Saturday, November 6, 2021

Embrace The Extra In Your Life

We collect change in our house. It all goes into one container and we save it for special occasions. I'm always surprised by how much "extra" we have when we finally count it up.


After Jesus fed the 5000, everyone was surprised by how much extra they had when they finally counted it all up.

This story reminds us that Jesus always provides us with everything we need AND He always provides us with MORE than we need. We are surrounded by an ABUNDANCE of blessings and if we will only take the time to "gather up the leftover fragments."

Take some time today, look around and notice the extra God has provided for you. You'll probably have more food than you will need. Most of us have not just one car, but multiple cars (one car is more than most of the world). Open your closet and be reminded of how God has provided far more clothing than you need (don't forget the shoes!). The fact that you are reading this email on a computer, phone or tablet means you have an ABUNDANCE of blessing.

It is easy to live with a scarcity mindset. We think we barely have enough and we need to cling tightly to what we have so that we don't lose any. God has blessed us abundantly so that we will allow those blessings to flow over into the lives of everyone around us. Don't lose sight of this truth.

Look around. Make note of all the leftovers Jesus has provided. Choose to focus today on GRATITUDE and GENEROSITY!


30 Days To Create A New Habit of Gratitude


Thursday, November 4, 2021

Thursday Thirteen: 13 reasons GRATITUDE is the Swiss Army Knife of habits.

The habit of gratitude can change your life. Being aware of what you've been given and choosing to appreciate all that you have will change your perspective, your behavior, your character, and ultimately your future.


Here are 13 reasons gratitude is the Swiss Army Knife of habits.

1. Gratitude is the result of who you are, not what happens to you.

2. Gratitude is an internal commitment to not be controlled by external circumstances.

3. What happens TO me can never change what has been done FOR me.

4. Gratitude focuses on God's provision instead of my problems.

5. We all have problems, and it is good to tell God about our problems, but they should never be our primary focus.

6. Gratitude reminds me that God's provisions far outnumber your problems.

7. Gratitude grows from past deliverance not present darkness.

8. Saying "thank you" creates a stronger bond between myself and others.

9. Saying "thank you" reminds me that I need others who will influence me for good.

10. When I choose gratitude, I am building contentment instead of greed.

11. When I begin every day with gratitude, I start my day with the best first step.

12. When I pay attention to what I have already been given, I realize I don't need as much as I thought.

13. When I end every day with gratitude, I sleep more soundly.

Monday, October 11, 2021

On Southwest, Labor Shortages, and The Righteousness of Hard Work

I was already sleeping poorly, so when the phone rang at 1am this morning, it was no big deal for me. The dogs, however, who had burrowed under the covers with me were quite put out.

On the other end of the call was Marianne, calling from her hotel in Portland with some bad news. "My flight just got canceled." With those words, we were officially caught up in the Southwest fiasco that is sweeping our nation.


I'm currently typing this from an airport, hoping that she will eventually make her connection here from Chicago. By the time I went to bed last night, we had found a new flight for her on a different airline. The flight was delayed an hour out of Portland, but now she's sitting in O'Hare, and I'm sitting here rage-typing (not really... I've thought all this through).

I don't have all the details on why Southwest is struggling so much, it may or may not have anything to do with anti-vaxxers protesting or being laid off. What I know for certain is that people are not working as much as they used to. I know this because I see help-wanted signs everywhere. I know this because I talk to business owners who cannot hire. I know this because I can't get my morning coffee at Panera far too often because they simply don't have enough employees to open.

And here is my over-simplified take on why we have a labor shortage that is affecting all of us today, and that is about to affect all of us a whole lot more:

1. When COVID hit, our government told everyone to stop working (or start working from home).

2. Many months later, as most people tried to get back to work, our government continued to incentivize people who don't want to work.

3. Now, our government is using its unelected branches (OSHA) to regulate businesses into sending home those who want to work.

At the risk of being offensive, I am going to suggest that this is wrong, it is opposed to God's desires, and it is bad for humanity.

As always, I think the best thing for us to do when discussing contested issues is to ask ourselves what the Bible says. This isn't and shouldn't be a political issue. Whether or not human beings should work is a spiritual issue.

In my estimation, the Bible is clear on this issue. Work is good for us. We should work. Trying to avoid work is bad for us. Encouraging people not to work is evil.

But don't take my word for it, read the verses below.


Work is a gift from God.

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 -- I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and TAKE PLEASURE IN ALL HIS TOIL—this is God's gift to man.

Those who avoid work are actually doing the devil's work.

Proverbs 18:19 -- Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.

Jesus' followers work hard so that they can be generous.

Ephesians 4:28 -- Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

Rather than meddling in other's business, we should take responsibility for ourselves by working, so that no one else will need to support us.

1 Thessalonians 4:11 -- And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,

Wise people work hard.

Proverbs 12:11 -- Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.

We (not others) are responsible to care for our family members.

1 Timothy 5:8 -- But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.


Now... get to work. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

On Athletes, Anxiety, And What We Are Doing To Our Children

Almost every athlete who has played at any competitive level has experienced what is often called "the yips" (apologies to Ted Lasso). These days, we call the yips a "mental health" issue, and while Simone Biles is the most current and high-profile example, what I have to say isn't really about her.

In fairness to Simone, gymnastics is a unique sport. A soccer player or golfer with high levels of anxiety (or other mental health struggles) might play poorly, make a bad pass, or miss a putt. A gymnast could seriously injure himself if he's not in a state of mental clarity. A four-foot putt is very different than a backflip on the balance beam.

My question, rather than being about the 2021 Olympic gymnastics competition, is much broader. What has happened over the last five years (or more) to create this environment in which so many world-class athletes are so drastically underperforming? On a wider scale, what is happening to our children? Why is anxiety at an all-time high? Why are suicides drastically on the rise?

Of course, the common narrative (not just in athletics, but everywhere) has been that the past five years, and especially the past two, have been incredibly traumatic for many different reasons. I want to spin some of those reasons in a slightly different direction.

The election of Donald Trump was not traumatic, but the reaction to his election was trauma-inducing.

*The onset of COVID-19 was not traumatic, but the reaction to its spread was trauma-inducing.

The killing of George Floyd was not traumatic (to the general public and those who did not know him), but the reaction to George Floyd's murder was trauma-inducing.

The violence of January 6 was not traumatic (to those who were not directly impacted, and within the global context of protest violence over the past decade), but the reaction to January 6 was trauma-inducing.

In comparison, the events of 9/11 were not traumatic (again to those who were not directly impacted), and the reaction to 9/11 was not trauma-inducing. What was the difference?

The constant drumbeat of fear, catastrophe, doom, and unprecedented horror along with the expectation that anyone with a platform will be an outspoken advocate for the social issue du jour, has placed young, prominent athletes in an untenable position. 

Kids today (not just athletes) are overwhelmed with the seriousness of life. They are terrified about climate change, white supremacy, and unmasked or unvaccinated people. Even worse, they are consistently aware of the possibility that they might accidentally misgender someone. They know that being on the wrong side of any of these issues will have dire social consequences. They are filled with guilt and shame because of their nation's past sins and don't know where or how to find redemption.

It's time for everyone to dial down their own rhetoric, turn off the national "news" broadcasts, and block the blue-checks on social media. We need to stop cowering in fear, worshipping the false god of safety, and turning every issue into a crusade. 

It's time to recognize that bad people still exist and always will. Those bad people will do bad things. But the actions and choices of individuals are neither reflective nor representative of others who may look like them, talk like them, vote like them, worship like them, or be from the same place as them.

We can find a middle ground on how to handle COVID.

We can find a middle ground on how to stamp out racism.

We can find a middle ground on how to move forward after a divisive election.

Step number one to finding a middle ground on any of these issues is realizing that none of these issues should dominate our lives. These are all serious issues with significant impact, but none of them are so important that our kids should kill themselves because of how we've reacted to them.

We need to embrace adventure, complete with the danger it brings. We need to exemplify hard work and pushing through difficulty, especially when the next step looks and feels impossible. We need to put down the broad brushes we use to paint others into the corner and start listening for understanding. We need to laugh more, embrace silly fun, and recognize that disagreements don't have to lead to division. 

Life is hard. We don't need to make it harder.

We can't always control what happens, but we can always control how we respond.

We need not leverage every unfortunate event into an opportunity to proclaim doom and gloom. The world will not end because our favorite cause fails. Let's teach our kids that peace and hope are not dependent on what happens to us or what others do. Peace and hope are the results of our CHOICES and our RESPONSES to whatever life throws our way.

Choose to breathe. Choose to relax. Choose to love. Choose to listen.



*Nothing kills communication more quickly than choosing to read the words of another in a way you know they didn't mean them. I trust that the readers of these thoughts are capable of understanding that general statements almost always have exceptions. I did not spend the time to mention or list every exception to the general truths I espoused here, not will I engage in arguments with those who prefer to nitpick with exceptions rather than engage the general concepts.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Be a STONE, not a Brick (Sermon Leftovers from Genesis 11)

Genesis 11:3 says that the people of Babel built with bricks instead of stones. While this is not the main point (or perhaps even an important point), the contrast between bricks and stones is interesting.

Bricks are man-made, while stones were made by God.

Every one of us has a God-given purpose in life. When we pursue that purpose, we discover life as it was meant to be. When we choose to chase after our own purposes and desires, we eventually discover that they leave us empty and unfulfilled.

Bricks are not unique.

Every brick looks exactly the same because they are mass-produced. Stones are all unique, no two stones are ever the same. God did not create you so that you could look like everyone else. His desire for you is not that you be "one of the crowd" or that you be a nameless face in the crowd. Don't compromise so that you will fit in. Be the person God created you to be, even if (especially if) that makes you stand out.

Bricks are replaceable.

If a brick is damaged or unusable, it can easily be discarded and replaced by another. A brick-shaped hole is easily filled. Stones cannot be replaced because every stone leaves a different-shaped hole. It is a hole that no other stone can fill. If you do not play the role God created you to play, no one else can take your place. He created you and gave you gifts so that you could accomplish the specific task he has for you.

1 Peter 2:5 says, "you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

God is building His kingdom, one living stone at a time. He is not looking for those who are conformed and look exactly like everyone else. He wants those who have been transformed by His Spirit, who have embraced the uniqueness He created, and who are ready and willing to use their gifts in His service.

Monday, March 1, 2021

10 Sermon Leftovers from Genesis 6. No Nephilim Though.

On Sunday, I preached from Genesis 6. Although this passage is famous because of its reference to the NEPHILIM, I am not mentioning them here. They aren't really the point, so I won't really use up the bandwidth.


Some Christian beliefs do not make sense to the world. The resurrection is our central truth.

Everything that looks good is not good for you.

You do not need to take everything you want.

Satan's plan is always to counterfeit and corrupt God's good creation.

God's people are to live in the world but look different from the world so that they can influence the world for good.

God's people are to influence the world, but not to partner with the world.

Everyone wants to live in a world where evil is judged justly.

God's judgment of evil is also usually the preservation of His plan and protection for His people.

If the focus of your life is the evil of the world, you will either wallow in despair or well up with pride.

If the focus of your life is the goodness of God, you will experience the peace, contentment, and joy He offers.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

5 Daily Habits to Help You Follow Jesus


Yesterday at The Gathering, I talked about "Following Jesus." At the end of our time, I told you that deciding to follow Him is one of the most important decisions you can ever make. This email is a short follow-up from that message.
Below are five practical things you can do every day to help you follow Jesus. Just as you have daily habits which sustain your physical life (breathing, eating, moving, etc.), these are spiritual habits which will sustain your relationship with Jesus. Please take a moment and consider whether or not these five simple activities might make a difference in your life this week (and beyond).

FIVE DAILY HABITS TO HELP YOU FOLLOW JESUS

  1. Get Inspired
  2. Give Something Away
  3. Connect With Other Christians
  4. Make an Eternal impact
  5. Celebrate God's Gifts

Get Inspired

Spending a few minutes reading God's Word is the best possible way to start your day. Whether you take 10 minutes or a full hour, time in God's Word empowers you to know Jesus and follow more closely. If you aren't sure how to start, try using the SOAP method to study your Bible (choose any book of the Bible to start. John and James are good one. So is Mark!):
Set aside time every day to study the Bible. As you become more proficient, you may want to set aside more time. Don’t overload yourself in the beginning. Keep a “SOAP” journal because there will be an opportunity to write your thoughts everyday (you can use a word processor, journalling app or the Bible App from YouVersion).
S – SCRIPTURE: Read your chosen scripture passage aloud so you can hear it. Begin by writing every word of the scripture in your journal. Both reading it aloud and writing it will help put the scripture in your mind and heart.
O – OBSERVATION: Ask yourself the question, “What does this passage teach about God's character?” As you ask yourself the question, your mind will be full of thoughts. Write those thoughts down. Try not to focus on yourself right now, keep your mind on what you can learn about your God and Jesus.
A – APPLICATION: Ask yourself the question, “How does this scripture apply to my life?” Look for promises to claim, attitudes to change, challenges to accept, sins to confess, commands to obey, actions to take, examples to follow, or skills to learn. Write in your journal how the scripture applies to you and to your life situations.
P – PRAYER: Write a prayer to God. Depending on what you have observed, your prayer might be one of praise and thanksgiving or a prayer asking God to help you apply the teaching to your life. You might feel compelled to write a prayer of confession. This is your prayer to God. The discipline of writing your prayer is important piece of connecting with God.

Give Something Away

Following Jesus means giving like He gave. He gave His entire life away for us. When we give things away, we are loving like Jesus did.
Try to give one thing away every day. It may be a small thing or a large thing. It may not cost you much or it may cost you little. Whether you are giving away possessions, money, time or attention; developing generosity is an important step on the road to Christ-likeness.

Connect With Other Christians

Jesus called 12 apostles to follow Him so that after He left they would still have one another. The Bible says much about how we can help one another to grow closer to Jesus. We are to encourage one another, bear one another's burdens, pray for one another, teach one another and more.
Find a way to connect with at least one other Christian at least once every day. You might sent each other emails with Bible verses or encouraging text messages. You might grab coffee together with 2 or 3 others or you might spend a few minutes on the phone. At least once a week, try to connect with a larger group (like a LIFEgroup) for prayer, discussion and encouragement.
As Hebrews says, "Don't neglect assembling together..."

Make an Eternal Impact

I mentioned on Sunday that Jesus' followers always talk about Him. You can make an eternal impact on those around you by pointing them to God. Every conversation you have doesn't need to be a religious debate, but as you get to know people they should see your love for Jesus through the conversations you have.
Try, at least once a day, to say something to someone about your faith. You can tell them how God has blessed you, you can tell them about a verse you read, you can tell them about a neat experience you had at church, you can talk about something you heard in the sermon or you can tell them about your favorite worship song. Somehow, find a way to talk about Jesus every day.

Celebrate God's Gifts

Don't go to bed without saying "thank you." As you lay down at night, spend a few moments to be grateful to God for all He's done for you. Before you sleep, consider how God's hand was providing for you and protecting you all day long.

Stephen Covey said, "We make our habits and then our habits make us." Commit yourself to these daily habits and you will be surprised how they change your outlook and your life. Following Jesus makes all things new because when we follow Him, He changes us from the inside out.