Saturday, March 31, 2012



Did you win?


Enough said.

Let that be a lesson to you.

Be content with what you have, work hard and work fair, and trust God for provision and the rest.

And be blessed.

(If this makes no sense to you, please read yesterday's blog.)

Friday, March 30, 2012


Today is the day somebody may win close to half a billion dollars on the lottery - the biggest winning known to man so far. 

I’ve already been asked the question three times in the past two days, so it seems right to discuss it here.  Should Christ-followers play the lottery?

There is no verse in the Bible that explicitly says, “Do not gamble,” but whenever the Bible is silent on a specific issue, many think that means it gives authorization.  But silence does not mean authorization, so we’ll have to figure it out some other way.

It seems that leaning on luck or chance by spending hard-earned money denies the fact that God is the sovereign One in control of your life. 

There is a drive toward covetousness and greed and jealousy and envy every time we lay down money in order to gain more money, and the Bible certainly condemns all of those desires.

Gambling and the lottery does damage to the idea of a Biblical work ethic that replaces hard work as the means for living.

It consistently exploits those who are in greater need, since the largest segment of people who play the lottery are those who can least afford to, throwing good money after bad in an effort to get-rich-quick - and they never do.

The Bible does not give credence to gambling as a means of good stewardship.  Andy Stanley coined a phrase for moments like these: ‘What is the wisest thing to do in this situation?’  So the question may not be one of right or wrong, but of wisdom.

Colossians 3:17 says: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” 

Proverbs 3:5-6 - “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will direct your paths.” 

And honestly - isn’t that the best news you’ve heard all day? 

And be blessed.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


I have a lot of questions for God.

Why don't You stop pain and evil?
When will the world end?
Why do bad people prosper?
Why aren't things in life more fair?
What's the deal with mosquitoes?

... for starters.

It seems like we as a society are obsessed with needing answers.  Do a simple GOOGLE search on any topic and you'll find endless questions followed by endless answers by endless authors.  Each click of the mouse promises what you're looking for, not unlike the old phrase: 'Too many cancers, too many cures.'

 'God is God.  Aren't you glad?'

I like the quick fix as much as the next guy, but they are not usually satisfying, long-term.  I'm not sure we're comfortable with leaving the room with the questions still unanswered.

I read somewhere that there are 288 questions in the book of Job in the Bible - but 78 of them are from God to us.

Sometimes that's how He answers our questions - with more questions.  And that just leaves us humbled - and let's face it - who really likes that?

God is God.  Aren't you glad?

And be blessed.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


To follow up on Thursday’s blog about politics in the pulpit -- we should ask the question: ‘Why are young adults walking away from religion?’

This has, of course, been written and talked about at length in blogs and messages and books and articles, and although answers vary from person to person, there seem to be trends that apply in most cases.

We think they are Narrow-Minded there:  That’s where the political discussion comes into play, for one.  Believers are not on the same page about every issue where the matter may be disputable.  If it’s found in the Bible, we don’t have to debate it (or compromise).  But if it isn’t, there is a world of acceptance and appreciation for others’ beliefs that need to be granted.  Young adults don’t see that happening within church circles.

We’ve Been Hurt: Sometimes there is a hurt that is inflicted that came from the church itself.  Millions claim a wound they can trace back to church that has never healed.  Why?  In part, because the church rarely seeks forgiveness.

We don’t think Young Adult Life and Church Mix: There are the obvious things, like scheduling activities on Sunday mornings (hint: young people tend to go out on Saturday nights which is why we have begun a Saturday night service in time for them to come and still go out if they want to - then they can sleep in on Sundays), but there’s more to it than that.  In college, and before that by our parents, we’re taught to explore the world, broaden our horizons, think critically, question everything and figure out who we are as individuals.  But Church is more about community.  In many ways, it represents, fairly or not, sameness, conformity and a “check your brain at the door” ethos.  This stands in opposition to what the world is telling us is important right now. 

We’re Skeptical: We’re exposed to more ad impressions in a month today than any other previous generation experienced in a lifetime.  Pick up your phone and they are there, too.  Online as well.  Whereas generations before us expended energy seeking information, now it comes at us in such overwhelming doses that we spend at least the same amount of energy filtering them all out.  This leads to a hardening of the senses, always assuming that whoever is trying to get your attention wants something, just like everyone else.  Young adults put church in that category very often.

We’re Exhausted: Consider how many more of us go to college today, compared to generations before.  And consider that the baseline standard for family economics requires a two-income revenue stream to live at any level of middle class.  Debt and credit are givens, and working full-time while trying to maintain a marriage, raise kids, have friends and have time left for ourselves leaves us with less than nothing.  We’re always running a deficit.  So when you ask me to set aside more time and money for church, you’re trying to tap already empty reserves.

We Don’t Get It: Young adults today are the most un-churched generation in a long time.  In many cases, it’s not that we’re walking away from church; we never went in.  From what I can tell from the outside, there’s not much relevance to my life in there, and I’m not about to waste my hard-earned to prove that I might be wrong because I don’t think I am.

It’s a challenge.  But it’s also filled with great excitement, that if we can just address a few of these important questions, what a future we have.

And be blessed.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


I was having a discussion not long ago with some friends over the idea of politics in the pulpit.  There was a predictable variety of opinions on it.  We have had people in our own KFA congregation run for public office a number of times, sometimes for positions that were highly visible and influential.  I'm proud of those who have done so and hope we have more in the future.  I voted for many of them.  I believe Christians should be in the public forum as often as possible, making an influence and a difference for the Kingdom and for our city.

One thing is for sure - light brings hope, and we need it being spread in large doses throughout our city, county, state and country.  When people look up from the routine of everyday life and see a Christ-follower, they should see light.  It should spark hope.

It is perfectly fine for someone in our church to get upset about what is happening politically.  It's OK for him to rally his friends around 'the cause.'  It's what our freedoms guarantee and encourage.

But should I be taking a stand on things?  Of course - and I do.  I like the way Paul says it: 'I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.'  (I Corinthians 15:1)

So - like he says - take a stand.  Is abortion wrong?  Yes.  What about homosexuality or the support of Israel?  I'm against it, and for it, respectively.  Capital punishment?  Depends on how you look at it.  How about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's deal on collective bargaining or whether you should be Republican or Democrat?  I'll leave you guessing on that.  

Paul says 'take a stand on the Gospel' - but then he goes on to explain what 'the Gospel' is: 'By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the Word I preached to you ... For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins ... that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day ... " (I Corinthians 15:2-4) 
So yes - I have political opinions, and it's OK that I have them, but the larger question is not whether or not I have opinions - but as pastor of KFA, is the church stage the place to address them?

For things God has given me authority from His Word to talk about, yes.  Otherwise, absolutely not.  It is not OK for me to make those things a focal point of our weekend gathering.  When pastors take their stand on anything other than the Gospel, we complicate things and narrow the target of whom we can reach.  I don't have authority to teach or preach anything except for what God has given me authority in His Word to teach and preach.  That's it.

I don't mind if you pass around a petition on your own time and in your own space about whatever it is you're against, but if I pass one around the church, I end up alienating some folks who are not far enough along in their faith to understand what is going on.  All they can see is that we're judgmental and 'against' stuff.

When people show up at KFA, very often it is because something is broken in their lives.  Something isn't working.  There is hopelessness.  But as they begin coming and seeing the joy of Christ on the faces of KFA-ers, things begin to change for them.  They discover that Jesus loves them, that He died for them. They hear of the power of the Holy Spirit to transform them.  Over time, they give their lives to Jesus and begin seeing better choices coming out of them as fruit and evidence of the decision to serve Christ. Ultimately they have a friend who is hopeless in ways they used to be and they begin to reach out and invite them to church, thinking - hoping - praying that their friend will experience the same thing they did.  Except on that day, rather than talking about the Kingdom and the Gospel, we're talking about what we don't like and what we're opposed to. And when we talk about some of those things - on a good day - there are about 53% who agree with the stand and 47% who don't.

'That's my opinion but you don't have to agree with it.'

As pastors, when we speak authoritatively about stuff that is 'disputable' in the Bible, we end up firing up the base while making everybody else mad, and so very often injuring those who are new to faith or searching for God.  If the Bible isn't clear on it, then I'm not dragging it into our discussions on the weekend.

So, look for me to share the Gospel and the Kingdom of God when you come on the weekends, and look to be challenged as well as encouraged and given great hope.  Nothing more, nothing less.

That's my opinion but you don't have to agree with it.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


It was great to conduct Journey Ministry College chapel outdoors by the pond today in this beautiful 80 degree temperature.

We discussed the theme of a book by M. Batterson called "CircleMaker."  It tells the story of a first century B.C. man who stood in the middle of a drought and drew a circle around himself and knelt in that circle to pray and vowed not to move until God heard and answered his prayer for rain.

We talked about the importance of prayer in our lives and how we just need to hold on to God until He speaks to us, like Jacob did in the Old Testament.

 The students found a private place to pray outdoors and spent the rest of the time seeking God.

Great to see and hear.

And be blessed.

Monday, March 19, 2012


I've said it before, but it bears repeating ... I love our team at KFA.  My body is red in places from all the times I've pinched myself to make sure it's all real and not just a dream.  We have an amazing group of men and women leading KFA into its future.

We spent our lunch time just praying together today.  You learn a lot about people when you hear them pray.   These are passionate for God - desirous of His best for our church and our city - people who care about the fatherless - students - marriages - the outcast and abused and hurting - those far from God. 

They are non-status-quo visionaries who are not content to 'settle,' but driven to do great things for the Kingdom.

Please pray for our team.  They are human and frail, yet powerful and called.

We are blessed.

And be blessed.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Our KFA mission statement is:  ‘Making it easy to find and experience God.’ 

Jesus said:  “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses himself?”  (Luke 9:23-25) 

Sound easy?  Not really.

In fact, you can get everything down here and lose the game of life.  You can keep your laptop and your favorite office chair and lose the business.

But Jesus is saying, ‘It isn’t worth not following Me.‘  If you get a bunch of stuff along the way and refuse to follow Me, you’re still going to lose everything.

So deny yourself and pick up your cross - which means live a life of sacrifice and follow Me - and maybe they’ll see that - and maybe you’ll cause them to want to follow Me.  Essentially, maybe you’ll make it easier for other people to find Me and experience Me and know Me and love Me --- the way you do.

When we read those verses two thousand years after the fact, we get more than they do because we see it from this side of the cross, but they didn’t.  They didn’t even know Jesus was going to a cross.  He hadn’t been beaten yet - He hasn’t been crucified.  They don’t really get it ... not like we do.  Not like we should.

You can keep your laptop and your favorite office chair and lose the business.
You and I can miss the Kingdom God has for us right now because we are overly fixated on the Kingdom that is not yet.

I’ll admit that I want that ‘no mourning - no death - no tears - no sin’ thing.  But Jesus is saying, ‘OK, but what about the Kingdom I have for you now.  I’m still the King - here - now.  It’s still My church - here - now.  Want Me more than you want ‘no pain’ - want Me more than you want ‘no tears’ - want Me more than you want the end game.  Don’t go around the cross in order to get to the crown.’ 
That’s the Kingdom now.  Serve Him as your Master.  Commit to Him as your King.  Make much of Him.  Obey Him as your Lord.  Love Him as your Savior.

Who is He to you?

And be blessed.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


This is a shout out to all my Irish friends today on St. Patrick's Day.  

Here are the top 10 Irish surnames out there:
1.  Murphy ... we have some great friends with this last nameHope you guys have an awesome day.  Murphy means 'sea battler,' by the way. 

2.  Kelly (bright-headed ones) ... so if your first name is Kelly, you know where that originates now. 

3.  O'Sullivan (hawk-eyed ones) 

4.  Walsh (the Welshman)

5.  O'Brien (the nobleman) ... descended from one of the greatest Irish kings of all time. 

6.  Byrne (the ravens) ... they're flying around all over the place. 

7.  Ryan (the little kings) ... again, if it's your first name ...  

8.  O'Connor (patron of warriors) ... 

9.  O'Neill (from a champion) ... we also have a very good friend with this last name.  Cheers to ya. 

10.  O'Reilly.  You go, Bill.

That rounds out the Top Ten.  I see some people want to change the name from St. Patrick's Day to O’Green Day in an effort to encourage diversity and remove the Catholic element.  Silliness.  Some of those same people want to make it Caring and Kindness Day instead of Valentine's Day.  Weird.

I'm still gonna speak in green tonight at KFA.  So to all our Irish friends, "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Lura" and "Rath Dé ort!"   

And be blessed.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I was at a store the other day and a little boy sitting in the shopping cart was asking Mom for everything he passed.  'I want this ... can I have that? ... Mommy, get me this other thing ... '  What was more remarkable was that 'Mommy' dumped at least 2 of the three things Junior asked for into the cart - and when he threw a fit about one of the things he said he wanted that, six seconds later, he didn't want anymore, she obediently replaced it with the newest and latest object of his affection.


I loved giving my kids things they wanted, but this?  Well ... no.

'If I am content with little, enough is as good as a feast.'     Bickerstaffe

I wondered, given the current trajectory and conditions, this little boy would grow up to be like.  It probably isn't fair to make judgments based on 60 seconds of observations.

I only know that there isn't a side of the fence where we finally just 'have it all' and where the incessant craving for greener grass ceases.  If we really believe we can and should have it all, we never will.  The attitude in and of itself makes whatever we get less than enough.  The more we expect, the more it takes to satisfy. 

I. Bickerstaffe put it this way: 'If I am content with little, enough is as good as a feast.'  That's a great truth.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Almost all perfectionists know at some level that being perfect is impossible.  Yet most I've talked with feel they'd be quitters to lower their expectations to something more realistic and liveable, even when they see what unrealistic expectations are doing to them and those around them.

There is also the fear that if they don't keep their standards sky-high, they won't accomplish anything of worth.  They will be branded failures - and failing, for a perfectionist - is unforgivable.

Ironically, America was kind of founded by failures.  We have learned that success is not fearing failure, but learning from it.  Perfectionists do not allow themselves that luxury.

If I sound outspoken and confident on this issue, it is because I walk it.  It's a battle I constantly wage.  I can be self-critical and self-condemning right along with the best of them.

But the truth is:  The virtue lies in the struggle, not the prize.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Our major goal in life is not to be happy or satisfied; it is to glorify God and to make much of Him.  That goes against the grain of American culture.  Every father's goal for his family is that they be happy and satisfied.  Yet precious few father's goals is that his family glorify God first.  We work our fingers to the bone so at the end of our lives we might be happy and satisfied but God's great goal for our lives is that we glorify and make much of Him.

And be blessed.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I just found out today that there are churches with bowling alleys in their basements.  I didn’t know.  We have a basketball court at KFA - a beautiful, full-sized gym - but I had no idea we could have built a bowling alley.  Some churches build swimming pools.  Several have put up entire health clubs that are open to the public as a way of being part of the community.  

I love the radical spirit of that.  But, a bowling alley?  I just never thought.

I imagine a bride and groom walking down the aisle while the unmistakable sound of balls crashing into pins is going on right underneath them ... or bowling teams coming to church with their silk shirts on, ducking out of my message a little early to toss a few practice balls before the big afternoon match. 

Actually, I just read that bowling alleys are disappearing from churches.  Shucks - just when I’ve just discovered them.  Evidently there are fewer than 200 left across the country.  Only 200!

Apparently Milwaukee alone once had thirteen churches with bowling alleys - but after all, it is called America’s Tenpin Capital. 

I don’t know what I think about it.  I’ll mull it over while I’m pressing weights in our church weight room this week.

And be blessed.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


It was amazingly great to spend time today with two area Milwaukee churches, coaching them thru the Life Development Resources material we've been working with -- helping them define their mission, purposes, values and more.  I love what God is doing with both of these church teams.  

When the church is absolutely clear about what the 'main thing' is, you have to face it at every turn - in the way you prepare, plan, preach, pray and give.  This is true, not just of the leaders, but of every person in the church who understands what the 'main thing' is.   

I know from personal experience the task of helping people get real ownership of the mission.  One of the greatest leadership challenges you'll ever face is trying to get people to look beyond their own needs to the 'main thing' of valuing and reaching those outside God's family.  

But ... it's worth it.  For God's sake, it is.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Everybody leads somebody.  If you're a dad, you lead somebody.  Mom, you're leading.  Grandma/Grandpa, leading.  Business person, you're leading someone.  Student, even you are leading.

I don't know if you are settled with being an 'OK' leader - an 'I'm just good enough to get by' leader - or if you are unsatisfied with anything short of being a great leader. 

Great leaders bless others.  They are constantly looking for ways to bless whoever is in their constellation.  Great leaders are not just given to great issues; they are given to people.  This capacity to encourage and bless is the defining characteristic that elevates them to greatness in their leadership.  They find life is not about getting more degrees and accomplishments; it is about enhancing others' lives.

Great leaders are marked by gratitude.  They consider leading a privilege, not a burden.  They are not unaware of the burdens - they are real - but they are grateful for their assignment.  They count themselves blessed by those they lead and serve, blessed by their colleagues, blessed by their teams, blessed by their friends, blessed by their families, blessed by God.

Great leaders are grateful to be alive in the world they occupy.  They do not shrink from the challenges of the day, but they continually work toward something better. 

Great leaders make countless decisions that ultimately bring them to their destination.  They resist distraction, they overcome becoming demoralized, they discount discouragement as their only option.  Instead, they choose determination, optimism, intentionality and courage in the face of fears, doubts and shortcomings.

'I do not know how many people opt out of greatness.  I shudder to think ... '

Great leaders are at home with themselves and with God.  They aren't completely untouched by failings or dark sides.  They don't ignore those things.  In fact, they are keenly aware of their vulnerabilities, but they refuse to be captured by them or allow them to be "the book" on their lives.

Great leaders argue for life by their example and by their actions.  They wage war on what keeps them and others from enjoying the life God intended. 

I do not know how many good people opt out of greatness.  I shudder to think how many might.  But I am grateful for every single one who chooses it.  You can choose, as many have, to settle for less.  But don't do it.  You will rob yourself - and others - of the chance to live the better, the best, life.

O yeah - one thing.  To get there, you'll have to surrender your life.  All of it.  Yep.  Everything.  You'll have to surrender your dreams and your plans and your days and your agendas.  They will all belong to the One who believes in you so much He has risked His own agenda on you.  The choice is momentous.  And amazingly, it is yours to make.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


There was some great stuff offered yesterday by Geoff Surratt at the Higher Level Workshop presented by our Wisconsin District Assemblies of God office.  The topic was 'Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing.'

1     Trying to do it all Yourself
Sometimes we say, 'I have to do this because they pay me,' or 'If I want it done right, I'll do it myself,' or 'What if I ask you to help and you say "No?"'

2     Promoting Talent over Integrity  

3     Copying another successful Church

Great stuff.  Thanks, Geoff.

And be blessed.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


There are men and women who can point back to a moment in their lives - an event - where they can say:  ‘I raised my hand.  I prayed the prayer.  I responded initially.  I said “Yes,” in that moment’ and yet, they have no objective evidences of a regenerated life.

They have not grown in their love for Christ - they have not grown in their life of worship - they are not giving - they continue to gossip and be bitter and unforgiving and sarcastic - they continue to have impure moral and sexual lives.  They may have a moment to point back to, but outside of that -- nothing.  They did not develop a root system and when the midday sun came out - when a little testing came - the plant withered, keeled over and died.  There are no roots.

We were out of town this past summer when one of the more brutal storms passed thru our area.  Our next-door neighbor called to tell us a tree with an insufficient root system had fallen on our house.  That’s a terrible phone call to get and it’s an unsettling thing to drive home to see.

Some people receive Christ into their lives with great joy and enthusiasm, but they don’t develop roots.  Eventually they are going to be tested by strong winds and circumstances and pleasures and something is inevitably going to reveal itself in their hearts that their treasure is something other than Christ.

Some hear the Word-message week in and week out with not the first intention of applying any of it.  They hear it and nod their heads and smile and shake hands on the way out: ‘Thank you, pastor - great message.  See you next week - same time, same seat’ -- and they walk out and continue unchanged.

It is a terrifying and heartbreaking concept to the Kingdom of God.

I can’t tell you how many people trade intimacy for the dumbest alternatives.  God is not the enemy of joy; He is not the enemy of riches; He is not the enemy of pleasure or of having fun.

That job you love that brings you amazing satisfaction and importance -- that house you live in that is so comfortable -- that car you drive that is so eye-turning -- they are not better than a relationship with Jesus.  In fact, those things are horrible trade-offs. 

'God is not the enemy of joy; He is not the enemy of riches; He is not the enemy of pleasure or of having fun.'
Think about some of the things people trade intimacy with Jesus for.  All the time, unmarried women trade their singlehood for a man who can’t possibly lead them spiritually.  But they love him.  That’s a horrible trade, ladies.  It’s probably far too easy for me to say, but there are a lot of things worse than being alone.  Men ... that hobby or sport that you love -- that woman who gives you extra attention at your working lunch and who listens intently to your stories of an unsatisfied home life and who smiles at you over the cubicle wall -- what you can get off the internet late at night when everybody else is asleep ... those things are terrible trade-offs for intimacy.

If we are careless with our spiritual foundation ... if we are careless with prayer and Bible reading ... if we are careless about service ... if we are careless about community ... it’s not going to lead us where we want to go. 

Because when storms come --- and they will --- when the circumstances of life change - and they will --- you’re going to have no substance to draw from so you can see it through.

Please pay attention to rootedness.  Please pay attention to the watering of your life.  Please pay attention to and take responsibility for the development of your foundation. 

And be blessed.

Friday, March 2, 2012


We all stumble.  We will all fail.  God isn't waiting for you to make a mistake so He can extract judgment. 

In fact, He is your biggest cheerleader.  Rather than sitting on a golden throne in anticipation that you will mess up, I picture Him instead shouting words of encouragement: 'You can do it!  You're going to make it!  You're almost there!' 

God IS for you.  Settle it and take advantage of His great grace toward you.

And be blessed.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


It's not a secret that the world we live in is antagonistic to our beliefs about Jesus.  He told us they were going to be so that shouldn't surprise us.  Our values are rejected.  But how we respond to that is so important and critical to fulfilling Christ's mission on the earth.  Unfortunately, believers tend to respond in one of three (wrong) ways: 

A     We circle the wagons and say: 'Isn't it terrible the way they're living out there.'

B     We make condemning statements about the world, forgetting they are our mission field.

C     We let them 'evangelize' us.

 'Is this making anybody besides me crazy right now?'

A recent survey reveals that regular churchgoer stats are shockingly similar to general population stats ... i.e. ...
     Lottery ticket buying (Christians) --- 23%
     Lottery ticket buying (non-Christians) --- 27%

     Watched an R-rated movie (Christian) --- 79%
     Watched an R-rated movie (non-Christian) --- 87%

In fact, according to the survey, if you were to gather 100 people in a room - 50 believers and 50 unbelievers - and your assignment was to tell which were Christians just based on conversations about their activities in the past 30 days ... YOU WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE!

Statistically speaking, Christians were just as likely as non-Christians to lie, steal something, visit a pornographic website, talk about someone behind their back, gamble ... is this making anybody besides me crazy right now?

If God is not honored as the One thru whom the whole life and power of the Gospel is shown, we are in big trouble.  We must obey Him and His Word, not just the parts we prefer.

And be blessed.