Wednesday, April 30, 2008

To The Old Man I Know

Today, my buddy Brian turns


I had to write that big so he could read it!

Post him a Happy Birthday wish in the comments -- he'll read it!


Monday, April 28, 2008

Questions Jesus Asked – Prayer (5)

This next set of questions is intriguing to me. It’s Matthew 7:9-10 when Jesus asks, “You parents – if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Of if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake?”

A quick reminder: in Jesus’ day these were primary staples of food. So, the question really is, if your kids ask for basic necessities, would you give them something worthless (a stone) or harmful (a snake)?

Jesus gives us the obvious answer at the end of verse 10 – “Of course not!” And then He makes the connection for us. Just before this Jesus is encouraging the people to be persistent in prayer – keep asking, keep looking, keep knocking. The connection is when we ask God for things we need, He’s not going to give us worthless or harmful things. Verse 11 confirms this – “If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

Now, there are a number of ways, in my opinion, to abuse this teaching. We get fussy when God doesn’t show up and give us everything we think we need right away. I don’t think that’s what Jesus is teaching here (that God is just a fast food clerk waiting to fill our every order) – I believe he’s telling us to recognize that God is the One who provides everything we need, and what He provides is always good for us.

There have certainly been times when I’ve begged God for something and it has not happened. At those times I can either assume God doesn’t love me and doesn’t care, or I can remember that God takes care of me better than I take care of my own kids.

This is getting a bit long, but there’s one more thing I want to mention here. The effects of sin continue to corrupt our world and those of us living in it. It’s not hard to find many examples of really bad parents. The news loves to exploit all of the abuses they find (and these days abuse is not hard to find). But I think there’s another way to look at this teaching. Instead of thinking about the worst case scenario, think about the best ones you know. Think about those parents who truly love their kids; those who have solid healthy relationships with their children. Then reconsider this teaching from that perspective – God loves us even more, and will treat us even better than the best parents we know!


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Reluctant "Pastor"

I remember going to a “Christian leader’s conference” shortly after I resigned from a paid position as a Youth Pastor. I resigned because I felt God was calling me to plant a church and I was at this conference to be “inspired”. I was with a friend who was also part of the new church plant. He knew one of the key guys at this conference and we ran into him in the common area between sessions.

My friend introduced us and we talked a little about what was going on with the new church. I remember the conference guy clearly asking me, “So, you’re the pastor of the new church?” I hesitated in my answer and he gave me a strange look, as if to say, you’re not a very fired up pastor.

The hesitation took me by surprise, but I knew why. I do believe God has gifted me to be a leader, I also believe He has called me to be a pastor. But not the typical pastor I’ve always experienced in my life, but more like the Ephesians 4 pastor. I want to equip people, not just talk at them. I want to share life with people; not just counsel them.

But there was another reason for my hesitation – I battle pride just about every day of my life. And too often the role of pastor is seen as the “power-seat” in the church. I just don’t agree with that. I look at Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. I think about His instruction to them not to “Lord over” people. Then I look in the mirror and I know I am capable of doing it all wrong. I can move a crowd by creating an emotional environment, picking my words well, and know just when to pause and when to get loud. But none of that is what pastor-ing is really all about. It’s not a show; it’s a position of service.

That encounter at the conference was about two years ago and my feelings have grown stronger and stronger. The body of Christ already as it’s Head – that’s Jesus position. My role as a pastor is simply to do life with people, to learn from them and to share what I’ve learned. But more important than the learning is the loving. Jesus boiled it down for all of us – love God with everything you are, and love the people around you as much as you love yourself.

At times, people will call me “Pastor Dave”, and while understand this is normal within church world, I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with it. So, am I a pastor? Yes, but that’s not my title, it’s my role within the Body. You, too, have a role within the Body. And It would be weird if your role was caring for orphans and I always referred to you as Orphan Helper so-and-so. I think when we label some (i.e., pastors) and not others, we create a division or hierarchy that I don’t see in the Bible.

My role is to help you find your role and give you ways to express it for the benefit of the Body (and in the world); and to help you understand that every role (including yours) is critical. So, you can just call me "Dave", and I’ll call you by your name and we’ll all work towards loving God and loving people – together!


Monday, April 21, 2008

Questions Jesus Asked - Judging Others (4)

Here’s one for you – “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?”

One thing you can say about Jesus, he didn’t sugarcoat it. We find this question in Matthew 7, verse 3. I’m not sure this one needs a lot of explanation. Jesus is pointing out how hypocritical we can be when we go around pointing out everyone else’s faults. He’s holding up a mirror and asking us to take a look – what do you see?

One misconception of this teaching would be to say that we should never point out other people’s problems to them. That’s not what Jesus says. In verse 5, He tells us to first remove the plank from our own eye, and then we will be able to see clearly enough to help our friend remove the speck from their eye. You’ve heard the saying, “It takes one to know one.” When it comes to seeing other people’s issues, the reason we can so quickly recognize them is because we live with the same issues in our own lives every day. So, Jesus simple tells us to remember we’re probably worse off than our friends, so we need to deal with our stuff and then help others.

I think the process of dealing with our own junk also provides the humility we need to truly help someone else. If we truly recognize the plank in our own eye, then we can help our friends remove the speck. Knowing we’re really in no position to judge them – we can simply help them.

So, take a peak in the mirror – what planks are you struggling to see around? Why not let others help you with those issues and in turn you’ll be able to help others – in humility and love.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Greek or Hebrew Thinking?

Okay, so this book I’m reading for seminary has some really interesting stuff (and I’ve only read the first two chapters).

Here’s something I’ve thought about before, but never seen it explained this clearly – I hope I can do it justice in a relatively few words. The overall concept is how we view life. There is the Greek Mind-set (compartmental thinking) and the Hebrew Mind-set (whole living).

Our North American mindset is derived from the Greek mind-set which essentially puts things into “boxes” (compartments). We have our “home life”, “work/school life”, “recreational life”, “church life”, etc. We tend to keep these compartments separated. The problem is life doesn’t fit well into “boxes” and this creates conflict. As an example, if we are asked to work over time, our compartmental thinking immediately gets defensive because if our “work box” takes more time, that gives us less time for all of our other boxes. The more we try to keep everything in a box the more frustrated and stressed out we become. This also explains how an evangelist can get up and preach about immorality and then go hire a prostitute (it’s two separate boxes).

If we are going to grow spiritually, we must tear the sides of our boxes out and move toward the Hebrew mind-set which emphasizes a whole life centered on Christ. All of the areas of our lives (work, home, church, etc.) all flow from a desire to put Christ first. Interestingly, all of the men God used to write the Bible were Hebrews (except for Luke). So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that the Bible is all about applying principles to our lives – our whole lives, not just certain parts (or “boxes”).

Here’s how William Yount describes the difference:
The compartmentalization of the Greek mind-set leads to personal anarchy. Each compartment takes on a life of its own. Various compartments compete for attention; compete for the limited amount of available energy. Live this way very long, and you begin to experience burnout and depression. This is not how God intended for life to be.

The Hebrew mind-set provides a basis whereby the components of our lives exist in harmony, centered in a whole personality, guided by the Lord. This “united kingdom” produces emotional and psychological health, energy for facing life’s problems, and a positive direction for living.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Questions Jesus Asked – Worry & Faith (3)

This next set of questions (found in Matthew 6) that Jesus asked are some of the most difficult for me. I know what He’s saying, but “doing” what He’s teaching is pretty tough. See for yourself…

Jesus asks a couple of questions about why do we worry about food and clothes, but the main question is verse 27 - Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

I don’t know about you, but I understand that worrying is like a rocking chair – it gives me something to do, but it doesn’t get me anywhere. I know that. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to stop worrying – it just comes to us so naturally… and I’m pretty good at it!

The reality is worry really doesn’t help anything. In fact, most of us would admit worry has a pretty negative affect on our lives. So, how do we stop worrying?

You may not like this answer, but I’ve found it’s the only one that works. The answer can be found in Jesus’ last question of chapter 6 – Why do you have so little faith?

See, even if you are a spiritual person – this question has a little sting to it. I mean if I do believe in God and the Bible and all that…well…I should be able to rely on my faith instead of worrying. But if you’re not a spiritual person – then – I guess you’re kinda stuck with your worry – I don’t have a “next best answer” for you.

But I do have some good news – you can become a spiritual person – and it really does help you move from worry to faith. Not all at once, and sometimes you’ll still get blindsided. But one thing I’m learning about my faith is that it’s still there when I get myself calmed back down - because my faith is not based on my efforts, but on the Person of Jesus (the guy asking all the tough questions here). You see, even when I “lose” faith, He remains faithful. If you want to more info. on how you can begin to find faith you can e-mail me at

Well, let me wrap this up – how do I lean more on my faith and decrease my worry? I hop over several short books to the right in my Bible to Philippians 4:6-7 which says –

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but when I want to worry about something what I’m really looking for is peace. And there’s no better peace than the peace God is able to give to us. Our worries come from our hearts and our minds, so when we take these worries to God, that is what He promises to guard – our hearts and minds.

I wish I could tell you that I do this perfectly every time. I don’t! But when I do…well…I guess you’ll have to experience it for yourself – because the Bible’s right – I can’t really explain it – you just have to live it.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

What Does The Bible Mean? (Discussion)

I was going to make a new post here, but the conversation I'm enjoying through the "Comments" of the original "What Does The Bible Mean?" post is really worth pointing you all towards.

So, go back to that post and check out the Comments - and feel free to jump in!


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What does the Bible mean?

I’m starting a new seminary class in a couple of weeks, and because I’m a slow reader, I often get my books early and begin reading them before the class starts. My book for this class made a point that really struck me and I want to share it with you. Here’s what the author wrote:

Is there a difference between what the Bible says and what the Bible means? Or do you believe that “the Bible says what it means, and means what it says!”? There is a difference between “words” and “concepts.” Knowing words and understanding concepts are two different things. Let’s take “Love your enemies” as an example. Anyone who has been in Sunday school or church for even a short time knows that Jesus said “Love your enemies.” But how many understand what He meant when He said this?

What do I do when I love enemies? And who are my enemies? Must I like my enemies? How will “loving enemies” change the way I live day by day? Jesus define His own words in the passage as He said, “Love your enemies, bless then that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44, KJV). Agape [the word translated “love”] means blessing and doing good and praying for. Nothing here about how I feel about them. “My enemy” means those who curse me, and hate me, and use and hurt me. My enemy can be my best friend, my colleague, my wife, or a fellow church member. When people close to me hurt me, I do not feel like loving them. But I am commanded to love. Not to feel, but to act.

It is far easier to know the words “Love your enemies” than it is to understand their meaning. But until learners clearly understand what Jesus meant, they will not be able to “love their enemies” in the way He intended. Unless Bible teaching can move learners from isolated words to biblical concepts, we will see little spiritual growth in our learners. Without clear biblical understanding, learners tend to read their own meanings into Bible words.

Source: Created to Learn by William R. Yount


Monday, April 07, 2008

Questions Jesus Asked – Love & Kindness (2)

We find Jesus’ next questions at the end of Matthew 5 in verses 46 and 47:

If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?
If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?

Okay, Jesus is going right to the “heart” of the matter here. One of the things that bothers me is the reputation the church has as being full of hypocrites. I think it bothers me because I know I’m part of the church – and I know I can be hypocritical – so I know they’re right.

I’ve often used the reply – but there are hypocrites everywhere. But, I think this is the response that Jesus knew we “Christians” would have and He points out that we are supposed to be DIFFERENT!

Sure, I know that most Christians admit that we know we’re not perfect and we don’t attempt to take on the perfection label. But is that it? Does that make our hypocrisy okay?

Another typical Christian response is – well not all of the people in the church are really Christians. I agree, but I’ve also spent enough time in churches to know that those I would strongly suspect are Christians are just as bad as the others. In fact, why do non-Christians at church continue to act like they have always acted? Because the “Christians” in the church continue to act like they’ve always acted.

Before I move into a full-on rant, let me express to all of you who maybe have the “been-there-done-that-don’t-need-that-anymore” view of the church, I would like to say (and encourage you to consider) that churches are also filled with people who DO “get it” and who do truly care about others – not just their friends, but everyone with whom they come in contact. And, the truth is, the closer any one of us is willing to come to Christ the more we learn how to see others differently. To love and be kind to all people, not just our friends.

Do we do this perfectly? No, far from it, and we need to be willing to throw our hand up in their air and admit when we blow it. But if all of us would consider Jesus’ questions here at the end of Matthew, I think we would find a challenge worth taking. How do we learn to care about those we don’t click with? How do we find ourselves looking to put other’s needs before our own?

Well, it does not come easily. In fact, unless we are first willing to surrender our agendas over to Christ, I’m not sure this is really possible at all. But as we learn that we do not naturally care about others who are not close to us (and sometimes even those who are close to us), we can also discover that we have been created for relationships and that while it’s true there’s risk involved with loving – the alternative is to be love-less – and that’s just a miserable existence, not the life we were created to live!

So, why not take a look in the mirror. How do these questions from Jesus hit you? Can you find ways to see people differently? Can you learn to love… everyone?

I’ve got the paddle next to you in the same boat – but I always love a challenge :-).


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Poll Results - How often do you read the Bible?

My last poll asked: How often do you read the Bible?

Here's what you said:

Daily - 50%
Once a week - 16%
A couple of times a month - 34%
Once a month - 0%
Rarely - 0%
Never - 0%

Interesting. So, it would appear that we have "spiritual" people (in some form or fashion) who read this blog (or at least the ones who answer the poll).

In a previous poll I asked who you would turn to for help - 0% said you would turn to a church leader. I'm curious how many of you attend church. I know the definition of church may differ. So, the new poll question is up (How often do you attend church?), but I'd also like to hear how you define church, so you can respond to this post with your thoughts on that.