Archives: Blog

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!



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).

*     *     *     *     *

How do you need to experience God’s healing?

The Secret To Overcoming 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)

*     *     *     *     *

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

Three Lessons In Three Years


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.

*     *     *     *     *

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: 

Hobby Lobby Wins Contraception Case With Supreme Court

Here’s the breaking story on Hobby Lobby from TIME.COM.

Whenever Christians are in the news fighting for religious freedom I always try to ask two questions:
Question #1 – What did we gain?
Question #2 – What did we lose?

I’m afraid that more often than not what we lose is far greater than what we gain in our public bickering.

In this case (the Hobby Lobby one), I’m personally quite happy with the ruling of the Supreme Court. Freedom is compelling thing, religiously or in how we run our businesses.

Freedom is what makes America unique.

That’s what we celebrate this time of year, isn’t it?

July 4th celebrates our declaration of independence and freedom from political tyranny.

The Gospel is all about declaring independence and freedom from sin.

Freedom is powerful thing. It’s worth fighting for. It’s worth celebrating.

*     *     *     *     *

What do you think Christians gained through the Hobby Lobby case?

What did we lose?

Leave a comment below and let me know your opinion.

You Deserve Happy

Great teachers reduce complicated truth down to simple statements.

That’s why the simplest of sayings can contain the most significant truth.

We’re all living our lives based on a few simple truths.

Maybe you’re trying to be a treat other people like you’d like to be treated. Perhaps you’re looking out for yourself because nobody else is going to take care of you.

In Mathew 22 Jesus tells us that the whole law of God comes down to two simple commandments: to love God and love your neighbors.

These days there are a lot of these kinds of phrases floating around.

We need to carefully examine what we’re building our life on before we establish a foundation on something that’s broken.

*     *     *     *     *


A friend of mine posted this on Instagram not too long ago. It had over 50 likes in a few hours and comments like “So true! I needed that.”

I remember thinking… “Geez. That’s a pretty busted way to live.”

“What’s wrong with that statement” you ask? Well, here are a three things:

#1 – You deserve to be happy.

If any of your friends ever give you that advise, please slap them. You don’t deserve to be happy. Actually, the bible tells us that we deserve to die (Romans 6:23).

Happiness is a great enemy of what God ultimately wants us to be, holy.

Far too many of us walk away from what God is doing in our lives because it’s uncomfortable. It’s no longer making us happy, but it’s probably making us holy!

#2 – The best things in life will serve you.

What we all really need is more of ourselves? That’s not at all what the Scriptures tell us.

The Scriptures tell us over and over again that one of the greatest enemies to God’s work in our lives is our SELF!

That’s why John the Baptist would declare “He needs to become greater and I need to become less!” (John 3:30)

Actually, I think we all inevitably find that the greatest things in life are the things the invite us to give our lives away.

We don’t huddle around at funerals and talk about what someone had acquired. We often speak of their greatness in terms of what they gave away.

#3 – Respect yourself enough to walk away.

The bible tells us that we grow the same way knives are sharpened (Proverbs 27:17). Iron sharpens iron because it creates great friction.

Most of us view friction as resistance, and not what it really is… an invitation.

Let’s face it: we like to go down the path of least resistance, climb the short ladder to the top, and find the shortcuts to success. That’s why we live in a world of diet pills and 25-minute workouts.

Resistance isn’t often viewed as an invitation, but that’s exactly what it is.

If you walk away from something because it stops serving you and making you happy, you might just be walking away from something that will cause you to grow!

*     *     *     *     *

What sayings are you living by right now? Do you possibly need to reevaluate them?

REBLOG: Seven Ways to Hurt Your Pastor


This is a reblog from Thom Rainer, the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources and former president of Southern Seminary. For more about Thom or other blog posts he’s written, visit his blog at

*     *     *     *     *

If you really want to hurt your pastor, then this blogpost is for you.

This past week alone, I had conversations with dozens of pastors. These pastors love their churches and the members. They are really committed to their callings.

But they are real people who can really be hurt.

The pastors I spoke with this past week shared with me seven common themes of the things that hurt them the most. So, if you really want to hurt your pastor, follow these guidelines carefully.

  1. Criticize the pastor’s family. Few things are as painful to pastors as criticizing their families, especially if the criticisms are related to issues in the church.
  2. Tell the pastor he is overpaid. Very few pastors really make much money. But there are a number of church members who would like to make the pastor feel badly about his pay.
  3. Don’t defend the pastor. Critics can be hurtful. But even more hurtful are those who remain silent while their pastor is verbally attacked. Silence is not golden in this case.
  4. Tell your pastor what an easy job he has. It can really sting when someone suggests that the pastor really only works about ten hours a week. Some actually believe that pastors have several days a week off.
  5. Be a constant naysayer. Pastors can usually handle the occasional critic. But the truly painful relationships are with church members who are constantly negative. How do you know you’ve succeeded in this regard? The pastor runs the other way when he sees you.
  6. Make comments about the pastor’s expenditures. I heard it from a pastor this past week. A church member asked, “How can you afford to go to Disney World?” Wow.
  7. Compare your pastor’s preaching and ministry unfavorably to that of another pastor. Many times the member wants you to know how much he or she likes that pastor on the podcast compared to you. If you really want to hurt your pastor, you can make certain he knows how inferior he is.

So, if your life’s goal is to hurt your pastor, one or more of these approaches will work just fine.

But, if you are like most good church members, you want the best for your pastor. So just do the opposite of these seven.

And if you are worried that your pastor will not remain humble unless someone puts him in his place, don’t worry. There will always be plenty of those other church members around.

Do you identify with these seven items? What would you add?

This Summer Could Be…


Public schools in America give us a beautiful gift around this time of year: summer.

Summer translates into many different words for us all: words like beach, pool, relaxation, family trips, BBQs, and vacation just to name a few. In the middle of all those, it’s easy to miss the most important word that summer should translate into: FAMILY.

While summer is one of the few seasons that we have to be very focused on our family, we all too often miss the opportunity because we’re too concerned about our own needs.

For family to work well it requires our priority to be shifted from me to we.

This summer could be vitally important to your family…

  • This could be the summer God impresses upon your child that their identity is wholly rooted in Jesus.
  • This could be the summer that your marriage regains it’s past passion.
  • This could be the summer that the whole trajectory of your family is altered for generations.

How can you make this summer matter?

The answer is simple… MAKE JESUS A CENTRAL PRIORITY!

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Here are three moments that God instructs us to capture and use to infuse the love of Jesus into our family life:

  1. DOWN TIME (“when you sit at home”) – Your children are never going to be comfortable at rest, which they need, if they don’t see you model it. Sitting down together and talking should be a regular part of your family’s rhythm. My family did this over dinner every day growing up. Our family does this after dinner now. Find a time and make it routine.
  2. TRAVEL TIME (“when you walk along the road”) – If you’re going on a vacation or just taking them to ball practice, there’s travel time this summer. Put the DVD players away, sequester the cell phones, and have a conversation while you travel. Spending 4 hours in a car together? Sounds like a great time for a family devotion to me!
  3. BED TIME (“when you lie down”) – I have a friend who’s children are now grown and very successful. I asked him what he did that I could replicate as a parent. He told me that every night he’d give his children the ability to stay up as late as they wanted with one rule… once it was bed time, they had to be in bed and talking to him. He said they’d ask him questions about Jesus and life while “they thought they were just delaying their bed time, but they were really giving me a chance to disciple them and shape their future.”

This could be the summer God moves in your family. You don’t want to miss that!

*     *     *     *     *

Our friends at the Village Church in Texas produced a guide for their families this summer full of a ton of ideas to capture this summer for your family.

Village Church Summer Family Activity Book

*     *     *     *     *

What other ideas do you have to make Jesus the central figure in your summer?

Back to top