Thanksgiving is a great time of year. Every year around Thanksgiving, people lament the fact that we have to take a day to be "officially" thankful. We ought to be thankful every day because God is at work in our lives. Obviously, they're right. We should be thankful all the time. 

The problem is, for some reason things in life aren't proportional. The negative things in life suck a lot more life out of us than the good things in life put back in. I can have a phenomenal day in which great things are happening, and then walk into a really difficult counseling appointment that completely drains me. That one hour takes more out of me than 7 hours of God's obvious blessing puts in.

The Thessalonians were living during a difficult time. The Roman government was strengthening its grip, and the Christians in Thessalonika were feeling the pressure. So much, in fact, that they believed they were living in the Tribulation and had missed Jesus returning for them. Their days were worse than a couple of bad counseling appointments. Their friends were being threatened, persecuted, and killed for their faith. 

Those things will suck (sometimes literally) the life out of you. 

But Paul reminds them about gratitude: "Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). 

Can you imagine? 

I can think of a lot of emotions that would flood my life under those circumstances. Gratitude isn't one of them. 

But Paul's words are pretty clear, "Be thankful in all circumstances."  

Why be thankful in everything? Because we need the reminder. We need the discipline to recognize God's blessing even during difficult times. 

Many of you are headed into a Thanksgiving season where you're feeling the pinch of some difficult times. They're all you can see. And Paul's words seem cold and harsh. But can I promise you something? He knows what he's talking about. 

Look hard for something to be thankful for, even during these circumstances. It's God's will for you. 

For the rest of us - those of us for whom life is clicking along pretty well - we need the reminder too. Because we can get complacent and forget to be thankful to God for His blessing. Be thankful in all circumstance. God has been good to us. 

Have a great Thanksgiving.  


Don't know if you saw this story from the end of last week, but I thought it was pretty cool. The short of it is: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo decided to go see a movie last week, and passed a homeless guy on the way in. Romo offered to buy the guy a movie ticket to give him a break from holding a sign by the street - something businesses in the DFW area do to advertise while giving homeless people some cash. 

When they got into the movie, Romo insisted that the homeless guy (Doc) sit with he and his friends. Doc sheepishly told Tony that he hadn't had a shower in several days but Tony persisted, telling the homeless man that he was "used to locker rooms." 

To me, the best part of the story is that after the incident it was the homeless man who reported the story to the news media. Romo corroborated the story, but refused to elaborate. This isn't the first time Romo has done something like this. And on each occasion, Tony has refused to comment. It doesn't seem to be about press and headlines. 

I don't know for sure where Romo is at spiritually, though I have a friend who knows him and says he is a Christ follower. I sincerely hope he is a believer, if for no other reason than if he's not it would put Christians everywhere to shame. 

I mean, it's different if Romo gives the guy a car. None of us could financially have done that. But a $10 movie ticket to make someone else's day? I'll spend that much money on junk food in the next two days. But am I willing to go out of my way to look for opportunities to make someone else's day and point them to Jesus? 

I am today, thanks to Tony's example. The homeless guy standing outside Taco Bueno at lunchtime today is going to be a very happy man. 


Most of you who know me, or who have followed my blog with any regularity, know that I love to read. I used to tell people I would read anything I could get my hands on, and I always finished every book I started, but I'm a little more selective these days. One of my college professors used to always say "Life is too short to drink bad wine." I agree with him, and think it applies to books as well. Now, if a book really stinks, I don't hesitate to put it away and start on something else. 

The vast majority of the books I read are either books sent to me by the publisher/author to preview, or books I find out about through conferences or blogs. I intentionally follow the blogs of several other readers, and look for the things they're reading and enjoying. Then, I look for the books cited in the books that I enjoy the most, and add those books to my list. 

This year, my goal was to read 52 books, and I'm actually going to pass it, probably next week. 

I'm blessed to be a quick reader, but I think the secret is in the discipline more than the speed. 

A few years ago, I made it a priority to read at least one chapter of a book every day. That's usually a commitment of around 15 minutes per day, even for a reader who reads at an average speed. The average book has somewhere between 10 and 15 chapters, so at the pace of a chapter a week, you're reading a book every two weeks. That's twenty-six books per year if all you ever read is one chapter every day. 

That's a sustainable pace for anyone. Maybe a good New Years Resolution. Give it a shot - I think you'll be glad you did. 

Driven or Leader?

This morning I'm leading our combined staff meeting through John 13. The pastors and ministry coordinators meet as a leadership team every week, but once a quarter we pull in everyone - admins, custodial staff, creative arts guys, accountants, etc..., to pray together as a whole staff. We pray for 30 or 45 minutes, and then do a brief discussion about something biblical that relates to our ministries. Today, we're looking at John 13. 

Several things jump out at me about John 13 (Jesus washing the disciples' feet). The first is Jesus' posture. He takes the role of a Gentile slave (even a Jewish slave would not have been asked to wash feet). And yet we call John 13 the model of "servant leadership." 

Slaves don't lead. Everyone knows that slaves don't lead. 

Everyone but Jesus. 

The other thing I love about John's description of this event is that John describes Jesus' motivation. John 13:1 indicates that Jesus' servant leadership was motivated by a desire to show His disciples the "full extent of his love." 

Here's something from Warren Bennis that Andy Seidel quotes in the Spiritual Formation book I just finished, that I think relates perfectly: 

"There is a difference between being driven and leading. A driven person feels a powerful sense of being compelled to gain a desired response from others in order to fill up an empty pit of internal need. He needs their approval, applause, or acquiescence, or adoration. So he will relate to them in whatever way he feels will get them to give the desired response. This is not real leadership; it is actually manipulation of others so that the person in a leadership position can gain whatever he thinks will meet his identity needs. His concern is for himself, not for the good of those he is responsible to lead." 

Why do you do what you do? Are you driven, or do you love? 


I'm currently reading "Foundations of Spiritual Formation," which is a book about the theological necessity of community in moving toward spiritual growth. The first half reads like a theological journal, so it's not necessarily "easy reading," but I've found it to be a pretty good book. 

The chapter by Gordon Johnston, one of my Hebrew professors at Dallas Seminary, is particularly helpful in understanding the importance of community to spiritual formation in the Old Testament. However, Dr. Johnston also draws application for today by quoting the great theologian of the 20th century, Paul Simon. 

"The loneliest people in the world are those that cannot share their loneliness, through fear, pride, or anger. The ache builds walls, fear populates their dreams, and pride is the jailor of the soul." 

The point is: the greatest obstacle to growing in community is us. Churches can have exceptional strategies for connecting individuals. Groups can have well-trained leaders, a well thought-out curriculum, and all the other dynamics of healthy group-life; but if a person does not want to grow spiritually with a group of others, there isn't any help for them. 

Our fear, pride, and anger prevent us from the type of true intimacy and community that are necessary to our spiritual growth. Leadership, curriculum, and other dynamics are important. But if you don't want invest what it takes to grow, you won't. 

It's Not Okay to Be Gay?

Last week I wrote a post which said, "if the Bible says something directly and you can't, you have a problem." As hard as that is, I absolutely believe that.  If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, all of what it says is important... not just the pretty parts. 


On November 9th, Dr. Robert Jeffress preached a sermon at First Baptist Church Dallas entitled "Why Gay is Not Okay." The sermon title was publicized enough beforehand that FBC Dallas ended up with about 100 picketers on their front steps. 

And rightly so. 

Now let me be absolutely clear about three things. First of all, the Bible clearly indicates that homosexual behavior is behavior that is out of line with what God intended from creation. Second of all, I respect Dr. Jeffress for much of what he does - and for his courage in shooting straight from the Bible despite cultural opposition. Thirdly, this was a colossal error in judgment. 

Who exactly was Dr. Jeffress hoping to convince? The people sitting inside First Baptist Church on November 9th were mostly the already convinced. People who disagreed with Dr. Jeffress were standing on the steps with signs. What is that supposed to accomplish? 

As a result of his message (which may or may not have been biblically accurate), there are 100 people picketing, and hoards of others who read about it in the newspaper that are absolutely convinced that homosexuality is the issue to Christians, and it's not. 

We can be so direct in saying what the Bible says that we miss what the Bible says.    

It is absolutely true that homosexual behavior is something that can separate us from God. It's also true that eating too much at a pizza buffet could separate us from God, or that gossipping about our cube mate can separate us from God. And we need to be clear about that from the pulpit. But never, ever, ever just for the sake of pointing out that "Gay is not okay." 

Truth has to be balanced with love, and when you start from the platform of "Gay is Not Okay," you end up with 100 people who think that you're inside saying Jesus didn't die for them. What a tragedy. 

Family Friday

I've briefly mentioned this before, but a conversation today reminded me of its importance. This is something our senior pastor does and talks about well, so a lot of my comments are paraphrases of the way he talks about this. 

A lot of times when you talk to pastors, you hear about a perceived conflict between ministry and family - as if the two are always fighting against each other. And sometimes, the balance can be difficult, because the lines aren't always clear. 

When I go to a Sunday School Christmas party with my wife, I'm her husband, but I'm also the pastor. 

When we go out to eat as a family, we're there as a family, but are often interrupted by church people who want to say hello. 

People don't limit their capacity die or get sick between 8am and 5pm Monday through Friday. They call me when I'm at home. And they should. 

My mind doesn't turn "off" very easily. I could be sitting at dinner thinking about my sermon on Sunday, or sitting in my office thinking about my wife at home. 

The distinctions get blurry. But the two don't have to be in conflict. 

 If something is good for my family, it's good for my ministry. If something is good for my ministry, it's good for my family. It isn't good for my ministry for me to be "doing" ministry 90 hours per week. Those habits mean that I haven't done a good job investing in others or empowering them to do ministry - or worse that I believe only I can do ministry the right way. 

If I'm at home investing in my family at healthy levels, that's a good thing for my ministry. It means my marriage is strong, and my kids are happy - which only increases my potential for longevity in ministry.  

Pastors who say that they can't be home because there's too much ministry are generally guys(or girls) who have either an over-realized sense of themselves, or a low view of their families. Likewise, guys who use their families as an excuse for not working hard are usually guys who don't really love ministry in the first place. 

The two aren't in conflict. They complement each other. You don't have to choose between ministry and family. 


Humility is a tough thing to talk about because if you talk about it, people think you think you have it. And humility is one of those things, where if you tell people you have it, you don't have it at all. So, let's get this straight: I'm a prideful, arrogant, self-serving windbag who doesn't have humility, but is going to tell you all about it. 

Humility (contrary to popular opinion) doesn't mean "believing only bad things about yourself." It means "having the same view of yourself that God has of you." That means, we are wicked and evil and incapable of doing anything on our own, but that we're also someone for whom Jesus Christ saw fit to die (1 John 2:2), someone Jesus has gifted extraordinarilty (1 Corinthians 12:7), and someone through whom Jesus Christ promises to work (Philippians 4:13). You can have an extremely high view or extremely low view of yourself and be prideful.  

As a result, humility has to be born out of a knowledge of God as much as it is out of a knowledge of ourselves. If we don't understand who God is, we can't understand who we are in relation to Him. And if our humility isn't born out of a knowledge of God, it will be self-focused and fake. In fact, it will just be one more tool we use to beat others over the head with how much better we are than them. 

Finally, humility is never self-focused, but it is always others-focused (John 13) and God focused (Luke 18:9-14). If you want to know whether or not you're humble, the question isn't whether or not you feel humble, but whether you approach God with due reverence, and other people with due dignity. 

Death By Love

I don't know where Mark Driscoll finds time to do all he's doing right now. His face is on almost every flier I get for an upcoming conference, he's writing books like it's going out of style, blogs on a regular basis, and oh yeah - he pastors a church at the same time.

I've read a couple of books by Driscoll, and have another on pre-order. The most recent book was "Death By Love," by Driscoll and his friend Gerry Breshears. It's a book of letters Driscoll wrote to various people explaining how the cross affected (or should affect) their situation. The book is much more heavy than Vintage Jesus, because a lot of the case-studies Driscoll uses contain some pretty heavy situations.

Driscoll tackles everything from spiritual warfare to adultery, and demonstrates how Jesus is Christus Victor, Redeemer, Sacrifice, Righteousness, Justification, Propitiation, Expiation, Unlimited Limited Atonement, Ransom, Christus Exemplar, Reconciliation, and Revelation because of His cross.

If you've ever heard Driscoll speak, you know that he's not scared to take on anything, and he's not afraid to be as blunt as he needs to be. This book is written with that same style. You can't help but respect that, even if you disagree with him.

I don't find myself disagreeing with much though. In fact, this book has already helped me think through some pretty nasty pastoral counseling issues, by helping me remember that everything points back to the cross.

Even the chapter on "Unlimited Limited Atonement" was exceptional. I'm not a "reformed" guy, mainly because I just can't buy the argument of limited atonement (that Jesus didn't die for the sins of the world - only the elect). I understand the arguments, I just can't make the Bible say that. But Driscoll calls himself "reformed," and deals with this issue differently than a regular Calvinist would be inclined to do. I went into the chapter on Unlimited Limited Atonement expecting to be disappointed, which is probably why I liked it so much.

This book is a great practical application of theology about Jesus. It is written well, but it isn't an easy read. Even still, whether you're a pastor attempting to think through pastoral counseling situations, or your a person who could benefit from some good pastoral counseling, this book is absolutely worth asking Santa for this year.

Tips for Your Ministry Resume

I've told you before about some of the resumes I've received as I try to hire various staff positions. Sometimes they're funny, and sometimes they're downright sad. But, if you're a person who is looking for a ministry position, here are a few tips: 

1. If the position is listed online, bank on the fact that the prospective ministry will receive at least 100 resumes. Yours has to stand out, but stand out professionally. If you use the Microsoft Office Template for your resume, you will end up in file 13 with the other 75 identical resumes. 

2. Make sure your resume reflects your instincts. If you are not a person who believes that numbers indicate success, it doesn't make any sense to list how many people have started coming to your ministry since you've been there. I figure out how you measure success by what you tell me you have succeeded on your resume. 

3. Include a picture. And not one that you snapped holding your iPhone in front of your face. It's not that prospective employers are shallow, but that they're often relational. When they're able to see your face, they're much more likely to want to learn about you. If you married up (like me), make sure your wife's picture is included beside you. If a guy can talk a cute girl into marrying him, there must be something worth following-up on. 

4. Include a professional email address. If you're applying to work with our adults, and your email address is "" you will not be receiving an interview, plain and simple. 

5. List the important stuff first. If a prospective employer is looking at hundreds of resumes, and you save the best stuff for the back page, he's not going to ever see it. Figure out why a prospective employer needs to hire you, and make sure it's the first thing he sees. 

6. Take your time on each resume. I know it feels like the odds are better for you if you send out 200 resumes, but they aren't. The odds are better for you if you take time to research each opportunity, single out the ones you're most interested in, and take some time tailoring your resume to show how you would be a good fit for a specific position. In my entire life, I've never sent the exact same resume to two locations. You shouldn't either. 

7. Along with #6, do your homework. If I was applying for a job at, and don't make sure my resume includes the word "leader," "creativity," "relevance," and "life-change," I could bank on never getting a call back. If I was applying for a job at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA, but didn't include the words "doctrine," "exposition," or "theology," I would have wasted a stamp. It took me 5 minutes of "googling" to figure out what words were important to those churches - they're on the website over, and over, and over. We're not talking about being dishonest - but if those are things I value, I want the church I'm applying to to know that in the language they speak. 

8. Send what they ask for. If a church asks for a teaching sample, don't send them a resume and then email them asking if they want a teaching sample. You've already proven you can't follow simple directions, and you won't get the job, even if you're uber-qualified. 

9. Make the resume personal. Applying for a ministry position is different than a corporate position. When you're applying for a corporate position, people want to make sure you can do the job and meet the bottom line. That's true in ministry, but what people really want to know is whether or not you're the kind of person they could follow. They want to know about your qualifications, but you may be the guy who counsels them in the hospital, or does their funeral. They want to know what you do for fun, and what you named your dog. They don't want to know everything about you, but they want to feel like they know you. 

10. Be creative. It stinks to read 100 resumes, so when you see a resume worth reading, it's refreshing. I've called guys back who were waaay under-qualified for specific positions just because after seeing their resume I was compelled to meet them. Often I don't hire them for the position I'm seeking to hire, but I never forget them - and they'll be the first person I call the next time. 

Hard Stuff

One of the things I love about teaching through a passage of the Bible rather than just preaching topically is that it forces you to deal with the hard stuff. 

Yesterday, my message was from Ephesians 5:1-7. The first couple of verses are pretty easy - "Imitate God as beloved children, and walk in love just as Jesus Christ loved us and gave himself for us..." That's warm, fuzzy, and makes the Gospel fairly clear. 

If I had my choice, I would have preached 5:1-2 and been done with it.  We would have sung an upbeat song and beat the Methodists to lunch. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I didn't have my choice. So we went on. 

"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people..." 

It's not very fun to talk about sexual immorality in today's culture. It's uncomfortable, and a lot of people have been beat up by pastors who rant and rave about "you fornicators," only to find out at some point in the future that their pastor was guilty of similar abominable acts.  After that, we talked about profanity, stupid words, and coarse jesting. 

That's what she said. 

It was hard stuff to talk about, but we did it. 

Here's something I think is pretty important about preaching or teaching the Bible: If the Bible says it directly and you can't, you have a problem. 

Yesterday, I tried to be direct and tactful. But I tried to be clear. Because Paul only had a limited number of words to write, and he wrote those. If he felt like they were so important to our spiritual maturity that he listed them without listing everything else, there must be a reason for that. 

Oh Yeah...

Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday dear Kari
Happy Birthday to You! 

Vision and the Path of Least Resistance

"Vision" has been an organizational buzz word for the last 20 or so years, and rightly so. Organizations have to know what they're doing in order to do it. Employees have to know where they're going in order to go there. Volunteers need to know the goal so they can reach it. Vision is important. 

Something I've noticed over the past couple of months as I've observed vision (or lack thereof) in a couple of areas where I'm directly involved, is that where there is an absence of vision, people always take the path of least resistance.

The presence of vision doesn't just mean that your organization has a vision statement - everyone has a vision statement. It doesn't mean that you as a leader have a vision - every leader has vision, even if it's unspoken. The presence of vision means that the people you work with know and own why they do what they do. 

If the people in your organization are only executing your vision, they'll take the path of least resistance with you. They'll do whatever you tell them to, but they won't take any risks for you. Their vision is different from yours. Your vision is for the organization; theirs is to keep you happy. So, they'll inevitably underachieve because they'll never take the extra step necessary to accomplishing what you dream.  

If people don't "buy it," they'll never own it. And if they don't own it, they can't sell it to anyone else. If people don't "get" the vision, they'll never put their necks on the line for it.  They'll always take the path of least resistance, and you as a leader will always be disappointed with their productivity. It isn't that they're lazy. It isn't that they're incompetent. It's that they don't get it, understand it, or own it. 

And most of the time, that's not their fault. 


Sometimes we feel as though the world is worse than it has ever been. We get discouraged because we feel like we're only one person, and our voice is soft in a sea of sound. Then we open the Bible and see the book of Genesis. The world is in chaos, the people are evil, and along comes a man named Abraham. He's no saint, but he's faithful to what God calls him to do, and God uses him to be the father of a nation who will represent God. 

We flip to Exodus and see that God's plan was about to go in the toilet. God's people didn't have a voice. They were in slavery under the rule of an awful Pharoah, and along comes a man named Moses. 

The world got worse again, and lost its moral compass. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes, and God called Deborah, and then Gideon and Samson, and then Samuel... The one who represented the nation was evil and corrupt, and God called David.  

The race was on the verge of extinction and then there was Esther, or Daniel, or Nehemiah.

God's in the business of using one person to do significant things... especially when things look bad. Could He use you?  


This week I've been thinking a lot about wisdom because of a theology class I led this morning for which wisdom was the topic. And, I think I may have stumbled on a definition for wisdom: 

Wisdom is the ability to operate with an eternal perspective.

Lots of times we hear wisdom defined as "applied knowledge," which comes awfully close to "common sense," or "street smarts." I think it's bigger than that. Wisdom is an attribute of God (Job 36:5; Romans 16:27), and only begins with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). Anyone  can apply knowledge, but those who seek wisdom must get it from God (Proverbs 2:6; James 1:5). 

The pursuit of wisdom is the pursuit of an ability to see things from the perspective of eternity - the way God sees them. It doesn't mean we know the end from the beginning. It doesn't mean we know why things happen the way they happen, or what will come next. It means we recognize that God is in control, working things towards culmination in Him (Ephesians 1:10), and we make decisions based on that understanding. 

Wisdom is the ability to separate the temporal from the eternal. It's the ability to see with eyes that recognize that this is not all there is. A "wise" decision is a decision made in light of eternity rather than a decision made in haste for today. 

Anyone can be street smart. Anyone can utter pithy statements that reflect a true application of knowledge. But those statements aren't in and of themselves wise. Wisdom - the kind of wisdom that cries in our busy streets (Proverbs 1:20)  sees beyond "simple ways" of the here and now(Proverbs 1:22), focusing instead on eternity.

The Hard Question

Yesterday morning, we celebrated our global mission partners at McKinney. I've mentioned it before, but I don't think I've ever been a part of a church who is as serious about emphasizing global mission as McKinney. I don't think you could be at McKinney for a single Sunday and not hear something about what God is doing in the world and how you can be a part of it. It's definitely a part of our DNA. 

Greg Lillestrand was the guest speaker yesterday, and did an outstanding job. Greg and his wife Charmaine are the national directors for Campus Crusade for Christ in Italy. Kari and I got to meet the Lillestrands and their team last year in Italy, and it was obvious that they are up to something great in an extremely difficult environment. 

When you think about Western Europe, and Italy in particular, you think primarily about Christian influence. Rome oozes Christian symbolism, with almost as many cathedrals as New York City has Starbucks. Florence, where the Lillestrands are headquartered, is not a lot different. And yet, the average Italian has a general distaste for Christianity. They see it as a religion of abused power and corrupt leadership - not as a faith of sacrifice and servant leadership. Italians are Catholic because they're Italian, but are typically adverse to the idea that the religion is actually what they believe. 

In fact, if surveys are correct, there are less than 600,000 evangelical believers in the entire country. That means there are more believers per capita in China than in Italy. Italy has been classified as an "Unreached People Group," in the same category as Papua, New Guinea, and other third-world countries.

So Greg and Charmaine are up against it. 

That's why Greg's sermon from Mark 5:21-42 about Jairus' daughter was pretty encouraging. 

Jesus says in verse 36, "Don't be afraid; just believe." 

Greg reminded us that it is Jesus who defines reality. When everything else says something is impossible, it's not impossible until Jesus says it's impossible. 

He said, "The hard question isn't whether or not God can deliver on the hard things out there, in the lives of other people. The hard question is whether or not you believe He is willing to deliver on the hard things in here, in your every day life... when you realize that He is, that's when you start living at 100 percent." 

What an encouraging time yesterday. 

If you think about it today, pray for Greg and Charmaine. They head back to Florence this morning. Pray for them as they work with college students, and with a number of church planters throughout Italy who are trying to find a way to gain traction in a difficult place to plant churches.

And, if you're looking for a way to invest money in something much more stable than the stock market, consider supporting financially what God is doing through Greg and Charmaine.  You have my word that you will see an eternal return on your investment - can your 401k promise that?!

Gratuitous Cute Picture

Because I promised...