‘How to Pick Your Battles’. Message Notes from Thrive Church MI on Feb. 18, 2018.


Message Notes    |    |

Slide # 1…Series Graphic + Jason Social Media Info

  • Doesn’t that video hit home for some? How hilarious!
  • Good Morning Thrive Church!! How are we doing today?
  • My name is Jason Raitz and I’m one of the Pastors here at Thrive! If this is your first time at Thrive, thank you so much for being here! I hope you’re experience is so good that you will decide to come back! And then back again and back again!
  • I hope you will fill out the Connect Card and if this is your first time, please stop by the info table and get a free gift and more info about Thrive.
  • If you’re joining us online, thanks for watching this message! And thanks for sharing it on your social media pages. It’s amazing how many people check out Thrive because of social media.

Prayer for Parkland, FL

  • Before we hop into the message. I just want to take a second and pause. Probably like you, I question why I have news updates set to my phone and when I received the update this week about Parkland, FL, my heart was crushed and broken.
  • I spent to many nights this week thinking about if this was my kids school. And, I shouldn’t have too. This sort of evil should not exist. But, we live in an evil world and it’s on us to be the Light of the World and the light of the cyber world.
  • Let’s stand together and pray for the families who lost children. Let’s pray for that community.


  • Ok, we are in week three of Haters…don’t read the comments. We’re looking at 4 Peacemaking Skills we have to employ if we’re going to diffuse the haters!


    • In the Bible, there is the contrast between the wise and the fool.
    • The fool is one who remains arrogantly in their ignorance. They will only hear what they want to hear, see what they want to see, and believe what they want to believe.
    • They do not listen to Wisdom. And, wisdom cannot be given out, only learned. To argue with someone who is stuck in a certain perception becomes a battle of will.


  • Peacemakers don’t play by the rules of a hater.
  • They know how to discern if an argument will result in peace.
  • Peacemaking skill # 3…Learn how to pick your battles.


  • Have you ever argued with a fool? If you have, you know you will just go round and round and around.
  • What do you think of when you think of a fool? I think of this guy saying…

Slide # 2…Picture of Mr. T saying…I pity the foo

  • Mr T! Yeah. Do you know where this came from? Rocky 3. Someone asked his character if he hated Rocky and he said…I don’t hate Rocky Balboa, I pity the fool.
  • Do you know know any fools in your life?
  • Would anyone say you’re a fool?
  • Do you know how a fool lives? They live thinking insanity is awesome. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
  • I love what this Proverb says…

Slide # 3…‘Fools care nothing for thoughtful discourse; all they do is run off at the mouth’ ~Proverbs 18:2 (msg)

  • You and I are going to come across many fools in our time on this planet. People who just want to run their mouth. At work. At school. At home. In our neighborhoods. At our Church!
  • Last Sunday, I spoke on Listening at Thrive CA and I used this quote by John Ortberg. ‘You can’t listen in a hurry’. So many people just want to talk, talk, talk and not listen. That’s a fool.
  • I also used this quote…
  • “Listening can be a greater service than speaking.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • And, when we try to argue face to face or online with a fool, it goes nowhere! So, why do we do it.
  • We’re also going to meet people that legitimately think that their every idea should be listened too and not just listened too, but treated like law.
  • Sorry mom and dads if you brought your kids in the room, but I love this quote by the amazing author Brene Brown…

Slide # 4…Don’t try to win over haters, you are not a Jackass whisperer. -Brene Brown

  • How true is that?
  • Sometimes we need to learn the wisdom of picking our battles instead of arguing with a fool. Sometimes instead of the constant bickering or the back and forth on facebook or over text, we just need to learn how to pick our battles.
  • Because here’s the deal, there are some battles that we need to win! There are moments in our lives where we need to stand up for the truth. We need to stand up for love.
  • There are some moments where we need to speak the Truth in Love and not shy away from it.

Story: Jason and his words

  • Sometimes I let my words get the best of me! Anybody relate?
  • For the longest time, I just couldn’t control my words. I said what was literally on my mind. Some of you are thinking, wow, not much has changed.
  • But, honestly, it really has.
  • I have hurt a lot of people over the years. I have this gift/tool/weapon called Sarcasm.
  • And, I struggle with saying inappropriate things are hilarious to me! You probably know this. But, again, what gets said here is so clean and nice sometimes.
  • We once had a group of friends over about 10 years ago and I was just being me and everyone was laughing. Then, some words came out of my mouth that were so not funny about someone else and their struggles.
  • That person was there and I looked at them as I said it and I knew it was not funny!
  • Later the person came up to me and immediately I knew they were going to let me know they were offended and immediately the walls of defense started to build in my heart. Even though I knew I was wrong!
  • As I was studying for this message, I always use my NIV, Life application bible. This bible is my go to reading bible and Sunday bible, but my big one is my go to.
  • In the back, there are notes from 12/30/01 and here’s what it says…
  • ‘I resolve to keep a close ear on the words I use, and to make sure my words bring healing, joy and don’t pierce.


  • How do we pick our battles?


  • How do we get to the point that I don’t always have to be offended every time I feel left out. Or excluded.
  • So, to do that, I want us to look at the life of David in 1 Samuel 24.

Slide # 5…Lessons from David on Picking Your Battles [1 Samuel 24:1-22]

  • Quick look at the life of David
  • Some people think of David as a shepherd, a poet, a giant killer, a king, an ancestor of Jesus. In short, he was one of the greatest men in the OT.
  • But, alongside of that list, he was also a betrayer, a lair, an adulterer, a murderer and a bad dad.
  • The Bible makes no efforts to hide David’s failures. Yet he is remembered and respected for his heart for God.
  • David, more than anything else, had an unchangeable belief in the faithful and forgiving nature of God. He was a man who lived with great zest. He sinned many times, but was quick to confess.
  • He was called in scripture…a man after God’s own heart.
  • No one thought he would become king, but God had other plans.
  • So, let’s look at 1 Samuel
  • Oh really quick, let me make sure you know what’s happening in this story
  • Israel wanted a King. God said Ok. Samuel the prophet anointed Saul to be king. From the outside, he looked like a King. Tall, strong. Inside, he was messed up.
  • Israel were fighting the philistines and David brought lunch to his brothers and he was righteously angry that this guy named Goliath was mocking Israel.
  • He got all riled up and asked if he could fight the giant, anyways, he did and won! That got Saul’s attention. He would play music for the King. He became best friends with Saul’s son, Jonathan.
  • Saul became very jealous of David and it moved from bad to horrible and Saul tried to kill David.
  • It got worse when the same prophet anointed David to be the next king.
  • Ok, to 1 Samuel 24 and where Saul has taken 3000 men to go find David and his men and kill him.

Slide # 6…1 Samuel 24: 3-4

He (King Saul) came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men (about 600) were far back in the cave.

[How crazy is that!!! Saul picks the cave that David and his men are hiding in?]

4 The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said[a] to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. [How nuts is that? David got close enough to cut off a piece of his robe]

**Ok, you were given a piece of fabric when you came in, pull that out, please.

  • The first lesson from David in picking our battles

Slide # 7…ONE…Don’t give in to the chatter of fools

  • How easy is it at times to listen to all the voices around us? We don’t know what to do, we ask the people closest to us.
  • Ok, can I confess something?? I probably shouldn’t. But, there are so many things I love about facebook.
  • LIKE…that its one of the greatest tools for the Gospel ever! I really believe Jesus Followers are called to be a Light of the Word, like Jesus said, and to be a Light of the Cyber World!
  • But, there is so many things I just hate.
  • Like, when people put those posts out there. That are so personal and they’re looking for deep intimate advice from people on facebook???
  • Or, when people say, anybody know what time the bakery opens? Really! Just google it for pete’s sake! Ok, that is just my pet peeve!
  • But, we do go to our friends and sometimes, our friends will lead us astray like David’s men did.
  • They wanted him to just go kill the King. How easy would it have been. I mean, Saul has 3000 men hunting David down.
  • But because, Saul is the king, David won’t do it.
  • Proverbs 16:28 says…

Slide # 8…A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.-Proverbs 16:28

  • Thomas Edison said this about his friends…

Slide # 9…‘I have friends in overalls whose friendship I would not swap for the favor of the kings of the world’.-Thomas A. Edison

    • It is so valuable for you and I to have the right people in our lives. To pick the friends who have the same values as us.
    • So many times over the last 22 years of being a Pastor, probably one of the most common conversations I’ve ever had was with someone who just broke up, mainly women, and they started to date, fell in love with someone who had a different set of values for God and His Kingdom.
    • They thought, oh, he’ll change. He will see Jesus in me and he’ll change. And, from my experience, 95% of the time, he doesn’t change. Probably why the apostle Paul gave us some advice on that matter, to protect our hearts.
    • Or, with folks who trusted in Jesus and God is changing them and their friends don’t like their changes and they just give them heck for it.


  • Those closest to us, will influence us in powerful ways!


  • Want to pick your battles wisely, don’t listen to a fools chatter!
  • And then…

Slide # 10…TWO…Honor those above, next and below you.

  • Look at what happened to David…

Slide # 11…1 Samuel 24:5-7

5 Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe.6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.”7 With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

  • How nuts is that! David had a great respect for Saul, His King. Even though Saul was trying to kill him! Even though Saul was sinning against God and David, David still respected the position he held as God’s anointed King.
  • David knew one day he would be king and he also knew it was not right to strike down the man God had placed on the throne.
  • Peter put it this way in 1 Peter..

Slide # 12…1 Peter 2:13-21 (msg) ‘Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level’.

Story: Scott Moore

  • Every single Sunday I see Scott Moore, he gives me a huge hug and says, I’ve been praying for you Pastor.
  • I mean, this man treats me with so much respect and honor its unreal!

Story: Jason being disrespectful in Church as a kid

  • It’s like how my dad taught me to honor my Pastor when I was 13 years old. I wasn’t exactly honoring my Pastor at 13 during a sermon and I was screwing off with my friends. And, my dad quietly walked up to me in the pew, asked me calmly if I could join him in the lobby and then with no one around.
  • He looked at me and said…You will never disrespect my Pastor again. He is a man of God and you do not behave this way.
  • Whew! Talk about Fear of God being put into me!


  • I’m one of the few Pastors who don’t go by Pastor here, you are more than welcome to call me Pastor.
  • But, this is more than a job to me. It’s a calling. I’ve had many jobs. When you know you’re in the seat that God designed for you to be in, your job becomes a calling as well.
  • Being a Pastor brings with it an incredible responsibility. A unbelievable weight.
  • Because of that, when we as a Church disrespect each other and we don’t honor each other, our Church cannot move forward.
  • I ask us all, let’s do everything we can to honor each other!
  • That’s why David felt so bad. Take out that piece of fabric.
  • In those days, a man’s robe symbolized his greatness.
  • David cut off the corner of Saul’s robe and it symbolically demonstrated that the king’s authority would be cut off. This is seen in Saul’s response:

And now I know indeed that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand

  • So, we gave you each a little piece of fabric today to serve as a reminder to honor each other. Honor your bosses. Honor your spouses, girlfriends and boyfriends. Honor your kids.
  • Instead of cutting off a little bit of their authority or bringing them down to earth, use that piece of fabric as a reminder that you don’t have to do those things!!
  • Last lesson in picking our battles…

Slide # 13…THREE…Use Integrity as your weapon

Slide # 14…1 Samuel 24: 8-12

8 Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 9 He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.

  • I love this quote by Andy Stanley

Slide # 15…Are you fighting to win the argument or are you fighting to win the heart? -Andy Stanley

  • Proverbs 26:4-5 says

Slide # 16…Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. ~Proverbs 26:4-5

  • Ask yourself this question…What’s the wise thing to do?
  • When you practice Meekness (quiet and confident strength) by choosing your battles, you gain strength, authority, favor.
  • Just being someone who has to be heard and has to have every agree with everyone of their thoughts, you’re not going to get far with peace making.

VIDEO: let’s finish the video we started with a look at picking your battles

Slide # 17…Challenge: Be a Peacemaker by picking your battles wisely

Slide # 18…Shoe Project Update Slide


Learning to be an Incredible Listener. My sermon notes at Thrive Church CA

I taught this message at Thrive Church CA on February 11, 2018 for their ‘Fight Night’ series! I also had the amazing opportunity to bring Bekah (my oldest) with me and we got to experience some amazing sights in Northern CA! Including the Golden Gate Bridge!

Message Notes    |    |

Slide # 1…Series Graphic + Jason’s Social Media Info

  • Good Morning Thrive Church! How are we doing today?
  • It is such a privilege to be with you this morning! Not only because it’s like -5 degrees back home, but because I love your Church and I love your Pastor!
  • And, I have been wanting to say thank you in person for a long time for helping bring this little boy home from China!

Slide # 2…Two Pictures of Kai

  • Your amazing gift was such a critical component to helping us Bring Kai home and we’re still so thankful! So, If you gave to that gift, THANK YOU!
  • He is going great. He’s been home just over a year and he’s learning new things all the time.
  • He has a genetic disorder called PKU, like two of our other kids and it’s a very rare thing that’s pretty costly and the longer he would have spent in China, the worse it would have became. So, thank you!
  • It is great to be with you today and I was able to bring my almost 18 year old daughter, Bekah, with me as well.
  • And, I love the series that you’re in.

Series Info: Fight Night

  • Were all going to deal with this thing called Conflict at times in our lives. Some of us have dealt with major conflict, some of us run like crazy away from it.
  • The reality is, Conflict resolution is a giant game changer in our relationships. When we learn to leverage it for good, it will not only improve our relationships, but it will bring us close to God.
  • The reality is, we’ve all probably been backed into the ropes at times in our relationships.
  • Maybe you’ve actually been in an actual fight. I grew up in Detroit, but whenever presented with the option of fighting, I actually pride myself on how good I became and running away from the fight! I was out!
  • Now, I’m not a giant boxing fan, but I love the Rocky movies. What I know about boxing is, when you get backed into the ropes, you pretty much are getting hit pretty good.
  • When that happens, we stop listening. We’re just trying to survive at that point. Listening is the key if we’re going to deal with the conflict that comes.
  • Typically what happens when we’re backed into the ropes is that we just try to retreat, avoid, ignore, stick our heads in the ground, attack back, bring up the past.
  • So, we go on the defensive and we’ll do anything to walk away unwounded. But, too often, nothing changes.  
  • What if, instead of fighting back or verbal sparring back. What if putting up our arms to protect us.
  • What if we learn how to listen, so we can hear the heart of what’s hurting the person close to us.
  • I don’t know about you, but when I think of listening, I think of this amazing truth from this poet…

Slide # 3…Picture of Vanilla Ice with the words next to his image

All right stop, Collaborate and listen, Ice is back with my brand new invention, Something grabs a hold of me tightly, Then I flow that a harpoon daily and nightly, Will it ever stop?, Yo, I don’t know, Turn off the lights and I’ll glow, To the extreme, I rock a mic like a vandal, Light up a stage and wax a chump like a candle

  • Ice, Ice Baby. Right, so much we can learn from Vanilla! Hah.
  • I read this quote about listening from one of my favorite Pastors and Authors on the planet, John Ortberg…

Slide # 4…‘You can’t listen in a hurry’ ~John Ortberg

    • If we’re going to learn how to listen, we have to stop rushing around all the time. We have to stop treating our relationships or the conflict like it’s an item on our checklist.


  • So, often, when we think of Listening, its so we can fix someone or something.
  • Most of what we consider “conversation” is, is merely interrupting monologues.


    • At Thrive Church MI, we have a staff member by the name of Dr. Tom. I’ve known him for 20+ years. He’s so brilliant. He’s so close to Jesus. I asked him what listening is and he said…


  • Its to keep company with someone.


  • Like, “I’m tracking with you.”
  • Listening is simple enough in principle, and nearly impossible to live.
  • Too often we are slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger. So, learning to listen well won’t happen overnight. It requires discipline, effort, and intentionality. You get better with time, they say. Becoming a better listener hangs not on one big resolve to do better in a single conversation, but on developing a pattern of little resolves to focus in on particular people in specific moments.

Story: Jason and moving the Couch

  • A few years ago, we helped a friend move and the last item was the worst invention in the history of mankind.
  • A Couch bed. Why God Why?
  • And, worse yet, the friend asked my wife if we wanted it? And she said yes!
  • So, we struggled to get it upstairs and then we put it in the back of a truck. Well, it was too long, so I turned it sideways and part of it was hanging over the edge and side of the truck.
  • My wife so graciously said…Jason, I think that’s a bad idea. Jason, I think you should tie that down.
  • Of course like the super caring and super listening husband that I am, I said, woman, I’m the man. It will be ok. Hahah
  • Well, this was a big pick up truck and 3 kids were in the back and there were 3 of us up front.
  • My son Zach was giving me a play by play the entire way. Dad, the couch is shaking. Dad, the couch is moving.
  • I was keeping an eye on it the whole way and told everyone and reminded them that I was the man, the dad and I had it under control.
  • Well, Zach was freaking out more and more and his play by play got more crazy. Dad, the couch is bouncing, the couch is dancing.
  • Just as I looked up into the rear view mirror to calm him down, I hear Zach say…DAD…THE COUCH IS GONE.
  • I saw the couch just take off like a fighter jet from an aircraft carrier!
  • It was GONE. Up in the air and it was spinning. Before long the entire bed couch opened up and it came down fast and landed in the middle of the road, with the bed open and the pillows fell down right on the couch!
  • I stopped the truck and looked at Tracie and said, what should we do now? She said…oh, you want me to listen to you after that!

Slide # 5…Big Idea: Be Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak, Slow to become angry

  • If you want to honor God when you’re up against the ropes, be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry.
  • This comes directly from the words of James in the New Testament in James 1:19

James 1:19

  • James is the author of James and he has a unique family member. He was Jesus’ half brother. He was one of the main leaders in the Jerusalem Church
  • He was writing this to 1st century followers of Jesus
  • James is writing this book to followers of Jesus and his main point is to encourage them to live out their faith. He says it’s one thing to believe in Jesus, know about Jesus, but it’s an entirely different thing to live your life for Him. To honor Him with your life.
    • When we talk too much and listen too little, we communicate to others that we think our ideas are much more important than theirs.


  • James say…hey, why don’t you reverse the process.


  • Put a mental stopwatch on your conversations and keep track of how much you talk and how much you listen.
  • When people talk to you, do they feel that they are heard? Do they feel valued?
  • Here’s how James worded it…

Slide # 6…‘My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry’ ~James 1:19

  • He starts by getting the attention of his church members! MY DEAR BROTHERS! It’s kind of like when you start whispering around your kids. Any of your kids do this? They don’t hear you at all at normal conversation volume. Or yelling. But, you whisper. They quiet right down!
  • And, get this, he doesn’t exclude anyone because he says…EVERYONE. EVERY ONE!
  • Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry

Slide # 6…Be Quick to Listen


  • So, this is one simple line from scripture that can CHANGE your relationships if you live it out.
  • It can turn your relationships upside down. It can help you overcome selfishness and a disease that seemingly has overtaken humanity…me-itis!


  • If you’re in conflict with someone, or someone is trying to talk to you, we need less interrupters! We need better listeners.

Slide # 7…‘Answering before listening is both stupid and rude’ ~Proverbs 18:13 (MSG)

How we can learn from how Jesus listened to people:

  1. He gave people His whole attention
  • Eye contact
  • Not interrupting
  • Put your phone down.
    • My rule: Don’t take it into lunch meetings.
    • Families: Make everyone put it into a basket
    • Small Group Nights: Make everyone put their phones on the counter
  1. He stepped into the other person’s shoes.
  • This is where Empathy comes into play
  • Romans 12:17-19…Discover beauty in everyone, don’t hit back.
  • Try to imagine their pain. Be more concerned about their wounds than yours.
  1. He didn’t Judge! He put down the stones.
  2. He asked questions! He was the master question asker

Story: My Madison and her questions

  • I spoke on Long Island, NY in Jan and I took my 10 year old. She asked questions non stop, the entire trip. I don’t think she took one breath!


  • Jesus asked 307 questions. He was asked 183 and he only answered 3!


  • Listen to this great Proverb!

Proverbs 13:3…”Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything” (MSG)

  • If tensions are rising, or even if they’re not, we must learn to be GREAT listeners!
  • Be quick to listen.
  • I love Proverbs 18:30 from the message

Proverbs 18:13…”Answering before listening is both stupid and rude” (MSG)

A few more tips…

  • Express your concern and willing presence by looking your friend in the eye.
  • Lean toward the speaker in a posture that says, “I really want to hear whatever you have to say.”
  • Touch when appropriate – a gentle squeeze of the hand, a tender pat on the arm, a solid hug.
  • When possible, meet in a private place where tears are free to fall and where emotions can be openly expressed.
  • Convey a message of hope and genuine interest. “I have time for you. I care. You‘re not alone. We can get through this together.” True listening honors the speaker.
  • Displaying shock or judgment will effectively shut down communication.
  • Allow for silence. A careful silence following the other person’s talk, tells her you are not sure if she is finished or is still gathering her thoughts.
  • Don’t give mandates; explore options.
  • Your time together is about the other, not you. It is not the time to share your story. Many a meaningful exchange has been prematurely ended with, “You think that’s bad. One time I . . .”
  • If you’re not a professional counselor, don’t attempt to be one. Listen and if necessary refer your friend to a professional who can be of help.

Be Quick to Listen

Slide # 8…

Good listening requires Patience


  • 1 Cor 13:4…Love is patient
  • Patience is the capacity to be wronged and not retaliate


Good listening is an Act of Love


  • We can’t be preoccupied with ourselves


Good listening asks Great Questions

Slide # 9…“Listening can be a greater service than speaking.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Big Idea: BE Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak, Slow to become angry

Slide # 10…Slow to Speak

  • When we’re up against the ropes, we want to defend ourselves.
  • We stop listening and we start speaking a lot!
  • Anybody ever say something in a fight that they regretted the second it came out of their mouths?

Be Slow to Speak

Slide # 11…‘Even dunces who keep quiet are thought to be wise, as long as they keep their mouths shut, they’re smart’ ~Proverbs 17:28 (MSG)

Imagine how better off our relationships and marriages would be if we were slow to speak.

  • No eruptions
  • NO flying off the handle
  • Holding our sarcastic comments in
  • Leaving our passive aggressive comments out of it

Proverbs 12:18…”Rash language cuts and maims, but there is healing in the words of the wise” (MSG)

[Illustration: Tootpaste]

  • Ok, a little fun to demonstrate something so powerful! It’s so easy for words to flow out…both positive and negative.
  • But, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to get them back! Especially if they came out quick and you didn’t want to say them.

Back in the Bible, in the book of James it says this:

James 3:6…the tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire and is itself set on fire by the hell!

  • What you say and what you don’t say are both important. Proper speech is not only saying the right words at teh right time, but it is also controlling your desire to say what you shouldn’t.
  • Gossip, putting others down, bragging, manipulating, exaggerating, complaining, flattering, lying

Ask yourself:

  1. Is this true?
  2. Is it necessary
  3. Is it kind?
  • James compares the tongue to a raging fire. The uncontrolled tongue can do crazy damage.
  • It can divide couples, families and friends. It can pit them against each other.
  • Just a few words can damage a relationship.
  • Ok, if the tongue is so powerful, how can we control it?
  • Don’t use your strength, use God’s! He gives us the Holy Spirit, an equal part of the Trinity…Father, Son and Holy Spirit to give us power and to convict us.

Ephesians 4:29…Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul of dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word is a gift.

Big Idea: BE Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak, Slow to become angry

Slide # 12…Slow to become Angry

  • Selfish anger never helps anybody. When our egos are bruised or hurt when MY opinions are not being heard. When injustice and sin occur, we should become angry because others are being hurt.
  • But we should not become angry when we fail to win an argument or when we feel offended or neglected.

Slow to become Angry

Slide # 13…‘Don’t be quick to fly off the handle. Anger boomerangs. You can spot a fool by the lumps on his head’ ~Ecclesiastes 7:9 (MSG)


Seek God. Chase after Him. Talk to Him…all the time. Fill your minds the stuff of God.

The bible says to fill our minds with things are that True, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious, the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly, things to praise, not things curse.

Slide # 14…Challenge: Instead of Protecting Our Wounds, Help Heal Wounds

Maybe our parenting approach is all wrong?!? Parenting and the Church pt. 1

My wife and I have 5 kids. We have 3 teenagers (17, 15, 13) and a 9 and 3.5 year old. Parenting is an important part of our lives. One of the most important. And, for the past 22 years, I have had the privilege to serve families in local churches and have had a close up view to many different kinds of parenting styles.

On top of that, I have traveled all over the world and have spoke to thousands of teenagers. I don’t know the exact number. Retreats, Conferences, Camps, Christian Schools, Public Schools, Churches and Colleges. All over.

One more on top of that, we have a Senior in our house. That means we have one year left before she heads out on her own. It really is amazing how quick it goes.

All of that to say, we talk parenting a lot in our house. I talk parenting with my parents a lot. All of my friends have kids similar in age and we talk parenting a lot. I read parenting books and articles. I talk to parents about their thoughts. I talk to teenagers and parents about their thoughts. Because of all that, I’m at a crossroads and I’m thinking that…

Maybe we’re just wrong…jonnywow-maybe

Maybe Tracie and I are just wrong about Parenting when it comes to the Church.

Here’s where we’re coming from. We want our kids involved with the ‘Church’ and their Church. That’s the goal. That’s the win! 

Actually, we don’t want them to ‘just’ be involved or to just be attenders. We want them to be Contributors, Investors and Owners in their local Church.


A. Because the Church is the most important organization on the planet! I mean, Jesus gave His life for us and then He gave us the Church! It is the Bride of Christ and there is nothing more important. 


B. Something becomes so much more alive when you actually own it, rather than just renting it. 

Our point of view on the Church with our kids…

So, our approach to Parenting and the Church is that the Church is non-negotiable. It’s just a part of who we are as a family. And, we don’t want to sit in the cheap sits and watch. We want to be involved. We want to be on the field. We want our kids to love their Church and to be an Owner as much as we are.

That means that our kids are expected to care about their Church, pray for the leaders of their church and to be involved. And to be involved with their age appropriate ministries.

And, from what I can tell, our kids love their Church.

  • Madison, our 9 year old, has been talking about her Club 45 SpringHill retreat for months. (Club 45 is Thrive’s ministry to 4th and 5th graders)

A side note: As a family, we have made the choice that our kids won’t miss retreats or camps. Why? Because that’s where the power happens! There is something so incredible that happens on retreats and camps. I actually wrote an article about this years ago that’s been posted on many camp websites! Here it is. 

  • Zach, our 13 year old, decided to not try out for a travel baseball team because they practice on Sunday’s and he didn’t want that to interfere with Church and Youth Group.
  • All of our teenagers have already started their countdowns to next summer’s Big Stuf Camp. 
  • Shoot, during my recent 29 days off, our kids, on their own, still decided to join our Thrive community on Sunday’s. We let them decide and they decided to be a part.

Don’t think for one second that we’re experts or have the perfect family. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There are so many things we do wrong and need to do a better job when it comes to parenting and parenting teenagers and kids. 

Ok, why all of this? Why am I going on and on?

As a Pastor, I pretty frequently from parents who are beyond disappointed that their teenagers want nothing to do with the Church. 

I hear from other parents who are banging their heads against the wall and want help in getting their teenagers involved at church. 

So, all of that to say…

What if Parents gave even 10% of the passion they put towards their kids…

  • Prom Pictures
  • Football Practice
  • Travel Sports
  • Marching Band
  • 4H
  • Dance Competitions
  • School Stuff

And gave it to celebrating their involvement and serving in the Church?

I mean, its safe to say that parents are very excited about spending hundreds of dollars on Prom and then posting a million pictures of it. I mean, maybe I’ve missed something, but why is spending all that money and going to a dance all that important?

Now, I’m not trying to sound ridiculous. I love that my oldest daughter has gone to prom. She’s beautiful inside and out. I’m also proud that she hasn’t made a big deal about going with a guy and has just choose to go with friends. I went to prom. I love the dance scene from the movie footloose as much as they next guy.

But, when it comes time for parents to pay for summer camp or a youth retreat or a mission trip, sometimes its the end of the world.

End of the freaking world!

‘I can’t pay for that’ or ‘We don’t have it for that’ or ‘the church expects too much’

Hmmmm. But when it comes time to plunk down the fundage for a travel team, or a spring break trip, or a dress…the money is somehow there.

Ok, I know this a GIANT generalization. But, it’s also based on my experience of 22 years of being up close and personal to hundreds and hundreds of families.

Just imagine, MAYBE, how much more passionate our kids and teenagers MIGHT be about God and Church and Student Ministry…

If their parents Celebrated their faith like they celebrated Prom of Football or Soccer or Band?

Is this all unfair?

I know some parents slap up pictures on Facebook of their kids first communion or confirmation, but what about all the other hundreds of Sunday’s? Oh, it could be that some parents only get excited about a few milestone type church events. It could be that those parents themselves are only in Church for those milestone type events. That’s a whole other situation.

But what about all the Sunday’s their kids could be learning about Jesus? What about all the Sunday’s their kids could be leading at Church. Using their music gifts. Using their art gifts. Using their people skills.

Mom and Dad’s, we’re at a crossroads.

It’s time for us to decide if the goal of our parenting is to raise Jesus Followers or Prom dates or Soccer players or Baseball players or Marching Band Players.

The reality, if you don’t make your child’s faith a priority now or you don’t make Church a priority for your family, the likelihood of them coming back to the faith decreases rapidly.

All I know is…

What gets Celebrated gets Repeated.

(thanks for that phrase Andy Stanley)

So, if all we do is celebrate the Prom nights, the homecoming dates, the games, the grades and we don’t spend any time celebrating Church or making room for it or Youth Group or Bible Study or Small Group or celebrating our kids involvement with them. We can almost guarantee that our kids won’t be excited about them.

Maybe I’m Wrong. Maybe I’m too passionate about my kids loving the Church or being involved.


Or Maybe I’m onto something. More thoughts in part two coming next week.



The Gift of Sheila = Unbelievable Generosity that rocks your life!

The Raitz family has been so blessed over the years.

And, when I say blessed, I don’t mean…’oh, we’re so happy’, kind of blessed.’

I mean the kind of blessed where your life, where your family, where your everyday life is so rocked and so moved and so blown away, you just don’t know how to function! And then, all you want to do, is do just that for other people. 

Well, a few months ago, an amazing couple from our Church came over and gave us a gift that knocked the air out of our lungs. We sat there in silence and we had no idea how to respond.

The size and scope of the generosity was absolutely amazing.

Actually, after it happened, Tracie and I went into our bedroom and shut the door and just hugged and cried. That lasted about 2.5 second because we have 5 kids! Hah!

They gave us the Gift of Sheila! Which, if you’re wondering what that is, Shiela is the IMG_8052nick name we gave their mini van.

They gave us a mini van!

I am not even kidding! Just unreal! 

I can’t even begin to express what an answer to prayer this gift was for our family. I can’t even begin to express how incredibly blown away we have been for the past couple of months as we think about what this family did for us!

This is the kind of generosity that literally CHANGES LIVES! 

And, the amazing generosity started back in 2014. We were headed as a family to Florida to speak at a summer camp. Our van was barely kicking. As a last minute hail mary, I put out on Facebook that we were asking for prayer for our van to get to Florida. That’s when I got a message that we could use this couples mini van. It was a huge answer to prayer.

Over the next 3 years, again and again, they let us borrow their van for us to travel to speaking engagements and vacations. We went to WI and to IL and to SC and to FL. Over the course of this time…

Sheila became a part of the family. 

The couple that gave us Sheila has been a part of our lives since 2012. That’s when I first met them. They lived down state and attended a Church that I was speaking at. They were a part of the prayer and I still remember the day I first me them and they prayed over me before I spoke.

Fast forward and they moved back to Central Michigan and they have been a part of Thrive since the very beginning. Actually, Thrive would not exist without this couple. Their heart to serve, to pray and to give just continually blows me away.

Every Pastor needs encouragers. I don’t know where I would be without them. They have taught me so much about following Jesus and so much about generosity!

Every time I drive Sheila I pray for them. I ask God to bless them.

Our hope is that God will use us in a similar way to bless the people around us!


The Presence of God was overwhelming

Have you ever felt the presence of God? 

I did today. 

We were in a Chinese medical office and we were waiting for Kai to be seen. Before he can leave China, he has go through a check up and have a TB test. 

As we were sitting, family after family starting coming in. I couldn’t help myself, I love meeting new people, so I started learning everyone’s stories. 

That’s when it happened. 

The Presence of God was Incredibly Powerful! 

I realized that this is the kind of place that Jesus was talking about…

‘For where to or three gather together as my followers, I am there among there’ ~Matthew 18:20 (nlt)

I talked with family after family and hearing their story was one of the most moving and profound moment of life I’ve ever experienced. 

Families who were on their second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth adoptions. 

Are you kidding me?

Families who were adopting children with severe special needs. Families who had taken a giant step of faith. 

And, it hit me. I know Jesus is here. Why would He not be? I mean, this is a Gathering of people who care for the ‘least of these’. 

‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me’ ~Matthew 25:45 (nlt)

The Presence of God was Powerful and Overwhelming. 

At times I had to make sure I wiped tears quickly so everyone in the room wouldn’t find out that I’m just a mess! 

Here’s the beautiful thing though, you can serve the ‘least of these’ anywhere you are! It hit me, I’m in China, but there are so many opporunties and moments back home to care for and to love and to serve the ‘the least of these’. 

The CHURCH made Kai’s Adoption a Reality

How about that for a headline!?! 

That’s the reality though, without the local CHURCH, Kai’s adoption would not have happened. 

Tracie and I weren’t in a position to afford this adoption on our own. Maybe that should have stopped us from pursuing it. It has stopped many. A few people expressed that opinion to us. Well, not face to face but on Facebook and to others. But, as we prayed about it, we just felt God’s overwhelming push to move forward and to ask the CHURCH to help. So, we did. We did it on Facebook. We did it through emails. We did it on my blog. We did it Face to face. 

And…the CHURCH DID!!!! 

Here’s what I mean by that. Not one Church is responsible for Kai’s adoption or one person or one family, but MANY. 

We had 6 year olds give $5. We had teenagers give. We had families give $20. We had some who gave thousands. We had people give from Central Michigan, the Detroit Area, Grand Rapids and up north. From…PA, IND, VA, CA, CO, NV, TX, LA, NY, OH, IL, WI, WA, FL, TN, KY, DC and some I’m forgetting about. 

But, Kai’s adoption couldn’t have happened without every one of those gifts. 

And, how about this…

99% of the people that gave were followers of Jesus. 

You know why? Because generosity is close to the heart of God! I mean, HE Gave HIS Son for us! Jesus gave everything! The Acts 2 Church gave to support each other. We, as the Church, are called to give! I believe we’re called to give first to God through the Local Church and then to give as God leads us to give. 

I love what Todd Clark said about generosity…

‘Generosity will make you rich not poor’

I have found that to be 100% true in my life. Embarrassingly enough, I fought this for years. I didn’t give because I thought that because I made hardly anything working for the church and because I gave so much time to the Church, that that was the same as giving financially. I was wrong. Dead wrong. There is a very strong and compelling reason that Jesus said your treasure is where your heart is. He knew that we struggle like crazy to Trust Him and He wants our heart. If we can’t put our finances ahead of our heart, we won’t experience all He has for us. 

I can honestly say that is true. I have experienced that. When you make generosity so common in life, like breathing, and you do that over time, whether times are good or bad, one day…

You will wake up and experience a waterfall of the Holy Spirits presence in your life. I have. It’s amazing. 


And, actual Churches made Kai’s adoption a reality. This just completely blows my mind! It’s still had to wrap my mind around!

3 Churches, who really don’t know my family or I all that well (I mean, I have a friendship with their Pastors) took offerings to help us! ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?? So, we will always be in awe and so grateful to 242 Community Church in MI, New Bethel Church in IN and Canvas Church in VA. 

Then, Thrive Church in CA, who knows more of me and my Church because we’re in the same network of Churches, received an offering as well. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?

Also, the night before we left, I asked some folks from my Church to gather and pray for us. And they did! And, they threw us a surprise shower to help with Kai’s clothes and toys and toddler stuff! 


The Church is responsible for this adoption. Of all the complaining and whining I read about the CHURCH, I’m sorry if I can’t join in! I love the LOCAL CHURCH! She is the bride of Christ. The local Church, when working right, is the Hope of the World. The Church preaches the Gospel. The Church gives people a home. The Church allows the generations to come together. The Church is a movement! The Church is the hands and feet of Jesus! The Church is the LIGHT to this dark world. 

That’s why it just shocks me that Christians have become so apatathic towards their Churches. But, that’s for another blog post. 

Here’s what I know…

A boy who didn’t have a family, now has one. A boy who didn’t have a Church home, now has one. A boy who wasn’t going recieve the level of medical care his PKU needed, will receive one. A boy who slep in a crip with 12 other kids, will now have 4 siblings. A boy on the other side of the world, one of the 17 million orphans in the world, now has a home. 

The Church did that! 

I love the Church. 

‘Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you’ ~ James 1:27