Tuesday, September 30, 2014


We're on earth to do one thing - bring God glory.  Paul said, 'I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished thru me.'  (Romans 15:18)

The result of continuing on with Jesus and remaining in His love and will is that our joy will ultimately be full.

Full joy.

Who doesn't want a piece of that action?

I do.

'Why do I know so many grumpy, grouchy Christians?'

But if all our abiding and continuing and remaining and walking toward Jesus is for one climactic blessing, to bring us His joy, then why do I know so many grumpy Christians?

Seriously.  Don't you?

That's how you know a person isn't attached to Christ -- they have no joy.  Because joy is a first by-product of the full presence of God in our lives.

And tell me again, "Why wouldn't you want that?'

And be blessed.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Get as close as you can to Jesus and you'll bear fruit.  It's that simple.  You're a branch.  Just stay attached.

Don't even worry about the fruit aspect - because do you know who wants you to bear fruit even more than you do?  God.

So just be a branch.  Just get as near Him as you can by being in the Word, by loving Him, by obeying Him, by serving Him.  Get His life, get His strength, get His energy moving through you and you'll have more fruit than you know what to do with.  You'll be sprouting fruit everywhere.

And be blessed.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


There's a marvelous promise in the 15th chapter of the Gospel of John that's intended for followers of Christ.  More specifically it's for the 'branch that abides in Christ, the Vine.'

He's the Vine; you're the branch.

You'd think a branch and a Christ-follower would then be synonymous.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

I think some people get themselves to church on the weekend (unless the Packers are playing the Bears -- Oh, did I say that out loud?  I was just thinking it -- yet, there it is) and think just because they checked their personal attendance sheet that God is with them.

Now wait -- I'm so glad you come -- I love it when we sing together -- and serve together -- and give and worship and learn together on the weekend -- but no way on that.  No way.

Being in church doesn't mean God is with you.

God doesn't live in the church building.  He lives in the Spirit of God within true disciples of Jesus.

An abiding, remaining, continuing relationship with God comes only from real, genuine faith in Christ lived out on a day-to-day basis.

We cannot be saved by the power of the Holy Spirit and then live in the energy of our own flesh, doing our own thing.  We cannot stop abiding.  We cannot stop remaining.  We cannot stop holding on to Jesus.  We cannot stop continuing in our faith.  We cannot stop walking toward Jesus daily.  We must stay attached to the Vine.

We can't act like independent branches going around trying to sprout our own fruit.  It can't be done, though we have tried it again and again.

The general, overall, expected pattern of the Christ-follower's life is to abide in Christ, who is the Vine - to remain in Him - to continue - to hold fast - to keep walking toward Jesus.

Whatever you do, don't let go.

And be blessed.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


When it comes to understanding the bigness and greatness of God, people tend to go where they should go - to the Bible.  But when it comes to asking questions about ourselves, we increasingly go to the social sciences ...

Am I a first-born, the middle child or the baby of the family?
Am I an introvert or an extrovert?
Am I an otter, a golden retriever or a beaver?
Am I a red, a yellow, a green or a blue?
Am I a thinker or a feeler?
Am I an E-N-T-P or maybe a J-E-R-K?

We hand over our identity to psychology and we turn our backs on Scripture.

'The worst place to start forming your identity is with you.'

Should we use those other tools?  Sure.  They may help explain us, but they're capable of defining us.  They may tell you some things about who you are, but they don't reveal who you are in Christ.

When we want to ask, 'What is my identity?,' let's go to Scripture.  Because the worst place to start forming your identity is with you -- and the next worse place to go is to others.

The best place to define your identity is in Christ.

And be blessed.

Friday, September 26, 2014


I don't know if you've ever just wanted to start over.

I have.

You start the batch of cookies and forget a main ingredient.  Pitch them in the trash and start over.

You begin a letter to someone important to you and it just doesn't sound right.  Scrap it and start over.

Someone's recording a video of you for later posting online and midway thru you go: "Wait.  Can I start over?"

I preached a stinky sermon on the weekend.  Can we all just forget that, come back next week and I'll start over?

But it gets bigger than that.

You speak to somebody in a way you know was wrong and you'd like to shove those words back in your mouth and start over.

You make a decision that affects the lives of others in your family or on your team and it goes badly and you'd like to start over.

Or bigger yet.

'We have succeeded because Jesus already succeeded.'

You make a moral choice that will forever adversely alter everything in your life and the lives of those you love and you'd like to start over.

I love starting over.  The biggest downside of all that is the reason you're starting over is because something went wrong in the first place.  That's the reason you're starting over.

Can we erase the first one and totally forget it and login the second one?

We started that pattern as little children when we asked for a 'do over' and we've continued that right into our adult years.

The good news is that we don't have to live in a world of 'do it better' or 'start over.'  We have succeeded because Jesus already succeeded.

Be free to fail.

And be blessed.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


There's a book by Bo Giertz called 'The Hammer of God.'  Giertz passed away in 1988, a bishop of a Lutheran Diocese.  

The book tells three separate accounts of three different people who discovered God's grace in unique ways.

In one of the stories, a young preacher, troubled by the carnality all around him, begins delivering impassioned and convicting messages regarding the penalties of sin.  Over time, his sermons begin having a significant impact on the village in which he is ministering.  Debauchery, drunkenness, adultery and the like are decreasing.

And yet, it seems brand new sins are showing themselves in spite of it all.  Pride - arrogance - apathy - legalism - self-righteousness - lukewarmness - are taking the place of the former sins.

Beyond that, he begins to doubt his own spirituality - even his own salvation.  As he confesses this to a friend, the friend responds:

"We have thundered like the storm, we have bombarded with the heaviest mortars of God's Law in an attempt to break down the walls of sin.  And that was surely right ... But we had almost forgotten to let the sunshine of the Gospel shine through the clouds.  Our method has been to destroy all carnal security by our volleys, but we have left it to the souls to build something new with their own resolutions and ... attempts at amending their lives.  It is never finished.  We have not become finished ourselves ... I have instead begun to preach about that which is finished, about that which is built on Calvary and which is a safe fortress to come to when the thunder rolls over our sinful heads ... And I find strength for each day for my own poor heart at the fount of redemption.'

'Paid in full.'

I have such a long way to go.  I am no special saint of God.  I have a desperate need for transformation, as do you.

As one pastor said: 'Preachers these days are expected to major in 'moral renovation.'  

We give practical to-do lists rather than announce, 'It is finished.'  You cannot live your way to life.  You can only 'die your way there.'  You can only 'lose your way there.'

I'd like the last word I speak over people every weekend to be the last word God speaks over them - 'PAID ... in full.'

So be it.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


In my junior high experience, I sat with all the other hopelessly un-cool, over-achieving nerds.  One day during class I needed to go to the bathroom.  To get there I had to pass by the desk of a boy I'll just call Louis (because that was his name).  Louis always sat with his legs draped way out in the aisle and he had muscles where I never imagined a 14-year old could have them.  And he was mean.

On my way out of the room that particular day he reluctantly tipped his desk back and let me pass but he recommended that I find a different way back when I returned.

I took super long to empty my bladder that day.  As I re-entered the classroom, I had a critical decision to make.  Should I go back to my desk the long way around, completely avoiding his desk or should I take the shorter but far more dangerous route past him?

In a ridiculous moment of insanity, I decided to go back the exact same way I'd left -- right past his desk.  I'm pretty sure he was stunned I had the nerve to do that and as a reward, he told me I could meet him outside after school.

I ended up emptying my bladder about 17 times that day before school was over.  And when I got outside, after praying he wouldn't be there, I found out I hadn't prayed hard enough because he was.

It was the only time I was in a real fight.  And even though I didn't win, I didn't lose either.  I was a foot taller than him, so that helped.  And after a few pushes and shoves and a couple of half-landed punches, at least one lucky one by me, it was over.  He gave me one last verbal warning and walked away.  For whatever reason, he never really bothered me again.

'Your new heart come fully equipped with the courage of God.'

You've probably already figured this out, but I'm no natural born hero.  I suppose there are some who are naturally courageous -- I'm not.  I've always had a close personal friendship with fear ---- fear of not belonging, fear of being rejected, fear of failing, you name it.

And yet, God calls us to courage and promises to equip us with it.  And He's worked hard to develop it in me.  To be courageous is to be 'strong of heart.'  In other words, fear not.

Everyone who chooses Jesus receives a heart transplant -- and the new heart comes fully equipped with the courage of God pumped into your timid soul.

To follow Jesus is to choose to live in adventure, faith and risk.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


In honor of Truett Cathy -- founder and longtime chairman of Chick-Fil-A -- who died at the age of 93 this week --

- 'Sometimes success is disguised as hard work.'

- 'It is when we stop doing our best work that our enthusiasm for the job wanes.'

- 'Businesses are not dishonest or greedy, people are.'

- 'People want to work with a person, not for a company.'

- 'Many of the unexpected opportunities we encounter are small but significant.'

- 'I try to store any material in my hand, not my heart, so that I always feel free to give it away when the opportunity rises.'

- 'One of the most meaningful truisms I have learned about leadership is that it's all about action.'

- 'I'm a successful business man, but also I like being known that I've been a good father.'

- 'It's easy to lose sight of the things that really matter when we have all the comforts we desire.'

- 'Repetition yields constants.  Constants create culture.'


And be blessed.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


Encouragement ... as many of us enter the final week of the Journey Church Fast . . . 

And be blessed.

(Credit:  David Bowden, youtube)

Saturday, September 6, 2014


It would probably do us well to recognize that it was food that caused Adam and Eve to sin in the Garden.

Any tree, guys.  You can have them all.  Except for that one.  Just one.  Stay away from that one.

'Fasting calls us away from food.'

God didn't prohibit them from touching a certain animal or smelling a certain flower or enjoying a certain stream.  He told them not to eat a particular fruit.

Fasting calls us away from food.  It turns our focus back to God.  It helps us overcome the devil's temptation.  It flexes our self-discipline muscle.

And be blessed.

Friday, September 5, 2014


Now that many of you at Journey Church are full into your second week of the 21-day Fast we called you to  - some of you fasting for the very first time, I realize - let me give both some encouragement as well as challenge going forward.

First of all, congratulations for taking a step of Godly discipline and obedience and responding to the call to fast and pray.  God will show up in heretofore unrealized ways in all of our lives when we do - and to engage in it corporately adds an extra powerful dimension to our lives as believers who worship and serve within the same local 'family' of God.

"Keep going, gang.  You're two-thirds of the way there."

What you're doing right now isn't part of some manmade or human novelty spiritual gag.  Our teaching on it has been light, admittedly, and that's why many know little about its use and benefit.  But it is super gratifying to see so many take up the challenge.  Be blessed.

You know me -- I have to lay it down as simply and unvarnished Level One as I can:  If the Bible says to do something, it's pretty much over.   We want to do what the Bible instructs us to do and it tells us to fast and pray.  No question.

Then we know that prayer combined with fasting gives breakthroughs of all kinds:  relational, circumstantial, directional, financial, health-wise, familial, insight, problem-related and emotional.

And I have to say, I need breakthroughs in my life.  Don't you?  Prayer and fasting bring those into our lives.

Now ... as many of you are on your fasting journey, let me give a more direct word in the way of a challenge.  Now that we're 'in it' and 'experiencing' it and acclimating to it, it might be good to take it to the next level, perhaps even strengthening the fast in this final week.

I have a fairly strong belief that fasting is about food - not about stuff.  I mentioned this in the August 31/September 1 weekend message (you can listen at www.ourjourneychurch.com - click 'media').

I hit on that point lightly during that message but let me bear down on it harder here.

The nouns translated 'fast' or 'fasting' in the Hebrew and Greek mean 'not to eat' - literally, 'no food.'

As we consider fasting 'stuff' - television, the internet, coffee, your mother-in-law -- and I'm not against depriving ourselves of some things as acts of sacrifice (well, maybe not your mother-in-law, but then again, I don't know her) -- but in the main, I believe fasting has to do with abstaining from the almighty breadstick - the hot sauce taco - the Super Size Combo Meal - in other words, food.

We might say, "I'm giving up chocolate."  OK.  Fair enough.  Good.  You probably should anyway.  But the primary purpose of the fast is that you might draw closer to God - gain a spiritual breakthrough - get with Him in prayer - listen more - involve your heart in the matter - discern - get a word from God.

So perhaps, in this final week of the fast, you might consider deepening the sacrifice and deepening the conversation with God at the same time.

My prayers (and fasting) are for you.  I'm so proud of you.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Well, another year of Fantasy Football commences.  Tell me how you think I did in the draft and my chances for success ...

QB - Matt Ryan (Atlanta)
WR - Vince Jackson (TampaBay)
WR - DeSean Jackson (Washington)
RB - Matt Forte (Chicago)
RB - Giovani Bernard (Cincinnati)
RB - Ryan Mathews (SanDiego)
TE - Dennis Pitta (Baltimore)
K - Phil Dawson (SanFrancisco)
DEF - Cincinnati

WR - Michael Crabtree - (SanFrancisco)
RB - Maurice Jones-Drew (Oakland)
TE - Zach Ertz (Philadelphia)
WR - Cecil Shorts III (Jacksonville)
WR - Brian Hartline (Miami)
QB - Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh)

And here we go.

And be blessed.