i’m tired

Tomorrow is the final day of preparation for our high school mission trip to Seattle. It is the final day to rest before seven days of early mornings, late nights, manual labor, and exceedingly long stints of extroversion.

And I’m already tired.

tired.jpgCaffeine has been one of my closest friends the past few weeks. It’s always been there for me during the long days of preparing for this trip and maintaining other daily tasks. But there is only so much this legal drug can do. Only so much energy it can fake before the inevitable crash. And while caffeine will continue to be there for me through the thick and thin of this next week, it, too, has it’s limits.

So entering into this mission trip, there are two things I know for sure: (1) I’m tired, and (2) whatever success, whatever building of the kingdom, whatever individual growth happens on this trip has to be because of God, not me.

I’m reminded of Mike Erre’s thoughts in Astonished, “This is the paradox of strength and weakness: that I am strongest when I am weakest; I am most usable when I am in over my head; Jesus is most present when I am at the end of my rope.”

I’m thankful that I worship a God who is strong in my weakness. Who uses me in my weakness to be strong. And who will be present always. I’m starting this week with the realization that God is going to show up. God will continue to be present. God will work.

And I wonder if God is chuckling with Himself at my tiredness, knowing that if I was well-rested, it would be too easy to point to me in successes; but because I’m already so tired, it will be much easier to point to Him.

Again, I’m so glad that God is in control.


what i’m reading – june ’14

I’ve decided to copy my wife’s “What I’m Reading” video post, and make one of my own.

Watch, learn, and let me know your thoughts.  I’d also love to know what you’re reading in the comments below!


a new view on christmas

For some reason, I began watching one of my sermon videos this evening from the Sunday after Christmas.  While I usually like to review what I do in an effort to be a better communicator next time, I rarely go back months later and watch it again.

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 9.44.17 PMBut tonight was different.  As I began to watch myself walk nervously across the stage and introduce myself to the congregation, I actually started listening to the content, not just noticing the way the words were being presented or the way I move my hands in a predictable pattern when I talk.  And what I heard struck me in a powerful way, almost as if I had never heard this before (even though I was the one who said it).

There is a theme in the story of Jesus’ birth that doesn’t get touched on in many advent seasons.  It’s not a sermon that is heard on Christmas Eve.  Come to think of it, it’s not even that much of a Christmas-y thought…  But, nevertheless, there it is.  Throughout the story of Jesus’ birth, it’s there.

  • When Mary became pregnant, she had to release control of the life she thought she was going to lead.
  • When Joseph heard about the baby, he had to release control of his pride and stand alongside Mary in this confusing time.
  • When it came to the census, they both had to release control of the comfort of home and travel to Bethlehem, a 3+ day journey in the heat.
  • When there was no room for them at the inn, they had to release control and place their newborn son in a feeding trough.
  • They had to release control when shepherds invaded the delivery room, smelly and loud.
  • And again, they had to release control when a stranger picked up Jesus and started praising God in the middle of a busy temple while trying to exercise their religious routine.

I’m sure that Mary and Joseph learned early on that control goes out the window when dealing with God; trusting him with this pregnancy and this child.


Not a Hallelujah Chorus or a “no crying he makes” baby.  No, this is real.  This is powerful. This is God showing the world that when His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, He has got to be the one in control.  And when we try to gain control, we only get in the way.

Just an interesting thought on a random night, but one that continues to be powerful and relevant over and over again.

Lord, help me to let you control in a way that only you know how.  Amen.

the waiting game

For parents, the weeks leading up to birth are stressful.  If you don’t agree, read my post from yesterday.  It will stress you out.  But it’s not only because of the fear of complications, lack of money, and the unknowns associated with birth.  It’s also the WAITING.

In all reality, Emily could pop at any moment now.  True, her due date is not for another 2 1/2 weeks, but we’re officially full-term, so our little guy could decide he’s ready 2 1/2 minutes from now and make his way into the world.  This puts a whole new dimension of feelings into the mix — thoughts of WAITING.

In my perfect world, God would tell me (audibly, of course, because it’s my perfect world) the exact time and day James will arrive, insuring that I have packed the bags properly, planned time off work accordingly, and escaped the need to continuously ask Emily about her recent contractions.  Was that a big one?  How many have you had in the last hour?  I would have no need for WAITING.


But what if waiting has some special purpose?  What if God has designed, in some strange only-God-knows way, waiting to be part of His plan?

Isaiah tells us that when we wait, we will be given strength.

David cries out, Wait on the Lord!

James instructs to be patient and wait for the return of Jesus.

Paul tells the Romans, “We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5, NIV).

In my eyes, waiting and suffering are synonymous.  To wait is to suffer.  And when we wait, leaning on God’s understanding, we can know that our waiting will lead perseverance, which leads to character, which points to hope.  And our hope is found in God’s love.  AND we don’t have to wait alone.  We have the Holy Spirit, “who has been given to us” on our side.

So when we wait, we continue to develop our faith and trust in our Savior.  When we wait, we acknowledge we are not in control, and we have to look to Jesus.  When we wait, God is glorified.

What are you waiting for?

God: “do you trust me?”

I’m about to be a dad.  Yes, our little James is already here, and he’s been alive for going on nine months, but he’s about to be HERE.  His flailing body, fragile head, and tiny fingers are about to be a reality in my arms.  That scares me poopless.  What if I hold him wrong?  What happens when he cries for hours on end for no apparent reason?  I’ve never even changed a diaper!  How do I know that his delivery will be successful?  Will he be healthy?  What if he has some sort of medical disability?  What if…?  How do I…?  Ahhh!!

Emily and I just got home from another preparing for childbirth class in which we learned all about the complications associated with pain management and the interventions that may need to be taken at anytime during labor.  What happens if James’ cord comes out the wrong way and we have to go into emergency surgery?  Will the nurse anesthetist miss the epidural layer and cause Emily’s heart to stop?  Will our baby suffer from Erb’s palsy?

Not only that, but how are we going to afford another member in our family?  I don’t make all that much as a youth pastor and Emily doesn’t work.  I’m certainly not complaining about what God has blessed us with, but is it going to be enough?  Labor is expensive enough, and then we have diapers and clothes and… college!

Welcome to my world.

These thoughts can be all-consuming.  Every ounce of mental and emotional energy can be wrapped up in the “what if” and the unknown.  It doesn’t have to be about becoming a father or struggling with money.  This world is filled with problems, issues, and fears.  And it’s in times like these in which we need to look to God.

I imagine Aladdin to be an accurate picture of God in my life right now.


He’s looking at me, on His carpet of faith with his hand extended, asking: “Do you trust me?”

And my response has to be a simple “yes.”  And when I do that, I am taking His hand, stepping out in faith, and letting Him guide me and my family on this adventure called life.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I believe that God does.  And I’m far better off placing my hand in His, giving Him my worries, and letting Him guide.

What fears do you need to give to God?  And where do you need to let Him guide? 

Photo credit here.

chirstmas on the sidelines: elizabeth

Elizabeth 1There are those who witnessed the birth of Jesus firsthand. They were there at the very beginning. I’m not going to talk about them. It’s common to focus on the center-stage, first string characters. Instead, I’m going to take a look at the perspectives of those who were off stage for most of the story, those who were on the sidelines.

Elizabeth is probably the first in the string of characters in the Christmas story who was on the sidelines. Elizabeth, even though she wasn’t present at the actual birth of Jesus, has a unique and valuable perspective on the arrival of God in the flesh.

I’m not going to type out the Zechariah/Elizabeth story, so I need you to (1) stop reading, and (2) open your bible to Luke 1 and read verses 1 through 45. If you don’t have a bible, read the story HERE.

Really, go read it, it’s worth it.

You read it, right? Good. Here are some thoughts I had recently about this story…

(1) The narrator tells us that Zechariah and Elizabeth were both “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of The Lord” (v. 6). This is hugely important. Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and in that day, this would have pointed to a problem between the couple and God. It would be a moral or ethical failure, a problem of sin, or some other reason why God would be displeased with them. However, the detail found in verse 6 tells us this isn’t the case. They were in a right relationship with God.

Imagine what Elizabeth would be feeling. She’s old, and her entire life she has remained childless. I imagine she routinely cried out “Why God?” Her prayers may have sounded like Psalm 13, expressing sorrow and pain. But, like in the psalm, she probably always ended her prayers with trust and faith that God is in control. While she couldn’t see God at work in her life in this area, she and her husband remained faithful and remained in a right relationship with their Father. Talk about faith!

(2) Gabriel, the angel who appeared to Zechariah in the temple, said “your petition [or prayer] has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son” (v. 13). Wow. Elizabeth and Zechariah probably spent years before God, praying and asking God to give them a child. Even though God seemed absent and silent, they had not stopped remaining faithful in prayer.

That’s huge! Often, when we don’t hear from God, we say, “Forget this!” Elizabeth and Zechariah had spent most their lives not hearing from God, but they kept praying. And now the angel says, “God heard your prayers. God IS present. God DOES see you.”

(3) After so many years of waiting, so many years of wondering where God was, yet remaining faithful to God’s ways and God’s instruction, Elizabeth became pregnant, just like the angel said. And her first reaction to this is key: “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men” (v. 25).

She is filled with joy and rightfully attributes this blessing to God, knowing that God has provided. God saw her and her husband and had a plan for them all along. In verse 43, she exclaims, “And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me.” She realizes her and Mary’s parts in God’s story of bringing a savior, Jesus. God had not ignored her, and had plans to use her for His purposes, for His story.

There’s Elizabeth’s perspective. Most of her life was marked with barrenness and emptiness. But she was faithful in the midst of that hardship, joyful for God’s provision, and thankful that she was able to be used in God’s big story of redeeming His people.

Something to think about:

  • Where are you in this story? Are you experiencing hardship, wondering where God is? Are you able to remain faithful in these times?
  • Elizabeth’s initial response was joy and thankfulness as she rightfully attributed her child’s conception to God. What is your response to God’s blessings?
  • Does your obedience to God ever depend on what you receive from Him?
  • Are you able to notice how God wants to use you in His story of redemption?

My prayer for you:

Father, as we continue through this Christmas season, help us to look to you and find you, notice your blessings in our lives, and respond with joy and thankfulness when you work in our lives. Amen.

(All scripture references taken from the New American Standard Version.)

give thanks


As you sit at the table and enjoy family, friends, and a thanksgiving meal, remember who we are giving thanks to: the Father of Lights, our Creator, our Provider, our Savior.

Last night at youth group, we were reminded by Psalm 111 that as we ponder, or think about, who God is and what God has done, we will know Him better, worship Him more, and be able to give Him thanks.

Before you dig in today, take a moment and ponder God — His character and His blessings.

Psalm 111 (NIV)

Praise the Lord.
I will extol the Lord with all my heart
in the council of the upright and in the assembly.
Great are the works of the Lord;
they are pondered by all who delight in them.
Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and compassionate.
He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
giving them the lands of other nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established for ever and ever,
enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.
He provided redemption for his people;
he ordained his covenant forever—
holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
To him belongs eternal praise.
Photo Credit: Logos Bible Software App, Verse of the Day