Rethinking Things with an Open Bible and an Open Mind

While training for ministry I threw a lot of notes and files into my briefcase along the way—for future use. I am not talking about the fundamentals of the faith, but more of Christian living issues. I didn’t have a lot of time or a lot of interest in diving into the cultural debates on music, dress, facial hair, etc., and while what I was hearing from the experts didn’t always make a lot of sense, at that time of my life I just took people at their word. I was young, hungry, and eager. I really just wanted to get out into ministry and serve the Lord. There were a lot of things in my briefcase like that, that I really didn’t take time to examine in depth because I viewed them as “secondary.” I just took what I got, didn’t ask a lot of questions, and got busy starting a church.

Some of the concerns came when I pulled these files out of my briefcase and started teaching new converts what the Christian life should look like. Some of the these secondary things were not getting through and I and I was starting to get frustrated. I tried being more intense but that didn’t seem to work either. Then, having kids and working with college students brought this challenge to a whole new level. What does the Bible say? What doesn’t it say? It caused me to dig deeper. I started to rethink some things…with an open Bible.

So what do you do when you find you were wrong? Dig in, hold your position, and yell louder? Or, do you admit it and then do the right thing? I have had friends tell me, “I’m too old to change,” or “It’s just too hard to do at this point.” Well, we may be old and it may be hard, but I also think we have a great opportunity to encourage and influence this next generation by being honest with the Word of God and bold in doing what is right—no matter what the cost. They need that kind of leadership. They need that kind of example.

There are a number of things I have had to rethink—and at somewhat of an accelerated pace. Having kids of my own and being around students all the time has forced me many times to be honest with what the Bible does and doesn’t say. Over the past several years I have read through the scriptures multiple times—all with an intense desire to find what pleases God. I have come to the conclusion that some of my positions, though well intended, were more conservatively pragmatic than they were biblical.

Times are changing more quickly for my children than they were for me. It will be better for me to pass on to them the ability to discern the Word, as well as the times they live in, than to follow traditions, many of which have lost relevance.

We should not fear taking a fresh look, rethinking—with an open Bible, and an open mind.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Navigating the Change

When we start seeing things as God sees them, we can be certain that change will be in order. The more clearly we see the differences the more obvious this will become. But change is not easy. And that’s why I think many of us are tempted to stay where we are and with what we have become comfortable with.

“Lord give me wisdom to navigate from where I am to where I need to be.” This is the second of the requests I have referred to (see original post). Thankfully the Lord knows not only “what” it should look like, but “how” we get there. Even if we have the the right goal, we can make the fatal mistake of reaching for it in our own strength and wisdom.

For us as leaders there is even more at stake. Not only are we responsible for our own lives but for the lives of others. Feeling that weight is a healthy thing and a time when Proverbs 3:5, 6 becomes the air we need to breathe; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

“Seeing things as God sees them” is the first step, but God also calls us into continuing action, to lead the way and to navigate from where we are to where we need to be. Timing, teaching, pace, decisions, choosing what hills to die on, etc…all of these are important.

My dad is a retired Navy captain and he would refer to the command from the bridge, “moving foreword with all deliberate speed.” I love that phrase. It is not “puttering along” and it is not “full throttle.” It is a purposeful and calculated pace—one that communicates resolve and one that does not shrink back in fear.

My prayer is that when God shows us what needs to change in our lives and ministries that we immediately ask Him how these changes should take place. Then follow, teaching as we go. That’s what leaders do.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.


Are you willing to rethink some things? Like music and worship?

For one of the most important functions of scholarship, whether theological, musical, or whatever, is to rethink the conventional wisdom. We revere Luther and Calvin because they had the courage to rethink, from the ground up, the current traditions about salvation and worship. They were respectful of tradition, as all Christians should be. But they were not bound to it, only to the God of Scripture.

This quote is from  John Frame in his book Contemporary Worship Music.

I would encourage you to get and read the book. Doing so will make you think.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Seeing Things as God Sees Them – Praying Through Your Future: Part 2

“Lord give me eyes to see things as you see them.” This has been the first of my five requests (see previous post). If I don’t see things the way God sees them then it will be almost impossible to lead a life or ministry that is pleasing to Him.

Now, truthfully, none of us think we have a distorted view of anything. We believe we see things as they are, but that cannot be true. We are not God; eternal, perfect, omniscient, omnipresent. Our particular view will be clouded and distorted by many things; human nature, predispositions, experiences, cultural upbringing, and how we have been taught by people who are made of the same stuff. We all have prejudices and live with people that have them too.

How then do we come to see things as God sees them? First, we must see God as He is. That will take place as we see HIm in the person of His Son, revealed in His Word by His Spirit. When I have a right view of God, I will have a right view of myself and of my circumstances. Only then will be able to understand what pleases Him. Paul expressed it this way in Ephesians 5:10, “Finding out (discerning) what pleases the Lord.”

I think too many of us think we have it all figured out.  Then we pour all of our energy into “doing the will of God” – while all along God had something else in mind. Our present ministry may be good, noble, and seemingly productive…but not what God had intended. It would be an awful thing to finish your life and then realize that it looked nothing like God desired.

I am reminded of two biblical accounts:

  1. First, a blind servant and Elisha. In 2 Kings 6:15-17, we read, “When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ He said, ‘Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”  Reality was the same for both men, but not their ability to see it. Being able to see it makes all the difference in how we respond.
  2. Second, blind disciples and Jesus. In John 4:31-35, we read, “Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples said to one another “has anyone brought him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

These disciples, as spiritual as they were, did not see what Jesus was seeing.

Are you blind too? These people were busy, active, and engaged in ministry, but they did not see things as God was seeing them. How often does that happen to us? Have you really ever stopped to think about it – or just assumed you are always right about everything?

That is why I pray a prayer like this every day:

Help me, Lord, to see things as you see them, to see you through the person of your Son, as revealed in your Word, and taught to me by your Spirit. Help me also to see people as you see them. Clear away the clouds and distortions of reality that I may have. Help me to see your will, not mine. Help me to be humble enough to admit it when I have been wrong or when I have held on to beliefs, attitudes, and opinions that are not yours. Help me to see your will. Help me to see how things should be in my life and in the ministry you have entrusted to me.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Praying Through Your Future

About five years ago I was going through my normal process of evaluation, recalibration, and goal setting for the coming year, when it dawned on me…what if I am not getting it right? What if I am not seeing things as God sees them, and what if I am setting goals and following through with things that are not of Him?  Is that possible?

Over the next several months I began praying the following prayer:

  1. Lord give me eyes to see things as you see them.
  2. Give me wisdom to navigate from where I am to where I need to be.
  3. Give me boldness and grace to do the right things in the right way.
  4. Provide for my needs—in and according to your will.
  5. May you receive all glory, honor, and praise in everything, and may I be hidden in the cross of Christ.

I have been praying this prayer for almost five years now. I feel the passion for these things growing with a greater longing to see God answer in clear and unmistakable ways – ways that are so far beyond human imagination or strength.

As I look back over life and ministry, I have found that God’s greatest work has most often followed long seasons of desperate prayer—as if God must take me through another valley of crying out in helplessness before I see an answer. Most of the time I have focused on the need for a change in circumstances, but there is always another, more important work going on; God is changing me. I am starting to realize that this process will not be done until I stand before him.

Over the next few weeks I would like to talk about the importance of this particular prayer and how it continues to shape my life in the will of God.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Who Is Like You?

I am in need of forgiveness. Always. And because it is such a frequent need I can become weary of pursuing it—to the point that I want to give up. But, there is no one who can forgive like God. Not only does he have an inexhaustible capacity to forgive, he also takes the initiative in the process. He delights in doing so because this is another way of expressing his glory through the person and work of his son.

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.’ Micah 7:18, 19

God does not delight in our sin. But he does delight in forgiving us when we go astray. It brings him glory and joy to do so. And the very thought of this fills our own hearts with joy, thanksgiving and peace this season.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

How Long?

“O Lord, How long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” (Habakkuk 1:2).

I have prayed this so many times. How often we feel the same, wondering why God does not step in and answer our prayers. Where is he? Does he care? Yet, God is about so much more than what we see and feel. His work is everywhere and from eternity to eternity.

Later in Habakkuk 3:19, we read, “God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”
Rather than smooth our path, he may give us the ability to walk it.

So, when we struggle with the “how long, Lord,” remember this:

  1. God is sovereign and working in ways we cannot see.
  2. His greater work may be changing us…not our circumstances.

I have found that when I falter it is usually because there is something I am not seeing about God, or something I am refusing to believe.

In difficult times may our response be like Habakkuk’s: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

God Opens Doors

Recently I was in Scottsdale, AZ and as able to spend some time with Josh Neighbors who is a 2002 Northland graduate and now associate / youth pastor at Immanuel Bible Church. For the last several years he has prayed about getting into the large public school that sits adjacent to the church. God has opened that door—not just to have a Bible study but build relationships with teachers and students. Go where the gospel isn’t! This opportunity has also had an impact on his church youth group.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

The Passing of Dan Morrell

Just last week we learned that Dan Morrell had a tumor on his liver. Today he is with the Lord. It was that fast. The picture above is of Dan, his wife, and his grandkids—taken just the other day.

Dan and his wife, Diane, are professors at Northland and have impacted countless young people through their church and college ministries. Please pray for Diane and the rest of the Morrell family. Diane (my wife) and I were able to speak to both of them Saturday night and were moved by their incredible faith and confidence in the promises of God. Trials reveal a lot about what we really believe. Here is a couple who really was living with an eternal perspective!

The brief story of their journey through this trial is captured on a CaringBridge page. If you are interested I would recommend checking it out and leaving an encouraging note for the family.