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.

The Power of Encouragement

Photo by maxcosworth
Photo by
maxcosworth

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my office on a Sunday morning, preparing for the message I was going to preach when I received a message that said, “I believe in you.”

Tears immediately began to fall from my eyes.

Why?

That morning, I was in a battle.

I was battling fear and discouragement.

Now, before you start worrying if I’m okay or not, let me say that I’m perfectly okay. Nothing is wrong. I was just going through a time of discouragement.

We’re not impervious to discouragement.

Discouragement will come to each and every one of us at some time or another.

And that’s why it’s so important for us to encourage others. You see, the message I received, it changed everything. I knew things were going to be okay.

When we encourage others it:

Lets others know they are not alone.

Every Sunday morning I scan the crowd in search of one person: my wife. I like to know where she is because she is my number one encourager.

She is always nodding her head in agreement with what I say and she occasionally get’s excited and will say, “Amen.”

Simply knowing that she’s there is an encouragement because I know that I’m not alone. I know that no matter what happens, she’s there with me.

Letting people know they are not alone makes all the difference in the world.

Why?

Because our presence matters.

Helps others to take the next step.

We love taking Ethan, our son, to the pool.

He loves taking a run and jumping in. He’s pretty much fearless.

But He wasn’t always this way. (He has a lot of his dad in him.)

The first few times we took him he refused to jump in. He was just too afraid. It wasn’t until my wife suggested that we hold his hand and jump in with him.

Ethan took us up on the offer and jumped in. And now, well, he jumps in all the time without any help at all.

Sometimes faith and fear collide, and when they do, we need someone to hold our hand, someone to help to encourage us to take the next step.

So what are we waiting for?

Tell someone you believe in them. Tell someone they are needed. Tell someone they are doing a good job. Tell someone you are with them.

Why?

Because the encouragement that you give them may be the very thing that they desperately need to know and hear.

So go ahead.

Encourage someone today.

Dripping Jesus

Drip Jesus

Drip Jesus.

That’s the title of this site and it’s the motto that I try to live my life by.

No, wait.

It’s more than a title or a motto to me.

It’s a calling to live up to.

But what does it mean?

It means what it says.

Drip Jesus.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23

I believe that we should be so filled with the love of Jesus, so filled with the grace of Jesus, so filled with the mercy of Jesus, so filled with, well, Jesus, that we literally Drip Jesus everywhere we go.

I believe that if we cross paths with someone, then they should leave the encounter sopping wet.

Why?

Because they’ve encountered the radical love, grace, and mercy of Jesus, Who is living within us.

And when people have been with people who are Dripping Jesus, they are changed in a way that only Jesus can change them.

Dripping Jesus is more than something we do.

Dripping Jesus is who we are.

Listen.

I can microwave hot-dogs, but that doesn’t make me a cook.

I can write a blog, but that doesn’t make me a writer.

I can drive a car, but that doesn’t make me a professional driver.

I can balance a check book, but that doesn’t make me an accountant.

And..

I can go to church, give my tithe, teach Sunday School, volunteer at a nursing home, feed the homeless, post bible verses to Facebook, go to seminary, attend conferences, read the latest books, speak Christianese, eat Chick-fil-a, listen to Christian music, or whatever else good Christians are supposed to do…

And still not Drip Jesus.

Why?

Because all that stuff can be done without Jesus.

Just because we do something in the Name of Jesus doesn’t mean we are doing it with Jesus.

I’m sorry but it’s true.

Without Jesus all of that stuff is empty and shallow. And empty and shallow does not change lives.

In fact, I believe empty and shallow does more harm than good because it leads to legalism and shallow faith.

We need to be filled.

Filled with His love.

Filled with His grace.

Filled with His mercy.

Filled with Him.

Because if we are, if we are truly filled with Jesus to the point that we are Dripping Jesus, others will desire to know Him.

And isn’t that what we want?

Our Job Isn’t To Change People It’s To Love People

Photo by autowitch
Photo by
autowitch

As a followers of Jesus our job is to love people in such a way that that they are introduced to Jesus.

For the most part, I believe, we all agree with the above statement, but that’s not necessarily how we behave.

You see, we very often try to change people and then love them.

Why?

Because it’s much easier to love those who are just like us. And that’s the problem, because Jesus doesn’t let us off the hook. He calls us to love others in such a way that it points people to Him.

So how do we do this? How do we love people in such a way they are introduced to Jesus, the One Who transforms lives?

Here are 3 ways:

Trust God.

I can remember when Ethan, our son, was learning to tie his shoes.

When he first began trying to learn, it would take him a long time to tie them. Me, being, impatient would get frustrated and would want to tie them for him, but if I had done that, he never would have learned.

When we love people to Jesus they often have messy lives.

And because we are impatient or we just don’t want to deal with whatever it is they are going through, we try to hurry them along through the process of growth and transformation instead of simply loving them and trusting God to do what He does.

If God created everything, He can be trusted to transform lives.

Remember where we came from.

I think that most of remember where we were and what we were doing when Jesus came into our lives and changed us forever.

I know I do.

I remember sitting in the back of a sanctuary watching a worship team practice when I heard His voice calling me. I remember running, literally running, to the altar to cry and to pray. And I remember the peace and the call He gave me that day.

And I’m sure you remember when He did something similar for you as well.

But what we tend to forget is how long it took us to get there. We tend to forget that, though our lives may have changed in an moment, it took years to get to that moment.

In fact, it took me 25 years to get to that instant. 25 years of anger, bitterness, self-loathing, and of trying to figure things out before I finally surrendered to Him.

Remembering where we came from enables us to love people through the process of transformation.

Stay near Jesus.

Let’s be honest, it’s hard enough to like some people, let alone love them.

And that’s why we need to stay near the heart of Jesus.

Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. John 13:23

It’s impossible to love people if we don’t stay near Jesus.

If we stay near Jesus, if we continually press into the heart of Jesus, we’ll be filled with the love of Jesus.

If we’re not filled with the love of Jesus, we’ll be full of ourselves. And if we’re full of ourselves, well, that creates a recipe for out of control legalism that desires to change people instead of loving people.

Let’s love people to Jesus.

Seriously.

Let’s love people fiercely. Let’s love people with reckless abandon. Let’s love people in a way that honors Jesus. Let’s love people to Jesus.

Why?

Because our job is to love people, not change people.