my swagger wagon.

My sister-in-law posted this video on her blog. My brother called me to laugh with me while we watched it. You will probably want to share it, too, if you haven’t seen it yet. Make sure to turn it up loud.

For all you out there who think having a mini-van isn’t cool, think again…

You can see the full line of expanded commercials from Toyota about the Sienna featuring these two actors/comedians at My wife and I don’t drive a Sienna, so we will get no kickbacks. They are just funny if you have the time to watch them together. If you are parents, you will especially appreciate them.

SO, lean your seat way back while you rollin in your van. Kick the beat way loud, windows down, got a plan. Busy day shuttlin kids. Lots of hats, wear your “lids.” Don’t be afraid. Drive it proud. Don’t make you any less a man.

Peace. I’m out.

devo 3, week 5 of the GIVE UP series

One Scripture passage today. God’s message through the prophet Isaiah. Almost 800 years before Jesus came the 1st time. Then, one question.

Love you guys so much. Please pray for me as my family and I grapple through these hard teachings. We are praying for you.

[Isaiah 58:1–11]

1 Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout! Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives, face my family Jacob with their sins! 2 They’re busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me. To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—law-abiding, God-honoring. They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and love having me on their side.

3 But they also complain, ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way? Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

Well, here’s why: “The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. 4 You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist. The kind of fasting you do won’t get your prayers off the ground. 5 Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after: a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?

6 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. 7 What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. 8 Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage.

9 Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’  “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, 10 if you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. 11 I will always show you where to go.

What best describes you – busy with a worship show and studying about God, or busy living in love relationship with Him and giving that love away into your family, your neighborhood, the marketplace, local and global community, and even on the web?

May we actually live the ways of Jesus. Not just learn them.


an update about Westpoint and Northland West Oaks coming together

Togetherness. Most critics of the church of North America would say there is just not enough of it. Jesus said the world would know that we actually are learning and living His ways by our love for one another. May we be known as a church family that values love and lives love daily.

That’s why we cultivated unity among the churches of west Orange county, which now has become – many local expressions of the church being the church together to west Orange county and beyond.

Many of you know by now that one of the church families that serve alongside Westpoint in the Church of West Orange has expressed interest in unifying with us even more. Northland West Oaks, currently gathering on Sundays on the campus of St. Pauls Pres, will officially join in with us June 20th.

Togetherness. Thankful.

Here’s some IMPORTANT POINTS to be praying about and to make priority if you are a part of the Westpoint family.


We will practice a little reverse hospitality June 6th. The Westpoint family will head over to St. Paul’s Pres to gather for worship with the Northland West Oaks family for an 11:00am worship gathering. We all together thought it would be a good thing to experience how they have been worshipping together.

As we are becoming one church family, consider this meeting the in-laws, just like when they came over to eat with our family April 25th. PLEASE MAKE THIS A PRIORITY. We really want them to know we are in this for the sake of knowing Christ and making Him known together.


Get here early. 10:00am is the normal start time for worship gathering. If you can, try to be at Whispering Oak Elementary School for 9:45 at least, simply to be there to welcome the folks from Northland West Oaks and connect together before we dive into worship celebration together.

As we are becoming one church family, consider this the wedding feast. And you wouldn’t be late for your own wedding. I wasn’t even late for my wedding, and you know how my clock runs about 10 minutes behind. :-)


You might still be wondering, “Why are we doing this joining together?” I feel as though we have adequately answered that, but I wanted to make sure you got the succinct answer one more time.

Simple – Jesus prayed for His followers (John 17:18–23) to be of one heart and one mind around the one mission He created His church family for – to live sent just like He was sent (John 20:21) to share unconditional love and abundant life with everyone we encounter. And our leadership team, through much prayer and counsel, senses the Lord leading us to unite with one heart and mind for the sake of that one mission with Northland West Oaks.

Togetherness for the sake of sentness.

It is not about having more people gathered. It is about having more people living sent. More people united in that one mission to be the church to west Orange county and beyond. More people. More time. More resources. More creativity. More love. And more is not always better. But relationally it is, for a cord of many strands is not easily broken.


When Westpoint began as a local expression of the church in February 2004, a significant element of that original vision that still holds today was to multiply what we were doing into at least one community church per village as Horizons West was built out. Between now and 2020, five more villages like the Bridgewater village (Summerport and Independence) and the Lakeside village (Providence and the 535 communities toward Reams Rd) will be built.

Our vision has been to help start a new local expression of the church in each of those villages. As Westpoint sees more people unite in one heart and mind, we will begin to ask some of them to cluster together and be sent out to the next village. Still being the church together, but just as a new community church family focused on cultivating “on earth as it is in heaven” among the people of that village.

The uniting of Westpoint and Northland West Oaks will, in our Vision Team’s opinion, be a great next step toward seeing that kind of togetherness and sentness in the daily, as well as that kind of multiplication into the rest of Horizons West and beyond.

SO, please pray. Please be intentional about connecting with both Westpoint families and Northland West Oaks families. Please continue to surrender daily to the mission Jesus has given us – that the world might know the One who was sent (John 6:29).

Two final things. Let’s eliminate “us” and “them” talk starting now. Let’s all be intentional about this, so as to emphasize being the church together. AND, please be assured that the focus of togetherness and sentness that has defined Westpoint for 6 and 1/2 years will continue. That is a hill I will always be willing to die on, because Jesus values His church loving and living on mission too much.

May our burden to love like Jesus and to live on mission for Him daily (that others might know Him and His love) grow more and more. May we have a sense of urgency like never before for the 4.5 billion lost of the world, for the 26K kids who are dying daily all around us due to hunger, sickness, and brutality, and for the orphans and widows who need not be alone (Matthew 25:31–46 and James 1:27). David Platt says it this way, with regard to the urgency of the mission of the church:

Church – we are plan A. And there is no plan B.

I love you guys. So much. Jen and I and the pastoral team and vision team families can’t even express the fullness of our gratitude for all of you. Exciting times ahead.


devo 2, week 5 of the GIVE UP series

how will we GIVE UP TOGETHER?

In devo one this week, we read John 17:18–23 about the mission that Jesus prayed for His church to be united around. His prayer was about a togetherness united around the mission of sentness into the daily (which He commanded for us in John 20:21).

21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”

Well, how will Westpoint be giving up together to live out this mission? Here are four specific ways. All of these can be lived out in the daily as we follow Jesus and love our neighbor. AND, all of these need to be lived out together as we encourage and sharpen one another to be living sent daily. Here are the four:


Very simply. Pray for two people not following Jesus. One neighbor. One co-worker (classmate if you are a full-time student). Pray for wisdom on how they need to be loved and listened to right here and now. Then listen for the answer. God wants us to love our neighbor. And He will answer prayers for wisdom always.

37 Jesus replied, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37–40)

5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. (James 1:5)


Look for ways to connect over real life with those you are praying for. Not with the agenda of “getting them to church.” NO! If they ever begin to walk with the Westpoint family, that will rock the house. But this is not a church growth concept. This is life or death.

If someone is not following Jesus, He described them as “lost.”

10 For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost. (Luke 19:10)

If they are lost, then they are still stuck in the darkness trying to find their way on their own.

24 My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found! (–the declaration of the compassionate father in the story commonly called “the Prodigal Son” found in Luke 15)

If they are wandering in the darkness, then they have not placed their faith in the Life-Giver, but rather are still relying on their own efforts to find the way. And this is hopeless. A weary venture. That’s why God put skin on and became Emmanuel.

4 Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, 5 he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! 6 Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. 7 Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. 8 Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! 9 We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! 10 No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. (Ephesians 2:4–10)

And if they are not connected with the Life-Giver, then they are condemned to death in their unbelief.

16 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. 17 God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. 18 Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” (–Jesus in John 3:16–18)

Isn’t that a BIG DEAL? So connect with them that they may have full life, only found in Christ.

And connect over real life. Don’t just “invite them to church.” That is not a compelling invitation – to add something else to their schedules on Sunday mornings. They may end up doing that, but it won’t make sense if they don’t value the ways of Jesus. A compelling invitation is not “go to church,” which is not possible anyway according to the Scriptures since people are the church. A compelling invitation is TO BE THE CHURCH. That is a call to the life they were intended to live. An invitation to beyond-self living. An invitation to know love and give love in abundance.

Grill out. Watch sport. Go to community events. Play together. Be a neighbor.


I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t want to serve. Now, their motivation may be one of guilt or penance, but people want to serve. Having been made in the image of God, to love is actually wired within us. The problem is that we have malfunctioned in our self-absorption.

To call someone who is “lost” to serve is to actually put them in the best environment possible to allow them to realize the way God wired them as well as to allow them to taste the love of the One who made them (and died for them to know life).

Now, this implies that you and I have to be serving. This is why on the Westpoint site there is a page that lists local and global ways to volunteer. Also, this is why we have been challenging the SENT groups to serve together.

So, serve and invite the two you are praying for to serve with you both locally and globally.


This is a definition for “discipling” or being a disciple of Jesus. To be His disciple is to be His learner. To be His student, His apprentice. One who learns and lives what’s being learned.

When we pray for a lost person, connect with them in genuine friendship, and serve alongside them, then we will have the best opportunity to learn and live the ways of Jesus with them. The Holy Spirit will lead you as you converse and listen to and encourage your friend. And they will sense your genuine love, your sincere desire to see them know the life you have found in Christ, and the evidence of His ways in your life and words.

So, we need to learn and live His ways together as followers of Jesus when we gather for worship on Sunday, when we gather in SENT groups, and when we gather just to hang. But we must realize that to truly “make disciples” as Jesus calls us to do in Matthew 28:18–20, we must walk as friends with the lost.

>> This is the real purpose of the local church, why we gather, why we have SENT groups, why we challenge you to love the people you encounter daily in your various spheres of influence, and why we must give ourselves away together. It is not to add a something to your schedules. Not to get you more intellectual in a class with other “Christians.” Not to isolate you from a corrupt culture. NOT AT ALL!!! The purpose of SENT groups is to provide you an opportunity to receive the encouragement needed to engage a lost world and live sent as a letter of God’s love and hope. As WE pray for and connect with and serve alongside the lost, they will learn and live the ways of Jesus through our togetherness (our love for one another – John 13:34–35).

Let’s unite in the mission we were intended for as His church.


PRAY_Lord, please forgive me for approaching “church” as a product for my personal benefit and assured comfort. Please help me to be Your church, alive in the daily. Please change me from the inside out to become most passionate about walking with You and living out the mission You gave Your followers to be living out together (the church).

LIVE_Begin by praying for one neighbor and one co-worker (or classmate if you are a student), that you would have wisdom on how they need to be loved right here and right now. Then, as God gives you that wisdom, and He will, go love them.

devo 1 (a long wrap-up), week 5 of the GIVE UP series


As we have walked through the GIVE UP series, several questions have come up repeatedly.

  • How do these teachings fit into the culture of the American Dream?
  • Does Jesus want us to be poor?
  • Isn’t it okay if this beats us up a little, makes us feel uncomfortable?

Can you follow Jesus and live His ways while pursuing the American Dream? Well, it depends obviously on how you define the American Dream. If you define the American Dream along the lines of the pursuits that Jesus suggests, then yes. But most people don’t. In fact, here’s what James Truslow Adams wrote when he coined the phrase “American Dream” in his 1931 book Epic of America:

The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, also too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.

He also wrote:

The American Dream, that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of material plenty, though that has doubtlessly counted heavily. It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as a man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.

Hopeful and optimistic for sure, Adams’ ideal had mostly to do with togetherness and equal opportunity. Which, by the way, I am all in favor of. Jesus definitely values unity and love and togetherness. He also definitely values every person understanding that they are loved by a gracious God who, through the cross, set everyone on the same ground – available by His grace alone to respond by faith and in love to His invitation to follow.

Two elements of Adams’ ideal though that tear at the very fabric of togetherness and opportunity, though. First, the ideal of getting “better and richer” have, possibly unintentionally, led Americans to live with a mindset of bigger is better and pursuit of more is a proper motivation as well as a crowning achievement. These fly in the face of Jesus’ teachings about the last being first (Matthew 20:16) and the pursuit of personal gain ending with complete loss (Luke 9:23–25).

We need to have our eyes opened to the idolatry of wealth that is the basis of Western society. (Alan Hirsch)

Second, the ideal that each of us should be allowed “to grow to fullest development as a man and woman” is an ideal that Jesus’ teachings potentially could support. However, Adams’ assertions have most often been interpreted by catch phrases like “look out for number one” and “anything you can dream of you can achieve” and more recently “I gotta get mine.” To grow to fullest development, when centered in my own efforts, is a selfish pursuit driven by personal effort. To grow to fullest development, when centered in an effort to listen to and surrender to and obey the Giver of life, the One who wants to give abundant life, is the intention of the One who wants us to know life to the fullest.

4  “When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5  A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

6  This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.

7  So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8  All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9  I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:4–10)

39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:39)

At the risk of sounding as dogmatic as I probably did this past Sunday morning, I would suggest that it is next to impossible to pursue the American Dream and follow Jesus, if you are going to give full credence to His teachings.

So what does this mean? Does Jesus want me to be poor?

He had rich followers, didn’t he? The answer is yes. He did have followers who had much. Friends of God, like Abraham and Joseph and David and Daniel, were very wealthy at least at some point in their lives. Nicodemus in the New Testament. Zacchaeus. Joseph of Arimathea. Luke. And more.

They had much. What was the difference between them and the rich young official (Luke 18)? I would suggest that the difference is that they were not living for the same purpose. They had denied themselves and taken up the purposes of God for their lives (Luke 9:23). They were not driven to get more or secure by the stuff they had. They were living to give all and secure that Jesus was enough, even if they lost everything they had. And most of them risked it all.

Again, this is not a cop out approach suggesting that we settle back into the American Dream. We have already established that settling into the American Dream is not following Jesus.

The real surrender for many of us is probably this – GIVE UP THE VERY WAY YOU VIEW LIFE, WORK, PROVISION, PURSUITS, AND SUCCESS. Get honest – do you value riches more than rich relationship? Evaluate how you spend your time and money and you will know the answer. David Platt said:

Our culture says bigger is better & flashy is more effective; Jesus calls us to humbly & quietly focus our lives on people.

We also need to realize that we already are poor. We are impoverished spiritually on our owns. We are in desperate need of God and His love and His grace and His life renewal. And this may be the real issue. We pursue the American Dream like we can make it on our own. We can do anything we set our minds to. So the real issue may be, like it was for the rich young official, that we live as though we can be “good” on our own strivings. That’s what he was after – validation of his own efforts. The call to sell everything was a mirror Jesus held up that highlighted the real root of sin and lack of goodness in the rich young official – his selfishness and greed and misplaced security.

At the same time, living luxuriously, beyond our basic needs, and giving 80 and 90 hours a week into a career to provide more and more doesn’t seem to mesh with the teachings of Jesus either. One email I received put it this way:

Is this penny I am about to spend being spent on “daily bread” or a want that is beyond “daily bread?” If beyond “daily bread,” am I spending on a want of my life what could be given for a need in someone else’s life?

I have heard multiple times during this series people say they have really struggled with guilt over this stuff. Others have said, “We don’t need to beat ourselves up over this.” And while I agree that guilt is not the desired result of focusing in on these teachings in this series, it can often be a response we are tempted to wallow in. But we must not wallow there. We also must not be afraid of discomfort and confusion and struggle over this. Another email I received:

On multiple occasions, I heard “don’t beat yourself up over this” as advice to those that are wrestling with this series. I’m disappointed that response wasn’t challenged. I almost wanted to stand up and ask why it was OK to question how much and what we should give up, but stop short of REALLY digging deep to the point that you might “beat yourself up”. Maybe “beat yourself up” is going a little far (and maybe not), but what if none of us are going deep enough. When I read the scriptures you’ve been including in the devotionals, it doesn’t sound like Christ was telling us to do our best and make sure we were still comfortable and living the same way we were before. Doesn’t this go back to the point that Christ never said that following him would be easy? Shouldn’t it hurt a little?

Jesus’ teachings expose us. But they also welcome us. They welcome us into the life we were intended to live. A life in which we fall in love with the Giver of life and walk daily with the One who gave His life for us. And His ways, if we actually follow and obey in all things, will not let us wallow in guilt or become complacent in our comforts or be satisfied with same old, same old.

We must surrender to let Him change us. We must GIVE UP.

But here’s one thing I want to make abundantly clear and that I think the Scriptures make abundantly clear – WE WERE NOT INTENDED TO AND CANNOT AND DO NOT NEED TO TRY TO GIVE UP ALONE.


We must struggle through these as a church family as well as give ourselves away together as a church family. That is the essence of the early church – SHARING WITH ALL WHO HAD NEED. They lived in close community, united around a common mission (to make disciples of Jesus), and shared all they had such that no one lacked for what they needed.

We tend to live isolated lives, busy with our own mission and schedules, writing a check when we know of a need but normally not knowing of a need because we don’t walk close enough to know. And sharing with all who have need isn’t just about writing a check, but rather about walking in relationship and ownership of all of life.

Is that the mission Jesus wants for us? To be willing to love one another? To be willing to love our neighbor? To be willing to be a neighbor to anyone, regardless of how much they have or where they live or what they’ve accomplished.

Maybe Jesus wanted us to unite around His love and His mission. Here’s what He prayed in John 17:

18 In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. 19 I’m consecrating myself for their sakes so they’ll be truth-consecrated in their mission. 20 I’m praying not only for them but also for those who will believe in me because of them and their witness about me. 21 The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. 22 The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they’ll be as unified and together as we are–23 I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them in the same way you’ve loved me.

May this be a simple reminder of what God intended from the beginning. He did not want us to perform isolated spiritual shows for Him, did not want us to busy ourselves with so much that we live alone on His mission, and did not want us to make our worship of Him self-serving. He wanted us, together, to love Him and love our neighbor. WHY? So that those in need of love would find it lived out, not just talked about, among His people (His church).

So, how will we GIVE UP TOGETHER? I will suggest four specific ways in the next devo.

Meantime, leave your comments and thoughts.

I love you guys.

devo 3, week 4 of the GIVE UP series

being okay with just daily bread.

In Thursday’s devo, we talked about how we use our time. Today, let’s think a bit about our finances. In giving up everything, money matters, too. In the same way that time-management evidences what we hold dearest, money-management evidences what we value most. Getting to the point, in the spending of our money, and I again admit my family and I are grappling through this with all of you, we either value self or others. We either use money to give more or to get more.

The teachings of Jesus do offer insight.

Jesus challenged the rich, young official in Luke 18 to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. He challenged His followers in Luke 12:33 to sell their stuff and give to those in need. When He taught us how to pray, He simply asked for daily bread. Nothing more.

What do we do with that in an American culture that inundates people of all ages across this great land to strive for more?

I received this email from someone this week:

I am not fond of the following statement: “Its okay to have money (wealth, riches, etc) as long as it doesn’t have you.” Why? Because we need to BE HONEST ABOUT WHETHER MONEY DOES HAVE YOU IF YOU SPEND IT ON ANYTHING BEYOND OUR DAILY BREAD.

So, these are the questions that God has been challenging me with:

_Is this penny spent on me or on loving someone else in need?

_If it is spent on me, is it something that I need (daily bread and no more)?

_As it relates to my current situation, are the things that I have already as a result of selfish decisions, do I need them or can they be used to feed, clothe, help someone else?

You may remember the email I got a few weeks back. Worth repeating here:

If I got rid of all my stuff or sold it and gave it away, would I say that my quality of life decreased? If I didn’t have cable, a Wii, Netflix, a new car, a pool, additional leisures, a larger house, fine dining out, etc., would my quality of life be any lower? If I lived in such a way so as to be able to befriend and walk alongside the poor and the broken, would my quality of life go down? If the answer is yes, and it was for me, then I am not defining “quality of life” like Jesus does. My quality of life is not coming from the right source – my Savior and King.  We seem to value it when a missionary moves to Africa, Peru, Dominican, etc. Why don’t we value God’s Kingdom and His mission here in America, even West Orange, enough to give up everything to follow?

Here’s another question shared with me by someone else grappling with this:

How can I justify getting into my $40K car when a $15K car would get me there?

From parents, I hear sentiments that assert the need to focus on providing more and more for their kids. In fact, according to research, young couples who were very beyond-self and open to serving others before marriage and before kids become very self-serving once they have children. Could be they are overwhelmed with the schedule of having a family. Could be they are focused more on serving their kids.

Now, I am not saying that as a parent you should not focus on serving your kids and giving them the best opportunities possible. But it may be that their best opportunities are not always self-serving, not always ending with our kids winning the award or getting the victory.

Think about it. Could it be that one of Satan’s strategies is to get us believing that giving our kids the best opportunities is perfectly okay? In contrast, does God want us to give our kids the best opportunities or does He want us to cultivate into them His ways (love, selflessness, last not first, loss not gain, His plans not their own)? Does God want us to pour our lives into our kids in hopes that they will grow with the heart and value system that they they were intended to have?

I ask, because giving them the best opportunities usually is translated into the life of the parents to mean providing more and providing better. And normally, I have to admit at least for the parent named Jason Dukes, this means giving them things that are way beyond their daily bread. And my default is to get what is beyond my daily bread for my kids, my wife, and for me.

I spend beyond my daily bread, and all the while, and this is not a guilt trip but a reality check, families all over the world are going without. Check out this movie entitled “The Next 5 Minutes.”

I bought another $3 iced coffee today, while a family didn’t even eat.

I get an email every week about my retirement account balance. That’s just what we Americans do – make sure we have a retirement fund. But what do I do with Luke 12:13–21. I am not saying don’t save for retirement, but I am saying don’t just do it without processing those teachings of Jesus? I have a retirement account, which is money for later, while thousands of people live daily without clean water, which affects their health and overall life right now.

I continue to covet an iPad while a young girl trapped in sex slavery is coveted and raped multiple times, often over 40 times a day, along a stretch of small brothels with hundreds of others girls like her (and money could purchase her freedom).

Cable news is on in the background while I am writing this. I can’t even tell you what we pay monthly for High-Def Cable TV, but I, like much of the church of the west, am ignoring families in my own community who are struggling to buy bread and milk.


This is not an attempt to create a new social justice legalism. This is not an attempt to guilt you into being poor. This is not an attempt to push an end poverty agenda. This is an attempt, on my part and as I am learning and living the ways of Jesus with many of you, to grapple with the teachings of Jesus and actually follow Him.

I confess to you my own self-absorption. My daily bread, to me, includes food, clothes, and lodging, I admit to you, and I am struggling with this, that most everything else beyond those things gets in the way of loving God and loving people. I am spending far beyond my daily bread everyday.

And I am scared. To begin to actually live out the teachings of Jesus regarding daily bread, generosity, riches, and the poor means I will have to change, the way I lead my family will have to change, and my kids’ lifestyle may have to change.


Jesus asked His first followers to follow Him. This is what Mark 1:17 says He told them:

17  And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

Jesus “will make you become.” It is not a statement about making you do something you don’t want to do. It is a statement about Jesus making His followers into something more than they currently were. It is a statement about shaping them and you and me according to His purposes and His mission.

What did they do? Here’s Mark 1:18 –

18  Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

They gave up everything. All they knew and all they had to follow. Many, eventually, their very lives.

Will I? Will you?

PRAY_Lord, please make me to become what You want. I surrender. Please grant me wisdom about managing all I have, specifically my time and money. You can have them. And please make me to trust you for and make me to be okay with living in my daily bread.

LEAVE COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS IF YOU WILL. Let’s keep struggling through this together.

devo 2, week 4 of the GIVE UP series

they will know us by our love.

Well, we ended the last devo with 3 questions.

  1. do you think it is possible to pursue the American Dream (to want the house, the wife and kids, great benefits, leisures, retirement, a reputation for success) and to follow Jesus at the same time?
  2. does Jesus fit in among the other elements of the life you are pursuing, or is He the life you are pursuing?
  3. He is saying, “Follow Me.” Are you hesitating to fully leave it all behind? If so, what is holding you up? If not, what does “leaving it all behind” look like in the culture of the American Dream and in the culture of the consumeristic church of the west?

The responses back thru facebook and email were great. There are definitely some of us grappling through this.

One warning I wanted to give – don’t think dualistically about this. In other words, either you have to be poor or you can’t follow Jesus. I am not saying that He is saying that. He had followers who had much. But what they owned did not own them. And they were free-handed with it, sharing with all who had need. Treated their stuff like it wasn’t theirs.

Today, I wanted to give another example of someone who gave up everything and then ask a few questions. Take a few minutes to read about Paul in Philippians 1:20–2:4.

20 I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! 21 Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose. 22 As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose. 23 Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better 24 . But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it’s better for me to stick it out here. 25 So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues. 26 You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again. We’ll be praising Christ, enjoying each other. 27 Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear of it from a distance. Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, 28 not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God. 29 There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.

30 You’re involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter.

(chapter 2)

1 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— 2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Now, just for context, would it change the way you read that if you knew that Paul wrote it from prison with guards watching him 24/7? Not like a vacation trip to Rome, Paul suffered even getting there and continued to suffer while there. He made much progress with the Gospel of Jesus, though. And he wrote this letter to the church of Philippi challenging them to live beyond self and be grateful for the joy that comes from a life given up.

Did you notice what Paul said in Philippians 1:21? In the more wooden translations, it reads:

For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Could I say that with honesty? Do I actually view my life as not my own, as so identified with Christ that even if I died physically I would consider it greater life? How could I? Because it would be more Jesus. Not face to face now. Face to face then. And that’s what heaven is about. Not so much the streets of gold or a big house. But Jesus. Jesus. It’s about Jesus.

It’s like, if you are married, what you felt like longing for the wedding day to come. You lived for that wedding day. You couldn’t wait for the date to arrive and the chance to come to seal the deal and be together in every way. That’s the metaphor. We are waiting for a wedding feast when our Groom (Jesus) returns for His bride (the church). And we long for the day. To see Him. To seal the deal. To run into His arms.

To live is Jesus. To die is more Jesus. More of the long-awaited groom.

Unless I already have so much of the stuff of this world that I don’t long for the stuff of heaven.

Paul also challenged the Philippians to put the interests of others above themselves. He then goes into this beautiful hymn about how Jesus did exactly that – gave up everything for us.

He is not asking us to do something He has not done. GIVE UP EVERYTHING. He did.

What would I lose? Here is something to consider – what am I giving up everything for?

  • to actually spend more time relating to my family and less time just providing for them?
  • to actually have the time to be a friend to my neighbor?
  • to embrace Jesus and His ways of giving more rather than getting more?

Time. Giving up everything may be less about being a steward of my money and more about being a steward of my time. Less about being poor financially and more about being rich relationally. With God and with others.

Think about it. It takes time to make more money. It takes time to invest in your career. It takes time to achieve the American Dream. Then, you get to retirement and what do you have? Lots of stuff. And you may also have the close relationships with wife and kids and possibly grandkids and friends. But the more common scenario is that you don’t. You have the stuff, and now you finally have the time to build relationships with those that matter most, those you were working so hard to provide for. Or better said, repair those relationships.

I AM NOT SAYING YOU CAN’T BALANCE HARD WORK AND FOCUS ON FAMILY. You can. But we need to be more honest about the time we spend giving to the career that 1000s of others could do, while we steal from the time spent as a spouse and parent and friend (which only one person can do). I am the only dad for my kids. The only husband for my wife. No one else can do that.

So don’t get frustrated processing this GIVE UP EVERYTHING, thinking it’s ridiculous. It’s okay to pursue the American Dream, isn’t it?

Not if you cheat your relationships.

Just be honest about what’s getting your best. Does your job get your best creativity or your family? Does your wife get your best attention or the client you are trying to lock in? Does your kid get your best mental energy or the leftovers from a hard day? Does your friend / neighbor know you love him / her or that you are a hard worker climbing the career ladder.

Again, there can be balance. THE POINT IS THIS – BE HONEST ABOUT HOW YOU ARE USING YOUR TIME. How you use your time is the biggest evidence of what you live for. What you are giving up everything for.

Come back to what I wrote earlier:

Think about it. It takes time to make more money. It takes time to invest in your career. It takes time to achieve the American Dream.

You know this is true, too. It takes time to make more intimacy with your spouse. It takes time to invest in your relationships. It takes time to achieve “on earth as it is in heaven” on your block.

Remember this – God intends for you and me to follow Him and live engaged on His mission daily. His mission is about love – loving God with all you have and giving love away into your neighbor. That’s how we learn and live the ways of Jesus, as we put the interests of others above our own. As we GIVE UP EVERYTHING in order to cultivate “on earth as it is in heaven.”

THE BOTTOM LINE_are you gonna miss out on anything if you get to the end of your life with rich relationships? But you know good and well that you would die with regret if you spent more time cultivating riches than you did rich relationships.

The final devo of this series will be out Saturday. Hope to see you Sunday as we wrap up the series with a panel discussion as well as some practical thoughts to apply the teachings of GIVE UP.

an encouraging thought for dads

Hey dads – I wanted to share with you an enewsletter I recently got from “All Pro Dads.” Very encouraging to me, especially in light of the comedy era many of us grew up in, and especially in light of the teaching of Ephesians 4 to be careful that we edify rather than “tear down.” Check it out:

Your sarcasm tears up your children

According to Webster, the word “sarcasm” derives from a Greek verb that literally means “to tear flesh.” Anyone who has suffered from sharp, cutting, or wounding sarcastic remarks probably wasn’t surprised to learn that.  You know, it’s easy for fathers to be sarcastic with their kids and to unintentionally wound them deeply.  The father who pokes fun at his daughter for her weight gain… or who chides his son for showing emotion… he may think it’s all in good fun, but it can have devastating and long term consequences.  Asking yourself the question, “Is what I’m saying ultimately building up my children?” will go a long way in curbing unnecessary jesting.

Hear from Tony about substituting sarcastic comments for encouraging ones for our children.

And then see a powerful clip of a coach encouraging his player to push the limits.

Finally, here are ten specific compliments to give your children.

Huddle up and ask your kids tonight: Do I consistently say things to you that hurt you?

Just in case you don’t want to click on the link for the 10 Specific Compliments to Give Your Children, you can read them below, taken from the All Pro Dad website.

10 Specific Compliments to Give Your Children

Here are 10 compliments all kids need to hear:

  1. Recognize and compliment character_We live in a world where integrity is neither consistently taught nor widely expected. When our children demonstrate honesty, kindness, trustworthiness and reliability, that’s a great time to take them aside and offer a sincere compliment.
  2. Compliment obedience and respect_It’s too easy to fall into patterns of disapproval, where the only time we notice is when kids do wrong. Rather than waiting for disobedience or disrespect (then coming down like a ton of bricks) try noticing obedience and respect: “I don’t always remember to tell you, but you are an awesome young man, and I appreciate the way you treat your mother”.
  3. Appreciate them for simply being part of the family_”Every time I see you, I’m thankful that I’m a dad.” Kids need to understand that they are valued simply because they are.
  4. Compliment contributions to the family_“Clearing the table (sweeping the porch… putting out the trash) makes a real difference. I appreciate your contribution.” Kids need to understand that what they do makes a difference, that the adults notice, and that pitching in is a good part of family life.
  5. Compliment the quality of a child’s work_“This is one clean porch, mister!” “You mowed the lawn right up to the edge.  Way to go!  I’m so glad you take this job so seriously, it shows.” Doing a job at a high standard is always worth noting.
  6. We can compliment the effort, even when the result is not the best_“Your willingness to help makes me happy! Now we need to take a look at how you can get the trash to the curb without leaving a trail!” Compliments can be an important part of our role as teachers.
  7. It’s important that we compliment children when they achieve something new_“Wow! That’s a huge leap forward for you there in math, pal.” “Awesome! I’m not at all surprised after you worked so hard.” A well-placed compliment can keep a positive ball rolling.
  8. We can compliment sense of style even if we don’t exactly share their taste_We don’t want to hedge kids into being clones of dad, or mom. “When it comes to putting together an outfit, you certainly have some flair!” “I can tell that you put a lot of thought into the way you look.” “I’ve never seen a table set quite like that before – you have an amazing imagination!” It’s not useful to limit compliments to the narrow range of our own taste.
  9. Compliment steps toward a long-term goal_“Son, the improvement you’re showing is commendable. Thanks for trying.” Waiting for perfection before we’re willing to dish out a compliment is inefficient, may dampen enthusiasm, and does little to help the process of growth.
  10. Try complimenting their friends_But only do this when you can do it honestly! “Your friends are the greatest!” “That Jimmy is such a positive young man.” “You know, it gives me a lot of confidence to know you use common sense in choosing your friends.”

May we place these in our hearts and put them into practice.

Love y’all. Thankful to be learning how to father together with you.


a child will lead us…

Those words were spoken of Jesus. It was certainly true. Recently, our pastor to families with children shared the following video with our kids on Sunday morning during what we call “Comapass Kids.” I had actually seen this young man interviewed at a conference last year. Phenomenal.

The story speaks for itself. And it challenges us. What could we do if we listen and we care? What could our children do? How could they even engage our neighborhoods to see “on earth as it is in heaven” cultivated among us? Let’s don’t just let this stay in the question and dreaming category. Let’s live sent.

Take a look at the video. Then, pray, which includes listening. And say yes to what God puts on your heart.

The bottom line question – what am I aware of that I know my family could help with that I ignore cause it doesn’t fit into my schedule?

devo 1, week 4 of the GIVE UP series

they left their nets behind.

Simple and short today, but hopefully very meaningful as we continue to process together the call to GIVE UP EVERYTHING. Take a few minutes to read and maybe reread Mark 1:16–20:

16 Passing along the beach of Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew net-fishing. Fishing was their regular work. 17 Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” 18 They didn’t ask questions. They dropped their nets and followed. 19 A dozen yards or so down the beach, he saw the brothers James and John, Zebedee’s sons. They were in the boat, mending their fishnets. 20 Right off, he made the same offer. Immediately, they left their father Zebedee, the boat, and the hired hands, and followed.

Why did they follow? Why did they GIVE UP EVERYTHING to leave behind their current pursuits and follow this Jesus?

Some suggest they imagined Jesus to be the awaited leader who would bring the Jews out from under the oppression of the Romans. Others suggest that they imagined Jesus to be the greatest Rabbi ever heard, whose teachings would change everything. Some suggest they imagined Jesus to be the expected Messiah, banking on what John the Baptist preached and believing through His teachings. We really don’t know why.

But here’s what we do know. They followed. We also know that they left their nets behind. They gave up everything. Surrendered in that moment to walk with Jesus, trusting Him for their needs and their direction.

Three bottom line questions to me, and I would really like your responses.

  • do you think it is possible to pursue the American Dream (to want the house, the wife and kids, great benefits, leisures, retirement, a reputation for success) and to follow Jesus at the same time?
  • does Jesus fit in among the other elements of the life you are pursuing, or is He the life you are pursuing?
  • He is saying, “Follow Me.” Are you hesitating to fully leave it all behind? If so, what is holding you up? If not, what does “leaving it all behind” look like in the culture of the American Dream and in the culture of the consumeristic church of the west?

I am grappling with this, too, remember. Let’s learn and live His ways together. Thankful for you.

devo 3, week 3 of the GIVE UP series

Will you eat Jesus?

This week so far, we have thought through the deadly hungers of our lives. What about a hunger that fosters life? There is one. Jesus spoke of it, as we referenced it in devo 1 of this week. One occasion we did not mention that day is found in John 6. Take some time to read and reread this:

27 “Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”

28 To that they said, “Well, what do we do then to get in on God’s works?”

29 Jesus said, “Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works.”

30 They waffled: “Why don’t you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what’s going on? When we see what’s up, we’ll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do. 31 Moses fed our ancestors with bread in the desert. It says so in the Scriptures: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus responded, “The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. 33 The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world.”

34 They jumped at that: “Master, give us this bread, now and forever!”

35 Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. 36 I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. 37 Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. 38 I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me. 39 This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. 40 This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.”

41 At this, because he said, “I am the Bread that came down from heaven,” the Jews started arguing over him: 42 “Isn’t this the son of Joseph? Don’t we know his father? Don’t we know his mother? How can he now say, ‘I came down out of heaven’ and expect anyone to believe him?”

43 Jesus said, “Don’t bicker among yourselves over me. 44 You’re not in charge here. The Father who sent me is in charge. He draws people to me—that’s the only way you’ll ever come. Only then do I do my work, putting people together, setting them on their feet, ready for the End. 45 This is what the prophets meant when they wrote, ‘And then they will all be personally taught by God.’ Anyone who has spent any time at all listening to the Father, really listening and therefore learning, comes to me to be taught personally—to see it with his own eyes, hear it with his own ears, from me, since I have it firsthand from the Father. 46 No one has seen the Father except the One who has his Being alongside the Father—and you can see me. 47 I’m telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life. 48 I am the Bread of Life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna bread in the desert and died. 50 But now here is Bread that truly comes down out of heaven. Anyone eating this Bread will not die, ever. 51 I am the Bread—living Bread!—who came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live—and forever! The Bread that I present to the world so that it can eat and live is myself, this flesh-and-blood self.”

52 At this, the Jews started fighting among themselves: “How can this man serve up his flesh for a meal?”

53 But Jesus didn’t give an inch. “Only insofar as you eat and drink flesh and blood, the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, do you have life within you. 54 The one who brings a hearty appetite to this eating and drinking has eternal life and will be fit and ready for the Final Day. 55 My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 By eating my flesh and drinking my blood you enter into me and I into you. 57 In the same way that the fully alive Father sent me here and I live because of him, so the one who makes a meal of me lives because of me. 58 This is the Bread from heaven. Your ancestors ate bread and later died. Whoever eats this Bread will live always.”

The Bread of Life? Eat Jesus? Did you notice the way that Jesus highlighted the will and work of God? The work God is concerned with is that people know the One who was sent (verse 29). The will of God is that all who see the One sent and believe Him will have life now and forever (verse 40).

Here are a few questions to ponder:

  • am I more concerned about the rules of eating than I am about actually eating the Bread of Life?
  • am I more concerned about the quality of the personal experience of eating than I am about actually eating the Bread of Life?
  • am I more concerned about being fed well by some preacher or some worship experience than I am about giving up my life so that someone else might taste the Bread of Life?
  • what am I hungering for more than Jesus?


57 In the same way that the fully alive Father sent me here and I live because of him, so the one who makes a meal of me lives because of me.

Do you actually believe that? Do I? Really?


Do I actually trust that Jesus – knowing Him and eating of Him and being sustained in Him alone – do I trust that He is enough?

Do I realize that when I choose to live and consume selfishly, that in that temporary indulgence I am declaring several very alarming value-statements:

  • that Jesus is not enough.
  • that feeding my flesh matters more than anything else on earth at that moment.
  • that my relationships are worth damaging for the sake of consuming indulgently.
  • that His forgiveness given on the cross is there anyway, so it’s okay to abuse.
  • that I know better than the Maker of life how life works best for me.

If Jesus is the Bread of Life, am I searching for and indulging in any other supposed sustenance? Do I hunger for anything or anyone more than Him? Is He bread worth sharing? Much like a great restaurant we absolutely are eager to tell others about, are we eager to tell others about the Bread of Life we have found? Isn’t that the work God wants us to be concerned about – that others would believe in the One who was sent?


PRAY_Lord, I want to GIVE UP my vices. I want to deny myself, take up my cross daily, and follow You. Help me to remember that YOU ARE WITH ME and that LIFE HAPPENS WHEN I GIVE IT UP SELFLESSLY, not when I consume selfishly. Help me today to take every thought captive and every choice seriously, and with Your help choose to hunger only for the things that blossom life.

LIVE_Today, not only eat the Bread of Life, but share about the Bread of Life with someone you know is hungry for something more than selfish cravings. Live sent as a letter from the One who was sent.

SUNDAY_week 4 of the series:

GIVE UP EVERYTHING_change our everyday AND our eternity.

devo 2, week 3 of the GIVE UP series

Why is sin so deadly (and why do we need to GIVE UP our vices)?

Did you see that Brad Pitt–Morgan Freeman movie “Seven?” I don’t want to leave out the other star – Kevin Spacey. Pretty freaky. Very disturbing. Engaging movie. Amazing example of how selfish living can consume all of us, even eat us alive. It is the story of “a retiring detective (Morgan Freeman) and his replacement (Brad Pitt) jointly investigating a series of ritualistic murders inspired by the seven deadly sins” (from wikipedia). Don’t watch it unless you just happen to dig thriller type of mysteries that have a very evil bent.

The seven deadly sins? I am sure you have heard of them. Another wikipedia clip:

The Seven Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of the most objectionable vices that has been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning (immoral) fallen humanity’s tendency to sin. The final version of the list consists of wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. (wikipedia)

The Catholic church, in particular, has emphasized these. They have even made a “sin scale” of sorts, ranking which sins are “deadly” and which require more of a slap on the wrist. There is actually nowhere in the Scriptures that call these the seven deadly sins. However, there are a few verses in Proverbs 6 that describe seven things God hates. Check it out:

16 There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, 18 a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, 19 a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family.

One might ask, why are these so deadly? Before we answer that, I want to suggest that not just these 7 are deadly. All sin is deadly. Paul wrote in Romans 6:

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

In Tuesday’s devo (devo 1 of week 3), you may have read:

Sin leads to death because it is a selfish choice to walk away from the source of life.

Those seven things listed by Solomon in Proverbs 6, along with all other choices to live for self and thus sin, are detested by God. They all lead to death, because they are a choice to not listen to and obey the Life-Giver.

Humanity acts inhumane (to live in a way that is not how we were intended to live and intended to love) when we live only for self. And Romans 3:23 says all of us are guilty of inhumane living, selfishness, and sin. We are being consumed by the very desires that consume us. We are being eaten alive by the very hungers of our indulgences.

The temptation to live for self and to therefore sin is driven by a deadly hunger. Much like the hunger of a spider who becomes consumed with the need to get his groove on with a female spider, who then consumes the male spider in the midst of his self-consuming desires (the black widow). Or like the way eskimos used to hunt for wolves back in the day. They stuck a knife into a piece of meat, froze it, and then left it out along the path where packs of wolves would travel. The wolf came along and began to lick the steak. Because it was frozen, their tongue would become numb and unaware when the licking shifted from steak to knife. They indulged themselves to death.

Sort of offers us some insight into the tricks of the evil one. Jesus tried to make us aware of how the evil one wants to destroy us by what He said in John 10:

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

The evil one is a thief and a liar. Here are just 3 of the BIG LIES he tries to convince us of, especially in the moment of indulgent temptation.


Read Proverbs 6:16–33. See what Solomon is warning his own sons about.

When we don’t deny ourself and instead let our hunger become indulgent, gluttonous living, then we not only consume indulgently things that end up destroying our own lives, we consume indulgently other people. We live so selfishly that we end up cannibalizing life from the people we should be loving around us.

Peter (1st Peter 5) described the evil one as a lion out to devour us. Have we dropped our guard so much, gotten so drunk on our indulgent hungers, that we have forgotten how deadly selfishness is? Are we inviting the lion over for dinner, even though already aware that he will dine on us?


PRAY_Lord, I confess my selfish living to You. Expose to me the choices I am making that hinder me from walking in love with You, listening with a hunger to say yes, and then obeying and giving love as I experience Yours. Please help me to be more and more aware of Your presence with me when faced with temptations. May I not ignore you in favor of indulging myself.

LIVE_When faced with temptation, STOP, DROP, and ROLL. Stop what you are doing so that you can think clearly. Drop to your knees (figuratively or literally) and pray, begging God for help in that moment and for a full awareness of His presence with you. Then roll in His ways instead of your own.

27 Can you build a fire in your lap and not burn your pants? (Proverbs 6:27)

Think about it.


devo 1, week 3 of the GIVE UP series, GIVE UP VICES

change our hunger.

I woke up this morning hungry for a Southwestern Breakfast Burrito from HOUSE BLEND CAFE. Have you had one? Oh my goodness. One of the amazing creations of Josh Taylor, GM of the cafe. You should try it.

And I mentioned Four Rivers BBQ on Sunday morning. It’s located on Fairbanks north of downtown Orlando just across the street from the campus of Kilarney Baptist Church. If you like bread pudding, even one bit, you should try their BBQ and have some bread pudding for dessert. You may want to share it with someone though, in order not to be gluttonous. Cause it is made with Krispy Kreme donuts. Which should be illegal.

Okay. Enough with the food commercials. But it does lead us to the intro question for today’s devotional.

What are you hungry for?

I don’t mean Krispy Kreme type stuff. I mean throughout the daily, regarding the choices of your life. What is the hunger of your life? What compels you? What drives you? What controls you? Because if we are honest, our daily choices are defined by our hungers.

Jesus spoke of this several times. On one occasion (Matthew 15), He said that the hunger of our hearts define us, not the stuff we put into our mouths. His audience was Jewish, and they as a people had many rules about what to put in their mouths. Jesus was challenging them to think more of the hunger of their hearts than they do about what they eat (or any other rule to modify behavior for that matter).

On another occasion (Matthew 5), Jesus declared that real blessing comes alive in the lives of those who hunger and thirst for God’s purpose everyday. In fact, He went on in that very same teaching to challenge His followers to seek Him first, not food for their tables or clothes for their backs or anything else.

On another occasion (Matthew 4), Satan tempted Jesus in the dessert after 40 days of fasting and sleeping on rocks. The evil one perceived Jesus as vulnerable, fatigued, and hungry. The temptation was to take a short cut to fame. Rather than making the love of God known, Satan was once again trying to show God as a fraud who really just cared about feeding His own desires. That was not the case, though. When tempted to turn rocks into bread to immediately satisfy the profound hunger Jesus must have felt after 40 days of sustenance upon intimacy with the Father, Jesus answered:

4 Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”

I once heard someone ask it this way:

Are you feeding the flesh dog or the spirit dog? Whichever one it is, that’s the one barking the loudest in your life.

Every metaphor breaks down, but it makes the point. We are either indulging our own desires or surrendering to the promptings of the Spirit’s leading.

You know, God gave us our hungers. He wired us to hunger for Him and His ways. It is evident from the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve chose their own ways over the ways of God and sinned, they malfunctioned. And they knew it immediately. Because they were wired to walk with God, not to walk away from Him. And when they chose their own way, shame and guilt and hiding things from one another entered the picture for the 1st time. So they tried to hide from God.

He actually knew this would happen. So, He planned for it. Planned from before the beginning of time to send His Son. Why? Let’s come back to that.

Before we go on, I want to suggest something in an effort to declare the point of this devotional with abundant clarity:

God hates sin. Not because He expects a better performance out of us. Rather, because of its destruction upon our relationships – it causes us to withhold intimacy, hidden behind our shame and guilt and facades of looking like we have it all together. He doesn’t want us hidden. He wants us out in the open in full-on relationship with Him and with one another.

Here’s the deal. So many people spend their everyday living from a framework that assumes God wants us to perform well. They reason that good performance is the purpose of religion and personal spiritual efforts. That couldn’t be more wrong. People live with the worldview that God hates sin because it indicates our poor performance. If we would just keep the rules, then it all would be okay, right? Wrong.

Paul wrote in Galatians 2:

21 I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

Paul also wrote in Galatians that Christ died to set us free. Free. Not bound to perform better. Free from the condemnation of our selfish performance. Sin leads to death because it is a selfish choice to walk away from the source of life. And an addictive choice. And a destructive choice. One that caused God to remove us from the Garden of Eden not as punishment but with merciful purpose. Read Genesis 3.

I would suggest that God did not want them to eat of the tree that fed their hunger to know everything because they would start acting like they knew more about life than the One who made it. So, when Eve did, and Adam followed, God removed them from the Garden. The Scripture says in Genesis 3:

22 Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” 23 So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made.24 After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

“Then they will live forever” – as though they would be in a state of living God did not intend forever, which would have been one of chaos, hiding, shame, and guilt. At least that’s what they experienced right away. So, in His mercy, God banished them from the Garden.

But like we said earlier, and I said we would come back to it, God planned for that. He expected a betrayal, but made the ones who would betray anyway. What love! And His plan was to restore us from our state of living where we know too much, are too aware of our own potential for attempts at good and our own potential for extreme evil. So humanity has lived since focusing on either self-righteousness or self-indulgence. Both are enslaving, weary, ways to live.

There is only weariness found in any pursuits that begin with “self.”

We could never be “good enough” to fix what we broke. And we could never be bad enough for God to abandon His plan to restore us to Garden life as He intended. Never. God is not interested in better performance or modified performance. He wants love relationship. And so He is interested in us admitting our great need for Him to take the death caused by self-pursuits to the cross, and then in us living in the resurrection power He has to reshape our hungers to be for His purposes above our own.

He hates sin, because sin is a symptom of a choice to live for self rather than to love. A choice to be selfish ravages relationships and destroys the abundantly free life God created us for. Sin destroys the very thing that brings us life as well as the very thing we were intended for – relationship with God and relationship with others.

Are you hungry to live self-absorbed or to give up your life for the sake of others finding it? Like me, you may need to surrender some of your hungers to be changed by the One who called us to hunger for His ways alone. It makes sense to do that doesn’t it? To listen to the One who made you and made life? To listen to Him instead of our own whims and desires? Our own selfish hungers?


PRAY_Lord, please, please help me to hunger for You and Your ways. I want to daily surrender the temptations of my own flesh, to use this body and this mind and this life you gave me only for personal fulfillment. I give up my hunger for self-indulgence and self-righteousness. You are enough.

LIVE_today, when faced with temptation to choose self or to indulge your fleshly desires, think soberly. See the red flags before you get drunk on self. And ask God for help. Help to choose to give up your hunger so as to give life to all involved in that moment of decision. Otherwise, you will steal life from those involved, as well as have a piece of your own life stolen.

THURSDAY_be looking for the next devo about why sin and choosing self is so deadly, both for you and everyone involved.

devo 3, week 2 of the GIVE UP series

Take some time to simply be still and pray. Praise God. Thank Him. Share your concerns with Him. Surrender to His mission and intentions for your life. And ask for wisdom as you read and reread through Luke 14:7–14.

Then, read and reread Luke 14:7–14.

7 He went on to tell a story to the guests around the table. Noticing how each had tried to elbow into the place of honor, he said, 8 “When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. 9 Then he’ll come and call out in front of everybody, ‘You’re in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.’ Red-faced, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left. 10 “When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’ That will give the dinner guests something to talk about! 11 What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” 12 Then he turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. 13 Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. 14 You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.”

Question – are we always and only pursuing first?

I have to admit, this has been a year of my favorite teams winning the championship so far. The Saints. The Blue Devils. Maybe the Magic??? Maybe the Yankees after that??? It is weaved into the very default settings of our culture and our lives. WE MUST WIN. Be first. Be applauded. Be honored.

Nothing wrong with an “at-a-boy” from time to time. We all need and want that kind of encouragement as we do life together. But is it wrong for our motivation to be seen as number one? Is it wrong if our primary interests always getting ahead?

It is if in the process we don’t love. Jesus made it pretty clear that right and wrong are defined by what He declared as the two most important commandments – LOVE GOD and LOVE PEOPLE. Everything else hinges on whether we love or don’t love. So, if we are too busy trying to get in front of everyone else, then we are not loving.

Kind of like when Caleb and Katey walk ahead of us on walks thru the neighborhood. One always has to get ahead, and it often comes at the woundedness of the other (literally sometimes).

“Elbowing into the place of honor.”

Where this especially gets hard in our lives, this putting the interests of others above our own, is in two specific places. With our jobs and with our kids.

Here’s a tough question – do you work to get ahead or to have the chance to love? Do you work to get more or to give more? If you follow Jesus, then even life in the marketplace has to reflect His ways. How might that impact your interests and focus there?

Here’s another tough question – do you want to teach your kids that excelling no matter the cost is their primary goal? When they encounter others, is their 1st thought to pursue first or to pursue last? Would they lose out on anything by putting others’ interests above their own? Would you and I lose out on anything by challenging them to work hard but to love harder?

Pursuing LAST doesn’t sound very American Dreamish. But it might be Christ-like.

11 “What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

Is Jesus enough? Do we actually trust what the Scriptures say:

11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:11–12)


  • PRAY_Lord, help us to want to share in eternal life because You are there and because we want to share what You have graciously given with others. Help us to be willing to give up our own interests. Help us to live secure, knowing that we are not missing out on a thing when we leave everything to follow You, assured that You are enough.
  • LIVE_12 Then he turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. 13 Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. 14 You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.”

Love you guys. Look forwarding to worshipping with you in the morning and continuing the GIVE UP series, focusing on “GIVE UP VICES_change our hunger.”