Approval, acceptance, and you


I’m not a hunter. I don’t have a moral issue with hunting. It’s just not something I grew up doing. I did own a pair of camo cargo shorts that my wife eventually made me throw out.

Hunting would be more of a sport if you didn’t use the urine of an animal to hide your scent. Also guns. Guns are cheating. At least chase that animal down like a nomadic hunter whose life depends on it and look it that beast in the eyes whilst taking his life and whispering, “It’s all gonna be okay….” #Epic

I have been hunted, however. Not in a “rich guy pays to hunt you on his private island” sort of way. But in a “you want the approval of others and don’t realize it’s going to kill you” sort of way.

Proverbs 29.25 says it like this: The fear of mankind is a snare, but the one who trusts in the Lord is protected.

A snare is a trap  meant to lure you in and kill you instantly or, more likely, keep you in place and lead to a slow, miserable death.

The fear of mankind is the snare of approval. I seek the approval of a certain person, a certain group, a sector of society. Longing and living for the approval of others  leads to death. And approval seeking leads to appeasing, whether that means living for a lesser dream or violating your conscience, it’s deadly either way.

The problem is some of us don’t realize we’re trapped because the death is slow. The death of a dream. The death of a vision God had given you.

The tricky thing is that dying in this sense can look pretty normal. It could mean going to work, coming home, eating dinner, watching Netflix and going to bed. REPEAT.

All the while we hear a faint echo of what we believed God wanted us to do, where He wanted us to go, how He asked us to risk, what He told us to quit, that thing He urged us to start…

But life in the snare has become normal. Safe. And I have the approval of others.
I think Jesus knew very well that his disciples (you and me disciples) had a bent towards getting complacent and drawn away into the snare of people pleasing.

So here’s what Jesus instructed his followers then to do as he sends them out to minister in different places and do things that the locals weren’t used to, and I think it’s the same for us now.

Greet a household when you enter it, 13 and if the household is worthy, let your peace be on it; but if it is unworthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone does not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. – Matthew 10.12-14

What do you do if they don’t like what you’re doing or saying? Shake it off.

Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake it off.

Leave their approval and acceptance right there with them and move on.

Don’t stay explaining why it makes sense and how you arrived at the conclusion. Shake it off and head out.

See, we’ve become conditioned to making sure the people around us understand our intentions and the process we went through to make a decision and trying to let them know that we aren’t crazy….Jesus didn’t really do that. He shook it off.

So perhaps don’t spend precious energy trying to get them to where God has brought you. They’ll need their own journey for that, and you’ll need that energy moving forward. Just shake it off.

Have you noticed there are people who are made uncomfortable when you get out of your comfort zone? It’s like they go, “No, get back in the snare. The snare is safe. It’s known.”

Different is scary.

But God’s love FOR us and IN us pushes us beyond our fears.

And that means if God is calling me to risk something, to sell something, to move somewhere, to stop or start a certain ministry, to leave a job, then it is God’s LOVE compelling me to take the next step.

God is faithfully for me, and in turn I can be fearlessly faithful.

And if someone takes issue with that and can’t understand where I’m coming from and that it couldn’t be of God because God would never tell them to do that, then I respectfully shake the dust off my feet and move on to where God’s leading me.

So if you have that move of God in mind and you’re struggling to take a step out of the snare, repeat after me —  The Lord is for me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Hebrews 13.6)

  • When you feel the pull to stay right where you are because people might talk….The Lord is for me, what can man do to me?
  • When you feel paralyzed by the thought of taking a step forward even though all the details aren’t lined up…The Lord is for me, I will not be afraid.
  • When you find yourself caring more about what “they” might think than what God thinks…The Lord is for me, what can man do to me?

If the Lord is for you, what are you afraid of? Who are you afraid of?

Be free


Two significant lies about significance, part 2


Rembrandt’s “The Unconscious Patient (An Allegory of Smell)”

In part 1 I addressed lie #1 that Satan speaks regarding significance — You’re not important.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that whispered in my subconscious ear, but it’s more than I care to count. Lies are always combated by truth, though. And the truth of the matter is that you (and I) are a work of God and are loved by God. That, dear friend, is your identity.

And as I said in part 1, identity precedes responsibility in God’s economy.

The second lie has to do with responsibility.

Before getting to that lie, though, follow me through this wonderful story:

In 2016, a small, slightly damaged oil painting was drug out of a basement in New Jersey. The owners figured it would fetch several hundred benjamins (those are hundred dollar bills if you can’t track with my flyness) at auction because it looked oldish and had some character. Imagine their shock when someone told them they’d had a Rembrandt tucked away in their dingy basement in Jersey all these years.

The small painting, it turns out, was part of Rembrandt’s early series on the five senses. When I say early, he was about 18 when he painted the work pictured above. After being purchased for close to $1 million, it has been on display at the Getty Museum in California.

The real tragedy of that painting being left in an unseen corner is that the work couldn’t be enjoyed by others and the artist couldn’t receive credit for his work. 

On a far greater scale, how tragic is it that you and me, masterpieces of God, could live as though stuck in a gloomy basement or stuffy attic, neglecting to reflect the glory of our Creator and failing to be awe-inspiring displays of His genius and attention to detail…

This consideration leads us to the second lie.

LIE #2: What you do isn’t important.

Hot on the heels of attacking identity, Satan’s next move is to go after responsibility. In fact, I’m convinced that one of his primary tactics is to blur the lines in our minds and get us to confuse the two, so that I become what I do. Thus, what I’m doing (or not doing) becomes who I am (or who I am not).

It’s part of the reason one of the first questions guys ask one another is ‘what do you do for a living’. As if what you do tells me what I need to know about who you are. Only if you tell me you’re a ventriloquist, then I feel like I know all I need to know.

But no matter what someone does, the whispers come…

  • It isn’t significant enough.
  • It isn’t noteworthy enough.
  • It doesn’t make enough money.
  • It won’t make a lasting enough impact.

For the last decade, I have gone all in on the lie that I have to do something grand, something large-scale, something that people would talk about and perhaps even line up to see or experience.

It’s no surprise that over that same period I never had strong sense of my identity as a son of God. I was so wrapped up in doing things for God that I had never absorbed being loved by God.

Until you feel loved by God, you’ll feel like you have to perform at a certain, undefined and also unattainable level.

It turns out the significance of what we do isn’t wrapped up in what we do.

The Apostle Paul’s instructions to slaves in first century Colossae give us marching orders today

Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, 24 knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3.22-24, CSB)

These verses say nothing about what you do. But they say everything about how and why you do it.

Wholeheartedly. Not for the applause or approval of people. Work as unto the Lord for from Him you will receive your reward.

Bottom line? Your attitude and mine is what keeps what we do from being significant.

It’s not about going out and starting something new or building something bigger.

It’s about acknowledging that you are God’s handiwork and as such,  living faithfully so that you put His artistry and majesty on display for the world to see.




Two significant lies about significance, part 1


There are at least two lies Satan will whisper in your ear about your significance.

LIE #1: You’re not important.

There are 7 billion people in the world (give or take a few several handfuls of millions).

What makes you special? You aren’t significant, especially compared to that significant person over there.

Sometimes we’re able to shut down such thoughts…other times, we’re crushed. We follow the road most traveled. Destination, self-pity.

The answer to Lie #1 rests securely in your identity.

That you’ve been created in the image of God. You and every person you meet are image bearers of God. “We are God’s workmanship,” wrote the Apostle Paul to some folks in the 1st century struggling with identity.

Just like art curators and experts identify works of art based on certain characteristics or styles of an artist, you are identified as this remarkable work of God because you bear His image. You have the capacity to think and feel and love and imagine possibilities of what could be.

King David captures this beautifully in Psalm 139.13-14

For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well.

I know. It should say “fearfully and wonderfully…” You start using fearfully in everyday conversation and I’ll change it.

For now, though, you are awe-inspiring, worthy of reverence, distinct, distinguished, set apart. Just how you felt after your last screw up, right?

Think about the fact that the Spirit of the living God inspired David to write that about you, of all people! You. You are remarkable and wondrous. A work of God.

But sometimes you don’t feel remarkable, do you?

Our failures have a way of reminding us how unremarkable we can be. It’s in those moments we feel this thing called SHAME.

SHAME tells its own lies: (Brené Brown gave a TED talk on this that went viral)

  • Shame says you didn’t just make a mistake. You are a mistake.
  • Shame says you didn’t just fail. You are your failure.

And in those moments when shame or guilt or fear or insecurity crowds in and starts telling you lies, that’s when you have to proclaim these gospel truths:

  • I am a work of God.
  • I am loved by God.

Until you are able to embrace the deep reality that you are loved by God simply for being, you will always struggle to feel significant because your identity is not secure. More than likely you will seek identity in what you do, a responsibility of some kind.

But in God’s economy, identity precedes responsibility.

It’s why God came to Abraham and established a relationship before sending Him out. It’s why God established a relationship with Moses and Israel b/f giving the law.

You have been created by God…You couldn’t be loved by God any more than you are in this very moment. Drink it in.

I’ll post Lie #2 soon enough, so check back. Better yet, subscribe and have each new post sent straight to your inbox.


Set it on fire


Happy Thanksgiving.

Merry Christmas.

Happy New Year

These are such assumptive holidays and celebrations. After all, what if 2017 mainly represents failed hopes?

What if I look back over the year and the things that burst to the top of my mind with the force of an instant pot gone loco are failures, losses, pain, regrets, and the like? Pardon me if there doesn’t seem to be a lot of Feliz in my Navidad this year.

Oh, and by the way, Happy New Year! Happy New Year? Sure, the hap-hap-happiest New Year ever! I look forward to more of what happened last year. Which, if I’m being honest, amounts to a whole lot of regret.

Why regret? Have I mentioned I didn’t keep my resolutions in 2017? I never lost the 15 pounds (but I did put on 5). I didn’t write on my blog each week like I said. My marriage isn’t any stronger because of my Notebook-esque heart-pursuing, romance inducing practices. I stopped reading ‘thru the Bible in a year’ at Leviticus because Leviticus (I actually made it all the way through this year, but I know the plight of any whose tears left the pages upon pages of temple procedures bonded together forever).

2017 year-in-review: didn’t do it, never started, couldn’t stop, didn’t finish, wish I had, wish I hadn’t…

These thoughts are fresh on my mind after preparing for our church’s Christmas Eve service this year. Several people in my congregation faced loss or are staring it in the face in 2018. Some of our families had one less seat filled at Thanksgiving dinner. There were fewer presents under the Christmas tree and an indescribable fullness missing from the conversation. When one voice is lost, we all lose a piece of our own as well.

No matter what kind of year you may have had in 2017, here comes 2018 like a bat out of Helsinki. She’s inviting you in. Will you go reluctantly, expectantly, brazenly, cautiously?

The Apostle Paul was a guy who’d had highs and lows like none other. If you’re skeptical, read some of 2 Corinthians 11. But in spite of peaks and valleys and the in-between, he had this to say:

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you … (CSB)

There’s a level of maturity required to leave the past in the past and press on to the future. Erwin McManus devotes a couple of chapters in his new book to the idea of setting your past on fire. You make an altar of those things, good or bad, and light it up as you walk in slow motion toward the future.

It doesn’t mean you don’t remember people or forsake experiences. But there comes a time for us all to let go of whatever is hindering us. That could be a failed weight loss goal. But it might also be the loss of a loved one. A cancer diagnosis (saw too many of those in my circles in 2017). A dream job that has become a nightmare.

I don’t know what comes to your mind when you think of what (or who) you’d like to leave behind in 2017. For me, there are a few “didn’t do its” I’d like to just fuhgeddaboutit.

  • I didn’t write a blog with consistency. And I have excuses. Good ones. But they’re excuses. Goal fail.
  • I didn’t get 9-pack abs. My excuse? I eat too much. Oh food. I need you. I want you.  Goal fail.
  • I didn’t become more of the husband I want to be. Excuse, you ask? Pride…I chose to honor me instead of she. Goal fail.

There are more goal fail bullet points seared into my brain, but I’m trying to leave them behind for crying out loud.

How about you?

What must you leave behind in order to forge ahead into a brighter tomorrow? It’s that thought, that voice, that experience, that failure that’s weighing you down like Fat Albert on a bobsled team.

You can’t leave your cancer behind…it’s going with you. But perhaps there’s a new level of faith or an attitude you’d like to invite in. No amount of optimism will bring your loved one back to life…but what if you take that loss and channel it into choosing a fuller life this year in some capacity?

Within the realm of what you can control, what decisions will you make so that you aren’t sitting in the same seat on the regret bus come December 30, 2018?

What behaviors have to change? What habits have to be broken? How much pain and discomfort are you willing to endure in order to see growth or healing?

I wish I could invite you to cyber slap me if you find out I’m not following through on what I’m setting out to do and be in 2018. But I do plan on having better accountability and invite you to do the same wherever you are.

Share your goals and aspirations with people who are for you and love you and, even in the South, will tell you the stank nasty truth when necessary.

So, here’s you to 2017! The altar is set. The match is lit. Toss on 3.





When prayer is more than a transition during church services

Image result for prayer meeting korea

Elim Center, Korea

I’m not going to offer commentary on the following excerpt on prayer.

The words are by Erroll Hulse, a pastor in England and colleague of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Here is what Hulse had to say about prayer meetings in the local church in an article entitled “The Vital Role of the Prayer Meeting”. Take note of the questions (italicized for your convenience) and the role of intercession near the end:

It is said that the weekly prayer meeting is the spiritual barometer for any local church. You can tell with a fair degree of accuracy what the church is like by the demeanor or substance of the weekly prayer meeting. Is there genuine evangelistic concern? If so, it will be expressed in the prayers. Is there a heartfelt longing for the conversion of unconverted family members?  If so, that is sure to surface. Is there a world vision and a fervent desire for revival and the glory of our Redeemer among the nations of the world? Such a burden cannot be suppressed. Is there a heart agony about famine and war and the need for the gospel of peace among the suffering multitudes of mankind? The church prayer meeting will answer that question. Intercession in the prayer meeting will soon reveal a loving church that cares for those who are oppressed and weighed down with trials and burdens. Those bearing trials too painful or personal to be described in public will nevertheless find comfort in the prayer meeting, for there the Holy Spirit is especially at work.



Accomplish more and attempt less


Photo credit:

I want to share a quote from a sermon delivered by Charles Spurgeon in 1871. Is it a coincidence that if you flip 71 it becomes 17, as in 2017?? Yes, it is. Nothing supernatural there.

Charles Spurgeon has been dubbed the Prince of Preachers. (If you’re interested in his writings or life, Midwestern Seminary has done a service to us all here.) Being the Prince of Preachers means Spurgeon brought the Word of God to life in a way you and I, well, don’t. Not because we aren’t filled with the same Spirit, but because God uses different people in different ways. You’re not the next Spurgeon any more than I am the next anyone else. You’re you. I’m me.

If you aren’t a pastor, preacher, teacher but happen to read this, the point is just as applicable. It holds true for moms who find food in the strangest of places and executives who are prepping that $300,000,000 deal. There’s no difference in God’s eyes, by the way. Don’t be fooled on either side, whether rolling in dollars or diapers.

Preaching on prayer, Spurgeon made the audacious claim that

The more we do, the more we should pray…it should be the life-blood of every action, and saturate our entire life…I fear that some of us would do far more if we attempted less and prayed more about it.

  • What if, as pastors, we devoted less time to strategic planning and more to praying strategically?
  • What if, as teachers, we thought less about making points and more about pointing to the Maker?
  • What if, as parents, we resolved to be less busied with activity and more active in the business of prayer?

Is it possible that we would accomplish far more if we attempted far less but saturated all that we did do in prayer?



It’s not sexy, but it is beautiful

pexels-photo-29751I have been following the Bible Project’s Read Scripture plan this year and have enjoyed it. I probably would enjoy a little more of an Old Testament / New Testament mix, but overall it’s been good to journey from cover to cover (with a repeat trip through the Psalms along the way).

I started in Jeremiah a couple of days ago and cannot for the life of me think of why I haven’t come back to this historical/prophetic record on a regular basis.

Jeremiah is given a pretty gritty ministry by the Lord. He does what the Lord says, and each time gets abused for it, more or less.

We shouldn’t be surprised considering the nature of prophetic ministry laid out for him. More than predicting the future (prophecy), prophetic ministry is about holding people to account in the present, that is, holding up the standard of God as a measuring line for all else.

What’s that look like for Jeremiah?

It’s not about health and wealth.

Jeremiah 1.10 See, I have appointed you today over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and demolish, to build and plant

  1. Uproot and tear down
  2. Destroy and demolish
  3. Build and plant

This prophetic calling is not a recipe for winning friends. Numbers 1 and 2 have to happen before 3. Which means upsetting, offending, and angering a lot of folks.

It means, for instance, telling people they have abandoned the fountain of living water and instead dug cracked cisterns for themselves that are incapable of holding water, let alone the bitter waters of flaccid saviors and fleeting satisfactions (the Nile and Euphrates).

             We dig leaky wells, too. Our Nile and Euphrates tend to be consumable,    wearable, edible, or achievable, but oh do we dig…

The prophet calls this futile effort what it is and lays out a vision of the God-shaped alternative.

Reading the first chapters of Jeremiah calls to mind the ministry of Jesus. Like him or not, Jesus was bold. Jesus didn’t play favorites or pull punches.

In true prophetic fashion, Jesus uprooted and tore down established religious practices, destroyed and demolished entrenched religious beliefs.

He did so in view of building up something new. If all you do is demolish, you aren’t prophetic. You’re just a jerk.

Jesus demolished the religious soil of his day and planted the seed of a new people. But, for the seed to grow, it first had to die.

Writing about persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire, the ancient theologian Tertullian penned an indelible depiction of this death to life phenomenon: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

How did a movement catalyzed by a criminalized Jewish mystic and carried on by a ragtag band of misfits from the margins ever make it out of the first century? Not by political force or entrepreneurial prowess.

No. It was by faithful devotion to the way of Jesus, the way he modeled.

It is not sexy. But it is beautiful. 


If you are in Christ, you have prophetic blood flowing through your veins. You, too, are seed.

What could it look like for you to give your life’s blood for something that will outlast your carbon footprint?