Double Dividends of Gratitude

Last night I committed two cardinal sins that effected me greatly. One, I had a cup of coffee at 6:30 pm as I prepared to have a Zoom Meeting with our Board of Elders. Two, I watched CNN at 11:00 pm.

The coffee and the Elder Board meeting was a sure-fire cocktail to guarantee I would not be going to bed early or fall asleep fast. I am always energized by the Elder meetings and that gets my brain going and coffee is never a good idea for a fifty-something year old after 4:00 pm.

Then you throw in the weight of the international news so late at night and I knew that I was ready to fight to fall asleep. But I was pleasantly surprised last night.

I have recently begun to incorporate a nesting set of Tiny Habits with my bedtime routine. Let me explain. For years I have had the habit of quoting Psalm 139: 23-24 when I get into bed, after Joanne and I pray together.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

This scripture always helps settle my spirit, and I will quote it in my head as many times as I need to calm myself. Now enter the Tiny Habits. Dr. B.J. Fogg is a person that I have followed for a number of years and he has developed a simple way to create strong and lasting habits. He does this through the use of Tiny Habits.

Simply put a Tiny Habit is something you can do in 30-60 seconds and that is tied to something you already do habitually. It is a proven method to help people develop healthy and lasting habits.

So, for me, when I sit on the edge of my bed at night and set my alarm on my phone the next morning, as soon as I set my phone down, I take three deep breaths to relax my body before I lay down. Then I lay down and quote Psalm 139. So I have nested two Tiny Habits together.

Those two Tiny Habits usually do the trick to get me to relax, but over this last few weeks, with a bit of extra anxiety from all that is happening in our world, I have chosen to nest in one more Tiny Habit to this routine.

Now, immediately after I pray Psalm 139, I list two or three things I am grateful for. It has been proven that gratitude has very positive implications for our mental wellbeing. As I have gotten in the habit of doing this, I have found that usually as soon as I practice gratitude my thoughts usually turn more positive and creative, rather than negative and fearful.

If you struggle with fear or anxiety, you may wish to try something similar with Tiny Habits and especially gratitude. It can have a huge impact on our mood and our resiliency.

Do you want to get even more out of the habit of gratitude? Would you love to not only help yourself feel better, but spread that feeling to someone else? Then I encourage you to add one more habit, that may not be so tiny but have a huge impact on you and others.

Every time you acknowledge gratitude for another person, chose to reach out to that person within 24 hours to express that appreciation to them. You will be amazed at how much better you will feel, and you know how good it will make the other person feel as well.

Want to hear more and be more motivate? Then watch the following video!

This last year the world lost a great man of God and a great scholar, Dr. Dallas Willard.

As I have been focusing my life and study around the idea of the Gospel, I have been reading and listening to a lot of Dr. Willard’s work.  I thought I would share this short video as it is a very good help to us as we seek to understand better the Gospel.


In this video, Alan Hirsch speaks about the value and importance of discipleship in the local church.

The Costliness of Caring

Sometimes I find sermon preparation difficult.  The main reason that I struggle with it is that there is always 10 or 100 times the material than I will be able to present.  This last week as I worked through chapter 2 of Mark this was very much the case.  I am excited to use the blog as a way to provide extra material to augment the sermon for those who desire more information.

There was one portion of chapter 2 that I would like to have unpacked more, and that was the story of the men who brought their paralytic friend to be healed by Jesus.  I am inspired by this narrative.  In this story, we see a few vital lessons for us as we seek to show the love of Christ to those that God has put in our path of life.

The first thing we see is the compassionate concern that the friends had for their suffering friend.  We do not know much of the background, but we do know that these men wanted their friend to find healing and restoration.  They must have seen his pain throughout his life, and they wanted him to have a better and more fulfilled life.  To them this might be possible through the healing touch of the new teacher of whom they had heard.

Secondly we see their faith.  They just believe that if they can deliver their friend to the feet of the Messiah then there would be hope for him.  So in hope they put their plan of action into play.  They seek to get him to the master, but when they can not make it into the crowded room they are ready with Plan B.  If they can’t come through the door they figure they will go through the roof.  Their faith is that strong that it drives them to be creative.

Our compassion and faith can sometimes be costly, and their creativity would come with a cost.  For them to open the roof of the house where Jesus was teaching would assume that they would be willing to exert the effort or pay the cost to have the roof repaired after all was said and done.  To them the hope of healing for their friend was worth the price that they would have to pay to get their friend before the Saviour.

Are we in our lives compelled by a genuine compassionate concern for our friends, neighbours, and loved ones?  As we seek to meet the needs of those around us, as we desire to get them to the foot of the cross, are we walking in faith?  Are we  willing to pay the cost for such a cause?  It has been my personal experience from my life and the observation of the lives of many that we often hold to these values in theory, but struggle to put them into practice.

Be inspired by the story of these men.

The Power of Habit (Doubleday Canada, 2012)

This is a book that I have found very helpful in understanding and addressing bad/unproductive habits as well as habitual sin.  It is a business book and I don’t like to recommend business books often, but this one is worth the read for those who want to understand the forming and reforming of habits.

“A Helpful Message on Changing Habits With Application Toward Habitual Sin In Our Lives”
by Andy Stanley

Sorry, listening to the audio on this website requires Flash support in your browser. You can try playing the MP3 file directly by clicking here.

Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast
December 5, 2014

Over the Christmas break I had the privilege of reading a great book entitled “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg.  It is a very interesting book on habits, the forming of habits and the reforming of habits.  It is a bit scientific in the beginning (which I actually enjoyed) as it addresses the anatomy of habits, but transitions into helpful advice on how to set good habits and change bad or undesirable habits into productive habits.

It has been a long while since I have read a “business” book, but I found this one very interesting as I made the application to the curse of habitual sin in our lives.  It made me realize how ingrained some sins and unhealthy habits are in our lives.  So much so that we are often two to three steps into the sin before we even realize we are headed that way.

I will be writing more about this in the next few weeks as I have been spending much time thinking on this topic and know the struggle that we all find ourselves in with regard to sin habits.

For now though I wanted to share the podcast interview with Charles Duhigg conducted by Pastor Andy Stanley.  It is brief and just begins to touch on the topic, but I found it interesting.

In a few weeks I will have the distinct privelage to be with a handful of other NAB pastors under the teaching leadership of Jeff Vanderstelt.  I have known Jeff for many years since he was a youth pastor in Seattle.  He is an amazing leader with an amazing passion to see the Kingdom of God grow and multiply.  I know that I will be challenged with the two days that we will be with Jeff and his church family at Soma in Tacoma.  The video above is a snippet of the teaching we will be receiving.

The Power of a Gospel Journey

I am very excited to be walking through the Gospel of Mark as a community in this new year.  I, as I said during my sermon on Sunday, always enjoy walking through the Gospels.  This study of Mark will be a fun and challenging journey.  I hope to be able to use this blog as a spot for further notes and thoughts.

As we multiply disciples in our homes, we prepare our children to repeat the multiplication process outside our home

Tweet from @GCDiscipleship

Discipleship at The Kitchen Sink–The Art of Regular Hospitality

Time to wash up

I have said for a long time that “discipleship happens at the kitchen sink.”  I believe this to be true for our children and for those God has arranged to cross our path on a regular basis.  It is in the rhythm of ordinary everyday life that God brings about extraordinary changes in the lives of those we walk life with.  While we wash dishes and do yard work God provides the opportunity for us to share the fabric of our faith with others.

I learned many years ago as a young youth pastor that it was hard to sit across from a young person and get them to open up to you, but if you were active in some pursuit with them they would open up to you.  This pursuit could have been throwing a football, shooting hoops, washing dishes, setting up for an event, raking leaves for a senior or anything other of a million things we could do together.

I remember when I realized that was true with friends as well as my youth group.  It was while cleaning the kitchen with a friend that I was able to enter easily into a spiritual conversation.  In the flow of an everyday activity I was able to intertwine a discussion on this persons view about God and his involvement, or seemingly lack of  involvement,  in their present situation.  This simple conversation was a springboard for a season of heart to heart discussions that would make us both grow in our understanding of God and his place in our lives.

I know that this information may not be revolutionary to some who read this, but for others, this kind of ordinary life conversation is something yet to be experienced.  For those on either end of the spectrum I think that there is one thing that we need to master to make sure that we don’t miss out on a single opportunity to deepen the spiritual richness of our relationships, and that is the art of hospitality.

I believe that hospitality, while a natural gift for some, needs to become something that we all work towards.  I believe this is a lost art that needs to be restored to and through the Body of Christ.  I feel that Joanne and I have or at least have been able to develop the gift of hospitality.  We love to have people in our home and yet there has been a dry season of entertaining and sharing life with others in our home.  What has caused this season?  Simply being to busy.

I recently read an article by Jeff Vanderstelt an old friend from my youth ministry days.  In the article Jeff addresses the lost art of Gospel Hospitality.  He gives this very unique and interesting definition of Gospel Hospitality:

In light of the Gospel, we might define hospitality as the creation of a space that allows people to BE themselvesto BECOME renewed, and to DO the works God has saved them for. When we properly exercise hospitality, we welcome people to be themselves in the warmth of the light of Christ, to become renewed by being changed by the work of Christ, and to do works we have been created for in Christ.

This definition and the article as a whole has given me much to think about.  I will write more later, but I encourage you to click  here to read the complete article by Jeff on the Gospel Centered Discipleship website.