Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
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To My Soon to be Born Daughter

To My Soon to be Born Daughter-

I get to meet you in a few short hours, days, or weeks. Not sure which, you get to decide.

You will make me a father for the third time, something I haven’t always done a great job of embracing. I remember meeting your brother for the first time. It was all so surreal. Over and over in my head I would question emphatically, “This tiny human is my responsibility!?!?” I’m not sure anyone is ever truly ready to become a parent, but I knew for sure I was not.

It’s not that I didn’t want to become a dad, but it’s been a long journey over the last six and a half years toward embracing the title of “father” as part of my calling. I did the #dadlife as a necessary responsibility in my life, but it was often more burden than calling.

When your mother and I did premarital counseling I told her I wanted no more than 2 children. We’re opposites so, of course, she wanted 4 children. But after 2 kids, the idea of pregnancy and labor was difficult to process going through for her, so we decided it was possible we were done having children. I was okay with this.

But something changed. It’s hard to articulate what changed, or even how it changed, but something definitely changed.

Last July I sat with your mom on our couch and told her I thought we should consider having another child if God would provide in that way. Rather than merely accepting the reality this time I wanted to pursue it.

I teach people every week about the God who loves us enough to pursue us despite who we really are, and how this same God—when we choose to submit to Him—works in ways often unseen. Our disordered desires are often radically changed by Him.

This is the only way I can explain why you are joining our family: God changed the desires of our hearts over the course of several years. You are a tangible expression of how God’s love for us caused us to follow him in a new way.

We can’t wait to meet you!


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Process Not Outcomes

Not long after I finished preaching a man approached me with his family walking behind him. “Thank you for your sermon today,” he said. “It was exactly what I needed to hear. I’m going to stop drinking alcohol. It’s been a long time coming, but I decided during your sermon it’s what I need to do.”

I thought back through my sermon. What might I have shared to lead that kind of prompting in the man? I had no idea. My sermon was focused on the difference between believing in God and believing God. From my vantage point it did not lead to someone feeling empowered to rid themselves of a sinful addiction. And yet, it did.

This is just one recent example, but I could share many others when the point I was trying to make made a completely unrelated impact.

A couple things immediately came to mind after this interaction:

First is Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians church,

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow (1st Cor. 3:6-7).

Second is the often quoted encouragement included in Isaiah 55,

As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it (Is. 55:10-11).

As ministers of God’s gospel, we often get overly focused on results. We craft our communication to steward well the opportunity to lead others closer to God in a specific way. And yet, our calling is not the results. We are part of the process, the outcome is God’s to accomplish.

When I release the need to achieve outcomes to instead focus on being part of the process, I enable God to work in people the way only He can. When I’m truly faithful to the process, I assure the outcome that needs to take place can take place.

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Holy Week Reflection

The Gospel of John includes a unique account of The Last Supper on Thursday of what we often call Holy Week. Though its most noteworthy action is Christ instituting the Communion meal as representative of The New Covenant, John’s account begins with Christ washing the disciples’ feet.

Here’s the opening of John 13:

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Though we aren’t able to know for sure, we have no indication here that Judas was excluded from the foot washing by Jesus. Meaning that not only was his betrayer served, but all of the disciples who would abandon him also had their feet washed by Jesus. The scene is so striking because all the disciples knew that Jesus was the most worthy person in the room to be served, yet he chose the opposite posture.

In Luke’s Gospel, the account of The Last Supper (Luke 22) continues on to include the Communion meal instituted by Christ. Immediately following this, something shifts among the disciples. Here’s how Luke describes it:

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.

Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.

But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.”

Knowing this meal would be one of the last opportunities to teach his disciples, Jesus washes their feet as a way of showing what leadership looks like. Imagine knowing you had one final meal left before your death. Then imagine choosing to spend it with men who were either about to betray you or abandon you.

Yet, mere minutes after Jesus gives this shocking example, the disciples get into a debate about who is greatest. They completely missed what Jesus was teaching.

May we, like Jesus, embrace the opportunity to serve—”for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45)—instead of trying to raise ourselves up.

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God’s Sovereignty and the Gospel

“God has assuredly promised his grace to the humble, that is, to those who lament and despair of themselves.

But no man can be thoroughly humbled until he knows that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, devices, endeavors, will, and works, and depends entirely on the choice, will, and work of another, namely, of God alone.

For as long as he is persuaded that he himself can do even the least thing toward his salvation, he retains some self-confidence and does not altogether despair of himself, and therefore he is not humbled before God, but presumes that there is–or at least hopes or desires that there may be–some place, time, and work for him, by which he may at length attain to salvation.

But when a man has no doubt that everything depends on the will of God, then he completely despairs of himself and chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work; then he has come close to grace.”

—Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (emphasis mine)

Thank God, that in his sovereign goodness he has met our need through abundant grace. His Sovereignty and the Good News of Jesus are intimately connected.

10 years ago I hosted The Sovereignty of God blog series with a great group of exceptional writers. If this Luther quote piques your interest, don’t miss that series of posts.

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My Hot Take

hot takes

Turn on a morning talk show, open Facebook, look at Twitter—you can’t avoid an endless array of hot takes on the latest breaking news.

Following the 2016 Presidential Election I found myself exhausted from trying to keep up with the latest news and my personal response to it all. As a pastor and public figure with an online platform I felt it was my duty to help people navigate these difficult times by posting my take following nearly all of the biggest news stories that hit each week.

To do this well meant I needed to be up-to-date with all the latest in politics, culture, entertainment, and more.

Then I decided it was time for a change. I made the conscious, intentional decision to stop posting hot takes on the latest news.

This decision was and is platform suicide. It was also wise, though it’s taken much of that time for me to realize it’s wisdom.

I didn’t even recognize the ramifications entirely at the time, but it’s become clear since then: our online social networks are leveraged best through hot takes. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it’s nearly impossible to build a personal platform online without having an array of hot takes related to the biggest stories.

Why Hot Takes Work

Online news and the takes following the news rely on hyperbole and speed. In order to get as much reach as possible you need to overstate your point and make it as quickly as possible. This, of course, discourages nuance, charity, and thoughtfulness because hot takes are then driven by clicks and views.

As a writer and pastor with a website, a following, and several outlets for connection with followers, I felt the pressure to keep up. If you don’t stick with the hot takes you begin to take a backseat to others who post first.

Now a few disclaimers:

1. I have not successfully avoided posting hot takes on all the breaking news over the last 2.5 years. Some subjects are especially important and significant to me. Sometimes I lose sight of my stated desire to avoid putting out my hot takes. Sometimes it’s hard to stay quiet.

2. The counter-argument to my take on hot takes is that people are going to be influenced by someone or something, why not me? That’s a good point that I have no answer for.

To truly understand my intention on hot take avoidance I need to go back to the beginning. This all started by beginning with the end in mind. I had a greater goal in mind for myself, one that involved avoiding the formulation of hot takes. Generally speaking, I still have all the opinions, but I keep them to myself to focus on other things instead.

My Hot Take on Hot Takes

What motivated me to silence myself in responding to the latest news?

1. I wanted to focus on something greater than being noticed for having a good, hot take.

One of my favorite passages about Jesus is written about in Luke 5. In Luke’s Gospel, shortly after calling his disciples Jesus began performing miracles. Following the healing and miraculous signs, Jesus would tell the people to stay quiet. Why he did this is debated, but one thing is clear: he did not desire fame.

But Jesus couldn’t stop the crowds from jumping on the Jesus bandwagon. Luke says:

“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).

Jesus had every opportunity to build a crowd and to gain greater notoriety, but he valued something else entirely.

2. Hot take formulation is far too public to not cause damage to our souls.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus encouraged people to “close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). Juxtaposed next to this type of prayer is that of the Pharisees who make a show of their prayers—external righteousness—to which Jesus says “they have received their reward in full.”

Hot takes are not only are a form of virtue signaling (I’m right, you’re wrong), but they only allow for the kind of rewards that are ultimately unsatisfying. Our souls long for something of eternal significance beyond the temporal value of being seen, yet how quickly we take the bait in place of pursuing something greater.

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A Dangerous Life

This post will wrap up my series on exile, using Walter Brueggemann’s book Cadences of Home as our frame of reference. Though each post functions on its own, be sure to check out PART ONE, PART TWO, and PART THREE.

In previous posts, we’ve established that life as a Christian believer in much of the Western World feels disconnected from feelings of home. While few are geographically in exile away from home, the emotional and spiritual sense of home is fleeting in society today for those who desire to follow Jesus. To be a Christian today feels counter-cultural and embraces that life will look different than the prevailing notion of how to live by those around them.

These realities cause a variety of responses, most notably a movement toward assimilation with the dominant trajectory of society, or despair over these new realities with little strength to endure through them. Though these are common responses, Brueggemann shares that in order to be part of the remnant of exiles who continues to seek a home of faith we must embrace living a dangerous life.

What Is a Dangerous Life in Exile?

1. Dangerous Memories

Exile causes us to either forget the past or embrace weak memories. We need the memories of faith lived before us to instruct us and empower us today.

When we forget the past we subsequently overvalue the present and lose a bigger perspective.

When we embrace weak memories we lose the opportunity for “sustained remembering, bearing daily and concrete testimony to the way in which God works life in the face of death, to the way in which God creates newness out of nothing, to the way in which hopeless faith discovers the power for life” (pg. 121).

2. Dangerous Criticism

“To be an exile and to resist assimilation and refuse despair, one must not grow too cozy with the host empire. It was a powerful temptation for exile Jews, whose story had run out, to live themselves into the story of Babylon and to reidentify themselves as citizens of Babylon.”

3. Dangerous Promises

In exile, who is able to have hope? “Only the baptized, only those who regularly enter a zone of alternative possibility that is not rooted in present technology, but in gifts yet to be given, in promises yet to become visible, in gifts and promises guaranteed by God” (pg. 126).

4. Dangerous Song

“There is even more to be said for unruly, unruled imagination that dares to sing what is prohibited and outrageous and subversive, for such singing enthrones and dethrones, and the restless exiles sing until homecoming” (pg. 129).

5. Dangerous Bread

“There will not be genuine freedom until, having new bread, we refuse the offer of Pharaoh’s tasty bread” (pg. 131).

The embrace of this kind of dangerous life does not mean God will move at our beck and call, but we will be ready for this new move of God as it comes.

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