True Leadership


            The 2016 Presidential election was one of the most divisive contests in history. Millions of Americans considered both major party candidates to be flawed and unpopular, albeit for different reasons. However, in times like this, I choose to step back and remind myself of the ultimate leader: Jesus Christ.

One of the most astonishing examples of Jesus’ servant-leadership is found in John 13:1-17. That story reveals at least two things.

First off, Jesus perceived his position. Three times (13:1,3,11) it says, “Jesus knew.” This word means “to be aware of, to consider, to perceive.” What we learn here is that Jesus is highly self-aware, highly self-conscious. What does he perceive, what does he know? First, Jesus knew “The hour” (v.1). Jesus public ministry of preaching, teaching and healing had come to an end. His final hours would be spent with his disciples, preparing them for his death, giving them his final instructions before he goes to the cross. There’s no small talk about the weather or fantasy football. Jesus has a sense of urgency.

Have you ever been with a loved one on his/her deathbed? You don’t shoot the breeze. You dig deep and say what needs to be said. You tell your loved one how much they mean to you. If there are any unresolved issues, you clear the air. And if you don’t know their spiritual condition, you ask if they are right with God, if they’re ready to meet him face to face. There’s an urgency because you are painfully aware that time is fleeting.

Likewise, Jesus knew he would be leaving soon, he would be dying on the cross and so acted with urgency.

Jesus also knew his power (v.3). Jesus was not a victim of circumstances out of his control. Jesus was choosing to die on the cross. The Bible indicates that from all eternity, the Holy Trinity had planned to send Jesus the Son to rescue, heal and restore our world from the effects of sin.

Not only that, but according to Matthew 8, Jesus is powerful: he reigns over sickness, demons and nature. And in John 11, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, proving he’s the resurrection and the life, meaning he reigns over death. Because Jesus knew his power, he could lay it down.

Additionally, Jesus knew his identity (13:1,13). Jesus is God’s son, and he’s returning home soon. Verses 13-14 say he’s also Teacher and Lord. No one is wiser or more powerful. Simply put: Jesus perceived his position. He knew the hour, his power and his identity.

That’s Jesus. But let me ask you this: who is Jesus to you? Is he just a spiritual or religious teacher? Is he your Lord, your ruler, the one who will judge the living and the dead? Is he your Savior, the one who died on the cross for your sins?

Alright, let’s focus on the second action of Jesus: he loved his disciples by serving them. Normally there was a servant available to wash a guest’s feet. But there were no servants around because of the clandestine nature of this meeting. Jesus took his disciples to a secure location to observe the Passover meal. He intentionally waited until the meal was in progress, then he took off his outer robes and washed their feet. This act was normally reserved for the lowest of servants. In those days people wore sandals and so their feet were covered in dust, sweat, and in some cases, even residual animal dung.

Amazingly, Luke 22 tells us that when the disciples entered the room, they were quarreling over which of them would be the greatest in heaven. They were arguing over the pecking order! If that were not enough, Jesus washed the feet of Judas and Peter, both of whom would reject him in a just a few hours.

Yet Jesus, lovingly, tenderly, without rushing, washed the feet of his twelve disciples. Then Jesus declared “you should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example that you should follow.” Scholar Leon Morris explains: “It is a parable in action, setting out that great principle of lowly service which brings cleansing and which finds its supreme embodiment in the cross.”

During his finals hours on earth, Jesus showed tremendous humility by doing the most menial of tasks with gentleness, love, and joy. And he states, unequivocally, “If you are my followers, you must do the same.” In 13:16 Jesus explains part of our identity as his followers: “no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” In the original language, the word for messenger is “apostle” meaning “sent one.” If you are a Christian, you are a servant of Christ and an apostle, a sent one. You are sent by Jesus to serve others in love, doing the most humble of tasks: shining shoes, taking out the trash, changing diapers, etc. There is no task beneath any Christian, young or old, black or white, rich or poor, male or female, pastors or parishioners. If Jesus went to the cross, we can serve others, even those who reject us and betray us.

Bottom line, Jesus perceived his position and pursued service. Likewise, as Christians, regardless of who is President, we must remind ourselves we are called to perceive our position (as servants and apostles), and to pursue service: at home and at work, with people we care about and people who reject us.

What motivates us to do this? The cross: Jesus humbled himself to death on a cross, the most shameful and humiliating way to die in the ancient world. If Jesus loved us that much, how can we do any less?



The Way Forward

It’s painful to admit, but we are a divided nation: Democrats vs. Republicans, white vs. black, citizens vs. immigrants, educated vs. less-educated, men vs. women, rich vs. poor, etc. The problem (as I see it) is we tend to define ourselves and others through division or difference. Many people tend to think, “I am not like_____________.”

Unfortunately, our divisions emerge early in life. I will never forget the searing pain of having a child mock my poverty when I was in second grade. I had just moved from Vermont to a small town in Maine. My poor single mom worked hard to put food on the table for her three children. At Christmas time, we didn’t have enough money to buy new gifts to exchange at our school Christmas party. So I cleaned and wrapped a used matchbox car we recently bought at a yard sale, and spent hours making a Santa’s sleigh out of candy canes, colored paper, tape, glue and glitter. When my classmate opened the gifts the day before Christmas vacation, he was not impressed: “Is this car used? What did you make? Is this a Santa Sleigh?” My face burned with embarrassment and shame. I wondered, “Did having less (money, possessions, etc.) make a person less?”

But it’s not just in America. Christian author and social activist Christine Caine describes the shame she experienced her first day of kindergarten at her Sydney school. Christine, who is an Aussie of Greek heritage, opened her lunch box and removed her olive-and-feta cheese sandwich. Suddenly a boy named Wayne shouted “Phew! What’s that awful smell? What’s that stinky stuff you’re eating?” He then called Christine a “wog” (a racial slur) and mocked her mercilessly. Sadly, no one stood up for her. The incident scarred Christine and her school experience for years to come.

As a pastor, I often wonder: are there constructive ways to bridge these divides? As I study the Bible I am convinced the key way to heal our divides is to unite around the hope we have in something that transcends us. Speaking from the perspective of a Christian minister, I believe that hope is found in the Triune God and his work in the cross of Calvary. Moreover I believe remembering together, praying together, singing together and sharing stories of faith build bridges of reconciliation. It’s seeking to create what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the beloved community.”

I am aware of at least two upcoming events in our community that seek to foster hope, reconciliation and unity. On September 11, from 4-7pm, fourteen churches (both local and regional) will be hosting the third annual New England Festival of Hope at Easton’s Beach in Newport. The purpose of the Festival is to bring people together for a time of new or renewed faith, encouragement and community. There will be inspirational speakers, live music, delicious food and fun children’s activities. Admission is free and everyone is welcome, so this is a great event for the family.

I am particularly excited about the speaking line-up, which includes Red Sox great Dwight Evans and his wife Susan; X-Games gold medalist Kevin Robinson (K-Rob), who is back again to do another BMX demonstration; and New England Revolution soccer star Teal Bunbury. This slate includes young and old, male and female, black and white bearing testimony to the power of faith to unite people. Lastly, for this year’s event, since it’s the 15th anniversary of 9/11, we will do a special tribute for first responders and families affected by 9/11. For more information go to

My good friend Pastor Steven Robinson of Crosspoint Church is hosting the third annual New England Prayerfest at the Providence Performing Arts Center on September 16-17, Friday-Saturday. The purpose of Prayerfest is to: “bring churches, pastors, and intercessors together to pray for the problems and sins of our community by asking God to forgive us and heal our land.” This event will be multidenominational and diverse, including both young and old, black and white, rich and poor. For more info go to

Will these two events eliminate all our divides? Of course not. But they are a positive and constructive way of uniting around a common faith that builds bridges of understanding and reconciliation. Wouldn’t you agree, we need more of that in our world?

Your will be done

At our church we’re studying Jesus’ model prayer known as the “Lord’s prayer” (Matthew 6:9—13). Perhaps the most challenging phrase in this prayer is “your will be done.”

Here’s the problem: it seems God’s will is simultaneously clear and unclear to Christians. We know part of God’s will through the Bible. The Ten Commandments are clear: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, Do not steal, etc.

But then we realize God’s will is also unclear. God is God and we are not: He is all-present, all-knowing and all-powerful and we are not. Isaiah 55:9 says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

God’s will and God’s ways are higher than our understanding. Meaning God’s will is also incomprehensible. I am talking about those bewildering moments in life when we ask God “Why did I get cancer?” “Why did my loved one die?” “Why did this horrible thing happen”?

A few years ago, a couple in our church took a painful journey through God’s sometimes incomprehensible will. Their names are Jeff and Erin Richer (they gave me permission to share their story. For more info go to: Erin was surprised when she found out she was pregnant with their fourth child. Thirteen weeks into their pregnancy they discovered their daughter, named Lydia, had a large sack of fluid attached to her brain. The doctors termed her “incompatible with life” meaning she would be born in a vegetative state. Later on she was diagnosed with Turner’s Syndrome, a rare chromosomal condition that stunts the development of female children. Some born with this condition are disabled but can survive. Yet many others many die in utero or shortly after birth. One doctor advised Jeff and Erin to terminate the pregnancy but after prayer they decided to proceed and leave it in God’s hands. They committed themselves to spending their lives caring for Lydia, whatever her condition. Sadly, she died in utero at twenty-four weeks. I visited them in the hospital before Erin delivered her deceased daughter. They felt pain and anguish but also expressed grace, strength and peace. I was so proud of them and I am still inspired by their example. They believe they will one day meet their daughter in heaven. But honestly, many people looked at their struggle, and asked “Why God?” and “How can this be your will?”

And that’s exactly why we need prayer. Prayer keeps us close to God’s heart and reminds us of his love and goodness. Prayer gives us the strength to press on through our hurt and confusion. I believe the pain of life will make people (even Christians) bitter and jaded unless they learn to pray “your will be done.” It’s a prayer of humility and surrender, but ultimately, it’s a prayer of alignment. Simply put, Jesus taught us to pray to align our will with our Heavenly Father’s will. To pray “your will be done” is praying that our desires and plans will align with God’s desires and plans even if—especially if—we don’t understand his will.

It seems to me we can only pray for alignment if we believe God is our loving Heavenly Father. Author Tim Keller puts it this way: “Unless we are profoundly certain God is our Father, we will never be able to say ‘thy will be done.’ Fathers are often inscrutable to little children. A four-year-old cannot understand many of his father’s prohibitions—but he trusts him. Only if we trust God as Father can we ask for grace to bear our troubles with patience and grace. Well, someone asks, how can we be sure God is trustworthy? The answer is that this is the one part of the Lord’s prayer Jesus himself prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, under circumstances far more crushing than any of us will ever face. He submitted to his Father’s will rather than following his own desires, and it saved us. That’s why we can trust him. Jesus is not asking us to do anything for him that he hasn’t already done for us, under conditions of difficulty beyond our comprehension.”

Because Jesus prayed “your will be done,” we too can pray “your will be done.” Because Jesus aligned his will with his Father’s will and died on the cross for our sins, we too can align our will with our Father’s will in prayer.

Fallen People, Faithful God

Imagine the first time you fly a plane, your life’s in mortal danger. That’s exactly what happened to 81-year-old Robert Kupferschmid. The Desert News (Utah) reported that on June 17, 1998, Robert and his 52-year-old pilot friend Wesley Sickle were flying a Cessna 172 from Indianapolis to Muncie, Indiana. Tragically, midflight, Wesley had a heart attack and died. Robert, who had never flown a plane before, grabbed the controls and pulled the plane out of a nosedive. Then he got on the radio and cried “mayday” frantically begging for help. Two pilots nearby heard his distress call and directed Robert towards the closest airport in Mount Comfort. Thankfully, they gave Robert step-by-step instructions on climbing, steering, and landing the plane. They even flew ahead and circled the runway to show Robert where to land. As a precaution, they requested emergency vehicles to prepare for a crash landing. However, Robert landed with minimal damage to the plane and no injury to himself.

How did this miracle happen? Robert carefully listened to and meticulously obeyed the instructions given to him because he knew his life depended on it.

Let’s apply this illustration to our relationship with God and his word: how many life-crashes would you and I avoid if we carefully listened to and meticulously obeyed our God? Yet sadly many of us rarely feel the urgency needed to do that and avoid a major crash.

As it turns out, God’s people have a history of apathy and disobedience, as vividly displayed in the Old Testament book of Judges. A little background info provides some clarity: according to Deuteronomy 9—10, Israel’s calling was to be a holy people and a light and example to the nations surrounding them. Part of that calling meant God would use them to punish the wicked people in Canaan, to sweep the evil from the land. For example, the Canaanites practiced child sacrifice in an attempt to appease their gods.

Now lest their chests puff out, God repeatedly reminded his people that he chose them out of his grace, his unmerited favor and not because of their righteous or moral superiority.

Consequently, because of the importance of their call, because God chose them and loved them, many times God asked his people to commit and recommit their lives to him. For example, after Moses died, Joshua led the people into the Holy Land. Then, at the end of his life, right before we get to the book of Judges, Joshua challenged the people to reaffirm their loyalty to God. The people answered, “we will serve the Lord our God and obey him” (Joshua 24:24).

What happened next? Well Judges 1—2 demonstrates that God’s people were disobedient: they reneged on their calling and commitment, which led into a death spiral. Scholars have noted this death spiral has four parts. It started with DISOBEDIENCE: they served other gods. Second, DISASTER: Because of their disobedience, God allowed other nations to enslave and oppress the Israelites. Third, REPENTANCE: The people cried out to God. Last, RESCUE: God raised up a judge (a military or tribal leader) to rescue his people from their oppressors. So the death spiral was disobedience-disaster-repentance-rescue.

Yet what shines through all the ugliness is God’s faithfulness. Professor Douglas Stuart states that Judges highlights “God’s constant rescue of his people, despite their habitual failure to keep covenant with him.” Author Tim Keller asserts “God relentlessly offers his grace to people who do not deserve it, or seek it, or even appreciate it after they have been saved by it.”

What does this mean for you and me? First, we can praise God for his grace and faithfulness. God loves us even when—especially when—we are unlovable. Second, God’s kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Upon confessing our apathy and disobedience, God cleanses, heals and restores us. So take heart! Although we are a fallen people, we have a faithful God!



Our Great Mission

During February school break, the Hoffman family traveled to Washington, D.C. There were many highlights including visiting the top of the Washington Monument and touring the White House. But one of the coolest moments was seeing the space shuttle Discovery, housed at the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport, as part of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The first thing you notice is how ginormous the shuttle is. The second thing you notice is what some people have described as the “burnt-metal or ozone smell.” It’s an impressive experience for sure.

Yet what’s most amazing to me is that the shuttle finished its final mission. The Discovery was the third space shuttle that NASA built. The first space shuttle the Columbia, disintegrated during re-entry on its 28th mission. Tragically, all seven of the crew died. The second space shuttle the Challenger, broke apart seventy-three seconds into its 10th mission killing seven crewmembers. However, the Discovery completed thirty-nine missions and retired in March 2011. Its most famous mission was carrying the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit.

The Discovery space shuttle reminded me that followers of Jesus have a mission. It’s found in Matthew 28:19—20 and has become known as “The Great Commission.” After Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to his disciples and commanded them to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Why did Jesus send his disciples on mission? Because God is on mission. John 20:19—23 tells us God the Father sent his son Jesus who sent the Holy Spirit. The mission is to redeem, renew, reconcile our world. Romans 8:20—22 tells us creation is groaning like in the pains of childbirth, waiting to be liberated, to be clothed in God’s freedom and glory. Tragically, God’s initial creation, including human beings, was marred by sin. Sin hasn’t destroyed us, but sin makes the world and human beings bent, twisted, warped,

Ever since sin entered the world, God has been on mission to renew and restore creation: the world and the human beings inside it. 2 Corinthians 5 says God is reconciling the world to himself in Christ: through Jesus God is healing and reconnecting creation to himself.

Now every Christian is on mission because in Matt. 28 the resurrected Jesus said, “make disciples.” Followers of Jesus are to spread the good news of his love so others have the opportunity to follow him and join his restoration project.

This means every Christian is engaged in three activities: going, baptizing and teaching. We go to all the nations: people groups, tribes, languages and dialects. We go everywhere because God loves everyone!

Additionally, we baptize and teach in God’s Triune name: urging people to believe in the gospel and study and obey the words of Jesus.

Best of all, our mission is tied to the wonderful message of Easter (coming soon on April 5): Jesus’ resurrection from the dead changes everything. Through his resurrection, Jesus defeated the powers of death, sin and Satan. It was the exclamation point on the declaration that his new Kingdom had broken into this world and would one day be consummated upon his final return (the second coming).

Thus while Easter brings us great joy, it also reminds us of our mission, the “Great Commission.” The resurrection is to be enjoyed AND shared for Christ is renewing our world with a promise to finally complete this perfecting work upon his return.

Charles Wesley said it well in his famous Easter hymn “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”: Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia! Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia! Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia! Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!


One of life’s great challenges is wondering if you’ve made a lasting impact. Some call it the Domino effect. You may wonder: How many dominos have I knocked over? Yet then you realize chances are, I may not see all the dominos fall in my lifetime. I won’t see the full impact I’ve made.

Richard Stearns, President of World Vision, gives a compelling illustration. Around 1855 Edward Kimball taught Sunday School at a church in Boston. One day a teenager from western Massachusetts came to class. His name was Dwight and he was a roughneck given to outbursts of anger and profanity. Edward committed to teaching Dwight about the love of God. One Saturday, Edward visited the shoe shop where Dwight worked, and led him into a relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. From that point on, Dwight L. Moody’s life started to change dramatically. Eventually Moody became the most successful evangelist of the 19th century, preaching the gospel to over 100 million people worldwide.

Perhaps more importantly, Dwight shared the gospel with a young man named F.B. Meyer, who later became a minister. F.B. Meyer shared the gospel with a man named J.W. Chapman who became a pastor and evangelist. Meyer started a ministry to profession baseball players and influenced a man named Billy Sunday who became the greatest evangelist of the first two decades of the 1900’s. Sunday shared the gospel with a man named Mordecai Ham who became an evangelist. In 1934 Mordecai Ham led a revival in Charlotte, North Carolina and a teenager named Billy Graham came forward to put his faith in Jesus Christ.

Ponder all those dominos: because Edward Kimball shared God’s love with one teenager, he started a chain reaction that led to Billy Graham becoming a Christian. Since then, by some estimates, Graham has preached the gospel to 2.2 billion people worldwide. Edward Kimball never saw the dominos fall, but they did.

Years earlier another man started a chain of dominos he would never see fall. His name was Zerubbabel. He was the governor of the province of Judah who supervised the rebuilding of God’s temple in Jerusalem around 520BC. God sent the prophet Haggai to encourage Zerubbabel to press forward with the project regardless of the obstacles he would face. In Haggai 2:23 God tells Zerubbabel “I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you.”

This is a powerful affirmation. In effect, God was telling Zerubbabel, “I honor and value you; I am giving you my authority and my blessing.”

Why was God so pleased with him? For one reason, by overseeing the rebuilding of the Temple, Zerubbabel reversed a family curse. Old Testament scholar David Pennant states, “This seems to be a reversal of the judgment on Jehoiachin, king at the time of exile (Jer. 22:24). Jehoiachin had been rejected; his descendant [his grandson Zerubbabel] is now affirmed.” Zerubbabel’s obedience restored honor to his disgraced family. The temple was destroyed under Jehoiachin’s watch; now it was being rebuilt under the watch of his grandson Zerubbabel.

Furthermore, Zerubbabel’s actions altered the course of history. Bible scholar Robert Alden says, “Zerubbabel represents the resumption of the messianic line interrupted by the Exile.” He brought the line of King David back to the throne in Jerusalem. This is so important that Zerubbabel is listed in the genealogy of King David and Jesus Christ in Matthew 1:12—13 and Luke 3:27.

Think about it: Because Zerubbabel helped rebuild the temple, King David’s lineage and throne were reestablished. Generations later Jesus Christ came, died, rose from the dead and the Christian church was born. It’s amazing: because Zerubbabel’s priorities were right, because he had an obedient heart, he’s impacted millions of people. Of course, Zerubbabel didn’t live to see all the dominos fall.

Don’t doubt that your faith and actions today will impact generations to come for God’s glory. You may not see all the dominos fall, but they will!



Stoked for EFC’s Men’s ministry in 2015

Loving on and Vibing on this…

The Root’s (EFC’s Men’s Ministry) Vision for 2015

The CPR – Context, Purpose, RESULTS!
• The Context of Every Meeting and of ROOTS –
Anything is possible with Christ.
• The Purpose of ROOTS:
To empower men with a Jesus-inspired vision of what their lives could, and should be through fellowship with strong Men of Faith.

The Results of ROOTS:
1 That we build a strong community of Jesus followers.
2 That we become more Christ-like in our actions.
3 That we hold each other accountable to a high standard of in all facets of life.
4 That Newport flourish when there are strong men leading their families.
5 That marriages are strengthened.
6 There’s a network of support to go on the difficult path of following Jesus.
7 That there be REAL tangible community impact – the men are available for special projects like moving widows / construction projects.
8 That our families feel more secure in a tightly bonded community.
9 Together, we can get it done.
10 That our women are fired up about a life with Jesus.
11 That we have FUN.
12 That we get to be OUTSIDE a lot in God’s creation.
13 That we get to know new men and strengthen relationships with existing men.
14 That we exercise the body AND the mind.
15 That we push each other to live out Jesus inspired visions for what our life can be.
16 That men outside our circle see, hear and feel our message and are brought to Jesus.

• When: the 2nd and 4th Monday of every month of 2015 @7pm
• Where: Various locations
The kick-off meeting will be a night-hike starting at Surfer’s Corner, Second Beach, January 12, 2015.

The President: Trip Wolfskehl
The Vice-President: Justin Speegle

Consider your priorities in 2015

Congratulations, you made it to 2015! The beginning of a new year is a fantastic time to reflect on the past year and plan for the upcoming year. To put it navigational terms let’s ask ourselves: “what’s our destination? What are our coordinates?”

You see it’s all too easy for our lives to get off track. Business consultant Tim Enoch gives what I think is a compelling illustration: “I have a friend named Larry who is a retired Air Force Pilot. One day he shared with me an interesting fact about flying. He said that, for every single degree you fly off course, you will miss your target landing spot by 92 feet for every mile you fly…If you decided to start at the equator and fly around the earth, one degree off would land you almost 500 miles off target.”

Wow! One degree is the difference between aiming for New York City and landing in Bangor, Maine.

Thankfully there’s an Old Testament prophet who can guide us in considering our coordinates. Haggai served at a crucial juncture in Israel’s history. Around 538BC, Cyrus the King of Persia issued a royal mandate releasing the Jews from exile in Babylon. Consequently, 50,000 Jews returned to Jerusalem. They started to rebuild the Temple, but quit due to persistent opposition from their enemies. After eighteen years of inaction, God wanted his people to finish the important project of rebuilding his temple.

To summarize, through Haggai, God told the Jews “Your lives are a mess because your priorities are off course. You are focusing on yourselves first rather than me. So realign your priorities: start by finishing rebuilding my house, the temple. That’s your destination.”

Why was the temple so important to God? Old Testament scholar Douglas Stuart explains: “Since the central issue of Haggai is the rebuilding of the temple, you will do well to recall the significant role the temple played in the life of Israel which served as both the place of God’s special presence (marking off Israel from all other peoples) and the place of proper worship.”

So God wanted his people to prioritize his temple because the temple prioritized his presence and worship. Haggai 1:8 gives the reason: “that I may take pleasure in it and be honored.” Here’s a diagram to explain: The templeà God’s presence + worship = pleasing and honoring God.

            The Apostle Paul tells us that through faith in Jesus Christ, Christians have become God’s living and holy temple. 1 Cor. 3:16 says “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” 2 Cor. 6:16 says “we are the temple of the living God.”

            As individuals and as a community we are God’s temple. Our bodies host God’s presence through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and our bodies are to be used to serve and worship God. When we dedicate our lives and our bodies to his presence and his worship, then God is pleased and honored. Thus Haggai teaches Christians to prioritize pleasing and honoring God.

At the start of 2015, is your destination to please and honor God? Are you on course or off course? If you have dedicated your life to Jesus Christ, the good news is that you have the power to change course. The Holy Spirit living within you and me will empower us and guide us. Yet to draw on that power you and I must first humbly confess we’re off course and ask God to change our coordinates.

Think about it: 2015 has the potential to be the year we refocus our lives on pleasing and honoring our awesome God. 2015 could be the year we are more attuned to his presence and more committed to honoring him and worshipping him with all of our lives. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the right destination to me!

Thanksgiving is coming (oh my!)

Thanksgiving is coming oh so quick (Nov. 27 to be exact!). Have you panicked yet? Have you…sent your dinner invitations…dug out your Thanksgiving napkins and decorations…bought a ham or turkey…candied your yams? Or made your travel plans to visit family and started obsessing about the weather potentially disrupting those plans? Sometimes Thanksgiving feels like a list that goes on…and on…and on. When did Thanksgiving morph into an onerous collection of assorted tasks?

Thus it’s all too easy during Thanksgiving to accidentally skip doing the most important thing: to give thanks! But isn’t that the nature of the problem? We straddle one day with too much importance, don’t we? According to the Holy Scriptures “thanks giving” is a way of life. 1 Thessalonians 5:16—18 says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” One day is not enough! It’s better to thank God ALL the time in ALL circumstances.

But don’t stop there: move from thanksgiving to praise and adoration. In Letters to Malcolm, C.S. Lewis writes, “Gratitude exclaims…‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’ One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.”

We see this pattern of thanksgiving moving into praise all over the Psalms. For example Psalm 103 says “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name…The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (vss. 1, 8). Psalm 136:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.”

Well, what if you don’t feel like thanking God or praising God? Perhaps you are going through a season of pain or deprivation. Maybe your heart is heavy because God hasn’t met your expectations or answered your prayers. Author and Pastor Tim Keller reframes it this way: “God is not going to give you something that is bad for you, just like I, as a father, wouldn’t give my children something they ask for if they don’t realize it would not be safe and they would probably hurt themselves. J.I. Packer in his book on prayer (Praying: Finding our Way through Duty to Delight) actually says that ultimately there is no such thing as unanswered prayer…we might ask for something that is just not good for us, and God, being a good Father, tries to give us what we would have asked for if we knew everything he knew…” He’s suggesting we can even thank God for our struggle and our lack, because ultimately that points to God’s goodness!

So forget waiting until New Year’s to make your resolutions! This Thanksgiving burn your “to-do” list and refocus on the true meaning of Thanksgiving: resolve by God’s grace to make thanksgiving a way of life; resolve to praise God for his nature and character; and resolve to thank and praise Him even for what you don’t have!