Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Now and then I have to get a little 'snarky' on here.  

/'snark-ee'/ - informal adjective - 'cranky'

At the Journey Church Christmas Eve service I shared a short list of things which - after 20 years - still annoy me.  Here's a slightly expanded list:

People who cut in line
Drivers who stop at roundabouts
Shoppers who take 20 items into the 6-item Express Lane
Couples who sit on the same side of the booth when there's nobody on the other side
Chronic complainers
Drivers who refuse to make a legal right turn after stopping on a red
The Chicago Bears 
Incorrect use of apostrophe's
People who publish their personal Pet Peeve lists ... 

It goes on and on.  Here's another one that's relatively new to my personal list and the cause of my 'snarkiness' today -- Misuse of the word 'myself.'

Sorry, but I just have to get this off my chest.  People consistently use this word when they should use the word 'I' or 'me.'

Example 1 - by a restaurant waiter:  'Myself will be with you in a minute.'
Example 2:  'My family and myself went on vacation.'
Example 3:  'It was a special day for Lynn and myself.'
Example 4:  'Please contact myself if you need something.'

In these situations, it's all I can do to keep myself's mouth shut.

I'm not sure why people are afraid to use the correct 'I' or 'me' in these situations because one or the other is almost always the right option.

'Me will be with you in a minute' works just about as well as 'Myself will be with you,' which is to say, it doesn't work at all.  

'I' works instead.

'My family and I went on vacation.'  Definitely.

'It was a special day for Lynn and me.'  Yup.

'Please contact me if you need something.' There ya go.

I'm not sure why this bothers me so much, but I'm opening my chest to share it because I know you all care about this, too.  You're probably lying (not laying) awake at nights staring at the ceiling unable to sleep because of this dilemma.  I know I are ... er ... am.

It isn't lost on me right now that maybe one of your pet peeves is people who correct the grammar of others all the time.  Fair enough.  Still, a short lesson is in order ... 'Myself' is what is called a reflexive pronoun, meaning it refers to a subject earlier in the sentence.  

Example:  I'm going to treat myself to an ice cream cone.'  YES!  In this case, you're the object of your own action.

You can also use it to emphasize.
Example: 'I myself saw the murder take place.'  If you take out the word, the sentence doesn't change, but with it emphasis is added.
So OK - that's about it.  I mean no harm.  Sorry if this offends you.  Really, you shouldn't change anything at all.  It's probably just myself.
And be blessed.

Saturday, December 27, 2014


I was just thinking this week that maybe I should have instituted the gift-buying process years ago with Joelene right off the bat as newlyweds by following the alphabet -- year #1 I'd get her something that started with an "A" -- Year #2 something starting with a "B" -- and so on.  It would have made things maybe a little simpler and easier -- then again, maybe it would have been harder, I don't know.  I'm not sure she'd really enjoy an X-ray machine -- although by anniversary #24, maybe we'd be close enough and physically needy enough to appreciate that kind of gift.

In any case, by now I'd be starting over already and on my way to the second round of "G" gifts this year.

But think of the best gifts you've ever received for Christmas that began with the letter 'G.'

Gum?  (We wrap sticks of gum at our house for Christmas.)
Gasoline?  (That's a great gift card idea - feel free to use it.)
Gerbil?  (This would be a gift from your enemy, most likely.)
Garden Gnomes? (There's a double-G gift)
Golf Bag?
Gold Necklace?
George Foreman Grill?
Green Bay Packer tix?  (Boom)
Garage Door?  (OK, I'm stretching now)

One of the greatest gifts you've ever been given has come in the form of a 'G.'  It is a gift that has nothing to do with you, the receiver.  It has everything to do with the Giver.  This gift isn't expensive - and it isn't cheap.  It's free.


Think about grace in your own life.  Chances are you've brushed up against it at some point.

Someone let you off the hook for something when you least expected it or deserved it.
You said something mega-insensitive to your spouse and in the morning they didn't hold it against you.
A parent was super lenient when you broke a major family rule.

Grace always comes as a surprise.

That's what God gave us by sending Jesus - at Christmas - as a Baby.  But the Baby didn't stay a baby - the Baby grew up.  He became an adult who never once sinned as you and I do.  And He ultimately walked willingly to a cross to be crucified for your sins and for mine - in our place - as our substitute - because He loved us - so we could experience amazing grace.  

'God demonstrated His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.'  (Romans 5:8)

And be blessed.

Monday, December 22, 2014


As Christmas approaches this week, it's good to be reminded that the message of Christmas and the Christ-child is simply this:  the free gift of righteousness offered by Jesus is a 'no strings attached' gift.  It's a grace gift offered to unrighteous people who could never get righteous on their own and the only way we can get it is if God gives it to us.

And the gift isn't like the trespass, because while the trespass resulted in condemnation for everybody, the gift of righteousness resulted in rescue and salvation for all who received it.

You had no choice about sin and death - you were born into them.  And that wasn't fair.

But this grace gift from God is yours for the taking.  You just have to open your heart and receive it.  It's based on nothing you do.  That's why it's grace.

And that isn't fair either.

And be blessed.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


There is no doubt that, generally speaking, there's something missing in relationships today - it's missing between husbands and wives - it's missing between friends - it's missing between family members.

What is missing is that little word 'grace' -- favor undeserved -- acceptance unconditional -- giving someone what they don't deserve.

And while I will admit, every now and again it pops up -- little glimpses of it here and there -- typically it's in short supply.  Because if I show grace - if I give them what they don't deserve - I'll let have to let him/her off the hook.  And the unspoken sentiment is that can not happen under any circumstance.  Someone, more specifically THEY, must pay.

To have attitudes that are supernaturally graceful would mean we'd have to go against the grain of current culture - against the grain of most of the relationships we know - and I'm not sure I'm willing to be the one to go first with it.  I'm more likely to measure it out carefully and cautiously until you give me more than I would give you.  I'm more likely to make doubly sure whoever is on the receiving end of my grace-granting is worthy of it.

But every now and then you see it -- some display of grace that is so out-of-the-box that it takes your breath away.  Someone says something or does something that is so anti-normal that you go: '(Insert your favorite gasping noise here) ... there it is ... that's it ... that's what is missing from most of the interactions and relationships I know.'

It isn't very common - but when we see it - we're secretly jealous of it and wonder if we'd respond anywhere near that way if we were in that situation.

Frankly, real grace is that rare and unique.  And when we witness it, something inside you and me goes ... 'Wow.'

The grace-wow toward us is that 2,000 years ago, a gift came into the world.  Christmas is the message of a baby - that is the wow - coming to earth in flesh and blood.  God, in the form of Jesus, left heaven to enter our world as a tiny, vulnerable, soft, crying, innocent, messing-His-pants baby.  Think of it, Jesus -- GOD -- in diapers.

And grace was re-born.


And be blessed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


What is so amazing about Christmas is that God showed up in a body.

No longer behind a curtain.
No longer behind a temple wall.
No longer in a golden box.

He showed up ... in a body.

He showed up in a body -- full of grace and truth.

I think we like truth better than we like grace.  I only say that because most of our actions and statements support that evaluation.  We like truth mixed with judgment.  We like truth mixed with justice.  But we like our truth.

But grace and truth?  Those two don't go together.  And of the two, we prefer truth.

Jesus liked truth also.  He never dumbed it down.

'Don't pay any attention to that.  I know it says that but you don't have to do that.'  

No.  In fact, when you were with Him, you were unbelievably aware you were a sinner.

'Jesus was all about truth.  So relax.'

'You've heard, "Don't murder?"'
'Yes, Jesus - we've heard that.'
'Well, if you've even hated someone, you're guilty.  And do you know how you're not supposed to commit adultery?'
'Yes, Jesus - we've heard that.  We haven't slept with someone who isn't our spouse.'
'OK, but have you ever looked at a woman lustfully?  Then you're guilty.'

Jesus was all about truth.

So relax.

But here's what He did that was super strange.  Once it was clear exactly what you and I deserved, because we've all fallen short, He offered us the opposite.

Every time He turned around it was grace upon grace upon grace upon grace.

There was a short guy up a tree - we all hated him.  Do you know what Grace did?  He went to his house to eat with him.

There was another man - Matthew - despised by us all.  Do you know what Grace did?  He made him one of us - one of His inner circle.

It happened over and over.

There was this woman - we knew what she was.  One day she's caught right in the middle of an unspeakable act.  They throw her down in the street - we know what the Law said - but do you know what Grace did?  He forgave her and sent her on her way.

Every time we turned around, He surprised us.

Hope came in a body.
Love came in a body.
Truth came in a body.
Grace, grace and more grace --- came in a body.

And be blessed.

Monday, December 15, 2014


When Jesus walked the earth, a certain something so poured out of Him that it threatened the people who didn't think they needed it -- and it drew the masses like crazy who saw the certain something as their only hope.

People who said, 'We don't need that certain something' ended up crucifying Him -- and people who said, 'That certain something is what we really need' followed Him by the thousands.

It might be the certain something missing in your marriage or a friendship or a relationship - but the message of Christmas is that God saw how very much we needed this certain something and He gave it to us in the person of His Son, Jesus.

It's a certain something that says: 'I know what you've done and I know how we both feel, but I'm not going to continue giving you what you deserve -- I'm going to do for you what my Heavenly Father has done for me.  I'm going to give you a certain something that you don't deserve.'

At Christmas, God gave us that certain something.  It's what we deserved the least but what we needed the most.

That certain something is --- grace, grace and more grace.

How wonderful is that?

And be blessed.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


I was reading some Politically Incorrect Thoughts about the church this week and thought I'd share a few of them:

- Once a church gets beyond a few hundred people, it becomes dysfunctional and shallow.

- Churches don't effectively engage women in leadership roles.

- Every church should be planning to either add a campus, add a service or plant a church.

- Worship music is too repetitive.

- Shared leadership doesn't work.

- You can't rally people around a vision that isn't specific and measurable.

Notice it said these were politically incorrect thoughts about the church.

Do you agree with any of them?

And be blessed.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Yes, this blog title gives away what Joelene and I did tonight.  It's $5 Tuesdays at the movies so, there ya go.

The movie was "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1."

Could this be a candidate for our 2015 'At The Movies' series at Journey Church?  We'll see.

Either way, there were notable quotes from the movie that are worth repeating.

- 'People don't always show up the way you want them to.'  (Spoken by Head Gamemaker Heavensbee)
This is true, isn't it?  You can put your hope and trust in mortals - or you can put your confidence in One who always shows up right on time every time.

- 'The thing with revolutions is they need to be kindled.'  (Said by President Coin)
We need to keep the fire of the Kingdom stoked inside our hearts.  The flame can easily go out and with it, the soul revolution we count on to keep us pliable to the Spirit and passionate for God.

- 'Everything old can be made new again.'  (Said by President Coin to Katniss)
This is the regenerative, redemptive statement of the Bible - that 'old things are passed away, all things are become new.'

- 'Everyone will want to kiss you, kill you, or be you.'  (By Effie Trinket)
I kind of hope not in my case, in any of these three scenarios - but it's a powerful statement.

- 'It takes 10 times longer to put yourself back together than it does to fall apart.'  (Spoken by Finnick Odiar)
I wish we could all remember this line right before we do that thing we know we'll regret later.  If we can't remember this, maybe another line from the Bible would be easier to remember:  'Be sure your sins will find you out.'

- 'It's the things we love most that destroy us.'  (Said by President Snow)
Anything that comes between us and God is a killer.  "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing."  (John 6:63) 

Powerful - for a movie.

And be blessed.

Monday, December 8, 2014


There was a protest rally in the rain out in front of Bradford High School in Kenosha today at 7 a.m. -- sponsored by Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas (pictured).

The group is in the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee area for the next several days, protesting in front of schools, Catholic churches and other organizations.

It is with great sadness that I am even able to write the truth of this happening right here in our own city.  WBC has gained national and infamous attention for their protests across the country, disrupting cemetery services of military personnel and brandishing large signs that condemn homosexuals.  The internet protection installed in our own church office wouldn't even allow me to go to their church website homepage, listed as www.godhatesfags.com.  The domain was blocked.

We at Journey Church do not suppose to speak for every congregation in our city, but we know many would line up behind these statements -- that the true church of Jesus is called to be the visible representation of Christ to our city -- to be open-armed in acceptance and grace, as Jesus was and is, recognizing that we are all forever hopeless and helpless without a Savior.  Our prayer is that the church in Kenosha becomes famous for the love and grace of Jesus extended to every man, woman and child with abandon.

Some of the youth pastors from our city, including our own Jon Brown, waged the war of love this morning by going to Bradford High and serving hot chocolate to students inside the cafeteria (pictured).  As Pastor Jon said:  Love was allowed inside the building; hate had to stay outside.

To any and all who were hurt or offended by the protests of this morning by WBC, we stand in the gap to give apology.  We love our city and the people who call it home.  Our goal at Journey Church is to 'make it easy for people to find and experience God.'  We do that by how we live - by our actions - our attitudes - loving the way Jesus loved to the very best of our abilities and understanding - some days, imperfectly.

As we commit ourselves personally to the truth of the Gospel, we continually ask God to allow our arms to spread wider and wider in grace and service, regardless of lifestyles, belief systems, values and mores.

This is the Gospel of Christ and this is how they will know we are disciples of Jesus.

And be blessed.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


So great to be part of the Journey Church SERVOLUTION day yesterday.  Well over 200 folks came out to serve all over the city at various locations.

I was privileged to be part of the team unloading cans, containers and packages of food for the 300+ people waiting to receive bags of groceries in the JourneyKids Auditorium.  This is part of Feeding America, with whom Journey Church has joined forces in order to bless our city.  Journey Church is the second largest distributor of food in our county.

Thanks for serving with enthusiasm.

This is what true religion is all about.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


I admire people with great generosity.  There's something so pure about it - so Christ-like.

We're all supposed to be generous - every single one of us - but there are some folks who are inspired to go way far over and above.

It seems, too, that people with the gift of giving also have the gift of getting.  They always have something to give.  That comes from the Holy Spirit transforming their hearts and minds - loosening their grip on stuff and dollars so they can generously give.

'It's fine to have stuff; it's just wrong when stuff has us.'

It isn't that they're richer than you and me either - they aren't.  But when you give up ownership of your money - your time - your stuff - your resources --- 'God, I'll do what You tell me to do --- I'll be a giver --- I'll be generous,' you'll always have enough.

I've asked God to nurture this gift more in my own life -- and I've asked Him to nurture it in yours -- that whenever we see a need in our city -- when we'd find the places of greatest pain in Kenosha - or Northeast Illinois -- places in the earth - Haiti, Burma, Cuba, the Middle East, India -- that we'd have the resources to meet those needs -- hat we'd faithfully and generous do it.

It's fine to have stuff; it's just wrong when stuff has us.  I don't want stuff to own me.  God will give us what we need if we're generous.

And be

Monday, December 1, 2014


Sometimes I like to try to read the Bible as if I didn't know the end of every story.  I mean, when you read the resurrection you know it's going to end great, but not before it gets terrible.  But you already know the punch line before you read it.

If you read the narrative of Daniel, you know there are going to be lions.
If you read about David, you know there's a giant.
If you read about Jehu, you know there's a lot of blood and gore (and know you'll Google that, won't you?)

But wouldn't it be so cool to open the Scriptures and ask God to let it all come alive as if it was the first time you'd ever read it?

You and I could start praying a different kind of prayer this week:  'Father, thank You for the deep roots You've developed in me, but today let the Word of Christ come alive in a way it hasn't for a long time.'

And be blessed.