Freaky Family – Part 2

Freaky Family – Part 2

Normal isn’t working, especially in our families.

Think about it… What’s normal look like in our families?

  • Disconnected: Parents and kids don’t talk, don’t share, and don’t have relationships and are living alone under the same roof.
  • Overcommitted: Kids have two-hours of practice and three hours of homework and parents are exhausted just trying to keep up.
  • Debt: Kids playing with (and breaking) expensive toys that parents paid too much for on a credit card that will continue to be a financial burden for months to come.
  • Unloved: With increasing commitments, overwhelming stress, and vast distractions our kids are leaving the home to look for love and finding it in places we don’t want them to.

Do you want a normal family? I don’t.

In my last blog I shared ways that every family needs to be different. I’m convinced the six things I shared are absolutely necessary for every family.

Here’s the tension about being different:
When the Holy Spirit leads us there is no cookie cutter kind of different.

Today I’m going to share some topics every family needs to thoughtfully and prayerfully approach, because without a plan we’ll live outside of God’s design in the default of normal.

Prayerfully consider how your family will approach these topics:

#1 – TECHNOLOGY

There’s no simple answer to technology these days.

For parents just a generation ago the question pf technology was answered as simply as “How many hours of TV will you let them watch each day?”

These days we need to consider television, tablets, laptops, phones, internet access, social networks, and how they all work together.

Here are few questions you need to have answers for:

  • At what age will your kids be allowed to own certain kinds of technology like tablets or laptops?
  • How and when will they be able to use them once they have them?
  • Will you restrict their internet access with a filter? Will you record their internet activities with a monitor?
  • How old will your kids be when they get a cell phone?
  • When will you let your kids have social network profiles? How are you going to monitor them?
  • Will you have technology-free nights as a family to encourage more interaction?

These are important questions to answer NOW.

In the heat of the moment, as your kids grow older and normal families do what normal families do, the pressure will mount to be normal when there is no family identity that’s created around a different plan.

If you haven’t identified your unique brand of freaky, you’re kids and your family could become victims to normal.

I learned this lesson coaching football. Before the season starts, a good football-coaching staff will go through different scenarios and decide what they will do when they get to that moment. They do this so they can look at the problem objectively, without the stress and influence of the moment. The benefit of this approach is simple: when decision has to be made, the decision has already been made.

Technology isn’t evil and it can be a powerful tool, but when it thoughtlessly consumed it has a devastating effect on family culture. Your prayerful approach to technology will have a powerful impact on your family.

For further reading, I’d suggest “Alone Together” by Sherry Trukle.

#2 – MONEY

You don’t have to look very far to see the evidence that we’re raising kids that have no concept of money or financial management.

The greatest reason this is happening is that we, as parents, can’t manage our money. We’re living beyond our means, buying stuff we don’t need to impress people we don’t even like, and going in debt at an unprecedented rate.

Why is that an important issue? Because however we address money, we pass that on to our children!

“Good people leave an inheritance to their grandchildren, but the sinner’s wealth passes to the godly.” Proverbs 13:22 (NLT)

Here are a few questions that it’d be good to talk about and pray through:

  • As a family, will you give your kids an allowance or have them work for you on commission?
  • Will you help your kids save for their first car or will you buy it for them as a present?
  • Are you going teach your kids to give and save before they spend?
  • How are you going to help your kids understand and feel the dollar value associated with their purchases?

I hope you’re with me on this… I don’t want what’s normal for my kids financially. Since we don’t want normal, we’re going to have to be different, and that different is going to be far better!

For further help on this matter we suggest, “Smart Money, Smart Kids” by Rachel Cruze and Dave Ramsey.

#3 – EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES

I believe that there is great value in the immense offerings of extracurricular activities today: youth sports, martial arts, competition cheer, dance, music lessons, gymnastics, art lessons, and the list goes on and on.

As a kid I feel like I benefitted from the competition of youth sports. I learned how to win and lose, how to work for something, and that it’s ok for other people to be better than me at things. Those are powerful lessons!

What’s changed drastically since I was kid is the amount of time needed for these activities. What was one practice and one game a week has turned into three or four practices and two or three games a week. That’s a significant change in the level of commitment for our time!

Here’s something that you need to understand about the emergence of all these options: someone is making money off of providing these options for your child. These organizations will put the pressure on you to make decisions for your child and their level of commitment.

Let me remind you of something:
As a parent, no one can commit your family to something except you.

Even with their increasing commitment, I think that many of these options can be wonderful things for our kids.

Here are few questions you need to prayerfully and thoughtfully consider:

  • How much time are you willing to give for each child for an extracurricular activity?
  • How many nights will you commit to be home each week?
  • How many activities can each child be involved in? During each season? During the year?
  • How much money are you going to invest as a family into these activities?
  • How are you going to balance your other commitments and your commitment to these activities?
  • When there’s a conflict between your commitments, what takes priority?

Here’s why these questions matter significantly:
You’re teaching your children what matters in life in the way you navigate these options. The way you spend your time is a value statement to your children.

If you give their secondary activities primary importance, you’re teaching them to find value in the wrong places. That’s normal, and we don’t want to be normal!

Eternally… If we don’t teach our kids to find their ultimate meaning and significance in Jesus, we’ve missed the point entirely.

For further reading, we’d suggest “Boundaries” buy Cloud & Townsend.

#4 – CULTURE

There’s never been more ways to connect to culture.

We can watch TV shows on Netflix and Hulu. Listen to albums on Spotify or download them from iTunes. We can stream movies over the internet.

With all of that access comes the good and the bad. The freedom of the internet has given a rise to a remarkable amount of uncensored media, and the dangers that lie there for our kids cannot be understated.

There are few things questions that find more basis in the Scriptures than how we interact with our culture.

In the Old Testament, God created a different culture in the nation of Israel. They stood out. They were different. They had different customs, and through that difference God created their identity.

By the time Jesus shows us, that difference is primarily defined by distance: the God-followers stayed away from those who didn’t follow the religious laws. That wasn’t necessarily how God wanted it to be, so Jesus showed us a different way.

Those “God-followers” called Jesus a “friend of sinners”, because Jesus closed that gap and lived with those who were far away from God. (Matthew 11:19)

Here are a few questions to prayerfully consider when it comes to media and culture:

  • Will you watch movies with your kids or let them watch movies for themselves?
  • What kinds of ratings will you let them watch? At what age?
  • Will you have conversations about what they watch and listen to?
  • How are you going to stay connected with the music they listen to?
  • Are you going to stay away from mainstream culture as a family or are you going to be a part of mainstream culture?

*     *     *     *     *

These conversations are going to make a huge impact at creating a family identity, and where that identity is strong your kids will be strong.

What did I miss? What else do we need to talking about?

Freaky Family – Part 1

Freaky Family – Part 1

Perhaps you’ve noticed… Normal is not working.

For the last few weeks at Vortex we’ve been focusing on the kind of different God wants us to be. Since normal is not working, we need to be “FREAKY”.

In my last talk I shared this quote:
“Where family identity is strong, peer pressure will be weak, but where family identity is weak, peer pressure will be strong.” – Greg Gunn

Our families are ground zero for teaching our kids that different is not just ok, when the Spirit of God leads it, different is BETTER!

This week I promised to share two blogs with you. The first (this one) is going to cover the ways that every family needs to be freaky. The second (coming on Thursday) is going to share with you a few things each family needs to pray through to consider.

There are certain things EVERY FAMILY needs to do different. We need to create a culture in our families that shifts from what the rest of the world has. We don’t want normal for our kids, so let’s create a family culture that’s different. That difference is going to provide them the basis to resist peer pressure. It’s important!

Here’s how every FREAKY FAMILY needs to do different:

  1. Your family needs to make serving God a priority.

For most families, serving God is an abstract idea. You might say things to your kids like “You need to keep God first”, but how do you practically show them how to do that? You do that by first serving God yourself, and then by getting them to serve along with you. One of the most common factors in teenagers translating into church-attending young adults is the fact that they served in the church as a teenager.

Parents, make sure your kids know that serving in church is a priority. It’s actively demonstrating that you are participating in God’s mission. You’re committed to doing something to help others. When it’s time, get them involved with you. You’ll find that serving provides a real connection God’s mission for your family!

  1. Your family needs to make conversation a regular part of living together.

The greatest tools that you have to influence your kids are your time and your words. Your words will not matter if you don’t give your children your time, so make sure that you’re devoted to giving them regular blocks of time.

Deuteronomy 6:7 gives us several windows of time to capitalize on conversation: bedtime, dinners together, and travel time. It’s important to figure out for your family when you’re going to focus on each other and as a parent you need to force conversations.

Conversation is vitally important today, because with the emergence of such a technologically rich culture we’re seeing young people that have such a hard time conversing with others. Lead them at home to understand the importance of talking to one another.

  1. Your family needs to make giving a priority.

Giving is the antidote to materialism and selfishness. I don’t know if your kids are like ours, but I’ve never had to teach my kids the word “mine”.

The world we live in is much more concerned about acquisition than it is giving. The more we have, the better we think our lives could be. However, many of us find that way of living to be broken and unsatisfying. There is no satisfaction in the pursuit of material wealth.

Jesus warned us: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

There are two ways we need to make giving a priority. The first is that our kids need to know that we, as a family, are giving to God. They need to see you buy groceries and clothes to appreciate how much they cost, but they also need to know you’re giving. The second way we do this is by teaching them to give from the money they get in life.

Giving will fight against the normal materialistic desires most of us live with!

  1. Your family needs to make church an important part of your week.

We all need to be taught and instructed. We all need to be convicted and respond to God work in our lives with repentance and restoration. We all need a Pastor and a church family. That’s for you as a parent and for your kids as well.

Your kids need to see that you have been convicted and they need to hear you repent. They need to see that you experience truth and do the work to apply it to your life as well. Your kids need to know that you find value in the relationships that your church has leveraged for you.

You kids need to see that because they will need that in life as well.

  1. Your family needs to make the Scriptures a regular part of our interactions.

What do you tell your kids when they’re afraid, when their hearts are broken, when they’re unsure about the future, or when they’re doubting themselves? Most of us provide our opinions. We tell them we love them, and that it’s all going to be ok.

What if we learned to make the Bible a part of those important conversations? 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

If we’re going to raise kids that run to God first, who seek His opinion above all others, we need to make the Scriptures a central part of our conversations at home!

  1. Your family needs to pray together.

There are coming moments that don’t make sense, moments that will be difficult, painful, and confusing. If we have not created a family culture to turn to Jesus, where will we turn when those moments come?

Your family needs to pray together regularly. You need to pray to Jesus to thank Him during the great times. You need to praise Him during the victories. You also need to pray during the difficult times. You need to seek His guidance together. You need to ask Him to heal you when you’re wounded. You need to worship Him even when life doesn’t make sense.

A family culture that turns to Jesus first one that’s powerfully different.

We need to embrace different at home, because normal just isn’t working. The difference between our family culture and the world will not be a liability for our kids; it will be an powerful asset. Truthfully, these differences may be the few things that provide the kind of platform for our kids to be those that stand up and chase Jesus relentlessly.

On Thursday I’m going to share a blog that will give you a few things to consider doing differently within your family. These won’t be for every family, but they will be for some! Check back for it on Thursday!

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What did I miss? How should every other family be freaky?

Parents: Do This With Your Kids This Christmas

Parents: Do This With Your Kids This Christmas

I remember lots of things my parents did at Christmas. I remember them helping me write letters to Santa, our meals together, and conversations.

I remember some of the presents my parents bought me at Christmas, but when I actually put what I remember in perspective to many years of presents, I remember very few of the presents my parents bought me for Christmas.

The moments we share with our kids during important seasons (and Christmas is important for a kid) leave a lasting legacy.

I’m afraid that if we choose to anchor our legacy in the gifts we give our kids, we’re providing a rather inadequate anchor. It doesn’t matter how extravagant your gifts are, they will eventually break, be lost, or be outgrown. They’re not going to last.

But this Christmas we can do something that will last.

As Christmas Eve came to a close and we prepared for bed, each year my parents each read us a story before bedtime. It was the same story every year. My dad read the classic, “The Night Before Christmas”, and my mother shared to us about the birth of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke.

If you make this Christmas all about gifts, you’ll miss the chance to capture these moments and leave a significant legacy to your kids.

There are a lot of other things we make Christmas about. Most of these things are all good things: our family, community, our kids, and traditions. The problem with them is they are bad foundations.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told a story about foundations (Matthew 7:24-27). If we build our lives upon anything other than Jesus, no matter how good it is, that foundation can be destroyed. Our families, our traditions, and our gifts make bad foundations, but Jesus makes a great one!

At Christmas you can give your kids something that can’t be taken away from them, something that won’t break, something they won’t outgrow: Jesus.

This Christmas find a practical way to make Jesus the center of your holiday routine. Your kids won’t learn it from what you say; they’ll catch it from what you do together!

Here’s a few practical suggestions to make Jesus the center of your family’s Christmas season:

  • Find a few children’s books to read with your kids that tell the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Kids love being read to, and it’s very healthy for them. So why not harness that and use it to share Jesus with them?
  • Never underestimate the power of conversations. At least once a week during this Christmas season have a conversation before bed about the meaning of Christmas. Give your kids a chance to ask you questions!
  • Share the Bible with them. The birth of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are powerful ways to share to real meaning of Christmas with our kids.
  • Create traditions that have nothing to do with gifts and everything to do with Jesus. Family prayer time, communion, and church events can be powerful ways to capitalize on legacy building during this season.

Whatever you do… Don’t let Christmas be simply about presents. I love presents, but they aren’t as wonderful as Jesus.

Jesus is what Christmas is all about, so let’s make it that way!

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How are you practically making Jesus your central experience this Christmas?

It All Starts Right Now

It All Starts Right Now

Too often we define our lives through big moments.

When we define our lives through big moments, our lives look a lot like this:

  • I’m a follower of a Jesus.
  • I’m married to Amanda.
  • I’m Adahlae and Klayton’s dad.
  • I graduated from South Stanly High School and Lee University.
  • I’m the Lead Pastor at Vortex Church in Albemarle, NC.

The problem with that sort of perspective is that big moments are one of two things: either the culmination of a journey or the start of a new one.

I’m pretty sure that we think about our legacy a lot like we think about life: we think our legacy will be found in the big moments.

That’s not true.

I have a friend who, as a single mom of four, worked two jobs for four years to put herself through college so that she could open the door to a better life for her little family.

Her graduation was a big moment. It was not her legacy, though.

For four years her kids saw her make sacrifices, stay up late to study just to get up early with them, learn to say ‘no’ to unnecessary expenses, work hard at her jobs just to come home and work harder, and simply pour her life out for them.

That was her legacy. What a profound legacy to give a child.

You see… we’re building our legacy right now.

Moments add up to become monuments. Life happens in the moment, and it’s in those moments that our legacy is forged.

So, what are you doing with right now?

It’s an important question to ask, because what you’re doing right now is something quite special: it’s called life. Life is active; it’s the culmination of the choices that you’re making. Let’s be honest about it too… we don’t want a life that’s just Netflix and naps. We want a life that’s significant, one that makes a difference.

Whatever you spend your time on, is what you’re buying to make a life with, and your life is being spent to purchase your legacy.

As the Apostle Paul approached the end of his life, these words expressed his understanding the life he had lived was turning into a legacy…

“I am already being poured out like a offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8

It’s my hope that through Jesus, we’ll all live lives that purchase that kind of legacy.

It all starts right now…

*     *     *     *     *

What’s the legacy your life is purchasing now? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

The Most Toxic Thing We Put In Our Mouths

The Most Toxic Thing We Put In Our Mouths

I read an article this week that stated drinking one can of soda a day can have the same aging affect on our body as smoking cigarettes.

It seems we’re always talking about that: what we’re putting in our mouths.

I feel sorry for eggs. Every other year eggs are bad for you. Then they’re good. Then they’re bad again.

We can never make up our minds about eggs.

Eggs are like that really annoying friend that will always come over and help you when you need it, but you never really want to call them because of how annoying they are. Eggs just leave us conflicted.

What’s in our mouths is important, because there’s no denying that our mouths are a gateway into our lives.

With all of effort to understand what’s healthy and what’s not, I’m afraid we’ve overlooked the most toxic thing in our mouths: complaining.

It doesn’t take much of a Bible scholar to know that the Scriptures are pretty clear about complaining:
Do EVERYTHING without COMPLAINING and arguing.” Philippians 2:14 (NLT)

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t even need to look up the meaning to “everything” to understand that verse.

But we do it. We complain. Incessantly.

We complain about the weather.

We complain about the service and the food at restaurants.

We complain about the President and our government.

We complain about ourselves.

We complain…

Complaining is toxic. I really think it’s worse that drinking a coke. It will eat you alive on the inside, and you’ll never see it’s side effects coming.

Here are three toxic side effects to complaining:

#1 – Complaining Elevates Your Opinion Over The Truth.

You know what they say about opinions? Everyone has them. You included.

Sometimes your opinions might be right, but if you’re like me – they’re often selfish and just plain wrong.

Here’s a great example of how this works…

Around here we typically experience dry summers. I’ve often heard folks suggest during those dry summers, “It’s so dry. I like these sunny days, but we really need some rain. Why won’t it just rain?”

The Scriptures tell us, “This same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs” in Philippians 4:19.

If the Bible says it, it’s TRUE.

So, if we needed rain (emphasis on NEED), God would give it to us.

The statement “We need rain” is just an opinion, and it disregards the TRUTH that God will provide for us everything that we need. When we allow our opinions about what we “need” to drive our thoughts and conversations, we’re complaining.

Every time we complain, we’re elevating our opinions over the truth.

#2 – Complaining Keeps You From Enjoying What You Have Right Now

Complaining is always born out of the moment.

Things aren’t right. I know it. It should be better. I deserve better!

At least… that’s what we think.

The problem with complaining is that you’re left in the moment, thinking about how that moment should be different, and missing out on what that moment really is leveraging for your life.

Use the same illustration above about weather…

If you’re complaining about the lack of rain, there’s no way to fully enjoy the sunshine.

More importantly… If you’re complaining about how dry it is, there’s no way to thank God for a sunny day!

Our lives should be constantly reflecting on the goodness that God has blessed us with right now, and complaining robs us of that!

#3 – Complaining Infects Your Heart

There’s a deep connection between the quality of our lives and what is going on in our hearts.

Jesus said, “The words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you.” (Matthew 15:18 – NLT)

Complaining is toxic and infects us with a negative, self-centered worldview.

Think about this: How did God punished the nation of Israel for complaining after He delivered them from Egypt and positioned them to take the promise land? He forced them to wander around in the desert until everyone that complained died off!

That’s pretty serious, folks!

If we’re going to be the life-giving church God wants us to be, we’re going to have to carefully guard our hearts and mouths.

Here’s two things to do combat complaining:

#1 – Intentionally Focus On What You Have Right Now.

It’s likely that you’re overlooking a lot you have to be thankful for. Set your opinions aside and embrace the moment that Jesus has given you. Choose to be thankful.

#2 – Address The Condition Of Your Heart First.

If you’re habitually complaining, the problem starts in your heart. So simply trying to stop complaining won’t work. Look into your heart, ask Jesus to show you what’s wrong, confess the sin, ask forgiveness where there needs to be healing, and let Him heal your heart!

*     *     *     *     *

Are you struggling with complaining? How have you noticed it affecting your life? What do you need to change to protect your heart and your life from the toxic effects of complaining?

What I Learned When My Wife Was Pregnant

What I Learned When My Wife Was Pregnant

One, primary lesson in dealing with pregnant women, as a man, is to never tell them, “I know what you’re going through.”

You can’t compare the experience of having a child grow inside you to having a kidney stone, having surgery, or even having ate too much. A pregnant woman won’t have anything of the sorts.

If you attempt such comparisons, you’re likely to suffer the wrath of a woman unlike you have ever suffered before. And for good reasons. What we experience as men, even in ‘similar’ conditions, is nothing like the experience pregnancy provides.

With that risk in play, I would like to share one thing I learned from my wife during her pregnancies:
Growth is uncomfortable.

From my perspective, I’ve never seen my wife happier than when she found out she was pregnant. Those two moments were packed with love and joy and faith and the satisfaction of a promise fulfilled.

But then the baby started to grow.

And as much as she was already in love with our children, the discomfort was evident.

There’s two places that I see this truth emerging right now:

1. In Our Personal Stories.

We all have one common desire: to be comfortable. We want to comfortable in our relationships, in our careers, and in our finances.

“Comfortable” rarely produces the kind of life that we find satisfying. Life requires tension, because all good stories have great conflict.

I’m pretty sure that most of us avoid responding to Jesus because it’s going to be uncomfortable. But… Growth is uncomfortable.

2. In Our Church

We’ve been here before, and by God’s grace we’re there again. Our church is growing, and as it grows it’s going to be challenging.

Growth produces change.

And let me be honest about this… we want to grow!

Here’s a few quick reasons why we want to grow:

  1. God’s given us a message of faith, hope, and love that we want to share with as many people as possible.
  2. As long as there is one more hurting family, one more lost family in our city, our church is not big enough.
  3. We want to invite people that are far away from God to join us on a life-giving journey to be changed by this message.

But change is uncomfortable.

That means that over the next season, as our church continues to grow, you can expect things to become less comfortable.

The first way this will happen is what we call “overlap”. It’s where events happen at the same time, on the same day, or on the same weekend. If you’re the family that’s been attending every event, it’s going to require some adjustment. That change is going to be uncomfortable.

The second thing that will happen is our church is going to become less “personal”. As of October we’re averaging around 250 people in attendance each Sunday. That means no matter how involved you, we are all becoming a smaller percentage of the whole.

I had an incredible moment yesterday: I saw someone at the grocery store wearing one of our church’s T-Shirts and I had no idea who they were! That’s amazing! I love that our churches reach is getting that wide!

So… what do you do when it gets uncomfortable?

I think we could all take a lesson from my wife during her pregnancy: Don’t complain, allow the discomfort to point you to the promise, and trust Jesus with it all.

You can, even in the middle of discomfort, enjoy the journey!

Healing

Healing

Let me simply say a few foundation thoughts that should frame how we think about everything:

  • If the Bible says it, then we believe it.
  • If the Scriptures tell us is good, then we accept that it’s good.
  • If the Word of God tells us that God wants something for us, then we should desire those things for ourselves.

If those statements become foundational for you, you’re going to embrace a God that is a lot bigger than you, a God who doesn’t always make sense or seem very logical. That’s a wonderful embrace, because who wants to follow a God that’s only as smart as we are?

We spent a few weeks as a church examining the benefits of a relationship with Jesus. The words that we examined were written by King David, a man who knew first-hand the benefits of a friendship with Jesus.

In Psalm 103, David writes a note to himself so that he would not forget all of these benefits. He then lists them out. He speaks of God’s forgiveness, redemption, crowning, and satisfaction.

In the third verse of that Psalm, David writes, “(Forget not all his benefits) who forgives all your sins, and heals all your diseases”.

Heals all your diseases? That’s a pretty bold statement.

It’s not just an idea, either. Sickness robs us. It’s robbed some of us of our health, our youth, and too many of us our loved ones.

Health, sickness, and healing are really personal issues.

For many of us, we read that statement and ask, “If God really heals ALL our diseases, then why did my (wife, brother, grandparent, etc.) die?”

That’s a significant question.

Throughout the Scriptures there is a connection to God’s healing and forgiveness. Isaiah 33:24 says, “No one living in Zion will say, “I am ill”; and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven.” 1 Peter 2:24 says, “’He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’”

As most often is the case, this connection is best explained when we look more closely at Jesus…

In Luke 5, Jesus heals a paralyzed man. Now, most of us read these passages like we’re watching movies. We think, ‘Of coarse Jesus healed a paralyzed man; He’s Jesus!’ But… think about what we know about paralysis. This man had something significant going on in his nervous system: an infection, an injury, or a chronic condition. In the middle of the trauma, his friends brought him to Jesus.

When the paralyzed man is laid in front of Him, Jesus first tells him “Your sins are forgiven.” (v.20)

This statement causes quite a commotion, because (as the Pharisees asked) “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (v.21)

Here’s what happens next (from verses 22-25):
Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God.”

Jesus is pointing out something that’s remarkably important:
God isn’t waiting for us in eternity; He wants to be a part of lives now.

Sin is a spiritual sickness, and that is an eternal issue.

Physical sickness is a present issue..

If we’re going to trust Jesus with eternity, we need to trust Him with the present.

Here are five important thoughts on the benefit of healing:

  1. Healing was paid for by Jesus and cannot be earned through good deeds or through simply believing with great faith. (ref. Isaiah 53:5)
  2. Since we cannot earn it, God chooses to heal us through Grace. Grace is how God restores us from both our sinfulness and sickness.
  3. God will never punish you for your sins by making you sick. He’s already poured out the complete punishment for your sins onto His son Jesus. (ref. Isaiah 53:6)
  4. Healing is not just for physical sickness. It’s also for our hearts and souls. Restoration to wholeness from brokenness is always a gift from Jesus.
  5. This world, including every natural thing, was shattered by sin. The only way we’ll receive complete and total restoration is through the eternal redemption that is offered to us through Jesus. While death looks a lot like a final defeat, as believers in Jesus we see it as a great victory. (ref. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

The same God who forgives our sins also wants to heal our diseases (ref. Psalm 103:3).

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How do you need to experience God’s healing?

The Secret To Overcoming Loneliness

Loneliness

It’s amazing to me that the things we do to “live it up” actually leave us feeling less alive.

Real life must not look like our ways living, because our living leaves us lonely.

Loneliness is an epidemic in our culture. With so many surface-level ways to connect, we long for something deeper and real. We want to be known and to know.

A recent study showed that those who “over share” on Facebook are 98% more likely to confess that they are lonely (read the article here).

That’s the offer Jesus gives us: He gives us an invitation into a relationship where we are known completely and loved anyway.

That sounds wonderful and simple. Until you let Jesus talk about it…

“I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:24-25 ESV

This past Sunday I told my friends at Vortex “if you really want to live, you need to die every day.”

That’s crazy talk.

It makes more sense to say this: “If you really want to live, do every thing within your power to nurture and sustain your life.”

That’s not what Jesus says about living, though.

In John 12, Jesus tells us that if we try to keep our lives, we’ll end up all alone, but if we’re willing to let go of our lives we’ll gain His kind of life… a life that never ends.

If you’re struggling with loneliness, you’re most likely struggling within your relationship with Jesus. You’re probably overcommitted to something that’s very comfortable but holding you back from Him.

The secret to overcoming loneliness lies in what Jesus describes the grain of wheat does… it falls into the earth and dies.

Leave your comfort zone behind.

Die to yourself.

Embrace His life coming alive inside you.

Follow His voice as it’s revealed in the Scriptures and personally.

And… you know what? You’ll find a life that matters, has meaning, and repels loneliness.

It’s funny isn’t it? Dying is the gateway to living.

“Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.’ Luke 9:23-24 (NLT)

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In what ways do you need to die to yourself to embrace the life Jesus wants to give you?

Three Lessons In Three Years

3Lessons

My daughter Adahlae had a birthday yesterday. She’s now three years old. No longer a toddler, now a little girl.

We waited a long time for her, and she’s proven to be worth the wait.

She’s articulate, funny, and full of life. If you get to spend a day with her, you’ll laugh hard and play hard. She’ll celebrate you, encourage you, and love you in a way that’s vulnerable and beautiful.

I love being her Daddy, and that endeavor has taught me a few things I’d like to share with you…

#1 – You’re not in control.

Perhaps it was the multiple trips to the ER during Amanda’s pregnancy, where she had kidney stones and great amounts of pain. I think there were three trips, and during every ride to the ER I got angry and acted like a jerk. Things had gotten out of control.

Maybe it was around Adi’s first birthday when we gave her her first peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She had an anaphylactic reaction to the peanuts, and we hurried our nearly passed out child with swelling lips to the ER.

So many times I’ve felt completely helpless with her.

That’s not a bad feeling, because it reminds me that she’s not mine. Adahlae Grace belongs to Jesus, and He is always in control.

Jesus is in control even when we don’t understand what’s happening. He’s in control when our little ones suffer with an illness, even a chronic illness.

#2 – Choose carefully what you trust.

My wife calls describes having your first baby as being admitted into the “Mommy Club.” As she recalls it, there was an almost immediate flood of parental camaraderie and advice.

There’s a lot of wonderful parent advice out there.

That’s the unique thing about parenthood: it’s a very common experience that many people from all walks of life and cultures all over the world share.

When you become a parent, you’ll get advise from every one. Even those well meaning, however ignorant, friends that don’t have kids.

What well will you go to draw the water than gives life to your family?

If you don’t trust Jesus first, you’ll lead your kids towards a life that doesn’t look anything like the life that Jesus wants for them.

If they’re His kids and we’re just stewards of them for a while, let’s trust Him first.

#3 – Kids are won over with time.

My daughter loves every toy she has.

I’m sure that if we charted her playtime, there would be great equity in the time she devotes to different toys.

You cannot give her a toy without her being EXTREMELY grateful and happy.

However, she cares a lot less about her toys than she does her Mommy and her Daddy (and her MeeMaw & her Grammy who watch her during the week).

She actually views her toys as treasures to share with us. She finds little value in playing with them by herself.

Adahlae was born a little over one year before we started Vortex. In her lifetime there have been weeks where I’ve worked hard and had less time for her. During those season’s I’ve noticed her heart slipping away.

I cannot buy her heart back with gifts.

It can only be won with my time.

Isn’t that how God loves us?

Jesus stepped into time to dwell and live amongst us. It is that closeness that creates the opportunity for us to know Him.

The greatest gift God ever gave us was Himself.

The greatest give we’ll ever give our kids is the same.

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What lessons have you learned as a parent? Share them by leaving a comment below:

You Can’t Take It With You

I read a story on Bill Gate’s management style several years ago. Apparently his employees measured how good their product or performance reviews went based on how many times he said the F-Bomb.

Anything under 20 was a good review.

Studying Bill Gates early days a Microsoft informs you that he was very driven, rarely satisfied, and highly demanding. You might say that he still is.

These days Bill’s driven by a different dream: to give generously and make a difference in this world.

Along with his wife, Gloria, they established the Bill Gates Foundation in the late 90s, an organization dedicated to giving away billions of dollars to make a difference globally.

In a recent interview, the Gates shared a lot about their endeavors to give away their money and make a difference.

Here’s a few things I noticed….

#1 – They’re not going to leave their kids a lot of money. 

Based on studies that show giving kids a rich inheritance is quite unhealthy for them, the Gates have made the decision to give their children “the freedom to do whatever they feel led to do, but with the knowledge that their work is necessary for society and themselves.”

#2 – They’ve committed to give away 95% of their wealth before they die. 

This is staggering, considering that Bill Gates is worth 76 billion dollars. That’s an awful lot of money to be given away, and a huge opportunity to do good.

You might think… “Hey, I’d give that much money away if I was that rich.” That’s not always true. Even those with limited incomes can be extremely generous.

Generosity only exists when it’s a priority.

#3 – Giving has changed their lives. 

Bill Gates says in this interview: “Giving away our wealth is the most satisfying thing we’ve ever done.” That’s coming from a man who invented the personal computer, pioneered the software development that made computers central to business, and is one of the richest men in the world.

God’s plan is that we give sacrificially, generously, and joyfully.

God doesn’t want that from you. He wants it FOR YOU, because it will change your life!

Here’s the video of the interview with the Gates: 

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