Which of these 3 strikes a chord with you?

I am amazed that God continues to use STUCK to help people forgive. I now have an opportunity to write another book and I’d love your help. I have 3 book “ideas” and am curious if one of them strikes a chord with you.

Chapter One

So, here’s a brief summary of my 3 ideas in no particular order:

Book idea #1: A Book on Shame

We all struggle with it but no one talks about it. Shame is one of Satan’s primary weapons to block Christians from accomplishing God’s purposes. It’s the little voice in your head saying, “C’mon! You’re not good enough. After all, who do you think you are?” What we call regret is often shame. It is the swamp-land of our soul. Yuck!

Our enemy has been bullying us with shame every since Adam and Eve. God’s been dragging us out of shame every since the Garden of Eden. The only solution to our shame is GRACE. Yes, you’re story includes brokenness but God’s grace is the star of your story.

This book would highlight shame’s rising voice in our culture, the Biblical history of shame, the cost of shame, your response choices, and the Biblical antidote to shame.

I recently taught a 3-week series on Shame entitled “Hideout” which you can listen to here.

Book idea #2: Intimacy with God

The deepest desire of your heart is to know God personally. But how can you know a God who feels so distant? How is it that some people you know seem to have a daily connection with Him?

At the Grand Canyon, most tourists remain in the tourist-designated areas and take photos for Instagram. From their safe spot they admire the Canyon but few really experience and interact with the Canyon up close. (That was my experience during my 1st visit.)

In the same way, Christ followers must go “beyond the rim” in order to go from being an admirer of the Father to interacting and experiencing intimacy with Him.

This book will discuss how we can go “beyond the rim” into daily connection with God.

Book idea #3: 30 Witnesses

With each story of grace in the Bible, we discover another layer of it’s unlimited power.

This book will tell 30 short stories from the perspective of witnesses. For example, the story of Rahab would be told from her husband Salmon’s perspective as he has a front-row seat to Rahab’s transformation.

The book would be fictional (in order to create a storyline) based on true Biblical stories.

These 30 stories would be mini-chapters (5-6 pages each) so the book would be an easy read or a one-month devotional reminding us that we are all witnesses of God’s grace.

Do any of these 3 ideas strike a chord with you? I want to write something that’s helpful. So, thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!

Shhh!

The one thing you must stop saying

“I’m learning a lot from your book. I wrote down my story in one paragraph and am focusing not to tell it again.”

(Facebook message I received from a man on Sunday)

He’d just finished reading chapter three in my forgiveness book and he took the challenge! What challenge? To keep quiet.

Let’s be honest. Telling your story might be a little bit fun. Okay, it can be a lot of fun! But it eventually paralyzes you.

After you’ve been hurt, two things usually happen and people rarely connect the dots:

  • You tell your story
  • You struggle to forgive

It turns out your story is part of the problem. Every time you tell someone else what your offender did, you strike a match in your heart lighting a bitter flame.

Quiet Please

I know this about you – you’re telling a story right now. Even if you’re not telling anyone else your story, you’re telling yourself your story. So, what’s your story?

Here are three reasons you should be paying attention to the story you’re telling:

Reason #1: Your Story Fuels Your Emotions

Your mind is like a filing cabinet full of categorized memories. For instance, every time you recall a memory from the emotional category of “anger” you access the other anger memories filed nearby. Maybe you’ve notice when you’re telling your story that you often remember other times you’ve felt angry and you feel yourself suddenly more “fired up”. Your story is fueling your emotions.

Reason #2: Your Story Isolates You

Every time you tell your story, you further isolate yourself from the people you most care about. Repeating your story as a victim quickly removes your warmth. You are pushing people away by rehashing your story. Even though you want to draw sympathy and support, your story sounds like a broken record and people can endure that kind of noise for only so long.

Reason #3: Your Story Reveals Your Heart

“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” -Luke 6:45

Your public words reveal your private heart. Your story is your heart’s MRI. So pay attention to what you’re saying and what you allow your mind to dwell on.

Jesus was:

  • Betrayed by his friend Judas
  • Abandoned by his closest friends, the disciples
  • Rejected by the religious at Caiaphas’ Council
  • Physically and emotionally assaulted by strangers
  • Humiliated in public by Herod
  • Falsely condemned by Pilate
  • Publicly crucified

If anyone was ever entitled to tell his story as a victim, it was Jesus. But he didn’t. Instead, Jesus did something odd.

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. — Isaiah 53:3-7, emphasis added

“When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, ‘Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?’ But

Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.” — Matthew 27:12-14, emphasis added

Jesus said nothing.

No story.

Silence.

If his answers had been transcribed, it would have read “. . . .”

As I read these verses, I feel myself begging Jesus to defend himself and shout something like, “People, I’m innocent! I’m holy. I’m your creator. I could speak and the earth would swallow you up. I could dropkick you from Jerusalem to Rome! Don’t you know who I am?”

That’s what I want him to say. That’s the story I would shout.

This treatment of Jesus isn’t fair! These people obviously misunderstood Jesus and his motives. Why didn’t Jesus speak and clear things up?

He could have at least said, “People, I’m here to save you. After all, I created you and I know you intimately. I left Heaven so that we can have a relationship. These charges are false.”

But our Savior said nothing.

The maker of vocal cords waited in complete silence.

I envision extended periods of awkward, pin-drop silence in Pilate’s court. Even today, we’re struck dumb by Jesus’ non-answer answers. Why didn’t he speak?

I believe it’s because Jesus knew something I often forget: words get in the way.

Jesus taught that forgiveness isn’t found in speaking, but in surrendering. Forgiveness isn’t found in defending, but in dying.

That’s why I feel so much encouragement when someone chooses to stop telling his or her victim story. That’s what our Savior did.

That doesn’t mean you should carry your burden alone. Choose one or two people, like your spouse, a close friend, a pastor, or a counselor with whom you can share your story.

But stop telling everyone else.

Period.

Remain silent.

Even pin-drop, awkwardly silent.

 

Dream or Mirage?

What’s your dream? I know you’ve got one. After all, you were created to dream.

So, c’mon! What’s your dream? A new house? Kid’s success? Better Career? Finish a triathlon? Finish off a box of chocolates?

What are you dreaming about? One of the easiest ways to discover your dreams is to notice what you find yourself daydreaming about.

I LOVE to dream (and daydream). My favorite conversations are when people share their dreams with me. Part of our national identify is the American DREAM. It’s a beautiful thing . . . mostly.

However, I’m learning with every dream comes this unexpected danger: When God gives me a dream I am tempted to love the dream more than the Dream Giver.

After all, every human heart is tempted to worship “created things rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25). In the same way, I’m tempted to worship my dream more than my Dream Giver.

Anything that captures my heart and imagination more than God is a mirage. A mirage is when I ask my dream to give me what only God can give me.

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You know you’re chasing a mirage when you say things like, I can’t be happy unless . . .

. . . I am dating him/her

. . . I get into that university

. . . my kids turn out a certain way

. . . my business succeeds

. . . I experience this level of financial success

I was just given the opportunity to share a 3-part message series at my church. I shared my own struggles with dreams and what Scripture says about our dreams.

So, I thought I’d share a quick overview with you today.

#1 – The Mirage of Love (listen to message: website or iTunes)

Have you ever longed to be loved? Of course!

When we longed to be love we often ask one person to give us everything we need. That’s a mirage. Sometimes we put pressure on someone only God can bear (spouse, child, etc.). This pressure can cause a marriage and/or a family to collapse.

#2 – The Mirage of Success (listen to message: website or iTunes)

Here’s a belief within me: “If I achieve more, I matter more.”

If I believe that then I will feel justified condemning people who fail (including myself).

However, Scripture tells us that all success is on loan from God for the benefit of others. Success isn’t from me or for me.

No matter how hard you’ve worked, you’re not self-made. Neither am I.

If you had been born in a yurt in Outer Mongolia, instead of where you were, it wouldn’t have mattered how hard you worked or used your talents— you would have ended up poor and powerless. -Timothy Keller

You have some success (relational, financial, experiential, etc.). However, the only success that will outlive you is what you give away.

#3 – Replace the Mirage (listen to message: website or iTunes)

My dream can remain in my life as long as I keep God promoted above it.

No matter how great my dream is, my deepest desire is to have intimacy with the Father. However, if I pursue a dream more than the Dream Giver, my deepest desire goes unmet and I am left unsatisfied.

I know this but I’m gullible enough to get pumped about a new dream and before long, I’m making it the ultimate thing! Mirage.

I often forget that there are two parts to me: 1) an OUTER LIFE (work, hobbies, image, etc.) and 2) an INNER LIFE (though no one can see it – God meets me here).

My deepest desire is to connect with God in my INNER LIFE where I experience my deepest pain and greatest joy.

But it’s tempting to trust in my OUTER LIFE because it’s more visible.

However, “If our hope is not anchored in God, we will lower God to match our circumstances.” –Pastor Daniel Hahn

How do stop chasing the mirage? We must have a fresh encounter with the living God. That begins with desperate transparency.

  • When Abraham became desperate, he argued with God.
  • When Jacob became desperate, he refused to let go of God until He blessed Him.
  • When David became desperate, he questioned God’s justice.

Intimacy with God often begins with an Rated R prayer. Instead of telling God what you think He wants to hear, tell Him what you truly feel.

We are most satisfied when He fully reigns in us. Replace the mirage and discover what’s real.

You can listen to the entire series from our website or on iTunes.

A Eulogy in honor of My Dad

I wrote my Dad a letter to serve as his eulogy and read it at my Dad’s memorial service last Saturday.

Dear Dad,

I miss you. But I’m so proud of the life you lived.

You were raised on a cotton farm in Ennis, TX during the middle of WWII. Your Dad was a sharecropper and you were one of 7 kids. That’s all pretty cool stuff from a previous generation’s world. I was always proud of your heritage. I loved hearing stories about your childhood. I wasn’t there but I felt like I was.

I sometime imagine you, your 4 brothers and 2 sisters running and playing in the cotton fields occasionally taking breaks to lay in a pasture covered with bluebonnets. I picture a farm house surrounded by a large covered porch shaded by big oak trees. I’m guessing you sometimes embellished when you told the stories because you talked as if it were always a happy Tom Sawyer-like adventure! But I loved those stories because it connected me to more of you.

But it wasn’t always a Tom Sawyer-life adventure was it? Your body gave it’s first indication that it was broken when you were a little boy when a bicycle accident resulted in you developing epilepsy. You’d have seizures or fear seizures the rest of his life.

A few years later when you were only 17, you were diagnosed with tuberculosis. You were sent off to the TB Hospital in Carlsbad for a few difficult months. Eventually, one of your lungs was removed but then God healed you . . . temporarily.

A few years later, you made a life-changing decision that changed the trajectory of your life. It began when a pastor of a local church drove out to the farm to pick you up and take you to church. When you were re-telling me this story a few weeks ago you said, “for some reason I just kept going every Sunday”. You told me the pastor was nice and fun to be around. He and his wife would sometimes have you over to their house after church for lunch. God was using them to draw you to Himself.

You eventually made the decision to surrender everything and follow Christ. Your decision to follow Christ must’ve felt private and personal but it would impact so many other people in your lifetime and beyond including your kids and grandkids. I’m so glad you made that decision to follow Christ Dad.

The pastor in became your mentor and before long you were teaching a Sunday School Class and eventually you made a decision to spend the rest of your life preaching. The sharecropper’s son who’d dropped out of high school was going to be a pastor. At the time, you must’ve felt so overwhelmed. You must have had so many doubts and fears. Your decision must’ve seemed so personal but your decision to preach would impact thousands of other people in your lifetime of ministry. It obviously influenced me. Dad, I’m so glad you made that decision to preach.

Soon afterwards you met and eventually married my Mom. While you were engaged, your body showed its brokenness again as you were diagnosed with Brights disease (the same kidney disease that had taken your Dad’s life at an early age). The doctor said you may not live past the age of 35. I can’t imagine how that diagnoses must’ve shaken you and challenged your faith. However, it seemed that God healed your body . . . again temporarily.

Then in 1967 at the age of 24, you married my Mom. You and Mom would be married for more than 46 years. When describing your marriage to me last week – you said, “I was always happy with her.” You and Mom’s unconditional love for us created a solid foundation from which we kids would feel the freedom to dream big and take risks.

A couple of years into your new marriage, your body began acting up again. A spot was found on your lung and you were diagnosed with cryptococcosis – an often fatal fungal disease. Mom was worried how long your body would last. You must’ve been worried too. However, once again God healed you again . . . temporarily. Soon God gave you your first child Marci and your attention was back on your future. Along came me and then Amy.

Interestingly, this is where God provided our family a special 17-year window of health grace. When Mom was pregnant with Amy you had your last epileptic seizure. Then for 17-years you had no health problems. This was the largest season of health you would ever have. Mom was given a healthy husband and we kids were raised only knowing a healthy Dad. You told us about your epilepsy, tuberculosis, bright’s disease, and cryptococcosis but to us it was all something in the past that didn’t seem relevant to our present. We only knew a “healthy” Dad.

I’m so grateful for these 17 years of healthiness during our childhood. During that time, we watched you enjoy the simple joys in life. I liked it when you would go swimming with us in the lake in a pair of cutoff shorts. I liked it when you’d take us on a long drive in the country and along the way we’d stop for a coke. You enjoyed going out for breakfast on Saturday mornings. Even your favorite meal was simple: cornbread, pinto beans, fried potatoes, cabbage followed by a bowl of ice cream. Simple joys.

But what you really loved was being a pastor. It was what you were created to be! You were an encourager. You loved going to church and preaching God’s word. In a typical week you would preach/teach 4 times-a-week, clean the church, mow the lawn, make hospital visits, do funerals and weddings, counsel people, and whatever else needed to be done. You were born to be a pastor. I liked it when you’d let me tag-along for a hospital visit or a men’s prayer breakfast.

image

I remember watching you. I was so proud of you. You were my dad & my pastor. You were so positive and encouraging to people. I loved that about you. I wanted to be like you. At the age of 12, I surrendered to preach and I prayed that God would let me encourage people like you did.

I remember you letting me preach for the first time at the age of 12. I’ll never forget unzipping my Bible as I stood behind the pulpit. I was so scared. I was unzipping slowly hoping Jesus would come back before I had to speak. I didn’t want to say anything. I remember thinking if I could somehow just whisper to you, “Daddy I’m scared. I don’t want to do this.” So I looked over at you hoping to tell you I was too scared to do this. But when we made eye contact you smiled and gave me a nod of encouragement. I was still scared but your subtle encouragement gave me the confidence to at least try. So I preached my entire sermon . . . in 5 minutes. I could tell you were proud. That made me feel good.

It’s funny how all of us kids loved to get that nod of encouragement from you. I can’t think of any major decision I’ve ever made when I didn’t seek it.

It turns out that my childhood felt like my very own Tom-Sawyer like adventure. I’m still thankful for those 17 years of good health. But like your illnesses . . . your good health was temporary. Eventually, your kidneys began to fail. Your health declined. You retired. You and Mom moved to San Angelo so you could do dialysis full-time.

Interestingly the timing coincided with me just beginning my ministry in San Angelo. Suddenly you were in the congregation as I led worship and as I preached. I was often scarred to death. I would look out in the audience and see your smile and see your nod of encouragement. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me! I could tell you were proud. Eventually, through a kidney transplant, God healed you . . . again temporarily.

As your health bounced back, you became pastor of Berean Baptist Church. On your first Sunday, there were literally 3 people (you, the worship leader, and the treasurer). I asked you, “Why would you go there Dad?” You said, “It’s an opportunity to serve the Lord, preach, and share the Gospel!” That’s what you were created to do. The church is now flourishing numerically and financially and most people say you that you saved that church. It’s so appropriate that we’re having your memorial service here today.

But then your body began to decline again. This time there would be no recovery or healing. Your body surrendered to cancer, diabetes, cardiac failure, and many other ailments. Due to your dogged determination, discipline with your diet/medication/routine, you somehow milked 70 years out of a very broken body. I’m so glad you did because all of us kids got to introduce our kids to you.

But it was time. Last Monday morning, your broken body finally quit. And this time God didn’t heal you temporarily. He healed you permanently. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord where there is no more epilepsy, tuberculosis, kidney disease, cryptococcosis, or heart disease. You are fully and permanently healthy! You are reunited with the God you spent your life serving.

You wouldn’t agree with this Dad but you actually left a legacy. One that I’m so proud of.

Two of your grandkids now bear your name but it’s our faith that reveals your legacy. Because you chose to make God the ultimate priority in your life, you made a deep impact in us all. A legacy isn’t about doing something magnificent it’s about being ordinary and dependable for a long period of time while loving those closest to you.

So I’ll miss your smile, laugh, the twinkle in your eye, our weekly phone calls w/your encouraging voice, and I’ll miss your nod of encouragement. But, I am so grateful for the certainty of Heaven. I already anticipate being with you again Dad.

In the meantime, I’ll always be proud of the life you led for God. I’ll always be proud of the risks you took for God. I’ll always be proud of your faithfulness to God especially during the difficult days. I’ll always be proud to carry on your legacy.

I love you Daddy.

Your proud son,

Mark

A balanced life can be a trap

Balance is a buzz word today isn’t it? Balance is good. But it can be a trap!

“The problem with the goal of balance is that it doesn’t allow much room for people in desperate situations—those in crisis or the poor or the oppressed. What does it mean to tell someone with a terminal disease or a street person or a single mother with a physically challenged child that she needs “more balance”?”

balance-wheel

“The quest for balance lacks the notion that life is to be given to something bigger than ourselves. It lacks the call to sacrifice and self-denial—the wild, risky, costly, adventurous abandon of following Jesus.” 

“Jesus never said, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross and lead a balanced life.” He said to follow him.’”

“Imagine a conversation between the apostle Paul and a (modern day) time management consultant (TMC). It starts something like this:  

TMC: Paul, if you look at this pie chart, I think you’ll agree with me that your spiritual life is going pretty well. But vocationally, your tent-making has seriously fallen off. This has led to some downsizing in your financial portfolio. Let’s take a look at the time log I asked you to keep since our last meeting.

PAUL: “Five times I have received…the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.”

Ortberg, John – The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People 

Chuck Smith’s journey on earth ended yesterday. He’s a hero who chose to pursue something significantly higher than balance.

God changed his heart and Chuck chose something more than balance. He chose to live a life of sacrifice and self-denial – the wild, risky, costly, adventurous abandon of following Jesus.

Expectations can be deadly

Has someone let you down? Of course. Me too.

“Expectations are like rifles. Used correctly and appropriately, they are valuable and necessary. But, oh, how quickly they are misused . . . Quietly we pull the trigger. ‘You let me down.’ And we both fall victim to the bullet of expectation.”

“Expectations. Alone, they are bullets that can kill; but buffered by acceptance and forgiveness, they can bring out the best.”  -Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him Savior

Father, help me to be a husband, dad, pastor, and friend with high expectations accompanied by greater acceptance and forgiveness.

expectations

Stop comparing yourself. Sing your song.

I compare myself to others. “Does he have more than me?”, “Are they better off?”, “Are their kids smarter?” are just some of the questions on my exhausting comparison treadmill.

Do you constantly compare yourself with others?

I’ve recently discovered that I’m not the only person who struggles with comparison. One of my friends Laurie shared some of her story with me. I asked if she’d write a guest post for us today.

In addition to being a committed follower of Christ, gifted musician, and creative, Laurie is blessed with three kids, seven grandkids and has been married to her best friend Gary for 48 years.

laurie mccoy

Let me just begin by saying that this is a work in process for me. I don’t want to sound like I have this all figured out – or that I think I have it all together, because I don’t. But, I will tell you a little about my journey.

The struggle with comparison really began for me when I was a young wife and mother in my thirties, with three small children. I was trying desperately to keep things in order, to keep all of my plates spinning at the same time. Yet, no matter how hard I tried, I was in a bit of a frazzle. I arrived everywhere I was going just a little bit late with at least one child in tears.

I became focused upon comparing myself to other mothers, and I fell hopelessly short. This friend’s house was always neat, and her kitchen counters sparkled. That friend’s children were better behaved and always beautifully dressed. Another friend always looked put together, with toenail polish matching her lipstick.

I couldn’t keep up with the toys and shoes and little piles of jackets and socks that seemed to collect in the family room. My kitchen counters were always sticky, and my floors looked like I had three kids and two dogs running through the house all day. My friend’s homes were neater, more creatively decorated, their children better dressed, their family incomes higher, their clothes far more stylish, their marriages happier – and on and on.

In every area of my life, I became focused on comparison, and I fell short. From my perspective, I was a mess as a wife, a mother, and as a musician.

Gradually, I began to doubt my self, my creativity, and began to reject musical opportunities out of fear of failure. I was crippled by the lens of comparison through which I was looking at my life. And then, a woman in our church whose life and ministry I greatly respected took me aside and said to me: “Laurie, God designed you with the gifts and abilities that you have because He intends to use you. If you stifle the creative voice that He has given you, who will sing the songs He has for you to sing?”

I went home from my time with her and wrote in my journal, “God created me to be me because He intends to use me.” And that was the beginning of understanding for me.

When I became the mother of three children, God didn’t make a mistake. I was the one God had designed to be the mother of these three little people, not my friend with the shiny kitchen counters. I began to understand that I needed to stop looking at the other mothers in my life, and begin looking at the needs of my children and how I could best help them.

When God placed in me a heart for worship and a love of music, it was not a mistake. It was His purpose to use the voice He had given me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this the past week or so – and I realized that in comparing myself constantly with other women, other mothers, other musicians – seeing only their strengths and my weaknesses – I was kind of like a violin who decided one day that it did not like being a violin at all. In fact, it was completely disgusted with being a violin. It didn’t like the way it sounded, or the way it looked. It didn’t like that it was made of plain old wood. And so it said to it’s maker: “I hate the way you made me! I’m dull and brown, and I can only make these annoying string sounds. I no longer want to be a violin. I want instead to be a trumpet. A trumpet is all golden and shiny and gets to stand up in the orchestra and make these bright beautiful brass sounds. I just have to sit on my owner’s shoulder and depend upon a bow to make me play. You made a mistake. You should have made me a trumpet.” And the maker said to the violin. “But, if you become a trumpet, your voice will be gone from the orchestra. No one but you has your voice, and that sweet sound would be lost. I have a trumpet already, and it is beautiful, but I don’t need another one. If you were to become a trumpet, who would sing the song that I have written for you to sing?”

You have searched me, Lord, and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue Lord, you know it completely… For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

I am learning that there is only one whose life I can fully look up to, only one whose life I should seek to emulate, and that one is Jesus.

The FASTEST way to build the Kingdom may be your church building

Last week I stood inside the most beautiful auditorium I’ve personally ever experienced. I was standing inside the Air Force Academy Chapel in Colorado Springs, CO. The stunning facility became a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 2004.

Air Force Academy Chapel

But I couldn’t believe my ears when one of the staff members answered my question. The staff member told me that, despite the thousands who are stationed at the USAF Academy, less than 10 people attend services at the 1,200 seat protestant chapel each weekend. It has become nothing but a breathtaking museum. Wow! Isn’t that sad?

A magnificent facility just sits there everyday making zero Kingdom impact. Tragic!

Additionally, thousands of churches today are equally tragic. Other than Sunday morning, church facilities often just sit there everyday making zero Kingdom impact. Tragic! It must break God’s heart to see useful buildings sit empty all week.

If you have a permanent facility, the fastest way to build the Kingdom is to open up your building for others. Here are a couple of ways to quickly impact the Kingdom:

Allow a church planter to use your facility on a Saturday or Sunday night. (As a former church planter, I was surprised by how resistant most pastors are to rent their facility on an off night.)

Allow community organizations to use your facility. (Currently, our church has 26 local non-profit organizations occupying our entire campus throughout the week. I love the message this sends to our community. We are here FOR THEM.)

Leveraging your building for His Kingdom means you can’t over decorate it, you can’t over design it, and you can’t over own it. It’s His. Let Him use it with and without you.

Let’s eliminate the museums and become generous Kingdom builders.

Will you begin to look for opportunities to build the Kingdom with your building?

My former pastor and I reconcile #ForgivenessFriday

Reconciling is hard! If you have a broken relationship and it’s appropriate to reconcile, I hope today’s post encourages you.

Here’s an interview with my “friend again” sharing our reconciliation process. (I ask the questions and he provides the answers.)

I was not only your Associate Pastor for 12 years, but we were pretty close friends weren’t we?

Phil Webber

Phil Webber – Bible College Professor in Boston

We met in 1994 when my family first moved to San Angelo. You were in the Air Force at the time. From the first I was impressed with you. When things began taking shape for me to assume the full leadership of the church and I began to analyze who I thought would make a great teammate you were my first, and really my only choice. You agreed to come and we worked together for at least a year before the full leadership transition took place. As time went on I came to genuinely love you and respect you. While being different people with different personalities and gift sets (for instance, you are outgoing, I’m a recluse) we seemed to have the same philosophy of ministry and quickly learned to use our differences to forge a strong team. Back in those early days it was you, my wife, and me. We were the team. And I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.

As time went by and the church grew and we added more staff, I think our relationship was viewed as special. We traveled quite a bit together, went to Friday night football games together (although you never stayed till the end), and though our families never really hung out together much, our ministry experience forged a friendship that went way beyond the office or ministry. As I told you in an early email in this process, I would have taken a bullet for you.

I know that ministry peers envied the relationship we had. We enjoyed being around each other. The tough times seemed to make us stronger. I still think you and I were the best ministry team I have ever known.

The last time we sat in your office it was clear that our relationship was ending. I remember we both said, “I hate that it’s ending this way”. That was devastating for both of us. For more than three years we didn’t communicate even though we lived in the same town. God moved me to Southern California and moved you to Boston. About eight months ago, we agreed to give reconciliation a try. 

I was afraid of digging back into those painful memories and afraid of creating new ones. What did you dread most about entering this process? 

When we came to an impasse and I said, “I think we’re through” and you walked out of my office, I felt like my world had suddenly stopped spinning on it axis. But it didn’t stop there. I relived our split every day for years. I couldn’t even think about it without bursting into tears. If anyone who watched it thought there was a winner, they were wrong. The fallout was horrific at the church. People left the church. I lost my leadership integrity even with people who stayed but viewed me with a suspicious eye for a long time after that. My greatest fear in life became running into you in public. I’m not going to lie, one of the happiest days of my life was the day I heard you had moved to California. That was a smattering of closure for me. At least the possibility of a chance meeting at Walmart was behind me.

Then we moved to Boston. Now we were on opposite sides of the nation. Even better yet!

And then I got your email. “I don’t even know what reconciliation would look like for us, but would you be willing to make the journey?” you wrote. I was surprised and scared, but I knew I had to try. If for no other reason, I was willing to take this journey for myself. The physical and emotional toll that unforgiveness and grudge-nursing had taken on me was horrific. So I said yes, if only for the hope of setting myself free.

The main thing I dreaded was rehashing everything. I knew that discussing those issues again would be brutal, and it was. But I felt like we labored until those feelings got lighter. It was the first time we had really talked (and listened) in several years.

You suggested limiting our interactions to email initially (which I think was wise for us). Here are the other guidelines we agreed to: 1) Establish the goal of being at peace with each other (vs. pressure of friendship), 2) Seek to understand the other person’s perspective, 3) Share our perspectives without finger pointing or accusations, and 4) Deal with one issue at a time. Initially, my heartbeat was so fast I thought it was going to explode as I nervously typed. Was it that emotionally charged for you?

My heart was pounding so fast I needed oxygen. The emotion involved in this was almost overwhelming at first. I had two fears: 1) That I wouldn’t be able to really communicate what I needed to say; 2) I dreaded reading your responses. I really figured one of us would say something that would ignite the whole thing over again. This didn’t start because a couple of immature people got their feelings hurt and had a spat for which neither was willing to say, “Sorry.” This was over real issues that we viewed very differently and then the fallout from it. For 3 years I thought, “I can’t believe he would do that to me” and through our communication I discovered that for 3 years you had been saying, “I can’t believe he would do that to me.” Emotionally charged doesn’t even begin to describe it. I was scared out of my mind.

We exchanged emails several times a week for a couple of months working through important issues. We didn’t agree on everything but I feel like we better understood each other’s perspectives and were able to clarify some important details. Would you agree?

What helped me the most was that early on there were apologies – on both sides. I think it indicated that our hearts were right in trying to heal deep wounds. I knew I had to get to the place that I could apologize, and I was willing to go there, but it helped immensely to know you were there also.

I knew early on in this process that we wouldn’t see eye to eye on everything, but I also knew that if I was going to achieve any semblance of peace I had to get to the point that I was okay with that. I knew that neither of us could just say, “oops, sorry” and sweep it all under the rug as if nothing had ever happened. We had to discuss some tough issues – the very ones that had divided us in the first place, and we had to get closure on them or this attempt would be a failure.

I thought that if we were going to take a stab at this we would need some pretty defined guidelines and boundaries. I thought we negotiated those well. It would take place via email (I couldn’t have done this via phone. I wasn’t there yet.) We also agreed that we would not allow reading anything into statements. It is impossible to read emotion or intent in an email, so if there were any uncertainties, we would stay at it until we got a clarification. Those happened several times. The other requirement had to be complete honesty.

I absolutely agree that we were able to clarify some important details. I think we both saw some statements and decisions that were made in a different light than before. I think we both came to understand several issues differently and gained insight and perspective that had been lost on us in the heat of the moment.

Reconciliation doesn’t mean that two people return to the same relationship. Here’s some insight from one of your emails to me:

I think there are things about those days that we would still disagree on and about, and I am perfectly okay with that. I have gotten some clarity and perspective through this quite extended exchange we have been having. My vote is that we move on and forward. We are both analytics and I suspect we could debate specific points till the cows come home, but my perspective is that would be pointless and potentially harmful, and I would like for our harmful days to be behind us. I would like for you and me to be able to do something that Paul and Barnabas were evidently unable to do: experience disagreement and hurt but move past it to a restored friendship. The mutual regrets expressed, apologies offered, and explanations given are enough for me to move past them, and I am ready to do so.

It would be unrealistic to expect the reconciliation process alone to immediately heal everything for us. However, it has helped me gain a bigger perspective about the past, about you, about us and softened my heart toward you. How has the reconciliation process helped you?

In the same way. Although anything we build from here on out will obviously be built on the foundation of  what we had before, I tend to see it more in the context of a new endeavor than a revival. We have common memories  (and I think more good than bad) but everything else has changed. We live in different places. Our ministries are different. Our families are at different stages. That is a lot of new material with which to rebuild, with 12 years of great memories and victories thrown in to season it and give it a familiar foundation.

At the end of it all, I had to come to the place I was no longer willing to let one disagreement define my relationship with you. As stated, I’m sure we will never see everything about that issue eye to eye, but was I willing to let one issue kill the 12 incredible years we spent together in ministry? My answer was no. During those years we were leading the fastest growing church in San Angelo. Every day was a new adventure. We both wear wreathes and scars from those days and  I wouldn’t have wanted to have experienced that with anyone else. I wish we had not lost those years.

We are still rebuilding our friendship and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have you back into my life. To help display our renewed friendship, would you publicly and fully declare yourself a Dallas Cowboys’ fan?

Nope. That is where I draw the line. That loud thud you heard was me putting my foot down.

Q: What’s the difference between the Dallas Cowboys and a dollar bill?

A: You can still get 4 quarters out of a dollar bill.


Our broken relationship caused me to become stuck in bitterness and unable to move forward. If you or someone you know is struggling to forgive, pickup your copy of STUCK When You Want to Forgive but Don’t Know How.