Being Right, Wrongly

John, the best friend of Jesus, wrote the letter of 1st John to churches in conflict in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).

Some believers were swept away in false teaching that denied Jesus was the Messiah (Christ), fully human, or the Son of God (Docetism).

These were very serious theological & doctrinal errors, but one of the main themes of 1st John is LOVE… why is that?

Was John a cotton-candy Christian who couldn’t stand for truth or take a punch? Not at all!

He just knew (as the best friend of Jesus) that love is Christianity 401, not 101.

He took hard stands for truths in this letter, and he didn’t go soft on truth or the divisive deceivers in the churches.

In fact, he vehemently opposed one particular false teacher named Cerinthus with tenacity for many years because he knew truth without love is mean, but love without truth is meaningless.

But John’s relentless & simultaneous emphasis on love is just as important today as it was back in 90 A.D.

See, some of the early church believers were being right in the wrong ways (sound familiar?)…

As Gary Burge says, “John exhorts his own followers to exhibit love because they were responding to the secessionists [divisive deceivers] with equal hostility.

And just because their theology was right by no means says their angry attitudes were justified. Defenders of good traditions cannot defend their own misconduct because they are correct.”

And we wrestle with this today too!

So here’s how we can be right in the RIGHT ways in 2021:

1. Pray for those you disagree with.

2. Re-evaluate if you’re prioritizing something secondary or preferential too highly.

3. Don’t engage in what I call “rightolatry” – the idolatry of rightness when being right is more important than God or others (2nd Tim. 2:22-26).

4. Break free from the obsession with proving others wrong for selfish reasons.

5. Allow truth to motivate you to loving action for the good of OTHERS, not yourself.

6. Warn people without degrading people.

BECAUSE…

Loving our enemies is the essence of the Gospel; it’s what Jesus did for us.

We only know Truth because we know Jesus (who IS the Truth)!

And he didn’t say, “Everyone will know that you are my disciples…if you’re right all the time.”

He said, “Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Let’s be right in the right ways, like Jesus.

For the Unborn

Abortion is one of the most difficult topics to discuss today, but it’s also one of the most important topics to discuss today.

Below is a message I preached on January 17th, 2021 in Cortland, NY entitled “For the Unborn.”

Here’s a picture of our two amazing boys, Landon (5) & Declan (1).

They’re super cute because of their mom, and they have a lot of attitude… because of their mom (obviously)!

Declan is one year old, just started walking, and his favorite hobby is ransacking our whole house. Landon is five years old, and his story is very unique:

In 2015, my wife Joy & I experienced what no parent ever wants to face but so many do…

The doctor came into the examination room about 10 minutes after we heard Landon was a boy and told us that he had a potentially life-threatening heart defect.

He sent us to a specialist who confirmed that Landon had #HLHS (hypoplastic left heart syndrome).

Basically he was (and still is) missing an entire chamber of his heart and it’s still a life-threatening condition to this day.

Honestly, this was one of my greatest fears in life coming true.

I was always afraid of parenting a special needs child because I honestly didn’t think I could handle it. I didn’t think I had what it takes to be the father I needed to be for a special needs kid.

But I don’t think I’m alone in that fear… In fact, I know that thousands of people today have that same fear about parenting in general — for healthy kids too.

But the doctor offered a solution for our fear, and his solution was to “explore options.”

And as we talked further, what he meant was — have an abortion.

Today, we’re going to talk about this incredibly personal, painful and often private topic.

Now, as soon as the word “abortion” comes out of my mouth… let’s acknowledge what just happened: tension just rose through roof.

Some of you reading this have very strong opinions and very emotional experiences related to abortion…

And I know this can be a very tough topic, but please stick with me through this entire piece wherever you’re coming from.

There are over 2,300 abortions every day in the United States. [1]

Abortion is normalized in our country—even one of the latest episodes of NBC’s This Is Us chronicles the journey of why Kate chose to have an abortion at 18 years old.

Maybe you experienced an unplanned pregnancy like Kate.

Maybe you’ve gone through crippling fear of the unknown, a toxic relationship or pressure from family.

Most likely, some of you reading this have either had an abortion or helped someone get an abortion.

Maybe you’re a father, boyfriend, or husband who’s encouraged your significant other to get an abortion.

You might see this topic primarily through the lens of politics.

You might call yourself “pro-choice” or “pro-life.”

You may feel like you’re not very well informed to say much about abortion either way.

Some of you have “What about this…” questions or “What if” scenarios you’re wondering about.

Truth is: I’m not going to resolve every tension, address every angle, or clarify every concern in one write-up.

But I can point all of us to the grace and truth of Jesus, no matter where you’re coming from!

I’ve spent several weeks asking God to give me wisdom and clarity on what I should write & how I should write it.

And I’ve prayed that I’ll balance compassionate care along with tough truths — because Jesus gives us both.

Circling back to our journey with Landon… When the doctor offered for us to consider abortion for our son, we refused.

It’s not because we think we’re morally superior to anyone — we aren’t.

It’s not because we weren’t wrestling with fear — we were.

Joy & I refused because the purpose of our lives is to give worth, value and priority to God.

We constantly ask the question: “What does God want?” in every area of our life.

We refused to abort Landon because we know that life is a gift from God, and God clearly tells us that gift is not ours to take.

Thankfully, God hasn’t left us in the dark on who he is, what he’s all about, and who we really are as well.

He gave us a divine collection of 66 books written over 1,500 years by 40 authors on 3 continents in 3 languages with ONE point & purpose:

His Son Jesus.

And if you study the life of Jesus, you’ll notice he quotes from almost every book in the first half of the Bible (the Old Testament) as divinely authoritative.

Let’s look at it together & see what God says about our identity and uniqueness as humans…

In the very beginning of creation we see: “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

This picture is a 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates almost a century ago.

In 2016, this card sold for $3.12 million dollars!

What makes this card so valuable? It’s not the cardboard or the ink…

It’s the image on the card that makes it so valuable. [2]

Every human life has value because every human life bears the image of God!

Psalm 8:3-6 says, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.”

God clearly created us differently than animals; we are not animals.

Every human being is made in the image of God and entrusted with divine stewardship of the gifts God gives us — including this world, our ecosystem, the animals, our time, talent, treasure, and our children too.

God’s Word also clearly tells us when our children become our children.

God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5).

A very godly man from the ancient near east named Job said, “Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?” (Job 31:15).

When Jesus was a baby inside his mother Mary, Dr. Luke records this in the second half of the Bible (the New Testament), “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb…” (Luke 1:41).

King David of Israel said, “13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-16).

And God also spoke through the Apostle Paul when he told the early church in ancient Corinth, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1st Cor. 6:19-20).

Joy and I refused abortion for Landon because these two truths form the railroad tracks of our worldview…

1) Life begins at conception.

2) Our physical bodies belong to God.

So how do we know life begins at conception scientifically?

In her 2018 book, Love Thy Body, Nancy Pearcey says, “Virtually everyone today agrees that the baby in the womb is human—biologically, physiologically, genetically human…virtually no professional bioethicist denies that life begins at conception.”

Dr. Alfred M. Bongiovanni (professor of obstetrics at the University of Pennsylvania) says, “I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception…”

Before a congressional subcommittee, Dr. Bongiovanni testified, “I am no more prepared to say that these early stages represent an incomplete human being than I would be to say that the child prior to the dramatic effects of puberty is not a human being. This is human life at every stage.”

Dr. Jerome LeJeune said this while serving as a genetics professor at the University of Descartes in Paris, “After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being… this is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.”

Harvard University medical school professor Micheline Matthews-Roth said, “It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.”

Even experientially in 2015, when Joy & I started our medical appointments at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia while Landon was still inside of Joy, the doctors always called him: “Baby.”

So if this is all true, why does our cultural narrative say life doesn’t begin at conception?

Because we typically adhere to the science that suits us.

Just because something is scientifically verified doesn’t mean we’ll choose to adhere to it.

Whatever your perspective on abortion might be, here’s the medical science of a baby’s life in the womb…

Conception: The father’s sperm and mother’s egg combine to form a new human being who carries as much DNA information as 50 sets of a 33-volume encyclopedia including the sex of the baby.

Day 20: Heart, brain, spinal column, and nervous system are almost complete — eyes begin to form.

Day 22: The heart begins to beat. (Within the first month)

Week 4: The baby has muscles, arms, leg buds, & a head.

Week 5: The face, forehead, eyes, nostrils, and mouth are evident.

Week 6: The brainwaves can be recorded.

Week 8: We see fingers, toes, fingerprints, and all organs are present, complete, and functioning except the lungs.

Week 9-10: Thumb sucking.

Week 12: The baby can smile.

Month 4: The baby does somersaults & REM recorded while sleeping.

Months 5-6: Weighs one pound with 50% chance of survival if born with proper medical care.

Months 7-8: Recognizes mom’s voice and 90% chance of survival if born with proper medical care.

Month 9: The baby is ready to come out of the womb.

Now, since science can no longer deny babies in the womb are humans, our culture says, “Well, a fetus may be human, but it isn’t a person.”

This is where Christianity has a much higher view of the body than the system of this world!

Our culture consistently de-values the significance of our physical human bodies when it comes to our identity and personhood.

Personhood is not dependent on what we do. It’s intrinsically designed in who we are since we are made in the image of God.

We don’t need to earn the right to be treated as a valuable person.

Medical science proves that human life begins at conception, and God’s Word also shows us that at conception, we are persons of infinite value to God and each other.

But right now you might be pushing back — maybe even angry & thinking…

Dan, you don’t have a clue about the extenuating circumstances!

You’re not a woman…

You’ve never experienced what I’ve experienced or my friends have experienced.

You’ve never faced the financial challenges, the poverty, the pressure from the father, or the shame from the family…

And you’re right.

I haven’t experienced any of that.

I cannot imagine how hard and excruciating it must be to feel like your only solution is abortion.

But even though I haven’t experienced the hardship of these extenuating circumstances myself, let me tell you some stories of people who have and see what you’d recommend[3]

STORY #1
– Father is sickly
– Pregnant mom has tuberculosis
– 1st child is blind, 2nd is dead, 3rd is deaf, 4th has TB

Considering quality of life & genetics… would you recommend abortion?

If so, Beethoven would never have been born.

Ludwig Von Beethoven
– Insanely gifted musician
– Most famous works include 9 symphonies, 32 piano sonatas, and 16 string quartets
– Became one of the greatest composers of all time

STORY #2
– 13 year-old African-American girl lives in Chester, PA
– Raped by a white man and becomes pregnant

Considering rape… would you recommend abortion?

If so, Ethel Waters never would have been born.

Ethel Waters
– Broadway star, nominated for an Academy Award & Primetime Emmy
– First African American to star on her own TV show
– Ministered to millions of people
– Traveled with Billy Graham

STORY #3
– Mom develops amoebic dysentery
– Strong antibiotics are used to treat the infection, before they discover she’s pregnant…

STORY #3
– Doctors strongly recommend that she abort the “mass of fetal tissue” and keep herself safe
– There seems to be irreversible damage to her baby, but she refuses to abort and nearly loses the baby 4x

Considering the doctors’ recommendations… would you recommend abortion?

If so, Tim Tebow would never have been born.

A few weeks ago, I took a personal tour of Tim Tebow’s new multi-million dollar camp right by my house in Bear Creek, PA.

This camp will serve hundreds of special needs children across the nation who God loves more than we can imagine.

All because Tim Tebow’s mom chose to fight her fears with love.

Now, maybe choosing abortion is a part of your past.

Maybe you made the choice reluctantly and believed you were making the best choice you could because our culture says it’s ok, but now you see that it wasn’t right.

Maybe you’re a guy who’s helped a lady in your life get an abortion.

Maybe the pain of regret and secret shame have plagued you for years.

Maybe you’ve started to see that although abortion is the legal, cultural norm today, we cannot minimize or excuse its opposition to God’s will.

But here’s the great news: if choosing abortion is a part of your past, Jesus wants to give you grace, hope, and healing for your future!

God loves you more than you could possibly imagine.

He doesn’t hate you; he wants you!

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

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

“Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Two of our greatest needs are forgiveness and freedom from our fears.

We find both in Jesus.

John, the best friend of Jesus wrote this: “If we confess our sins to God he is faithful & just to forgive us…” (1st John 1:9).

He also said: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1st John 4:18).

Ultimately, the issue of abortion is so personal, private, and painful because of FEAR.

And we all struggle with fear… especially in 2021.

When God says perfect love casts out fear, he’s not being dismissive of our fears: he’s giving us hope-filled courage and the ultimate resolution to our fears!

Here’s the great news: Jesus is FOR us, not against us.

When we give our lives to Jesus—putting our faith in his perfect life, death and resurrection on our behalf… he doesn’t give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love & and a sound mind.

But we still struggle with fear because we struggle to love… all of us do.

We struggle to love God like we should & love others like we should.

We fear the future and we fear each other — especially on this topic of abortion.

We live in a such a polarized, tribal society that tells us we can’t love if we disagree… and that’s a lie!

Disagreement ≠ Hatred!

If you completely disagree with me today, I still love you.

If you have had an abortion, hear me clearly… God loves you, and I love you.

If you have helped someone have an abortion, hear me clearly… God loves you, and I love you too.

If you have faced extreme fear and believed abortion was your only option… or maybe you’re considering an abortion right now — God has you reading this piece for a reason.

Jesus offers hope and healing if you’re willing to come to him in humility.

Truth without love is mean, but love without truth is meaningless.

I wouldn’t be very loving if I didn’t share truth with you.

And the same is equally true for those of us who would call ourselves “pro-life.”

Here are three challenging questions for pro-lifers:

1) Who matters most?

2) What about politics?

3) What about Jesus?

First, who matters most — the mother or the baby?

The answer is: both the mother and the baby are equally valuable to God, and they should be equally valuable to us.

Scott Sauls says, pro-life and pro-choice people both “advocate for someone who is in a weak and distressed position.

Both sides are challenged — whether truth or perception — that they give partial treatment toward one side, and dismissive treatment toward another.

Neither seems to be fully in line with what James called “true religion” which is to attend to widows AND orphans (vulnerable women AND children) in their affliction (James 1:27).

If we don’t show deep concern for both mother AND child, James says our religion is lopsided…”

This means we must be comprehensively pro-life.

We can’t ignore issues like racism, lack of affordable healthcare, poverty, abuse, and so many others…

Which brings us to the issue of politics: Is the abortion issue primarily political?

Unfortunately, the pro-life movement has often put politics in the driver’s seat and often replaced relationships for attempts at political power.

Especially in 2020.

David French says, “For almost three decades, the Supreme Court lesson has been clear — put not your trust in judges to rescue America from the moral stain of abortion.”

Actually, the great news is that abortions in America have continually declined since the early 80’s, and they declined most rapidly under President Obama (a pro-choice President).

In fact, from 2011-2017, abortions in America fell by nearly 20%. [4]

Now, that decline really has more to do with fewer unplanned pregnancies, reduced teen sexual activity (technology and pornography have a lot to do with this), more access to healthcare, new state restrictions, and more affordable adoption.

Which, by the way, I personally know tons of pro-life people who are leading the way in adoption efforts through sacrificial love like Jesus.

But here’s the point — politics will never ultimately solve America’s abortion problem.

Should we vote for who God leads us to vote for? Yes!

But here’s a big weakness of ours…

David French says, “We’re most passionate about the president. Yet too many of us are less interested in the crisis pregnancy center down the street.”

Are we more interested in power or love?

Love is Christianity 401, not 101 because love IS the power of Jesus!

Jesus entered the world through the most unique unplanned pregnancy in human history — in humble love rather than power.

And when Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4… she was ostracized from her own community, from a different ethnic background that Jesus’ Jewish community hated.

Later we learn she was divorced 5x, but it was probably due to a deeply painful infertility struggle rather than her being a “homewrecker.” [5]

Jesus broke all the cultural norms and boundaries of his day by dignifying her, engaging her relationally, and lovingly pointing her to the truth of her need for Him.

She was the very first person who discovered that Jesus was actually the Messiah (before the 12 male disciples even clued in).

And Jesus radically changed her life through his love while she was hurting, vulnerable, and scared. [6]

What if we lived more like that?

What if we built more bridges than walls?

What if we were known far more by who we are FOR rather than what we oppose?

What if we used social media to bless people rather than blast people?

What if the Church was a healing community for the broken where everyone — regardless of their past — found freedom in the gospel?

What if mothers with unplanned pregnancies RAN to the Church first because they knew they would find hope and help?

You might be thinking… wow, that’d be awesome!

But how do we do that when the Church is often not that?

I’ll summarize how with three words: Availability, Learning, Serving.

First step: we position our lives to be available to people who need love.

Back home in PA, our neighbor just recently had her first baby in an unplanned pregnancy where she courageously chose life for her son.

Before her beautiful son was born, Joy noticed hardly anyone in her life was buying gifts on her Amazon registry.

So we threw the link out to hundreds of believers in a FB group that we started through Northeast Collaborative.

Pretty soon they were FLOODED with gifts from Northeast followers of Jesus in multiple states.

Our neighbor told us she couldn’t believe how so many complete strangers could be so loving!

We’ve been able to talk through the gospel multiple times with her as we keep growing our friendship.

This is where it starts: availability.

Start praying for God to give you relational opportunities with people in your neighborhood, your job, and other spheres of influence.

Second step: learning. Here are some great ways we can educate ourselves more effectively…

There’s a new documentary on Netflix called Reversing Roe that will give you very helpful information mostly from the pro-choice perspective.

We need to do much better at breaking out of our echo chambers and listening to people that we disagree with.

There’s also a really challenging video from Christians Phil Vischer & Skye Jethani if you search for their Holy Post abortion video on Facebook or Youtube. Whether you agree with them or not, it’s well worth 15 minutes to take in.

If you haven’t seen the movie, UNPLANNED, you need to. This is the true story of Abby Johnson who was an abortion clinic worker that left the industry after what she experienced.

If you want a more academic study on a theology of the body and hard questions regarding life and sexuality, Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey is a phenomenal resource.

These two resources are helpful too: Why Pro Life? by Randy Alcorn and Abortion by R.C. Sproul.

If you have the YouVersion Bible app on your phone, there’s an excellent reading plan called “Reimagining Pro-Life” you can start.

And a great organization called CareNet with unplanned pregnancy help centers across the nation has terrific training videos on Right Now Media called “Making Life Disciples.”

Third step: serving. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work!

Care Net Pregnancy Centers are great places to find answers for the future if you have an unplanned pregnancy and healing from the past if abortion is part of your story.

You can find a Care Net affiliated pregnancy center near you at their website: www.care-net.org.

They’re also great places to serve!

Get involved with these pregnancy centers financially and relationally so that we can come alongside mothers with unplanned pregnancies and battle their fears with them.

We’ll become the Church God wants us to be by 1) positioning our lives to be available, 2) learning all that we can, and 3) serving like our Servant King Jesus.

Joy & I have no idea how long Landon will live with #HLHS.

Ultimately, he belongs to God.

He’s doing well after his 3 open-heart surgeries, but the future is still a mystery. While we don’t know what the future holds, we know who holds the future.

And we’re so glad we chose life for Landon.


[1] https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2019/09/us-abortion-rate-continues-drop-once-again-state-abortion-restrictions-are-not-main

[2] This illustration comes from my friend Mark Stuenzi @ Parker Hill Church.

[3] These illustrations come from my friend Justin Bleuer @ Berean Bible Church.

[4] https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2019/09/us-abortion-rate-continues-drop-once-again-state-abortion-restrictions-are-not-main

[5] https://blogs.bible.org/samaritan-woman-stay-away-from-me/

[6] Learn more in-depth, cultural background in Kenneth E. Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, Chapter 15, “The Woman at the Well,” pgs. 200-216.

Feeling Politically Homeless?

This is something I’ve wanted to articulate for 5 years now, and here we go:

Biblical Christianity in America is in a very rough place. For those who know me, you know I’ve dedicated my entire life to living & sharing the good news of Jesus which is THE singularly most important priority of my life – especially for those who aren’t followers of Jesus yet.

Nothing I write here is meant as a personal or antagonistic attack on anyone. Neither was my provocative post on Wednesday, but I can totally understand how it could have felt that way.

I’m writing out of a heart of loving caution and (prayerfully) a call to pause & consider how our (conservative Christian) actions will affect the future.

Yes – I firmly believe Biden/Harris in the White House would be bad for this nation. As a passionate pro-life person who also believes that an 8 year-old should not be empowered to choose switching genders before hitting puberty, I do not endorse them by any means.

At the same time (in tandem, not negating what I just said, simultaneously) we need to understand the serious ramifications of how Evangelicals (many of whom are biblical Christians) at large have glorified, magnified & elevated Donald Trump.

America is not just post-Christian; it is very rapidly becoming anti-Christian. Over the last 5 years, even the term “Evangelical” which used to have godly men like Billy Graham as the face & meant “people who believe the gospel and biblical authority” has now shifted to “the people who are all about Donald Trump.”

Again – hear me clearly, I’m not trying to guilt trip anyone who voted for him in 2016 or will vote for him in 2020. But let’s look at this from another point of view…

Donald Trump’s issues are not just “personality.” Not remotely. They are deeply flawed character issues. No – he’s not a “pastor or a babysitter” – he is the leader of this entire nation! In the 90’s, conservative Christians beat the drum of “Character Counts.” Now, just the opposite because (IMHO) we want power over principles.

The former president of the largest Christian University in this nation (Liberty University) Jerry Falwell Jr. is a prime example of the problem I’m trying to highlight. The man has glorified & magnified Donald Trump, his character has been revealed, and now he is suing Liberty even though he “loves Liberty.”

Now, I know many of you might be getting defensive right now. I’m not trying to attack or demean by any means – but let’s think about this together:

Why would people looking for hope be drawn to a brand of Christianity that is inconsistent?

Again, I’m not talking about voting for Trump. Please, please do not hear me say if you vote for Trump you are inconsistent. I am not saying that by any means!

What I am saying is that whenever we refuse to allow healthy critique of a man who has repeatedly exemplified the exact opposite of what Jesus is all about (outside of some political policies) – we are in very rough shape.

I’d like to ask us all to consider – what will lauding, applauding, or glorifying Trump cost the meaningful advance of biblical truth, gospel witness, and Jesus representation moving forward?

I believe it will cost us far more than we understand right now – especially with Gen Z & Gen Alpha. Generation Z is already the first generation in America that is not primarily Christian. No clue how anti-Christian Generation Alpha will be. And I believe we’re in danger of the age old problem: “winning a battle but losing a war.”

Yes – the ultimate war is won. Jesus did that in his perfect life, death & empty tomb. But we have divine ambassadorship (2nd Corinthians 5:14-21) right here & now that I believe we can steward far better if we are willing to say Donald Trump cannot be the face of American Christianity.

I know I run the risk of losing friendships, and I certainly hope that I don’t lose any! But after 5 years of growing angst deep in my soul driven by my intense love for those who don’t know Jesus yet, I’m glad this is all out on the table.

If you follow Jesus & you’re all about Trump – I disagree with you, but I love you.

If you follow Jesus & you’re voting for Trump – I completely understand where you’re coming from (primarily with the pro-life motivations).

If you follow Jesus & you don’t believe either major party candidate is worthy of your vote – I would agree with you.

If you follow Jesus & you are voting for Biden/Harris – I disagree with you, but I love you.

If you don’t follow Jesus – I love you more than you could ever know, and I’m literally crying tears right now as I type this to think that our (including myself) inconsistencies as believers would ever deter you from discovering the hope, freedom & truth of Jesus Christ.

I love you all deeply. Please hear my heart beyond anything that may be taken the wrong way. I’d be honored to dialogue more with you! My email address is dan@necollaborative.com.

Crisis Catapults Courage

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We’re all in over our heads right now. These are hard times.

But the hard times are the best times to become who God made us to be.

The prophet Elijah experienced this in 1st Kings 19. He just did this amazing thing for God on Mount Carmel in chapter 18. He took care of business and proved there is only One True God.

Then right after that spiritual high, in 1st Kings 19:1-2, one of the scariest rulers in all of Scripture (Queen Jezebel) tells Elijah – “I’m going to take you out.”

And Elijah responds just like any of us would: “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.”

In verse 4, he ends up next to a bush in the middle of nowhere, and here’s what he tells God:

I’ve had enough, God.”

In the middle of this COVID crisis, I’m pretty sure most of us feel that way too. Elijah hit rock bottom so hard that he actually asks God to take his life and then falls asleep because he’s so exhausted.

Isn’t that where we are right now? Exhausted. Scared. Worried. Wanting to run from our problems (except we can’t because we’re in quarantine lockdowns)…

But look what God does for Elijah!

In 1st Kings 9:5 it says, “All at once an angel touched him and said,

Get up and eat.’”

And that message isn’t just for Elijah back in the day; it’s for us today in 2020 too!

In the middle of Elijah’s stress, fear, and exhaustion – God challenges Elijah to be courageous. But he doesn’t just get in his face and leave him there.

In 1st Kings 9:6 it says, “Elijah looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.”

Here’s the amazing thing about the One True God:

He doesn’t call us to do something that he doesn’t provide for.

God doesn’t write checks that bounce.

God’s calling is his enabling, and he will give us everything we need to do what he’s calling us to do. Right here. Right now. “For such a time as this…”

We have to get up. We have to eat, drink, and humbly receive what God has laid out before us.

None of us wants this. We wouldn’t choose it ourselves, and we’re praying desperately for God to stop the spread of this virus.

But crisis catapults courage. God will fuel us forward.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20).

– DHN

Best Quotes: Crazy Busy

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Since we’re all crazy busy, here are the best quotes from Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung! Hope they’re helpful.

“When we are crazy busy, we put our souls at risk.” (Pg. 26)

“One study found that commuters experience greater levels of stress than fighter pilots and riot police.” (Pg. 26)

“Margin is the space between our load and our limits.” – Richard Swenson (Pg. 27)

“Busyness is like sin: kill it or it will kill you.” (Pg. 28)

“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness.” – Tim Kreider (Pg. 31)

“People-pleasing is actually a form of pride and narcissism.” (Pg. 35)

“If we get our lives under control, we won’t seem nearly so impressive and people won’t ooh and aah over our burdens.” (Pg. 37)

“Even if you could be known the world over, what does it matter if you have no time to be known by God?” (Pg. 37)

“Am I trying to do good or look good?” (Pg. 41)

“Good hospital-ity is making your home a hospital.” (Pg. 41)

“Surely there are many Christians who are terribly busy because they sincerely want to be obedient to God.” (Pg. 45)

“You may be part of the bridal party, but you are not the groom. You are not the Messiah, so don’t try to be.” – Gordon Hugenberger (Pg. 48)

“Jesus knew the difference between urgent and important. He understood that all the good things he could do were not necessarily the things he ought to do.” (Pg. 55)

“The person who never sets priorities is the person who does not believe in his own finitude.” (Pg. 57)

“Time is totally perishable and cannot be stored.” (Pg. 58)

“If computers can’t do two things at once, we certainly can’t.” (Pg. 60)

“Caring for people is often wildly inefficient.” (Pg. 62)

“One of the best things we can do for our kids is to find a way to stop being so frantic and frazzled.” (Pg. 70)

“Most moms and dads think they are either the best or the worst parents in the world, and both are wrong.” – Kevin DeYoung’s Admin Assistant (Pg. 73)

“It does no good to pine for a world that isn’t coming back and probably wasn’t as rosy as we remember it.” (Pg. 79)

“The happiest and most fulfilled times of my life have all involved a prolonged separation from the Internet.” – College Senior (Pg. 81)

“We want to complexify our lives. We don’t have to, we want to. We want to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want the very things we complain about.” (Pg. 83)

“If ‘digital busyness is the enemy of depth,’ then we are bound to be stuck in the shallows so long as we’re never alone. Our digital age gives new relevance to Pascal’s famous line: ‘I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” (Pg. 84-85)

“Because of the incarnation, we understand there is no substitute for dwelling with physical people in a physical space. So we do not accept virtual encounters as adequate substitutes for flesh and blood relationships.” (Pg. 87)

“We cannot be truly here and there at the same time. The biggest deception of our digital age may be the lie that says we can be omni-competent, omni-informed, and omni-present.” (Pg. 88)

“[God] offers us Sabbath as a test; it’s an opportunity to trust God’s work more than our own.” (Pg. 91)

“God made us to need sleep, and when we think we can survive without it, we not only spurn his gift (Ps. 127:2); we show our mistaken self-reliance.” (Pg. 95)

“You cannot cheat sleep indefinitely. And the longer you try to borrow against sleep, the more your body (or God) will force you to pay for those hours – plus interest.” (Pg. 96)

“Sometimes the godliest thing you can do in the universe is get a good night’s sleep…” – D. A. Carson (Pg. 97)

“The antidote to busyness of soul is not sloth and indifference. The antidote is rest, rhythm, death to pride, acceptance of our own finitude, and trust in the providence of God.” (Pg. 102)

“Can we honestly say and show that sitting at the feet of Jesus is the one thing that is necessary?” (Pg. 113)

“We have to believe that the most significant opportunity before us every day is the opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus.” (Pg. 115)

“It’s not wrong to be tired. It’s not wrong to feel overwhelmed. It’s not wrong to go through season of complete chaos. What is wrong – and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable – is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need.” (Pg. 118)

Not God Enough: Best Quotes

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Here are the best quotes from J.D. Greear‘s theology book Not God Enough published this year.

“A god small enough to be understood will never be big enough to be worshipped.” – Evelyn Underhill (pg. 24)

“Most Christians haven’t rejected God; they have just reduced him.” (pg. 38)

“Perhaps we should not assume that just because we cannot think of a good reason that something bad has happened means that there cannot be a good reason.” (pg. 58)

“We imagine a God of omnipotent power but with a brain no bigger than ours…” (pg. 59)

“If we make our faith contingent on being able to figure everything out, we’ll never believe.” (pg. 62)

“Even where we can’t trace [God’s] hand, we can trust his heart.” (pg. 67)

“In at least 322 places, Jewish prophets, who wrote hundreds of years before Jesus’s birth, predicted details about the coming Messiah’s life.” (pg. 89)

“If I can trust [Jesus’s] claim to be the Messiah, I can trust the Bible he left behind.” (pg. 92)

“Faith is accepting what you cannot understand on the basis of what you can understand.” (pg. 94)

“God is not ‘ours.’ He is his own. He’s not a salad bar where we take the items we have an appetite for and leave the others. He’s not the Burger King God, where you ‘have him your way,’ or a Build-A-Bear God, where you assemble the deity you like best.” (pg. 99)

“If God doesn’t make us mad, we’re not worshipping him, but ourselves.” – Karl Barth (pg. 102)

“Stress, worry, anxiety, strife, jealousy, and dissatisfaction are smoke rising from the altars we’ve erected to our false gods.” – Saint Augustine (pg. 103)

“You can take one of two postures toward God. You can shrink him down and carry him, or humble yourself and let him carry you.” (pg. 104)

“If Jesus is your ‘co-pilot,’ somebody is in the wrong seat.” (pg. 119)

“The opposite of love, it’s said, is not hate, but apathy.” (pg. 126)

“Experiencing pain or humiliation because of your sin may feel like God’s wrath, but it is actually the tender outworking of his compassion.” (pg. 128)

“In Christ, God did not overlook the guilt of the guilty; he poured it on a substitute – himself.” (pg. 130)

“The pursuing love of God is the greatest wonder in the spiritual universe.” – Donald Grey Barnhouse (pg. 142)

“Jesus didn’t die so we could play church. He didn’t die to be our source of serenity in a busy life. He didn’t endure the cross so we could huddle together in small groups and bemoan the deterioration of our culture. He died to turn us into white-hot worshipers and world-transformers. Jesus is not a safety net, a relief valve, an assistant, or a divine butler. He’s a God whose glory and love deserve our utmost allegiance.” (pgs. 151-152)

“Is what you are living for worth [Jesus] dying for?” (pg. 152)

“If you love something, you don’t need to be commanded to love it…” (pg. 156)

“Victorious, passionate Christian living is the result of finally seeing God for who he is – standing humbled before the heights of his holiness and awestruck at the depths of his love. Then, and only then, will we soar spiritually.” (pg. 160)

“If you want to overcome sin, don’t focus on shrinking your temptations; focus on enlarging your view of God.” (pg. 161)

“The reason it’s wrong for anyone to make themselves the center of their lives is simple: they’re not God.” (pg. 172)

“Death, the mighty enemy, has been reduced to a temporary, inconvenient nuisance.” (pg. 183)

“At any given moment God is doing about 10,000 different things in your life and you are probably aware of only 3 of them.” – John Piper (pg. 189)

“Every Christian here is either a missionary or an imposter.” – C.H. Spurgeon (pg. 192)

“We are not guaranteed safety. We are guaranteed Jesus. And he is enough.” (pg. 200)

“Feeling inadequate is a prerequisite to being used by God.” (pg. 209)

“A friend of mine explains it this way: When you say, ‘But I am such a terrible mom,’ or ‘I am a failure,’ God replies, ‘I am neither of those things! And if I am in you, you are not either.'” (pg. 212)

“The primary work we do for God, Jesus told us, is believing (Jn. 6:29). Believing that he is who he said he is and that he will do all he said he will do. Trust in Jesus is the most powerful force on the planet.” (pg. 226)

Modeling Leadership

 

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If there’s anything I’ve learned as the parent of a toddler, it’s that my son Landon imitates almost everything I do. If I’m on my laptop, he’ll grab his and start typing next to me. When we dance, he’ll mimic my (usually awful) dance moves. If I’m playing basketball, he jumps in. When my wife Joy starts to exercise, he’ll grab his maracas and start lifting them like weights.

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But hopefully Landon will catch more than just our genetics, use of technology, and exercise routines. We have 7 family goals that we tell Landon every night before bed: 1) Live for God 2) Love others 3) Learn always 4) Laugh often 5) Lead with vision 6) Listen to the wise & 7) Labor for what matters. Truth is: it doesn’t matter how many times we say these goals to Landon. He won’t catch what we say if he doesn’t see and experience these goals lived out in our lives.

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Leadership is a lot like parenting, and leadership is more caught than taught. “Like begets like.” This is why the Apostle Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” [1] He pointed to his personal life – not just his words. Michael Hyatt says, “If you are a leader, like it or not, you will replicate yourself. Your followers will adopt your behaviors and habits.” [2] This means that good leaders are always conscience that they are influencing people whether they know it or not – both in what they do and what they don’t do. This includes beliefs, behaviors and values – in communication, habits, time management, decision-making, finances, and faith.

Imitation follows modeling, meaning that you reproduce who you are and what you do as a leader. James Kouzes & Barry Posner say, “Leaders take every opportunity to show others by their own example that they’re deeply committed to the values they espouse. No one will believe you’re serious until they see you doing what you’re asking of others. Leading by example is how leaders make visions and values tangible. It’s how they provide the evidence that they’re personally committed.” [3]

Good leaders are also good followers. Since you replicate who you are and what you do, it’s essential to follow Jesus effectively in your personal life. As others see you follow Jesus, they will follow your example of followership. Here’s what Kouzes & Posner identify as keys for effective leadership modeling:

  1. Personify shared values.
  2. Spend your time and attention wisely.
  3. Watch your language – how you say what you say is just as important as what you say.
  4. Ask purposeful questions – the best ones start with why?, what?, and how?
  5. Seek feedback because leaders are learners; don’t shy away from others’ help.
  6. Confront critical incidents by balancing love and truth.
  7. Tell stories & celebrate wins as often as you can.
  8. Reinforce and reward the behavior you want repeated. [4]

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

The Core by Josh Crocker & Tim Morris (FREE PDF HERE)

The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes & Barry Posner

Spiritual Leadership by Henry Blackaby & Richard Blackaby

FOOTNOTES:

[1] 1st Cor. 11:1.

[2] https://michaelhyatt.com/people-see-people-do/.

[3] The Leadership Challenge (4th edition), pg. 75.

[4] Ibid, 73-94.

Why Do I Love God?

Being a dad is a huge learning curve, especially in our relationship with God. I’m a very proud father of an amazing 2-year old son named Landon. He’s survived two open-heart surgeries with a third on the way. Landon’s a fighter, and his evolving personality proves that emphatically. The other day my wife Joy walked into the house from a grocery store run with Landon right behind her. As soon as Landon saw me – he smiled, let out a toddler-esque shriek of excitement, and ran over to me as fast as he could.

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Normally this would be the part of the story where I tell you that’s the greatest feeling in the world (which it was), until Joy gave the backstory. She said, “So as we were pulling in the driveway, I asked Landon: ‘Do you want to see Daddy?’

He shook his head ‘NO.’ I asked again, and he kept shaking his head ‘NO.’ Then we walked through the door, saw you eating a salad, and that’s why he smiled, shrieked with excitement, and ran over to you.”

Great… just what every dad wants to hear!

See, Landon loves croutons and cheese. I can’t enjoy a salad anymore these days when he’s around. He’s literally taken the croutons and cheese off of other people’s plates at banquets (true story).

The truth is though – I love to give Landon what he likes. I love to see Landon enjoy his life, and I love to give him things that make him happy. But here’s the tough question that I’ve wrestled with…

If I don’t give Landon things that he wants, will he still love me?

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Probably every parent has asked this before, but some of us might not have considered the spiritual implications at play here. See most of us (if we’re honest with ourselves) love God because of what he gives us. The same is true in many of our marriages.

We might love what our husband or wife gives us more than we love them just for being them. The same can be true with our kids; do we love them for who they are rather than what they give us? While this is definitely convicting on a human level, it’s symptomatic of our spiritual relationship with God.

Satan made this accusation about Job: “Satan replied to the Lord, ‘Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!’” (Job 1:9-11).

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Throughout the book of Job we see him imperfectly wrestle with the same questions, fears, doubts, and struggles with God that we all have. Thankfully, he came out on the other end as a faithful example of strong faith – refusing to abandon God despite intense suffering. But the Bible is clear that God loves to bless us!

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights…” Jesus said in Matthew 7:11, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

While the prosperity gospel is false and ridiculous, it is still true that God loves to bless us. At the same time – God also allows us to experience very real & terrible trials in this life. Just look at Joseph, Moses, Ruth, David, the disciples, & Paul. They suffered immensely, but God loved them intensely! The key is that these biblical characters loved God for who he was, not what he gave them.

Ask yourself this question: What would it take for you to turn your back on God?

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As a dad, I’m going to do everything I can to parent Landon God’s way. That means a lot of the time I will go out of my way to be generous with my time, sacrifice for him financially, be his free taxi-cab service for many years, feed him, protect him, and support him any way that I can. But there will also be times where I need to let him fail forward, appropriately discipline, and withhold things from him.

Awhile back Landon got super mad at me because I wouldn’t let him climb the stairs by himself. He threw a fit because he wanted to climb the stairs, but as his father I knew he wasn’t ready for that. There was a lot of danger in that climb, so I kept him from what he wanted for his own good.

When God does that with us, do we stop loving him?

Over the course of time, I pray that Landon and I will form a healthy, mature friendship where we love each other for who we are – not what we give each other. I’m hoping that my relationship with God grows that way too. I’ve been following Jesus for more than two decades, but I still recognize corners of my heart where I’m not loving God for who he is.

Thankfully, the gospel reminds us that the security of our relationship is in God’s initial, unconditional love for us. “This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1st John 4:10).

DHN