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?

Love Is...

Love Is...

On Valentine's Day, kids give and receive cards to one another. Restaurants are filled with couples. Those of us who are in relationships (and wish to remain in them) purchase cards, candy, flowers, etc and give them to those who we love.

It is a celebration of love, as evidenced by all the hearts and cherubs adorning the seasonal aisle in our local stores.

I'm not here to complain about the holiday. Love is a wonderful concept for us to celebrate, and the opportunity to give nice notes and gifts to others (even at a huge markup) is a good thing.

But love is more than red hearts and naked baby angels. It's more than spending quality time with a special someone.

In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul tells us just how much more:

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.

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!"


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.

35@35 #8: Selflessness

PufferTC's Guidelines and Principles for Life #8: "Never defend or justify yourself, let God do that. Just answer questions with honesty." So listen, this guideline will totally not work for everybody.

It will only apply to people who take Jesus seriously when he says "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)

Those of us who have made the choice to follow Jesus have signed up for a life of learning to die to ourselves.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in Cost of Discipleship, "when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die".

I hate this part of following Jesus. Everything in me wants to be selfish and fulfill any appetite I may discover within myself.

Yet I have learned the value of not doing that. It's because of this that I'm participating in Lent this year. I have given up all electronic entertainment (TV, Netflix, Movies, Video Games, etc) for 40 days so that I can instead focus on reading and prayer. Activities that I know improve the quality of my life and help me grow closer to God.

But they are less instantly gratifying that entertaining myself, so I naturally neglect them.

How does this all relate to the guideline that I try to live by, not to defend myself?

It may sound like I'm advocating that we, as believers should be doormats. On the contrary, I believe it's easy and expected and instantly gratifying to defend myself. To try to get revenge on people who speak ill of me.

Indignation is like rage candy. "How dare you!"

I'm asking us to go beyond that. To make the choice not to pick up our weapons when insulted. That takes more courage that most of us commonly walk around with. It's the opposite of being a doormat.

It means not being passive aggressive, or fantasizing about putting people in their place.

Miroslav Volf, in Exclusion and Embrace, makes the argument that in a world where trying to pay back injustice with injustice creates a never ending system of...you guessed it...injustice.

"If you want justice and nothing but justice, you will inevitably get injustice. If you want justice without injustice, you must want love." (Volf, 223)

It is not until we are willing to let God have the last word by refusing to repay evil for evil within our own lives that we truly become the peacemakers that Jesus talks about in the Sermon on the Mount. (See Matthew 5).

When I seek to justify myself, it leads to angry emails or pointed conversations. But when I trust God to deal with any unfair or untrue accusations, I embrace what Henri Nouwen refers to as the 'downward mobility' that should exist in the life of every believer.

We fulfill the parable of the wedding guests who take a seat of low honor and are publicly honored by the host (Luke 14:7-14).

I've been reading the book of Job again recently, and the only mistake I see from Job is that he tries to justify himself. God, in his response to Job, never takes issue with any of Jobs specific points of argument. Rather, he appears to take umbrage with Job's tone.

Job's only mistake was his efforts to defend and justify himself against his friends (and considering what he went through, that's pretty impressive).

When we are attacked or criticized without cause (look, if you're not doing your job and your boss criticizes you, this doesn't apply to you. Do you job.), we have a choice. We can defend ourselves or let God defend us.

Personally, I like the latter choice. Because when we put ourselves in God's hands, not only are we safe from anything that he doesn't permit, but we make ourselves open to receive his blessings.

That's a much better alternative than me getting the visceral benefit of demonstrating my contempt or anger through criticism or insult.


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 #7: Identity

IdentityTC's Guidelines and Principals for Life #7: "Don’t worry so much about where you are, focus on who you are.  Worry more about what’s happening in you than what’s happening to you." I learned this lesson when I found myself stuck in a corporate job that I didn't want. I'm grateful for the job, because it allowed me to provide for my family while I was working on attaining a graduate degree in Theology.

But the job didn't connect with what I felt God had called me to do, so I was pretty miserable.

One morning, as I was walking to the train to start my day (which also included a 3 hour commute), I felt God say this guideline to me. That I was so worried about what I was doing, that I wasn't paying attention to what God wanted to do within me. That the frustrating situation that I was in was actually causing me to become a different person.

A person who needed more faith and trust in God. A person who would have compassion for people who were stuck in the same type of situation.

I was eating manna in the wilderness because God was preparing me for the promised land he had for me.

Israel could have crossed from Egypt to Canaan in a matter of weeks or perhaps months. It took 40 years because God had to prepare them for their destination.

If you have areas in your life where you are frustrated, ask God what he wants to accomplish in you during that situation.

I found that God was dealing with specific issues within me that he wanted to deal with: pride, impatience, anxiety; and so he would put me in situations that really brought those problems to the front in my life. Then, he would go to work, helping me to confront those issues.

God is less concerned with getting us somewhere 'quickly' as he is with us being 'healthy' when we get there.

Elsewhere, I've made the analogy that God is more like a crockpot than a microwave.

God wants us to to grow as a person and connect more with Him before we start going off and trying to do something with it. And that's basically the opposite of what our culture tells us. Success means being the first to make it to a certain level.

But God isn't keeping score like some demented rat race. He's building relationships that make up his Kingdom of love and peace and joy.

And unless you become a healthy person, you'll never get to enjoy the benefits of that kingdom.

Stop measuring yourself against others, and instead time time to learn what God's agenda is for you.


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 #5: Introspection

introspection_by_badh13-d34c0vpTC's Guidelines and Principles for Life #5: "Introspection is the most valuable tool in spiritual and emotional development." It's hard to come face to face with your own shortcomings.

Realizing that I'm not a pinnacle of righteousness in a fallen world didn't fit well into the 'me against the world' narrative that I carried for many years.

The day, when I was a teenager, that I realized that I hated my dad and that if I was going to follow Jesus, I couldn't continue to do that...was hard.

I wasn't some victim, or some innocent bystander. I was doing something evil.

The day when, as a graduate student in seminary, I realized that my faith had become a façade rather a living relationship with God was also hard. Realizing that I had hiked halfway up a mountain only to discover it was the wrong mountain left me a choice:

Pretend that I was actually doing the right thing and keep going, or head back down and start over again.

But this post isn't about what to do when you discover your mistake, or your fault, or your sin or your wrong perception.

It's about getting to that moment of realization.

I love reading the Psalms. David is always exploding emotionally all over God, and instead of smiting David, or sending a prophet to tell David 'Shut up', God instead describes David as a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

One of the scariest, and yet most fulfilling, experiences I have in my life of faith is when, in the midst of























anything that I know isn't life giving seems to be filling my head or heart; and instead of trying to shoo those thoughts and feelings out of myself like a man with a weak flashlight in the midst of a rat and roach infested house, I invite God into that place with me.

I becoming willing to see the darkness, the brokeness, the evil within myself rather than try to pretend it doesn't exist.

In those moments, I see the amazing work of the Holy Spirit, who breathes life into areas that were crippled by shame or embarrassment.

I receive healing and forgiveness and strength and life, and those places that were holding me back suddenly become places that are drawing me closer to God.

My emotional life and my spiritual life starts bursting forth with rainbow colors where there was only bland grayness before.

That is the power of being willing to walk about in the walls of your own life in the presence of God.

That is why David was a man after God's own heart. Nothing was off limits to God from David's heart. Well, except in an incident regarding a woman named Bathsheba. David closed God off from those feelings, and it led to multiple deaths (Bathsheeba's husband, and the child conceived by David's adultery).

To David's credit, when he was confronted, he threw wide the gates to his heart and begged God to come back in. (Read Psalm 51 to hear David's turn to God in the aftermath of his sinful choices).

That's the awesomeness of introspection. It doesn't guarantee that you won't mess up. But it means to don't have to stay in a downward spiral until you hit the ground in a fiery explosion.

You don't have to live in a house of rats and roaches, hoping to use your light to keep them off you.

You can take back those places within yourself.

The man who I've been pointing to probably said it best:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Point out anything in me that offends you,and lead me along the path of everlasting life." (Psalm 139:23-24)

That which are ignored do not improve.

If we want healthy spirituality and healthy emotions, we will have to summon our courage and open the door to the basement of our lives. Down in that dark, unfamiliar area, we will find the opportunity to apply the grace and mercy that God so freely grants us. And in doing so, can begin to see change in our everyday lives.

May we be brave enough to fight the darkness in our lives rather than to ignore it, or run from it.



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 #3: Religion

church.steeple.cross_-300x199TC’s Guidelines and Principles for Life #3: “There’s a big, big difference between living for God and religiosity.” I am grateful that I have had a wide variety of experiences within Christianity. I was raised in a highly structured religion that was built on dogma and catechism.

I have also attended churches on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. Churches that were opposed to any sort of outside influence and strongly sought to have a unique experience on a week-by-week basis.

The most valuable understanding I gained from these different environments is to have learned that there are people who are genuinely seeking God in both environments, and there are people who are just playing a game in both environments.

While some people view liturgical denominations (Lutheran, Catholic, Episcopalian, etc) as being too focused on rules and repetitious religious services, it’s just as easy to become fixated on the elements you may encounter at a non-denominational, evangelical/charismatic church.

Anytime we get our eyes off God and onto the systems we place in our communities of worship, we have missed the point.

Anytime we reduce God to a set of rules or requirements, we have missed the point.

Anytime we’re more worried about our religion than we are about God, we have missed the point.

I have made numerous mistakes in this area of my life. When I was an adolescent, I wanted to throw off the liturgical faith of my childhood because of how constraining I found it. I made the mistake of lumping God in with that religion.

It took me a little time to realize my mistake and to start learning to engage with God directly rather than through a lens that I didn’t like.

After finding myself in a variety of churches and learning institutions that emphasized relationship with God and personal faith over the next decade+, I discovered that I had created, out of these places, a new personal liturgy, which I had put in place of God in my life.

Because religion is easier to manage than God. I can handle a paper tiger much easier than I can handle a real one.

And religion without God is incredibly dangerous. It convinces you that you are accomplishing all that God wants for your life, while robbing you of the chance to actually discover those things.

I have tried to stop putting God into categories or certain roped off areas of my life.

In the end, whether you are religious or not is not the question. Whether or not you are putting God first and seeking His kingdom come and His will be done in your life and through your life is the question.

You can be Methodist, Baptism, Presbyterian, Catholic, Non-Demonicational, Evangelical, or any other branch of Christianity and love Jesus.

That is the right question.

Guilt vs. Shame

downloadI’m reading a book called Daring Greatly by Dr. Brene Brown right now. It’s a good book so far, and she has some great stuff to say. Right now, I reading about the difference between guilt and shame. It’s been useful, because I didn’t understand the distinction between these two concepts very clearly.

Guilt looks at a situation where you come up short of the standards you hold in your life and say ‘I did wrong’ or ‘I came up short there’.

Shame looks at those situations and says ‘I’m a horrible person’ or ‘I’m such a loser’.

Guilt is useful only insofar as it makes us aware of our need for the mercy that God so willingly gives us when we fall short, and the grace which empowers us to live a life closer to the one Jesus calls us to live.

Shame is wholly destructive, and leads us to believe that we don’t deserve the mercy and grace that God wants to share with us.

Brown makes the case that using shame to correct behavior is completely counter-productive in parenting, managing, teaching, or any other leadership situation.

I couldn’t agree more. We are all children of God, and we inherently all have worth.

Instead of calling people to live up to the standard of following Jesus, to the calling that God extends to us as partners in the ever expanding nature of his Kingdom, shame attacks their very self worth.

It’s an effective trick.

That must be why Satan likes it so much.

In the Garden of Eden, Satan tells Eve that she has no worth if she doesn’t eat the apple. “…as soon as you eat it…you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

If you don’t eat that apple, you’re going to stay a loser. Shame on you if you don’t eat that apple.

When Jesus was at the end of his 40 day fast, Satan came to Jesus and gave him several challenges. The first two started the same way: “If you are the Son of God…” (See Matthew 4:1-11)

Unlike the response he gets in the garden, Jesus does not let shame manipulate him. He looks to the guidance and standards given by God in the scriptures and avoids the trap.

Shame is still a favorite tool of our enemy today. When you find yourself devaluing the inherent worth you have as a person, adjust this internal monologue with what God says about us.

That you are beautifully and wonderfully made by God. (Psalm 139:13-15)

That God greatly values you. (Luke 12:6-7)

That nothing can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:38-39)

It’s okay if you see areas in your life that do not yet measure up to the life God has called you to live, but don’t think that’s where your self worth comes from. Those feelings of guilt are simply there to point you back to the one that says he is working in us, and won’t quit until the work is done. (Philippians 1:6)

What My Job (As A Pastor) Is Not

lovejoypreachingI have the amazing privilege of being a Pastor. It is, by far, the best job I have ever had. Not the easiest job - on the contrary, it’s more challenging than any other position I’ve ever held. But it is so worth it.

I get to help lead a community of people that follow Jesus in our goal of bringing God’s light and life and love to our local community. And you’re not going to believe this: they pay me to do it.

I know, nuts, right? But that’s where I am.

I’m about a couple weeks away from hitting my one year anniversary in this position. It feels like I only just got here. I have a better understanding of that story in the bible where Jacob works for 7 years to earn the right to marry Rachel, but because of how much he loved her, it only felt like a few days (Genesis 29:20)

In that year, something I have learned previously in ministry has proved itself true to me again: that you can’t make people passionate about something that they are not truly passionate about.

See, my job as a minister is not to make somebody a better follower of Jesus. I could preach and teach until I am blue in the face and I’m not going to create passion in somebody. I may be able to hype them up, but hype fades.

Passion lasts.

Hype is like fireworks: showy and exciting for a moment, but fades quickly. And it doesn’t accomplish much in the long run. You can’t cook a meal with fireworks.

Passion is like a a bonfire. It has tremendous energy and can accomplish great purposes. It can also grow and shrink, depending on whether you feed it.

And as I said, I cannot create passion within people for anything, let alone for Jesus.

The only one who can create passion in people is God.

So what is my job?

My role is to facilitate the passion that God gives to people. To help those who accept that passion and want to help it grow.

My job is to help these people connect to:

  • God (by way of his Holy Spirit)
  • God’s purposes in their live and the world at large (by helping them connect with the local and global community)
  • God’s guidance (through reading and studying the scriptures)

I and the leadership team at my church work extremely hard to cultivate what God has given people in the places where they engage their passions.

We provide ministry opportunities: volunteering with our ministry teams like hospitality, creative arts, community outreach or children’s ministry

We invest in leadership development so that they can generate positive influence in their spheres of influence.

We have a Sunday Morning celebration so that people can engage with worship and teaching.

And we have discipleship opportunities like classes and small groups.

None of these processes, programs or ministries will ‘manufacture’ followers of Jesus.

Likewise, they will not cause people to become more passionate about God.

But they will act a fire in the life of a person who has accepted God’s passion and has started to burn brightly for him.

Our job is to maximize what God is doing in the life of the individuals in our community. To cultivate the growth that the Holy Spirit causes.

And that, in my opinion, is the best - and most challenging - job in the world.

Simple vs. Easy

self-awareness-with-a-simple-brain_1If you find following Jesus to be easy, then with all due respect, you’re doing it wrong. Jesus is rarely complicated. In fact, when a man asks Jesus to summarize everything required of us under the old covenant (or old testament if you prefer), Jesus basically says this: Love God and love people with everything you are.

What does that look like?

Be generous.

Don’t hate.

Don’t lust.

Be humble.

All of those things are simple. And much of the time, really tough.

Most first century Rabbis required their students to attend many years of schooling. They had to demonstrate extraordinary quality before the Rabbi would ever consider asking them to become a disciple. It was a long, arduous, complicated process.

Jesus, on the other hand, walked up to some fisherman and said ‘Come with me, and I’ll teach you how to fish for people.’ They dropped their nets and started to follow Jesus.


But not always easy.

As they lived in the moment of God’s mission to renew and restore a broken world, they were constantly criticized by the religious crowd. They had to deal with constant demands by needy people - begging for food and deliverance.

Eventually, many of them would be jailed and executed for daring to be identified as a follower of this man, Jesus.

At a conference recently, John Maxwell talked about how great ideas develop.

He said they start at a level of being simplistic. Simplistic is fast and shallow.

From there, they move to being complex. Complex is long and deep.

Many ideas get stuck at complex. Being a follower of God was insanely complex when Jesus was born. There were hundreds of rules to follow.

But complex doesn’t work. It must make the last evolution: Simple.

Simple is fast and deep.

Jesus boiled all these rules and requirements down to: Love God and love people with all you’ve got.

If your faith is simplistic; that is, you just believe what you’ve been told, keep working to develop it.

If your faith is complex, meaning you can’t communicate what’s important to people who are unfamiliar with it, keep working to develop it.

When your faith is simple, make sure it stays focused on the things Jesus emphasized.

And don’t become discouraged, and give it up. Because while a life of simple faith isn’t easy, I promise you that it is worth all your efforts.

You are part of God’s simple plan to make all things new.