Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blessed Deception

I've been reading through Joshua in my quiet time. I came to Joshua 9 this morning and wonder what you think...

If you know the story, skip down a paragraph. If you don't, keep reading. Joshua and the Israelites are coming into the land of Canaan; taking possession of God's Promised Land. They are destroying all the people they encounter and the surrounding regions are getting scared. The Gibeonites (from the land of Gibeon) don't want to be destroyed, so they play dress-up and deceive the Israelites into believing that they are from a far off land (when they're really from right next door.) Joshua covenants with them to leave them alone. After three days, they realize that these "distant travelers" are really their neighbors. However, rather than destroy them (like they were commanded) they keep their oath and covenant and they let them live and give them jobs in the camp.

So, how is it that deception ends up "blessed?" The Gibeonites, rather than being destroyed, ended up employed in the camp of Israel. On top of that, in Joshua 10, Joshua comes to their aid when they've gotten into battle "over their heads."

Is it Joshua's faithfulness to God that allows the Gibeonites to be blessed? Is it the Gibeonites willingness to try a plan that "just might work?"


Monday, December 1, 2008

Generational Differences

I don't pretend to be a sociologist. I do enjoy the attempt at learning why people do certain things. Lately, I've been confronted with the reality of generational gaps. I'm trying my best to see things from multiple perspectives but I'm really struggling.

I recognize that people's actions are a product of multiple factors. Upbringing, experience, fears, passions, beliefs etc. All these things drive behavior. I'm finding difficulty especially when it comes to belief driving behavior. If we all claim to follow the same Jesus, how can we bear His name and yet act so differently? There are some who are overtly generous in their compassion and others who are as tight-fisted as the day is long.

Perhaps this takes us back to the discussion of lordship and salvation (or better stated lordship versus salvation in some circles). Whatever the fundamental discussion is, the difficulty remains to bridge the gap between the generations. The Scriptures are clear that God will use men and women of all ages in His plans, eg Joel 2, sons, daughters, old men, young men, etc.

So, hypothetically, how do we bridge the generational gap? There are no wrong answers but dialogue is appreciated.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Walking through Fog

I don't know what it is about fog that intrigues me. It seems like this season of the year (Fall in most parts of the country...) brings a lot of opportunities for fog. Maybe it's the unknown; maybe it's not being able to see right in front of you. I don't know, but something in me stirs when I see/experience fog.

The last few weeks have been really foggy in my heart. I've been extremely busy, probably too busy, and haven't given my whole heart to anything. To be honest, it feels like I'm out of control right now. Nothing 'feels' secure and there are a lot of things that need shoring up in my leadership. Quite a few things that need me to make a final call, but I'm unsure. Even more, I'm worried about making the wrong decision or being too ambitious. Reality is, I don't know if our church can afford "too ambitious" right now. I'm trying to challenge them out of mediocrity and settling but I'm also trying to be wise about the people and resources we have.

All in all, there is a lot of unknown ahead of me - it's very foggy from where I'm sitting. Right now, I'm trying to put one foot in front of the other and keep walking through fog.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Dear Mr. Obama

I have tried not to be vocal concerning politics during this election season. I believe each person involved in this democratic process is entitled to their rights as allowed by the Constitution of our great nation. However, when a man is running for the right to lead this great nation, he must understand completely the foundation upon which this nation was built. Our nation fights for its freedoms and it fights to defend the freedoms of those who cannot fend for themselves. Anyone who is not willing to fight for what is good and right is a coward. Anyone who is not willing to defend the defenseless, bring hope to hopeless, and free the oppressed is a coward. Especially when we have the resources and people willing to do it.

"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty." - John F. Kennedy

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


You probably know what I mean when I say, "where do I begin?" As a pastor, at times it seems that there are so many things vying for my attention. Something to do...someone to see. None of these things are bad. (I know you can't read inflection in the written word, so know that I am not complaining...I'm actually very hopeful.) Along with that something to do or someone to see, there are priorities. Things that must be done. Stephen Covey has the Time Management Matrix.

The struggle I have is not with daily tasks. It's with "prioritizing" the church. If you followed the link above, it's the things that reside in Quadrant II. The things that are Important and Not Urgent. These are not emergencies. These things are the "meat and potatoes" of church life. I'm trying to figure out where to begin on those things. Most pastors will tell you the pillars of their ministry are evangelism and discipleship, outreach and education, width and depth. Whatever monikers you assign, I agree these two build the foundation for a growing church.

So where do you begin? In a place where both are sorely deficient, do you deal with reaching the people or teaching the people? I'm pretty sure I know what you'll say...but the dialogue is welcome either way.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

the right thing...

Wonder if you would chime in on the following scenario?

What do you do - in a situation where you believe you've handled everything correctly, clearly defined expectations and spoken in such a way that the other person knows the responsibility lies with them - when the person won't take that responsibility and the circumstances deem you go against the expectations you clearly defined and lapse on a commitment that you made to that person? By lapsing in that commitment, you go fundamentally against the original premises of the "argument" that called for them to take the responsbility.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Shack

If you've read this book, I'd like to hear your thoughts on it. Lauren and I have differing opinions...

good, hearty discussion, if you please...


What is so hard about mobilization? I feel like there are so many things we need to do as a church. I'm trying hard to centralize our vision around the "one thing" that is most important. Obviously, our "one thing" is the Gospel and its advance to our community, area, state, etc...but what does that look like? Trying to hang flesh on this skeleton is tough! People are needy - do we accomplish the "one thing" by meeting needs then sharing the Gospel truths? People are lost - do we present the "one thing" as the solution to their problems then meet their needs? Gospel first, Gospel last...which one? Both? Hmmm...

Bottom line for me is, what is our church willing to do for the cause of Christ? Meet needs? Share the Gospel message? Be risky...I hope so...


Monday, October 13, 2008

Do it anyway...

After a few days in Atlanta at the '08 Catalyst Conference, my motto is "Do It Anyway." I'm going to adopt it for '09. I've never thought of myself as a cutting-edge leader in the "traditional" sense. However, as I heard all week last week, if not you, then who? If not now, when? For me, it calls for a "Do It Anyway" attitude, regardless of people's opinions or perceptions. Life is short, the average American church is spinning its wheels and there are people who need the Gospel in a relative way. I'm not saying the Gospel message is changing, but the context is and so is the way people hear it. It requires a "Do It Anyway" attitude. People need to hear it and I don't do anything about it, who will? I am poised atop a great mountain of potential in our church. Mediocrity won't do. It may not be popular but the call is to "Do It Anyway."

You in?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

It's October...

So far my blogging track record is not good. 2 posts in 4 months is not a successful blog in my are a few musings from the past 4 months...

  • I've been busy. Since my last post we've decided not to sell our house. Lauren is keeping her job at Presby-Dallas. I still have a long commute and it is such a blessing.
  • I never thought being forced to drive at least an hour a day would be a good thing, but I've really enjoyed it. Thanks to podcasts (thank you Matt Chandler, John Piper, Andy Stanley, etc) my drive time is consumed with some incredibly challenging teaching...most of the time. Not that their teaching is lacking, sometimes I just drive in silence. The beauty is I have at least 60 minutes to prepare/decompress every day that I go to my office. It's a good thing. Church is not all I think about. I don't bring much work home (except the days I use the dining room table as a study desk) and my wife and son get to experience a more "even-keel" husband and daddy. Before, I drove just over a half-mile to my office. Most mornings (if I didn't hit the elementary school traffic) I was at my office in a shade under 2 minutes. On cold mornings, the car wasn't even warm by the time I pulled in the parking lot. Definitely not any "thinking time" during that commute. On top of that, coming home did not allow me time to decompress enough to leave church stuff at the office. I was usually upset that I hadn't finished whatever tasks needed finishing or worried about the meetings and unreturned phone calls of the day. I can honestly say it wasn't fair to my family...and I see that clearly now.
  • I'm the happiest I've ever been...doing exactly what I was created to do. Not to say I've not been happy doing ministry these last 10 years, but I've finally found my "niche." And I like it...alot. It's hard - there are differences of opinion, wrestling with vision and providing leadership, trying to plan a budget and recruit volunteers - nothing that any other uni-staff Senior Pastor would not experience. I just didn't expect it...but I love it. It's a challenge everyday. Sometimes I just stare at the challenge in disbelief, i.e. How the heck am I gonna do that? Sometimes it gets no second thought, i.e. That's finished and it was easy... All in all, I'm satisfied. God has given me a clear place where I can exercise the ideas that have been rolling in my head.
  • I'm not afraid...before I was afraid to share my opinion. I'd been "shot-down" (yeah, in a church no less...) so many times, I just quit talking. Not normal, at least not for me anyway. I quit giving my two cents, sharing what I thought about the way things were going...and nobody was the wiser, except my wife and maybe a few unsuspecting coworkers. I've had 2 chances in the last fews to let my opinion be heard. I shared it, even though extremely difficult and it required some "force" in one instance, and it was well-received. It's good to be recognized as someone with a valuable opinion. It has taken away my fear...I like that.
  • I still have so much to learn. I hope I can say that when I'm 80. Every day I realize that 9 years of college/grad school was not enough. I think I've learned more in 95 days as a pastor than I did in 9 years of school. But there's still more...I hope I catch all of it.
  • Above all, I want to be found faithful. I officiated the funeral services of my oldest church member earlier this week. She was 97 1/2 years old and lived a full life. She cooked meals for senior citizens when she was 85 years old. Knitted afghans for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren into her 90's. She was sharp in her mind and able-bodied until a fall broke her pelvis 2 months before she died. When she fell, she told the doctor she was ready to go "home" to be with Jesus. That she had served her time here and served it well. I agree. Ask anyone who knew her and she was faithful. To her Lord, to her family, to her community. She was faithful. I want to be like Nellie Trail - faithful unto death.

That's it for now, I guess. I hope I'm not so consumed that it's another 4 months before you hear from me again. I doubt it, with the election coming and all. There'll be plenty to talk about, I'm sure...until then

grace and peace - sb

Friday, June 20, 2008


I know it's been a month since I last posted...I do apologize. It's been a rather busy month.

I have a new job.
We're selling our house.
We're moving to a new town.
Gotta find a new house.
Lauren is thinking about a new job, too.
Gotta find a new place for Noah to go to school.
I have a long commute to work now (after only driving .6 miles to work for the last 3 years).
All of this has started to fall into place in the last month...

Above all of this, my new job is as pastor of a church. So...

no more once-a-week Bible's preaching 3 times a week
no more youth's praying for and following God's direction for an entire congregation.
no more following the rest of the church staff...I am the church staff (for a while anyway).

It's time to put 9 years of post-secondary education to work as a pastor. I've had a lot of practice with a lot of people watching my Student Ministry. Now, I am leading this faith community praying that we impact a community with the Gospel and for the Kingdom.

All of this is a little overwhelming, but words cannot express how excited I am. I've never had juxtaposed feelings before; I am ecstatic and terrified at the same time. I feel so conflicted. I am nervous about stepping off into this new work, but I am anticipatory about it. I am sad to leave an incredible group of students, but excited to step into what seems like an incredible church with a heart for its community. I cannot wait to see what is in store for our time together.

It's going to be an amazing ride, I'm sure. I hope that I'll be able to share all of my experiences with you who read this blog. In the meantime, I covet your prayers as my family and I as we transition to a new church, new town, new house, new jobs, new school and so much more.

grace and peace

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Home Sweet Home

1 Canadian province
1 965 foot long cruise ship
1 Floatplane
2 Southwest 737s
4 Airports (5 if you include Gastineaux Channel - Juneau, AK)
5 US States
7 glaciers
8 family members
185 hours
1000+ pictures
2150 airline miles
2197 nautical miles

1 incredible vacation

Vacation has not been a word in my vocabulary for nearly 3 years. The last vacation was more a celebrative excursion (3 days in San Antonio for our 1-year wedding anniversary). Suffice it to say that this was the first vacation of my single or married life. I've lived in Dallas for 8 years and haven't taken a "vacation" since I moved here. I went on our honeymoon, our 1-year wedding anniversary excursion, been on several mission projects, but haven't experienced a vacation as a single, out-of-the-folks'-house, or married man.

Last Friday morning, May 9th, we loaded up and headed for Dallas Love Field. It was the beginning of about 6 hours flying to Seattle, WA. I've always loved flying. It's a kind of rush for me. The beauty of flight, seeing the world from a different perspective for a moment. It's an awesome experience. Flying with a 2-year-old on the other hand, a little nerve-wracking. (I have to say Noah did a fantastic job even with 2 stops on the way home.) We arrive in Seattle - a place I've never been before - and make our way to the pier to drop off our bags. From there we went to Pike Place Market - yep, the place where they throw fish, guys hula-hoop while playing guitar, and where you can get a fresh cup of joe from the original Starbucks' Coffee. It was a beautiful moment, sipping a honey latte on Pike Place looking out at the channel. Not much compares at this point (I'd be proven wrong several times during the ensuing week.) We ate dinner at a great Mexican restaurant in Pacific Place and then made our way to the ship. I even got a nickel tour from a friend of my father-in-law. He drove us from Pacific Place back to the pier. I can officially say I have a special place in my heart for the city of Seattle - not to mention the fact that the Rangers won the series against the M's the night before we got there. Altogether a great experience.

Our ship didn't sail until 1 AM Saturday. It was a little unnerving trying to keep Noah happy while we waited to board our ship at 10PM. Remember, there's a 2-hour time difference so he thinks it's midnight. He's exhausted and we're hauling him around like there's no tomorrow. He did great though and we finally made it to our stateroom around 10:30PM. Beautiful room, balcony overlooking the skyline of Seattle (right across the street from Safeco Field). It's starting to become a little just a few hours we'll be in Ketchikan, Alaska. We settle in and get down for the night. The boat leaves at 1AM and we wake up the next morning out in the glorious Pacific, bouncing along in some high seas. Started feeling a little sick, but I got some good meds and a motion-sickness patch so I was feeling good after the meds kicked in. We enjoy the day on the boat and the formal dinner that night...the boat was rocking pretty good so a few of us looked a little green. All in all a good day and topped off with a great meal and show.

We arrive in Ketchikan, AK on Sunday morning, Mother's Day. It was a pretty special day for our family. Lauren, her mom and her grandmother celebrating Mother's Day in Alaska. There were 4 generations eating together at our table most of the week (Grandma (Lauren's grandma), Mema (Lauren's mom), Lauren and Noah). We went to a Lumberjack show. It was amazing. I've watched the show on ESPN several times but this totally one-upped the TV competition. Those guys are amazing - one guy went up and down a 50-foot pole in under 30 seconds...amazing! After that we browsed around town and ate dinner at a great little restaurant - the best clam chowder I've ever had! We set sail for the Hubbard Glacier.

We arrived at the Hubbard Glacier around noon on Monday. Sailing into Yakutat Bay was absolutely breathtaking. Huge snow-capped peaks on either side of this wide channel and sailing on glassy waters dotted with large pieces of ice. Words are not sufficient to describe the beauty. As we approached the glacier, we were listening to running commentary from a naturalist who had kayaked those waters to investigate the glacier. He was giving great insight into each piece of our journey. The glacier finally came into view and it was amazing. At this point we were about 4 miles from the face of the glacier and it looked massive even from that distance. By the time we set sail from the bay, we had come within 1/2 of a nautical mile (about 7/10 of a mile) from the face. This glacier is 6 miles long and rises to nearly 400 feet from the surface of the water. It is constantly thundering and booming as it "calves" large pieces of ice into the water. These pieces break off and tumble into the water below. The capitan let us know that to be within 2 nautical miles of the glacier was unheard of in a vessel the size of our ship. We counted ourselves very lucky to get to be that close. It was absolutely amazing! From there we set sail from Juneau and would arrive early Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning, 7AM, we're sailing into the Gastineaux Channel of Juneau, AK. This 2-mile wide channel separates Juneau from Douglas, AK. It's peaceful, quiet and at least one whale surfaced alongside our ship as we sailed into the channel. We docked and made our way to the Taku Glacier Lodge. Lauren's parents took Noah so we had the day to ourselves. We loaded into a DeHavilland Otter floatplane and flew the 35 miles to the Taku Glacier Lodge. Over those 35 miles, we flew over 5 glaciers and the most beautfiul landscapes I have ever seen. Seeing the face of a glacier (the day before) was pretty amazing...flying over one was a completely different story. The crevasses and cracks, the crystal blue ice, the sheer size of these massive pieces of ice was absolutely breathtaking. Then we land just outside the Lodge. (Check out for info). We tour around the grounds, take photos and the sit down to a freshly prepared King Salmon meal inside the historic lodge. (When you check the website, make sure to read the Taku Lodge history's incredible). Inside there is a roaring fire, fresh bread and drinks with glacier ice - the lodge doesn't use refrigeration, they gather ice from the river in front of the lodge in 100-200 pound chunks and use it to freeze food and supplies. The meal was perhaps the best meal I've ever tasted. Lauren purchased their cookbook so hopefully there will be an attempt to prepare this meal in Texas. After the meal, we heard a presentation of the history of the lodge from the owner's son. He's a guy in his mid 20's who spends 5 months a year at the lodge. The closest neighbors are 1/4 mile away and the only way to get to them is by's definitely a remote lodge but very cool. There is a massive glacier about 2 miles across the river and out the front window of the lodge. It is an exquisite view and no words can describe the view. It's absolutely beautiful. We take a short hike after the presentation and then load the planes to head back to Juneau. After arriving back in Juneau we catch up to Noah and the rest of the family and take the Mount Roberts Tramway up the mountain for more breathtaking views of Juneau and the surrounding area. This 5-minute ride takes you up 1800 vertical feet to a visitor's center overlooking the channel and the city. It's quite a site. We browse around, see a short move about the Tlingit people (who settled Juneau and the surrounding areas) and then make our way back down the mountain to our ship. We board the ship and set sail for the Inside Passage and Victoria, BC.

Wednesday evening and Thursday morning introduced us to 20-22 foot seas in a 1000-foot cruise ship. I've discovered that no matter how large the boat, big waves are still no fun. Big waves are awesome when you're wakeboarding, skiing, jet-skiing, but in a fun. When we arrived in Victoria late Thursday afternoon, they had to move a crane alongside our ship to replace broken panes of glass from the Sports Deck on the bow of the ship...pretty scary when waves break 1.5 inch-thick panes of glass...

Victoria was absolutely beautiful! There are no words to truly describe the simple beauty of this little city. There are manicured gardens and beautiful flowers everywhere. Floatplanes make 300 trips a day from the Inner Harbour. There are shops and quaint restaurants all over the place. Horse-drawn carriages carry tours all around the city. We weren't able to see much of Victoria but a bus-tour around a small part of the city was breathtaking in its own right, though. I wonder if they would respond to an evangelical church up there...:-)

We set sail from Victoria around 11:30 and we would wake up in the Port of Seattle on Friday morning. Our sailing journey was over. The past 6 days were amazing and, needless to say, I enjoyed most every part of it (short of the "green" moments of seasick-ness). We disembarked the ship and gathered our bags for the trip to Sea-Tac airport. As we took off over Seattle, I felt a little sad as we made our way home. I don't know when my travels will take me back to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, but I hope it's not too long. I've grown very fond of that part of the country in a short time.

I hope that vacation doesn't elude me for another 8 years. If it does, I can only hope that the next one is as good as this one was. On most occasions, I was left at a loss for words taking in the most beautiful and breathtaking scenery on which I've ever laid my eyes. The most incredible thought came on Monday as we sailed through the Gulf of Alaska. I began to think about how I was so small on an enormous ship, in a vast ocean, on a massive planet, in an endless universe. As I pondered, I kept getting exponentially smaller and smaller. I remained lost in the bigness of the One who created all of this. In the midst of my "small-ness", He could tell me the number of drops of water in the ocean, how many fish were swimming below me, how many crystals of ice in that massive glacier and so much more. It was amazing!

Altogether, words fail to paint a sufficient picture of the beauty I've witnessed over the past 8 days. It is perhaps a painting trapped in my mind that you'll only see if you travel to Alaska yourself. Of course I'm sure your mind will paint a much different picture that will be uniquely beautiful to you. In the end, I'm reminded that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. It was a beautiful sight to pull in the driveway last night, walk into my home, set down my bags and rest in my own chair. There is nothing like being home.

Monday, May 5, 2008


After 4 months of trying, I finally finished Robert Webber's, "The Younger Evangelicals." I haven't been reading for 4 months. However, I wanted to give my full attention while I read the book. I've probably invested about 2 weeks in reading this book over the past 4 months. I don't usually take that long to read a's often a few days and done.

On a flight 10 days ago, I took the book with me and started reading. Since then, I haven't put it down. It's been a great read with incredible perspective. Webber offers his insight to a new generation of spiritual leaders quintessentially defined by their view on postmodern culture and the theological framework of twenty-first century evangelicalism. Webber compares this "new" generation with its two predecessors; groups he defines as traditional evangelicals and pragmatic evangelicals. He defines traditional evangelicals as those who lead primarily from 1950-1975 and pragmatics as those from 1975-2000. Younger evangelicals usher in the twenty-first century and currently serve as the heir apparent to theological leadership in this century.

I don't want to spoil the book, rather encourage you to read it for yourself. It is a great book, very wordy, but a great read nonetheless. I want to point out the way in which Webber concludes the book. He gives the illustration of the "Younger Evangelical Leadership Circle." He qualifies 4 reflective areas through which the younger evangelical operates. These areas are (1) Cultural, (2) Missiological, (3) Spiritual and (4) Theological. Each of these areas reflects upon action or what Webber calls an "embodied apologetic." He places the action - reflection - action principle of utmost importance to the younger evangelical. That is, the YE's will take action in community, in theology, etc, reflect upon what they have done and then take appropriate action to reflect the evaluation of their primary action. His premise is that YE's will constantly change their approach as long as it maintains continuity in mission, spirituality, theology and cultural interaction. Not only will YE's evaluate their action, but they look to the past to see what was "successful" for those leaders who have come before. Webber notes that YE's believe "the path to the future runs through the past."

This book strikes a chord with me primarily because I fall into the YE category. That generation is the one in which I have grown up and currently operate. However, what Webber points out throughout the book is that YE's are seeking a return to an "embodied apologetic" not just methodologies that will gather crowds. Regardless of your generational identity, the goal of the Gospel is to reflect the One whose name we bear daily not to gather crowds. Lives are changed one at a time inside authentic community with other people whose lives have been changed.

If you serve in any way as a pastor or teacher in the local church, I challenge you to read this book. It's a great read that will provide some insight.

A lesson in wisdom

Today is one of those days where I need to get quite a few things done, but I feel side-tracked. It's like my mind is in another place, thinking about so many different things. I started reading through Scripture. It's what I do when I can't focus.

I came across an interesting Proverb.

"A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back." - Proverbs 29:11

I have been known as one to wear my emotions on my sleeve. It is pretty easy to tell what I am thinking, feeling, etc. More often than not, a few probing questions and I'll let out whatever "it" is that's troubling me. Most people would say it's part of my personality. Open, honest, forthright, transparent, etc. I don't despise any of those things, in fact, they are virtues for which I pray to be apparent in my life. However, through reading this Proverb, thinking on it and reading it again, I am wondering where you strike the balance between these two adages.

These are incredibly poignant words. "A fool gives..." leaves no room for a variant interpretation. Yet, "a wise man quietly holds..." It's interesting to note the difference between folly and wisdom according to this text. One is given to unrestraint (the Hebrew means literally, "totality coming out.."). The other resides in moderation (Hebrew - "wise [one] hushes [it] back").

I must confess that I hope to be the wise one, quietly holding back his exploding spirit, exercising strength under control. Perhaps then I might identify with Da Vinci when he said, "Wisdom is the daughter of experience." For if this Proverb is true (and I believe it is), the only way to prove wisdom is by quietly hushing my spirit when I want so desperately to let it out with "full vent."

"Better be wise by the misfortunes of others than by your own." - Aesop

Let's give it a whirl...

It seems that lately writing has proved quite the outlet for me. I figured since blogging seems to be a great way to interact, opine, and converse, I would give it a try. I hope you enjoy...