Too Comfortable?

This quote is a screenshot from a Sunday morning message given this past week by Pastor Jordan Easley of First Baptist Church, Cleveland, Tn. He’s in a sermon series entitled “How the Church Acts.” In this message, he addressed that the church is to be made up of people who live with purpose. It wasn’t a message that churchgoers haven’t heard before, but this statement shed a different light on the message.

What is a non-negotiable anyway? My words-something that a person won’t budge about. For instance, I’m an Alabama fan-not going to budge on that one. I don’t eat brussels sprouts-pretty sure that’s not going to change. You get the point.

So when it comes to churchgoers, how is it possible that they have non-negotiables? According to Pastor Easley, it’s possible because they’ve become too comfortable. He wasn’t necessarily referring to being too comfortable in our lifestyle; he’s referring more to our view of God, our relationship with the Giver of Life both now and forever.

This statement made me think the rest of the day. Made me question what non-negotiables I may have. Made me wonder if I could be drawn to making some and what would be the result. Made me wonder enough that I’m sharing it with you.

Non-negotiables won’t exist in heaven. Makes me want to eliminate them today.

Two Things God Thinks of Me

In the last few days I’ve been struck by two ways to know what God thinks of me. They sound similar yet carry different meanings.

The first came from a devotional that highlighted Hebrews 11:16:

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

To be clear, no, Hebrews 11 is not about me. It’s a list recalling Old Testament lives of faith. And the writer pauses in the list to say, “God was not ashamed to be called their God.” Why? Their faith. Their faith to build an ark. Their faith to leave their families. Their faith to wait. Their faith to give up everything. Their faith to trust. Their faith to desire heaven over earth.

When I have and act by that kind of faith, I know God is not ashamed of me.

The second came from the book I’m reading by J. Paul Nyquist, Prepare.

“God never blesses anyone or anything He doesn’t approve of.”

Nyquist says this based on the beatitude: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (Matthew 5:11) He begins chapter four of his book with this verse to support that persecution isn’t a curse but a blessing. So in the face of false accusation, reviling, and evil, I can know God approves of me.

When I face evil attacks, I know God approves of me.

I don’t have to doubt what God thinks of me when my faith is steadfast. He approves. He is not ashamed.

Photo credit: Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

Looking for Book #1?

Book #1 for 2021 done. And it was a good choice to kick it off.

It’s time to let God heal you. It’s time to let God restore you. It’s time to let God do a mighty work.

Franklin takes the first half of the book to define and describe love.

Don’t speak to the fool in others; speak to the king in them.

Chapter four, “Stop Keeping Score and Start Losing Count,” by title alone moves you in the right direction. He had this to say about Jesus’ work on forgiving:

Before he could leave this earth, Jesus had to forgive those who were torturing him, those who were mocking him, those who were blaspheming him. This was important because God’s hands will not touch spirits that do not release forgiveness. Wherever you release forgiveness, you release the power of the Spirit of God.

For several chapters, Franklin focuses on the family. Why? Perhaps because it’s the place where we learn about love and also where we are most prone to be hurt by it.

You cannot be so spiritual that you neglect natural things. And you cannot be so natural that you neglect the spiritual things. God’s will is somewhere between Martha’s kitchen and Mary’s altar.

The final three chapters address one’s love relationship with God. He argues that the enemy’s goal is to create distrust. And what happens often is instead he pushes us to pray more, to run to God, and to increase our faith-particularly when we love like we’ve never been hurt.

Franklin wrote a Keeper.

What’s Left

God is still the God of what’s left. -Jentezen Franklin, Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt


This quote is in chapter 11, “Fight for Your Family.” Franklin’s point is that whatever the status of one’s family there’s still something left. Now is the time to let God be God of whatever’s left. Encouraging. Hope-filled.

How ’bout we broaden the story? Like…

  • God is still the God of what’s left of your company
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your marriage
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your friendship
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your finances
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your church
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your neighborhood
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your government
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your health
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your education
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your parenting
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your career
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your retirement
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your life

The Best Book I’ve Read About Forgiveness

I’ve read a few books on the subject of forgiveness. None of them match the one I just finished.


Alongside her exceptional writing, Leslie Fields makes this subject approachable through transparency and relatability. She doesn’t exploit or overstate. She tells her’s and other’s stories while paralleling them with familiar biblical ones. And although she’s addressing her journey to forgive her father, little of the biblical stories share the same context. The common need is becoming forgivers to the degree we have been forgiven.

The application and “what do I do with this” additional work by Dr. Hubbard makes this more than a well-told story. You have tools to do your forgiveness work. Outcomes or successes aren’t guaranteed, but you have what you need.

Here are seven examples of these ladies’ excellent work:

  • You can’t grow up and be full adults until you can forgive your parents.
  • We are all Jonahs who, in our unforgiveness, question whether we can or want to do the work of building the bridge of forgiveness that gives us the grace to see both good and bad in the one who has wronged us.
  • No other religious faith claims that everything you’ve done wrong can be utterly covered and forgiven by another, by God himself.
  • Sharing and crying with another is much more effective in moving us toward healing than all the crying done alone in our rooms. Talk therapy brings healing and has a positive impact on our brain chemistry.
  • Boundaries are not steel doors slammed in a person’s face, but rather, loving and firm ways of saying no, not now, not here. Setting boundaries honors both people involved by not allowing either one to dishonor the other or the relationship through unacceptable words or actions.
  • We can choose to reclaim our past for good-instead of replaying the same story over and over expecting something to change in the unending repetition. We do this by allowing ourselves to grieve, to mourn, to lament, to remember, to release, to revive, to live on, so that all may be well with our souls.
  • We have made forgiveness too private, too small, and too hard. It is not a feeling we have to conjure up; it is an attitude of humility and love that seeks the good of the other, apart from worth or deserving. It is the living out of a daily decision to extend to others what God has extended first to us.

Hanging Up on God

This week I’m reading through Genesis. Familiar stories. Yet, always new things to see-like watching a movie several times and observing or piecing something together you missed before.

This happened when I read chapters 32-33. If you want, pause reading this and read those two chapters. See what you observe.

Here’s the main thing I got this time: Jacob didn’t know what he didn’t know. Hate it when that happens.

He responded two ways: terror and prayer. Not a bad combo. If balanced. Well, probably should lean more to the latter.

When he heard his brother was coming with 400 men, he was terrified. He immediately got his mind working. But he paused to pray. Good move.

That prayer is a mixed bag. Nothing wrong with the prayer. He expresses his emotions, recognizes his family’s history of following God, reminds God of his promises, and pleas for rescuing from what he’s afraid Esau plans to do. The end. Back to work.

I propose he hung up on God. We’ve all done it. Dialed up, checked in, checked out. A one-way conversation. “Hey God! Here’s my situation. Remember what you said? I’m counting on you. Gotta go.”

Suppose Jacob didn’t hang up. Suppose he paused and listened. Suppose he asked questions like, “What should I do? Will you calm my fears? Am I missing anything? Am I thinking straight?”

Is it not possible that given the opportunity God could have saved Jacob a lot of work and emotional stress? And maybe that whole night of wrestling could have been avoided. And think of the fear he placed on his family. Terror does that when you hang up on God.

Application: When you don’t know what you don’t know, ask God a bunch of questions before you do anything. And wait for the answers. Stay on the phone.

(Photo by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash)

The Flood: A Pandemic Observed

Read Genesis 8-9 today. Three God observations:

  1. “The ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.” God was in control, even to the detail of placing the ark where it needed to be. He made sure it rested and stayed put. OBSERVATION: Take care of the ark’s inside. God will take care of the outside.
  2. They were in the ark about a year, mostly waiting on the water to recede. While they waited, God had provided what they needed. Why was this important? Once they entered the ark, nothing was ever the same. The Flood was the pandemic of pandemics. There was no returning to normal.  OBSERVATION: God is God of before, during, and after.
  3. Noah lived 350 years after the flood. Noah’s life lasted 950 years. Scholars estimate the entire ark season of Noah’s life was anywhere from 75 to 120 years-at most 13% of his life. What’s the story of the other 87%? Through the “mundane,” God prepared him, sustained him, and multiplied him. OBSERVATION: God is there for all 100%, from the headlines to the footnotes.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Cam Adams

“John, take a look at freedom!”

Occasionally God shows you what freedom looks like. If you’re paying attention, it’s more beautiful than a sunrise. It’s soul transformation beaming through human eyes.

Today, I was honored to witness God free his worried, fearful, lonely, grieving, scared, bound, coiled, anxious, tearful, exhausted, and insecure child. All I did was cheer. As the layers unpeeled, they brightened, eased, smiled, bounced, shined; years washed off their face. I don’t remember a transformation so obvious, so instant. 

What made it possible? Trust. Prayer. Safety. Courage. Honesty. Ownership. Confession. Awareness. Desire. Empathy. Calm.

We all wanted it. We all witnessed it. But none more so than the child freed to fly like a released bird from its lonely cage of fear.

Why do I believe in God? Only He could do what I witnessed today.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Yukari Harada

God’s…Not Mine…Mine (Part 2)

Exercising leads to discoveries. And when it comes to this exercise about responsibility, the discoveries may not feel good at first. Like discovering you really shouldn’t eat the entire quart of ice cream just because you worked out today.

Chances are through this exercise you discovered that you are taking responsibility, trying to own something, that isn’t yours. It’s a common battle for humans to wrestle with God, stealing responsibility. Paul David Tripp says it’s because we are at war between being in awe of ourselves and being in awe of God. When we are losing that battle, we think everything is ours: money, possessions, relationships, career. Contrary to our wants, we win when we let God own what really is his.

That second heading, Not Mine, can be as big a battle as the God heading. When we haven’t won in that heading, forget about winning in this one. Why? Because if I’ve kicked God off the throne taking all the responsibility, it’s going to inevitably spill over into every area of my life. I have all the answers and control. In fact, I believe I want them. Reality is, I’m burdened and miserable. Like Pilgrim trudging uphill bearing his burden.

I have found three things to address when I’ve discovered I’m taking on someone else’s responsibilities. You might say, these are my responsibilities to stay out of “not mine” responsibilities.

  • Trust-Sure, you’ve job searched before; so what’s keeping you from staying out of your spouse’s or child’s searching efforts? You’ve also scheduled employees before; so what’s keeping you from allowing your manager to do it? You’ve been doing this task much longer than your new volunteer; so why are you micromanaging them? Discovery #1: Sometimes we do what’s not ours because we have trust issues. (Proverbs 3:5; Isaiah 55:8)
  • Humility-If I’m having responsibility issues, chances are I’m also having pride issues. Humility is required to allow good failure (yes, that’s a thing). Humility is required for personal and team growth. Ball hogs, dictators, authoritarians, glory-stealers, all losers in general taint outcomes because of pride. Discovery #2: Often we do what’s “not mine” because of our pride. (Matthew 23:12; Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3)
  • Being For-Many of us are recovering tellers; by nature we take “not mine” responsibility by telling what needs to be done. My recovery started a few years ago. One mindset for a recovering teller is to be for others. Parents/bosses/leaders, you can avoid the “not mine” heading by being for your child/employee/volunteer. Not being over, behind, ahead-be for them. Encourage. Celebrate. Cheer. Discovery #3: Everyone benefits when we are all for each other. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Those are my three. They may be yours also. What else may yours be?

We’ll address that more in Part 3.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Elizabeth French

God’s…Not Mine…Mine (Part 1)

I was awake again before the alarm sounded. It’s a thing. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. When it’s good, I focus my mind toward heavenly things before stirring. My body may not want to move, but my mind does. Relate?

I asked God a question regarding responsibility. And I got a pretty clear answer:

John, many things you believe you’re responsible for are things you choose to be responsible for rather than letting the right person be responsible. Often, that person is me.

That’s how my day started. Jolting. Or not.

I actually decided it wasn’t jolting at all. Instead, it was loving, merciful, and freeing. Loving because God owns his responsibility for all things, including me. Merciful because God waits for me to give back what I wrongfully take. Freeing because I, with repentance, get to return to him what’s his.

In that freedom, an exercise came to me. The exercise is quite simple. On a sheet of paper or on a digital note, make three headings: God’s, Not Mine, Mine. Under each heading, list responsibilities. That’s it.

So for example, I’ll list one under each heading. 

  • God’s: Life
  • Not Mine: Other’s Choices
  • Mine: My Choices

This exercise has lots of potential. It could be an exhaustive look at all areas of life, which could be extremely useful. But it could also be isolated to one present challenge, which is where my mind was before the alarm sounded.

Where’s your mind? Find yourself stuck wondering who’s responsible for _______. Could it be you’re stuck under the wrong heading?

We’ll look more at that in parts 2&3.

Happy Exercising!

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Elizabeth French