judge this

When you inappropriately judge another person, you appropriately define yourself.

This doesn't mean we're not to evaluate what comes out of someone and determine a reasonable response. Some avoid doing even that out of fear of offending another person, which (according to culture) is the "worst thing you could possibly ever do."

Is it?

Jesus never once suggested (including within the often misquoted "Judge not, lest ye be judged" statement) that we have no authority to make evaluative conclusions about human behavior. Rather, the authority comes from Him and His standards as we live out mutual accountability... it's to be two-sided and not full of lop-sized hypocrisy. Even within our "Who are you to judge me?" culture, we must push through our fear of offending someone by helping them see their blind spots and growing through them... we must believe this is important.

Is it?

The line, which I fundamentally proposed, is to become aware of how your healthy evaluation can easily get off-track and become an unhealthy, locked-in summary of who you think this person is. You can begin to see him/her as a "snob" when compared to your "humility," or as a "low life" when compared with your "morality." You will start to pride yourself on your ability to see through people, without realizing how you've become amazed at your own brilliance regarding the dullness you see in other people.  You will apply this to people above you, below you and next to you.

Of course, none of this probably applies to you. It likely just applies to someone else. This blind spot isn't at all a part of who you are, how you connect with others and the sass by which you approach the world.

Is it?
"Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor." (Matthew 7:1-5, The Message)

this is ridiculous

"This is ridiculous."

There's something about the growth that can take place in an environment of need or tension. You've experienced this when you look at a situation that seems backward, be it spiritually, financially, relationally or otherwise. You scan things over, and say three words - "This is ridiculous."

The real catch? Those three words actually mean one of two things:
  • "This is ridiculous. I need to personally step up and make this better."
  • "This is ridiculous. I'm going to quit, and I don't care what that means."

We've all had both of those reactions toward something in life. The former can cause a break-through that we didn't know were possible. The latter pulls us out of situations where we fear break-downs.

We're often blind to our short-sightedness in both options, sometimes stepping out of things too quickly or rushing in without a wise plan.

It's why you and I need to be devoted to leaning into God more than our own ideas. The key word in that idea, by the way, is "devoted." His wisdom must always trump our feelings - even if we'd rather live by our feelings and assume He's "with" us.

I tried challenging someone recently on a blind spot. The response? "I'm fine. God is with me and I'll figure it out." It was a defense mechanism that used spiritual language - it was meant to shut down the awkwardness of being confronted versus really open up and hear something that the person didn't want to hear.

Do you want to more be "with God" and His ideas on life... or do you more want God to be "with you" and your ideas on life?
It's crazy that we'd even consider the latter when we have the option of the former.

This is ridiculous.

"Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God." (1 Chronicles 22:19a)

everyday family. everyday faith.

I have a secret...
one that may be helpful for your household.

For several months, I've been conspiring within a team of some amazing people to prep/launch a new movement that went public today: Lifetree Family (http://www.lifetreefamily.com/blog).

It may help to know why.

On one hand, there are already a number of blogs out there that do a decent job at saying decent things. Our goal hasn't been to replicate them, but to go into some of the uncharted territories through topics that we all seem a little hesitant to bring up. Other times, we hope to share a story from the trenches of our own lives that may give you that one nugget you need to tweak or overhaul your own.

You can even contribute to this. It just may be that something you've learned may help someone else.

In the meantime, check out the launch of the site today. Come back regularly, as there are rather hot topics we'll be covering that we hope will help you and your household be unconditional... be fearless... be authentic... be in awe.

Simply put, "Everyday family. Everyday faith."

the Land of In-Between

One of the most difficult places to be is "in-between."

It's not just the emotions you experience while in it... angst that is as random and intentional as standing in a global rainstorm you feel is exclusively directed at your face.

The real issue is that you're close enough to what you let go of that you're constantly tempted to swing back in that direction... because you're not feeling full released into what's in front of you to the point where not living backward makes sense.

If that makes sense.

And I imagine it does.
"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)

criticism inhales

the-criticCriticism inhales. 

I was going to use the word "sucks" for "inhales," but you may have taken that the wrong way... hence, my point.

So I'll stick with "criticism inhales." It actually communicates the point with a better word picture.

Unless, of course, you disagree. Feel free to critique that (and prove the point even further).  

Criticism inhales... because when you inhale, you take in whatever is in front of you in order to process it internally, silently keep what is worth hanging onto and publicly exhale what you don't want to hang onto.

Think about it.

Consider Tom Clancy's spin on criticism as added commentary:
"No matter what you or anyone else does, there will be someone who says that there's something bad about it. Whenever somebody comes up with a good idea, there's somebody else who has never had a good idea in his life who stands up and says, 'Oh, you can't do that...'"
– Interview with Inc., 1995
I've seen this almost my entire life among friends or in meetings. Someone brave enough to share something out loud is immediately critiqued for it. If the creator asks the critic, "How about you give me an original idea of your own?" the response is often back-peddling.

Because, let's face it - it's easier to inhale than it is to inspire. 

(Once again, feel free to substitute the word "suck" for "inhale" in the previous sentence.)

One more thing...

before you go thinking this has everything to do with your critics...

I'd encourage you to consider how it applies to you being an inhaler yourself.

Yes, you.

P.S. Isn't it odd how often we ask people to just inhale us for who we are, not at all considering what we're asking them to inhale?

that sounds like something Peter Pan would say

Some things are so overlooked that they're obvious.

That sounds like something Peter Pan would say, doesn't it?

Consider how just before Peter takes the Darling children away to Neverland, the two brothers John and Michael dream about the adventures they might have.

John says that he wants to "cross swords with some real buccaneers."

Michael adds that he wants to "fight pirates, too."


"Crossing swords with buccaneers" or "fight pirates, too."

Sometimes we're trying to say the same thing, but simply using different language. 

It's usually rooted in how we don't listen to comprehend, but listen with the intent to reply.

That sounds like something a pirate would do.
"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19)

Jesus didn't fire Judas

When is it time to cut someone loose?

Consider your job. A friendship. Creepy extended family members. Your church.

It's an awkward question, isn't it? Perhaps there's a better question to ask instead.

I came across an intriguing quote from Geoff Suratt that contrasts how Jesus led versus how culture/business tends to lead:
"Jesus didn't fire Judas... (many people) have bought into some aspect of top grading made famous by Jack Welch when he ran General Electric. The basic idea is that you only want 'A players' on your team. To achieve this goal an organization regularly grades the staff; the A players are rewarded while the B and C players are weeded out... the idea of consistently weeding out under performers is almost universal. The logic and results of this approach are hard to argue with.
The challenge is this isn’t how Jesus’ led. He didn’t force Peter to resign because he just didn’t get it. He didn’t suggest to Thomas that he might want to look around for another rabbi since he didn’t seem to buy into Jesus’ vision. If Jesus utilized top grading he would certainly have let Bartholomew and Thaddaeus go for under performance."
Suratt references Next Jump, a company that offers on their website:
We don’t hire employees, we adopt family members. We don’t fire at Next Jump, we coach.
Charlie Kim, Next Jump’s CEO, says no one would lay off an under-performing family members, so why would a company? Thom Rainer, on the other hand, hits on the tension of Christians firing Christians - "Sometimes the greater danger is doing nothing."

You'll certainly find more examples that defy what is being discussed here. Many companies have made their mark by firing people instead of pursuing them; many people have tried to build the perfect life by ditching relationships instead of rooting into them. 

Why not? There's always another replacement around, isn't there?
Consider your job. A friendship. Creepy extended family members. Your church.

Then again... Jesus didn't fire Judas. And here we are, twenty centuries later still feeling the impact of His style and values.

Maybe that's what makes grace so "amazing."

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

how I won't pray for you

I am regularly honored to have people ask me to pray for them.

Maybe it's because I'm a pastor, or maybe it's because I'm their friend. Perhaps it's a little bit of both.

Sometimes I sense they want me to pray for something I'm not sure I can pray for.

For example, I once had a family ask me to pray over a medal they were going to give to their son who was heading off to serve in the military. I have no critique for their motives. Essentially, they were asking that I could impart something supernatural onto the medal that would make it protect him while he was there.

Obviously, that's not something I can do. It's one thing for God to say to Moses, "Hey, your staff will do this now..." and another thing for me to make a similar declaration about an inanimate object without first checking in with God to see if He wanted to work that way.

So I prayed on my own for wisdom, and eventually circled back to the family. "I'm sorry," I began. "I can't do what you're asking me to do. What I do know is God would much rather first look out for your son's eternity than promise you he will be safe at every turn. He's challenged me to pray with and for your son for that reason. I'd also like to be a prayer partner and pray for his safe return and journey with God while he's away, but I can't pray for this medal to do what you want it to do."

They replied, "What if we make a donation to the church?"

I answered, "I wouldn't know about it because I'm not the guy around here who personally keeps track of any of that. I do that on purpose so I can give you honest answers like this one."

They thanked me for my honesty. It was pleasant.

Then I learned two days later that they'd left the church and found someone down the street who would pray for the medal like they wanted.

I told you that story to tell you this one.

A man once walked up to me and asked that I could pray that he and his wife would ultimately have a safe life. I asked if something was prompting this, like a threat or situation they were worried about. He explained there wasn't any threat, but he was sure God's best plan for them was that they'd live a safe life.

This happened a few months after the first situation occurred. Perhaps fueled by that a bit, I explained, "I can do one of two things. I can pray that prayer, and we can assume that God's greatest plan for your life is safety. Or I can pray that you will experience the life God has for you to live. That means I will not directly pray that God makes you safe, but allow Him to know and declare what the ideal tone for your life needs to be. If you want, I will pray one step further... that God makes you dangerous – so dangerous for Him that when you walk into a room all the demons of hell flee because of your presence. How does that sound?"

He nodded his head, thought for am moment and eventually said, "The second one." We prayed that prayer. That family is also still around in our church today... and yes, they're quite dangerous for Jesus.

I'll let you figure out your own application now.

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

God's mute button

What if God watches us sometimes without audio?

I don't mean when we pray. He assures us that He hears us when our hearts genuinely cry out to Him.

I'm suggesting that He hits the "mute" button when we use our noise to make a spectacle of our faith.

Let's face it - every one of us could earn an Academy Award in acting in some area of our lives. What if it's in how we try to come across spiritually?
  • We say we "prayed about it," when what we did is make a decision and look for circumstances or emotions that validated it, ascribing this to God.
  • We sing a song about God's role in our lives, but have no intention of Him actually having that role.
  • We show up in attendance at church, but don't attend to what God has shown us to be His Church.
Does He ever have to grab his remote and put us into slow-motion without sound so He can lean in and note how our dialogue doesn't match the activity?
"The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7b)

real words

What you think repulses me.


Other times it inspires me.


The catch is there are rules we're supposed to follow in what we say.

We give the "safe" answer. "Fine, how are you?"

It certainly seems more palatable than the "awkward" answer. "I'm horrible. The gout on my feet has been acting up."

There are other issues that can be affirmed from only one direction. For example, if I were to post on online "Hey everyone, I'm coming out of the closet..." I would get lots of affirming comments, such as "Hey, I'm here for you. I won't judge you. I have your back." 

Imagine if I were to finish the sentence by saying, "Thanks, because I'm coming out of the closet on what I think about culture's blind affirmation of homosexuality, and I want everyone to know God's perspective on it." The response would be different, wouldn't it?

Ever wonder why people crucified Jesus?

Look - you know what it's like to be real.

You know what it's like to feel joy, pain, anger and fear. You know what it's like to experience betrayal. You know what it's like to move forward in a relationship. You know what it's like to lose someone you love.

So do I. So do the people around you.

So how can the conversations you have today better reflect that?
"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." (Ephesians 4:15)

sidestepping the words of God

Here's a thought... what about the Bible? 

This is usually the point when you put your head down. I'm tempted to do the same.

For some reason it seems like a majority of Christians struggle with reading the words of God.

Notice how I described that.

I could have just said "the Bible." Instead, I noted that we are avoiding reading the words of God.

Think about how insane that is. Here we are in life, begging for Divine revelation... when it's already been written down for us.

We might say we struggle because it's difficult to get into a routine.  

The real truth is we make time for the things that matter to us.

When my wife and I were dating, I would run out the door at work in Michigan and drive hours down to where she was at school in Indiana to spend five minutes with her before her curfew. It was chaotic, but we didn't care - because that time mattered to us... because of the relationship.

Perhaps the real issue is something we're afraid to admit.

It is often in opposition that we are defined. Maybe that's why we avoid the Bible more often than we engage it. Let's face it - who wants to be chiseled away at when you could instead go through your day in your own sensibilities?

Might that be the real issue here?
"The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being." (Proverbs 20:27)

dressing up your emotions

Feelings are a lot like the clothes we wear. 

Some people change their wardrobe on a whim. Others hang onto things that are clearly meant to be given up. There are those who wear the same basic outfit each day, protective over what they're used to. Another group of people make everyone else uncomfortable with how naked they seem to be.
 What should be "donated" for the sake of "charity?"

What should be "saved" for the sake of "protection?"

And for that matter, what should we be clothing ourselves in to begin with?
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (Colossians 3:12-15)

why you don't like love


You and I don’t like love. 

Even when we know what it is, we'd rather have something easier than love. We are addicted to the feelings love creates and will mistake the two, even when we think they know the difference.

Love looks chaos in the eye and enters in. It is sacrificial, and ferociously full of gentle grace. It can somehow speak the truth without keeping a record of wrongs. It's kind when there are justifiable reasons to be unkind. It looks for a reason to lay down even more roots, and even more roots after that, and even more roots after that.

Love inspires even after having been perspired.

Love thinks outside-the-box while staying inside-the-box.

Love "believes it" before it "sees it."

Love gives impatience the middle finger.

We don't want that. We want the experience without paying for it. We want to order the steak and hope the waiter picks up the bill.

It’s ridiculous.
"Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:8a)

good deeds can distract you from God

It's noble to want to do something for God.

It can also be a distraction.

Perhaps Tim Hansel put it best in "You Gotta Keep Dancing"
“We may desire to bring to the Lord our perfect work. We would like to point, when all our work is done, to the beautiful ripened grain, and the bound-up sheaves.
And yet the Lord frustrates our plans, shatters our purposes and lets us see the wreck of all of our hopes, breaks the beautiful structure we thought we were building and catches us up in His arms and whispers to us,
‘It’s not your work I wanted, but you.’”
Good deeds... can actually distract you from God.
We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.(Isaiah 64:6)

getting "genuinely" drunk

I’m going to share something that will be hard to swallow.

I know, because I struggle with it on a daily basis. I’m even reading up on it these days to grow into it

It's impossible to faithfully follow God unless we are led by the Holy Spirit. 

Many well-meaning Christians don’t understand what it means, and like I said… I’m one of them. We all are. There is no way an imperfect human can perfectly know the mind of God at all times and on all things.

That means there will be times that you “righteously” go in the wrong direction without realizing it. This, I sense, is one of the reasons why we need each other and must form our friendships around God and all of His Truths. We can each believe we’re doing something good that we’ve even prayed over, only to realize through accountability and the Spirit that what we’ve concluded is actually not the Lord’s will.

Interestingly, God contrasts being filled with the Spirit with being drunk. 

Somebody who is drunk with wine or alcohol is controlled by and consumed by alcohol, but somebody who is "drunk in the Spirit" is controlled and consumed by the Spirit to step into a larger life that’s willing to defy personal thoughts, emotions, understanding and reason. If you do this you may even run against the grain of your family on things they’d rather do.

How does that sound? Like I said, it’s hard to swallow… isn’t it?

The Good News? The Holy Spirit entered you when you decided to give your life to Christ. The bad news? You may be under-utilizing Him. Even if you regularly ask Him to lead you, guide you and help you it won’t mean anything if you aren’t willing to do the things He wants you to do. It’ll often show up in things that don’t make any logical sense, like working something out yet again or challenging your own living/thinking on something you currently feel good about.

I’m a real guy who needs your prayers on this. I know you’re a real man or woman who needs the same. So think ahead with me and imagine what the next chapter of our lives (and the eternity of others we affect for Jesus) will be if we get this right today. Jesus said the Spirit will help us recall Truth and give us the power to speak to others about our faith.

Isn’t that worth it?

Because one thing the Holy Spirit can't do? All the work for us. We're still responsible to be faithful when we’d rather do what’s easier. Since we are to live by the Spirit, let’s keep in step with the Spirit, experiencing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control along the way.

(Check out John 14:15-27, John 16:5-15, Romans 8:1-17 and Galatians 5:16-26 for some further thoughts.)

praying rugby

Prayer is not meant to be the pathway to "smoothly."

"God, please let this thing go smoothly."

That may be the word we use most often while praying, but when that concept dominates we turn God into a pleasure slave. Then... then... then... when He doesn't deliver on our false image of Him, we then get mad at Him for it.


Prayer is actually the pathway to a relationship... to perspective... to Life.

It is actually something like rugby.

You will find community with God and others in the scrum... all while you wrestle over what truly matters.

To be honest, you just might get a black eye as you personally engage.

Then again, following Jesus is not about being a spectator to "smoothly"... but is about it is the path to victory.
"Pray continually" (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

10 wrong thoughts about God

It's easy to misunderstand people...
it's easy to misunderstand God.

By definition, He will always be at least one step (if not a billionth steps) beyond our understanding. After all, if you could comprehend Him in His entirety then He wouldn't be God.

On the flipside, we live in a culture full of opinions. Sometimes we end up elevating that to the point where we create an understanding of truth from ideas versus data. When I was younger, for example, I thought when we died we became angels. After all, that's what I saw in movies and TV shows. We end up creating non-fiction convictions based on fictional presentations.

The same thing can happen when life has dealt you a certain hand that you attribute to God.

I came across this list recently, which I think sums up ten of the most common "wrong" thoughts about God many people believe (and the Scriptures that prove otherwise):

How about it? Is this list accurate? What's missing?

becoming a true anomaly

"You haven't answered my question."

"Quite right. Interesting. That was quicker than the others."

Something happened this week that reminded me of a pivotal scene in the movie Matrix: Reloaded. The protagonist "Neo" finally meets the hidden antagonist behind all the events he (and others) have experienced. This "Architect" reveals that Neo is an anomaly to a mathematical matrix/world he has constructed for humanity to mentally live in.

Yes, this movie stunk compared to the original... but that's not my point.

Behind Neo are a number of monitors that represent the potential reactions the Architect has calculated Neo might make to everything he says.The antagonist is mapping without emotion the variety of emotions he is convinced Neo might experience and reply back with. Such knowledge is both intimate and cold - it requires proximity to know a person, but denies the ability of that person to grow and surprise you.

What prompted this was the realization of how I am reacting differently to something this week than I would have even a year ago.

I hope that doesn't come across as anything but surprise. While I feel that the "me" a year ago would have made a good choice to this situation, the "me" today is realizing there is another option that I can take that will opens up other doors... not because it's "more correct" or "as correct" as the option one-year-ago-me would have chosen, but because different things matter to me more today.

It's as if I'm watching images of myself "behind me" while I ponder what to do with what's in front of me.

Leadership, I have learned, requires these moments if you hope to become more than a stereotype of yourself. You will (in all the right ways possible) frustrate the "architects" who try to mathematically sum you up somehow, forcing them to either acknowledge they were wrong or that you are a greater anomaly than they predicted.

But this really isn't about them... it's about you... or else you will become nothing more than an architect yourself.

You will have to set down your desire to be correct or rest in your experience/training/validation in order to actually recognize more options than your planned response. Note that I'm not talking about your first reaction - I'm referring to the deeper reply you will offer from a place of actual conviction. You won't want to suspend it because it's how you have been trained to think.

Until you do, you won't see all the images of replies you have to choose from... and will end up becoming a caricature of yourself as you do what you are absolutely convinced is correct.

You must chose - do what you think is right, or become humble enough consider and do what is truly righteous.

Maybe someday I'll actually live this verse out:
"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me." (1 Cor 13:11)

your mind is made up

Let's face it - when it comes to many topics, your mind is "made up."

Today's theme (due to the press of a current Arizona bill sitting before its governor) was again homosexuality. It's such a hot topic that we always seem to circle back to as culturally, when in reality it's not just a conversation we should rapid-fire opinions into from any vantage point. Many people personally wrestle over this, which is something I didn't realize early on but have over the years. It's informed how I listen and speak into this, including noting how easy it is for any of us to claim we're being "open-minded" (from wherever you fall on this) without realizing that we're not as clever as we think.

As an example, I've spoken with people who take the approach, "That's why I won't ever go to church... because of the stereotypes I see in Christians on this topic." Without realizing it, that person has only created yet another stereotype about perceived stereotypes while taking steps toward becoming a stereotype themselves. Where is the fearless conversation, radical hospitality, Divine anticipation and genuine humility we all say should exist "out there" but we won't live out ourselves?

For that reason, I wrote something so I could own (and perhaps give you the same freedom to own) how much we tend to speak about things with our minds already "made up" - and perhaps allow them the chance to become "unmade" (the prerequisite for real transformation).

Here it is: http://youthministry.com/homosexuality-your-mind-is-made-up/

Hope you get something out of this. I wrote this to a specific audience, but I sense if you don't let that stop you it'll be a win.

with a little love... and some tenderness

Sometimes we don't realize how our actions can hurt another person.

Thankfully, the opposite can be true - we don't realize how our actions can bless another person.

Be intentional about this.

Withhold judgment.

Offer even just a simple gesture of love.

Let your kindness change another person.

Quit trying to prove you're right, and simply live righteously.

Need an example? Follow Jesus.

comparison sucks... literally

Do you allow what others have to keep you from enjoying what you have?

Who would you secretly enjoy seeing fail?

Comparison is a leech. It will literally suck the life out of you.

Start your week off with a connection to something greater.

Try on one of the hardest commandments in the Bible... that will actually lead you to Life:

Count your blessings.
"O my soul, bless God, don’t forget a single blessing!" (Psalm 103:2, The Message)