Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Future Moral Failure

I'm convinced that if God doesn't continue to show overwhelming mercy and grace in my life AND if I get sloppy in my interaction with the opposite sex I'm on a collision course with moral failure.

Just to be clear, this blog isn't in response to current relationships and inevitable moral failure for me, but stories I've heard that have gotten my attention.

Over the last 10 days I have had no less than 5 conversations with men who have fallen morally. A dad, a youth pastor, a ministry leader, a pastor, a father were all included in my conversations.

Sure, we've all heard stories of people who have compromised and given in to sexual temptation but for some reason the potential of moral failure has been screaming at me at the top of it's lungs.

I'm listening.

My response has surprised me a little. A younger me might have heard those stories and thought, "there's no way I would do something like that". Or "how dare they..."

Here are some thoughts I've had as I've heard these stories and prayed for those in the wake of sin's devastation...

I'm so, so sorry...

I'm sorry for families. I'm sorry for churches. I'm sorry for the name of Jesus. I'm sorry for the men who fell. I'm so sorry. There is a wake of devastation.

Sadness overwhelms me when I think about all the people affected. There's no doubt our enemy has come to "kill, steal and destroy."

In the middle of temptation it's so difficult to see the big picture. If only we could see what our actions might do to those around us. If only we could see what our actions might do to the name of Jesus and the purity of his church.

If not for the grace of God....

I'm no better than any of these men.

God has been so gracious to protect me from scandalous public sin in my life. Of course there is the constant struggle of "hidden" sins. I'm a life long struggler with pride, arrogance and lust. As I think about my own hidden (well, mostly hidden) struggles it makes me keenly aware that I have the potential of any sin.

Also, it's important to remember that public moral failure didn't begin in public but in private.

Why has God granted me grace in these areas and not these other men? I have no idea.


Here's the reality. If I don't give special attention to my own heart and struggles, I'm on a collision course with moral failure. Doing nothing is not an option.

If you are a lover of Jesus and especially if you are a ministry leader, you must give constant attention to your soul. To do the work of the ministry without giving attention to the health of our own souls is a recipe for ministry failure. To give people Jesus without meeting with him ourselves is always a temptation.

We are so busy with so many needs that must be met but how can we give that which we don't possess?

We must order our schedules to make time with Jesus the greatest priority.


For years I have had good accountability in my life. Currently I meet with a couple of guys who have the freedom and expectation of asking me the tough questions. It's effective most the time but it's easy to get sloppy.

The flesh has an incredible desire to protect it's self and stay hidden. Sometimes I can share just enough to get me off the hook. I, we, must have real focused accountability in our lives.

For more on accountability see...


The gospel is good enough and powerful enough to bring redemption and restoration to these men and yes, to me. Although the stories are sad, within some of what I've heard there has been full restoration and healing. Of course there is a scar, but the work of Jesus brings strength, perhaps even greater strength than before.

Even as I write about my "future moral failure" I'm reminded of a moral failure I had while in college. While serving as a youth intern my girlfriend, now wife, became pregnant. God's grace is sufficient and that incident is a constant reminder of his goodness and grace.

After we became married and had our first son I knew there was no way I could fulfill my calling to youth ministry but God had other plans for me.

Would I choose to relive the pain my sin caused during that time? Absolutely not. But God is a God who restores and his gentle love and patience is so evident in my life.

So, by God's grace, may we be self controlled and alert. May we give attention to our soul.

The name of Jesus is at stake.

We must do whatever it takes.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent

This is an amazing prayer I discovered on Christine Sine's website, "Godspace". Enjoy

The coming of our Lord is near,

And we wait in joyful expectation,

Draw close, Lord Jesus Christ,

Shed your light on all that is filled with darkness.

The coming of our Lord is near,

And we wait with hope filled hearts,

Draw close, God’s beloved son,

Teach us the wonder of your all embracing love.

The coming of our Lord is near,

And we wait for God’s redeeming presence,

Draw close, Saviour of all creation,

Our hearts ache for justice, our minds long for holiness, our spirits seek for unity.

The coming of our Lord is near,

And we wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises,

Draw close, reconciler and transformer of all things,

Renew our world, restore your peace, display your righteousness.

The coming of our Lord is near,

And we wait for God’ light to shine over all the earth,

Draw close, pain bearer, life giver, love sharer,

Shine through us, in us, around us, shine for the world to see.

The coming of our Lord is near,

And we wait attentive to the signs of his coming,

Draw close, Lord Jesus Christ,

God beyond imagining, fully God yet truly human, draw close


Friday, November 25, 2011

Are Christians Actually Living Like Atheists?

Ran across this today looking for non Christians view on the foolishness of Christianity. Pretty sobering.

"Christians tell me that they are “foolish” because they believe in a God. A God that is the owner of Wal-Mart, Apple Computers, Microsoft, General Motors, Toyota, Honda, ExxonMobil, Samsung, Yamaha and Sony combined. A God that loves them, and will care for them, and has committed the ultimate sacrifice for them.

And then they stand right next to me in line, worried about having enough money to buy a newspaper.

Foolish? Or very wise indeed; since they, too, pragmatically are convinced there is no such God."

Can I just say "ouch"?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Highlight - Day 2 NYWC Atlanta

In what places or environments have you seen students connect with the Divine?

It’s a question posed at the theological forum at the National Youth Worker’s Convention. Yes, youth workers thinking about and engaging theology is kind of important. Maybe not expected but very important.

By definition “theology” simply means “God / Word”, the study of God. In many ways those of us who have a passion to see students connect to God and know him passionately are theologians. Whether we know it or not we develop a theology of student ministry hoping to connect students to the Divine.

The panel consisted of people I’ll call “real theologians”. Sure, we are all theologians whether we like it or not, but these men and women actually have credentials.

The panel included Andrew Root, Cheryl Crawford, Jim Hampton, Kenda Creasy Dean, Adam English and Kara Powell. Yes, that’s some serious brainpower.

The room was standing room only as these youth workers really have a desire to learn about “The interaction between human and divine action.” To be honest it just seems like a fancy way to discuss how students connect with God. It was encouraging to see youthworkers who may be perceived as shallow and good at games eager to learn and interact at a little deeper level.

So, back to the question at hand, “In what places or environments have you seen students connect with the divine?”

The panel had some great answers. Here’s what I jotted down.

· In the wilderness where students can interact with creation

· In community as they see God work in and through those around them

· Working with people with disabilities (this surprised me but I loved it)

· Service and working towards battling injustice

· In worship, actually knowing and understanding the words they are singing

· Brokenness and suffering

· In Scripture, seeing themselves in the story and finding what God says to them

It’s a great discussion. Is there any greater calling for a youth worker than to work towards connecting students with God? At the end of the day after all the smoke settles that’s the purest form of student ministry.

How have you seen students connect with the Divine? There are those special times when the space between heaven and earth is a little thinner. What’s your experience?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hightlight From Day 1 - NYWC Atlanta

“I see a generation,

rising up to take it’s place

with selfless faith.”

Yesterday was an awesome day here at the NYWC. Being able to connect with old friends and meet new ones is always a highlight for me. I learn great stuff from seminars but my greatest encouragement comes from sitting at a table with other youthworkers learning from their heart and experience.

Although going to Lars Rood’s seminar was a close second, I would have to say the most powerful moment for me was singing the lyrics you see above.

Ever since I first heard “Hosanna” I’ve thought, “This is a song about the next generation”. This song reflects my heart and the prayer I’ve prayed for students and myself for almost 25 years.

Something powerful happened in my heart when around 3500 youthworkers sang these lyrics together. I had this moment where I felt as if through the people in this room, fouled up needy youthworkers, where going to be used by God to raise up a generation who selflessly share the gospel in word and deed.

What an exciting privilege to work along side men and women who love kids. As Tic said, we're a family, yes, a dysfunctional family.

So, youthworkers, let’s continue to pray that God will declare his greatness to the next generation. Let’s model a heart that cries out..

“heal my heart and make it clean,

open up my eyes to the things unseen,

show me how to love like you have loved me”

Have a great day 2!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NYWC Atlanta

I wrote this last year before attending the nywc in Nashville. The danger is still very much a reality for me.

Why NYWC is a dangerous place...

...well, at least for me.

In fact any place where there are other youth workers who do what I do can be a struggle. You see, I struggle with all kinds of pride issues. It seems God uses gatherings like these to shed a huge spotlight on the places that may be in the dark.

I love to be noticed.

I am naturally competitive

I play the comparison game

I typically feel I'm a little better than others

I typically feel I'm a little worse than others

I want to be seen as important

And yes, "I" was used with intentionality. Those of you who don't struggle with these same issues please don't judge, you have your own.

My hope and prayer for myself and others who struggle with insecurity and ego is that this weekend will be a time we genuinely walk in humility and "esteem others as better than ourselves". It is true, God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

I can't afford to miss what I can receive from others and the little I can offer.

Now, on to Atlanta

This year as I'm thinking and praying for Atlanta here are some things I'm very excited about.

I'm going to connect with a lot of old friends.

I've been in youth ministry for around 25 years. Yes, I'm ancient. Some of my closest friends are men and women I've worked with over the years. I'm not great at keeping old relationships fresh but I'm trying to learn. These relationships are important to me.

I'm going to learn a lot.

I have a fear. As I get older I'm afraid I will stop learning. I'm afraid I'll be that old fart that knows everything and can learn nothing. With that in mind I'm going to seek to learn everything I can this weekend. I'm going to learn in seminars and through conversations. I'll be coming home better equipped to serve and lead the next generation.

God is going to speak to me.

When I get away and focus on my soul God always speaks to me. I need to hear from HIM.

So yes, nywc is still a dangerous place for me but the gospel is good enough to break through my crusty heart and move me closer to the heart of God. Please say a little prayer for me and all the youth workers who will be in Atlanta.

May youth workers be better equipped, more connected to Jesus and more passionate as a result of what Jesus is going to do.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sleeping With The "Least Of These"

I love what our middle school ministry is doing. In conjunction with their teaching series on Sunday mornings they have challenged families to "sleep with the poor" for one night. Our hope is that middle school students would feel what the poor feel in some small way.

Here's a story from one of our super star parents, Kristi Herring.

So as I mentioned in my status update last night, we are joining Carter (and the IBC Middle School Ministry) on a Journey of Awareness Challenge over the next 5 weeks, fasting from everyday things to experience what living in poverty is all about.

Our first challenge: to sleep on the floor.

In the world today, there are around 2.2 billion kids. Sadly, over 640 million of them live without adequate shelter. 640 million of the 2.2 billion. 640 million children will go to bed tonight, but it won't be in a bed. The majority of these kids end up on the streets at night, sleeping on the hard ground, no pillow or blanket to cushion their heads.

This week you get to choose a day where you will experience the realism of living in poverty by sleeping on the floor. If you want to add more challenge to the expereicn, take with you no pillow, no blanket, and no additional padding. Sounds tough right? It is tough, and that's the point. You will experience what 640 million children experience on a nightly basis. So as you lie on the floor tonight, tossing and turning, trying to stay warm, pray for the millions of kids throughout the world who are also sleeping on the ground tonight.

So last night was our night. One night on the floor.

Paige made it through her bedtime story lying on the floor, but opted for her bed to sleep. She is 5. We gave her a pass. But it caused me to wonder, how many of those 640 million bedless children are 5 and under. I probably don't want to know. Paige said "mommy, they could sleep in the grass. it's soft". I said yes, but it can be wet, and cold, and there are ants, and bugs. She prayed for the children without beds, and then added her routine nighttime prayer of "help me to not think about bad things, or have bad dreams, help me to think about happy things and have happy dreams." And went to sleep in her cozy bed. Her biggest worry at age 5 is bad dreams.

Audrey took the challenge fully. When I went upstairs to go "to bed", I found her asleep, face down, on her floor, with no blanket, no pillow, nothing under her, or over her. Of course, she was wearing her warmest fuzzy, fleece pajamas. 640 million children don't have fuzzy warm pajamas. And, this morning I found her in her bed. She said she woke up at midnight, her back hurt, and she got in her bed. I am proud of her for trying.

Scott has been feeling under the weather, and decided to postpone his challenge night. I don't blame him. But it did make me think...I wonder how many of those in poverty, without beds, or even without homes are feeling under the weather. The can't postpone their night on the ground, and probably don't have a Dr. appt for the next day either. We are priveleged indeed.

Carter made it all night on his floor (once he cleared it of the dirty clothes). He did take with him a pillow and comforter for cover. I asked him if she slept, or if he woke up during the night. He slept. Of course he did. He has always been a good sleeper. He could sleep on a rock, like a rock. I did catch him getting about 30 minutes of comfort in his bed after he woke up at 7am this morning though. He has seen poverty first hand in New Orleans, and San Antonio. And this will be just another reminder to him to not take our priveleged life for granted.

I did not sleep as well as Carter. But actually, better than I expected. I took the "easy way out" and brought my pillow and fuzzy brown blanket for cover. I did sleep directly on the carpet which was rough and scratchy, but I was thankful it was not the hard wood floor that has been on my wish list.

With a lighter blanked than my usual weighty comforter (I need it, I know some of you have this same quirk), and tossing and turning to find a comfortable position without one of my limbs falling asleep while I was still awake, I prayed and eventually found sleep. But I continued to wake up off and on during the night. Tossing. Turning.

Often my first thoughts were selfish "oh man, my arm is asleep again", "my back hurts", "I wonder what time it is...HOW MUCH LONGER TIL MORNING" (I was not where I could see my clock, which was another adjustment). But I would then remind myself to PRAY.

Tossing. Turning. Praying.

Praying for the people do this every night. Without a pillow. Without a blanket. Without a shelter.

I don't know how many times I woke up, but it was often. In fact I was READY when my alarm went off. Sleeping on the floor certainly kept me from hitting the snooze button. I was up with my alram. Glad the night was over. My ONE night on the floor.

I came downstairs, brewed my coffee, and sat down for my daily Bible reading. I'm a few days behind in my One Year Bible, which is obvioulsy no accident on God's part. I was reading the October 29th reading today, starting a new book, the book of Lamentations. A time of misery and desolation for Jerusalem. Yet as I read these words, I was not thinking about Jerusalem, but of how they could be true of someone RIGHT NOW, TODAY, in our WORLD, even in our COUNTRY, even in our LOCAL AREA.

These are all from the first two chapters of Lamentations...just the phrases that jumped off the pages at me as I read.

"she sobs through the night, tears stream down her cheeks"

"she has no place of rest"

"now she lies in the gutter with no one to lift her out"

"little children and tiny babies are fainting and dying in the streets. 'mama we want food' they cry, and collapse in their mothers' arms"

I read these verses. And I wept. For all those in poverty today I wept. For the mothers who cannot feed their children. The babies that don't have beds. I sat in my beautiful lovely home, drinking a warm cup of coffee, in my warm robe and slippers and I just wept.

One night on the floor is not enough. We need to do more.

Want less. Give more. Pray more.

I've been kind of stressed out lately. Still adjusting to working part time and trying to balance that with being a mom and wife. Suddently, this morning, I realized 99% of my daily stress comes from the priveleges millions of people would be grateful to have.

Three kids. Sometimes I need a break from them. I have three amazing kids. They are all healthy.

Ugh, the house is a mess. I have a house. A considerably nice house.

What's for dinner? Who knows. There is plenty of food in my pantry. Even if I didn't make it to the store this week, or next, my kids would not go hungry.

The laundry never ends. My kids are clothed. I could not do laundry for a couple weeks, and they would not go dirty or naked.

Pick up your shoes! Why do you have to kick them off right here in the way? My kids have shoes. Plenty of shoes.

Will my husband be home at a reasonable dinner time? He has a job. A good one.

Have you finished your homework? How much homework do you have? My kids are getting a GREAT education and amazing schools.

Choir. Dance. Football. Dance. Piano. I LIVE in my minivan, driving kids around. I have a car to get us where we need to go.

Paperwork. Desk work. Entering receipts, balancing to the bank. So BEHIND on managing all these pesky things. We have money to manage, money to buy eveyrthing we need, and even what we WANT.

And the list could go on.

For every stress I have, there is a blessing that I tend to take for granted. Yet these are my biggest worries and stresses. Not if I can feed my kids. What I will feed my kids (and will my picky eaters eat it) Not where will my kids sleep. But WHEN will they go to sleep so I can have a break. Suddenly after a night on the floor, all this seems a little silly to even be stressed about. In fact, I'm embarrassed and ashamed that I let these things stress me as much as I do.

Yes, I got all this from spending one night on the floor. And this is just the beginning of our 5 week Journey to Awareness. Wow. I'm expectiong God to speak in big ways to our family...and look forward to what we learn, and what actions we take.

Want less. Give more. Don't take things for granted. Don't let my "stuff" stress me out. Pray more.

PRAY more.

Lamentations 2:19

"Rise during the night and cry out. Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord. Lift up your hands to him in prayer. Plead for the children as they faint with hunger in the streets."

Try a night on the floor. I recommend it.