Don't Compare Yourself To Others

Don't Compare Yourself To Others

Have you ever been in a room and started to wonder about the other people? Am I the youngest person in this room? Or the oldest? Am I smarter than everybody else in here? Am I better looking than him or her? If everybody in here gave my appearance a grade, what would I end up with. Well, at least I know I would do better than that guy...and she would definitely get a lower score than I would.

We take some comfort in knowing that while we may not be at the top of the pile, we’re definitely not at the bottom of it.

Maybe you’re drop dead gorgeous. Or crazy smart. Or filthy rich. Even if you’re the tops in some setting, I could probably find a bigger room with more “competition”. Or, I could just change the category to find an area where you don’t want to put yourself up for comparison.

That’s the danger of comparison: you’ll always find somebody better than you in something.

Why Bother Praying?

Why Bother Praying?

In Matthew 6, Jesus twice tells the people who are listening to the Sermon on the Mount that God the Father already knows "all your needs" and therefore we should not worry. These statements comes immediately before and after he explains how to pray; which includes statements about keeping prayer short and keeping it private.

So clearly, prayer is important...but, what is it supposed to look like in my life?


Are People Going To Spend Eternity In Hell?

Are People Going To Spend Eternity In Hell?

I seem to have two choices: get on board with the reality of a place of eternal torment or ignore the whole thing as best I can.

I'm not the kind to ignore stuff, and I can't get happy about the first option, so here are some perspectives I apply to the concept of hell as I try to put it into proper perspective in my life of faith:

Why You Need To Be An Artist

Why You Need To Be An Artist

You have a story to tell.

I know that because every person has a story, and it is my belief that every person should share their story.

The arts are an eloquent way of telling that story, and I believe God wants you to use them to share your perspective on life with others.

Dear Fellow White Christians...

Dear Fellow White Christians...

In the last couple of years, conversations about race in America have gotten louder and more inflamed than they have ever been since my adulthood (I was 14 when the LA riots happened in the aftermath of the LAPD-Rodney King incident).

From Trayvon to Ferguson to Eric Garner to Freddie Gray, the conversation has been growing, especially on social media.

Hoodies. Hands up, don't shoot. I can't breathe. Black Lives Matter.

As a white man living in a suburb, what am I supposed to do with all this? Anyone who isn't white may be disheartened to hear this, but It would be pretty easy for me to ignore all this.

How Much Money Should Christians Have?

How Much Money Should Christians Have?

Well, I didn't win the $1.5 billion Powerball.

You can tell because I'm not writing this from my new gold plated space shuttle.

I know some people will have a problem with this, but I bought a ticket. I never for a minute thought I would actually win. The reason I bought it was so that my family could enjoy the entertainment of the 'what would we do with it' conversations.

I’m not too disappointed that I did not win, because the thing is - that much money would probably ruin my life.

How To Forgive

How To Forgive

Someone harmed you, wronged you, took advantage of you or someone you care about, and it hurt, but you have chosen to forgive.

Now that the question of whether to forgive has been resolved, you are faced with the challenge of how to forgive what he, she or they did.

Why Should I Forgive?

Why Should I Forgive?

Forgiving is hard. Jesus wouldn't lead us to do this just because he wanted us to be miserable. If Jesus calls us to do something hard, it's because it is the path to something better - the path to a fuller life

Forgiving people who have wronged or harmed you or a loved one is difficult, but life giving.

Let's look at the reasons why you should forgive someone who harms you.

Healthy Engagement with Politics

Healthy Engagement with Politics

Breaking News: we have a presidential election occurring here in the US later this year.

You may have missed it, or perhaps you noticed a web article about it.

Or newspaper article. Or magazine article. Or a TV commercial. Or news coverage. Or trending twitter topics. Or one of the debates. Or a billboard. Or a robo-call to your phone. Or unending posts about it on your Facebook feed.

It’s hard to miss, is what I’m getting at here. 

My question is this: in the midst of often 'spirited' debates, how can Christians debate and discuss who to vote for and retain our identity as the Body of Christ?

How Fasting Helps Our Faith

How Fasting Helps Our Faith


In the year 325 AD, the council at Nicea decreed that the 40 days leading up to Easter would be a time for fasting (not including Sundays, which means Lent technically lasts 46 days).

For me, lent is a time to set my living personal faith upon the shoulders of brothers and sisters in the faith who came before me. Inviting tradition into my faith as a guide which lends strength and guidance.

Engaging in a traditional faith observation like Lent is a frame in which your faith can stretch out and grow as you pray and consider scripture over 40 days.


But What If Christianity Is Wrong?

But What If Christianity Is Wrong?

Deciding what religion (if any) to adhere to seems like a risky proposition.

I mean, what if you don’t pick the right one? If you pick the wrong one, does everyone else basically get to hear the losing horn from “Price is Right” in the afterlife — if there is one?

I happen to be a follower of Jesus, and I really do believe the things He says about God and the nature of reality. I have found a fullness of life which I simply didn’t have before making the choice to believe in Jesus. I’m never going back.

But if you are not currently a follower of Jesus, I can totally understand why you might hesitate to make a commitment. So allow me to consider what it means if people who take Jesus at His word are just flat out wrong.

Why Was God So Mad In The Old Testament?

Around the New Year, many of us probably jump in on a Bible reading plan. Reading through the Bible in one year is a great goal. Challenging, but not impossible, builds a positive habit, and seems like it will have some good results associate with it. But once the exciting days of Genesis and Exodus are behind you, you find yourself moving into Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and oh man I don't know if this was such a good idea.

From animal sacrifices to genocide to prophets warning of doom and gloom, you start to wonder if there's any value in reading this content.

How The Church Can Combat Racism

According to recent research, 8 out of 10 churches in America are made up, predominantly, from only one people/racial group. 11am on Sunday, it seems, is still the most segregated hour in America.

Unfortunately, that's not all the research found.

The report also found that two thirds of church communities felt they were 'doing enough' to be ethnically diverse, and over half felt that no further diversity was needed in their congregation.

How To Have A Conversation

On Christmas Eve, Sarah Silverman posted a tweet about Jesus being gender fluid.

Now, as a follower of Jesus, how am I supposed to react to this?

Should I get angry? Should I try to 'educate' people about the subject being posted? Do I ignore it?

Personally, I'm always interested in ways to get into a conversation about faith. This seems like a great conversation starter.

Is God Mad At Me When I Doubt?

So there’s this story in the bible I like a lot. It’s recorded in the book of Mark if you want to read it for yourself, but here’s the gist:

Jesus has been up on a mountain praying, away from the crowds that follow him everywhere. He comes down the mountain to find a chaotic scene.

A father who has a son with some serious issues has been asking Jesus’ disciples to heal the kid. The disciples have tried and failed.

The father brings the kid over to Jesus and I’m going to let what Mark wrote tell the next couple parts here:

(The Dad says to Jesus)  “Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

Jesus then punched him in the gut and said, ‘Come back when you don’t have any more unbelief, chump.” Then he rolled out with his posse.

In case you aren’t sure, I made that last part up. What actually happens is that Jesus heals the kid who suffered by major seizures and gave him back to his dad.

The father in that story is one of my heroes and I don’t even know his name.

Socrates and the Tough Mudder

picture-5173-1400881038There's an old story that goes something like this: A rich guy goes on a trip. Before he leaves, he calls his household employees together and gave them a task. Each of them got some money to manage for the boss while he was away.

- one got $3,000,000

- another got $1,200,000

- the third one got $600,000

The boss was gone for quite a while. When he came back, he called his three employees in to evaluate their performance.

The first guy had invested it well, and had been able to double the portfolio to 6 million bucks. The boss is thrilled, saying "Great job! My benefit will also be your benefit...I'm going to share the profits with you!"

The second guy also has good news - he doubled his portfolio as well. The boss tells him the same thing - that he's really pleased and that the employee is going to get a reward for his performance.

When the last guy speaks, it's quickly apparent that they didn't go 3 for 3.

The last guy tells his boss that he didn't do anything with his money. He was worried what would happen if he lost it, or if his boss would need access to it, so he put it in a checking account for the entire time. It didn't earn a dime.

The boss was furious with him.

"Are you kidding me!? You didn't even put it in a savings account or an IRA to earn some interest? If I can't even trust you with that, how can I trust you with anything I actually value?"

He was fired right in that meeting.

The story has multiple truths to explore. The obvious one is to do everything you can with what you have been given, but just below the surface of that is another truth: not everybody gets an equal starting point.

Both of the first two guys doubled their investment, but one of them started with a much bigger amount, so his results were magnified. The boss doesn't explain why one got more than another. It was the bosses prerogative to divide his investment however he wanted.

I went road biking with a friend the other day. I normally mountain bike, but I have a friend who road bikes and we agreed to each try the other style. I road biked with my friend, and he will mountain bike with me sometime later this summer.

When I was performing better than he expected, he complimented me and said that the running and mountain biking I do must have 'something to it'.

I told him about how I will be running a fourth Tough Mudder this year and how my current fitness goal is to complete a half full ironman triathlon next summer.

He had the same reaction that many people do when I talk about it, which is some combination of 'you're crazy' and 'why do you do this'?

My wife has asked me the same thing. Many friends and acquaintances have also asked this. I usually give an answer that goes something like this: I like to find my limits and push past them.

In the midst of the ride, though, something occurred to me. I told him the famous quote by Socrates: "The unexamined life is not worth living." I used to think this applied to philosophical introspection, but it dawned on me that was I applying this to my physical life.

I like to examine my limitations. So that I can push those limitations further out.

And I've done this not only in my physical life, but in my intellectual life as well. I finished a graduate degree and started teaching part time at local universities and colleges. I read books at a reasonable high rate on a wide variety of topics. I'm interested in entering a doctorate program in the next few years.

Spiritually, I threw myself into exploring the nature of God. To the point where I wanted to be involved in growing and strengthening the community of believers known as the Body of Christ. It led me to full time ministry.

I had an epiphany that I'm doing what Socrates said in pretty much every area of my life.

I think that I'm the second guy in that story from above (which you can read in Matthew 25:14-30 if you want the way Jesus told it).

I'm not the smartest guy I know, but I'm a professor. I'm not the fastest or strongest guy I know, but I've completed triathlons. I know better ministers, but I'm part of an amazing community of believers who I get to help lead.

The point I'm making is not that I'm a jack of all trades and a master of none, but rather that I simply wasn't given the 3 million dollars to start with, but that I think I'm doing everything possible with the one million I did get.

Others may have more than I do in their results, but I would bet that most of them started with more than I had to work with.

I think I have gotten pretty good returns on what I was given. And instead of getting frustrated that I didn't get more (with 3 more inches, my baseball career could have gone a lot further), I'm going to get every drop out of what I have to work with.

I didn't want to run races in my 20s because if I couldn't win, I didn't want to compete. I mistakenly thought I should compare myself to what others could do. I knew there would always be somebody faster than I am.

But when I learned to compete against myself, and against the clock, I realized that it was all about maximizing what God has given me.

I'll keep that in mind on June 13th in Virginia when I'm running through tear gas, electric wires and dumpsters full of ice water.

I do this because I want to get the highest rate of return possible out of every part of my life, so that my boss says 'Great job! I'm going to share my profits with you!"


Retelling Christmas: A Story of Joy

balloonsThis past Sunday, I got to speak about the joy we find in the Christmas narrative. Pretty much everybody who discovered what God's plan is - and that they get to be involved in it - are filled with joy. You know what? I don't like ending a sentence with the word 'joy' and a period.

Joy needs to have an exclamation point after it.



That's better. Okay, back to the blog post:

But it's not just at Christmas that people discover JOY! regarding God's plans:

Matthew records a story on Easter Sunday (I know, I know, now talking about Easter at Christmas. I shouldn’t do that...)

Anyways, Matthew tells us about some women heading to Jesus’ tomb on what would become known as Easter Sunday. When they arrive, they find an angel has rolled away the stone and the angel shares with them the news that Jesus has risen.

Here's what happens next:

Matt 28:8 “The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great JOY!, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message.” (emphasis mine)

These women discovered something God was doing, and it filled them with JOY! These women got to be the first people to share the Gospel.

(Just quick side note here. If you're a woman and you feel that God is calling you to ministry, what more authority do you need than the fact that God chose women to be the very first messengers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? God's gifts are not separated by gender. That's my riff on that.)

The bottom line is that if you want JOY! in your life, find out what God is up to and get involved.

This doesn't mean you won't have difficult time and circumstances arise. But if we remember that God is all about renewing and restoring all of creation and we get to be a part of that, there's a JOY! at the core of that which no circumstance or situation can ever fully smother.

So share the message of JOY! that the God who made us and knows all about us loves us and wants to have a relationship with us, because this is not something we're supposed to hold onto and hoard. God was pleased to share this JOY! with us, now we should go forth and share it with others.

Put other people first by volunteering.

Do something randomly nice like paying for the check of a family at a restaurant without them knowing

Give a Christmas present to somebody totally not expecting one from you (and tell them not to go get you one, but give something to charity if they feel a need to reciprocate).

Tell stories of JOY! in your life this Christmas in honor of the God who shouted it to us through his own son Jesus!


35@35 #19: Crockpots and Microwaves

crockpotTC’s Principles and Guidelines for Life #19: “God works more like a crockpot than a microwave.” I actually wrote a blog post on this one several years ago, and it became one of my own personal proverbs out of that process.

The bottom line is that we live in a day, age and society that often wants all of the rewards and none of the hard work.

If you want proof, just watch commercials on late night or mid-day TV.

We want to lose weight, so we want to buy a pill that will make it happen automatically, because dieting sucks.

We want money, so we need to hire a lawyer and take somebody else's money.

We want a more organized closet so instead of cleaning it out, we should buy vacuum sealing bags so we can fit more stuff in. Seriously.

I decided recently that I needed to eat a bit healthier. Eating healthier always seems like a good idea until the moment I have to put carrots into my shopping cart instead of potato chips.

Because it isn't easy. It takes work. I want to be healthy, but still eat all the junk food I want.

I think we can often treat our journey of faith, or just life in general this way.

We want all the benefits, and none of the hard work.

Maybe Jesus totally understands this, and that's why he said "If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine." (Luke 10:38)

God isn't fairy dust or magic potion or a get rich quick scheme.

A life of following Jesus is going to be an always developing journey. He won't 'fix' us when we open our heart to him. Instead, he will come in and live with us.

We don't become a ventriloquist puppet for God. We open ourselves to the maker of the universe who makes us spiritually alive, then he helps us to spread that life through the rest of who we are.

But he doesn't force it to happen. And he won't snap his fingers and remove the selfish urges and desires that live within us.

Over time, he'll work with us and in us to create a masterpiece. Adding spices here, stirring the pot there, putting in new ingredients when the time is right, letting heat and time do their work.

If we want to be fully and masterfully prepared, we must keep in mind that he is a patient chef. He uses ways that create richness, not salty, overheated garbage. God loves us too much to treat us that way.

But will we allow him to finish his work? That's the question we all have to face, especially when the process seems to be stretching out for an eternity.

Just because the chef doesn't seem to be constantly working on the dish in the crockpot doesn't mean he's making any mistakes.

Our job is simply to cooperate as much as possible, and not to give up.

Patience, after all, is one of the things he wants to instill in us.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23, emphasis mine)


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

35@35 #10: Loving Others

workshops-ocdTC's Guidelines and Principles for Life #10: "God doesn't call us to change people, he calls us to love people." I was listening to Nadia Bolz-Weber the other day and she said something that impacted me. She said that, as a minister, she doesn't feel responsible for what people in her faith community believe. But she does feel incredibly responsible for what they hear coming from the pulpit.

In other words, she is only responsible for what she can actually control.

To share a similar concept from an entirely different realm, I head Tyson Chandler (center for the New York Knicks) share some advice he got early in his playing career: that some nights, his offense was just going to stink.

Some nights, the ball just won't go through the hoop, and there's nothing you're going to be able to do about it in that moment. But that there is no reason why his defense should ever have an off game. Because defense is about hustle - and that's a choice rather than luck.

We have been given freedom of choice by the God who created us.

We can choose to have faith and follow his calling in our lives, or to ignore it.

God shares, broadcasts, announces his love - through his scriptures; through his sacrifice in Jesus; through faith communities that are called by his name - and he allows us to decide if we will accept that love and allow it to change us.

Jesus, in his ministry, doesn't spend most of his time telling people to stop doing this or that, but instead pointing to what we miss out on if we neglect a relationship with God: love and peace and joy and community and true fulfillment, etc.

Why should our purpose be different?

Martin Luther King Jr said that hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

Instead of finding things we hate about other people (which leads us to want to change them), let's instead find the areas we love about them and build community around that.

When we live in a place of sincere acceptance for others, we truly become agents of God's good news - that the God who made us and knows everything about us, loves us - and wants to help us become the version of ourselves that God intends for us. A person filled with love, peace, joy, etc.

You can't control people, but you can chose whether or not you will love them.

Like hustle on a basketball court, there's no reason why we can't love people in any given situation, because while what they do isn't in our control, how we respond to them is.


35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.