No Room

Posted: December 9, 2019 in Uncategorized
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While they (Joseph and Mary) were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:6-7

The timing of the census couldn’t have been more inconvenient, or should we say, more perfect. It was prophesied the Messiah would come from Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary made the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It must have been quite a tiring journey for a young pregnant woman. When they finally arrive, the local inn had a “no vacancy” sign on the door. One can only imagine the thoughts going through their minds as Mary states the reality, “It’s time, Joseph.” Rather than the comfort of a warm room, they settle for a cold stable. Stables were typically a cave-like structure dug out of rock walls. It is a cold and dirty place surrounding the birth of this child. This picture speaks volumes to us today. The lack of room in the inn is sadly often reflected in our own lack of room for Jesus to be born without our hearts. The cold and dirty stable reveals the cold and dirty world we live in. The Messiah enters the cold, dark world with no servants tending to Mary, no pomp or circumstance. He enters simply and even unexpectedly. 

I wonder about our own lives. Do you and I have room for Jesus? Or do we have a no vacancy sign on our hearts? How many times have I pushed Him outside into the stables rather than granting Him residence in my heart? May I ask you a question? Is your view of Jesus like that of a Hallmark card? The Christmas cards depict a beautiful picture of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. Everything seems so perfect. The nativity scene in the yard depict a glowing baby Jesus. They are too perfect, too pretty, too….safe. But the events surrounding what we like to refer to as the Christmas story are anything but safe. Herrod orders all male children 2 years and younger to be slaughtered. Why?Because this “baby” would change the world. Following Jesus is anything but safe. He calls us to total life change. He turns our thinking upside down. He says the last will be first, the way to gain life is to lose it. He is radical, and calls us to a radical life if we so choose to follow Him.

The Gift of Emptying

Posted: December 5, 2019 in Uncategorized
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As humans, we like things to be full. Remember the joy you felt as a child when you saw the full stocking hanging from the mantle or the space under the tree full of presents. As adults, we enjoy a full tank of gas in the car and a full paycheck at the end of a hard week’s work. We like full bellies after a meal and we like full heads of hair (shout out to my fellow balding men). We like things full.

Philippians 2 encourages us to have the mindset of Jesus. He was fully God. Equal with God. The word translated “equal” is the word “isos.” Isos describes things which are truly equal. Jesus was deity, complete, total, equal to -he was, is, and always will be divine. Yet, the passage goes on to say he did not consider that equality something to be grasped.

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Christ made himself nothing. He emptied himself. This word is kenoo. To empty himself was not about denying his deity. He didn’t suddenly lose all divine nature. He is God, therefore, he cannot go against his nature. Rather he chose to empty himself. He doesn’t subtract his deity, but rather adds a human nature with all its limitations. The text indicates how he emptied himself:

He took the form of a servant.

He  made himself in the likeness (in appearance) of man.

He humbled himself.

He became obedient to death – even on a cross.

We often talk this time of year about Jesus coming in the form of a baby, but we may forget what all that entails. Christ emptied himself for us. While I long to be filled (often with things which do not matter), he emptied himself. I’m thank for the gift of emptying our Lord gave to us. Verse 5 of this chapter encourages,  “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” We are called to have the same mindset and attitude. Our nature is one of filling, not emptying. Aren’t you thankful for a God who empties himself?


At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Luke 1:39-41

Mary heard the news from the angel, “you will conceive and give birth to a son and you will call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…” She couldn’t believe it at first. Can you blame her? An angel appearing and saying she was going to have a baby. She was a virgin. Was she dreaming? Did she drink sour goat’s milk? How could this be possible? She must have felt unworthy and humbled. When the angel convinces her, there are a whole new set of circumstances. What will Joseph think? “She’s been unfaithful… Who is the father?…How could you do this to me?…” What would the townspeople think? “Illegitimate..bastard child.”

Mary goes to visit her relative, Elizabeth who is experiencing a miracle of her own. She is pregnant in her old age and will give birth to a boy named John who will prepare the way for Jesus. And when Mary visits Elizabeth to tell her the news, the baby within her leapt and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. When is the last time you leapt with joy? Was it that time in little league soccer you made a goal (not even realizing it was for the other team)? Was it when you first learned to ride a bike? Was it high school graduation? Your first kiss? The birth of your first child? Or has it been so long you can’t remember what it is like to be excited and filled with joy? Has your heart been broken so many times you can’t recall joy in your life? Perhaps you were once filled with hope and joy and excited about the possibilities of life, but somewhere along the way you broken and the joy you once felt gave way to hopelessness and doubt. Consider this fact: between this event and the last time we have any recording of God at work amongst His people, 400 years have passed. For four hundred years, people have been looking for God and had probably thought they were forgotten, abandoned, not loved. Have you been there? Has it been so long since you have experienced the joy of the Lord? Have you ever sensed his presence? You are not alone. You are in good company. And, hopefully, you are ready to leap for joy at the wonderful work of Jesus, the Messiah. 

I was hungry and you formed committees.

I was thirsty and you preached sermons.

I was naked and you said, “That’ not in the budget.”

I was sick and you sang another chorus while internally debating traditional verse contemporary style of worship.

I was lonely and you rushed to the restaurant to get the best booth.

I was in prison an you held another congregational meeting.

I tell you the truth: whatever you did to the least of these, you did unto me.

The Day it all Changed

Posted: September 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

It was such a great time of excitement! Flying over the city for the first time ever was a delight. The sights and sounds were exhilirating and overwhelming. The horns honking, the crowds of people walinking in every direction, the massive buildings that towered overhead – made it and unforgettable experience.

I will never forget the first time I visited New York. The things mentioned above along with so many more wonderful things made it an amazing experience. My wife was having a graduation ceremony from an airline she was going to be working at. I was able to fly in and attend the ceremony and enjoy the sights and sounds of New York. We took in a Broadway show. We enjoyed a hotdog from the vendor at Battery Park. One of my favorite memories was taking the fairly and enjoying the view of the city. We talked about how large the city was and how many people needed to know God;s love. We had always talked about doing inner city ministry in a large U.S. city and it din;t get any larger than New York. During that ride on the fairy, we could see the prominent skyline featuring the twin towers of the World Trade Center. It was the most beautiful city I had ever seen.

As all good vacations do, the trip came to an end and it was time to fly back to Lubbock, Texas where we were attending Lubbock Christian Univeristy. We caught the last flight out of Newark on September 10, 2001. We got into Lbbock late and the next morning enjoyed every possible minute of sleep before going to class. In my class, I told my professor that we were going to move to New York and do ministry. I was excited about “the city that never sleeps” and the possibility of living and working there.  After that class, I stopped by my missions professor’s room to say hello and tell him about the trip. He stopped me and asked me if I had seen the news and he told me about the terrorist attacks. My heart sunk.

My world was forever changed. My life had been altered. i couldn’t nderstand. I cried. I have a scar on my heart from the tragic events that took place. I had mixed emotions. I thought about how fortunate that we left the night before, yet I felt so guilty that I was safe and surrounded by friends and Christian influences when I should be down at Ground Zero helping.

That scar remains. I get reminded of it from time to time and weep aloud.  Pray for the families who lost loved one. Pray for those who have forever been changed because of this event. Pray for the world. We need to see goodness and respect for humanity. This world is dark and in need of light. I pray for light.

I determined long ago to name this blog Confessions of a Confused Christian. However, as I recently went back over many of the posts, I realized there was not a lot of confessing or confusion. Every post seemed to always resolve itself into total assurance. It seemed as though there was no real faith struggle that every i was always dotted and every t was always crossed. I admit that some of the reasoning is because I switched my primary means of communication from this blog over to Facebook. However, even there, I could see that most posts talk about how great my faith is and an outsider may think my faith does not waver.

So, here I am pondering this moment of how deep to go; how much to share. It is difficult to use written words as a form of communication because it is impossible to sense the tone and emotion behind the words. However, since the blog has the words confused and confess in it, I feel it is only appropriate to confess my confusion. Sometimes I really struggle in my faith. I struggle in my relationship with God. I often do not see relevance in the church. When I read the Bible, I am often confused. I read of a church in the first century that seemed so honest, so real yet I see much of the church today being so superficial. I see people in the New Testament fighting for what they stand for, and I see so many Christians today fighting about what they are against. We rally and protest and get loud and rarely love, I mean truly love. We are well known for what we are against, but rarely show what we are for. That confuses me. Am I supposed to stand in a line and picket the abortion clinic, or am I to present a cup of water to a hurt woman who just made the decision to abort the baby? Which would Jesus do? If I show love to her am I now saying I support abortion? Must I yell and spit so I can prove I am a Christian or was Jesus actually telling the truth when he said they will know we are Christians by our love?

The truth is I am often confused. I have been hurt. I have felt abandoned and betrayed. I have been hurt by the church. I have bought the lie that I had to be against all the things I am supposed to be against and somewhere along the way I have forgotten what I am supposed to be for. I have often tried to please church people and in the process have found myself drifting further and further away from who God has truly called me to be. I have been hurt by the church. I have been hurt to the point that it is often difficult to differentiate if it is people or God who is hurting me. Why must it be so difficult?

One of my favorite verses has been Psalm 30:5 which declares, “For his anger lasts only a moment,but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” What a comforting thought to know that joy comes in the morning. However, sometimes it seems that morning will never come. I often identify with the poet Emily Dickinson who penned these words: 

Will there really be a “Morning”?
Is there such a thing as “Day”?
Could I see it from the mountains
If I were as tall as they?

Has it feet like Water lilies?
Has it feathers like a Bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I have never heard?

Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor!
Oh some Wise Men from the skies!
Please to tell a little Pilgrim
Where the place called “Morning” lies!

Will morning joy ever come? Or will we just remain in tears of mourning? Will joy find it’s way into our lives, or are we destined to lie in constant wait? I confess that God confuses me and His word sometimes troubles more than it comforts. There are times in our lives when it hurts so much we just can’t see the joy coming. We feel the pain and experience the darkness which seeks to consume us. So we wait. We sit in the dark of night waiting for the morning joy to come. We long to feel anything other than the current hell we are experiencing. We look to God, even in the midst of what seems like His silence and we wait. We hope. We look toward that morning light which will bring the joy. However, in the meantime, we wait and search for the place where morning lies.

Last night, my family went to see the African Children’s Choir. This was about the third time we have seen this choir perform and each time has been amazing. Last night was no exception. The group of children made the entrance with shouts of jubilation as they danced on the stage. The enthusiasm and power they showed were quite impressive. We clapped and cheered and sang along as they performed their songs and dances.

One of the most touching moments for me personally took place a little over half way through the evening. The children came out one at a time saying their name and what they wanted to be when they were older. I loved hearing about their dreams of being pilots, police officers, teachers, bankers, and pastors. I thought about what life must have been like for them early on. Most came from a home with at least one parent deceased or not present for whatever reason. Many had no running water, no substantial source of income. They all came from poverty. These children had seen and experienced more heartache in their young lives than most people experience in a lifetime. They could easily have the mindset that they have no real future. We may look at people of similar circumstance and have little hope they will become anything significant. Yet, they had the dream and vision and hope of becoming the best they could. They refused to buy the lie that they were insignificant.  They refused to let their dreams die. They desire to beat the odds and become someone of great significance.

The true reality is they are already significant. They were created in the image of God. They were deemed worthy of the blood of Jesus as he died to give them hope and a future that far exceeds anything they could ever even dream. The stage presence of these children possessed such power that you believed they would become all those things they said they wanted to be. Yet that fails in comparison to the awesome power of our Lord working in the lives of people. His power is available to all. He is the source of all power and all hope. As the children sang He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, I could not help but recognize how true that really is. He holds it all together. The stars, the land, the sea are all held together by Him. Mankind finds hope in Him. He’s got the homeless in His hands. He’s got  the widow in His hands. He’s got the child walking 45 minutes for water to do laundry in His hands. He loves the fatherless. He loves the single mother struggling to love and care for her kids and pay the bills. He loves the dad who works long hours to provide the best way he knows how. God loves the athletic and the uncoordinated. He loves the educated and uneducated. God loves the prostitute and the nun. He loves the rich and the poor. He loves you and me. He’s got the whole world in His hands. Therefore we can dream. We can hope. We have a future. We have love and acceptance no matter what this world throws at us. We have God, therefore we have all we need.

The closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics takes place tonight. I always enjoy watching the Olympic events. I like the stories and the athleticism that a part of the games. One of the stories this year was in the arena of basketball. Kobe Bryant made an implication that the current USA basketball team could beat the original dream team of 1992.  Sports radio and newspaper articles immediately debating. Could basketball players such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Lebron James beat guys like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, David Robinson, and Larry Bird? I heard arguments both ways, but most seemed to agree that the edge would belong to the 1992 team. 

In listening to people discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both groups, my mind began to wander and wonder. What if God were to assemble His dream team? What would that look like? There would be brave men and women who would obviously be chosen first, right? You would have to include a man like Abraham so faithful and trusting that he would pack up his family and leave even when he had no clue where God would lead him. You would probably include Noah who stayed faithful when all others turned away. he built a boat when he had never seen rain. You would probably include a guy like Moses who stood fearlessly before Pharaoh and demanded him to let God’s people go. What about David who fought a giant and killed him? He would have to be included. What about Peter who stood fearlessly stating that he would obey God rather than man, whatever the cost may be? He would have to be on God’s dream team. Who could possibly forget Paul who was beaten and left for dead because he preached the gospel, yet he still fulfilled his mission. He definitely needs to be on God’s dream team.

All these men may make you and feel as though we have no place on God’s dream team. I mean we may love God, but have we been tested like these men? Have you and I been beaten and left for dead? Have we built a boat when we never saw rain? Have we killed a giant because he disrespected God? Have we faced prison for being a Christian? It seems that God’s roster must be full. Surely there is no room for us. I mean we fall short in so many ways. We doubt. We mistreat people sometimes. We give in to pressure. Is there any hope?

Fortunately God’s team is also made up of guys like Abraham, who despite great faith also expressed fear and told his wife to lie and say she was his sister. It is made up of guys like Noah who after being delivered from destruction got off the ark and passed out drunk. It is made up of guys like Moses who doubted God’s ability and decision making. It is made up guys like David who committed adultery and tried to cover it up by having the lady’s husband murdered. It’s made up of guys like Peter who gave into pressure and denied even knowing Jesus. It’s made up of guys like Paul who was a murderer. So, perhaps there is room for you and I.

God calls us to become a part of His team – His dream team. He looks at our faults and finds goodness. He looks at our doubts and finds mustard seed sized faith. He looks at our darkness and offers light. He looks at our restlessness and offers peace and rest. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” It’s as though he is saying, I know you feel alone in this world. I know you feel there is no one to support you, no one who cares for you, no one who will pick you. I know sometimes you feel like the kid on the playground that nobody wants to have on their team, but God’s says, “I want you on MY team. Come to me.” Will you join God’s team? Will you thank him for choosing you. He knows you are imperfect, that’s why He chose you. Will you just relish in the fact that He wants you on His team?

A week and a half has passed since the 2012 Tulsa Workshop. The theme was Good News For a Broken World. The weekend was amazing.  Lots of encouraging and thought provoking lessons. I posted a lot of tweets from the weekend on twitter and facebook. As I was going through those quotes, I was reminded of the overall experience. I loved seeing the joy on my kids faces as they would sing the songs they learned and recall the Bible stories. I recall the singing that encouraged. I recall the words that lifted my spirits. The following is a series of quotes from the workshop. they really encouraged me. these were spoken by ,many different people. i will not include who said what in this post for the purpose of flow. These are in the order I heard them. I think it is beautiful how God speaks. There seems to be a certain flow to these quotes. Thank you to all who worked on this event. thank you, Lord, for this annual event that I always look forward to. I hope those of you who read these words find encouragement from them just as I did. now for the highlight (at least in my opinion) quotes:

God is greater than our past.

Freedom is applied forgivenss
The greatest miracle Jesus performed was the granting of forgiveness.
Do not let your past wounds define you.
In the economy of the Kingdom, it never pays to play it safe.
The greatest risk is to never take a risk.
We have lost touch with our touchstones.
Everyone dies, but not everyone lives for something.
Being authentic is the antidote to anxiety.
We cannot fix this cracked world with anything in this world.
We are called to live among the broken body of Christ until Jesus perfects it.
I am a new creation, not an upgraded version of my old self.
I want to discipline myself so I can be fully free to God.
Thank you, Lord, for all I am comes from you.
Jesus calls me to be all in for Him.
Good news is not to be studied, it is to be celebrated. 
Christian life is not a pattern, it is a person.
Where there is fear there is no love. If there is no love, people will not know we follow Him.
God loves when His children talk to Him.
Teach us to count our days so we can make our days count.
Live passionately. Love completely. Learn humbly. Live boldly.
God knows me fully and loves me fully.
Do not all your view of yourself get in the way of god’s work through you.
I surrender my right to say anything about myself that my God would not say about me.
It’s great to preach to the multitude, but we must not neglect the one in need.
Compassion minus action is not truly compassion.
If the community only knows us by our location, we are failing.
The church should be colorFUL, not color blind.
My brokenness is never beyond the healing / restoring power of God.
Be assured that your history is HIStory.
Lord, may I live worthy of your calling.

How is Your Heart?

Posted: November 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

Nearly a month has passed since that day. I had not been feeling well. I was constantly fatigued and kept having dizzy spells. After a lot of prodding from my wife, I finally decided to go to the hospital. The doctor ran all kinds of tests. I had CT scans and ultrasounds, treadmill test, and an echo cardiogram. I wore a heart monitor for nearly a month. No major problems were found, but a lot of monitoring was done.

I began to think about our spiritual life. What if we had the ability to look into our spiritual hearts? What would we see? Would our heart be healthy? Would we see areas of concern that we needed to focus on? Would there be changes we would need to make?

I believe we do have such a spiritual heart monitor. The Bible is a guide, a monitor that can expose our heart’s true spiritual condition. It shows areas where we are in need of change.

How is your heart? Do you see the areas that need work? Do you need to incorporate a healthy diet of study of God’s word? Ask God to show you what changes you need to make.