Chisels for Priorities

This is the first sermon I preached at Brazospointe. The series was Chisels: Scriptures that God has used to shape us. I chose the Gibeonite story from Joshua 9 because it shows clearly how the enemy can use good things over time to take territory from the Lord in our hearts.   

Listen here:

Here’s the video:

Here’s the text for the sermon:

My son Kasen is a Jr at Brazoswood now, but he gave me permission to tell you about when he was 6. From early on He was very physical and sports came easy to him. He rode a bike without training wheels the same week that he turned 3. He was always one of the best athletes in every sport he played. However, when He tried out for the swim team at 6, it all changed. To make the team, he was supposed to swim across the pool with a “recognizable stroke.” He jumped confidently into the pool and . . . well . . . let’s just say it was not very “recognizable.” OK, It was bad, but it was fine with me. I didn’t really want to give up all our Saturdays for swim meets. If he made the team, it would have been great, but if he didn’t make the team, it still would have been great.

I didn’t really care, but Kasen was ready to quit. He wasn’t the best swimmer in the pool and it was hard, so he was discouraged and he was just done. In that moment however, something changed in me. I didn’t want a kid who quit anytime something was difficult. I didn’t care about the team, but I cared about my son and I knew this was a teachable moment – a formative moment. I wanted him to learn how to work for something – how to have a little grit. He agreed to practice every day for the next two weeks and when he tried out again, he killed it. He joined the team and then went on to so much more. He went to the State swim meet that same year. He currently holds the state record for 8 and under backstroke, and even got gold medals at a National swim meet a few years later.

More importantly, he knows how to work for something. He doesn’t quit when things are tough. He has grit. This summer, he is actually working as a swim coach on that same team.

Swim has been a good thing for our family. It has been one of the tools God has used for shaping us, and we are grateful for it. I couldn’t let Kasen quit, ‘cause I recognized how that moment could shape him and be important to his future. And it has been.

As the new Discipleship Minister at my church writing about chisels and spiritual formation . . . man this is like music to my ears! This is what my job is all about. And I think it’s important to remember that we are being formed, shaped, molded, and changed all the time. Something is formed in us every day – both good and bad. If I had let Kasen quit that day, it would have formed something in him too – just not the formation that I, as his father would have chosen for him.

We can’t avoid change. Spiritual formation is guaranteed. We will be formed. The question is not if we are being formed, it’s who has the chisel in hand. While God works to make us more like Him, this world aims to chisel away and distort the image of God within us. God wants one thing, the world tears it apart. God will win that battle every day that we abide in Him and give Him the space to work.

On the other hand, if we place our lives in the hands of the world, if we are apathetic about it, or even if we aren’t intentional, we are putting ourselves in danger of being formed into something other than God’s highest and best. This is where it gets tough though. I mean, this moment with Kasen was obvious to me. It was easy to see with his reaction to just give up. It was a clear moment that he could learn something. I saw the moment and I responded well (which I don’t always do.) But it’s not always so simple and easy. These moments can be tough to spot.  Sometimes they aren’t so obvious. Sometimes they’re subtle. Sometimes I miss it. I don’t recognize all the ways I’m being shaped. There are things that creep into our lives. Subtle things. Things that are good things. Things that gradually, bit by bit, grab tiny pieces of our hearts. And if they get too many of those pieces, they can begin to control us. In this way, these good things can become like little “g” gods without us even realizing how it happened. Good things that become like gods are bad things.

I’m going to share a story from the Old Testament today, that I believe is a similar situation. It’s a story about a formational moment that God saw for his children. You see, for 400 years, His chosen people in the Old Testament, the Israelites, had been shaped and forged into slaves in Egypt. God saw them there, as they were, and loved them, but He wanted more for them. He wanted them to represent Him to the entire world, so He miraculously rescued them from slavery and had a plan to bring them into a new land for a new start. Unfortunately, with their slave mentality, they weren’t going to represent Him very well.

God needed to form them and shape them to look more like Himself. (That’s the point for us too.) All of this meant they had to be holy – set apart and spiritually pure. So God had to keep them to Himself. He had to be their only influence. He had to keep them away from distractions or anything that might hinder their holiness. So as they entered the new promised land, God told them not to make any treaties with the people that occupied the land. He even told them to destroy them. . . Destroy the kings and idols that they find in the land. Destroy the distractions.

By the way, this is still God’s desire: You and I are still called to destroy the kings & idols that are found in our hearts.

Destroy the distractions that hinder our holiness.

Now, let’s think a minute about these distractions – the kings they were to destroy. What is a king? Kings hold authority over a specific location or people. They are sovereign within a certain territory and hold power over its’ people. God tells Joshua, (He’s the leader of God’s people at this time.) God tells him to remove all the kings in the land and to destroy them because God Himself would be the only King. He alone is King. He alone is in control. He will not share His authority. If they were going to represent Him to the world, He had to be first place in their lives.

An English writer from the 1800s named John Ruskin says,

“God will put up with a great many things in the human heart, but there is one thing that He will not put up with in it – a second place. He who offers God a second place, offers Him no place.”

As Christ followers, we must remove all the kings and idols that once occupied territory in our hearts.” We must clear the land and offer our hearts to Jesus, the one and only King and then continue to protect and defend God’s territory.

Our church uses a resource called, “Rooted” for small groups. Week 5 is the “strongholds” week. The whole evening is focused on some of the obvious kings that need to be removed from our hearts. Things like fear, pride, bitterness, control, despair, sexual immorality, insecurity, deceit. . . These are clear and easy to spot. As he entered the promised land, Joshua had won battles against some obvious enemies like this at Jericho and Ai. They were strongholds. They were obvious enemies. They were hard to miss.

But the ones I want to talk through today are less obvious. They’re subtle enemies. They are kings that pretend to be friends. These subtle kings are much harder to spot.

Before reading he Scripture below, remember that God is forming His people under the leadership of Joshua. They are former slaves who need to become holy so they can represent God Himself. God has told them to destroy the Kings and idols in the land. At this point in the story, they have done well. Joshua has listened and obeyed God at every turn. They have defeated both Jericho and the city of Ai in some miraculous and incredible ways. Joshua and the people are in a good place when all this goes down. 

Joshua 9: 1 Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things . . . 2 they came together to wage war against Joshua and Israel. 3 However, when the people of Gibeon (who also live in the Promised land) heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, 4 they resorted to a ruse: (They disguised themselves) They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. 5 They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. 6 Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the Israelites, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”

7 The Israelites said to the Hivites, “But perhaps you live near us, so how can we make a treaty with you?”

(remember: God said no treaties)

8 “We are your servants,” they said to Joshua. (These are lies. They really want Joshua to serve them.)

But Joshua asked, “Who are you and where do you come from?”

9 They answered: “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, 10 and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan—11 And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, ‘Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, “We are your servants; make a treaty with us.”’ 12 This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is. 13 And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.”

14 The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. 15 Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.

Wait!?! What?!?! Joshua is a Bible hero. He’s not supposed to do this. He’s supposed to do it right and be our example. Yes . . . but he was deceived. He was tricked. The Gibeonites weren’t obvious kings. They were subtle kings. They deceived Joshua by pretending to be from another land.

Did you notice how he messed up? Where he made his mistake? Did you catch it? Look at vs 14.

Joshua did NOT inquire of the LORD.

Joshua undermined the whole thing by just powering through on his own. The Lord had given him success in two huge victories. He was confident. He was on a winning streak. He thought he was in control. He relied on himself.  He relied on himself.

Alright. So. . . let’s get personal here.

What are the deceptive kings in your life?

Who are your Gibeonites? What is fighting for more territory in your life? If you’re a Christ follower, then Jesus is the one and only King over it all. It’s all His territory. What kings have tricked you? What relationships or habits or activities have crept into your life and consume you? These aren’t “bad” things. They might even be good. These aren’t obvious kings. These are Gibeonites – the subtle deceivers.

I’ve got more of these than I care to admit, but I’m gonna tell you about one.

Actually, in some ways I’ve already told you about it. My story about Kasen and the swim team is where it all started. Over the years, that amazing formational moment with swim has grown into a Gibeonite king. Today, that king goes by another name though: Waterpolo.

Don’t get me wrong. We love waterpolo and the community of people that we have become a part of is amazing. It’s just that it’s not always a great and Godly endeavor either. Both school and club waterpolo have occupied territory in our lives that was once the Lord’s.

We have missed worship services for tournaments. We have spent money on hotels, food, gas, and fees, for tournaments, and practices, and waterpolo experiences. That money could have been used for eternal/kingdom purposes. We have spent emotional energy, shed tears, and been angry over waterpolo drama – not to mention when a ref makes a bad call. I will jump out of my seat screaming and waving my arms around like a fool. I can get caught up in the moment and completely lose control of myself. Just last season, I found myself yelling at a ref so obnoxiously that from the deck of the pool, he yelled back into the stands at me saying, “You think you’re a better ref?” Then he pulled out a little notebook to tell me what dates I could come to referee training. But, it didn’t slow me down. I just kept yelling. When the game was over, a friend said, “You know it’s a bad call when the guy wearing that shirt is screaming.” I looked down at my shirt. It said, “Be Kind” in big bold letters. I felt really small. I didn’t exactly reflect Jesus to that ref. I am a walking contradiction.

Anyway, a bad call is like the fast track for anger to become my king. Anything that can do the things that waterpolo can do to me, probably occupies more of my heart than I really even know.

To be clear, waterpolo is not all bad. There are great and Godly things that have happened too. God has used waterpolo to form us into His image.  We’ve had spiritual conversations with people who aren’t church people and we’ve been able to be a steady and consistent witness with many people in that community.

What I am saying is this: We’ve been on both sides of the line between what glorifies God and what doesn’t.

My guess is that this has happened to you too. It’s probably not waterpolo, but there’s some sort of Gibeonite in your life too. Maybe it’s another sport, or a relationship, maybe social media, or a habit, or something that has become an addiction. I don’t know, but whatever it is, it’s a subtle slope. Slow and seemingly unpredictable.

My family was shaped by a series of tiny decisions. When we started, there were no games on Sundays. However, as my kids got older, schedules got more demanding and one Sunday, we said, “The team is counting on us. We can’t let them down. It’s just one week. Our kids are still connected to the body of Christ.” We justified it. Each decision was small enough that it was easy to write it off.

Like Joshua, we were deceived and like Joshua, I didn’t “inquire of the Lord.” I thought I didn’t need His help ‘cause it seemed like such a small decision. I relied on myself

Author, Mark Lawrence says,

There’s a slope towards evil, a gentle gradient that can be ignored at each step, unfelt. It’s not until you look back, see the distant heights where you once lived, that you understand your journey. (from Emperor of Thorns)

That’s where I’m at right now. I’m looking back where we’ve come from and where this path is headed. This is my fault. I can see it clearly now and I’ve got to do something different.

So where do I go from here? How do I fix it? Do I tell my kids it’s over. We’re done with waterpolo? Do we kick waterpolo out of our lives? Sometimes, I think that is the answer, but this time, I don’t think it’s that simple. I think it’s more complicated and nuanced than that. It’s too nuanced for me, so let’s go back to Joshua. What did he do?

After he figured out how he had been deceived: That very same day.

Joshua 9:27 “That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the assembly, to provide for the need of the altar of the Lord.

Do you see it? He didn’t go back on his word. He didn’t break his treaty. He didn’t kick them out. Instead, Joshua made them servants of the Lord. It’s genius really. 

He put God back in His rightful place as King. He put the Lord over the Gibeonites!

I think that’s my answer. I think it’s your answer – the answer for all of us. No matter if your Gibeonite is waterpolo, or social media, an addiction, a relationship, or whatever.

Man, we gotta put God back on the throne. We gotta make Him King over it all. He deserves to sit in His rightful place, which is never 2nd place. In the ways your Gibeonite serves Him, you’re good. In the ways that it doesn’t, well. . . those are tougher decisions, but they are decisions that we know the answers to. They’re just decisions that we don’t like. We’ve got to repent and turn back to God. The issue here is more about having the courage to make the right decision. How will we choose to be shaped in those moments?

Will you choose the chisel in God’s hand or the one in the hand of your Gibeonite?

Here’s what I know. We’ve got to do something different. We can’t just keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve got to be intentional. Like my son Kasen, it’s gonna take hard work and grit. When God swings the hammer at His chisel, it will be painful. It hurts to cut these things out of our lives, but they will be worth it. We will look more like him as we create new practices and habits so our reflex is to make Jesus King.

There are things we can learn from Joshua’s mistake. We must:

  • Be Wise: Inquire of the Lord. Don’t be deceived.
  • Be Ready: Refuse to rely on yourself.
  • Prioritize: Make Jesus King over everything – especially your Gibeonites.

This is our church core value: Jesus over Everything. Right?

By the way, I should finish the story. In the next chapter, the Gibeonites call upon Joshua to protect them. Who do they think they are? They want him to serve them because of a treaty they tricked him into. Joshua doesn’t abandon them. (which is what I would have been tempted to do thinking now they’ll get what they deserve now) Instead, Joshua comes with his whole army and defends the very people who deceived him. That’s crazy to me. But Joshua did what Jesus would do years later.

As the true King, Jesus rescues you in spite of your sin. Even if you come to Him pretending you’re someone else, He forgives you and saves you and protects you. He isn’t fooled. He knows every part of you and still makes an irrevocable treaty with you. Are you hearing me? He knows every part of you and still makes a treaty with you. This treaty is authorized by His work on the cross and it’s signed in blood. It’s an everlasting treaty and it gives you full rights as a child of the King. The King who will rule and reign forever. If you invite other Gibeonites into His territory, He will subdue them. In Him, there is only victory. Let Him be King of your heart and your life. It’s the best decision you’ll ever make. Jesus is King! Jesus is King! Jesus is King!


Dear God, We thank You and praise You that You are King. You rule and reign over everything. The heavens and earth declare Your glory. The planets were formed and move around their orbits at Your command. The wind and the waves, they listen to You. All of creation responds to You with a resounding, “Yes!” And yet Lord, when I look at my own heart, full of kings and idols, hardened and distracted. I have the audacity to tell You “No.” Lord, forgive me. Turn me from these ways, back to You. Teach me to inquire of You at every turn. Give me courage to choose the chisel in You hand. Send Your Spirit to lead me to destroy the distractions so that I might be holy and represent You well. Lord, You are King over everything. Today, may You be king over my heart too. AMEN. 

50 Things to do at Christmas (revised for 2018)

Everyone should experience these 50 things sometime in their lives during the Christmas season. I have already experienced some of these, but some are things I hope to experience.

50 Things to do during Christmas:

1. “A Christmas Story” marathon.

2. Sit in Santa’s lap for a picture. It still counts if you cry your way through it.

3. Adopt a child (or 2 or 3) from the “Angel Tree” at church, buy gifts for him/her, and deliver them.

4. Cut down your own Christmas tree.

5. Decorate a Christmas tree with ornaments that have memories attached to them. Never waste your time making the tree look pretty or having matching ornaments.

6. Sleep way more than you should.

7. Cut and decorate Christmas cookies with colored icing, sprinkles, red hots, etc. (Or just eat the ones your Aunt makes.)

8. Build a fire in the fireplace (yes, even if it’s 80 degrees outside) and read the Christmas story as a family.

9. Let the kids unwrap one gift on Christmas Eve, but make sure they get that same gift every year so there’s still no surprise.

10. Be intentional about spending some time reflecting on Emmanuel (God with Us) – Jesus. Here’s something I wrote about Him. Consistently Emmanuel

Miranda, Kasen, and I – 2007

11. Participate in a live nativity.

12. Spend at least 100 hours placing exactly 6 colored stars on tree cookies made of green tasteless dough which you will sell to the nearest Christmas Tree Farm to make $$ for Christmas gifts. (This was for you, Laurie.)

13. Go Christmas caroling.

14. Be surprised when someone kisses you under the mistletoe.

15. Attend a candlelight service with your family.

16. Incur some kind of injury Christmas afternoon as you play with your new toy. (“You’ll shoot your eye out kid.”)

17. Give a memory to someone. Experience something together.

18. Unwrap “the ball” with your family. (It’s a tape ball with small gifts wrapped inside. The ball gets passed around a circle and you get to keep what you unwrap. You keep unwrapping until the next person rolls a 6 with a pair of dice.)

19. Watch the greatest Christmas movie ever made: Die Hard

20. Leave cookies out for Santa. Eat cookies left for Santa.

That’s me with the beard!

21. Dress up as Santa Claus so that a child believes at least one more year.

22. Instead of buying gifts, give $$ to your favorite charity.

23. Go to the trouble (in spite of the traffic) to take the kids to see some spectacular Christmas lights.

24. Go on a hayride.

25. Obtain an injury and get frustrated as you ignore the instructions and attempt to assemble the things Santa left your kids.

26. Take family pictures.

27. Re-gift. Or use gift cards to buy gifts for others.

28. Watch the eyes of someone you love as they open a special gift.

My dad played football with us every year at Grandma’s house.

29. Play football in the yard with the whole family.

30. Put pumpkin pie on your shoe, pretend you came in from outside, and then when someone notices the “poop,” wipe it off with your finger and eat it. (My brother’s idea – and it was hilarious! My grandma is the one who noticed.)

31. Use an advent calendar where you get to do something (Ex: eat a chocolate, hang an ornament, etc.) each day leading up to Christmas.

32. Arrange for your children to play “Jesus” in some sort of local Christmas production. Bonus if you are Mary and Joseph.

“Behold the Lamb of God” 2018

33. See Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb of God” Christmas production (or at least listen to the recording each year.)

34. Wake up way too early as your kids anticipation gets the best of them.

35. Secretly open a gift, seal it back up, and then act surprised on Christmas morning.

36. Display a nativity scene in your house and teach your children about the characters. (One year, my 3-yr-old son Kasen, told the Christmas story with our nativity. )

37. Watch the “Nativity Story” movie.

38. Use baby powder to leave footprints from the fireplace to the place where Santa left the gifts. (But make sure you make the footprints go back too – my parents missed that last part.)

39. Count the number of Jesus figurines you can find at grandma’s house.

40. Ask your grandma/grandpa about how they remember spending Christmas as kids.

41. Eat monkey bread.

42. Enjoy a “White Christmas” and do some sledding, have a snowball fight, or build a snowman.

My dad skied with leukemia! December 1996

43. Take the family skiing over the Christmas break.

44. Take the family to an old barn and read the Christmas story there among the animals and smells.

45. Bluebell Peppermint Ice Cream – it’s only made during the holidays.

46. Search the sky for Santa’s sleigh.

47. Get stranded due to icy/closed roads in some random west Texas town on the way to a ski trip. End up having to sleep with the animals ’cause there is “no room at the inn.” (It was Quanah, TX and the people of First Baptist Church were very gracious with their gym. They even let traveling pets sleep there.) Here’s a post about this experience: No Room at the Inn

48. Drive all over the country trying to see all your relatives and in-laws on Christmas Day.

49. Snack on Homemade Chex Mix, peppermint bark, and peanut clusters.

50. Celebrate Emmanuel!!! (Jesus = Emmanuel = “God with Us”)

Things not to do:

1. Get so busy trying to do the things on this list that you forget #50.

Crash – Kesleigh’s Tree

While skiing during Spring Break, Kesleigh hit a tree with her head! She was flying down the slope and was out of control, but she was too scared to just lay down and fall. Instead she sped down the slope, crossed another run and ran straight into a tree. As a dad, I watched in horror  and screamed. My heart sunk as her head bounced off the tree. She was wearing a helmet, but I could see her little eyes close as she fell to the ground and then she didn’t move. I imagined the worst. Was she alive? Was she paralyzed? I was there in just a couple seconds, but those seconds were long, difficult, and frightening. She was conscious. She was crying and scared, but she was alive and appeared to be functioning in every way. I was relieved and thanked God as I grabbed her little body and held it close to mine. I just held her for a while. I was grateful for helmets. Hers had a dent about the size of a softball on it.

Someone came by on a snowmobile and asked if we needed Ski Patrol. I declined and said that I thought she was OK. I was right. She was OK physically, but emotionally, she was not OK. She didn’t want to ski again. She was done and I must admit that I understood why. She had experienced something that would have shaken anyone.

Together, with many tears, and at a very slow pace, we worked our way back down to the lift and then back to the house where we were staying. She opted out of skiing the rest of the day. I didn’t blame her.

The next day, she wanted to try again and so we went out with her cousins and everyone. She was a different skier. A slower skier. A more controlled skier. Unfortunately, at her new pace, she couldn’t keep up with the rest of the group. We had to let them go on without us and so she cried. Grandma stayed with me as I watched over Kesleigh. She didn’t enjoy herself that day. She was sad that everyone went on without her, but she was too scared to speed up. She cried that her legs hurt. She whined saying she couldn’t go any further. She laid on the slopes and refused to get up over and over again. I don’t think she smiled the whole time we were on the mountain together. Skiing was not fun for her anymore. As her dad, that broke my heart, but I must admit that I was not having any fun either. I was growing weary and impatient with her whining and complaining. Yes, I knew she came by it honestly, but I also knew her potential, and I didn’t want to let her settle for staying home and not skiing. She had already fallen in love with skiing and I didn’t want to allow her to deprive herself of all the fun she could have simply ’cause she was scared. Fear can do that, but I felt like this was a perfect time for a lesson in perseverance. (It would test my own as well.)

For the rest of the day, we struggled. She didn’t want to stop, but her pace, her whining and complaining and crying made me want to stop. Even grandma grew weary and tired of Kesleigh’s attitude. When we got home at the end of the day, my mom told me that she thought I should win the “Best Son” and “Best Daddy” award for staying back and watching over them on the slopes. I was shocked ’cause I didn’t feel like I had been a good dad at all. I was really feeling impatient and tired. I felt like I had been short with Kesleigh and maybe even pushed her too hard a few times. Mom thought I had been patient, but mom didn’t know the thoughts that I had been fighting all day.

Here’s what I realized. I can be really patient and I don’t mind going slow when there is effort being made. As long as we’re moving forward, I’m OK with slow and methodical. I struggle when there’s complaining and whining and excuses. At those times, I’m not patient at all. I just want to keep moving forward and none of those things helps the process so I grow weary and lose patience.

Here’s my plea: If you need someone to be patient, put forth some effort. Don’t whine, complain, or make excuses. Just keep working toward the goal.

I can be patient when there is effort. I think we all can.

PS – The 3rd day, Kasen chose join us to help his sister and she did much better. By the end of that day, Kesleigh was back to her normal pace, but wiser with controlling her speed. That’s my girl!!! Proud of my boy too for sacrificing some of his ski time to help his little sister.

Shepherds Sermon Notes

Luke 2:8-20 says:

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock.

Most scholars agree that the time of Jesus’ birth was probably not Dec 25th. In his commentary, Adam Clarke suggests a fall time frame due to the fact that the sheep were in the fields at night.

It is very possible that these Bethlehem shepherds were watching over the temple flock – taking care of the sacrificial lambs. I think it’s cool that some of the first to see the true Lamb of God were the humble folks who took care of the sacrificial lambs from the temple.

 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, 

Angels are NOT little babies with wings.

for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people he favors!

In ancient Jewish culture, when a boy was born, local musicians congregated at his home to greet him with music. Since Jesus was born in a stable, the angelic choir had to take the place of the local musicians.

15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger. 17 After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard, which were just as they had been told.

Personal story: Depression – feeling like I wasn’t making a difference. I felt like a failure. The things I had dreamed about weren’t happening and I was beginning to feel like maybe they never would. I was coming to terms with my average Joe identity. Mid-life crisis? Covid?

I took this pic from our bus in Israel. A shepherd leading his sheep.

Shepherds probably felt this way. It wasn’t the most glamorous job. Some of them were young, but the old guys who were there probably felt even more of this.

They did the same thing every day.

Moved sheep from field to field bringing them to food and water

Went after lost sheep and protected them from predators

They were lonely most of the time and probably talked to the sheep

The sheep knew the shepherds voice

To the sheep, the shepherd was important, (even life and death) but no one else thought much of them. It was a humble job.

This is how teachers feel. The world doesn’t think too highly of us (partly due to some bad teachers.) It’s not a glamorous job and certainly doesn’t pay very well. Definitely not highly regarded. However, our hope and prayer is that we can make a difference for our sheep, our students.

Anyway, the shepherds probably felt some of the same things I was feeling earlier this year – like they didn’t matter much. No one really noticed them or patted them on the back very often. They probably hadn’t dreamed about being shepherds and thought their lives could have been something more.

But think about it. No matter what they felt, this is more than 2000 years later and we’re still talking about them.  This is the message I needed during my dark moments earlier this year. Why did God choose to reveal His Son first to these shepherds? What are they like? What is it about them that God makes this choice? What does He see in the lowly shepherds that no one else sees? What did they do? What made them stand out?

  1. They listened to God. (vs 15)

15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

When the angel appeared that night in the field, there were lots of voices

1) The voice of Doubt saying “You must be hallucinating. It was something you ate.”

2) The voice of Duty “You can’t go into Bethlehem. You’re responsible for these sheep.”

3) The voice of Laziness “You’re tired. It’s been a long day. Just stay here and rest.”

4) The voice of the angel. “The Messiah is here! He is a baby!”

Last night:

Voice of Chad “I’ve got Covid. I need you to preach.”

Voice of fear “Tell him to come preach anyway and just stay away from people.”

Voice of Doubt “Tell him to take another test. He’s not really sick.”

Voice of Inadequacy “I’m not prepared for that.”

Voice of Laziness “You’ll be up all night trying to get something together.”

Voice of God (By the way, this one is more of a whisper) “I’m still in control. I know what I’m doing and I want you to do this. I’ve got your back. I’ll be with you.”

God’s voice later on “I’ve orchestrated this whole thing so someone can hear this message.”

I’m hanging on to that one and praying that is why I’m standing before you today. I believe God can use me in spite of my own insecurities and quirks. As His tool, my only goal is to be open and to remain in His hands so He can do with me whatever He chooses.


  1. They hurried to Jesus. (vs 16)

16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger. 

Once they decided they were going to listen to God, they had a sense of urgency. They didn’t waste time. They allowed their own Godly curiosity to dictate their pace.

Lately, I’m the slow one in our family. I’m not sure when it happened. I was always the first person ready when the kids were younger, but now. . . I just don’t know what’s happened. Can I say I’m just getting old? I still hate being late, but

“When Harry Met Sally” Quote

“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Miranda and I got engaged in September, and were married in January. We wanted to begin our life together as soon as possible.

A relationship with Jesus is even more sure than our love for one another. If you haven’t begun a relationship with Him, you should start it today!

  1. They told everyone about Jesus. (vs 17-18)

17 After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 

When they had seen Jesus, they didn’t keep it to themselves. News spread quickly ’cause they were so excited. Matthew 12:34 says “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” The shepherds couldn’t contain themselves.

A woman’s engagement – You can’t contain the excitement. News spreads quickly.

People were “amazed” at what they heard. Shepherds in that culture were considered to be unreliable and weren’t even allowed to give testimony in court, so you see a picture of God’s sovereign hand when they believed them and were amazed. Shepherds may have been thought of as unreliable, but these were not just shepherds. They were shepherds who were following the Word of God

  1. They worshiped Jesus. (vs 20)

 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard, which were just as they had been told.

The shepherds worshiped with their mouths, but also with their lives as they told others and spread the news of Jesus.

Calvin says “If the cradle of Christ had such an effect upon them, as to make them rise from the stable and the manger to heaven, how much more powerful ought the death and resurrection of Christ to be in raising us to God?”

This is how we should respond. I wonder what our lives would look like if we truly listened to God and God alone, if we felt an urgency to be with Him, if we told others about Him, and if we worshipped Him with both our mouths and our lives?

Here’s the good news!

Jesus, the object of the shepherds worship, truly is the promised Messiah! He is savior! Ancient and strong! Holy and anointed one! He is light and He has come into our darkness! He is here among us! Although we celebrate Him as the baby, He is also the Healer of the brokenhearted, the living water, the bread of life, and the Lamb who died in our place! He is the One who has conquered death and sin! He rose from the grave and offers us new life in His name! He is worthy of our worship.

He is the one we can trust and should listen to.

He is the one who deserves our sense of urgency.

He is the one we should tell others about.

He is the one who is worthy of our worship.

He is Jesus.

He is Jesus.

He is Jesus.


Extra pics/info:

A manger was made of stone, rather than the hay-filled wooden thing in most American nativities.

A shepherds field in Israel is much more rocky than the fields we usually imagine.

Notice the shepherd with his sheep just beyond the field in this pic.

Magic Hugs

KesleighI was just playing around the other day with Kesleigh and was trying to convince her that my hugs were magic. I explained that if she hugged me, she’d be able to fly like Tinkerbell. My hugs are better than pixie dust. I’m not sure she was buying it.

Truth is: It’s her hugs that have the power to make a big daddy soar through the air like Tinkerbell. I lied about the power of my hugs as an excuse to get some of hers. (I’m a sinful man.) Her hugs and snuggles can redefine my entire day. My stress dissolves in her embrace. She has the ability to bring light into the darkness that runs around in my head. I’m so grateful for the joy that she is and the ways that Jesus uses her to touch me. I’m grateful for her magic hugs.

Prayer: LORD, Thank you for Kesleigh. She is such a precious gift and You’ve used her to help make me into a different man. I’m not sure why you entrusted her to me, but I’m very grateful. Please continue to grow our relationship. Help me to be the father that you have called me to be. Use me and my bumbling to lead her to You. Give me wisdom to guide her into the life You have prepared for her and help me to see the specific things she needs in order to be equipped for whatever comes her way. Hold each of us in Your hands and hold tight when we’re tempted to run away from You. You are our true father who has already given much more than magic hugs. Thank you! AMEN.

Effort > Success

swim1He slapped at the water and flailed his way across the length of the pool. Kasen tried out for the Lake Jackson Swim Team back in May and didn’t make it. He just couldn’t breathe properly and struggled with swimming the required 25yd distance without a few dog paddles. It was the first time he didn’t immediately excel in a sport. He cried and didn’t understand why he didn’t make the team. He talked about quitting and giving up.

Miranda and I didn’t really mind the fact that he didn’t make it and I sort of thought, “Well, our summer won’t be consumed by swim meets.” However, when Kasen responded this way something inside me felt differently. I don’t want my kids to think it’s OK to just give up or quit when something is difficult. As a matter of fact, I really believe just the opposite. When something is hard and they have to work at it, I will be even more proud of them. Sometimes effort is more impressive than success. Success may be a result of effort, but the effort/struggle is what grows us and strengthens our character. I don’t want kids who are just successful. I want kids who know how to work and earn their success. Kids who understand that pushing themselves makes them stronger – makes them grow.

For the next 2 weeks, I drove Kasen to the pool every day after school. We hired another swim coach to work with him. (Thanks Andy!) We set goals and worked toward them. Some days went well. Others didn’t.

swim2After two weeks, he tried out again. He made the team. At the first meet in his very first race, he placed 1st in backstroke and got 1st place on his freestyle that day too! For the rest of the regular season, he was never beaten in backstroke. He didn’t have his best race, but still got 6th in the final State meet! For a kid who couldn’t swim the length of the pool only a few weeks earlier, I was really proud. Proud of his effort, not his success. Happy for success, but proud of effort.

Romans 5:3-4 – We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient.  And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady.” – The Message

LORD, May this lesson follow Kasen throughout his life. Help him to remember to persevere. Help me to be an example to him of a hard worker, and as a man who doesn’t give up on things that are important, even when they are hard. Give us strength (physical, mental, and spiritual) to endure. Help us to recognize your presence with us and teach us to trust in your strength when we don’t feel like we can go on.

PS – This is why everyone loves the movie, “Rudy.” He was admired by his teammates for his effort – not his success. They were willing to sit out and make sacrifices for him because he was such a hard worker.


Me and grandma 1983
Me and grandma 1983

My grandma died last year at the age of 97 and she never snow skiied. She traveled all over the country and did all kinds of things, but she never went on a ski trip. Well…….. maybe she did……. just last week. She was there. I saw her almost everywhere I looked. When I broke open mom’s haystack candy, I saw grandma nibbling on one of her own. When the kids had a snowball fight, I saw grandma throwing one off the deck at me accompanied by her laugh and smile which both hit me harder than her snowball. When we played board games at the table, I watched her nimble hands slide the exact card into place to win the game. One morning

There's that smile I saw last week. 1982
There’s that smile I saw last week. 1982

we had cinnamon rolls and they got burned because ovens cook differently in high altitudes, but I couldn’t help but see grandma’s cinnamon rolls sitting on that countertop. When I looked around the room at all my family, grandma’s influence was evident. She didn’t put up with arguing, and you know what? I don’t think we had any. We learned that from her. She loved spending time with family and so do all of us. She laughed often and it just hung in the room there like it was a permanent fixture.



When grandma’s estate was divided, my mom used some of her portion to take us on this trip. There were 17 of us: Mom, Me, Miranda, Kasen, Kesleigh, Roger, Kathy, Tyler, Betsy, Tucker, Tanner, Brenda, Schonn, Brianna, Ethan, Jaycee, and Tristian.

Grandma took all of us skiing…………. but we also took her. And we will take her everywhere we go.

Grandma left some things behind for us, but the most important things aren’t things at all. She left her mark on us. We have her in us. We became at least partly who she influenced us to become. Influence – that’s grandma’s greatest gift and the greatest inheritance anyone can leave for their loved ones. Love you Grandma! Miss you!

Thank you Mom for passing this precious gift along to us. Love you.

Here are a few pics. If you want more, check out facebook, shutterfly, or google+ sm - 01sm - 02IMG_1448IMG_1425 (3)

Falling is not Failing

Kesleigh BikeKesleigh and I went on a bike ride the other day. She’s 4 (almost 5) and is still a little wobbly on her “new bike.” (She got it for Christmas.) Our neighbor, Peyton (7yrs) joined us for the ride. We rode around the neighborhood a while but then I got a little bored and decided to take them off road. We found a little trail that led us to a ditch. (maybe 20ft deep) The sides were a little steep and I could see a little trepidation on both their faces when I suggested that we ride down and then back up the other side.

Kesleigh spoke first, “Daddy, you go first.” I did. I rode down the smooth part of the hill thinking they would follow me.

When I reached the other side and motioned for them to come on over, Peyton jumped off his bike and walked it down the hill. Kesleigh (I love this girl) just looked at him and jumped on her bike and started down the hill. She trusted me and the direction I had pointed her in.

No fear. Fully committed. I could see the concentration on her face. She wobbled a little, but made it to the bottom, hit a bump, and bounced off the bike and onto the ground. By the time she realized what had happened, she heard daddy’s cheers showering down from above. “You were awesome Kesleigh! Good job! That was cool!”

Her first words? “Daddy, I made it to the bottom.” No tears. Just a positive outlook.

She fell, but she didn’t fail. I was so proud to see her commitment and determination. She didn’t hesitate.  Fear didn’t have time to speak. She just went for it! She was all in! Her focus was perfect and even her attitude about falling was great. Daddy is proud!

That’s my girl!!!!

Prayer: Lord, thank you for Kesleigh. She’s a precious gift. Lord, help me to train her up so that she will grow in her understanding and love for You – so that she will give her life to You and serve you wholeheartedly. Lord, I also ask that You teach me to be like her – trusting the directions you point me in – not allowing fear to have a voice – having a great attitude about falling – being committed and focused – going for it and being all in when it comes to the things You’ve called me to. AMEN.


Holding Hands

honeymoonWe strolled down Main Street hand in hand. It was a moderately cool day and we drank in the moment savoring each step as we made our way toward the castle in Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The breeze nipped at our faces, but nothing could quell the excitement coursing through our veins. These days would be remembered forever as precious – a beginning as well as a celebration.

It was January 2004. Miranda and I strode past families who gathered in their matching t-shirts to capture the excitement with their cameras, but it was our honeymoon. We were oblivious to anyone outside our own little gaze and communicated our love for each other with just a look.


Just a week ago….10yrs later, Miranda and I were able to relive the same experience – only this time, we had our kids. We still held hands and strolled down Main Street towards the castle, but this time there were extra hands. We stopped to have our picture taken in our matching t-shirts, We still looked into each other’s eyes and were oblivious to others around us, but this time the look carried different messages – “Can you do something about her whining?” or “Tell him to stop chasing his cousin.” The ease with which we chose our next destinations had disappeared – now there were so many more factors: “Is she tall enough? Will they be scared? Where is the nearest restroom? How long is the line? Can the kids make it without a meltdown? When is our fastpass scheduled? Can we use a stroller pass?”

However in spite of all the madness competing for our attention, nothing could quell our excitement. With the extra people, we also had contagious excitement that coursed through our veins. These days will be remembered forever as precious – a new beginning and a celebration of who we are and have become.

Mike and Patti Mathews generously provided everything for us to enjoy this trip. They arranged: 1) a surprise on Christmas Day for the kids, 2) Flights for 11, 3) an incredible house with a pool and hot tub, 4) car rental, and 5) 5 days of Disney tickets – not to mention the countless hours of planning, the tshirts, parking $, and extra gifts all along the way. Your love for all of us is incredible and we are blessed to have such a “legacy of love” in our lives. Thank you!

Prayer: Thank you Jesus for our family. Thank you for all your efforts in drawing Mike and Patti to you all those years ago and for giving them to us. You have blessed them and they are truly a blessing. Guide Miranda and I to carry this “legacy of love” forward and pass it to our children. Thank you also for giving Miranda to me. Allow us to continue to “hold hands” as we move through life – not just with each other but more importantly, help us to “hold your hand.” Amen.

I posted a few pics here, but if you want to see a few more, you can go here: Disney 2014