Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Matthew 5:3

I came across a PBS news segment a few weeks back that was covering some "controversial" results from research done by Paul Piff at the University of California, Berkeley.  Since then, I have been chewing on it thinking not only about the results of his studies but how it strongly correlates into our spiritual lives.

Here's a link to the video (Money on the Mind) but if you don't have 10 minutes let me recap you real quick.  With over thirty different types of studies and thousands of participates, they feel the results are very conclusive that "rich" people feel more entitled to their wealth and that they help others (physically, mentally, charitably, etc) less than the "average joe".

Studies range from watching to see what different cars in an intersection would do ("luxury cars (porsche, mercedes, etc.) were 3 to 4 times more likely to break the law than 'regular' cars") to playing a "rigged" game of Monopoly (where one player, picked at random, was allowed to play with normal rules while the other had everything cut in half: half the start money, one dice to roll, collecting $100 when passing go, etc.).  After the rigged game of Monopoly, decided only by a coin toss, they asked the "rich" player in the game how much they deserved to win the game, the researchers found that "they were entitled... the rich person felt like they deserved and earned the win."

I mean... wow!!  For some reason this connected hard to my heart.  I didn't really care if the study was making a social status argument or adding fuel to the fire of the economic divide in our country.  I took it personally, I thought about my own salary and the fact that I often feel I have "earned it" working long hours or occasionally doing things I really dislike doing.  Then I thought about my kids and the way they often take for-granted dinner that Courtney works so hard on each night or that they "need" some apples and water at their bedside each night.  I thought about all the luxuries we have in the United States compared to our friends in Haiti.  I remembered a message I once heard where the speaker said: "if you have ever rode in a plane, have two cars and a savings account you are in the top 7% of the wealthiest folks in the world."  In fact, I found this website the other day that actually shows you were you are in the context of the rest of the world financially (Check it out, click here).

Like stated above, I'm not really concerned on whether you agree with the "politics" of what the study reveals or if that quote about wealth is 100% accurate or the hidden agenda of the website I linked.  I want to know if you can connect with some of the questions raised by the study?  But I'd also like to take it into a totally different focus than money.  What if we think about the same study but apply it to our spiritual lives.  Have you ever felt entitled to your faith, like you deserved the salvation you now possess?  Are you taking for granted the grace and mercy God has show you in your own life?  Do you see yourself as better than others because you know "the truth"?

It is my experience, both personally and talking with lots of folks over the years that something happens to us over time when we have a wealth of "spiritualness" in our lives.  We start thinking we deserve it, we start treating those outside our circle as 'broken' and ourselves as 'fixed', we start acting like we know the truth and they are 'lost'.  Though some of the points I just mentioned may be theologically accurate, I wonder what those "poor in spirit" see when they look at our lives.  I wonder how our relationship with God is when it's just the two of you late at night.  I've noticed in my own life, I often shift to a "me" focus.  From the fact that God chose me, that Jesus died for me, that the Spirit gives me strength; to I save myself, I made it possible to enter heaven and I beat sin.  FYI: I'm not trying to get into a Calvinism conversation, just asking 'how you are doing'?

How are you doing with loving others more than yourself (not because you're better than them but because God first loved us)?  How are you doing with sharing your faith(not because you know more than others but because Jesus commanded us to share)?  How are you doing with being in awe of God (not because you're more spiritually enlightened but because the Spirit has led you to His greatness)?

May we be more 'Jesus focused' and less 'us focused' this week.  May we be thankful for the gifts you continue to pour out on us.  May we never take for granted the sacrifice You made and calling us to your family.  May we never look down on others no matter the circumstance.  May we never treat others poorly because they are different.  May we love others because you first loved us.  May we be 'needy' in Spirit each day and grateful when you fill us up!! 

P.S. I'm the 29,805,011th richest person in the world... Though that doesn't seem so good, I'm reminded there's 7+ Billion folks in the world (I am "blessed to be a blessing")!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Plastic Jesus

Several years back Courtney and I were at a conference in California.  During some off time we were walking around in some downtown area when I saw this figurine in a shop window.  I told Court we had to go in and get it, when she told me it seemed offensive (often my voice of reason).

As I looked over this "Answer Me Jesus" I thought about how this could be taken so so offensively.  But then another idea hit me... Why is this $15 plastic statue so offensive?  Shouldn't the fact that many of us make Jesus just that, a plastic jesus, in our lives be what's really offensive?  Why should we be mad at some guy, who probably doesn't know Jesus as messiah, just because he sells a novelty item.  The real anger should be felt by those of us who have belittled our savior in our own lives... Making Jesus fit our ideas and agendas!!

I wonder... Is your Jesus 'Plastic'!?  Here's some Plastic Jesus examples:

#1 Answer Me Jesus... Have you shrunk your relationship with Jesus to merely answering trivial questions about your life?  Should I date the guy?  Did I have too much to drink last night?  Was that really a lie that I just told or good stewardship?  Should I super-size it?

#2 Bobble Head Jesus... Have you even stopped asking Jesus open ended questions?  Do you simply want your Jesus to give you a 'Yes' to whatever you are wanting at that time?  Jesus, I totally had a right to blow up like I did, right?  I don't have to answer to anyone else about my happiness, right?  Surely I'm not at any fault for this argument?

#3 Dashboard Jesus... Have you moved past seeking any advice or reassurance but you do know the importance of having Jesus with you no matter where you go?  Jesus, I don't really want you to talk but I love that you come with me no matter what.  I don't need your opinions or JUDGEMENT just rock with me man.

#4 Toy Jesus... Did you keep moving until you left him behind?  I'm pretty embarrassed that I used to talk to you jesus.  I've grown up and don't really need you coming with me throughout my day and definitely don't need answers from something so out of date.  In fact, I'm not really sure where I even put that jesus?

#5 Baby Jesus... I'm a CEO now (Christmas and Easter Only)!!  This whole church thing isn't what jesus wanted but I'll come occasionally to appease the family.  Though this religion is just a set of superstitions it is supported by a good teacher but even he wasn't perfect.  Jesus is just a loving son who wants everyone to be happy.

Would you do me a favor... would you take 2-minutes right where you are and ask yourself: has my Jesus become plastic in my life Would you be so bold to be gut honest with yourself?

I recently have had a reality check to where I have been.  My Jesus knew grace and truth but was cool with giving me the extra grace and even mercy, even when I didn't seek Him out.  I had put my Jesus on the shelf and essentially left him there for a few months.  Sure, I would pass-by occasionally and be reminded it had been awhile since I talked with him and though I felt guilty I really didn't have the time to stop.  I was thankful He was still out for all to see and be the example for my kids but we knew he was a forgotten about figurine just collecting dust.

Today, I'm thankful for the gospel again.  The gospel is good news and redemption for me and you EACH DAY!!  Jesus came to be more than a plastic jesus but instead a real authentic relationship.  And the coolest news... He loves us too much to let us keep going without opportunity of knowing what that can be like, He provides a New Beginning each and every day for those who are willing (2 Corinthians 5:17)!!

Are you willing to trade in what you've made jesus and accept instead what He is (a real relationship)!?  Are you ready to live for a creator that died for his creation not because you have to but because you want to!? 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bathroom 101

I'm not sure what your evening routine is with kiddos but here’s an example recently: 
7:30p  Court: "Alright guys, let's start getting ready for bed"
7:32p  Impromptu dance party in the living room
7:45p  Me: "Okay, that was fun, now let's get ready for bed"
7:51p  Loud noises and possibly the sound of things breaking
7:52p  Me: "GUYS... WHY ARE YOU YELLING!?"
7:55p  Court: "Did you remember to get your drink or apple?" (Yes, they love apples)
8:01p  Kids: "Dad, will you read a chapter of our book tonight"
8:02p  Me: "Did you guys brush your teeth tonight?"
          Kids: "YES!!!!"
          Me: "No you did not"
          Kids: "Yes we did"
          Me: "Do it again then"
8:03p  Kids: "Done"
          Me: "Everybody back to the bathroom…"
8:15p  Kids asleep IN OUR DREAMS!!!

It was here that I noticed something… At some point we started assuming our kids knew the routine for bed and believed they did it well each time.  And if I were being very honest, I would have to admit that more often than not I’m not very vigilant or concerned with the process as much as I just need them down and soon!!   Sure, at 8, 7 & 4 we should be getting close, at least, for two of them but that doesn’t mean what happened next wasn’t necessary.  Courtney and I began going over “Bathroom 101.”  We walked through ‘washing hands’, ‘showering’, ‘combing’, ‘brushing’ and even ‘wiping’ (no stone left unturned here).  It turned into a pretty fun time and one I will remember forever because it was exactly the word picture I was looking for to articulate where I am at in my spiritual journey.

Though I know I’m supposed to be reading my Bible, praying, sharing God's love, etc.  Somewhere along the way it had become just the "routine" and over time had been dwindled down to the bare basics of a list.  I would pray every day, I would try and share God's love both in action and word, I would even check the list with some Bible reading in the morning to get my day "started right."  But I was missing the intent All of those, to use some Christianese, spiritual disciplines were well and good and I believe even essential to keep a solid commitment to God in "dry times."  However, because they were just things I did to start my day, I treated them as such, just brushing my teeth for 7 seconds to say I had and not getting the real point (or benefit) of taking my time and doing it well.  

Hear me clearly… I don't have it all together!  I'm not even completely through this period right now.  I do know that I don't want to just have a meaningless checklist but a real relationship with the Creator of the universe.  This week, I'm excited again for reading God's living Word praying for my heart to be moved closer to His story.  This week, I'm focused on reading other author's thoughts on discipline and truth.  This week, I'm praying for change and will not back down until it happens.  This week, I focus on my physical body and my spiritual body.  My hope is that 'this week' turns into a month, that turns into a year, that continues for a new season in my life.  

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Good Moms & Good Dads

Throughout my day, I often receive an assortment of random things from sermon messages "I have to hear" to funny YouTube videos "I have to see" (want proof: click here)... And with the rise of Pintrest (I know I'm speaking your love language now ladies), as of late, I have been getting helpful and often clever pictures as well!!  

Though I have been carrying these two in my phone for some time, I wanted to share them today.  The first is a incredibly helpful and sweet picture with some "Tips for a Enjoyable Morning" with Moms and their kids... I love it's content and if all you get off todays posts is that picture, it was worth your time (Mornings are the pace-setter for the day and I know I need all the help I can get)!!

Make preparations... Lay out their clothes... Decide the night before what's for breakfast... Wake up before our children... Turn on soft music... Pray over them... Wake them up with joy... Give lots of kisses

The second picture is one I received from my little sister with a note that said: "Yeah, thought of you"!!  I couldn't help but laugh out loud, both because of the picture and because I was semi-concerned that that was literally Jackson and I on a past Lowes trip!!

Simple and sweet 'food for thought' today... Whether you are carving out extra time in the mornings with your kids OR just making the most of the time you do have, our kids will learn from us what's important (May it be THEM)!!  

Can I pray a blessing for you right now? Will you take 2 more minutes and pray it with me?

**If you are interested in my personal three-hour training of the '10 Things YOU Should Know About Teens & Tweens' please e-mail me for a FREE copy of the manuel and video link!!

**Follow Jeff, also known as "surgeberg" on: FacebookTwitter & Instagram

Friday, January 03, 2014

Top 10 Moments of 2013 (and honorable mentions)

Honorable Mentions:
*) Can-Jam (which is really Disc Slam)!!

*) The Berg's first official Camping Trip!!

*) Eating our harvest from the Garden!!

*) Selling the Jeep (20 years later)!! :(

Top 10 Moments of 2013:
10) Mr. Norris (Christmas Present AND being followed on Twitter)!!

9) Epic Snow Fort (SnoKLAHOMA 2013)!!

8) Chick-Fil-A for a Year (Halftime Kick from the 20 yard-line)!!

7) D.I.S.C. (Bixby Football)!!

6) Carly Treasure Berg (Our newest member of the family)!!

5) Taylor Thompson (Baptism & New Album)!!

3) K-Kauai (Kanakuk Family Kamp)!!

2) Berg Family Fun Night (Click hear to read more on Faith Talks)!!

Note that some of the listings are in a different color and underlined meaning you can click on them to read more from a previous post!!

If you like what you're seeing… Please check out my weekly blog on!!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Getting to know: Jeff Berg

Jeff was born in Enid, Oklahoma and grew up there until heading off to college to play football and sing in the university concert choir at Ottawa University.  He had accepted Jesus at Falls Creek in 1992, but realized under the discipleship of Chris Creighton, head football coach and mentor, that he wasn’t “all in for Jesus.”  He wanted more…to be radically obedient to Christ.  Upon leaving Kansas, a short adventure followed from back packing Scotland to singing for the Royal Family of England but concluded back in Missouri at a place he holds dear to his heart: Kanakuk

In the summer of 2002, Jeff began a 15-month program called the Kanakuk Institute, an accelerated seminary program for youth and family ministries.  It is in this year where life “plans” were thrown out, when Jeff met a gal who was recovering from a shoulder surgery (playing college volleyball at the University of Tulsa) and thus donned corn-rows on her head.  From meeting Courtney in September things moved pretty quickly, as Jeff asked her to marry him in January of 2003.  They were married August 16, of that year, and began full time ministry at Grace Community in Bartlesville, Oklahoma two weeks later.  

Their ministry grew from the inside out when they delivered a healthy baby boy named Jackson in June 2005, and very shortly after a little girl named Creighton in November 2006.  Though having multiple kids under two was quite enough, Courtney earned ‘super-mom’ status while Jeff finished a Master’s Degree in Youth and Family that same year.  As ministry would continue to grow, so would their hearts for more children and adoption.  Shortly there after the Berg family was blessed with a beautiful baby girl named Charleigh.  Not only did they gain a new member of their family, but through open adoption, they gained insight, perspective and a whole new branch to their family tree.  The journey of adoption has been, and will probably always be, joyous and stretching as well as everything in between.  Though many deep friendships and bonds were formed in Bartlesville, the Lord led Jeff and Courtney to Bixby/South Tulsa with New Beginnings in early 2011.  

Leaving "da ville" after eight years and starting over again in a new town, new church, new friends, new home, and new students was a big step but God will always be faithful.  They have been on the NBC staff now for over 3 years and in that time have already seen several healthy changes like Reach-Out Sunday, Summer Camp and the move from Youth Pastor to Family Pastor.  Courtney and Jeff are often leading trips to Haiti but are very excited to be taking their family for the first time this summer.  Jeff lives for life-on-life discipleship with others and is extremely passionate about seeing families, youth and young adults transformed by the gospel. 

Their family loves being together on bike rides, dance parties, summer water days, winter fire nights, and everything in between.  You will probably never meet anyone that has more appreciation and knowledge of movies, Chuck Norris, and 24… But if you do, please introduce them to each other!!  He is passionate about leading his family, honoring his wife, loving his children, and being the hands and feet of Christ each and everyday.

Don't Die Wonderin'

The Bergs
**Follow Jeff (Family Pastor of High School), also known as "surgeberg" on: FacebookTwitter & Instagram