paying the price

You can experience so many things if you're willing to pay the price for them.

Strangely, we understand this with entertainment... vacations... designer beverages.

Strangely, we neglect this with personal and spiritual growth.

Consider the investment Jesus has made into you - His own life.

Why expect that to more fully step into that investment that it would cost you any less?

"What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries." (Luke 12:6-7, The Message)

happy days Jesus

Sit on it...

The Bible says Jesus made people:
  • Uncomfortable
  • Confused
  • Angry
  • Repentant
  • Worshipful
  • Riotous
There were a number of things He got angry over.

Is your "Jesus" more about life feeling like "happy days?"

Perhaps you've made Him a bit more like Fonzie:
  • Working magic
  • Setting you up with dates
  • Helping you with problems
  • Always having a clever response-a-mundo
  • Giving a "thumbs up" on your life
Sit on it.
"Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves." (Matthew 21:12)

good leaders

Good leaders...

(yes, you ARE one)

are less concerned with what makes people happy and more concerned with what will make them healthy.

You can't teach a man what he thinks he already knows... what she thinks she already knows...

but I'll bet you knew that.

What can you do?

The best compliment you give to those you lead: Demand their God-given best.

The most practical gift you give them: Serve them at your God-given best.

solid followers

Sometimes people shake their hands at the leadership "above them."

Sometimes they should.

Most of the time? It's just the path of least resistance when compared to self-ownership and self-growth.

Worth noting... Judas and John has the same mentor.

What was the difference between the two?

If you can tell, you can pick which story yours will be like.

"The call to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is open to everyone, but we don't get to write our own job description." - Francis Chan
"...whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all." (Mark 10:43-44)

what you fear, and what you have faith in


It's either something you crave or something you avoid (usually depending on the circumstances).

The news has been relentless the past couple of days regarding "Ebola" coverage. There have been moments of clarity and perspective, but most of the news almost seems to be poised to get you to keep watching the news. "We're going to tell you something else to freak out about, right after the commercial. Then later, something even worse. Keep watching."

All of this has likely led you to recognize what you fear, and what you have faith in.

Fear and faith are two extreme reactions, almost the exact opposite of each other: fear believes the absolute worst can happen, while faith believes the absolute best can happen.

What should a loving Christian to do? Shall we continue to extend care and embrace all we come in contact with... just as Jesus would? Is this a time for revival - for boldly reaching out to others and helping them know the assurance of God, heaven and eternity? What about how we live?

A friend of mine wrote this:
"Jesus didn't seem to teach His disciples to be cautious of anything that may threaten their own health/life. People’s eternal health is far greater than their/our earthly health, and if we need to step into the forbidden zone to present the Gospel of hope, then we do so with complete trust in God. I don’t think Jesus touching those with leprosy and healing them was only to display His power, but to also show his disciples how far the term “neighbor” extends. (I wonder how long it took for His disciples to shake His hand after those encounters…)"

Yes, we still live in the world - but, no... we are ultimately not bound to its current state. There is some wisdom in wondering ahead of the curve how we might need to prepare in advance for things taking a turn for the worse. However, we do need to determine if we will do so in advance panic or in advance assurance. God gave you emotions for a reason... to process things, expressing joy over things worth praising most, and expressing tears as you break over what matters most.

So... what matters most?

God doesn't need you to have enough faith to do it all... but to have enough to take the first step.
  • A word: Speak a blessing into another person. There's always something they could be doing better... how about telling that person what he/she is doing right?
  • A look: Put your phone down. Close your laptop. Take the bluetooth off. Quit looking at your watch. Let another person know you're really, really paying attention and that you don't have to scooch along. Give yourself a half hour to "waste" by lingering with others around you.
  • A touch: It could be an appropriately-placed hand on someone's shoulder. It might be an extra few seconds hugging a family member. It might be making space for your neighbors in your mini-van after inviting them to play paintball this weekend. It could be a God-honoring kiss, praising Him as you share affection with your affection. You'll know the moment as it presents itself... if you pay attention.

Is this finally the time for you and I to become imitators of Jesus... carriers of real hope and assurance... into the lives of neighbors, co-workers, friends and family?

Can we make some news, instead of merely watch the news?
"God did powerful things through Paul, things quite out of the ordinary. The word got around and people started taking pieces of clothing—handkerchiefs and scarves and the like—that had touched Paul’s skin and then touching the sick with them. The touch did it—they were healed and whole." (Acts 19:11-12, The Message)

note the quotes

No one is a lost cause. 

"Dirty people" provide good soil because there is a lot of fertilizer in their life... for the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.

"Clean people" provide the inspiration to live life as a marathon and not just a sprint... for we should not grow weary in doing good.

But note the quotes.

No one, except by rejecting Jesus, can be permanently labeled as dirty. Christ absorbed your sins and your hell into Himself to take your place.

No one, except by receiving Jesus, can be permanently labeled as clean. Integrity is only truly transformational when you are viscerally aware of your need for God.
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin... or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:21, 23-24)

intentions and action

Your intentions must translate into action.

If not today, declare when and stick to it...

or else they may not actually be your intentions.

Even then, be aware of the difference between your ambitions for God and God's ambitions for you. After all, Judas did things for and in the name of Jesus, and yet he betrayed Him in the end.
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.  (James 4:17)

honest... or rude?

"I'm just keeping it real!"
Honesty is an amazing thing. Jesus said that knowing the Truth will set you free, in fact. It opens up doors into place that are otherwise hidden, whether you're sharing something with another person or they're sharing something with you. 
Can you be too honest?
Some would argue you can't, and insist upon sharing their perspective on everything withought considering if it should be heard. Others will use honesty as a cover to be a jerk.
You've recognized this when you've felt this, right?
Have you recognized this when you've dispensed it?  
When does honesty cross the line? Is it all in the tone, or is it all in whether it's even necessary?
"Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive.
(1 Corinthians 10:23)

judge this

When you inappropriately judge another person, you appropriately define yourself.

This doesn't mean we're not to evaluate what comes out of someone and determine a reasonable response. Some avoid doing even that out of fear of offending another person, which (according to culture) is the "worst thing you could possibly ever do."

Is it?

Jesus never once suggested (including within the often misquoted "Judge not, lest ye be judged" statement) that we have no authority to make evaluative conclusions about human behavior. Rather, the authority comes from Him and His standards as we live out mutual accountability... it's to be two-sided and not full of lop-sized hypocrisy. Even within our "Who are you to judge me?" culture, we must push through our fear of offending someone by helping them see their blind spots and growing through them... we must believe this is important.

Is it?

The line, which I fundamentally proposed, is to become aware of how your healthy evaluation can easily get off-track and become an unhealthy, locked-in summary of who you think this person is. You can begin to see him/her as a "snob" when compared to your "humility," or as a "low life" when compared with your "morality." You will start to pride yourself on your ability to see through people, without realizing how you've become amazed at your own brilliance regarding the dullness you see in other people.  You will apply this to people above you, below you and next to you.

Of course, none of this probably applies to you. It likely just applies to someone else. This blind spot isn't at all a part of who you are, how you connect with others and the sass by which you approach the world.

Is it?
"Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor." (Matthew 7:1-5, The Message)

this is ridiculous

"This is ridiculous."

There's something about the growth that can take place in an environment of need or tension. You've experienced this when you look at a situation that seems backward, be it spiritually, financially, relationally or otherwise. You scan things over, and say three words - "This is ridiculous."

The real catch? Those three words actually mean one of two things:
  • "This is ridiculous. I need to personally step up and make this better."
  • "This is ridiculous. I'm going to quit, and I don't care what that means."

We've all had both of those reactions toward something in life. The former can cause a break-through that we didn't know were possible. The latter pulls us out of situations where we fear break-downs.

We're often blind to our short-sightedness in both options, sometimes stepping out of things too quickly or rushing in without a wise plan.

It's why you and I need to be devoted to leaning into God more than our own ideas. The key word in that idea, by the way, is "devoted." His wisdom must always trump our feelings - even if we'd rather live by our feelings and assume He's "with" us.

I tried challenging someone recently on a blind spot. The response? "I'm fine. God is with me and I'll figure it out." It was a defense mechanism that used spiritual language - it was meant to shut down the awkwardness of being confronted versus really open up and hear something that the person didn't want to hear.

Do you want to more be "with God" and His ideas on life... or do you more want God to be "with you" and your ideas on life?
It's crazy that we'd even consider the latter when we have the option of the former.

This is ridiculous.

"Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God." (1 Chronicles 22:19a)

everyday family. everyday faith.

I have a secret...
one that may be helpful for your household.

For several months, I've been conspiring within a team of some amazing people to prep/launch a new movement that went public today: Lifetree Family (

It may help to know why.

On one hand, there are already a number of blogs out there that do a decent job at saying decent things. Our goal hasn't been to replicate them, but to go into some of the uncharted territories through topics that we all seem a little hesitant to bring up. Other times, we hope to share a story from the trenches of our own lives that may give you that one nugget you need to tweak or overhaul your own.

You can even contribute to this. It just may be that something you've learned may help someone else.

In the meantime, check out the launch of the site today. Come back regularly, as there are rather hot topics we'll be covering that we hope will help you and your household be unconditional... be fearless... be authentic... be in awe.

Simply put, "Everyday family. Everyday faith."

the Land of In-Between

One of the most difficult places to be is "in-between."

It's not just the emotions you experience while in it... angst that is as random and intentional as standing in a global rainstorm you feel is exclusively directed at your face.

The real issue is that you're close enough to what you let go of that you're constantly tempted to swing back in that direction... because you're not feeling full released into what's in front of you to the point where not living backward makes sense.

If that makes sense.

And I imagine it does.
"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)

criticism inhales

the-criticCriticism inhales. 

I was going to use the word "sucks" for "inhales," but you may have taken that the wrong way... hence, my point.

So I'll stick with "criticism inhales." It actually communicates the point with a better word picture.

Unless, of course, you disagree. Feel free to critique that (and prove the point even further).  

Criticism inhales... because when you inhale, you take in whatever is in front of you in order to process it internally, silently keep what is worth hanging onto and publicly exhale what you don't want to hang onto.

Think about it.

Consider Tom Clancy's spin on criticism as added commentary:
"No matter what you or anyone else does, there will be someone who says that there's something bad about it. Whenever somebody comes up with a good idea, there's somebody else who has never had a good idea in his life who stands up and says, 'Oh, you can't do that...'"
– Interview with Inc., 1995
I've seen this almost my entire life among friends or in meetings. Someone brave enough to share something out loud is immediately critiqued for it. If the creator asks the critic, "How about you give me an original idea of your own?" the response is often back-peddling.

Because, let's face it - it's easier to inhale than it is to inspire. 

(Once again, feel free to substitute the word "suck" for "inhale" in the previous sentence.)

One more thing...

before you go thinking this has everything to do with your critics...

I'd encourage you to consider how it applies to you being an inhaler yourself.

Yes, you.

P.S. Isn't it odd how often we ask people to just inhale us for who we are, not at all considering what we're asking them to inhale?

that sounds like something Peter Pan would say

Some things are so overlooked that they're obvious.

That sounds like something Peter Pan would say, doesn't it?

Consider how just before Peter takes the Darling children away to Neverland, the two brothers John and Michael dream about the adventures they might have.

John says that he wants to "cross swords with some real buccaneers."

Michael adds that he wants to "fight pirates, too."


"Crossing swords with buccaneers" or "fight pirates, too."

Sometimes we're trying to say the same thing, but simply using different language. 

It's usually rooted in how we don't listen to comprehend, but listen with the intent to reply.

That sounds like something a pirate would do.
"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19)

Jesus didn't fire Judas

When is it time to cut someone loose?

Consider your job. A friendship. Creepy extended family members. Your church.

It's an awkward question, isn't it? Perhaps there's a better question to ask instead.

I came across an intriguing quote from Geoff Suratt that contrasts how Jesus led versus how culture/business tends to lead:
"Jesus didn't fire Judas... (many people) have bought into some aspect of top grading made famous by Jack Welch when he ran General Electric. The basic idea is that you only want 'A players' on your team. To achieve this goal an organization regularly grades the staff; the A players are rewarded while the B and C players are weeded out... the idea of consistently weeding out under performers is almost universal. The logic and results of this approach are hard to argue with.
The challenge is this isn’t how Jesus’ led. He didn’t force Peter to resign because he just didn’t get it. He didn’t suggest to Thomas that he might want to look around for another rabbi since he didn’t seem to buy into Jesus’ vision. If Jesus utilized top grading he would certainly have let Bartholomew and Thaddaeus go for under performance."
Suratt references Next Jump, a company that offers on their website:
We don’t hire employees, we adopt family members. We don’t fire at Next Jump, we coach.
Charlie Kim, Next Jump’s CEO, says no one would lay off an under-performing family members, so why would a company? Thom Rainer, on the other hand, hits on the tension of Christians firing Christians - "Sometimes the greater danger is doing nothing."

You'll certainly find more examples that defy what is being discussed here. Many companies have made their mark by firing people instead of pursuing them; many people have tried to build the perfect life by ditching relationships instead of rooting into them. 

Why not? There's always another replacement around, isn't there?
Consider your job. A friendship. Creepy extended family members. Your church.

Then again... Jesus didn't fire Judas. And here we are, twenty centuries later still feeling the impact of His style and values.

Maybe that's what makes grace so "amazing."

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

how I won't pray for you

I am regularly honored to have people ask me to pray for them.

Maybe it's because I'm a pastor, or maybe it's because I'm their friend. Perhaps it's a little bit of both.

Sometimes I sense they want me to pray for something I'm not sure I can pray for.

For example, I once had a family ask me to pray over a medal they were going to give to their son who was heading off to serve in the military. I have no critique for their motives. Essentially, they were asking that I could impart something supernatural onto the medal that would make it protect him while he was there.

Obviously, that's not something I can do. It's one thing for God to say to Moses, "Hey, your staff will do this now..." and another thing for me to make a similar declaration about an inanimate object without first checking in with God to see if He wanted to work that way.

So I prayed on my own for wisdom, and eventually circled back to the family. "I'm sorry," I began. "I can't do what you're asking me to do. What I do know is God would much rather first look out for your son's eternity than promise you he will be safe at every turn. He's challenged me to pray with and for your son for that reason. I'd also like to be a prayer partner and pray for his safe return and journey with God while he's away, but I can't pray for this medal to do what you want it to do."

They replied, "What if we make a donation to the church?"

I answered, "I wouldn't know about it because I'm not the guy around here who personally keeps track of any of that. I do that on purpose so I can give you honest answers like this one."

They thanked me for my honesty. It was pleasant.

Then I learned two days later that they'd left the church and found someone down the street who would pray for the medal like they wanted.

I told you that story to tell you this one.

A man once walked up to me and asked that I could pray that he and his wife would ultimately have a safe life. I asked if something was prompting this, like a threat or situation they were worried about. He explained there wasn't any threat, but he was sure God's best plan for them was that they'd live a safe life.

This happened a few months after the first situation occurred. Perhaps fueled by that a bit, I explained, "I can do one of two things. I can pray that prayer, and we can assume that God's greatest plan for your life is safety. Or I can pray that you will experience the life God has for you to live. That means I will not directly pray that God makes you safe, but allow Him to know and declare what the ideal tone for your life needs to be. If you want, I will pray one step further... that God makes you dangerous – so dangerous for Him that when you walk into a room all the demons of hell flee because of your presence. How does that sound?"

He nodded his head, thought for am moment and eventually said, "The second one." We prayed that prayer. That family is also still around in our church today... and yes, they're quite dangerous for Jesus.

I'll let you figure out your own application now.

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

God's mute button

What if God watches us sometimes without audio?

I don't mean when we pray. He assures us that He hears us when our hearts genuinely cry out to Him.

I'm suggesting that He hits the "mute" button when we use our noise to make a spectacle of our faith.

Let's face it - every one of us could earn an Academy Award in acting in some area of our lives. What if it's in how we try to come across spiritually?
  • We say we "prayed about it," when what we did is make a decision and look for circumstances or emotions that validated it, ascribing this to God.
  • We sing a song about God's role in our lives, but have no intention of Him actually having that role.
  • We show up in attendance at church, but don't attend to what God has shown us to be His Church.
Does He ever have to grab his remote and put us into slow-motion without sound so He can lean in and note how our dialogue doesn't match the activity?
"The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7b)

real words

What you think repulses me.


Other times it inspires me.


The catch is there are rules we're supposed to follow in what we say.

We give the "safe" answer. "Fine, how are you?"

It certainly seems more palatable than the "awkward" answer. "I'm horrible. The gout on my feet has been acting up."

There are other issues that can be affirmed from only one direction. For example, if I were to post on online "Hey everyone, I'm coming out of the closet..." I would get lots of affirming comments, such as "Hey, I'm here for you. I won't judge you. I have your back." 

Imagine if I were to finish the sentence by saying, "Thanks, because I'm coming out of the closet on what I think about culture's blind affirmation of homosexuality, and I want everyone to know God's perspective on it." The response would be different, wouldn't it?

Ever wonder why people crucified Jesus?

Look - you know what it's like to be real.

You know what it's like to feel joy, pain, anger and fear. You know what it's like to experience betrayal. You know what it's like to move forward in a relationship. You know what it's like to lose someone you love.

So do I. So do the people around you.

So how can the conversations you have today better reflect that?
"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." (Ephesians 4:15)

sidestepping the words of God

Here's a thought... what about the Bible? 

This is usually the point when you put your head down. I'm tempted to do the same.

For some reason it seems like a majority of Christians struggle with reading the words of God.

Notice how I described that.

I could have just said "the Bible." Instead, I noted that we are avoiding reading the words of God.

Think about how insane that is. Here we are in life, begging for Divine revelation... when it's already been written down for us.

We might say we struggle because it's difficult to get into a routine.  

The real truth is we make time for the things that matter to us.

When my wife and I were dating, I would run out the door at work in Michigan and drive hours down to where she was at school in Indiana to spend five minutes with her before her curfew. It was chaotic, but we didn't care - because that time mattered to us... because of the relationship.

Perhaps the real issue is something we're afraid to admit.

It is often in opposition that we are defined. Maybe that's why we avoid the Bible more often than we engage it. Let's face it - who wants to be chiseled away at when you could instead go through your day in your own sensibilities?

Might that be the real issue here?
"The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being." (Proverbs 20:27)

dressing up your emotions

Feelings are a lot like the clothes we wear. 

Some people change their wardrobe on a whim. Others hang onto things that are clearly meant to be given up. There are those who wear the same basic outfit each day, protective over what they're used to. Another group of people make everyone else uncomfortable with how naked they seem to be.
 What should be "donated" for the sake of "charity?"

What should be "saved" for the sake of "protection?"

And for that matter, what should we be clothing ourselves in to begin with?
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (Colossians 3:12-15)

why you don't like love


You and I don’t like love. 

Even when we know what it is, we'd rather have something easier than love. We are addicted to the feelings love creates and will mistake the two, even when we think they know the difference.

Love looks chaos in the eye and enters in. It is sacrificial, and ferociously full of gentle grace. It can somehow speak the truth without keeping a record of wrongs. It's kind when there are justifiable reasons to be unkind. It looks for a reason to lay down even more roots, and even more roots after that, and even more roots after that.

Love inspires even after having been perspired.

Love thinks outside-the-box while staying inside-the-box.

Love "believes it" before it "sees it."

Love gives impatience the middle finger.

We don't want that. We want the experience without paying for it. We want to order the steak and hope the waiter picks up the bill.

It’s ridiculous.
"Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:8a)