Whose approval do you crave?
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Who in your life has the most influence over your behavior? The way in which you answer that question will show whom you are really working for. Is it your parents? your friends? your coworkers? your boyfriend or girlfriend? your boss? I hope you answered, “None of the above.” I hope you would say that you crave God’s approval most of all. That seems obvious for a Christian, doesn’t it? Obvious to say, maybe, but hard to do. We all... Read More
Assertive gratitude
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Along the way, expressing appreciation became a passive activity. It’s how we were raised. Grandpa gave us a quarter and Mom said, “Now, what do you say?” We were conditioned to say thanks in reaction to kindness. I am proposing that we become proactive and put gratitude ahead of the curve. That we express appreciation as a way of signaling to others that we anticipate good things from them. Assertive gratitude is the response of people made alive in Christ.... Read More
You know enough right now
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We pastors may be doing you a disservice if we overdo our constant encouragement to become better Bible readers. We mean well—really we do—but we can make you feel too ignorant, too incompetent, and too sinful to exercise a ministry for the Lord. In fact, you are God’s royal priests. You have royal status and a call to ministry that come with your baptismal certificate. You do indeed need to stay in the Word your whole lifetime and never settle... Read More
Be a good manager for God
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You know, in all honesty we’d have to admit that in our prayers we probably do a lot of asking for more things. What we don’t do enough of is asking for wisdom and strength to take better care of the things we already have. We’re all custodians and managers of God’s generosity, and let’s face it, it’s easy to take our possessions, our jobs, and our families for granted and to neglect them as we dream about an upgrade.... Read More
Praying a scary prayer
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I like to pray easy prayers. You know the ones: “Please bless me. Forgive me for the things that are technically a sin but really aren’t that bad. Send your angels to watch over my family. And help the persecuted people all over the world. Amen.” I’m not so good at praying a prayer like David prayed in Psalm 139:23: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Asking God to search, to... Read More
Everybody up!
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What is it about the human condition that makes adults such light sleepers and teenagers able to stay comatose till noon? My father used to come into my bedroom, roll up the shades, and boom out cheerfully, “Rise and shine!” The Epiphany message has that same effect. Everybody up! The glory of God himself can be seen in the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth (epiphany actually means a “shining through”). “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and... Read More
Create a servant culture
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A congregation is not only a place where you can find, develop, and use your gifts. God has gifted you to mentor and influence other people, especially the young. Church is a retreat from the street. It is a place where the contrarian philosophy of Christ can be taught and modeled. Mass media, hip-hop culture, and the streets adore and reward boasting, selfishness, and ego. A church can help people see that being gentle doesn’t mean you become a doormat;... Read More
It can't be undone
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You are forgiven! There. I said it. And I can’t unsay it. And you can’t unhear it. That unequivocal announcement is the good news. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7). We are not somewhat forgiven. We are forgiven. There are no contingencies. God’s grace is rich, and Jesus’ blood scrubbed us completely clean. Then why do we pester God to reconsider? Because we can’t... Read More
Giving gentleness a try
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When you feel wounded by your spouse, it sure is hard to manage the adrenaline rush. Who can resist “payback time”? Who can resist “teaching her a lesson” or “I’ll show him”? If you catch yourself thinking (or saying) things like this, realize that very little teaching and learning happen with anger. You can’t control your partner’s mouth. But you can control yours. “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with . . . gentleness” (Colossians 3:12).... Read More
I'm afraid of death
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Death is creepy. Every film that calls itself a horror movie has death in it. A casket is not a happy symbol in our culture, is it? When people shuffle in line past a grieving family at a wake, their words usually sound sad. “I’m so sorry.” “My deepest sympathy.” “How hard this must be for you.” People put on black clothes to show how sad they are. We look grave because we’re thinking of the grave. How can we... Read More