Monday, February 28, 2011


Throughout the Old Testament whenever God’s people would wander from Him, whenever they would follow a false god or put anything or anyone at the center of the universe other than God, God called that adultery.

The original language describes God as a jealous lover. God, jealous? Makes Him sound kind of unhealthy and co-dependent, doesn't it?

Many years ago on her TV program, I remember hearing Oprah put down the concept of a jealous God, saying how absurd it was that He could ever have that element in Him - but she didn’t understand it. We tend to apply our characteristics to God, rather than the other way around.

The only person in the entire Bible the word "jealous" is ever used to describe is God. Sure, there are other people we know who were jealous in the Bible - Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him and threw him into a pit until they sold him into slavery ... King Saul was jealous of David and tried to kill him several times. But God is the only person in the Bible the actual word "jealous"is ever used to describe.

For instance: Zechariah 8:2 - 'The is what the Lord Almighty says: "I am very jealous for Israel; I am burning with jealousy for her."'

We see the attributes of God displayed all thru Scripture - He is loving, gracious, merciful, kind, just, joyful, creative, generous - even wrathful -- the list goes on. But in us, those attributes have all become corrupted. Even our joy and love, wonderful as they are, do not come close to mirroring God's joy and love. We exhibit Godly attributes imperfectly.

In us, jealousy is typically ugly and sinful because we seek to use it to control people or things to which we have no right. God, on the other hand, has every right to us. The idea that He could be jealous is just an indication of how crazy He is about you. He doesn’t have room for a third party in His life.

I love my wife; I’m crazy about her and I’m grateful for the day she took pity on me and married me. But if she started showing inappropriate affection to another man, do you think I’d be cool with that? I’d be jealous ... and angry ... not because of some unhealthy, co-dependent thing on my part, but because I’m crazy about her.

So we show up to life and we want God - we do - but we brought someone else along for the ride. "I want You to be there for me, God. I need You - but I’m going to hang on to these other parts of my life -- and every now and then -- I’ll be flirting with those other things a little bit, OK? But I need You, God. I do."

The book of James says, ‘You’re cheating.’ That's why he says in James 4:4: 'Don't you know that friendship with the world means you have become an enemy of God?' That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have friends who are unbelievers. We know that because Jesus had friends who weren’t believers. So it must mean something other than what it seems to say -- so what does it mean?

It means, in this context, that God will not share the centerpiece of your life with anything or anyone ... because He is crazy about you.

And be blessed.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


We seem to get it confused that we are not the center of the universe. In fact, truth is, there is a little two-year old inside each of us. That inner war is at the root of the fights and quarrels in the Middle East ... it is at the root of the war on terror ... it is at the root of the arguments you had in the marketplace recently or the one you had with your spouse or your parents or your son or daughter this week ... and that kind of battle inside starts very early.

Take, for example, a fresh, out-of-the-oven little bundle of joy we call a baby. That cute little thing is going to have desires that battle within him.

Joelene and I have three daughters - and some nights - when they were little - they would make those ‘passions that battle inside’ known at two in the morning. That precious little girl who was the object of our affection and devotion would feel a little twinge of hunger - and BAM! That little treasure wouldn’t say: ‘My, it looks dark outside - it’s probably the middle of the night. I’m sure Daddy and Mommy are very, very tired right now. This would probably be an extremely bad time to inconvenience them. I think I’ll just lie here and softly coo for a few hours until the alarm goes off and then I’ll remind them I need a little milk.’

Not on your life. She would scream bloody murder and she didn’t care where we were or who heard her in the whole city. She was communicating: “I want milk and I want it now.” And Joelene would diligently get up and feed her while I would lie in bed diligently praying for her.

But kids grow up. They get to be two. Two year olds are hard-wired for selfishness - they can’t help it. The world revolves around them. They get away with things we’d never get away with. They run around the house and the yard naked after their baths. If you do that, you get arrested. They are obsessed with what they want ... and when they don’t want you around, they give you the straight-arm and say: ‘No.’ Who taught them that? Did you teach them to do the straight-arm tactic?

But two-year olds grow up. They get to be 50. And sometimes when Joelene is watching something on TV that I hate -- like we’re in the 17th hour of HGTV -- I just want to go over and yank the remote away and say ‘Enought! Mine, mine, mine.’ I have that two-year old still inside me.

But God reminds us we are not the center of the universe; He is - and He will not share the centerpiece of your life with anything or anyone ... because He is crazy about you. Perhaps it’s time to fully realize you’re not the center of the universe ... time to become clear about who is at the center of the universe ... and time to get yourself properly aligned in the universe.

And be blessed.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


When you're at the circus you'll notice the trainer can control a 10-ton elephant as easily as a 300-pound 'baby' simply by roping and staking the elephant to the ground - something any elephant could pull up if he tried without even breaking a sweat.

Apparently, according to one elephant trainer, 'It's easy when you know two things: That elephants have great memories ... and they really aren't very smart.'

Evidently when circus elephants are babies, the trainers stake them down. After 10,000 attempts to pull the stake up, they finally realize it's impossible and they give up. As they grow older and larger and continue to be staked to the ground, their elephant memories take over and they remember for the rest of their lives that they can't get away from the stake.

In some ways, we're like elephants. As children, we may hear 'You're not very smart,' or, 'You're not very pretty or handsome,' or, 'Why can't you ever behave?' ... 'Why don't you grow up?' ... 'You're just like your father' ... 'You'll never amount to anything' ... and as we grow from child to teen to adult we are still held back by some inaccurate one-sentence 'stake' that was hammered into the ground way back.

But we are capable of far more than we realize. We are able, with God's help, to pull up some of the stakes that continue to limit us and hold us down. In Christ, we are no longer bound to the limiting stakes others have placed in our lives. The stakes are far less powerful and strong than we could ever imagine.

Go ahead - pull just a little harder - it'll come up.

And be blessed.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I saw one of the paid people connected to our organization leaving the grocery store as I was entering today. Actually, I saw him coming out of one door of the grocery with a bag of food in his hand and walking right back in through the door I was opening. I noticed that he had a small roll of $20 bills in his hand.

I said, "Hi! Forget something?"
He answered, "No. But when I paid for my groceries with my credit card, it shot out all this cash as change and it doesn't belong to me, so I'm taking it back in."

Really? Yeah. That's how it works. So proud of our folks. That's the way you spend 'a day in the life.'

And be blessed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


In a stroke of absolute genius, Jesus said He could boil down the 883 pages of the Law into just one sentence. He could sweep all the Law and the Prophets into a single, compelling directive that would revolutionize life. He said He could summarize all of Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and the rest in this one guideline.


To please God, we don't have to spend years in theological training. Neither do we have to master some inches-thick rulebook that covers each and every situation. What we have to do is remember - every moment of every day - to treat others the way we'd like to be treated.

Really? That's it, Jesus?

"Love is at the fulfillment of the Law," He said. It is at the very core of what a godly life requires.

If we would conscientiously obey this one sentence - just this one - we would have covered the essence of God's desire for us. And I think He's trying to say that means love for all kinds of folks - not just 'our kind.' In fact - just going out on a limb here - I think He's saying that His greater future for you and me is quite likely to involve our association with those who are 'other' than we are.

Go - and do.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


There is a story about a child who didn't like to be seen in public with her mother because her mother's arms were terribly disfigured. One day when her mother took her shopping and reached out her hand, the clerk looked horrified. Later, crying, the girl told her mother how embarrassed she was.

Understandably hurt, the mother waited awhile before going to her daughter to tell her, for the first time, how it happened.

"When you were a baby, I woke up to a burning house. Your room was an inferno. Flames were everywhere. I could have gotten out the side door safely, but I decided I'd rather die with you than leave you alone to die. I ran thru the fire and wrapped my arms around you. Then I went back thru the flames, my arms on fire. When we got outside, the pain was agonizing, but the joy at seeing you healthy and whole was all I needed."

Stunned, the girl looked at her mother thru brand new eyes. In shame and gratitude, she kissed her mother's scarred arms and hands.

God paid the highest price on our behalf. We therefore have no grounds for believing he doesn't 'get it.' Whenever we're tempted to ask Him: "Why are You doing this TO me?" it might be better to ask: "Why did You do that FOR me?"

And be blessed.

Monday, February 21, 2011


I have a trait - a tendency - an O.C.D. - that makes me smell books. I know it’s weird. But it’s like I have to. I get a new book - or a used one - or a borrowed one from the library - and I automatically open it and put it to my nose and smell it. I know you have now lost several levels of respect for me and I don’t know why I do it, but I do.

I’ve passed this awesome gift to at least two of my adult children, by the way. And chances are at least 10% of you do it too (according to irrefutable research). Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.

It’s one of the big reasons I miss hymnals in church. They had that odd bouquet blend of old yellowed paper with slight undertones of hand sweat. Yum, huh?

But honestly, I miss that church smell. Words to worship choruses splashed on big video screens don’t have a smell. I’ve never gone home saying, ‘Boy, that “HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD”’ really smelled great today.’

When I get rich and famous, please know that I will create a cologne and perfume that smells like old hymnals. If guys want to meet a great Christian girl, they can splash some on. Girls can wear it if they want to attract a pastor.

I’m going to bring my own hymnal some Sunday morning and sniff it to my heart’s content while everyone around me is singing. Sounds like a great time to me.

And be blessed.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


This morning we unveiled the launch of Journey Ministry College ( - a three-year fully accredited Bible College program offering a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies and beginning this fall. Journey Ministry College (JMC) is a cohort of School of Urban Missions (SUM) headquartered in Oakland, California.

SUM is dedicated to four core systems:
- Practical Ministry
- Personal Mentorship
- Academic Excellence
- Affordability

Here is what sets apart our JMC campus from the other SUM cohorts around the country. We are committed to:
  • Missional, Outward-Focused Living
  • Relationally Equipping Leaders
  • Experienced Team-Based Leadership
  • Authentic Community through the Small Group Model
  • Excellence in Christian Education through our K-12 School
  • Transformational Youth and Children's Ministries
  • Modern, Passionate Worship
  • Relevant, Creative Teaching
Here is our site director, Pastor Gabe Mills:


And be blessed.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


A shrewd observer of ministry made this comment about church ministry: "Given the contents of the New Testament, one might expect local congregations of Christians to be entirely devoted to the spiritual formation of those in attendance. What we find in most cases is constant distraction from this as the central task - by the demands of the organization - by the requirements of our faith and practice - by traditions. Often there is the recognition that what we wind up 'having to do' is not what we should really be about."

This got me thinking particularly about how I spend my time. I have been doing church ministry for a long while now, and though I can waste time with the best of them, I have a pretty good sense for how it gets spent.

Lots of time gets spent on programs. This includes messages to be prepared, music to be selected, stories to be told, segues to be segued, lights and sound and instruments and collection baskets. This can all be good stuff, but sometimes it feels more like Lucy and Ethel trying to wrap candy as it speeds by on the conveyor belt than like helping Christ be formed in people.

Lots of time gets spent on planning. I’m good at this and at its best it can produce all kinds of great things. But all too often the unstated goal is: “How can we get more people to come out to more events?” Getting more people to events is how we feel we demonstrate our success and worth as a church.

Lots of time gets spent evaluating stuff, but rarely is the evaluation centered around whether or not Christ was more deeply formed in people. More often it's around categories of execution, excellence, efficiency and productivity.

So I have been spending more time these days thinking about what it might look like to be ‘devoted to the spiritual formation of those present.’

It is very possible that the greatest challenge for the western church in our day will not be what we begin to do - but what we cease doing.

And be blessed.

Friday, February 18, 2011


If God has ever healed you or delivered you or saved you or loved you, take a lesson ... from the mouth of babes:

And be blessed.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


We're going to baptize some folk this coming weekend. That's always super-awesome-exciting. I suspect when pastors see really tall people like me join a baptism class, they cringe a little because they know in a just few days they'll be standing in front of a large group of people trying to do that 'tall-person-baptism' thing.

Frankly, it's just as awkward if you're the tall person. He tries to bend his knees just right to help the pastor give him the big dip. More tall people's heads have been hit on the back of the baptistry than I can count. That's why we added a summer baptism and moved it to the lake a couple of years ago. We haven't had any trouble finding a lake too small for really tall people.

Anyway, I'm really pumped for the baptisms that will take place on Sunday - no matter the height.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I stayed up kind of late last night playing games on my new EVO 4G phone. My old phone died last week and I was forced to get something on the spot. That's what I ended up with.

I'm really into mind-teasers and brain-benders and stuff like that and it's the first phone I've had where I have been able to download a ton of apps so I feel 'cool' now like the rest of you. So I was exercising my mind last night with all these game apps.

There is an old commercial slogan that says: 'A mind is a terrible thing to waste,' which I think used to be the slogan for the United Negro College Fund. It's a great and true saying.

That is one of the ways God calls us to love Him - with our minds - engaging all our powers of thought to know God as fully as possible in order to treasure Him for all He is worth.

That means God is not honored with some kind of groundless, meaningless love. I'm not sure there is any such thing as authentic love that is meaningless, other than the 'love' I have for chocolate. If we know nothing about God, there isn't anything in our minds to awaken love for Him. If love doesn't come from knowing God with something deeper than a rapid pulse, there is no point calling it love FOR God. There might be some vague attraction there, but if it doesn't rise out of knowing God, it is not love FOR Him.

So love Him - with your mind. And to do that, know Him.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I spent the entire day meeting one-on-one with our team members. I will admit it is a draining day, eclipsed only by the sheer reward of it all.

An article on artificial intelligence stated that although experts predict they can create a computer to think like a human within the next three years, it will take an additional 43 years of sophisticated programming before they can teach a computer to think like a team.

We are given the most challenging yet rewarding work on the planet to be part of a team such as the one we have at KFA. I have been blessed with an incredibly diverse and talented group of men and women to work with each week. I am thankful for each one of them.

The latter part of my day, which begins in another hour, will involve speaking to the students of Carthage College, where I have been invited to give a talk on the topic of judgmentalism. Should be interesting.

And be blessed.

Monday, February 14, 2011


There's a little crazy in all of us. I don't think there is one of us who is normal. Even the most 'normal' among us have fears, failings, trauma, feelings of inadequacy or some other dark cloud. You can never tell just by looking at someone on the surface what he/she holds inside.

I think Jesus managed to see the crazy in the people He met and worked with. Peter had these erratic attempts to please. James and John had some humility issues. Thomas, doubt. John the Baptist - well, he was just JTB. Jesus saw it in a woman who had five husbands - another caught in adultery - a man possessed with a legion of demons.

Not only was He not put off by those things, He was moved by them - drawn to them - straight into people's hearts.

We should all recognize that we have hidden parts that might occasionally drive us - for ill or for good. Jesus looked for where the hurt was and touched it. He knew there was a little bit of crazy in all of us.

And be blessed.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I never really liked high school all that much. Just like the high school you attended, mine wasn’t just divided into freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors - there were all different kinds of sub-classes and you were categorized by whatever sub-class you were part of.

At one of the high schools I attended, the Italians ran the school. Since Kenosha is, at her roots, an Italian city, I know many Kenoshans would whole-heartedly approve of that. My wife is Italian.

More specifically, at my high school, the Italian jocks ran the school, because the athletes were on top and the Italian athletes were on top top. And that presented a problem for me - because I wasn’t Italian, and while I liked sports just fine, I was not naturally gifted as an athlete like some others. I was very tall - stretching up eventually to 6'5" but weighing something like 125 in high school. So that worked really well for me. Not. I had these really long, skinny sticks most people call legs that went on forever, so the track and field coach thought maybe he could make something out of me.

'So boy - how fast you think you can run the 50-yard dash, boy?'

'Umm ... well sir, I'm pretty sure I could run it under a minute, sir!'

I had my name on the 'number one' peg on the ping pong board long enough to make a legitimate claim that I was the champ of my school because I also had these long sticks most people call arms that also went on forever and I could easily cover the entire table left-to-right without even moving my feet - but for some reason, ping pong champions were way down the food chain at my high school.

So we had these very defined classes ... the athletes, the drama club, the music people, the loners, the stoners, the brainiacs, the nerds ... and years later it’s become clear to me that all through life people continue getting lumped into sub-classes.

And the unsavory little secret about me and the unsavory little secret about you is that we all keep unpublished lists in our minds of who the desirables and the undesirables are.

If we were asked to list God’s attributes, we would think about His holiness - His love - His omnipotence - His grace - His sovereignty, but there is one attribute of God that probably wouldn't make most people's Top Ten List - and that’s the impartiality of God - that God does not play favorites.

Jesus, all His life, was in the wrong crowd - He knew what it was to be excluded. It’s no accident that when Jesus came as a human, He was not born into a family of power, prestige or privilege. He left the magnificence of heaven and emptied Himself to show love to everyone, including those on the margins of society.

That's why being a believer who shows favoritism is a contradiction ... that any other mindset is inconsistent with the One who came to break down barriers of race, who came to break down barriers of class, who came to break down barriers of gender.

In fact, we are called to treat people with something even better than equality. James says: “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:12, 13)

Mercy means love in action. It doesn’t just say, I’m concerned about you.‘ It says, ‘Let me come alongside you and show you how much I love you,because MERCY TRIUMPHS.

So when you come in contact with someone you don’t understand or even like - they look different - they smell different - they dress different - they have different political views -- mercy triumphs - and that's way better than treating someone with mere equality.

And be blessed.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Yesterday I posted a short quiz on problem-solving. You might want to scroll down and read that posting first before you peek at the answers here.

Now for the answers:

1. The way to put a giraffe in the refrigerator is to open the fridge door, put the giraffe in, and close the door.
2. The way to put an elephant in the refrigerator is to open the fridge door, take out the giraffe, put the elephant in, and close the door.
3. The animal that doesn't attend the Animal Conference is the elephant. He's in the fridge, remember?
4. The way to get across the river is to swim across it. It's safe now because you know all the crocs are attending the Lion King's Animal Conference.

According to the source, fully 90% of professionals missed all the right answers to the questions. But a lot of pre-schoolers got them right. Maybe the study suggest that more professionals should approach things like 4-year olds.

The restaurant
Bubba Gump's has this down. I was able to visit one of these restaurants in, of all places, Hong Kong. They put two license plates on the table on a flip-over kind of device. The BLUE one reads, 'Run, Forrest, Run' and the RED one reads, 'Stop, Forrest, Stop.' The hostess explains, 'When you want something, put the RED sign up and somebody will stop. When you're content, put the BLUE one up.'

So whenever the RED
'Stop, Forrest, Stop' sign went up, whoever was nearby would stop and ask how they could help us. It didn't matter whose job it was - it didn't matter who was assigned to our table - the person closest stopped and took care of us. An order might have been taken by a busboy, questions answered by the waiter, the table cleared by the manager. Didn't matter.

They simplified the process so the customer was satisfied whenever they needed attention and so they were left alone when they didn't. Maybe we should employ,
'Stop, Forrest, Stop' signs around our church and see what happens.

And be blessed.

Friday, February 11, 2011


A consulting firm gave this quiz to a group of professionals:

1. How do you put a giraffe in a refrigerator?
2. How do you put an elephant in a refrigerator?
3. The Lion King is hosting an Animal Conference. All the animals attend except one. Which one doesn't attend?
4. You must cross a river, but it is infested with crocs. How do you manage it?

What about it?

Question 1 tests whether you do things in an overly complicated.
Question 2 tests your ability to think thru the repercussions of your actions.
Question 3 tests your memory.
Question 4 test whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.

I'll be back tomorrow with the answers.

And be blessed.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I don't fight every single battle I come across. I can't. I used to think I could - or should - but I can't - and shouldn't. I fight less than I used to actually.

There is a poise to knowing what your place is - knowing how and where to apply pressure and when to maintain grace, distance and dignity. That's really the essence of power; not chasing down every battle you encounter.

So many people scatter their energy because they forget the real business they're in; they get distracted from the main thing. They try to take up battles that aren't really theirs to take up. Ultimately they lose the battles that are truly the most important ones because they are spread thin by so many other less important battles.

What battles have you been fighting that you need to stop fighting? What business are you really in?

And be blessed.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


David is one of the most beloved characters in all the Bible. We identify with David. There is something extremely real about him ... fragile almost. He doesn't have amazing over-the-top victories like Moses or Elijah, yet he has incredibly deep failures. Still, he is called a 'man after God's own heart.' We love David.

In his book, "SOULPRINT," author Mark Batterson takes us thru David's life - hitting both the high and low points --- his match with the giant Goliath --- cutting off the corner of Saul's robe in the caves --- dancing before the Lord with his wife Michal watching --- sending his armies to war while he stayed home --- and David's 'legacy lamp' in Jerusalem.

Batterson writes about each of these episodes in David's life and draws out so many completely unexpected parallels with everyday life that there is no shortage of practical application. It doesn't hurt that he has provided ample discussion questions at the rear of the book for each chapter.

Batterson's foundation for "SOULPRINT" is: 'There never has been and never will be anyone like you.' Be prepared to uncover new truths from an old Gospel.

(Rate my review at - under the book review title: "There Never Has Been Anyone Like You.")

And be blessed.


I was talking with someone about giving their personal testimony of when they came to faith and they told me they didn't really have one. They're a Christ-follower, yes, but they don't have a testimony. Come again? 'Yes, I have been forever changed by Jesus, but I have no testimony.'

How can that possibly BE?

“Well, I grew up in church and gave my life to Christ when I was five. I had a sip of a Near Beer once in high school and got really convicted so I re-dedicated my life to God. That's my story and I'm sticking to it."

OK, that IS kinda sleepy, but on some level being given new life should never be deemed as dull, regardless of the details. We should all be content and satisfied with our personal stories and know that God has perfectly positioned us to reach someone with it in our sphere of influence.

God uses the fact that you have children - that you can't have children - that you had a perfect family - that you had an evil family - that you got rich - that you're wallowing in debt - that you got healed of a disease - that you're currently struggling with a disease - God uses it ALL to reach someone in your daily circle that you are perfectly positioned to reach. I can't reach them with my story, but you can with yours.

I've never met somebody who recovered from a horrible car accident, defying all odds, only to say: 'Yeah, my recovery is cool and all, and it’s nice that I am where I am, but I wish I could have been crippled for a little while so I could have a really dramatic, sweaty testimony.'

No. Come on. Be thankful that you have been rescued from sin - no matter what came before.

And be blessed.