March 2011


Often when I pray, I’ll pray through 1 Peter 5:5-7 as a reminder of how to walk through my day:

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

After reading and praying through that verse hundreds of times, I noticed something today that I’ve never seen before: the inextricable link between pride and anxiety.

Pride loudly proclaims, “I can do it all.” Anxiety softly whispers, “But what if you can’t?”

Pride shouts, “Leave it to me; I’ll take care of it.” Anxiety nudges, “You’re probably not good enough.”

Pride boasts, “Let me take that on.” Anxiety speaks a crushing, “You’ll never make it happen.”

Pride puffs up. Anxiety deflates.

But there’s a third key word in 1 Peter 5, a word that is foundational to managing the dangerous dance of pride and anxiety: humility.

Humility reminds us that we’re not good enough, but someone else is. We’re not capable enough, but someone else was. We can’t achieve enough, but someone else already has.

Jesus takes our to-do list and heralds “done” across the cosmos. When I try to build my reputation through pride, I’m quickly torn apart by anxiety. I’m not called to carry the weight of the world, I’m called to trust the one who already did.

My friend Katie Baker wrote a world-class post on dress and modesty. She said what every pastor wants to say from the stage, but can’t. Won’t. Skeered to. Whatever.

The reason that I’m glad Katie said it is because she’s definitely not what you would call an ultra-conservative gal who wears denim jumpers and doilies on her head. Nope, she’s young…just been married a few years…a brand-new mom…trendy…dare I say hip? She’s a role model to many of the college girls at the Summit’s West Club Campus, which is why I’m grateful she’s the one who wrote the post.

Okay, enough from me. Read Katie’s words. And ladies: please. Please. For the sake of the men in your lives and the men in your church, heed what she says. Heed what the gospel calls us to.

Click here to read I See Your Crack.

Our Topical Tuesday series will return next week. Meanwhile, this video just couldn’t wait another day.

For the last few days I’ve been hanging out with the staff team and church family at Wynne Baptist Church in eastern Arkansas. We’ve been talking guest services, bringing outsiders in, structure, strategy, covering the mouse, rice farming, skunk coffee…you name it.

There were lots of great things that came out of our time together, but my greatest takeaway was the video below. This is actual video from an actual church service where my buddy Matt Pearson has a little…well, I’ll let you see (and hear) for yourself:

Matt swears it was “a glitch in the sound system,” but I think he’s a stinking liar…if you get my drift. HUGE thanks to Lisa D. Love for tipping me off to this!

The more I understand the gospel, the more I understand that I don’t really understand the gospel.

The ol’ blog has been quiet as of late. At first it was for the usual reasons: busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest, moving faster than a snake in a belt factory, more frantic than Charlie Sheen on the way to Crazyville.

But for the last two weeks, it’s been because I’ve been in deep despair. Depression, gloom, misery, and angst.

Two weeks ago, I opened my church laptop to a frozen screen. The hard drive was dead. Double dog dead. Cyndi Lauper career dead.

Our tech guy looked it over and confirmed: yes, dead. He shipped it off to a specialist who also confirmed: dead. And not only was the internal drive dead, my backup drive had died two months ago and I didn’t even know it. And with those proclamations, something in me died.

For ten days, I mourned the loss of eight years’ worth of data. Sermons. Weddings. Funerals. Spreadsheets. Book reading notes. Writing ideas. All of my digital life was gone.

And for ten days, I questioned the validity and revisited the stupidity of my sorrow: People in Japan can’t find their family members, and you’re upset over some files? You have friends whose adoptions are on hold, and you’re whining about a formerly-operational electronic brick?

Stupid. Shallow. Senseless.

Were those files important? Sure they were. But their loss signaled something much more important: I continue to place my hope in the wrong things. I like my stuff. I like my comfort. I like my predictable life and ability to control things and keep stuff in order.

I realized I don’t trust the intangible nature of the gospel. I don’t practice my proclamation that “Jesus is enough.” I don’t cling to the cross because I’m too busy clinging to the things around me.

Eventually, the backup drive was able to be restored, thanks to the tireless work of our tech miracle man. And rather than losing eight years’ worth of files, I only lost nine weeks’ worth. Nine weeks? I’ll gladly take it.

And even in my elation, I realized that I wouldn’t have been as happy if the outcome were different. Scratch that…I’d have been downright angry. Not angry at myself because I was the idiot who didn’t check his backup drive, but angry because I feel like I deserve better. Like I’m entitled.

This world clings to me so easily, and in turn I cling to this world. We all do. We look to a habit, a job, an addiction, a relationship, a religion…rather than looking to Jesus. The gospel is never enough. Our circumstances carry too much weight. Our desire is never sated. One blip on the radar of our day can send us into overdrive. In our heads, we know Jesus is enough, but our actions say everything except that.

What is clinging to you today? Better yet, what are you clinging to?

Today we’re marching on in our spring series of Topical Tuesday posts, where you pick the topic / ask a question and I start pecking away at the computer like some sort of redneck Mr. Answer Man. (as if that’s comforting)

Want to ask a question about anything – ministry, theology, life in general? Comment here.

Kiani asks: We talk about all sorts of things that we commonly use to replace God in our lives: love, sex, money, stuff. We also talk about good stewardship–wise use and care of the resources that God gives us. Why don’t we ever take the this step further and talk about proper stewardship of our bodies and our health? Food is a God thing to a lot of people. Vanity is as well. God’s provided us with perfect and capable bodies, and so many squander that gift. Why won’t the church address this? Should it?

Yes, the church should. Especially because it gives me the chance to use one of my favorite Charles Spurgeon stories. It revolves around a visit that his fellow evangelist D.L. Moody made to his home. Spurgeon was known for his love of cigars, and Moody was known for his rather rotund belly. It’s rumored that Moody asked Spurgeon when he was going to give up the evils of tobacco. Spurgeon famously replied, “Mr. Moody, I’ll put down my cigar when you put down your fork.”

Everybody has their vice, but church folks tend to like their vices out in front of them where they’re highly visible…and where they can be patted. Or maybe used as a cheeseburger tray. We live in a country where obesity walks a thin line between glorification and vilification. Shows like Man Vs. Food continue to gain popularity while the restaurant industry comes under fire for larger portions.

So how does the church respond to good stewardship of our bodies? The same way we respond to the stewardship of any other gift from God: we submit it to the gospel.

Like most gifts, we take diet and exercise to one of two extremes: idle or idol. If we go the route of idle, we fail to utilize the gifts we’ve been given. If we’re idle in our marriages, our spouses suffer. If we’re idle in our spiritual gifts, the church suffers. If we’re idle with our bodies, our couches suffer (don’t act like you don’t see that big ol’ butt print).

If we take the path of idol, we elevate our bodies to an honor they were never meant to hold. We count every calorie and measure every workout. We become consumed with health not for the sake of health, but for the sake of pride and control. And besides that, we’re no fun when dining out (“You’re going to eat THAT? Do you know how many carbs that thing has?”).

This is an area that has become more personal to me in the last couple of years. For much of my life I was one of those warped and twisted individuals that could eat whatever I wanted and still look relatively healthy. Eventually the Ho Ho’s and Reese’s Cup milkshakes caught up with me, and I wasn’t the man I once was (I was like an expanded director’s cut). I finally decided to take charge of my health and get the splurging under control. And while I’m no longer as adamant about watching every potato chip, it’s still an area I have to monitor.

Our time on earth is brief. Our mission is vital. I already know my to-do list will outlive me, I just don’t want to be guilty of short-circuiting my calling by bellying back up to the buffet.

Much. I meant, “by bellying back up to the buffet much.”

Don’t judge me.

I spent a bit of time traveling down memory lane last week after coming across a sermon on my home church’s website of Homecoming 2010.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of Bible Belt Church Homecomings, you haven’t truly tasted heaven. Guest preacher, dinner on the grounds, afternoon sangin (not a misspelling), and probably more dinner on the grounds, this time with fried chicken and bonus salmonella poisoning. Yes, it’s enough to make a megachurch pastor want to run over himself with his own shuttle bus, but you get the picture.

The guest preacher for H2K10 was my “growing up” pastor. He arrived at the church when I was in sixth grade, shortly after I became a believer. He discipled me, he went along on lots of youth trips, he counseled me through major life decisions, he spurred on a desire for ministry, he officiated my wedding…

…in short, he had a profound influence on me during my teenage and early adult years.

Listening to that one sermon brought back a flood of memories. He was a man who tried his best to pass himself off as a tough, ornery old cuss, but we knew better. We knew that he loved our church, he loved our people, and he loved to see Jesus’ name made great in our little town. He was a master storyteller and had a knack for pointing us to the cross from any story in the Bible. He led our church to dream bigger dreams for the gospel than we knew were possible. He led us through building campaigns and seasons of numerical growth. He led us closer to Jesus.

He’s older now. Retired. He’s pulled his suit out of the closet for three post-retirement interim gigs. He’s still going as strong as ever, still preaching as well as ever, still trying to be as ornery as ever. But his love for our church – the church he left nearly 18 years ago – can’t be hidden. He said in his message that if he had one last sermon to preach, he’d want to preach it in my home church. And I believe him.

Reflecting on all that he did for our church…for me…forced me to reflect on other people who’ve profoundly influenced my life. Last week I buried my friend Curtis. I wish I had one more opportunity to tell him what he meant to me. How he led me to a deeper prayer life. How he made me a better dad…husband…pastor.

Too often we wait until it’s too late to express what people mean to us. We stand behind a casket or beside a grave and reflect on the kindness we’ve been shown or the legacy we’ve been left. We wish for one more opportunity, one more chance to say what has previously been unsaid.

Somewhere today, there’s someone who needs to hear from you. Perhaps it’s a teacher, someone who discipled you in college, maybe your old youth pastor, a parent, a former boss or a current co-worker. Somebody has had a deep and lasting influence on who you’ve become, and you don’t have to wait until it’s too late to say so.

Take thirty minutes today and write a letter or draft an email or make a phone call. Somebody out there needs your encouragement. As for me, I have an ornery preacher I’ve gotta write.

Who has influenced you? Honor their story. Comment below.

People ask me all the time, “Danny, where do you come up with the amazing content on your blog?” (And by “people” I mean “nobody,” and by “all the time” I mean “not once in two and a half years,” and by “amazing” I mean “so mediocre your sixth grade English teacher is probably spinning in her grave.”)

So feel free to listen in as I answer the question that no one is asking. I’ve learned that creativity requires structure. I used to believe that I would write the best when inspiration struck. And while it’s true that just the right moment can inspire a decent writing session, the fact is that inspiration often doesn’t strike enough to populate more than a handful of blog posts per month.

I’m a frequent victim of writer’s block. Whether it’s writing a blog post, a sermon, a wedding ceremony, a funeral, or a grocery list, I tend to blank out and freeze up. (“Wait…I had it…DANG…what was that…oh yeah, Velveeta.”)

That’s why I believe that we have to structure creativity. Whether you’re a blogger or an author or a songwriter or a painter, creativity rarely “just happens.” For me, I have a folder on my computer where I toss lots of ideas until I’m ready to do something with them. They might be original thoughts, or they might be sound bites from a podcast or a line from a book. I capture those ideas on either my Moleskine notebook (always with me) or my voice recorder (sometimes with me). Even if it’s just a good title or a sentence that has nothing to go along with it, that title or sentence gets dumped in the hopper.

When I sit down to write, I’ll often look over that list and see if there’s anything good. Right now I have random thoughts on powder kegs, my disdain for the overused phrase “everything happens for a reason,” and comparisons between the guest focus at Chipotle vs. La Hacienda. Whether any of those things will ever make it into a blog post remains to be seen (you might want to weigh in now and save us all a lot of anguish later), but they’re there for the process.

In Tony Morgan’s book Killing Cockroaches: And Other Scattered Musings On Leadership, he says that “creativity rarely sneaks up on us.” I agree with that statement. If you’re going to write or preach or paint or teach, you have to develop a left-brained structure for your right-brained inspiration.

So what’s your creative structure? I’d love to hear it. Comment below.

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