Friday, December 18, 2009


We were busy-
Surfing the net, mowing grass,
Feeding kids, commuting.
So preoccupied
With credit cards,
Appointments, promotions.

We were busy when
God came.
Like a whisper in the world’s ear,
The creator’s breath,
An infant’s breath,
Stirred the chilly air.
Tears and straw,
A mommy’s fingers
Touched the face of God.

Creation paused
Because it knew.
Still we swept floors,
Changed channels, crowded streets.
Still we went our way
Spending, yearning,
Chasing rest.

Shepherds ran!
Shadows fell
From newborn glory.
The light of God,
The glory of God in the face of Jesus,
Heaven cheered,
Angels sang,
A chorus written in our souls.

Good news!
Good news!
“Unto you is born this day a Savior”
Christ the Lord!
Good news!
Great joy for all the people!
And hope, precious hope.
Comfort and joy
And precious hope.

I pray the wonder of the coming of Jesus will grab your heart like it does mine. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pilate's Problem

I know Pilate’s problem intimately. If Pilate had given in to the wonder and amazement he experienced in the presence of the power and character of Jesus he would have fallen to his knees, and surely ended up on a cross himself.
I often find myself, after reading John 19, agonizing over Pilate. I can’t escape the feeling that he knew Jesus was special, unlike anyone he ever met, maybe even the Messiah some said he was. I think Jesus’ bloody, swollen eyes burned a hole in Pilate’s soul. I don’t think it an accident he got the sign right, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Pilate knew the pleas of the bloodthirsty mob were a farce. But he just couldn’t bring himself to choose to join Jesus in the suffering, so he handed him over.
Pilate’s problem was that he couldn’t bring himself to respond to Jesus exclusively because of who Jesus is. Pilate couldn’t factor out of the decision his marriage to his position, his wealth and power, his image or his fear of losing it all.
Pilate’s problem is my problem. Before I decide how I will respond to Jesus I have to decide on which criteria I’ll base my decision.
There are a million things that enter our minds when it comes to following Jesus (by following I mean worshipping, glorifying, obeying, enjoying, serving him, loving him.) What are my parents going to think? What is going to happen to me at work? Do I have to get rid of my Jeep? Do I have to actually start giving a real sacrificial offering to the church? Do I have to stop drinking beer or watching movies? The implications are far too great to quantify. But the implications aren’t the question. The question is who is Jesus? If he is the Christ, the Son of the Living God nothing else matters.
Sometimes I get wadded up over my wife, my job, my Jeep, my suburban lifestyle and the next thing you know all those things become a factor in my response to God’s call. And his glory, bloody and humble and holy, gets lost on me because my response to him is filtered by these idols of self preservation and comfort, and not by the singular will and person of the sovereign God of the universe.
I am so grateful for grace. I am desperately in need of it. I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. May the Lord grow me up in how I choose and how I choose to live.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Acts 29 at CCCC

They are committing to financial struggle and emotional turmoil. They are committing to being betrayed, unappreciated, scoffed at and argued with. They are committing to a life of pouring themselves out only to be accused of being unloving and uncaring and downright evil. They are committing to an unending series of gut wrenching decisions and ambiguity. They are launching themselves, or seeking to launch themselves into a life that no one, with the exception of their few peers, can appreciate. They are gospel centered church planters.
Some of them came to Clear Creek Community Church this week for the Acts 29 Boot Camp and I got to meet them.
I would lie if I said I understand what they are or will go through, I don’t. You can only possibly understand by sharing the experience and I didn’t. I am where I am because one of them made the commitment to endure the misery that only the people of the church can inflict on each other. I shake my head at the stories - but I didn’t live the days when there was no money but plenty of competition for power and no one to share leadership but everyone to criticize the direction. I just marvel that some are desperate to answer the call of God and so endure the furnace of selfish, consuming, idolatrous “Christians” God uses to refine their characters into capable leaders of his church. These church planters are the blood, sweat and tears that transform grace from concept to experience.
I learned a lot in two days, you couldn’t avoid it. But the essential learning is this: the Kingdom of God is alive and growing. The wisdom and faith of seasoned saints is being shared with and rekindled by the faith and passion of a new generation of Christ followers. There is no doubt - the Spirit is moving and the gospel is transforming and the church will prevail until the coming of the Bridegroom. Amen.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

When the Space Shuttle Program ends in 2010 it is going to be a trying season in the lives of many people in our community. A lot of people are going to lose high paying jobs. Its probable many people will have to relocate to where the work is - so the trickle down is going to impact everything from housing to local restaurants and even the local church. Thinking about the impact of the change on our area got me thinking…

Proverbs 6:6-11
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

Do this starting today: honor God with your money.
The Bible is filled with wisdom about how we use the resources God has entrusted to us, and yet I encounter one follower of Jesus after another whose financial behavior completely ignores the teaching of the Scripture. Many people who call CCCC home keep their money safely hidden away from God’s word about it – and it is killing them. We profess to follow Jesus but we insist on living above our means; we profess to be Bible believing but we reject its teaching about money in favor of the culture’s credit card and car payment addiction; we know we should live by faith but we pierce ourselves with anxieties, hardships, and turmoil because we live in a financial house of cards. It is time to stop it. Just stop it.
What would you do today if you knew for sure you would lose your job in 18 months? You would either prepare by reducing your spending and storing up for the “winter” like the ant or you would be a fool and keep on keeping on until the bottom falls out. So… which are you?
It is time for you to consider the ant and be wise. Pay off your debt and quit using credit. Know that you have no guarantee that tomorrow you will have the same resources available that you have today – regardless of where you work. Do without some things today so you can prepare and so endure a “winter” season or be prepared to be generous with someone else who is.
It is heart wrenching to me to encounter people in our church who find themselves in a financial “winter” and the People In Need process is impotent to help them because their debt obligations are overwhelming. These are people who should know better – people who sit in the seats at CCCC and in small group for years and somehow manage to never let God convict them about how ridiculously far above their incomes they live. It is tragic because everyone suffers, everyone: the marriage, the kids, the neighbor who needs help, the church, and the mission of the church – the consequences of this sin are pervasive.
Start today. Be and ant and not a sluggard. Be wise and not foolish. Listen to God’s word about your money matters. You’ll be better off and so will your family – and so will your ability to glorify God when winter comes.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cubbies Revenge

If you cut the city of St. Louis open it would bleed red feathers. St. Louis loves baseball and loves the Cardinals. If you live there for long, and I did, you just can’t help but become a fan, and I am a St. Louis Cardinals fan. I was sneaking out of school and going to Busch stadium in the 70’s when they were terrible – didn’t matter. I was there when they won the series in ’85. Willie Mc Gee is my favorite baseball player of all time. I cried when Jack Buck died. I have their games dialed in on my I-Phone. I am a Cardinals fan.

One of the most joy producing things that can happen in the life of a Cardinals fan is to beat the Cubs. It’s just satisfying like a good cup of coffee or some toasted ravioli or an Imo’s pizza – you never get tired of it. Another really fun thing to do if you are a Cardinals fan is to go see a game at Wrigley field in Chicago. It’s the best place to watch a baseball game in the world and, if you are a Cards fan, there is a peculiar satisfaction that comes from sitting there in your red hat knowing you’ve won the World Series ten times in the last 85 years and the Cubs, well they’re the Cubs.
That’s what I was doing one night last week. I was sitting at Wrigley field in my Cards hat enjoying my genetic superiority and thinking derogatory Cub fan thoughts like, “If your Meth lab still works in wind chill of 55 below zero, you might be a Cubs fan.” I was enjoying myself because I knew that they knew, no matter what they said about my hat, we’ve got all the rings. It was good fun – for about six innings.

I don’t know if it was something I ate or if it was the poison of my self-satisfied crimson colored smugness that settled in my stomach. But, something ran through me like a heard of disappointed Cubs fans pouring out on to Addison Street. Wrigley field may be the best place to see a baseball game, but it is not the best place to find one’s self staggering around in the latrine, wearing a Cardinals hat, hoping against hope you can make it to one of the luxurious stalls before you disgrace not only yourself but all of Cardinals fandom. Not even Jesus characterized hell with images so startling and terrifying as are lived out in the latrine at Wrigley field in the seventh inning as the locals prepare themselves for last call. It was one of the few times in my life where what was going on outside me was almost identical to what was going on inside me. It was awful. It was the Cubbies revenge.

I think it was the Cubbies revenge. Of course it could have been one of those precious, in hindsight, moments when my spiritual garbage (pride, haughtiness, independence) shows up as physical garbage so I’ll finally notice. It could have been the gracious hand of God reminding me that I am utterly fragile and that a random micro organism can debilitate me. It could have been a reminder that I am utterly dependent on my brothers in Christ without whom I would have never made it out of Wrigley alive. It could have been a reminder to rejoice today because life is fickle and unfair and fun can change to sorrow in a split second. It could have been any or all those things. It could have just been the Cubbies revenge. I may never know.

Pride goes before destruction,and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:8

Monday, March 16, 2009

Power To Serve

The last time I saw her she was in intensive care. She had tubes and wires running in and out of her connecting her to monitors and IV poles. She was so sedated she barely responded to her mom’s voice. There was still some uncertainty about how successful the surgery had been – it might be some weeks before we really know. Her mom was worn out from worry, worn out from the agony of waiting and hoping and wishing her baby girl was home safe and sound and healthy; worn out from no sleep and from doting over sips of water and pain medicine and warm covers and the doctor’s next visit. The whole scene was exhausting and heartbreaking.
I was surprised when I saw this mom at church a week later on Wednesday night. “How’s your baby girl?” I asked. Mom said “A little better. She came home yesterday. She’s back in PeeWeeVille tonight.” That blew my mind. PeeWeeVille is what Clear Creek Community Church calls its ministry to pre-kindergarten age children. This teenage girl, fresh off brain surgery, fresh out of intensive care, fresh out of the hospital was serving me, serving us, serving the people of CCCC by caring for and teaching children in PeeWeeVille so the parents, and the rest of us, could gather and focus on Scripture and praising God.
I have wondered since that conversation if I even know how to appreciate that teenager enough. I wonder if I really appreciate how God shows me to my face how much love and generosity and faith he preserves among his people. I wonder if I appreciate how many times and in how many ways other people serve me, serve us, in the church when I have no idea how challenging, distracting, and downright painful their week has been.
It really made me wonder why that young lady was so determined to serve in PeeWeeVille when so many people, the vast majority of people, who attend CCCC don’t serve the church anywhere, ever. Is it because they don’t know their help is needed? Is it because they don’t think they are able? Is it because their weeks are too hard?
I don’t think it is any of that. I think it is because our weeks are so easy, our problems so minor, our physical and material needs so trivial and so well met that our comfort has blinded us to much of anything outside our own little world. We have so insulated ourselves from need we seldom consider or relate to the needs of others. It is the powerful grip of comfort that blinds us to our need for the gospel and the workings of the gospel in our lives.
The powerful thing about serving is its power to free us from our self centeredness and to wake us up to the needs of others. What’s weird is that God often uses the power of need in our lives to do the same thing. I am grateful for a sick teenager whose heart for God, and for us, is bigger than her own need.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:1-4

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Price of Fellowship

There is a big difference between patronage and fellowship. Patrons are customers; they wield power in their freedom to choose another business. Sure, there can be a relationship that develops between patron and business, sometimes even friendship. But the relationship and even the friendships are dependent on the patron’s transaction by transaction decision to remain a patron. Patronage is a relational one way street with the power to keep or terminate the relationship firmly in the grasp of the patron.

Unfortunately, our culture taints us all with toxin of consumerism, so there are a lot of people who view themselves as patrons at church. They think of their presence on Sunday the same way they view buying a latte from Starbucks. Patrons don’t think of investing in the local church any more than you think you should go behind the counter and wash the mugs and clean the sink after you finish your latte at Starbucks. They withhold their everyday lives, their time, their gifts, and their experiences because in the eyes of a patron their presence is the price of admission. Patrons insist the power to maintain the relationship stay firmly in their grasp. They resist or refuse fellowship, because to enter into fellowship is to relinquish their power to control the terms of the relationship.

Then it happens. The phone call comes and an anguished voice asks for the church, and often demands from the church the very things they have withheld from the church - time, support, resources, and service. They want the one way street of patronage to instantly morph into a freeway of fellowship. If you are a patron it is inevitable that the time will come when you will misunderstand and mischaracterize the church as uncaring or unresponsive, because the church cannot respond effectively to patrons. It isn’t that the church doesn’t want to respond, but how well can we respond to someone we don’t know. Fellowship can’t both sprout and blossom in the awkward chaos of a funeral plan or in grief and anxiety of a waiting room.

Don’t think I resent patrons, I don’t. I agonize over them. I am glad they come to church because I hope that some Sunday they will really hear the good news of Jesus in a life changing, mind renewing way and start coming to church just because they want to enjoy and worship God. I believe that when they are truly attracted to God they will be attracted to his people and it will become inconceivable to come and go without seeking to know and be known.

I know the price is unreasonably high, the power of the patron for the seat of the servant. It is the price of fellowship.

Luke 14:7-11
Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this person,' and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Parasite

Luke 15

She is one of those people I am always glad to see. She loves God and her faith is simple and pure. She is pleasant and generous and she means it when she gives you a hug. I appreciate her even more because I know her life isn’t easy. She has some physical struggles, she’s is elderly but still working, I know she quietly endures weeks when she lives on beans and tortillas. Still, she cares for relatives and mothers other people’s children.
Her husband is a derelict, and addict, a bum, a parasite. He refuses to work and when he’s awake he drinks up the little “extra” money she can stash. There just aren’t enough good places to hide it. He doesn’t care how she is doing but when he can’t find enough to drink he rebukes her for not providing.
She is very easy to love. He is very easy to hate.

It’s revolting to me that to help her is to help him. He is going to find a way to siphon off some of any kindness shown to her, sleep on a warm couch and eat a hot meal because someone is trying to help her make ends meet. I have justified hating him because it makes me feel like I’m standing up for her.

I thought about the parasite a lot as I read Tim Keller’s book “The Prodigal God” (If you haven’t read it you need to.)
In “The Prodigal God” Tim Keller did what good teachers do; he stood me in the crowd who heard the parable from the lips of Jesus. Jesus said I can really only resent the parasite the way I do because of my own self righteousness, because I want my religiousness to merit something from God I don’t think the parasite deserves. He said I don’t want to love the parasite because I believe I’m more deserving of grace than he is. Then, he just left the story without an ending. I’m still standing here arguing with the Father about how much more I deserve his recklessly extravagant, wasteful love than the parasite does.

So now I have a choice to make. I’m either going to stick my nose in the air and stand my self righteous ground, or, I’m going to make it my commission to engage the parasite and show him the real gospel and invite him to share in the Father’s recklessly extravagant, wasteful love with me.
I’ll let you know what I do.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I got mad at Kay, my wife, not too long ago because she killed a little gecko that wandered into our bathroom. I just don’t like to kill things. I like to fish but I throw them all back. I’d rather shoo a bug outside than smash it. It always seems so unnecessary to kill.
So the images in Leviticus haunt me. I can’t imagine standing in the court of the tabernacle with the priest, looking into the big, brown, helpless eyes of a lamb, and explaining to the priest why I need to kill it. Not just that I’m going to kill it but that I need to kill it. It is my fault. Something I did or didn’t do transgressed the Law and meant that I needed to go grab this innocent creature and drag it down here and butcher it. I don’t know what would be worse, having to bring the poor lamb to the altar or having to explain why to the priest.
That’s not true. I do know what’s worse. Having to explain it is always worse. The bottom line is I would rather pay the penalty than admit to the crime. Most of the time confessing seems even more unnecessary than killing, so I don’t.
The vast majority of the time I whisper in my prayers about the sins I can recall, but I don’t tell anybody else. But when I consider the interaction between the lamb killer and the priest it confronts me with what I know is true – I would be much more aware of my sinfulness, much more convicted about its devastating effects on my home, my job, my friends, my kids, my faith, and I think much more inclined to transformation – if I submitted to a regular, structured time of publically confessing my sin to another human being.
I have all the excuses arrayed. Don’t know who I can trust; don’t know anyone who really wants to hear it; don’t need another appointment on my calendar; don’t really want to be some anal retentive church guy who goes around all puckered up because he’s afraid he’ll do something he’ll have to own up to later.
In his book “Your God is Too Safe” Mark Buchanan explains the grace God infused in the interaction between the lamb killer and the priest, “…in the simplest possible terms: Love can’t cover over the sins we cover up.” I would expand on his observation to include the sins we don’t notice and the sins we rationalize as trivial and the sins we openly enjoy. That is why confession always preceded sacrifice. Love can’t cover over the sins we cover up.
Killing the lamb makes possible atonement for the sin. Confession makes possible the killing of the sin.
I confess, I need to confess.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Holy Presence

I’ve been reading Leviticus. In Leviticus Holy God is present. Not present is some vague, purely spiritual way but tangibly present among his people such that the implications of his holiness overwhelmed every aspect of everything they did. The continual killing of animals and the constant smell of burning carcasses and drying blood made unmistakable proclamation of immediate Holy Presence.
Leviticus is intense; worship was exact and invigorating and terrifying, and I wonder if not thoroughly satisfying. Even the most mundane parts of living had significance – what you ate, what you said, what you touched, whether you kept a promise, got sick or got better, made love to your wife, had a good season at work - everything mattered with unrelenting intensity because there was no mystery, no grey area, Holy God was present. People were either clean or unclean. The “clean” could live close to and within the boundaries of the Holy Presence and the “unclean” were forced to stay away, outside the camp. Every action in every life carried some immediate consequence because every action was exposed to the Holy Presence that occupied the tent and overwhelmed the people.
Reading Leviticus makes me feel like I hear Jesus talking about a used cup full of coagulated crud while I’m still holding the towel I used to wipe off the outside. I feel exposed.
Leviticus gives me a sour sensation in my belly, that emotional nausea you get when you glimpse with clarity the real you; because I am forced to admit I invest too much time working at staying unaware of my true character because I choose to be safely unaware of the immediate presence of the most Holy God.
Leviticus makes me wonder if I have misappropriated the grace of Jesus. Was the Old Covenant replaced with a new one so that the Holy Presence of God would be mitigated or removed altogether? No, it wasn’t.
Freedom from ritual does not mean freedom from significance – at least it shouldn’t. So, I fear there is something too different about my faith versus the people living around the tabernacle; something too informal, too tolerant, too lazy, too unafraid. I am convicted about having allowed my world to become so secular that I numb myself to what should be obvious consequences of the sin I commit and drown out the messages even infirmities in my body try to send my soul.
So I’m here, after much hesitation, in the blogosphere because I want to confess that I want to clean out the rest of the cup. I want to smell the blood and the rising smoke so my gratitude for the effects of grace will sting in my eyes and bloody my hands with obedience. I want to feel the isolation and defeat and terror of my sin and not the numbness of indifference. And, I want the church to come with me because I want us to be the church. We will powerfully and supernaturally mediate the presence of God in this world when we, the church, live fully exposed to and constantly aware of the Holy Presence.