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Soapbox Tuesday: Do We Go Deep or Wide?

There are a lot of fishing references made in the New Testament. Jesus had called fishermen to follow Him and to be His disciples, and when calling to them, had called them in the language of fishermen.  He would make them no longer fishers of fish, but fishers of men. One thing about fishermen that seems clear in scripture, is that a good day fishing meant that their nets would be full. Fishermen of any worth cast wide their nets with skill in the hope of catching many, many fish.


I recently encountered a man whose evangelical fishing technique would oppose that of the disciples. After finding out that I attend and serve in what he (and most everyone else) would consider a mega church, he bristled a bit. I knew he was about to lay down the argument that most like him do. It is the deep versus wide argument. It’s the watering down of the gospel argument. He’d rather see a church cast deep nets with a few fish, than wide nets that end up full to overflowing. He would rather take a few people deep into theology, and make little theologians out of them, than bring scores of people into the family of God. We were not going to agree.

That’s not what the Great Commission teaches. This is what Jesus said in Matthew 28: 19-20:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

It was the theologians of that day that Jesus opposed. Why did he when they were committed to prayer, scripture, fasting, worship, and living a life separate from the world? While there is nothing wrong with these pursuits, indeed, we should all seek these things, it was their hypocrisy, piety, and absence of love for others that Jesus opposed in them. To be accepted by a Pharisee, you had to be like them… DEEP.

Now, I do recognize the scripture that says,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14.

That should not lead Christians into a small minded approach to evangelism where we take only the few, the proud, the ones willing to memorize the Torah to the exclusion of all others. We are to cast wide our nets. Of course, some fish will slide through. Not all caught in our nets will join us in God’s family and desire a significant, ever growing relationship with Jesus. Not all of them will be able to recite The Lord’s Prayer or know that the Christmas carol, “We Three Kings” is not biblically sound.

Not everyone who accepts Jesus will understand the meaning of terms like eschatology, hermeneutics, or apologetics. They will lack the knowledge to argue either the Augustinian or Pelagean view of salvation. I love all that stuff, and I can while away lots of time talking about it all, but when we shirk our responsibility of casting wide our nets in favor of taking the few and proud to the depths of theology, we miss the intent of the Great Commission, and we use it as an excuse to stay comfortable in our separatist churches that reach no one, ever, with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We are to reach them first with the saving grace of Jesus. And THEN we are to teach them to be disciples… which doesn’t have to be so hard. It basically means having a correct view of God, of ourselves, and of others.

I married a man who currently has three theology degrees, including a doctorate. We have frequent deep theological discussions around our house, but we are happy to be a part of a church that casts nets as wide as we possibly can. We can water down a lot of things with regard to theology. It’s pretty darned impossible to water down the gospel.

We are dead in our sin, eternally separated from a relationship with God, our Creator. Jesus, God’s only Son and perfect sacrifice, gave up His life in order to pay our sin debt, a debt we could not pay ourselves. In conquering death, Jesus made a way for salvation. If we accept that gift by faith through grace, we receive salvation, restoration, and a relationship with our heavenly Father that can never again be breached.

It doesn’t get more watered down than that. So yes, sir, I will drive by your church every Sunday (and I do) in order to pull up to one whose parking lot is full to overflowing with people who need Jesus, desire Jesus, and are desperate for believers who will demonstrate His love for them. And we will make it as simple as we can for them to get what they need.

This hereby concludes Soapbox Tuesday. 

Have You Been Deviled?

“Take every thought captive, or it will take you captive.” Jimmy Evans

Have you ever considered that, like eggs, people can be deviled? Here we are, minding our own business, and along comes our enemy, adding things to us.


Thoughts that are not correct…

Ideas that are just a bit off…

Concepts that just don’t really measure up to the truth of the scriptures…

All for his enjoyment and our destruction. All so that he can devour us (1 Peter 5:8).

The Bible tells us that we are to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. The “make it obedient” part is pretty cool. Imagine a soldier with a spear prodding an enemy captive. That’s what it means according to the Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament, Literal Translation. It also tells us that we are to demolish arguments and pretensions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians: 10). How many times does a random thought fly through our minds that just doesn’t jive with the word of God? Pretty often, I think.

Where do those thoughts come from? Some of them are our own, but some come from the one with the power to destroy us. He is the original silver tongued devil. He is so very convincing. If you doubt his abilities, consider this. He was able to convince Adam and Eve, who had never suffered any illness, disappointment, or unmet need, that the God who had provided them with every single thing, and who had communed with them daily, was not who He said He was and did not have their best interests in mind.

So we have to be vigilant. Just because a thought flies through your head does not mean that it is true. It is within our power to demolish arguments and pretensions. We can grab hold of any thought and decide if it’s a keeper. The alternative is we can wind up in rough shape mentally, spiritually, and relationally when we entertain thoughts that are not true.

I know this never happens, but let’s say that a husband does or says something thoughtless or unkind, and it hurts his wife’s feelings. She can quickly have poor thoughts about his character, his love for her, and even his devotion to God if she doesn’t  get it under control, pronto. She can also have damaging thoughts about herself as a result of what he did or said… some that he might not have even intended.  And what if she allows herself to go to bed and sleep on that hurt and anger that’s welled up inside? Well, anger plus time leads to bitterness and resentment. Bitterness and resentment are relationship killers.

What can we do to prevent hurt feelings from causing us to be deviled? We have to examine the thoughts we are thinking. Let’s say Matthew said something that made me feel un-valuable. I didn’t say he found me without value, but that what he said made me feel that way.  Does that mean that I am not valuable, in reality?

Well, let’s see what God’s word has to say on that matter.

The Bible says I am a pearl of great price. It says that God loved me so much that He gave His only Son to save me. It says that I am the righteousness of God in Christ. So the thought that I am having that is telling me that I am un-valuable is wrong. I have to let it go.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I completely discount what Matthew said to me. I also have to take captive what he says and see what truth there may be to it. Let’s say I did or said something that did not show the respect the Bible tells me a wife should show to a husband. I have to own that, correct it, make amends with Matthew… and move on. I don’t have to let my thoughts run away with me. I don’t have to let myself be deviled.


Can you imagine how your life would change if you took charge over the thoughts that marched across your mind? What we think matters. Thoughts dictate our feelings, words, and actions. We can’t afford to leave that gate unguarded allowing wild thoughts to run rampant through our minds.

But what if we just aren’t sure if a thought is true or not? Seek it out, chase it down in God’s Word, and ask the Holy Spirit for help. He leads us into all truth, and he can search our hearts for those areas where we are lacking.

And one truth that you can hang your hat on is this… His thoughts never condemn. So if your thoughts are condemning you… they are not of God.

Storms A’comin

In light of the actual weather storms many are currently facing, I though a post on life’s storms might also be timely.

While recently vacationing in Mexico, I warily watched a storm on the horizon, while standing on the beach. I watched for a few moments, trying to decide if it was coming my way or not. If it was coming my way, I needed to prepare. I had just made my nest on the beach for the morning. I had my pillow from the hotel room, a towel (two actually), my phone, iPad, and laptop computer. I had my book for the week and my husband. If the storm was moving in my direction, I needed to know.

Photo cred: Brian Cook

As I stood there, I could see it was not moving towards the shore, but across the horizon. I watched it intently for a few minutes before claiming my near miss. The next afternoon, we were not so fortunate. As we laid on our beautiful beach bed, we were taken by surprise when a large storm rushed the beach from the ocean in front of us. Only moments before, we could clearly see the horizon. How did that happen? Had we not had our room located close to the beach, we, and all of our things, would have been soaked to the bone.

You guys know where I’m going with this, don’t you? I’ve heard it said more than once about storms in this life: “There’s one coming at you, you are in one, or you just made it through one”. It’s the way of this life. It looks like if that is the case, and it is, we would never be caught off guard by them. But we are. It seems we would be in a constant state of readiness. But we aren’t. We often live as though our storms are all pop-up storms for which we could have never properly prepared, when many of them sent warnings from way out on the horizon… if we had just been paying attention.

The morning I watched the storm cross the horizon in front of me, I could see small ships out on the water. I wondered what they would do as the storm approached them. Would they turn tail and make a break for it? They didn’t. I imagined the crews on those ships falling into action, doing what they had been trained to do, never allowing panic to set in. They were prepared. They knew about storms and how to navigate them successfully.

The second day, when the storm came too quickly for most of us, I stood looking out to the beach from the relative safety of my hotel room. There had been vacationers that afternoon who had rented jet skis and had been taken out on the ocean for a ride. Their five minute instruction class on the beach proved to be inadequate preparation for the storm that came. I watched as panicked riders fought large choppy waves in their attempt to get back to safety. Several were separated from their tour guide, and were struggling in the wind and water. Panic set in as more than one required help getting back to shore by more experienced riders/guides.

I’ve weathered my share of storms this year. I’d like to say I was well prepared for them all. I’d like to say that. Some I could see on the horizon, and some were upon me before I realized they were coming. I’ve learned a good bit from both kinds lately. I’ve learned that no matter the storm, 1) The name of the Lord is a strong tower and those who run to it find refuge (Proverbs 18:10), and 2) After I have put on the full armor of God and I have done everything I can to stand… I stand firm. I dig my heels in, lean my shoulders into the wind and I stand (Ephesians 6).

As I watched the panicked Jet Ski riders calling out and signaling for help, I realized that they likely would not have made it through the storm successfully had they not called for, and accepted, help. Asking for help is rarely a sign of weakness. We were created to live in community, needing one another. This world is not made of billions of one-person islands. God sets the lonely in families because we cannot make it on our own (Psalm 68:6). I can do many things, but I cannot do everything.

Storms are a reality in this life. We prepare for them by staying close to the Father, He is our strong tower. We prepare for them by keeping our armor on, and learning how to dig in. And we survive storms by calling upon our people… the ones He has placed in our lives to help us weather the storms of this life. Everything smooth sailing in your life right now? That’s great. Keep your eyes on the horizon!

The Family Business

Matthew and I recently sat on a plane next to a young man who took over the family business a few years ago. He was a Samford University grad, so we had that in common. He was a pharmacist, who upon graduation, went back home to Woodstock, Alabama, and took over his father’s small town pharmacy. We talked a bit on the flight about being in the family business, and the pluses and struggles involved. From what he said, it sounded like he was happy with his choice.

After that conversation, it occurred to me that I, too, have gone into the family business. My dad used to own a bridge building business. I can remember him often telling me, as we drove over bridges in our state, that his company had built them. If you have driven over bridges in and around Birmingham, Alabama, you have likely driven over some of my dad’s bridges. (Not the one that fell apart in chunks in downtown a couple of years ago, though. My dad’s company built quality bridges.) I’m a nurse. I don’t build the kind of bridges that my dad’s company once did. I wouldn’t even begin to know how to do that. But I am in the bridge building business, nonetheless.

Bridges make it possible to traverse terrain that would be difficult or impossible to travel without them. Sometimes we find ourselves looking out over the expanse, unsure of how to get to where we need or hope to be. Without a bridge, we are left standing in need or without hope. My experience with bridge building has shown me that quality bridges are not built overnight. Quality bridges take a great deal of study and planning. There’s a good bit of prep work involved before the first piece is laid into place. There must be a clear understanding of the kind of bridge that is needed.


Quality bridges require intense labor to build. Already there are obstacles to overcome. I mean if there weren’t obstacles, then there’d be no need for a bridge, right? To build a bridge, we have to figure out how to deal with the obstacles. There is a great deal of risk when endeavoring to build a bridge. So many things can go wrong. The dangers are real, but keep in mind, bridge builders are meeting a need, fostering hope. When you weigh the risks against the benefits, generally speaking, bridges are worth the risk.

I know what it’s like to stand at the edge and look out to a destination I can never reach on my own. There is no way around, over or under. There is no way home without a bridge. It’s the old, “You can’t get there from here” saying that I hate so much. I used to think, “That’s so dumb. You can get anywhere from anywhere.” But sometimes, without a bridge, you can’t.

I stood at the edge, unable to make it. Unable… until the Bridge Builder made a way. I was separated, alone and without hope… until a way was made for me. A bridge… a way for me to close the gap between where I stood and a restored relationship with the Father. You see, my earthly father was once a bridge builder, but my heavenly Father was a bridge builder long before that. I guess it should be no surprise, then, that I, too, became a bridge builder.

But here’s the thing about building bridges. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean folks are going to be eager to use it. Some of them will just stand there, continuing to gaze across the gap, unsure, unready to step out and trust the bridge you’ve built. It can be frustrating, for sure. I can only imagine how frustrated God must feel sometimes when we ignore or doubt His bridge. It seems crazy to those of us who have taken advantage of it, but it happens. We shouldn’t then be surprised when people don’t always rush across our bridges. That doesn’t mean we stop building them or tending to them.

Bridges help us make connections. Connections from one place to another, or more importantly, connections between people. In my case, Jesus was the bridge that got me home and restored my relationship with God. If you are believer, then you crossed that same bridge. And if you crossed that same bridge, then you are in the family business, too. It’s about connecting, reaching out, and making a way for people to get from over there… to a place where their needs are met and hope is found, over here.

As believers, we all have our own bridges to build. Do you see them standing there, looking out over the expanse? It’s time to build.

My Five

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

They didn’t ask to be chosen, and they likely would have turned tail and run if they had any warning that they were about to be chosen. But each, at different times, and certainly by divine appointment, made my acquaintance and have forever made an imprint on my life. So much so that in my darkest hours, their names came to my mind. I needed help. Was desperate for it. I needed a fresh word of truth. I needed those with understanding. Not normal understanding, mind you…. spiritual understanding that only comes with a deep and abiding relationship with the Father.

So out of desperation and intention I called to them… and they came. Each with their own experiences and knowledge. Each also a daughter of the Most High King created for such a time as this. Each having walked their own roads of desperation and triumph. All of them imperfectly perfect. In my mind and in my heart, they are My Five.

Today, as I walked the beach looking for treasures the ocean coughed up onto the shore, I noticed something about the particular beach I was walking. There were precious few flawless shells. Most of what I found were broken, worn, and damaged. Surfaces worn smooth from the rough surf. These pieces of shell and coral didn’t land here on this beautiful beach in pristine condition so that I might walk by, find them beautiful, and take them home. Their journey was hard fought.

I waded out into the surf until I was just ankle deep. That’s about the depth of the ocean I am comfortable with, but it was deep enough to find a plethora of these well worn ocean treasures.

I dug my feet deeper into the sand to keep from walking on their uneven surfaces, and with each new wave I felt a bit of what it took for each of them to get that far as more and more of them slammed into my legs. But as I looked into the crystal clear water, I began to appreciate the beauty.

We don’t often wind up at our destination in pristine condition. For most of us, our rough edges get worn down as we bump into others, rub up against circumstances, and navigate through the trials of this life. I thought of My Five.

I decided to reach down and pick out a piece of coral for each of them… maybe for them to use as a paperweight, or maybe to throw at me for insinuating that they are well worn. But I think they will know what I mean. 

They are all beautiful women to look at, but it is not the outer beauty that draws me to them. I am drawn to the softened edges, the wisdom that comes from walking the hard roads and seeking it, and the heart of the Father that rests inside them all. And it’s as one of them often quotes, it’s “by the blood of the lamb, and by the word of their testimony…” (Revelation 12:11) Therein lies their value to me.

So to My Five, how do I thank you for responding to my clarion call with such wisdom, prayer and truth? My undying gratitude and a well worn piece of coral, whose path was not unlike your own, for starters. The rest, I’ll have to work on. But if you ever send out a clarion call of your own… count me in.

A Game of I Spy

It’s the week I look forward to all year… it’s the week I spend with Matthew on the Riviera Maya in Mexico. It doesn’t slip by me that not everyone does this. Twenty years ago, I never would have thought I’d be doing it, either. I mean, why me? Yet here we are relaxing, connecting, reflecting, and planning. We celebrate our wins, and dig down into our failures, regroup, and hatch a plan for moving forward. We do this all in a place of beauty… a place where there are no schedules and no demands. Mostly.

This morning our schedule demanded we make a trip back to the airport for an appointment Matthew booked for us. Why? Because he hates lines. There is such a thing now as the Global Entry program. It allows those who go through the process to skip the long customs lines at the airport. Mexico participates, too, so we applied for easy entry into Mexico as well.

We arranged for a ride back to the airport, and our driver promised to wait for us. At least we thought he did. Our Spanish is a bit lacking. The immigration official was thirty minutes late for the appointment. Hello, Mexico. But when he finally arrived, he was nice and very helpful. He led us to an office where he put our information into the computer and took our photographs. Then came the scanning of our fingerprints. No big deal, right? Not unless you don’t have fingerprints… which I don’t.

That’s right. No fingerprints to speak of. You know that iTouch feature on the iPhone? Yep, useless for me. Ever been to a Disney park where they scan a finger for entry? Nope. No can do.

The official at the airport had me try scanning my fingers many times. Light pressure then more pressure…”Try adding lotion”, he said. Okay. I tried, knowing it would do no good. It didn’t. That’s when he started looking at me funny. Maybe it was the CIA spy joke I made. Or perhaps it was the one where I mentioned rethinking my life choices in favor of a life of crime.

In the end, I decided to shut my mouth. Discretion being the better part of valor and all that. Besides, no one comes to Mexico hoping to land in a Mexican jail. The immigration official finally shrugged his shoulders and processed our papers without the prints. He actually ended up giving me a card that would allow me to come into Mexico as if I was Mexican. How about that? I guess I didn’t really look like a spy to him… but isn’t that the point?

We found our driver still waiting for us when we finished, and made the trip back to the resort in time to pick out a nice beach bed before lunch. Matthew poked fun at me a bit… saying how God made us all unique with fingerprints like no one else’s… well except for me. Haha. Funny man.

I’d tell him what happened to my fingerprints, but then I’d have to kill him. I think instead I’ll just order another one of those yummy fruity drinks they serve here, and get back to my Jason Borne novel. 

Sent from my iPad

I’m Better Than You

Okay. I’m not really better than you. But, we live in a world of comparison. Women are more notorious than men at this game, but men compare, too. When a woman walks into the room, there is a tendency for other women to size her up and compare themselves to her. Are her shoes cuter than mine? I wonder how much she paid for those ______. (You can fill in that blank!) Is her haircut more stylish or her clothes from a better store? Well, maybe so, but look at her purse, it doesn’t even match her shoes. (Says the woman raised in the 80’s).

Men go about the comparison thing differently, but they still do it. Since all men think they’ve got it going on physically (even if they don’t) they tend to compare accomplishments. What car does he drive? What position does he hold? How much power or influence does he have? Does he make more money than I do?


I think we compare because we are looking for our place. We are looking to see that we are not on the bottom. We know we are bad… but how bad? If we can find someone else a bit worse off than we are in one area or another, then our pitiful state looks a bit less… pitiful. How pitiful is that?

I stopped listening to the news a while back. That may seem just a bit irresponsible of me to some of you. Shouldn’t I know the latest atrocity going on in the world? Don’t I need minute by minute updates from news makers who vow to only inform and not push an agenda? (Well find me that news source and maybe I’ll listen.) While I don’t listen to the news, I do know that racism has once again reared its ugly head in our nation… I mean by a few people. Not all that many, from what I understand. I mean, what are we talking? Tens of… tens? But as usual, the few displaying bad behavior get the attention, because good, upright, loving people are boring and not newsworthy.

Add that to the list of reasons I don’t watch the news.

We compare style, status, and influence. We compare skin color and ethnicity. We judge according to political party and social views. We explore any and everything until we can declare ourselves better than someone else. It’s why those white supremacists do what they do. They have decided that white skin trumps all other shades. I think that’s a fairly arbitrary position, don’t you? Isn’t it a fine coincidence that they happen to have white skin? That worked out pretty well for them, didn’t it?

But the truth is no matter how we scratch and climb to get a little higher than others on the I am better than you scale, we all fall miserably short of the standard. You see, I am not the standard. You are not the standard. No one living or breathing now or ever, except one, is the standard.

It’s Jesus. Jesus is the standard. He is better than you (and me). And thank God for that. Most of us will limit encounters with those we feel we are better than, but Jesus left heaven to pay the price to rescue everyone that He was better than. He left the glory of heaven in exchange for the misery of this world. Why? To make us better than.

There is only one who is Supreme. Only one. Anyone claiming supremacy for anyone other than Christ is allowing themselves to be a tool of the enemy. Comparison is always the enemy of community.

We can throw rocks, protest each other, make more laws and puff ourselves up… but we are no better. The only way we get better is by following Him. We have value only because He added it to us. Before Jesus, we are nothing. No money, status, religion, or skin color is enough to give us the value we need. Apart from Christ, we are nothing. With Christ… we have value.

We can compare, complain, push our fists in the air… but until we begin adding value rather than subtracting it from people, we will never be like Jesus. Many Christians spend far too much time making sure their party or candidate gets into office, or protesting the opponent who did get in, and far too little time adding value to people. If they don’t love you, they won’t listen to you. If you don’t love them, they’ll likely never love you. We have to love first.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Jesus is the standard.