Lately I've been thinking about how I treat people. Now in my defense I'm never intentionally rude or mean it's just that some times I'm busy. Sometimes I've got a lot to do. Sometimes I'm trying to accomplish as much as I can for the Lord. Wait. What? Did I really think that thought? Unfortunately the answer is yes.
In my spiritual immaturity I sometimes get aggravated by and impatient with people who I feel don't fit into my current agenda. Crazy right?
If you're anything like me then you'll admit that you've been there too. You're in the midst of your daily flow, blowing through your to-do list and suddenly someone wants to stop you and chat about anything and everything that has nothing to do with anything on your list. Frustrating right?
To further solidify in your mind the depth of my spiritual immaturity I'll let you in on a few of my coping mechanisms. If you ever witness me doing one of these, feel free to slap me. As the "interruption" talks, I allow my eyes to wander back towards my computer screen in an effort to continue my previous task. I stand up as they speak to communicate my desire to end this conversation. In my most ridiculous moments, I simply end the phone call or the face to face conversation by clearly communicating through my body language or lack of verbal response that "I'm done with you". Classy right?
Not only is my response to these "interruptions" a poor example of how it looks like to treat another human, it's an even poorer example of what it means to be a Christ follower. How can I ignore the words of John 15:12 where Jesus says, "This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you." That seems pretty clear.
What about 1 John 4:20-21, "If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers." Again, pretty clear.
Here's the question I ask myself from time to time when it comes to following Jesus. Am I following everything He said? Sometimes it feels like I allow myself the liberty of exempting myself from certain Biblical commandments when I'm busy or when I'm tired or when I'm just not feeling it. I don't see anywhere in Scripture where that type of attitude towards the things of God is acceptable.
Here's my prayer: "God I pray that you would forgive me for this type of attitude and allow me to see every opportunity or as I call them, "interruptions" that come across my path in the same way that you see them. Give me your eyes, give me your ears, give me your patience. Grant me the ability to see people the way that you see people. Amen."
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I've been thinking a lot about meaning and purpose lately. These ideas play a huge role in the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly rhythm of our lives. When we feel like we have a purpose, we carry ourselves differently. Think of a trip to your local mall, if you're there to waste some time or just window shop your stride is more casual and relaxed. You look like you are in no particular hurry to get anywhere. On the other hand if your time is limited and you're on a mission, your pace quickens, you keep your head down and your focused on getting in and getting out as quickly as possible.
The same is true our purpose or lack of purpose in our everyday lives. When we lack purpose, our pace slows, we care less about things, we tend to wander aimlessly. Interestingly, there has been some research to suggest that purposefulness and meaning in our lives could be connected to diseases such as Alzheimer's. Ron Brafman in his book, "Succeeding When You're Supposed to Fail" says,
"Although we think of Alzheimer's as chiefly a biological disease that's governed by genetic facts, the level of meaningfulness in our lives plays an important role in determining whether we succomb to this illness."
He goes on to say,
"Regardless of gender and cultural background, the researchers found, meaning in life influences one's risk of developing Alzheimer's across the board."
Having seen first hand the devastation that Alzheimer's can cause I was struck by the suggestion that purpose and meaning in life could greatly reduce one's chances of developing this awful disease. While I'm not qualified to speak on a cognitive level I can say with confidence that God has planted a purpose in the heart of every man. Perhaps we have fallen prey to a spiritual Alzheimer's. We have forgotten why we were created. The memories of why we exist have slipped into the unattainable recesses of our minds. If that describes you, allow me to remind you of a few things.
You were created by God, for His purposes.
Implanted deep within you is a innate longing to accomplish.
You were wired to achieve.
I'm not speaking of accomplishment and achievement in the way that much our world describes it. I'm speaking of something greater. I'm speaking of something far more significant.
Paul reminds the church at Ephesus in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
He says in Ephesians 3:20, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us..."
Don't buy into the lie that your life is pointless. Don't buy into the lie that your achievements or accomplishments are about money or status or rungs on the corporate ladder. You were made for an eternal purpose.
It's Sunday night and I love Sunday nights because they represent the launch of a new work week. It's a fresh start. It's a new beginning of sorts. I invite you to join me in making this next week a week of purposefulness and meaning. Not for your glory but for God's glory. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Okay, what I am about to tell you isn't specific to Friday but since today is Friday, my statement still applies. Let me tell you how you can have not only a better Friday, but a better everyday. We'll call this my secret sauce, my 11 herbs and spices. Here's what I believe can make today and every other day of your life amazing:
Find what excites you and DO IT.
God has given you passions and abilities and gifts and talents. He has created you to accomplish something for His glory with the very thing that you love doing. Maybe for you that's being an engineer or a writer or a mom or a dad or a teacher or an HR rep. I've always been fascinated by how God has wired each of us with such specificity.
I might think that what excites you is ridiculous. You might think that what excites me is outrageous. God has wired each of us with something specific that we get to be excited about each and every day.
For example, every time I think about writing, speaking, sharing, or encouraging someone with the truth of God's Word, I get excited. I don't say that to pat myself on the back, I say that because to some of you reading this, the thought of standing up in front of a group of people and having to talk is mortifying. To some of you the thought of writing out your thoughts and posting them on the internet for anyone to read, judge and possibly criticize is terrifying...but those are the things that get me up in the morning.
In Jeremiah 18 we are given this "potter and clay" analogy. God's the potter, we're the clay and obviously the potter gets to decide what happens with the clay right? Think about this: It would be ridiculous for you to be frustrated that your dinner of steak and eggs doesn't fit inside one of your tea cups. Likewise it would be crazy for you to be angry because you spilled your beverage all over your lap because it rolled right off of your plate. Dinner would lose its excitement if that's how things worked because that's not what those items were created for. In the same way you were created for something specific and when you figure out what that is, go after it with everything you have inside.
Engineer your heart out.
Teach your socks off.
Mother the snot out of your kids.
HR the heck out of your company.
Serve coffee like a maniac.
Do what excites you for the glory of God. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Every great once in a while I have these "great ideas" that come back to bite me in the rear end. A few weeks ago I came up with a teaching series entitled, "Buried Alive". It centered around reaching friends for Christ, speaking boldly, living consistently, etc. I thought it would be extra impactful if we could bring in a coffin (which I was promptly discouraged from doing so by my wife) to drive home the point that while our friends may be upright, walking around and smiling, in reality they are being buried alive in sin, hopelessness and confusion. When my coffin idea fell through, I settled for the next best thing, a large wooden shipping crate that was somewhat "coffin-esque". My crate combined with 5 or 6 bags of top soil allowed me to drive home the point that while we blabber on about sports, memes and Netflix series, in reality we're helping to bury our friends. Imagine a wooden crate that's eight or nine feet long, four to five feet wide and four to five feet high covered in dirt with a wheel barrel and shovel positioned next to it.
I felt like it was a win. As I talked during week #1, I would shovel more loads of dirt onto the crate illustrating my point. Needless to say, by the end of the first week, we had a bit of a mess. So as not to make my life any easier, during my teaching in week #2, I proceeded to use a sledge hammer to bust apart the sides of my mock coffin to illustrate how we are called to help break our friends free from their self-imposed graves. Wood splinters flew far and wide (a student in the front row may or may not have taken some wood scraps to the neck). Nevertheless, the point had been made. While dirt and wood scraps lay strewn all around, I sat in the student center the day after the final talk in that series satisfied by what had been accomplished.
Fast forward to today. While I'm still convinced that my object lesson was impactful, I was reminded of yet another spiritual lesson. "Lots of things that seem like great ideas end up creating a mess in the end."
As I shoveled my dirt pile into a bin, made multiple trips outside to dump it , busted apart my wooden crate with a crowbar, cut it into smaller pieces, transferred each piece into the dumpster at the back of the building, swept up my mess with a broom and then with a vacuum, I was reminded of those things in our lives that we become convinced our "great ideas".
Those words we spew out in anger or revenge.
Those thoughts we entertain that we know to be impure.
Those lies we tell in the name of protecting someone.
Those actions we commit that we think have no long term ramifications.
All of those things in life that we convince ourselves are "good ideas" that in the end turn out to cause us more headache then we could have ever dreamed. On a much larger scale than my wooden crate and pile of dirt, we fail to think through the end result of our choices. We've become good at thinking through A and B, but we come up short when we don't stop to think about C, D and E.
We create "messes" in our lives that are avoidable if we would only stop and think.
When it comes to the words we speak, James in the Bible says it like this: "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires."
When it comes to our thoughts, Paul says, "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."
The writer of Proverbs clearly maps out the long term effect of dishonesty when he says,
"Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed."
And for those things we do that we assume have no lasting result in our lives, Paul says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord."
What's interesting is that in each of these cases, we can quickly convince ourselves that there is no other way and that what lies before us is indeed a "great idea". As I clean up my mess today I pray that I would continue to develop the ability, through the power of the Holy Spirit to rightly discern a seemingly great idea from an actual great idea. I pray that each of us would receive wisdom beyond our years, beyond our experience and beyond our limited human sight. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
A few weeks ago, my older son landed his first real job. He's had a small side gig in the past but this is his first "real job". He only works about 8-10 hours a week but as a sophmore in high school who's involved in church, track, student council and of course the coveted social time with friends, those 8-10 hours fill out his schedule pretty well.
The other day he went in to work for a typical 4 hour shift but was asked to stay until the close of day which ended up being just over 6 hours. Now to the average adult, a six hour shift is a cake walk but to a "new to the workforce" sophmore in high school, a six hour shift of being on your feet, doing dishes, bussing tables, mopping bathrooms, etc. just about completely wiped him out.
The other night around 3:00 a.m. as I was in route to the bathroom (I know, that's more information than you needed) I walked past his bedroom to hear him "soundly sleeping". I smiled with the knowledge that he was realizing the value of a hard day's work.
As I headed back to bed and dozed back off into my slumber my mind danced with the thought of, "This is what God calls each of us to". I think God smiles when His children are "soundly sleeping" at the end of a really long day. I don't think God is interested in just tiring people out but when we spend the day or the week or the season pouring ourselves out into His Kingdom work and we find ourselves worn out, exhausted and emotionally spent, I believe God rewards His children with well deserved rest.
As I dozed off, I wondered how often people find themselves in a restless state? Figuratively speaking, we toss and turn, we seek rest, we search for peace, we long for a season of refreshment and an opportunity to be re-energized and yet perhaps we've skipped the first step in that process: pouring ourselves out.
You see when we pour ourselves out for God's purposes, God rewards us with rest.
"For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do." Hebrews 6:10 (NLT)
I love the clarity of this verse, "God will not forget how hard you have worked for Him..."
"Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Luke 6:38 (NLT)
We usually equate this passage with all things financial but let's think about this verse from the standpoint of time served. God is more than able to give back abundantly more than we have poured out in service to His Kingdom. When we pour ourselves out, He brings rest. When we pour ourselves out, He brings refreshment. When we pour ourselves out, He brings a restful nights sleep.
Perhaps we sometimes shy away from pouring ourselves out for fear that we'll not be able to find the needed rest? Perhaps we shy away because we've convinced ourselves that we're already too tired?
Living a lifestyle of service to others is tiring but when you pillow your head at night you can rest in the comfort that only God can bring to those who have poured themselves out for Him. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Are you familiar with the cruise ship analogy? You know the one, a course correction for a cruise ship has to happen slowly, they can't turn on a dime. A slight change in the rudder (assuming a cruise ship works like a regular boat), a blast from the side propulsion jets or whatever they're called, allows the ship to slowly start changing course and over time the ship gets into the correct position to head in its new direction.
I've heard this analogy related to large organziations, buisnesses, one's personal life and various other scenarios. While I'm not a sailor by trade and really don't even like the water, I dig this analogy. I dig it because I enjoy movement, even small incremental movement. The thought of a massive organization beginning to see a shift in priorities, values and behavior is inspiring.
I was facilitating a Bible study on the topic of, "The Church" with a small group of young adults in which there was much discussion on the state of the church, the concerns over the current church, the future of the church, etc. What I noticed was that we were repeatedly using phrases like...
All of our talk was centered around some amorphous, unnamed thing that was responsible for the current state of things. In the midst of the conversation someone even brought up the cruise ship analogy. We all agreed that change within the church would take time and couldn't be accomplished overnight. In that moment I was struck by a truth that is often overlooked when people discuss needed change in the church.
We tend to downplay our involvement and responsibility for that change. No one is ever interested in discussing what's really needed to see this incemental shift begin, especially if it involves us doing something different than what we're comfortable with.
In the context of our discussion on the church, this truth is even more relevant considering that the church isn't the church without the people. The people are the church. I imagined in my minds eye, and attempted to illustrate on my white board, a singular road that comes to a fork with paths headed in different directions. What's required for a large organization (the church or otherwise) to begin to see a shift in priorities, values and behavior has everything to do with the individuals in that church beginning to choose the same direction at the fork in the road.
If every other person chooses a different direction at the fork in the road no progress will be made. The organization will flounder in busyness and activity while never progressing towards a common goal. It's only when every person begins to consistently choose the same direction at the fork in the road that a noticeable shift will be observed at the larger level.
We give only lip service to our desire to see our churches become more effective in sharing the Gospel, more helpful to the hurting world around us and more empowering to those who darken our doorways when we fail to own our part of the change.
Things can change but that starts with you. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Imagine for a moment that your life is made up of cogs. You know what a cog is right? One of those gears with the little teeth all around them. When you place them together they can begin moving one another. Turning one on this side will also turn one on the far side because of the way that all of those cogs fit together.
Now imagine that there are different sized cogs that make up your life. There are the really big cogs, perhaps at the top that really define who you are and what you're doing with your life. These bog cogs may be your career, your marriage, your personality, your fitness, etc. Underneath these large cogs are medium sized cogs that help set the direction for the largest cogs of your life. These medium sized cogs may be things like your time management, who you associate with, what your hobbies are, etc. Lastly, imagine with me that there are even smaller sets of cogs at the very bottom. These little tiny cogs may be things that seem insignificant but are pretty important. These tinest cogs may be things like what you're doing right now, what time you plan on getting up tomorrow morning, what you choose to watch or listen to, that comment that you're thinking about making, the conversation that you don't want to have but know that you must, etc.
At first, these tiny cogs seem like they don't have much impact on the ultimate course of our lives. We sometimes even slip into ignoring these tiny cogs because they feel like such a waste. Why bother with decisions that don't really make a big difference in my life? Why spend time dealing with something so small when I have so many big decisions to make? We forget about the tiny cogs and focus all of our energy on the big cogs. We try to map out a direction that we want the big cogs to move in but it's really tough to get those big cogs moving. We strive and we struggle and we toil and in the end we never really make much progress. Why?
Allow me to suggest that you've been ignoring the tiny cogs of your life. If you want to see change in your life, in your family or in your organization, start with the tiny cogs. Start by setting a new direction for your daily habits, start by better managing your margins, start by going to bed earlier, start by getting up earlier, start by changing your language, start by changing the little cogs first.
In Luke 9:23 Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me." That "daily" word communicates to me that the finest cogs are the most important.
Remember, the big cogs always turn more freely and in our preferred direction when the little cogs are moving in the right direction first. Too often we attempt to turn the ship of our lives in a new direction before we've alerted the deckhands, notified the engine room or even put our hand on the steering wheel. Start small, start now, start tiny.
It's crunch time with our goal setting. I mean now is that time that you are either going to go for broke or throw in the towel. You may have already thrown in the towel. You may not have even set any goals for the New Year because you knew you were going to throw in the towel, so you figured, "Why even bother?"
I posted on a short video about this idea last week but wanted to give a little more attention to it here. The success of our goal setting is all about our "Heart". You may have encountered the "Obstacle of the Heart" in the past. The obstacle of the heart can flatten you pretty quickly.
You've been there: things get busy, you get tired, you get distracted, you get bored and the first thing to fly out the window are your goals.
Fill in the blank: In 2018 I really wanted to start ________________ or I really wanted to stop _______________.
What happened? Well, it's likely that your heart was never in it in the first place. It's the difference between, "Yeah, that'd be cool if I could start doing this or stop doing that." and "Oh my goodness, I absolutely have to do whatever it takes to make this or that a reality."
It's about discovering the "Why" of what you've set out to do accomplish. If you're "Why" is insignificant than the outcome of your goals will likely be insignificant as well. I would even go so far as to say that if your "Why" isn't significant then you will likely be exactly where you are now in 1 year.
You have to figure out your "Why" because that's what give you heart and when you have heart, you'll push through when things get tough at crunch time. The question really isn't "Where's your heart?" The question is better phrased, "Where's your treasure?"
Matthew 6:21 says, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
This verse gives us the idea that we need to work backwards to discover a truth. You see when you discover the answer to the question, "Where's your treasure?" then you truly discover where your heart is and when you discover where you're heart is, you begin to realize why accomplishing your goals is so tough or hopefully so easy.
So how do you figure out where your treasure is?
The answer to that question is found in how you spend your time, what you think about, what you're willing to sacrifice for, what you listen to, what you watch, who you try to impress.
Those are the things or people you truly treasure. If what you treasure doesn't line up with your goals then something has to change...and it shouldn't be your goals. Allow God to impress upon you His goals for your life and then make moves to line up your treasures with those goals.
What's in your heart is made real by your actions. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I've been reading and re-reading the book of Jonah found in the Old Testament of the Bible. Before you applaud my amazing commitment to Bible study, you should know it's only 4 chapters long. You could read it in it's entirety in like 5 minutes. Nevertheless, I've been reading it, studying some of the context of Jonah's life, trying to understand something deeper than what might be evident at first glance.
In my 2nd or 3rd reading I noticed something that I hadn't noticed before. Jonah 1:9 says, "Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
This doesn't feel significant until you understand when and where Jonah made this statement. God had instructed Jonah, as one of His prophets, to go directly to the Assyrian capital city of Ninevah to deliver a message of coming destruction if the people didn't repent and turn back to God. Jonah does what comes naturally to many throughout history, he runs. He runs as far in the opposite direction as possible. He heads to the port of Joppa, boards a ship and makes off for the city of Tarshish.
Tarshish was significantly further away and in the opposite direction from Ninevah. Jonah's move to board a ship and head for Tarshish could not be any clearer, "He wanted nothing to do with what God was calling him to."
So with that information in mind, let's read Jonah 1:9 again, "“I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
As I read that verse again the other night, I was struck by the ridiculousness of what was stated. Jonah was "saying" that he worshipped the Lord, the God of Heaven yet he was on a ship headed away from where God was clearly calling him. How could this be? Could Jonah really identify himself as someone who worshipped God and yet still completely ignore His leading?
As I reflected on my own life I began to wonder how often I "say" one thing about God and then demonstrate something completely different with my actions?
Do I sometimes try to convince myself that I worship the Lord when in fact I have boarded a ship and I'm headed in the opposite direction? If I don't actually follow God's leading am I really following? My prayer for you and me is that we would be people of faith, willing to go where He leads. When He calls I pray that we would resist the temptation to head to port in search of a vessel to take us away. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
It really does fit. As difficult as today has been it just makes sense that we would honor my grandmother's life at her funeral on the 4 year anniversary of my father's passing. They always seemed to have a special relationship but towards the end of his life they seem to connect on a different level. Often, she would only leave the house if her were taking her somewhere, he had a way of coaxing her from her armchair and out to run errands.
I remember once when they stopped by my house on one of their many errand runs and as I stood in the driveway talking with my dad, grandma just sat in the car waiting. She was content to just be out, she had no need to get out of the car.
Both my father and my grandmother impacted people in significant ways throughout their lives. Both left tremendous legacies for their families. It's my hope that I could impact people an leave even a fraction of the legacy that they have left. They are missed. Below are the words I shared at my father's funeral four years ago.
"As I reflected on the words that I would say in this moment, my mind was filled with the memories of a father who left me no shortage of stories to tell and examples to recall and to pattern my life after. I suppose I could tell some of those stories to you this afternoon and you would walk away with a better picture of who my dad was, but ultimately, the best way to understand who someone really is, is to observe the impact that he or she made on the lives of those around them and my dad impacted the people around him.
My dad was a big believer in discipline. Growing up in my house there were no timeouts or counting to three or questions like, “Was that a wise choice?”. You knew instantly when you did something wrong because you got whipped. And if the offense occurred while dad was at work mom simply said the words, “You just wait until your father gets home”. The day before dad passed away I saw one of those little cartoon blurbs on Facebook that said, “My parents spanked me as a child and I now suffer from a psychological condition known as ‘Respect for Others”. That summed up my dad’s philosophy on parenting. But respect for others wasn’t just something that he told us about, it was something he modeled for us. Dad treated everyone with respect and love.
Although my dad was a man of few words he modeled for his sons what a husband and a father looked like. He modeled for me a life of servanthood as he pampered and catered to my mom. He demonstrated what it meant to be a patient husband. Mom seldom did the dishes, she never shoveled or scraped snow from the sidewalks or car windshields. He always volunteered to clean the bathroom, take out the trash, sweep the carpet, dust the furniture, etc. My dad took care of my mom in every way possible. It’s that example that my wife will attest that I’m still working on but I believe that if I could treat my wife with even a fraction of the respect and love that my dad treated my mom with, I would be an amazing husband.
My dad modeled for me how to be a father. The attention that he paid to us as his sons, the countless school projects that he helped us squeeze out at the last minute, the time he spent showing us how to fix everything from A to Z. He modeled what it meant to not only pay attention to his kids but really focus on them and to pass along his knowledge to us.
The way that my dad treated his mother-in-law, my grandmother, was one of extreme patience. He demonstrated not only patience, but love and respect and dignity to the mother of his wife. Over the last week since dad’s passing, grandma has said on more than one occasion, “I loved him, he loved me and we loved each other.” That certainly summed up their relationship.
I want you to understand this afternoon that my father’s legacy will live on, it will live on in my life and in the lives of my brothers and our sons and daughters. But you also have an opportunity to carry on his legacy because ultimately my dad was patterning his life after the person and teachings of Jesus Christ.
His love and patience and faithfulness that have been highlighted here today are straight out of God’s Word, Paul says in Galatians,“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” That is my father’s legacy.
During the last few moments of my dad’s earthly life as mom, my brothers and I and are wives were gathered around his bedside he modeled one final act of faithfulness for us. He demonstrated for us how we’re to finish the race. He had been motionless for an hour or so and just moments before he took his last breath he simply raised his left hand straight into the air towards Heaven, lowered it back down and then fell asleep.
Church I believe with all my heart that at that moment he was beginning to see the face of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It was at that moment that he heard the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”