3 Things Christians Should Learn From Coca Cola

Photo by Mike Mozart
Photo by
Mike Mozart

Over the Summer Coca Cola has introduced what I think is one of the most brilliant marketing campaigns ever, The #ShareACoke Campaign.

If you are not familiar with the campaign, the idea is that you buy a Coke with someone’s name on it with the intention of sharing it with the person who has that name.

That’s it.

It’s pretty simplistic.

But it’s been very effective.

I believe that Coca Cola has tapped into something so simple, yet so profound, that we, Christians, should take notice, learn, and begin to model in our lives.

Life is about others.

In a society full of “selfies” iPads, and iPhones, it’s easy to get the idea that life is about us. Honestly, it’s scary how easy it is to get that idea.

And sure, we can live solely for ourselves, but I can promise you, it’ll get old after a while. It’ll become lonely and un-fulfilling.

Life is much, much more satisfying when we put the wants and needs of others before ours.

Coca Cola has reminded us of the importance of others. Coca Cola has reminded us that life isn’t just about us.

Love should constantly be displayed.

The simple act of sharing a Coke with someone let’s that person know we are thinking about them.

I mean, how often do we do something to bless someone and not look to get anything back in return?

How often do we let someone know we love them just because?

Listen.

People love to be loved.

No.

People need to be loved and Jesus told us that people will know we belong to Him by the way we love each other.

Are we consistently demonstrating love in our lives?

Community is of the utmost importance.

You cannot share a Coke with yourself. You share a coke with someone else. And when you do share it, you share more than just a drink.

You share laughter.

You share tears.

You share struggles.

You share life.

And sharing life together is what being a Christian is all about.

We were never meant to live life in isolation. We were meant to live life together, in unity. Simply put, we are better together.

Thank you Coca Cola.

Thank you for the challenge.

Thank you for the inspiration.

Thank you for the reminder of what following Jesus is all about.

Broken

Photo by Simon Greig
Photo by
Simon Greig

When Ethan was younger he had a Spiderman toy that he used to play with all the time.

Everywhere that Ethan went, Spiderman went as well.

The thing about the Spiderman toy was that it only had one arm. Ethan had played with it so much that it was literally falling apart.

Me, thinking I was doing a good thing went into his room one day to throw Spiderman away and get him a new one.

It was a mistake.

Ethan walked into his room and asked, “What are you doing?”

“Spiderman is broken. I’m going to throw him away and get you another.” I said.

Ethan said, “But dad, I can still use him. Spiderman is still good even if he is broken.”

This wrecked me.

I immediately thought of The Woman at the Well.

“Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people,” Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.” John 4:28-30 

The woman in the story had a fidelity problem.

She was a mess.

She was an outcast.

She was broken.

And Jesus didn’t throw her out.

In fact, Jesus used her in an amazing way. She literally ran and told everyone she knew about Jesus and they were drawn to Him.

Many of us can relate.

Many of us are the modern day equivalency of the Woman at the Well.

  • The person who slept around in college.
  • The person who has been through divorce.
  • The person who was addicted to drugs.
  • The person struggling with a porn addiction.
  • The person who is in financial ruins.
  • The person who is completely broken.

Jesus is not ready to throw us out.

We all have a past. And for some of us, our past isn’t something to be proud of. In fact, many of us are crippled by shame because of the things in our past.

We feel that we are not deserving of love.

We feel that we are not deserving of grace.

And we most certainly feel like we cannot ever be used by Jesus.

Listen, brokenness is just the beginning. Brokenness allows Jesus to pour out His grace in our lives and begin to use us.

Brokenness is a good thing.

Sometimes A Popsicle Is More Than A Popsicle

More Than Popsicles

As a pastor, I’ve been looking for ways for our church to get outside our walls and start serving our city without asking for or expecting anything back.

I just believe that’s something we should do if we follow Jesus.

And so, when we found out that our city was showing “Frozen” at the outdoor amphitheater we decided we would hand out popsicles for free.

We took 6 volunteers and gave away around 400 popsicles and several hundred church fliers.

It was an awesome evening of serving and laughing together as a church.

But something even more amazing happened.

I learned that sometimes a popsicle is more than a popsicle.

Sometimes a popsicle is actually hope.

It was while I was canvassing the crowd, passing out fliers, and directing people to the table where our volunteers were passing out popsicles, that I came across a woman with 5 children.

I handed her a flier and explained about the popsicles and I then moved on.

A few minutes later, I walked by her again and she said, “Excuse me sir. Excuse me sir!”

I realized she was talking to me and said, “Can I do something for you?”

She said, “I could not afford to take my kids to Frozen when it was at the movies and so we’re really excited about getting to watch. We still cannot afford much. So I made the kids bologna sandwiches and said this is all we get tonight. And so when you said we could have free popsicles, I wanted to cry. It means a lot to me that your church did this.”

She was filled with hope because she and her kids were given something as insignificant as a popsicle.

Listen.

It doesn’t matter how big or how seemingly insignificant something appears, Jesus can use it to bring someone hope.

So the next time you smile at someone, the next time you pay for the person’s order behind you in the drive-thru line, the next time you volunteer, the next time you give out something as seemingly insignificant as a popsicle, I hope you realize the impact that gesture could have on someone.

You could be giving someone hope.

And let’s be honest, we all could use a little hope.

A Lesson On Faith That I Learned From My Son

Ethan and Faith

Last week I had the privilege of taking our kids to camp and one of the campers was my son, Ethan.

It was a great week for each of our kids. I truly believe that they each grew closer to Jesus and each other.

One of my favorite moments at camp was one that I got to share with my son, Ethan.

Every year at camp they have something called, “The Blob.”  “The Blog” is a huge balloon like thing that is sitting in the water. On one end, someone sits and on the other end someone jumps on it from high in the air (I’m guessing around 10 feet) and it then throws the person sitting on the end into the water.

As soon as Ethan saw it, he kept talking about how excited he was to try it.

But when he had the opportunity to jump on it, he became scared. He said, “Dad, I don’t want to do it. I’m afraid. I want to stay where I am.”

We’ve all been there before and we’ll all go through it again.

When we live our lives trying to follow Jesus, He’ll begin to lead us.

He’ll begin to lead us into unfamiliar places.

He’ll begin to lead us into unknown places.

He’ll begin to lead us out of our comfort zones.

And it’s here we have a choice.

We can choose to trust and follow Jesus or stay where we are.

After Ethan said that he was too scared to jump, I began to encourage him.

“You can do it. I believe in you. I don’t want you to regret not jumping. Don’t be afraid.”

After a few minutes of encouraging him, he looked at me and simply said, “Okay.” and he jumped.

And here’s what’s even more amazing:

He jumped again and again and again.

He was no longer afraid.

He was filled with courage.

I was so proud of him that I had to hide my tears of joy so that I wouldn’t embarrass him.

In all this, I believe there’s a really important lesson to learn:

Staying where we are may feel like the safe thing to do, but when God calls us to step out in faith, staying where we are is not the right thing to do.

Sometimes we may just need to simply say, “Okay.” and then jump right in.

Because if we do, if we jump in, we can look back and remember the last time we jumped in and how God provided a way and have the courage to jump again and again and again.

So what we waiting for?

Let’s jump in.

Let’s have no regrets.

3 Lessons To Learn About Being Yourself

Photo by Fernando de Sousa
Photo by
Fernando de Sousa

A few weeks ago I met with someone at a local restaurant for a breakfast meeting.

I ordered an omelet, hash browns, and some coffee.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a Perkins or if I’m weird, but I pretty much love ketchup on everything. So naturally, I grabbed the bottle of ketchup and put some on my has browns.

And ugh.

It was gross.

Why?

The ketchup was generic ketchup that was dressed up in a Heinz bottle. In other words, it was fake and it was posing as something it wasn’t.

Of course this got me thinking about how we often do the same thing.

We often try to be something we’re not.

It’s true.

We often try to be something we’re not.

When I first became a pastor, I thought that I had to preach like Craig Groeschel or Mark Batterson. And it absolutely drove me crazy because, we’ll I can’t.

I’m different.

I often cry throughout the duration of my messages. I get wound up and I yell. And I hate to admit it, but sometimes, spit comes out of my mouth. (First row beware)

And you know what?

I’m okay with this now because I came to realize that I’m fearfully and wonderfully made.  And I pray that you realize that as well.

But what if you don’t?

What if you are struggling with being who you were created to be? What do you do then?

Here are three things I think we all need to learn:

Learn that fake tastes bad.

Even though the ketchup I had was in the “correct” bottle, it did not change the fact that it was fake. And it most certainly did not change the fact that it tasted bad.

We need to come to the realization that the real us is much better than the fake us.

Sure, we may be able to pretend to be something we’re not for a while, but that’ll leave us miserable and unfulfilled.

It’s not until we embrace who God made us to be that we can truly find fulfillment.

Learn that we don’t have to be perfect.

One of the biggest reasons we try to pretend to be something we’re not is that we’re afraid someone will realize we’re not perfect.

And that’s a scary thought.

I mean, what if they don’t like us, the real us? What if they think we’re not good enough? What if they think we’re a joke?

The fear of those what if’s drive us to cover up the real us and pretend to be something we’re not.

I promise you that everyone else has just as many imperfections and flaws as we do and the sooner we realize that we don’t have to be perfect, the better off we’ll be.

Learn that our perceived flaws make us beautiful.

My wife and I love antiques and we love to re-purpose furniture. One of my favorite things about the pieces we purchase or re-purpose is that they have flaws, scratches, dents, and imperfections.

And honestly, I think that’s what makes them beautiful.

Our flaws and imperfections are opportunities for God to display His grace and mercy.

They are not something to hide or be ashamed of.

They are something to be embraced.

Let’s stop the pretending.

Let’s stop trying to be something we’re not.

Let’s stop trying to be perfect.

Let’s stop trying to hide our imperfections.

And let’s start simply being the person that God created us to be.

How To Overcome Our Identity Crisis

Who Am I?If you were to open up your Facebook feed right now, I can just about guarantee you will find several posts in which someone has taken an online quiz that tells them who they are.

Seriously.

There’s a lot of people taking quizzes.

And I’m just as guilty as anyone in regards to this.

Over the last few months I’ve learned a lot about myself:

My arch nemesis is Taylor Swift.

Out of all the Batmen, I’m most similar to Lego Batman.

Out of all the comic book heroes I’m most similar to Wolverine. (I’m guessing, it’s the beard?)

Oh, and I’m Duke from G.I. Joe.

Now, as silly and fun as these quizzes can be, I believe they indicate something within us.

Many are having an identity crisis.

Many of us are so desperately trying to figure out who we are, that we fail to realize who we really are.

I know I’ve personally wrestled with this.

In high school and one year of college I played baseball, and so I was a baseball player. That’s who I thought I was. That’s how I identified myself.

And then, I got hurt moved back home, married my wife, started working, and went to college.

I was no longer a baseball player. In fact, I didn’t know who I was, but that didn’t stop me from trying to figure it out, which ultimately lead to my awkward John Travolta Urban Cowboy Stage.

It’s okay to laugh.

It wasn’t pretty.

But it’s all okay now. For the most part, I’m a pretty normal guy. And I no longer dress like John Travolta, which my wife appreciates.

I learned who I was.

So how do we do that? How do we learn about who we are?

Stop listening to the voices around us.

For many, feelings of inadequacy and not understanding who we are come from how we listen to all the voices around us.

We may have had a teacher tell us we weren’t smart enough. We may have had a parent tell us that they didn’t love us. We may have had a coach tell us we weren’t good enough. We may have, well, you get the idea.

We have a lot of people and things trying to tell us who we are.

After a while, or even a lifetime, of hearing these things, we start to believe them or we become so confused that we don’t know what to believe. So we start looking for words for our identity in all sorts of places.

This has to stop.

Start listening to what God says about us.

Do we want to discover who we are? Then we need to start listening to what God says about us.

He says:

The list could go on and on.

You see, when we start listening to and believing the things God says about us, things begin to change.

No longer will our identities be tied to what others say or think about us. No longer will our identities be tied to what we do. No longer will our identities be tied to how we dress. No longer will our identities be tied to the quizzes we take.

Instead, our identities will be tied to who we are in Jesus. And let me be honest, that’s pretty remarkable.

Note: This is the premise of an upcoming eBook I’ll be releasing in the near future. If you’d like to keep up to date with when it’s released and other articles I write, you can do so by entering your email address here.

Don’t Fear The Shift

Johnathan Pearson Next Up Book

From Michael: Below is a guest post from Jonathan Pearson. Jonathan has a new book out, Next Up: 8 Shifts Great Young Leaders Make and it’s excellent.

My least favorite times of the year are the few weeks that always happen between seasons.

Undoubtedly, there are always a few weeks between summer and fall and between winter and spring that make the weather confusing. When we wake up, we’re not sure what to wear for those few weeks because the seasons are still under transition.

We should always be in transition.

As people and especially as leaders, we should always be like those few weeks between seasons, in transition.

We should always be changing and shifting the way we interact with others, the way we think, and the way we lead. The reason many leaders fail to get to where they could be is because transition is usually uncomfortable and kind of awkward.

Changing and growing as people and as leaders means tension and bending of what we’re currently doing. In order to be all that God wants us to be, we have to make shifts in our attitudes and actions.

Those of us that are young have certain ideas and attitudes that we have to overcome in order to lead our peers and the people around us. We have to constantly be making shifts in order to take places of greater influence.

We have to constantly learn, grow, and change.

Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself.

Don’t be afraid to accept a new project even though you don’t know all of the details. Don’t be afraid to act on that idea you’ve been kicking around. Don’t be afraid to start a new hobby you know nothing about. Don’t be afraid to make a decision to begin a new habit. Don’t be timid about forming new relationships.

Don’t fear being in over your head. You’re growing and changing. The transition is a good thing.

Go ahead, start shifting. Keep growing.

Read more about topics like this in Jonathan’s book Next Up: 8 Shifts Great Young Leaders Makes. To find out more about the book, go to nextupbook.com To find out more about Jonathan go to JonP.me.

Second Hand Stories

Photo by Laurent Diebold
Photo by
Laurent Diebold

We are a culture that loves stories.

We love watching stories. We love reading stories. We love listening to other people’s stories.

And this is a good thing.

I mean, stories are important.

Stories add value to our lives. Stories let us know that we are not alone in our heartaches, struggles, and victories.

Even the Bible notes speaks about the importance of our stories:

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Revelation 12:11

But here’s the problem:

Too many of us live off of second-hand stories.

It’s true.

Too often we live off of second-hand stories.

We hear how God has blessed someone or how God has brought someone through a certain situation and we become encouraged. We think, “Wow! God is good! I’m going to do and do such because I know God can do the same thing in me and through me.” 

Then we do nothing and our lives stay the same, causing us to go looking for another story to devour.

It’s a vicious emotional cycle that has some highs, but the highs will soon wear off and we’ll start feeling low again.

Other people’s stories should motivate step away from our computers, cell phones, books, and social media and start living.

I mean actually living.

Your story is important.

I believe that God has something beautiful and unique for each and every one of us.

We were each created to write a great story. And by “great story” I mean we each should be writing our own first edition, not someone else’s reprint because are each fearfully and wonderfully made.

So let’s do something.

Let’s do something unexpected. Let’s do something amazing. Let’s do something different.

Let’s do what God is calling us to do.

Because honestly, the world needs us to.

Then share it because others will benefit from it.

Others will benefit from your failures.

Others will benefit from your successes.

Others will benefit from seeing and hearing how God is working in you and through you.

And then, maybe then, they’ll be encouraged to do the same, to live a life full of Him.

The Lack Of Prayer In School Isn’t The Problem

Photo by Cindy Cornett Seigle
Photo by
Cindy Cornett Seigle

It seems the words, “We need more prayer in school.” are all around us.

I see them in the news. I hear it on the radio. I about it in people’s Facebook Statuses and Tweets.

It’s a major public debate.

And while I agree that the lack of prayer in schools is a problem, I don’t think that’s THE PROBLEM.

The REAL PROBLEM is the lack of prayer in our lives.

Occasionally, when I was growing up, my dad would offer to take us to the mall. And when he did, we would drop everything because we knew that dad was going to allow us to get  whatever we wanted within reason.

And if you didn’t go, you would miss out and had no right to complain about not getting anything. That’s just the way it was.

I believe the same thing is true with prayer in school. If it’s not a priority in our lives, then we really don’t have any right to complain.

We simply need prayer to become a priority in our lives:

Prayer needs to be a priority at home.

It does.

We need more than “Dear God, bless this meal. Amen.” or “Dear God, thank you for this day. Amen”

We need to spend significant time praying with our spouses for God’s will in our lives, for our children, for our family, for our friends, for our neighbors, and for our churches.

We also need to spend significant time praying with our children. I mean, if our children do not know that prayer is a priority in our lives, how will it ever be a priority in theirs?

Prayer must be a priority at home.

Prayer needs to be a priority in our churches.

“Sunday morning shows how popular the church is; Sunday night shows how popular the preacher is; Wednesday prayer meeting shows how popular God is.” Leonard Ravenhill

I’m a pastor and I’ll be very honest; prayer service is the least attended and least popular service we have. And it’s been that way at nearly every church I’ve ever attended.

Schedule a pot-luck and people will come out of the woodwork to show up; schedule a prayer meeting and people are too busy or have too much going on.

We need, no, we must spend time together, calling on God to move in our lives, our churches, and our cities. And then believe that He is faithful and that He will move because He has demonstrated this time and time again in His Word.

There’s too much at stake not to make prayer a priority.

It’s true.

There’s simply too much at stake.

We can spend our time arguing and debating about the lack of prayer in schools or we can make prayer a priority in our lives and trust God to change things.

You see, right now, in our families there are hurting and broken people, in our churches there are hurting and broken people, and in our cities there are hurting and broken people.

All of which we can pray for right now, both at home and at church.

And maybe, just maybe, if prayer becomes a priority in our lives, it’ll start to spill out into our communities and even our schools.

I’m believing that’ll be the case because when God’s people pray, things happen.

So, let’s fix the problem.

Let’s make prayer a priority in our lives.