Friday, November 30, 2012

FAITH is Focusing on Gods Authority Rather Than My Own Ability


We get in the way of our own faith when we are focused so much on ourselves that we can’t focus on God:

  • We focus on our material needs instead of our spiritual needs 
  • We focus on what we want from God instead of what God wants from us 
  • We focus on what we are capable of accomplishing instead of what God has already accomplished 
  • We focus on our own righteousness instead of Christ’s righteousness in us 
Jesus told us to focus on our Father’s authority instead of our own ability:
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? ”So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

5 Questions That Make Church People Uncomfortable


1. From what SPECIFICALLY did Jesus save you? A while ago, I talked to someone after church who was convinced that salvation didn’t necessarily bring life change. She was already a pretty moral person. If you don’t know what sin Jesus saved you from, you don’t know why you need salvation. Besides, we don’t like thinking about our own sinfulness.

2. Whom did you invite into relationship with Jesus this week? Even though this is the prime directive for Jesus followers (see Matthew 28:19-20), Christians (self-included) only find time for this activity on very rare occasions.

3. What needs do you have? Church people are pretty famous for not having any problems. We like to show up looking our best, and behaving our best and saying “fine” about thirty times when people as how we are. It’s strange that the one place on earth where we should wide open about how broken we are is the one place where it is socially inappropriate to admit neediness.

4. How can I pray for you to have victory over a besetting sin this week? :)

5. How has your time with God this week altered your life forever? The reason this is an uncomfortable question is because we would all say that we want God to regularly be altering our live in amazing ways… but most of us are pretty similar to the person we were two years ago.

 *picture from the ongoing adventures of ASBO Jesus

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Everyone Should Be Part of a Braid

 

Who are the other strands in your life's rope?
Into whose life are you closely braided?
Does this principle describe your family life?
 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Four Stages of Generosity

We all want to be generous people, but generosity is not something that we acquire overnight. We are by nature self-centered, and so it is counter-intuitive for us to be generous. Below are four stages we can work through to develop generosity in our life.


1. Satisfaction.
"I don't need anything else in order to be happy and fulfilled."
Adam and Eve had everything they needed in the garden, but they wanted more. They wanted to be like God. Rather than be satisfied, they instead chose to covet. We can never be generous if we aren't first satisfied.

2. Contentment.
"Even if I lost everything, I could still be happy and fulfilled."
This is a big step up from satisfaction. Job experienced loss unlike most people could ever imagine. Yet he realized that his joy and his fulfillment didn't come from anything he owned or any relationship he had. They came from God. As long as Job was able to focus on God's character and promises, he was able to be content. All generous people must first be content.

3. Gracious Giving.
"I choose to give to people even when they don't deserve it."
People who give gifts so they can receive something in return are not generous. True giving means we give to someone who will not necessarily repay us and someone who may not deserve our good favor. Generosity is rooted in a desire to give to others, without receiving anything in return.

4. Sacrificial Giving.
"I choose to give to people even though it will cost me dearly."
Jesus is the perfect example of generosity. He gave his life for those who hated Him. Just before His death, he said, "Greater love has no one than that he lays down his life for his friends." This is ultimate generosity... giving your life away for the good of others, even if they don't deserve it.

Once you are ready to give your life away, you are ready to live a generous life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Before You Slumber. Take a Moment...

Breathe out.

Breathe in.

Exhale the carbon dioxide in your body.

Inhale the pure oxygen your lungs are craving.

As you breathe out, let go.

As you breathe in, embrace.

Let go of the day’s pain and trouble and disappointment.

Embrace tomorrow’s joy and possibilities, and excitement.

Let go.

Embrace.

Exhale.

Inhale.

Breathe out.

Breathe in.

Sleep well.

Discovering the Joy Filled Life

Oh, the joys of those who do not

follow the advice of the wicked,

or stand around with sinners,

or join in with mockers. (Psalm 1:1 NLT)

Other translations begin this verse with "Blessed is the man..." I like the phrasing of the NLT, "Oh, the joys..." This is a good reminder that the blessed life is a life of joy. Blessings do not necessarily come in the shape of material or financial gain. Blessings are not always related to our circumstances. Blessings do not have to be us receiving something really wanted. However, the blessed life is always a life full of joy.

JOY IS NOT RELATED TO OUR CIRCUMSTANCES. (Here are some other thoughts on "joy")

Interestingly, in Psalm 1, the author first points to what does NOT bring the joy-filled life (He will use verse 2 to explain the source of the blessed life). Here is the conclusion. Joy is not found in the coalitions you create for your own benefit. I know it maybe doesn't exactly say this, but let me suggest that is exactly what it means. Consider this:

  • Since the garden of Eden, self-exaltation has been at the root of all evil.
  • The wicked, the sinners, and the mockers are all people who can be characterized first as those who are selfish.
  • These are people who create relationships for their own gain. Those who enter relationships with these people do so for their own gain, even if that "gain" is simply feeling more popular or better about oneself.
  • Relationships which center around my own desires and advancement will never bring me joy.
Take it from someone who has lived this experiment, and who has seen the devastation caused when relationships are leveraged for personal gain. The relationships you have will never completely fulfill you... ESPECIALLY, if they are relationships formed with the wicked, the sinners, and the mockers... aka the self-absorbed.

But...

Wait for verse 2, there the secret of a joyful life is revealed.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I Think I'll Write a Book Now.

So, I've been contemplating writing a book.

Actually, I've already written a few, but never published them. You can read them in draft form if you want.

Formations

The DNA of a Healthy Christian

Supermodel Jesus

But now, I'm going to try my hands at a real book. And if I have the time and endurance, it might even find its way to Amazon... But probably not. Life is usually more important.

Ae a faithful reader of this blog, you get to read the first few lines before anyone else. You are welcome:

Click.

"Son of a..." Owen stopped himself. Even though the words had already completed their course through his mind, they weren't appropriate to leave the mouth of a pastor.

"Just what I need", he thought to himself as he turned the key again.

Click.

He knew it wouldn't make a difference, but he turned the key once more and held it.

Click. Click. Click.

We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

You Are Your Own Worst Enemy!

I saw this little cartoon over at 22words. Frankly, it's brilliant. Marianne and I were just talking tonight about the dangers of "victim" thinking. No matter how much we might want to blame those around us for our troubles, the truth is that most of us... most of the time... are guilty of sabatoging our own lives.

How do we stop? The first step is to acknowledge and identify the things we do to ourselves that trip up our lives. Only then can we start taking positive steps to be PROACTIVE in life, rather than REACTIVE.

Screen capture from my IPad. Original source is unknown.
 

Have You Ever Heard Me Speak? Did You Not Hate It?

Have you heard me speak? If you don't hate listening to me, would you consider taking a minute to complete the survey below. I hope to use some of the answers as I put together my "introduction packet" I will send to churches/camps/organizations where I may have the opportunity to speak. (if you can add your name, if that's uncomfortable for you, that's okay also!) Thank you in advance!

3 Relationships That Enable Christians To Develop Spiritual Maturity


Over the years, I've done a little bit of thinking about what "spritual maturity" looks like, particularly within the context of a church community. Here's some (not all) thoughts I've had.

True spiritual maturity happens through a process we often call discipleship. They type of discipleship Jesus modeled for us was dependent on relationships. Therefore spiritual maturity happens as people are connected to one another.

I believe these connections can be identified in three relationships every Christ-follower engages in:

  • A relationship with God which is characterized by love. (Mark 12:30)
  • A relationship with our neighbors which is characterized by love. (Mark 12:31)
  • A relationship with other believers which is characterized by love. (John 13:34)

Walking the right path can enable a person to develop these three relationships in a healthy manner. Here are five maturity-producing activities which can assist any believer in growing the three relationship in their life.

Exploring their faith. Every person should take stock of their current state, examine the offer Christ extends, and seek understanding of the commitment required to enter the kingdom of God. 
Launching their spiritual journey. Once convinced, every convert to the way of Jesus should publicly declare their new relationship with Jesus and His church through the sacrament of baptism. 
Partnering with other believers. Because the Christian life is best lived in shared relationship with other believers, every Christ-follower should identify themselves with a community of believers for the purpose of being formed to the image of Christ and of being a formative influence in the lives of others. 
Investing their resources in the kingdom. Because Christ is Lord of all we have (our resources, our gifts, our time, etc.), we are to utilize all we have in the way we believe Jesus would. Therefore, since the example of Jesus was one of sacrifice and service, every believer should seek to use all their resources to sacrificially serve all with whom they come into contact. 
Engaging their circles of influence. The true sign of a kingdom subject is multiplication. Those who have accepted life of Christ in place of their own demonstrate their faith by acting like Christ in the world. In death, Christ redeemed sinners, thus we seek to bring that redemption to all within our circles of influence. Throughout his life, Christ relieved suffering, thus we strive to relieve suffering whenever we encounter it.

That's not all I have to say about that!

Monday, September 24, 2012

6 Things Every Leader Must Do

Not everyone can be a leader all the time, however, at some point in their life most people engage in leadership. When you find yourself leading, consider these six "must-do" activities.

6 Exercises to Cultivate Team Excellence
Establish a clear direction. I did not say "choose a direction" or "proclaim a direction". A good leader does not set agendas himself, he observes and listens to his followers/team and establishes a direction which reflects everyone's gifts and passions. Before you can be a vision-caster, you must learn to be a vision-collector.

Explain with precision the roles of those you are guiding. Most people simply want to know what is expected of them. They want to know how they will be evaluated, and they want to know what they can do to help accomplish the "win." While a leader may fully succeed in getting the right people in the right seats on the bus, if he doesn't clearly communicate the expectation, he will fail. It should also be noted that a leader can never get his people into the right roles if he doesn't know his people's gifts, passions, and dreams. True leadership demands a great deal of listening and observing.

Equip completely with the training and resources necessary to accomplish the team's shared vision. A good leader recognizes tht everyone with whom they work has an important role. They must equip them to accomplish that role. Equipping includes training and providing resources, but it also includes assisting someone in maximizing their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses. A good leader recognizes that everyone they lead is unique and therefore they learn to develop creative approaches when equipping different people.

Enable accomplishment by unleashing people in their areas, by giving them necessary authority, and by regularly advocating their efforts in public. Nothing can be more disheartening for someone than to have a leader who doesn't enable them to accomplish their tasks. As a leader, if you can't unleash someone to do a job, it is an indictment against your leadership style. If you aren't willing to give someone the authority to do a job, the likely reason is that you haven't capably equipped them. On the other hand, nothing is more empowering than a leader who not only unleashes people to work, but takes every opportunity to publicly proclaim how much they value and trust the work of those they lead. A leads who does this will have followers who accomplish much.

Encourage perseverance by regularly collecting updates and providing assistance when asked. Those you lead will become discouraged, they will have setbacks. There will be times when they want to quit. You can intervene in those moments and encourage them to carry on. If you step in at the right time and help them to refocus on the ultimate goal, you may keep them from quitting. But you'll never know if they are wearing down if you aren't regularly checking in with them. However, don't check in just to "monitor their progress". Be certain they understand and believe that you are checking in because you want to see them succeed. "Progress reports" should be an exciting and anticipated time, not a dreaded practice. You'll set the tone, and by doing so, you'll create a culture of perseverance.

Evaluate the person's work by rewarding effective accomplishment and by correcting issues which may have led to incompletion. Simply put, "those who have done well with a small thing should be given more. And those who has struggled with a large thing should be given less." good evaluations will help you identify the proper load for all your team members.



Thursday, September 20, 2012

What Once Was Lost Has Now Been Found!

A little over fifteen years ago, Marianne and I moved to Muskegon with nothing to our name but tiny red-headed baby doll and a bunch of hospital bills from her birth. We bought a modest home and began our Muskegon-life together.

I had my dream job. I worked at my alma mater, and got to teach the Bible to teenagers five times every day. I was helping disciple several young people, and on the weekends I got to serve in a pastoral role for middle schoolers.

During these two years I created a four year Bible curriculum for Christian high school students. I had never completed such a large project, and in the process I discovered a passion for writing and creating educational materials. Even to this day, I consider that project one of my favorites of all time.

After two short years in that role, I shifted directions and became the Pastor of Student Ministries at my church. I was still working with some of the same students, as well as many other amazing kids from other schools; but my teaching load was significantly decreased. I did, however, continue to create curriculum and study material, but rarely on the same level as that initial project.

Sadly, in the move from one church buidling to another and in a computer crash a few months later, all copies I had of that curriculum were lost. I thought I had passed it on to a few people before I changed roles, but I was never able to successfully figure out who those people had been. Over the years, a few inquiries and searches yielded nothing, and I eventually concluded that the curriculum had been lost.

Until today...


Today I found myself in a storage barn digging through old files in a rusted out cabinet when I came across a hanging folder labeled "curriculum". My heart skipped a beat, partly because I thought the writing on the folders tab might even be my own. I opened the folder to discover...

It was Bible curriculum from Dayton Christian High School.

Disappointed, I returned to my task and discovered in the folder behind the Dayton Christian curriculum another folder which contained my curriculum in its entirety. I didn't weep, but on a lesser day I might have.

What once was lost, now is found... And what a strange path it took for me to find it.

Without a ridiculously twisted and involved series of events, I might never have found myself in that barn, today, looking through that filing cabinet...

So for whatever it's worth, for a moment I'm grateful for some really messed up events, if only because they helped me rediscover a piece of my past... And if anyone is looking for a high school Bible teacher, or a four year curriculum (with complete scope and sequence) for high school Bible, you know where to reach me!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Your Reputation May Be Damaging the Reputation of God

Have you ever considered the idea that God's reputation is not tied to His character, but rather is tied to the behavior of His people?

No one can control their own reputation.
Of course, I need to clarify that anyone's "reputation" is not necessarily an accurate portrayal of who they are. It is simply what people think of them. And everyone's reputation will vary from person to person, depending on what each person has allowed to influence their opinion.

God's reputation is largely derived from the way His people have represented Him over the ages. Is it any wonder, then, that in some quarters His reputation among people is not equal to His actual greatness? How damaging to the reputation of God have been the inquisition, the crusades, slavery, and opposition to civil rights? How much does God's reputation suffer when those who claim to follow Him spend all their time picking fights, gossiping, and asserting their superiority over others?

On the other hand, how much is God's reputation grown by those who care for the needy, who feed the poor, and who serve orphans and widows?

To be sure, God doesn't need our help! The success of the Creator is not dependent on our ability to win a PR competition on His behalf. Yet, he has gifted us with the opportunity to be His ambassadors, and He has declared that we are "aliens and strangers" who are to live uniquely in the world so that those around us will change their opinion about God. We ought to take this responsibility seriously. If we truly love Him, it will not even be a responsibility. Who doesn't care deeply for the reputation of those they love?

Have you considered what might be the greatest obstacle we face in trying to enhance the reputation of God?

Perhaps, it is our own reputation.

How many people's actions have reflected poorly on God because they were more concerned with how people thought of them. In the name of our own reputation, many of us have at times:

  • prioritized happiness
  • pursued pleasure
  • preferred convenience
  • persecuted enemies
  • picked on the weak

How this must grieve God, and how it must cause those around us to think ill of the one we serve!

As you walk your life's path, take time regularly to consider these question, "Is what I am doing today going to enhance my reputation at the cost of God's? Am I willing to decrease in the eyes of men, so that God's reputation will be enhanced?" Then ACT accordingly!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Three Minutes

Three minutes.

Three minutes of just writing whatever comes to my mind.

This was an awkward day. Waking up full of hope, excited about the possibilities. Anticipating discussions about the future and the kingdom...

Hopes for that path dashed by 9am.

Everything goes south from there. I can't get the blood tests I need at the place I need to get them. My doctor's office can't find the paperwork I need. I feel like I'm a 75 year old trying to negotiate through Obamacare's regulations... Will we even talk about Obamacare when I'm 75?

I can't even begin to think about what the USA will look like in 35 years. In truth, I don't much care. In 35 years, my children will possibly have children. I hope they are better than I. They have so much potential and talent, and they are so gifted. I want nothing more than to see them chase their dreams and their gifts.

When our dreams and our gifts don't match, we are either misinterpreting our dreams or poorly evaluating our gifts.

Sometimes, it can be extraordinarily difficult to to know what our gifts truly are. We can't know them ourselves perfectly, because our self-perception is so warped. But we can't completely trust others, because they don't know every side of us.

Look at that... 3 minutes is up.


Sent from my iPad

The Truth About Those Who Call Themselves "Moderates"

There are no true moderates. Therefore we should all strive for moderation.

Those who consider themselves to be moderates pretend to agree with everyone. In reality, a moderate is someone with whom no one can agree. Those who practice moderation have simply chosen to be agreeable.

Moderation is the recognition that too much of a good thing might actually be a bad thing. Therefore, the person who lives a life of moderation chooses to sometimes refrain from "good" things for the sake of not being over-indulgent.

A moderate thinks everyone should share his opinion because he has found the perfect "middle ground".

A person of moderation recognizes that everyone may not share his opinion, and therefore he refrains from excessive opining... Even if he is right!

Choose moderation in all things.

And BEWARE THE MODERATE!

 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Succesful Path Through Life Is Often Not What You Think

There seem to be many who judge success (both others and their own) based on the accumulation of quantifiable gain. In other words, people who get more stuff (or money) are more successful.

A close cousin of this mentality is the pragmatic thought process which identifies success as “whatever works”.

Are you on the right path?
We are all prone to slip into these thought processes. Why wouldn’t we? If a certain path produces the results we want, why wouldn’t we take it? If the road we are traveling leads to financial security and material gain, why would we abandon it?

I’m as guilty as the next person of choosing a direction because I think it will work, or because I’m seeking material gain. But, my own inconsistency doesn’t blind me from the truth that I am sometimes wrong, and there IS a better path. Sometimes, I just need to write this stuff to remind me of what my spirit knows is true despite what my heart may tell me.

Consider these three reasons why success is not always what we think:

  • Today’s success often forces me to mortgage tomorrow’s opportunities.
  • Success in this life may very well mean failure in the next.
  • Personal success gained at the expense of others is ultimate failure.
Ultimately, I need to ask and answer one HUGE question. “Do I believe there is more to this life than what I can see, touch, and hear?” If I believe in concepts/virtues like love, faithfulness and kindness, I need to recognize that those come from somewhere (God?); and I must acknowledge that any definition of success must take these unmeasurable concepts into consideration.

It is better to have a little (or to fail) but to have a recognition of the greater things in life. True failure is thinking I am successful, when in truth I’ve compromised all I claim to believe.

 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Too Many People Treat Jesus the Same Way They Treat Bacon

I don't remember where I saw this, but I guess someone is now serving ice cream with bacon. I'm not sure how I feel about this. It seems perhaps to be a bit of bacon overkill.

Now I love bacon as much as the next guy. In fact, I probably love it more than the next guy does. But sometimes I wonder if the "bacon makes everything better" train is about to jump the tracks. Bacon is great with beans, or pancakes, or in mashed potatoes... But ice cream? I think that might be a stretch.

I haven't always thought this way, but I'm starting to wonder whether or not bacon really does make everything better. See, I think some people like bacon. And I think some people LOVE bacon. Those who just like bacon combine it with everything on an attempt to make everything taste better.

But those who LOVE bacon don't combine it with anything. They don't think bacon makes ice cream better... They think ice cream ruins bacon. I think they might be right.

Some people take the bacon approach to their relationship with Jesus. They assume they can just add a little Jesus to whatever they are doing and it will make everything better. They live life their way, pursue their own desires, devote themselves to lifestyles of greed or immorality or pride... Then they add a little Jesus on Sunday and think everything is better.

They are wrong.

Jesus' path requires self-denial
Jesus isn't making their life better, their life is ruining Jesus.

Now, Jesus can't really be ruined. He is God, and He has already won the victory over sin. But anyone who thinks they can just add Jesus on to their lifestyle has a total misunderstanding of Jesus' call and mission. In our pursuit of Jesus, we need to be willing to let go of anything and everything in order to know Him better. Until we are willing to have nothing but Jesus, we are ruining the potential of an intimate relationship with Him.

Adding Jesus to the "must-haves" of your life won't make those things more spiritual, but subtracting those must-haves from your life for the sake of Jesus will absolutely enable you to follow Him.

 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Justice Sometimes Takes Forever

A justice (of sorts) was provided today for the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the Hillsborough disaster nearly 25 years ago. Apologies were issued from England's Prime Minister as well as the editor responsible for the vicious and deceptive lies published by the Sun newspaper.

Among the more shocking revelations was one that police actually engaged in background checks of those who had died in an effort to smear their reputation.

Even if you aren't familiar with this story, it is a powerful reminder that there are people in this world who use every means possible to advance themselves and protect their reputation. Sometimes the truth is a long time in coming (even 25 years or more!). But it is comforting to have the great hope that God knows all, and He is not surprised or concerned!

Read the report here.

 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Be Careful of Those Who Are Not What They Claim

Have you seen this somewhat sad but unbelievably funny story?

Just because someone says they are qualified to restore classic artwork doesn't mean she really is...



Read the story here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Next Chapter...


This morning at Calvary, I announced that I was stepping down as a pastor at Calvary Church. I know that for some this is a sad and confusing time, but in some ways this is a good ending to a mostly great chapter of our life. We are anticipating a new future, and are anxious to see what God has for us. You can read my letter to the congregation hereBelow are some answers to other questions you might have.

Why are you leaving?
  • Endings are a necessary and healthy part of life’s cycles. I’ve been on staff at Calvary for over 15 years; in that amount of time, one can find many reasons to “leave”. The truth is that there is not any one reason, but many things have contributed to this decision. Most importantly, I believe this is the best thing for Calvary Church, the best thing for my family and I, and the way I can most bring glory to God at this point in my life.
Why now?
  • I recognize this is a difficult time for me to make this decision. It seems as if it is a knee-jerk reaction to some troubled waters. The truth is that I’ve wrestled with this for several years. I’ve spent a massive amount of time praying, counseling, and searching God’s Word for the wisdom I needed to know His plan for my future. Only recently has it become clear to me that this chapter of my life is closing. I wish the timing were different, but I firmly believe we only hurt ourselves when we drag our feet to do the things we know to be right.
Are you angry? hurt? discouraged? burned out?
  • I would be lying if I said I never felt any of those emotions. Certainly, the past few months have been difficult. More than any of these, however, I’ve felt disappointment. I’ve been disappointed that the importance of Jesus’ church has been co-opted by the agendas of some people. I’ve been disappointed that many people from whom I expected more have chosen to break fellowship with myself and many others. I’ve been disappointed in my own weaknesses and failures to properly shepherd Christ’s church. But I am not alone in these feelings, and I am not the only person who has ever been angry, hurt, discouraged or burned out. And none of these are the reasons I am leaving.
Are you going to move away?
  • I don’t know. Over the past four years I've had dozens of opportunities to move on to other churches. Some of these opportunities have been quickly turned down while others have moved through a process of interviews and visits from search committees. Very recently, we've investigated some really attractive opportunities. However, in some ways our family is in a healthier place today than we’ve been in years. We cherish that, and would be slow to give it up. We wrestle with this daily as we want to be sensitive to rightly discern God’s plan for our lives, yet we have many reasons to remain in West Michigan with our Calvary family.
Are you going to start a new church?
  • No. I am determined to not do anything that would harm or reflect poorly on the community of Calvary Church.
What is next for you?
  • I don’t know. Right now I am looking for a job (or jobs) that will enable me to support my family. God has blessed me with a wife who has a job that will provide health insurance benefits for us if needed. Please pray that God will quickly provide sufficient work for me.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

IF YOU WANT, YOU CAN WALK WITH US THROUGH THIS NEXT CHAPTER...

  • One of my desires in the next section of my life is to find opportunities to pursue the things for which I am really passionate and believe I am most gifted. I would love to be able to spend many of my weekends speaking to groups and retreats as well as providing pulpit supply in churches that are transitioning. I know that some of you who read this may have connections or ideas that might help me began finding these opportunities. If you have suggestions or contacts for me, I greatly appreciate your input.
  • Please pray that Marianne and I would be wise in our decisions about the future. Pray that we would effectively discern God's will for our family. Pray that our children would be protected from discouragement and disenchantment. Pray that they would see and understand who God truly is and not be distracted by our sometimes poor representation of Him.

Monday, August 13, 2012

3 Keys to Taking a Mulligan in Life

Many years ago, I was able to golf fairly often and therefore, became fairly competant. Sadly, many days have passed since then and my game has gotten quite rusty. Recently, a friend asked me to join him one morning for a round on the links, and so with a bit of apprehension I met up with him at the first tee.

It didn't go well.

I hit my tee shot very solidly… and very far left. It's never good when the starter (who sees every tee shot of the day) says, "You won't be finding that one."

Fortunately, my friend believes in "mulligans".

You may not be familiar with that term. A mulligan is golf lingo for a "do-over". Many golfers use them on the first tee of the day, but some choose to save them and use them later in the round. I've been with some golfers who have not just used mulligans, but have also invoked hooligans, shenanigans, and doagains. The beauty of a mulligan is that you can pretend like a bad shot never happened. You simply do it again, and don't count the first one.

Wouldn't it be great if we had mulligans in life? What if we could sometimes just eliminate a bad choice, do it over, and pretend like it never happened? Would your life be in a better spot today if you had taken a mulligan or two?

Here's the bad news: Mulligans aren't allowed in real golf.

See, if you lose a ball off the tee and then hit another one, your ball may be in a good place now, but that second tee shot counted as your third shot. In real golf, if you make a mistake, you get penalized. You can still start over, but there is a price to pay.

That's pretty much like life. You can always start over, but that doesn't mean you don't have a price to pay. A new start may help you mitigate the long term consequences of a bad decision; but it probably won't eliminate all the ramifications. In most of life, you can have a "try again" but there really aren't any "do overs". What you've already done, can't be undone.

But, that shouldn't be depressing. This should be inspiring!

If we can't eliminate our mistakes, we might as well embrace them and learn from them! If we have to pay the piper for our errors, we might as well get our money's worth. Rather than bemoaning the sad state of our life, we can choose to figure out what went wrong and then take steps to ensure it won't happen again.

I know everything can't be boiled down into a formula or reduced to a couple bullet points… but I sure like to try. If you truly want to grow from your mistakes, consider these three important elements of "trying again": 1. Determine Exactly What Went Wrong 2. React By Fixing the Problem 3. Act Wisely to Avoid the Same Mistake

Determine Exactly What Went Wrong

Don't settle for a general excuse of why you failed. Figure out the exact decision, action, or conversation that caused the problem and determine exactly how the problem you now face was caused by that source. If you can't pinpoint exactly what went wrong, you'll never make it right.

React By Fixing the Problem

Fixing the problem may be easy, or it may be very difficult. It might be as simple as replacing a faulty part or finding a missing screw. And it might be as difficult as humbly apologizing to someone and admitting your error. If the problem was an accident, clean up the consequences; if the problme is systemic, fix the system.

Act Wisely to Avoid the Same Mistake

You've probably heard the definition of insaity often attributed to Albert Einstein, "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." If you want to avoid the same mistake, you have to change your life. Go different places, do different things, form different habits, develop different relationships, read different books, etc. Consider what needs to change, then do things differently.

Life gives no mulligans. But if we are willing to learn from our mistakes, we don't need a do-over, we just need to pay attention.



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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Learning to See Both Sides of Myself


If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. (1 John 1:8 NLT)

How silly we are when we claim or consider ourselves to be sinless or without fault. This is not something I like about myself, but it is still true; on a regular basis, I fail to represent God appropriately. That's a sin. Every time.


One of the things I love about the Bible is that it doesn't paint anyone in a righteous light (except Jesus). We see all the warts of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, etc. This is not something we talk about a lot, but Jesus' disciples were also very conflicted. These men changed the world more than any other group in history, yet they were far from "consistent" characters.
  • Jesus called Peter a "rock". Yet it was Peter who denied his knowledge of Jesus because he was afraid of a servant girl.
  • We know Thomas as a doubter, but he was the one in John 11 who said, "Let's go too– and die with Jesus." No doubting there, for a moment he was the most ardent believer in Jesus.
  • John is known as the disciple of love. He refers to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" and his book, 1 John, has the most straightforward teaching about love in the church of any book in the Bible. Yet consider this story about John which was told by Polycarp and Ireneus:
    John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within."
Perhaps that's not how we understand "love" these days!

Truth is… We are more multi-dimensional than we perceive ourselves to be. If we think we are completely good and righteous, we don't understand the depth of our sin. However, if we are constantly beating ourselves up because of our sin, we don't fully understand what it means to have been given the righteousness of God.

Truth also is… Others are more multi-dimensional than we perceive them to be. If we see someone as a godly, upright man or woman who does no wrong; we need to remind ourselves of Peter and his fearful denial. On the other hand, if we see someone as nothing but evil and wickedness, it might be good to remember the boldness of Thomas.

None of us are always what we seem to be sometimes. Thus we must all learn to give ourselves and others grace. But also we must take heed of our sin, least we fall.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I Shall Have My Revenge


I shall have my revenge

I'm not sure I have the quote exactly right, but in the movie Gladiator, Russell Crowe's character says something to the effect of, "I am husband to a murdered wife, father to a murdered son and I shall have my revenge in this life or the next."
I am typically not a big fan of vengeance. It's not usually a wise course of action. However, yesterday this quote came to mind while I was delivering some money to a friend (wisdom side note: never loan money to a friend. Give it to them. If they pay you back, you still have your money but if they don't you still ave your friend). I thought to myself, "the person who is giving this gift isn't expecting to be paid back, but they will be… In this life or the next.

In This Life or the Next

Sometimes we live as if we only believe in this life. We make no provisions or plans for the next life. Sometimes we are so focused on taking care of ourselves in this life, that we forget that we can't really take any of it with us into the next.
Tainted wealth has no lasting value, but right living can save your life. (Proverbs 10:2 NLT)
  • The accumulation of wealth is one of the greatest indicators of success in this life… But not in the next.
  • Wealth in this life can be gotten by inappropriate means.. But not in the next.
  • Our comfort and security is often connected to our wealth in this life… But not in the next.
  • Others often evaluate our worth by our wealth in this life… But not in the next.
Many of the things that you chase in this life will not transfer to the next. Possessions, popularity, power, and praise are all short-lived. Especially if you have to compromise your integrity to pursue them.
Consider this, you WILL receive all that you earn, in this life or the next. Why on earth would you want to receive it now?
Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:2 ESV)


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Friday, August 10, 2012

Don't Let Your Life Become a Money Pit!


Penny-Wise and Pound-Foolish

Avoid the Money-Pit.
My grandfather used to say to me, "Don't be penny wise and pound foolish." (I'm guessing this expression dates back to mother-England and their monetary standard, "the pound) I think he was telling me not to waste all my money on baseball cards. Common wisdom in those days was that if I started saving that money at the age of 8, the compound interest would make me a millionaire by the age of 23…

I have a lot of baseball cards.

I've seen the penny wise/pound foolish phenomenon played out on a larger scale as well. People find their "dream house" for an incredible price, only to discover it's actually a nightmare money pit. High school grads choose to jump into the workforce rather than go to college because they can be making $12 an hour instead of paying to sit in class… 20 years later they wonder why they are only making $12.25 and hour.

Undoubtedly, we can all look back at decisions we've made which have seemed "penny-wise" at the time, only to learn later that they were certainly "pound-foolish."

4x6 Decision Making

One of the most important things you can do whenever you make an important decision is to consider the consequences not just in the near future, but also the distant future. I like to call this the 4x6 method of decision making. Before you make any significant decision, consider the potential consequences in:
  • 6 minutes
  • 6 weeks
  • 6 months
  • 6 years
Then… decide which of those potential consequences is most important, and press foward.

Don't Be Stupid. Be Wise.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Don't Be Stupid: Embrace Criticism

Dont Be Stupid. Allow people to correct you.

"Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. (Proverbs 9:7, 8 NIV84)

What is your first reaction when someone suggests you have done something wrong? Do you argue? Become defensive? Pout? Or do you give them a hug?

It is very difficult to respond well to a person who corrects you. Even if we know they love us (and if we know they are right), it still hurts to feel that we don't measure up.

Ironically, most of us would embrace the idea that we are sinful people who have missed the mark God has set for us. Yet, for some reason we are more sensitive to the idea that we fall short of other's standards than we are about the expectations of God.

The Mocker

Four main characters play the starring roles in the book of Proverbs. The wise man, the simple man, the fool, and the mocker are symbolic figures who serve as representatives of different types of people and/or four behaviors to which we all are prone. Of these four, the mocker is the "villain". According to Proverbs, the mocker should be punished, ignored, and "driven out". One verse even suggests that God laughs at the proud mocker. Of all the wicked characters in the Bible, the mocker is one of the worst.

Here, the mocker is identified by his reaction to correction. His response is violent. He insults, abuses, and hates anyone who suggests he has done something wrong. Proverbs doesn't paint a very pretty picture of the mocker, but it is probably a fairly accurate picture of us.

Criticism

No one likes to be criticized. No one likes to be confronted. No one ever wants to be told they are not good enough or that they have missed he mark. However, our response to criticism (even when it may not be warranted), is a demonstration of our wisdom or lack thereof. Criticism is, then, an opportunity for growth; but only if we choose to use it well.

The Wise Man

It's actually very simple. Love the people who criticize you. Welcome correction. Allow confrontation to shape you not to anger you. View criticism as a growth stimulant. Choose to appreciate those who correct you.

Reacting in anger to those who confront you is stupid. Don't be stupid.



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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

7 Stupid Things You Can Do To Sabotage Your Life


I've been thinking about writing a lot more about Proverbs. It's a great book, and has been very helpful for me over the past couple years. I may title some of these posts Don't Be Stupid.



I'm going to start with a list (because I love lists).

7 stupid things you can do to sabotage your life.

  1. Follow the convenient road instead of the path of wisdom.
  2. Satisfy your cravings instead of your needs.
  3. Hold yourself to a lower standard than that to which you hold others.
  4. Believe the first thing you hear.
  5. Lie.
  6. Pursue popularity.
  7. Expect to always receive exactly what you've earned.
There are lots of other stupid things you an do as well. But these ones seem to be pretty common… At least they are for me. I would recommend you seek to avoid them.


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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Essence of True Leadership

LEADERSHIP: More than just Influence
Leadership is not just "influence."

It is not just recruiting, training, and unleashing other leaders.

It is more than just multiplying oneself.

The essence of true leadership is summarized brilliantly in Proverbs 31. This is a series of proverbs which were designed to equip King Lemuel to be a wise and godly leader. He was taught:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; 
Ensure justice for those being crushed. 
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless and see that they get justice. 


If you can't do this... Don't lead.


(quotation from Proverbs 31:8-9 NLT)

Monday, July 30, 2012

7 Helpful Hints For Developing Your Personal Bible Study Time


Most Christians believe they should read God's Word. Most Christians believe they would benefit from spending time every day in God's Word.

Few Christians spend much if any time reading the Bible on a daily basis.

Here are seven steps you can take to help you develop your own time of reading, studying, and living out God's Word.

1. Lengthen Your Day

If you don't have time to read your Bible, make more time.  Set your alarm clock to wake you 30 minutes earlier than normal. You can still shower and make your coffee first (that way you'll be awake when you sit down to read), but you now have 30 minutes you didn't previously have. This is a minor change that allows you to not give up anything, but still start something new.

Before you complain that 30 minutes early is really inconvenient, think for a minute about what you're trying to do. You're trying to find time to read the most important words ever written in the history of mankind... You can't wake up 30 minutes early?

2. Write and Review The Goals Which Define Your Success

How will you know when you are having success? Decide how much you want to read every day or every week or every month. WRITE IT DOWN. Then review it every day. Make a note if you are ahead or behind schedule, and take the time to catch up.

3. Plan Your Morning Reading in Advance

What if the last thing you did every night was to write a note to yourself, planning out your reading time for the next day. Not only would you wake up to a reminder of what you are reading, you would go to bed with God's Word on your mind. It's a Win-Win!

4. Concentrate

When you sit down to read, sit down with nothing other than your Bible (and a notebook if you need that). While it is fun and convenient to read from a phone or ipad, be careful that you've turned off your notifications so you don't get beeped or buzzed while you are reading. Don't answer the phone or texts and turn off the TV and radio. Eliminate as many distractions as possible so you can simply concentrate on the important task at hand.

5. Listen to Audio Recordings of the Bible

Some people don't enjoy reading, or struggle to focus while reading. The Bible has been recorded in many different languages, and you can listen to many versions for free. If you are an auditory learner, why not listen to the Bible every morning? Check out esv.org, youversion.com, or biblegateway.com for options.

6. Ask Yourself Questions Every Time You Read (or listen)

Asking and answering questions is one of the best ways to ensure you have internalized the information you've read or heard. After you spend time in God's Word, take a few moments to ask yourself some or all of the following questions:
  • What did I learn about God?
  • What do I now understand about Jesus?
  • How was my conscience disturbed?
  • What part of my life needs to change?
  • For what am I grateful?

7. Take it With You

Don't be like the man in James 1 who looks in a mirror then walks away, forgetting what he has seen. Once you have seen God's revelation, take it with you the rest of the day. Maybe you need to remember one verse you read, or one truth you discovered. Maybe you need to follow up on a relationship or a conversation. Maybe you need to write down a promise on a card to carry with you. Whatever you need to do, don't leave God's Word lying on a table in your house; take it with you for the rest of the day!

2 Must Have Experiences for a Successful Life

O God, I beg two favors from you;
Let me have them before I die.

First, help me never to tell a lie.

Second, give me neither poverty nor riches!
Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.

For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, "Where is the LORD?"
And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God's holy name.

(Proverbs 30:7-9 NLT)

Friday, July 27, 2012

What If...? (six years later)

----- I first wrote this on June 15, 2006. -----


What if it was a goal of our church to launch one new "community impact center" every year?

What if "community impact center" (hereafter CIC) was just a fancy name for a new way of thinking about church?

What if these CICs were launched in areas that most needed to experience the new life brought by Jesus (read: impoverished areas; high crime areas; etc.)?

What if a major part of the DNA of every CIC was that it would launch a new CIC somewhere else within its first three years?

What if that was possible because we unleashed 75-100 people to launch a CIC, and they committed to begin the process of launching a new one as soon as they had 300 regular participants?

What if we could launch an autonomous CIC in Muskegon for less than $500,000?


What if that CIC included a building which housed a community activity center that was open ever day and could serve as a third place for the surrounding neighborhood?

What if that CIC included a building which housed a gathering space which could comfortably seat 150-200 for an EPIC worship gathering?

What if once the CIC regularly had 150 people attending worship gatherings, it launched a new gathering. (and of course at 300 launched a third gathering but began planning for a new launch to which it would commit 50-75 people)?

What if every time a CIC multiplied, Calvary underwrote 50% of the cost (25% for third generation; 15% for fourth)?

What if every CIC was staffed by no less than 2 full-time ministers who were supported by the initial partners and the initial $500,000 investment?

What if these two full-time ministers were released to do nothing but invest in the lives of the people in the neighborhood and prepare one weekly worship gathering?

What if everything else that needed to be done was done by volunteers?

What if we could buy property and build a two-story building that would do all this for $200,000? and use the other $300,000 to furnish necessary equipment and invest in ministry staff salaries?

What if the initial 75 partners represented 25 families that averaged $40,000 incomes?

What if they all tithed?

What if the annual operating budget of the CIC, from the get-go was no less than $100,000 annually (plus the initial investment)?

What if this financial situation was sufficient to bring all the above ideas to fruition?

What if the initial partners did more than just tithed?

What if one of these CICs was launched every year?

What if every new CIC resulted in 10 new disciples ever year?

What if every CIC launched a new CIC every five years?

What if every CIC touched the lives of 500 people in a neighborhood?

What if after five years, there were six new CICs in West Michigan resulting in 240 new disciples and over 3,000 touched lives?

What if after fifteen years, there were 42 new CICs resulting in over 2,000 new disciples and over 20,000 lives touched?

probably couldn't happen.

Your Anger is a Demonstration of What You Love

Have you ever been so mad that you... ?

People do funny things when they are angry. They throw things and hit things and say things they will inevitably regret a short time later. I've known several "manly" men who have broken their hands, fingers and wrists because they punched a wall in anger.

Jesus Story 2: Cleansing the Temple
Jesus once made a whip and attacked a group of store owners.

Does that mean it's okay to get angry?

In Ephesians, Paul wrote that we should be careful that in our anger we do not sin. We must never let our anger control us. Anger can be a very destructive force, and usually in the hands of humans it is a negative thing; yet Jesus' anger can actually tell us something about God's love.

Anger is often tied directly to love. If our dog Emily eats Liam's dinner while he's not watching he may or may not get angry. If dinner was my world famous spinach, hummus, and okra casserole; Liam will not get angry with the dog. He doesn't love that dish. But if dinner is bacon and tater tots, the dog better hide because the anger is coming. Liam loves bacon and he loves tater tots.

This can be a warning to us. Sometimes our anger reveals that we love the wrong things!

God's anger is directly tied to his love for us. Sin has nasty effects. Our sin and the sin of others ruins creation (notice that we are surrounded by disease, famine, natural disasters, death, etc.). More significantly, our sin separates us from God. Therefore God is angry about our sin, because He loves his creation (us) and He desires to be reconciled to us... That's why he sent Jesus!

And Jesus' anger in the temple (in John 2) was a demonstration of God's love for us. Jesus was not angry about the selling of animals for temple worship. This practice was necessary for travelers and the poor to be able to appropriately worship in the temple.

However, Jesus WAS angry about how and where the selling was happening. Instead of providing a service for worshipers, they were getting rich by exploiting the poor. Instead of enabling worship, they were creating a distraction for the Gentiles who hoped to worship in the outer courts.

Jesus was angry, because the Jews were abusing the Marginalized. (marginalized people are those who live in the "margins", separated in some way from the majority or the norm) It is often easy to take advantage of marginalized people because they are not protected.

Yet, Jesus cares about the marginalized. His anger in the temple was a demonstration of His love.

This raises two simple questions for you to consider today:
1. Do you love the marginalized? 
2. Do you realize that Jesus loves you?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

American Pickers, Hoarders, and Water to Wine

Jesus Story 1: Water to Wine
Jesus makes all things new.

His VERY FIRST miracle (recorded in John 2) was turning the water to wine. This wasn't just any old water. It was the water used for ceremonial cleansing prior to celebrations and meals.

So think about this:
The water used to clean our exterior
was changed into
WINE, which when internalized brings joy!

Jesus was making things new. No longer did people need to strive to make themselves externally clean. That wasn't working anyway! Now, Jesus was going to miraculously change us from the inside out. Just as He miraculously changed the very nature of water, He also changes our nature.

It's tempting to hold on to the old. We are, by nature, people who relish the past. American Pickers, Hoarders, Storage Wars, and Auction Kings are just a few of the recent television shows which reflect this tendency of humans to place a high value on the old way.

We all have "old" things in our life which we like to hang on to. But it's IMPOSSIBLE to embrace the NEW LIFE Jesus offers if we are still holding on to the things we think we can offer ourselves (why would you cling to the cleaning water if you can have the best wine?). If you want to know which old things you are still clinging to, finish this statement:

"I need ... "

If you finished with anything other than Jesus... you need something new.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Avoid the Path That Leads to Death!

Thursday night at Camp Barakel, I talked with just the senior high guys. We discussed the direction of their lives by using a metaphor common to camp, the path. Here are the key ideas:

1. The paths you choose in life will determine your destination
Every decision you make is a choice to follow a path that is leading you somewhere. Your life's destination will be the culmination of all those decisions.

2. Every path leads to a destination
Some may think they can just "enjoy life" for a season and their decisions won't have consequences until they are "grown up". Wrong... If you choose the path of hard work and discipline your destination will be significantly different than he who chooses the path of parties and night life.

3. You may not see the destination, but you can see the path
You must be careful about the path you walk as it may lead you somewhere different than you think. We used the youth from Proverbs 7 as an example. The path he chose LOOKED good and FELT good and seemed to be going VERY WELL. But it ended with him being led as an ox to the slaughter, like a deer caught in a trap until an arrow pierces his liver... Be careful about the path you choose.

We closed with Proverbs 3:6-7: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and don't lean on your own understand. In all your ways follow Him and he will make your paths straight.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

You Can't Have Faith Without Obedience


A few years ago, I walked out the front door of my parent's house to go get ice-cream with my siblings and their families. As I walked toward my car, the garage door began going up, allowing the rest of my family to exit to their cars. I glanced over to see my son and my nephew hanging from the rising door, eyes wide with the excitement of their new game.

LIAM! NO! GET DOWN!

It probably wasn't the time for me to reason with him, or request obedience. He was in immediate danger, and had no idea. I'm glad to report that sensing the urgency in my voice, he let go and ran to my side. I explained that he could have really hurt himself, and that kids get hurt in garage door accidents all the time. Then I thanked him for obeying so quickly even though he didn't know why.

As parents, we often know what is better for our children than they do. I'll never understand the parents who don't discipline or say "no" to their children for some of the following reasons:

  • I did the same things, so I'd be a hypocrite if I stopped him.
  • He just needs to learn for himself.
  • I'm tired of fighting about these things.
  • I don't want to make a big deal about it.

Look. If you know something is bad for your child, tell them "NO". This is a major "duh".

After this little incident, I began thinking about when God says, "no" and whether or not I respond as well to him as Liam did to me. (being a father so helps me understand me and God better) I asked the question, "Why did Liam obey me so quickly?", and the answer was helpful in my understanding of my relationship with God. Liam obeyed me because:

  • He knows that my knowledge and experience far surpasses his.
  • He trusts that my commands are intended to cause him good not harm.
  • He believes I desire what is best for him.

Obedience, for Liam is rooted in faith. He has faith in my knowledge. His faith leads him to trust me. His faith gives him hope for his future with me.

Get it?

When I choose to not obey God, I'm demonstrated that I don't have faith:

  • I don't have faith that He knows infinitely more than me. Disobedience demonstrates that I think I know better than God.
  • I don't have faith to trust him. Disobedience is an intentional decision to trust myself instead of God.
  • I don't have faith in my future with him. Disobedience is my attempt to manipulate my own future apart from God's plan.

Doh.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Solution for All Relational Dysfunction


Jesus.



That was easy, right. Seriously, Jesus is the answer, or better yet, Jesus' attitude is the answer.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:Who, being in very nature God,did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,but made himself nothing,taking the very nature of a servant,being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man,he humbled himselfand became obedient to death—even death on a cross!


Just list-thinking out loud here; but, recognizing that we all take different lengths of time to assume the attitude of Christ,maybe the path to relational healing looks something like this:
  • Betrayal. Most relational dysfunction begins when one party feels betrayed by another. Whether it is a "behind the back" betrayal, or a breach of confidence, or the breaking of an unwritten code, betrayal hurts.
  • Anger. Our initial response is anger because our very first instinct is almost always to be severely aware that we have not received the treatment we were entitled to. A sense of entitlement, when not fulfilled almost always results in anger.
  • Hurt. As time passes, the anger fades into a hurt as we realize the betrayal was not just an injustice done to us, but a life-changing relational loss. Recognizing we can no longer trust or confide in someone we once did is painful.
  • Pity. When we are finally able to take the camera of our mind off ourselves, we begin to realize our "enemies" actions are a reflection of their own shortcomings, not ours. The betrayal we experienced was beyond our control. Since we are no longer obsessed with our own self entitlement, we are able to feel sympathy toward the person who wronged us.
  • Love. Love is a choice, not a feeling. When we are no longer concerned with our own needs, desires, expectations, etc. we are able to CHOOSE to concern ourselves with the needs of others. The truest, most Christlike love is to choose to be concerned with the needs, desires, and expectations of others; particularly our enemies.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
  • Reconciliation. Having been reconciled to God, we are able to reconcile to our brother and our neighbor. In fact, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We cannot control who will or will not betray us. We can control whom we reconcile ourselves to. We must learn to aggressively pursue the right we can control and relentlessly forgives the wrongs we cannot control.

Friday, July 13, 2012

13 12 Sermon Series I'd Like to Preach Someday


I created this list several years ago. It still applies. Someday I'll do these!

  • Genesis 1-11. The Starting Point.
    The Prologue: Genesis 1-11. If you don't understand these chapters, you'll struggle to get the rest.
  • We Are People of the Book. God is the author, Men were the conduit, Jesus is the protagonist, Reconciliation is the purpose, the Holy Spirit is the interpreter.
  • Psalm 68. Ten great sermons about God.
  • God, Sin, and Evil. Even though I've changed my thoughts about the value of certain types of apologetics, I still am who I am; and that means I love to help people understand some of the more difficult things God has revealed to us about himself...
  • 1 Peter. Duh.
  • Ten Topics the Bible Says a Lot About. Grace, Humanity, Evil, Love, Relationships, Redemption, Choices, Marriage, Leadership, Hope.
  • Pierced, Tatooed, and God's Little Black Book. A three-part evangelistic series.
  • John: Conversations with God. Yeah, this title is ripped from that awful book by Neale Donald Walsch. But it's my favorite Gospel, and I love the interactions Jesus has with people.
  • The One Anothers. What would it really look like if we lived out these relational commands every day?
  • Esther. Surprised? It's a common misconception that I don't like this book. What I don't like is the way most people read and teach it.
  • Formations. Done. Read the book here.
  • In Defense of Judas. I don't know how long this would take, but it would look at all the different ways we misunderstand Jesus, and how we end up expecting the wrong things from him as a result.
  • Three Relationships You Can't Live Without. duh part two.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Forget Your Past, You Don't Get a Mulligan.


Steven Covey suggests four quadrants in which we typically work.

  • Important and urgent
  • Important but not urgent
  • Not Important but urgent
  • Not Important and not urgent

He suggests you first accomplish all tasks in the first quadrant (Important and due soon). Once you've finished everything there, you should move into the second quadrant so that you can accomplish important things before they become urgent.

Using this process, you might not accomplish the "not important" things... which is okay since they're not important.

It wouldn't be a bad idea to consider these quadrants not just in relation to a to-do list, but also as a way to categorize our brain time (the stuff we think about). Here's what I mean:

  • thinking about life stuff that is important and urgent = pressure
  • thinking about life stuff that is important and not urgent = dreaming
  • thinking about life stuff that is not important but urgent = stress
  • thinking about life stuff that is not important and not urgent = wasted time

But here's one other thought. Too often we spend our time in two completely different quadrants that Covey never talked about:

  • thinking about life stuff that is important... and past
  • thinking about life stuff that is not important... and past

It's not a bad idea to have memories. Memories are nice and fun and useful... but too much time with memories can be dangerous and unhealthy. If it is hurtful to spend all your time stressing about the urgency of the day that is not really important, it is far more harmful to spend your time thinking about the mistakes you made yesterday.

Basically, I'm saying this:

  1. Spend occasional time remembering past victories
  2. Learn from past defeats, remember the lesson and forget the defeat
  3. Spend a little time thinking about things that aren't important
  4. Spend most of your time thinking about the important things in your future