Category Archives: Faith

Why You Should Dream BIG

4-years ago, as we were preparing to launch Centerpoint, we drew a prayer circle around a BIG dream called Crazy Love Family Day. The dream, although BIG, was simple. In a blue collar community, facing the reality of an economic crisis, we dreamed we could take one BIG day and show our city crazy love through the form of a free carnival. 

Despite the experts recommendations to take our minimal funds and market our new church, we decided we’d rather invest it into Crazy Love Family Day. Honestly, some people thought we were crazy and we often responded to that notion by saying “crazy love.” The reality is we would have probably grown at a more rapid pace as a church if we had invested our money into marketing but we knew that wasn’t what we were supposed to do.

Year 1 drew 500. Year 2 drew 800. Year 3 drew 1200 and last Saturday marked our 4th annual Crazy Love Family Day with over 2,000 people in attendance. This BIG day never happens without BIG prayers, BIG dreams and BIG faith. God is a BIG God and if you trust Him why wouldn’t you dream BIG and watch Him do His thing?

The Gay Card

President Obama’s recent endorsement of gay marriage sent nothing less than a shockwave of emotions and opinions throughout every corner of the good old USA. As a pastor, I have taken particular interest in how the church would respond. Unfortunately, most of the popular media has chosen to let judgmental pastors and brainwashed singing toddlers represent what I believe to be the minority.

There are many churches that don’t agree with our President’s current view but I’ve spoken with no one, in any of those circles, who agrees that a modern-day concentration camp, or teaching children to proclaim hell on the gays, is a good idea. It might not make the best nightly news story or sell papers but there are many Christians who understand this issue is not going away and that hate never brings about a positive exchange.

I believe Jesus heart breaks when he hears people who claim to follow Him respond with hate instead of love. After all, He was the one who told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:31) My prayer is for all my gay brothers & sisters, who are human just like I am human and deserve respect and love, to find it inside the church. My desire is for everyone, gay and straight, to find the life-changing liberation that only comes through Jesus. I believe love will open that door and I believe love is the foundation of many churches. I am hopeful the ignorant opinions of a few will not detour people from experiencing the true legacy of love left by Jesus and proclaimed by many of His followers.

We must value all life because God created life and everyone has a story. 

Thoughts to ponder… 

God in my dinning room table

VanB #3 is on the way and we’re remodeling to get ready. In the spirit of clearing out the old to make room for the new, my wife decided we should have a giant garage sale so we cleared out just about everything we have…literally and put it up for sale. After the yard sale was over we posted some of the larger remaining items on Craigslist. Needless to say, I did not know God would use that post to help us do much more than sell some of our stuff.

Our dinning room table was one of the items we posted and last night, a lady showed up to buy it. We made some small talk, she paid me 50% and said she’d be back later to pick it up and pay the balance. It was on the return trip that our conversation took a turn.

I found out she’d moved across the country and was in the midst of a major transition. I told her our family was also undergoing a transition hence the selling of just about everything in our home.  Somehow the talk transitioned to religion and she told me she was buddhist. I told her I was a pastor. Neither fact seemed to bother either of us. She asked where our church was. I told her it was in a movie theatre. She laughed. I shared our vision. She shared her perceptions. I invited her to come visit. She said she’d like that. As she was leaving she said, I think we just did a lot more than buy and sell a table didn’t we? I nodded and smiled in agreement. I went in the house, shut the door and realized God had used our dinning room table to create a moment only He can create.

Moments like this are all around us but we must be open enough to see them. I sincerely hope my path crosses again with the lady who bought our dinning room table. I’m pretty sure they’re supposed to.

Sex. Marriage. Church.

God created sex and marriage. No matter what you might have heard, neither were created simply for the sake populating the earth. He created sex so we could experience pleasure and He created marriage so we would have a visible reminder on earth of the heavenly love He has for His church. The problem is, our view of sex is distorted and the state of marriage is broken. We’ve taken two wonderful things and messed them up.

I often wonder if the church is more to blame for this than anyone else? God wrote the book on sex and marriage but have we engaged it in an authentic way? The divorce rate within the church is almost the same (50%) as  it is outside the church and nearly the same percentage of people in the church say they are addicted to porn. God gave us the guide but we clearly aren’t following it. I wonder if it’s not being followed because it’s not being taught?

There’s a positive wave in many churches today to refocus on giving a Biblical perspective on the issues of sex and marriage. The Bible is real about these issue and those of us who are spiritually leading others have to be real about these issues as well. These are vital parts of our society and they affect the way we view God’s creation and ultimately, the way view God. Sex and marriage are redeemable but it must start and end with God. His way is the best way.

As we approach this topic yet again at Centerpoint I have emotions that range from excited to apprehensive but my prayer is that hope will reign. Hope for the broken. Hope for the abused. Hope for the lost. God’s love is the only thing that can restore and redeem but people can’t experience what they have not seen and heard. May those of us who lead be willing to engage the hardest issue facing our society knowing that God has the answers.

CV

Sex, Marriage & Fairytales starts Sunday at Centerpoint

For the Regulars, the Sporadics & the First Timers

Many of us, from a variety of backgrounds, will attend church to celebrate Easter this Sunday. 

  • Some of us will be regular attenders.
  • Some of us will be sporadic attenders.
  • Some of us will be first timers.
  • The regulars might be sporadic because think they’ve already found the perfect church.
  • The sporadics might be sporadic because they have yet to find the perfect church.
  • The first timers might be first timers because they’ve avoided imperfect people who act like they’re perfect.

The issue with ALL of this is that many people, from each group, are focusing on the wrong thing. The perfect church is a myth. It’s an urban legend at best and we would be wise to shift our focus elsewhere if we ever want to experience an authentic connection with God. As many of us prepare to attend church this Sunday, here are a some thoughts to ponder:

  • For the Regulars: Get involved in more than filling a seat. Love your church but love God more. People will let you down but God’s love never fails.
  • For the Sporadics: It’s time to end your endless search. Stop trying to find a perfect place that doesn’t exist and get planted in a place that will help you grow relationally and spiritually.
  • For the First Timers: You might have been unwilling to give the church a chance but give God a chance . Let God guide you to a church that will admit their imperfections and help you grow.

The NEXT Step

Every one of us hits an inevitable crossroad in our journey of life.

Maybe things didn’t work out as well as we thought they would.

Maybe they worked out better.

Maybe they’re still working on working. 

Whatever the case might be, most crossroads require us to make a significant decision. Making the right decision requires faith in God yet this is the part a lot of us miss. In an effort to seek independence we can push God out of the equation. In my young life, I have learned that a decision at a crossroad is much better made with God then without Him.

God opens doors that no one else can.

God shuts doors He’d rather we not walk through.

God gives us the favor only He can give. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 is a Scripture I read often to remind me that my life is better in God hands than it is in my own. The NEXT Step, at any crossroad in life, is to seek God with everything we have & trust that His wisdom will light our path. Whatever crossroad you find yourself at, keep God in the equation & watch Him show-up & do incredible things!

CV

 

What My Princess Has Taught Me

It doesn’t seem possible that 4-years ago today Kristyn & I were welcoming our first child into the world. From the moment Aubri was born, she had my heart. She’s daddy’s princess & she knows it. Other men told me my life & perspective would forever change by having a daughter but it’s something you can’t understand until it happens.

Looking back over the past 4-years what stands out to me is how much Aubri has taught me. I’m the parent. I’m supposed to do the teaching but anyone with kids knows that’s not always how it works.

I thought I’d celebrate Aubri today but sharing 4 profound lessons she’s taught me over her first 4-years of life. Something tells me these lessons won’t be stopping anytime soon.

Lesson 1: Love is an issue of the heart. I know I’m biased but I’ve never met a sweeter girl than Aubri. She is most often generous. She is most often kind. She is most often more thoughtful of others than she is herself. Two Christmases ago she decided to package one of her newest dolls into a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. You can read that blog post here. Her thinking was that she had a lot of dolls & this doll would make another little girl very happy. Her thinking was right & I’ve never been more proud as a parent. Aubri has rarely had a hard time expressing her love for others because her heart is so pure. When our heart is in the right place, love comes naturally.

Lesson 2: The best parts of life are the simple things. Last week Kristyn & I had a parent teacher conference recapping Aubri’s first year of pre-school so far. They showed us a list of questions they asked Aubri during her first week of school. One of those questions asked what Aubri’s favorite thing to do was. Her response? Going to Kroger with my daddy. I almost fell apart right in the room! We’ve been to the beach, gone to movies, visited Disney World & the thing that stood out most to Aubri, in that moment, was going to Kroger with me. I think we’d all do well to find joy in the simple things of life. We might have more memories waiting for us than we realize.

Lesson 3: Grace isn’t that hard when we really want to extend it. Over a year ago I told a story on this blog about how I screwed up as a parent & lost my temper. I yelled, Aubri cried & I washed my mouth out with soap to show the kids how serious our words & actions are. It was Aubri, the one I had hurt the most in that moment, who extended grace to me & told me she loved me. She really wanted to extend grace & when we really want to extend grace it’s not as hard as we often make it.

Lesson 4: Grateful attitudes make the world a brighter place. This morning Kristyn & I woke-up Aubri up by singing happy birthday to her. She hugged us, thanked us & told us how much she loved us. We went downstairs & made her pancakes & sausage (her favorite breakfast). Before she’d even taken a bite she thanked us for the best birthday ever & it was only 8am. There is rarely a time where Aubri isn’t openly grateful about almost everything others do for her & it makes me want to do anything for her knowing she’ll notice & appreciate it. A grateful attitude shines like a light in this dark world & many of us would do well to practice it more.

Happy Birthday to my Beautiful, Wonderful Princess!


Is the church like Simon Says

We sit, we stand.

We sing, we pray.

We sit again, we give.

We laugh, we cry.

We pray again, we go home.

No matter how different a church service may look, and how we as pastors & creatives might try to spin our unique approach, many of them are made up of similar rituals & elements. These rituals & elements aren’t bad but if we don’t know WHY we do them we can find ourselves following the commands & going through the motions of religion that ends up resembling a game of Simon Says.

I grow more & more convinced that this is one of the biggest reasons people minimize the importance of church in their life. They don’t know WHY we do the things we do & if we’re not careful, religion instead of relationship is ultimately encouraged.

I believe people crave genuine relationships & authentic life change but in order to find it, we must get past the exterior & tap into the WHY behind the WHAT. Why do we sing? Why do we reflect? Why do we serve? Why do we gather? As leaders, it’s easy to take these things for granted but in a world jaded by a list of religious do’s & dont’s we would do well to explore the WHY ourselves & then communicate it with our people. It’s all about getting back to the relationship & WHY is where it starts. 

CV

Centerpoint’s new series Simon Says starts Sunday March 11th. 

What will they say when we die?

Yesterday marked the 4-year anniversary of my dads passing. He wasn’t even 60 years old & he had fought 3 separate battles with cancer. He beat the first 2 despite the odds but the last 1 beat him. It was a tough pill to swallow & at times, it still is.

Over the past few years I have transitioned from reflecting on my fathers life to learning from it. Although he taught & impacted the lives of many I don’t think he left anyone with bigger shoes to fill than my brother & I. I don’t say this as  a slight to the my sister, or my mom, but my dad was a husband & a father, something only my brother & I can be.

I confess that I write this post with a specific audience in mind: MEN

When we die people will talk.

What they say will depend on how we lived.

Nothing that is said will be more important than the words of our wife & children who we might have to leave behind.

So what do I say of my dad? 

My dad followed Christ before he followed anyone or anything else. He loved my mother & he didn’t just say it, he showed it. He never made me, my brother or my  sister feel like we were an afterthought & he was there to support us through everything we did. My dad was an incredible pastor & leader but he never made apologies to the people he led for making his biggest priority our home. My dad was generous & he sacrificed regularly asking nothing in return. The list could go on but as I move towards year #5 without my dad this is what I say of him. The respect & love I have only continues to grow & I don’t expect that will ever stop.

So here’s my question men: What will our wife & kids say about us when we die? Death is not something we like to think about but it will happen to all of us & this is a thought every real man reading this post should be willing to ponder. We might be tempted to put it off until tomorrow but we aren’t even promised the rest of today. We need to step up & lead our families with the love & support they deserve. We all leave a mark when we die but the mark we leave is up to us. 

CV

Why I Care More About THEM

Earlier this week I was dialoguing with someone about something we both knew would need some future follow-up. At the end of our discussion they told me they’d follow-up with me next week. I told them I’d be on vacation with my family next week & would be unavailable.

They told me they’d just e-mail instead of calling.

I told them again that I would be unavailable.

THEM: No e-mail?

ME: No e-mail.

I am not a saint. I don’t have it all figured out but one thing I am certain of is that my family will always be more important than another e-mail, problem, phone call or text. We think it’s normal to stay connected & accessible 24/7 so most of us do but maybe we should ask if normal is really working? We live in a country where split families are almost the norm. Sadly, the numbers for those inside the church aren’t much better than those outside the church. Maybe this is because we talk more about putting our families first on Sunday than we spend time actually doing it the rest of the week.

As a pastor it’s easy for me to get so busy helping others create good marriages & families while I neglect my own.  I’ve been there. I’ve done it. I don’t like it. I had to decide early on in this journey that I wanted a family who loved me more than I wanted a church that would always have access to me. It might sound harsh to some but it’s absolutely true & I’m at peace with my decision.

It doesn’t matter what you do for a living because no matter what, I believe we all need to find ways to be intentionally unavailable to the outside world. We need to disconnect with them so we can reconnect with the people who truly need us the most. The pictures of Aubri & Owen at the top of this post are from a Disney trip we took last year. I keep them in my phone as a constant reminder of the memories that are made when I’m fully present with my family. May we all learn to disconnect  so that we can reconnect with our families. 

CV