentaries, and historical documents for sermon and lesson building...all at my fingertips.
  • my ankles work reasonably well. the surgeries are holding. i still can't dunk a basketball, but i don't think bad ankles are the problem.
  • i pastor at a church that doesn't place me in a box.
  • i got to go to colorado again this year to help mentor young youth ministers. i love staying connected to my roots.
  • baja fresh and cabana. fresh mex. tex mex.
  • the drive to tyler, instead of the drive to vernon.
  • the church building renovation is finished. well, almost.
  • our staff at north point. loyalty, friendship, devotion, camaraderie, openness, and shared vision are priceless.
  • the awareness that i have a life partner that is steadfast, faithful, and full of more integrity than anyone i have ever met. marriage is still fun, fulfilling, satisfying, and purposeful. wow.
  • the bowl season.
  • music. loud and raucous. quiet and contemplative.
  • my recliner. i wonder how they got them all into the upper room...
  • a consistent salary and more than enough money to do everything and have everything we could ever need...and most everything we could ever want.
  • contentment, joy, peace, hope, security, significance, purpose, confidence, gratitude and love.

really...who could ask for more?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

It's time for a change

again, tony morgan writes another question that growing churches should be asking...

#6 – Do people accept change as normal? Believe it or not, even churches can develop a culture where change is both expected and embraced. This is important as change is most critical in a culture that is continually “morphing”.

why is change so difficult for people...especially adults. children learn, at an early age, that they are not the controllers of their own destiny. heck, they don't control their bedtime, their choice of friends, their menu, their finances, their wardrobe, or the music that's played in the family car. they have to accept that others make decisions for them and they must learn to adjust on the fly...or be frustrated with life pretty much all the time.

then, somewhere along the path, children grow up to be adults. and adults are the controllers of their worlds and the masters of their own universe. as adults, we make our own decisions and assume full responsibility for the outcome. we know what's best for our lives and, if asked, we probably know what's best for our neighbors, our schools, and our favorite athletic team. honestly, if the president would just ask, most of us have the answer for poverty, aids, the national deficit and world peace. he just needs to ask.

and there's the problem. since we know what's just about any area...change is tough. i like what i like and if someone comes along and messes with it, well...they're probably wrong. most of us have opinions about the way church is supposed to be done. strong ones. opinions about music and preaching and money and buildings and sunday school and leadership and marriage and biblical inerrancy and hundreds of other areas...some really important and others that probably don't amount to a hill of t.o.'s sound bites...

here, let me say it...we need to get off our high horses and admit that we don't often know what's best when it comes to church. there are many "right" ways to do it. there are countless ideas, strategies, programs, and possibilities. we need to swallow our fear of change. if something is not working, we need to change it. if something can be done better, we need to change it. if there is the possibility of becoming more effective, more relevant, more faithful, more influential...we need to take the risk

Friday, December 22, 2006

Are we having fun?

here's another question that growing churches should be asking:

#4 – Are people having fun? We have to give people hope, encouragement, and the chance to laugh. We live in a fast-paced and stressful culture. If people can’t find health and balance in our church, they will find it somewhere else.

there was a poster that everyone had back in the 80's. it said, "are we having fun, yet?". that was the question of a generation. and it didn't end. the pursuit of fun got deeper and more profound in the 90's. it certainly isn't any different here in the 21st century. just more technologically sophisticated. bottom line? fun is still fun and we are all looking for it.

fun is not evil. in the midst of the most serious issue of life...what happens when you die...the pursuit of enjoyment is powerful. i have some friends of mine who used to refer to their church as kurt and ken's church of fun. i can remember the first time some of my more conservative church friends heard about it. their collective gasp still resonates in my memory! and i think my belly still hurts from laughing about it...

there is a lot of pain in life. it's difficult. it's confusing. it's full of suffering and failure and misery and dying. it's that way for everybody. some more than others. but sooner or later, we all walk the road of sorrow. where do we find the balance? where do we find relief? where do we experience balance? where is it ok to laugh and joke and feel pleasure and enjoyment and merriment and amusement?

you really want to know where? church. that's right, church. i believe it with my whole heart. in the midst of all the important things we need to be doing, having fun is right up there with worshipping and fasting and saving souls. so get out there and get busy. have some fun!
here's another question that growing churches should be asking:

#4 – Are people having fun? We have to give people hope, encouragement, and the chance to laugh. We live in a fast-paced and stressful culture. If people can’t find health and balance in our church, they will find it somewhere else.

Sunday, December 17, 2006 to godliness?

here's another question that tony morgan suggests that growing churches should be asking:

#3 – Do we exceed the expectations of our first-time guests? Whether we like it or not, our guests are “consumers” before they become convinced that they should be learners, worshippers, or servants. That means that they are walking into our doors for the first time and expecting an experience that meets or exceeds what they are getting at the theater, the restaurant, or the mall.

i don't know if i completely buy into the whole "consumer" mentality of today's church shoppers, nor am i convinced that we should be catering to the consumer experience that expects to be wowed into coming back the next week. i'm curious what you think...

more importantly, tho, why do you think it is so hard for most of us to invest our lives in someone we don't know? why is it so difficult to be friendly and interested in someone who is taking time to investigate our church family or, more importantly, the claims of the one we call our leader?

honestly, it amazes me to watch how easy it is to walk right past people we don't find a friend or quickly get our favorite seat in the auditorium. i'm not throwing stones here. i share the same kind of uneasiness when i am forced out of my comfort zone and into the life story of another person.

but if i truly want to be like christ, my commitment to love god and love others needs to be more than a catchy slogan on the front page of a church web page.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Owning ministry

here's another question from tony morgan's list of questions that growing churches ask:

#2 – Do volunteers “own” the ministry of our church? We simply can’t hire enough staff to accomplish all of the ministry that needs to be accomplished in a growing church. With that in mind, we need to create a culture here where the volunteers expect to do it before staff can get to it!

this whole concept of "owning" ministry is a good one, but it seems like there are some fundamental difficulties in making it happen. the first is time. how can someone really "own" a project or a ministry or a program without putting adequate time into it? we are all living in such a complicated world with time demands that stretch us beyond our limits...and the thought of adding another commitment is just too overwhelming. it's just easier to let someone else do it.

another reason that i hear from people is that they just don't feel qualified or equipped enough to take on a task as important as a "ministry"! that's fine. even moses spent a bunch of time trying to talk god out of using him because he didn't feel qualified (for the record, don't try to bargain with god on this one...he always wins). the bottom line, though, is whether or not we will trust god to provide if we decide to take the responsibility. it's not any more complicated than that.

i spend a lot of time wondering what it will take to help people feel passionately about the things of god, because, really, it's all about what we believe strongly enough to invest ourselves in. there will never be enough time. there will never be enough training. there will never be enough ability or even self-confidence.

there will always be enough god, though. and with god, all things are do-able. the question is whether or not we believe least enough to do something about it!

Monday, December 11, 2006

What's the buzz?

this guy named tony morgan wrote an article that was titled, "questions that growing churches should ask." i thought i'd respond to some of them in my next few posts...

#1 – is your ministry strategy creating a “buzz” in your community? if people aren’t talking about what’s happening at your church, they are not inviting their friends. what are we doing to create dialogue and make people think, “i need to check that out and see for myself!”?

i wonder sometimes whether anybody in the community is even looking at the church. i don't mean to be negative...quite the opposite. it just seems to me that the things that are creating "buzzes" in the community these days are things the church can't (or shouldn't) compete with. is it possible for us (the church) to love and care and serve enough to create a buzz?

there is deep truth in saying that if our people aren't talking about what's happening at our church, they are probably not inviting their friends. are our people excited about what we are doing? do our people know what we are doing? do our people know why we are doing what we are doing? if they were so inclined, would our people know what they were inviting their friends to join in on? just wondering...
while we're on the subject, if someone doesn't care enough to invite a friend, why are they coming in the first place? that sounds awfully harsh...

if you're a north pointer, what's the buzz for you in our church family? just asking...

Friday, December 08, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like christmas

finally put up the christmas tree tonight...still have a lot more work to do, though. doing the christmas thing is different now that our boys are grown and out of the house. not that they helped very much when they were here!

i think a lot during this time of the year. i remember my parents. my mom loved christmas. she was pretty festive. my dad loved the surprise. he was a gift-giver and surprising me with something really cool was what he was all about. even at 52, it's still good to remember.

i'm a lot like my parents. i've grown to be a festive kind of guy. i like when our home is decorated and the smell of the douglas fir tree fills the entire house. we've collected a bunch of tree ornaments through the years. many of them have a story. i like to remember those stories.

just like my dad, i love the surprise. i still work at trying to figure out ways to surprise my boys. i wonder if it's going to be wierd to try to surprise them when i'm 70. maybe it will be time for them to surprise me...

i think that's the best part of christmas...the surprise. it reminds me that there are still surprises in the world...that i don't know everything and that god remains in the business of breathing and moving and blowing fresh air through my life...much like the smell of the fir tree in my living room.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A question

here's a great no win question...

what's worse... a liberal, tolerant believer who won't make a stand for the authoritative truth of God... or a narrow, judgmental prude who won't reach out to a corrupt and dying world?

how about liberal, tolerant believers who still stand for the authoritative truth of God and are not afraid to get their hands dirty in a messy world? is this possible? i think we can win with this one!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A new day spa

i was watching the news tonight and it was giving a report on a new whole foods market in dallas where you can give the "concierge" your shopping list and let him shop for you...while you go to the market's day spa and get your massage and other spa amenities. as you wander through the market, you can even listen to the opera singer announce when the fresh bread is ready!

ok, so i'm much does this cost? better yet, what kind of person is going to take advantage of this "service"? and, more importantly, who would ever admit to this kind of opulent lifestyle?

i know this is pretty judgmental on the rich and famous, but in a day and age when the number of the world's poor and needy continues to escalate in ways we cannot even come close to comprehending...shouldn't we be standing up and saying "enough, already"?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Worship wars

i've been reading some discussions about worship this morning. the conflict over what goes on in a worship service still goes on! amazing. hymns, choruses, guitars, pianos, loud, reflective, traditional, comntemporary, what young people want, what older people want, the length of the sermon, the style of the sermon, the topioc of the sermon, the regularity of communion, the placement of communion, who serves communion, too much emphasis on the offering, not enough emphasis on the offering, clapping, no clapping, raising hands...i even read this morning about a pastor that was having conflict over where he wanted to place his gotta be kidding me!

here's my thought on worship today: if we spent more time on the quality and content of our worship on monday morning, rather than criticizing what happens on sunday morning, i think we would be a lot better off...

for the record, i'm grateful to be in a church family that doesn't major in minors when it comes to sunday mornings!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

winter is here

i'm sitting here tonight listening to the thunder and lightning crash and the rain is pouring down and the threat of ice and snow and arctic blast stuff hangs over us as we wait for the dreaded news of school closure in the morning. it will be a happy day.

bad weather days are these amazing, unplanned, undeserved gifts that pop up once in a while, where my wife gets to stay home and enjoy a day around the house. hope it happens tomorrow. winter is good.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I promise

haven't posted for a week. sorry. a wedding, thanksgiving, and friends from california made life a little complicated. i'll do better. i promi...

before i make a promise, i need to tell you something. i've been preparing for tomorrow's sermon most of the day today. we're on the ninth commandment. it says that we are not to give a false testimony against our neighbor. more than anything else, we are to be people of truth. our word must be counted on. the things we say carry amazing value and must be trusted above all, if we are to ever make a difference in the world. frankly, if we are ever going to know god and experience his presence in our world, we must be true.

Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman. Psalm 15:1-3

so how's your word? are you trustworthy? do you speak the truth, or nothing at all? can you be counted on to communicate from your heart and speak no slander? i hope so.

anyway, i'll do better. i promis...

Friday, November 17, 2006

A measuring stick

here's an excerpt of an article out of christianity today, about something that's going on this week at the church in colorado springs, where the pastor was fired for sexual misconduct...

First comes news that not all members of New Life Church will be able to vote on Haggard's successor at the church. "Only those who can prove they have contributed money to the church during the tax year 2005 will be able to vote in the selection process to choose Haggard's successor in the pulpit," Pueblo Chieftain columnist Chuck Green reports. A church spokesman tells him that a tax statement or church receipt are, "in a sense, your admission ticket."

what do you think? should people who contribute money to a church be given more privileges and responsibilities at that church? is giving money to support the ministry of a local church a measuring stick of one's commitment and worth as a "member"?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The problem with headrest monitors...

i was driving around the other night and pulled up behind a mom and dad driving their shiny new honda passport with those really cool monitors embedded in the headrests. although the window tint (which was installed according to CIA standards) made me work harder to snoop on the back seat, i was able to see the little peeps glued to a dvd of the "little mermaid", while the oldsters were enjoying their starbucks in uninterrupted bliss.

i'm not jealous. i thoroughly enjoyed throwing loose baseballs at my boys as they argued in the back seat, while i ate my burrito from bueno with my other hand and balanced my diet coke between my knees. come on..

anyway, the whole event made me think. it's getting harder and harder these days to get young people (and old people, as well) to understand the value of things like silence, solitude, quiet contemplation, and the discipline of bible reading and study. for most, the thought of spending some quiet moments alone with God is a totally foreign concept. it seems like we have resigned ourselves to living in an "adhd" culture that caters to short attention spans and the addicitons of visual junkies. we depend on someone else to spoon feed bible truth to us. we get annoyed at the insinuation that we ought to carve out some alone time in our busy, hectic, "out-of-control" lifestyles. quit making me feel guilty for not reading my bible...

i don't have a great answer for this. it seems like we are on a technological autobahn where there are no "off ramps"...only faster and faster speeds where the only hope of stopping is to crash.

i need to go throw a baseball.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election day

On the eve of our current election, I guess I am waxing political again. Please don't hold it against me. After reading a bunch of political commentaries and insights from both the wise and the foolish, I was left with this observation:

for ten years of my adult life, I lived in one of the most politically conservative, academically enriched, and economically privileged counties in the entire country. living there sort of gives you an entitlement to knowing what is best for everybody. political, economic, and religious know-it-alls are everywhere.

at the conclusion of those ten years, we packed up our little family (very young at that time) and left for a land of total opposites. we moved from our suburban cocoon, to the very raw and chaotic urban world of one of our nations major inner cities. our move was all about starting a church in an urban adventure we were passionate, but more than a little naive about!

I could write for days about the lessons that God taught us during our years on this part of our family journey, but for today, let me pass on this perspective...

the philosophical and theological foundation for our ministry there was built on living with the people of our community. understanding their point of view. feeling their pain. listening to their perspective. honoring their priorities. responding to what they needed. and, most importantly, moving from they to us.

the greatest thing that happened to me was a re-educating of my belief that I could know something about somebody else before I walked beside them. by joining with our new school, at the ball field, at community meetings, at church, at the market... I began to see life...and politics...from their point of view. things that seemed so politically reasonable from the safe confines of my former neighborhood now looked a lot different.

it's kind of like this: imagine that there is a car wreck at a busy intersection. there are people standing on all four corners who witness the wreck. they all see the same wreck, but when the police come to get their account, they all give different stories...based on where they were standing.

to me, politics are a lot like looking at the wreck. same wreck, but it looks totally different from a variety of locations. maybe we would all be a little better off if we tried to see things from different perspectives...without assuming we already know what is best.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


let me see if i can say what i'm thinking without being horribly offensive...

i was out walking the dog tonight (the crazy one, not the needy one) and while we were on our journey, we were almost hit by a ups truck that took a corner like he was jeff gordon at the texas motor speedway! don't drivers realize that gimpy, 52 year old guys, walking manic little dogs, on 25ft leashes, down unlit driveways, by the side of banks, late at night...have the right-of-way? as i gathered my composure and settled the brainless one down, i started thinking... idiots like that shouldn't have driver's licenses...

why do we have to be a culture of "name callers"? i guess it starts early. four-eyes. fatso. cry-baby. cheater. liar. lazy. children can be so hurtful. then they become teenagers. wannabe. slut. emo-boy. faggot. loser. jerk. moron. honestly, when we grow up, we're not any better. we just carry on our childish name-calling into our daily lives. our politics. our denominational loyalty. our sports teams. our values. our morality. our children. even when we're cut off in traffic or nearly run over in a dark driveway... pretty much, if you disagree with me, offend me, hurt me, look different than me, believe different than're at risk of being an idiot.

as i was walking away from my brush with death (ok, so i exaggerate a little), i started thinking a little. my guess is the ups driver was in a hurry. maybe he'd had a long day. he might have been anxious to get home to see his kids. who knows what his story really was? he may have just been careless. i don't know. no matter what, he didn't deserve to be called a name.

i'm pretty sure jesus wouldn't have called him a name. the only people jesus called names were the religiously smug church folks of his day who thought they were better than everyone else because they perceived themselves to be morally and spiritually superior to others. mmm...

kindness. is it too much to ask?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Politics and labels

i'm really tired of political "spin"... frankly, i'm weary of politics in general. those democrats... those republicans... as if either side really cared about anything more than the next election. there's a reason i never talk about politics. the moment you start talking, you label yourself... and the moment you put a label on yourself, everyone from the other side feels like they know all about you. what you think. what you believe. what your values are. what you are passionate about. what motivates you. baloney.

i'm tired of labels and i'm more tired of people assuming they know something about a person just because they know their label. baptist. post-modern. veteran. university student. black. californian. hunter. pro-life. divorced. artist. cowboy fan. stop assuming!

would it bother you to know that kinky is starting to make sense to me? don't assume...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Discussions on baptism

i was having a discussion with scott tonight about baptism and it got me thinking about some things that i haven't thought about for a while...

the other day i wrote about the division we have as family...and the fallout over those differences of opinion. one of the topics that believers disagree on...sometimes the theology of baptism.

i can remember my days in bible college and seminary and the endless debates (er, discussions) we had over the form, meaning and purpose of baptism. it was always such a favorite. we got very good at articulating our position and undermining those who were obviously inferior theologically. we talked sprinkling, pouring,and immersing. we talked age of accountability. we talked the sovereignty of God and how predestination and baptism were related. we talked infant baptism, believers baptism, holy spirit baptism, fire baptism, Jesus' baptism, membership baptism, catholic baptism, baptist baptism, ethiopian baptism, household baptism, and the ever-popular water regeneration. we talked...a lot.

we asked questions that made us feel smart and overly spiritual. "do you have to be baptized to be saved?" "how young is too young to be baptized?" "is it ok to be re-baptized?" "what are the right words to say when you're baptized?" "can women baptize?" "is there more than one kind of baptism?" "does your baptism come with any guarantees?" "can a person be baptized the wrong way?" "who says?" "is baptism just a symbol or does something actually happen to us during our baptism?" "is our baptism the moment we are saved?" "do you have to repent before you get baptized?" "how much?" may brain is getting tired just remembering...

what questions do you have?

Monday, October 23, 2006

So much for being perfect

according to a "think tank" at the university of texas...

--22,000 checks will be deducted from the wrong bank accounts in the next 60 minutes.
--1,314 phone calls will be misplaced by telecommunication services every minute…
--12 babies will be given to the wrong parents each day.
--268,500 defective tires will be shipped this year.
--14,208 defective personal computers will be shipped this year.
--103,260 incoming tax returns will be processed incorrectly this year.
--2,488,200 books will be shipped in the next 12 months with the wrong cover.
--5,517,200 cases of soft drinks produced in the next 12 months will be flatter than a bad tire.
--Two plane landings daily at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago will be unsafe.
--3,056 copies of tomorrow's Wall Street Journal will be missing one of the three sections.
--18,322 pieces of mail will be mishandled in the next hour.
--291 pacemaker operations will be performed incorrectly this year.
--880,000 credit cards in circulation will turn out to have incorrect cardholder information on their magnetic strips.
--$9,690 will be spent today, tomorrow, next Thursday, and every day in the future on defective, often unsafe sporting equipment.
--55 malfunctioning automatic teller machines will be installed in the next 12 months.
--20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions will be written in the next 12 months.
--114,500 mismatched pairs of shoes will be shipped this year.
--$761,900 will be spent in the next 12 months on tapes and compact discs that won't play.
--107 incorrect medical procedures will be performed by the end of the day today.
--315 entries in Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language will turn out to be misspelled.

any thoughts?

Monday, October 16, 2006


mondays are a big reading day for me. local news. national and international news. some of my favorite weblogs. early reading for sermon prep. monday morning insights from pastors, authors and organizations. even a look or two at how my beloved chargers did...

while doing some reading yesterday, i had an interesting thought about differences of opinion. people in our country are divided in their support of the president and our government. divided over war. divided over the economy. divided over issues of race and poverty and education. there is hostility. people on opposite sides of the divisions look at their opponents with smug superiority. "you'd have to be a complete idiot to think that...", they say.

it saddens me, but christians are no different. in spite of what Jesus commanded (and modeled), we struggle at unity. we are divided. divided over politics and war and race and education and the economy. we are also divided over denominations. divided over issues. divided over theology. divided over lifestyle. believers on opposite sides of the divisions look at their opponents with smug superiority. "you'd have to be a complete idiot to believe that...", they say.

could it be that none of us are as smart as we think we are? maybe we don't have a "deed of ownership" on the truth. maybe...just maybe...there are people who have totally different positions...totally different interpretations...totally different opinions than we do...and they are using their brains also!

maybe instead of shaking our heads in pitiful judgment, we could listen with compassionate understanding and respect. i'm not suggesting that there is no truth, but i am suggesting that none of us is as bright as we want to believe we are. seeking truth is a lifelong process. God's revealed word is our only concrete guide. i just think we need to walk the path without undermining the intellectual dignity of our fellow-travelers.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A flashback

i had an interesting thought tonight...

i went to a high school football game. i love going to games and watching kids. all of them...they fascinate me. i knew kids on the teams (congrats to fm!). i knew kids in the band. i knew kids in the drill team. i bumped into kids that i knew who were just walking around, oblivious to the game. they were just there to hang out with each other. i knew kids who were sitting with their parents. i knew kids who were avoiding their parents.

i knew kids who had graduated. i knew kids that had graduated, but never moved on. i knew kids who were "stars" when they were in high school. i knew kids that were "nobodies". i really do like going to games and watching kids.

while i was there tonight, i had a major flashback. we were sitting behind a row of ten kids...five "couples" to be exact. they were 14 or 15 years old. they were giving us quite a show in the fine art of young high school romance. they weren't obnoxious. they were just enjoying their independence and the freedom they had to grow up, express themselves, and experience the thrill of teenage hormonal excitement. to say they they were oblivious to the game would be an understatement! but they were certainly aware of what hung on their arms and played with their hair...

back to the flashback. 37 years ago, that was wanda and me. they looked so young tonight. we were that young then. who would have ever imagined that two fifteen year olds could have made a decision that would last a lifetime? who would have ever thought that those two kids, caught in the wonder of adolescent love, would make history together...not just a moment or a season...but a timeline that would span all the future days of our lives? who would have thought?

it was kind of fun watching them.

Friday, October 06, 2006

About brotherhood

this past week i spent six days with a bunch of guys up in the mountains. we didn't take our shirts off and beat drums and get in touch with our inner child. but we did spend a lot of time trying to be honest.

i led a group of men who had been married for years, been in youth ministry for years, and been around the block for years. it was a group full of wisdom, spiritual maturity, life experience, and huge vision. it was also a group of men fully aware that their lives and marriages and ministries were not everything they needed to be. that's not the unusual part.

what was amazing was their willingness to talk about it. honesty. transparency. candid openness about lives that constantly fall short. frank discussion about trying to live by our own power instead of living by the power of the holy spirit. wrestling with our calling. running headlong into temptation, lonliness, independence, disappointment, failure, judgment, comparison, rejection, emptiness...and swimming back to the surface again for the breath of life.

men are pretty notorious for putting up walls, existing at arms distance from other men, living with secret sins, communicating that we really don't need other men in our lives for deep friendship and real brotherhood. we struggle with camaraderie that goes below the surface and deals openly with conflict, difference of opinion, and forgiveness. for most of us, it is much easier to move away than it is to move closer.

i'm glad i got a week with some guys who reminded me that real brotherhood is a good thing. are you a brother? do you want one? ...then be one.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Where's the love?

back from the mountains of colorado...

much can be said about love. love is a commitment that we make to go through it all...good and bad...thick and and downs...last and first. first?

how about those padres? is there any more love out there? come on.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Is God at work?

this morning i read about a church that had 8,200 people come to their church services yesterday...they also had 214 decisions to follow Christ. the author of the article was telling of the amazing things that God is doing in this church. he then wrote about the "four point strategy" that this church uses that other churches need to use...i assume in order to see God work in their church the same way.

i have nothing against the "four point strategy". it seems pretty logical to me. i'm certainly not against having 8,200 in church on sunday. i think i understand why those kind of churches don't serve communion every sunday, tho... some would probably accuse me of being jealous of the success of large churches. i can't say i'm totally immune from those feelings. we live in a "bigger means better" kind of culture. when i meet people and they find out that i'm a pastor, the first question they ask is almost always, "what denomination?" that question is usually chased with the ever-popular "how big is it?" inquiry...always one of my favorites.

is size evidence of God's blessing? can we safely assume that if we are getting bigger, God is at work? if we follow a proven "four point strategy", should we expect to have the kind of explosive growth that the early church saw in the book of acts?

does God like big churches better?

what do you think?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

You need to read this...

i read this quote this morning by pastor and cultural interpreter, steve sjogren:

"One of Mahatma Gandhi's more famous quotes was supposedly spoken to a group of British journalists as they rode on a train through English-held India. He was asked, "Why is it that you speak so highly of Jesus yet you are not a Christian?" He quickly responded, "I would become a Christian... if I could just find one..." Since reading those words a couple of decades ago, I have been haunted by the cutting truth behind the observant eye of this Hindu world changer. There are many billions through the ages who have dared to glibly call themselves Christians - as there are many today who take on that descriptor. That term means literally "little Christ." If you stop to think about it, it's a pretty audacious thing to call oneself a "Christian" in light of the literal meaning of the term. As I write this I wonder if I have ever met a bona fide Christian in all of my thirty-plus years of seeking to follow Jesus. To say that this is disappointing doesn't begin to capture my feelings about this generation of the Church."

wow. i'll comment on this later. i'm a little overwhelmed by the thought of it right now.

Monday, September 18, 2006


here's another quote from walt mueller about dealing with young people in a post-modern culture:

"Be in but not of the world. We must avoid the extreme of pulling ourselves out of the culture, and the opposite extreme of becoming so closely aligned to the world that we uncritically assume values and behaviors that are contrary to God’s will. The church has been guilty of both for far too long. We must learn to walk the tightrope of living for God in the context of the postmodern culture. By maintaining the proper balance, we are maintaining a transforming and redemptive presence in their culture and modeling true, biblical discipleship for all those young people who come to faith."

i grew up in an era and a church culture that preached " in the world, but not of it" regularly. all that meant to me was "don't do what you're friends do"... don't, don't, don't. so that's what i did...or didn't. i stayed as far away as i could. there is no question that my life as a christian was defined waaay more by the things i didn't do, rather than by the things i did do. where i didn't go. what i didn't say. what i didn't see. who i didn't go around.

i know it's a dangerous proposition to encourage our young adults to get out, into the world. it's scary out there. bad things happen out there. there's ugliness and perversion and darkness. but light has got to be in the darkness to illuminate the darkness.

if redemption is ever going to become a reality to those that are lost, somebody's got to find them. that's going to be pretty hard to do if your existence is defined by "don't".

Thursday, September 14, 2006

All ministry

walt meuller is a writer, speaker, pastor and a guy that probably knows more about today's youth culture than anyone i next few posts are going to be some observations about some things he wrote recently in his brand new book about how to reach young people with the message of Jesus.

"Approach teenagers as a cross-cultural mission field. To effectively engage the emerging generations you must remember that there is a cultural gap that you are responsible to span. Their world is not your world. Consequently, you are a cross-cultural missionary who must employ the incarnational approach God used when he sent his Son into the world. God came to us as one of us. He entered into human culture, living and using human language and customs. Knowing their language, culture, and lifestyles helps us contextualize the unchanging message in forms that are familiar to youth."

all of ministry is supposed to be cross-cultural ministry. all of ministry is supposed to be incarnational ministry. the more i am at this ministry thing, the more i am coming to realize that we have to be able to know the language that everyone speaks, know the culture and background that everyone has been formed in, know the lifestyles, values, ethics, priorities, hopes, dreams, beliefs, worries, fears, preconceptions, and assumptions that people have so that we can interact with them in a way that makes sense, shows sensitivity, affirms dignity, and opens the door to relationship.

for anybody. for everybody.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Monday Night Football

ok, i'll admit's nearly midnight and i'm still up watching my beloved chargers do battle against the hated raiders in the opening game of this year's football season. i love the start of the season. there's no question that i'm a fan. but every year, i am amazed at the level of wackiness that raider fans reach. i sit in absolute shock at the passion, dedication, sold-out craziness that these weirdos have...their costumes, their intimidation, their loyalty, their lunacy.

as i watch them tonight, dressed up like criminals posing as rock star groupies lost on their way to a kiss reunion concert, i found myself saying, "why don't you people get a life?!" and then it hit me.

they have a life. they have a cause. they have fully committed themselves to be fiercely loyal, fearless, reckless disciples. they don't care about what people think of them. they are totally single minded. their obsession with the raiders is scary. really scary. and make no mistake about it...they have a life.

followers of Christ could learn a thing or two from these outrageous bizarros. what would the kingdom on earth be like if it's citizens were as openly devoted to the things of God as our creepy neighbors from nocal...? maybe it's time for us to get a life.

monday night postscript: i'll take the win, but i hate "marty ball".

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The lightbulb

there is no question that the most amazing part about being a discipler is seeing the light bulb go on in the heart and mind of another person. when the message of the kingdom becomes more than a good idea and it becomes a clear call to a revolutionary life of obedience...that is the moment that makes everything worth it!

i am grateful for those moments.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


one of my favorite authors and heroes of the faith is gordon macdonald. he is a pastor, author, educator, philosopher, husband, dad, and all-around amazing guy. i highly recommend his books. he wrote recently of a bumper sticker he saw... "don't believe everything you think." man, is that true for me! if i believed everything that floated through my thought processes, i'd hate to think where i'd be...

the reason for this is that the older i get, the more i am thinking. i've never been one to just sit mindlessly, but these days, it seems like i am constantly rethinking what i've always believed and being challenged to look deeper into God's word more than i ever have. on top of that, God's word, being the grid by which we view culture, history, relationships, philosophy, morality, and more, is daily drawing me to analyze the world around me with a new-found passion.

sometimes its confusing. sometimes it hurts. sometimes it makes me question the most fundamental pillars of my belief system. sometimes it sows seeds of cynicism. sometimes it creates the most crystal clear mirror i have ever looked at myself in. sometimes there is beauty like none other. sometimes there is such a horrible picture of life i can barely keep looking, let alone, think about it. but i do. think about it. seriously. curiously. honestly, i hope.

i don't always believe what i think. but what i believe is tied intimately to what i think. taking those thoughts captive is a full-time job!

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Friday, September 01, 2006

Unsafety part three

the church is not a safe place because Jesus is not a safe leader.

he summons us to die. he commands us to leave behind those things that are comfortable, reliable, trustworthy, and secure, in order to follow his lead. family, friends, education, occupation, savings accounts, reputation, and possessions are all seen as negotiable baggage and potential hindrances to lives of faith.

risk is a necessary component to a life of full surrender. for faith to run its full course in our lives, something must be at stake. there needs to be a cost. if nothing is on the line, then...nothing is really on the line!

we are called to run the race of faith with the reckless abandon of a crazed football player running down the field on the opening kickoff to plunge headfirst into a wall of 280 lb. linemen. fearless. no regard for self preservation. single-minded passion.

we have been recruited into a battle where the enemy is more hidden than osama. more crafty than a thief in the night. more demented than a serial killer. more evil than hitler. more perverted than a child molester. more real than we know.

Jesus lovingly demands that his followers give up everthing, hold tightly to nothing, go anywhere, and expect nothing in return except the words "well done".

the church is not a safe place.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Unsafety part two

The church should be a place of extreme safety. A place were self image is protected and personal dignity is safeguarded. Fragile psyches can be nursed back to health and wounded emotions bandaged. The church should be a safety net for dreams and goals and ideas and visions. A place where unhealthy relationships are cared for and marriages have hedges of protection around them. A place where children run with confident wonder and young people can develop faith with reckless abandon. A place where all are welcome...All are affirmed...All are nurtured...

but unfortunately, the church is not always a safe place. Self images are torn down by sarcasm and thoughtless joking. Racism and prejudice and male chauvinism lurk just below the surface. caste systems that are at home in our culture, take up residence in our church family just as easy. gossip and slander tear gashes in unsuspecting victims. retaliation gives momentary satisfaction, but leaves everyone worse off. vengence is "ours, say us", rather than "mine, says the Lord." forgiveness is conditional and memories are deep and long. The church is not always a safe place.

the apostle paul says for us to put on the clothing of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, peace, truth, wisdom, and surrender (colossians three). come on.

Unsafety part one

the church can be a very unsafe place to be.
  • the church parking lot is full of 16 year old drivers and parents that are preoccupied with making their children look their "sunday best"...
  • our church auditorium doubles as pro-level dodgeball court and a wicked indoor baseball stadium. you must watch out for roaming projectiles...
  • the glass walls are prone to break when a slide tackle in a full-contact soccer match goes out of bounds...
  • when the lead guitar player in the worship band leaps off the stage during one of his characteristically hot guitar licks...
  • if you stare directly into one of the floodlights on the new church sign...
  • if you get caught in the rush to sign up for lawn-mowing or nursery duties...
  • the ceiling in the baptistry is pretty low. really low. the wearing of a hard hat would help...
  • be careful of huggers...
  • some would say our church vehicles are unsafe. this is entirely untrue. however, riders need to learn to duck to avoid squirting water. squirt bottles are our mobile evaporative coolers. cheap. easily replaced. no compressor belts. fun...

more to come.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The parable of the guitars

i went to guitar center last night to peruse the best they had to offer. i'm such a wannabe guitar hack... while i was there, i reminisced about some former guitars i've owned.

two different ovation custom balladeers, a vintage guild d4, a takamine eg series cutaway, and an olympia od5 made of white ash... the first ovation was stolen out of my car in the church parking lot before a sunday evening service 29 years ago. i replaced that ovation with an identical one (after saving up for six months!). at the same church building, that guitar was stolen right out of a classroom during a youth group "all-nighter"...some kids let a guy in the building during the middle of the night and he bagged it.

silly me, after saving up some more money (and some help from the youth group), i bought another ovation and kept better care of this one. in 1989, i traded it in on a vintage guild d4 from a little "hole-in-the-wall" guitar shop. i had watched it for nearly a year and finally saved up enough money to go with my trade in. favorite guitar i ever owned... the week before we moved to texas in 1995, it was stolen from the church we were serving in san diego. some kids we were working with stole it during a bible study and took it to a pawn shop for drug money. didn't have time to stick around to find it...

when we moved to texas, it took a little while to save up some more money, but after a few months, i purchased my takamine. six or seven years ago, a youth minister from another church group tried to steal it down on a mexico mission trip. no joke! thanks to some stealth undercover work by ol' buz, i got it back. a couple of years later, though, the guitar was fully submerged in water when the tip of a tornado touched down on our camping area during a summer junior camp. i still use that guitar, but it sounds like i'm playing in a fish bowl...

i bought my olympia guitar a few years ago, and, guess what? some local downtown lewisville hooligans broke into the north point church building and stole it! recently, i purchased another guitar...not a real expensive one...duh.

the moral of this story? church is not a safe place. definitely not for guitars. sometimes not for people. more on this in days ahead...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What destroys churches

jim cymbala is a pastor in new york city who has written some amazing books about how an amazing God has worked in his church. you ought to read some of them. i came across a story he had written in a leadership journal i read each week...

what destroys churches...

about 20 years ago, I said something impromptu to the new members (of my church) standing in a row across the front of the church. As we received them, the holy spirit prompted me to add, "and now, I charge you that if you ever hear another member speak an unkind word of criticism or slander against anyone--myself, an usher, a choir member, or anyone else--that you stop that person in mid-sentence and say, 'excuse me, who hurt you'? Was it pastor cymbala? Let's go to his office right now. He'll apologize to you and then we'll pray together so God can restore peace to this body. But we won't let you talk critically about people who aren't present to defend themselves.'

"I'm serious about this. I want you to help resolve this kind of thing immediately. And know this: if you are ever the one doing the loose talking, we'll confront you."

to this day, every time we receive new members, I say much the same thing. That's because I know what most easily destroys churches. It's not crack cocaine, government oppression, or even lack of funds. Rather, it's gossip and slander that grieves the holy spirit.

I'm blown away by his boldness. Could we do this?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A scary question

i've really been thinking a lot about some things i've read lately...nothing new, but it is pretty timely. some recent stats (from the barna group, as well as other church behavior tracking organizations) have suggested that as many 90% of the kids we have in our youth groups will leave the church during their college years. 90%...? you gotta be kidding me!

does this mean that we are doing something wrong in youth ministry? or does it mean that we are doing something wrong in our overall approach to church? or is it the inevitable outcome of walking the "narrow path"? i think all three may be true, at least to some degree...

there is no question that we are missing the mark in youth ministry. we try our hardest to make church fun and interesting, to make our youth programs exciting and relevant, to make Jesus look "cool" know, like a homeboy. the reality? kids of today have been shaped, influenced, molded, and otherwise manipulated into believing that if it's (whatever "it" happens to be at the moment) not making them laugh, making them feel good, making them smarter, making them more friends, or making them money, it's not really worth doing. the problem? we are trying to compete with an entertainment industry (sports, media, music, fashion, technology) in a game we don't stand a chance of winning.

we are also missing the mark in our overall approach to church. in spite of all our attempts to make our preaching, teaching, worship, and activities relevant, interesting, and culturally significant, our young people are still not connecting the dots. they are still bored. they are still disconnected from the adults and greater church life. they still see "church" as basically for those over 35. they go through the motions of our sunday morning rituals, enjoy seeing their friends, and can't wait to get to lunch after the worship hour. and we are not doing anything to help them! i realize there is much more to church than sunday mornings, but if we can't do a better job of drawing young people into our corporate gatherings and our larger life of service and fellowship, we should be ashamed.

i also think there is a lot of truth in the fact that Jesus said that many would "call" him Lord, but few would actually pass through the narrow gate. God has always worked through a remnant... a small group of faithful, radical, passionate rebels who live with reckless abandon, totally sold out to kingdom values, and willing to fly in the face of popular culture, political correctness, personal comfort, and financial security. the call to authentic discipleship is not easy. it never has been.

i love the church...warts and all. i want this generation of young people to love the church, also. what do we do?

Monday, August 21, 2006

A political insight

could you imagine what it would be like if our next presidential election offered a candidate who tried to appeal to the "religious right" with platform of anti-gossip, anti-anger, anti-greed, and anti-racism?

would he get the same kind of support as a candidate whose platform was anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality? sad to say, but i don't think so. it saddens me to think that so many people feel that christians are narrow-minded, intolerant, tunnel-visioned, and irrelevant. unfortunately, i think we earn that reputation more often than not.

i'm not suggesting that all sins are the same. clearly, the consequences of certain sins carry much greater outcomes, but i gotta tell you, i am growing weary of the "we're better than you" smugness of the church. we love to identify the sins of others while we turn a blind eye to our own. we draw attention to the gross and twisted lifestyle of others, but refuse to accept responsibility for the hurt and alienation our own sin causes. it is no wonder those people who are committing the "biggies" don't feel welcome around those of us who only commit the small ones...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

My trip to the dump

i went to the dump, the waste management landfill. sorry. it's an interesting experience. the smell. the view. the trash. the tractor moving all the trash. did i mention the smell? there are two different landfills right here in our little corner of paradise. one pile is for our neighbors down the road. the other is for those within lewisville city limits. not sure why both piles are in lewisville, tho... for the record, our neighbor's pile looks cooler than ours.

when we lived in san diego many years ago, my boys first experience playing baseball was in the chollas lake little league. the field was built on top of the old san diego dump. bad grass. gas release valves around the complex. strange odor. they couldn't ever get the field level. funny thing...the kids still loved playing there. it was their home turf. they ran and hit and slid and dodged the release valves. aren't kids great?

down in tijuana mexico (right across the border from san diego), there is a whole community built right in the tijuana dump. not near it. on it. years ago, when i first visited it, there was nothing more than old shacks and cardboard box homes and stacks of worn out tires and broken down pallets all piled up to make places for families to live. it was shocking. it was overwhelming. it was humbling.

good hearted people (including amor ministries, the organization we partner with on our spring break and men's missions trips) began to help. simple, but quality houses were built. small businesses sprang up. today, there are schools, shops, grocery stores, medical clinics, churches, and even some little baseball fields right there in the dump! i haven't been back there in years, but i am confident that the work that was begun a long time ago continues to make life totally different for the people in the dump. i know i am different because of it...

isn't amazing how God has a way of taking refuse and turning it into something beautiful? always has. always will.


I had a major "sweatfest" today. Three times, I had a full-on, soak-through-your-clothes, stick-to-your-seat, hold your nose, take a shower, change your underwear kind of sweat! In my 40-plus years in SoCal, my body never saw sweat like this...not in high school or college football, not on the hottest days at summer camp, not on my wedding day. I love summer in Texas...

A bunch of years ago, Tim Hansel wrote a book called "Holy Sweat". He wrote about the effort side of following Christ. The side where we work and serve and give and grind things out in a difficult world that is calling for obedient followers to step up and live the way Jesus did.It's an amazing thing that God can take our sweaty, smelly, imperfect little effort and turn it into a sanctified experience for the benefit of others. mmmm....anybody got a towel?

Monday, August 14, 2006


After days of frustration, I finally figured out how to put my picture on this blog...not that anyone really cares what I look like (except for my wife). It's kind of typical of the journey I travel everyday. I've got a pretty good idea of where I want to go, but it is seldom easy and almost always a test of perseverence.

Somehow, God has used the events of my life to take a little boy who was a quitter and an excuse giver, and turn me into a wanderer who hates to give up...even if it is just with a stupid computer! I would like to think that in the big picture, tenacity is next to godliness. Cleanliness is not what it's cracked up to be...

Sunday, August 13, 2006


the past couple of weeks we've been considering the reality of legalism in our journey through paul's letter to the colossians. i want to give you a final thought...

what's the difference between legalism and obedience? clearly, God cares about how we act. there are many commands in the bible that appear to be explicit, understandable, and undebateable. there is no question that our behavior is a measuring stick of the quality and breadth of our faith. so what is legalism? let me offer my two cents.

first of all, legalism is action or behavior that seeks to win God's approval or attempts to establish a list of rules or expectations that a person must adhere to, in order to have a right relationship with God or to be fully accepted into a christian circle.

here's the rub..a legalist would never admit to being a legalist. he just sees himself as "better" than others because of his (or her) choice to do, or not do, certain things. we tend to judge others by our own standards of what is acceptable and what isn’t. the other day, i read this quote and it has kind of captivated me..."in essence, we think our sins smell better than other people’s. it seems like we have very little tolerance for people who sin differently than we do!"

legalism can take a faith that is alive and make it dull and lifeless. it can shrink our vision to the size of a communion pellet, bring enthusiasm to a screeching halt, steal joy, reduce our spirituality to a shallow pool, and generally suck the life out of anybody or any group. instead of finding freedom through Christ, many believers become drained by the church and ultimately walk away…tired of rules and judgment and alienation.

legalism makes us petty and judgmental. the legalist insists that everyone live up to the standard they have adopted. they see themselves as spiritually superior and the benchmark others should aspire to be. in other words, we want others to just "be like Mike". when we think this way, we miss the incredible fun of living life in the midst of a bunch of different people. it's not always easy, but it's certainly the way God designed it!

i guess what it comes down to is legalism makes it impossible for people to see Jesus. i don't think there is anything that pushes a person away from Jesus faster than a list of rules and regulations. maybe it's time we stop making lists and rules and carrying around our private bag of expectations. maybe we can lay down our judgment and criticism and spiritual smugness and just get about the business of loving people and serving those around us in humble obedience.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Better late, than never...

i'm hoping this will be the start of a new thing...

i've been "blogging" for a while, but most of you don't know anything about it. so i'm going to start doing one here for friends of north point and anyone else that might stop by for a visit.

this is my place to let you in on what i am thinking, what i'm learning, and most importantly, what God is doing in the space i live in...and sometimes waaay beyond. i hope we will dialogue together. maybe you'll disagree. i want to learn from you. maybe i can teach you a thing or two, also. either way, i just want another place to connect.

blogging is certainly not a new thing, but it may be for you. give it a try. stop by once in a while. i think you'll be glad you did.