What I learned from Malala (Part 2)


Malala Yousafzai became a global figure by surviving a shot to the head. Yet, she made a difference for a far more ordinary reason than crazy luck. Malala was successful because she simply did what was right persistently over time. Reading her book I understand that this persistence came in part from her father.

Malala’s father succeeded through persistence

When Malala’s father was young he had nothing but a dream. He dreamed of starting a school in Pakistan when many do not have the privilege of an education. Through persistence and luck he got his own education. Then borrowing as much money as he could he started a small school.

This school faced a lot of obstacles. The local muslim leaders resented the fact he had girls in his classes. His school suffered through an earthquake and a flood. Once in Malala’s life the whole town of Mingora (where the school was located) turned into a battle ground. Everyone left the city and the army fought door-to-door pushing the Taliban fighters out. Yet after all these things, Malala’s father still came back and ran the school. Now he has several schools with more then a thousand students.

Malala’s persistence

Malala wasn’t born to a wealthy family nor was she exceptionally gifted. She simply persistently saw the right thing to do and did it. She was a good speaker, so she used her gift as a speaker to share speeches about the importance of education. Malala loved learning and she kept going to school even when the Taliban pressured her and other girls not to.

In short, I think Malala and her father succeeded because they simply persisted no matter what the opposition. Even if Malala didn’t become a living martyr she and her father would have made a big difference for a lot of people. People saw they lived what they believed and that makes a big difference. Their enemies saw they wouldn’t be stopped no matter what and that made all the difference.

The sad thing about Malala’s story is that she remains far away from Christ. She has succeeded in some things yet she remains lost. As much as I admire her story I must be faithful to pray for her.

My potential

What will I accomplish as I persistently pursue what God leads me to?

What kind of legacy can I leave as a faithful husband, father and pastor?

How will God use me as I simply discern what I need to do and faithfully do it?

Your potential

What is God calling you to be faithful in pursuing?


What I learned from Malala (Part 1)

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Tuesday October 9th, 2012 a girl named Malala finished up an ordinary day at school. She with her friends climbed into the back of an old truck  used as a schoolbus. Minutes into the trip this bus was flagged down by a young man with turban. Another man hopped onto the rear of the bus and asked all the girls, “Who is Malala?” No one answered but Malala stood out with her face uncovered. The man then raised his pistol and fired three shots point blank at Malala’s head.

Reading Malala’s story recently made me think a lot. She survived and with the help of a British journalist shared her story with the rest of the world. In case you haven’t heard of Malala check out her wikipedia page here. Let me cover what I learned here:

Good works really matter

No matter how you slice it Malala had a  hard life in the Swat region of Pakistan. Born a girl in a man-dominated culture was difficult. Add on  a 7.8 earthquake and a 100-year flood and you have a recipe for a hard life.

Throughout Malala’s life, the people who helped with recovery were Muslim fundamentalist groups. The Taliban found their foothold in her town because they provided help and justice when the government failed.

The Taliban  used their earned goodwill to win the local people to their side. Once they had the people they slowly changed the culture for the worse. They destroyed cultural history and greatly restricted women’s rights.  The Taliban abused the people and the Taliban shot Malala for speaking up about women’s education

Good works used for good

In the Bible James wrote,

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  (NIV-James 1:27)

Malala’s Pashtun people were won over to a lie because of good works. How much more could the church win people to the truth through good works? We need to own the needs of the people who grace our doors. We need to be all about the disaster recovery ministry.

What do you think about the power of good works?

Which is better, a funeral or a wedding?

“I would much rather do a funeral then a wedding,” my friend said.  Friday night I called an older pastor for advice and after giving it, he shared his preference of funerals. My friend loves what he does as a pastor and really loves people so his comment made me stop. Which did I prefer? Since yesterday I officiated my first wedding I have been chewing on this question for a little over 30 hours:

Which is better (from a pastor’s perspective), a funeral or a wedding?

This question made me think of a verse I preached at my last funeral:

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. ” Ecclesiastes 7:



The raw truth of a funeral

As a pastor, I love the raw, unmistakeable truth of a funeral. You can’t escape reality when you face death in a box. n a funeral everyone is either facing their mortality or fighting to hide from it.

The unescapable spiritual truth

I struggle and try every week to truly encounter the spiritual world. I singe my hands with object lessons and pray tears to get my congregants to face their destiny as well.  Yet at the funeral home I simply speak the truth. Everyone there has considered at least once the possibility that their loved one exists somewhere besides the shell in the casket.  I like how a funeral brings people to this spiritual world.

Of course I don’t like the pain of loss at a funeral. Everyone walks around with a hole in their lives, their stories, their selves. As a Christian grieving a Christian I know I’ll see them again someday, but that doesn’t change how I feel today. I try to hug, listen and love people as a pastor but there is only so much I can do. Instead of begging a life of hope (a wedding) I am welcoming the family to grieve a loss.


Weddings, the good and the bad

Weddings on the other hand are a time of hope. The couple hopes for a happy marriage that doesn’t quit. The family hopes for a joyful new part of the family tree. The pastor hopes that this wedding will be a reflection of Christ’s love for the church.

Weddings are a birth of sorts. Two individuals are jolted from a life they have (sometimes) always known and through a high-intensity moment born into a new life. I get to be a doctor standing by guiding the process and helping the best result turn out.

It really is neat being an official part of the wedding. I lead the lucky guy and girl through words that will link them (hopefully) for a lifetime. My signature declares to the state of Indiana that these  two have become one. No one really pays attention to me, but I am an essential part of the whole event. I like the official-ness of my role in the wedding.

Stress is also a big part of a wedding. I get to duck some of that as the pastor, but the air is thick with the stuff. At a funeral the funeral director takes care of 90% of the details. The funeral director is a pro. In a wedding 90% of the details are up to a girl who quite often has never been married before. This poor girl is expected to out of her hat pull the most amazing day of her life. Of course there will be stress. Planning will be stressful. The day of the wedding will be stressful.

Weddings are perhaps the opposite of funerals in what they do spiritually. You put on your best clothes and face to attend a wedding. When I go to a wedding as a guest I am not thinking of my faith, I’m comparing myself with others.

I work harder at a wedding to make spiritual ground

As a pastor I found myself whipping out porcelain birds and supergluing them together to hold attention spans. I used a strong object lesson because I knew people were not where they needed to be. I tried to move them from all the things I would be thinking about to considering the spiritual side of life for a moment. I am not sure how much I succeeded.

My conclusion 

To conclude I am not really sure yet which I prefer. I love the hope of a wedding. I love the truth of a funeral. I don’t like the grief of a funeral or the masks of a wedding. I love the spiritual sensitivity of a funeral and I long for more at a wedding. I like being a physical representative for the church at both. I have another wedding in December. Maybe I’ll have an answer then.

Which do you prefer and why?



The Best Reason To Go To Church (That I’m thinking of today.)


It was the best of times tonight as strangers buzzed in and out of the church. I was connecting with people many of whom I didn’t know from Adam. We were here for the wedding rehearsal for a young couple from my church. As the frazzled bride to be fluttered around and everyone else tried to be helpful I knew this really was the best of times.

Now if you were to ask the bride she would say this wasn’t quite the worst but she really is looking forward to getting to celebrate the wedding tomorrow. She is creating a day that will last for a lifetime. For me, the pastor, it is just another opportunity to be connecting with other people at Cornerstone Bible Church.


I love it when the church is full of people. Whether it is a wedding or a funeral, Cornerstone is exciting when people are connecting under our roof. I suppose I even love potlucks more for the people the the food (maybe the desserts tie the people :) ). The opportunity to share a laugh to hear a story or just do life together is addicting. It is something the facebook doesn’t quite reproduce. 


You know last night I was reading Usatoday.com and all the while I looked forward to checking Facebook. I looked at Usatoday because I was interested in news that affected the whole world but I anticipated the news about my friends. Incidentally, I put off checking Facebook to write this post and it’s killing me. I am dying to see whose baby is a cute sleeper or what other friends are watching tonight. Facebook connects far more than Usatoday, but it falls short of connecting in person. 

One of my favorite Bible verses is this:

 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…” Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV


The best of times at church are when a mess of people get together and do life. When this happens in love, the results are addictive. When addicts are encouraged to keep going, freedom is found. When the sick are hugged and the elderly embraced the church finds new life. When men meet other men standing up for God they find courage to be men. I have experienced and seen all these things happening in the community of church.


Now let me say that people do wear me out. I don’t suck energy out of a group of people. I ‘m out of energy after a church gathering (I’m running on fumes now). It’s just that I build meaning and purpose in community. Let me explain. Tonight we got home to find our neighbors, George and Sharon, on their front porch. So the three of us went over and sat on their porch and talked for an hour. Christy wandered and we just soaked in the evening. None of us preached to each other or really worked to encourage each other. Yet somehow I found deeper inner strength in just watching the trees with my family and neighbors. I found meaning and strength (not necessarily energy) in connection.


Tomorrow I get to officiate the wedding and I can only imagine what will go wrong and right. Yet no matter what happens I will love getting to enjoy and facilitate people finding meaning in connections. In the shadow of the cross of Christ people will build meaning in sharing a moment of life together.


Maybe I can work to have more potlucks at church. Maybe I should go check Facebook now.


Where Did the Book of Mormon Come From?

Temple Square: Headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Temple Square: Headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A friend asked me about the book of Mormon and here is a short answer

The book of Mormon was written by a guy named Joseph Smith. He claims to have been visited by several angels. He also claims that he received two gold tablets which contained much of the book of Mormon written on them. No one else heard from the angels or read the tablets. Joseph Smith “received” from the angels and “read” from the tablets and from that wrote the book of Mormon. 

Mormons will tell you it is just another account to add to the scripture. It is more information that they claim does not contradict the scripture. This is not true because their beliefs (based on the book of Mormon) contradict orthodox theology. 

Mormon beliefs leave Christianity in three ways. 

1.They believe in three Gods, not in one God in three persons. (They don’t believe in the Trinity.)

2.They believe we can become gods and that God was once just like us. 

3.Church doctrine teaches that works are pretty close to necessary to be saved. 

Bonus :) 
4.I am pretty sure they believe Jesus and Satan are brothers.