My wife (Heather) and I welcomed our third daughter, Nora Jewel Turner, to the world a couple weeks ago. Each time we have a child I feel this overwhelming weight of responsibility. This is not a “how to” post by any means, instead, this is a post to share where this weight comes from. Who knows, maybe you have felt the same thing.
1. Money: I know, I know, as long as I love my kids they will have everything they ever need. I agree that loving my kids is so much more important than any financial responsibility, but if I am going to be honest, the very first thought I had when I found out we were having another girl was, “Oh crap, there’s another wedding to pay for.” Before thank you, Jesus or anything, my first thought was how in the world am I going to provide for another girl? My wife has incredible faith that God will provide, and thankfully she’s sharing some of that faith with me. ***Inhale***God will provide, God will provide, God will provide ***Exhale***
2. Value: My kids mean the world to me in my heart, but they can’t see my heart. One of my biggest fears is that my actions won’t add up to what my heart feels. I desperately want my kids to know they are valued and loved. More than TV, a sports team, my job, I want them to know how much they mean to me. The thought of not properly communicating their value is terrifying to me. I’ve seen too many girls with “daddy issues”, and “daddy issues” are something I never want my girls to experience.
3. Example: Let’s be honest, most guys are tools. How do I know? Because I am a guy, and at one time I was one of the biggest tools to ever grace planet earth. The thought of one of my daughters being with a guy who will hurt them makes me sick to my stomach. This is why I put so much pressure on myself. My kids are watching the way I treat their mom. That is such a scary thought, but it’s true. The way I treat Heather is what they are going to think is normal in terms of romantic intimacy, and honestly, too often I drop the ball.
4. Eternity: This is by far where the majority of the pressure comes from. I am personally responsible for leading my family into a life-changing, salvation-giving relationship with Jesus. It’s not the Church’s job. It’s not another minister’s job. Honestly, it’s not even 100% Heather’s job (But she will have a lot to do with it) – it’s my job. All other people and organizations will support and encourage, but in my mind, it is my job. This means the way I live needs to reflect Jesus, the way I talk needs to reflect Jesus, the way I treat others needs to reflect Jesus. Everything I do needs to reflect Jesus. My biggest fear in life is not terrorism or ISIS. It’s not being broke or losing someone I love. It’s not even the Royals never winning the World Series (They were SO close!!!). My biggest fear, by far, is that one of my kids will grow up and want nothing to do with Jesus.
Nora, Whitley, and Ava, I love you! You do cost me a lot of money, and from what everyone tells me that’s only going to get worse. But I hope you know that you all mean the world to me. I hope when you look at me you see a man who loves Jesus, loves your mom, and loves you. I hope I can be a standard you measure all future love interests against. But more than anything, I want you to know Jesus. He is good, and He loves you more than I ever could. Even when you were a sinner, He died for you so that you could be made new. Please don’t miss that. It’s the most important truth you can ever know.
I’m excited to watch you grow, but take your time…Your mom and I want to soak it all in.
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
About 7 years of my adult life have been spent in a little town in Southeast Kansas called Cherryvale. Over the years I’ve truly grown to love this little town mainly because of the people who live there. They are some of the most generous and servant-minded people I know. Anytime there was a need in Cherryvale, I knew the entire town was going to rally together to make sure that the need was met. I remember several instances when houses would burn down and immediately there would be teams of people coming together to make sure that the family was taken care of and able to recover as soon as possible. I vividly remember being there the day of the 2011 Joplin tornado. We were all gathering to have a night to celebrate our “Be The Church Day” when we heard the news that a violent tornado had just ripped through Joplin. As we began our service it was apparent to me that these people were not going to be content sitting in a church celebrating a day of service when 85 miles away there were so many hurting people. We ended up cutting our service short and a group from Cherryvale were some of the first responders to this tragedy. They didn’t stop there, in fact, some of them worked for a couple of days before returning to their small Southeast Kansas town. While others continued to make trips to drop off community wide donations and to help in anyway they possibly could. All of that to say the people of Cherryvale, KS are a special group of people.
Early this week Cherryvale and other communities in Southeast Kansas were delivered the news of an unspeakable tragedy. A man who had been living in Cherryvale, committed a quadruple homicide, killing a mother and her 3 children. Ever since I first caught wind of this news my heart and my mind have been with my friends in Southeast Kansas. I started watching their Facebook walls and trying to gather any and all information I could regarding the situation. And the more information I gathered the more I wanted to share my heart with you – my friends.
I hope during this time that you all can come together like you have so many times before. I hope that you are able to mourn, able to support the victims, serve those in pain, and ultimately able to share the love and grace of Jesus with people in your community. I know many of you are angry, and rightfully so, but I want to encourage you to guard your heart in your anger. The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:26 not to sin in our anger, and I want to share that same encouragement with you today. The anger we harbor will only hurt us. We can hide it for a while, but eventually it will show it’s ugly face and we’ll be left to deal with the consequences.
One of the hardest things we have to do in this world is forgive. But in the end, it’s still something we must do.
My prayer for you during this time is that you all are able to love like you’ve never loved before. When the logical thing is to be angry and seek revenge I hope you are able to love. When you have an opportunity to do something for those who have been effected the most by this tragedy I hope you will love. Because, when we opt for anything other than love we lose all influence in society. I know it will be hard, but from someone who is praying for you, supporting you, and cheering for you from 85 miles away I want to encourage you in the face of this tragedy, to love like you’ve never loved before. Is there evil in this world? Absolutely. That’s why Jesus came. And the best way to overcome evil is to love well.
We are 3 hours and 10 minutes away from Thanksgiving. As I write these words, I am thankful for the 7 years I was able to spend with all of you.
I love you and you are in my prayers…
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22
I have never claimed to be the smartest person in the room. I mean, honestly, I can’t think of a single time in my life when I’ve felt this way. I have spent so much of my life, my marriage, and my ministry in awe of other’s intelligence. I’ll have coffee with a friend and just sit there thinking “how the heck does he know that?” Or, I’ll sit and listen to a sermon and think “How in the world was he able to communicate that so clearly?”
I’m simple. I’ve always been simple. I’ve even been called “simple” and I don’t think they meant it as a compliment.
Anytime things start to get complicated, I immediately try to find a way to make them simple.
Sometimes I wonder if we tend to…
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Have you ever seen someone stumble and fall? I’m not talking about tripping over a crack while walking down the street. I’m asking, have you seen someone make one bad decision, or give in to one temptation that totally changed the course of their life?
If you have never been in that position the easy thing to do is to look at that person with some sort of a condescending attitude saying the words ‘that will never happen to me.’ We’ve all been there. We see a parent let loose on their kid at the grocery store. We hear of a talented professional who takes a shortcut to get to the top only to be found out. We see a marriage ripped to shreds. And our thoughts are ‘not this guy. Not in my family. I will never treat my kids or my spouse that way. That will never happen to me.’
When I was in high school I was the annoying kid that didn’t give my youth minister any choice other than to invest in me. My school was right across the street from my church, so everyday after school I would walk across the street and go sit in my youth minister’s office until he was ready to go home. One day while we were sitting in his office he said something that has stuck with me for nearly 15 years. I don’t even remember what we were talking about, but in the midst of the conversation he said, “we are all one step away from being one step away from doing something to completely compromise our reputation, our ministry, and our family.” As a 15 or 16-year-old I remember being blown away just by how wise he sounded. But as my ministry and my life have grown I’ve realized it wasn’t just a clever saying, but it’s absolutely true.
I don’t know how many times I’ve been with families beginning to fall apart, and it’s almost like you can actually see them taking that step, getting closer to where they will compromise it all.
Something else I’ve learned is bad choices typically don’t ‘just happen’, but they’re a series of careless steps that lead us to a place where we can’t turn back.
So, what do we do?
1. Guard your heart. We live in a culture that asks ‘how far is too far?’ Or, ‘how close can I get to sin without sinning?’ Both are wrong questions. We should not be focused on how close we can get to sin and still be okay, but instead how we can stay away from it.
Anytime we see how close we get to sin, we leave our hearts wide open and vulnerable to the things that will ruin us. Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, put it like this: “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” Solomon talked about a lot of stuff, but he said to “ABOVE ALL ELSE guard your heart.” Why? Because whatever we allow into our heart will eventually show itself in the way we live.
It’s about wisdom. It’s about making good choices. It’s about taking a moment and thinking things through before rushing into a decision or temptation. It’s about putting up the guard rails to protect your heart, your relationships, and your family. It’s about guarding your heart.
2. We must be people of grace. We have to stop being condescending toward people who have messed up. Instead, we need to be people who can build relationships, be honest, and love.
When it comes down to it the only thing that separates those who have messed up and those who haven’t is a single step. No matter which side you fall on, we all have much more in common then we may realize.
I have a buddy and several years ago his wife left him. She said he worked too much and didn’t care enough about her or their kids. A few years ago, after my youngest was born, he gave me some advice. He said “Just because you’re in ministry doesn’t mean you’re immune to marriage problems. Protect yourself and protect your family, and be careful, because there’s nothing worse than losing your family.”
When he said this, what I heard was STEP CAREFULLY, BECAUSE YOU ARE ONE STEP AWAY FROM BEING ONE STEP AWAY…
Recently I was driving home from the office and I was thinking about the many times I’ve been told that someone doesn’t want to follow Jesus and their reason has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus. This always has bothered me, but on this day it seemed to bother me more than usual.
Truly, my heart hurts for so many who refuse to turn to Jesus because of some pre-conceived notions that have come from years of allowing others and circumstances to determine their perception of Jesus. It’s not my intention to put down anyone who may have done this. Because, honestly, to a certain extent I get it, it breaks my heart, but I get it.
But, I have a theory, if we would strip away everything that has influenced our perception of Jesus, down to the place where it’s just us and Him, I believe we would all find Him irresistible.
I know that’s easier said than done, but I believe if we took away all the hurt we’ve felt because of Christians painting a bad picture of Jesus, we would find Him irresistible.
I believe if we took away all the times we’ve felt wronged or let down by the church, we would find Jesus irresistible.
I believe if we took away all the news stories about Christians, pastors, leaders taking advantage of those they see as being weaker than them, we would find Jesus irresistible.
I believe if we took away all of our family’s philosophies about God and religion (positive or negative) and we were just left with Jesus, we would find Him irresistible.
I believe if we took away the influence of our friends, professors, and any others we look up to and we were just left with Jesus, we would find Him irresistible.
A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a good friend who at one time followed Jesus, but in recent years has stopped. He has faced more pain and trying circumstances in those few years than I could even begin to imagine. During that time he has been burned by several Christians, and he has witnessed too many Christians who say one thing and then do the exact opposite. Now he has allowed his pain and frustration to cloud his heart and lose sight of Jesus.
That’s all this is about. I know in this world you will have trouble, you will have pain, you will be let down, but please don’t let that cause you to lose sight of Jesus.
So, what if we all went back to square one? What if we went back to where it’s just us and Jesus? Here’s what I know, we would not be able to resist the relentless pursuit of the One who love and who’s called us to give us life.
***Christians, There are so many roadblocks Satan uses in our world to keep people from Jesus. We have got to stop being one of them. Admit you are flawed and in desperate need of grace AND do everything you can to flee from sin.
I listened to a sermon today by Dr. Mark Scott on the book of Habakkuk that really got me thinking. The entire sermon was incredible, but the part that really made me think was in chapter 3 after God told Habakkuk the Babylonians were going to seize the Israelites. Because Habakkuk didn’t understand what God was doing. He didn’t understand why He was going to allow such a nasty nation to take His people captive.
But in spite of his confusion Habakkuk prayed these words: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
Come to find out all the stuff about the fig tree, the grapes, the crops, the sheep and the cattle are all part of God’s original covenant with His people. So what Habakkuk is really saying is “God, even though you aren’t doing what you said you would do…YET I will rejoice in You…”
The question Dr. Scott asks during his message is so simple, even though it has faith altering implications. He asks, “Do you have guts to pray ‘yet’ even when you don’t understand what God’s doing?”
Personally, sometimes I do. But there are plenty of other times I don’t. It’s not that I don’t want to. I do. I do want to say in the midst of chaos and pain “YET, in spite of my circumstances, I will rejoice in You, I will praise You, I will trust You.”
Can you imagine how this could change our faith?
So…what about you? Do you have the guts to pray “yet” even when you don’t understand what God’s doing in your life?
Here’s a link if you would like to watch the entire sermon.
The past several days I’ve been studying the difference in being a Christian and being a Disciple. The interesting thing is the word “Christian” is only used 3 times in scripture and is never defined. In fact, each time it’s a derogatory name given to people involved in the “Jesus Movement” by people outside of the movement. This is why when people think of being a Christian a thousand different things come to mind. Instead, in Jesus’ day they didn’t call themselves “Christians” they called themselves “Disciples.” The word “disciple,” meaning a follower, or student is used 261 times and is clearly defined.
When it comes to being a Christian, depending on who you talk to, there are any number of ways to become one. Some will say you must pray a prayer, or be baptized, or raise your hand, or go to a class, or just feel really bad about the bad things you’ve done. But when it comes to being a disciple it’s simple. You do what Jesus did.
I love how Andy Stanley put it when he said “Being a Christian is about what you believe. Being a disciple is about what you do.” We all know it’s entirely possible for us to label ourselves as Christians and have our lives look nothing like Jesus. Why? Because we have no idea what a Christian is.
So, what separates a Christian from a Disciple? I’m sure there are many things, but I’m just going to mention two.
1. Unconditional Surrender
Being a disciple is giving up your rights, your identity, everything. The one word job description of a disciple is OBEY. Following Jesus isn’t just something done with our thoughts and words, but it must be done with our lives.
Love is likely the number 1 thing that distinguishes disciples.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – Jn. 13:34-35
It sounds so simple, but imagine the impact if we would just get it right.
My hope is we won’t settle for anything less than the abundant life Jesus has for us.
I don’t know how many times I’ve asked myself this question. Recently I have felt like my wheels are spinning and I’m gaining very little traction. This isn’t the first time this has happened in my life, in fact, this probably isn’t the first time this has happened this year. Often when this happens in my life I immediately go somewhere. Whether it’s to my library to find a book that will provide an answer. Or my checkbook to make sure that all the numbers are adding up. Or I sit in silence, racking my brain trying to figure out how to take the next step. When all along, deep inside I have this tugging saying “just go to Jesus.” I have sought Him many times before and He’s come to my rescue, but for some reason it can be so hard to just go to Him.
Since when is Jesus not enough?
In ministry, there are times when I feel like I’m “running out of material” (crazy thought, I know…) or feeling like I don’t know enough, so I immediately begin to read the latest authors. I know there is nothing wrong with this, but I also know they can’t replace Jesus.
As a husband, there have been times I haven’t felt like I’m connecting with my wife, so I immediately emotionally retreat thinking that’s the best thing to do. I know there is nothing wrong with having some time for yourself, but I also know that can’t replace Jesus.
As a dad, there have been times I’ve been so frustrated with my kids that I can’t see straight, so I immediately go to my wife and begin to vent my frustration. I know there is nothing wrong with venting to my wife, but I also know she can’t replace Jesus.
These examples could go on for pages…literally…pages…How often I forget who Jesus is…That Jesus is the author and perfecter of my faith. Jesus is the beginning and the end. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. Jesus is my Savior and my King. Jesus is the creator of everything. Jesus is my deliverer and redeemer. Jesus is the giver of every good gift. Jesus is the One who will never leave or forsake me. Jesus is the counselor. Jesus is the one who defeated sin and death. Jesus is the one who raised the dead and gave sight to the blind. Jesus is the one who’s grace is sufficient. Jesus…He is everything I need.
I know this probably won’t be the last time I have to give myself this little reminder, but today I know there is no reason to look any further…I have Jesus.
Yesterday my daughter, Whitley turned 5. I can’t believe she has already been in my life for a full handful of years. So, in honor of Whitley’s 5th birthday I am going to share with you (and her) my 5 Prayers for my 5 Year Old.
1. Jesus, please allow Whitley to keep her child-like faith…
I love to listen to Whitley pray. Every night she prays for her friends, her mommy and daddy, and her baby sister. She also prays that Jesus will help her tell all of her friends that Jesus loves them. There was one time we were talking in the car and she told me that she wanted to make sure that all of her friends knew about Jesus, but then she told me, “…but daddy, I don’t know what to tell them…” Then after thinking about it for just a few seconds she said “I guess I will just tell them that Jesus loves them soooo much and that He died for them too…” I was blown away. It was so simple to her. It IS so simple to her. I love that, and I want her to keep that.
Every night when Whitley finishes her prayer she thanks God for making her His princess and for building her castle (which she is so excited to see). Everyday she shows me how pure a relationship with God can be.
2. Jesus, please use Whitley’s ability to make people smile to bring joy to others lives…
Whitley has an incredible ability to make people smile. Part of the reason is because she’s a stinkin’ cute little girl, but another part of the reason is because she is able to tell when someone is upset. It breaks her heart to see people upset and she will do whatever she can to try and help them smile. Recently, I’ve been convicted as a Christian, husband, dad, pastor (in every way) that I am not doing enough to lead people into a relationship with Jesus. I’m not doing enough to teach my family how important it is to share what Jesus has done in our lives with others. This is not something I feel like I need to do out of religious obligation or to make God love me, but it’s more of something that I need to do because there are hurting and broken people in the world longing for the answer. So, my family and I are going to start volunteering at different places in an effort to share Jesus in a tangible way. I believe, through this God is going to use Whitley in a big way. I am praying that she will be able to help people feel loved in the midst of their pain.
3. Jesus, please help Whitley make more friends in Missouri…”
Whitley and Ava both are so excited about our “new church.” But I pray that she will be able to make some more friends here. The reason I say “more” and not “new” is because there’s no way we could ever replace her KS friends. She loves her KS friends. I’m just praying for some more friends in MO. Whitley has always been great at making friends and I think she has already made several friends here, but I’m just praying for her to make some great friends at the library, dance class, sports, church, and even Chic-Fil-A…
4. Jesus, please help Whitley to be an example for her “baby sister”…
I don’t know why, but recently Whitley has been calling Ava (who’s 2 1/2 yrs old) her “baby sister.” But what I do know is that Ava REALLY looks up to Whitley. It doesn’t matter what Whitley is doing, Ava wants to do the same thing. It doesn’t matter what Whitley is saying, Ava wants to say the same thing. It doesn’t matter what Whitley is singing, Ava wants to sing the same thing. Whitley has a shadow, and it’s name is Ava. My prayer is that Whitley will see her influence on her sister and use it for good. I hope Ava always look up to her sister, and I hope Whitley will be the example Ava needs. I know she’ll fall down, I know they’ll fight, but at the end of the day my prayer is for my kids to be authentic and love Jesus with everything they have.
5. Jesus, please let Whitley know that no matter what her mommy and daddy love her more than I can put in words. Please let her know that we are proud of her and will always be her biggest fans. But more than her knowing our love, Jesus, please let her know and experience Your love. May it change her. Please let her live the full life You desire for her to live.
Jesus, thanks for my little girl!
Happy Birthday, Whitley!
Your daddy loves you…