Following means Family

Sometimes families are weird. We’ve all got a crazy uncle. We’ve all got moments that wrecked is for just a little bit. I remember I had a cousin who was several years older than I was and he worked for a security company. Once at his house, he used his handcuffs to cuff me to a door knob and walked away. I cried forever. That is a little crazy. You’ve got moments with your family like that too.

It’s interesting and appropriate that the New Testament talks about our fellow followers of Christ as family. Paul mentions that idea to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3 where he says, “…if I’m delayed, you’ll know how everyone who belongs to God’s family ought to behave.” Paul and other followers acknowledged that as followers of Jesus, we are all family.

Now, we don’t always get it right. We mess up, stub our toe, don’t say the right thing, look hypocritical in the church. We’re human. But we’re like family. While we love Jesus and try to look like him everyday, we don’t always shine.

And Jesus calls us to really follow him. In Luke 14, there’s a large crowd traveling with Jesus. Jesus uses some hyperbolic language to make the point that you’re either following him or just traveling with him. And if you’re following him, it’s going to cost you something. You’ll have to give something up. So Jesus calls us to love him more than our parents, our spouse and kids, more than our physical brothers and sisters. If you’re following him, you’re called to love him more than anything else.

As we look at Jesus’ life and that first century church, we come to realize that you can’t follow Jesus by yourself. You become part of the family, or the church. See you can’t follow Jesus solo. We follow Jesus as a family. Many of us believe that we’ve got to get it all together, be close to perfect before we start following. But that’s just not true.

You look at some of the guys that Jesus called to follow him. Matthew a tax collector was a that bottom of the “sin ladder” in Jesus’ culture. By all accounts, Matthew was far from having it all together yet Jesus called him to follow. Simon the Zealot, a Jewish assassin, wanted to get rid of the Romans in Israel and was willing to kill them to do it. He was far from having it all together. Yet, Jesus called him to follow. All of these people were called to be part of the family…to follow.

And Jesus calls you too. None of us have it all together. But Jesus is the one who will make us perfect. He’s calling you to be a part of his family…a part of his church. So together, as family, we’ll follow Jesus and He’ll transform us as we go. Blessings on your journey.

Beautiful Interference

What does loving God will all your heart, sou, mind, and strength look like? How would someone, looking at my life, agree that I have given my everything to love my Creator? How would I, at the ripe old age of ninety-four (I have years before I hit that magic number, by the way), look back at my life and feel the satisfaction that in every facet of my life, I gave it to God? What would the fruit of my desire to put God first in my life look like?

It doesn’t stop with just loving on God. It also means I must love other human beings—no matter their skin color, physical disability, nationality, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, number of tattoos, political party affiliation, preference of music style (although in my opinion, country music is the best), marital status—I love people exactly as much as I love myself, no exceptions.

Alright already, I get that; I understand what Jesus has said. But what does that look like, as it comes to realization in my own life? How could I feel confident that I am journeying in the direction that the Rabbi, Jesus, is walking? How could I know I’m following close behind him? When do I know that his dust has settled on me?

I believe too many times, as followers of Jesus, we get wrapped up in the “rule-following” of religion rather than the tidal wave of love that is Jesus. As followers, we believe that using the “spiritual clipboard” to check off the things we are doing or not doing is what God, through his Son, Jesus, wants us to do. However, based upon Jesus’ scathing rebuttal of the “clipboard checkers” (that is, the religious leaders of his time) in Matthew 23, I feel God has called us to live a life that many of us miss—a call to love God and love people with no strings attached…unconditionally. Jesus reminds us to love God with everything we have, and to love people with that same intensity in Mark 12:30-31.

Jesus calls us as his followers and says, “The most important commandment is this…you must love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these two.”

So, how have you loved today? What has your tone and body posture been like with others? Did you start the day in prayer and God’s Word? How have you positioned yourself to live this out in your family, in your work place, in your neighborhood? People know you claim to be a follower of Jesus. Live in such a way that there is never any doubt! Blessings on your journey.

Feeding your Soul

Peace. Easy feeling. Energized. Whole. These are the ways you feel when things are as they should be. As a follower of Jesus, we can look at his life to discover how we might attain to and get that peaceful, easy feeling. Jesus himself was at one with God. He had moments of alone time, talking with God. Moments when he was in the Hebrew Bible and debating those who had different ideas of what it meant to be a peace with God. He served those everyday with whom he interacted. He had close friends who believed in him, shared meals with him, and interacted with him on a daily basis. He worshiped every weekend at the synagogue or the Temple. He was a man at peace with God.

Jesus tells us how to be at peace as well in Mark 12:30-31. He says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength….love your fellow human the same way.” If you are going to allow Jesus to beautifully interfere with us, in what ways do you fulfill Jesus’ calling? I wanted to take a minute to pull back the curtain on my life. While I don’t profess to have all the answers and I am still discovering how to be better transformed into the image of Jesus, here are a few things I do to lean in personally to the calling and I’ve found it to bring me peace and a centeredness that nothing else has done.

In John Ortberg’s Soul Keeping book, he talks about a discussion he had with Dallas Willard. Dallas explains our life has concentric circles. He explains it as follows and I’ll add what I do to discipline these areas of my life.

Dallas says the inner most circle is your WILL. Based on Mark 12, I call it heart. I love to sing. I do a lot of singing in my car while driving. People may look at me funny at any given red light but I just smile because it centers me. Every day, I’m also in the Word of God, becoming intentional about the person Jesus has called me to be. This summer I spent a lot of time in Ephesians. In Ephesians, Paul reminds us of what God has done for us which should lead us to a life transformed. I also love to hang out with friends who encourage and live in uplifting ways. My goal is to surround myself with positive Godly influence. If you are a negative person or always talking poorly about people, you don’t get any time with me. I love creating with my hands. I am made in the image of the Creator so I believe we are called to create. I have a company called Weathered Canvas. You can find it on FaceBook.

The next circle is your MIND. I train my mind by reading both spiritual books and God’s Word. I’ve got written goals published on my desk so anyone on staff can hold me accountable. One of my goals is to read 20 books this year. I also write a blog once a week (which you are reading) and I’m writing my next book. I also teach a parenting class and a marriage class during the course of the week.

The next is your BODY. I committed to working out each week although I’m not doing it as often as I hoped. I have a membership at the local YMCA with my wife. We also walk a three mile stretch around our neighborhood when weather permits. I have committed to getting better sleep so I try to go to bed about 10:30pm every evening. I also try to not eat everything I see, especially after 8pm.

And finally, the last one represents your SOUL. I have a realization that my soul is connected to God so it’s at the center of who I am. It pulls together every other piece of me to fall in step with the story God has set out for me to live. Deep down, my soul longs to be connected to Jesus and people who are also moving in that direction. By doing all three of the things above, I better reconcile myself to become more like Jesus day by day.

Each of these pieces of me, heart, soul, mind and body, come together to make the whole me. It was all created to give God glory and fall in love with Jesus. When you commit to giving God glory in every aspect of your life, it’s only then that you’ll discover peace. My hope is you’ll commit to transformation. It doesn’t have to be over night but one move in a positive direction one day is the step needed to create change in you. Blessings on your journey.

Deep Down Prayer

You’ve had moments when you just had to be there. They were indescribable. It may have been when your child was born or they day you got married or the day you retired. We’ve all had those days when it was difficult to put into words how we were feeling. That’s Jonah 2. Jonah has been thrown overboard during a massive storm at sea and now finds himself in the belly of a large fish that has been provided by God himself.

One thing we learn from this part of Jonah’s story is that God is in control of ALL THINGS. No matter how big or small, God is in control. While you may think God’s abandoned you because of the current storm in your life or the massive thing in front of you that’s going to swallow you whole, know that God’s trying to get your attention. He’s pursued you since the day you were born. He wants you to be a part of his story that is unfolding right in front of you.

So, like Jonah, what do you do when God finally catches up to you? How do you respond when God’s got your full attention?

The first thing we learn in Jonah 2 is that we call to the Lord. In verse 1-6, we discover Jonah calls out to the Lord. When you find yourself in a mess, in a tight spot, in a place where it feels like a dark cloud has covered you, your starting place must be calling on the Lord.

We feel guilt in our lives because we run from God and until we turn back to him or repent, our guilt is going to be overwhelming. Jonah’s story reminds us when we’ve had enough of carrying our guilt around with us, we turn back to God and call on his Name.

The second thing we do is remember the Lord and all he’s done for us. Verse 7 tells us that Jonah remembered the Lord. Every Sunday, we partake of the communion which is the bread and wine which represents Jesus’ broken body and shed blood. We remember what Jesus did for us but our remembering gives us hope for the future. God is faithful. He has been faithful in the past and he’ll be faithful in future. God’s amazing grace is available to everyone who turn back to him.

When you can’t run anymore…when you are out of breath…when you are just plain tired of your decision making and God catches up, what do you do? Well, you worship the Lord with everything you have. Verses 8-9 tell us that Jonah worship God. The best way to deal with guilt is worship. We are called to worship the God of second chances. I mean, why would God give Jonah a second chance? Because God wasn’t done with Jonah yet and Jonah admitted he needed God and repented.

There is a God who has been pursuing you since you were born. You were meant to be a part of His story so stop running. Call on the name of the Lord, remember what he’s done for you through his Son Jesus Christ, and worship him with everything you have! Blessings on your journey.

Rise Up.

Did you ever not want to do something? For example, you didn’t want to go to school so you pretended to be sick. Or you decided to go to the lake instead of work so you called in that your car wasn’t working properly. The early days of my adulthood were that way. I wanted to do what I wanted to do and that didn’t include following God. So I lived a few years in the dark, making poor decisions and wrong choices.

When you read the story of Jonah, that’s just what he does. Jonah is a prophet and preacher for God in the Old Testament and God says, “Get up and go.” Jonah got up but went the opposite direction. Every decision Jonah made put him further from God (or so he thought). Notice the text in Jonah 1 says he got up and went DOWN to Joppa and got on a ship where he went DOWN into the hold. Eventually, he was thrown overboard where he went DOWN into the water and finally DOWN into the belly of a large fish. Instead of rising up to meet God, Jonah went down and went down hard. Jonah’s story reminds me of a few truths about God.

One, you can never escape God. He is always with you no matter where you go. Notice what King David says about God in Psalms 139. “I can never escape from your Spirit. I can never get away from your presence. If I go up to heaven you are there. If I go down to the grave, you are there…even in darkness I cannot hide from you.” No matter what you and I try to do, God is always present. What an incredible blessing! No matter the distance I try to put between me and my creator, he’s always there.

Two, God always wants what’s best for you, even when you don’t believe it. Jonah ran because he couldn’t believe his God would want others to be saved. He was fearful to go because he wanted the town God was hopeful for repentance to perish.

Jonah went through a difficult time because of his decision. He endured isolation, the power of the storm, and refusing his calling in life. It was a growing time for Jonah. Sometimes in my life, I’ve endured being uncomfortable, isolated, and unhappy but those were moments when God was growing me, strengthening me, and helping me become what he’d created me to be. Sometimes God will allow you to feel like Jonah in order to get your attention and grow you.

Finally, Jonah’s rebellion didn’t just effect him. His rebellion sent ripples out to effect others he touched. His own family missed him and the sailors on the boat lost cargo and felt as though they’d lose their lives. Never believe your sin is just confined to you. It effects others in your life as well.

So, what do we learn from Jonah? Realize God is with you always. He is always in pursuit of you. God wants the very best for you so follow his plan for your life. That can be found in the life of Jesus Christ. Finally, realize the choices you make, however seemingly small, affect more than just you. Lean into God. He’s got a plan for you. Trust him and discover the incredible life he has for you. Blessings on the journey.

Speak truth in love.

I know you have been on the wrong end of someone who is trying to correct you but with the seemingly most evil intention. As they reprimanded you, you saw the anger in the eyes, heard the demeaning tone of their voice and the self-righteous pedestal they stood on. You walked away from that interaction with a new realization. You made a decision to stay away from them at all cost. Instead of a friend or family member who had your back, you placed them in a metaphorical phone booth you’d never call if you ever needed anything in life.

Now they thought fear and anger and belittling would get your attention, make you change, transform your direction in life. But in fact, it did the opposite. And, by the way, that is not at all how Jesus calls us to interact with each other.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, reminds us that the tongue is hard to control (James 3) and it’s so true. Paul calls us to a different way of living, the Jesus way in Ephesians 4:29-5:1. Paul reminds us in that text that kind of behavior is of the world and it brings sorrow to the Holy Spirit. That is an emotional response for the Spirit of God. I know God listens to our conversations and he’s hurt that his followers would speak to each other with anger, fear, loathing, and a belittling attitude.

Paul encourages the church (that’s us) to mature in our faith and be more like Jesus. He calls us to ignore cultural tendencies and cultural scripts in Ephesians 4:14 and says when we mature in Christ, we’ll be different. In verse 15 Paul says speak truth to one another in love. It’s so important we continue to speak the truth of how Jesus has called us to follow him but with the understanding first, I have the love of Jesus in my very soul…that my heart is full of love and grace and mercy for those with whom I’m interacting.

Paul shows us what this looks like as he writes the church in Corinth. This congregation had some issues and Paul is trying to get them to be the church that Jesus would want them to be. Although he is correcting them all through the letters, he uses phrases like “my beloved children” and “my brothers and sisters”. He’s reminding them of his love for them and his desire that they act and live like Jesus has transformed them.

So some questions you can ask yourself as you step into the lives of people you’re trying to influence for good. “Is my motive to help or to hurt?” Often we want to “pay back” someone for the way they spoke to us. We are called to help one another.

“Am I saying this because it will make me feel better or help them?” Sometimes, we just want to get something off our chest because we’ll feel better and say it in such a way we leave a train wreck in our wake.

Finally, “What does my tone communicate?” Body language and intonation make up as much as 93% of what we say. Our tone can build bridges or walls. If we truly want transformation, Jesus calls us to build bridges.

So be people who speak truth IN LOVE. Be Jesus. Be kind. Use every opportunity to change the world for the better. Blessings on your journey.

Speak life.

I know you have had moments when you said something and immediately wanted to take it back. There are things that are said at times which are like a bad tattoo. Once it’s there, it’s not going away. There can be forgiveness and remorse but still, the words have been said.

The writer of Proverbs reminds us that we have the power of life or destruction with our words. He writes in Proverbs 12:18, “The words of the wise bring healing.” As people who follow the risen Savior, we, like him, want to bring healing to those we interact with every day.

A couple of ideas that we need to consider in order to bring healing. Stay away from gossip. Don’t speak it or listen to it. We tend to justify it when the person being talked about is not around but saying, “It’s nothing I would not say to them if they were here.” God hates sin. Paul, in Romans 1, lists some things that God does not like. Things like stealing, adultery, murder…and gossip. Yep, it’s lumped in with the other “biggies”.

Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:29, “…Let everything you say be good and helpful.” That should be our goal as followers of Jesus.

Monitor your criticism as well. Paul says in Philippians 2:14ff, “Do everything without complaining and arguing…” We all know people in our family or friend group who just constantly complain and criticize. We tend to steer clear of them when possible. We have the ability with us to bring life and light to the world around us so be that light and extend life-giving words to those you see every day.

We have been given a spirit of “power, and love, and boldness” (2 Timothy) so be bold and be different this week for Jesus. Share your life and light with those around. Be the person in the room people WANT to gravitate toward. Be kind and compassionate just like our Lord. Share the love Christ has extended to you this week. Blessings on your journey.


Have you ever been at a spillway after an incredible storm? The swell of the all the water moving over the spillway is mesmerizing. It can’t be held back. It will flow over the top of the spillway.

James says our tongue is similar. Our tongue is difficult to control which makes it important what we put in our heart. James, the brother of Jesus and early church leader knew how difficult it was to control what we say. He gives several visuals how powerful the tongue is in our relationships.

He likens our tongue to the bit in a horse’s mouth which is able to steer the large animal one way or another. He says it is similar to the rudder on a ship, able to guide it north or south. And he says it’s like a forest fire which is so difficult to control.

You know, we speak on average 16,000 words a day and have about 30 conversations a day. So, as followers of Jesus, we need to be careful and guard our words. How we speak has everything to do with what we put in our hearts. At least that’s what Jesus said. In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus says out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. So it calls us to take a discipleship-type inventory of what we put in.

The call today is to limit your social media intake as well as what we’re watching on TV, Netflix, and the movies. Give it a try. For the next 3 days, or 7 days, or 10 days, replace those things with reading a spiritual blog, reading the Bible in depth, increasing your prayer life and journaling. Rather than sitting on the couch vegging out, find a ministry to plug into and serve someone else rather than your own needs. There are lots of opportunities at any church or in your community.

Our faith should be worth enough to CHANGE the way you do life. Jesus’ words should prompt us to plant positive, healthy seeds in our heart. We want to be people who are affirming, positive, uplifting, encouraging, and healthy resource for others to be around. Give it a try! Don’t wait another moment to getting your heart in better shape to look more like Jesus. Blessings on your journey.

The Power of Words

Each of you has a story about someone who encouraged you, built you up, stuck with you, and empowered you. You remember them and are so grateful for their influence in your life. Equally, you remember someone who degraded you, ignored you, tore you down, and made you feel small. You wished those moments hadn’t happened.

Words have power. Words are important. How you use them is equally important. Take a look at the creation story in Genesis 1-2. God simply speaks things into existence. He says, “Let there be light. and there was light.” That’s how powerful words can be and the person using them.

Words can be a negative as well, even when they are not true. Like in Genesis 3 when Satan speak death into the life of Adam and Eve and all of creation. He questions God’s words and in so doing, the sinful, human condition comes into existence.

But then God sends “The Word” into the world in John 1. Jesus, the Word in the flesh, comes into the world. In Genesis, God speaks light into darkness. In John, God sends light into darkness. And Jesus’ words during his ministry on earth speak life and love and peace and joy and forgiveness to all his creation.

Now, we are made in the image of God which means we too can speak life and love to all those around us. Give is shot. Don’t say, “I’ve already tried it. It doesn’t work.” At least try for a month to live out the image of Jesus in your own life, building others up and not tearing down.

Start with the opening of your day. For 5 minutes each morning, speak the Word of God into your life. Write scripture on post it notes and put on your bathroom mirror to read each morning as you get ready. As you prepare for the day over that cup of coffee, open God’s Word and read the incredible things he’s said to you.

At the end of the day, take a word inventory. How did you speak to people today? If there was a negative, how could you have interacted differently? What attitudes did you experience today? Leaning into how God has called us to imitate his son can change your marriage, relationships with your kids, your work environment and yes, even your own spirit.

Words are powerful. Use them to bring life and love to those around you. Blessings on your journey.

Tripping on Pride

Have you ever had those proud moments in life? Moments when you made the team? Or got the job? Or when she said “yes”? Maybe when you first child was born and you got to take him or her home? There is no issue with having proud moments in life.

However, there are moments when Satan whispers in your ear how life is all about you and you take the bait. It’s in those moments that God takes issue. In the moments when you really want to exalt yourself and there is no care or concern about others.

When we look at the broad stroke of King David’s life (1 & 2 Samuel), we end up realizing what David struggled with is also what we struggle with…PRIDE. If asked, most of us would say David’s greatest stumble would be his adultery with Bathsheba. But 1 Chronicles 21 shows us he really struggled with pride.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, says in James 4, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” In our culture, humility is characterized as weakness. This is just not true. When we follow Jesus and allow him to reign in our life, we realize we are actually empowered greater then we ever could be on our own. James goes on to say in that same chapter, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up in honor.”

It’s a powerful way to represent Jesus Christ in your family, your workplace, and in your neighborhood. So, start today allowing the Spirit to convict you to walk with a humbleness that looks like Jesus. Start today surrendering to God and allow his Spirit to flow through your life. Say “good bye” to comparing yourself to others and just be Jesus to those around you. Humility is not weakness—your strength is God in you. Blessings on your journey.