Living in brokenness

Like yours, my heart has been broken this week over the world’s brokenness.  You can’t open a newspaper, read a blog or check Facebook without some reference to this world’s current pain. We read of unspeakable violence done in the name of religion in the middle East. It is hard to imagine one human being treating another with such inhumanity. There is great upheaval in our own St Louis community. While we eagerly await the facts so we can sort out the details and know where blame lies, I am not sure the facts will help.  This is more than an event. It speaks of a woundedness. Added in this week’s mix is the profound depression that led Robin Williams to take his own life. While never experiencing that level of desperation myself, I have spent countless conversations with others who have felt so broken because they could not glimpse hope.

 Broken countries. Broken communities. Broken lives.

 Somehow we seemed surprised by all this.  I think that comes from the deep longing we all were born with to return to the paradise of our original parents.  The imprint of the Garden of Eden we were created for still imprints our soul. Instead of longing and preparing for the restored Eden of Heaven, we try to create our own heaven here on earth. Instead of praying for God’s kingdom to come, we try to build and fix our own kingdoms. But no amount of education, medication or organization can create what God has in store for us. This world is broken. We were never meant to stay here. We are aliens passing through.

 The early church experienced great brokenness in communities and in families and in their churches.  The world then groaned under the weight of it all causing the early church to make their constant cry, “Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!”  I think I have said that many times this week. Come Lord Jesus. Christ is our only hope.

 Since He has not come, I have asked myself how I am to respond and to live in all this.  He reminds me of those in Ancient Israel who cried out to God in the midst of their brokenness and heard God say: 


..if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.(2 Chronicles 7:14)

 Do you consider yourself called by His name?  Then pray.

Do you consider yourself called by His name? Then humble yourself.

Do you consider yourself called by His name? Fall on your face to seek His face.

Do you consider yourself called by His name? Stop doing what God is asking you to turn from and contribute a little less to the brokenness around you.


Do something. Do even one thing. Seek to understand. Listen more intently. Love more extravagantly. Support more practically. Meet one need of the broken hearted who are around you. And while you are at it, hug someone from another race and thank a first responder.

 Maybe with prayer and practice we can see what Isaiah promised come true:  Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

    and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. (Isaiah 58: 12)

 Join us this weekend as we take time in our service to pray.  Pray that we would be able to discern what God is calling us as His church to do in response to the brokenness of our world:  To Change Lives and Transform communities in Jesus name.


Remedies against Satan's devices

At the end of Ephesians 6, Paul reminds us that we find out place in a larger spiritual battle. It is a battle that existed since Satan's fall.  One thing we should be aware of in this battle is that Satan is our enemy and we should be aware of his schemes.  His methods are predicable.

In the 1600s,Thomas Brooks, a Puritan preacher wrote a great book titled...  Precious Remedies against Satan's Devices  outlining some of the schemes of the enemy.  Here are some of those.



He gets us to look at the short term pleasure of sin and hides the long term misery. You know the short term pleasure of venting your anger, but then you forget the long term hurt it will create. He shows you the short term pleasure of sharing a piece of gossip, without seeing the hook of how it can potentially destroy a relationship. 




Other times Satan will get us to rationalize our sin.  We tell ourselves that we can't be greedy, but we are thrifty. Or we are good savers.  Or we don't over drink, we are just sociable. Or we aren't nosy. We are just concerned people.   He tricks us into believing our sin really has virtue.





Sometimes the enemy gets us to look at what others do and rationalize that since they did it we can do it too.  He loves to point out the imperfections of others and makes us think that is ok for us.




We can easily look at our life and see that because we are good in one area, we should be able to compromise in another. We are faithful at serving Jesus, so we are allowed to compromise in another area. Don't you see this on TV with mafia hit men? All the movies show them as great family men. They love their families. They are good to their mamas. They love their kids, but they kill people. They think it is ok to kill people because they do so many other good things.  We do that to a lesser degree. We look at parts of our life and rationalize that God can tolerate sin in a different area of life because it will all balance out towards good.  





Knowing your Spiritual Gift

We can be ignorant of a number of things, but one we can't is our spiritual gift. Paul urged the church in I Corinthians 12 to be wise and understanding about their gift.  Knowing our gift helps us make strategic investments in time and talents. It helps determine our purpose. We don't waste time.  The body is built up.

One of the best ways to know our gift is to hear from people what they think.  Those close to us will help affirm the ways the Holy Spirit works through us. Ask yourself where you see God using you and when do you feel God using you most.  Not every thing we do will make us feel good or make us feel God close. Sometimes God does ask us to do something out of our giftedness. But know what gift the Spirith as given us helps us determine our purpose.

Here are several different online assessments you can use to help narrow down what spiritual gift you might have. 


http://www.churchgrowth.org/analysis/index.php (this one is free)


http://cumcrogers.squarespace.com/storage/Spiritual%20Gifts%20Assessment.pdf  (this one is free)

  www.uniquelyyou.com (This one has a cost)


Please let me know what you found out. I would love to hear from you.








Walking with the Holy Spirit

Pauls writes in Galatians 5:25 that we are to walk with the Holy Spirit keeping in step with Him.  Just as children learn to walk, it takes time to learn to walk with Him.  Here are a few things to remember.

Jesus said it is greater to have the Spirit in you than even if He were walking beside you. How do you walk in partnership with the spirit.

• Intentionally walk with the Holy Spirit every day keeping in step with Him. It won’t happen unless we intentionally think about that. Remember that He is in you and with you. Ask the Holy Spirit to be your comfort, advocate and help. Ask Him to take over and every day listen for Him.

• Intentionally focus on hearing the Spirit. Get your eyes off your trouble and temptation. Pay attention to those inner promptings. We have to learn how to do this. Too often we quench the Spirit by walking in fear and focused on our troubles. Most of the time we pray we focus on past failures. W replay our defeats instead of listening to Him. He has greater things in store.

• Slow down and rest. Reduce the frantic pace of your life. He won’t speak to anyone who is not listening or in a hurry. Wait patiently for Him. Believe the Spirit is greater in your than boredom and condemnation and fear. Be willing to set your mind on Him. He is your comfort and your defense. Lean on Him. Listen to Him. Learn from Him.


Looking back to move forward in Christ..... Joseph's genogram

This weekend we looked at Joseph's family tree and the challenges he faced. We talked about a genogram as a helpful tool for understanding our family back ground.


Here is a link to Joseph's genogram.

 Joseph's Genogram




How to take a Selfie...Week 1

This week we looked at how many of us have been discipled spiritually, intellectually, socially and physically. But we think of managing our emotions instead of discpling our emotions in Christ.  It is often our emotional unhealth that sabatoges the work of Christ in our life.

Peter Scazzero in his book  Emotionally Healthy Spirituality describes the symptoms of emotional unhealth.  Here is his list.

Some signs of spiritual unhealthy are:

  •  Using God to run from God.  We try to justify our opinions by looking for God instead of wrestling and trusting Him.
  • Ignoring the big emotions of anger, sadness and fear thinking I can push them down and not deal with them.
  • Denying that the past can impact the present. How we react to situations today can come from the way we were trained in the past,.
  • Dividing our life between secular activities where we live one way and spiritual activities where we live another.
  • Focusing on doing for God instead of being with God.
  • Spiritualizing many life situations and thinking the devil is always attacking us instead of seeing what God is really doing.
  • We live without any limits. There is no time to prayer and reflection in our life. Frantic lives define us.
  • We find ourselves extremely critical and judgmental of others.

Jesus died on the cross to change the power these have in our life. I'm so hopefilled of what God will do in this series.




Honest to God


 At our campuses we talked last week about how honest and transparent Jesus was in prayer looking specifically at the prayer of Jesus in the Garden.  Small talk doesn't advance a human relationship and small talk in prayer I think actually keeps us from seeing God as who He is.

We talked of four areas I think we would do well in to be honest before God in our prayer life. Here is a summary of those four we see from the scriptures.  

a.  He wants us to be honest about our heart in prayer.

 David was brutally honest about things in his heart as he prayer.  He was a man after God's own heart who openly shared his own heart. He took personal reflection seriouslty. Talk to God about what is going on in your life.

 Psalm 4:1  I was in distress

Psalm 6:2  My bones are troubled

Psalm 6:6  I am weary from groaning

Psalm 13:2  There is sorry in my heart all day long

Psalm 25:16  I am lonely and afflicted.

Psalm 30:8  I am pleading for mercy

Psalm 31:7  There is distress in my soul


b.  He wants to be honest about our sin.

 Prayer becomes self serving and shallow if we aren't honest about our own life and sins. Talk to God about those.


Psalm 66:18 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.   


He wants us to be transparent about our relationships

 Peter says without honesty and authenticity when it comes to our relationships, there are barriers between us and God's listening ear.  Take time to be honest about  your relationships.


I Peter 3: 7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers


He wants us to be honest about prayer

 Why do you pray? Jesus was praying less to force God to do something and more to embrace His willingness.  In prayer do you honestly desire to surrender to His willingness.

I love this quote from Francois Fenelon, a 17th Century monk who speaks about growing in honesty in prayer. Well worth following.



"Talk with God about the thoughts of which your heart is full. If you enjoy the
presence of God, if you feel drawn to love Him, tell Him so. Such sensible
passion will make the time of prayer fly without exhausting you, for all
you'll have to do is say what you feel. But if you are in a time of dryness,
or inner resistance to God, or feel that he has abandoned you. Do the same
thing. Say equally what is in your heart! Tell God that you no longer feel any love for Him, that everything is a terrible blank to you. Tell Him that things concerning Him exhausts you, that His presence doesn't move you emotionally, that you long to leave Him for whatever comes your way, and that you won't feel happy until you've left Him and can turn your time into thinking about yourself. Tell Him all the evil you know about yourself. But don’t just leave it there, say to God take my heart and change it, and have mercy on me in spite of myself! Tell God without hesitation everything that comes into your head, with simplicity and familiarity, as a little child sitting on its mothers knee."
Francois Fenelon, a 17th century monk



We are having pancakes tomorrow...what are you hungry for?

Tomorrow is a big deal in our house. Some call it Shrove Tuesday. My kids call it Pancake Tuesday.  My kids are already deciding what sweet things will go on those pancakes. Let's say it is a big deal.

 The celebration it begins is a big deal. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent begins.  This is the season which some  Christians over the years have used to prepare their hearts and spirits for the celebration of Easter often through fasting and prayer. Because it was a season of fasting they would use their luxury items of eggs, sugar and milk to create pancakes. It was the night they would have something decadent before a period of austerity. Now pancakes don't seem quite so decadent...unless like my kids you top them with whipped cream, chocolate chips and any other candy you can find in the house!

 Following Pancake Tuesday people would hunger for 40 days to see God move powerfully in their life. What are you hungry for?

 This Wednesday begins that forty day journey towards this year's celebration of Easter. Some Christians fast and pray as they prepare for Lent and they have given up something to show their seriousness. Others have not put a lot of thought into preparing their hearts.

 The concept of Lent is not found in Scripture. But the concept of fasting and getting hungry for God is.  I know people who grew up with Lent and the yearly ritual became just that...an empty ritual. I know others who did not come from that background and find the sacrifice incredibly meaningful.  Of course there are others who have never even thought of Lent and many who have used this time meaningfully in preparation for Easter. This is a season to consider ourselves dead to sin and fully alive in Christ as Paul writes in Romans 6:11. It is a time not only to look at ourselves but to the faithfulness of Jesus and of what He has done for me.


I don't know where you fall in your consideration of Lent but let me encourage you to do a couple things. Would  you take some time these next 40 days to be hungry for God to move.  Would you meditate and reflect on your need for a savior?  Would you worship with confidence the Jesus who conquered sin and death. Would you reflect on where you might need to pick up your cross and follow Him. Would you put to death your flesh  and let the same power that raised Jesus from the dead be in you through the Holy Spirit.

 Would you come prepared to celebrate Good Friday by having contemplated the cross?

Would you come ready to worship with abandon on Easter morning the Jesus who took your place and who raised you to life?

Would you reflect on your need of a Savior and let these verses become your hearts cry.


Joel 2:12-14

Yet even now, says the Lord,
Return to me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
Rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain-offering and a drink-offering
for the Lord, your God?

O Praise the One who paid my debt

And raised this life up from the dead.


My Story in 99 seconds

This weekend, in our study of Daniel, we have been looking at how to connect with our culture. What I love about Daniel is that he was always ready to share what God had done or was doing in his life. There was no hesitation. Sometimes we have just a small window of opportunity to speak spiritual truth into the life of another person.  We are challenging people this weekend to have their story of faith ready. If you only had a 100 words or a couple minutes how would you share your spiritual journey with someone. That story is simply what was life like before Christ, how did you come to meet Him and what was life like after.

Here is mine:


I was raised in a loving home where I was encouraged to live a good life and attend church. These were the ways I could impress a big God so that He would let me spend eternity with Him.  It wasn't until I was a young teenager that I realized God wanted more for me than staying out of trouble.  There were some young couples who lived their life of faith before me in such an inspiring way, I knew that was the life I want.  Through their example, I knew that God wanted more than just following rules, He wanted to be  my friend. I realized that Jesus died on the cross not only to forgive my sins, but to walk every step of life with me. Surrendering my life to Him meant more than just doing good deeds, it was following His leading on a wonderful adventure of knowing more and more about Him.  I am convinced the best wisdom for living fully is found in the Bible and the best teacher is the Holy Spirit.  Following the principles in His word has never failed me. While life has been far from perfect, I am grateful that His leading kept me from making some terrible mistakes.  A few years ago, my wife and I lost a child. It was the more painful experience imaginable, but His palpable presence while standing at a grave site  provided a strength I never thought possible.  He is more than a God to impress, He is a friend.  The thought of spending life here without His presence is frightening but the thought of an eternity apart from Him is incomprehensible. 


Here is another version...little more than 99 seconds of part of our life:

Eleven years ago, my wife and I were pregnant with twins. It had been more difficult than we had expected getting pregnant and these 2 babies were to be born on Christmas day. It seemed like such a great gift from God.  Eighteen weeks before they were to be born, Chantelle wasn't feeling well. We went to the hospital to have things checked out and the doctors  said she was in labor.  That meant the babies would be born in the next day or two, we would hold them in our arms and they die.  I was a pastor in Canada at that time and we used the internet to get the word out to many people to pray for us and soon people from all over the world were writing to tell us that they were praying. Beyond any expectation, Chantelle held those 2 babies in her for another 18 days. By now the babies could possibly survive and at just 24 weeks into her pregnancy our son Josh and our daughter Jenna were born at just over a pound each.  For months they were very sick in the NICU and each day when we would get off the elevator we never knew if they would live or die. After 2 months our son slipped from this world into the arms of Jesus. We held on tightly to our Heavenly Father who watched His own son be put in a tomb for us and drew comfort that He never puts us through what He has not experienced. After 2 more months our daughter was released from hospital but struggles with severe cerebral palsy requiring assistance in feeding, dressing and living.


Every day we care for her we are reminded of a God who answers prayer. God didn't answer the prayer the way we wanted with our son.   He answered pray  for our daughter. But he answered a greater prayer for us that we would not become bitter, but we would use the life God has given us to become better and to minister to others. Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread...not our weekly or monthly or annual supply of bread that makes us feel comfortable...but each day to ask God to provide. We do that. Each day we seek him for a daily supply of grace, strength and guidance.  Paul wrote in Romans 8 that if God is for us, no one can be against us. Even in the most challenging of times, we have fully experienced that God is always for us!



Party with a Purpose

Yesterday our Calvary staff had our annual Christmas party. While I enjoy a great party, the planning of these events always stresses me out. I find it challenging trying to figure out a party plan that appeals to a diverse group of 50 people.  Over the years we have had triva events, played games, exchanged white elephant gifts, watched movies and gone bowling. They all have been enjoyable. This year we decided that since our theme was REACH...Beyond Ourselves, Beyond our Walls and beyond our Generation .....that for our party we should get outside the walls of our church buildings and into the community.  So here is what we did. We divded our staff up into teams of 4 or 5 and gave them 30 dollars. They were to take that money and spend two hours doing intentional acts of kindness throughout our community.

OK....you should have seen what these competitive staff members did. They raced throughout the area finding ways to bless individuals.  Here is a random sampling of some of the activities:


  • Brought donuts and goodies to the staff at other churches.
  • Made goodie bags to take to teachers and staff at local schools
  • Brought goodies to school classes and read to the kids
  • Handed out 300 candy canes at the community college
  • Gave chocolate bars to those waiting in line at the DMV
  • Put quarters in the shopping carts at Aldi
  • Brought coffee to the office staff at the city hall and the post office
  • Took food, socks and blankets to the homeless living under the 370 bridge
  • Paid for people's purchases at Good Will
  • Helped buy groceries at the grocery store
  • Took hot dogs to those waiting at soup kitchen
  • Gave meals to the construction workers outside in the cold
  • Took toys to a distribution center

You should have seen the staff share upon their return about the joy of generosity. Many stretched their 30 dollars beyond what was intended because other people saw what they were doing and donated. Some stores added more to the cause!  After we had lunch together many of the staff said....Best Party ever!  

Even while we were eating, people who had been blessed emailed in. Here are a couple of their comments:


  • I was in Aldis today and two ladies walked up to me and my sister, wished us a Merry Christmas and handed us $20. We just wanted to say thank you so much for your kindness!  


  • We were so pleasantly surprised and delighted when Calvary Church came by City Hall and presented us each with cups of coffee from Starbucks.  This was so unexpected and happen to come at the perfect time of our busiest day of the week at City Hall.  Please express our sincerest gratitude to those people that delivered the coffee and rest of the Calvary Church staff and parishioners.  We hope you all have a Merry Christmas and joyous New Year.

How fun to see our staff take on the challenge and get so excited about being the church in our community. And to see them trying to out serve in the area of generosity.  For those of you who have to plan Christmas parties.....this may be a great option for next year!

We remember this Christmas how God generously gave us His son. May we be generous in return.

Merry Christmas