Jesus Hates Religion. He Really Does. (via @FoxNews) Boom diggity. Read it. Remember it. I know I need to.

I think we as Christians have a reputation as conversation stoppers. When we engage people on the other side of an issue, most of the time, the conversation doesn’t end the way we want it to. It gets stopped short or our side of the issue ends up being misrepresented. And that’s largely our fault.  We prefer to be heard, as opposed to actually listening. We want the benefit of the doubt, but we’re reluctant to give it. Instead, we lead with our idea of what’s right and wrong – our belief – instead of leading with love.

 

First Things First. (via @_Jeff_J, HT @JasonYoungLive) Love this. Let’s not get so caught up in the bells and whistles that we forget the basics.

Second mile service behaviors will not create “wow” experiences if our guests are blinded to them because of the absence of excellence in 1st mile services. We can’t wow our guests if we can’t meet their most basic expectations. It doesn’t matter how many bottles of lotion, packs of mints, or what type of flowers adorn our restrooms if there is no toilet paper or the floor is dirty, or the garbage needs to be emptied (ever found yourself in this situation?). The “wow” simply doesn’t land.

 

An Octopus Unscrews a Jar from the Inside. (via @LaughingSquid) Welp, I’ll never sleep again. This is horrifying.

 

 

Get a Load of That Trash

…It was when I drove into my hometown that I remembered the twice a year trash amnesty week.  For seven days in the spring and a matching seven in the fall, you can put anything – anything at all! – out on the sidewalk and the city will pick it up.  Reader’s Digest magazines from 1952?  They’ll get ‘em.  Broken dining room chair?  Not a problem.  Rat-infested mattress that looks like several people may or may not have died on it not that we’re asking any questions if we know what’s good for us?  You betcha.

Read the entire original post here.

Jase Baptism

 

As weekends go, this one was huge.

We celebrated my oldest son’s high school graduation on Friday, and my dad’s 75th birthday on Sunday. Both are big milestones. Both were worthy of a big hoo-rah party.

But in the larger economy, neither of those compared to the celebration of my youngest son’s baptism. The first two marked achievements in this life. The latter tipped the scale towards another life.

Jase became a believer a little over two years ago when he was just nine years old. At the time, the notion of baptism freaked him out. Getting drenched in a room full of people? Not his thing. And so, we talked about it. Encouraged him towards it. Helped explain the obedience of it. And finally, the decision became his, not ours.

Sunday, of course, was not the day Jase became a Christ follower. But it pointed to that day in a big, loud, public way. It was a chance for his church family to celebrate what his earthly family had already been celebrating.

And my, what a celebration it was.

I had the amazing privilege of baptizing my 12 year old son as my brother. My tears mingled with the water in the tank. He was able to proclaim his faith in Jesus, his belief in him and him alone for salvation, and his promise to go wherever Jesus may send him in the future.

Evangelicals are fond of saying that they want their kids to have boring testimonies. I’ve said it, too. What we mean by that is we want to see our kids come to Jesus early…not wandering through life sowing wild oats before “settling down” in the faith.

But every testimony is far from boring, because ultimately our story isn’t about what we’ve done or not done. It’s about what Jesus has done for us. Jesus – perfect, sinless, righteous Jesus – took on the sins of a nine year old and exchanged them for his own holiness. Jesus – fully divine, fully human Jesus – gives a forty year old father the ability to rise and walk another day. It’s not about the worthiness of my son or the worthiness he sees in his daddy, it’s about the worthiness we both see in Jesus.

Boring testimony? Nope. Recognizing the miracle that is offered to us through salvation is anything but boring. Merriem and I recognize that just because our kids grow up in a Christian home doesn’t mean that they’ll be Christians. We understand that regardless of what we do (or sadly, what we more often don’t do) to point them to Jesus, it’s still the work of Jesus. It’s still his sacrifice. It’s still his mercy. It’s still his Spirit that draws us.

I’m thankful that 3/4 of our kids have placed their faith in Jesus. I’m praying that our youngest will come to that knowledge early. And I’m hopeful that at the end of the weekend, we weren’t celebrating the baptism of Jase.

We were celebrating the finished work of Jesus.

 

 

This post seems to appear every couple of years here, and for good reason. Max Lucado reminds us that the cross isn’t just an event in history, but a life-changing event right now. As you read, pray that the eyes of thousands would be opened this weekend and they would realize that the cross is for them.

With hands nailed open, he invited God, “Treat me as you would treat them!” And God did.  In an act that broke the heart of the Father, yet honored the holiness of heaven, sin-purging judgment flowed over the sinless Son of the ages.

And heaven gave earth her finest gift.  The Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.

Read the full post here. And have a Great Friday.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

We can believe that Jesus is greater than any earthly competition for his affection. We can say that his glory should eclipse all others in our life. We can sing of our love for him, our devotion to him, our passion for him.

But while we believe, we forget.

We get into the busyness of our day, and we forget. We get into the heat of a trial, and we forget. We wrestle with the same old sins, and we forget.

What we know to be true, we forget to be true.

Read the entire original post here.

(photo courtesy WRAL. Click for more.)

(click for photo credit)

Our Summit family lost a warrior this weekend.

Noah Spivey was a seventeen year old who had seen more than his fair share of suffering. For the last four years he’s battled Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that took him in and out of hospitals and clinics around the country as doctors struggled to find a cure, a treatment, anything that would bring healing or at least minimize his symptoms.

I met Noah for the first time a few days after his initial diagnosis four years ago. Yesterday, I told his mom Christine that I remember walking into Duke Hospital, trying to come up with something to say that would encourage him. One chat with Noah assured me that I never needed to worry about that again. That’s because whenever you talked to Noah, you were rarely the one doing the encouraging. You walked away challenged, you walked away humbled, you walked away grateful for how God was working in a young man’s life, even as his life was slipping away.

Noah wore his cancer as a badge. It wasn’t a badge of pity, but rather one of opportunity: he realized that with the cancer came the chance to put his faith on display.

And display it he did.

Noah never lost his love for Jesus. I never heard him question God’s faithfulness even in the midst of excruciating suffering. On the contrary: he said over and over that “What Satan meant to kill me, God is using to give me life.” Those weren’t just clever soundbites for a video, it’s what we all saw Noah live every day.

Even as cancer ravaged him, Jesus was restoring him.

We don’t know why Noah’s story turned out as it did. Our pastor reminded us this weekend that we may never find the silver lining in our suffering. And yes, as a church we prayed for an outcome that would be much, much different.

But the truth is, Noah was healed. Because as we worshipped through tears this weekend, Noah’s faith became sight. His journey with pain was over, but what he believed in his heart is now being seen with his eyes.

As you pray this week, would you pray for Noah’s family? John, Christine, Lisa, Brooke, and Timmy are just beginning life without Noah. Pray that they would live with the same gospel-driven strength they’ve shown throughout Noah’s illness. Pray also for Jason Gaston, our Family Ministries Pastor. I’ve watched my friend Gaston walk faithfully with the Spivey family, and was humbled to see him lead our church so well through a time of grieving reflection this weekend. No student pastor should ever have to bury a student, but he has shown us what it means to trust in Jesus even while dealing with his own pain.

Noah Spivey wasn’t just a special kid. He was a young man who led our church on a journey of faith. He preached the gospel to us constantly for the last four years. He reminded us that joy is not found in perfect health, but in Jesus. His faith led us to greater faith, and our church family is stronger because of what God did through him.

May we all live lives marked with such courage and faithfulness.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

It’s Flashback Friday, kiddies, and around this corner of the webosphere that means that I scour back through the archives, dust off an old post, and repackage it for you.

Which, after you read today’s particular post, will really make you feel ripped off.

Somewhere up in Chocolate Heaven, Milton S. Hershey is laughing his chocolate milk mustache off. For decades, his company has been taking the same old chocolate – reshaping and repackaging it – and selling it to a bunch of suckers that are easily distracted by big bright letters that say BRAND NE…

…um, what was I saying?

I’ve noticed that we do the same thing with our religion. We tend to repackage the same old product and dress it up to sell it in a brand new way. I’m not talking here about contextualizing the gospel message to fit the culture we’re in. Nope, I’m talking religion. Pure, unadulterated, man-centered religion. The “guilted-to’s” over the “get-to’s.” The duty over the delight. The law over grace.

Read the entire original post here.

For those of us in ministry world, we hear that statement too many times. “I’m just a volunteer.” That statement can mean a lot of things: This job isn’t that big of a deal…I don’t have any real authority…What does it matter?…I don’t want to do that.

But however deep you dig, the statement is still wrong. You’re never just a volunteer. You’re way more than that:

So before you soft sell your service as a volunteer, remember: you’re never “just” anything. You’re an ambassador for the kingdom. A part of the royal priesthood. A living, breathing, functioning part of the body of Christ.

Are we putting too much emphasis on the moment of conversion? (via @_MichaelKelley) Sobering stuff to think about.

You, like me, probably know someone in your life who at one time or another had what seemed to be a really genuine encounter with the gospel. They heard the word of truth, accepted they are a sinner, and asked Jesus to forgive them and be the Lord of their lives. And though the decision seemed genuine at the time, over the years you’ve seen them slowly but surely drift from that original moment until now they are just another story of someone who prayed a simple prayer, maybe got baptized, but now seem to have no real affection for Jesus.

 

Should you teach the world a new word? (via @ThisIsSethsBlog) Before you ask, yes: Connections Pastor is a real thing.

Choose a new name when it helps you achieve your goals, not because you’re worried about some truth-in-taxonomy commission giving you a hassle. It doesn’t matter if you’re right, it matters if you are understood.

 

Sweet little old lady smiles and waves at passing kids every day(via @22Words) Every high school student in America needs a Tinney Davidson.

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In December I shared the story of Ryan, Morgan, and Charlie: two dear friends and their little boy who is stuck on the other side of the world.

Today, Ryan will land back in RDU after being in central Africa for 65 days. In that time he has followed every lead, checked out every contact, and met every conceivable person of power who would sign the paperwork so that Charlie – his legally adopted son – could leave the country and come home.

It didn’t happen that way.

Oh, it could have happened. Ryan could have shelled out some money and signed a few papers and corrupted officials would have looked the other way while he put Charlie on the plane. But my friend has too much integrity to let such a story cloud Charlie’s story. And so he returns to Durham today, alone yet not alone, and yet without his son.

It’s not supposed to be this way.

I don’t understand it. I can’t wrap my mind around it. There was supposed to be an 11th hour miracle, a story that we could celebrate, a prayer that was answered, a door that finally opened. Today was supposed to be the day that we all met Charlie, that Raleigh-Durham Airport was overrun by well-wishers, and the day that Charlie would meet his big brother and sister and sleep in his new bed in his new house in his new city.

I don’t know why this has happened. I don’t know why Ryan and Morgan have to wait even longer and spend more money and take more trips and beg more politicians to release their son. I don’t know why adoption has to be such a struggle…a spiritual warfare battle of epic proportions where evil is tangibly felt and good seems to be in short supply.

I don’t know any of these things, but I do know this: the story has not ended. The period has not been added. The chapter has not been closed. The outcome is still unknown. Yes, there may be more agony before there is relief. But what Ryan and Morgan know is that Charlie’s story is still being written. And they know that because they trust in a sovereign God who may not show his hand, but he most certainly extends his heart.

Is it easy? No. Will that knowledge help them sleep better tonight? Probably not. But as I watch their faith rise through pain and their grace displayed through tears, I know that they’re not just seeking their son, they’re seeking their Daddy. And he loves them even more than they love Charlie. His plan reaches farther, spreads wider, and delves deeper than they may ever know this side of heaven. That may sound like so many platitudes, like Ryan and Morgan are simply stepping out in faith. But I ask you: what else do they have? What else do we have? Had all of this gone textbook-perfect and we were cheering Charlie’s homecoming today, it would still have been a journey of faith. To accept the joy but reject the sorrow is not faith. To understand the mind of God is like a sponge absorbing the Pacific: it can’t be done.

So readers…believers…I’m asking you to petition God on behalf of Charlie and trust God on behalf of Ryan and Morgan. They need us to stand with them now as much as we ever have. Charlie’s heavenly Father remains by his side even though his earthly father is an ocean away. And that heavenly Father can do more than we can ask or imagine, and he will accomplish and complete Charlie’s story in a way we can’t fathom.

This weekend our pastor very wisely walked us through a time of prayer for the Dohertys, helping create a framework for how to trust God when our prayers don’t get answered the way we think they should. I would encourage you to take eight minutes and watch that video.

Ryan shared the following passage from John 14 on his Facebook post before boarding the plane in Africa. I think it’s timely not only for Charlie and Ryan, but for the rest of us as well:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going….I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…Because I live, you also will live…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid… the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”