Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Get Up! (no more excuses)

JOHN 5:8 - "Get up, take up your bed, and walk."

In 1998, I was a boy's varsity soccer coach. One of my players was only marginally talented, so he rarely started games but he was good enough to get into most games for a few minutes. He probably could have been better, but his work ethic was severely lacking. At least once or twice a week, he would begin complaining about an "injury" as soon as it was time for the team to work on their conditioning (which meant lots of running). He used the "injuries" he had suffered as excuses for his poor performance and lack of hard work.

I finally had to create a new team policy. Anyone who asked to miss all or part of a practice due to injury was not allowed to play in a game until I had written clearance from their doctor. It was a terrible rule, but it became necessary due to the excuses being made by a few players.

We make excuses when we don't want to assume control of our own decisions and actions.


In John 5, Jesus asked a partially-paralyzed man to stop making excuses and assume control of his own decisions and actions. Prior to performing the miracle, Jesus asked him, "Do you want to be healed?"

The man's response is telling. He said, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Notice what has happened to this man over time:

1) He has filled his mind with the many reasons why he cannot make it into the pool.
2) Because he has spent so much time making excuses to himself, he has decided to not even try.
3) Because he has decided to not even try, he is left making excuses to others for his lack of action.

We all do the same thing all the time. We fill our minds with excuses. We tell ourself stories about why we are not in control and why we don't have the opportunities we need and why everything and everyone is against us.

Eventually, we believe our own excuses and we decide to be passive, to not do what we know we should.

Finally, instead of taking action and being proactive, we make excuses to others, we blame circumstances and explain to those around us why life is so bad for us and why we cannot ever take the next step to move ourselves forward.

Jesus said, "GET UP!" (and He made it possible by healing the man.)

Has Jesus healed you? Has He made you new? Has He promised you an incredible future and an eternal inheritance? Has He asked you to live for Him?

GET UP!

Stop filling your mind with obstacles and start focusing on possibilities.
Stop choosing to be passive and start deciding to take action.
Stop passing blame and start practicing for the future.

Whatever you pour into your mind will impact your decisions.
Your decisions drive your actions.
Your actions demonstrate to everyone whether or not you trust Christ!

GET UP!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

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.

Monday, January 28, 2019

10 Lessons On Leadership from John the Baptist


"After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
If I were to use one sentence to summarize John the Baptist's leadership style I would say this: John the Baptist was fully committed to building someone else's kingdom instead of his own. When reading Mark's account of the desert prophet, I am struck by the wild popularity of John prior to Jesus' arrival. Yet, even though he could have gained wealth, position, possession and more; John chose instead to lose everything (even his head) in order to point people to Jesus. 
Mark doesn't devote a great deal of ink to the story of John, but what he does say is profound. Below are 10 reflections of mine from Mark 1:1-8.
  1. John the Baptist was a celebrity who could have greatly benefited from a solid self-promotion campaign. Instead, he chose to point everyone to Jesus.
  2. John's refusal to "build his own ministry" was counter-cultural then and now.
  3. Be wary of "spiritual leaders" who are masters of self-promotion.
  4. John the Baptist's birth was miraculous, it was preceded by an angel's visit, and he was personally the fulfillment of several OT prophecies. Yet he described himself as lowlier than a slave when compared to Jesus.
  5. No matter how much you've accomplished, pride is always the wrong response.
  6. The only thing John the Baptist could offer to people was greatly inferior to what Jesus could offer them.
  7. Jesus is far superior to anything or anyone else we could ever offer to people.
  8. Despite drawing massive crowds, John the Baptist didn't consider himself successful except when he was pointing people to Jesus.
  9. The size of the crowd doesn't always indicate the success of the ministry.
  10. The most important thing any Christian can do with their life is point people to Jesus.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

5 Leadership Investments from Genesis 2

Many leadership books and lessons have been written using the examples of biblical characters such as Nehemiah, David, Paul and more. Rarely have I seen leadership lessons gleaned from God's creative work in Genesis 2. Today, I'm going to make a couple observations about leadership which are a result of my reading in Genesis, but first let me identify a couple preconceptions about leadership:

1) Leadership is not about power or authority, it is about investing into people. That's why Jesus washed his disciples feet.

2) Leadership is not always measurable. We invest ourselves faithfully, we pray for the Spirit's work, but ultimately we don't know the results of our investment. Fortunately, God is more concerned with our investment... He already knows the return.
So here are a few "Leadership Lessons from Genesis 2" (read the chapter if you need more context!). Whether you are leading a musical group, a group of volunteers in children's ministry, a project team or any other group of people; you may find one or two helpful suggestions from these thoughts.

1) Invest in people by giving them a purpose.
"the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." When you are leading others, regularly communicate the ultimate goal. Help them see it for themselves, and gently guide them toward it.

2) Invest in people by giving them freedom to work.
"You are free to eat from any tree in the garden..." Nothing is more frustrating than being micro-managed. If your team members are capable on their own, let them do things on their own!

3) Invest in people by providing them contextual guidelines.
"you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." We all need boundaries. However, rather than creating walls and fences, try to simply help your team identify what you are NOT trying to accomplish. The more clearly they understand what the big goal is and is not, the easier it will be for them to stay within the guidelines.

4) Invest in people by granting them the necessary authority to work.
"He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was his name." Intentionally tell other people how much faith you have in your team. Few things are more empowering than knowing that your leader believes in you, so work hard to make sure your team knows you believe in them!

5) Invest in people by providing them the appropriate help to complete their work.
"But for Adam no suitable helper was found...Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man." Regularly ask your team what they need. Equip them for success by ensuring they have the resources and people necessary to accomplish their goal.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

But I Deserve It!

How do you respond when you don't get what you have earned? Do you get angry? Do you hide and sulk? Do you get revenge? Our own sense of what we deserve is strong and often drives us to unexpected places when violated.

We don't know much about Joseph. Based on what we do know, we can draw some conclusions and paint a picture of the man we think he might have been.

Joseph was an unassuming carpenter in a sleepy town. He likely had no aspirations of ever leaving. Joseph eschewed the spotlight, he probably preferred a simple night at home sitting around the fire with friends and family. He was looking forward to marriage and a quiet life with his bride.

He worked hard. He had earned a quiet life. He deserved it.


Instead, his fiancé got pregnant. She claimed it was a miracle. He wasn't so sure until an angel visited Him. Her child was going to be the Messiah. He was going to save the world from their sins (Matthew 1:18-23). This was Joseph's new normal.

His wife would never really be his. She would always be somewhat devoted to her firstborn. His oldest son would be the subject of gossips and whispers. His own children (he likely wondered if he would ever have any) would always have a stigma attached to them because of their brother. In Joseph's mind, this was not what he had earned. It was not what he deserved.

What would you do?

"When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife." (Matthew 1:24)

Joseph obeyed. 
Joseph obeyed immediately.

You may not have been visited by an angel last night, but you likely have an area of your life which requires a higher level of obedience to God. Perhaps you have delayed because of the possible consequences. Perhaps you believe your time and energy is better spent on your own agenda.

Obedience worked out okay for Joseph. It will work out okay for you also. Give it a try!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Pray Without Ceasing.

Last February, Marianne and I cashed in some frequent flier miles and spent three days in Florida celebrating our anniversary. One evening, I pulled out my phone and opened the "find my friends" app. It was odd to see that we were so far from our children and they were so far from each other. Emma was in Indiana and Liam was in Oregon. All of us were thousands of miles from each other.

Yet with a simple touch of the screen, I sent a group text and instantly the four of us were connected. It was as if we were sitting in the same room.

Technology has created a level of connectivity our world has never before experienced. Along with texting and facetime, we can use a multitude of social media platforms to stay in touch with one another. I can go through my day, carrying on a constant conversation with friends in all parts of the world. We've come a long way in the past 50 years.


We have always had this level of connectivity with God.
Ephesians 6:18 says, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." 
1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, "pray continually" 
Colossians 4:2 says, "Devote yourselves to prayer" 
Philippians 4:6 says, 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
What does it mean to pray continuously, in every situation, on all occasions? If we are praying 24/7, how can we possibly get anything else done?

I believe Paul's desire was for Christians to be a constant state of connectivity to their Heavenly Father.  My goal is to be in a constant state of prayer throughout the day. It's almost like an ongoing text conversation between God and me.

As I move from hour to hour, I am asking questions like:

  • What do you want me to accomplish in this meeting?
  • What does this person need to receive from me today?
  • How are you using this conversation to shape me?
  • Why have you provided this blessing to me?

Constant prayer means constant connectivity. Prayer doesn't have to be a formal, verbalized ceremony which demands everything in life to grind to a halt. It can a quick sentence you send up to your Father over and over as you take each step on your day's journey.

Imagine how your day would change if you prayed as much as you texted or emailed or posted on social media. Maybe that would be a great goal for the weekend!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

4 Bible Verses To Empower Election Reflection

Did your candidate win last night?

Some of mine did.
Some of mine didn't.

The truth is that none of the candidates were really "mine". First and foremost, the election belongs to God and He is not surprised by any of the outcomes. Secondly, my primary allegiance is to a higher Kingdom and a greater King than any who could be elected.  Here are some verses to contemplate today as we bask in the afterglow of another election.

Ephesians 6:12
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Those with whom you disagree are not your enemy. Even if they mistreat you, Jesus' expectation is that you continue to love them, pray for them and bless them.


1 Peter 2:11-12
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

This world is not our home. We are like exiles waiting to return to our own kingdom. Until then, though, we must live honorable and praiseworthy lives so that we reflect well on our Heavenly Father.

Romans 13:1
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God

God is not surprised by the outcome of any election. For this reason, we must honor and obey those who are in authority. Whether or not you agree, as a follower of Jesus you are to show respect to those in authority.

Colossians 4:6
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Seek out opportunities today to speak graciously with others. Whether it be on social media or in person, use your words as a gift which builds up everyone with whom you come into contact.