Wednesday, March 30, 2016


We had an amazing Easter weekend at Journey Church.  Hundreds of people came to faith in Christ and attendance soared to record highs so we are grateful for what God is doing in our church and in our cities.

Frankly, it was the kind of weekend it's tough to come down from.  But you have to.  You have to wake up on Monday and go back to work again.  Easter weekend never feels like work to me.

There are so many people to help -- so many to disciple -- so many in difficult situations -- so many need prayer and wise counsel.

Then there's you, the pastor (insert your role here).

Don't forget about you.  

Nobody wants to say that because it sounds so selfish.  "As a Christ-follower isn't it your calling to be about everybody else all the time?"

Don't forget about you.

But you have to take time to lead yourself.  Nobody wants to follow a person who doesn't know how to lead Me, Myself and I.

So this is an encouragement to take time for yourself -- read a book -- go sit outside -- hit the gym -- talk to God -- enjoy your family -- get a mentor -------- before you try to lead somebody else.

And be blessed.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


We were just in Israel two weeks ago and visited the traditional site of the empty tomb.  It isn't a fable.  It happened.  He rose from the grave.  For real.

The power of the story of Jesus exploded from that day to this because they saw the impossible with their own eyes and they wrote a story that matters to us 2,000 years later.

It's a story that tells us death is no longer dangerous because Jesus conquered it.  That's why we can stand in a cemetery and clench our fists at the agony of someone dying -- and although it hurts, if that person placed their faith in Christ, we can say with confidence:  It doesn't end here.

When we sit in hospitals with people we love and watch them tragically fade with cancer we can say with assurance:  Sickness will not have the final say because He is risen -- and because of that, I too will live eternally.

We don't have to be afraid of death.  And those of us who know Christ, aren't.

That's the good news of Easter.  But there's more.

When we believe in Him - when we trust Him - we receive power into our lives to be changed.

'If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies thru His Spirit who dwells in you.'  (Romans 8:11)

Your story matters.

Over the course of my life, the power of God has changed me.

I've been selfish, but God by His power over time has made me more generous.

I've been prideful, but God by His power over time has brought humility into my life.

I've had a thought life that was out of control, but God by His power over time has helped me think on good things.

I've been impatient, but God by His power over time has brought me patience.

I've been a mess.  But the power of God over time is making me new.

Your story matters too.  A new chapter is waiting to be written.

It's simple:
Admit you've made mistakes.
Believe Jesus is God's Son and that He died on a cross for your sin.
Commit yourself to a life of following Jesus.

And be blessed.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


It's Easter weekend coming up.

I'll admit it -- pastors can never sleep the weekend of Easter.  It's like some of you on Christmas Eve, because you're so excited about the next day.  That's how it is for us at Easter time.

We love this day.  We know church will be fuller than normal -- lots of excitement in the house -- most importantly, it's the day that represents everything we believe and live for in the Christian faith.

I'll also admit that it's kind of funny when Christians say we have a reasonable faith, but I'll just say it ... Christ-followers believe something outlandish, honestly.  I mean, think about it.

An invisible Creator of the universe made everything we see, including you and me - then He sent His Son, Jesus, into the world - born of a virgin - lived a sinless life - ultimately walked to a cross to be crucified, in our place, for our sins - rose from the dead three days later and ascended into heaven on His own accord.

What we celebrate this weekend as followers of Christ ... is totally incredible.

Sound reasonable?

You have to admit that's pretty out there -- that a God who's perfect would love us who are imperfect -- and that we who are imperfect would actually reject a God who is perfect -- that God would love us without condition and even though He's all powerful, He'd never force us to love Him back.

Come on.  It's kinda crazy.  But what we celebrate this weekend as followers of Christ, though it may be seem completely unreasonable, is totally incredible.

This is a story that matters.

He is risen indeed.

And be blessed.

Sunday, March 13, 2016



This morning I asked our Journey congregation flat out if they thought I leaned more toward being rebellious or religious.


And in all the services someone answered out loud:  Religious.

OK, first of all - the question was rhetorical.  That means I didn't want you to really answer it so people could hear it.  I meant please just 'think' about which one I likely lean toward.


But ... they were right.  I lean toward being religious.

I wasn't a bad kid growing up.  My list of offenses is relatively short.  My rebellious moments far and few between.  To this day I've never had a cigarette in my mouth (Aren't you proud of me, Mom?).

But I've been prideful about my own goodness.  I've been self-righteous about my morality.

And Jesus says both rebellion and religion are wrong and both kinds of people are lost.  He says, "My Gospel isn't about morality or immorality; it's about something else."

It's about putting your hope and trust in Christ.

Because you can be rebellious and be far from God.  Rebellion is about non-conformity.  It's saying: 'I'm not going to abide by the standards.'  It's about what's right for me.  It's about finding myself, it's about writing a rule book with my name on it.  Nobody can tell me what to do.  I'll decide.  So alternative sexuality and alternative spirituality and alternative personal ideology is all fine because it's all about self-expression, like that's a good thing.  But it isn't.

But you can also be religious and be far from God.  Religion is about conformity -- dress the same, act the same, talk the same, think the same, vote the same -- or you're out.  Religion is about tradition.  'This is how we've always done things and any other way is not only worse, it's wrong."  People who are religious like to say things like, 'I wish we could just get back to the good old days.'

With rebellion, the sin is visible and obvious.  With religion, the sin is invisible.  It isn't out there; it's in here.  There may not be lying and cheating and moral failure, but there's pride and self-righteousness in the heart.

And that was the basis of my question today:  Which are you?  Rebellious or religious?  Which am I? I'm not saying everybody is one or the other -- but our hearts each lean one way and we have to deal with that.

I lean toward being religious.

There's no such thing as a person who's sinless.  The Bible says we're born into sin.  There's nobody righteous, not even one.  All have sinned.  Everybody's missed the mark.

Salvation is called new birth for a reason -- old has gone -- new has come.  This is how you become saved from your sin -- whether rebellious or religious -- trust Christ, not you.

And be blessed.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


The Garden Tomb
The Journey To Israel 2016 team was at the Garden Tomb today.

Very moving.  Always.

Every time you write a date A.D. or B.C., the focal point is Jesus.  His life is the most important event in the history of the world, bar none.  More than that, it's still changing lives today.

The empty tomb isn't for religious people.  Jesus didn't come for religious people.  He was only interested in people having a relationship with the Father -- not a litany of rules, regulations, do's and don'ts.

The best thing is that the very same power that raised Jesus to life 2,000 years ago is the power available today to raise a dead marriage - a dead career - a dead dream.

At the Empty Tomb.

The other thing I'm reminded of as I stand at this amazing location is the incredible grace of God.

Grace is when God gives you what you need instead of what you deserve.

Grace is when God gives you what you need instead of what you deserve.
Grace is when God forgives you and gives you a second chance - then a third chance - then a fourth one - and a fortieth one - and a four hundredth one . . .

God shows you grace 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  The next breath you're going to take is because God's grace gives it to you.

At the tomb that is empty . . .

Be blessed.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Pool of Bethesda
One of the highlights of today's trip to Israel was praying for healing in our group at the Pool of Bethesda -- the House of Mercy.

The pool is just north of the Temple Mount.  History tells us it was a large double pool - perhaps 150' x 300' -- possibly up to 40 feet deep -- it's source from a nearby spring.

In John 5:3 we're told the pool was a place where a great number of disabled gathered -- blind, lame, the paralyzed, infirm.  Tradition is that an angel stirred the waters of the pool and the first one in after the stirring was healed.

Picture it.  Hundreds piled on top of one another -- sitting there for days, weeks, month, years -- just waiting to be healed.  Lucky Wednesday arrives and here come the bubbles -- first one in gets a new life.

It's kind of bizarre, I have to say.

And there in verse 5 is our guy.  'One there had been an invalid for 38 years.'

A lot of men in that didn't even live 38 years, but this guy had been crippled that long.  Evidently every time -- for 38 years -- that the waters stirred, he had nobody to help him in before someone more mobile beat him to it.  And Jesus comes along and selects this particular guy to heal.

In verse 6 Jesus asks him:  'Do you want to get well?'

I don't know - it just seems like such an odd question.  'I'm going to the hospital - gonna get hooked up to an IV because I just like surgery and the smell of antiseptic.'


Why would Jesus ask such a question?

The guy had been there for 38 years.  But do you think everyone there actually wanted to get better?  You don't believe that, do you?

The Pool of Bethesda is a lot like church.  Not everyone who comes to church wants to be helped.  There are benefits to hanging out at the pool.  Sympathy.  Commiseration.  Everyone bragging about how miserable their symptoms are.  'I have bigger sores than you ... my life is more painful than yours.'  And on and on.

'Do you want to get well?'

But Jesus comes to him -- 'Do you want to get well?'

Because if Jesus heals him, his whole life changes.  He has to get up the next morning - he has to go to work - he has to buy food - he has to do life like everybody else.

Do you want to get better?  Do you want things to change?  Do you want to be different?

'To tell the truth, not really.  I kind of like my pain.'

I'll just be honest -- this guy in John 5 drives me crazy.  'I've been sitting here 38 years and I have not one friend to help me in the pool.'


But Jesus touches him anyhow.

'So, who healed you?'

'Umm.  I don't know.  Guess I shoulda asked?'

He didn't even ask.

God does amazing things in someone's life -- they're delivered from something -- their family is healed -- their children are helped -- but they don't take a second to thank God for it.

But Jesus says:  'You've been healed.  Start over.  Pick up your mat.  Stop sinning.  Go forward.'

If you're Jesus and you only have one healing to do today, would you grab this guy?  I wouldn't have. I'd have found that guy and thrown him in the pool and sat on him.

But God isn't like us.  He uses every opportunity to dispense grace with mercy.  He does what I'd never do.

Do you love Jesus?  Because He sure does love you.  And at this Bethesda - the House of Mercy - His grace is amazing for you.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Garden of Gethsemane
One of the most meaningful and powerful moments on any trip to the Holy Land of Israel is a visit to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Today was that day with the 27 of us who are traveling together.

There are so many important messages and lessons for us at the Garden.

There's really no better example of a person submitting His own will to the will of the Father than what happened right here.  As Jesus kneels and prays, it's just a matter of moments until Judas and some soldiers come to arrest Him.  Jesus is led away and ultimately and unjustly tried, convicted, beaten and nailed to a cross.

He doesn't want that, right?
That isn't His will, right?
He can't be looking forward to that.  Right?

But He prays to His Father: 'Not My will, but Yours be done.'

Because it isn't until we begin praying that prayer that we can truly begin to understand and know God's will for us.

It seems a lot of us would say, "I'm doing that.  I've submitted myself to God."  But what we often mean by that is, 'God, I want what You want for my life, as long as what You want is what I want.'

And we keep asking until finally we're pretty sure God wants what we want and that's really what He wanted all along.

And if it just so happens that what God wants for you is almost always what you what for you, then maybe this prayer Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane is one you need to start praying more:  'God, I want what You want even if what I want doesn't match up.'

What if we started praying that kind of prayer and it turns out God's plan is different than our plan?

'Not my will but Yours be done.'

Well, it will be.  You'll find that it is.

Proverbs 3:5, 6 - 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.'

So you and I should pray: 'Not my will, but Yours ... not my will, but Yours ... not my will, but Yours.'  And keep praying that until it is.

What decision are you asking God for right now that you feel He hasn't let you in on yet?

Not my will, but Yours be done.

At the Garden of Gethsemane ... 

Be blessed.

Monday, March 7, 2016


Mount of Beatitudes
This week we were at the Mount of Beatitudes in Galilee, Israel.  It stands on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, between Capernaum and Gennesaret.  It is the mountain where Jesus delivered His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7.

It has been said that only half of learning is actually learning.  The other half is un-learning.  Like when you miss your exit on the highway.  For every mile you keep going in the wrong direction you go two miles to get back to where you were.

That's why it's twice as hard to un-learn something as it is to learn it.

When you study the teachings of Jesus you realize that learning didn't seem to be His primary goal.  He seemed to be more about un-learning.

To that end two phrases are repeated over and over in the Sermon on the Mount.  The phrases are:  'You have heard it said ... but I tell you.'

It's twice as hard to un-learn something as it is to learn it.

Jesus was uninstalling old patterns and re-installing new ones - upgrading - just like you'd do on your computer.

'You have heard it said, "Eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth."  But I tell you, "Do not resist an evil person.  If someone strikes you on the cheek, turn the other one also."'

'You have heard it said, "Do not commit adultery."  But I tell you, "Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."'

'You have heard it said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy."  But I tell you, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."'

It was those old patterns Jesus was trying to get them to un-learn that were keeping them from becoming who God wanted them to be.

What are your necessary areas of un-learning?  Where is Jesus trying to re-train you - update you - re-install new life patterns in you?

And be blessed.

Saturday, March 5, 2016


Mount Carmel
Today we were in Israel at the scene of Elijah's famous bout with the 450 prophets of Ba'al on Mount Carmel.

One thing about the life of Elijah is absolutely certain - it's dazzling.

Ravens bring him food.
He prays and a widow's son is raised from death.
He wins a showdown against several hundred false prophets.
He runs seventeen miles from Carmel to Jezereel, outrunning chariots and horses.
He appears at the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus and Moses.
He is associated with John the Baptist in the New Testament.
He is a mega-prophet, whose coming paved the way for the Messiah.

Yeah.  I'd say Elijah was pretty normal.  He's really nothing like us.

And yet, James makes an extraordinary statement when he says Elijah was actually a man like us:
"The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.  If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.  So confess your sins to each other and pray for each other that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  Elijah was a human, even as we are.  He prayed earnestly that it would not rain and it didn't rain on the land for three and a half years.  And again he prayed and the heavens gave rain and the earth produced crops."

A man like me?  A person like you?


That passage isn't about raising people from the dead.  It isn't about being fed by birds.  Don't break it up into little parts.  Read the passage in one setting.  It's all about one thing.

The prayers of a righteous person have great power.

James says Elijah is like you.

James says Elijah is like you.  I guess that means we should seek to be like him.

We don't live in a day that different from Elijah's.  In his day they had a little Ba'al worship here, a little Yahweh worship there, throw in some cult worship over here.  We live in similar times -- a little God pleasure here, a little horoscope there, some New Age here, and more.

But Elijah is simply praying according to God's Word.  He's just calling on the promises of the Father:
           'Take care lest your heart be deceived and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them.  Then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you and He will shut up the heavens so there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit and you will perish quickly off the good land the Lord is giving you."

Elijah knew God's Word.  So he's a model for us.  Read, pray.  Read, pray.  Fill your life with the Word and with prayer and ask boldly for God to act for the glory of His name.

May the life of Elijah inspire us to pray Biblically and faithfully.  Pray for bold things.

And be blessed.