[december 20 & 21]


It is December 21, and if you are following along, you noticed there was no reflection posted for yesterday. I spent over an hour late last night staring at my computer before I decided to close it and go to bed. I wanted to get something up, and even wrote a few things down, but ultimately felt like whatever I might end up writing would be forced, and inauthentic, which is the opposite of why I am attempting  to do this to begin with… So, tonight’s post is gonna be a two for one. Not because it’s twice is good, but because I am tired, overwhelmed and hoping it will suffice. Thanks for your patience.

So here it is…

The gift of giving

“It is better to give than to receive.”

You have a heard this before right? Probably felt it too?

It’s true, there is something about the feeling you get when you are giving. It really doesn’t matter what it is, as long as whatever it is, is a little more than what the person may have expected.

You hand the person the gift, they accept, with a face that says, “You didn’t have to do this.” Meanwhile you are thinking, “Yeah, but if I didn’t, you would have been hurt.” But you don’t say that, you just smile from ear to ear, and accept the compliment. It feels good. Then they open the gift. In predictable fashion, they gasp, semi-authentically, because while the fact that you got them the gift isn’t a big surprise, it is in fact more than what they were expecting. Yes! Just the reaction you were going for.

And it feels good.

This poorly worded, semi accurate depiction of the emotional backbone of giving, is the very dis-function that drives the holiday season. Most of our giving is from a sense of obligation, cuz let’s be honest, 90% of the gifts we give during the holiday season, we would rather not spend the money on… but, “tis the season.”

In a small way, we feel a little more human, by giving gifts to people that already have everything they need don’t we?

The point of this post is not to bash the Christmas tradition of giving gifts, so please try not to miss the point. It is however an attempt to contrast the semi-selfish, to selfish, giving we tend to default to at Christmas time,  with the pure, unadulterated, life changing nature of the gift that God gave to humanity on the very first Christmas.

Which begs the question, what makes a gift pure?

No strings
No expectations
No obligation

Nothing to gain.

It was in this the context God gifted to the world, the person of Jesus.

But wait…

His gift attached very real STRINGS to a broken, finite, selfish people.

His gift came with the EXPECTATION of rejection, heart ache, and frustration.

His gift came with the OBLIGATION to continue to give in the face of an enormous amount of rejection.

His gift was so pure, that even the definition of, “pure giving,” doesn’t do what He did justice.

This is our God.

He gave it all. And why? Because it would benefit him in the long run? Yeah, sure, if by benefit you mean, being beaten, mocked and hung by his hands from a tree. Or unless you were thinking it was some how a benefit to Him to spend the rest of eternity pursuing a people that would push His good gifts away, any time the temporal seemed better than the promise.

No, see, the gift of Jesus meant nothing but heart ache for the Father. He had nothing to gain. He only had, to lose. Over, and over and over again. The gift of Jesus meant hitching His sail to a people who could not, and would not ever recognize Him in the way that His gift truly warranted.

But He did it anyway. Why? Love. That’s all. He loved you enough to lay it all down with no expectation of reciprocation. And guess what… He would do it again in a heart beat to secure your place in His kingdom, your freedom in this life.

As you give gifts this season, be reminded that the ultimate gift, the free gift. It came to you in the most surprising context of all, and for reasons that are difficult to comprehend for the human mind.

Remember that He loves you that much. He came for you. He gave it all for you.

Because you were worth it.


[december 19]


Most of my life I have I sort of gotten a kick out of confusing people. I know, that sounds strange, but it’s true. I hate being put into a box, I am uncomfortable with titles, and I love to change assumptions every chance I get.

about 6 yeas ago, while we were in the early stages of starting Finding Life Church, I was waiting tables at a local place here in Omaha called Wheatfields. When I started working their, I was determined to keep my, “Other job,” a secret from my fellow co-workers for the purpose of allowing them to get to know me before they found out I was a pastor, and wanted nothing to do with me. I made it about 6 months without anyone finding out. I went to parties in their homes, stayed out late with them in local pubs, and they just became my friends. To this day, many of them are still my friends. I have had the honor of officiating the wedding of 7 of my Wheatfields friends. So many beautiful people.

I remember the day I was outed like it was yesterday.

One of the other servers had mutual friend of mine that had another friend who shared the link to one of my sermons on Facebook, and somehow the pieces were put together, and she came to work that day, primed to collapse my house of cards. It was so interesting to hear the different responses from the people I had worked with every day for 6 months. Most people just thought it was funny, but one girl in particular had a different response. She came into the kitchen and yelled at the top of her lungs… I seriously think the entire restaurant heard it….

“Jake, how could you not tell us that your are a pastor!”

And then she stormed out.

I caught up with her a few minutes later and said,

“Come on, you aren’t really mad at me right?”

To which she responded…

“Yes I am mad, if I would have known that, I would have acted completely different around you!”

I turned to her and I said,

“I know, and that’s exactly why I didn’t tell you. I knew that your assumptions about who a pastor is, would have kept you from ever being willing to get to know me.”

She agreed, and said, I will never forget it…

“Well, you aren’t like any pastor I have ever known.”

I had the honor of officiating her wedding 5 years later. Tara, if you read this, thanks for the inspiration, and thanks for being an awesome friend who taught me so much.

I learned something about myself from this interaction. I love changing assumptions.

Jesus, loved to change assumptions too. I think He loved it so much that He often times did things just for the sake of confusing people. I could give examples, but this thing would get really long. He loved keeping people on their toes. Why? Because changing things is at the very center of the heart of God. In fact, the very purpose Jesus came to this earth for, was to flip, or reverse, everything about it. To turn things upside down, to alter the social contract, to change assumptions, to reverse the course of human history, beginning with what it valued.

Advent Gift #19… The gift of reversal.

The heart of God for turning things upside down is seen in the Christmas story itself right?

King born in a stable? It’s not normal… it’s not what you assume. But the details of the story, are only the beginning. It’s Jesus’ intended purpose for coming to earth that reveals the value of reversal in the heart of God.
The Bible, throughout, is littered with reversal imagery…

The Blind will see.
The lame will walk.
The deaf will hear.
Rivers will run in dry wastelands.
Slaves go free.

Not only did God use language to convey this value, but then Jesus came to the earth, and started living it.

He touched the untouchable.
He called the little children to himself.
He sat and ate with prostitutes.
He made more wine for drunk people, so that they could keep drinking. (Amazing story)

God, made into human flesh, is a reversal in and of itself.

But the greatest reversal of all, that was made possible by the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, is found in what He longed to reverse in the human heart.

He wanted to take broken, selfish, rotten, ugly, messed up, dying people, and change them into,

Mended, Beautiful, reconciled, life-giving, righteous, even holy…

Yes, Holy.

Not because you and I are actually capable of being holy, in our own strength we are not, but because in Him, we can be. He invited us to put on His righteousness in exchange for our mess. Because of Christmas, I get to cloth myself in the holiness, in the righteousness, in the perfection of Jesus.

Now, I am perfect. I am holy.

Don’t believe me? Check it out…

Galatians 3:27
And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.

Need more?

Isaiah 61:10
I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness

This is what God does. This is what Jesus came to accomplish.

This means that right now… in Christ…

If you are hopeless, He wants to restore your hope.
If you are enslaved, He wants to set you free.
If you are broken, He wants to heal, and restore.
If you are humiliated, He wants to raise you up.
If you are insecure, He wants to fill you with confidence

Not matter what you are feeling, walking through, or sitting in, Jesus wants to take it, and turn it upside down. He wants to do a reversal in your heart and life. Today, even now.

Believe it today. Believe it for he rest of your life.

december 18


The gift of freedom

It’s day 18, of my Advent reflections, and it is also my 37th birthday. Did I say 37? I meant 27… 27. With a nearly 16 year old daughter, who would believe that? In my 37th year, I have done a lot of extra reflection. I think mostly because that big number that I am not going to mention, is kind of beginning to loom large.

Have I done everything I wanted to do by this point?
Have I laid the groundwork for the latter part of my life?

The rapid pace of life is easy to ignore when you are in the first half of your life. No one turns 25 and thinks, man, life is really getting away from me. But as you creep toward that, what seems like your, “half way,” mark, you start asking some pretty serious question. There are a lot of things I am really proud of after 37 years. My family isn’t perfect, far from it, but dang man, they all care about all the right things. The Church I lead, Finding Life, we are constantly navigating the pitfalls of trying to be the church in a consumer culture, but, like my family, at the core, we are about the right things. More than that, when we get our eyes off the ball, which is inevitable, as a community we are so good at responding with courage, and righting the ship.

I am still growing
I am still changing
I am still pushing myself to get better. To be better.

I like much of who I am, but if I had a birthday wish, wanna know what I would wish for?


Real freedom.

Not the kind that comes through politics or legislation. The kind that no one can take, because it isn’t dependent on what anyone else does. The kind of freedom I am talking about is the kind that Jesus came to give the entire human race on Advent.

It’s the kind He believed was worth dying for.

When I was reflecting on freedom this week, I came across this passage…

It’s Paul, writing a letter to this group of new Jesus followers that had sort of lost their way…
Galatians 5:7-9 says…

You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom.

This question Paul asked, sort of got me thinking, and ultimately I realized something…

It’s me.

It is my willingness to listen to the other voices that want to tell me who I am that keep me from living in the freedom He has designed me for.

I am the Thief of the freedom that Jesus has given me. It’s me.

So, today,  just 7 days from Christmas day, 2017. My 37th Christmas, I only want one thing… to dive deeper into the waters of freedom. I want to swim in it until it defines me, until my entire world view is shaped by its incredible invitation.

Galatians 5:1
So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

This Christmas I choose to let Jesus define my worth, let Him tell me who I am, and listen closely to His opinion of me, instead of the opinions of others.

In Jesus, I am Free.

PS. If you want to hear more, go to http://www.findinglifechurch.com, and click the sermons link. I flesh this advent gift out in great detail on the December 18th link.

december 17


So, this posting every day thing has gotten really tough, and my amazing wife volunteered to lighten my burden on a crazy weekend. So, here are her thoughts…

Pure Grace.

Whenever Jake and I argue and he tells me

“you can’t have a double standard like that”, I’m always left like

“uh uh, (stumbling trying to think of an excuse) no it’s not!”.

For whatever reason that accusation just gets me. I want to be strong and consistent and always right. The thought of double-standards has been mulling around my mind for a few weeks now. At some point it occurred to me ( I realize I’m a little late to the game here) that I am full of double-standards in my worship. It’s remarkable that God accepts any kind of worship from us when it’s so riddled with double-standards.

I say one thing and then go and live out another.

I say I want one thing…I surrender another, and all along, the Father knows that what I’m made of is a mediocre desire for holiness mixed with a ton of selfish ambition.

There is a pure longing for Him that is buried deep within me but it is so often covered and hindered in such a messed up way that I can’t even sort out what is Him, and what is flesh.

Somehow he accepts my garbage and works within me continually! He is always separating out the wheat from the tares. This kind of patience and genuine love is like none other.

So I was working yesterday and listening to Christmas music when a phrase in the song I was listening to kind of brought this double standard business full circle in my mind. It’s from a little known song called, “The Earth Stood Still,” by Future of Forestry. It says

“the angels trembled and the demons did too, for they knew full well what pure grace would do.”

That phrase, “pure grace” hit me like a truck.

His grace for the believer is full, pure, 100%, forever.

Imagine a bottle of.. I don’t know, honey, jam, doesn’t matter, just something that is 100% pure; the real deal. Christmas was the beginning of the end for Satan because of what, 100% pure grace would accomplish in the hearts of a world he thought he had a pretty strong grip on.

Maybe this isn’t feeling as amazing to you as it did to me but here’s why it was powerful in my life.

For the last year, as I’ve been trying to come head to head with God’s willingness to, “allow.” terrible stuff to go down in this world, I’ve often found myself feeling like I am more gracious than He is.

Ok, ok hold on. I heard it. I know.

But anytime you say to yourself, “how can God allow that?” you are saying essentially, why doesn’t he care or love like I do. I’ve wondered how in any context or any moment can it seem that I am loving more than, or better than the author of love Himself. I’m aware that my understanding must be the problem but haven’t got a lot further than that.

So here is where my acute awareness of my ability to live blindly with double standards flying all over the place and God’s 100% pure grace collided. He has the capability of being holy and loving and just and consistent all the time. That’s what makes his love matter. It matters!

It makes a difference, whereas my love that enters the scene when I feel like it, and on my terms and always reserves the right to change it’s mind, doesn’t really help anyone. It surely isn’t saving any souls. God sees the whole picture and chose to love us when we didn’t deserve it and continues that all the time.

So, I’m supposed to have an advent gift of the day right? Ok, lets go with the gift of pure grace. I hope this makes some sort of sense. I don’t typically do this whole blogging thing. Thanks for bearing with me. Merry Christmas!
– Anne Marie

december 16


Today is my mom’s 60th birthday. If you know my mom she neither looks nor acts her age. That is one of the things that makes her so amazing.

Today, she posted this message on her Facebook wall…

Well, I was gonna give an exact quote, but to find It, I would have to sift through 6 billion happy birthday messages from people all over the world that have been impacted by her life.

It said something like this…

“I turn 60 years old today, and as I look at my life, there are so many things I still want to become…”

The rest was great too, but it was this first sentence that struck me.

Most of us reach a point in our lives where we are done learning, and done growing. We have accomplished what we intended to, we know enough to continue to succeed in the areas we need to, and the task of continuing to grow and change is simply too exhausting to even consider. So we settle into our way of life, settle into our thinking, and narrow the scope of our vision so as to keep influences that might reveal our flawed thinking out, so that we can continue doing life the way we want to, with very little resistance.

Sure, we all talk like we want to get better. We all say we want to be challenged, but when push comes to shove, comfort always wins the day.

Not my mother. She has always, and continues to do things different than nearly every human being on this planet. The truth is, this is just one example of that…

At 60, you would think that she would be ready to settle in, make herself as comfortable as possible and just enjoy her grand kids. Believe me, her love for her grand kids is as significant as any other influence in her life… ask them. Well, its almost as significant.

Living for what matters most… people, is the engine that drives every decision she makes in this life. Not just the people that she loves… not just the people that love her. All people. If you think I am exagerting go to the corner of McAllister and Divisidero, in San Francisco, CA, and ask her friend Donald… the homeless man who works that corner. He will tell you.

If anyone has earned the right to settle in, and take it easy, it is her…

Problem is, it simply isn’t in her DNA.

She is the kind of person who’s drive for continued growth, a larger view of the world, and an ever increasing sensitivity to the people around her is only slightly smaller than her unbelievable drive to know the heart of God, and live it out with every fabric of her existence.

She has never settled. She has never stopped growing. And the result?

Her words, thoughts, pursuits, relationships, hopes, goals, dreams, fears, worries, concerns, I could go on and on… HER LIFE… is more aligned with the steps of Jesus than any human being I have ever known. And her impact shows it.

Her ability to live this way, comes from a choice she made early on to believe something about life.

It is a process. We never arrive. We are never complete. God is never done shaping us.

On this side of heaven, we will always be broken, and in need of the careful hands of the Father, to continue to conform us to the image of His son.

Which leads me to Advent gift #16…

The Gift of process.

Throughout history, God’s interactions with man kind have screamed this truth.

God has never been interested in man’s perfection, but has always been interested in our direction. When God chose to fix the problem of sin in this world, He could have just erased the mistakes, and started over. He could have blotted out the ugly and immediately made it into something beautiful. At the same time, he could have rewired the human heart to never want to sin again, and protect us from the consequences of failure for good.

He could have just made us behaviorally perfect and saved a lot of mess.

But He didn’t… why? Because there is something He cares about more. He cares about real, genuine, heart-level transformation. This kind of thing doesn’t happen over night. At least not with broken human beings.

When God decided to allow us to live in this world with choice, He was choosing to embrace process over perfection.

Jesus, being born on the very first Christmas, was the culmination of that process. More than that, it is what satisfied the holiness of God, and at the same time, made process possible.

We don’t have to be perfect. We can’t anyway, but the presence of Jesus in the world, means we get to stop trying. We get to take a heart first approach to relating with the Holy One. Because of Jesus.

I pray this Christmas you can embrace process in your life…

Philippians 1:6
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Thank you Judy Brower, for showing me what it looks like to live the heart of Jesus in every way, including the context of your own personal failure. I love you. Happy 60th Birthday.

december 15


The gift of confusion

Wait, what?

Just consider something for a moment…

You are engaged. You probably shouldn’t be engaged, because you barely know your fiance. One day she comes to you, and nervously says…

“yeah, so, I need to talk to you.”

You can hear the tone of voice can’t you? You know what it feels like when someone you care about comes to you, and says these words, with this cadence. It’s not good. Do you feel the pit in your stomach?

She continues…

“So, here’s the thing, I am pregnant.”

The moment those words leave her mouth, a whirlwind of emotions attack your senses. Anger, fear, frustration, confusion, pain. You name it, you are feeling it. How could she… what did she… who is the…?

Before you can muster a word, she jumps back in with the only words that could make you feel worse about an already awful situation.

“But don’t worry, God came to me in a dream and told me the baby is His. God is the father, and the baby, is the savior of the world.”

Just sit there for a moment. Close your eyes, try to imagine the gamete of emotions running through your heart and mind. I will give you a moment…

If you know the Christmas story at all, you know I am telling the story of Christmas through the lens of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. Of all the people in the first advent narrative, Joseph’s role was the strangest. And for him, this actual interaction, was only the beginning.

If you know the story, what happens next is pretty cool… I will let the Bible tell it, from Matthew chapter 1

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

I gotta get right to the point, or this will be a really long blog post. So here are the facts related to this situation…

  • In the ancient near east, if a woman commits adultery, the going punishment was death by stoning… this would have been a perfectly logical outcome from this situation.
  • Any man, in this context would have felt justified, even righteous in ensuring this punishment was administered
  • The text above clearly separates the interaction between Mary and Joseph and the interaction between Joseph and the angel. We have no idea how long, but it was long enough for him to consider the situation and make some decisions.
  • Prior to the angel coming to Joseph, he had already decided to show Mary an epic amount of mercy. (Go back and read it again)
  • The angel shows up and clarifies things, and Joseph is rewarded for his faithfulness.

So, I don’t know about you, but a closer look at this story creates all kinds of questions for me… for example…

Why the HELL didn’t God just tell Mary and Joseph about her pregnancy at the same time? (Sorry, I was gonna edit that, but it just felt like the right word given the situation).

How in the world did Joseph have the character to choose kindness in the face of the most demoralizing violation a man in the ancient near east could ever experience?

This, is what I want to hone in on…

What was God doing in the life of Joseph between the moment when Mary TOLD HIM, to the moment the angel clarified things?

We don’t know how long it was. It could have been 5 minutes, or 5 weeks. Regardless of the time, one thing I am sure of… it was the longest, and hardest season of Joseph’s life.

Do I kill her? Do I forgive her? Do I still marry her? Do I shame her? Do I just walk away? Is there anything I am responsible to do in this situation?

All really good questions right?

It is spaces like these, that God’s shaping hands are most potent. It is seasons like these, when we are at the end of our rope, unsure about how to move forward, and fairly convinced that no matter what happens, our lives will never be the same, that God’s transformational grace is at it’s best.

My wife, Anne Marie, has lived in this kind of space for the the entirety of 2016. For a number of different reasons. She has experienced a sense of rejection like no human ever should, then slivers of hope followed my more heart ache. She has felt alone, misunderstood, and cast aside. She has spent most of the year entirely confused. Her confusion led to anger, and her anger to a greater sense of her own weakness, providing her with a choice. She could either let pride take over and drive a wedge between her and her Savior, or embrace the confusion, and be driven to dependency, trusting that He would reveal His purpose for her, in His timing. Which ultimately leads to a depth of intimacy with God most can only dream of experiencing.

She chose dependency at every turn. And the result? All her circumstances are easy now? Not even close. No, it hasn’t gotten easier, but it has produced the greatest season of growth she has ever experienced, and I have been lucky to have a front row seat.

The Apostle Paul says it like this…

“When I am weak, THEN… I am strong.” Not because I am strong, but because embracing my weakness allows the power of God to flow freely.

It is when we are lost, hopeless and CONFUSED, that we are most primed to be conformed to the image of Jesus. It is when we are utterly aware of our painfully glaring weakness that the shaping hand of the creator can do His finest work.

When we are hurting, beaten and bruised.

Clueless, tired and empty.


A proper posture before our gracious God allows moments of confusion and pain to produce clarity and healing. Why? Because they force us to our knees in total dependency on the one who holds it all together. Nothing happens outside of His loving gaze.

When we are at our lowest, this is when His grace is at it’s finest.

Tapping into that reality is as simple as throwing our hands up, and saying… I can’t do it on my own.

I am convinced it was Joseph’s willingness to embrace the gift of confusion, and step into the unknown, that God chose him to be the father of the Messiah.

What incredible realities might you be missing out on because you are afraid to admit you don’t and can’t have everything figured out… under control.

We don’t change when life is easy, we change when life pushes us to the end of ourselves, and we have no other option but to embrace the madness of confusion, and rest in the process God has for us.

It is in this context that confusion becomes a powerful, beautiful, even transformational gift.

december 14


The mainstream Christmas story, told in most churches once a year, across America, follows a pretty standard script.

A virgin, a carpenter, a barn, manger, baby, cloths, shepherds, angels, bright star and wise men… That about sums it up right? Simple, to the point, easy.

Then there are a couple of outliers, or the go-to, “mix it up,” stories that pastors use every couple of years just to keep things fresh…

John the baptist, Elizabeth, Herod, Anna and Simeon… Haven’t heard of them? That’s ok, most people have never heard of them, or even if they have heard of them, there isn’t much clarity on the role the play in the Christmas story.

I was one of those a few years ago, when I first read the stories of Anna and Simeon. Yep, I was being that pastor, trying to mix it up and keep it fresh, and I discovered something really profound in the midst of it.

The stories of Anna and Simeon are much more than an after thought. These two characters were the first to find a sense of purpose in the story of Christmas. Which brings me to advent gift #14.

The gift of purpose.

Mary, Joseph, the inn keeper, all had something in common. The events of the first Christmas were all kind of happening to them. They didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter. The result in the narrative is that we get raw, natural responses that invoke a ton of emotion and allow us to connect our hearts to the story.

But Anna and Simeon were different.

Both of these characters were aware of the events of the Christmas story before they happened and as a result were waiting expectantly for it’s arrival. Their life purpose had become wrapped up in this Advent miracle.

Simeon’s moment sounded like this…

“And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

Pretty amazing purpose right?

Then there is Anna…She didn’t know in advance about the coming Messiah, like Simeon did, but she recognized Him when she saw him, and her response was perfect…

“And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

She found her purpose in the coming of Jesus…

So what right? What does this have to do with us?

This past week, as I was just minutes from going out on the stage to preach in our “Christmas Eve” gathering, I was struck by a simple, yet significant truth.

The Christmas story was not meant to be observed, it was meant to be experienced.

For 4 weeks in December every year, across America, people pile into rows and aisles of churches anticipating the opportunity to observe the Christmas story. Unfortunately, most of us pastors, tend to give people exactly what they are looking for. A few carols, the story as usual, and a nice feel good, observable, safe message, that will allow us to feel a measure of connection to the story, but also allow us to get right back to our egg nog, shopping, family agenda’s and holiday traditions.

This is not the reason God put on human flesh.

He came to give you purpose.

The Christmas story is meant to be, and can be, starting right now, catalytic in every aspect of your life. It is meant to give you purpose, to move you to action, to fill your heart with so much humility that you feel driven into a lifestyle that reflects the heart and values of the savior who was born that silent night.


Your purpose in the Christmas story is to become an agent of those values. A Life-giver.

Engaging with the Christmas story is not an option, it is the only way to experience it the way it was intended to be experienced. If you choose not to, you are simply acknowledging a folklore. You are embracing a tradition that is about as empty, and lifeless as the dying tree in your living room, or the socks hanging from your mantle.

The Christmas story is only as powerful as you choose to let it be. Not just in your life, but in the lives of all you come in contact with.

It was meant to set our hearts on fire, with a passion to go live the heart of Jesus, in every situation we find ourselves in… all year long.

So… what are you waiting for?!

december 13


I fail a lot.

If you don’t believe me, ask my wife. She has taken the brunt of it over the past 16 years. I have spent much of this night trying to think of a good story I could tell, about my own personal failure that would be just bad enough to give you the sense that I am being uber authentic, but not bad enough that you would lose all respect for me…

The problem is, I have more stories to tell that seem to fall into the second category, so instead of making this read an awkward one, I am just going to go with…

I fail a lot.

Sorry that is so ambiguous, but it will have to suffice for now, and it does for my 13th gift of advent…

The gift of second chances…

When it comes to earthly relationships, second chances, when we fail in the worst ways, gives us a little taste of the power of forgiveness. When we do something that forces us to a place where we become acutely aware of how little we deserve, something happens in our hearts. We learn the power of second chances.

Whether we receive a second chance in that moment, or not, we still sense the power of it. But nothing is as freeing and life-giving as being granted another chance, when we deserve to be cast aside, given up on and dismissed from the privileges of “Good standing.”

This is the power of advent.

The birth of Jesus, was the choice of a perfect God, to reach out to a fallen people. But it wasn’t the first reaching out. In fact, the entire history of God’s relationship to mankind is littered with Man’s failure in the face of God’s faithfulness. Over and over, God reaches out, says, “I love you,” says, “I forgive you,” and over and over, mankind says, “Nah, I would rather do it my own way.”

The birth of Jesus then, is not just a second chance, it is the final second chance, in a long line of second chances. It is the exclamation point on these words from Hebrews 8:12…

“For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And I will remember their sins no more.”

The birth of Jesus, reveals this aspect of God’s character that simply does not align with anything we, as human beings understand about relationships.

As much as I have touted my wife’s willingness to forgive my failures, and give me second chances, I know full well that there is a point that her tolerance for my perpetual failure would find its end. There is a point where she would walk away… and she should. This reality is what make’s God’s patience so incredibly life changing…

Humans don’t hang on this long
Humans don’t forgive this much
Humans give up
Humans let go
Humans move on.

God does not. Ever.

The last thing I want to do with this post is give you some kind of “get out of jail free card.” To see God’s grace and forgiveness as such would be the greatest of all tragedies, and would miss the point of it entirely.

But, if your heart can connect with the reality of God’s willingness to give you limitless second chances, and not allow it to create in you a sense of entitlement, or a license to just go sinning your brains out, it could be the most life-changing reality you ever experience.

You cannot mess up so bad that God would give up on you.
There is no end to God’s patience with your brokenness.
There is nothing you can do, to be too far gone, that the grace of God cannot find you.

There is no limit to how far He will go, so that you might actually embrace and walk in this powerful reality.

He came to earth. He came on the first Christmas, over 2,000 years ago. He became one of us. He left all His positional authority in heaven, to chase down your freedom. Because He loves you that much. Because He won’t ever quit on you.

It brings extra meaning for me this advent season, to some words I have often heard, even quoted, and maybe never fully embraced…

“There is now, NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

It’s true. Our God, is the God of second chances. As many as you are willing to take.

We are, a people of the Second Chance, and HE is the God of second chances.

december 12


The gift of life.

Jesus said, in the latter half of John 10:10…

“I came so that they might have life… to the fullest.”

These are words that have so often been taken out of context, and used to sensationalize the idea of God’s favor being connected to how many earthly blessings one might possess.

To be honest, I am fairly certain I don’t understand all the theological underpinnings of these words, but I am going to make an attempt to explain their impact on us, and the role of the Christmas story in bringing us, “Life to the fullest.”

“I came… so that they might have LIFE.”


What did He mean? Really?

I know what I want out of life. I know how I would describe, “Life to the full,” but something tells me it might be a little different than what Jesus meant.

I want comfort, control, and clarity. I want to know the answer to question, “why,” in every aspect of my life. I don’t want any surprises, and I want to understand. I want the path of least resistance to all things that I want, and I want it now. To me, life to the full, begins and ends with control, with comfort, and with clarity.

None of which is offered by Jesus to mankind, when He calls us to himself. In fact, When Jesus called His first disciples into this, “Life to the full,” here is how he described it…

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

How does that verse, coincide with the idea of “Life to the full,” and make any sense to us whatsoever?

The answer, I think, lies in the meaning of the word LIFE.

Both of these verses use it, and although they seem to be talking about different things, they are in fact using the exact same definition of the word. I know, I know, that seems crazy, but it’s true.

The kind of life, Jesus came, to this earth, on the first Christmas, to give you and me, can’t be quantified by how much stuff we own, or how big our Roth IRA’s are. It can’t be defined by our level of happiness or our lack of hardship. No, the kind of life Jesus was born onto this earth to invite us into is something so much better, so much truer, so much more reliable.

Deep down, we all know that Comfort is fleeting, and happiness is a pretty useless pursuit, because those things are circumstance dependent, and whether we want to admit it or not, none of us are really in control of all our circumstances…

The LIFE, Jesus came to give us, this full life that He speaks of, has zero connection to circumstances, which is why, once it is bestowed upon a human life, it is founded on bedrock. Its the kind that a “Thief, cannot not come and steal or destroy (That’s the first half of John 10:10), It is not fleeting, nor is it prone to wander. This kind of LIFE is what Jesus meant, when he said He came to give us Life to the full.

The best part of this LIFE…

It’s yours to embrace… it comes with no strings attached, it comes with no prerequisites. It is yours, today…

If you want it.

The only thing you have to do, is let go of yours.

I will leave you with a story.

In the African Jungle, scientists, study monkeys. In order to study the patterns of monkeys and the way they do life, a scientist has to get an up close look at them. So they must get them into captivity so they can observe them closer. Here’s the thing, monkeys don’t just jump into your lap. So how do they catch them…

It is surprisingly easy actually.

They put a cage out on the jungle floor, and place a piece of food that will attract a monkey. On this cage is a hole, just big enough for a monkey to slip their hand inside, and grab hold of the food. The genius of this device is that the hole, while big enough for the empty hand of a monkey, is not big enough for a monkey’s hand full of food. So, when the monkey takes hold of the food they are after, their hand is stuck, unless they are willing to release the food from their grasp, and retract their hand.

The problem for the monkey is this…

There is something hard wired into them, that won’t allow them to release the food, and escape to freedom. These monkeys will grip so tightly to the thing that is ultimately going to lead to their captivity. They have determined that this single piece of food, is worth their enslavement.

This is what Jesus meant, when he said,

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Listen… I have no idea if this story is true… or based on actual science. What I do know is that it is a vivid picture of the human experience.

We want to save our lives… so much so that we clutch the very things that exclude us from having real hope, real freedom, real LIFE.

So the question for each of us this advent is simple.

Are you trying to save your LIFE?

Are you willing to let go of the LIFE you think you need, and let God show you why He sent Jesus?

To give you real Life?

I would love nothing more than for you to experience real LIFE this Christmas.

LIFE to the full.

december 11


The gift of ordinary

I want to be extraordinary… there I said it.

As hard as it is for me to admit that, there is something deep down inside of me, and I think all of us, to be special, to stand out, to be “extraordinary.”

But what really makes a person extra-ordinary? What makes a person different, what makes them stand out in a crowd? We spend most of our lives doing as much as we can to fit in, go with the flow, and live to a standard that is acceptable to the people around us. That standard tends to be set by the “extraordinary” people in our world right? The star athletes, the up and coming movie stars, and those in charge of deciding what is, “in style,” right now. We are supposed to fit in, but also maintain an element of originality that sets us apart. If you are just ordinary that is safe, but boring, but if you are too different, that could be even worse, too much originality could lead to over all rejection.

This tug and pull is a constant battle for everyone who lives life on this earth. Some choose to give up trying to fit in and just simply find themselves embracing the fringes. Some give all they have to the pursuit of getting the combination exactly right. Others, most of us, simply resign ourselves to the reality we will always be ordinary. Lost in a sea of faces, nameless, faceless and meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

Accepting our role as ordinary people really begins and ends in understanding what we were created for.

Ultimately I have found the pursuit Of being extraordinary exhausting, frustrating and deflating. I find myself looking around and deciding if I am better than enough other people to feel good about who I am. I end up judging others, playing games with myself, and ultimately still end up disappointed with the reality that I am just not that special.

Bottom line, being ordinary just might be the greatest gift we have ever been given.

During this advent season, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on Mary, the mother of Jesus.

I am taking a bit of risk in saying this, but Mary’s extraordinary role in the story of history was dependent on her acceptance of the God-given role of ordinary.

Mary is a person who has historically been seen by so many as extraordinary. We want her to be different, special, holy and Godly. As human beings we have even stretched that desire for her to be extraordinary to the point of making her into some kind of super human. We know she is not god… right? But we want her to be something more don’t we?

To see Mary as extraordinary in her own right is to miss the point of her life altogether.

In Luke chapter 1, Mary’s simple, meaningless, obscure, young life is bombarded by the creator of the universe with a call to live out something ordinary. Why did God choose her? Why did God decide she was the right one to be the mother of Jesus? Because she was special? Because she was popular, rich and well-liked?

Its because she was ordinary.

Mary was insecure, full of fear, doubt and worry. She was young, unmarried and just plain regular.

What was extraordinary about Mary wasn’t her position in life, her staggering talent or her earthly wealth. It was about her humility, faith and choice to surrender.

When the angel of the lord comes to Mary and tells her the great news about her new role in the landscape of history the angel calls her, “favored one.” Meaning she had found favor with God, meaning, God decided to use her even though she was nobody. The New Living Translation of the Bible actually replaces the word grace, with favor. Because of God’s graciousness he chose to use a broken vessel like Mary to be the mother of His son Jesus. It wasn’t her resume or rap sheet, it was by God’s grace, and favor. God chose her because she was humble, not because she was extraordinary.

In Luke chapter one, Mary responds to the angel of the Lord saying,

 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “ The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.

Do you see it?

Why did God use her? Because she was willing to let the power of the most high “over-shadow her.” She was willing to become less… to become used up, beaten and worn out. She saw her life as worthless in compared to the amazing opportunity to be part of God’s plan in this unique way. She didn’t say, wait a minute, this doesn’t work out with my life, she just submitted to the work God wanted to do in her life.

Do you want to live an extraordinary life? Then, like Mary, you have to be willing to embrace the ordinary so that God gets the glory, you have to be ready to have every aspect of your life taken away, folded into the character of God. You must simply be over shadowed. As long as you and I strive to stand out, be special, take hold of our own lives and be extraordinary, we will simply never be in contention for God’s work. He will simply pass us by for someone a little more ordinary and a lot more humble.

I wonder at times if Mary, who gave her life, was ridiculed no doubt for obeying God, in the name of humility, would be grossly disappointed by what we have made her legacy into.

Today, choose humility, choose to be over-shadowed, choose to give instead of receive.

Choose ORDINARY, and God will make your life into something Extraordinary.