I’ve been looking to God lately for spiritual renewal.  Can’t say I’m off track, and perhaps this is just what rest feels like after leading a season of change; but even still I’d like to renew a closeness that I know to be quite real and available to his disciples.

I tried a number of things.  I practiced silence, but that was pretty quiet.  I scheduled more regular quiet time routines, but they felt routine.  I took a couple days to study, and came out with a few good nuggets – but not as much as I’d hope in proportion to the time I put in.

With the help of my darling wife (who always seems to be in cahoots with the Holy Spirit), I’m finding my renewal in faith.  Brilliant.  Right?

Life-practices built around that the conviction that there is a God, and that he is powerfully at work in the world, and will actively do that work in and around and through me when faith and prayer are practiced – that changes everything.  That brings back to relationship that which often drifts over to religion.  Wether it’s the answer to prayers or the waiting on prayers, I can feel my spirit renewed right now by faith.

Child-Father Prayers

I’ve been reading With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray.  Books on prayer always seem to vitalize my relationship with God.

The chapter from this morning was from Matthew 7:9-11 – that when we pray it’s like a child approaching a father; knowing he will always provide good things in return of a request.

Murray goes on to call this understanding the “secret to prayer,” and I believe he is right. It’s hard to conjure up new faith every day.  If I could stay in right relationship and deeply connected – then I wouldn’t have to go looking for faith.  My son never has to wonder if I’ll take him on new adventures, teach him new things, help him succeed at his favorites in life, or just otherwise provide.  He doesn’t have to wonder because he lives with me, and knows me, and is therefore used to me doing it all the time.

There still is some yearning that goes into this.  Although God is never far off, the lack of face-to-face relationship often forces me outside of my base knowledge of what I know relationships to be.  With God, everything is faith.

Nuggets from Exponential 2015

Had a great time at the Exponential Conference last week.  I really think it was the best year yet!  Here’s my condensed notes… a paragraph from most of the main session speakers:

Danielle Strickland told stories about the importance of letting people see us bleed. Discipleship needs to be from and for real humans.

Joby Martin explained the importance of lead pastors, handing over the keys to new pastors out of a vision for the next generation.

Steve Murrell was a very compelling speaker. He emphasized that our commission is to make disciples, and God’s job is the build the church. Just focus on discipleship. We really don’t need to worry about the organization and church growth structures. He’s grown a planting movement of 90,000 in Manila.

Steve Stroope told his story of the great commission, realizing the need to partner globally and plant in influential American urban centers.   Continue reading

Marketing What God Is Up To

How do you feel when I use this combination of words: Church Marketing.

I almost lost my dinner the first time I tried to stomach it, but then I was swayed to the other side.

In planting Lakepoint Church, a mentor asked me, “How many people are in Muskego, the city you are trying to reach?”

“26,000.” I had done my homework.

“How many have joined your ‘Launch Team,’ to start the church?”

“About 60.”

“If those 60 were to do a really great job telling their friends about Jesus, and the church, and everything else, how many do you think they’d each reach? Maybe 10?”

“That would be awesome!” I thought. But I should have seen myself getting backed into a corner.

“That’s 660 people. What are you going to do to let the other 25,340 people know that there’s a church for them where they can find God?”

I didn’t have an answer. Continue reading

Pragmatic Theology

Jesus left his followers with the commission to, “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  That’s a pretty tall order in itself.  It’s even harder when you wrestle with the two parts that you need to get right.  There’s teaching and there’s obeying (application).

Jesus says it another way in a parable:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Matthew 7:24-27

Once again, there are two important parts to teaching and theology – the “hearing” and the “putting into practice.”  You’re not built on a rock until you’ve done both with God’s words.

Here’s the dilemma for any pastor, teacher, or anyone who’s doing their best disciple others toward Jesus: where do you put the emphasis?  Some fill heads well with Bible knowledge, but might not produce people who act more like Jesus at the end of the day.  Others cut to the point of smiling more and being at peace, but it might not have much integrity in the gospel truths we find alone in Jesus.  “Balance” sounds like the easy answer, but every time I prepare and share a message, I’m making intentional choices to emphasize the teaching to some extent and the application to another.  Balance might not even be the right answer!

Think about this… Continue reading


The December/January edition of Fast Company was dedicated to productivity. Interviews and studies on what it takes to produce at your best.  Ruminating over common themes and the most applicable stuff, I’ve come up with a list of things I’m going to try to incorporate into my daily life:

  1. Leave my alarm set at 5:40, six days a week.  Consistent wake-up times train your body to be ready to go, instead of fighting the snooze bar.  Also, this leaves me enough time for 20 minutes of prayer before kids and work demand my time.
  2. More protein for breakfast.  Carbs just feel funny!  Protien tells my body its ready for action.
  3. Mid-morning coffee.  I’m in trouble if I need the energy just to wake-up, but the second boost later is quite welcome.  I’m finding that a cup of coffee around 9-10 am gives me the second left, and helps fight off the afternoon crash.
  4. Keep a task list.  Anything that will take more than 15 minutes needs to be scheduled.  Any less can sit on this list until a small window of margin opens.  Less than 2 minutes, I’ll just do it now.  I’ve found that good old fashioned paper works well for this.  I’m using an Evernote App to list out “projects” develop progress over time.
  5. Scan email early, but “do email” later.  I’m at my best at the beginning of the day.  I don’t want to waist my creative energy on the non-urgent and non-important.  I have to check my email to see if something important did in fact come up, but clearing out the inbox is something I want to save until at least one big task has come first.  I’ve found that little things can squeeze into the end of the day, but the big things won’t happen unless I claim that early.
  6. Use the lunch to break the routine.  I’m guilty of working through lunch almost every day.  I’m starting use a 20-min lunch to read the articles I’ve been meaning to read, rather than grind out more of the usual.
  7. Mid-afternoon personal phone call.  Contact with people I love is a good recharge.  A 5-10 minute break around 3:00 will boost me for the closing stretch… and is much healthier than grabbing a soda to live off the sugar!
  8. Shutdown knowing where you’ll pick back up.  Clearing my desk and checking tomorrow’s calendar helps me feel like I’m not going to be blindsided by tomorrow.
  9. Read at night.  Turning to TV to decompress doesn’t leave me satisfied.  I can relax and enrich at the same time.
  10. Make the morning decisions at night.  I’m setting my clothes out, packing my lunch, and gathering anything else that needs to leave with me for the day… the night before.  Morning stress has strangely dropped now!

That’s a handful of things that have been making me more productive this month.  Anyone else have good tips on productivity?

Caring Enough to Worry

I’m having trouble getting why we should’t worry.   If I really care about the outcome of a situation, and the outcome is presently not turning out well, shouldn’t I worry?

Jesus makes a pretty strong case against worry at the end of Matthew 6.  He’s God, he cares more about stuff than we do, and worry never accomplished anything anyway.

Maybe I’m just stuck on semantics.  A certain amount of concern is needed when things aren’t going right.  Despair or worry goes too far because it goes without God.

Right, in all the Wrong Ways

How do you tell wrong people that they’re wrong without being wrong yourself?

I’m getting stuck there all the time.  The world is not as it should be, and sometimes, somebody, ought to do something about it.  It seems though that whenever I’m the one to speak up amidst the silent elephant of wrong in the room, I end up marked as the one in the wrong.

It’s true.  Too bold and too soon doesn’t get received well.  I guess correction isn’t the only pathway to change either.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” were the words of Jesus (Matthew 7:1). I think I have a lot to learn here still.

What Makes a “Christian” Marriage?

So, is a Christian marriage different than every other marriage?

We’re known for saying, “Don’t get divorced.”  But does a a cold commitment to not getting divorced actually make for a better marriage?  I think we need a little more drive forward than that.  After all, Barna studies show that Christian divorce rates match that of the rest of the population.

I also think it’s got to be bigger than drive, and just working harder than the rest.  There’s not much gospel to the message: “take more date nights.”  I’m sure that helps, but it’s still on me to make the marriage great… which I can botch at any given time?

What about Jesus, when welcomed into the lives of a committed couple, makes a marriage more secure, more alive, more at peace?

Throw the Second Punch?

I’m reading a biography on Teddy Roosevelt to my boys.  He’s one of those man’s man kind of guys, and I’d like them to learn from historical hero’s like that.

One of the stories about Teddy that pulled me in, even though I haven’t crossed it in this particular book yet, regards him as a Sunday School teacher.  It wasn’t the warmest moving story about church though.  He was asked to step down from teaching children.  Apparently one of his Sunday School students had a sister who was being bullied.  The boy put up with it for a while, but eventually the boy punched the bully in the nose.  As reward for his sense of justice, Teddy gave him a quarter.  The church was having none of it.

So what do you teach your kids?

Do you want to teach them to be defenders of justice, or to be patient in long-suffering?