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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 Get Inspired Give Something Away Connect With Other Christians Make an Eternal impact 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 kn

Grateful People Have Selective Memories

PHILIPPIANS 1:3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, Paul's time in Philippi wasn't exactly a vacation at the beach or a walk in the park. You can read all the details in Acts 16, but among other things, he had to deal with a heckler, he and his friends got beaten up, and he was even thrown in jail. Yet, in Philippians 1:3, Paul wrote that he was thankful every time he remembered the people who lived in Philippi. Was he thankful for all the bad times? (not that he shouldn't be as God helps us grown in difficult circumstances) Actually, verses 4-5 clue us in as to why he was grateful. PHILIPPIANS 1:4-5 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. Paul was grateful for the good times. He had warm memories of partnering with the Philippians to see the Gospel spread throughout their time. He was thankful for the support they had given as He proclaimed the truth.

My Drawer Runneth Over

I like t-shirts. I especially like shirts with logos of my favorite sports teams. I also have a problem getting rid of old t-shirts. Earlier this week, I put on a shirt that I calculated to be at least 10 years old. As a result of my inability to let go, my shirt drawer is overflowing with Spartan, Tiger, Red Wing, Lions, Liverpool, Warrior, Trojan, and Bruin shirts. Let me be clear. My drawer is not overflowing because of any one shirt. It is overflowing because I have SO MANY shirts. Ephesians 5:20 says, "giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" The keywords here are "everything" and "always". Colossians 2:7 is a parallel passage. Here Paul is encouraging a group of Christians to live consistently with their roots in Jesus' example and teaching. This is accomplished, according to Paul, by "overflowing with thankfulness." Saying, "thank you" every so often is nice, but

Use the 10 Commandments as a Template for Gratitude

Gratitude is a powerful tool for fighting anxiety, fear, and selfishness. It also promotes contentment, generosity, peace, and trust. I am always looking for new methods to develop more gratitude in my life. Here is an idea I have to use the 10 commandments as a jumping-off point for gratitude. Consider praying through these commands and using each one to express thanksgiving to God. 1. Have no other gods before Me. Thank you for being all-powerful, all-present, always in control, and still caring about me. 2. Make no false idols. Thank you for being everything I need so that I never need to look elsewhere for provision. 3. Do not take the name of the LORD in vain. Thank you for the privilege of calling on your name through prayer. Thank you for hearing my prayers. 4. Remember the Sabbath. Thank you for all of creation and for building healthy rhythms into creation as an example for how to live my life. 5. Honor your father and mother. Thank you for my family and

13 Leftovers From A Sermon on Gratitude

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. (LUKE 1:46-49) 13 THOUGHTS ON GRATITUDE 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. God's provisions far outnumber your problems. 7. Gratitude grows from past deliverance not present darkness. 8. Mercy is only needed by those who have made mistakes. 9. Mercy is something we don't always see, even though it is there. We don&#

5 steps our church is taking to prepare for our restart

This may or may not be helpful. For those who are interested, here are five things we've done to prepare our church to restart. These aren't inspired and they may or may not work. We'll know soon! 1) We started using the word "restart" very early. The week after Easter, "restart" became an important element of our leaders' shared vocabulary. We wanted to hit the ground running when the time came. 2) We talked about "change" and "growth" as critical pieces of our restart. From the very beginning, we discussed this "stay-at-home" time as a sort of sabbath. We asked people to spend time considering three questions: - What have you learned about what is really important in life? - What would you like to change about your life's rhythm when you restart? - How are you going to do that? 3) Once we set a target date, we repeatedly used four words to communicate the important details of the plan: - MAY 31 - RE

10 Inspirational Verses To Launch Your Day

Whatever your day may hold, you can boldly charge forward knowing that you may not be able to control everything, but you know Who can. Read these verses aloud to yourself. Choose one and carry it with you today. At the very least, let these verses inspire to action. Isaiah 40:31 But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. 1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Psalm 31:24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Romans 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so

4 Bible Passages That Speak To The Coronavirus Debates

I'm not settled. But here are some of the Bible passages I'm chewing on as I consider my position on the myriad of issues surrounding COVID19 and my response as a Christian and a pastor. The Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. All the people of earth were unified in their pursuit of a common goal. Driven by scientific and technological advancements, they planned to make a name for themself. At the core of their efforts was their assertion that they could solve anything on their own. They no longer needed God. Is COVID19 reminding us that even if we all unite, we are still not omnipotent and we are still vulnerable? The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. Everything God gives us is to be used for His kingdom and His agenda. Are we, as God's stewards, rising up the challenge of COVID19 and using this opportunity to double our kingdom influence? Or, are we in fear hiding the talent we have been given? Jesus Calms The Storm in Mark 4. My favorite piece of this story i

7 Verses To Help You Taste Your Words Before You Spit Them Out

Words are small but mighty. Your words can be a gift or a grenade. They can encourage or they can explode. With your words you can inspire your neighbor or you can crush your friend. With your words, you can bring calm to a storm or you can escalate a conflict. If you are working on "holding your tongue" more often, create a hard copy of these verses and keep them with you. Read through this list 3-5 times every day and remind yourself that you want to taste your words before you spit them out! Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; ‭‭James‬ ‭1:19 If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet. Proverbs 29:9 Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭21:23‬ A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Proverbs 29:11 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool sp

14 Verses To Help You Focus On Who God Is

A great way to start and end your day is to simply think about who God is. Here are 14 verses to remind you of a few of God's character traits. Read these aloud and remember who He is! 1 Corinthians 10:13 | God is FAITHFUL No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 John 1:5 | God is LIGHT This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. John 3:16 | God is GENEROUS For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 1 John 4:8 | God is LOVE Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. Psalm 18:30 | God is a SHIELD This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refug

5 Verses For Uncertain Times

Whether or not life is uncertain is simply a matter of perspective. While I may feel uncertain about what is coming next, God does not. He is certain and He is not worried. When you were a child riding in the back seat of the car, there were many times you didn't know where you were going. Your parent(s) did, though. Most of the time, it didn't even cross your mind to be nervous about your uncertainty, because you trusted the driver's knowledge and ability to deliver you to the destination. God's knowledge and ability are far superior to the driver of that car. He is not uncertain. Not only does He hold tomorrow, He knows what tomorrow holds.  Here are five verses to read aloud when you feel some of life's uncertainty creeping in. Matthew 6:26 "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Proverbs 3: 5 -6 "Trust in the LORD w

7 Verses For The Moments You Feel Alone

You can get through this! Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Use your times of solitude to draw closer to God. Luke 5:16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. God is with you. He is in control. Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Jesus knows exactly how you feel. 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. Even if everyone abandons you, Jesus never will. Proverbs 18:24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Don't be afraid to tell God how you feel. 1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for y

12 Verses For a Rough Day

I received an email today from a friend requesting a few encouraging verses. I shared a couple with her and then thought perhaps I should just post them here as well. Maybe these will be an encouragement to you as well. We can all use a little more hope, joy, and peace. John 16:33 -- I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Isaiah 26:3 -- You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 1 Peter 5:7 -- Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Psalm 4:8 -- In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. 1 Peter 1:3 -- Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, John 16:22 -- So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you

Live A Delicious Life

Mathew 3 tells the story of John the Baptist. When he was approached by the religious leaders (who most people knew to be hypocrites), John said to them: Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. This simple and powerful statement was a reminder that God wants more than just words of worship. He wants to change our hearts, and when He changes our hearts, our lives change. Use the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)this morning to consider whether your life is bearing the fruit of a changed heart. love - Am I putting the good of others ahead of my own good? joy - Am I choosing to rejoice in the Lord even when life isn't fun? peace - Am I resting in the knowledge that God is in control and will provide all I need? patience - Am I comfortable waiting for God's provision, even if it doesn't happen in my timing? kindness - Do my words and actions "taste" good to others? Do I remind people of Jesus? goodness - Do I do the right thing, even when it may cost

O Say Can You See?

This morning I was reading in Isaiah 42 and came across verses 16. In this passage, God is describing the blessings He is going to eventually accomplish for Israel. Isaiah wrote: “And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.” ‭‭ Isaiah‬ ‭42:16‬ ‭ESV‬ ‬ Blindness is used throughout the Bible to describe those who do not know God. Consider the following thoughts about spiritual blindness (along with a verse for each one!) 1) Our natural state is “spiritual blindness”. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (John 3:19) 2) God does not want you to be spiritually blind. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.(2 Corinthians 3:16) 3) Only Jesus can cure spiritual blindness

James Bond Has Nothing On You

JOHN 8:29 ...he who sent me is with me... Every time James Bond was given a new assignment, he visited his friend Q before embarking on the mission. Q would have several new gadgets, weapons, and other surprises that would empower 007 to complete the task he had been given. Jesus didn't rely on Q, but He did acknowledge that He had been given everything He needed. One day, while teaching, He explained to the people that He was able to accomplish His mission because the One who had sent Him was always with Him. Because God was always with Jesus, Jesus was able to do exactly what God wanted. We have the same promise! Just before Jesus went back to the Father, He commissioned the disciples go out and be His representatives in the world. Then He told them that He would be with them, to the very ends of the earth. Because Jesus is always with us, we are always able to do exactly what He wants us to do. Be confident today. Use your words, attitude, and action to represent J

What do you think? Is this good or bad?

My personal reading today took me to Luke’s version of the beatitudes. This list of short statements is a powerful reminder that God doesn’t see the world as I do. I am often quick to evaluate a situation based on the immediate outcomes. Have I increased my wealth? This is good. Is my belly full? This is good. Am I happy? This is good. Do people like me? This is good. The beatitudes remind me to not judge so quickly. God is less concerned about whether or not my life situation make me more comfortable and He is far more concerned with whether or not my life situation brings me closer to Him. Regardless of what happens around you today, whether it seems good or seems bad, try not to jump to a conclusion. Instead of focusing on how you feel about the situation, take time to consider how God might be using this situation to shape you into the image of Jesus and to draw you closer to Himself. (You can read the verse below) Luke 6:20-22 Blessed are you who are poor, for yo

Why Do Our Kids Continue To Text And Drive?

Why can our kids not stop texting and driving? I spend a good amount of time on the road and I am continuously shocked by how many young people are driving down the highway with both hands on their phone and their eyes staring squarely down at their phone. This, in spite of a massive campaign against distracted driving and a collective conscience which agrees this is a miserable idea. My guess is that most of them either know someone or know of someone who has been in an accident caused by distracted driving. Yet an incredible number continue to text and drive. Why? We have programmed them that way I cannot help but think this is the result of an overdeveloped need for immediate gratification and an unquenchable thirst for positive affirmation. For years, we’ve told ourselves and we’ve told our children, “You don’t have to wait. You can have it now.” It’s not just microwave ovens and Jimmy Johns that have promoted this myth. It’s credit cards, sales that last “one day only”, su

God is not the author of evil, but He is the editor!

Several years ago I made the statement that "Everything we have is a gift from God." I went on to suggest that even our life life's circumstances (good and bad) are a gift from God. Later, I received a super kind email asking if I would explain that concept a little more. I think this is a pretty common issue that people wrestle with, so here are some excerpts from my answer to him. Please understand that I am NOT writing this as an ivory tower theologian or as a behind-the-pulpit preacher. I am a fellow pilgrim who has seen the swamp of despair and has endured the abuse of Vanity city. I have days when I am certain God has given me a burden better suited for someone else, and yet those same days are often marked by unmistakable interventions of his gracious provision. My life's journey is not resolved. In fact, it is decidedly unresolved and often I would be happy to give back the "gifts" God has deemed me worthy to receive.... Do I really believe that

Be Honest. Be Content.

PROVERBS 30:7-9 Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. Here is a simple summary: 1) Be Honest. 2) Be Content. These verses require some meditation. Pursuing honesty and contentment can be a lifelong pursuit in which you may always improve but will never arrive. Chew on this throughout your day. In your conversations with others, seek to be open, authentic, and truthful. When you compare yourself with others, choose to be content with what you have rather than desiring what is theirs. Rinse and repeat.

Work Always Trumps Worry

PROVERBS 28:1 “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” ‭‭ Why would anyone run away if no one is chasing them? Because they are worried someone might start chasing them. Everyone worries about something, and when we worry we do weird stuff.  What if I don't make enough money? What if I don't save enough money? What if I don't get a promotion? What if I don't close the deal? What if my wife stops loving me? What if my husband finds someone one else? What if my children don't excel? What if I miss out on something? What if I get sick? What if it snows? What if people don't like me? Ironically, the majority of problems which cause us worry never come true. Earl Nightingale suggested that 40% of things you worry about will never occur and 30% of the things you worry about cannot be changed anyway. You may or may not get sick, but all the worry in the world won’t change it. Your children may or may not make mi

Much has changed in the past 15 years, but much is still the same

I have been blogging for a very long time. Much has changed over the past two decades, but some things are still very much the same. Check out this blog post from 15 years ago (note that one of the big changes is that I now employ traditional capitalization rules): there is a high level of dissatisfaction in our world today: - toward the government - toward the oppressive upper class - toward the tsunami - toward Duke basketball - toward corporate America - toward terrorism - toward me - toward the evangelical church - toward the emergent church - toward the eggshell white church the result of the malcontentedness has been a great upheaval of structures and the proliferation of all types of new movements. of course, it is human nature to react against things that outrage us. when we observe inequity or any other type of "wrong" we typically: 1) acknowledge our tension with said situation 2) evaluate our ability to change said situation 3) enact a pla

You Are Who You Meet

PROVERBS 22:24-25 Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. Friends are great. Many times our friends become closer than family. Our friends laugh with us, care for us, and shape us. You've probably heard the expression that all of us are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most amount of time. Sometimes our friends shape us toward joy. When we are with them, their high spirits are contagious. They are full of encouragement, always speaking well of everyone else, and always seeing the positives in every situation. But sometimes, our friends shape us in a darker direction. We began to adopt their proclivity for complaining. The criticisms they aim at everyone else become a weapon in our arsenal as well. Being with them leads us to see problems and persecution everywhere. If the people around you encourage anger in you, find a new group of friends. Their negativi

You are being shaped by the people around you

PROVERBS 14:7 “Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.” Sometimes I watch my children and see myself in them. Sometimes I see their mother in them. They have spent the majority of their lives with us. For now, no one has influenced them more than we have. Now that they are out of the house that is beginning to change, because they are no longer spending time with us and now they are spending time with others. The people you spend time with influence the person you are and person you will become. You will begin using similar language to those with whom you spend the most amount of time. You will begin to have the same attitude as those with whom you spend the most amount of time. You will begin to behave like those with whom you spend the most amount of time. Proverbs 14 warns you to leave the presence of a fool because they will not help you learn. I can think of a few other dangers which arise when we spend too much time with the wrong influenc

Failing Doesn't Make You A Failure

It's Monday. The majority of Americans have already failed at keeping their New Year's resolutions. Perhaps you are among that number. Or perhaps you have failed at something else. We all have. Failing doesn't make you a failure. You failed in the past. Leave it there. You cannot change the past and you cannot control the past. The past is set in stone. Don't let something you cannot control seize control of you. Don't be controlled by the past. You can control the present. Choose today to seize the opportunities which come your way. Apply wisdom to every possibility. Speak truthfully and graciously. Look for the best in people and situations. Focus on solutions instead of obstacles. Your future will be determined by your present unless you allow yourself to be controlled by your past. So you failed. Learn from it and let it go. Yesterday is gone, it died when you went to sleep. The Son has risen, and so has the sun. Resurrection happens every day and