19 October 2011

Satisfaction & Temptation

I remember seeing an old silent film comic who kept kicking his hat further out as he reached down to get it. He never got what he always wanted because of himself. The ironic thing about our pursuit of happiness is that we find ourselves in a similar predicament--we prolong the pursuit of God-given and soul-satisfying pleasure when we take the detours into sin that cannot truly offer satisfaction. We become great at kicking hats but poor at wearing them. Or to state it plainly, we can become experts at chasing the promise of satisfaction but terrible at apprehending it.

As C.S. Lewis so expertly explains:

But [God] knows, and I do not, how [soul satisfaction] can be really and permanently attained. He knows that most of my personal attempts to reach it are actually putting it further and further out of my reach.

Check out the full post from Dane Ortland containing more from Lewis is well worth your time. Click here to see it.

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! 
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 
They feast on the abundance of your house; 
you give them drink from your river of delights. 
For with you is the fountain of life; 
in your light we see light.
- PSALM 36.7-9

16 September 2011

Driving Lessons with Dad (Part 2)

There are moments that mark us. The call back from the doctor. Two lines on a pregnancy test. A concert. A first kiss. 

One of those moments came my first timid day behind the wheel of the family car learning to drive with my dad. And like son’s often do I was paying close attention to my driving but even closer attention to what my dad was saying. And as fathers and sons need to do sometimes, we were talking about life. 

My dad explained to me that day that there are many young men with dreams. Many with honorable desires but very few who will ever invest what it really takes to see those dreams a reality. 

My dad understood something that comes from many years of wise observation: there are no short cuts in life. To be great at anything will cost me greatly. 

If I want to be a great father it will take great sacrifice. 
If I want to be a great pastor it will take great diligence. 
If I want to be a great writer it will take great effort. 

You want a quick sprint to the top? It won't work, but there are lots of rambling routes to get you lost. But when you shake off the haze of wasted wandering you'll come back to this: the common factor of true accomplishment is character. And character takes time and effort. 

But there is more. Success is its own burden that only people of substance can bear without crumbling. The hard path one takes to achieving worthy goals is what God uses to make us ready for it when it comes.

But that doesn’t mean we do it alone though we might feel lonely at times. It doesn’t mean God will only help us if we help ourselves. No, the good news is much better than that. God will give us what we need to accomplish the great things He has planned for us (Ephesians 2.10). That’s why it says, “He gives more grace” (James 4.6).

His is the quick helping hand when we drift below the waves (Matthew 14), and the quick response when we are full of questions (John 3). He is willing to put up with our silliness to see us satisfied (John 4). And there is the steady giving of Himself because we always need Him (John 15). The good news is that we are in this thing together. 

So what is your honorable aim?

Do you want to be a great mother? It will take thousands of diapers and a long fuse. 
Do you want to write the next bestseller? It will cost you your pride and quite a few hours of sleep. 
Do you desire to be deeper? It will take facing yourself in the mirror and some time away from your normal distractions. 
Do you yearn for change? It will take more than a list of goals, it will take getting on your knees. 

There won’t be any magic words but there will be encouraging ones. There won’t be any shortcuts but there will be divine direction. There won’t be skipping the hard stuff but there will be a Savior. 

Life is more like a hike than a helicopter lift to the top: it hurts but the rewards are inherently huge. 

"Blessed are those whose strength is in you, 
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage."
- PSALM 84.5

26 May 2011

Walls & Doors

Want to know what to do with that frustrating roadblock in your life? Here's some good insight from Pastor Steven Furtick.
I’m convinced now more than ever that perspective can change everything. And this is probably nowhere truer than when we’re talking about the struggles we face in life.

Most of us think of our struggles – our circumstances, obstacles, and enemies –  as walls. They’re there to set us back or hold us back. We avoid them at all costs. When we encounter them, we usually turn back because after all, who wants to climb a wall? Especially a wall that can sometimes seem insurmountable.
But the truth is your circumstances and obstacles aren’t walls. They’re not there to set you back. In reality, they’re there to set you up.

Your struggles are not walls, they are doors.

Check out the full post from Pastor Furtick here

24 May 2011


One of the most luxurious homes in the world is the Villa Leopolda located on the French Riviera. This chateau boasts 80,000 square feet and is priced at a whopping $525 million. You can tell it was built by a king, King Leopold II of Belguim, with its 19 bedrooms, multiple kitchens, dining rooms, sport courts, beautiful pool, and even a movie theater and bowling alley. What a place to live! 

And what if it was yours to enjoy? What if by some twist of fate you inherited the chateau? Can you see yourself walking up the grand staircase to the front door with the keys in your trembling hand. Would you laugh when the butler opened the door for you and you were free to explore your new mansion with reckless delight? Can you imagine running wildly through the lavish interior taking in the sights, sliding across marble floors, lingering by the pool, exploring the estate? 

Every morning you would wake up and have to decide what extravagant wonder you would enjoy that day. Will you invite your friends over to watch a movie in your personal theater? How about having the neighbors stop by for an impromptu bowling tournament? Maybe you would host a Cook Off staged among your varied kitchens. Or something quieter, like reading a great novel in the tower, or walking peacefully in the manicured gardens or catching some rays by the pool. If you lived in a mansion like the Villa it would be up to you to decide how incredible your day was.

I'm thinking that maybe life is more like that than we think. We start out our lives in dirty ditches reckless in our sins. And then Jesus joins us in the mud only to rescue us from it. He cleans us up and gives a mansion He has designed to each of His children. It's a new life. He isn't out to just make us clean but to give us something new--something incredibly better. Imagine the unthinkable if you will, imagine being gifted the Villa of your dreams only to spend every day in its parlor. Imagine going no further than the entryway. 

"You're missing the whole thing!" your friends would shout. And they would be right. There is more. There is infinitely more to God and this life lived with Him. There are still rooms filled with wonder that you have not seen or heard of; rooms full of surprises and delights. There is more.

That's what I'm learning. That we were saved from reckless sin to enjoy reckless delight in Christ and there is so much more than I first thought to this life with Him.

" Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. " - C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

20 April 2011


"The heavens declare the glory of God;
   the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
   night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
   no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
   their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
   like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
   and makes its circuit to the other;
   nothing is deprived of its warmth."

                                                              - PSALM 19.1-6 

Click here to see this passage in motion or simply watch the video above. 

09 April 2011

The Academy is Dead

The Academy is Dead
When once you tread upon the stone
Of man-made paths of thought alone
When you find you walk hollow halls
Of cognitive craft and curiosity falls

When you pass the world of living green
And the robin, her eggs go unseen
As you gaze upon vacant memories
Caught in lifeless theories

Without a pang for what is lost
From summer nights and yearly frost
To leave all wonder with tears unshed
Then the academy is dead

To think along the logic lines
While heart inside unheeded pines
And march toward the teacher’s mark
Oblivious to the path you embark

And chase the rays of lofty words
The world, her hurts go uncured
Even solving weighty postulates
As the orphan wants for advocates

Without a pang for what is lost
From summer nights and yearly frost
To leave all wonder with tears unshed
Then the academy is dead

The brush, the quill grow quickly dim
As causes sink beyond the brim
The reasons for deepest learning
Spark not the pen, ignite no burning

While the world, her hovels and homes
Are left behind and appetite roams
The young are dying with answers
Unable to shoulder life’s cancers

Without a pang for what is lost
From summer nights and yearly frost
To leave all wonder with tears unshed
Then the academy truly is dead

07 April 2011

The Stirring

There is something in a gentle spring breeze that awakens a dormant part of me.  I am internally stirred by those first warm heralds of the season. These stirrings are profoundly moving and refreshing. I breath them in deeply and a smile comes easily to my face.

It reminds me of something that God does in my heart from time to time. He brings a warm breeze that awakens my soul. Sometimes its during an insignificant event like taking out the trash that I  glance up at the sky and I am moved. Other times it comes through an honest conversation, a simple song or complex composition; many times I am moved by a Scripture or a memory. Often it is through a beautiful picture or well told story. These moments give me a glimpse into a world that is richer, deeper and truer than the everyday grind. We can experience them with a glance at the open sea, through a great meal with great company, a romantic evening of deep connection or a thousand other places.

We all have them. I think its the Spirit nudging us, waking us up to a world we are missing. What do we do when we realize that there is a world beyond our common experience? I'm no expert but I've attempted a few things so far.

Savor the moment. I try to linger in the moment with God and ask Him what He's doing. Then I try to write it down to remember, to revisit and to relive those moments of clarity because they help me navigate life on a deeper level.

Share the moment. Like a composer laboring to bring haunting notes from within into the light of day I attempt to fold those moments into the things I create. At other times I share it in a note, a quick hug or a passing smile. I share it in a deep conversation or a story.

Seek the moment's meaning. I try to let it fuel my pursuit of deeper things and let it lead me on a path of deeper discovery. What is God saying? Sometimes I'll just pray: God I can't awaken myself, only you raise the dead and numb, open my eyes to see what I cannot see. And I leave it at that.

  “Awake, you who sleep,
      Arise from the dead,
      And Christ will give you light.”

01 April 2011

5 Reasons I Read

If you know me you know I love to devour books. I love to read from the whole gamut of the buffet. I enjoy it all: nonfiction, Christian lit, fantasy, science fiction, historical biographies, epic poetry, how-to's, allegories, journals, and more. I love a sharp story, profound prose, and excellent enigmatic plots in action. Books are so much more than words on page just like a smile is far more significant than the moving of the muscles it takes to grin.

So without further ado, here are the top 5 Reasons I Read: 

1. I'm changed when I read. What we read has the power to shape us. Reading takes us on a journey of self discovery. Reading has the power to take the discerning reader into the thoughts, attitudes or ideas of another. In essence, good writing allows you to see what someone else sees. And I've found that even though there are other factors contributing to my personal growth, reading is one of the biggest: if I'm not reading I'm not growing.

2. Ideas have power and Truth has the most power of all. It's not that every book sets out to creatively present truth, but there are nuggets of wisdom to be gathered everywhere; from a blog post to an expansive novel. And those ideas--that I sometimes mine, other times glean and are often surprised by--have an influence on the way I view the world, decipher life and make decisions.

3. Reading makes me a better communicator. When I see how someone clearly communicates a sticky subject it helps me do the same. When I see a complex concept broken down into a simple children's story or succinct sentence it propels me forward in my craft as well. I want to communicate well: with my wife, with my son, with my youth group, my friends . . . I want to contribute not dilute the conversations I am in and reading helps me do that.

4. Reading makes my mind sharp. I believe that a lot of problems we fail to overcome are the result of fuzzy thinking. Sloppy reasoning. Silly oversimplification or a lack of examination. And reading exercises my mind to think critically, discerningly and effectively in my own life.

5. Discipleship happens as I read. I'll be the first to tell you I can't do it alone. I don't have the time, capacity or drive necessary to figure out life while I still breathe. And the cool thing is: I don't have to. Paul said, "Follow me as I follow Christ". That's discipleship: someone showing you how to grow so you don't have to spend all your time figuring it out . . . you can spend it living it out. That happens to me while I read. Men and women further along on the journey lead me.

I'm always looking for a good read. What have you read in the past year that you would recommend?

31 March 2011

The Problem with the Plank

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.  - Jesus, Matthew 7.3-5

Jesus is brilliant. The picture is perfect, the irony is cutting. It's even funny. And it's very real. I remember getting sawdust in my eye when I was out in the shop with my dad. That minuscule little object would not be tolerated for an instant. It was too uncomfortable, it had no place in my eye and it drove me nuts. I couldn't do anything until I got rid of that speck. Too bad that same tenacity doesn't show up with my spiritual shortcomings.

But the problem with the planks of life is that they go unnoticed, uncontested, and unfixed.

The problem with the plank is that its in my eye. And because of pride it can stay there for a long time. I can spot the flaws in someone's worldview from a mile away. I have the eyes of a hawk for the sins of so many. But I can be blind when it comes to my own glaring deficiencies. In fact, I was about to launch into another critique of a friend until I remembered this passage. And the planks were finally in view.

I think you would agree that its easier to examine the speck instead of pull the plank. It is always easier to face another's sin instead of our own. Who wants to own up to that rampant selfishness that comes out with the kids? Or that obvious impatience that explodes in traffic. And what about the all important urge we have for life to be easy--and we don't always respond well when we don't get it.

I think we are going to study their specks over looking at our logs any day.

Unless you have Jesus. 

And then it can be a whole different story. With Jesus I have the confidence to face my flaws, the planks and the specks, based on the forgiveness purchased by His blood at the Cross and the powerful new life that comes from the resurrection.

And right now? It looks like I have some heavy lifting to do.

14 March 2011

Christ Alone

"But remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee-it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee-it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrument-it is Christ's blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and finisher of they faith; and if thou dost that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee down, but as long as thou lookest at thyself, the meanest of those evil spirits may tread thee beneath his feet . . . it is not faith, it is not our doings, it is not our feelings upon which we must rest, but upon Christ and on Christ alone." 

- Charles Spurgeon, 24 August 1856, New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, England 

Check out this awesome song to help this awesome truth sink in:  

01 March 2011

All Truth is God's Truth

All truth is God's truth, no matter where we find it. And we do find it in unsuspecting places. Notice these nuggets culled from the writings of Victor Hugo over at Desiring God. 

This one is my favorite:
"The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves—say rather, loved in spite of ourselves."

31 January 2011


When things get tough my tendency is to get critical. 

That might be a good thing, if I was looking at myself and not other things. Its easy to blame the circumstances, the times, the other person. Looking in the mirror is harder. Its also healthier. 

When you're aggravated at life let me encourage you to try some godly reflection. Get some time alone or with someone you trust and work through some questions like:

  • Why does this make me so mad, so fast? 
  • What is it that I want most out of this situation?
  • Why do I dwell so much on these things? (A good follow-up to this one: Is it a "God thing" or a "me thing" that keeps me coming back to this issue?) 
  • What unhealthy ways have I learned to deal with this that need to change before it can get better?
  • What passages of Scripture do I know that relate to this issue?
  • What promises does God give me about this area? 

It's true that looking in the mirror is tough. In fact, as I wrestle through certain seasons of my life Paul's frustration resonates with me: "Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me." (Romans 7.21). But infinitely more encouraging is the reality that though we struggle we are not dependent on sheer will power alone for success, "for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (Philippians 2.13).

Sometimes looking at our reflection reveals mountains of motives, emotions and even revealing revelations about what's going on inside, under the surface.

And thanks to Don Wolgemuth for the refreshing reminder: "The first obstacle in working with young people is you" You can check out the full post at The Resurgence.

14 January 2011

Suprise Sabbath

I sometimes live as if there are only two modes of life: all out and worn out.

You probably know what I mean. There are times when we pursue everyday accomplishments with a breathless pace, tackling to-do lists and marching toward life goals with enthusiasm. We chase  our ambitions for days and weeks at a time. We attend every game and cheer on the kids, start a new Bible study, listen deeply to our spouses, and do more with our moments. And its good. There is something intrinsically good about living life right with the One who gave it to us. And for a little while we feel entirely alive.

But it doesn't last. The enthusiasm melts before an onslaught of mounting responsibilities, off days and the often confusing nuts and bolts of life. By the time we've wrestled through these obstacles we're worn out. Suddenly we find that we don't have the energy to be patient or sensitive, or that we lack the inner reservoir to give to a friend who needs a little extra.

Which made me wonder: is there another way?

God snuck up on me with an answer. He gave me a surprise Sabbath. 

It was a rare time when God had allowed me to knock off all my goals for the week and I had, much to my surprise, a day without many planned activities. I did a little bit of this and that but the real wonder was what God was doing. He was giving me a Sabbath. You know, the biblical idea to put aside one day of the week to truly rest, do those things that fill up instead of take away . . . those things that bring life with God. I found myself drinking deeply of His goodness and topped the day off with a walk around the block: just me and Him. 

And you know what? It made all the difference in the world for me. I guess that's what Jesus is talking about when He explains that, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." It was made for me. God's gift to finite creatures prone to the silliness of busyness.    

Thank you, Jesus. For giving me what I need when I need it. Thank you for giving me You. You are the real treasure, the true joy and my worthiest pursuit. 

13 January 2011

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

If perfect love casts out fear--and I believe it does, why do we find ourselves still afraid? Fear comes up in many forms. We are afraid of the unknown or being alone. Some are afraid of death. Others the future. But we all face fear. Dave Dorr gets to the heart of overcoming fear with personal faith in this refreshing post (I encourage you to read the whole thing): 

We cannot underestimate the importance of freedom in our lives. Freedom is one of the top reasons Jesus came to earth: “For freedom Christ has set us free...” (Galatians 5:1).

But what does freedom mean?

05 January 2011

Religious Idols

"An idol is something that we look to for things that only God can give. Idolatry functions widely inside religious communities when doctrinal truth is elevated to the position of a false god. This occurs when people rely on the rightness of their doctrine for their standing with God rather than on God Himself and His grace. It is a subtle and deadly mistake."


                                              - From Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller, p. 131

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." - 2 Corinthians 5.21