If The House Burns Down Tonight

by Andrew Forrest

Can you imagine what it must be like to hear police pounding on your door at 3 in the morning telling you that if you don’t leave immediately you will be burned alive?  You grab–what?–your kids, jump in the car, and drive away as fast as you can.

That happened to Jon Foreman of the band Switchfoot a few years ago, and he wrote a song about it called “If The House Burns Down Tonight”[the link has since been taken down]:

A few months back, a fire was raging through our home-town of San Diego. And when an unstoppable fire is barrelling down towards your part of town, you realize just how small you really are. The smoke blocks out the sun, the ash is falling from the sky, and your lungs begin to burn. So you run through the house and make a quick grab of the stuff you can carry, make sure that your family is safe in the car, and you make your escape.

It’s a bracing thought: what if everything you had was about to burn?

Compared to the ones you love, what is ownership? What is property? Stuff? Possessions? In moments of life and death, these obsessions are meaningless. Think about what you would save from the fire. What would you fight for? Or maybe the real question is who- who would you risk your life for? And what about your things, all of that stuff that you paid so much for?  In the crucible of the fire, it becomes crystal clear: you let the rest burn.

I love that: the thought that everything is about to burn makes it clear what really matters–those are the things you’d be willing to fight for or risk your life for.

What are those things for you today?  Friends–all the rest: it doesn’t matter.

Let the rest burn.*


Crank up the volume, put down your windows, and drive: this is a great song.

 

Ashes from the flames
The truth is what remains
The truth is what you save
From the fire
And you fight for what you love
Don’t matter if it hurts
You find out what it’s worth
And you let the rest burn
The sunset burns like gasoline
Touch me and make sure that I’m not dreaming
I see her face and my heart skips beats
But I still get the feeling that we’re half asleep and
There’s a spark in the corner of my baby’s eye
Like a distant star that won’t burn quiet
And I might not know what I want from this life
But I know I want more than the starting line
So give me the fire
I can hear the motor running down the interstate
And all the distractions fade away
And if the house burns down tonight
I got everything I need with you by my side
I see the smoke piling up in the rear view mirror
Yeah but I ain’t ever seen it any clearer
If the house burns down tonight
I got everything I need when I got you by my side
And let the rest burn
And let the rest burn
And let the rest burn
I’ve given too much of my heart away
My soul’s holding on like a house divided
Like a match it burns down like a masquerade
And I had to let it go when the fire ignited
One heart, two hands, your life is all you hold
(your life is all you hold)
To hold, hold tight and let the bitter go
Yeah let it go, and give me the fire
The smoke tries choking the pacific sun
We rocket down the road like we’re shot out of guns
And if the house burns down tonight
I got everything I need with you by my side
Holding you and the wheel and it occurs to me
We’re driving down the edge of eternity
And if the house burns down tonight
I got everything I need when I got you by my side
And let the rest burn
And let the rest burn
Put your hand in mine and
Put your heart in driving
We got everything we need yeah
We got everything we need yeah
Left it all behind us
What we need will find us
We got everything we need yeah
We got everything we need yeah
Can you hear that motor running
Can you hear that motor running
There ain’t no stopping us now
There ain’t no slowing us down
Can you hear that motor running
Can you hear that motor run, run, run
And all those lies that mattered most to me
Were draining me dry making a ghost of me
And if the house burns down tonight
I got everything I need, everything I need
There’s a fire coming that we all will go through
You possess your possessions or they possess you
And if the house burns down tonight
I got everything I need when I got you by my side
And let the rest burn
Ashes from the flames, the truth is what remains

Have you seen this terrifying video?  The most shocking part is the final few seconds when you realize that the entire time they’ve been driving has been in daylight.

*Of course I’m not making light of what must be tremendous loss for these families–I’m making a larger, metaphorical point.  Christ have mercy on these poor people who have lost everything.

 

 I’ve written a very short whitepaper on a subject I care a lot about–communication.
Click HERE to subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll send it to you for free:
The Simple Technique Anyone Can Immediately Use To Become a Better Communicator.
(If you are already a subscriber, drop me a line and I’ll send you the whitepaper.)
1 comment
0 FacebookTwitterGoogle +Pinterest

I think the concept of Daylight Saving Time is one of those bureaucratic and ubiquitous aspects of modern life which everyone more or less accepts but which is actually pointless when you consider it for more than 5 minutes.  But, since my ranting won’t do anything to end the practice, let’s do this instead: let’s make this ridiculous time change work for us.

Early Mornings Are Everything

“Morning” is my word for 2018.  If you win the morning, you win the day.  But, it is hard to get up early.  Fortunately, the time change offers you the perfect opportunity to revise your morning routine.  With the change back to standard time, the extra hour you’ll gain could be exactly what you need to start a new morning routine.  Here are 4 steps to take so you can start getting that early worm.

1.  Go to Bed Early This Saturday Evening.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the extra hour means you can stay up later.  Head to bed at your normal time (or even better, a bit earlier) on Saturday.

2.  Don’t Sleep In on Sunday Morning

Set your alarm for the new early time you’d like to get up on Monday morning.

3.  Begin An Evening Routine

The key to getting up early is preparing the night before.  Set out your clothes for the next morning.  Shut down your email.  Lay out your workout gear.  Put out your coffee cup.  I find that I need to begin shutting down around an hour before I want to be in bed.

4.  When the Alarm Goes Off, Get Your Feet on the Floor ASAP

Once you get your feet on the floor, you’ve already won.  Resist the urge to hit snooze and say “I’ll get up in a few minutes.”  If you roll back over, you’re toast; get up immediately on your alarm.  I’ve found that putting my alarm/phone beyond arm’s reach–thereby forcing me to put my feet on the floor in order to silence it–ensures that I actually get up when my alarm goes off.

 

Make “Early” Your Watchword

Greatness starts early in the morning.  Anyone can learn to get up early, and this weekend offers you the perfect opportunity.  Don’t miss it.

 

I’ve written a very short whitepaper on a subject I care a lot about–communication.
Click HERE to subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll send it to you for free:
The Simple Technique Anyone Can Immediately Use To Become a Better Communicator.
(If you are already a subscriber, drop me a line and I’ll send you the whitepaper.)

 

1 comment
0 FacebookTwitterGoogle +Pinterest

It’s been a long week or so–lots of bad news.  Here are five fun things to cheer up your Friday as you head into the weekend:

 

Chuck

 

10 years ago my wife and I enjoyed watching the NBC dramedy (comedrama?) Chuck.  I recently saw it was on Amazon Prime and watched a few episodes.  I’d forgotten how much I liked it.  I need to write up Chuck in a separate post, but if you want to watch something fun and funny and endearing, Chuck should be your first choice.  (The video below is the Australian(!) promo.)

 

 

 

Nickel Creek at the Tiny Desk

I used to love seeing the band Nickel Creek play, and so was delighted to stumble across their 2014 reunion concert at NPR Music’s Tiny Desk.  So great.

 

“The Wrestling Pastor”

There is a Twitter account run by a small-town pastor who takes gifs from pro wrestling and overlays captions that relate to local church life.  I LOVE THIS ACCOUNT.

Some examples:

 

 

 

 

 

“Africa” by Peter Bence

People are amazing.  If there is one thing the internet is good for, it’s showing us how amazing some people are.  Take this example: the Hungarian pianist Peter Bence covers the 1980’s Toto hit “Africa.”  He’s obviously a virtuoso, but you have to see him play to get the full effect.  (My kids were really impressed when I showed them this.)

 

“Kings and Queens” by Mat Kearney

My baby girl was dancing around the house this morning as I was playing this song.  I first saw Mat Kearney in Richmond, VA in 2006 or so, in a little club with about 20 other people.  I wasn’t yet married.  12 years later and happily married, as we head into the weekend I know firsthand how right he is:

I don’t need much with you my love
‘Cause the champagne drains and the airplane fame turns into rust
I don’t need much with you my love
‘Cause the Hollywood hills won’t ever make me feel as good as us
(You got me singin’)
We don’t need no bankroll make us feel alive
We don’t need no benzo to feel like we can ride
Richer than Solomon with you by my side
We’ll be kings and queens in our own mind
We don’t need no jet plane feel like we can fly
We don’t need no cold chain just to watch it shine
Twenty four carat lies we don’t got the time
We’ll be kings and queens in our own mind
I got everything I’ll ever need
You can cash every check try to buy a respect that’s incomplete
I got everything I’ll ever need
Don’t gotta make it to the top yeah to know what I got
With you and me
(You got me singin’)

 

Happy Friday.

 

 

 

I’ve written a very short whitepaper on a subject I care a lot about–communication.
Click HERE to subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll send it to you for free:
The Simple Technique Anyone Can Immediately Use To Become a Better Communicator.
(If you are already a subscriber, drop me a line and I’ll send you the whitepaper.)

 

 

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterGoogle +Pinterest

Our church is launching at 5 PM service on Sundays, starting this week.  Here’s why we are doing this, in increasing levels of importance:

 

We Can’t Grow Any More on Sunday Morning

It’s not the case that literally every single seat is taken at every service on every Sunday, but it is the case that our church is full on Sunday mornings.  If we want to reach new people, we’re going to have to do something new.  And NOT reaching new people is NOT an option.  Because:

 

Like a Shark: If We Stay Still, We Will Die

Sharks have to keep moving in the water–they can’t just stay still.  Churches (and all other organizations) are the same: either you are growing, or you are dying.  There is no staying put.  Businesses and churches fail when they decide to stay put and preserve the status quo.  Why?  Because decline is inevitable: people move, people die, etc.  Do you know how many churches were FULL in 1960 and are empty today?  I don’t know either, but it’s a lot.  People like things to stay as they are, but if things stay as they are, things will inevitably change.  Either you are growing, or you are dying: there is no staying put.

 

It Is Not Possible to Be Good and NOT Grow

If what God is doing through our church is helpful and healing to folks, then new people will want to be a part of it.  You can’t have a great, non-busy restaurant: if your restaurant is good, business will grow.  Healthy things grow.  It is antithetical to the gospel to say, “Our church is great, but new people aren’t welcome.”

 

There are THOUSANDS More People to Reach

Every single church in Dallas could be crammed full of people on Sunday mornings, and there would still be thousands upon thousands of people in our city without a church home.  Jesus was very clear: the mission of the church is to go everywhere, seek everybody, and teach them everything that Jesus taught.  It is a literal command from God.

 

New Things Reach New People

If you want to reach new people, you have to do new things.  We think Sundays at 5 PM is the right time to reach new folks in our neighborhood.  Sunday evenings work for people who don’t want to get up early on Sunday mornings, or have Sunday morning sports commitments; and unlike Saturday evenings, Sunday evenings also allows the college-football-tailgating/we-have-an-out-of-town-wedding/let’s-drive-down-to-the-Hill-Country-to-see-the-bluebonnets crowd make it to church on the weekend.

 

Being in Church Every Sunday Will Totally Change Your Life

I feel so strongly about the importance of being in church every Sunday that I want to make it as easy as possible for folks to join us at Munger.  Sunday mornings work for you?  Great.  You are welcome at our church on Sunday mornings.  But:

Your kid plays soccer?  Come in the evening.  You will be out of town?  See you Sunday at 5 PM.  Getting up early on Sunday just isn’t going to happen?  Buddy, do we have a deal for you.

Can’t wait.

 

 

I’ve written a very short whitepaper on a subject I care a lot about–communication.
Click HERE to subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll send it to you for free:
The Simple Technique Anyone Can Immediately Use To Become a Better Communicator.
(If you are already a subscriber, drop me a line and I’ll send you the whitepaper.)

 

1 comment
0 FacebookTwitterGoogle +Pinterest

Happy Halloween

by Andrew Forrest

It’s Halloween, and even though the weatherman is calling for rain, the “soldier” in our house is planning on braving the elements and trick-or-treating tonight (though he is worried that his Nerf darts will get wet).  Mrs. F. and I are raising our kids to be faithful young people, which raises the question: Do I as a pastor see a problem with our kids’ participating in Halloween?  The short answer is, “No.”  Some further thoughts below.

I was my son’s age 30 years ago, and I’ve been thinking about the differences between his experience of trick-or-treating and mine.  I think there is a lot about America that we can learn from Halloween, and sadly, most of the changes that have taken place these past 30 years have been for the worse.

As in so many areas of childhood, most of the fun of Halloween was in the expectation: what would I be, and how much loot could I get from my neighbors’ largesse?  As soon as the calendar turned to October, I’d begin thinking about my costume.  When I was a kid, I seem to remember that most kids made their costumes, not bought them from the store.  Making your costume was part of the fun.  There is no question that Halloween has become much more manufactured and commercialized over the past 30 years.  As in many other areas of American life, our obsessive desire to express ourselves as individuals has meant that we have become more like everyone else: everyone just wears the same mass-produced junk made in China.  (What do these millions of Chinese people toiling in factories think about us?  How stupid and frivolous must they think we are.)

There was an unwritten rule in my neighborhood that teenagers were too old to trick-or-treat: Halloween was supposed to be for elementary age children and younger.  These days, Halloween seems to be more and more about adults, and this is a change I don’t welcome.  I remember last year walking with my children up to some houses and feeling really uncomfortable: many of the adult costumes seemed to be as sexualized and violent as possible.

I think that’s another change I have sadly noticed: for me, trick-or-treating was mainly about kids running around the neighborhood in the twilight, and that was certainly the large part of the fun: you were by yourself, with no parents!  But today, like most American parents of our class and background, the idea of letting our kids roam free in the dark in our community seems crazy to me and my wife.  Maybe American life is more dangerous now than it was 30 years ago, but I liked it better when parents felt fine letting their kids roam by themselves.

Don’t get me wrong: not all the changes have been for the worse.  For example, these days the  candy has definitely gotten better.  My brothers and I would eat a heaping pile of candy when we got home from trick-or-treating–against our mom’s protestations–and then store the rest in those round Christmas cookie tins, which we kept under our beds.  For the next few days, our school lunches would have much more sugar than usual, but after that the same thing would happen every year: we’d eat all the good stuff that first week of November, only to dig out the cans from under our beds months later and find within them forlorn Charleston Chews and Tootie Rolls and other worse candies (if that’s possible) that weren’t even dignified enough to have been given names.  What I would have given for a full-size Milky Way bar!

I know folks who object to Halloween on the grounds that the day celebrates evil and the occult.  Though I certainly understand their concerns, I personally don’t have any problem with the silly and fun aspects of trick-or-treating and dressing up.  For me, this is a 1 Corinthians 8 issue: I don’t find any problem per se with my children participating in the silly aspects of Halloween, though if other Christians have concluded otherwise for their families, I certainly support them and understand that point of view.  And, though Halloween is crassly commercial, frankly in my household it seems to be much less damaging than just basic tv and internet consumption anyway.  So, in our family we have fun trick-or-treating, and Halloween is not something I find to be spiritually and morally dangerous for my children.

Which is not to say there aren’t elements of Halloween that I do in fact find spiritually and morally dangerous.

There’s that scene in the movie Mean Girls where the protagonist, who has grown up in Africa, finds herself in her first high school Halloween party back in America, and is shocked to see how all the other girls have used the occasion to dress up in as slutty and provocative a way as possible.  Here’s what she says:

In the regular world, Halloween is when children dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it.

I think the scene is (unintentionally) instructive: we have come to accept the sexualization of everything as normal, and what we have come to accept as normal is shocking and strange to people who haven’t been indoctrinated in Western culture.  We are obsessed with sex, and even though the miserable results of this obsession are all around us, we persist in worshipping at Aphrodite’s temple.  The same is true for the way we deliberately embrace evil on Halloween.  I was listening to The Ticket this morning as I drove home from working out; Gordo and Junior were talking about serial killers and prison beatings, etc., and so I turned off the radio–I don’t want to fill my mind with evil.  Because, let’s be clear: dismemberment and murder and the like are evil actions.  I’ll go further–they are manifestations of the demonic.  Do those things occur?  Of course–this is a fallen world–but they don’t need to be celebrated.

I think it is spiritually foolish and morally problematic to celebrate evil and violence in costume and decoration, much less to investigate the occult.  We should flee from such things, and not deliberately welcome them into our homes.

So, I understand why some people strongly dislike Halloween.  There will be some houses tonight which we will quickly walk past and avoid.  My children are only children once, and they will encounter the violence and sexualization of our world soon enough.  When they do, I want them to be discerning enough to discriminate between harmless fun and harmful evil, and Halloween can be a way for them to learn how to do so.

So, tonight, I look forward to taking my kids out in the rain and letting them eat way more sugar than is good for them, to welcome the coming change of season and enjoy something fun about being an American child.  And then, I hope to teach them one last Halloween lesson: how to discern good candy from Tootsie Rolls.

Happy Halloween.

 

 

I’ve written a very short whitepaper on a subject I care a lot about–communication.
Click HERE to subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll send it to you for free:
The Simple Technique Anyone Can Immediately Use To Become a Better Communicator.
(If you are already a subscriber, drop me a line and I’ll send you the whitepaper.)
5 comments
0 FacebookTwitterGoogle +Pinterest

Four Rules for Preaching

by Andrew Forrest

I spoke at a Preaching Summit for preachers in Central Texas this AM.  Here are the very rough notes from my talk: Four Rules for Preaching.

Hope they help.

 

I’ve written a very short whitepaper on a subject I care a lot about–communication.
Click HERE to subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll send it to you for free:
The Simple Technique Anyone Can Immediately Use To Become a Better Communicator.
0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterGoogle +Pinterest

I’m pumped this morning to be able to talk preaching to a bunch of preachers in the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.  Public speaking is one of my favorite topics, and a practice I really want to get better at.

I’ve written a very short whitepaper on a subject I care a lot about–communication.
Click HERE to subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll send it to you for free:
The Simple Technique Anyone Can Immediately Use To Become a Better Communicator.

You can contact me through my church’s website; I’m also on Twitter @Andrew_Forrest.

At 11:45 AM, I’ll be posting my notes from this morning’s keynote, so check back here then.

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterGoogle +Pinterest

Two people (a husband and a wife) lie in church–about how much money they are putting in the offering plate(!)–and the Holy Spirit strikes them dead?!  Pretty much.  That’s the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5.

If you are a normal person this story strikes you as (a) really strange and hard to believe and (b) extremely troubling.  Is the Lord really this capricious?

Some quick thoughts:

  • I think The Bible Project video does a good job of connecting the Ananias and Sapphira episode with the story of the stricken priests in Leviticus.

  • The presence of the Lord is not something to dishonor or mock: God’s Spirit is a Holy Spirit, and he doesn’t work for us.  He is, to paraphrase Lewis, “not a tame God.”
  • It is dangerous, the Bible tells us, to think that God can be manipulated for our own purposes.
  • I think Luke also wants us to understand that the one thing that will kill the church is the pretense that we are better than we are.  Note that Peter makes it clear that the capital sin of Ananias and Sapphira was not withholding back part of the proceeds of the real estate sale–it was theirs to do with as they pleased–but that they lied and pretended that they were giving all of their profit.
  • It’s okay that the Bible stories trouble us.  If the Bible were merely a human document, then we might expect to immediately understand and agree with all of it.  Because, however, the Bible comes from God, we should expect it to confront, convict, and trouble us.  It’s at the places where we are most troubled that we should pay the most attention.
  • The Lord is gracious, but grace is not cheap and grace is not guaranteed.  To presume that we can do whatever we want and not face consequences is to not understand grace.

So, some questions for reflection:

  • What is it that most troubles about this story?  Why?
  • Are there places in your life in which you are trying to manipulate God?
  • Where are you putting up a false front?  Where in your life are you trying to pretend to be better than you are?  (One thinks of social media….)

 

 

How to subscribe:
I’ve written a very short whitepaper on a subject I care a lot about–communication.
Click HERE to subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll send it to you for free:
The Simple Technique Anyone Can Immediately Use To Become a Better Communicator.
(If you are already a subscriber, drop me a line and I’ll send you the whitepaper.)

 

4 comments
0 FacebookTwitterGoogle +Pinterest

What Conspiracy?

by Andrew Forrest

I hear the same canard all the time: “You know, the New Testament was actually put together by a group of men intent on perpetuating a conspiracy about Jesus.  Jesus was actually such-and-such a traveling prophet, but the early church started spreading incredible stories about him to justify their power claims.  The Gospels are a hoax.”

Here’s the problem with that theory (one of many problems, actually): if you were creating a conspiracy about Jesus, WOULDN’T YOU GET YOUR STORY STRAIGHT BEFOREHAND?  Hasn’t it ever struck you how strange it is that there are four Gospels in the New Testament, and not just one?  Why include four similar but separate accounts of the life of your religion’s founder?

Today we began reading the Gospel of Mark in our Bible reading plan.  Mark is the shortest Gospel, and though it generally tells the same story as Matthew, you’ll see differences in detail and emphasis.  In fact, each of the four Gospels is different from the others in detail and emphasis.  The basic story is the same, but some of the details are hard to reconcile.  To cite one important example, although each of the Gospels tells the story of the Resurrection and the empty tomb, they each place a difference number of women actually there that first Easter Sunday morning as eyewitnesses .  Either there were one woman there, or there were two women there, or there were three or more women there, but the differences are irreconcilable.  Why would the early church permit those sorts of discrepancies to be included in the Bible?

The early church was okay with including those sorts of discrepancies in the Bible for the same reason that there are four Gospels in the Bible, and not just one: because that’s what had been passed down by the eyewitnesses.  It was so important that the early church preserve and not tamper with the testimony of the various eyewitnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that it decided to stamp all four Gospels as “official” and include them in the New Testament, even though that meant there would be slight discrepancies between accounts.  If you were creating a conspiracy, you would never do that–you’d get your story straight and clean.

But real life isn’t straight and clean–it’s messy.  And if you actually witnessed God-made-flesh walking among you as a man named Jesus, and if he did the amazing things that Jesus did, and if the tomb really were empty and you subsequently met and touched and ate with the Risen Jesus, you’d expect there to be some discrepancies between eyewitnesses.

The Gospels are not a sign of some ancient conspiracy; the Gospels are signs of an ancient certainty:

this stuff actually happened.

 

 

How to subscribe:
I’ve written a very short whitepaper on a subject I care a lot about–communication.
Click HERE to subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll send it to you for free:
The Simple Technique Anyone Can Immediately Use To Become a Better Communicator.
(If you are already a subscriber, drop me a line and I’ll send you the whitepaper.)
2 comments
0 FacebookTwitterGoogle +Pinterest

There’s Nothing Else Like it

by Andrew Forrest

I don’t know of anything else in the history of the world’s literature that is like the passion narratives in the Gospels.  I’ve often wondered what it would be like to read that sorrowful story as an adult, without any prior knowledge of Jesus.

Then again, what would it be like to read about the Resurrection, never having heard that news before?

When those stories are read in church every spring, they are broken up–the Crucifixion on Good Friday, the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.  This morning, however, I read them together, back to back, as one story.

There’s just nothing else like it.

 

 

How to subscribe:
I’ve written a very short whitepaper on a subject I care a lot about–communication.
Click HERE to subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll send it to you for free:
The Simple Technique Anyone Can Immediately Use To Become a Better Communicator.
(If you are already a subscriber, drop me a line and I’ll send you the whitepaper.)
0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterGoogle +Pinterest