Recently, an ACF staff member wrote me asking how to deal with a situation. She was ministering to a young woman who was wrestling with the new cultural norms of same sex relationships, transgender kids and adults, and gender-neutral individuals.
Her wrestling wasn’t with the morality of it, but rather why the Bible and many Christians don’t support it. This young woman’s viewpoint is quite representative of many Christian’s these days. She just didn’t see how the Church wouldn’t fully support someone as they tried their best to work out their gender or sexual identity.
(For the sake of clarity, the Bible doesn’t condemn anyone–and I mean anyone–for their behavior, no matter how extreme. The only condemnation of people in Scripture is the result of their open and overt rejection of God and/or Jesus. Said differently, God doesn’t condemn people because of their sexual choices. He does, however, judge those who refuse to humble themselves before him in faith.)
I wrote a brief reply to the staff member that stimulated some discussion among our staff. I thought I’d share it with you.
“Your email is troubling on so many levels. I think the crux is in this statement you made– The question I have is how to best equip these older women as they disciple these younger women who have great passion for Jesus, but don’t know what the Word says (or, if they do, don’t understand how what it says is what’s best for us re: sexuality).
I have found that many people we’re trying to disciple–or even those themselves charged with making others into disciples—do not know the Word. Thus, we have to teach them what the scriptures say. But even then, we still have work to do, as many no longer see the scriptures as the sole authority—or as any authority—for their lives.
I find the same issue when I talk to believers about baptism or giving or sexual behavior before marriage. I used to say, “The Bible says . . .” and that was the end of it. That doesn’t work anymore, at least not as much.
I am finding that prayer, patience and MUCH relational investment does work. We are doing ministry against a cultural backdrop that has greatly changed. We can no longer assume the home field advantage. We have to think, lead and pray from the standpoint of a church in exile, not a church in the promised land.
I am ministering to a friend who has a really tough story. But she does believe in Jesus and is slowly falling for him. That’s both my strategy and my hope. As she falls for him, he is changing her. And he gets to decide what changes she needs to make and when.
But it’s SLOW. We must give the prayers and the relational process TIME.
So, my answer: we’re going to have to spend lots of time in 1×1 and 1×2 conversations with this generation. We can’t simply throw the scriptures at them anymore. I would tell your friend to see how many of these women she can invite into relationship for the long haul (it sounds like she is doing that already). Then I’d counsel her to teach them the Word, pray like crazy for them, and to be very patient. The road back seems to be longer than it used to be.”
So, did I advise her correctly? Comments welcome.
Recently my good friends Mary Anne and Trey Kent shared a significant piece of their marriage story at our church. The occasion was the 33rd anniversary of a fatal car wreck that forever changed their lives.
On August 5, 1985, just two weeks after they were married, the Kents were hit head on by a young woman who crossed over into their lane going 70 mph. She never braked.
The accident tragically killed her, left Trey pinned in the car with severe injuries and seriously injured Mary Anne. You can see the severity of the wreck in this picture of the Kent’s car.
But Trey and Mary Anne’s story wasn’t one of loss, but rather one of great victory. They actually shared that if they had the choice to do it all over again, they would. That’s how much God has redeemed, or over-redeemed, the accident.
In their message, which you can watch below, Trey and Mary Anne shared many of their learnings from walking out life after the wreck. Here’s some of what I wrote down in my journal during their talk:
- God wants to turn your greatest tragedy into your greatest testimony
- God’s strength is best perfected in our weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9)
- Nothing is ever impossible with God (Luke 1:37)
- Life’s difficulties teach you that Jesus is enough
- We meet God best in our pain
- You don’t overcome by being strong; you overcome by being loved
- And, when you wake up in the middle of a crisis, Jesus is right there with you
Those are just a few of the amazing lessons Trey and Mary Anne shared. They also shared many miracles that God worked in and through the wreck. I’m so grateful for their story. It greatly encouraged me.
So have you been in a life-wreck recently? Is there debris scattered all about? Or, are you a wreck? Either way, God wants to meet you and love you in it.
Why don’t you go ahead and watch my friends’ message. I know it will greatly encourage you too.
There isn’t much that’s sweeter than answered prayers. In the face of my own leadership struggles, busyness in our church community, and waning participation in our small groups, I was frustrated last spring. Frustrations are isolating. I felt more alone than I actually was.
On the advice of a mentor, I began to pray for The Lord to direct the next step for our church. Understanding we all run at 3500 rpms, in bodies that are made to rest around 1000 rpms, I didn’t want my request for our church to meet in groups to ever be “one more thing” people had to do.
After pulling back on my own schedule, and praying, I was led to this idea: small groups, for 10 weeks, from Labor Day to Thanksgiving.
Entry and exit dates; so no one feels they’re joining something for life. Planning and prioritizing for 10 weeks is a smaller and easier commitment. I’ve seen The Lord answer my prayer, and been encouraged to see new leaders and groups come together, excited about meeting.
If we’re committing to 10 weeks this fall, my next prayer was about what would be worthy of our concentrated effort. Paul wrote Romans as a letter to the church in Rome, to set straight the design and nature of the Gospel, to help this church against those who were trying to make this new faith in Christ into a bunch of rules. In my mind, this letter is one of the most clear and comprehensive books on what it means for us when we choose to follow Christ.
“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”” — Romans 1:16-17 NLT
I have written this study with the idea that anyone can pick it up and the hope that everyone who reads Romans is touched by our Heavenly Father. So, here we are, beginning 11 weeks of study, and 10 weeks of meeting together.
My prayer is we will find ourselves thrilled, amazed and in awe of all God has done for us. And as we open His Word, that we would encounter His Presence over and over again this fall. Whether we are alone at our breakfast table before the sun comes up or in a living room with our small group.
In Romans 8, we are told we are not given a spirit of fearful slaves, but a spirit of adoption, as we have been adopted into God’s family. May we walk in this confident hope, as we build on our knowledge of all He has granted to us.
If you’re a part of ACF Northwest, you can pick up a copy each week. If you miss a Sunday service, or if you’re not in Austin, but would like to participate, you can get a copy on our website:
We will post a new week of study, each Friday. May The Lord bless you as you read His Word, and meet in groups to discuss it with others. And let me say to all who might read this, He is faithful! He has heard and is answering my prayers.
Hello friends, after an unusually long hiatus from writing I intend start posting again right after Labor Day. I’m sorry it’s been so long, but it’s been an important season for me.
I’ll probably start out by posting once a week. If you have any hot or pressing topics you’d like me to weigh in on, please just leave a comment. Thanks and see you in few weeks.
Celia and I have always loved vacations. One of our favorites is renting a catamaran and sailing around the British Virgin Islands. We have been on a few of these trips with family and friends. When my brother first invited me to go, I wondered if we would be safe, sailing around the ocean.
As a college student, I spent a night on a houseboat on Lake Lewisville. We threw an anchor overboard, without tying it to the boat…which, was not smart. So, we were left with only one anchor. In the middle of the night, the wind shifted, and our large houseboat beached on the dam. The boat and brilliant sailors survived.
The experience made me wonder how secure we would be on a sailing trip. My brother assured me by explaining how we would anchor to a mooring ball each night. These mooring balls are secured to huge concrete slabs on the bottom of the sea and are trustworthy anchors for sailboats like we planned to rent.
He was right; we survived many windy nights on these trips. If the winds were strong or switched directions, our boat may have swung from one side to another, making lots of noise, but it was always secure.
On our last trip, we sailed out to Anegada, away from the rest of the islands, and that night a fierce storm blew in. Winds over 60 mph wreaked havoc on us and all the other boats in the harbor.
I woke up in the middle of the night and looked out our window. Huge waves surrounded us, and rain was coming down sideways. I couldn’t believe our anchor held us through this storm, but it did.
One of the boats snapped off the mooring ball, and beached. The next morning, we heard the beached catamaran was larger than 50 feet. Based on its size, the mooring ball was not a secure anchor and didn’t hold the big sailboat in the storm.
You can barely see the catamaran that beached during the storm, on the shore.
Our anchor is the hope we have in the Lord, that His promises are true. We believe He is with us in all of our circumstances, because He repeatedly has told us He will be (Psalm 16:8, 23:4, Matthew 28:20). We also believe when our lives on earth are over, if we trust Jesus, He will come for us and we will live with Him forever, because that’s what He told us (John 3:16, 14:3). That’s our hope!
“So, God has given us both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.” – Hebrews 6:18-19
Jesus also told us we would have troubles. There will be storms, and circumstances we might not pick for ourselves. That’s how life is. But, He tells us in John 16:33, to take heart because He has overcome the world.
If you’re like me, you want to know your anchor is trustworthy. Whether I’m on a sailing trip with Celia and our kids, or walking through life, I need to be able to count on my anchor. So, I have learned to take the Lord at His word.
“For the word of The LORD holds true, and we can trust everything He does.” – Psalm 33:4
We’re tempted to hold on to our people and things so tightly because we’re not sure we can trust our anchor. If our loved ones are tied to us, when storms come, they’ll be more like that big boat we saw in Anegada, tied to an anchor that couldn’t hold. As much as we love them, they’re not nearly as secure if they’re tied to us, as if they’re tied to Him.
our family, on the beach, Loblolly Bay on Anegada, BVI
One of the things I say to the Lord when I pray, is “my life – our lives are in your hands. We’re trusting you. We’re counting on your word and your promises, Lord.” And I know He is worthy of my trust!
“Get quiet, beloved soul; tell out thy sorrow and complaint to God. Let not the greatest business or pressure divert thee from God. When men rage about thee, go and tell Jesus. When storms are high, hide thee in His secret place." – F. B. Meyer
When Celia and I first started dating, I marveled at how she listened to the radio. Remember the radio? She would rifle through the channels, giving each song a few seconds, then on to the next station. I teased her, saying she didn’t want to know what song was on, but what else was on.
With the backdrop of a world consumed not just with what we want, but what else we want, we took our annual youth camp to the mountains of Colorado. I love seeing kids without their phones...all week! They’re free - they play hard, sit still, worship; they’re present…and together. It.is.beautiful.
Before we rush to judgment on kids, hold up your right hand and confess with me: “I, _____, need a week without my phone, too.” If we’re honest, we will own not just our busyness, but our high level of distraction.
Our access to everything going on in the world, the instant it happens, battles some profound and simple truths. There’s a term for this battle; Fear of Missing Out – FOMO.
My friend, Holden, who works as a trainer, recently shared how difficult his business is because people struggle to commit to a 30-minute time slot. It’s not just work, but in trying to plan events with friends, he’s frustrated by how hard it is to get his friends to commit to anything.
A million choices, all designed to give us the perfect meal, day, house…life. This doesn’t satisfy nearly as much as it leaves us chasing an ideal vision of how our lives should be.
Only, this isn’t it. This isn’t heaven.
Neither the beauty of this present world, or our pursuit of all it offers us, are the pinnacle of our existence. False gods never satisfy; they only tease and leave us wanting more.
The breathtaking beauty of the peaks of mountains, the shores of the most remote beaches, and even the stars over all of Creation are only the best of a fallen world. The One who spoke all of this to be will restore all things.
“Do you really want to suggest sinful man can create stories and worlds that outshine the worlds God will remake? Careful there. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT.” – All Things New, John Eldredge
The LORD will make our world new (Revelation 21). Creation is amazing. Whether I see the majesty of His creatures, like a bull moose busting through brush as he grazes on pretty much any thing he wants, or if I look up into the night sky at the wonder of the stars, light years beyond me. Still, it is only a glimpse, a glimmer of what’s to come.
If you haven’t read Revelation 21 & 22, describing the world to come, you should. When I consider a world without tears, goodbyes, disease and an endless supply of all I need in the Presence of my Father, my heart leaps.
Even more importantly, when we come to Him, we become a new person (2 Corinthians 5:17). Friends, as His followers, we have become His family, and all that He has is ours. We’re not only His followers, but His children.
“Justification is our position through the wonderful grace of God, and by virtue of the finished work of Christ, which is imputed to all who believe. All that He is, is reckoned to us who are in Him.” – F. B. Meyer on Romans 1:17
When we receive the fullness of His love for us, and understand who we are in Him, we can rest. Like I saw our kids rest at camp, you and I can rest secure in the love of Christ. We comprehend how secure our future is in Christ, and that this world is not our home.
“As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.”— Galatians6:14
The truth of who we are and what is coming for us offers us the freedom to love others, without the fear of missing out. Chasing all the things this world has to offer us will never be fully satisfy us, but when we say yes to Him and step into the moments He has for us, we find true life. And with Him, we are not only fully satisfied in the here and now, but there’s even more to come.
Last week I was in a workshop with some students, teachers and administrators from Austin ISD, case workers from Child Protective Services, as well as a few other agencies. We focused on understanding racism, it’s impact on all of us, and what steps we could take as we face it in our society.
Our discussions were difficult and emotionally charged because we all have been touched by the topic in one way or another. It was, thankfully, a very diverse crowd. I say thankfully because if we’re going to affect change in our community, we need to gather and hear one another, across all perspectives.
The Church came into the crosshairs of our discussion. I heard different perspectives on the Church, from some folks who don’t have any interest in attending church. Some of them have general assumptions about the Church, and some have genuinely been hurt in their experience.
Lest you think I always react in a perfectly pastoral way (whatever that is), please know I’m just a guy and my blood is as prone to boil as yours. Through God’s grace, I was able to listen. In listening, I was challenged.
Some of the comments I heard were hard for me to hear, but they were honest experiences and opinions. Someone in the Church needs to hear, and respond with grace, to those who have been hurt. So, I signed a few of you up for the next workshop :)
As I considered what I heard, I ran across this quote:
“Seek to live in My love, which covers a multitude of sins: both yours and others’. Wear My Love like a cloak of Light, covering you from head to toe. Have no fear, for perfect Love decimates fear. Look at other people through lenses of Love; see them from My perspective.”– Jesus Calling, Sarah Young
Look at others through the lens of love. Ever wonder how The LORD sees those who hold political views that oppose ours? Sure, we cannot imagine how anyone could support such views or different lifestyle choices, especially those who have such hostility toward Him.
If we’re honest, we more closely identify with King David’s words “shouldn’t I hate those who hate You?” from Psalm 139, than Jesus’ idea of loving others…even our enemies. Yet, we as a Church are called to love others. Every. Single. Believer.
“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” – 1 John 4:16
How can we love them…
if we only want to prove we’re right, and they’re wrong?
if our social media posts take shots at their political views?
if we don’t know their names, their stories, or what they hold dear?
if we haven’t sat across from them and listened to their point of view?
What became clear to me, and I keep thinking about, is this: Those who harbor anger and hostility for the Church have no idea how much The LORD loves them.
“Each one of us is unique, known by name, and loved by the One who fashioned us.” – Adam, Henri J. M. Nouwen
Do they know He has made them to be in intimate union with Him? Do they know He loves them with an everlasting love? Do they know in the midst of their tragedies, He is there, with them, hurting and wanting to comfort them?
“How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can’t event count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up in the morning, You are still with me!” – Psalm 139:17-18
When we look at others through His lens of love, we will more clearly see their hurt, hostility or point of view in the correct light, through their eyes. And then, He might just be able to use us to comfort them.
You know when something happens, and it seems uneventful at the time, but then slowly you notice the little thing is changing how you think about something larger? Last fall, a racial incident happened at our local high school. A few community members, and folks from the school reached out to see if we would help.
Some students and parents were hurt, but those who were not offended wanted to quickly move past the event and say the issue had been resolved. As I stepped into the discussion, I was joined by some other friends with different skin color than mine. Most of these friends serve as pastors or ministry leaders in different areas in our city.
Our group now meets periodically, to get to know each other and share our experiences. We're willing to have difficult discussions about how we could help our city deal with issues related to race.
Through this event, and some other events in our nation, I want to see the Church be a part of healing racial strife in our community and in our nation. The Church isn’t ever going be the agent of change I want her to be, until I own my place and understand how to do my part. It has to be personal.
I believe our community, our city, our state and our nation would love to be able to look to the Church and see a group of people who love one another regardless of their skin color. In principle, we all agree, love one another.
While we agree on this principle, our busyness makes getting together a challenge. In addition, our different experiences cause discomfort when we talk about race. We’ve had to remind ourselves we share an eternal goal, to be the Church Jesus talked about in John 17 – perfectly one, so the world knows we belong to Him.
I was fortunate to meet with Pastor Joseph Parker at David Chapel. He said something to me I won’t forget. People have asked Pastor Parker to show up to different city events over the years, as an African American representative of the Church. He shared with me, “that sometimes I need them to show up to the things I hold dear.”
What a great description of how to truly love others – to show up to the things they hold dear!
If I am going to show up for those things, I have to know their name, where they work, their family and friends. It means making space in my schedule to be available to get to know someone else, likely in a different part of our city. I have to know them well enough to know what is dear to them. It requires time.
For us to be a beautiful example of what His love looks like, it will cost us something. But, like everything else we do for our Heavenly Father, when we surrender our time and plans, we wind up getting way more than we give.
One of many blessings for me on this journey is working with people like Sherwynn & Kim Patton, Pete Inman, and the pastors I work with at ACF (Patrick, Rick & Russell). We were able to attend the MLK50 conference together.
My friend Aaron Reyes, pastor of Church of the Violet Crown, is co-hosting an event this Thursday, May 17th, at 7 PM, at the For the City Center. The event is called “Standing with Dreamers.” As I have become friends with Aaron, he’s shared his heart for Jesus, and those in his community.
One of the issues dear to Aaron and his church is the plight of undocumented migrants, who arrived in the U. S. as children (dreamers). This event isn’t designed to be political. Instead, they want to talk about how we respond to God’s desire for justice and mercy, and how we have compassion for all of those made in His image.
“If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.” – 1 Corinthians 12:26
Greater than our political affiliations and leanings, we have a responsibility how we love our brothers and sisters who are dreamers. If you can make time, I’d love for you to join us.
“Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” – Romans 12: 9-10
“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” – John 3:30
John the Baptist’s response to his disciples, as some of his followers began pursuing Jesus, wasn’t natural. He understood his assignment and place in the kingdom. Everyone desires a reward for their efforts. No one would have been troubled if John’s response would have been more combative.
John, though, knew his role. John’s purpose was to prepare people for the coming of Christ. I’m sure his disciples understood his role but must have been troubled to see his following dwindling.
True humility is a rare quality. We believe bigger is better and true success requires greater impact.
At the beginning of parenthood, we’re a huge deal to our kids. Mom or Dad come home, and the little ones rejoice! “Daddy’s home,” they shriek and run toward us with outstretched arms. So, I’ve noticed it goes for grandparents, too. I watched my parents & in-laws excitedly become grandparents, and then become older grandparents.
The younger the child, the more excited they are to be with their grandparent. Their time is high quantity and high quality. The child rejoices when they come through the door and is thrilled to learn they’ll be spending a few days at their grandparents’ house.
When those same kids hit their teenage years, they don’t love their grandparents any less, but their enthusiasm diminishes. While I know grandparents understand, it’s surely a little disappointing. Their entrance was once the biggest deal, and it becomes a “hey, good to see you” moment.
Imagine a grandpa, sitting in the bleachers, watching his grandson playing 2nd base. Now, in his late 70s, this man was a good ballplayer himself and he taught his grandson how to play. Here he sits, in the heat, just watching and waiting without anyone asking his opinion. Because he patiently waits, he will have a sweet moment to affirm his grandson.
Parents and grandparents don’t lose their opportunity to have influence in their loved one’s life, provided they’re willing to accept a diminished role (with regard to time spent together). Their windows of impact may be shorter, but they're no less profound.
As a grandparent gracefully accepts a different role over time, so we’re called to become less and less on our journey. When we willingly surrender, Jesus becomes greater. Even as we become less, our experience, intimacy and impact increase because He is increasing.
Jesus is the One who restores, redeems, makes new and turns broken into beautiful. Why shouldn't we be thrilled to allow our role to be reduced, so His role can increase? We can trust Him to use us in a way that is most effective for His Kingdom.
I was recently asked to look back over the last 10 years and consider if I had any idea I would be where I am right now, doing what I am doing currently. Not even close! So much has changed in my last 10 years.
How about you? Are you doing exactly what you thought you’d be doing? Are you in the place you expected to be?
Why resist giving Jesus control, or allowing Him to become greater in our lives, when we struggle to control our trajectory and circumstances? Why not be willing to set aside our ambitions, pride and desires to let the King rule our lives?
For me, it means being willing to be insignificant. Becoming less means not worrying with my impression of the results.
My job is to be obedient, no matter how small I consider the task may be. As I commit to say yes to Him, I realize I may step down, but I trust Jesus is doing something greater through me than I would ever have accomplished on my own.
“Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your waves & breakers have swept over me.” – Psalm 42:7
Something about deep calling to deep resonates in me.
Last week, I spent a couple of nights on a ranch in West Texas and gazed into a clear, night sky. The vastness of the stars and space around them is too much to fully comprehend. Something deep in the arrangement of those stars and the space they occupy calls to something deep in me when I look up and am quiet.
This is true of our relationship with our Heavenly Father. However deep our need, He has enough. He will meet us with exactly what we need on our darkest day, in the midst of our greatest struggle, and in the face of our hardest questions about why things are the way they are.
“The deep of divine redemption calls to the deep of human need.” – F B Meyer
Horatio Spafford, after learning his four daughters died on the ship carrying them to Europe sank, traveled to Europe to be with his wife. He had the boat captain point out the spot in the deep blue sea, where their boat had gone down. I cannot imagine the agony or the questions of God, as he looked into the depths and wondered why.
Yet, after seeing this tragic site, Spafford somehow penned the words to “It Is Well With My Soul.” As he cried out to The LORD with his greatest heartache, he was enveloped in The LORD’s peace.
“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul
It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul”
Years ago, Celia and I traveled to Reynosa, MX on a mission trip and met a young couple with 3 kids. A couple of days before we met, Marta and Miguel had lost their youngest child (a toddler) in a fire, while a relative was keeping all 3 of their kids.
The city initially deemed the couple as unfit parents and took their remaining 2 kids into Reynosa’s child protection agency. When we met, Marta and Miguel were devastated. They were understandably inconsolable. We prayed, cried out to God on their behalf, begging for The Spirit to comfort them and return their kids.
In a matter of weeks, they were reunited with their 2 kids, and in a matter of months, Marta’s parents moved from Vera Cruz (13 hours by bus) to live next door. On my follow-up trip, later in the year, we ran into Marta and saw this incredible change in her.
She was glowing, radiant and full of life and joy.
In their darkest moment, The LORD had met them, cared for them through many believers who surrounded them. He walked them through the dark valley of death. As we spoke, I saw a supernatural change in her only possible by the love and mercy of God.
Friends, I don’t know your question, your struggle, or the depth of your troubles. I do know our Heavenly Father has everything you need, and He will meet you where you are, right now, if you will but come to Him.
Ask your question. Cry out to The LORD. Lay your worries and cares at His feet. He will listen, and He will respond to you. He is able.
“Whatever depths there are in God, they appeal to corresponding depths in us. And whatever be the depths of our sorrow, desire, or necessity, there are correspondences in God from which full supplies may be obtained. Thou hast a pitcher of faith, and the well is deep.” – F B Meyer