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Showing posts from 2014

Make 2015 A Year of Change

3 Resolutions You Must Make This Year

Here's something new for the blog. Maybe it will happen once, maybe it will happen weekly. What follows is yesterday's sermon in 10 statements... 1. Jesus provided three primary commands for those who wished to follow him. They were: 2. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind & strength. "All" is the key word. 3. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Here is the foundational principle for what would someday become the golden rule. 4. Love one another as I have loved you. Jesus' love for his followers was a sacrificial love. He said the greatest love of all is a man who lays down his life for his friends. Then He laid down his life for His friends. 5. Prioritizing these commands in our life requires us to DEMONSTRATE our love through ACTION. 6. Our love for God is demonstrated when we obey ALL his commands. If we choose to ignore certain of His expectations, we are demonstrating self-love rather than love for God. 7. Our love for our neigh

Tonight, My Heart is Full.

My heart is full tonight. And not just because I’m hanging out on the couch with my honey watching a BeeGees tribute band (although that would usually be enough). Two years ago, Marianne and I moved as far back in the auditorium as we could. We simply wanted to watch our daughter perform in the band and remain as anonymous as possible. We didn’t really know anyone around us, and that was okay. For several years, we had struggled to move our children out of a dysfunctional school that was not good for them. Now they had started at a new school and were transitioning well, but we were yet a bit numb. We had lost friends; for integrity’s sake, I had left my job; we were making ends meet but had no idea what was around the corner. That night, we just wanted to get in, hear the music and get out. Tonight was so different. Tonight we sat with close friends and laughed with the people around us, the parents of our children’s classmates. We watched our daughter do something she loves

How do you deal with life's disappointments?

Everybody deals with disappointment in life. Some people face minor disappointments and some people face major disappointments. Some people deal with unspeakable disappointment.  But for the Christian, disappointment should never lead to despair. We all have different disappointments in our past, and we all share one common event in the past. That event is the cross. Christ's work in the past brings peace to our present and gives us hope for the future!  

10 Rules To Shape Your Life

Try reading this list every morning to inspire you toward better living. Then examine yourself each night to evaluate your growth. Be good  Incentivize desired behavior  Delay spending  Seek a third solution  Compliment effort and virtue  Invest your energy in that which you can control  Plan ahead  Confront others lovingly & only for their benefit  Do your best  Give credit; claim blame

2 Easy Steps to Change Your Life

Life-Change made simple requires two steps. 1) Get rid of the bad stuff in your life. 2) Replace it with good stuff. This seems ridiculously simple, but often the simplest things in life are the hardest to believe. However, this formula doesn’t originate with me, it was Paul’s idea about 2000 years ago. Read and contemplate Colossians 3:12-17. The part of Colossians 3 which you read was part two of our formula above. These were the things you are to bring into your life to facilitate spiritual Life-Change. Consider this. Paul says (v15) to let the peace of God reign in our hearts. Can you do that? If you can relax and be at peace, knowing that God is in control, you’ll have a much easier time loving those around you. Those who have peace can love others because they aren’t worried about taking care of themselves. As a result, they are able to “above all, put on love”. Paul’s point is that if you are a loving person; your heart will be compassionate, you will be

How to Avoid Feeding the Stomach But Losing the Soul

Read and Contemplate 1 Peter 2:11-12. In our efforts to be "in the world", we face a constant temptation to become indistinguishable from the world. One must be careful that in pursuit of being relevance, the true distinctness of faith is not lost. Because an externally-focused life requires loving the people in the world (particularly those who are "hard to love")  it can be easy to get so caught up in social causes that the gospel is lost. It is right, appropriate, and incumbent on the church to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, and comfort the oppressed. However, it would be better for those people to enter the kingdom hungry, naked, and captive than for them to be full, clothed, and free but miss the kingdom. The other side of this coin is that Christians can sometimes, in an effort to bring change to the world, become so politically entrenched that the lines between God's kingdom and the political parties become impossible t

Sometimes You Just Need To End Things!

Life is a series of endings... And new beginnings. The new beginnings are always great, but we often miss out on great beginnings because endings are often painful. Too often we choose to continue something we know should end, simply because we are afraid the ending might be too difficult . As a result, we often miss out on what could have been a fabulous beginning. STOP! You don't need to keep doing that For some people, endings are never an option. Rather than choosing to stop something that is no longer healthy, they will work themselves into exhaustion trying to solve an impossible problem. Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable, and for that reason people are often unwilling to face it. Almost always, this type of avoidance leads to an even more uncomfortable situation or truth. Richard Nixon learned this lesson the hard way. When the watergate scandal first broke, he could have stepped in, apologized, and ended the wrong behavior. This would have been painful. He wo

Before You Yell, Play 90 Minutes in Their Cleats

This was originally posted several years ago, but it is always relevant to talk to parents about their kid's involvement in sports! (also there's a little life lesson for EVERYONE at the end!) Two things I observed over the past week (both at Shoreline Soccer ) that gave me pause to consider my own behavior. The first happened while Liam was a footwork clinic (put on by Dan McAllister of FC Joga Bonita ). On the opposite field a game was being played by two girls teams; I would guess they were U8 (maybe U10). One dad was standing directly behind the goal loudly admonishing his daughter, the goalie, to play "better". Actually, he was yelling and screaming at her "use your hands", "go out", "cut the angle", etc. When the other team scored, he would throw his hands up in disgust and walk away... not aware that she had turned to see if he would tell her that it was okay. Most striking to me about this situation was that I was fairly c

Don't Assume the Preview is Anything Like the Movie

Have you ever decided to not see a movie because you were so unimpressed by the preview? Marianne and I like to get to movies early so we can see the previews, and as we watch them we will whisper to each other whether or not we want to see the actual movie. Sometimes, we just don't go to a movie because of the preview. Sometimes, we go in spite of the preview. Sometimes, we go because of the preview. Over the years, I've realized that movie previews rarely do a movie justice. There have been some movies with terrible previews that became instant favorites for us. There have been some movies with amazing previews that turned out to be unbearable. I'm not sure why I would expect it to be differently. How can I possibly expect to understand the worth of a 2 hour movie after seeing only 30 seconds of mixed together clips? Isn't life just like that? We get a small taste of a situation and decide immediately whether or not it is for us. We see

Inclusive Christians Offer Grace to All

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. (James 2:1)   Have you ever noticed that some people are easier targets for grace than others? We don’t like to admit this, but we would rather show grace to certain people; and we would rather not show grace to other people. Whether it’s because of who they are, what they’ve done, where they’re from or what they smell like; I know I often find myself tempted to not extend the same grace to one person as I would to another. Read and Contemplate James 2:1-13. We are commanded to not show partiality. We cannot be obedient to Scripture and treat some more graciously than others. We need to look at people through our “Jesus Goggles”. We need to see people the way Jesus sees them, not the way they look to us. Jesus didn’t care if people were rich or poor, ugly or beautiful, fun or boring, loud or quiet, outgoing or withdrawn, etc. (you get the point!). Jesus saw everyone around him

INCLUSIVE CHRISTIANS MAKE ALLOWANCES FOR OTHER'S FAULTS

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. When was the last time someone did something really nice for you? How did you respond? Often when someone does something good for us, our day improves immediately. We feel happier, we act kinder, and everything seems to be better. Unfortunately, the reverse is also. When we are wronged, our day often takes a severe downturn. Read and contemplate Matthew 18:21–35. Can you imagine being so indebted that you couldn’t pay it off, even if you contributed your entire salary for 20 years? The debt owed in this story was equivalent to over 1,000 years worth of the average person’s salary. How could anyone ever pay this off? Grace is the best word to describe the action of the king in this story. Out of the kindness of his heart, he gave the debtor something impossible to earn, and something he could never deserve. The scope

Inclusive Christians Give Grace Because They Have Received Grace

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. Why do you need grace? If you are married, you likely need grace from your spouse at least once a day. If you are a parent, you likely need grace from your children once a day. If you are an employee, you probably need grace from your boss on a regular basis. We all have times in our lives when we our errors or mistakes leave us in need of grace from someone. Why do you need grace from God? Read and Contemplate Ephesians 2:1-10. What do you think it means to be “dead in sins?” The first three verses of this passage describe us as being formerly (before Christ) disobedient, full of wrath and immature. Our lifelessness in the past simply means we were completely unable to make ourselves right with God (spiritual life). “But God, being rich in mercy...by grace you have been saved.” Despite the sa

The Source of Life (It's Not the Stork)

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Where do you go? Where do you go for a good meal? Burger King? The Station? Olive Garden? The Asian Buffet? Where do you go for medical information? Your doctor? A friend? Web MD? Where do you go for entertainment? The TV? A book? The theatre? A sports event? Where do you go for advice? A friend? Dear Abby? Facebook? A mentor? Dr. Phil? Where do you go for the Words of Life? Read and contemplate John 6:66–68. There is only one place we can go to receive Words that lead to everlasting life. Jesus. Being Christ-Centered means Jesus is our source for life. The restaurant you choose will determine what kind of food you eat. Your source for medical insight determines whether you get good information or bad. Some entertainment choices are better than others. The source from which you draw your life will change your life one way or another. Many people draw life from their jobs, or fam

Focusing on Jesus Means Inviting Him Into Your Stress

I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. Have you ever had one of those days when your mind just raced from one thing to another, and you slowly drowned in the different (and likely difficult) issues consuming your life? Maybe you’ve experienced sleeplessness when your mind becomes full of the day's cares. What do you think Jesus would say to you if you told him about your stress and your anxiety? What would he tell you to do? Living a life centered on Jesus means I choose to invite Him into my stress. Especially on the days I’m overwhelmed, I must find the time and make the effort to shift my focus from my own issues and toward His agenda for my life. Whichever “important” things have grabbed my attention, they pale in comparison to what Jesus says is important. If I can share his focus, I’ll find my life far less stressful and far more purposeful. Read and Contemplate 1 Corinthians

Christian Persecution and the Christ-Centered Life

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Should you suffer for being a Christian? We know throughout history many in the church have been through great persecution. Every day our TVs and computers broadcast jarring images of Christians in the Middle East being slaughtered for their faith. One early Christian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Seemingly, whenever the church has suffered, growth has been the result. Does that mean that we should seek to suffer? Does the Bible teach that we should pursue persecution, and chase after abuse? If persecution has identified the true church throughout history, and has almost always resulted in great growth, why would we not desire to suffer? Right now, most of us in the West don't worry about the kind of persecution our brothers and sisters must suffer. We must pray for them, and when possible seek ways to support

Without the Vine, A Branch is Just a Board

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5) Often, in our conversations about salvation, we use the image of being “in Chrit” to describe the way God views us in our new justified state. Because He sees us through the “filter” of Christ’s blood, He does not see our sinful lives, but rather the righteous life of His Son (the theological term for this concept is “imputation”). How would your life change if you chose to see the world through that same filter? What if you chose to view everything in life through the eyes of Jesus? What if you chose to make all your decisions through the mind of Jesus? This is the premise of being centered in Christ. Placing Christ at the center of my life is important, submitting to His lordship is critical. However, sometimes we have a tendency to live as though Christ’s presence at the center of our lives doesn’t necessarily mean that He to

10 Things You Won't Find in the New Testament's Description of Church

This is just a list I put together a couple years ago. We could probably have an interesting discussion about some of the things on the list. 1. Weekly Sunday morning gatherings. 2. Weekly offerings @ said gatherings. 3. Voting. 4. Congregational Singing. 5. Exegetical preaching to a gathering of believers with spiritual transformation in mind. 6. Committees. 7. Youth Ministry. 8. Choirs. 9. Deacon Boards. 10. Buildings owned by the church body and dedicated to church usage. BUT IF YOU LOOK AT THE GATHERINGS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH, YOU WILL FIND: Prayer People Reporting About Ministry Group Discussions Prayer Discipline Reading Letters From Other Believers Did I Mention Prayer? File this in the "for what it's worth" box. You can decide if you want to do anything further with it!

Emotional Health Is The Result of Following Christ's Agenda

Have you ever had one of those days when your mind just raced from one thing to another, and you gradually became more and more overwhelmed with all the different (and likely difficult) issues you were facing in life? Maybe you’ve experienced the sleeplessness that ensues when your mind becomes full of the cares of the day. What do you think Jesus would say to you if you told him about your stress, and your anxiety? What would he tell you to do? Living a life centered on Jesus means I must invite Him into my stress. Especially on the days I’m overwhelmed, I must find the time and make the effort to turn my focus away from my own issues and toward His agenda for my life. Whatever “important” things have grabbed my attention, they pale in comparison to what Jesus says is important. If I can learn to share his focus, I’ll quickly find my life to be far less stressful and far more purposeful. Read and Contemplate 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. "And I, when I came to you, brothers,

Here Is A Simple Way You Can Be a Partner With Satan

Perhaps I am the only person who struggles with this, but i tend to think this is a pretty common issue: I like it when people say nice things about me. It makes me feel good about myself, and it makes me think that maybe I am doing something well. Sometimes people tell me I'm a good soccer coach. Sometimes they tell me I'm a good preacher. Sometimes people tell me I made a nice golf shot. Some people have told me I'm a fast runner. Once someone said I had above average intelligence. These things make me happy. I don't even realize that sometimes these people aren't telling me things for my own good. They may not even believe them, but they know I will. They're saying nice things about me because they have an agenda, or because they want something from me. A few years ago I was reflecting on my week and realized that on three separate occasions, I had been paid compliments by people that initially made me feel very good about myself... then i started w

The Definitive to Guide to "Keeping It Real"

Not really. No list here. That would be unkind. However, everyone hates a hypocrite. Perhaps "hate" is a strong word, but the point is that very few people want to be friends with someone who acts hypocritically. Hypocrisy can be simply defined as "pretending to be what one is not." How many of us fit that definition sometimes? Think about this question for a moment, "which is worse: someone who pretends to be religious at church or someone who pretends to be worldly in the world?" Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is--his good pleasing and perfect will." Conforming means to change outwardly, or to change the shape but not the properties of something. A Christian who conforms to the pattern of the world is someone who is living in the world and whose lifestyle looks exactly like the lifestyle

6 Reasons Good Friday Is Good

Good Friday is not good because of the cross. It is good because the benefits of the cross are applied to our lives.  Today is a great day to spend time considering how God extended His grace to us through the work of His Son on the cross.  Below, I've listed six words which describe the benefits of Christ's death. Take some time to read the passages and think about how Good Friday was good for you. Take time to read the passage for each question, and then for each word, answer the four questions below: How would you define this word?  What is an example of this from every day life? How does this word apply to the relationship between God and humanity? Did this happen immediately (at the cross), later (sometime after the cross), or is it a future event? How does this effect me personally? THE BENEFITS OF THE CROSS Restoration. (Revelation 21:5-6) Redemption. (Ephesians 1:7-14) Regeneration. (Ephesians 2:1-6) Reconciliation. (Romans 5:10-11) Ransom (Mark

5 Things I'm Communicating To My Church Family To Prepare For Easter Guests

I send an email to my church family every other week. This is one way I can communicate to them and invite them to communicate back to me. This week I did not have an all-church email scheduled, but I sent one instead. I wanted to be sure we had done everything to be prepared for this Sunday. God may bless us with many guests this week, and my desire is that we will be excellent hosts. This email is one way I'm trying to foster that. If you haven't prepared your church for Easter guests, there is still lots of time for you to send an email!   Sunday is Easter! This is often the most crowded day of the year in American churches, so I wanted to take a moment and send a few suggestions your way. This Sunday morning, we have a great celebration planned. I hope you are planning to be a part of it. I want you to know that right at 10:30 we'll be launching into some creative and meaningful pieces of the Easter service. If you aren't there at 10:30, you'll defini

If You Are Asking What God Will Permit, You're Asking the Wrong Question

When I was a youth pastor (and still, whenever I speak to teenagers), one of the more popular questions kids want answered is, “How far is too far with my boyfriend/girlfriend?” As our culture has become more sexually aware and explicit, that question has become more and more difficult to answer as kids today are exposed to far more far earlier than kids in the past. However, my answer remains the same today as it has always been. How far is too far? You’re asking the wrong question. This exchange is very similar to one Jesus had with the Pharisees in Mark 10:1-9. The Pharisees (likely trying to trip Jesus up) came to him and asked,  "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" I want to focus on the word “lawful”. Essentially the Pharisees were asking Jesus, “What can we get away with?” (it’s the same as “How far is too far?”). They were most concerned with how much questionable activity they could engage in without being considered sin. Too often, we t

Element #4 for Successfully Leading a Small Group: FOCUS

My assumption is that the members of a healthy small group are sharing their lives outside of their normal meeting times. A healthy small group should have "extra" events that bring them together for purposes beyond studying the Bible. I call these events, the group FOCUS. These events might be meals, parties, trips, or better yet service projects, or missional activities. Taking a small amount of time on a regular basis to focus on upcoming events will enable a group to accomplish these kind of extra life-sharing events. One group I was once part of loved to party. Every summer we had several parties at homes, parks, and other places. Using tools like email and Facebook enabled us to focus on these events even when we weren’t meeting regularly ( Click here for 5 Ways Facebook Can ImproveYour Group ). More importantly, our group also had several missional/service focuses over the course of the year. Once every month we gathered to serve at a local soup ki