Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Blame Game

If you remember the 2003 National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins, the Cubs were just five outs from advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1945. However, in a fly ball out to left field, Steve Bartman tried to grab a foul ball, preventing outfielder Moises Alou from catching it. That moment shifted the momentum of the game and helped the Florida Marlins rally for an 8-3 victory to tie the NLCS. The 26-year-old Bartman, a youth baseball coach, was escorted by security guards from Wrigley Field after he was threatened by angry fans and pelted with debris.

With his life threatened by angry fans, a police guard was posted outside his suburban Northbrook home that evening. Bartman issued a public apology to Cubs fans saying, “I am so truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan’s broken heart.” He would go on to ask that, “Cub fans everywhere redirect the negative energy that has been vented towards my family, my friends, and myself into the usual positive support for our beloved team on their way to being National League champs.”

His wishes were unanswered. The Marlins would go on to win Game 7 and advance to the World Series thereby cementing Bartman’s gaffe as a key moment in the Cubs’ history. Angry broadcasters castigated him. Thousands of people blamed him for playing a role in the Cubs’ loss.  Can you imagine an entire major metropolitan area blaming you for the loss of your team’s ability to go to the World Series. Even worse it wasn’t really the guy’s fault. One fan didn’t blow the game. It was the eleven other goofs and blunders on the part of the Cubs that cost them the series. Furthermore, the loss of the sixth game just tied up the playoff. The Marlins beat the Cubs without fan interference in the seventh game.

In one degree or another, I guess we all operate like Cubs fans, looking for someone else to blame. Blaming makes us feel better about ourselves, so that we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions, and no amount of truth to the contrary will convince us. Yes, in playing the blame game, we hope to exonerate ourselves by making sure that the person, who we believe has failed, is properly identified and punished.

Those who play the blame game set themselves up as judge, jury and dispenser of punishment. And it’s a nasty little game that God absolutely demands we forfeit, because he has a different intention for us. Instead he wants us to stop blaming others and learn to accept ourselves in spite of our imperfections, knowing that our worth is not dependent on our performance, but on what God says is true of us. For living in the reality of what God says is true of us, gives us the freedom to extend grace and compassion to ourselves and others, in the same way that God extends grace and compassion to us.

Scarcity

I was having a conversation with one of our small group coaches today about how to develop additional leaders in the church. As she was sharing some of her observations as a coach, I was reminded of a term so eloquently coined by author Steven Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Without using Covey’s terminology, what she was describing is what Covey outlines in his book, as he describes the difference between living out of an “abundance mentality” vs. living out of a “scarcity mentality”. However, in this conversation what she was conceptualizing was Covey’s ideas in the context of the church and specifically to a viewpoint held by many within our ministry.

Like it or not, it’s a problem that pervades the church and most organizations and people don’t even realize that they are operating out of it. And it affects the way they think, they way they view people and the way they orient to our world.

People with a “scarcity mentality” tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. They believe there is only so much to go around, so they hold on to things, people, money, staff, and relationships with clinched fists. Whereas people with an “abundance mentality” tend to see everything in terms of win-win. People with an “abundance mentality” are genuinely more happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition, and good fortune of others. They go out of their way to speak well of others, to help others, to elevate others, because they truly believe their success adds to — rather than detracts from their ambitions and goals.

As Covey notes, there are some stark differences between the two mentalities. Here are a few:

Scarcity – Believes there is not enough blessing to go around
Abundance – Believes there is more than enough blessing to go around
Scarcity – Believes I have to succeed and make sure that I look good
Abundance – Believes that if I succeed and you succeed, then we all succeed
Scarcity – Believes that you have all of the answers
Abundance – Believes that I don’t have all of the answers
Scarcity – Believes you have to have clinched fists
Abundance – Believes in having open hands
Scarcity – Believes in dictatorship and micro-management
Abundance – Believes in operating with openness and trust
Scarcity – Believes in motivating themselves and others out of fear
Abundance – Believes in motivating themselves and others out of grace

I can’t remember which conference I first heard this concept presented, but scarcity is one of the greatest challenges facing organizations and the church today, because it operates on the premise that there is not enough to go around, which in turn affects how we relate to others as well as how we lead our organization and our team. Instead of operating in scarcity, organizations and the church need to operate out of a mentality of abundance. For a mentality of abundance is rooted in the belief that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20). In abundant thinking, we develop, believe in and encourage the success of those around us and in turn build great organizations and teams.

Oscar Night

Everyone loves a party! I especially love themed parties. So tonight I am really looking forward to the Oscar party at our friends Vinnie & Kirstie’s home in Long Beach! To make it fun, everyone has been asked to bring a completed ballot of who they think is going to win this year’s coveted gold statues. This is the 2nd Annual, so reputations are on the line, and I am seeking to pull from a 3rd place finish last year to a 1st place finish this year. However, I am finding myself conflicted in finishing up my ballot. Torn between casting my vote for who I want to win and who will likely win, because I want to win the door prize!

Thanks to a friend, who is part of the Screen Actors Guild, Jennifer and I have been able to view many of the nominations up for an Academy tonight. So we go into this party better prepared than last year. However, the one category I am wrestling with the most is Best Picture. Usually these are easier to pick for me, but this year, I am trying to get into the mind of the Academy and wrestling over whether they will the recognize a film that gives a nod to their industry, The Artist, or give gold to a film that chronicles the civil rights movement in the south during the 1960′s, The Help.

Regardless of who wins, we’ll have a blast with some good friends, while enjoying some yummy finger foods and friendly competition. Oh, and we’re bringing chocolate pie to celebrate the win of The Help for Best Picture!

So, who do you hope wins big tonight?

Don’t Wait for the Movie

According to polls conducted by Gallup, nine out of ten Americans have at least one Bible in their home, but nearly half of these Bible-owners rarely or never read the Bible. In fact, forty-one percent of all Americans polled indicate they have never read the Bible. That’s about 117 million people! And outside of the United States, the figures are even more dismal.

So for the season of Lent, we’re bringing special emphasis to the reading Scripture at SCG. The Bible is our blueprint for living and in reading it, we attempt to learn, live, teach and inspire from its rich history and insightful truth. So we’re challenging everyone at SCG to read through the gospels over the next 40 days in preparation of Easter.

When you break it down, it’s actually very simple:

  1. There are a total of 89 chapters in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
  2. To read through the gospels in 40 days, all you need to read is approximately 2.23 chapters a day.
  3. Reading 2.23 chapters a day will take you about 6.5 minutes.
  4. On average, we’re awake 960 minutes in a day and reading 2.23 chapters a day will take less than .006% of your day.
  • Download our 40 Day Bible Reading Plan and rediscover the story of Jesus’ life and journey to the cross as we prepare our heart and mind for resurrection.

Living a Life of Significance

I’ve been recently contemplating this quote from the movie, Akeelah and the Bee, which originated from Marriane Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

It’s a pretty powerful reminder of the biblical encouragement that comes from the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:10, For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. In considering this, my prayer has been that we as the church would awaken to the hopes, dreams and possibilities that God has deposited within each and every single one of us, in order that we would live a life of significance that brings glory to God and blesses others. After all, this is the life we were meant to live!

Remembering Whitney

Let’s begin by saying that I am not, nor have I ever been a Whitney Houston fan and prior to her passing on Saturday, February 11, I didn’t even own one of her songs or albums. However, as a music enthusiast, I admit that I was very well acquainted with her music and understood the impact of Whitney Houston upon American pop culture. She was a diva, a pop sensation and inspired a whole new generation of singers, like Alisha Keys and Jennifer Hudson, who admired her voice and her contributions to the music industry. So when someone like this passes, as a pastor you pay attention to see how the culture will respond and remember her. And I must confess, I somewhat got caught up in all.

My heart was heavy for her loss and I resonated with a tweet that Barbara Streisand sent that evening, “It is heartbreaking that she, in the end, could not find the joy in her life that she gave to millions of people with her music.” Such a beautiful woman, with an amazing gift of song, but who in the end, couldn’t find victory in the earthly struggles of her flesh. But I also knew Whitney to be a woman of faith, whose mother, the great gospel singer Cissy Houston, raised in church, and whose friends, especially the Winans family, continued to shape and form her faith as she became a superstar. And while she wrestled with drugs and had her moments in the spotlight, I was comforted in the fact that my God keeps his promises, and has told us that our salvation is not based on what we do, but upon what Christ did at the cross and that once we receive Jesus’ free gift of grace through faith, we are secure in Him.

What I was not prepared for though, was how God would so quickly use this tragedy for His glory, as millions of people throughout the world would get to experience church because of the four hour nationally televised service for Houston from her home church in Newark, NJ. At first, I was put back that her services would be televised at all, but then I understood. I got it. So for “research” sake, I tuned in this past Saturday to experience it, and found myself completely blown away and blessed by the fact that no one compromised the message or the design of the service for the sake of the multitudes and in turn brought “church” to the world. Yes, though Whitney’s own life saw its share of darkness, her passing set a stage for the sharing of God’s light and love to others. And what I saw was beautiful!

Secrets

They say in recovery that “you’re only as sick as your secrets,” and as a pastor, I too often see the damage that comes from keeping secrets. Whether it’s the husband that lies to his wife about where he’s been or what he’s up to. Or the daughter that keeps her pregnancy a secret from the family. All of us at times are tempted, to hide because of our own guilt and shame. But, the secrets we keep, don’t make life better. Instead they lead us into isolation, rather into the community and connection we need. For only in community, will we truly find the acceptance and healing for the brokenness of our soul.

James 5:16 instructs us to, “confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” There is something powerful that comes when we release the secrets that are holding us captive in authentic biblical community. In doing so we move out of darkness, into the light. And it’s in the light that we discover that honesty really does bring hope and healing as we experience the love and acceptance of a trusted friend, spouse or parent. Yes, in some cases honestly will be hard and may lead us into a painful or fearful journey, but in the community of God’s people, you will find greater strength than you would trying to tackle whatever it is you are facing alone.

In life, so much can be saved or redeemed if only we could learn not to hide and instead speak truth to one another. Jesus said it best in John 8:32, when he said that “the truth will set you free.” Having the courage to meet the demands of reality shows strength, character and ultimately brings healing to the soul. I pray that we can live in the truth, by being honest with ourselves, God and others. In doing so, we will truly be free to experience all that God means for us to experience.

How Great Thou Art

One of the great blessings of being on staff at SeaCoast Grace Church has been getting to know an amazing community of musicians and vocalists. Our talented team is as good as they come. They have fun together. They do life together. And they lead each week with passion and excellence!

This past week one of our vocalists, Stevie Mackey brought us a beautiful rendition of How Great Thou Art, complimented with a amazing guitar solo by Ken Song! Stevie and I have done many a service together, and after watching this video, you will better understand why I don’t like following Stevie on stage!

43 Things I Love About Jennifer

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I thought I would share 43 things I love about my wife Jennifer…

1. Her love for God.
2. Her smile.
3. Her gentle spirit.
4. Her tireless devotion to our family.
5. Her love for God’s Word.
6. Her faithful prayers for me and our family.
7. Her cooking!
8. Her frugal ways.
9. Her love for baseball.
10. Her optimism.
11. Her good looks.
12. Her incredible ability to lovingly keep me in line.
13. Her love for our son Zach.
14. Her love for the San Francisco Giants.
15. Her commitment to help build a ManCave in our home.
16. Her love for Trader Joes.
17. Her growing passion for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
18. Her brown eyes.
19. Her picture perfect teeth.
20. Her stubborn personality.
21. Her sense of humor.
22. Her loyalty to others.
23. Her willingness to be on God’s adventure with me.
24. Her love of nature.
25. Her passion to read.
26. Her selflessness.
27. Her thoughtfulness.
28. Her willingness to come alongside a friend in need.
29. Her sacrificial ways.
30. Her family.
31. Our friendship.
32. Our ability to laugh at each other.
33. That she can speak to me without saying a word.
34. That she makes our house a home.
35. That she listen to my rants without judging me.
36. That she loves the simple things of life.
37. That she isn’t pretentious. What you see is what you get.
38. Her hugs & kisses!
39. Her hospitality.
40. That she never talks bad about others.
41. That she said “yes” to me 19 years ago.
42. That she still sends chills down my spine.
43. That she is my one true love.

Yep, that’s one thing I love for every year of her life. I love you sweetie! I am truly blessed to be able to share life’s journey with you. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Recalling God’s Faithfulness

Tomorrow marks our three year anniversary in Southern California! Yes, three years ago, on February 13, we closed on a new home and moved in the last of our boxes and furniture just seconds before a torrential down pour. There are so many crazy God stories that got us to that eventful day. We sold our home in El Dorado Hills in a down economy, just days after Christmas! We managed to have our home in Cypress remodeled during the escrow process. And Jennifer successfully navigated a drive down the I-5 in the pouring rain all by herself with Zach, Maggie, three goldfish and our hamster Minnie in tow.

Three years later, our family looks a little different. Zach is now in 4th grade. And two of our three goldfish, Humu and Nuku (named after the state fish of Hawaii) are still amazingly with us. However, Maggie, our sweet companion of 14 years, along with our hamster Minnie and one of our goldfish have passed on.

We have enjoyed all that SoCal living brings! After all, we only live 8 miles from Disneyland and 6 miles from the beach. However, amidst all the fun we’ve had taking in the sights and sounds of Southern California, we’ve learned some incredible things about God, ourselves and life. Lessons that we probably wouldn’t have learned, unless we were willing to follow the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit’s work in our life.

While we’ve certainly experienced some of the challenges that come with uprooting and leaving the proximity of family and friends, we’re grateful for the lessons we’ve learned. Lessons in courage, contentment, community and closure. Throughout the Scriptures, God invites his people to remember. In remembering, I see just how faithful God has been, which in turn gives me faith to depend on him in the present and trust him for the future.

I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
– Philippians 1:6, NLT

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