Saturday, June 29, 2013

The July of My Life

It’s July. Or at least will be pretty soon. Fireworks. Picnics. Swimming. Vacation Bible School. A few days of vacation—hopefully. It’s a busy time at the church. Lots of praying and planning and preparing. Getting ready for the mid-August to Christmas Eve rush. School starts in mid-August and so do the youth groups. Small groups will begin again after Labor Day. A new, Sunday evening worship service will start in September. Third graders will be getting their Bibles. We are sending teams to Oklahoma City and Uganda. The fall stewardship campaign to fund our vision will conclude right before Thanksgiving. And we’ll do a bunch of Christmas Eve services again this year.

Benjamin and his favorite July activity

Fall is my favorite time of year. Cool nights give welcome relief to warm days. The colors are wonderful. One of my favorite things is running through the crisp leaves covering the trails at Platte River State Park. The Pumpkin Patch is another favorite. The boys still love picking pumpkins and we still love watching them. Football games, Thanksgiving, and making apple pies—I love them all. 

I am in the July of my life. I would have thought maybe April or May at the latest. But it’s July. I’m in my early forties now. One of my grandpas died in his late seventies and the other in his early nineties. So it’s July for me. Most likely half over. 

I look back on January and February. I was raised by good people. There was never a shortage of love to go around. I was shy and full of questions. I painted houses and farm buildings in the summers. I rode a bike across Iowa, climbed Long’s Peak, and spent part of a summer living in Norway. 

I went to a lot of classes, read a lot of books, and wrote a lot of papers in March. I spent nearly a month of my life at Drake University in Des Moines and Emory University in Atlanta. I got married in March too. Amber and I had each other, lots of dreams, some good friends, God, and not much else—but we always had more than enough.

David and Bishop Jones at a Storm Chasers game

April, May, and June were spent working with youth at a church in Atlanta, pastoring a small church in Northwest Iowa, serving a big church in Dallas, and planting The Water’s Edge. I become a dad in May, two days that changed my life and two boys who continue to teach me about God, love, and life. 

As I look back, I’d do some of the exact same things over and over again. I’d change others in a heartbeat. But I can’t do either, so I’ll remember and learn the best I can. My coolest discovery so far is that God’s grace is both available and abundant in the good days and the not-so-good days. 

I’m looking forward to the rest of summer, fall, and even the beginning of winter. Days of laughter and tears. Times of listening and learning. Building on existing friendships and making some new ones. Developing further my relationship with God. Going places, doing things, and doing nothing with Amber. Helping the boys become men. Leading a church into its vision of helping people grow in their relationship with God and with others, helping parents disciple their children, and loving and serving our city and world. I’m blessed to be part of a large, growing group of people who are creating something incredible from nothing at all. 

To those in February—dream big. To those in November—finish strong. To those somewhere in the middle—faith, hope, and love go a long way and on the days they don’t go quite far enough grace is available and abundant. To all—I look to going through the next months with you. 

The best is yet to come… 


Thursday, June 27, 2013

What About the Death of Zoe?

The Greeks have two words for life: bios and zoe

Bios is the root for the English word biology. It means physical life. A heart that beats and lungs that breathe. The word is used 11 times in the New Testament, mostly by Luke, who was not surprisingly, a physician. 

Zoe is the other word for life. This word is used 127 times. It means loving, being loved, laughing, crying, relating, emoting, serving, listening, recovering, and being human. Jesus said: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Zoe. When he said: "The thief comes only to steal and kill; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) Again, the word is zoe.

The woman lies in a near motionless state. She is very sick and isn’t going to get better. She is surrounded by loved ones: her husband, children, sister, friends, and grandchildren. She is aware of their presence and even more aware of God’s presence. She is running out of bios but has plenty of zoe

The man is busy. His job is demanding. Getting the kids from place to place seems a bit much, at times. The household chores never seem to end. His responsibilities exceed his resources. He would describe his life as going through the motions. He is young and healthy and has more than enough bios, but he longs for zoe—even though he isn’t familiar with the word. 

When we think of death we usually think of bios. An accident, a disease, old-age—the body breaks down and the heart and lungs quit working. It is inevitable for all of us and everybody we know. But we know that life is so much more. 

What about the death of zoe? A life absent of meaningful relationships and absent of love. A life absent of trust. A life with little laughter and fewer tears. A life that doesn’t experience the joy of serving and listening. A life that accepts the defeat of dreams. A life where dysfunction is prevalent. A life with no recovery. A life where going through the motions is the norm. A life without God. 

Jesus taught the disciples everything they needed to know. He modeled what it meant to live in God’s image. He showed them what zoe was all about. And then he died. His death was the defeat of death and the death of defeat. Resurrection happens. It happens with bios. It happens with zoe. God gives us an abundant and an eternal life and we can live as resurrected people. 

The best is yet to come… 


Monday, June 24, 2013


Here is Sunday's message. The topic is sex.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


I had to wake up at 4:45 and drive thirty minutes to capture these. It was worth it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Sex is God’s idea. Without it, human life on the planet would end in about one hundred years. 

At its best, sex is not a sin. It’s holy and sacred and beautiful. At its worst, it is not holy or sacred or beautiful. It’s kind of like nitroglycerin: it can heal a dying heart or it can blow up a building.

A person who is hungry for food or thirsty for water is searching for survival. To know another sexually is the hunger to know another in all their humanity and to be known in all your humanity by another. Food without nutrition and water without purity doesn’t work out for too long and neither does sex without humanity. Sex isn’t salvation and those who treat it as such will face disappointment. 

Jesus seemed to be pretty lenient on sexual misconduct. He saved
 the woman caught in adultery from having the leaders of the community throw rocks at her. He didn't tell the 
woman at the well that she should go and marry the man she was
 living with. 

But he also had some very harsh words to say about lust: like it’s better to lose your eye than to go down the road that will lead to destruction. And he told the adulterous woman to be on her way and not to sin anymore. 

Sex is sinful when physical 
bodies are united but the persons inside those bodies are hungrier and thirstier and more 
lonely. Sex is holy and sacred when persons and souls are even more united than the bodies. 

Scholarly journals tell you one thing about sex. Hollywood another. Men’s Health writes a different story. Billions of dollars are funneled into the adult entertainment industry—an industry which sends an entirely different message.

The Bible’s message is clear and consistent. Sex is a gift. A blessing. Like humor and friendship—sex is God’s gift to us. When used as intended—there is nothing quite like it. When used as it’s not intended—well there is nothing quite like that either. 

Misuse and abuse will be overwhelmed with recovery and grace. Brokenness can be healed. God has a lot of experience at turning sinners into saints. And when God does this—there is nothing quite like that either. 

The best is yet to come… 


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lessons from This Morning's Run

This morning’s run started in a driveway. Not the normal driveway. A driveway in the heart of Mark Twain National Forest nestled in the Ozark mountains. Highway DD in southern Missouri is one of my favorite places to run.


The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil. -Thomas A. Edison 

No headphones allowed on this run. The tight, curvy, and hilly highway isn’t well travelled, but the runner has to hear the traffic. Just as well. The sounds of the birds and the animals are delightful. The sounds of silence even more. I dreamt, prayed, and thought about how to be a better me. Kierkegaard wrote: “A great man is one that can develop convictions in solitude and carry them out in a crowd.” I’m at least part of the way there. 


Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. –Kahlil Gibran 

The hills on this road are relentless. Steep and long. The first climb lasts the better part of two miles. My intentions were to get up at 6:00. Yesterday’s eight hours of driving between Branson and Little Rock with ninety minutes of speaking sandwiched between wore me out. I woke up at 8:30. By the time I started at 9:30 the temperature was well in the 80s. The sun was as oppressive as the inclines and declines. I was suffering the entire run—save the first few minutes near the lakeshore. My suffering was optional. The cancer patient, the person who has had a relationship end, and those who battle depression—their suffering isn’t optional. One of the coolest things in life is seeing people emerge from devastation and suffering as recovering and stronger. God does such things every day. 


Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You. -Dr. Seuss 

About eight miles into the run I knew my breath would be taken away. Not by a view of the lake or a deer. By a makeshift gravesite. I’ve seen it many times. He was only seventeen. Way too young. Dreams disappeared that night. Death makes us think about life. Even though I knew it was coming, I became a little more grateful for mine. 


Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” –C.S. Lewis 

The hills and the heat were winning. At nine miles I saw an oasis. A sprinkler. The woman was gardening. I asked her if she minded if I borrowed her sprinkler. She not only said yes, she took my two empty waters bottles inside and filled them up. We shared a laugh or two as I drank the water. The last mile was downhill. My body was defeated. My mind and soul were refreshed.

The best is yet to come… 


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Little Rock

Spent the day in Little Rock talking at the Arkansas Annual Conference. Met some great people and had a good day.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Throwed Rolls

Enjoyed dinner at Lambert's in Springfield, Missouri tonight. David loves catching the throwed rolls.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Topics We Avoid - Money

Money is one of those things we don’t like to talk about. I wouldn’t ask you about your net worth and you wouldn’t ask me how much we owe on our house. But money is something we deal with virtually every day. We go to work to make it. We spend it at the grocery store. We spend lots of it at the gas station.

The more you think about it money, the less you understand it. The paper it's printed on isn't worth a red cent. If the government decided that leaves from trees were money so there would be more that enough for everybody, the leaves would be worthless just like they are now. Money has value only because the government declares that it has value and because people trust the government in that one particular although in many other particulars they wouldn't trust the government any farther than they could throw it. 

The value of money, like stocks and commodities, goes up and down for reasons experts can’t explain and at moments nobody can predict, so you can be a millionaire one moment and bankrupt the next. There is more concrete reality in a baby throwing her rattle out of the crib. People use up their entire lives making money so they can enjoy the lives they have entirely used up. It’s irony in her cruelest manifestation. 
  • Those who love money will never have enough. You can never have enough of something you love. 
  • Hoarding riches primarily harms the hoarder. 
  • We all come to the end of our lives naked and empty-handed like the day we were born. 
  • Life is to be enjoyed and an aim of life is to leave the world in a better place than how we received it. 
  • True prosperity comes from God. 
Money can't buy love. It can't by the love of God or the love of people. Resources are necessary to live. Resources are a poor thing to live for, because in the end resources disappoint because we aren’t created to live in community with money and stuff and things. We are communicated to live in community with God and people. 

Something special happens the moment you dip into your treasure, however small or however vast it may or may not be, and you give away. What you are saying is something like: “God has blessed me. I love you or I love God or I love this movement more than I love this money. So, here it is.” Each week many of you say, “Here it is”, when you support our church financially. I am so grateful and thankful for your commitment. 

The best is yet to come… 


Sunday, June 2, 2013


The boys checking out where I lived during my college years