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.

My last sermon as a pastor at Grace Church was from John 5:16-30. It is a rich passage in which Jesus argues for his authority to heal and judge, and I was only able to scratch the surface of it in the thirty minutes I had to preach. There was so much that I wanted to get into but couldn’t, including how Jesus referred to his resurrection, the closeness of Father and Son, and just exactly what he meant when he spoke of “life.”

Sermon-Quote-Autonomy-1Instead, I talked about why the Jewish leaders were persecuting him and how tightly they held to Sabbath-keeping. There was almost nothing that a Jew could have done in those days that would have been more offensive, more disgraceful, to both his heritage and his people than to break the Sabbath. And this is precisely what Jesus had done when he healed a man who had been crippled for 38 years, and then told him to carry his mat home with him on the Sabbath. Because of his blasphemy and sacrilegious disobedience of the Sabbath laws, Jesus was labeled a dangerous heretic.

The Sabbath had become the dominant means by which faithful Jews identified themselves. It was a primary cultural identity marker, so deeply ingrained in their way of life and thinking that it could never be called into question. We have something like that here in America: Freedom. Freedom is the American Way. Freedom is the American Truth. Freedom is the American Life. But, by making freedom a cultural idol, we have distorted and perverted it.

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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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Entitlement is a silent killer. It creeps in through your mind, nestles down in your heart, and slowly eats you alive from the inside. Entitlement is a virus of the soul. It puts you at odds with God. It stridently shouts at heaven, “What you have given me is insufficient. I must have more!” Entitlement prays blasphemously, “Give me today my daily bread all that You owe me.”

Entitlement takes many forms, but it is always destructive. Shopping entitlement will impoverish you. Food entitlement will wreck your health. Emotional entitlement will ruin your relationships. Spiritual entitlement will shipwreck your faith.


We don’t recognize our entitlements for the soul-assassins that they are because we have bought into their lie.
My first year of seminary was a difficult time for me, emotionally. I had just left a thriving young adult ministry and a wide circle of friends in Ohio to enroll at a well-respected evangelical seminary in Boston. Moving from the Midwest to New England gave me a serious dose of culture shock. Everything is so much different on the East Coast. As the darkness of winter dominated my days, I sank deeper and deeper into depression. (I hesitate to use that word because I don’t know if I was clinically depressed, but I don’t know what else to call it.) By way of medicating myself, I began to collect DVDs – as in, I would go to the store and buy five or ten DVDs at a time. Shopping became a form of emotional medication, and my DVD collection quickly turned into a source of pride and a sense of entitlement. “I deserve to buy these DVDs,” I told myself. But I was wasting money and feeding a monster by giving into my entitlement. The more you feed your entitlement, the harder it becomes to kill it.

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