The seat next to you…

Yesterday, I came across a post about the Church on Facebook that was quite thought-provoking. It was an open letter to the Church about why folks are REALLY leaving the church or won’t venture inside a Sunday morning service in the first place. In a nutshell, here are the reasons:

1. Our (the Church’s) Sunday productions have worn thin.
2. We speak in a foreign tongue – Not speaking in tongues, but too much church lingo.
3. We can’t see past our own building.
4. We choose lousy battles.
5. Our love doesn’t look like love.

The last one is the one that really got me. That’s the one that grieves me the most. The open letter goes on to say:

“It feels like a big bait-and-switch sucker-deal; advertising a ‘Come as You Are’ party, but letting us know once we’re in the door that we can’t really come as we are. We see a Jesus in the Bible who hung out with low-lifes and prostitutes and outcasts, and loved them right there, but that doesn’t seem to be your cup of tea.

Church, can you love us if we don’t check all the doctrinal boxes and don’t have our theology all figured out? It doesn’t seem so.

Can you love us if we cuss and drink and get tattoos and, God forbid, vote Democrat? We’re doubtful.

Can you love us if we’re not sure how we define love, and marriage, and Heaven, and Hell? It sure doesn’t feel that way.

From what we know about Jesus, we think he looks like love. The unfortunate thing is, you don’t look much like him.”

I was at a local church to see a southern gospel group, The Talleys, last night. They did a song entitled, “The Broken Ones”, and to be frank, I almost couldn’t stop crying. The chorus goes like this:

Love the broken ones, the ones that need a little patchin’ up
See the diamond in the rough and make it shine like new
It really doesn’t take that much, a willing heart and a tender touch
If everybody loved like He does, there’d be a lot less broken ones
(© Newvip Songs)

There’s just one more thing: WE ARE ALL BROKEN ONES. There is not one among us that is not broken in some way, shape, or form. But broken people cannot fix brokenness. We need divine intervention. We need the love of Jesus.

Today, as you go through your church doors, keep an eye open for the broken ones.

They’re sitting right next to you.

Counter-intuitive Resolutions for the New Year…

I’ve thought of two resolutions, although they’re not new.

A couple of weeks ago during a staff meeting at Love INC, we were talking about what 2015 might hold — both for the ministry and personally.

A thought came to me: A just want to be dumber and weaker. These are my resolutions for the coming year (and beyond).

I’m discovering that the older I get, the less I know. Yes, I may have gained more knowledge in the world’s eyes by taking various classes or by learning through “the school of hard knocks,” but in the deep things of life, I know very little. And as I get older, I see that I will never have the answers… at least not on this side of heaven.

Through schooling, experience, and through trial and error (mostly error), I’ve learned a few things, but just enough to be dangerous. I can just as easily stick my foot in my mouth today as I could twenty years ago. I can just as easily rush into a bad situation and make it worse. But worse than anything, I can think that I can get by on my own smarts and cleverness. I easily think that I can figure things out on my own. I can easily fall into the trap of trying to pull myself up by my bootstraps, independent of any help from God (who gave me any smarts or abilities I may have in the first place).

I want to go into every situation I face in the coming year with zero preconceived notions, and with both ears wide open ready to listen to those around me and most importantly, to hear the voice of God. I want to hear God’s still, small voice. I want His wisdom to guide my decision-making this year.

Secondly — and surely entwined with being “dumber” in the coming year — I want to be weaker. I want to be slow and prayerful to react to the chaos around me (sometimes called “life”). I can easily fall into the trap of trying to work things out by myself. I can easily fall prey to thinking that by trying harder, re-doubling my efforts, or “cleaning up my act”, I can earn some sort of special favor with God. I can easily think that I can just “make things happen.”

I don’t want to solve problems by myself. I want to be dependent on God’s strength, His wisdom and His promises. I want to rely on those God has placed in my life and partner with them. I want to hear their wisdom and make use of their talent, if possible. I am inherently flawed. I know this. I am genetically sinful. Again – on this side of heaven – I will never be free of those characteristics. I am weak. That’s why I need Jesus and His grace, His strength, and the power of the Holy Spirit. I need it… desperately.

So, it may be counter-intuitive, but I want to be dumber and weaker in 2015. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll catch a glimpse of God working… and He will get (and deserve!) all the glory.


Have you ever taken a water safety course with lifesaving skills? The instructors teach you skills that they would teach a lifeguard. I was thinking about these skills and instructions when I read a headline about a drowning.

You’ve probably heard that when you jump in the water to save someone from drowning and swim to the scene, you spin them around with their head above water and their back facing you. Then you pull them, swimming back to dry ground, with your arm wrapped under their chin.

Sounds easy, right? I’ve never had to use those skills, but I can imagine that it would NEVER be easy. The most common obstacle in saving someone who is drowning is the person themselves. Normally, experts say, when you arrive on the scene, the drowning person is flailing away, trying desperately to keep their head above water. In their desperation to save themselves, they drastically hinder the efforts of the lifeguard. It’s only when they are disarmed, that the lifesaver can pull them to safety.

So it is with our spiritual lives. It’s only when we come to the end of ourselves that we realize the need for the Savior. It’s only when we stop our flailing that our Lifesaver is able to save us. It’s only when we stop trying to save our self that the One who can save us can do what He came to do: seek and save the lost. It’s only when we realize that we are drowning that we can allow the Lifeguard to save us.

This not only applies to our initial encounter with God’s grace, mercy, and salvation, but also to our everyday walk with God as Jesus-followers, allowing the Holy Spirit to have His way in our lives. It’s only in weakness that God shows His strength. It’s in adversity when God gets to show His glory. Again, it’s when we realize that we are drowning without Him that He can rescue us. It’s only when we allow Him to have His way that He can show us who He truly is.

All our own efforts can’t. All our flailing can’t keep our head above water. Believe me; I know.

We can only be rescued when we allow Him to wrap His arm around us and pull us to dry ground.

“My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, The Message)

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:2)

Wear Nice Clothes…

I answered the phone yesterday, “Love In the Name of Christ, Tim speaking.”

On the other end was a precious woman who was looking for clothes for herself and was trying to schedule a time when she could come by our rows of clothing in our warehouse and look for something for herself. After I went to see when that could be done, I came back on the phone and she said that she just wanted some nice clothes so she could go to church.

When she said that, I told her that she didn’t need to dress any special way at many of the churches around the valley, and that many come to church in t-shirts and jeans or shorts and a t-shirt. I told her my church is like that. She said that she still prefered to look nice when she came to church, and if she came any other way, she would feel self-conscious. I told her I understood completely, that we would call her back to arrange a time to talk further, and we hung up.

This morning, I was listening to one of Pastor Tullian Tchividjian’s sermons from his series on Romans (available to hear at and he said:

“There are lots of reasons people avoid church and one of them is that, sad to say, Christians… preachers… churches… have given off this impression that church is for good people… moral people… clean people, competent people… people who pretty much have it all together. But there are a lot of honest people out there who know they’re not good… Who know that there’s something seriously missing, that they’re not clean… they’re not competent… who know that they are dirty and their hands aren’t clean. And so there are lot of people out there who think, ‘We just don’t “fit” inside church.’ ”

When I heard these remarks, it took me back to my phone conversation. Did this woman feel that way? Did she feel that she didn’t measure up? Did she feel that she wasn’t good enough to enter a church on Sunday morning? Did she feel that she just didn’t “fit”?

The truth is that none of us is good enough. None of us are clean and competent. All of us have dirty hands. We are all depraved. All of us. We all need Jesus desperately. I know I don’t measure up. I know I have failed. I know I am lost.

The Gospel says,

God’s demand: “Be righteous.”
God’s diagnosis: “No one is righteous.”
God’s deliverance: “Jesus is our righteousness.”*

If this precious woman felt she wasn’t good enough, she was right! She isn’t good enough. I’m not good enough. You’re not good enough.

But Jesus is.

And that’s Good News.

* I highly recommend reading Tchividjian’s book, One Way Love.


We all want to do something in our lives that is significant. We all want our lives to count for something. For some, this desire goes to a different level, and they want to be famous. For others, significance comes in the form of being a good parent.

For me, I wonder sometimes if my desire to live a life of significance is a matter of my pride coming to the forefront. I have to ask myself questions such as:

1) Would I be content living a life where I wouldn’t be recognized or respected?
2) Would I be content living a life where my only contribution to ministry in this world would be as an intercessor, behind the scenes?
3) Is my desire to be “significant” about me feeling good about myself or about helping others?

Certainly these aren’t the only questions to ask, but they are the first to come to mind. My answers to those questions and those similar aren’t glowing, to say the least. But I’ve come to realize a few things about our God:

1) I am profoundly significant to God. You and I are priceless in the eyes of the Father. We are worth the price of His Son, Jesus, dying for each of us in order to enjoy an intimate relationship with us, both here and now, and for eternity. Because Jesus is the epitome of significance, I am free to be insignificant by the world’s definition.

2) When it comes to being significant, valuable, or loved by God, my performance doesn’t matter. Whether I fail or succeed, I am loved, valuable, and significant. My value or significance to God is not determined by what I do, but by Whose I am. I am free to fail because Jesus succeeded.

3) God not only loves me, He likes me. He knows my flaws, baggage, and hang-ups. He knows my pet-peeves, my idiosyncrasies, and nervous habits. He knows the secrets from my past and my secret thoughts from yesterday. And He still likes me! He knit me together in my mother’s womb and knows every thought that crosses my mind. He knows how I am made… because He made me! Because He likes me (and of course, loves me), I am freed from living to please people. I am freed from always thinking about what other people think of me. I am content to be loved by God. I am content to be liked by God. Because Jesus was and is perfect, I am free to be imperfect. I am also free to allow others to be imperfect. (I’m still working on that one)

Living a life of significance is something I desire. It’s something that I think we all desire. But growing up in a performance-based culture has skewed our definition of significance.

We are significant not by what we do, but by Whose we are.

A String in the Air

My friend, Wayne, stopped by my office two days ago to talk. He asked me if I had time for lunch. I sharply replied, “No.” I then proceeded to tell him all about my busy schedule. Reports to finish, things to do, people to see… my life is busy. As I barely look up from my computer screen, I tell him that I just don’t have time.

Yes, my life at work IS busy. It is a virtual assembly-line of busywork, one thing after another. If I eat lunch, it’s in the car on the run, going from one busy thing to the next. I use my smartphone to manage my calendar and it alerts me to remember my next appointment. I hate being late. I hate running behind. I’m busy.

As I ponder all this busy-ness this morning, somehow I’m reminded of an adult Sunday school lesson I taught several years ago. I was trying to get everyone to understand visually the concept of eternity. I tied a string high up on a wall at one end of the room and fastened the other end at the same height at the other end of the room. I explained that this string is a timeline for eternity, except I said to imagine the sting running on a straight line through the wall, through the other walls in the building and out the door, through the parking lot, and on and on and on. Both directions.

Then I said, “Do you see the dot on the string right here?” I had placed a tiny mark on the string. Everyone strained to see the dot. I’m not sure they could even see it. I said, “That dot is the span of your life, compared to the immensity of eternity.”

I’m reminded of that dot and that string this morning as I ponder my busy-work. When it’s all said and done, God won’t ask me about my work, my reports, my deadlines and how well I managed my schedule. As I sit with Him for all eternity, He may ask me what I did with the vast array of people He sent my way. He will ask me, I fear, about what I did with the relationships He gave me.

Although my life is a speck on the timeline of eternity, it has a ripple effect on the folks I encounter every day, especially on the folks I have a relationship with. They are impacted by me – positively or negatively – and they, in turn, do the same to the folks they encounter. Andy Andrews calls it “The Butterfly Effect.” Google that sometime and watch a seven-minute video. It will give you perspective.

So will the memory of a string in the air, reminding me of what’s really important.

I think I’ll call Wayne and have lunch.

Is there life BEFORE death?

“God, how can I make you more known?”

That’s a question I’ve been dwelling on for several days. Since March 13th, in fact. I wrote it down in my journal on that day.

Some people have told me privately that my writings each morning have helped them. That’s certainly one way I can answer the question at the top of the page. But in what other ways can I answer that question? And there are a couple of questions that accompany the main one.

Like, “Why is it that the first question I ask myself each day ISN’T that question? Why don’t I think of ways to make you more known? Why isn’t that my goal? I seem to want to make MYSELF more well-known. Why is that?”

Okay, that’s more than a couple of questions.

But as I write each day, that is a question I feel compelled to ask. Because if I write and post it somewhere, I must have the motivation of making God more known. If that’s not my motivation, then it is self-indulgent dribble. It serves no one but me. If it doesn’t make someone know God just a little bit better or a little bit more or is not redemptive, as God is redemptive, then it should be tossed into the garbage.

In fact, I need to be asking the question at the top of the page each day as I wake up and start my day. If my actions, motives, words, and behaviors don’t attempt to make God more known, and then each day has been no more than self-indulgent dribble… a waste of energy… a waste of… life.

I know that sounds harsh, and you may say, “God wants us to enjoy our life, too. What’s wrong with living life to the fullest?” My reply would be, “Who says that can’t be done by making God more known in the process? In fact, I would say that enjoying life and living life to the fullest comes from making God more known.”

In fact, I believe that Jesus words about “abundant life” in John 10:10 were all about living for God and others. I believe that the abundant, fulfilling life in which Jesus shows us is a life which channels God’s living water into the lives of everyone around them. This can happen in so many ways, whether it’s sitting by the bedside of a sick friend, feeding the hungry, adopting a child, a smile and a hug to someone who needs it, or typing words on a page. It can be loving your spouse as God intends it, or raising a godly family, or working with integrity on your job.

When Jesus said these words…

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

… He wasn’t just talking about life after death. Shane Claiborne writes about this when he says, “Few people are interested in a religion that has nothing to say to the world and offers them only life after death, when what people are really wondering is whether there is life before death.”

Making God’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, justice, hope, healing, friendship, wholeness, acceptance, victory, freedom more known brings life… true life.

So my day begins with the question: God, how can I make you more known?


For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

I think it was one of my favorite authors, Buddy Owens, who said, when reading Scripture, read “for depth, not distance.” And when a word “pops” out at me, one of my favorite ways of doing that… of digging deeper and allowing God to whisper to me… is to look up that word in the dictionary.

As I read the verse above, the word that stood out to me was “ransom.” It’s a word that’s not heard nowadays unless I’m watching a movie or TV show involving a kidnapping or the like. So I looked up the definition:

Ran’-som (n.) a consideration paid or demanded for the release of someone or something from captivity. A sum of money or a price demanded and paid for the release of a prisoner.

Okay. So what? But then I let my mind wander… “Captivity”…. Jesus came to set the captives free… I know that Scripture… but set “free” from what?

It’s here that I think of what we all need to be set free from. Sin. Yes, of course. But that seems so… religious. It’s so vague. So general. So religious.

Then I think about my own life. What is at the root of all my sin? Self. Plain and simple. Self. Self-absorption. Selfishness. Self-pity. I want to do things MY way. I have my plans and my agenda. I want. I need. Self. Self is at the root of all sin, both mine and yours. It was self that caused the Original Sin. Not only the fall of Adam and Eve but the ORIGINAL original sin.

When Lucifer, God’s original worship leader, fell from grace, it was because he wanted to set himSELF up to be like God. (See Isaiah 14) And when Adam and Eve succumbed to temptation, they became convinced that God wasn’t watching out for their best interest, and they knew what was best for themSELVES. I am not so different.

I need to be set free from my self. I need to be set free from that thing inside me that thinks that God isn’t looking out for my best interests… which thinks that God can’t be trusted to take care of ALL my needs: physical, emotional, financial, sexual, relational, amd spiritual needs… I need to be set free from that thing inside me that thinks I can handle all of that myself.

But the ransom has been paid. The price has been paid. In full. Once and for all. At the Cross, Jesus paid the price for you and me. I know that, but how does that set me free? Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly (John 10:10). That abundant life is a life free of having to do it all myself. I don’t have to fulfill all those needs myself. God does it for me in Christ. He sets me free from mySELF by living inside of me. As I allow Him to do so, His thoughts become my thoughts. His heart becomes my heart. And from that, His ways become my ways.

It doesn’t happen overnight and at times, it seems like I take one step forward with Him, and two steps back with my SELF. But He knows how I’m made. He knows I desire to be free.

His grace carries me yet again and this one-time prisoner walks forever free.