Baby Steps

Audio Version Baby Steps Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying “Abba! Father!” Galatians 4:6 Baby Steps.  If you know the movie What About Bob, you can instantly picture Bill Murray’s character taking steps around his psychiatrist’s office, calming all of his phobias by literally taking “baby steps.” Instead of worrying about the fears of the big picture, simply focus on your next “baby step” and you’ll be ok. That’s the plan. Is spiritual growth, or any type of growth, that simple? Or is there more to it? I would say, “Yes.” and “Yes.” Here’s…
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No Pain, No Gain

No Pain, No Gain Audio Version Godly sorrow brings repentance. . . 2 Corinthians 7:10a A few weeks ago, my oldest son and I built a bench press for our basement out of two-by-fours, half a sheet of plywood, some old rubber matting, and, of course, a little duck tape. For less than $30 we have a functional piece of weight training equipment. I wouldn’t put 300 pounds on it, but I couldn’t lift that anyway! A few years ago, I tore a muscle in my chest, which limited my range of motion and confidence in my ability to bench. Now,…
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Secret Weapon?

Audio Version Secret Weapon? But I say, walk by the Spirit. . .Galatians 5:16 Let’s do a little theology today and talk about the Holy Spirit for a minute. C.S. Lewis says that we make two equal and opposite errors when it comes to the devil. We either turn Satan into a cartoon and dismiss him, or we think he’s behind everything. I used to think that way about the Holy Spirit.  Here’s what I mean. I used to associate the Spirit with stuff that I thought was weird and I didn’t understand. I’d look at some of the extreme…
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God’s Plan A

Audio Version God’s Plan A  And all who believed where together and had all things in common. Acts 2:44 Let’s talk about real community for a minute. I just left a zoom call with our staff. We’ve been meeting four times a week to do our normal ministry stuff—strategic planning, debriefing, praying for the congregation, etc. But once a week, we check in with each other personally.  How are you doing? How can we pray for you? Those were our questions today. Here was the beautiful thing about this morning. Some of us have had a really tough week—either at home,…
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Transactional Love

Audio Version Transactional Love By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35 Everybody cares about you now. And we’re all in this together. My bank, my alumni association, every airline that I’ve ever flown with. They all care about me and are concerned about me, now. If I’m not sure, I can “click here” to see more. I suppose it’s good customer service. Of course. I suppose that’s the foundation of anyone’s business. But what about the church? Is that how it works? I’m not really talking about the physical building or…
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Draft Day

Audio Version Draft Day “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst." John 4:13 What are you watching on your screen of choice? Let me make a random connection among three different things I’ve watched this week. The Michael Jordan documentary “The Last Dance,” the NFL Draft, and “The Chosen,” a crowd-funded series about the life Jesus.  What do all three have in common? Saviors, drafts, and crowds. Michael Jordan saved the Bulls. Joe Burrow, the first pick in the draft, hopes to save the Bengals. And then, of course,…
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Growing Pains

Audio Version Growing Pains Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:2 Growth is hard. Growth is painful.  Let’s talk about the process for a minute. As I write, I’m looking out the window of my quarantine office, in what used to be my daughter’s bedroom. Her bed and some of her old furniture are here. Her wedding dress and what we cleaned out from the junk drawer in our kitchen are here. The trophies and books that my son cleaned out…
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Ways of Knowing

Ways of Knowing Audio Version The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Romans 8:16 How do you know what you know? Let’s talk about this question today. If you like big words for a simple concept I’ve got one for you, epistemology. This is basically the study of not so much what you know, but how you know what you know. Let me give you a quick example. When you turn on the news for the latest update, where do you go for your information? FOX, CNN, PBS, the BBC? Whose voice do you trust?  I have a hard time…
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Not Enough

Not Enough Audio Version “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 Do you ever feel like you don’t have what it takes? That you’re not enough? Overwhelmed? I do. Paul did. You’re not alone. And it’s a good thing, not a bad thing. Here’s why. A little background first. Paul was clearly the man when it came to the early church. He had all the credentials and all the connections. He was a Pharisee who was well schooled in the top shelf theology of the day, and he ran in the right circles.…
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L.E.O.

Audio Version We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 Let’s talk about grace for a minute. I learned a lot about following Jesus from my friend Tom, better known as Coach Allen to the Hoosier football faithful and thousands more through coaching stops across the country from South Florida, Ole Miss, and Arkansas State to Lambuth, Drake, and Wabash. We taught and led FCA together at Ben Davis for several years. Fourteen years ago, almost to the day, I had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor and even though I was out of it on morphine, I can…
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Amplifier

Audio Version Amplifier [Jesus] did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person. John 2:24 My friend Matt has worked in college ministry for years.  After seeing hundreds of kids come and go through college, from all different backgrounds and interests, this is what he says, “College is an amplifier.”  The new environment of college, with all of its temptations and stressors, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t really change anybody. It simply amplifies what was there in the first place. Here’s what I think he means by that. The desires and dysfunctions you had going in, tend to be the…
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What’s Next?

Audio Version What’s Next? Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 We can learn something about spiritual growth from Bill Belichick. For Colts fans that may be more heretical than denying the virgin birth, but I’m serious here. And, no, I’m not talking today about the nature of evil or how to cast out demons.   Whenever you hear Belichick in an interview it’s always the same. The Patriots recently parted ways with their legendary QB Tom Brady. “Water under the…
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Easter Unfiltered

Audio Version Easter Unfiltered It the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 1 Corinthians 15:32 What happened inside the tomb matters.  More is at stake at Easter than any other day in the history of the world. There’s not a close second. If Jesus did really rise from the dead, then you and I ought to get busy following him. He’s the Son of God, after all, with the authority to do whatever he wants to do.  If it’s a made up story, it’s a brilliant hoax that has duped billions of people over…
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Good Friday

Good Friday Starts Here Good Friday Guided Audio Experience Introduction: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:46 Today is Good Friday! Everything we’ve seen this week has been pointing to this day that we call “good.” But what is it about this day that is good? Let’s get some perspective. Let’s put this day in some context. As we zoom out, we see that the Old Testament looks forward to Jesus, the gospels tell the story of Jesus, and the rest of the New Testament explains the present and the future in light of Jesus. 4,000…
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Already, Not Yet

Audio Version Already, Not Yet “I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:29 Thursday is a watershed day. Three events. Three symbols. Three ways of looking back to the “already” and looking forward to the “not yet.” First, the Last Supper. It’s hard to overstate how radical Jesus’ actions are here. He takes the key symbols of the Passover meal and redefines them. He looks back to the unleavened bread, which was there as a reminder of the time when the…
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Worth the Price?

Audio Version “What will you give me if I turn him over to you?” Matthew 26:15 Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday have been about big crowds and intense conflict. Wednesday, the pace slows down, but the events are no less important.  Wednesday is about Value. It is literally about how much money Jesus is worth. Two stories on this day point in this direction.  Jesus and his disciples have gone to Bethany, which is not far from the Mount of Olives, to have dinner with a man named Simon, the leper, probably someone whom Jesus had healed.  Bethany is where Jesus raised Lazarus.…
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The Lens

Audio Version Woe to you, blind guides. . . Matthew 23:16 Yesterday was about authority. Today, Tuesday, is about Perspective.  Jesus teaches from two places today. His subject in both is the Kingdom. His purpose is to get us to see things differently. That’s what perspective is all about. It’s about the lens you see through. How do you see God? How do you see the present times? How do you see the future? First, the temple. Jesus is in charge now, and he is playing offense. His target is the Pharisees and the Scribes and basically everyone who claims an…
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Fight the Power

Audio Version “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers. Matthew 21:13 Authority. That’s what Monday is about. Yesterday, on Palm Sunday, we saw a preview of the fight that was to come. On one side, we can see the fans and true followers of Jesus. Their cries of “Hosanna” are still hanging in the air. On the other side, we see the residents of Jerusalem asking “Who is this Jesus?” One side is worshipping. One side is asking questions. Both don’t see clearly. Both are confused. Both will be in the…
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Frozen Orange Juice

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, Hebrews 10:24 Yesterday, we had a “Day of Prayer and Fasting.” In one sense, this was a solo operation. Pray by yourself. Meditate on God’s Word by yourself. Decide not to eat by yourself. But in another sense it was a community effort. My heart warmed when I saw my computer screen full of faces in real time. We were able to share and pray together in real time—even if it was in postage stamp size squares! Sometimes we prayed aloud. Sometimes we typed in…
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Xtreme High Flyer

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. Psalm 42:1 Why do you pray?  Some of you, when you hear that question, want to start asking a whole bunch of other questions. If God is really in control, if God really knows everything, why even pray? Those are really good questions. I’ve asked those questions, myself, and they still rattle around in my brain sometimes. But that’s not really what I’m asking. My questions is “Why do you pray?” When my kids were in middle and high school. . .  That introductory dependent clause itself was reason enough…
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Don’t Back Down

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3 What is your first response when you face a trial?  Some people run away from the challenge. Others embrace the challenge, knowing that something good is about to happen. My buddy Jerrod Watson is one of those guys who runs into the fire. He coached high school football for more than two decades and continues to teach and train middle schoolers. He’s the kind of coach you don’t forget. One of his former players recently graduated from…
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Ambidextrous Faith

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:6-7 How can you have joy in the midst of pain? That’s a tough one.  When I was a little league baseball player, I had a coach who was ambidextrous. He could literally throw batting practice with both hands. When his right arm got tired, he simply went to his left.…
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The Habit Loop

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 While we’re on this whole anxiety thing that Paul identifies, let’s talk about habits for a minute. I have some bad ones. When I’m tired and I’m trying to get work done late at night (Bad Habit #1), I tend to snack (Bad Habit #2) on junk food, especially things that are salty or sweet, or both, like Peanut Butter (Bad Habit #3). As we rewind the film on this vicious cycle and watch it together, you might be asking the question:…
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In the Middle of the Mess

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:5-6 Here’s what I love about the Bible. It was written in the midst of the blood, sweat, and tears of real life. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write these words of encouragement to this church plant in this Greek city of Philippi. . . while he was in jail.  Sometimes people have hard questions about the Bible, questions about its composition and its consistency. Who actually wrote it? How do we know it’s true? What…
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One More Take

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6 Anybody out there struggle with pride? I do. Mine isn’t so much the arrogant, blowhard kind of pride that you see in the politicians you don’t vote for and the football coaches you root against. Mine is the sneaky “I want everybody to think I’m humble” kind of pride—the type of pride that doesn’t want anybody to see that you really do care what people think, that you really do feed off of what other people think of your performance. If you’re like me, you know exactly what I’m…
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The Junk Drawer

Be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Romans 12:2b What does it look like to change the way you think? Change is hard. The patterns that got you where you are today don’t just instantly disappear because you’ve decided it’s time to change. My wife, Kim, did a deep clean of the kitchen last week—one small way to try to bring some order to the chaos of our formerly serene empty nest lives. She spent hours taking everything out of the drawers, everything out of the pantry, everything out of every cabinet. The wedding goblets that we’ve never used,…
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How’s Your Mind?

Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world. Romans 12:2 As you woke up this morning, what was your first thought? Did you think about what you had to do, or who you had to do it with? As you made your way to the bathroom or the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee, what was your mindset as you approached the day? Did your mind fill with optimism, or did you worry? Don’t pretend here. Don’t put on some cheap veneer of happiness. How did you really feel deep down? Before you checked your email, the latest…
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