Lent/Ash Wednesday (…and hump day! woot woot!)

5 Mar

There is no place in scripture (that I have found) that instructs believers to observe Lent. Just as there is no place in scripture for believers to celebrate the birth of Christ (Christmas), or a day set aside for Thanksgiving. However, we are called to observe regularly and celebrate (probably more than once a year) the death and resurrection of Jesus (“The Lord ’s Table” or Communion – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with celebrating Christmas, Thanksgiving, or any other religious/historical/traditional holiday/celebration. But there is the danger of missing the point of the celebration among the traditionJust look at what our culture has done to Christmas and Thanksgiving.

What’s the point of Lent?

Sacrifice (of Christ). Cost (of Christ). Meditation (on Christ). Refocusing (on Christ). Many people accomplish this by purging their lives of “extras” that often consume their time, money, and attention in order to spend more time reflecting on Jesus.

The point is not for you to lose weight or quit smoking…or anything else you’ve wanted to do that you think will make you a “better person”. The point is not “what can I do/give up for ME?” or… “what can I do (or give up) for God?” because Jesus already DID EVERYTHING (and gave up everything) for you (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

I do not see Ash Wednesday in Scripture, although the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in: 2 Samuel 13:19, Esther 4:1, Job 2:8, Daneil 9:3, and Matthew 11:21. I do not see Lent in scripture, but I do see the spiritual discipline of fasting, but again…for the purpose of prayer and focus on God and his strength, wisdom, and provision.


Whether you decide to give something up (or add something) for Lent, let me encourage your focus to be on Christ and his finished work on the cross.



Choices and Decisions

10 Feb

These two words could be used interchangeably, but I believe there’s a difference (thanks to John Hilliard for pointing it out to me). 

The word “Decision” literally means to DECLARE and CUT-OFF, it has in mind the END RESULT, implying a long-term mindset/focus. 

The word “Choice” means the power, right, or liberty to choose; a selection of multiple options, a short term, in-the-moment focus.

My wife and I have made the DECISION (declared) to make healthy eating part of our lifestyle and because of that DECISION we are confronted daily with many CHOICES that will either support or oppose that decision…therefore our food CHOICES have been intentional and have often been sacrificial in order to support our DECISION to eat healthy.

Every choice you make moves your life in a specific direction (whether you are aware of this or not). Are your choices consistent with the decision you made to _______?

Choices reveal a decision.  

As the old hymn sings, “I have decided to follow Jesus”…and that DECISION should wield great influence over everyday CHOICES.

Have you decided what kind of person you will be?

Are you a giving person? Are you a loving and compassionate person? Are you a successful person? Are you an encouraging person? Are you a strong person? Are you a healthy eater? Are you a loyal friend? Are you a faithful spouse? Are you a professional athlete? Are you a peacemaker? Are you an artist? Are you a hard worker? Are you a life-giving mentor?

No one just “happens” to become a certain type of person…they DECIDED to be forgiving, encouraging, supportive, helpful, and faithful…and have put in years of consistently making the everyday CHOICE to be.

The choices you make today will continue to shape the life you live tomorrow. 

Choose wisely.

Surviving the Super Bowl

3 Feb

I work with teens and where there’s teens…there’s pizza and wings. 

Yesterday was the first day that my wife and I started our Whole30-official-header1challenge (click the pic for details) where we’ll be eating “whole foods” for 30 days…pressing the restart button on our bodies, and all this the day before the Junior High Super Bowl Party. I knew it was coming, and I had a strategy…

I want to share 3 things that keep me focused on my goals. I started doing a semi-whole30 type thing back in September when I first read the book, and stayed pretty consistent up until Christmas…and then let loose 🙂 so hopefully some of these tips will help you with your goals.

But First…I have to tell you that I loves wings. My wife made buffalo chicken dip. There was tons of pizza, chips, soda, cookies, brownies and left-overs of all of thee above!!! I would be lying if I said my mouth didn’t water when I opened the crockpot to see how much buffalo chicken dip was left and caught the scent. 

chicken dip*Hold on…I have to get a paper towel to wipe the saliva off my keyboard.*

All right, here are some things that help me stay the course.

# 1. It’s NOT hard. 

-There was a line in the book where the authors beat this point into you! They hate hearing people say it’s too hard. So what do the authors say? *put your seat belt on*  “Beating cancer is hard, losing a loved one is hard, birthing a child is hard…Drinking your coffee black is NOT hard.” Ouch, right!? When you put “eating healthy” in perspective…it’s NOT hard.

#2. I am responsible for 100% of what I eat

-No one is pointing a gun to my head forcing me to eat anything. 

#3. The power of “No”. 

-I had a mentor once tell me to say “No” to at least one thing EVERY day, just to get in the habit of saying it. Our lives are made up of billions and billions of *Decisions and *Choices (which will be the blog topic of another day) and although you and I can’t control many of our circumstances, we can absolutely control how we respond to our circumstances. Saying “No” is a tool many of us don’t use often enough.

These three things have helped shape the path of each day ahead of me…especially days where I know there’s gonna be tempting delicacies. 


Pushing The Reset Button

31 Jan

How many people are completely content with the way their life is?

Is there anything you’d want to change? Is there anything you wish you could do better? Is there anything you are working towards…or know you should be working towards?

Even if someone answered that they are completely content with how their life is, there is always something new to learn, discover or accomplish that has the potential to increase your quality of life or the lives of others.

Tomorrow is February. A new month. A new day. A time of new possibilities, challenges, and opportunities. Time to press that RESET button and live life a little more deliberately tomorrow than you did yesterday. For my wife and I, we have decided to do the Whole30 challenge, based off of the book: It Starts With Food.

We both try to eat fairly clean, but we wanted to push the reset button on our bodies. It’s so easy to order out or go out and consequently…pig out.  And this doesn’t only effect our bodies, but our budget as well. These are two areas of life that most people could benefit in by being a little bit more intentional.

But what is it for you? What part of your life needs the reset button pushed?

Take some time over the next couple of days with your spouse, a roommate, or a close friend and talk about some areas of life that could be done better…that you could work on together!

Heather and I hope to post some of the recipes and food that we’ll be enjoying if you’re interested in cleaner eating. Don’t wait until next January to make a resolution, push the reset button tonight and make tomorrow morning the start of a more challenging but rewarding life!

Get your read on!

23 Aug

How do you grow?

Not physically speaking, but in character and as a person.

Consider this quote by Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, “The only difference between where you are today, and where you’ll be a year from today, are the books you read and the people you meet.

I think it’s safe to read this quote again and replace the word “WHERE” with “WHO”

It’s a pretty simple, yet powerful observation to say that when people interact with and act upon new thoughts and ideas, they slowly begin to change, to mature, to morph. Something happens from the inside-out as a worldview shifts, a new grid for processing information is put in place, or a new love is discovered.

One of the most significant ways to encounter and engage in new thoughts and ideas are from books and getting to know other people (and guess who writes books?…other people).

I thought I would share my reading list for the next couple months with you all, and if you see something you like, pick up a copy and let’s chat about it! In no particular order (yet):

Experiential Youth Ministry Handbook – Losey

Torn – Lee

Story Signs and Sacred Rythms – Folmsbee

Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood – Setran/Kiesling

Everyday Theology – Vanhoozer, Anderson, Sleasman

Ipod, YouTube, Wii play – Laytham

OMG: A Youth Ministry Handbook – Dean

Everyday Apocalypse – Dark

The Seven Checkpoints – Stanley/Hall

Think Orange – Joiner

Unsqueezed – Starbuck (great last name, right?!)

What’s So Great About Christianity – D’Souza

How to Read a Book (I should probably start with this one, aye?)

Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again) – Rice

Love is an Orientation – Marin

Our Favorite Sins – Hunter

7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Covey

Switch – Heath (bros)

A couple years ago I made a new years resolution to read a book a week. I actually ended up reading more than that (you can get a lot accomplished when you don’t have T.V.)!

Because of my recent job change, house hunting and a baby, I probably won’t keep that same pace…but I still don’t watch T.V., so hopefully I’ll still be able to do some significant reading!


We Become What We Love

16 Apr

“If a man knows not what harbor he seeks, any wind is the right wind.” ~Seneca

Most people do not live their lives with a high level of intentionality. Most life is lived in a state of reactionary thoughts and actions.

As we go to school or work it becomes natural and easy to wait for the circumstances of life to determine our mood, motivation, thoughts, actions, friendships/relationships, etc…

I have a mentor who says, “We are often a mystery to ourselves.”

You and I experience thoughts and emotions throughout the day and we don’t know why? 

You and I also engage in many habits, good and bad, and don’t fully understand why we do those things…We just desire to do them, even if we know they’re harmful and detrimental to our lives (health, relationships, character, etc…)

How do we live more intentionally? How do we live our lives “on purpose”?

It begins with an understanding of our HEART (the source of our love, desire, and affections).

“Above all else guard your heart, for EVERYTHING you do flows from it.” ~Proverbs 4:23

Picture your heart as a “love pump” that is continuously generating affections and desires. It is impossible to turn off this pump, love and desires are continually being generated in your life. 

If someone just asked you to sit still and think, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to sit and think about NOTHING. Thinking is always DIRECTED toward SOMETHING.

The same is true with LOVE. You cannot just simply love. LOVE (desire-affection) is always AIMED or DIRECTED at SOMETHING or SOMEONE.

LOVE always has a target. LOVE is always running TO something.

When Jesus said that ALL the law and prophets hinges on the one great commandment to “LOVE the Lord you God with ALL your heart, soul, mind, strength…” What Jesus was communicating is that the TARGET – DIRECTION – END GOAL of our LOVE should be AIMED at the Kingdom of God.

Whether you believe it or not, you and I operate (navigate through life) based off of what we Love, desire, feel, and value.

We are all born as narcissists. You and I were born thinking that life is all about us and our needs and wants. God is continually working by His Spirit and His Word to direct our hearts away from OUR SELF and towards HIMSELF.

I pray we are careful with where we direct our affections…because we will eventually become what we love.

For more good reading on this topic, check our Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith.

The Eli-Samuel Relationship

9 Apr

1 Samuel 3:9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

If you remember the story of Eli and Samuel, you will know that Eli was a priest who mentored a young boy named Samuel.

One night Samuel was awakened from his sleep by someone calling out his name. He ran into the room where Eli was, but Eli said, “I did not call you, go back to bed.” After this happening a couple times, I can imagine Eli wondering to himself, “What’s going on with this child!?”

But Eli discerns that it’s the Lord speaking to him, so he instructs young Samuel in how to listen, respond, and listen…

There are many different aspects of being a disciple and making disciples, but one very important one is hearing God’s word, and helping others listen to what God is saying to them. I believe this Eli-Samuel relationship is a great picture of discipleship. Helping others learn how to be with, listen, and respond to the Lord. 

Many times I have found myself trying to “be” the Holy Spirit in someone else’s life, and proceed to dish out my wisdom without ever first instructing (encourage, urge, teach) someone else how to be still and listen to the voice of God.

Our goal is not to make disciples that follow us…but to make disciples who follow Jesus.

Do you have someone in your life that constantly pushes you back into God’s presence?

Are you becoming the person who is able to instruct and encourage others to be still and listen to the voice of God and how to respond to His call? 

Discipline vs Wrath

2 Apr

Punishment is too broad of a word.

When a child does something wrong, he/she  may experience punishment.

When someone deeply offends you, you may want them to experience your wrath. 

But what about discipline? I heard an excellent definition of discipline the other day that I’d like to share with you.

Discipline holds a vision for the future. 

With this definition, discipline can take many different forms.

It could take the form of punishment for a disobedient child: If Parents have a vision for who they want their child to become, and the child’s actions don’t line up with that”vision for the future”…then the parent’s correct/punish/discipline their child.

Discipline also takes the form of boundaries: If I have a vision for how much I want to weigh in the future, then I will put boundaries in place that will help shape the path to my desired goal. These boundaries could look like regular exercise, limiting sugary foods, and not eating after 8pm. 

Wrath is very different than discipline. Instead of holding a vision for the future, wrath is driven (and sometimes blinded) by anger. When wrath is poured out, it is not hoping for reconciliation in the future. Wrath is focused on satisfying its anger. 

For those of us who are found in Christ, we know that we do not fear the wrath of God. God’s wrath was satisfied by Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross. We can take comfort in verses like Romans 8:1 “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ…”

But, we do have verses like Hebrews 12:6  “the Lord disciplines the one he loves…”

God loves you and has a vision of the future for what He wants you to be! He has prepared good works in advance for us to accomplish (Eph 2:10)! 

Take comfort in these words and remember  “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” -Hebrews 12:10-11

I hope this helps you as you are put in the place of administering discipline and also…

Don’t be afraid to Yield to discipline (whether from your parents, your boss, or God).

Digging for Idols

26 Mar

Digging for idols?  Why would we need to dig for something that traditionally has been so evident?

If you visit places of worship in other cultures, it may be easy to observe stone, wood, and precious metal sculpted into different animals, people, or made up creatures. 

Traditionally and in biblical times, idols have not been something that is hidden, but rather something that is given a place of prominence for everyone to see and worship. 

Today, in America, most idols have fled places of worship and invaded homes, and although we may not find idols given a place of prominence inside our homes, they have found their way to “the best seat in the house”…our HEARTS

I have a mentor who says, “We are often a mystery to ourselves.” We sometimes don’t know why we do the things we do, say the things we say, and love the things we love. You and I even do things we wish we wouldn’t do…AND we DON’T do the things we often WANT to do. The apostle Paul affirms this in Romans 7.

This is because the strongest direction/affection of our heart is being won over by “hidden” or silent idols. Which is why it is important to “dig” and identify these idols before we can fully devote our attention and desire towards God. 

If the idols are never “found” they can never be removed, and remain dormant until will-power is exhausted. Love/desire/affection always wins over will-power.

Tim Keller, a pastor in New York has come up with ten questions to help identify idols:

10. What consumes most of your thoughts and feelings?

9. What motivates the things that you do?

8. What are you most afraid of?

7. What brings the highest amount of frustration or anger into your life?

6. What is one thing that can change your mood in a second?

5. What would your friends say is your favorite topic of conversation?

4. What are some things that you feel you can’t live without?

3. What brings you solace?

2. What do you yearn for?

1. What is one thing that you wish God would do for you? 

When you begin to answer these questions, you’ll be able to find your idols…but that’s just the first step. 

The second step is a questions of RESPONSE. 

And ultimately a decision of YIELDING…to God or to your own desires, comforts, and pleasures.

Encouraging Silence

19 Mar

Our technology mediates or stands between us and the real world…the physical world. 

T.David Gordon, a professor and author wrote, “We have become acclimated to distraction, to multi-tasking, to giving part of our attention to many things at once, while almost never devoting the entire attention of the entire soul to anything.”

I would argue there is no such thing as “multi-tasking” but rather “multi-dividing”…a characteristic of giving portions of ourselves away. (what else are you doing while you’re reading this? How many other “windows” on your computer are open?)

Distraction has become the “Norm” for everyday life…during conversations, meetings, while watching t.v., cooking dinner, playing, eating, exercising…we expect to have some form of distraction competing for the wholeness of who we are. (This email may very well be a distraction to you…keeping you from work?)

How many times have you been in the middle of a conversation with someone, and they hear a beep or feel a buzz, and they whip out their phone…(I’ll admit I’m guilty of this). I’m not saying multi-tasking is bad and should never be done…I play the guitar AND sing. I cook dinner AND hold a baby. I’ve got some instrumental prog-rock playing in the background as I type this…

BUT, when it comes to our walk with Christ, our prayer life, and our meditation on scripture…do we create space where we are able to offer our entire soul and attention? Learning how to be alone and silent with our thoughts in this age of digital distraction is quickly becoming a lost art. 

some quotes to consider:

“All of man’s miseries come from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.” -Blaise Pascal

“In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” -Isaiah 30:15

“Just as we cannot force a plant to grow but can take away the weeds and stones which prevent its development, so we cannot force anyone (even ourselves) to such personal and intimate change of heart, but we can offer the space where such a change can take place.” -Henri Nouwen

May you seek to YIELD yourself,  your time, to be separated from distraction and noise at some point today to consider the great themes and truths of scripture, and hear clearly from God.