How to Love

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.8 Love never fails.

1st Corinthians 13:4-8a

The english word for ‘love’ is a catch-all word that ranges from things we like to things we absolutely adore: “I love this hoodie, I love this restaurant, I love those shoes, and I love my wife (husband, parent, etc.).” Certainly ‘love’ doesn’t mean the same thing in all of those situations.

Our word for ‘Love’ doesn’t carry as much weight as it does in the greek language. Therefore passages like this one in 1st Corinthians 13 lose the weight and depth of their meaning.

There are four ancient greek words that can all be translated in english as ‘love’. The greek word that is translated as ‘love’ in the above passage is the word agapē. Agapē is the type of love that is unconditional. It’s the love that God loves each of us with.

This passage is not about God’s love for us, but if we look at this passage and think about the way God has loved and continues to love us – how patient He was/is with us, how kind He is, He doesn’t keep any record of our wrongs, He always protects us, He trusts us with His work, He hopes for us and perseveres with us as we struggle – we can start to see the weight of what 1st Corinthians 13 is telling us to do.

It’s almost like Paul, who wrote this letter to the Corinthian church, is saying, ‘Remember how God loves us? Now go and do likewise.’ For if we truly know God’s love for us, we will be able to truly love like He loves.

Only through the power of Christ can we reciprocate agapē love.

We can’t look at the above definition of what love is and resolve to get better at each aspect. That’s not how unconditional love works. We must lean more heavily on the Holy Spirit so that the love we continuously receive from God is the same love we continuously give in every thought and interaction.

How can we lean into God’s agapē love together as a family/friend group?

Thank you Lord, for your love that we don’t deserve. May we see and know how deeply you love us so that we can show others your unconditional love. Open our eyes to see you more clearly. In Jesus name, Amen.

Lost Grace

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

Grace is a concept most Church goers are very familiar with. It’s a very common word to throw around in Christian conversation. But has grace lost its true meaning in our lives?

We might already know that the definition of ‘grace’ is undeserved approval, but grace is almost completely unobservable in our culture. Everything we seek to do has requirements for us to get approved or accepted into. We have to have the best grades and the best test scores to get into the best colleges, our resume has to be great to land a great job, our credit score has to be in a certain zone to get the best interest rates, and so on.

Everything we’ve ever been a part of or applied for only approved of us if we deserved it.

That is how it has always been, and that is how it was in ancient jewish culture. But then Jesus came along extending His approval to the street rats of his society.

Jesus really messed with the Jewish leaders, including a guy named Saul.

Saul worked so hard for and intensely pursued the Law of God that he thought he deserved God’s attention more than those who did not live like him. So he vigorously sought to kill those who were following Jesus and experiencing God without the Law of God. Then one day when he was on his way to kill more Christians, Jesus revealed to Saul what being saved from sin really looked like. That experience changed him so much so that he changed his name to reflect how God changed his heart.

A few years later he wrote Ephesians 2:8-9. In those verses he is saying that no one can earn this gift from God. If you try to earn it you’ve lost it because no good work can clean us up enough for God. Only a perfect God can clean us perfectly for Himself. And that is what He has already done through His Son’s sacrifice. It doesn’t matter if we have good or bad grades, or how great of a job we do at work and at home. Nothing disqualifies us from or qualifies us for bring approved by God.

We know that is true, but we often live like we have to try harder before we can accept the grace of God. His grace can’t mix with our effort, because we aren’t able to recognize where His grace begins and where our work ends. When we can’t see Gods grace in our lives, we become prideful in our efforts and justify our actions even if it leads to hurting or murdering other people; thats where Saul was before He became Paul, and thats where we are when we mix Gods grace with our effort.

His saving grace comes from surrender to His work in our lives. He does the work, we join His party.

What should God’s underserved approval mean for us?

Kingdom Perspective

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

There is a book by former Mathmatician/Philospher, Edwin A. Abbott, called Flatland. This book is a series of conversations with one dimensional, two dimensional and three dimensional shapes. A triangle that has lived its entire life in the two dimensional world has no experience with and therefore no way to comprehend a one dimensional or three dimensional reality. If a three dimensional sphere passes through a two dimensional world, the two dimensional shapes would only be able to think about and explain it in two dimensional language, they wouldn’t be able to conceptualize what going up or down means.

In the same way, earthly things are all that we know. Therefore, in order to set our minds on things above we need a fundamental shift in the core of who we are. We need new life.

That’s why we are reminded throughout the scriptures to “walk by the Spirit’, ‘seek first His kingdom’, ‘set your minds on things above, not on earthly things’, etc. Our core beliefs need to center around God and His kingdom and not on earthly blessings. A person who has been spiritually raised with Christ thinks and views everything with eternity in mind. Francis Chan calls it living ‘in light of eternity.’ When our core beliefs shift from living in this world to living ‘in light of eternity’ our lives start to become more God filled and less ‘me’ centric.

When our lives are filled with God, setting our hearts and minds on the things that are above no longer becomes something we have to be reminded of, it becomes a crucial part of our core beliefs. We are no longer living for the world, we are living as people who have been raised with Christ.

How do our lives become more God focused and less ‘me’ focused?

Prayer: Lord, help us to understand the truth of who you are and the realities of heaven. May we be known as people who have been with You because we have set our hearts and minds on You. Holy Spirit, make us new. Amen

Children of God

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1st John 3:1

The greek word that is translated as ‘love’ in 1st John 3:1 is the word agapē. Agapē love is unconditional. In this verse the context implies that His love is so great because we don’t deserve the gift and affection of being His child.

We don’t deserve to be a child of God. Yet that is what we are.

Imagine an artist makes an amazing piece of art and then adopts it as his child. That’s weird but it is a possibility in our time. Now imagine an artist makes a piece of art that turns out worse than he originally created it to be, then he adopts it. That’s insane.

But when it comes to being the adopted child of the Creator of the universe, we take that for granted.

As created beings that almost always choose ourselves over Him, we don’t deserve anything from God but to be thrown away.

Yet He loves us, and made a way for us to be His children through Jesus.

There are no words to describe how astonishing that truly is. Being a child of God should be so freeing that we are unrecognizable.

How graceful will we be when we truly understand who we are in Christ? How generous will be we when we realize that our father owns all the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10)? How sacrificial will we be when we truly comprehend how costly the sacrifice of Jesus was for us to be children of His Father?

Children of God start to care less about the comforts of this world and start to care more about the hearts, souls, and minds of the people around them.

Will the revelation of being a son or daughter of God change you?

Waiting on God

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. – John 14:12-14

One of the truths in the Bible that perplexes many people is the promise from Jesus that ‘whoever believes in [Him] will do the works that [Jesus had] been doing’. Is there a reason that we don’t see many of the things Jesus and His disciples were doing? Was His supernatural power only for a time and now there is no need for it?

The essence of the issue can be found in Acts 1 when Jesus was talking with His disciples, ‘“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.’ (Acts 1:4 emphasis added) In Luke 24:49 Jesus says, ‘but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

In our American culture we have a hard time waiting for anything. We are a fast food culture, we want to be stimulated emotionally and mentally as much as humanly possible. Everything we could need or want is right at our fingertips and available instantly. We don’t even have to leave our homes anymore, we can get everything delivered to us.

That makes waiting on God counter cultural and counterintuitive. There’s too much work to be done and too much uncertainty in what God will accomplish.

However, waiting on God is also the only way for true life, freedom, and power to be ours. All of the great and influential Christians in history spent significant time with God before and/or after they did their work.

There is no time table for the power of God to manifest itself in you, but the Word of God never comes back empty. Wait.

Are you willing to wait on God to speak in and through you?

Jesus, you promised us that we would be doing the works you did and even more. Forgive us for wanting your blessings without wanting to spend time with you. Help us to know the sweetness of your presence and may we be known as people who have been with you. In Your name we pray. Amen.


Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2nd Corinthians 3:17-18

In Exodus 39, when Moses was coming down from speaking with the Lord
and receiving the law on Mount Sinai, his face was radiant because he spoke with God. The Israelites were afraid to approach Moses because of the radiance of God on his face. So Moses wore a veil to ‘prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away.’ (2 Cor 3:13). However, when we turn to the Lord through Jesus, the veil is taken away so that every person who turns to God has access to His radiant glory.

When Jesus ascended to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to us so we could live in the same freedom Jesus lived with on the earth. But how do we walk in the freedom of Christ?

As we see in the above scripture, we walk in freedom by contemplating (looking at, thinking about, beholding) the Lords glory. Notice that it doesn’t say that we get freedom by doing good things. It says that freedom comes from the Spirit who transforms us into His image as we contemplate His glory.

Freedom doesn’t happen by trying harder. Freedom of heart and mind happens when we focus our thoughts on God and His glory.

When we focus on His glory, the reality of His power becomes so clear to us that all of our worries and problems fade away in the light of His radiance.

This is the beginning of the Resurrected Life.

Seeking Jesus on this Tiny Planet

This past week as I was flying from Atlanta to Detroit, I looked outside my window and saw buildings and other human ideas 30,000 feet below me. As the plane flew over thousands upon thousands of homes, skyscrapers and people, I had a perspective of humanity I had never seen before.

Looking down from 30,000 feet, I thought about all the problems we have and all the things we struggle with and how insurmountable they seem, and then I thought about how truly small those issues are. I also thought about all the times we falsely think we are so important and think that people should seek out our advice because we are so fashionable and smart. 

And then I thought about God. 

To God it must seem comical to watch all our toil and all our ideas come and go over our very brief existence. It also must be quite painful to see people seek satisfaction in the accumulation of wealth, in the expression of their sexuality, and in many other selfish ways. 

Looking out that plane window, I couldn’t fathom how so many of us (including myself) can go through life and selfishly seek all that we think will be fun and fulfilling and still think that God will forgive us our sins and bring us to heaven. That’s very presumptuous of us to believe about the God of ALL things.

At 30,000 feet above the earth I saw two options. Either we really are insignificant, which means there is no point to search for our individual purposes in life, or God really cares for us, and that means that we need to put away all things that distract us from following Him completely. 

The Apostle Paul took that thought a step further, and in my window seat on the airplane I understood what he meant in Philippians 2:3-8 a little more fully:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Philippians 2:3-8

If the Creator of the universe didn’t count being God as a reason not to join life on this tiny planet and become subject to a humiliating death, how much more should we humble ourselves before Him and others? Selfishness/self-importance and conceit can have no place in the heart of a Christ-follower. 

There are two spiritual truths I learned on that airplane. 1) Our universal smallness should humble us. 2) Jesus humbling Himself and joining our tiny planet should empower us to live as powerfully and as selflessly as He did. 

A challenge for myself (and for anyone who reads this blog) over the next couple days, and again in a month, is to 1) take a self-inventory of the things in my life that distract me from following Jesus completely and/or feed my self-importance, 2) to rid myself of them and 3) pray for opportunities to seek the interests of others. 

May God reveal all areas in our lives that we are holding back from Him and help us as we seek Him more and more. Amen.

Connecting with Our Students in a Messed-Up World

I am a Millennial. I grew up in a time of rapid change. When I was a younger the cellphone companies were fighting to have the smallest phone possible. In middle school if you had the ‘Razr’ phone you were really cool. Now, if you ask a student if they know what a ‘Razr’ flip-phone is they will look at you like you belong in a museum.

Every generation has challenges they must endure that the other generations don’t deal with, and each generation has something they are better at then each of the other generations.

The generation of students age 14 and under are being labeled as ‘Screeners’ by an increasing number of researchers. Screeners are being raised in a ‘Smart’ world where information (fake and real) is constantly at their fingertips. Screeners see the world through the gateway of their smartphones.


The world to the screeners has always been a mixture of mass shootings and viral videos. Consequently, they are more fearful and less focused.

This is where we find ourselves. Trying to figure out how to connect with and teach a generation that lives life from behind a screen.

How we connected with our students 10 years ago doesn’t work as well as it use to.  The principles are the same we just have to adapt our practices. We must be creative and use the resources our students have to offer. They can teach us to use their tools and share their experiences in order to connect with them better.

Humbling ourselves to allow those we are trying to teach, teach us, brings us the connection we need for a Christ-centered relationship.

We are earning the right to be heard by allowing our students to speak into how we build relationships with them.

Giving our students the opportunity to teach us shows them that we really do care about them. We may not completely understand their culture or the feelings of fear that they are growing up with, but its important that we don’t label these differences as being wrong, even if they are somewhat misguided. Labeling their differences and strange interests as wrong can create a chasm between us and them.

But as we humble ourselves so that our students can teach us how to connect with them, eventually they will give us the opportunity to correct their misguided beliefs founded on the things they see on and hear from their screens.

I am not saying we shouldn’t give them boundaries. My hope is that we would give them boundaries, but understand that they know so much more about their world than we do. From that understanding we should ask them to open our eyes to the things they see. And when we do so, we may see things that shock us. If we show that shock visibly, it may create a rift in our relationships with our students for a long time. 

As we navigate this world with our students, may be be as unshockable as Christ is to our sin, and continually humble ourselves as we connect with our students in this messed-up world.


How Christmas Exposes My Greedy Heart

The Christmas season has become tough for me. There are so many great things about this season, but for me, the tough part is all of the great deals. I want to be generous and give my whole family and their friends presents, but I’ve found that there is a fine line between being generous and encouraging materialism. Not to mention all the nice things that I could buy for myself!

George Carlin used to do a bit called ‘A Place For My Stuff,’ and in his book Brain Droppings he said,

“Cause that’s what this country is all about. Trying to get more stuff. Stuff you don’t want, stuff you don’t need, stuff that’s poorly made, stuff that’s overpriced. Even stuff you can’t afford! Gotta keep getting more stuff.”

I wonder if our culture thinks the 10th commandment is “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17). Because if you watch TV or use any other form of entertainment during this time of year, you are encouraged to covet the things someone else has.

When my wife and I watch TV we are bombarded with messages that tell us that we don’t have enough money, a good enough phone, a nice enough car or a big enough house to be content. When we use Instagram and Facebook it’s easy to believe that our lives aren’t as cool, fun and exciting as other peoples. So we think we need to buy more ‘stuff’ we can’t afford, and buy a bigger house that has shiplap and an open layout (I think I’ve watched too much Fixer Upper). 

Commercial Christmas exposes us to the lack of contentment we actually have in Christ.-2

It makes me think about the difference in how the early church treated their friends and neighbors. In Acts 4:34-35 it says, ‘There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.’

The early Christians understood how inconsistent it was to collect stuff in large houses when their brothers and sisters were struggling to find food, to pay bills, and/or couldn’t afford shelter. The struggle for them was all about how they can make other peoples lives better, just like Jesus did for them. 

If they really believed in Jesus, then they couldn’t follow Him and still hold onto the ‘stuff’ they had.  They counted the cost of what it takes to follow Jesus, and found contentment in Him rather than their possessions.

How firmly are we holding onto the ‘stuff’ we have?

Commercial Christmas exposes us to the lack of contentment we have in Christ.

The real Christmas was about sacrifice. Jesus becoming human was the beginning of a lifetime of sacrifices that results in our newness of life.

Have I really counted the cost of following Jesus? Have you?


To Bring Change, We Have To Live Changed

‘Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.’ Proverbs 16:3 NIV

‘‘Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.’ Proverbs 29:18 NASB

‘And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.’ Habbakuk 2:2 ESV

Many of us have great ideas and plans for how things should go, how our life could get better or how someone else should use their resources to do something significant. But most of the time we don’t take the steps necessary to give our ideas a fighting chance. Part of that is because we dont have a clear vision for our lives.

To create a clear vision for our lives we have to first understand our individual purpose. I’ve heard it said that, our individual purpose is where our passions and an earthly need meet. Pastor Bill Hybels calls it ‘Holy Discontentment.’

One way to understand your individual purpose is to ask yourself ‘what passions do I want to mark the remainder of my life?’

There are many things that each one of us likes to do and many things we are passionate about, but if it doesn’t meet a need or can’t be apart of the remainder of your life, it won’t fulfill our individual purpose. That doesn’t mean that we can’t use those other passions and skills to help us accomplish our main passions at certain times, it just means that our short term skills and passions are not going to fulfill our life purpose.  

For example, an earthly need that I am passionate about is being there for youth during the traumatic developmental stages of their lives. I’m also passionate about sports, fitness, leadership and most importantly, Jesus. These passions gave birth to my personal Vision Statement: Bring hope and healing to youth through fitness, leadership and God.

For me that statement summarizes my passions and skills, it also gives me a lense I can look through to examine my life trajectory according to my individual purpose.

If everything I do, every job I take, every decision I make doesn’t flow through my life vision then something needs to change.

When I was irresponsible with my passions, I felt like I was going through life aimlessly looking for the best paying career job. I took random jobs that didn’t reflect my passions, and made choices that had no future value. Consequently I wasn’t able to work to fulfill my individual purpose.

I wasn’t committing myself to the Lord, so my main passions and giftings went unnoticed (see Proverbs 16:3).

I didn’t have the ability to make good plans because I didn’t have any idea why God made me. 

The key to a successful life before God is to find out how your skills and passions can be used to meet someone’s need. Just as Romans 12 says,

‘For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.’ (Romans 12:4-8)

What part of the body are you? We’re not all called to be missionaries or pastors, but were all called to be members of each other and to use our gifts and passions to be functional members of the body of Christ.

What causes are you passionate about? How can you use your gifts to impact others? 

Find a couple of people to work together with, who can point out ways that God has gifted you with a skill, passion or a ‘holy discontent’ that He has purposed you to use for His glory.