4 Ways to Pray

I had a brief stint as a Kids Pastor. It was both wonderful and frustrating.  See: Why I Love and Hate Kids Ministry

When I was teaching 3rd-5th graders how to pray, I used the prayers below. They’re simple, one sentence prayers.

I had a hunch awhile back that a lot of adults in church may not be super comfortable with prayer. Prayer can be one of those tricky things in the Church that you know you should do but once you’re around long enough you feel like it might be too late to ask someone to teach you how to pray. See: On Prayer: Pews & Plastic Tables

My hunch was proven right and I started introducing these prayers to adults a few years ago with remarkable results. They are simple yet profound. You can pray these prayers with a community, in a group of 2-3, or just by yourself.

If prayer is confusing to you, new to you, or you’re just ready to try something new, try these 4 ways to pray.


1.) God, you are __________________.

(Prayers of Adoration) – telling God how awesome He is.


  • God, you are so gracious.
  • God, you are so faithful, even when we’re not…especially when we’re not.
  • God, you are always with us.

Notice: you can finish the prayer with just one word!

Some Biblical examples of prayers of adoration: Psalm 8, 19, 29, 33, 66, 100, 103, 104, 145


2.) God, thank you for _________________.

(Prayers of Thanksgiving) – recognizing that every good and perfect thing comes from our unchanging God (James 1:17).

Does your family do this around the table over Thanksgiving holiday? Mine often does and this prayer is simply turning that practice toward God.


  • God, thank you for your beautiful creation.
  • God, thank you for family.
  • God, thank you for being willing to discipline your children when we wander from you. 

Biblical examples of prayers of thanksgiving: Psalm 18, 30, 32, 34, 40, 66, 92, 116, 118, 138


3.) God, forgive me for ________________.

(Prayers of Confession/Individual Lament)

These are the most under-utilized prayers in my life yet easily the most beneficial.


  • God, forgive me for trying to control everything. I know that means I’m not trusting you. 
  • God, forgive me for thinking I deserve better than what you have deemed best for me.
  • God, forgive me for not seeing people how you do, as people equally created in your image.

Biblical examples of prayers of confession/individual lament: Psalm 6, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143

A note: try and be specific. Don’t say, “God, forgive me for my sin.” Name the sin. Be specific. Because of Jesus that sin has no power of you anymore and you walk in freedom!


4.) God, please ________________.

(Prayers of Supplication/Trust)

These are probably most of our default prayers. We don’t spend time adoring God, thanking Him, or confessing sin. We often treat God no different than Santa. We swoop in, read off our list of requests, and go on our merry way firmly expecting every request to be granted just as we asked.

These can be prayers for others or yourself. (It’s not bad to pray for yourself!)


  • God, please comfort my Mom in her battle with cancer.
  • God, please show me how to make my life count for You.
  • God, please help me trust you even when my emotions say something different than your Word. 

Biblical examples of prayers of supplication/trust: Psalm 86, 143


What type(s) of prayer have been beneficial for you?

Has someone ever taught you how to pray?


4 Reasons You Don’t Need a Sign from God

Surely I’m not the only one…

Have you ever asked God for a sign? Maybe to prove He exists or that He actually loves you.

Or maybe you believe but just needed some guidance or help out of a tough situation.

Whatever the reason, this is a common request from the people of God and there are at least 4 reasons we don’t need that which we often think we need most.

1. You’ll just need another sign…and another…and another…

In the book of Exodus, the people of God were delivered from slavery and oppression under the corrupt hand of Pharaoh. As the people of God began to walk in freedom, they realized how unfamiliar it was because of how used they had become to their past state of slavery.

Over the course of their wandering journey, they quickly lost faith…in God and in their leader, Moses, who God appointed.

Over and over again, God showed up in miraculous ways that these people saw with their own eyes.

  • They saw God keep His promise to bring 10 plagues against Egypt as long as His people were enslaved.
  • They saw God miraculously save His people once the Egyptians tried to chase them down.
  • They saw God provide bread each morning and meat each evening for them to eat.
  • They saw God guide them by a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of cloud in the morning,

Even though they saw these incredible signs, signs that if we were honest we would love to see, they still doubted.

It’s easy for us to forget that even in 2016, we are the forgetful people of God.

We were delivered from slavery to sin and shame and as we began to walk in freedom, we realized how unfamiliar it was because of how accustomed we had become to our past state of slavery to sin.


2. You have the Bible.

Let’s say you did receive a sign from God, for the sake of argument. The Bible is the benchmark by which you would discern if that sign actually came from God, anyway. Consider this: how often have you, or someone you know, received a sign that didn’t confirm what they really wanted anyway. Far too often we ask God for signs and then “name and claim” anything that furthers our pre-existing confirmation bias.

Why not just stick to the sufficient revelation of God in the Scriptures? See: Bibles and Newspapers

Don’t ask God for a sign when you don’t read the one you have.


3. Hope that is seen is not real hope.

“Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” – Romans 8:24

I love my iPhone. It’s remarkable how simple the design is for such an incredibly complex tool. From what I understand, they’re quite easy to take apart, with just a few parts making up the whole. If you desired, you could take an iPhone apart and examine the pieces from every angle and then put it back together again, deciding to love it because now you fully understand it.

But that’s not why I love my iPhone. I love it because I can book a vacation and fire off 3 baseball-related tweets nobody cares about all before the stoplight turns green. I love it because I’ve experienced it. 

The 11th century theologian, Anselm, famously defined life with Jesus as “faith seeking understanding.”

Faith is not something you understand fully before you experience it. You have a genuine encounter with Jesus which gives you hope, then you spend the rest of your life seeking to fully understand that hope, a hope which is unseen. Some mis-categorize that as “blind faith” but the Bible points us to real hope, hope unseen.

4. Jesus is the only sign you need.

In Matthew 12, a group of people demand a sign from Jesus.

First off, anytime you see people demanding things from the only One who has the power to demand things…red flag.

But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. – Matthew 12:39-40

You don’t need a sign from Jesus because Jesus is the only sign you need. 

At the cross, we’re reminded who God is, what He’s done for us, and who we are in Him.

That’s always enough. 


3 Times Weakness is Strength

One of my favorite things about Jesus is how often he completely flips the script on people. It’s one of my favorite things when it happens to some of the “bad guys” in Scripture (i.e. the religious elite, the corrupt, and the power-hungry) but it’s one of my least favorite things when he does it to me.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s favorite move was the sky hook shot.

Jesus’ favorite move might have been this stunning role reversal, the Sixth Sense-esque twist at the end of the story where you discover everything you thought up until that point has been wrong.

This upside-down nature is how Jesus led his life and how He’s commanded us to live ours.

  • To gain our life, we must lose it. (Matthew 16:25)
  • When we die one day, it will be seen as a gain, not a loss. (Philippians 1:21)
  • One day, those who are last now will be first, and vice versa. (Mark 10:31)

As followers of Jesus, our lives should imitate this upside-down nature of the kingdom of God. This primarily expresses itself when the world calls our way of life weak, yet Jesus calls it strong.


When Weakness is Actually Strength

1. Love

Shortly after the Christmas decorations disappear from the store shelves each year, pink hearts and Cupid’s arrows take their place. Far too often, our culture sends the message that love is a mostly feminine, passive emotion.

In many ways, culture paints love as a very weak thing. The Bible, however, paints love as an incredibly strong decision, not a weak emotion.

The image of love in 1 Corinthians 13 is anything but weak or passive.

  • selfless
  • ever-enduring
  • hopeful no matter what

We’re also called to love our enemies, the very people who hate us. It takes incredible strength to love people like Jesus.

See: Loving Your Enemies (In a Drop the Mic Culture)


2. Humility

Today’s culture often sees humility as lack of ambition at best, and foolishness at worst.

To be humble means you must stop constantly promoting yourself and posturing for better and grander positions. True humility means that when your friends succeed, at times instead of you, you can genuinely rejoice with them instead of writhing in envy.

Humility and contentedness fly in the face of a culture that never stops screaming, “More!” Our upside-down Savior simultaneously screams, “Enough!”

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” – Matthew 23:12

See: No Capes! Serving in Secret

See: The Most Important Person in the World


3. Desperation

Have you ever seen a truly desperate person? Maybe you’ve been a truly desperate person.

There’s not much room in today’s “everything is fine” world for true desperation. It’s seen as embarrassing. Yet desperation is the one necessary precursor to genuine faith.

“Blessed are the rich, ones-who-have-it-all-together, successfulpoor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3

To ever gain the kingdom of heaven, you must first realize that you’re poor in spirit, spiritually bankrupt, desperate for God to move, save, and reconcile.

If you think you have everything together, one day everything will fall apart.


Today, let’s be people of love, humility, and desperation.

Some will find us weak. Jesus calls us strong. 


Proverbs and Politics

Lately, it seems like we’ve bought into a lie that our words don’t matter, or at least that’s the only way I can explain how some of my friends, as well as myself, are acting on social media. Election season puts all of us in a bit of a frenzy but it seems like we’re furiously typing things on social media we would never have the courage to say/scream at someone’s face.

Below are 23 verses from Proverbs – a book all about wisdom in practical life. They’re broken up into 5 general categories – don’t miss the last one. It’s the most prevalent and possibly the most dangerous. 

See: How to Read Proverbs

I’m committing to read through all 23 verses before I post something on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Would you join me? Our words matter. Jesus says that what we saw reveals what’s in our heart. Remember, our first allegiance as Christians is to King Jesus. See: God Doesn’t Need America


On Putting Trust in Politics, a Party, and/or a Politician

“Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” – Prv. 1:19

“but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” – Prv. 1:33

“Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.” – Prv. 29:26


On Engaging Political Opponents

“Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” – Prv. 9:7-8

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” – Prv. 10:12

“Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.” – Prv. 14:7

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” – Prv. 15:18

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.: – Prv. 18:2

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.” – Prv. 24:17


On Thinking/Knowing You’re Right and Humility

“Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” – Prv. 3:7

“Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.” – Prv. 3:34

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” – Prv. 14:12

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” – Prv. 21:2


On the Power of Words

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” – Prv. 10:19

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” – Prv. 13:3

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Prv. 15:1

“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” – Prv. 17:28

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” – Prv. 18:21

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” – Prv. 27:6

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?

There is more hope for a fool than for him.” – Prv. 29:20


On Lying 

This is by far the most pernicious. Think about it – every time you share an article that you’re not sure is really true but you like because it furthers your own opinion while pushing down your opponent, you’re lying. The Bible often calls that “bearing false witness” and it’s the 9th commandment.

See: Stop Breaking the Ninth Commandment on Facebook

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” – Prv. 6:16-19

“Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right” – Prv. 8:6

“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.” – Prv. 19:9


What verse(s) would you add to this list?


8 Books for White Christians on Race


Tragically, this is about more than hashtags. People are dying and the rest of us are divided.

I started down a journey a few years ago when I unexpectedly found myself mostly unaware of the experience of the average African-American, especially in the South, and especially in my predominantly white suburban church setting.

I remember feeling terrible when a tornado warning went through our town. As the sirens blasted all across the neighborhood, my wife and I headed down the street to our local tornado shelter and we quickly realized we, as white people, were the minority. I felt so ashamed because my church, my community of friends, and my life experience, looked so unlike the life that was happening all around me.

So I started having conversations with some of my minority friends, specifically my black friends. I wish I could tell you I had hundreds to pick from, but I didn’t. My friends mostly looked, thought, and lived about like me. But God graced me with a few black friends that were patient with my ignorance. I hope they know I saw them then, and even more so now, as much more than my token “black friends” from which to learn.

Out of those conversations came a realization that I needed to learn much more before I asked much more. The books listed below are recommended, in no particular order, because they have all helped to shape my journey toward racial reconciliation and understanding over the last several years. Some have helped more than others. I disagree with something in every one of them but that’s not the point.

Parts of these books might get under your skin. Good. I vented to one of my black friends one day after I was feeling discouraged and frustrated in the middle of one of these books. He simply replied, “You’re frustrated while reading for a few months? Imagine how frustrated we’ve been living it for years and years.” 

Make no mistake, race is not a political conversation; it’s a Gospel conversation. To consider others more significant than yourself, to refuse to look exclusively to your own interests but also to the interests of others, is exactly what Jesus did and exactly what Jesus commands us to do (Philippians 2:3-4).

If Jesus did not count equality with God something to be grasped, maybe we should not count white privilege as something to be grasped.

If you’re willing to humble yourself, and learn in quietness before you ask too many questions, allow me to recommend the following books. (FYI: I don’t get any sort of payment/reward if you buy these books, but you can click on any title/cover to purchase from Amazon. If you live in the Austin area, you’re more than welcome to come borrow one of these from me). 


Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep us Apart, by Christina Cleveland 




Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity, by Edward Gilbreath




Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith



Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church, by Soong-Chan Rah



Bridging the Diversity Gap: Leading Toward God’s Multi-Ethnic Kingdom, by Alvin Sanders



The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander



The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity, by Soong-Chan Rah



Oneness Embraced: Reconciliation, the Kingdom, and How We’re Stronger Together, by Tony Evans



After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” – Revelation 7:9-10

When Being Still Isn't Enough

When Being Still Isn’t Enough

We all know it. You can feel it. Even Darth Vader knows it.

We all know that our pace of life is simply out of control. In an effort to do more and be better we’re doing less that matters and becoming worse. (See: Do More Better)

It seems like every bit of our time is spoken for and a never-ending bidding war ensues from all sides. Some of this chaos is simply a product of our culture today. For many, the 40-hour work week is a figment of past imagination, like waking up from a really good dream you can’t quite remember.

However, most of this chaos is self-imposed.

Maybe you’re a people-pleaser and struggle with telling people “no.” You end you end up helping someone move every weekend and take on projects at work that are outside of your normal scope simply because someone asked.

Maybe you’re a parent and your kids are all involved in 3-4 activities at a time…each! I have regularly witnessed the anxiety this produces in teenagers as school starts to get more challenging and college looms a mere few years away. I worry that we’re teaching the next generation to live life at even more frantic and chaotic pace than we are.

Maybe you’re a procastinator and your unwillingness to stick to a schedule is constantly leaving you scrambling to finish tasks at the last minute.


In short, we all feel stressed, hurried, and a bit overwhelmed at times. You don’t have to follow Jesus to know that.

A popular solution: meditation

Recently, meditation has experienced an undeniable resurgence as a solution to our unbridled hurriedness, an addiction to production.

The world is recognizing our need to be still.

I love when our culture catches up with the Bible. 

“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

For thousands of years, the people of God have practiced meditation as an integral part of prayer. This is not primarily an Eastern Buddhist practice, but a distinctly Christian practice.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” – Joshua 1:8

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” – Psalm 1:2

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” – Psalm 19:14

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” – Psalm 119:15

…and many more.


The world is learning in part what God has always fully known. 

The world knows we need to be still, but that’s not the full solution.

Slowing down isn’t good enough. We need something else on which to fix our gaze, away from ourselves and our busy schedules and our endless striving.

The world knows the first half of Psalm 46:10 but not the 2nd. 

Being still isn’t enough. The solution to our obsession with ourselves is an obsession with God. 

Once we actually slow down, we need to remind ourselves who’s really in charge of our lives. 

Spending time with God isn’t complicated, but it’s also not easy. See: What a Dentist Knows about Faith

It takes time. See: It Takes Time to Take Heed 

But once you get started, it can become an obsession, one that will actually save you from yourself. See: What Christians Can Learn From Cross-Fit.

If you don’t know where to start, click here for a free 10-day study called Jump Start through the book of James.

This week, be still, but remember that being still isn’t enough. Be still and know that he is God!

Biblical Dating Part 2

7 Biblical Principles for Dating, Part 2

This is the 2nd post in a series on how to date as a Christian. Click here to read the first post containing the 1st four principles.


5. Their identity is in Christ, too. So act like it.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

This one was a game changer for me. When you begin to see members of the opposite sex as equal bearers of the image of God, equal temples in which the Spirit of God dwells and equally ones for whom Christ died, it changes everything.

You no longer see girls as a collection of body parts or guys as the key to acceptance and worth.

This changes how/if you flirt and it changes what you do on dates. This is ultimately the heart of the Gospel: before anyone is your boyfriend or girlfriend, they are first and foremost a child of God and God cares deeply about how his kids treat one another.

 6. Sexual sin damages in a unique way.

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. – 1 Cor. 6:18

Paul is writing to a culture in 1st century Corinth not unlike 21st century America. It is a very distracted city with lots of different worldviews and religious thoughts all mixing together. Notice the way Paul starts the second sentence in v. 18, every other sin.”

Paul is explaining that sexual sin has a different set of consequences than other categories of sin. This is not to say that it separates us more or less from God; all sin is equal in that regard. Instead, Paul is explaining how sexual sin damages and creates baggage that we must deal with long after that sin has been forgiven by God.

It is not hard to see this play out both inside and outside the Church. How many times have you seen a 2nd marriage not stick so a 3rd and 4th are attempted with similar results? Porn addiction has been linked again and again to lower sex drives and less intimate sex lives. Those sins have already been forgiven and fully paid for by Jesus on the cross and in his resurrection, but that does not mean we get to avoid the consequences of bad decisions.


7. Jesus redeems ALL our mistakes.

10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more. – John 8:10-11

At first glance, this principle might seem to contradict #6 but this encounter in John 8 will help explain. John 8 begins with a group of religious hypocrites who were tired of hearing about the less than respectable reputation of a promiscuous woman in town. One day they decided they had heard enough of this 1st century reality show and decided to do something drastic.

They Bible says they caught her in the act of adultery which means they laid in wait for her, like a bunch of self-righteous peeping toms, as if there could ever be such a thing.

They literally ripped her out of bed and threw her, naked and ashamed, at the feet of Jesus and demanded Jesus to tell them what to do, since the law said they should stone her to death.

Jesus then uttered some of my favorite words in the New Testament, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

Jesus dropped the mic and the religious haters dropped their stones and walked away.

Even if you haven’t had sex before marriage, everyone knows the burden of sexual sin. The reality of redemption is that you’re not doomed to have a bad sex life inside marriage if you’ve had sex outside marriage.

Jesus said two things to the woman and every single one of us always needs to hear at least one of them:

  1. “Go and sin no more.” – Jesus has reminded this woman who she truly is, who he created her to be. Far too often, Christians can label all the ethical teachings of Scripture we don’t like as “legalistic” but here Jesus gives her a clear, loving command to simply go and live out that identity. But we can’t live out that identity and never let it affect the decisions we make, people or ways we date, and ultimately where our hope lies.
  2. “Neither do I condemn you.” – These words are necessary because principle #6 is true. Sexual sin produces a unique shame that can spiritually cripple you and allow you to start to believe lies about your acceptance in Christ. Since God, who knows everything about you, more than you even know yourself, refuses to condemn you we can go out in celebration and live like it! Live like you belong to a God who created you, loves you, and knows all your secrets and still refuses to condemn you.


Can you think of any other Biblical principle(s) for dating?

Biblical Dating Part 1

7 Biblical Principles for Dating, Part 1

Dating is hard.

For the Christian, dating is like every other area of life in that we should be deeply concerned with how following Jesus informs the way we think and act and love.

If you did a Bible search for the word “dating” you know what you come up with? NOTHING.

There are some that feel the Bible prescribes a courtship form of dating because that was the cultural norm in that time. Using that same logic you can make the argument that we should all be polygamous because that was the cultural norm in that time as well.

Instead of direct, explicit instructions, the Bible teaches us several  principles that we can apply to dating and ultimately, the pursuit of marriage.


7 Biblical Principles of Dating


1. Walk with Jesus.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. – Colossians 2:6-7

Far too often the first step a Christian takes in thinking about how to date God’s way is to sit down and make a list of all the qualities their future spouse needs to have. Then, they only date people who fit the list.

While the forethought is admirable, our first step in trying to date in a way that honors God is to BE someone worth dating. Our faith in Jesus should be active and meaningful as Paul described in Colossians. We should be rooted and built up in Jesus. Lists are just fine but we should make a list for who we need to be first.


2. Only date people who walk with Jesus.

The second principle is where you can use your list! In looking for someone to date, you’re really looking for the type of person you will marry. That person needs to have the same active faith you’re living out.

They need to be more than cultural Christians who attend church. They need to be able to explain the Gospel out loud. They need to be able to talk about what Jesus means to them and describe what Jesus has done for them. They should be able to point out ways they are more like Jesus this year compared to last year and be able to share what God is currently teaching them.


3. Keep physical boundaries.

Flee from sexual immorality. – 1 Corinthians 6:18

You know what this verse says in Greek? Flee from sexual immorality. Literally run away from it. Since sex is a good gift from God but a gift meant to be enjoyed only in the covenant marriage relationship, sex outside of marriage falls under the category of sexual immorality.

So does pornography, homosexuality, lust, objectification, and crossing physical lines even if you don’t “go all the way.”

If the Bible calls us to run away from something, why are so many of us trying to get as close as possible to the line without stepping over? We are fundamentally misunderstanding God’s heart for us to live a pure life walking with him and honoring others.

Setting and keeping firm physical boundaries helps you flee from sexual sin instead of flirting with it.

If you’re an unmarried Christian I would suggest you consider boundaries that keep you from:

  • sex outside of marriage.
  • living with someone before marriage. (co-habitation)
  • being alone in a private place (apartment, dorm, parked car, etc.)
  • being alone in a room with your computer/phone late at night.
  • sending pictures, Snapchats, etc. that you would not want others to see/know about.
  • laying down (even in an Eno!) with someone you’re not married to.
  • Isolating yourself from godly friends who can hold you accountable.


4. No marriage. No commitment.

One of the reasons the Bible doesn’t talk explicitly about dating is there is absolutely zero commitment in dating. It doesn’t matter how many times you say, “I love you” or how long you’ve been together or how many promise toe rings you’ve exchanged.

The covenant relationship of marriage is the only place to find real commitment. Dating can be a wonderful experience but don’t deceive yourself into crossing physical boundaries you wouldn’t normally feel comfortable crossing under the guise of a commitment that simply does not exist.


Check back tomorrow for the last 3 principles.


4 Thoughts after Preaching Esther

Yesterday our church finished up a 9-week preaching series through the book of Esther. Click here to listen to any of the sermons.

At the end of every preaching series, I like to take some time and reflect on my own heart, not as a pastor but just as a person. If you let him, God will change your heart as you spend more and more time in the Bible and Esther was no different for me. I have four main thoughts from our journey through Esther.


1. God’s divine providence knows no bounds.

The only caveat worth adding here is that God does never does anything outside the character of God and we know that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). However, we need to be careful to not impose our concept of what we define love to be onto the actions of God.

In a book historically criticized by some due to God’s apparent absence, (God’s name never appears in the book of Esther) it is impossible to miss God’s providential activity.

  • What are the odds that Esther, a Jewish girl living in Susa, would be chosen to be Queen of Persia?
  • Why were Esther and Mordecai still in Persia? God’s people were no longer in exile but Esther and Mordecai did not return to Jerusalem.
  • How was Mordecai, a Jewish nobody, able to maintain communication with Esther after she was crowned queen?
  • What are the odds that Mordecai would be the one to uncover the secret plot to kill the king?
  • The turning point of the entire book begins with the king’s seemingly random sleepless night (6:1).

God’s divine providence isn’t on center stage in Esther, but it is undeniably moving in the background, moving closer to true redemption all the while using surprising reversals and non-Israelites to accomplish God’s purposes.

Even though we can’t always see how God is moving, we can trust that God is moving.


2. We still have a responsibility to obey.

Even though God’s divine providence moves the story of Esther forward, people are still called to obey along the way.

  • Esther eventually realized this and decided to obey with her bold, famous declaration, “If I perish, I perish.” (4:16)
  • Mordecai’s wisdom and faithful support of Esther accomplish much at great potential danger to his own life.
  • Even King Ahasuerus decides to do what is right and honors Esther’s courage instead of Haman’s evil plan even thought he risked being labelled a “flip-flopper” and losing political collateral.

Is there an area of your life where you know what’s right but you’re not doing what’s right?

“22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.” – James 1:22-24


3. Power is a fleeting tool.

Power comes and goes in the book of Esther. The only people who retain it are those who see it as a tool to point others to the glory of God.

  • When the book of Esther opens, Esther and Mordecai are displaced Jews with no power. When the book ends, Esther is queen and Mordecai is VP of the Persian Empire (10:3).
  • Haman quickly gains and quickly loses power. He dies arguably the most ironic death in Scripture, hanged on the gallows he prepared for Mordecai.
  • We first meet King Ahasuerus in the middle of a 6-month long, no-rules party which some scholars estimate was attended by up to 15,000 of the king’s most vicious warriors and most cunning politicians. As great and powerful as his reign was, history tells us King Ahasuerus was later assassinated by his own chief official.

Even though it might not feel like it, you have a certain amount of power and influence. Friendships, work opportunities, and social media profiles can all be leveraged to point others to the glory of God.


4. It’s important to remember and celebrate God’s work in our lives.

The book of Esther ends with the inauguration of Purim, the festival to commemorate God rescuing his people from Haman’s edict to eradicate the Jews from the Persian Empire. Jews today still celebrate Purim by reading and remembering the story of God’s divine provision through the bravery of Esther and Mordecai.

One of the ways my wife and I remember the good, normal days of our marriage is through these photo books she makes every year. Our most recent book just came in a few days ago and I found myself remembering good moments from the last year I would have forgotten if it weren’t for the books.

As Christians, we should remember the landmark moments of our faith. We should celebrate our baptism and other significant breakthrough moments of spiritual growth. But the key to a lifetime of faith might just be the ability to remember God’s everyday goodness even when it doesn’t feel like it’s real. Maybe it’s journaling or telling faith stories around the dinner table on a regular basis, but I would encourage you to find a way to remember and celebrate the good, normal work of God in your life.


Have you read through the book of Esther lately? What were some of your take-aways?


Jump Start Day 10: (James 2:8-13)

Thanks for giving me a chance to help you connect with God through Scripture this year.

If you missed any of last week’s posts, catch up by clicking on any day below:

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. – James 2:8-13


The Bible reads you. (v. 8-11)

In the typical police-crime drama television show there’s always an interrogation scene. Right as they’re about to trap the accused into sharing too much information the viewer realizes what’s about to happen. The detectives ask a series of questions all meant to trip up the criminal and then all of a sudden it works. The criminal realizes he’s been caught and he never saw it coming.

That’s how God sometimes works in Scripture.

The claim James makes in verse 8 is a bit tongue-in-cheek because of course no one always loves their neighbor perfectly all the time.

The word James uses for “royal” law is the same root word for kingdom. So here, James is not just talking about the Torah. Instead, he is again echoing Jesus in his definition of kingdom/royal law: loving God and neighbor with your whole being.

Without knowing that, you and I might read verse 8 and think, “I’m doing pretty good at loving my neighbor. He stays on his side of the fence and I stay on my mind. Yeah!” Side note: My neighbor has free range chickens that have mistaken my yard for their range. One or two or twelve might start disappearing soon.

We’re again reminded by James that the kingdom definition of neighbor is re-defined by Jesus and now is extended even to our worst enemies.

But then James reveals that if we show any partiality, any level of favoritism to anyone, we’ve broken the royal law.

But even if we think we haven’t done that, James writes in verse 10 that all we have to do is fail in one point of the law and it’s just the same as failing the whole thing.

All of a sudden, instead of coming to the Bible expecting to glean some practical truths about how to be good people, we’re reminded that we’re not good people and we don’t measure up to the kingdom standard. We are in a constant position of need.

Ironically, if we respond appropriately to our inability to obtain the kingdom on our own, that’s precisely what we gain.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3

Boundaries actually free you. (v. 12-13)

James concludes this section with a charge to live under the law of liberty, this kingdom law of loving God and loving neighbor (everyone) with everything we’ve got. We need to remember that the law of liberty is still a law, by definition a boundary. When we commit to the way of Jesus there will always be things that we simply cannot do. They are simply not God’s best for our lives.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. – Psalm 16:6a

But it’s these very boundaries that free us instead of enslave us. Many people, outside and inside the Church, think following Jesus is all about what you don’t get to do anymore. There’s definitely an aspect of that to our faith but much more so there is an aspect of freedom from the captivity of sin and a whole new world that has been opened to us through mercy.

So what do we do with this grace?

We extend it to others.

In the midst of the good news of v. 12-13 we would do well to not miss the stern nature of James’ warning to those who cannot extend mercy to others, “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.”

One of my friends is always saying, “Mercy received is always mercy given.”

Grace and mercy were never meant to stop with you and me. It always comes to us through others because it is always going through us to others.


Questions for Prayer and Application

1. Have you ever been surprised by Scripture? Can think about a time when you’ve been listening to a sermon and it seemed like it was just for you? Spend a few minutes thanking God for all the ways his word reads us.

2. What good boundaries do you have in your life? How do those help you love God and neighbor?

3. Who do you need to extend mercy toward today? Mercy is not just a good feeling, but a definitive action. Is there someone you’re holding a grudge against or someone you’re avoiding because they’ve hurt you. Confess your wrongs to them today. Seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

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