Here’s a good question…

What do you want me to do for you appears in two different stories, from the mouth of Jesus, back to back in Mark 10… must mean something, eh?

 

 

Thoughts on graduation… help me out

Here’s a podcast on graduation… this is really more for me than it is you. Many blessings:

 

Proverbs 3:5-6 English Standard Version (ESV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

Hey pastor, calm down

As I’m preparing for Easter weekend, I was thinking about my fellow pastors who are doing the same all across the country and around the world. It caused me to want to send them a note, but since I don’t know all of them personally, I thought I’d just put it out there and let anyone willing to read listen.

So, here we go… pastor or not, here I come.

For my personal devotional time, I’ve been cycling through the book of Romans. Many of you in the theological “know” will recognize that portions of this book are a battleground for certain theological camps regarding issues of predestination, free will, determinism, free agency of man, Calvinism, Arminianism, reformed… if there’s a title to make you pick a side, it can be applied somewhere here in the book of Romans.

I’ve also thought about all the strained friendships I have over these issues. I tried to recount the endless hours lost in friendly (?) debates. And I remembered numerous side conversations where invisible lines were drawn around people and groups saying so-and-so belongs to ‘that’ school of thought and so-and-so was lost to ‘this’ way of thinking.

Honestly, I was praying through that study and taking a walk around a pond thinking about these things when the Lord put in my mind an image from the not-too-distant past. It was a couple of school-age children at camp who didn’t realize I was overhearing (because eavesdropping sounds too creepy).

They were arguing with one another about God, one struggling to believe and the other confident in his faith. The childhood skeptic had weak arguments that you could tell were repetitious banter heard from some adult that he admired. And, the childhood believer offered unsubstantiated proofs that offered no philosophical underpinnings as to why he believed what he believed.

I wanted to jump in and correct them both, show them the error of their ways… but, I controlled myself since they were children… and it was Rec time at summer camp.

Again, as I’m walking around the pond, this was the image that popped into my mind. I didn’t have to wonder why very long.

The foolishness of their arguments and the silliness of their debate seemed so obvious to me. And, to an infinitely greater degree so must our tiny theological squabbles appear before the enormity of God.

We argue, brood and fight over a 6-inch gap on a theological spectrum that’s a football field long. In no way shape or form can I ever think that the God of the universe is pleased with us. In fact, we probably looked like small children arguing about something they know relatively little about sitting on a wall looking at a pond eating grape snow cones.

This weekend pastors, as we think about what we’re going to share with those crowds who come filing in for the annual remembrance of Easter Sunday, let me remind you of one small verse from Romans that should keep us all in check:

“So do not become proud, but fear.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Ro 11:20.

Paul was speaking of Gentiles grafted into the vine that is the kingdom of God. He warned that instead of thinking much of themselves they should remember that broken off branches don’t do anything on their own.

Only the Gardener can save them from the brush pile. So, instead of arrogance… tremble .

I would offer us the same advice.

Don’t worry about astounding the crowds with our theological prowess. Don’t determine that this is the weekend we should establish our doctrinal purity. And, whatever we do, let us not think that we have to impress the crowds this weekend. It’s just like every other weekend when we only have an audience of One.

Instead, drop the pride and come to the podium with some fear and trembling working out your own salvation. Share the message of broken humanity rescued from itself by a loving and amazing God.

Reject the urge to “pull off” a service to make them think that you have the best church since the apostle Paul retired, your worship band is the most gifted crew this side of heaven, and that you are the best preacher they’ve ever heard.

Instead, remind them God is great, even if we must play the fool to make sure they see it.

May this Easter we be the blessing that God wants us to be for those who have yet to hear.

May He increase. May we decrease.

Happy Easter.

Which one is it? Yes.

I have an experience common to many of you.
Raising teenagers, specifically teenage boys, comes with a series of predictable issues and outcomes. 

There will be emergency room visits.

There will be “shenanigans.”

There will be drama.

I guess you don’t even have to be a raiser of teenage boys to know this is true; you just need to be near them, those jokers can eat!

Depending upon what cycle of the growth spurt there in, I cannot tell you which will be higher on any given month, my utility bill or my grocery bill.

A few weeks ago my boys came in from some outdoor summer frolicking. Before they got into the kitchen, I heard from their brotherly conversation that they were “starving.”

Good timing.

Mom had laid out a spread, and I had grilled up brats, dogs, and burgers. It was a teenager summer food dream come true.

As they walked into the room, they both eyed the kitchen table, and I felt a little fear for my life recognizing that I stood between them and the bounty that lay before them.

Mom told them to grab a plate and asked if they wanted a hamburger or a hotdog.

In unison, they both said, “Yes!”

I love that answer because it’s one of my favorite responses… Not either/or, but both/and.

They didn’t want one; they wanted one of each.

I think the church needs to get a good dose of both/and.

We argue about which is right or best and often it’s both.

It’s either traditional or contemporary… what if both were appropriate?

It’s either seeker sensitive or hardline fundamental… what if both had a place?

It’s either Baptist or nothing… well, let’s not get crazy.

Last week I had the privilege of sitting under the teaching of Dr. Claude Thomas. The former pastor of First Baptist Euless, Euless, Tx and now president of C3 Global.

He made an incredible statement that is probably the most important both/and I have heard in a while.

He said, “We (the church) need to grow spiritually, that’s true, but if we do not grow numerically we will eventually become irrelevant.”

True words, life-giving direction, and hard to reproduce.

I think there has long been a belief that we don’t need to be effective as a church as long as we’re faithful. That perspective has lead us down a road where we say that we may not be growing numerically, but we are growing spiritually.

I wonder, has this become an excuse? 

Have we traded in the difficult work of the objective growth of the church numerically as we point to a subjective growth that we want to believe is there?

The truth is, healthy things (spiritual growth) will naturally grow (numerical growth). 

And, didn’t Jesus himself say you will know a tree by its fruit? Fruit is also called produce… because it is something that is produced. 

I’m not arguing for numerical growth over spiritual growth. And, I’m not asking for spiritual growth to be dominant over numerical growth.

In fact, you may ask, “Andy, which one do you want spiritual growth or numerical growth?”

And my answer would be, “Yes!”

The truly healthy church and the truly healthy believer is growing spiritually, and the evidence of that is a fruitfulness in which the believer reproduces, multiplies and adds to the Kingdom.

Honestly, numerical growth is evidence of spiritual growth. And spiritual growth is the predecessor to numerical growth.

It is a both/and.

So step up to the table, the church is famished, and the world is in need. When you’re thinking about the direction of you, your leadership and your church, and that little voice inside your spirit asks which do I pursue… spiritual growth or numerical growth?

The answer is difficult and easy… it’s a both/and. 

The answer is yes. 
————-
Originally published in the Baptist Digest, Oct 2016

Risky Haircuts

I have had the same haircut for 17 years.

First, I know this because I cut off the rebellious ponytail of my youth the same week my first son was born, and he’s 17.

Second, no comments from any of you about not having hair options because of the ‘limited resources’ I am working with as of late. I am aware.

So, back to the beginning. I have had the same haircut for 17 years.

I was pondering this recently as my son and I went for haircuts together. He sat in the chair first, giving direction for the new thing that he desires for the massive mane that God has given him. If you’re picking up on a scent of jealousy…oh yeah, it’s there.

While he was explaining his complex cut I was reflecting on the many iterations of his ‘do.’

As a toddler, he had a mullet. I know some would say that’s abuse, but he saw pictures of me in college and wanted “a haircut like daddy.” Come on, who is going to refuse that?

Then, he had the typical toe-headed little boy cut.

As a preteen, he morphed into a mop that could shame the Beatles.

Out of nowhere, a couple of years ago came the high and tight athletic cut (he looked all the stud).

And, now he’s doing this… thing. I don’t quite understand it: white wall sides and back, then long on top down the middle. We’ve already had the talk that if I ever see the man bun, he’s homeless.

They finished up, and I have to admit he can make any head of hair look good. There’s that jealousy again. I’ll pray about it.

Next, I climbed in the chair, and it’s funny. I don’t recall any conversation. She just started cutting.

Like I said, I have had the same haircut for 17 years.

Maybe I am not just jealous of Noah’s luscious locks. Maybe I am a little jealous of his willingness to take risks. And, I should be.

I think God blesses and encourages the risk taker.

Matthew 25 contains one of the most interesting parables in Scripture concerning a master, his servants, and entrusted resources.

Let’s talk about this in 21st-century terms. The boss goes away giving one guy five bucks, another two bucks, and another one buck.

He gave it to them according to their ability. That’s an interesting note, isn’t it?

The guy with five went out and traded his dollars, doubled down and cashed in big. The guy with two did the same. But, the guy with one went very safe.

He hid it, buried it and protected it. So when the boss came back he could say there was no loss on his watch.

But, the boss’ response was to praise the risk takers and the cautious, conservative operator he called, “You wicked and slothful servant!”

I think the theological term for that is, yikes.

Apparently, the Boss (with a capital B) is looking for the risk takers.

What are you doing to take a risk? Where is your church stepping up and stepping out? Where is your foot landing that will end in failure if God doesn’t show up?

I think that believers today, and consequentially the church, have confused faith with fear, stewardship with doubt, and holiness for the status quo.

We need Godly risk takers who know that betting on God is always a good bet. Who is willing to go big, because there is nothing more important than the calling upon us?

God’s has given us much, so let’s take a flyer. Life’s too short to play it safe.

In fact, I think I’m going to get a mohawk. Well, maybe a reverse mohawk. Just using what I got!

________________________________

This article was originally published in the Baptist Digest… you should check it out:

http://www.baptistdigest.com

An open letter to church planters (and others)

I write this open letter to church planters because of the importance of the work you do, because I have a heart for pioneers and risk takers, and because  I pastor a church that believes in church planting and lives it.

But, the truth is this letter is for pastors, leaders, and believers of all stripes.

This is a dark world and times are (to use the nicest term I can think of) precarious.

These truly are days when people have started to call good things evil and evil things good. Doing the work to which you are called often feels fruitless at best and dangerous at worst.

But you, we, are not alone. The Apostle Paul was a man who obviously knew how to suffer for the sake of the Gospel and kept his joy, even singing in prison. This rock star pastor saw the miracles of God drip from his fingers and proclaimed that any suffering here is light and momentary compared to the eternal glory that awaits.

If I could be completely honest, his strength, determination, endurance and spiritual prowess are so amazing that sometimes… I really dislike him.

That’s why I was drawn to Acts 18.

  • Paul moves from the cosmopolitan, spiritual epicenter of Athens to the dirty, outskirts travel hub of Corinth. Comparatively, this place was a hole.
  • The city was hard and full of sexual dysfunction and immorality.
  • He was broke and had to revert to a day job to support himself.
  • And, the people he was trying to reach with the love of Jesus “opposed and reviled him” (Acts 18:6).

The rejection was so public and defeating that Paul “shook out his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads!’” (Acts 18:6)

It was an obvious low point for Paul, and maybe this says more about my brokenness than his circumstance, but this is where I started to like him again.

He apparently doesn’t wear a cape; this guy bleeds too. Now we can share a cup of coffee and lick our ministry wounds.

But, at just this point in the story, we see one of the rare ‘red letter’ passages in the book of Acts.

18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

I don’t believe we doubt the continual presence of Christ with us, even in the dark times.

I bet most of us don’t struggle with speaking up, even when the world tells us to shut up.

And, most of us have just settled in with the knowledge that attacks will come, and personal loss is a part of the game.

But, did you catch that last part?

“For I have many in this city who are my people.”

I wonder if Paul woke from his vision and said, “Really… where are they?”

Paul couldn’t see them because God was talking about His “already not yet” church. They were unknown, unreached, unconverted, undisciplined, but they were there! When Paul was ready to shake the dust from his feet and move to some place where things were more fruitful, God showed up and allowed him to see through the eyes of God.

God was doing more than Paul knew, expected or could even begin to understand.

This same chapter says that Paul’s response was to plant, dig in and commit. He stayed there for 18 months, even in the face of failure. He adjusted his ministry to focus clearly on his calling.

That’s when God did what only God could do:

  • A new location, right next door to the synagogue (the house of Titius Justus)
  • A celebrity convert who caught the city’s attention (Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue)
  • New friends and instant leaders that would be with him for the next 16 years (Aquila & Priscilla)

I don’t know where you are right now leader, but don’t give up.

God is doing more than you know, expect or can even begin to understand. There are many in your city who are already His, beginning with you.

 

Seeking more of Him and less of me,

Pastor Andy Addis

John 3:30

Read the map!

Several years ago when Kathy and lived in Ft Worth during the seminary years, we had some friends come and visit us from Kansas.

It was a pretty easy trip; basically from Kansas go south on I-35 and exit on Seminary Drive… one turn and your at our doorstep.

Well, these friends took our simple directions, and we assumed they must have been running late, until we got a call from them. This was a big deal pre-cell phone days as you had to stop the car and pay for a call. 

They said they had been up and down I-35 through the whole city and never even seen Seminary Drive. I apologized, gave them some landmarks to look for and they tried again.

But, about 30 minutes later the same phone call. We played this game for about 90 minutes with increasing frustration at every phone call, until I heard my friend on the other end say in exasperation, “Why would you ever live in Dallas anyway?!”

My response was, I don’t.

I lived in Ft Worth, but just north of the Metroplex is a community called Denton and in that place, I-35 splits into East 35 and West 35 to pass through these two metros.

My friends had taken the wrong road.

All morning they had been going up and down the wrong 35, looking for an exit that would never appear, the whole time thinking to themselves they were right and I was crazy.

It’s unfortunate, and a much more devastating mistake, but Jesus says we do the same thing spiritually.

Matthew 7:13-14 says, “13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

How horrible it is to think of living a life, thinking you’re on the right road, thinking other people are crazy, and waiting for an exit that will never come.

Maybe you’re reading this because it’s a God-given opportunity to check the map. Maybe this is you stopping to make a call.

Maybe it’s time to make sure you are on the narrow road that’s going where you’ve been hoping you were heading.

I’d love to help you. 

Let me invite you to pray and get in touch.

First, pray to God asking for forgiveness for all our time on the wrong road and commit to following Jesus for the rest of your life as best you can.

Here’s an example of a prayer like that you might want to pray: “Father forgive me for all my mistakes and failures. I want to begin again with You. With the faith that I have I trust Your Son Jesus who lived, died and rose again for me. I want to follow Him for the rest of my life as my Lord and my Savior. I will mess this up, but help me to walk in a new way. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Second, get in touch. If you prayed this prayer I would love to help you get started out right on this new road. Drop me an email at andy@crosspointnow.net 

Many blessings my friend. I am thankful for you and pray you take the time to make sure these moments were not wasted. 

And, if the road you are already on is the right road, please share this post.

Walking In Reality

 

Dear Heavenly Father,

Over the years, I have often thanked you for Jesus, and I mean it every time. But, but I must confess that I have not thanked you for the effects of what He has done.

When Christ died on the cross, He defeated hell, death, and the grave, but those were the generals in the army of our enemy. At their destruction also came the crushing of their foot soldiers.

Christ devasted lust, pride, hurt, anger, greed, doubt, loss, pain, fear, laziness, unforgiveness and everything else that has ever tied me up and abused me! My enemies have been defeated and because Christ shouted from the cross “It is finished!” they are defeated with finality.

Jesus crushed those sins in my life, and I thank you God for that victory, that grace, and that hope. The only time I can every be imprisoned by them again is when I walk into their camp, sit in their prison and close the door myself.

So, I have three requests:

First, forgive me for the many times I have handed myself over to a defeated enemy.

Second, train and mature me so that I may never be bound again by defeated foes.

Third, let me remember to thank you every day that Jesus has already won the war.

Father, help me to walk in reality. Let me feet follow the path of freedom that you have already created.

In Jesus name, amen.

Woman jeans and sneaker shoes

Perpetual Motion

There has been a quest over the centuries by some of the great philosophical and engineering minds to come up with a perpetual motion machine. Something that once started, is powered by the energy it produces itself and would never have to stop because it is completely self sustaining.

No degradation of power, a leak proof passage of energy from one motion to the next. image
An automated marvel that would have the potential to change with world by meeting global energy needs for virtually no cost.

Yeah, I’ve got nothing.

Wish I could help there, but I did find a bit of that logic in a passage I studied this morning, which I visualize as a spiritual perpetual motion machine.

Romans 5:3-4 says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”

So, step one: suffering produces endurance. This is kind of a no brainier, because suffering that doesn’t produce endurance produces death. I mean, if you don’t endure, you die. In this case, we can suffer on many fronts, and you can either persevere, or you can die. The death of a dream. The death of a calling. The death of a relationship. Or, in that very same suffering you can endure, persevere, overcome. 1 John 5:4 sets every believer up for this kind of victory: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

Step two: endurance produces character. Think about it, when we say someone has character we aren’t actually saying very much. Everyone has character. But, what we mean, is we see character quality traits that are worth holding on to: faithfulness, determination, optimism, hard work, etc. It’s in the process of clinging to God in the middle of suffering, enduring through it that these qualities rise to the top. Those who don’t endure often succumb to a different list: doubt, negativity, weariness, etc. So a person who endured suffering truly becomes a person of character.

Step three: Character produces hope. Let me supply my own definition of hope here (feel free to argue, but I’m not changing it). Hope is a confident expectation of the not quite yet, just out of reach, but already a fact to me! A person with all those positive character traits listed above will find themselves clinging to hope like it’s already in the bag. What others call a wish, they call tomorrow. When others are on a wing and prayer, they are guarded by angel wings praying thanks to a God who has ‘already’ answered their prayers.
Now, here is where it gets weird, because it looks like “hope” is the last stop on this train from the passage I’ve quoted above, but there actually is a step four.

Step four: Hope fuels faith to make it through suffering. Yes, in an amazing twist of reciprocity, the very thing that suffering produces, is also the fuel needed to overcome it. From the very same passage, just one verse later:

Romans 5:5 says, “Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The hope streaming from Godly character, forged by enduring, that’s heated by the fires of suffering is the same hope that will help get you through!

God poured into you in the beginning creates the opportunity for God to be poured out of you in the end… a spiritual perpetual motion a machine. That’s why the very beginning of the passage says one of the craziest things in the Bible: “But we rejoice in our sufferings.”

It makes no sense until we understand that as we walk through, suffer, lean more into our God, and feel the presence of His spirit more and more, we are given what we need to make it through.

Everyone suffers, but not everyone overcomes. We can rejoice, because we have a God who is not overwhelmed, discouraged, or out of His depth.

If you’re going though something right now, remember, you can’t do it.

But, God in you can do anything.

Arise and shine

My wife and I both have college degrees in communication. They usually don’t help.

Kathy is emotional and intuitive, feelings-based with high levels of relational energy invested in every conversation. I’m trapped in a perpetual viewing of Dragnet… I just want the facts, ma’am.

This has lead to more than one episode of, hmmm, how shall we put it… marital imperfection?

And, it’s too bad, because when we fight we usually have no reason to be even upset. The problem is that we just don’t communicate as clearly as we should.

When my wife wants something, I wish she’d just ask. But, instead, she wants me just to get it, figure it out, or perceive it because that would mean so much to her.

Honestly, I’m just not that smart.

So, in this playful bantering of communication mishaps, Kathy has tried to train me by asking leading questions to see if I can figure out what I should apparently understand:

  • Kathy: “What do you want to eat tonight?” Me: “I don’t care.” Problem: the answer was right, but I didn’t understand the question. She wasn’t looking for information; she was looking for me to help… strike one.
  • Kathy: “Can you believe she said that to me?” Me: “Yeah, it makes sense.” Problem: Whoa, danger zone. She didn’t want an answer; she wanted support. Not bright there big guy… strike two.
  • Kathy: “Are these your underwear in the middle of the floor?” Me: Well, they better be.” Problem: It may have been funny, but… well if I have to explain this one to you, you are not trainable. Strike three.


The prophet Jonah did not have this problem. When he heard from the Lord, it was clear, distinct and undeniable.
“Arise, go to Nineveh,” said the Lord.

Jonah’s response was also clear, distinct and undeniable: “But Jonah rose to flee.”

The next time we see the word arise or rose is when everything has gone critical, and even a pagan sailor (can you even imagine the language on that boat) wakes Jonah up in the middle of a life-ending tempest and screams, “Arise, call out to your god!”

This was no three-hour tour where the weather started getting rough, and a tiny ship was tossed… this storm was God’s wrath in undeniable technicolor.

Well, we know what happens. Jonah becomes fish bait (or for you wealthy folks, sushi), suddenly has a change of heart from the belly of the beast and agrees to deliver God’s message.

Don’t give him too much credit. Most of us would agree to do about anything from the belly of a whale.
And after the most disgusting disembarkation in history, we see a rerun: the same word (arise or rose) is used three more times.

“Arise, go to Nineveh,” said the Lord. His message had not changed.

Jonah’s response was slightly different this time: “So Jonah arose and went.”

This time, the third use of ‘rise’ concerned the King of Nineveh, “And he arose from his throne.”

There is a huge difference in a “But Jonah rose” and “So Jonah arose.” The first brought a killer storm into his life, and the latter moved a king off his throne.

One risked the lives of sailors, and the other saved a nation.

One was the result of disobedience and the other the natural outcome of obeying the Lord.

Thanks be to God His word is clear. No guessing, figuring out or trying to understand.

God has given us promises, commands, rules, laws, guidance, and direction. The only thing that remains is our response.

Will we obey?

You’re probably thinking about something very specific. Something you know God has communicated, without a doubt.

That’s a word from the Lord my friend… it’s time for you to rise up.

 

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