God Gives Promises…and People

This past weekend in Elevate I taught a message about God’s promises.  The premise was simple:

No one person is at 100% promises kept…except God. Therefore, we should fully trust in God’s promises!


I opened the talk building a case as to why we live in a world where no one operates at 100% promises kept.  Of course, I had to talk about the guarantee Rasheed Wallace made in Game 2 of the Conference Finals in 2004.  He blurted out, “We will win game 2” and made a promise to the entire city of Detroit. Luckily it panned out for him…but it doesn’t always work that way.

It was a solid case, because it was true.  This doesn’t make people bad, it just means we’re all in the same boat when it comes to this reality.  God is the only one in history to have never broken a promise.

Fast forward a few days and I was listening to Bob Goff’s new book “Everyone, Always” on Audible.  He was talking about God’s promises, and he said this line:

God doesn’t just give us promises, he gives us people!

My mind started racing.

But wait.  I just gave a talk about how people let us down and the only person that’s batting .1000 when it comes to “promises made vs. promises kept” is God.

Just then I felt the nudge of God whisper, “You forgot about grace.”

Sure, people mess up and break promises.  But people also show up and are great examples of God’s love.

While what I said was still true — only God operates at 100%, I was a bit more polarizing than I needed to be. Goff’s point brought me back to the middle where grace often is…the middle ground that says even though we often fail, God still uses us to be there for each other.

One of the many promises we can bank on is God always being with us…and sometimes He may use a friend or family member who is consistently showing up in times of need to showcase that promise.

Even though your friend, or your parents, or your spouse, will eventually break a promise (big or small), God can still use them to bring you through hard times, or show you grace + forgiveness when you stumble or do something dumb.

The promises of God can be fully trusted, and sometimes God uses other people, even though we’re flawed, to come through on those promises.

Grateful for grace.

Raise your glass

Jesus was their friend.

Jesus had hung out with them for 3+ years.  They had traveled together, ate together, laughed together.  After Jesus was done with the crowds of people, he would turn and walk away with these 12 friends.

Of course, the disciples didn’t have the New Testament, so they didn’t know how the story was going to end.  All they knew was their friend, with whom they had just shared a passover meal, was now dead.


Recently in our Jr High ministry we talked about Communion.  It was so cool to be able to share the bread and juice with my small group of 7th grade boys after just hearing a message that clarified exactly what it meant.  The passover lamb, the sacrifice that had to be made, the blood on the door posts, the tie to the Old Testament account in Exodus, etc.

For the disciples it was just another passover meal with their closest friends.  For Jesus it was quite different.  He knew it was going to be the last of its kind.  He knew what was coming.  He was the sacrificial lamb of God. His blood was going to be the reason God’s judgment would pass over humanity.

Fast forward.

Can you imagine after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, what the disciples experienced during that second communion?

It was no longer a meal to remember passover, it was a meal to remember their friend. But He was more than that, now.  The disciples were finally beginning to piece together what Jesus had been saying all along.  I imagine they set out the meal, and then paused for a moment.  Feelings of awe, confusion, wonder, and anticipation were filling their hearts.

When they took of the bread, they were no longer remembering an old account of God rescuing the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.  They were remembering their friend, who days or weeks before had rescued humanity from sin, shame, and death.

And when they raised the cup, they weren’t just participating in a head-nod to the past…they were raising a glass to their friend.  A toast, if you will.  “Here’s to Jesus.”  Because even though Jesus was their friend, he had become much more than that.

Jesus was their King.


Seek _______ Well

Seek Well.

Seek what, well?

It seems that’s a question worth asking.  What are we seeking? What are we putting our energy towards?  For what are we striving?

There are many things we can seek on a daily basis.  The typical vices are there…money, fame, etc.  The “under-the-surface” vices are there as well, and these are harder to identify – seeking other people’s approval, for example, is one that catches me often.

But as Christians, we’re instructed to seek one thing well, and everything else will come with it (Matthew 6:33).  Seeking Jesus first, and the things He desires for us, is Christian Living 101…and 201, 301, 401, etc.  We never graduate from needing to be still and seek Jesus.

Friends of mine began getting away to a campground a few years back and spending time together, and spending time alone with God.  It was the beginnings of Refresh, a spiritual retreat for guys who need and/or want to get away and listen to God.

The concept is the same even though the vision has grown.  Seek Well is now an established rhythm for many.  It’s a chance to be still and listen to Jesus.  A chance to seek Him well.

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This past week I was able to get away again – to be still and listen, to seek well.

It’s a rhythm I hope to never lose because it’s a rhythm that will ensure that I am putting aside all of the other things I could seek and focusing on the only thing I need to seek…Jesus, my King.

It’s worth spending a minute or two and asking yourself, what are you seeking today?


You look just like your Dad

Growing up I would always here this phrase.

“You look just like your dad!”

For me, it’s a compliment.  My dad’s a good looking man.  And for my dad, I’d imagine it’s a compliment as well.  I’m guessing there’s a sense of pride parents feel when their kid looks like them, has the same mannerisms, character traits, and even personalities…of course, all the good aspects of those things.


And now that the news is out that I’m going to be a dad, hearing those words would be music to my ears.  Except if we have a girl.  I’d make an ugly girl.  (For her to have my wife’s looks, however, would be hitting the jackpot).

This didn’t have spiritual implications for me until recently when my Grandma told me, yet again, that I looked like my dad.  Of course, I said “thank you” but I couldn’t stop the mind-drift that was happening – thinking of all the ways that, as Christians, a phrase like this would have massive implications.

The Bible says in Genesis 1:27 that you and I were created in the image of God…our Heavenly Father.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

That doesn’t mean we all look alike – I gave my thoughts on that in my last post.  What it does mean is that we all have the fingerprints of God…His attributes, His character, His personality.  Though we portray those each uniquely, it’s in the portraying that we begin to look most like our creator.

Figuring out who God made us to be and then portraying those unique attributes to the world is perhaps one of the best uses of our time (along with the Great Commission, of course…but even this, I believe, helps us accomplish the G.C).  In so doing this, we show off our Heaven Father.

We show off the kind nature of God when we’re kind.
We show off the forgiving nature of God when we forgive.
We show off the creative nature of God when we create.
We show off the _____________ nature of God when we _____________.

You can fill in the blank better than I could because you have attributes of God that I don’t.  And whenever you step fully into those and be who God created you to be, you’re looking more and more like your Heavenly Father.

And I’d imagine there’s a sense of Godly Pride that He feels when his creation desires to look more and more like Him.

Authentic Shot

In January I attended another Seek Well refresh retreat.  These have been a part of my quarterly rhythm for a few years now, and it’s a fantastic pause in my schedule to be with friends, spend time listening to Jesus, and enjoy the outdoors.

During that time, we were shown a video that captured the essence of what I’ve been feeling and processing through — being unique.

It’s a scene from the Legend of Bagger Vance.  Matt Damon is the golfer, and Will Smith is his Caddy.  Smith encourages Damon to not simply “hack away” at the golf ball…but to find the one authentic shot that’s his…that’s in harmony with the playing field, and live in that rhythm.

This resonates so much with me…and perhaps it will with you.

I think God created us with an authentic shot, and when we’re living outside of that authentic shot, it’s as if we are hacking away at life simply trying to get by.

My encouragement to you this week would be to take time, get away with Jesus, and listen to what He might say to you in relation to this. What authentic shot did He create you to play?  What does “hacking away” look like for you?  What gets in the way of you stepping into the rhythm of the authentic shot?


I was watching TV and a commercial came on.  I had seen this commercial before, but this time I was drawn in.

The scene opens with men on an assembly line…almost like robots; they all look the same (Portraying that humans are simply cookie cutter versions of one another).

Then…out of the assembly line a head pops out.

He’s not content with being like everyone else. He wants to be different. And so he jumps off the line and begins to escape.

Alarms are going off. Security guards are scrambling. The man is running for his life…and for seemingly his ability to be unique from everyone else. I was so drawn in. Will he escape?

I was quickly snapped back to reality when the logo for Gillette Shaving Cream came on.

Go figure.

But I’ll tell you what it was that drew me in like I was watching a blockbuster movie in the theater.

It was my own desire to be unique; To be different than everyone else; To be the only me.

I’m willing to bet I’m not alone in this. I believe deep down there’s a desire in all of us to know we’re unique…that we weren’t just carelessly made from cookie cutter templates.

It’s a human longing.

It’s also a spiritual truth that dates back all the way to Genesis 1 & 2.  God creates man and woman in His image.  His image isn’t cookie-cutter, though.  How is that possible?  I’m not exactly sure, because I’m not Him.  But I do believe He’s infinite…and so creating infinitely unique individuals doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility.

All throughout scriptures we see glimpses of uniqueness in each individual.  Sticking with the Old Testament theme, we see the Temple being built by people who were uniquely and purposely gifted to do different things (wood working, metal working, etc).

Additionally, when Nehemiah took the task of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, he called people that had specific and unique gifts to do specific and unique things.  Every one in Scripture is unlike everyone else in Scripture.  It’s just the way things are.

Ironically though, uniqueness doesn’t come naturally. 

The marketing team that put together that commercial was able to identify a tension that most humans struggle with – settling for blending in with everyone else, or doing the work that uniqueness requires.

Make no mistake, they both require work.  It’s exhausting work to constantly compare myself with other people and to always second guess myself based on what other people think.

It’s also work to spend time listening to Jesus, discover my unique wiring, and figure out how God is calling me to implement that uniqueness.

My encouragement to you (and me) is to do the work of discovering your uniqueness, and like the guy in the commercial, run away from the temptation to do what everyone else is doing.

Above The Clouds

“Chicago is experiencing some stormy weather, so we’ll likely experience more turbulence as we land.”

That’s what I heard when I was coming back from a short trip to Memphis. We had already experienced a significant amount of turbulence as we took off from the Memphis Airport.  The Pilot got on the speaker and said we were in for more.  It seems as though I was flying on a day that had windy/rainy weather all throughout the middle-north USA.

I have flown before, so “turbulence” was a word I was used to. But what we experienced during takeoff was a bit more than I had signed up for, which made me nervous for the landing into Chicago.  I normally chew peppermint gum to make sure my ears pop at the right time…but during takeoff I had hoped the peppermint would calm the ever-growing nauseous feeling in my stomach.

It is not an overstatement to say that I was becoming fearful.  Not the outlandish, screaming, panic-y kind of fearful; even still, I began wondering how much jolting this aircraft was built to handle, and in my minds eye I created scenarios where I’d have to act heroically and make life-saving decisions if the plane were to go down.

Before it got too bad, however, and before anyone was reaching for the barf bag, we had broken through the clouds and when I looked out the window I saw a beautiful contrast.  Above and beside us was nothing but blue skies…while below were the dark grey clouds we had left behind.

It’s amazing the perspective you have when you’re above the problems you were just facing.


So many times, however, we aren’t above our problems.  We’re in the midst of them.  Because of that, we allow them to create fear — a low-grade level of anxiety that sits at the pit of our stomach and the forefront of our minds.  We begin creating scenarios in our head about the worst possible outcome.  We rationalize that kind of thinking because, well…better to have a plan in case the worst happens.

All the while, if we’ll just lift our perspective so we can think above the stormy clouds, we’ll be able to see clearly.  We’ll be able to right-size fear and put it in it’s place.

“Do not be afraid.”

God often reminds his people throughout Scripture of this command.  And that’s what it is…a command.  Each time these words find their way into the narrative, God is reminding someone that fear and anxiety, although real, must not define the reality of a Jesus-follower.  There’s a better way, and God is there to help us experience it.

The task ahead of Joshua — to lead the Israelites after Moses passed — was daunting, to say the least.  But God was there.

The story God was writing for Mary & Joseph was bizarre, difficult and confusing — but God was with them.

This four-word command from God doesn’t negate the fearful situations we find ourselves in…it simply offers us a better way to engage in those situations.  We can meet the fear and anxiety when it comes, recognize it, and then immediately bring it to the more-powerful presence of God.

When our fears meet God’s presence, the feeling we get — the peace that passes understanding — will be like breaking through the clouds after experiencing some turbulence.  Calm will surround you, and the fear will be below you.

Realizing God is with us enables us to rise above the clouds.

We’re not OK, and that’s OK…but let’s get better, together.

Have you ever been to a counseling session?  I have.  Multiple times.   It’s incredible.

I’ve been to group counseling as well.  That’s great, too.

The people I hang around and work with are actively trying to take the negative stigma out of counseling and normalize it.  I sincerely hope it’s a trend elsewhere, too.  It needs to be.

Sitting in the counselor’s chair is admitting that you’re not OK and there’s areas of your life you wish were more healthy.  When you do that there’s immense freedom that overwhelms you.  A freedom that breaks the chains of performance-based living.


I was talking to a friend recently and commenting on how, in America, there’s a desire to be seen as all-put-together (probably in other parts of the world too, but America is my context).  We live in a performance-based culture, where everyone wants to be seen when they’re at the top of their game.

Even though it’s understood that no one is perfect, we’ve created a society where perfect is what’s presented.  Airbrushed images, makeup to cover blemishes, scripted talk-shows, etc.  If it’s on camera or print, then it’s gotta be perfect.

The byproduct of this culture is when a less-than-perfect area of our lives presents itself, our first — and loudest — desire is to hide it.  No one can know that we’re not perfect. No one can know that we struggle.  And so it becomes a secret.

When sin becomes secret, it secretly grows.

Whatever you’re struggling with will grow, even though it seems as though you’re managing it.  As long as you keep it a secret, it’s gaining power behind the scenes.

James, the brother of Jesus, talks about this. He penned these words (James 1:14-15):

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

The word “allowed” sticks out to me.  James knows that because of Jesus, sin doesn’t have to grow…but it will if we allow it.  If we keep on hiding the failures, struggles, and sins that haunt us, they’ll eventually grow to a point where we no longer have control of them.  They’ll find a way out.

I don’t know the details, but I’m guessing this is one of the reasons multiple people are being outed for inappropriate behavior towards women.  We live in a culture that makes it easy for men to objectify women.  If we, as men, hide that sin long enough and pretend that we have control over it, it’ll eventually take us out.

My friend, Noah, is releasing a book soon – and just wrote an article for the Lansing Post – about this very subject.

The sooner we can all admit that we’re not OK, the better.  The sooner we humble ourselves, stop photoshopping our flaws so it appears we have none, and come to grips with the fact that we’re not Superman (or Superwoman), the sooner the performance-based, portray-only-perfect culture will begin falling apart.

We must begin normalizing our pain, struggles, failures and areas in need of growth.  If done in healthy community, those things that once hid in the shadows and had power over us will be brought into the light and the power deflated.

But that’s just step one.

It’s not enough just to all huddle together and chant, “We’re not OK! We’re not OK!”  The reason our Heavenly Father sent Jesus was so that, by His Grace, we can be free from the power of sin and take steps towards health.  We can join others in community and help each other grow.

If all men ever did was admit to each other that they struggle with lust, and they don’t have a healthy view of women, but never did anything about it, then nothing would change.

Accidental growth doesn’t exist.  It must be intentional.

Apply this to finances.  I’m a spender.  If all I ever did was confess, “I spend!” but then never hold myself to a budget, I’d never move forward in my finances.

We must grow.  Because even though it’s OK that we’re not OK, we were created to continually take steps towards living like Jesus.  To settle into complacency is to cheapen the grace Jesus bought us.  As Bill Hybels often says, “God has only ever given us His best.”

So here’s to throwing away perfection, setting down the photoshop brush, locking arms with other flawed humans, and running after Jesus.

We’re not OK, and that’s OK…but let’s get better, together.


If This, Then That

Cause and effect.

We see it everywhere.  The season changes, and so the leaves fall off the trees.  A drop of water hits a calm lake, and ripples follow.  I cheer for the Detroit Lions, and so I’m consistently disappointed.  (Or maybe this is their year?!)


Too many times this is how we view the struggles and trials that come into our lives.  We subconsciously tie good things that happen to the good things we’ve done.  We think, “If I do enough good stuff, then good will come back to me.”

We think the opposite is true as well.  If someone does enough bad stuff, then bad stuff should come their way.  I’ve heard it said this way, “What goes around, comes around.”  And while this saying has some merit, it’s often applied too generally.

I’ve shared my cancer story on this blog, and I’ve had my eBook out for a couple of months now.  And one of the major things I’ve learned relates to this very topic of “If this, then that.”

I don’t believe that I was diagnosed with cancer because I did, or said, something that God didn’t like.  I’ve done, and said, MANY things that were outside of God’s will for me.  God is not an angry ‘being’ up in Heaven waiting to play the cause and effect game.  Cancer wasn’t a result of bad behavior (or lack of good behavior).

I believe the same thing about whatever storm you’re facing. The storm didn’t come as a result of anything you did or said.

There is one caveat.

There are times that we do stupid things and bring storms on.  For example, a thief who gets caught will suffer the consequences.  If I bang my head against the wall enough times, I’ll likely do some damage. In these scenarios, cause and effect is alive and applicable.

But I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about the unexpected storms.  The storms that blindside us.  For me, it was a cancer diagnosis.  For you, it’s likely something else.  The question is, why do these storms come?  Is it simply “a part of life”?  Perhaps.  But could there be more of an explanation?

John 16:33 does indicate that as long as we’re on this side of the dirt, we’re going to experience hardships.  The context could have Jesus talking about spiritual persecution, but I think it applies generally as well.  We won’t leave this world unscathed.  Everyone reading this likely has a PhD in life storms — tough circumstances are a part of life.

But what if there was another way to look at the trials?  What if we began to change the question surrounding trials?  That’s the reason for my eBook.

Instead of sitting in a “why me?” mentality that is rooted in “If this, then that”; what if we were to see trials as a part of spiritual discipleship and evangelism?  What if God used the trials in our lives to grow us, and to reach others?

I think that would change the game when it came to suffering in this life.  Storms would still suck, but storms would turn into something useful.

What storms might you be facing?  How do you see God using that to grow you or to reach others?


Theology of Weakness

The strong survive.

Not sure about you, but I’ve heard that statement a few times in my life.  It’s embedded in our culture – the movies we watch, songs we listen to, shows on TV, etc.  The one with the most money wins.  The strongest wins the competition.

In sports and other competitions, this mentality serves people well.  And why not?  If you work hard for the trophy, and your work ethic gives you a leg-up on your competitors, then you deserve to win.  All of my strong-willed, competitive friends shout in agreement!

Because this thinking is embedded in our culture, it’s gone beyond just competitions and sports games.  It’s leaked into life.

If you’re not first, you’re last!

Ah yes, gotta love Talladega Nights.  But isn’t that how some people live?  They may not have that motto tattooed on their forehead, but their actions give them away.

God’s economy is different than the worlds.  We read this all throughout our Scriptures.  There is, woven throughout the Bible, a theology of weakness.  We see it in Moses when he runs into the desert and spends 40 years in obscurity, humility, and weakness – only then to be used by God in big ways.  We see it when Jacob wrestles with God and finally admits his brokenness (claims his own name instead of pretending to be someone else) – and walks away from the encounter limping.

This Theology of Weakness culminates on the cross of Jesus.  Criminals were killed on crosses, not Gods.  Yet there God was. In the world’s eyes, it was the height of weakness. To God, however, it was the only way.

What the world didn’t know was that true strength comes from weakness.  That’s the picture of the cross.  That’s the life we are called to.  The Apostle Paul has this in mind when he laments about the “thorn in his side” – through his own, personal weakness he finds God’s strength.

My Grad School professors called this way thinking Cruciformity.  To live a cruciform life was to be shaped by the cross of Jesus…to see the world through cross-shaped glasses.  Jesus embraced ultimate weakness – being put to death – so that He could be raised up.

When we embrace weakness, it’s then we find God’s strength to live an abundant life.

Pete Scazerro talks about the Theology of Weakness in his book The Emotionally Healthy Church.  My biggest takeaway from that section of the book?  Being Ok with not being Ok.

Here’s how Pete talks about this theology of weakness:

  • Admitting we all have pains and losses, and instead of ignoring them, we enter into them, learning how to properly grieve.
  • Naming the difficult situation we find ourselves in – be it a cancer diagnosis, a divorce, or some other disappointment.  When we do this we acknowledge that we aren’t superheroes.

Doing this results in two dynamics:

  • We are closer to our suffering Savior – a God who is not a stranger to pain and loss; and…
  • We relate more closely, and offer more compassion, to those hurting around us.

May we, today, grow in awareness of our own pain and loss; and may that awareness draw us closer to a God who is with us in the midst of of it all.

And when we win (because winning & being first isn’t a bad thing), may we not allow that to define us – may we be whole…recognizing that God can and will use all the experiences of our lives, the good and the bad.