Your Very Life

Living where Life is

Author: Jason McKnight (page 2 of 16)

Charlottesville is Weeping; God is too.

Christians, in light of what’s happening in Charlottesville today, please take to heart why racism is demonic and evil: It stomps on every part of God’s good purposes for humanity.

Before we do anything else, let us remember why racism has absolutely no place in our worldview as followers of Christ. Simply this: Humans are of one essence. And this is demonstrated in Scripture in at least 4 different ways:

1. Every human is created in the image of God

  • Gen 1:26-27 – Let us make mankind in our image and after our likeness…
  • Acts 17:26 – and he made from one man every nation to live on the face of the earth.

2. Every Christian is justified by the blood of Christ on the cross

  • 1 Tim 2:5-6 – for there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for us all.
  • Gal 3:28-29 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus
  • Eph 2:13ff – But now, in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. He himself is our peace who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.
  • John 3:16 – For God so loved the World that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

3. Every Christian is incorporated into one body by one Spirit

  • Acts 2:17 (Joel 2) – And in the last days it shall be, God declares that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…
  • Eph 4:4f – There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is over all and through all and in all.
  • Eph 2:18 – For through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father (Jews & Gentiles)

4. Every Christian will worship together around the throne for eternity

  • Rev 7:9 – And I looked and saw a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.

I forget exactly who first laid these 4 facts out so clearly. At our human core, we share the same essence.  The core of God’s purposes for humanity holds this truth: There is one race of creatures in His image: the Human Race.

Moreover, Christians—African-American, White, Hispanic, Asian, African, Native American, Arab, Slavic—are one in Christ.

In light of the unfolding events in Charlottesville, take to heart this truth. Hold it dearly, so that it changes your outlook: whether you look at the news or at the person across the street.

We weep with Charlottesville, we weep for the sins humans foist on others. And we pray for the Prince of Peace to bring forgiveness and reconciliation. He’s the only one who can.

He brings it by changed hearts, your heart and mine, as we face up to our own sinfulness and receive His great grace.

As John Newton, the former slave ship captain turned pastor, said two centuries ago: Although my memory is fading, two things I remember clearly: I am a great sinner, and He is a great Savior.

Oh how we need these truths to change lives today.

Change your Kid’s Life

When you think of your kids’ future, don’t you want them to be safe, happy, and feel fulfilled? Good schools, good spouse, good job, good life.

Parents are (mostly) right to think like this: it’s our instinct to want to provide for our children everything good. So, when/if we pray for them–that is, when we seek God’s power applied to their lives–the prayers we pray mirror our desires: we ask for safety, success and good choices.

A few years ago, it hit me that God might have better things for me to pray for my sons. Over time, he’s pointed me to the following requests. I use them one or two each day, rotating them depending on what’s going on. What do you think of them? Wanna join me in changing your kids’ lives?

1. Good Soil – I ask God to give them the soil that receives the seed and produces 30-60-100 fold. (Mark 4:8, 20). That God’s Word in their days wouldn’t fall on deaf ears, worried hearts, or shallow wills. “Lord, give them hearts, wills, ears like the good soil.”

2. That John 13 would be a way of life – in this chapter, Jesus shows us the full extent of his love by serving. He washed his disciples’ feet – it was the worst job. It was the night before he died – the worst time. The disciples included Judas his betrayer – the worst people. (I forget who first alerted me to those three “worsts”). I pray that my boys would always be willing to serve.

3. Zech 10:12 – “I will make them strong in the Lord, and they will walk in his Name.” I ask God to do this work in their lives. Strength in him, and conduct reflecting his character.

4. Deuteronomy 30:19 – After declaring God’s Word, Moses challenges the people, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose Life…” I ask God to help them, guide them, make them choose FOR obeying his Word and living into it.

5. That they would bear fruit – Both the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), and the fruit of righteousness (Phil 1:11). Also, John 15. Basically that their lives would matter for the Kingdom, and that they would leave a legacy that draws others to Christ. Good Fruit borne by a good tree.

6. That they would get caught in sin – There is nothing worse than when we get away with things! I pray that they would be caught in the act, or found out very quickly (while fresh), so that we can get them off of Sin’s stupid downward spiral, and back out into the open. One friend said, “what’s conceived in the dark, and kept in the dark has a hold on your until it is brought to light.” So true.

7. That they would be quick to repent – Back to the “good soil”… hearts willing to own their trash, confess it and reject it. Being caught is not enough, there has to be brokenness over sin. Godly sorrow leads to repentance. I ask the Lord continually to give them strong characters, but soft and tender hearts.

8. Proverbs 4:20-27 – “My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words… Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life…” and many other simple, proverbial instructions that will make or break a daily life.


Nothing magic about these 8 things. You can find 8 different ones in Scripture. But, what I’ve found in praying these is that I pray with great confidence because I know God is going to act according to his Word. Nothing hinders effectiveness in our prayers more than uncertainty in praying them: “should I really ask for this?” But, to abandon yourself to God on behalf of your children because you KNOW God will hold to his Word means that you will see answers.

One last thing. I don’t only pray these things for my sons. I pray them also for Susan and myself. And, yes, God graciously answers!


Robin’s Legacy

This week all I could do is think of this life and of the legacy of my dear friend Robin Wooten. [read about him here]

Robin said often this year that he had never encountered God so closely in all his life as he did with ALS. In all his great work and his love of family, friends and home, he said he had never really opened his life up to the fullness God has for each of us. Until ALS. Until he was forced to change course, change priorities, change outlook.

And now, all too soon, he is actually with the Lord. Seeing God’s glory face-to-face.

If only Robin could come back and talk to us, wouldn’t you listen? If he could tell you what it’s like with God, wouldn’t you hang on every word? If he could tell you what really matters out of all the things we do, wouldn’t we all take notes and change course?

Or would we?

Life-change is hard. Some would say impossible without help from the outside. The patterns, habits, desires we have are just so entrenched. It’s nigh on impossible to change them.

But surely if a friend came back, with a message from God’s presence… surely then we’d listen.

Let me ask you: how deeply do you listen to the One who did come from God’s presence, and who also went through death and came back again? The Bible calls Jesus the Word of God – that means God’s Message to us (John 1:1-18). It calls Jesus the First-Fruits of those who have died – meaning he’s risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). It calls him the creator and sustainer of all things, and the center of all things on earth and in heaven, in time and eternity (Colossians 1 & Ephesians 1).

Jesus quite simply is THE fact of existence that every person has to wrestle with.


Have you? The way Jesus changed Robin’s life is this:

  • When we are born into this world, we are born separated from God. (Rom 3:23)
  • This great and generous God who would be our Father. (John 3:16, 1:12)
  • God sent his Son into the world to rescue us from that separation, and to adopt us into his family; the Son enables us to be sons & daughters of the King! (Gal 4:4)
  • Jesus rescued us by means of his blood: his death on the cross was the death we should have died. He received the punishment due to us for our sins, and we receive his life and right-standing with the Holy God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, Isaiah 53:4-6)
  • Jesus was also raised from the dead, and that’s how God proved to us that Christ’s death is sufficient: he broke death wide open. (Rom 1
  • He pours out the Holy Spirit into every person who surrenders to Christ–in humble willingness, who asks God to forgive our sins/wrongs. (Rom 5:1-5)
  • From that moment on, God makes us new – a new heart, new creation, new life, new future, new inheritance, new hope, new citizenship, new home. All because of Christ–his death and resurrection. But only if we humbly give ourselves to him… who gave himself for us. (2 Cor 5:17, et al.)

This is the outline of the story of Robin’s life. Is it the story of yours? This is the Good and Great News (the “gospel”) that Jesus came back from the dead to call you to. This is what the reality of ALS led Robin to live into like never before. This is the sum total of life.

Let Robin’s legacy in your life be that you finally and fully call out to Jesus to rescue you, adopt you, renovate you, and make you completely new.

You can pray like this: “Father in Heaven. I recognize that You alone are the center of all things. So long I’ve lived as if I were the center–my dreams, my hopes, my future, my family. But now I see that you are. Please forgive me for my self-centeredness. Please pardon the things I’ve done that dishonor you. You call them sins… but our culture doesn’t like that language… I’m sorry; please pardon me, from top to bottom. And, please give me the hope of Jesus, the life of Christ, the future–like Robin–to re-order everything under your leadership & Lordship. I see now that my life is yours, not mine. Thank you for wanting me, and for being gracious to forgive me. I’m yours. I ask this in the Name of Christ. Amen.”

If you prayed that, contact me here in the comments, or at  I’d love to help you walk this journey.

Robin’s Letter

Before he died, Robin Wooten took the time to write what he wanted to say to friends and family after he was gone. He asked if I would read them at his memorial service. It was my privilege to do so yesterday.

He was diagnosed with ALS last summer. As he says in his letter, at that moment he truly began to live. For this past year, Robin & Elizabeth lived, really lived. They laughed, loved, forgave and prayed. They spent time with family and friends. And they adopted Henry the Golden Retriever!!

And in this God met them, carried them, and has brought life and hope to thousands.

Many have asked for a copy of his words. One friend of his said, “I want to put that letter in my night stand, and read it often to remind me what life is really about.” True that. Click the following to download them. Robin Wooten Letter

On a personal level, it has been an absolute privilege to walk with Robin and Elizabeth. We live just about 10 houses away from each other, and I’d pop over a good deal. My sons did some yard work here and there. We’d see Rockin Robin go by on his scooter (Elizabeth hoofing it to keep up), and later in his wheelchair (I think that thing was stick-shift!). As elders from Grace, we spent a moving evening together just last month. Neighbors, friends, fellow pilgrims on this journey.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Ps 116:15). These days are so precious to God – we are all so real about what’s important, so tender about life and loss, so willing to pitch in and help in any way we can, so quick to call out to him for help. No wonder these days are precious to our God and Father… it seems we are truly being the body of Christ!

Click here to see his service. Hit the “Archive tab” and play the service.  (I read the letter beginning at about 43:30.)

Eugene Peterson, Take 2

Eugene Peterson lectures at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Wash., in May 2009. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Today, Eugene Peterson retracted his support of gay marriage. This blog is not meant to be “all hot-button issues, all the time”. But, in light of the news, here’s what I put on my Facebook Status today:

“Thank the Lord for EP’s retraction. So sorry for the need for it. Reminds me of World Vision’s mis-step and change-back a few years ago. Caused damage to the witness of the church, left some people confused & others solidified in their suspicions (and engendered cynicism).
Couple of thoughts:
1. Those who wrote uncharitable things or in an uncharitable manner about this brother should also retract them. (don’t you think?)
2. Yet another reminder to think clearly before you speak so that you don’t need retractions.
3. You can’t put Humpty together again. This will affect how folks read EP. And it should.
4. The dynamics surrounding this one issue will continue to trip people up if they don’t think clearly. If you do think clearly and are out of step with culture, get ready for a pile-on.
5. We all need to go get some ice cream.”

[Of course, everything is better with Ice Cream]

Click here for Christianity Today’s article in which Peterson retracts yesterday.

Click here for my blog post yesterday helping Christians think through how to engage with Peterson.

Seriously, go get some ice cream.

Eugene Peterson and You

Eugene Peterson lectures at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Wash., in May 2009. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

By now you will likely have heard that Eugene Peterson has endorsed gay marriage.  And, if you are on Facebook, you will have seen the comments ranging from “it’s about time” to “we knew it was coming”; from “Can’t trust anything he writes” to “he’s the best thing ever.”

A few comments for thinking Christians.

1. In his comments to Jonathan Merritt of the Religious News Service, Peterson only references experiences he’s had and people he’s known, and not Scripture’s teaching. He does not say if he changed his mind, wrestled with the text, or sought the Church’s doctrine. He only says that he’s OK with it, and would perform a marriage ceremony for two same-sex people, and that the debate is pretty much over. This is not right. Scripture must be the starting point and finish line of our thinking & discipleship patterns. We have to begin where Scripture begins, and land where it takes us. Peterson–who translated & paraphrased all 66 books–should know better.

2. He is still a very good thinker, and has brought great pastoral help through his writings. They ought not all be set aside. Christians ought not cast him aside hastily or call his salvation into question. All of us are fallen, and the Fall affects every part of us (including our minds, and our changes in thinking over time). I read one FB comment, “I’ve been warning about Peterson for years.” Granted I don’t know what this person was warning, but the implication to me is “stay away from him.” I disagree. The fact that he’s wrong on this does not mean he’s wrong on everything. If it did, we should stop reading Martin Luther, whose anti-semitic comments make us blush! No one argues that we throw aside Luther, only that we read him judiciously.  We see this principle in play again with a contemporary pastor: read judiciously one who gets things right and wrong.

3. Read him judiciously I will. There’s no denying that it makes me read with a little less “Ahh, I’m at home with an old friend”, and a little more “this is good… hmmm, is this good?” I will likely recommend his writings more carefully, and will have to add a preface any recommendation.  I will still be blessed by the pastoral insights (Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work) and exegetical nuggets (Run with the Horses). But I will also grieve some as I read.

4. We can’t get through life only reading Christian authors who get everything right, or with whom we agree 100%. For two reasons: a) No author gets it 100% right. Each of them is wrong on one or more things they’ve written. Again, start and end in Scripture; and the Fall affects all of us.

b) It’s not about becoming “fans” of this author or that thinker, scholar or preacher. When you begin to think someone is totally trustworthy, you are putting more freight on them than they can bear. There are no perfect thinkers, preachers or writers outside of Scripture. (Plus, even the human authors of Scripture demonstrate that we cannot trust the person… only the Spirit’s sanctifying work of inspiration!).

Be ready in life to read people with whom you disagree. Indeed, expect that everyone you read will have gotten something wrong, and watch for it.

5. Do your homework and learn from those who are faithful to the Gospel. Ask your believing friends, your Church leaders or Pastor what they think about author X; listen to their counsel. Moreover, with any author, when you find you disagree, the Lord will tell you when you should “hold-your-nose and keep reading for the good insights” or when you should set them aside. I’ve done both with various authors. You have to seek the Lord and the wisdom of the Body of Christ as you read.

God may lead you to set aside your reading of Peterson. Don’t do it because of knee-jerk Facebook blow ups. Do it because of a grief over his departure from orthodoxy over marriage, and his leading of others to do the same. Or, God may lead you to the “hold your nose” side. But you’ll do so with a new level of guard in light of this article.

It’s sad and it’s messy. But that’s what being alive in the world means. Christ is changing lives for God’s glory. I’m disappointed (though not really surprised). I’ve been blessed by The Message and many of Peterson’s writings.  He’s walking away from God’s view of reality, and I’m grieved. But I also know that, ultimately, the Lord will bring all things to his greatest glory, and I can’t wait to reflect back on that in this case.

Keep thinking and never lose hope!

(You can click here to read what Peterson said to the RNS).

Why Plant Churches?

Should churches plant new churches? In addition to the fact that it’s how the gospel grew in the NT and all through history, here are 7 key reasons why churches should aim to plant new ones, and why Grace is starting to do so:

1) New Churches reach new people. Studies have shown that churches younger than 3 years old reach 300% more non-believers than churches older than 15 years. Plus, surveys showing the “rise of the nones” (i.e., upwards of 25% of Americans not affiliated with any religion) demonstrate a whole bunch of people who are not coming to current churches. New churches reach new people.

2) People Need People in all of life. It’s cliche that “life is a team sport”, but it’s true. First, New converts to Christ need a family, a hospital, a nursery… just as assuredly as a newborn baby does. A church is that family, nursery, hospital. Second, Ongoing disciples need each other to grow as God intends. “Churchless Christianity” is not part of the Scriptural vision of following Christ. Believers in real relationship is where grace grows. Third, the Lost are hungry for community, and the church is filled with it. “People need people in all of life”… so let’s plant more local bodies.

3) Exponential Potential. A church that grows from 300 to 1000 in ten years is a great thing.  But, if over those same ten years, that church planted every 18 months, and each of the plants did to, you’d have 64 churches in 6 cycles… each with several hundred. If you run it out to ten planting cycles, you find 1,000 churches (not just 1,000 people in our church). Growth at one location is straight-line growth. Growth that establishes new locations is exponential!

4) It “forces” God to raise up leaders.  If it takes 100 leaders to keep Grace Fellowship moving, then it would take 100,000 leaders to keep those 1,000 churches moving! Same exponential potential. Moreover, the more leaders the more people are relying on God’s Spirit and power to work in their lives. As you step out to lead for Christ, he pours himself into you more and more.

5) More people grow more in lean/young churches. As there are new church plants, new people (not even leaders, necessarily) step up to pitch in, help out, and jump on a team. They take a chance on new things because there’s a ‘pioneer’ spirit that says, just try it! In established or larger churches, there seem to be more people who are timid to jump in or would rather simply stay in the ‘back row’ and receive. That’s not a knock on the larger church; it’s an observation of human nature. Instead of 20% of the people doing 80% of the work, a new or small church has a “pitch in and let’s see waht happens” atmosphere. More people grow more in lean/young churches.

6) The US church is no longer a chaplain, it’s a mission force. If there was a time when the US was a “Christian” culture, then the church’s role was often to hold culture’s hand, and help it along. They would look to foreign fields to do missions… among the pagans who don’t know of Jesus. Well, increasingly the pagans who don’t know of Jesus are our neighbors and people in this country! The “missions” calling now includes our own communities. We are no longer chaplains, but missionaries at home. Let’s start reaching out like missionaries.

7) Grace Fellowship’s DNA is primed to plant churches. We prize authenticity in relationships centered on Christ. Our HouseChurch model means we have ten leadership laboratories  and a decentralized, agile structure. We are a body that practices sacrificial discipleship, consistently giving and serving and pouring out for others. We have a leadership culture at Grace–so many gifted leaders in the community, in business, in the professions, in academics, and in ministry. And, we have a missions heart, given to us by God. Why do you think? so we would be burdened wherever we’d find a mission field.

God is on the move… in Grace, in the world, in this country, and in our own mission strategy and ministry vision. I can’t wait to watch God raise up, train up and send out church planters over the next decade. To reach countless thousands for the gospel.

Finding Your Sweet Spot

Max Lucado writes about finding your sweet spot in his book “Cure for the Common Life”. Where is it that you thrive? What were you created for? He uses a framework called “STORY” to help us think through these things.

What are your Strengths?

What is it that you like to do?  Fixing things. Organizing events. Listening to those in need. Helping teams. Loving children.

Look for the verbs that arise: fixing, organizing, listening, helping, loving, etc. These point to your strengths… the things that come naturally to you, or that don’t seem like work.


What is your Topic?

If strengths are Verbs… your Topic comes from the nouns: the things you like to work with.  Children. Animals. Marketing campaigns. Numbers. Concepts. Arts and Crafts. Sales calls. Urinary Tracts.

What fascinates you? Where are you at home? What do you love to be near, with, around? What are the things you like to work with.

For me, I love People, Scripture & Numbers. I love to work with each of these. That’s one reason why teaching is so fun: it’s Scripture and people together!

What ‘topics’ are yours?

What are your Optimal Conditions?

How do you like to work?

Some love to respond to a need; they jump into action when someone is in need, and they seem to meet it every time. Others, like to improve a process: put them on a team or a project, and they are always finding ways to make things better, friendlier, more efficient.

Some love the same thing every day (high value of routine and predictability), others love the unknown that comes in their job (spontaneity). One likes to blue-sky ideas… another likes to put the nuts-and-bolts in place. Achieve goals or solve problems.

Design or develop or stabilize. This is a great framework from Bobb Biehl: Every concept, idea or project is either in the Design phase, the develop phase or the stabilize phase. It’s an idea on paper/in someone’s head (design), it’s a working model or beta form & getting streamlined/improved (develop), or it’s working well and needs to have some one work it well (stabilize).

My first full-time ministry job was all stabilize. I directed hockey camps that were established and the system was running well. I oversaw the process for 2,000 young hockey players to encounter Christ in week-long camps. It was all stabilize. My personal wiring is a hybrid between design & develop. I didn’t really love my job, but couldn’t figure out why.

UNTIL… I learned this Bobb Biehl framework. My optimal conditions for my Sweet Spot are in design-develop. My then-current posting was in stabilizing. I knew I wasn’t in my sweet spot. And, along with my boss, I moved jobs.

What are your Relationships

How do people factor in to your sweet spot? Think to when you have thrived or known you were most engaged, productive, fruitful, effective. Were you a lone-ranger? In a close-knit duo or trio? On a larger team? In a giant army?

Do you want to be the primary leader or the 2nd in command? Or, a strong member of the team? Perhaps you are wried to be the devil’s advocate on things?


This is that intangible factor in your S.T.O.R.Y.  Times when you’ve had the thought: “I was made to do this” or “I could do this again and again” or “They pay me for this?” It’s the Eric Liddel quote: Olympic gold-medalist in the 20s who wouldn’t run on Sundays. “God made me fast. He made me fast for a purpose. When I run, I feel his pleasure.”

What is that, when you do ti, you feel God’s pleasure? Find that. It’s in or near your sweet spot!

Strengths / Topic / Optimal Conditions / Relationships / YES!  Use these to discover the story of your Sweet Spot!

When “Doing Hard Time” = God’s Special Time

Many of us reading this just cannot grasp how hard it is for prisoners serving time. I’ve never done it. I’ve never known what it’s like to have my life fully regulated by others with no personal freedom. I’ve never known what it’s like to long for my family’s touch. I’ve never known what it’s like to re-live an act and hate myself for what I did; or to relive a conviction for something I didn’t do.

Click on this link to read an article from the Greenville Daily Reflector on the Kairos Ministry next week at Maury Correctional Institution in Maury. “Kairos” is the greek word for “appointed season” or “special time” and is used for the moment when God does something amazing.

We are trusting God to use the team from Grace and other churches to bring a Kairos Moment for the men of ECI.  Pray for them May 18-21.  …and read the article above – you’ll be glad you did.

(Then pass this along to others!)

Lost in a good story

Could you imagine trying to read a great novel 3 paragraphs a day? Or, even 3 pages per day? You’d die a thousand deaths of boredom. You’d never understand the characters or plot. And you’d put the thing down within two weeks (or in the first 30 pages!). Forget it. Novels are stories and we read them as such: devouring it, hooked by the plot’s unfolding.

When you think about reading the Bible, don’t you try to squeeze in a few verses today (rushed!), and quickly think about them, pray and move on with your day? At least God has to bless you – you’ve spent time in Scripture. But, truth be told, it’s not that compelling, is it?

The bible might seem kinda boring or confusing, and you never really get to know the plot or characters. It’s like trying to read a John Grisham ten lines at a time. Or, it’s like trying to watch Rogue One in ten minute increments. A horrible way to get lost in the story!

What if you read Scripture and let the stories draw you in. Joseph’s story is Genesis 37-50. Read it over 2 days instead of 20. You’ll see Joe’s life and trials and triumphs with crystal clarity.

Or, Daniel’s story. Daniel 1-6 is the action in that book (7-12 are the visions). Read 1-6 in one sitting and you’ll discover God’s message of why his life matters for us.  Abraham – Genesis 12-25.  The book of Acts. Each of the Gospels. Stories, all of them.

Or, take 1-2 Samuel. There are 56 chapters that you could spend 2-3 months reading bit by bit. But, it’s the single story of David’s life. Why not spend a good week or two motoring through it? Watch as God unfolds big themes and grand plot-lines.

You get the idea. Yes, there is a place for slow, methodical study line-by-line and verse-by-verse, and pondering. But there is also a needed place for simply getting lost in the story. Changing your scenery from your life and burdens and worries, into the life and times of Peter, Ruth, Isaiah, etc. And, you discover by entering their story that God meets them… and will meet you too.

One of the great things about a novel or movie is that we can escape our lives for a time. Do that in Scripture. Let its stories be your escape, and the change of scenery that is so helpful to living life.



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