The Costs of Free Coffee

imageTwice this week I have received free coffee at two different restaurants. On Tuesday a markerter for a new apartment complex was buying coffee for everyone who came into Starbucks. Today, I indulged in Chick-Fil-A’s free coffee for February deal. I like coffee and I like to work and study in coffee shops and restaurants. Oddly enough, I am often less distracted there than in my office or at my house.

So on Tuesday and Friday I ventured into restaurants with my iPad and an armload of books to indulge in good coffee and intense study. Both times I got free coffee and distractions. Yes, my free coffee cost me my focus because both times the unexpected happened, I ran into someone I knew. The importance of relationship trumped John Stott, John Calvin, and F.F. Bruce. I was forced to interact with living people instead of dead people.

That is the cost of living in relationship with others as believers in Christ. We can hide from the world in our homes and offices, we can bury our noses in our books and Bibles, or we can make ourselves available. Of course there are tiems in my life when interaction has to be put on hold so that I can focus on studying, but there are other times where I (and you) need to be willing to put down what we are doing and open our eyes to what God may want us to do–or even what God may want to do for us.

The Christian life is about relationships. Relationship first with Christ, but also with others. Are you working to cultivate relationships with others that affect the Kingdom of God?

A free cup of coffee cost me some study time … Continue reading

The Most Terrifying Sentence in Ministry

Crying“I wish my husband was more like you.”

This is a sentence I have heard in one form or another multiple times throughout my ministry. Sometimes it is worded differently because it comes from a single woman who “would love to meet someone like you.” Sometimes the scary sentence is actually made up of a series of compliments over weeks or months, “your sermons mean so much” with a gentle touch on the shoulder. Rarely, the statements come in the form of a full out assault from a young woman who looks for opportunities to compliment you and hug you in front of your wife (yes, we actually experienced that one time).

Now, I know that as I write this some hear me saying that women are evil manipulators, but that is not my intention at all. In fact, I would say that most of the women who have ever put me into awkward situations with their compliments or actions have done so without ill intention. Often they are hurting women in troubled marriages that perceive the preacher on a stage as the embodiment of much that they are missing. Regardless of the intention on the part of those expressing gushing compliments, a man can find himself in the middle of a conundrum.

As men, we enjoy having our egos stoked. As leaders we are encouraged when people respond well to our leadership. As a result we must be aware that the weaknesses that our biology and our positions leave us with make us vulnerable to temptation from those who look up to us. Our flesh is often weak even when our spirit is willing.

There are steps that every minister should take to protect himself and those around him from … Continue reading

Wives, Pray Your Husbands Up

550892_454150654628223_303442805_nI’ll never forget the day. I was a broken man. I had no reason to be broken, I had just baptized eight people, our sanctuary was packed to the gills, the Holy Spirit spoke convincingly during my sermon, people responded by repenting of sin, and we had new families join the church. By all normal accounts, this should have been one of the greatest Sundays of my life and yet, there I was, seated in a chair in my office after the service, sobbing.

It was there that I was found. Not found in the salvific sense, God found me and saved me at nine years old. No, I was found by my wife in a heap of emotions and depression. I, the strong leading husband, pastor, and father was broken and alone–or so I thought. Certainly in that moment I was broken, I was a wreck and though I didn’t know it at the time, I was on the precipice of the most challenging six months of my life. The days following that warm summer Sunday would be filled with sleepless nights, personal sickness, the deaths of loved ones and church members, uncertainties and darkness would surround me and many that I knew and loved. I was in a mess and the mess was about to get worse, but I was NOT alone.

Of course we are never alone, we have those warm promises from Jesus, “I will not leave you as orphans.” But, in that moment I felt like Elijah must have, “I alone am left.” I felt that kind of alone, all alone to suffer and carry my problems. And there I was alone in my office, wallowing in my own all alone problems, and there I was when my wife … Continue reading

Men, You Only Fail When You Forfeit

leader_image“I want to lead, but I don’t know how.” This is a common refrain from men I encounter. They have a desire to lead in their home, but they are intimidated. They do not know as much about the Bible as their wife or they are uncomfortable praying out loud or they are afraid that their kids will ask questions they cannot answer.

I have good news. There is really only one way to fail as the spiritual leader in your home and that is to refuse to lead. Your fear of failure has kept you out of the game. You rationalize, “If I don’t do it, I can’t fail.” Unfortunately, you’ve already failed because you’ve forfeited. But take hope, you need not stay out of the game. Today can be the day that you turn the tide and begin to lead in your home. Here are five steps and a few resources to help you along the way.

  • Pray for God’s Guidance. This is not some Billy Graham kind of prayer in front of millions. This is you honest before God in your truck on the way home from work, “God, give me the courage, strength, and conviction to lead my family to know you more and obey your commands.”
  • Pursue Accountability. Tell someone else. Call a friend and ask him to call you tomorrow to ask how it went. This can be intimidating to some guys so take the easy route. Call your pastor, he will be thrilled to receive this phone call from you.
  • Make a Plan. You will not lead by accident. Take Mel Gibson’s advice from The Patriot, “Aim small, miss small.” Your first goal will not be to make it through the book of Leviticus. … Continue reading
  • Truth Matters

    truth mattersTruth Matters is a new book by Andreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw aimed at equipping college students to defend their faith (or cling to their faith) against the liberal attacks they will experience in liberal religion classes. The book is one that I strongly suggest for any college student and really for anyone who has ever been challenged to believe that the Bible is true. Contrary to the attacks leveled against the Bible in college classrooms and on cable TV channels, there is substantial evidence to support the Bible’s claim to be true. For evidence to make a difference, however, one has to be willing to seek the truth and allow the truth to inform one’s views.

    In my ministry, one of the most frustrating experiences is for people to cling to faulty worldview, ideas, or ideologies in the face of truths that contradict. Simple logic shows that if a is true then the opposite of a cannot be true at the same time. Nevertheless, many people cling to false ideologies in the face of logic simply because they are more committed to their comfortable worldview or perspective than they are to a pursuit of actual truth.

    Truth is the friend of every Christian. Jesus claimed to be the very embodiment of truth. All truth is God’s truth and to be faithful as a follower of Christ is to pursue truth and conform our lives around truth. The truth is often uncomfortable, but as uncomfortable as it may be, Christians must seek to live consistent lives that are oriented around the gospel and truth.

    Our worldview and other personal perspectives become a part of who we are and as a result are difficult to change or walk away … Continue reading

    Paying The Tax You Do Not Owe

    Taxes_DueI originally wrote this for and had it posted at LifeWay’s Pastors Today blog.

    There is an interesting confrontation in the gospel of Matthew between Peter and the tax collectors at the temple. In Matthew 17:24, Peter is asked whether or not Jesus pays the temple tax. Peter, always willing to speak without thinking, replies in the affirmative, but is then engaged by Jesus in a conversation about taxes and family relationships. The gist of Jesus’s discussion with Peter is that the sons of kings do not owe taxes, thus as the Son of God, Jesus does not owe the temple tax.

    Nevertheless, in verse 27 Jesus replies to Peter,

    “However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

    This account recorded by Matthew has become an important principle for me in ministry. Sometimes, so as not to give offense, we need to pay the tax that we do not owe.

    Paying the tax we do not owe often means choosing to be the offended if it advances the gospel or helps to maintain unity within the church. Paying the tax may mean apologizing even when you do not feel that you were wrong (or that you were the only one wrong). Sometimes in ministry, paying the tax may mean keeping our mouths shut when we could share information that would make us to look better.

    Of course this does not mean that a pastor (or anyone) should always be the victim.

    Apologizing for something you did not do is not honest and … Continue reading