The Story of God

Goliath roared blasphemy and all of Israel held their breath. Well, not ALL of Israel. Not David. David was screaming, a barbaric yawp that only young boys can unleash as they plunge into an adventure. He screamed not in fear but in defiance and in faith. And he ran. He ran right at that giant. Screaming and sprinting, he dropped a stone into his sling and began to twirl it over his head.

Now David hadn’t arrived to fight in a battle. He didn’t show up with armor or weapons; he had brought bread. And cheese. He’d pulled up to a war armed with snack food. He was the youngest in his family and had come to deliver food to his three oldest brothers. But he had heard the mammoth Philistine mock Israel and belittle their God. Before long, he was not only involved in the battle, he was the hope of Israel… screaming, and running.

Goliath was just beginning to lift his spear, expecting to skewer this child and end this war, when David let the first rock fly. It turned out to be the last rock as well. It struck the giant between the eyes and dropped him dead.

David ran up to him and drew the giant’s own sword. He’d never seen anything so huge. Even in his make-believe battles he acted out while watching the sheep, he had never imagined a weapon like this. It took all his strength to lift it over his head and let it fall down. Gravity did the rest of the work, slicing the giant’s head from his not inconsiderable body. Only then did the army of Israel rush the field and rout the Philistines as they fled.

I heard this story my whole life. Every VBS, we heard about David and Goliath. Every new Sunday School teacher made sure we learned two stories: David and Goliath, and Noah and the ark. Because somewhere along the line, someone decided that God wiping out the entire world with a flood was a children’s story. But back to the point, we always heard about David and Goliath. It was especially used as an inspirational talk at the end of camp. They are trying to get us fired up to take over the world for Jesus. The speaker would yell, “It’s a war out there!” And we would yell back, “It’s a war out there!” Of course, we would have yelled whatever they said, because we were hyped up on sugar and no sleep. We weren’t exactly discerning theologians at this point. He would yell, “You’re David!” We would respond, “I’m David!” “Your sin is Goliath!” “My sin is Goliath!” “You’re going to go home and kill your sin!” “Yeah! Kill it!” They passed out little stones and Sharpies. We wrote our shame on these rocks so that we would remember to kill them when we got home. And I believed them. I went home fired up, ready to conquer these sins that had owned me. I took out my rock and prepared to defeat my lust, my anger, my tongue. I screamed, and ran, and threw that rock as hard as I could, just like they had said. It struck dead center. And then, my lust got back up and beat the crap out of me. Again. I had failed.

I was so ashamed. I thought I was the only one who had failed to defeat their giant. You know what that turned me into? A liar. I thought I was alone because no one ever talked about it again. I thought I was the only one languishing in defeat. So I lied. I pretended that I had won my battle as well.

But I’ve learned something. It started with a different camp sermon by a friend of mine, Ben Stuart of Breakaway Ministries in College Station, TX. What I learned was summed up in four simple words: I am not David. It seems simple. I’m not David. I mean, obviously I’m not David, I’m Todd. But even in the story, I am not David.

I’m not the brave little boy who goes out to fight the giant. Do you know who I am in the story? I’m Israel. I am in the army, sitting on the sideline of the battle I am supposed to be fighting. I’m terrified of the giant I know I cannot defeat. And I am in desperate need of someone to fight this battle in my place.

At its heart, David and Goliath is not a story about a brave little boy; it’s a story about a substitute. I wanted it to be a story about a brave little boy because then it could be a story about me. I would be the brave little boy; and I would conquer for the glory of Christ. The problem is that I misunderstood the story. Most every great story has a main character, and then has many minor characters. I always thought I was the main character and it was my job to make God the priority in my life, in my story. But what I am coming to understand is that God is the main character and I am the supporting actor. The story is about Him. And that greatly changes how you interpret the story.

If the story is about me, then it can be a story about a brave little boy who defeats a giant. But my problem was I was only slightly brave and my giant had kicked my tail. So where did the story go now? But in truth, I was not the star of the story. In the Bible, Christ is always the star of the story. God is always the centerpiece. And when I read it like that, I realize the David represents not me, but Christ. This is not the story of a brave little boy; it’s the story of a substitute. And Jesus is the substitute. He takes my place in the battle. He won the victory for me. The entire nation was victorious because of His triumph. He is the star.

When I thought I was the star, my defeat was the tragic end to the story. But in truth, it’s merely a set-up for His victory. If I am the center, my giant is the grand villain who just might win the war. But when Christ is the star, my giant is just an itty bitty subplot. My giant offers no real resistance to the march of the glory of Christ.

In my life and in my study of the Bible, I have often misinterpreted the meaning. I have misunderstood the plot because I have misplaced the characters. My life is not a story about me, it’s a story about God that has me as a character and my life as part of the plot. And the Bible is not a story about me, although I have spent years trying to apply it to my life. It is a story about God and what it reveals about Him is much more important than what it reveals about me.



The Dangers of Social Media (At Least For Me)

Most of you have heard me comment on how I believe social media can negatively affect some portion of our lives. But today I don’t want to talk about its effect on our schedules or our community. I want to talk about its effect on me. I took a week off, and you may or may not already know the reason.

For those of you unfamiliar with what I’m talking about or who just need a refresher course, I spent a couple of weeks blogging about a few less discussed spiritual disciplines that God has been using in my life this summer. We have had a few people read and comment on them. Then in the last blog, we had a few people respond with a disagreeing point of view. Now I don’t mind when people disagree with me, but I get my pride involved from time to time and get my feelings hurt the same as anyone. Most of the time I hold my tongue (or my typed response, as the case may be), but unfortunately that day I was careless. In fact I made the same mistakes I was accusing someone else of making. I posted a foolish tweet where I used strong words, calling names really. It was childish and irresponsible. But the thing is… unbeknownst to you, my loyal readers and followers, I AM childish and irresponsible some of the time. We don’t put that in the liner notes or in the media bio, but it is nonetheless a part of my life. I make mistakes. Big ones. And this particular one has made me look at my place in social media very closely this week.

I don’t know how much good my blogging or tweeting does. I don’t know if people are being affected by my poor writing skills and random thoughts. But I am quite sure that at least three people will never be affected by my words, music, or ministry again. I don’t know how to weigh the value of that. Is my offhanded comment going to make enough impact that I should risk the impact of the ministry that I have invested years of my life building and learning how to do? Does my blogging and tweeting really make people feel connected to my music and ministry the way my industry advisors tell me it does? Now, I don’t necessarily want you to respond about me personally. I just want you to think about these ideas, and then let me know what you think.

Social media gives us the opportunity to make very public mistakes. We have more opportunity to offend and hurt with our words than ever. Is that a good thing? I know we have more opportunity to do good as well, but does that actually happen? And honestly, aren’t most people like me, in that good words affect us a little, but hurtful words cut us deeply? Can one comment I make undo however many dozens of blogs I’ve written, however many tours I’ve done, and the five records we’ve released?

I’m not looking for your comfort or encouragement. I’d like you, as a part of the most socially connected generation ever, to walk through this issue with me. I’d like to hear your thoughts. I have already learned that I have to be more thoughtful and wise about what I write. And if any of you have ever been hurt by my words, whether this time or another, first I would like to ask your forgiveness. Second, I would like to hear from you as well. And I promise not to snap back at you this time. Especially not in 140 characters or less.



Be Still Vol. 2

“The spiritual exercises awaken us to the already present God, and at the same time, invite God to shape our minds and souls and bodies.” – James Bryan Smith, Good & Beautiful God

Spiritual disciplines are a way to make ourselves available to God, not forcing His hand, but becoming ready to receive it. Most of the time we discuss disciplines such as Bible study, prayer, scripture memory, giving, and sometimes even fasting. Those are hugely important, but I’m not going to cover them, because I think you understand them pretty well already. Instead, today we will consider the spiritual discipline of silence.

Imagine yourself in a room full of people. You have a friend across the room who is trying to tell you something, but everyone else in the room is talking to you as well. This is the everyday chaos of our lives. We have so many voices telling us who we are, what we should do, what we should think. We listen to our friends, our family, our pastors, our teachers, tv commercials, magazines, movies. We communicate more in our current culture than in any other before us: talking, calling, texting, tweeting, posting, blogging, updating. We are always accessible, should anyone feel the need to tell us they are at the grocery store. We are rarely if ever quiet, much less unreachable. Our most serene moments can still be breached by a facebook update or a text message. And yet we are still surprised that we have a hard time discerning the will and the voice of God.

“When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” – John 10:4

To hear from God, we must know His voice. This is where the discipline of silence comes in. We must spend time with everything else turned off, so that we can get to know the voice of our shepherd. How is He supposed to guide us when we do not recognize His voice amid the cacophony of our lives? Spending time away from everything (music, phones, iPods, friends, family) can allow room in our ears to finally hear clearly from Him. And it’s going to be feel incredibly awkward. I tried to spend a completely quiet day in a hotel room a few months ago. I lasted about an hour, and then turned the TV on to ESPN. I didn’t even mean to. It was just a habit. I naturally fled from the silence. (By the way, I turned it off about 10 seconds later, once I realized what I had done.)

“Silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of our lives.” – Dallas Willard

Silence is uncomfortable, partially because it is so rare. But I think it’s really important. When I went out on my first date with the amazing woman who is now my wife, I opened her door, let her get in the car, got in myself, and then took out my phone, turned it off, and put it in the glove compartment. I wanted her to see and to know that I was completely focuses on her that evening. I was unavailable to anyone else. I wanted her to know how important whatever she had to say was to me.

And how much more important is whatever God has to say. I don’t want to miss a moment of His communicating with me. I don’t ever want to miss what He has for me. I’m not saying you need to move far out into the country, and have no friends or cell signal. I’ve just found that it’s important to be intentional about taking time to get away from the noise, to turn everything off, to make myself completely available to His voice. I want to know His voice. I want to immediately recognize when He is speaking to me. I want His words to determine who I am and what I do. I want to follow where my Shepherd is leading.

So why don’t you try it? It doesn’t have to be a whole day, like I mentioned earlier. Try 10 minutes. Or 30 minutes. Find somewhere you won’t be interrupted. Turn your phone off. Your iPad. Your laptop. And be quiet. Listen. Maybe you could memorize a scripture earlier, so your mind has something to rest on, to contemplate. Or you could think on an attribute of God, or how He has been working in your life. You could pray Zephaniah 3:17 and ask God to quiet you with His love. Or maybe you just need to listen. Let me know how it goes.




I don’t believe it’s possible to be lukewarm.  Christ is either the One who gave you life when you were dead and therefore must be shared with anyone you come in contact with, anyone you care about.  Or He is someone you have tried and found not to be sufficient, in which case He is a deceiver and your loved ones must be warned of His lies.



The Creation Of Man Pt. 2

Men are protectors. It’s in our genes. We were created to care for others. In Genesis 2:16, God gives the man the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God doesn’t create woman until 6 verses later. It was the man’s responsibility to protect her, not because she was weak, but because God has told him what was evil, what could harm. And yet, the woman managed to eat the fruit anyway.

For years, I was very frustrated with Eve for the weakness she showed. Let’s face it, she screwed up all of the history of mankind. And then I found this one little verse that somehow I had missed. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for good, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate”
(Genesis 3:6 ESV). Did you catch it? “She took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband WHO WAS WITH HER, and he ate.” He was with her! She wasn’t off on her own, blowing the perfection of the world, while Adam was out in the fields working hard to take care of their family. He was standing there.

He was in the perfect place to protect his wife. I would hope that I would step in about the time that a snake starts talking to my wife. That should have been a sign. But he doesn’t act. I think he was probably curious; he was deceived as well. And then he lets her try it first, and when it doesn’t immediately kill her, he eats it too.

I wonder how many times I’m in the perfect God-designed place to protect my wife, but I miss the chance? What snakes do I let whisper in her ear? What lies do I fall for as well? I want to live in truth. I want God to use me to protect those around me. I pray that is true for both you and I today.



The Creation Of Man Pt. 1

In the beginning was God.  He made the world, the sun, the moon, the plants, and the animals.  Then he made man, in Genesis 2:7.  Fifteen verses later He made woman.  A lot happened in those fifteen verses.  God made the garden of Eden and placed man inside.  God gave man the instructions to work in it and keep it.  God gave the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  God formed every beast and bird, and the man named them.  That’s a lot of responsibility.  

I can’t imagine having to name everything in the world.  You can even tell when his creativity started running out.  He starts strong with names like rhinoceros and hippopotamus.  As he tires, he simplifies: bee, rat, dog, frog, hog.  By the end, he’s just combining words he’s already used: cat-fish, bull-dog.  (For the comedically challenged, all this is a joke.  Adam did not speak English and did not use these names.  At least, I’m fairly sure he didn’t.  However, naming all the animals was still a monumental task.  Think about how long it took you to name your dog and it’s name is just “Fluffy”.)

As men, we have read these commands and taken pride in all the responsibility God has placed on our shoulders.  We are to take care of things.  To be in charge.  We even name things.  But what I missed for many years is this: Even in the midst of God giving the man responsibility, the man was completely dependent.  Adam wasn’t out there on his own being in charge of things.  He was walking through the cool of the garden WITH God.  He was in a moment by moment dependent relationship.  Our leadership, our care, our responsibility stray far from the will of God the moment we attempt them outside of being completely dependent on Him.  All of our care and responsibility is meant to be done under the precise guidance of God. We didn’t become dependent after the fall; we were created that way.  It’s the perfect plan – complete dependence on God.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Erasing James 1:27

Most of us who have spent any time in church have heard the verse James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” We preach on it. We agree with it. We make banners and t-shirts. But I went to an adoption conference this weekend and it opened my eyes and my heart. Dave Gibbons asked us the question: if you were the devil and needed a plan to paralyze the church, what would it be? Maybe it’s not a huge direct opposition. Maybe it’s not a war. Maybe it’s simply sowing the illusion that we’re doing something when we’re actually doing nothing.

Is this what we’re doing with the orphan crisis? We talk about it. We agree with the scripture. All the while a half a million American churches leave a half a million kids in the fostercare program in the US. One kid per church would wipe out the need for fostercare. One family willing to love a child. What if one family adopted a child and 10 other families committed to be a part of the process? Maybe some families committed to giving an amount` of money each month to that family to help them with their bills, but also with the extra things like counseling that may come with a child from a difficult background. What if a few people committed to babysitting for that family a couple of times a month, so the parents could have time to still work on their marriage? What if a carpenter in the church came over and built bunk beds? What if we as the church invested in the raising of a child more than just providing childcare on Sundays?

19,000 kids age out of the foster care system every year with no place to call home. They hit the adult world with no family to go home to on holidays. What if we changed that? What if we used some of the energy we spend picketing abortion clinics, and took care of the kids we DO have? Dr. Karyn Purvis said that the first thing we can do for a child from a difficult background is to give them a voice. To let them know we hear them. To let them know we care. The first two years of a child’s life, all they hear is “Yes, I hear you crying and I’m going to take care of your need.” What about the kids who grew up and stopped crying because no one ever met their needs? I believe God heard every one of those cries, but I believe He may be answering those cries with us. We are how He is meeting their needs.

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation,” Psalm 68:5. If God is a father to the fatherless and the church is His bride, then we are their mother. Every one of them in need is noticed and mourned by the King of kings, by our bridegroom. Every one. What will we do?

Your thoughts?


Does My Soul Look Fat In These Pants?

So I’ve been trying to get in the habit of exercising lately. When I played sports, I exercised because I wanted to get a little stronger, a little faster . In the years since, I have exercised off and on for a multitude of reasons, among them: boredom, sense of duty, and the false idea that I might once again wear those old clothes I’ve saved. I now realize those clothes have been out of fashion for a decade, and probably weren’t very fashionable to begin with. So I have finally approached exercise for the same reason millions of others do: getting fat. Now I’m not saying I’m fat and I don’t want you to respond to that or get sidetracked by it. What I AM saying is that I have reached a place and time in my life where I am gaining weight in a way that is not good or healthy for me. And so I am trying to exercise. Oddly enough, I have found the most success on the elliptical while watching Top Chef. Ironic, don’t you think?

Last week as I was leaving our cheap but effective little gym, I had a thought that I wanted to share today. I no longer approach exercise with some idea that I will get stronger, become more muscular, or be a part of some ESPN highlight. I am merely employing a delaying tactic in the inevitable loss to old age and muscle loss, not to mention a larger belly.

But I realized that this is the exact approach most of us bring to Bible study. We put just enough time and effort into it to keep us at the level we are at. We don’t put enough discipline into it to make us better, to make us a weapon. We don’t have any illusions of being a spiritual highlight reel. And approaching it assuming that we never will be.

I love this quote by Thomas a Kempis from The Imitation of Christ:

“According to our resolution so is the rate of our progress, and much diligence is needful for him who would make good progress. For if he who resolveth bravely oftentimes falleth short, how shall it be with him who resolveth rarely or feebly?”

To put it a different way, running a marathon is hard, even for those who have trained for it. If those who are devoted to the cause only finish some of the time, what chance do those of us have who train by eating pizza and drinking cokes? Paul compares our spiritual life to a race: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to other, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

I don’t want to train my whole life to be average. I want to win. I don’t want to accept a steady natural decline in my walk with Christ. I don’t want to lose any fervor for my Savior; in fact, I want to fall more deeply in love, and live that way daily. I need to be as aggressive as I can in my spiritual training. Not just trying to stay in the same place, but trying to improve… a lot. And maybe I’ll work a little harder on the elliptical as well.

Your thoughts?


A Comparison Between Braising And Spiritual Growth

Well, I’m learning how to cook. So far, I can make most things by following a recipe. I follow directions fairly well. But I have no idea why the recipes work. I don’t know what makes things taste the way they do. But I’m learning. And I want to be able to cut everything really fast like they do on TV, but I can’t. Instead, when the directions say 30 minute prep time, for me, that’s like two hours. But anyway, I wanted to share some thoughts I had while making dinner last night.

I bought a new cookbook, The Art of Braising, by Molly Stevens. It was on a top 10 of all time cookbooks list. And it’s about fixing a meal in one pot and then letting it cook. Sounded good but not too difficult. The official Merriam Webster definition of braising is: to cook slowly in fat and little moisture in a closed pot. I made a pork roast with apricots, cardamom and ginger. So I thought I’d share a few things I learned and how they apply.

First, time plus right environment equals end result. (part one)

It takes time to braise properly. It’s not a meal that’s going to be ready in an hour. You can’t speed it up by throwing it in the microwave instead. Even when you do everything else perfectly, it still takes 2 hours to sit in the oven, turning occasionally. Our lives are the same. You may learn something great this morning from Isaiah or Oswald Chambers, but you need to steep in that for a while. (Sorry for changing between cooking and tea analogies.) You need to live with it, keep it in front of you, talk about it with your friends, try it out in your life. Recognizing that a statement is true and then going back to your life does very little good. Just like if I put all the herbs and vegetables with the pork, put it in the oven for five minutes, then ate it. It didn’t have time to sink in. In fact, you’ll end up really sick.

Second, time plus right environment equals end result. (part two)

Every aspect of your preparation creates the environment your meal needs to turn out properly. Every teaspoon versus tablespoon is important. I know, in America, and especially here in Texas, we assume that if a little is good, then a lot is better. Not so in cooking. I used six cardamom pods and a rounded tablespoon of ginger. You know what I found out. The recipe didn’t say rounded tablespoon. It said tablespoon, and there was a little too much ginger in there. In our busy lives, we assume that if we take 10 minutes in the morning to read our Bible, God will have the opportunity to do what He wants to. But if our hearts are not prepared to hear Him, I don’t know if that works. If we have a little time, but a lot of thoughts about work dominating our hearts, and then flip to today’s chapter in Proverbs, I’m afraid we might miss the truth God has for us. We can’t just assume every time we pick up a John Piper book, we are going to be changed. Every aspect of how we are approaching the truth affects how we receive the truth. And it shows how seriously we want it to turn out right.

That’s probably enough to start with. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Till next time,

Study well, eat well.


Returning From Camp In India, Pt. 1

I couldn’t think of a catchy title that would make you want to read about my trip to India. I couldn’t come up with a clever phrase that would somehow encompass a weekend of Christians training themselves in a land where they make up less than 3 percent of the population. I couldn’t find the words to describe God moving among a people who are unashamed and devoted to Him. So I apologize for the title, but I believe the story that follows will both challenge and encourage you.

About a month ago, I was playing a show in Plano, TX. Afterwards, a guy walked up and told me he had already been out to his car about to leave. But God had told him to come back in and invite me to go with him to India. Naturally, I am usually a bit suspicious when people tell me that God has a message for me. But God didn’t send a message for me, He just instructed Aaron to invite me. So I politely declined, saying that I was busy through July but would he email me and tell me more about it because I would like to pray for the trip. He had told me he was going to India to participate in a Christian camp for students. It sounded really interesting and I did want to know more about it.

Fortunately, he actually did email me. And invited me again. He said he understood I was busy but he really felt led to invite me. Now, that starts to mean more when you get to know Aaron and realize that this isn’t something he does all the time. He is not often led to approach people he doesn’t know and invite them around the world. But this time he listened. And extended the invitation again. So I looked at my calendar and surprise, it was the one weekend I was home. But I was supposed to lead worship at my church. So I called the church and found out that the worship leader I was supposed to replace was actually going to be back, so they were hoping I wouldn’t mind not playing that Sunday. So suddenly I was free. I talked to Jenny (my wife) and she said, “Well, you can’t NOT go.” After correcting her double-negative, I agreed that it was something that must at least be looked into. So I emailed Aaron back. By this time, Aaron had had a death in the family and was unavailable for a few days. So I assumed this was going to fall through. Then suddenly he emailed me back and we had about 48 hours to figure out the travel details. They all came together and I went to an office here in Austin that was able to quickly arrange for a visa for me. I was going to India.

Now if you had asked me a month ago, which major nation in the world do you know the least about, the answer would have been India. I knew nothing. Hinduism and something about cows. The sum total of my knowledge. But now I was going. And the camp already had a worship band. They wanted me to teach. Two session on music and two session on addiction.

So I got on a plane and went. I left on Wednesday at noon and got there Friday morning. I’ll tell about the camp tomorrow…