Tuesday, January 11, 2022

25 Sermon Ideas from Matthew 7

Matthew 7 is the final chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. Here are twenty-five sentences that can be starter ideas or just help to fill in a sermon or Bible Study on Matthew 7.

  1. Be known as a person full of mercy and grace, not as a person full of judgment.
  2. Choose to look at yourself more critically than you look at others.
  3. Don’t sit in judgment on those whom Christ has forgiven.
  4. Beware of the cycle of judgment. You don’t have to return judgment for judgment. You can choose to give mercy.
  5. Asking, seeking, and knocking are all pursuit words. God loves it when we pursue Him.
  6. God only has good gifts for His children, and everything God gives to His children is good.
  7. Our heavenly Father is better than even the best earthly Father.
  8. Our heavenly Father is the embodiment of our ideal father, and more.
  9. Pay attention to your expectations of others. Don’t expect more of them than you do of yourself.
  10. Love your neighbor as yourself.
  11. The more resistance you face in life, the more likely it is that you are heading in the right direction.
  12. An easy life almost always leads to the wrong destination.
  13. The end result of your life will either be destruction or life.
  14. The majority chooses the wrong path a majority of the time.
  15. Not all “teachers” are as they seem. Before you pay attention to their words, pay attention to the fruit of their life.
  16. All the “good doctrine” in the world is meaningless if it doesn’t lead to love and mercy.
  17. Galatians 5:22-23 outlines the fruit of the Spirit. These fruits should be the outcomes of our life.
  18. Those who truly know and trust Jesus will bear Jesus’ fruits in their life.
  19. Fruitlessness leads to the fire.
  20. If Jesus doesn’t know you, you can’t spend eternity with Him.
  21. At the final judgment, Jesus will “know” everyone in the Lamb’s book of life.
  22. The sermon on the mount teaches how to be successful while living on earth.
  23. Ignoring the words of Jesus leads to collapse when life’s storms hit.
  24. Jesus isn’t afraid of life’s storms because He controls them and He can use them for our good.
  25. If you want to know what the foundation of your life is, take a look at your calendar and your bank account.

Monday, January 10, 2022

25 Sermon Starters from Matthew 6

 Each of these sentences can serve as an idea seed from which to build an entire sermon, or they might be one key point in a sermon. Ideally, they will help you process what God wants to say through you to the people to whom you preach.

  1. Motives matter.
  2. If you are living for the approval of people, you’ll likely not receive the approval of God.
  3. If you have to tell people about your acts of generosity, it wasn’t really generosity.
  4. Maintain secrecy about our “good deeds” is a helpful way to check our motivation.
  5. Never pray for the approval of someone else.
  6. Never be embarrassed about the way you pray. God’s opinion of your prayer is more important than anyone else’s.
  7. Even if no one ever knows the “good things” you have done, God knows.
  8. Fancy words do not a good prayer make.
  9. Jesus’ prayer contained ten lines. Only one of them is a request. Our prayers need to be more than request lists.
  10. If you pray that God’s name will be honored, make sure you don’t dishonor His name with your actions.
  11. Praying that God’s kingdom will come is an empty thought if we don’t submit our lives to His rule.
  12. If we truly want God to be obeyed on earth as He is in heaven, we must obey Him on earth.
  13. Those who have been forgiven, must forgive.
  14. Step number one in resisting temptation is to pray every day for God’s strength in resisting temptation.
  15. “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
  16. Invest in things that last.
  17. Your actions, words, responses, and attitudes are all investments. With those investments, you are either building God’s kingdom or your own.
  18. Whatever you look at is what you will see. Choose to focus your attention on the right objects.
  19. Instead of serving your money, make your money serve God.
  20. If you are serving money, you will eventually be mastered by anxiety.
  21. The more you worry about what you cannot control, the more you will be controlled by what you worry about.
  22. Worry only makes us suffer twice.
  23. You will find what you seek, so choose wisely what you will seek.
  24. The best way to receive everything you need, is to stop seeking it and start seeking the Kingdom.
  25. Work at what you can control. Pray about what you cannot control.

Friday, January 7, 2022

3 Sermon Ideas from Matthew 5


The Blessed Life

Jesus’ teachings at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount are a call to introspection. We must be willing to take an honest look at ourselves, and then to respond appropriately to what we see.

1. The Internal Life
    1. Poor in Spirit - Recognizing my own spiritual poverty, I choose to not think too highly of myself.
    2. Mourn - Recognizing its effects on myself and others, I mourn my sinfulness.
    3. Meek - Recognizing that God’s strength is shown in my weakness, I choose to keep my own strength under control.
    4. Hunger and Thirst - Recognizing my own emptiness, I choose to fill myself with God’s provision

2. The External Life
    1. Mercy - Recognizing that I have received mercy, I freely give mercy (Matthew 18:21-35)
    2. Pure in Heart - Recognizing that God sees the heart, I choose to act from pure motivations such as love and generosity rather than selfish motivations
    3. Peacemakers - Recognizing that relational dysfunction only destroys God’s creation, I choose to escalate peace rather than conflict
    4. Persecution - Recognizing that many people are opposed to God, I choose to rejoice in persecution and to pray for my persecutors (John 15:18)

Conclusion: Once we are willing to acknowledge the difficult truths about ourselves, we can recognizing the glorious truths about Jesus. Once you recognize what He has done for you, it is easy to live for Him!


Being Salty Isn’t Always Bad

1. Four uses of salt
    1. To preserve
    2. To bring flavor
    3. To wake up (smelling salts)
    4. To make thirsty 

2. Four ways to be salty
    1. Be active in your community as a means of preserving God’s creation and God’s image
    2. Be generous with God’s gifts so that you can make others’ lives betters (more flavorful)
    3. Be gracious in the way you speak the truth, but speak the truth so others may wake up to God’s grace and mercy
    4. Live in such a way that others will crave (be thirsty for) what you have

Conclusion: God saved us so that we can bring others to salvation. How we live either points people to God or to ourselves. Choose to live in a way that points people to Jesus.


God Looks At The Heart

In Matthew 5:21-37, Jesus doesn’t eliminate the law, He illuminates it. He shows that the law can only govern men’s external actions, but not their hearts. God’s words to Samuel in 1 Samuel 16 are still true today. We look on the outside, but God looks on the heart.

1. Murder and Anger
    1. The command - Thou shalt not kill
    2. The illumination - Don’t be angry or insulting to your brother
        1. (Anger is not always wrong. Righteous indignation is sometimes appropriate, but one must never be ruled by anger)
        2. In your anger do not sin.
        3. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.
    3. The principle - All people are made in the image of God and are therefore loved by God. To take a life or diminish a life is to insult God’s creation.

2. Adultery and Lust (and divorce)
    1. The command - Thou shalt not commit adultery
    2. The illumination - Don’t look (or think) lustfully at others
    3. The principle - Marriage is a covenant in which God’s unity is represented by a man and woman. To violate that covenant in any way (including an “emotional affair”) is to violate our connection with God.

3. Lying and Oath Swearing
    1. The command - Thou shalt not bear false witness
    2. The illumination - Don’t even take oaths
    3. The principle - God is truth. God’s children should be so full of truth that everyone knows they are telling the truth no matter what they say. You should never have to say, “I promise” or “I swear”, because people should simply know you are a truthful person.

Conclusion: Protect your heart from influences that drive you away from God. Fill your heart with influences that drive you closer to Him.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

3 Sermon Ideas from Matthew 4


 Three Lies Satan Tells

1. You can HAVE whatever you want
    1. “Turn those stones to bread”
    2. This is an appeal to our desire to feel good. We fill our stomachs with food, we fill our lust with sex, we fill our emotions with drugs, etc…
    3. Jesus’ response reminds us that we cannot fill our emptiness with earthly things. We need something more.
2. You can DO whatever you want
    1. “Throw yourself down”
    2. This is an appeal to our desire for autonomy. We don’t think anyone should be able to tell us what is right and wrong or what we can and cannot do.
    3. Jesus’ response reminds us that God’s laws are designed for our safety and protection and real consequences exist for those who ignore His law.
        1. Specifically, we should not expect God to bail us out of situations when we have made bad decisions.
3. You can BE whatever you want
    1. “…all the kingdoms of the world… These will I give you”
    2. This is an appeal to our desire for affirmation. We want people to like us and respect us even if we are not being the person we were made to be.
    3. Jesus did not come to earth the first time to take rulership of all kingdoms. That was not God’s mission for Him, that was not the identity He was supposed to assume.
    4. His response reminds us that we find our true identity in God. When our starting point is true worship, our finishing point will be contentment with who we are.

CONCLUSION: God’s way is best. The more time we spend in His Word, the more prepared we will be to deal with the temptation to abandon His way in favour of what we think is better. Doing it our way always seems appealing in the moment, but it never ends well. Do it God’s way.


The Wilderness and the Garden

Notice how similar Satan’s temptations in Matthew 4 are to his temptations in Genesis 3. The devil’s strategies haven’t changed that much. He plays to our lack of contentment, suggests that we don’t have what we want because God is not good, and then deceitfully suggests we can be something much better if we’ll go His way.

1. The devil suggested they eat what has not been provided
    1. “Command these stones to become loaves of bread”
    2. “You will not surely die.”
2. The devil suggested they didn’t understand God as well as he did
    1. “He will command his angels concerning you”
    2. “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be open”
3. The devil suggested God was holding them back
    1. “All these (kingdoms of the world) I will give you”
    2. “You will be like God.”

Conclusion:  Even though, in the garden they had everything, Adam and Eve fell for these lies and as a result sin entered the world and death by sin. However, even though, in the wilderness he had nothing, Jesus resisted the temptation. Because He succeeded where Adam and Eve failed, Jesus became the perfect sacrifice to bear our sins and make it possible for us to have eternal life, free from the penalty, presence and power of sin.


The Disciples’ Invitation is Our Invitation

1. Follow me
    1. For the disciples, following Jesus meant walking where he walked, talking like He talked, acting like He acted, treating others as He treated them, choosing the attitudes He chose, and much more.
    2. Everyone is following someone or something. To “follow” is to pay close attention and to sometimes imitate.
        1. The news channel of choice.
        2. A favorite politician
        3. Celebrities or athletes
        4. A preacher or other influencer
    3. Truly following Jesus means we allow Him to be the primary TEACHER, EXAMPLE, INFLUENCER, and BOSS of our life.
2. I will make you
    1. Jesus transformed the disciples from fearful and cowardly to bold and driven.
    2. Jesus wants to make you into the person God created you to be. However, until you can acknowledge that you need help and that, on your own, you cannot make yourself, He cannot make you.
    3. If you choose to closely follow Jesus, the result will be that He re-makes you.
3. Fishers of men
    1. Peter and Andrew were fishermen. Jesus took what they were good at, redeemed it, and used it to accomplish His mission through them.
    2. Jesus can take the gifts you already have, redeem them, and use them to accomplish His mission through you.
        1. Your Power (what you are good at)
        2. Your Passion
        3. Your Personality
        4. Your Possessions
        5. Your Past

Conclusion: The disciple’s three year adventure with Jesus changed everything about them and altered the direction of the rest of their lives. The challenge for us is to choose to follow Jesus and let Him change us as well. He wants to change who we are so that He can use who we are to accomplish His mission for those around us.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

2 Sermon Ideas from Matthew 3


The Process of Salvation

John’s message was enough to get people moving toward salvation, but not enough to save them. They needed something more than he could offer.

1. I Repent

    1. Repentance is the process of stopping, turning, and moving away. It inherently leads to something new.

        1. It is more than “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong”.

    2. John’s message was that something new was coming, and to receive it a new direction was necessary.

2. I Confess

    1. Those who were baptised by John, first confessed their sin.

    2. Confession is taking responsibility for what one has done, in this case it is taking responsibility for one’s sins.

    3. Confession of sin should include:

        1. Acknowledgement that I alone am responsible for my sins. No excuses.

        2. Acknowledgement that my sin has driven a wedge between myself and the perfectly righteous God.

3. I am given the Holy Spirit THROUGH Jesus

    1. I need the Holy Spirit to be my advocate and to empower my new relationship with God.

    2. I need the Holy Spirit to be my guide and to enable my new life on earth.

    3. I cannot receive the Holy Spirit while I am still a sinful creature.

    4. I need Jesus to wash away my sin, cure my sin nature, and give me the gift of the Holy Spirit.


Much more can be said and discovered about life in the Spirit. This is simply the starting point. The key for today is to understand our own steps in receiving the salvation offered by Jesus.

Other supporting Scriptures are: 1 John 1:9, Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19, 2 Peter 3:9, Luke 5:32, Acts 26:20.


A Glimpse of the Trinity

This passage carries significant parallels to other passages in Scripture which helps us to understand how the Father, Son and Spirit work together.

1. In Creation

    1. The Father spoke (Genesis 1) “And God said…”

    2. The Spirit hovered (Genesis 1:2) “and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters”

        1. Think of “hovering” as “overseeing” like a manager.

        2. A good manager EMPOWERS. The Spirit EMPOWERS the Son as He acts.

    3. The Son acted (Colossians 1:16) “for by Him all things were created…”

2. At Jesus’ Baptism (Matthew 3:16-17)

    1. The Father spoke  — “This is my beloved Son, which whom I am well pleased.”

    2. The Spirit hovered — “the Spirit of God depending like a dove…”

    3. The Son acted — “Jesus was baptised…he went up from the water….”

3. Throughout Jesus’ life and ministry

    1. The Father spoke — (John 17:4) “…having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”

    2. The Spirit hovered — (John 3:34) “for He gives the Spirit without measure.”

    3. The Son acted — (John 3:17) “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

4. In Salvation (1 Peter 1:1-2)

    1. The Father spoke — “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”

    2. The Spirit hovered — “in the sanctification of the Spirit”

    3. The Son acted — “…sprinkling with his blood”

5. In our life

    1. The Father speaks — (Philippians 1:6) “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…”

    2. The Spirit empowers — (John 14:15) “He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever…”

    3. The Son acts — (Hebrews 12:2) “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecto of our faith”


We need to pay attention to what God has said and open ourselves to what His Spirit is doing in us so that our lives will more closely resemble the life of Jesus.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

2 Sermon Ideas from Matthew 2


 God’s plan never gets derailed.

1. The events of Jesus’ birth were foretold by the prophet Micah (700 years before Jesus)

    1. Matthew 2:6

    2. Micah 5:2

2. The events of Jesus’ birth were foretold by the prophet Hosea (750 years before Jesus)

    1. Matthew 2:15

    2. Hosea 11:1

3. The events of Jesus’ birth were foretold by the prophet Jeremiah (600 years before Jesus)

    1. Matthew 2:17

    2. Jeremiah 31:15

4. The events of Jesus’ birth were foretold by the prophet Isaiah (700 years before Jesus)

    1. Matthew 2:23

    2. Isaiah 9:1

Consider how long 600-700 years is. 

    * Europeans had just discovered the Western Hemisphere. The existence of America was still hundreds of years away.

    * Henry VIII was king of England.

    * The printing press had just been invented.

    * The Protestant Reformation was just underway.

    * The shape of the earth and motion of the solar system were just being discovered. 

    * Da Vinci and Michelangelo were revolutionizing art. 

Imagine if during this time, someone predicted with great detail the birth of a child this year and included where he would be born, a political response to His birth, where his parents would take Him after birth, and where he would grow up. We would consider this miraculous, and virtually impossible.

Only God is capable of making a plan and executing a plan over the course of 700 years. And if His plan for Jesus didn’t get derailed, His plan for you will not get derailed!


How to avoid going crazy.

Herod’s activity in Matthew 2 can only be described as that of a madman. Commanding the slaughter of infants is something no sane person would do. Throughout the course of the chapter, we can see several decisions and character traits of Herod that help us understand why He was mentally unstable.

1. Herod tried to ACQUIRE instead of ADMIRE.

    1. Rather than join the Wise Men in worshipping the new King, he sought to get His hands on the King so that He could hold on to power.

    2. When other people own or receive something you wish you had, you must choose whether to share their joy or be jealous of their blessing.

    3. The 10th commandment is the only one that deals with the heart. God understands that when we covet in our heart, we eventually will lie, steal, kill, etc. with our actions.

2. Herod chose to COMPARE instead of COMPLIMENT

    1. He esteemed Bethlehem as lesser than Jerusalem (He never would have killed the children in Jerusalem).

    2. He esteemed his own thrown as greater than Jesus’.

    3. Comparison is an action that always leads us in the wrong direction.

        1. Comparison sometimes causes pride as we compare ourselves to others in order to feel better about ourselves.

        2. Comparison sometimes leads to shame and despair as we compare ourselves to others we deem to be our superiors.

        3. Comparison sometimes leads to jealousy and discontent as we compare ourselves to others who have “more” of what we want.

3. Herod chose to GET instead of being GRATEFUL

    1. He knew that the coming of the Messiah was foretold by Scripture and was therefore a gift from God.

    2. Rather than be grateful for God’s provision, he chose to violently seize what God had not given him.

    3. When we don’t spend time saying “thank you” to God, we will eventually spend time taking for ourselves.

God has given us everything we need. Anger, hatred, rage, and even imbalance are often the result of being obsessed with what God has not given us instead of being grateful for what He has provided. The more you look at what you don’t have, the lower your spirits will sink.

Take an inventory of everything God has given you. Begin and end every day with gratitude.

Monday, January 3, 2022

3 Sermon Ideas from Matthew 1


Text: Matthew 1:1-17

Big Idea: Every Life Matters to God

Summary: Jesus’ genealogy contains some unexpected names. If we pay attention to the names we wouldn’t expect to see, we can discover an important truth about the love of God.

Main Points:

1. Women matter to God
    * Tamar (vs 3)
    * Rahab (vs. 5)
    * Ruth (vs. 5)
    * Bathsheba (6)

2. Foreigners matter to God
    * Tamar was from Timnah (a Philistine city)
        * Genesis 38
    * Rahab was from Jericho (a Canaanite city)
        * Joshua 2
    * Ruth was from Moab (Israel’s sworn enemy)
        * Ruth 1
    * Bathsheba was married to a Hittite (she may or may not have been a foreigner)
        * 2 Samuel 11

3. Sinners matter to God
    1. Tamar dressed like a prostitute to seduce her father-in-law
    2. Rahab was known to be a prostitute in Jericho
    3. Ruth is not explicit listed as a sinner
    4. Bathsheba had an affair with King David

In Mark 2:17, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” These surprising inclusions in the genealogy of the greatest man who ever lived remind us that God love everyone and desires all to be saved. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you’ve done… You matter to Jesus.


Text: Matthew 1:6-12

Big Idea: Right or Wrong?

Summary: In these verses, fourteen kings of Judah and Israel are listed. If you look up the record of each king in the books of Kings and Chronicles, you’ll discover that half of those listed in Matthew 1 did good in the eyes of God and half of them did evil. Use this unique truth to teach some important principles about God’s nature and work in this world.

1. Increased power and prestige are not always a result of righteous living.
    * Matthew 5:45 - He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust
    * Don’t assume that earthy success is a sign of God’s blessing
2. Difficulties and suffering are not always a result of evil living.
    1. Luke 13:1-5
    2. Don’t assume that earthly difficulty is a sign of God’s anger
3. God’s plan is never derailed by wicked leaders
    1. Even the most evil kings in Judah did not change God’s promise to David or His plan for redemption
    2. Don’t despair when you deal with difficult leadership. God is still on the throne.

Nobody is perfect. Like this list, all of us are a combination of good and bad. We should never deceive ourselves to think that our goodness is enough to please God. Just as the flawed line of Jewish Kings required God’s intervention to repair a broken line of succession, we need God’s intervention to fix our broken lives. Just as Jesus was the perfect King for Judah, He is also the perfect King for us. Choose to accept Jesus’ goodness as your own!


Text: Matthew 1:18-25

Big Idea: Character Matters

Summary: Within this story about Joseph’s interaction with an angel, we can observe much about Joseph’s character. Although he doesn’t get a lot of “screen time” in the New Testament, and although he almost never speaks, his life is one to be emulated. Within this story, we can discover five character traits of Joseph which are worth imitating.

Main Points: 

1. Joseph valued purity.
    * vs. 18 “before they came together”
    * vs. 25 “but knew her not”
    * Patience is a virtue.

2. Joseph valued justice.
    * vs. 19 “being a just man”
    * Doing the “right” thing is always the best thing.

3. Joseph valued mercy.
    * vs. 19 “unwilling to put her to shame”
    * Be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful.

4. Joseph valued wisdom.
    * vs. 20 “as he considered these things”
    * Wisdom rarely comes easily or quickly. It requires taking time to listen to and consider multiple viewpoints/options.

5. Joseph valued obedience.
    * vs. 25 “And he called his name Jesus.”
    * The most important thing anyone can do is figure out what God has said to do and to do it.

In Philippians 3:17 and 4:9, Paul encourages believers to follow the example of those who can point them to Jesus. In this passage, Joseph serves as an example of someone who can help us look more like Jesus.  Everyone can identify with Joseph. We all have room for improvement in at least one of these areas. 

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.

Do you want to focus on #gratitude in the New Year?

For less $$ than a cup of coffee at @Starbucks, you can get this tool that will help you focus your gratitude each day for 30 days.   CLICK HERE FOR THE GRATITUDE EXPERIMENT.

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.