Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Trevin Wax on The uselessness of twitter battles.

Twitter is a place for conversation, but once we go into battle mode, I think the legitimate conversation is already over. Twitter battles are like putting on a spectacle for the perverse pleasure (or dismay) of the Twitter audience. Has anyone watching one of these debacles ever said, “You know what? You convinced me! I’m wrong and you’re right.” No one. Ever.

21 ways to perk up your productivity.

Chuck Lawless on 10 ideas from wise leaders.

Give your family veto power over your schedule.  He’s an incredibly busy man, but he somehow manages his schedule well. Here’s what he taught me: involve your wife before you make a commitment that requires you to be away from home after work hours. Be prepared to change your schedule if your family says, “We need you at home.” You’ll be less likely to lose your family in the midst of busyness if they have opportunity to help you plan your schedule.

Denny Burk on How to deal with false teachers.

Not every purveyor of false teaching is a lackey of the Devil. We have examples in scripture where bona fide believers are the source of error in the church. Apollos was a man mighty in the scriptures who taught accurately about Jesus but who nevertheless was only familiar with John’s baptism. In Apollos’ case, his deficient teaching was an error of omission. He simply did not yet know the full apostolic message. Priscilla and Aquila came alongside Apollos and explained to him the way of God “more accurately” (Acts 18:26). Presumably, Apollos responded favorably to their correction such that Paul would later identify Apollos as a co-laborer in preaching the gospel (1 Cor. 3:5-9).

3 tips on being a friend of sinners.

If Jesus was a friend of sinners, we should be too, it seems — somehow, someway. And instantly, this discussion can drift into a much bigger one about Christians and culture and all that. But instead of going there, let’s just talk friendship for a minute. Friendship, which is not without its implications, is more practical and relevant than a primer on the church’s posture in society. So in that light, here are three tips on being a friend of sinners.

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God Does not Withhold His Forgiveness

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I’m reminded as my kids get older that parenting is about the moments we miss or don’t miss. Changes in our kids hearts, seeing the Holy Spirit work in them, helping them make right choices, helping them become who God has called them to be, it happens in moments, in conversations. While some of those might be planned and exactly as we see them working in our heads, by and large, they just happen.

I was reminded of this recently when our kids made some poor choices for some babysitters while Katie and I were out. As we talked with them and led them through a prayer of repentance, I was reminded that God already forgives us.

It was a great truth to remind my kids, God does not withhold his forgiveness from those who ask it. 

In the church, many say they believe this, but few actually do. We talk about grace and forgiveness with the culture around us, but don’t believe that God will really forgive them if they seek it. We also sometimes harbor bitterness at the idea that God would give forgiveness so freely to someone who would sin so willfully. Yet, we sin willfully. And God grants us forgiveness without reserve.

As we talked with our kids, Katie reminded them of 1 John 1:9 which says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

This verse often gets talked about in terms of becoming a follower of Jesus, yet 1 John was written to Christians. Meaning, as a follower of Jesus, you will continue to sin and mess up. You will continue to get it wrong. Which means, you need to continually ask for forgiveness and confess your sins to God. But, that God is faithful and just and forgive us of our sins. I’m blown away that God’s justice in this verse is equated to he forgives us. Imagine that justice. It is forgiveness. Not wrath. Not anger. Not hatred. Not withholding love and his presence, but forgiveness is his justice for a follower of Jesus who confesses his sin.

And…

He will cleanse us of all unrighteousness. He will make us right. He will make us into the person He has called us to be. 

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Piecing Life Together when it Falls Apart

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Maybe you’ve gotten to the end of 2013 and wonder, what did I do this year?

You look back with a sadness of relationships that are broken, people who no longer speak to each other. You think back to those who you were close you last December who are no longer there.

It might be a career that has fallen off the tracks. A dream you had in school last year that doesn’t seem possible anymore.

Maybe you were given horrible health news this year. We as a church have been walking with families who were told this year, “you have cancer and it seems hopeless.”

Sometimes, life feels like a puzzle that you are putting together and you get to the end and discover that there are pieces missing. 

Yet, in one my favorite chapters in the Bible, John 21, we find that Jesus puts the pieces of our life back together.

In this scene, Jesus is on the bank of the Sea of Galilee, where Peter and his friends are doing what they love, fishing. This is what Peter does to relax, unwind. It is what he does for a living.

Peter is still reeling from the pain of denying Jesus 3 times. Watching him die and wondering what lay ahead because of the resurrection. So he fishes. It seems like the natural thing to do. When we are depressed, lost, sad or down in the dumps, we do what we know. So Peter goes fishing.

When they see Jesus, John tells us that Peter jumps in the water and swims to him. The details of John 21 are fascinating to me. He tells us how far Peter swims, how many fish they catch.

He even tells us the kind of fire that Jesus builds: a charcoal fire.

This seems like an odd detail until you remember that in John 18:18, the night Peter denies Jesus three times we are told that Peter is warming himself beside a charcoal fire.

Jesus does this to remind him. Not to rub his nose in it, but to remind him.

When we think of piecing life together, we often want to forget what is broken to move forward. That isn’t possible though. If a marriage falls apart, it is still apart. You can’t forget that. You can’t make that not true. The pieces are there, the brokenness remains, you will feel the affects of that for years, possibly the rest of your life. And so will others.

This fire is an important picture for us.

We have to know that following Jesus does not remove what is true in our lives or what has happened. But Jesus doesn’t leave us there. He transforms us. He changes us.

Then, Jesus asks Peter three times, “do you love me?”

Not because he is hard of hearing or because he wants to annoy Peter, but because Peter denied Jesus three times. He is giving Peter the chance to make things right. Not because Jesus didn’t believe him or because Jesus needed to hear it three times.

Instead, I think Peter needed to say it three times. He needed to know in his own heart that he loves Jesus more than anything.

Grace is often about how we accept it. For many, believing that God forgives them, loves them and gives them grace is a hard thing to believe.

For Peter and maybe you, it might be difficult to believe that Jesus isn’t finished with you. 

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A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World

bookI have had Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (kindle version) on my iPad for a couple of years. I heard about how great it was from other pastors. Katie read it and it changed how she prayed and connected with God dramatically. Yet, I never got around to reading it. I felt like my prayer life wasn’t great but it wasn’t horrible, so I put it off.

Then, as I was preaching through the book of John at Revolution Church, I got to John 17 and decided that as I was preparing those sermons and looking at how Jesus prayed, I needed to up my game in a big way. So, I finally read A Praying Life. 

I’m really sad I waited this long to read it.

What I appreciated most about this book was how easy to read it was and how helpful it was. Most books on prayer simply make you feel bad because you don’t pray enough or correctly. I don’t need to be reminded of that. That’s why I’m reading a book on prayer. I never got that feeling from Miller in this book.

A big part of this book is understanding what it means to ask God for things as a child would a parent. That a child asks relentlessly, they have no filter, anything is possible and they ask til they see movement. As adults, we don’t ask God in prayer for things like this. This is one reason we miss the relationship with God we were created to have.

Miller says:

A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is all about relationship. It’s intimate and hints at eternity. We don’t think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with. Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God. Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God. You don’t experience God; you get to know him. You submit to him. You enjoy him. He is, after all, a person.

Almost every book on prayer is based on some kind of “system” or way of praying. This book is no different.

Miller challenges the reader to use prayer cards instead of a list.

I got some three-by-five cards, and on each one wrote the name of a family member, along with a Scripture that I could use to shape my prayers for that person. I began developing a stack of prayer cards that allowed me to pray through my life—for loved ones and friends, for non-Christians I’m building relationships with, for my church and its leaders, for missionaries, for my work and my co-workers, for character change in my own life, and for my dreams. Here are the overall guidelines I use when creating a prayer card.

  1. The card functions like a prayer snapshot of a person’s life, so I use short phrases to describe what I want.
  2. When praying, I usually don’t linger over a card for more than a few seconds. I just pick out one or two key areas and pray for them.
  3. I put the Word to work by writing a Scripture verse on the card that expresses my desire for that particular person or situation.
  4. The card doesn’t change much. Maybe once a year I will add another line. These are just the ongoing areas in a person’s life that I am praying for.
  5. I usually don’t write down answers. They are obvious to me since I see the card almost every day.
  6. I will sometimes date a prayer request by putting the month/ year as in 8/07.

Why use a card over a list? Miller answers:

A prayer card has several advantages over a list. A list is often a series of scattered prayer requests, while a prayer card focuses on one person or area of your life. It allows you to look at the person or situation from multiple perspectives. Over time, it helps you reflect on what God does in response to your prayers. You begin to see patterns, and slowly a story unfolds that you find yourself drawn into. A list tends to be more mechanical. We can get overwhelmed with the number of things to pray for. Because items on a list are so disconnected, it is hard to maintain the discipline to pray. When I pray, I have only one card in front of me at a time, which helps me concentrate on that person or need.

This may not work for everyone, but it has been working in our family and life and I found this book to be extremely helpful and winsome when it comes to prayer and connecting with God.

How Sorrow & Tragedy Turns to Joy

Made for Glory

Have you ever found yourself in a situation that you weren’t sure how you’d get out of? Or, have you ever looked at a situation and wondered how it could get better?

We all face those moments.

It might be something from your past: a divorce, abuse, abandonment, poor choices in college. It might be something that just happened or that you are walking through right now. 

These moments are incredibly painful and while they are life altering, they don’t have to be wasteful. They can have a point.

This Sunday, we’ll continue our series Made for Glory as we look at John 16:5 – 33 where Jesus tells us not only that we will experience these moments, but how those moments aren’t wasted and our sorrow and tragedy can turn to joy.

If you have ever struggled with letting go of things in your past, dealing with hurt or seeing how joy can come out of hardship, this is going to be a great Sunday to be at Revolution.

Remember, we meet at 10am on Sunday mornings at 8300 E Speedway Blvd.

When Being Hated is a Good Thing

Made for Glory

Ever feel like it is hard to follow Jesus? That making decisions to be pure, have integrity, and live out what the Bible says is difficult.

This is not accidental. In fact, Jesus tells that it is part of God’s plan.

Is there a point to it though?

Most followers of Jesus can understand that living for Jesus in our culture will be difficult, but what is the reason? Is it just to be difficult or does it have a greater purpose?

How as a follower of Jesus do you handle a culture that seems more and more intolerant of your beliefs? How do you raise kids in a culture that doesn’t think like you or believe like you? How do you handle yourself in a culture that does everything to put you on the outside looking in?

This Sunday, we’ll continue our series Made for Glory as we look at John 15:18 – 16:4 where Jesus tells us that we should expect it to be difficult to follow him, to keep his commandments, to be pure and holy, but that we can do it through his power, not our own.

In these verses, Jesus tells us we should expect to experience what He experienced and because of that, we will then experience the glory with God that He has promised to his followers. 

If you have ever struggled with how to follow Jesus in our world, or to stay pure, keep the commands of Jesus or if you’ve wondered what it looks like to follow Jesus in a way that makes sense in our culture, this is going to be a great Sunday to be at Revolution.

Remember, we meet at 10am on Sunday mornings at 8300 E Speedway Blvd.

Monday Morning Mind Dump… [Afternoon Edition]

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  • It has been a busy few weeks in our house
  • Today is day 9 of having Judah home
  • Still hard to believe that he is here and that our long journey is almost done
  • We’ve been blown away by how helpful everyone has been
  • Especially in bringing meals
  • If you’d like to do that, here’s a link to sign up
  • If you’re curious how things are going or how you can support and help us now that he is home, read this
  • Yesterday was a long day for me
  • Had church in the morning, which was awesome
  • Blown away by all that is in the gospel of John as we’ve preached through it
  • It is one thing reading through a book as you prepare to preach compared to preaching through it
  • Love how things line up and are relevant to my life and the rest of my church
  • If you missed yesterday as I talked about how God grows us through our pain, you can listen to it here
  • Last night, I performed a wedding for some good friends from Revolution
  • Love being a part of weddings
  • It was also Judah’s first big excursion and he did awesome
  • He loved all the lights and decorations they had up for the evening wedding
  • So much fun to sit, talk and laugh with good friends at the reception
  • I started a new workout program last week
  • I’m taking a break from the typical crossfit workouts and trying a 10 week strength program
  • Pretty excited to see how it goes as the results are supposed to be insane
  • I got through week 1 last week and needless to say, it was brutal
  • Pretty excited that this week is halloween
  • Why?
  • It’s one of the best weeks of the year to be on mission
  • For the only night of the year, your entire neighborhood will be outside, walking around and stopping at your house
  • What an opportunity
  • Here’s how you can capitalize on it
  • I’ve been working my way through Mark Driscoll’s new book
  • Tons of great content for leaders
  • Personally, I’m saddened by how he has handled himself in recent weeks, really undermines his message of unity he tries to put forth in the book
  • Look for a review soon
  • A mind dump wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my Steelers
  • Blown away how bad we are
  • Wow

Being Friends with Jesus

Made for Glory

Do you ever feel disconnected from God? Maybe you have the feeling that your prayers go unheard or unanswered? You don’t feel God’s love like you once did? Maybe you’ve never felt close to God or felt His love and you wonder if it is real.

This happens everyday to all kinds of people, regardless of their spiritual journey or where they are in their relationship with Jesus.

Maybe you’ve wondered what God wants from people. Does He want robots who do only what He wants when He wants it? Does He expect people to be His slaves while He is the master?

What if life is meant to be so much more than that? Our prayers that are heard and answered, feeling close to Jesus and knowing His love and knowing that we are His friends.

This Sunday, we’ll continue our series Made for Glory as we look at John 15:1 – 17. 

In these verses, Jesus lays out what it takes to be connected to Jesus, how to feel and know God’s love. And Jesus for the first time says that his followers are his friends. Which is an enormous statement. 

If you have ever struggled with feeling the closeness of God, wondering if Jesus can use your life or wondered how to feel and know God’s love. This is going to be a great Sunday to be at Revolution.

Remember, we meet at 10am on Sunday mornings at 8300 E Speedway Blvd.

Comfort, Peace and Finding Something Greater

Made for Glory

Have you ever wondered what God is doing right now?

People often debate if God is real, why he allows things to happen that we deem not okay. But what is God doing this moment?

When your life is hard or uncomfortable, is he there? When a child rebels, a spouse walks out, finances run low or you fail a class, is he there?

This question has enormous implications on our daily lives. This gets to the heart of who God is, his love and care for us and our world, how we interact with Him today and how He interacts with us.

This Sunday, we’ll continue our series Made for Glory as we look at John 14:7 – 31. Particularly at verse 12 where Jesus says His followers will do greater works than He did. How is that possible?

If you have ever struggled with feeling the closeness of God, seeing the Holy Spirit move in your life or have wondered how to interact with God or how He interacts with you to bring you peace, comfort and wisdom into your life. This is going to be a great Sunday to be at Revolution.

To go with the day, here’s a new song that Paul is teaching that perfectly sums up this message. Listen and come ready to sing!

We will also be celebrating baptism. If you haven’t signed up yet, email Ciara Hull to get details.

Remember, we meet at 10am on Sunday mornings at 8300 E Speedway Blvd.

Loving People Who are Hard to Love

Made for Glory

Do you have anyone in your life that is hard to love?

You aren’t alone. All of us have people in our lives that try our patience, rub us the wrong way, use us, lie to us and even abandon us.

The question becomes then: What do you do with those people? As a follower of Jesus, how do you react?

This Sunday at Revolution Church, I will be preaching from John 13:31 – 38 where Jesus tells us that we will always have people in our lives who will be hard to love, but how we are to love them, when we are to let them go and how this act of love allows us to live the life we were created to live. 

While the words of Jesus are simple and straightforward, they are hard to live out. Yet, the freedom that comes from knowing who to love, who to let go of and when to move on from a relationship brings enormous freedom. It also shows us how much Jesus loves us and what He wants for us.

Remember, we meet at 10am on Sunday mornings at 8300 E Speedway Blvd.