This is the third post reflecting on Kerry Wyatt Kent’s book Deeply Loved; if you’d like to read my first two reflections click here and here.  Today I want to reflect on her thoughts regarding service.

Kent’s words were, to me, comforting to read.  In some ways for me they almost “lowered the bar”, so to speak in regarding expectations for service, but the more I thought about it I realize how difficult what she’s writing about can be.  I’ll just be honest and say that one of the things that drives me crazy is always being asked to serve – I get tired of hearing it.  This isn’t directed at anyone in particular, so if you’re reading it and find yourself thinking, “He’s talking about me” rest assured I’m not.  Here’s my gripe though – we seem to have defined “service” as only doing some sort of formal work for the church or some community organization.  And while that’s important, service is so much more than that.  I get tired of the implication that when I don’t serve in some “official” capacity I’m not serving.

I really believe that I have three main acts of service God has given me – so when someone asks me to serve in another capacity I have to weigh it against those priorities.  I suppose it’s cliché to say it, but I take Colossians 3:23 literally – I don’t work for anyone but the Lord.  And right now he’s given me three primary responsibilities: my family, my job, and my school.  That means that I need to value family time with my wife and girls, I need to be devoted to my job and give it everything I have, and when it’s time to study I need to do that to the best of my ability.  Some people have accused me of using that to avoid service, but I don’t think it is – I truly believe I’m focusing on what is important and serving where God has called me to serve.  I will be the first to tell you I often struggle to give my wife and girls the best part of my time, which to me says I don’t need to add anything else to my plate right now.

But more than that, service is what we do every moment of every day.  It’s letting someone get off the elevator before me, or opening the door as I walk into a building.  Read what Kent writes:

“The simple things you do to care for your family, the work you do to provide for others, the way you treat customers or coworkers – all of this can be service to God, if you choose to see it that way.”

This is what I meant when I said that when I first read the chapter I felt like the bar got lowered – I was reminded that I need to view every act I do every day as service and I felt like I did that, so I felt vindicated against those who would try to convict me – here was a quote I could use to prove to them I was correct.  But then I got to the application part of the chapter, and that’s when the bar got raised again:

“A simple way to practice service is to be open to interruptions, to give your attention to those who ask for it.  When you are interrupted, decide that you will see that interruption as one that comes not from the person before you but from God.”

Well there went my feel-good moment!  I hate to be interrupted.  I’ll let the phone right (voicemail can answer) or close the office door to avoid interruptions.  I’m ashamed to admit it, but too often I’ll put off something with the girls until I finish what I’m doing.  I hate to be interrupted.    And, worse than that, I let people know I don’t like to be interrupted.  I don’t do it intentionally, but I recognize that my tone of voice and my body language communicate loud and clear that I’m not happy with the interruption.  I’m selfish, and there’s no getting around it when it glares me in the face.  Yet according to Kent, allowing for the interruption can be an act of service in itself.

Deeply Loved Cover

Last week I posted a link on my Facebook wall that someone had shared with me about the “iPhone Mom”.  I thought it was a great reminder to live in the moment, to literally allow for the interruption.  And, in all honesty, when I read it I didn’t read it as written to “mom” but to “dad” (since I’m a dad) – I wasn’t trying to put down mothers or say anything negative about them.  But boy was that a mistake – I quickly found out there was a massive back-lash against the author for writing what she wrote (you can read two of the responses here and here).  I’m not here to support or defend the post, since obviously sharing the original one got me in trouble!  But as I reflect back on it I think the reason it struck a chord with me was that author was trying to say is what Kent was saying in this application section – open yourself up to the interruption (at least that’s how I read it).

I have a long, long way to g(r)o(w) here, and I rest in the grace knowing that God is working in me, he is molding me into the person he wants me to be.  This particular day made me re-evaluate (again) my priorities, and recognize where I needed to change and improve.  And, with God’s grace, tomorrow will be better than today.


A Mediation for Holy Week (3.26)

The last two weeks I’ve shared devotionals written by members of a2 Church, in Alabama.  From what I can tell, their church is not a liturgical church by any stretch of the imagination.  But they decided to observe the liturgical season of Lent and, in so doing, have posted daily devotions for people to read on a special blog they created.

This week I want to try and draw this together, for we are also not a liturgical church as many of us think of the term: we don’t follow the church calendar (accept for Christmas and Easter), and we don’t observe the church seasons or follow the daily readings of other Christian denominations.  But this week is a unique week in not just church history but over-all history.  This week commemorates the passion of Jesus – his last week on Earth.  Jesus came to “seek and save” the lost, he came “to serve, not to be served” and “to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Certainly it is important to remember and honor his last week.

Today is Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday – two terms often used to describe the same day.  In short, it is a reminder of Jesus entry into Jerusalem the week he was scheduled to die, and it is also to prepare us for the journey ahead this week to the cross and the empty tomb.  So I ask you: what are you doing special this week to focus on the gift of God’s grace, love, and mercy through Christ?

When I was young Holy Week was a big deal – I mean a BIG deal.  We went to church almost every evening of the week (except for Monday & Tuesday, if memory serves).  Throughout my life I have pretty much continued that focus – if the church I happened to attend wherever it was I was attending did not do Holy Week services I found one that did.  It has always been a source of strength and comfort for me to go through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter AM services.  Several years ago I came to the realization that Good Friday is, at least for me, perhaps the second most important day of the Church year – more important than Christmas even (and second only to Easter) – for it was on Friday that Jesus died to redeem me.  Fortunately, Good Friday is one of the few religious observances/holidays that has not been hijacked by our consumerist culture (we may have Santa and the Easter Bunny, but it’s hard to find a good way to sell a bloody cross)

I would challenge you this week to do something special – something unique – to focus you on what God has done in and through Jesus.  Perhaps it’s finding a place to attend a special service, or reading a special book, or going on a private, spiritual retreat.  A great resource (one I’ve used for years) is to read through Jesus Final Week by Max Lucado, a book that is divided into reflections on each day leading up to the Easter.  This year Melissa and I are doing something new, and that is reading through 3:16 by Max Lucado – which offers reflections on John 3:16.  Another thing I’ve done is downloaded a sermon series entitled Christ on the Cross from Mars Hill Church in Seattle that looks at different aspects of Jesus’ crucifixion.  If you need suggestions for some specific resources please email or talk to me (or Pastor Bill), or check out the links on the blog to a2 Church, because there are many, many guides for this week.

Spend time this week praying and meditating on what it is God did on Good Friday and Easter; consider what it was like on Thursday night for Jesus to know he would suffer and die the next day and be ripped apart from his father.  And then ask yourself, “How should I respond?  What do I need to do to appropriately live like what Jesus did is true?”  Too often we live as practical atheists – attending church on Sunday but then the rest of the week people would have a hard time telling we’re anything (or anyone) more than just a “good person”.  Spend time this week meditating on what Jesus did and what it meant to him – and what it now means to you.

It will change your life – if you let it.

Promises Kept (3.25)

Celeste loves music – I mean, she loves music – and one of her things she likes to do is ask me to sing to her.  Today the song she was singing all day long was Jesus Loves Me – which is still one of my all-time favorite songs.  Today’s devotional reminds us of the love God has for us.  As with last week’s devotional, this week’s comes from and was written by Jenny Walters.  I hope you find it as meaningful to read as I did.

Promises Kept

We’ve all heard these phrases, “He will send you His Comforter.” “He will give you peace that passes all understanding.” “His grace is sufficient.” — all real promises from God’s word. What if you had to trust God and take Him at His word?

What if it is all you thought about night and day, if you had to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)?

On April 22, 2006, Billy and I got the phone call a parent never wants to receive.

Our youngest son, Kingsley, then 22 years old, had been in an accident. He was being airlifted to UAB. The call was unexpected, just as so much in life is. Our lives would change from that day forward.

The weekend had started with anticipation. Kingsley had worked all week; he worked in surveying and was glad to have the weekend off. He and his friends had been looking forward to this weekend for months — it was the “big weekend” for off-roading at Gray Rock. It only happens once or twice a year, he had said, as he headed out the door with a big smile on his face.

He loved the outdoors, hunting, fishing, and off-roading in his red jeep. He was so excited. Our oldest son, Kendall, was working all weekend, and Billy had headed out for a fishing trip with his brother in Panama City, Florida.

So, my sister and I spent the day together, touring the parade of homes in the area. We had just finished and were heading home when Billy called telling us Kingsley had been in an accident and was being airlifted to UAB. Time stopped. “Go to UAB,” he said, “I am heading home.” My sister agreed to drive me to the hospital. All the way she kept asking “What are you thinking?… Are you ok?” Honestly, I can only remember thinking, “I just don’t understand.”

Later, I would be reminded, it was not for me to understand, only to Trust in Him.

We arrived at the hospital, friends and family started to arrive, then the doctor wanted to talk with the family in the chapel. I had worked in a hospital admitting area, and I knew what this meant. We all gathered, except Billy, he was still in route, the doctor told us that, “they did all they could.” There had been a terrible accident, the jeep dropped a tire off solid ground and had rolled over; it landed on Kingsley, crushing his chest. “We are so sorry.”

Our world was out of control…trying to make sense of it all. When Billy finally arrived, we gave him the news…he was devastated.

We planned a funeral. We cried, we grieved, we missed our son.

Fast forward, 5 months to the day, Sept 22, 2006: another call came unexpected…Kingsley’s girlfriend, Jessica, only 20 years old, had passed away in her sleep. The cause was determined to be a “pulmonary embolism.” There were speculations but the reason was “unknown.” We cried and grieved with her family. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the family did not have a place to bury their daughter. We discussed this with the family, and it was agreed, she would be placed next to Kingsley. Two young lives, with such a bright future, gone. We searched for answers, we read the book of Ecclesiastes, again and again; we tried to understand these words, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” We looked to God’s words in Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

We know in our hearts we will see them both in Heaven, and God has victory over the grave. We hold to these promises in His Word.

We still do not understand the “why,” but we do trust in a God who is in control, even when we are not. We trust His Word and His promises.

Fast forward 5 years…to today, God has restored: our oldest son, Kendall, has two children, our beautiful healthy grandchildren, so full of life we have a hard time keeping up with their energy. God is good. We are amazed every day by how bright and intelligent they are. They are so much fun. We love watching them learn things they have never experienced before, their world of child amazement at all of God’s wonderful creation. He has kept His promises…He sent us His Comforter when we needed it the most. He sent us His “peace that passes all understanding” and His grace has been sufficient to heal our hearts. He has restored, as only He can.

God freely gave His Son for a sacrifice for your sins, to heal your hearts, and to restore your life as only He can. He also knew the pain and grief you would suffer when He went away and so He sends you His Holy Spirit as a Comforter to help ease your pain. Our God has you on His mind…He loves you. He will never leave you or forsake you, He will be with you always.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What promise of God gives you strength and comfort?
  2. Sing the song “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know”; talk with someone about what it means to know that Jesus loves us because “the Bible tells us so.”

The Meaning of the Cross (3.24)

The devotional below is taken from a blog post written by a gentleman named Dan Butcher. The blog is found at and contains daily reflections written for the Lenten season, put together by A2 Church just outside Birmingham, Alabama. While we don’t observe Lent at our church, as we look forward to Easter later this month our worship will focus us on the cross. This devotional, originally published March 16, is a great beginning.

The Meaning of the Cross

As we approach Easter, I’ve been thinking about what the cross represents. Some time back, I ran across a t-shirt that said, “If your son was killed with a gun, would you wear one around your neck?” It’s a fair question: why do Christians wear crosses, hang crosses and crucifixes in their churches, decorate their houses with them?

I’m not sure I have the whole answer, but I do know this: Paul makes clear that the gospel is nothing without the cross. Consider these words from his first letter to Corinth:

• For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (1:17)
• For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1:18)
• Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. (1:22 – 23)
• For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (2:2)

These few passages show two things: first, that the cross is central to our message, and two, that we can’t expect it be understood by those who don’t believe. This second point is clear enough; Paul explains that God purposely chose what seems foolish and weak to the world to proclaim His message so that none can boast of their wisdom (see 1 Corinthians 1:24ff).

The first point, the centrality of the cross: I know this is true, but I wonder sometimes if I really know it. It’s in my head, but has it made that all-important move to my heart? Paul seems to say that the gospel, the good news, is the cross. Jesus tells us that if we want to follow Him, we must take up our cross.

The cross represents sacrifice and hardship –why would I want to take it up daily? More importantly, I think, is that the cross and the gospel tell me there’s something wrong with me apart from God. Too often, the “good news” is presented as healing, deliverance, an abundant life (all of which are promises of God to those who believe), but that’s not what I see preached in Acts. On Pentecost, thousands responded because they were convicted of sin, not because they were excited about what they would get.

Don’t get me wrong: I deeply believe in teaching people that Christianity is more than “fire insurance” to save them from hell, that the abundant life that Jesus talks about is as much for here and now as it is for when we die and go to heaven. I believe in the power of God to heal and to deliver; I’ve seen that power at work in my own life, and I’m thankful for it.

Bottom line, though, my sickness is not my problem, my problems are not my problem, my sin is. I like to think of myself as an “all-around nice guy.” But — this nice guy would be lost because of his sins if Jesus hadn’t paid the price on the cross. And though that makes me uncomfortable — I’m confronted with my faults, with my sin — it is the truth.

And that’s at least one meaning of the cross: Dan can’t take care of his biggest problem by himself. Dan needs Jesus. And that means that I must admit to being less than able on my own.

Getting to the Heart – Questions to Consider

1. Does the cross make you uncomfortable? Why or why not?
2. What reminds you that you can’t take care of your sins on your own?