Thursday, September 13, 2012

Too Many People Treat Jesus the Same Way They Treat Bacon

I don't remember where I saw this, but I guess someone is now serving ice cream with bacon. I'm not sure how I feel about this. It seems perhaps to be a bit of bacon overkill.

Now I love bacon as much as the next guy. In fact, I probably love it more than the next guy does. But sometimes I wonder if the "bacon makes everything better" train is about to jump the tracks. Bacon is great with beans, or pancakes, or in mashed potatoes... But ice cream? I think that might be a stretch.

I haven't always thought this way, but I'm starting to wonder whether or not bacon really does make everything better. See, I think some people like bacon. And I think some people LOVE bacon. Those who just like bacon combine it with everything on an attempt to make everything taste better.

But those who LOVE bacon don't combine it with anything. They don't think bacon makes ice cream better... They think ice cream ruins bacon. I think they might be right.

Some people take the bacon approach to their relationship with Jesus. They assume they can just add a little Jesus to whatever they are doing and it will make everything better. They live life their way, pursue their own desires, devote themselves to lifestyles of greed or immorality or pride... Then they add a little Jesus on Sunday and think everything is better.

They are wrong.

Jesus' path requires self-denial
Jesus isn't making their life better, their life is ruining Jesus.

Now, Jesus can't really be ruined. He is God, and He has already won the victory over sin. But anyone who thinks they can just add Jesus on to their lifestyle has a total misunderstanding of Jesus' call and mission. In our pursuit of Jesus, we need to be willing to let go of anything and everything in order to know Him better. Until we are willing to have nothing but Jesus, we are ruining the potential of an intimate relationship with Him.

Adding Jesus to the "must-haves" of your life won't make those things more spiritual, but subtracting those must-haves from your life for the sake of Jesus will absolutely enable you to follow Him.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Justice Sometimes Takes Forever

A justice (of sorts) was provided today for the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the Hillsborough disaster nearly 25 years ago. Apologies were issued from England's Prime Minister as well as the editor responsible for the vicious and deceptive lies published by the Sun newspaper.

Among the more shocking revelations was one that police actually engaged in background checks of those who had died in an effort to smear their reputation.

Even if you aren't familiar with this story, it is a powerful reminder that there are people in this world who use every means possible to advance themselves and protect their reputation. Sometimes the truth is a long time in coming (even 25 years or more!). But it is comforting to have the great hope that God knows all, and He is not surprised or concerned!

Read the report here.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Be Careful of Those Who Are Not What They Claim

Have you seen this somewhat sad but unbelievably funny story?

Just because someone says they are qualified to restore classic artwork doesn't mean she really is...

Read the story here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Next Chapter...

This morning at Calvary, I announced that I was stepping down as a pastor at Calvary Church. I know that for some this is a sad and confusing time, but in some ways this is a good ending to a mostly great chapter of our life. We are anticipating a new future, and are anxious to see what God has for us. You can read my letter to the congregation hereBelow are some answers to other questions you might have.

Why are you leaving?
  • Endings are a necessary and healthy part of life’s cycles. I’ve been on staff at Calvary for over 15 years; in that amount of time, one can find many reasons to “leave”. The truth is that there is not any one reason, but many things have contributed to this decision. Most importantly, I believe this is the best thing for Calvary Church, the best thing for my family and I, and the way I can most bring glory to God at this point in my life.
Why now?
  • I recognize this is a difficult time for me to make this decision. It seems as if it is a knee-jerk reaction to some troubled waters. The truth is that I’ve wrestled with this for several years. I’ve spent a massive amount of time praying, counseling, and searching God’s Word for the wisdom I needed to know His plan for my future. Only recently has it become clear to me that this chapter of my life is closing. I wish the timing were different, but I firmly believe we only hurt ourselves when we drag our feet to do the things we know to be right.
Are you angry? hurt? discouraged? burned out?
  • I would be lying if I said I never felt any of those emotions. Certainly, the past few months have been difficult. More than any of these, however, I’ve felt disappointment. I’ve been disappointed that the importance of Jesus’ church has been co-opted by the agendas of some people. I’ve been disappointed that many people from whom I expected more have chosen to break fellowship with myself and many others. I’ve been disappointed in my own weaknesses and failures to properly shepherd Christ’s church. But I am not alone in these feelings, and I am not the only person who has ever been angry, hurt, discouraged or burned out. And none of these are the reasons I am leaving.
Are you going to move away?
  • I don’t know. Over the past four years I've had dozens of opportunities to move on to other churches. Some of these opportunities have been quickly turned down while others have moved through a process of interviews and visits from search committees. Very recently, we've investigated some really attractive opportunities. However, in some ways our family is in a healthier place today than we’ve been in years. We cherish that, and would be slow to give it up. We wrestle with this daily as we want to be sensitive to rightly discern God’s plan for our lives, yet we have many reasons to remain in West Michigan with our Calvary family.
Are you going to start a new church?
  • No. I am determined to not do anything that would harm or reflect poorly on the community of Calvary Church.
What is next for you?
  • I don’t know. Right now I am looking for a job (or jobs) that will enable me to support my family. God has blessed me with a wife who has a job that will provide health insurance benefits for us if needed. Please pray that God will quickly provide sufficient work for me.



  • One of my desires in the next section of my life is to find opportunities to pursue the things for which I am really passionate and believe I am most gifted. I would love to be able to spend many of my weekends speaking to groups and retreats as well as providing pulpit supply in churches that are transitioning. I know that some of you who read this may have connections or ideas that might help me began finding these opportunities. If you have suggestions or contacts for me, I greatly appreciate your input.
  • Please pray that Marianne and I would be wise in our decisions about the future. Pray that we would effectively discern God's will for our family. Pray that our children would be protected from discouragement and disenchantment. Pray that they would see and understand who God truly is and not be distracted by our sometimes poor representation of Him.

Monday, August 13, 2012

3 Keys to Taking a Mulligan in Life

Many years ago, I was able to golf fairly often and therefore, became fairly competant. Sadly, many days have passed since then and my game has gotten quite rusty. Recently, a friend asked me to join him one morning for a round on the links, and so with a bit of apprehension I met up with him at the first tee.

It didn't go well.

I hit my tee shot very solidly… and very far left. It's never good when the starter (who sees every tee shot of the day) says, "You won't be finding that one."

Fortunately, my friend believes in "mulligans".

You may not be familiar with that term. A mulligan is golf lingo for a "do-over". Many golfers use them on the first tee of the day, but some choose to save them and use them later in the round. I've been with some golfers who have not just used mulligans, but have also invoked hooligans, shenanigans, and doagains. The beauty of a mulligan is that you can pretend like a bad shot never happened. You simply do it again, and don't count the first one.

Wouldn't it be great if we had mulligans in life? What if we could sometimes just eliminate a bad choice, do it over, and pretend like it never happened? Would your life be in a better spot today if you had taken a mulligan or two?

Here's the bad news: Mulligans aren't allowed in real golf.

See, if you lose a ball off the tee and then hit another one, your ball may be in a good place now, but that second tee shot counted as your third shot. In real golf, if you make a mistake, you get penalized. You can still start over, but there is a price to pay.

That's pretty much like life. You can always start over, but that doesn't mean you don't have a price to pay. A new start may help you mitigate the long term consequences of a bad decision; but it probably won't eliminate all the ramifications. In most of life, you can have a "try again" but there really aren't any "do overs". What you've already done, can't be undone.

But, that shouldn't be depressing. This should be inspiring!

If we can't eliminate our mistakes, we might as well embrace them and learn from them! If we have to pay the piper for our errors, we might as well get our money's worth. Rather than bemoaning the sad state of our life, we can choose to figure out what went wrong and then take steps to ensure it won't happen again.

I know everything can't be boiled down into a formula or reduced to a couple bullet points… but I sure like to try. If you truly want to grow from your mistakes, consider these three important elements of "trying again": 1. Determine Exactly What Went Wrong 2. React By Fixing the Problem 3. Act Wisely to Avoid the Same Mistake

Determine Exactly What Went Wrong

Don't settle for a general excuse of why you failed. Figure out the exact decision, action, or conversation that caused the problem and determine exactly how the problem you now face was caused by that source. If you can't pinpoint exactly what went wrong, you'll never make it right.

React By Fixing the Problem

Fixing the problem may be easy, or it may be very difficult. It might be as simple as replacing a faulty part or finding a missing screw. And it might be as difficult as humbly apologizing to someone and admitting your error. If the problem was an accident, clean up the consequences; if the problme is systemic, fix the system.

Act Wisely to Avoid the Same Mistake

You've probably heard the definition of insaity often attributed to Albert Einstein, "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." If you want to avoid the same mistake, you have to change your life. Go different places, do different things, form different habits, develop different relationships, read different books, etc. Consider what needs to change, then do things differently.

Life gives no mulligans. But if we are willing to learn from our mistakes, we don't need a do-over, we just need to pay attention.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

I Shall Have My Revenge

I shall have my revenge

I'm not sure I have the quote exactly right, but in the movie Gladiator, Russell Crowe's character says something to the effect of, "I am husband to a murdered wife, father to a murdered son and I shall have my revenge in this life or the next."
I am typically not a big fan of vengeance. It's not usually a wise course of action. However, yesterday this quote came to mind while I was delivering some money to a friend (wisdom side note: never loan money to a friend. Give it to them. If they pay you back, you still have your money but if they don't you still ave your friend). I thought to myself, "the person who is giving this gift isn't expecting to be paid back, but they will be… In this life or the next.

In This Life or the Next

Sometimes we live as if we only believe in this life. We make no provisions or plans for the next life. Sometimes we are so focused on taking care of ourselves in this life, that we forget that we can't really take any of it with us into the next.
Tainted wealth has no lasting value, but right living can save your life. (Proverbs 10:2 NLT)
  • The accumulation of wealth is one of the greatest indicators of success in this life… But not in the next.
  • Wealth in this life can be gotten by inappropriate means.. But not in the next.
  • Our comfort and security is often connected to our wealth in this life… But not in the next.
  • Others often evaluate our worth by our wealth in this life… But not in the next.
Many of the things that you chase in this life will not transfer to the next. Possessions, popularity, power, and praise are all short-lived. Especially if you have to compromise your integrity to pursue them.
Consider this, you WILL receive all that you earn, in this life or the next. Why on earth would you want to receive it now?
Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:2 ESV)

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Don't Let Your Life Become a Money Pit!

Penny-Wise and Pound-Foolish

Avoid the Money-Pit.
My grandfather used to say to me, "Don't be penny wise and pound foolish." (I'm guessing this expression dates back to mother-England and their monetary standard, "the pound) I think he was telling me not to waste all my money on baseball cards. Common wisdom in those days was that if I started saving that money at the age of 8, the compound interest would make me a millionaire by the age of 23…

I have a lot of baseball cards.

I've seen the penny wise/pound foolish phenomenon played out on a larger scale as well. People find their "dream house" for an incredible price, only to discover it's actually a nightmare money pit. High school grads choose to jump into the workforce rather than go to college because they can be making $12 an hour instead of paying to sit in class… 20 years later they wonder why they are only making $12.25 and hour.

Undoubtedly, we can all look back at decisions we've made which have seemed "penny-wise" at the time, only to learn later that they were certainly "pound-foolish."

4x6 Decision Making

One of the most important things you can do whenever you make an important decision is to consider the consequences not just in the near future, but also the distant future. I like to call this the 4x6 method of decision making. Before you make any significant decision, consider the potential consequences in:
  • 6 minutes
  • 6 weeks
  • 6 months
  • 6 years
Then… decide which of those potential consequences is most important, and press foward.

Don't Be Stupid. Be Wise.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Don't Be Stupid: Embrace Criticism

Dont Be Stupid. Allow people to correct you.

"Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. (Proverbs 9:7, 8 NIV84)

What is your first reaction when someone suggests you have done something wrong? Do you argue? Become defensive? Pout? Or do you give them a hug?

It is very difficult to respond well to a person who corrects you. Even if we know they love us (and if we know they are right), it still hurts to feel that we don't measure up.

Ironically, most of us would embrace the idea that we are sinful people who have missed the mark God has set for us. Yet, for some reason we are more sensitive to the idea that we fall short of other's standards than we are about the expectations of God.

The Mocker

Four main characters play the starring roles in the book of Proverbs. The wise man, the simple man, the fool, and the mocker are symbolic figures who serve as representatives of different types of people and/or four behaviors to which we all are prone. Of these four, the mocker is the "villain". According to Proverbs, the mocker should be punished, ignored, and "driven out". One verse even suggests that God laughs at the proud mocker. Of all the wicked characters in the Bible, the mocker is one of the worst.

Here, the mocker is identified by his reaction to correction. His response is violent. He insults, abuses, and hates anyone who suggests he has done something wrong. Proverbs doesn't paint a very pretty picture of the mocker, but it is probably a fairly accurate picture of us.


No one likes to be criticized. No one likes to be confronted. No one ever wants to be told they are not good enough or that they have missed he mark. However, our response to criticism (even when it may not be warranted), is a demonstration of our wisdom or lack thereof. Criticism is, then, an opportunity for growth; but only if we choose to use it well.

The Wise Man

It's actually very simple. Love the people who criticize you. Welcome correction. Allow confrontation to shape you not to anger you. View criticism as a growth stimulant. Choose to appreciate those who correct you.

Reacting in anger to those who confront you is stupid. Don't be stupid.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

7 Stupid Things You Can Do To Sabotage Your Life

I've been thinking about writing a lot more about Proverbs. It's a great book, and has been very helpful for me over the past couple years. I may title some of these posts Don't Be Stupid.

I'm going to start with a list (because I love lists).

7 stupid things you can do to sabotage your life.

  1. Follow the convenient road instead of the path of wisdom.
  2. Satisfy your cravings instead of your needs.
  3. Hold yourself to a lower standard than that to which you hold others.
  4. Believe the first thing you hear.
  5. Lie.
  6. Pursue popularity.
  7. Expect to always receive exactly what you've earned.
There are lots of other stupid things you an do as well. But these ones seem to be pretty common… At least they are for me. I would recommend you seek to avoid them.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Essence of True Leadership

LEADERSHIP: More than just Influence
Leadership is not just "influence."

It is not just recruiting, training, and unleashing other leaders.

It is more than just multiplying oneself.

The essence of true leadership is summarized brilliantly in Proverbs 31. This is a series of proverbs which were designed to equip King Lemuel to be a wise and godly leader. He was taught:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; 
Ensure justice for those being crushed. 
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless and see that they get justice. 

If you can't do this... Don't lead.

(quotation from Proverbs 31:8-9 NLT)

Monday, July 30, 2012

7 Helpful Hints For Developing Your Personal Bible Study Time

Most Christians believe they should read God's Word. Most Christians believe they would benefit from spending time every day in God's Word.

Few Christians spend much if any time reading the Bible on a daily basis.

Here are seven steps you can take to help you develop your own time of reading, studying, and living out God's Word.

1. Lengthen Your Day

If you don't have time to read your Bible, make more time.  Set your alarm clock to wake you 30 minutes earlier than normal. You can still shower and make your coffee first (that way you'll be awake when you sit down to read), but you now have 30 minutes you didn't previously have. This is a minor change that allows you to not give up anything, but still start something new.

Before you complain that 30 minutes early is really inconvenient, think for a minute about what you're trying to do. You're trying to find time to read the most important words ever written in the history of mankind... You can't wake up 30 minutes early?

2. Write and Review The Goals Which Define Your Success

How will you know when you are having success? Decide how much you want to read every day or every week or every month. WRITE IT DOWN. Then review it every day. Make a note if you are ahead or behind schedule, and take the time to catch up.

3. Plan Your Morning Reading in Advance

What if the last thing you did every night was to write a note to yourself, planning out your reading time for the next day. Not only would you wake up to a reminder of what you are reading, you would go to bed with God's Word on your mind. It's a Win-Win!

4. Concentrate

When you sit down to read, sit down with nothing other than your Bible (and a notebook if you need that). While it is fun and convenient to read from a phone or ipad, be careful that you've turned off your notifications so you don't get beeped or buzzed while you are reading. Don't answer the phone or texts and turn off the TV and radio. Eliminate as many distractions as possible so you can simply concentrate on the important task at hand.

5. Listen to Audio Recordings of the Bible

Some people don't enjoy reading, or struggle to focus while reading. The Bible has been recorded in many different languages, and you can listen to many versions for free. If you are an auditory learner, why not listen to the Bible every morning? Check out,, or for options.

6. Ask Yourself Questions Every Time You Read (or listen)

Asking and answering questions is one of the best ways to ensure you have internalized the information you've read or heard. After you spend time in God's Word, take a few moments to ask yourself some or all of the following questions:
  • What did I learn about God?
  • What do I now understand about Jesus?
  • How was my conscience disturbed?
  • What part of my life needs to change?
  • For what am I grateful?

7. Take it With You

Don't be like the man in James 1 who looks in a mirror then walks away, forgetting what he has seen. Once you have seen God's revelation, take it with you the rest of the day. Maybe you need to remember one verse you read, or one truth you discovered. Maybe you need to follow up on a relationship or a conversation. Maybe you need to write down a promise on a card to carry with you. Whatever you need to do, don't leave God's Word lying on a table in your house; take it with you for the rest of the day!