Take Care

“So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?”
Peter said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
Jesus said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?”
Peter said to him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus said to him a third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?”
Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And Peter said to him, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

John 21:15-17

You may be familiar with this story. It’s the conversation where Jesus restores Peter after Peter denied him three times. We can make much of the different words for ‘love’ Jesus uses in the original language. We could recognize the persistence with which Jesus relentlessly pursues Peter in an attempt to break Peter’s false assumptions about himself and others. We could delight in the fact that Jesus believed in Peter (as He believes in us) even when Peter didn’t believe in himself.

But what I notice today is something else. It’s an observation a former pastor of mine used to make.

As Jesus interrogates Peter he never once asks, “Peter, do you like sheep?”

Peter was a fisherman. He had no experience or expertise caring for sheep. In times of disappointment and failure, Peter didn’t run to the open field where sheep freely roam. He ran to open water. Like the namesake of his father, Jonah, Peter ran from what should be, to the comfort of what he knew best.

Jesus’ words to Peter were more than a personal restoration. They were a direct confrontation, a loving challenge, really. “If you love Me, you will care for, more specifically, you will provide care for My people.”

That is both the challenge and encouragement of your every interaction with people today.

The encouragement?
Just like Peter, Jesus believes in you. He believes in you enough to pursue you with relentless affection. He believes that, with zero experience, and possibly little inherent interest, you are the perfect person to provide care for everyone he brings across your path today.

The challenge?
If you love Him, care for his people. Whether you’re experienced at it or not. Whether you’re good at it or not. Whether you like it (or them) or not. Why? Because one of our greatest expressions of love for God is fulfilled as we lovingly care for His people.

It might be tempting to think this kind of thing comes easy. I can assure you, this kind of care takes deliberate attention, willful interaction, and the giving of the kind of grace you’ve already received from God and others. Just like Jesus’ friendship with Peter, our interactions with one another come with both encouragement and challenge. Today, it’s likely that you will spend the majority of your day in increasing circles of influence – from friends and family, colleagues, coworkers, neighbors, to people in your community.

Do you love Him? Feed those sheep.

What You Can’t Hear

Imagine building a life doing the thing that brings you the most joy.

You find a way to transform this joy into a career. You invest every ounce of effort into becoming world class at what you do. You receive global acclaim as the best of your age. Historians will one day look back on your contributions to declare you a history maker, an innovator, one whose creations changed everything.

Now imagine, the one thing you need to continue doing what you love the most was suddenly taken away. What would you feel? Sadness? Bitterness? Remorse? Grief? Anger?

This is exactly what happened to Ludwig von Beethoven. This master composer and conductor spent a lifetime producing music still enjoyed today. More than that. His work transformed all the music to follow. If you enjoy modern music of almost any style you owe Beethoven a bit of thanks. His work made that work possible.

By the end of his career, Beethoven was deaf. He lost the one skill that seems most critical to a musician and composer. I’m certain it was frustrating. There’s no question he experienced the common range of emotions one would expect with the loss of something so beloved.

But he didn’t stop. He kept writing and conducting. I think that’s the nature of passion. Deep passion won’t let a little thing likeability stand its way.

He was surrounded by musicians and patrons blessed by his work and they, in turn, worked to help him.

It would be reasonable to think his grief and bitterness could be heard in this final piece of music. No one could fault him if this symphony wasn’t as good as his last.

He was deaf.

But one more time he poured himself into his passion. With his music, He adapted a poem. This poem expresses exactly the opposite of what you might expect a deaf musician to feel.

“Joyful, joyful we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love.
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Opening to the sun above.”

“Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,
Drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day.”

This day comes for us all. The day when our abilities can no longer keep pace with our dreams and desires.

How will you respond?

It’s remarkable that this Sunday, this song, which Beethoven never heard, will be sung in some variation in churches around the world.

As your abilities fade, as skill, energy, and focus give way to the relentless march of time and age, remember this Ode to Joy. May you give in to your passion and produce something that blesses generations.

Whether you can hear it or not.


Temptation – Worth the Risk

Temptation is on my mind. Wanna guess which one!?

No, not that one.

I’m thinking about how I teach my kids to deal with temptation. More specifically, I’m thinking about how I react to my kids when I realize they are facing a temptation.

Let’s be clear. I’m not talking about any one particular temptation, but temptation in general, from simple disobedience to the kind of temptation that leads down a destructive path. How do I react to my kids when I realize they are tempted?

I know what I want to do. I want to give them wise instruction. I want to inspire them with an example of my own success, or where I’ve failed, the success of others. I want to encourage a loving self-discipline that equips them to choose the wise path. I want them to succeed…even if that means I have to force success on them.

Did you see where I crossed the line? It’s that last sentence.

Temptation can be a scary thing. Give in to the wrong thing and the consequences you face may be irreversible. I don’t want my kids to play with fire. They might get burned. So, out of fear and concern, discipline comes prematurely. Instead of correcting bad behavior we correct at the first glimmer of temptation. It’s compounded by the fact I’m disappointed they found that tempting in the first place. We overreact and underestimate. Instead of offering wise counsel that leads our children to choose for themselves we remove from them the responsibility for making the choice in the first place. And with that form of discipline we make the temptation for the child even more enticing.

Yes. We protected them from one thing but created in them a curiosity that won’t be satisfied until they experience the victory that comes from choosing for themselves.

It’s a fine line we walk as parents. Every child is different, every situation unique. We must learn to discern when it’s time, to step in the way to protect, or to step out of the way and let our child discover what they’re capable of.

Give your child room.

Don’t be disappointed when they are tempted. Be proud of how they overcome.

Afraid Not…

There’s a feeling you get in the pit of your stomach. It happens when you step up to the plate when you play baseball. It happens when you step on a stage to say your lines. It happens when someone surprises you and jumps out at you from behind a door. That feeling you get – we call that fear. But what if it’s really something more?

When you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach something happens in you that’s really amazing. When you get that feeling you can run a little faster. You can jump a little higher. You can be a little more clever than you normally are. All because of that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach. It’s almost like that feeling is your superpower. With that feeling, it’s like you become something more than you are on your own.

We call it fear, but fear doesn’t have to make you cowardly or cruel. Fear can make you kind. Without fear, we can’t be courageous. Fear can push you to accomplish something you never imagined you could do on your own. And there’s a reason for it.

What we call fear God calls something else.

II Timothy 1:7 says, “God hasn’t given you a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of sound mind.”

What if that feeling in the pit of your stomach isn’t simply fear? What if that’s what it feels like when God gives you power, love and sound mind?

Sound mind – that’s knowing what to do.
Power – that’s the strength to do it.
Love – that’s caring enough to be afraid, but to choose the right thing anyway. We call that bravery or courage.

That feeling you get in the pit of your stomach is God reminding you, “I am with you. I am for you. And I am giving you the power, love and sound mind you need to be brave enough to do this.” Trusting Him is the key to bravery.

Sometime soon you’ll feel it again. You’ll be at work or school or with friends. You’ll have an opportunity to do the right thing, to speak up for someone who can’t speak for themselves, or to share the gospel with a friend. You’ll have a choice to make. As soon as it happens you’ll feel it again, that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, and you’ll have a choice.

Will I be paralyzed by fear or will I trust God?

This is your moment to be brave. This is what power, love and sound mind feels like. This is what it feels like for God to give you the words to say, the strength to say them and the courage to care about your friend enough to speak the truth in love.

What you call fear I call the power of God in me to make me more than I am on my own.

Do You Follow?

Jesus was so secure with who He was that He had no anxiety being around the dysfunction of others. He was never concerned that being around “those people” would somehow rub off on Him.

He would comfortably interact with rich & poor, sinners & self-righteous. His comfort would extend beyond Himself to make those trapped in their own dysfunction believe they could follow Him and find something more.

They followed Him.

Following led to belief. Belief led to obedience. Today, no matter what you believe or how you behave, regardless of doubts, denial or dysfunction…

Follow Him.

Now You See Me

christmas_card“For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) rises to God for his glory.” – 2 Corinthians 1:20

All your waiting, all your questions, all the promises and prophecies of the Bible find their answers in Jesus Christ. The savior you’ve been waiting for has come. He is ‘revealed’.

Now you see him.

Will you receive Him and the promise He brings or reject Him and try to find your own way?

They are His promises to make and His promises to keep. He’s kept them for you. It leads me to a couple of ideas:

  • If who I am, what I have and what I’m capable of can be explained apart from the power of Jesus Christ in my life my vision is too small.
  • If the size of the vision for my life isn’t a little intimidating to me, it’s probably a little insulting to God.

What do people see of Jesus in you?

Get Some Rest

It’s Saturday.

a.k.a. – The Sabbath Day – a time for rest.

I’ve always pushed myself. I like how it feels to go further than you thought you could go, accomplish more than you imagined possible and do more while the sun shines! There are still new things to see, projects to pursue, another mountain to climb and more interesting people to meet.

I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

But that’s not really what the Bible says.

  • Proverbs 23:4, “Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease!”
  • Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”
  • Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
  • Psalm 127:2, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.
  • Proverbs 3:21 & 24, “My son…keep sound wisdom and discretion…When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
    yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.”

Sometimes, the most godly thing you can do is rest.

Inspiration to Change; Motivation to Act

Calvin and HobbesWe’re 27 days past the New Year. How are you doing on those New Year’s Resolutions? Do you remember what they were? Have you moved forward, made progress or fallen behind?

It’s seems there’s a difference between the inspiration to make the resolution and the motivation to act. If you’re like me you’re inspired by all kinds of things: a great success story, a new possibility, or even a new tool to help you accomplish your task. These things inspire us. They excite us, but do they motivate us to act? That’s really where the rubber meets the road. Good intentions lead to great resolutions. The motivation to make good choices leads to genuine success.

So often it seems like something prevents us from following through and finding success. The Apostle Paul struggled with this. In Romans 7:15-24 he says he wants to do good but can’t seem to get it done. Instead, he finds himself stuck making the same wrong choices over and over again.

The inspiration to change, the motivation to act; how do we bridge the gap?

I’ve heard it said that people don’t genuinely change until they  HAVE enough, KNOW enough, or HURT enough. I can see that it’s true. Maybe the reason you haven’t yet changed is because you don’t have, know or hurt enough.

  • HAVE Enough – I used to own a small video production company. We started with 3 VCR’s and a TV. Pause, Play, Record. We’d make really poor quality videos using the only tools available. Over time we gathered more gear. Today, I edit digitally using Final Cut Pro, one of the best systems on the market. Video quality is high definition. It’s professional. I have the right gear. I can’t imagine going back to 3 VCR’s ever again.
  • KNOW Enough – A friend of mine lost a lot of weight and told me how he did it. Slowly I began to learn how certain foods affect my body. I exercise marginally more than I used to. Today, I’m 50 pounds lighter. I still eat most everything I want but now I know how to eat it in a way that will keep the pounds off. I don’t think I’ll be that heavy ever again.
  • HURT Enough – My grandfather started smoking when he was 9 years old. That sounds bad, but back in his day it was pretty normal. He smoked all his life till one day he went to the doctor. The doctor told him he had a choice. He could quit smoking and live longer or keep smoking and die. My grandfather laid down the cigarettes and lived another 15 years.

What have you been inspired to do? When will you find the motivation to act? Will you wait till you have enough, know enough or hurt enough before you make the right choice?

If you’re a follower of  Jesus Christ, God is working in you and through you for His good pleasure. The end of Paul’s story is Roman 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” You’re not condemned by God for your wrong choices. His work has forgiven, equipped and empowered you to make right choices.

Because of sin have you HURT enough? As a follower of Christ you HAVE enough. Through Christ you can KNOW enough. What needs to change in your life today?

The inspiration to change; the motivation to act – find life. Choose well.


Late Nights; Long Days

Very TiredHave you ever had one of those days? You know the kind. You wake up before your alarm and can’t go back to sleep. Throughout the day you move from one project to another, overloaded with more to do than you know what to do with. You bounce from meeting to meeting solving problems, making decisions, offering opinions, taking in new information. Every person you come in contact with presents another challenge, another opportunity and sometimes another unexpected distraction. You’re fighting a deadline so you decide to stay late. You skip dinner. Later you look back to realize you didn’t really skip dinner as much as forgot about it. You end the day a good 18 hours or more after it started. Your head hits the pillow still buzzing. There’s more to do. Tomorrow will be a repeat of today. There’s no way around it. Those kinds of days can be exhausting.

But what if they weren’t?

What if you poured that kind of effort and energy into the things you do and came out on the other side energized and excited by the work? What if a day like that filled you up instead of tearing your down. Finding this kind of life in the relentless daily grind of your busy schedule isn’t easy, but it is possible.

There’s a scene in Scripture where Jesus has had a rough day. He’s been so busy he hasn’t stopped to eat. The Disciples come to him concerned, “Jesus, you have to eat something!” He simply looks at them and responds, “I have meat to eat you know not of.” He wasn’t being curt, snide or sarcastic. He was being honest. “Yup, it’s been a rough day. Yet, somehow, instead of drained, I feel full!” It’s an example of the sustaining power of God at work.

This can be your story. It’s the story of a person on mission. It’s the story of someone who understands God’s call on their life and the unique shape he’s given you for ministry. It’s amazing what God can do through a person who knows what they’re supposed to do, how they’re supposed to do it and why. It’s remarkable to see how God uses ordinary people to accomplish His extraordinary plan.

How will you finish today? Exhausted and energized or exhausted and used up? The difference is in the mission. The choice  is yours.

Philippians 2:17-18, “Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.”

Every Great Relationship…

Introduce YourselfYou’re probably like me. If you attend church regularly I’ll bet you sit in basically the same place every week. It’s a pattern I’ve followed since I was a kid. Welcoming guests during a worship service is also a typical feature in the churches I’ve attended. We’ll break the rhythm of the service to welcome one another and give the congregation time to introduce themselves to people sitting nearby.

Because I usually sit in the same place I often greet the same people every week. This was true when I was in college too. Every week come in, sing a little, pray together, turn around and shake a hand. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Then came the day I turned around to shake a hand and saw someone I’d not seen before. There wasn’t a lot of time, but I knew this was someone I needed to meet. I made my way past a few familiar folks and extended a hand, “Hey, I’m Chad. It’s good to see you. I’m glad you’re here.” It was a typical, nonchalant, church service ‘welcome-of-guests’ kind of greeting. She smiled, looked me in the eyes, took my hand and said, “I’m Londa. Nice to meet you.” In that moment, my world changed.

It wasn’t like the movies. There were no fireworks. I didn’t imagine the two of us running toward one another, arms open, on a beach. Time didn’t stand still. But there was something.

What began as an introduction became a relationship. More than 16 years and 4 kids later I’m married to the woman of my dreams!

It reminds of something. Every great relationship starts with an introduction.

  • What opportunities will you have tomorrow because of people you meet today?
  • What possibilities will you miss simply because you didn’t take the time to get to know someone’s name?
  • Is it possible someone is waiting for you to introduce them to someone else who will change their life forever?

That’s what happend in John 1:35-51. It’s a series of introductions. John the Baptist introduces Andrew and John (who becomes the apostle) to Jesus. They introduce Jesus to Andrew’s brother, Peter. They all go together to get Philip who introduces them to Nathaniel. One by one Jesus is introduced to the men who become His 12 Disciples. Certainly he called them, but that call started with an introduction. What happens next changes the history of our world forever.

Every great relationship starts with an introduction. Who will you introduce today?