The Curb


New year, new you! Maybe? Have you broken your resolution yet? I know its only a few days into the new year, but leftover Christmas candy can be tempting. (Our stash has been mysteriously disappearing while my wife is at work.)

Maybe you’re still going strong! You’ve been eating healthy, exercising more, limiting your time on social media, or you haven’t missed a day of reading the Bible. Congratulations!

If you want to maintain your resolution or you’re ready to give it another shot, then let’s talk. In Overcoming the Odds, I shared how trust in God is vitally important to maintain our resolutions. There is a second key to keeping strong. This key is not limited to our New Year’s resolutions. It’s for anyone who struggles with temptation and sin, like every human being does. We mess up and wish we could stop. We’re in the same boat as the apostle Paul who wrote “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19 ESV). If you’re ready for a change, then try this; stop looking at the curb.

A friend taught me this lesson while he was learning to drive. Although he was a nearly flawless driver he had difficulty turning corners. Almost every time he would hit the street curb, making his parents let out a big grunt. He tried so hard to dodge those curbs, but with each turn, BUMP went the car and UGH went the parents. To avoid hitting the curbs so much, my friend began sitting up and peering out the window to gauge where the curb was. But this seemed to only increase how often he would hit them. The solution came at last when he stopped looking for the curb and began keeping his eyes straight ahead. It was only then that he missed the corner and stopped throwing his passengers into the air.

When trying to resist temptation, we frequently put too much attention on the behavior we want to avoid and not enough on Christ. We keep thinking about the temptation or recalling how we’ve messed up and we end up driving ourselves right back into the thing we’re trying to avoid. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It happens because we think it will happen. When we focus too much on the curb, then we’re going to hit the curb. We need to redirect our focus.

Rather than focusing on the temptation we want to avoid, we must learn to keep our eyes on the road in front of us. We must learn to focus our life on Christ. It is through Him alone that we can resist temptation and say no to sin. On our own, we’re bound to run into the curb again and again. But when we focus on what is in front of us, when we focus on Christ, that is where we’ll go. We begin to let Him take control and point us in the right direction. Our focus becomes about drawing near to Him rather than putting the focus on moving away from the temptation. While the motion is one in the same, the point of focus makes all the difference.

So whether you’re working on New Year’s resolutions or you working on saying no to temptation, just remember, stop looking at the curb. Start focusing on Christ.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2


2017 Booklist


If you had met me in middle school or high school, the only books you would find near me were the textbooks that were required for class. But over the years I have grow to love reading and the magnificent places that words can take us.

Here is the list of the 25 books I had the chance to read in 2017.

  1. Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (Wish I had read this years ago. Follow a skeptics journey in asking if Jesus really is Christ.)
  2. Sharing Jesus without Freaking Out by Alvin Reid (Scared of sharing the Gospel? Pick this one up.)
  3. The Cure by John Lynch and Bruce McNicol 
  4. Three Crucial Questions about Spiritual Warfare by Clinton E. Arnold
  5. Catching Foxes by Dr. John Henderson (Great book for dating or married couples)
  6. The Truth about Employee Engagement by Patick Lencioni
  7. The Ideal Team Player by Patick Lencioni
  8. The Advantage by Patick Lencioni
  9. The Five Temptations of a CEO by Patick Lencioni
  10. The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Leader by Patick Lencioni (I enjoy Lencioni’s work if you couldn’t tell)
  11. The God Conversation by J.P. Moreland and Tim Muehlhoff (Terrific book on answering your friends’ questions about Christianity in an understandable way)
  12. Simply Christian by N.T. Wright
  13. Interpreting the Psalms by Mark Futato
  14. Spiritual Disciplines of a C.H.R.I.S.T.I.A.N. by Gil Stieglitz
  15. God Rivals by Gerald R. McDermott
  16. Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman
  17. Just Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybels (Sharing the Gospel is as simple as that)
  18. Start with Why by Simon Sinek (Every leader should start with why)
  19. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
  20. Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp (A must read for those in ministry)
  21. Good to Great by Jim Collins
  22. A Team of Leaders by Paul Gustavson and Stewart Liff
  23. The COACH Model by Keith Webb
  24. In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen (reread)
  25. The Truth about Leadership by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

Overcoming the Odds

new year.jpg

Only 8%. That’s the amount of people that will achieve their New Year’s resolutions according to the University of Scranton. That isn’t a very encouraging statistic for those wanting to exercise more, eat healthier, or save more money in the new year. In fact, its downright depressing to think that almost everyone will fail to keep their new year’s goals. Most people wont even attempt to make a resolution for this very reason. Why are we so bad at keeping our resolutions?

There are plenty of explanations out there, such as not setting realistic goals, an absence of accountability, not budgeting well, and a lack of planning. Maybe resolutions are simply easier said than done. Matthew 26:41 comes to mind when Jesus remarks to his disciples that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Failing to keep our resolutions is probably a combination of all those, but I think one reasons stands above the rest. Our failure to keep resolutions is a result of failing to trust God.

Since New Year’s resolutions are often about ourselves, then we believe its up to us to accomplish them. Thus, all the weight is put solely on our shoulders. Sometimes, that weight is too much to bear. Consider overcoming a sin or temptations you’ve battled for a while. Maybe you want to conquer an addiction, or get out of that abusive relationship. Or maybe this is the year you consistently read the Bible or serve the community on a more regular basis. Whatever it may be, the weight can be a lot to handle, especially when things get tough. And it will get tough, which is why many people bail and fail on their New Year’s resolutions.

Wouldn’t it be great if someone could help bear the weight? Well God can! God wants us to trust Him with our finances, relationships, and personal growth. Ultimately, He wants us to trust Him with our life. He is the Creator of the Universe, the One who knows us inside and out. He wants us to bring both big and small things to Him in prayer. We can confidently give everything over to Him, knowing that He will take care of them. There is no one better to trust than Him, even with our New Year’s resolutions.

Maybe you’re still looking to 2018 with doubts, maybe more than just New Year’s resolutions. I can relate. But as I do, I also think about Joshua, Moses’ successor. After Moses died, the daunting task of leading God’s people into the Promise Land came to rest of Joshua’s shoulders. As the tremendous gravity and responsibility of his position started hitting Joshua, I imagine sweat beading on his forehead. Then God’s voice booms from Heaven, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” These words were enough for Joshua to trust in God, rise to the call, and lead Israel in victory after victory.

And God’s Word is enough for me to trust in Him and walk with confidence into the new year. God is with us as He was with Joshua. For those who believe and call on His Name, He is there. No struggle, no goal, or even resolution is too big for Him. You can be victorious. You can be the 8%. If you truly want to overcome those odds, if your resolution is really something you want to achieve, then trust God. When we place our trust in God, I believe we can give our best and God will carry us into victory. Trust in Him this New Year and overcome the odds.

This Little Light of Mine…


All over the world, colorful lights are dancing across rooftops. It’s that time of year when families string hundreds and thousands of bulbs all over the house to celebrate Christmas. Homes and neighborhoods come to life as the streets glow a little bit brighter. Cars drive bumper to bumper with noses pressed against the windows, straining to get a glimpse of every scene. From the humble to the magnificent to the excessive, Christmas lights fill us with wonder and awe.

Last week I witnessed a stunning light display. It left me not just in awe, but inspired. You would have missed it if you were walking around your neighborhood. And you wouldn’t have seen it while driving around at night. They were the lights that can only be seen when hope is shared with another.

‘The most wonderful time of the year’ is anything but that for many children in our community. Rather than being a time that is filled with happiness, they are filled with hunger. While many students have meals provided for them during the school year, the breaks often go overlooked. Some elementary and middle school students fear Winter Break because they do not know when they will receive their next meal. Our church just couldn’t stand by knowing this was happening in the local schools we support.

The goal was to put together 50 boxes of food that would provide for a student during the break. After weeks of gathering snacks, mac n’ cheese, and other non-perishables, last week finally came. All the boxes and donations were due. I’ll admit that I was nervous as the response had been slow. And I’ll be honest, we didn’t meet our goal. We doubled it! 100 students and families will have food provided for them during the Christmas Break. Not only that, but volunteers came from all directions to help organize, package, and deliver the boxes. There was a buzz about serving a need in our community that would make an impact.

We serve a big God and when His light is going to make an impact, the flood lights will come on. School faculty were in shock as giant boxes walked through their doors. It wasn’t just a few cans of food or a loaf of bread, it was 30 pounds of food for each child in need. Joy filled the front offices. When parents came to pick up the box, more shock filled the room as they peeked inside. One single mother was in tears knowing that someone cared about her and her son. Through the mix of laughter and crying, she managed to get out ‘thank you’ every chance should could take.

When the boxes were opened last week, it wasn’t just food that the families saw, it was hope.

From the God who has given us hope beyond our wildest dreams, we can do nothing less than to share hope with others. The hope that God offers is a light in this dark world. There is not a dark corner on the earth that He cannot light up. I watched believers unite to meet a need in our community and saw hope radiate from every face that was impacted. The whole experience was one grand light show. God’s light was stirred in the hearts of believers and it shown like a beacon to our community.

How will you let your light shine this week?

“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:15-16

Peace on Earth


Every December, when the frigid air comes to rest in the valley, one of the tallest buildings in town transforms into a beacon of hope. It’s hard not to notice the grand red lights shining atop the structure. But no one is looking at the building, they’re staring at the message crafted by the simple string of lights. In giant block letters the words, ‘Peace on Earth’ beam down upon the city.

Most years this message is a delightful Christmas greeting amidst all the other holiday lights strung around town. This year, however, the sounds of the busy street below seem to mock the message. Roaring headlines of terror, war, and poverty seem to drown out any idea of peace. I was reading an online news article yesterday about the fires that are ravaging southern California right now. Out of curiosity I did something that I don’t normally do; I read the comment section. What I read absolutely broke my heart. There were no comments of sympathy, grief, or a care in the world for the people who were losing everything they had. Every comment I read was dripping with sarcasm, political jabs, and cynicism. I sat there disgusted by what I saw, all while the words Peace on Earth seemed to now taunt me as they floated over the city.

How did we get here? How did a message of hope turn into taunting? Maybe the real question I should be asking is simpler than that. Maybe the question I should be asking is, what is peace?

In Hebrew the word peace is שָׁלוֹם (shalom). Each of the four Hebrew letters that make up the word shalom have a specific definition that brings a captivating depth to the word. The first letter שָ means ‘destroy’. ל means ‘authority’, וֹ is a connector, and ם is ‘chaos’ or ‘overflowing cup’. So together peace is defined in Hebrew as “destroying authority connected to chaos”. How cool is that?

The question now is what or who is the authority of chaos? Consider a weed in your yard for a moment. A weed is never really gone until you rip it out by the roots. You can cut off the head, tear off the leaves, but until the roots are pulled out, that weed is still alive. There might be many people or things you consider an authority of chaos, but if we desire peace in our life, then its going to begin by recognizing the root of chaos.

God’s Word tells us that the authority of chaos is Satan. He is the thief who has come to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He has no other desire than to mess things up and cause utter chaos for humanity. Satan doesn’t do that by making us spill coffee on clean clothes or cancelling our flight or getting our children to throw tantrums. He can certainly use those, but ultimately, he wants to distract us from the Peacemaker, Jesus.

When we are born, we are born into a world of brokenness and pain that is caused by the poison of sin in humanity. While we are capable of doing good, we are bound to sin. We are selfish, gossip, lie, cheat, steal, and so much more. No one is perfect, so we are bound to sin and the consequences that it brings. Satan loves it when we sin, because it creates chaos and drives us toward an eternity of chaos. But Jesus doesn’t want us to have to live in an eternity of chaos. He doesn’t want us to have to live without love, joy, and peace. So, God created an escape plan to break us out of the chains of sin. He sent Jesus to die on the cross, to accept that penalty of sin in our place. But He didn’t stay dead. Jesus rose again, He conquered the grave, thus freeing us from the bonds of sin. As a result, He offers us forgiveness, freedom, and peace.

For those who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, we have received peace from the Enemy, Satan. Christ has destroyed the authority connected to chaos. We are no longer slaves to sin, but walk freely with the peace of Christ wrapped tightly around us. That doesn’t mean that life is perfect. We still spill coffee on our clean clothes. But there is a peace that surpasses all understanding that covers our lives. I know peace in my life because of Christ. There are anxieties and fears that are gone, because I know that I am loved by God. It is a peace that is available for everyone. If you don’t know Christ as your Savior, that peace is available to you, you just have to believe in Him (Romans 10:9).

For those who believe and walk with God, then you must ask yourself a question today. In the season of giving, how are you giving peace to others? God has blessed you with a peace that covers your eternity. This is not a gift that is meant to be withheld, but shared with others. When your brother or sister is grieving, how will you bring peace? When you are holding onto grudges or resentment, how will you bring peace? When you learn that someone does not know Christ, does not have the peace of God knowing that they are saved from their sins, how will you share God’s peace with them?

How will you make “Peace on Earth” a reality today?

Ephesians 2:13-16, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”


Death of the Golden Rule


It’s something that neither of us expected. My wife and I have had a bizarre year in restaurants. It wasn’t the food or atmosphere; it was the service. Almost every time we went on a date we were overlooked, ignored, or forgotten. Once, I was standing at the front counter waiting to put our name in. When the hostess returned, she looked past me and proceeded to check in the couple standing behind me.

On another date we decided to stick with water to drink. We finished our first glass before the salad and asked for a refill. We never received a refill that evening, but we did receive several refills of apologies followed by several prolonged absences by our waitress. Most recently were waiting with friends for a table for lunch. After our estimated time passed, we asked the host where we were on the list. He replied that it would only be ten more minutes. As the minutes passed by so did several other parties that had walked in after us. Probably any normal person would have found another restaurant at that point, but we were committed. We were committed to waiting over an hour before one of my friends (an employee of the restaurant) started her shift and promptly sat us.

I don’t know how we got so lucky this year. Part of me is still scratching my head when I wonder how two adults with their master’s degrees were repeatedly treated like children without a parent. Maybe its pride. Maybe its because I don’t always speak up. Maybe its because I make up excuses for servers since they don’t have the easiest job. Whatever it may be, we had a very bizarre year.

While I was surprised at my experience this year, this occurrence is all too common. Not usually in restaurants, but in everyday life. We look out for ourselves, rather than others. The Golden Rule we grew up learning, seems to be dead. We don’t treat others as we would want to be treated. We put ourselves first. I’m not trying to propose anything new. It’s been happening since the fall of man. Sin has long enticed us to look out for ourselves, rather than others. Yet for some reason I feel like it happens more often. Maybe I’m just more aware of it today than I was yesterday.

I still remember the shock I felt when I heard the news report from New York in 2010. A homeless man had rescued a woman from a knife-wielding attacker, but was stabbed several times during the confrontation. The man collapsed on the sidewalk laying in a pool of blood. For over an hour he laid there with nearly 25 people walking past him, taking cellphone pictures, staring at him, and even bending down to look at his face. It wasn’t until an hour and twenty minutes after the man fell to the ground that someone shook him and called 911. By the time firefighters arrived, he was already dead. As he was taken away, a security camera silently hovered above having captured the entire scene.

Why do we allow this to happen? I wish I could write this and say that I’m different. I’d like to think that I am. I’d like to think that I’d call 911 immediately or that I’d put the customer first. But I can’t say that without some doubt, knowing that I’m human, prone to the bystander effect and prone to sin. I can be selfish. And I believe that if you take a close look at your life, you’ll find that sometimes you’re in the same boat. Maybe we would call 911 right away. Maybe we would put the customer first. But at some point in your life, you’ve put your wants and desires above the needs of others.

My humanity is not my excuse to follow the status quo. My humanity is my call to humility. See, despite my selfishness, God still loves me. He still loves you. God believes we were worth dying for so that we may be set free from the bonds of sin. My selfishness did not deserve His selflessness. Yet Christ still sacrificed His life, rose from the dead, and all so that we may have forgiveness. His love is humbling and it is compelling. His love beckons us to believe and follow. As we follow Him, we desire to walk as He did by putting others first. When we set aside our own desires and serve the needs of others His love shines forth. This week strive to put others first and serve their needs before your own, just as Christ did for us. How will you serve others?

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:3-8

Little Blessings

Panic raced through my mind as the tiny light flashed in the car. The Maintenance Required light had just turned on. What’s wrong? Am I going to make it to my next stop? Is the engine going to fall out? After a quick glance across the dashboard, I realize the problem; it was time for an oil change. My alarm dissipated, and I continued to drive.

An oil change meant another expense for the month, not something I was looking forward to. My panic turned into procrastination. After weeks of postponing, I finally dragged myself in to get the oil changed. When I arrived, I remembered that I had a punch card from previous oil changes. Unsure of how many holes were on the card, I rummaged through my glovebox. Maybe, just maybe today would be the day. To my relief and delight, the punch card was full, and I could receive a free oil change and inspection that day. My procrastination had been pointless, along with my dread of the expenses. All thanks to a little blessing.

We are in the season of counting our blessings. As families and friends sit around a table next week for Thanksgiving, we are reminded of all that we are grateful for. For loved ones, for God’s provision, and of course the bountiful meal. Maybe you have a job, maybe you have a roof over your head, you might even have heat to keep you warm. These are only a smattering of the things that we can be thankful for.

May I challenge you with something this week? Remember to be thankful for the little blessings. There is plenty that I find myself taking for granted. God provided a free oil change this week. I am reminded of His blessings and good timing in all things. Both big and small I have a lot to be thankful for, but it tends to be the little things that go overlooked. This morning I woke up with breath in my body. Praise God that He gave me another day! I got to read my Bible today. Praise God that I have a Bible and the ability to read it! Last night, Tiffany and I had a friend over before she travels for a while. We are both deeply thankful for her friendship and for the many friends God has brought into our life. Praise Him who has blessed us with such amazing friends!

We all have a lot to be thankful for. Maybe you don’t think so. You look around at your life and you don’t have a whole lot. But that’s part of this challenge; too look past what we might consider the big things in life and recognize the little blessings that we do have. Recognize the things in your life that you don’t often praise God for, the things we take for granted. You might even take time to write them down and put the list somewhere you can see it as a reminder of the little blessings.

May you and your family have a wonderful season of thanksgiving this week. Remember all the blessings, both big and small, which God has given you. He deserves our praise for it all. He deserves our praise most importantly for the grace He extends each person through His redeeming love (Romans 5:6-11). For those who have accepted this gift, we have a ton to be thankful for. In light of God’s great love, we recognize that He is more than worthy of our praise for the big blessings and the little ones.

Psalm 9:1, “I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”