Morning Brew: Wednesday, Oct 7

Bible Reading: Isaiah 55-56, John 7-8


Do you have an appetite for spiritual things, or have you stuffed yourself with the ‘free chips’ of the world? In Isaiah 55, God makes a beautiful invitation to Israel:

1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.” Isaiah 55:1-3

That same invitation is the same to us today, but do we have any appetite left? If you’ve been to a stereotypical Mexican restaurant, you’re familiar with this problem. You walk into a Mexican restaurant looking forward to the burritos, the fajitas, the enchiladas. But before your main course comes out, they bring something out to you: free chips. You didn’t ask for the chips. You are under no obligation to eat the free chips. So what do you do? You eat the free chips! And when they check on you, you ask for another basket of free chips!

And if you’re like me, you’ve gotten to the point where you’ve said, moments before the main course comes out, “I’m full, I could go home right now!” You came for the sizzling fajitas, but you stuffed yourself with the free chips, killing your appetite.

It’s the same with God. He can satisfy our greatest needs and our deepest longings, but too many of us find that we have little to no appetite for God because we’ve stuffed ourselves with the free chips of the world (i.e. tv shows, sports teams, cell phones). If we’re looking for God to satisfy our deepest needs, perhaps we need to put the free chips down and develop an appetite.

QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION: What ‘free chips’ will curb your appetite for God if you’re not careful?

Christians Spend Too Much Time At Church

Yes, you read that right. Christians spend too much time at church. I’m a pastor. I’m employed full-time by a church. If no one showed up, I would be out of a job. If I get more people to show up, people generally think I’m doing a better job. Christians spend too much time at church.


Here’s what I mean: I would argue that Christians spend too much time “at church” when they should spend more time in the community “being the church.” Right off the top we have to reiterate that the church is not a building. When Jesus told Peter that he would build his “assembly” or “gathering” (what ekklesia literally means), buildings and cathedrals were the furthest thing from his mind.

But in our minds today, going to church is equated with a building, a service, a location. Now, going to church isn’t in and of itself a bad thing. But it can become a distraction when it takes us away from our mission as Christ followers. It’s hard to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19) when we’ve completely surrounded ourselves with Christians and we’re so busy doing Christian activities that we don’t have the time or energy to build intentional relationships with non-believers.

Churches don’t help this mindset either. For decades the strategy was to keep Christians so busy that they didn’t have time to sin. I remember working at churches with the mindset that an empty calendar meant someone wasn’t doing their job. I think we’ve changed the common phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness” to “busyness is next to godliness.”

I remember working at a church (what would be a ‘successful’ church by most standards) but feeling incredibly convicted because I had no meaningful relationships with non-believers. I was preaching to my students that they needed to tell others about Jesus, but I didn’t have the time or margin to follow my own advice. All I knew were Christians. I spent too much time at church.

Our mission as Christians isn’t fulfilled when we finish walking verse-by-verse through a book of the Bible. Our mission isn’t completed when we nail that four part harmony to our favorite song. We’re not done after we finish building or paying off a building. It’s not even done when we hold an epic event and 1000 Christians from other churches attended our church for one night. Our mission is completed when we make disciples of all nations. Not just converts. Disciples. That means we need to have a meaningful and sustained presence in our community. We need to get out of the church building more often. We need to have church and be the church in our community. That means stripping away lots and lots of programs, sacrificing even some good activities so that the mission can move forward.

I’m a full-time pastor. I love when people come to church. But a building, a program and a service can become a distraction from our main mission if we’re not careful. Christians spend too much time at church.

QUESTION: Thoughts? Am I off base here, or am I onto something?

(P.S. Don’t use this as an excuse to start missing church altogether. Making disciples of all nations doesn’t mean fishing, sleeping in or catching a NASCAR race. This is a plea to churches to reprioritize their energies, not an endorsement for people to start attending Bedside Baptist with Pastor Sheets).

Morning Brew: Tuesday, Oct 6

Bible Reading: Isaiah 53-54, John 5-6


Do you really want to get well? You have pain and affliction in your life. You’re suffering from the consequences of your own bad decisions and from forces outside of your control. You want relief and deliverance. So you cry out to God, “make me well!” But do you really want to get well?

In John 5, Jesus encounters a blind man by a pool of water. Instead of immediately healing him, Jesus asks him this question:

One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” John 5:5-6

Why wouldn’t an invalid want to get better after thirty-eight years? Perhaps he had grown comfortable in his condition. Perhaps the familiarity of the pain had actually become comforting for him. Once he was healed he would have to go out and work; no longer would everything be handed to him. Did he really want all of that responsibility? Did he really want to leave behind the familiar for the unknown?

How about you? That one thing that you’ve been praying about for months, do you really want God to answer it? What if he really gives you what you want, are you ready for the responsibility of it? What if the path to your destination is different than what you want? Do you still want to go there? Once you’re healed you can’t play the victim card anymore. Are you ready to leave that behind? Or has the familiar pain become a crutch to you? Do you really want to get well?

The man in John 5 answered “yes.” What’s your answer?

QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION: Have you ever had an unanswered prayer that later on you thanked God for not answering?

Morning Brew: Monday, Oct 5

Bible Reading: Isaiah 51-52, John 3-4


Do you need a reminder of the immensity of God? Last week the nation was momentarily transfixed by a rare lunar eclipse. When we pause to drink in the vastness and the beauty of the heavens, we’re left speechless. Even here on earth, from the majestic beauty of Yosemite Valley to the quiet serenity of the Sahara Desert, mankind is left in awe at the power and might of our Creator. God himself uses the heavens and the earth to showcase His power:

6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
    look at the earth beneath;
the heavens will vanish like smoke,
    the earth will wear out like a garment
    and its inhabitants die like flies.
But my salvation will last forever,
    my righteousness will never fail. Isaiah 51:6

We’re impressed with ourselves because we’ve recently been able to take up close pictures of Pluto, the furthest (sometimes) planet in our solar system. Yet our sun is merely one of hundreds of billions of suns in our galaxy, and our galaxy is merely one of hundreds of billions out there. All of that, vanished like smoke.

The heights of Mount Everest and the depths of the Pacific Ocean will wear out like that old t-shirt crumpled up in the back of our closet. Even the greatest civilizations known to man will die as quickly as that fly you just swatted.

All of that in comparison to God’s salvation and God’s righteousness. Those two things will never fail. Our salvation is secure long after this created universe falls to pieces. God’s righteousness will still stand strong long after the greatest human civilizations collapse into nothing. We serve a big, big God. Hold your head high, believer. Your salvation will last forever.

QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION: How does the perspective of Isaiah 51:6 change the way you live out today?

Morning Brew: Sunday, Oct 4

Bible Reading: Isaiah 49-50, John 1-2


How often do we miss Jesus all around us? I’m always in a state of mild shock when I read the accounts of Jesus in the gospels. It seems so obvious to me that Jesus is the Son of God, and yet people, even religious people, even religious leaders, missed it. How could you not see the Son of God standing right in front of you?

10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. John 1:10-11

And yet how often do I miss the presence of God right in front of me? How often have you missed the presence of God all around you? That interruption at work might have been God sending someone to encourage you. That kind of weird conversation was someone trying to open up and ask for spiritual guidance. That trial might have been God drawing you to lean on him more fully. God is all around us, but many of us don’t recognize him.

That child that wears you down is a constant reminder of the miracle and gift of life. The fragrance of early morning or the quiet serenity of a sunset proclaims the presence of God. Even the simple act of taking your next breath is a testament to God’s sustaining grace in your life. God is all around you, if you stop long enough to look.

QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION: How do you see God in your everyday world?

Morning Brew: Saturday, Oct 3

Bible Reading: Isaiah 47-48, Luke 23-24


Are you experiencing ever-flowing peace in your life? I’m not talking about a good day or a favorable turn of events. Do you have an internal peace that flows in the midst of external trials, a tangible contentment that far outweighs the circumstances of your life? If not, are there commands of God that you’re disobeying?

17 This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. Isaiah 48:17-18

God’s desire was to give His people Israel a peace and a well-being that would have never run out. It goes to the core of who God is. God is a good God, a loving Father, a caring Being that looks lovingly on all He has made like a mother towards her newborn child. That’s the heart behind the commands of God that we have through Scripture.

God’s commands aren’t designed to punish. They’re designed to bring peace. The Scriptures aren’t there to give us heartache, but happiness. God’s commands leads to contentment. If we aren’t experiencing peace like a river, then we’re not paying attention to God’s commands, because His commands lead to contentment.

QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION: How have God’s commands produced peace in your life?


Morning Brew: Friday, Oct 2

Bible Reading: Isaiah 45-46, Luke 21-22


Are you courageous enough to pray like Jesus? At the end of Luke, the narrative slows down to a crawl as we walk through the final days of Jesus’ life. In an emotionally supercharged moment, Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his death. In that hurricane of anguish, Jesus prays a prayer that is downright scary when we consider the practical implications:

42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42

“Not my will, but yours be done.” If anyone would have had a leg to stand on to make demands of God, it would have been Jesus. Even knowing the pain and agony about to rain down on him, not just the physical pain that would be classified as ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ today, but the emotional and spiritual pain of being separated from the Father on the cross, Jesus still had the courage to pray “not my will, but yours be done.”

Are you that courageous? Are you willing to pray that God’s will be done even if it’s not your will? What if God is calling you to a new career that will take a huge step of faith? What if God’s will for you is to never get that promotion? What if God’s will is for your child to never be the best in his or her class? What if God’s will is for that health issue to linger, to allow your pain to advance the gospel in ways you couldn’t imagine? What if God calls you to a life of poverty, a life of mediocrity and insignificance (from the world’s perspective)? Are you still willing to pray “not my will but yours be done?”

If you can flippantly say ‘yes’ to that question, then you truly haven’t wrestled with the implications that this statement can bring. One of the reasons I believe Jesus sweated drops of blood while praying this was because it was a genuine struggle. He knew the painful implications of praying that prayer, and he paused to count the cost. This is not a prayer that we walk into lightheartedly. Praying this prayer could change the entire trajectory of your life. This prayer indicates a complete death to self. Are you courageous enough to pray like Jesus?

QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION: Have you ever prayed this prayer in faith? How has God answered you?

Morning Brew: Thursday, Oct 1

Bible Reading: Isaiah 43-44, Luke 19-20


What block of wood are you bowing down to? When we look in the Old Testament, it’s far too easy to dismiss the problems the Israelites faced as issues common only to ancient civilizations. Surely advanced societies like ours have progressed beyond these issues, have we not? Consider God’s condemnation of Israel for worshipping blocks of wood. He calls out the ludicrousness of their logic:

9 All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. . .16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” 17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me! You are my god!” Isaiah 44:9, 16-17

How simple-minded is that? Who would ever willingly place their trust and faith in something shaped and formed by human hands? We would never bow down to a block of wood, or would we?

The question I want us to ponder today is this: have our cell phones become for us a block of wood that we bow down to? Is it the first thing we check in the morning and the last thing we check at night? Have we become so attached to it that we feel naked when we forget it at home? When we have a free moment do our thoughts turn to our cell phones to check social media or waste time with our favorite app? When we’re feeling down, do we turn to our cell phone for comfort? Emotionally, are we bowing down to our cell phone? Has it become the block of wood that we place our trust in?

If God were writing Isaiah 44 today, would he condemn us for the faith and trust we’ve place in created things, rather than in the Creator?

QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION: Have we allowed our cell phones to become ‘blocks of wood’ that we bow down to?

“I Was Raped by my Dad When I Was 9”

How do you respond to that? Recently I was at the Recovery House, a residential treatment facility for those overcoming drug and alcohol addictions. Every time I meet someone new I try and learn their story, because they are not a statistic. They are a human being, broken and battered as they might be. They have dignity and worth even in the midst of their current struggles.


As always, their stories, and especially the path that led them to addiction fills me with a mix of mild shock and heartache.

  • I met Karen*. This is her 11th rehab. She’s a mess and she knows it. She is the black sheep in a good family. Mom and dad are still together. Both have respectable jobs. One works for the government, the other is a lawyer. But the pressure to perform in a ‘perfect family’ quickly became to much. She started abusing drugs and alcohol before she was 10. It doesn’t help that her mom is a functioning alcoholic and set that as an example for her daughter. Her mom can handle her alcohol (or so she thinks). Karen obviously cannot.
  • I met Rachel*. This is her first rehab. Really, she got addicted later in life. Good childhood, never had any problems before her 30s. When she was 34 she was recently divorced and had a weekend free. In her words she had a “bright idea” to visit a liquor store and get some wine “because she could.” That simple decision led to a three year addiction and downward spiral that cost her a career, a home, and all of her savings. She said when she walks out of rehab she’ll be walking out with nothing.
  • And then there’s Brittany*. She’s young, in her early 20s. She’s in for meth. This is only her first rehab, and she was still coming down off of the toxin in her system, but she’s been abusing drugs and alcohol for over a decade. Growing up locally, she’d never really been to church. Her question to me was, “How can you forgive and forget like the Bible says?” She then began to use the hypothetical of someone who was raped. By this time I’d been speaking with her for an hour, so I cut through that and said, “We’re talking about you, aren’t we?” Brittany said “yes.” I asked her how long ago she was raped, and she said, “I was raped when I was 9, and I’ll go ahead and tell you, it was by my dad.”

What do you say to that? How do you respond? What kind of evil lives in the world that allows this to happen? I responded in anger on her behalf. I said that as a man, I am sickened by other men who could molest young children. I said part of me wished I could go and cut off the pecker of every single man who would rob a child of their innocence. There is a special place in hell reserved for people like that. I reaffirmed to Brittany that she did not deserve to have that happen. It was in no way her fault.

Going to her original question, I told her that she may never forget (the Bible never actually says “forgive and forget”), but God can help her to forgive. I encouraged her not to focus on forgetting, but on God redeeming. I told them how God could take even the worst circumstances and bring something good out of it.

As a way to make a connection, I referenced some of the deepest pain I’ve ever walked through: my wife and I’s struggle with infertility. For years, the label my wife and I wore was that we were the couple that couldn’t have kids. There were countless nights of heartache and tears. Yet through that, God brought us our oldest two sons, sons that we would have never adopted if we had kids on our timetable. We can honestly look back and say we are thankful for the struggle, because God has redeemed it so beautifully.

I told Brittany that I know that my struggle was nothing in comparison with what she walked through, and that she would never look back and say she was thankful that happened (nor should she), but my prayer was that one day she could look back and see the good that God has brought out of it. I encouraged Brittany to go deep in this rehab, to unpack all of the baggage that she could and to get to a good place, because there are untold girls out there in dark places, and God can use her to give hope to girls struggling with similar situations. Her greatest ministry in life might be offering healing to women who were molested as children. My heart breaks for Brittany. It breaks for the evil in the world that would allow this to happen. It has shaped her past and her present. But through the power of Jesus it does not have to shape her future. Amen.

QUESTION: If you had the chance, what would you say to Brittany?

*names have been changed to protect their identities

Morning Brew: Wednesday, Sept 30

Bible Reading: Isaiah 41-42, Luke 17-18

Are you helping or hindering little ones from coming into the Kingdom? Twice in Luke 17-18 Jesus speaks on a topic that was not often discussed in that day: children. To most today, first century views on children would come across as neglectful at best and downright evil at worst. From all the commentaries I’ve read, paternal affection was not held as a cultural virtue. Children were to be seen and not heard. ‘Exposing’ infants was common (the act of abandoning a baby to the elements after birth if you did not want it).

So Jesus’ words seem that much more bizarre when you know the culture he was speaking to:

1 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves. Luke 17:1-3

Jesus has special condemnation for those who cause little ones to stumble. Those who take the innocence of young girls in Asia. Those in Africa who kidnap young boys and force them into roving armies as ‘child soldiers.’ To the parent(s) who through neglect, narcissism or poor choices condemn a child to the consequences of their bad decisions. Recently I read an article online where a four-year-old girl in Texas was diagnosed with adult onset type 2 diabetes from extreme overeating and lack of diet control by the parents. For the rest of her life, this young girl will suffer because of a lack of parenting by those entrusted with her care.

Jesus’ threat may seem a bit bland because we don’t have millstones today, but they were extremely heavy rounded stones used to grind corn or grain. Using terminology today, Jesus says it would be better for someone to be thrown into the deepest part of the ocean with a bouquet of cement blocks tied to their feet than to cause little ones to stumble. Sound harsh? It should.

Jesus cares for the young, the defenseless, and so should we. When we hear stories of abuse or neglect, it should rile us into action. Whether they live in your house or not, you have little ones in your circle of influence. Are you protective or passive? When it comes to the defenseless ones, are you characterized more by action or apathy? Are you helping or hindering little ones from coming into the Kingdom?

QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION: Who helped you towards the Kingdom when you were a child?