What Will Guide You Today?

Mike —  January 29, 2016 — Leave a comment

He has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity… So let’s not listen to one.

The Spirit Breathes-3

What will you do with your day today?

What will guide you as you choose your way?

Will you let Him breathe life into the bones of this day?

Often in life we are forced to live in other people’s stories – stories of which we don’t know all the details.

  • Like that idiot driver who just screamed past you on the street (on his way to the hospital with his wife in labor in the back seat)…
  • Like the grumpy lady at the cash register who barely uttered a word to you (who just lost her best friend and husband of 20 years to cancer)…
  • Like the mean teacher who grades you so harshly (because she sees potential in you that she’s trying to help you unlock, even if you don’t see it yourself yet)…

When we don’t know the details, we tend to make them up or root around for them in the gossip pile. We create a narrative in our own minds about what must be going on. But often those stories bear little resemblance to what’s actually going on. The assumed motivations we fill in with our imaginations are often far from the truth, and they tell us a lot more about the troubles and victories in our own stories than they do about anyone else’s.

Between the Lines

What you read between the lines tells you more about you than about the one who left the gaps you’re trying to fill with your imagination. So be sure to fill in the gaps with grace. Be quick to believe the best about someone else’s motivation instead of the worst. It just might be that they have information that you do not. Maybe their experience has taught them something you have yet to learn. Maybe their humility allows them to see a perspective that you can’t quite make out just yet.

If you find yourself in circumstances where you feel the need to find out what’s going on behind the scenes, be careful. Rumors and innuendo make fools of the best of us. If you really need to know, go to the source instead of listening to the back channel chatter. And be careful not to read the wrong story into the one God is writing in your circumstances…

Merry Christmas 2015

Mike —  December 22, 2015 — Leave a comment

It’s been way more quiet here than I would prefer this year. I’ve been processing through some stuff that I don’t think belongs out here in the wild, so I’ve found some other cages where my words can hang out for a while without terrifying the locals. At some point, I’ll let them out to play, but in the meantime, I just wanted to say thanks for the encouragement so many of you who read what I write here have been. I can’t tell you how much your well timed comments and emails have meant.

This past year (or three) has not been an easy one for me as I sift through my life to see what God is doing and figure out how to best move His Kingdom forward, but His faithfulness never ends, so we keep following His lead. Our church has been going through The Story for the past few months, and I’ve enjoyed being reminded of how God is working out His best, even in what we think are our worst moments and seasons. This week, all over the world, people will celebrate one of those moments:

An occupied nation, only a pitiful remnant in shambles compared to their former greatness…

A pregnant young girl with no place to stay in a crowded little village outside the city of Israel’s kings…

An honorable man, willing to do whatever he could to begin his own new family on a stable foundation…

Then a baby, a King of all kings born to bring it all together – God’s own son, His hope delivered at just the right moment…

When we think we’re at our worst, God’s best is always waiting to break through. Whatever discouragement has haunted you this year, may this Christmas remind you that He is always ready bring light and life back into you and your world. Whatever is broken and wrong around you, He is able to sort through the pieces and rebuild it all to reveal His own image imprinted in you from the very beginning. He is with us!

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas from the Andrews!

Merry Christmas from the Andrews!

Where Are Your Roots?

Mike —  October 13, 2015 — Leave a comment

When someone asks about your roots, where do you go? Do you tell them where you grew up? Do you mention your ancestry? Do you tell them where “your people” are from?

You may not be going back far enough.

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Before your ancestors hitched a wagon, boarded a boat, or walked across the miles to find a new home, your journey began.

Before you ever had a thought, you came to life in the imagination of God.

Before you breathed your first breath, you were an ember first fanned to life by the very Breath that spoke all the things into existence.

And He does not just see that handful of years you can remember or your family has recorded. He sees them all. He dreams of a future with you! And He’s given you a part in making it.

What will you make?

How will you shape tomorrow?

Will you love new people who have never known the kind of love that comes from the heart of God through His people? Will you plant new churches that will serve as bastions of hope and life in a desperate world? WIll you start new ministries to equip and serve people that have long ago written off the church as a place clinging to the past with no future to speak of?

Please don’t settle for building a future that’s only based on your past. Lean so far back into the roots planted in God’s future that you find yourself playing in His imagination once again, where anything is possible. This may all sound a little hokie and weird to some of you (Ok, to many of you… I know my mind doesn’t do ‘normal’ very well…), but could we stop rolling through the motions of our memories and advance fearlessly and intently into a new day? A day that is better than this day? Could we stop working out of a sense of obligation, and work to build something, to renew and reconcile what has been broken and tarnished in this world by sin?

Could we dream new, Kingdom dreams?

Then may we live fully to bring them to life!

This Changes Everything

Mike —  October 8, 2015 — Leave a comment

Our church has been going through The Story together and the last line of last week’s chapter keeps resonating in my heart and in my head. “Is the Lord among us or not?”

The Hebrews had just been rescued from Egypt and delivered from a life of slavery by events that unmistakably pointed to God’s presence and intervention in their circumstances. Yet in the time it takes to get hungry in the wilderness, it seems they forgot how they got there. The plagues that convinced Pharaoh to let them go… The pillar of fire and cloud that led them forward and kept the Egyptians at bay… The sea path that dried up for them to cross, then refilled fast enough to obliterate the oncoming army…

“Is the Lord among us or not?”

The answer seems obvious, but before we get on their case too much we may want to step back and examine our own lives. Are we living lives that look like we know that He is among us? In Acts 4, Peter and John surprised the Jewish council with a passionate response to their attempts to quiet the disciples’ talk of Jesus and to stifle any display of the power of His name. They shouldn’t be able to defend themselves so eloquently. They’re unschooled… These are just ordinary guys from the lake… But they had been with Jesus!

And that changed everything.

The presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives gave them courage to live lives that didn’t make any sense. He enabled them to do things that they could not possibly have done without Him there. What is going on in our churches and in our lives that doesn’t make sense apart from the intervention of God? What is happening in our relationships that gives unmistakable evidence that the Lord is indeed among us? Jesus early disciples rocked the Roman empire in the wake of His resurrection by adopting orphans and abandoned kids, caring for sick people left to die alone, and valuing human life in ways that no other culture did.

We need the same Spirit of courage today. We’ve too often forgotten how we got here, and we’ve become afraid. Instead of living as a life giving culture within every dark corner of our world, we cower and cling to our rights. We’re afraid they’ll take our guns and indoctrinate our children so we rail about the 2nd Amendment and pull the young salt and light from places that are desperately in need of their influence. We’re afraid the world is coming to an end so we squirrel away every golden nut we trust to keep us going in the dark days ahead. We’re afraid the government is out to get us all, so we re-post every conspiracy theory and sensational headline we find that lends credence to our fears. We’re afraid we’re just not good enough to deserve the love of God, so we re-post the ridiculously viral Facebook attempts to curry Jesus’ favor. I have nothing against responsibly owning guns and educating our own kids, or planning ahead and not counting on politicians to have our best interest at heart – but don’t be motivated toward those things by fear.

Is the Lord among us or not? Could we just stop? Stop being afraid, church. They’ve already killed the one who laid down every right He had. They pulled His body off the cross, wrapped it up, and put Him in a grave. And He already defeated the enemy! We have nothing left to fear!

God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.

-Paul, in a great reminder to his spiritual son, Timothy

“Is the Lord among us or not?”

May the lives we live reveal that we know with every breath we take that He is.

The Key to Having Enough Energy

Mike —  September 2, 2015 — 1 Comment

The idea of rest seems greatly out of place in a world where meals are done in minutes and taken on the go so we can make it to the next thing… whatever that next thing may be. We bounce from one event or activity to the next in what seems like an attempt to squeeze everything possible into days that are just not long enough. Or maybe we’re trying to keep up with the neighbors and friends that seem to float through everything with ease. (They don’t, by the way, they’ve just figured out how to look like they do – for now.)

But rest is critical and we know it. We feel it. We flat out run out of steam and need to rejuvenate somehow. So we crank up the coffee and slam another energy drink in an attempt to churn our way through another 5 hours… but then what? We hype energy-shake-for-breakfast lifestyle home businesses and tell all our friends how much better we feel, until, ironically, we run out of steam (or friends to tell)… And we still feel worn out.

So the voices of wisdom advise us to take some time off. Refresh. Get away from it all.

Or maybe they tell us that we’re just doing too many things that drain us and we need to stop. Get rid of the energy vampires in our lives. Replace them with activities that energize!

But what if there’s more to it than the amount and type of activity we do? Then no amount of rearranging schedules and clearing itineraries will really work.

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What if we feel all used up, because we’re missing the reason behind our frenetic pace? What if we could re-engage in a life of productivity by re-examing the purpose behind it all?

One of my students recently drew my attention to Jesus’ invitation to the weary in Matthew 11.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

It’s incredible that immediately after offering rest, Jesus instructs the weary to link up with Him in a harness meant to get work done. Kingdom work. Heavy work. Make no mistake, there is rest for our souls. But it’s not found in the right activities or the absence of the wrong ones. It’s not found in a proper amount of down time or just checking out for a while.

It’s found when we join ourselves with Jesus in His work to advance the Kingdom of His Father and to put His love on full display. I have a suspicion that when we put ourselves to work fully for His purpose, His Spirit will fill us with all the rest and energy we’ll ever need.

[*This is a post from 2011 that I’ve reworked today, when hail damage was the good news of the day!]
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What do you do when everything sucks?

What do you do when everything sucks?

Just thought I’d follow up on a previous post sparked by the struggles of my favorite football team. What Do You Do When Everything Sucks? I offer a few suggestions:

1. Walk around with a tragic look, so people can tell that everything sucks. Black turtlenecks can help with this, but not those cool Steve Jobs kind – keep ’em sloppy and a size or two too big. Be sure not to offer any real clue when people ask what’s wrong, though. They might just do something helpful and mess up the whole suffering vibe you’ve got going. Just embrace the suckiness and let life take shots at you like a fish flopping around the bottom of a dry barrel.

2. Frequently let out heavy, audible sighs. These are kind of wasted when you’re alone, but try a few for practice anyway. See how long you can keep the exhale going and experiment with a little bit of vocals thrown in for good measure. If you work in a cubicle, you can learn to bounce these off the ceiling into some neighboring boxes, while not alerting some others to your plight. This way, you can ensure a little sympathy from that nice looking hamster in the next wheel over and avoid any awkwardness with that guinea pig, Stan, on the other side. Be really careful with the vocalizing though, too much and you’re just going to start laughing at how ridiculous you sound and the levity of the moment may make you forget that everything sucks.

3. Lie around and don’t do anything productive. Being productive may actually change something about your circumstances, then what would you have to feel crappy about?

4. Turn off the lights and walk around in semi darkness – in your sloppy dark turtleneck, of course. When anyone asks why the lights are off, just shrug your drooping shoulders and tell them you didn’t notice… must be because of all the darkness you feel surrounding your soul these days.

5.Write a blog post that will remind yourself what a moron you’re being as you go around as if everything sucks, when in fact, every thing does not suck. Actually, while it is true that some things do suck, there are many things not sucking at all. For example, our wife is awesome and your kids are genetically gifted because you’re not so bad yourself. Your friends think you’re great and love to hang out any chance you give them. So, once you’ve acknowledged that there are some things that don’t suck, turn the freakin’ lights on, ditch the “sackcloth and ashes,” grab hold of just how deeply you are loved by the one who made you, and get back to living the life He dreams for you.

(Also, throw that stupid turtleneck away and get some clothes that fit.)

Check out this other post for some practical ways you can Recalibrate, today, and move on from the suckitude.

She’s Playing My Song

Mike —  May 20, 2015 — Leave a comment

I’ve written a few songs over the years. A love song written to a girl I hoped wouldn’t laugh too much… A goofy song to present a Bible story to a bunch of kids that I hoped would at least laugh a little… Some dumb jingles just to make myself laugh… And a few songs I hoped would draw my students together in worship. One song that I’ve done on piano (it’s really just a running bass line and some melodic chords strung together) has caught my oldest daughter by the ear and she’s decided to figure it out. The other day as I sat in the living room, I found myself humming along to a familiar tune that was playing in the background. Then I realized – she’s playing my song!

I don’t know why this struck me this time in particular, she’s been playing it for a few weeks now, but it did. Then in a significant moment, a quiet whisper wondered, “What else would she play?” Of course she was playing the song I’ve been playing for her for years. Of course the melodies she’s heard flowing from my life would find their way into her own. How could they not? Of course the patterns I’ve held out to her and demonstrated as beautiful would be reached for and held onto, as if she were once again reaching for my fingers as she stumbled into her first steps.

Wait… we are still talking about music, right?

No, not really.

The girl who didn’t laugh too much at my first song still holds my hand on walks, but my daughter doesn’t need to cling to my fingers when she walks anymore. And she doesn’t ONLY play my songs. She’s making music of her own. Our kids make lives of their own. This shouldn’t be a big revelation to anyone who has children. They begin to assert their own will on life right away. But they do so within the frameworks and patterns they see in our own lives.

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This way, Dad?

As a dad, I want to make sure the life I’m living is worth emulating. If they grow up to be “just like me” – I want to make sure that’s a good thing! There are a few things I’m doing to make sure that it is: (Do your next generation a favor and try them, too…)

  • Imitate Christ. As long as I’m living a life that looks like Jesus, there is no shame in saying “Do what I do.” The call of the disciple is to learn the way the Master lives – then teach that way to others. That starts in our own homes.
  • Don’t feel like you have to hide all the sour notes. It’s nice when our kids think we’re perfect, but then their eyesight clears up and they start to see the truth. Sometimes, we make mistakes. We need grace to be forgiven and strengthened. It’s better for our kids to see us being re-shaped by His grace than pretending we don’t need it. Because they need it to.
  • Keep making new music! Sometimes, I forget that my life today is not what it will be tomorrow. I get tuned in to the rhythms of the choices I’ve made and forget to keep experimenting and tinkering with new chords and lines and instruments. Our kids need to see us continuing to set out on new steps of faith that require us to trust God to lead.
  • Sometimes, let them lead. You’ll be amazed at what your kids have learned without you noticing. Let them take you somewhere unexpected!

Are We Missing Something?

Mike —  April 15, 2015 — 1 Comment

Jesus’ heart for the next generation is evident. He told the disciples to stay out of the way of some kids who were trying to get to Him. He gives a strict warning to anyone who would hinder the young from coming to Him. (And offers death by drowning as a preferable alternative!) He even holds up the faith of a child as an example that the adults he was talking to should follow!

For generations, the faithful church has reflected His heart for the young (as well as His heart in every other matter). But sometimes, our attempts to do so have come with unfortunate side effects. Over the last 60 years or so, as youth culture has increasingly developed its own distinctions from the larger culture, I’m afraid the job of ushering the next generation into the presence and Life of Jesus has been misplaced – it’s been left up to ‘the experts’.

Youth speakers, pastors of student ministry, youth ministers… With good intentions, churches have designated people like me as the ones to make disciples of the next generation. But the unfortunate side effect in this case is that most of the rest of the church begins to shirk its responsibility because “we hired someone to work with the kids.” The truth is, the youth minister cannot do the whole work that is necessary for the church to reach the next generation. It takes (in the case where I serve) a nurse and an entomologist and a lab tech and a paint guy and a painter and moms and dads and grandparents and a social security worker and a veteran and the cable guy… We need teachers and coaches and sales associates and railroaders and office workers and clerks and secretaries and managers and… Hey, what’s your profession? We need those, too.

See, the responsibility for reaching and equipping the next generation to make disciples isn’t just mine. It’s ours. They need all of us to collectively reach out as the Body of Christ and invite them into the adventure of discipleship in every walk of life.

This isn’t really just a youth ministry issue though, is it? Aside from “Love God and love your neighbor.” there may be no other command of Jesus as clear as “Go make disciples.” He said a lot of things that were sort of hard to understand that we’re not quite sure what to do with, but “Go make disciples.” isn’t one of them. And yet… aren’t there a lot of people who show up in church services regularly who aren’t making disciples? How have we misplaced one of the most basic functions of who we are? Is the painter who never paints anything really a painter?

It saddens me to think of how many believers have basically ignored this plain instruction and could not name a single disciple they’re “making”. It saddens me even more to think of how many young disciples-to-be may never know the potential they have in His service because the church hired someone else to take care of the students and stopped making disciples of the kids in their own communities. Would you do a check and make sure that doesn’t describe you? Connect with the kids around you. Invite them into your life and share the journey of discipleship with them. Start now.

Is there something you’re missing that you need in order to make disciples? Can I help you with the nuts and bolts of making disciples? (Use the contact page above or send me a message to get in touch.)

If you’re a church leader, take some time to evaluate how you do things. Are the people you lead making disciples? Are you the all-star quarterback of the disciple making duties of your ministry or the coach, pulling a team together and maximizing every team member’s unique contribution to the disciple making mission?

What About Monday?

Mike —  April 6, 2015 — Leave a comment

On Friday, Death sneered and mocked Life while God calmly answered, “I’m going to count to Three.”

On Saturday, the snickering in Hades acquired an air of nervousness while God raised His head and counted on… “Two.”

On Sunday, Jesus shook Death by the throat and threw the carcass aside. “One. What now? Where is your sting?”

But on Monday…

What about Monday?

“What now?” indeed.

What happens the day after the day death is defeated?

There’s not a chance that the friends of Jesus could have just gone on as if everything He said had ended with Him there on the cross. But what would they do? Who were they to carry His legacy? How were they supposed to continue on without Him?

So they huddled together. Maybe for comfort… maybe out of fear… maybe in hiding… And then…

Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.

With a mission. There was a reason Jesus stepped from His throne into a womb and onto a cross.

Not without strength. God placed all authority in His hands.

Not alone. The Father was always with Jesus.

Receive the Holy Spirit.

It’s Monday now, and we have been sent to bring hope to those who are without hope – To share light in the darkness. But we don’t have to manufacture this hope. The Life that is the Light of men has already instigated and instilled His hope in all who would share in His resurrection.

We are not alone.

He lives still to complete the mission His Father gave Him.

In us.

It’s Monday. What will you do now?