Friday, September 25, 2009

Certain In Uncertainty

In 72 hours I hope to have the answers I've longed for from my doctor. For over a year now, I've been battling voice problems, and after months of popping various ineffective pills in an attempt to treat a damaged larynx (voice box), my doctor has decided it's time to "go in" and see what's happening.

Honestly, it doesn't worry me at all, but I do wonder what God is up to. I'm sure you've been there before - not quite sure about what's going to happen next. There have been times in my life where this uncertainty has pushed to the very edge of sanity, but not this time. I can't guarantee you just why, but I'd like to think that just maybe, my faith is growing. Not in the doctors or medicine (to be sure), not because I just know that God is going to "fix" everything, either. But because I really believe that He is in control, and no matter what the outcome is, He is already way ahead of me on that road.

I had someone ask me, "Kirk, what would you do if you couldn't sing anymore? Or preach like you do now? I mean, your voice is your life!" I'm sure I came off a bit flippantly (though not intending to) when I replied, "Guess it will be time for me to write!" (my profs in grad school always told me to do more of this). While it is hard to imagine what life would be like without the speaking/singing ability I have enjoyed, let's get one thing really clear: my voice is not my life...the Lord is my life!

In the midst of some uncertainty, I am absolutely certain that God knows what He is doing (and frankly, if it goes "bad," it won't be the first "bad" looking thing He's allowed in the process of bringing things much better to my life!).

Another thing I'm certain of in this time is that God is up to more than one thing that is becoming great. I've got a youth retreat this weekend (first one ever for our fledgling youth ministry) that I am convinced is going to result in life transformation for many (rain or shine). My beautiful wife, Tonya, is actually bringing the morning message Sunday (since the retreat is Sat-Sun) and while she's more than a little nervous, I know that God is going to do something great in her and through her.

Obviously, there's several opportunities for you to pray about some things here, but I want you to know that while there may appear to be a great deal of uncertainty surrounding these things, God is enabling me to live with certainty. Not because of who I am, or what I've done, but because of who He is. Whatever you may be facing right now, know that He loves you more than you can imagine, and that He has your life firmly in His hands - won't you reach out and take those hands today?

Friday, September 18, 2009


"Radiant." describes this, among other things, as:

1. Emitting rays of light; shining; bright.
2. Bright with joy, hope, etc.

Let me tell you, it was my great privilege and joy to meet with a young lady this week who is all these and more. The best part? She's this way because of what Christ is doing in her life!

The keen eye noted, I'm sure, that today's blog is entitled, "Radiant...Now" (couldn't figure out a way to italicize the title above). I'm equally sure that those keen eyes are paired with sharp minds which pick up the obvious conclusion: "radiant" was not always the way this life would have been described...but it is now.

Have you ever listened to someone talk about how you should try this thing or that thing, and what a difference it has made for them? Our media world has this down to a science (albeit a predictable science) with everything from weight loss to laundry detergent. I remember listening to people talk to me years ago about what a difference Christ had made in their lives, and because of this, I should try Him, too. I also remember thinking, "That's easy for you to've got it all don't know what my life has been like."

It was almost humorous (and honestly, a little disheartening) to hear this young lady confess to me that this is exactly what she had thought of me and other pastors who had attempted to speak into her life over the years. While she appreciated the efforts, it had never really touched her life like she needed. And because her life had gone untouched, when it got challenging...I mean really bad...she found she didn't have the resources within her that those challenges demanded. Life got tougher, more confusing and she quite frankly didn't know if she was going to make it (in case you haven't figured it out, this is the time when she was not "radiant").

But then someone touched her life. Someone she'd heard from before, but not an "I've-got-it-all-figured-out-and-am-on-top-of-my-game" person (like she thought all pastors are - boy does she have a lot to learn about us!). The point is, someone who knew exactly what her life was like, and who obviously did not have it all figured out, chose to reach out to her in love, challenging her to take a new direction with her life.

Granted, not all stories end this way, and hers continues to be written, but let me tell you this much: she responded to the challenge, the new direction took her to Jesus, and now...she is absolutely radiant. One of the coolest parts is that she recognizes how God was using all the messed up, confusing, painful "junk" of her life to bring her to this point. She even confessed to me, "Kind of gives me a whole different perspective on my life up to now!"

I pray today, no matter what you're facing, that you'll not turn away from the One, Jesus Christ, who can just as powerfully make you radiant. If you don't believe me, just ask and I'll put you in contact with one young lady who absolutely is! "If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

And if you're one of those who have discovered the secret to being radiant, never underestimate your power to persuade someone else to investigate the One who said, "I am the Light of the World" (John 8:12). Don't you dare rely just on us "all-together" pastors to get the job done. His radiance is ready to be shared...and!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Says Who?

I know, I know - if I was any kind of red-blooded American, I should be blogging about 9/11 today. Who will ever forget where they were when they heard the news & saw the images of eight years ago? Not me, for sure...but not what the Lord has laid on my heart for today.

Seems like nearly every day (hour?) you'll hear somebody, somewhere, cry out a phrase most of us learned to speak right after "Mine!" as a child. What is it? Let me see if you can figure it out. What's the first thing you think of when you see someone being mistreated? Hopefully, "That's not fair!" jumps to mind, and it indeed has become one of the most prolific proclamations among us as relatively-spoiled-compared-to-the-rest-of-the-world Americans.

The great UCLA coaching legend, John Wooden (if you're too young, Google him - you'll be impressed!) was challenged in his prime about his approach to the game of basketball. Now, he was blessed with an almost unimaginably talented group of men over an extended period of time - so much so that he literally couldn't use them all at the same time! When taken to task about why he played certain future Hall-of-Famers more than the others, being called categorically "unfair" in his decisions, he responded with one of the greatest quotes of all time (in my humble opinion). It went something like this:

"Our culture has done a great disservice to people in determining that in order to treat every person fairly, each person must be treated the same."

Coach Wooden knew his players' strengths, weaknesses & abilities better than anybody, and in doing so, knew exactly when & where to play each one of them so that their contributions would be maximized for the good of the team. If that meant in one game a "star" played 40 minutes and another sat, it was the coach's call. And if the next game the roles were reversed, it was the coach's call.

This is exactly why Jesus actually treated different people differently. In our equality-minded culture, this sounds almost reprehensible, for I know that as a pastor, people expect me to treat everybody the same. But if you really think about it, treating everybody the same is one of the most unfair things we can do.

To expect "Johnny" to run a 5-minute-mile at 300# just because "Tommy" can (at 140#) is ridiculous. And to demand that my son be a great singer because his sister is, equally ridiculous. One step further - if an employer treated all his or her employees the same, regardless of skill or performance, he or she would quickly lose all the top performers and the business would settle into mediocrity.

The way our treatment of others is manifested will be different for different must be...because different people have different needs, strengths, skills & potentials. But hear me well, the reason for that treatment must be absolutely the same - because we love them.

Back to Jesus, this is why He was "hard" on some (because they needed a kick in the seat...or a wakeup call) and "easy" on some others (because they needed hope or encouragement or such). In no way did He treat everybody the same, but He absolutely treated everyone fairly.

Thank God that He does not treat us all the same, but that He treats us according to what we need, granting compassion when it's needed and correction when it's needed; both a tender shoulder and a stiff-arm (at just the right times).

I'll be the first to confess that I don't always get this right - not by a mile - but I am endeavoring in my daily life to be more this way, asking the Lord continually for wisdom to know who needs what and when. If I, by His grace, can be more and more like Him in my desire & ability to do this, just maybe I can improve on my ability to give each person what they need most...the love of God with skin on!

The next time you're tempted to cry out, "Hey, that's not fair!" Remember that it's "the coach's call" and with our Heavenly Coach, he's never lost a game yet! What may seem quite unfair to us, may indeed be the very best thing that can happen.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Rest - that ever elusive ideal which far too many experience far too little of. We go on vacations, try to get to bed earlier (or sleep in a little on the weekend), find something mindless to do, or get together with "old shoe" friends. Yet, far too often, in spite of our best efforts, we find ourselves more tired than ever. Why is this so?

I believe we find the key to this dilemma in the words of Jesus Christ: "Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened down, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Kind of funny, isn't it, that for many people, one of the first things that is negotiable when they're trying to make room in their schedule for some rest is their attendance at church, Sunday school, or Bible study. Not that those are guarantees of rest, but they can really help us with what Jesus wants to make sure we don't miss in this verse (actually, you'll only really see His emphasis in the Greek language).

Let me type this verse out for you as it would appear in the Greek: "Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened down, and I will give you rest." Notice the difference? Both "me" and "I" are what we call emphatic. They mean, "pay special attention here." And if Jesus were to speak out loud to us right now, He'd emphasize the very same thing...maybe something like this:

"Hey! Don't work so hard to find rest. You're wasting your time to do all the other things you do in seeking rest if you're not coming to Me first. You're never going to find what you really need if you look everywhere else but to Me." Ok, so you get it, but how do we do this?

By taking time each and every day (morning is best, before the tyranny of the urgent kicks in), quieting ourselves, asking the Lord to speak to our hearts, and spending some time in His Holy Bible. I simply say to Him (following the example of Samuel in the Old Testament): "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." Then I read, listen, and pray about what He shows me. I cannot tell you how many times this discipline has brought peace & rest to my spirit and life.

Needing some rest, are you? Go ahead and do all your other things (there's nothing wrong with them...usually); but first, take some time, even a few minutes, everyday, to spend with Him. Come unto Him and He will give you rest!