Naming a church is an odd process. It’s both extremely important and not important at all at the same time. Does it really matter what the church is called? Yes, it does. But, seriously, does it? Well, no.

When I planted Ember Church, I had the name picked out years before we actually even started taking the planting process seriously. The name was tied to the idea, even defining it. I could not have planted a church by any other name. But Ember’s time has passed, and now God has a new church for me to have a hand in leading. And that church has a name, too.

Hope Church.*

Christianity speaks to each of the core longings of human beings: the need to be known, the need to be loved, the need to belong, the need to be forgiven, and the need to have a hope that transcends death. The hope we have as Christians is unique in this world because it is not of this world, though it is for this world. Our hope is rooted in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that hope not only rescues us from the fear of death, but gives us confidence to live each day with faith and love.

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One of the most incredible passages of Scripture, and one to which I return often, is Revelation 21. It is the story of the consummation of redemption history, of the bride of Christ descending from heaven – walking down the aisle, as it were – for her marriage to the “Lamb who was slain.” The imagery is rich and profound, bursting with anticipation of the new creation, of the world made right, and of the end of the tyrannical reign of sin and death.

In verse 6, the unseen God shouts from his glorious throne, “Behold! I am making all things new!” A proclamation. A promise. God is making all things new. The mountains and rivers will be made new. Not different mountains and rivers; the same, but renewed. Purified. Cleansed.

The same is true for us. There will not be different people; there will be the same people, but we will be renewed, purified, cleansed, redeemed, comforted. This is what awaits us in Christ. But you don’t have to wait for it to happen all at once in heaven. This is what God is up to right now. God is making a new you, and he is doing it through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit today.

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As you can see, I’m working on an overhaul of my website. There is still a lot of work to do, but I am going to go public with it anyway. There was one snafu that occurred during the update process, and that was the unintended emails that went out to website subscribers. If you got those emails, I apologize. I hate to fill up your inbox like that, and I believe that I have taken the appropriate steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

If you have any feedback or questions about the new site, please feel free to send me an email. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for visiting, and I look forward to providing many new posts in the future.

I was getting ready for Zeke’s birthday party – it was the first of his birthdays since he went home to Jesus – when my phone rang. Though I didn’t recognize the number, it was from the 614 area code and I thought a friend from Columbus might be calling to check in on our family on Zeke’s birthday. Instead, it was a man named Yogi, a pastor with the Christian & Missionary Alliance who was planting a church in the Columbus area. He had gotten my name from Pastors Dean and Troy from LifePoint Church, and he wanted to see if I had any interest in exploring the possibility of joining him on this church plant.

Though Breena and I had just bought a wonderful house in our dream neighborhood in Toledo, I said that I was always willing to explore something that God might have me do. So we talked more the next day, and then Breena and I met him and his wife, Joy, for dinner a couple of weeks later. It seemed to all of us that God might be doing something here, so we agreed to pray and stay in contact.

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I’m convinced that many people today don’t understand the difference between necessities and entitlements. Through social media, we have a tendency to hyperbolize our indulgences and desires. Just look at what people post about coffee on any given day.

But we need to be clear. A necessity is something without which your life would be greatly impoverished; an entitlement (and we could just as easily substitute the word indulgence here) is something without which your life would be slightly less pleasurable. Water is a necessity; coffee is not. (I’ve been off caffeine since Christmas and let me tell you, I have much more energy than I used to.) Clothing is a necessity; a new outfit for a “special occasion” is not. Shelter is a necessity; a house full of the latest stuff is not.

Character-webOur entitlements (or indulgences) are not necessarily bad things. Coffee isn’t evil. It’s not wrong, per se, to buy a new outfit. Owning an iPhone isn’t a sin. But what many of us have to learn (myself included) is where to draw the line between what is necessary and what is not. If that line gets blurred, we act like spoiled brats when things don’t go our way or when we don’t get everything we want. A blurry line between necessity and entitlement is a sure sign of a soul sickness that will poison (or perhaps already has poisoned) your heart toward God.

It’s impossible to be grateful (or gracious) when your soul has been poisoned by entitlement. When you believe in your heart that it is your birthright to get everything you desire, or when you feel that God, the universe, or others owe you something, then you will perceive everything you receive as due wages for your mere existence rather than as the stunning act of a gracious God seeking to bless you with his goodness. Entitlement is the enemy of gratitude.

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