Sunday, May 31, 2009
Just walk across the room!
That is the title of a book written by pastor Bill Hybels. I actually haven't read the book yet but I love the message found in the title!
You see, we so often do little or nothing for Christ because we get hung up on how in the world can we win the world?! It seems like such a daunting task!
And yet, we are so very unlikely to do the thing we can most easily and effectively do: get up, walk across the room, and engage someone in conversation. Interact. Make a friend. Earn an opportunity to be heard. Create a chance to share a testimony.
It's so simple it stumps us!
Want to reach someone for Jesus Christ?
Trying walking across the room ...
(I gotta get that book! Thanks, Bill Hybels, for the simplicity of that!)
Before the church service began, they were actively engaging others in conversation, laughing, and smiling lots. But during the worship service, they were straight-faced, appeared visibly bored, rarely sang a word, and were so dis-engaged I thought they may bolt for the doors at any moment. However, during the sermon, they re-engaged via active listening, and finally, after the service, were the personable couple I initially viewed.
After the service, I was surprised to hear the couple say, "We love this church, we're so blessed by the worship here."
This couple demonstrated something that goes to the core of a HUGE mistake made so often in American churches ... that of mistaking fellowship for worship.
Many churchgoers seem to think of the church as their personal "spiritual ATM" machine. They go each Sunday to withdraw their blessing and then move on. Little or nothing is brought, and it's not often that something of great value is deposited. But a withdrawal is always made.
People often like to "go to church" as an avenue of making and interacting with friends outside of the workplace. They get a warm, comfortable feeling of being with people who take them as they are and they enjoy the positive, family environment.
But that is not worship!
You don't have to "go to church" to worship God. In fact, we express "worship" every day with how we live out our lives, especially with regard to what we ascribe value and worth to on a daily basis (which really is what worship is). But the heart of the genuine Christian experience is fellow believers coming together to worship as the family of God.
Jesus once responded to Pharisees complaining about public worship of Him, "He replied, 'If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!'" Luke 19:40.
When you know and love Jesus Christ, your heart longs to cry out in worship to Him! You yearn to adore Him and express reverence toward Him. You are moved by His grace, and love, and kindness, and you simply must express yourself.
We need fellowship with other believers, but it's very easy to become self-indulgent with fellowship. Worship is quite an opposite experience as it is more than having fellowship with God. It is seeing our worthlessness and the awesome experience of being made worthy by our Creator. That reality is so profound that it demands a reaction from us ... in lifted voices, raised hands, and a host of other ways (in and out of church) that we express the real worth and value of Jesus Christ to our lives.
Have you ever noticed that the little church that never grows tends to have strong "fellowship" among its members, but staid (at best) worship? But when you look at the churches that are adding to their numbers nearly every week, you will usually find a congregation of believers who enjoy dynamic worship as a central part of their gathering together.
Is your church overly focused on "warm fellowship"? What is the worship life like in your local church? How could building genuine, dynamic worship into the life of your congregation spur your fellowship of believers to greater growth?
Saturday, May 30, 2009
But it did.
About how we too often live bittersweet lives.
We allow fear and doubt to stop us ... or slow us ... from pursuing the dreams that God has given us for our lives. Hopefully we learn that in time, pick up the pursuit, and realize at least some of the dream.
Bitter from seeing what you lost waiting, worrying, fretting, doubting, not believing, and finally, not acting.
Sweet in seeing it was every bit as good as we always dreamed it would be.
It's a wiser choice not to wait, not to worry, not to fret, not to doubt, not to sit --- not to miss out. God has given you one life, live it!
Along the way, be as gentle as you possibly can with the others you come across. They may be waiting, worrying, fretting, doubting ... scared. A little tenderness may lift them up and urge them forward.
When Susan first walked out on the stage, both the audience and the judges laughed. They didn't think an ordinary woman in her late 40's could have much to offer. That is, until she started singing. Then they were humbled by the beauty of her voice.
Since then, Susan has taken the world by storm via the media, winning the hearts of millions.
But not enough. Today, she came in second in the "Britain's Got Talent" competition.
Susan may have placed second in a contest, but she is a real winner. This is a lady who has never given up on her dream to be a singer, and has shown the world she, indeed, has much to offer.
What does it take to get you to stop pursuing your dreams? Are you still seeking to turn them into reality? What do you have to offer that would bless the world if only you stepped out and used your God-given talent?
Below is Susan's final performance in the television show competition. Let her talent bless you, and motivate you to rekindle and pursue afresh your own dreams.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
In politics (which I don't discuss on this blog site), we have liberals, conservatives, progressives, independents, libertarians, and on it goes.
We have tended to apply a couple of those labels to Christian theology as well. There is "liberal theology" and "conservative theology." Nonsense!
There is either "hitting the mark" or missing it!
People have added to, and subtracted from, God's Word since the first humans lived in the garden. Neither is acceptable.
I have just relocated to the San Francisco bay area, a place I have lived previously and spent most of my ministry career serving in this area. Politically, it is the heartland of liberalism. Spiritually, you'll find all kinds of churches, including all kinds of "spirituality."
I came here from spending a few months in the Dallas area which, politically, is conservative. Spiritually, it is heavily Baptist, either Southern or fundamental. But I found in that area a plethora of legalistic churches.
Spiritual liberalism or legalism ... both are ugly, both are unlike Christ, both miss the mark!
However, if I had to choose to deal with one or the other, it would be dealing with the liberalism. Why? While politically liberal persons don't tend to stomach Christians well, in general those who are liberal care less about what you do as long as you leave them alone, but they also tend to be somewhat willing to engage in discussion.
Here's what I cannot stand about legalism: Jesus Christ offered up His life to set us free from bondage that is a result of sin. How incredibly ignorant is it for those who have been set free to purposely place shackles on themselves! To be legalistic is to add to God's Word, to require more than even what God requires!
In Acts 15, we see the Apostles having to deal with an issue of legalism, as we read in verse five, "But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, 'The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses'.” Theses believers wanted to add to God's standard by requiring more than was necessary from Gentile converts. James made a wise recommendation in verse 19, "And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God."
We make it harder for non-believers to come to Christ when we add to God's Word by requiring more of them than what God does!
Why would we do that?!
We not only do that to the unbelieving, but we make following Christ harder than it is by legalistic rules that have no sound basis in scripture. You will still find the hypocrite preacher who rails against church members eating at restaurants that serve liquor, but he himself buys his groceries and gas at places that sell liquor!
We get hung up over the pierced ears, hair styles and clothing fashions of non-Christians but pay no attention to dying churches and fractious families in our congregations. We major on the minors while the lost perish.
We grossly miss the mark as we shackle ourselves!
I hate legalism because Christ died to set us FREE!
I've heard multiple pastors say something along the lines of, "Well, we should err on the side of restraint."
Nonsense, we shouldn't "err" by twisting God's Word, we should hit the mark by applying it!
Those church leaders are fearful of allowing for sin. But Paul addressed that in Romans 6:15-18, "15 Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! 16 Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. 17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. 18 Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living."
There is nothing more incredible than experiencing the real life we have in Jesus Christ! Live it fully! Cast off the shackles, embrace God's Word, and go forward in freedom!
Sunday, May 24, 2009
It's a place where I have spent the bulk of my ministry, and it looks like God is leading me back. I think He has even bigger things in store ahead of me than behind me.
But leaving Texas, which has been my home for just 8 months, is bittersweet. In the time I have been here, God has blessed in specific ways.
First, I've had cherished time with family that I haven't had the opportunity to be around in a long time. They have been loving, generous and kind, and I will miss them dearly.
I have also been blessed with my fellowship and activity at Cross Bend Christian Church where I've made some new, lifelong (and beyond!) friendships. I believe CBCC is poised to do much more for Christ than it currently is. There are gifted people there who love the Lord who can step up and step out for Christ and make a greater impact for the kingdom than they currently are, and my fervent prayer is that they do so. I think Tom Mullenix is likely the right guy to pastor them to greater growth, the key reason being is I believe Tom genuinely, passionately loves Jesus Christ ... the single greatest characteristic needed in a church leader.
I have also had a chance to meet others in other activities, and God has blessed by using me in my role as a Certified Personal Trainer to radically physically change the lives of several people.
A couple things I will remember about Texas is the genteel-ness of the people, and the beautiful nights here when the weather is warm (not uncomfortably so). One thing I thought peculiar but beautiful --- and I haven't noticed this any other place I have lived --- and that is, while outside on a beautiful, warm Texas night, the birds sang. I don't recall birds singing at night any other place.
But they do in North Texas.
To my friends here, thank you for: your love, your friendship, your fellowship, your encouragement and support, your prayers, and the opportunity to have served and to have encouraged you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In His Love,
Friday, May 22, 2009
The story told in this video is the awesome tale and demonstration of real respect, honor, and loyalty.
I think we love the idea of such great character qualities, but traits like respect, honor, and loyalty aren't talked about much.
How are these traits a part of the relationships in your life? Fifty-eight years after giving their lives in service to their country, there were still individuals, and the Corps, who were respectful, honoring, and loyal to these men. Such character is a great lesson for us in our own relationships.
(Thanks to Charlie Hardage for bringing this video to my attention!)
Thursday, May 21, 2009
There's a key reason why I'm a fan of the show. Once you get past the first few weeks of showing all the terrible "contestants" who really are just out to get on TV for a few minutes, you usually wind up with some very talented people who are pursuing their dream of a singing career.
Correction: who are passionately pursuing their dream.
That is what I enjoy about the show ... seeing real people doing everything they can to achieve a dream they usually have had since they were kids. This year's winner, Kris Allen, is a great example of someone who worked incredibly hard during the competition, pushing his way out of obscurity, past the front runners, to a whole new level of success. Kris didn't finally achieve his dream last night, he finally started it!
What if we, as Christians, were each as passionate about reaching the lost for Jesus Christ as contestants are about winning on TV shows?
What if we were as passionate about building our local churches? About mission? About relationships? Marriages? Families? The work we do?
But most of all, what if we were as passionate about our personal relationship with Jesus Christ?
Why aren't we?
Who or what deserves the same passion, the same pursuit as our Savior?
What dreams has God given you that you've let go by the wayside? What might you possibly do toward those dreams if you pursued them with a passion?
Whether it's a singer pouring out their heart in a song, the guy next door trying not to get voted off an island, or someone trying to lose a ton of weight to save their life, I appreciate seeing people stepping up, and stepping out with a passion to pursue their God given dreams.
Are you one of them?
The video below features the new"American Idol" winner, Kris Allen, singing "God of This City."
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Yep, it has been a real time of truly waiting on the Lord. It has taken a full measure of both discipline and faith to remain patient, but I've learned when you really don't know something, and you really need to know, ask God and then wait for the answer.
I know, I know ... you don't like waiting.
Being in God's waiting room can be a challenge to the most patient of us, but it does remind us of that very important fruit of the spirit: patience.
We are light years beyond the microwave crowd. We don't want to wait 30 seconds for anything. We want what we want when we want it.
But God doesn't work that way. God blesses when He wants; He directs when He wants; He guides when He wants; He leads when he wants ... and He does all these kinds of things the way He wants to.
So if we really want to be in alignment with God, we must wait on Him. We have to learn to be patient. Sometimes it may be difficult to wait on the Lord, but it would be worse to wish you had!
A train was filled with tired people. Most of them had spent the day traveling through the hot dusty plains and at last evening had come and they all tried to settle down to a sound sleep. However, at one end of the car a man was holding a tiny baby and as night came on the baby became restless and cried more and more. Unable to take it any longer, a big brawny man spoke for the rest of the group. "Why don't you take that baby to its mother?" There was a moment's pause and then came the reply. "I'm sorry. I'm doin' my best. The baby's mother is in her casket in the baggage car ahead." Again there was an awful silence for a moment. Then the big man who asked the cruel question was out of his seat and moved toward the man with the motherless child. He apologized for his impatience and unkind remark. He took the tiny baby in his own arms and told the tired father to get some sleep. Then in loving patience he cared for the little child all through the night.
Galatians 5:22, "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness ..."
2 Corinthians 6:6, "We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love."
Colossians 1:11, "We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy ..."
Are you a patient person?
If you find yourself wrestling with patience, let me encourage you to get in tune with the Holy Spirit, who's work in our lives produces patience. Step back and look if you're really pushing for something God wants, or something you want. After all, if it's of God, He will deliver whatever He needs to in perfect timing.
Monday, May 18, 2009
I don't think I can really be identified as a "trekkie." You won't find me at any conventions, I don't own any costumes or action figures. But I liked science fiction and so I liked the show.
But this video clip below has to be the worst fight scene ever filmed. Watch it ...
Perhaps as a kid that might have been a little more exciting. But TV shows and movies have come a long ... long ... way since then! Today, a person might watch this for the sake of nostalgia, but with the likes of the newly released "Star Trek" movie, something of the calibur of the clip above just isn't entertaining anymore.
I wonder sometimes if that's what non-Christians think when they step into some of our churches ... if they don't feel as if they're stepping back in time when something like what they're seeing and experiencing used to be acceptable a long time ago, but just isn't as relevant today.
The truth of God's Word never changes, but the way it's delivered must. Relevancy is the latest rage among church leaders today, and there's a reason for that. The church has been ineffective for too long because it has presented itself as irrelevant in today's world. And some local churches have made themselves irrelevant ... they have stubbornly held onto old ways so long, they cannot relate to the community around them. Thus, they cannot reach that community --- and many churches haven't tried to in a long time, turning inward to meet the needs of members while everyone else goes their own way.
Like I said, I used to watch the original TV show "Star Trek" as a kid. Because that's what I knew, I was skeptical when the new "Star Trek: The Next Generation" came out. How could anyone be better than James T. Kirk flying through space at warp speed to save the universe? I gave it a try and you know, I liked it! The new series was better quality filming, more realistic, much better acting ...
... I became a fan.
Because I could relate to it better.
It's still the same storyline. Still good guys boldly going where no one else had gone before, carrying out the Prime Directive in an entertaining fashion. But in a freshness that I could relate to.
Do you believe the church in the 21st century, like the early church, can still change the world?
But to do so we've got to get the church into the 21st century and engaged with the people of this world in a way they can understand and relate to.
The message remains the same. The crew is just recast, and the action is much better!
"This is a production!" I thought to myself.
I was participating in worship at one of my favorite churches in the southwest. For some reason I really noticed the decorated stage and how it was all a design to go with the current sermon series. At the end of the series, when the CD is sold in the bookstore at the church, the cover of the CD will look like the set design that was then on the stage.
I understand why some things like this are done. I think it should be a sin to make the Bible boring, and we pastors must present the messages we have to share as interesting and compelling as possible.
But sometimes I wonder if we don't overdo it and make it too much of a production.
"Five steps to great friendships."
"Three steps to a rock solid faith."
"Eight steps to inspired parenting."
"Ten things that make you a Godly business person"
"Seven keys to holy money management."
"The five things that make up an awesome marriage ..." and on and on we go.
I understand the communication methodologies. But sometimes we need to step back and understand that Jesus never taught this way! He didn't have the 3-, 5-, 7- or 12 steps to anything. He had pure truth with a compassionate heart. With that, He changed the course of humanity.
I want to encourage my fellow church leaders as much as I possibly can, but let's ask the question, from time to time, about the relevancy and effectiveness of what we're doing. We should always strive to communicate effectively, but must we create a spectacle to do so?
I don't think so.
What do you think?
Think about it ...
I prefer to see them at the theater when they open, but I just enjoy the entertainment a good movie provides for a couple of hours.
But of all the films I've seen, the one that has most impacted me and returns to memory the most often isn't something I saw at a theater. Instead, it was a film shown in my third grade class about health.
I remember it clearly ... there were the good "organisms" and the "bad germs" and they were battling with each other. It was an all-out war. Talk about an action movie! And it got it's lesson across to me ... wash your hands!
To this day, I wash my hands because of what I saw in that movie!
It's interesting what it is that we observe that leaves a lasting impact in our lives and motivates a permanent behavior change.
Watching my mother deal with the issues of life, chiefly an abusive father, taught me much about living.
Watching Dr. LeRoy Lawson lead Central Christian Church to mega-church growth taught me a great deal about ministry.
Others have taught me about friendship, or business, or an array of other things about life.
But I've never forgotten what an Arkansas country preacher once told me when I was a teenager. He said, "There's always someone watching your life. You may not know who they are or when they are watching, but there's always someone watching your life."
If that is true, what are people going to think by watching your life? What are they going to learn? How are they going to be impacted? How will your life motivate theirs?
"And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching," Titus 2:7.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
So often lately I hear from church leaders who are frustrated and struggling with the fact that they have several men in their churches who could be leaders, but simply won't be. They seem to be quite comfortable sitting on the sidelines.
I gotta say, that really irritates me!
I would love to hear these men explain themselves. After all, if they stay on the sidelines, they will have to explain themselves to Jesus Christ!
I do not get how men who claim to be men of faith will sit on the sidelines and allow their churches to stagnate and die because they are comfortable!
Those are not "real" men!
To church leaders who face such an issue, I encourage them not to settle for it. It will take a combination of love and gentleness, mixed with a swift kick of challenge! I think church leaders have to take a direct approach and call these men out. If ever there was a time for the need of real revival in the American church it is now. And we have able, capable, competent men just sitting on the sidelines?! It is a shame!
I love this passage from 1 Kings 2:1-3, "As the time of King David’s death approached, he gave this charge to his son Solomon:2 'I am going where everyone on earth must someday go. Take courage and be a man. 3 Observe the requirements of the Lord your God, and follow all his ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go'."
David's idea of "being a man" was to courageously live to God's standard! Where are such men in our churches today? Sitting on the sidelines?! It is a shame!
David had reason to speak, as it was he, as a courageous boy, who stepped out and stood for God when all the men of Israel would not. As a teenager, he took on the Philistinian giant and won victory over the enemy.
Today, the church is in need of men of God who will step out, and step up, and take on leadership roles in the church to reach, win, and disciple the lost; to build their local churches; to serve their communities. To be a man!
Be a "real" man and get off the sidelines!
So I thought it was interesting to see three new applications for the iPhone. They are: Answers, Reasons, and Excuses.
How fitting for us human beings!
People all around the world are looking for answers to and about life. They search in a variety of ways and places. The only time they are satisfied is when they find Jesus Christ. Jesus put it this way in John 14:6, "Jesus told him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me'."
People also want reasons for the things in their lives. Again, you won't really be satisfied with reasons until you find Jesus Christ, but even then you may not get all the explanation you want. Why? Because God doesn't have to explain Himself to anyone ... and sometimes He chooses not to!
Excuses seem to be all too common. We especially need them when we cop-out on really getting answers and reasons to life. Then we rely on excuses.
What app do you need most?
Which app are you applying to your life? Answers and reasons through the understanding you find in Jesus Christ? Or are you still making excuses?
There's an app for that ...
Friday, May 15, 2009
Life is made up of some wonderful, amazing things. God blesses us in so many ways. There is often something good about life even in the worst of circumstances.
And there are some ugly circumstances to endure. Life can be harsh, mean, and downright ugly at times. That's the result of living in a broken world.
I completely disagree with many of the ideas that popular "positive thinkers" espouse, which really is: lie to yourself. Their idea is, when things really aren't going so well, don't face the truth. Instead, say things are great anyway. Somehow, proclaiming things are great when things currently stink is supposed to make things better.
So what works?
First, face the truth. While life has many great things about it, it sometimes has some less than great things to face. Face them, but do it rationally. Don't make things bigger than they are. Simply state the truth as it is. Then address the problems in an effort to arrive at some solutions.
But most importantly, while being honest about circumstances, keep your eyes on the good things in life, and build on those.
We don't improve on our circumstances by avoiding them or pretending they don't exist. We need to keep our focus on what is good and build on those things while addressing and working through the things that aren't, doing all of this with faith that good or bad, blessing or challenge, God will lead us to what He has for us.
Jesus put it this way, "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
"For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!" 2 Corinthians 4:17.
"Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done," Philippians 4:6.
"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. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you," Philippians 4:8-9.
I love Fiji! I've never seen more crystal clear ocean waters than I have there.
But what is often touted about this remote place in the South Pacific is the friendliness of the people. In fact, Fiji is marketed in travel circles as "the friendliest people on earth." Quite a claim! I found the claim to be true. People from the village would come over to the resort where I stayed to perform native dances; they would stop by on the beach and ask how your vacation was going; even the gardeners and caretakers would engage you in friendly conversation.
The friendliness is an even greater claim when you consider that Fijians were the original headhunters.
No, not the kind who find you a job, the kind who would have you over for dinner ... to have you for dinner! One of the trinkets I brought back from the island was an intricately hand-carved wooden implement about 12 inches long that replicated the eating utinsils of long ago Fiji. That is, back when the island natives were eating their enemies!
Why would I want something like that as a reminder of my time in Fiji? Because it reminds me of the radical change among the people of that island. How do you go from devouring your enemies (literally) to having a reputation of being the friendliest people on earth?
Jesus Christ made the difference.
About half the population of Fiji is Christian, with the other half largely composed of Indian ancestry. The work of missionaries, and the building of the kingdom of God in this island nation has resulted in a transformation of lives. Now you will often find a resort built next to a traditional Fijian village so the villagers can work at the resort and provide the services --- and hospitality --- extended to people who visit there from around the world.
Now, as you enjoy the pristine beaches of Fiji, you will hear the locals calling out "bula!" What does "bula" mean? Bula is heard everywhere in Fiji. It is universally used to say hello, or welcome, and is even exclaimed if you sneeze. It means "life" and is a way of wishing good health and fortune to the recipient.
Only Jesus Christ can make such a profound difference in the lives of people. And just think, if He can transform headhunters into friendly villagers --- change the desire to murder and eat an adversary to serve and befriend anyone --- then just imagine what more He can do in your life!
"Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Especially travel internationally.
It will expand your mind in a myriad of ways as you experience entirely different cultures, different ways of thinking and interacting and living out this experience called life.
But the best part about traveling is the amazing people you may have the chance to meet.
I was deeply touched by the friends I made in the Philippines during a couple of trips I took to Manila.
Manila is an ugly city with acrid air. It's not the usual place you would go for a vacation. But I was blown away by the people.
On my first night there I had headed out to find something to eat, and not far from my hotel was a little karaoke restaurant with outdoor seating. I soon discovered that my filipino friends love karaoke. The reason is the poverty. That's right ... they struggle all day long in hopes they can make enough to buy something to eat, and then they head to karaoke to sing away life's worries with their friends. The fellowship they find there with their friends is one of the few times they can temporarily forget about life's hardships and laugh and smile for a while.
I was impressed ... and deeply touched ... by watching Rex, who became my best friend in Manila. Rex is 25, the oldest son in his family. His father was murdered a few years ago, so he is doing a lot to help his mother care for his younger siblings, all who live many hours away in their home province. Rex came to the city to try to make money to care not just for himself, but he sends home a good portion of what he makes. That is, when there is something to send.
I had met Rex my first night there and he volunteered ... nearly insisted ... that he be my unofficial guide while in Manila. He also introduced me to his friends, and new friendships were thus in the making.
My second night there, Rex and I met up with some of his friends and we sat down to eat. Except I was the only one who had money to buy food! I was so grateful for such a blessing, I turned it around and told them I couldn't eat alone and ordered up a feast so everyone could eat. What deeply touched me, among the chatter and laughter around the trouble, was that before Rex ate a bite he made sure that each one of his friends had plenty to eat. In fact, during the two weeks I was there (on my first trip), I noticed Rex did this each time we gathered with other friends. He always cared for his friends first, before he took care of his own needs. It was a humbling example.
I later learned that Rex had spent some time doing some work for a church. It was a brief experience, but he had learned some things while there. What I saw was him living out some things he had learned!
This morning, I have three bracelets on my right wrist. When departing Manila, while saying my goodbyes, a couple of my friends took off bracelets they were wearing and put them on my wrists, encouraging me not to forget them and thanking me for my friendship.
I was incredibly humbled and nearly moved to tears.
You see, these friends have very ... very ... little. It's a rare thing they would spend a few dollars on something like a bracelet. So it meant a great deal for them to take it off their wrists and place them on mine.
I had the opportunity while there to help provide for some of my new friends. But that was nothing compared to the way they embraced me and simply enjoyed the making of new friends.
One day I hope to be able to go back to Manila and check on my friends. I returned a second time after one of my new friends had gotten into a scooter accident and was in the hospital. I was able to spend a week there providing some support and catching up with others.
But I will never forget the touching display of genuine friendship and caring I saw exhibited among some people who live far more simply ... and perhaps a little more fully ... than many comfortable Americans.
If you ever get the chance, travel!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
But, let's get real for a moment. Usually the reason for obesity is NOT genetics, and it's NOT a thyroid condition, and it's more often than NOT something that is out of a person's control. The most common reason for obesity is eating too much and not exercising.
That's the truth.
When you weigh 30, 50, 70, 100 pounds more than you should, and then you have "bad self-esteem" because of that fact, look in the mirror. There stands your problem! Your indulgence with food and your laziness in not wanting (or willing) to exercise has created this problem.
Now what are you going to do about it?
Weight loss is incredibly simple at its core: to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in. To do that in a healthy way, and maintain your weight once you've reached your goals, you will need a good combination of nutrition (not dieting), cardiovascular exercise and muscular conditioning. And let's get this straight right now, going for a walk around the block after dinner does not constitute an adequate personal exercise program ... not even close.
For those of you who persistently whine, "Well I don't like to exercise ..." or "I don't like vegetables ..." or "I'm a picky eater ..." or "I don't have the time or money to eat well ..." or "I don't have time to go to the gym," please answer me this very simple question: If you consistently eat poorly and do not exercise on a regular basis, how do you think you will ever truly be fit OR be able to maintain an appropriate standard of health? You cannot do either. Your body will, at least eventually, become the outcome of what you put into it and do with it.
It amazes me how people who never exercise and eat any junk they can get their hands on seem to be surprised that they are fat, deconditioned, lack energy, and often do not feel well or even face issues with their health. They have become the consequences of their continued actions.
The answers to change that is easy; achieving it is challenging. The results of it are well worth the costs you will have to pay.
Let me give you one more thought. Your physical body is one of the single greatest gifts God has ever given you. It is a key tool with which you will experience the life. You have a stewardship responsibility to care for that awesome gift. I'm not saying you have to be an athlete. But I am saying that by not taking care of yourself, you will limit your capacity to fully enjoy and engage in life and you will likely shorten the life you can share with family, friends, and in service to God.
It's time to get off the couch, get to the gym, and get some help. You will never regret it!
Correction: a vast array of interests!
I've done several things in life, and have many interests beyond the things I've been able to do.
I've come to a place in my life where I realize I simply won't be able to do, in this lifetime, everything I would really like to do. There's just not enough realistic time and resources. And that's okay, because while I may have many interests, that doesn't mean I have to experience them all. I focus on what I can do best, how I can contribute the most, and a few things I enjoy.
But have you ever been stuck in a position where you had the opportunity to do one of a few really good opportunities? But realistically, you could pursue just one? That's the limits of this life --- we have finite time, capacity and resources.
But there's a time coming when all that will change. When we finally enter into eternity with our Lord Jesus Christ, everything will change. We won't have to be concerned about whether we can do this or that, because we will have all of eternity to pursue the great things God has for us.
How awesome will that be?!
Until then, we have to make good choices regarding our time and resources. But whatever we do, let's keep Colossians 3:1-4 in mind, "1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory."
Monday, May 11, 2009
Five lessons to make you think about the way we treat people.
1 - First Important Lesson - Cleaning Lady
During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one: "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?" Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50s, but how would I know her name?
I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.
"Absolutely," said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say 'hello'."
I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.
2 - Second Important Lesson - Pickup in the Rain
One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance, and put her into a taxicab.
She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man's door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached.
It read: "Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband's bedside just before he passed away ... God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others."
Mrs. Nat King Cole
3 - Third Important Lesson - Always remember those who serve.
In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him.
"How much is an ice cream sundae?" he asked.
"Fifty cents," replied the waitress.
The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.
"Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he inquired.
By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient.
"Thirty-five cents," she brusquely replied.
The little boy again counted his coins.
"I'll have the plain ice cream," he said.
The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies.
You see, he couldn't have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.
4 - Fourth Important Lesson. - The Obstacle In Our Path.
In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.
Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand!
Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.
5 - Fifth Important Lesson - Giving When It Counts ...
Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister.
I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, "Yes I'll do it if it will save her." As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheek. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded.
He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away".
Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.
Reducing and managing stress often takes more than just dealing with your thought life, which is the method most touted. There are actually eight key areas that significantly impact the stress we experience. Dealing with each area is important to genuinely address, reduce, and manage stress. Those areas are:
Knowledge of Temperament
Having a knowledge of your own temperament is having a knowledge of your own needs, which better equips you to meet those needs in an appropriate, “healthy” manner. To have a reliable knowledge of temperament, you will need to work with a counselor who has genuine expertise in this area. But it has been my professional experience that understanding one's temperament design can have a dramatic impact on a person's life.
Understanding how to think rationally by understanding how we often think irrationally --- what cognitive distortions are --- and how to gain perspective in your life situations. Learning how to “reframe" your circumstances.
Making sure you have healthy eating habits (it is always a good idea to consult your physician about dietary changes and patterns). Usually, a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet is best; however, once again, it is best to consult your physician about these matters. For some great insight on nutrition, I recommend the book "Body By God" by Dr. Ken Lerner.
Always consult your physician before starting any exercise program. Developing and maintaining a weekly exercise program that includes a level of aerobic exercise and muscular conditioning appropriate for you.
Having good sleeping patterns, and making sure you get an appropriate amount of sleep. The need for adequate sleep, and its impact on our level of stress (as well as other issues such as the impact a lack of rest has on weight gain or weight management) is often greatly overlooked and under-appreciated.
Taking time for leisure in your life. This needs to be a regular part of your life experience, as with any other aspect of living. This may need to be scheduled in to make sure you take time for leisure.
Taking time to play and have fun in life. This is vital to adding perspective to living. This, too, should be scheduled in to make sure it is a part of the full life experience.
Having a strong, vibrant and genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, spending time with Him on a daily basis. This should include: (1) daily time in the Bible, (2) a healthy, daily prayer life, (3) fellowship with other believers, and (4) serving in the church. Matthew 11:28-30,"Then Jesus said,'Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light'."
Here is a simplistic approach to reframing your circumstances by directing your self-talk (thought life) to achieve rational responses:
Identify/clarify your current circumstances without cognitive distortions (irrational thinking patterns).
Honestly acknowledge your emotions. It doesn't do any good to be dishonest with yourself about how you really feel about your current circumstances. Acknowledge them to yourself and to God.
Apply context. Focus on realities rationally ... eliminate any cognitive distortions (irrational thinking patterns) or defective systems (irrational patterns of behavior).
Apply your faith:
- Is there any direct scriptural teaching for guidance?
- If there isn't any direct scriptural teaching for guidance, what biblical principles are there for guidance?
- Ask yourself, "What would Jesus do?" in the exact same circumstances.
- What glorifies God the most?
- Pray for guidance and wisdom.
One of the reasons is that many people develop patterns of irrational thinking, called "cognitive distortions." Here are 10 of the most common cognitive distortions that plague our thought lives:
This is the "if-then" or "either-or" pattern of thinking. It's a tendency to see things in absolute, black-and-white categories (and I don't mean the "black and white" absolutes of scripture). An example, "Either I am perfectly competent in everything I do, or else I am a failure."
This cognitive distortion is based on assuming bad things will happen over and over or things are always a certain way. For example, "I will always get caught in a traffic jam if driving in the afternoon." It may seem that way based on where you live, but it doesn't always happen.
This distorted way of thinking comes from focusing on the negative parts of life and filtering out the positive --- or vice versa. For example, "My job is awful because I don't get paid enough" but possibly overlooking positive elements such as flexible hours, benefits, positive environment, etc.
Disqualifying the positive
Some people consistently discount their own success or compliments they receive. For example, "I got the promotion because I was lucky."
Jumping to conclusions
One of the more prominent cognitive distortions, this is a tendency to try to read minds or "fortune telling." For example, "Everybody is noticing my socks don't match my shirt," or "I'm going to fail this exam" even though no one can even see his socks or that she is well prepared for the test.
Magnification and minimization
This is simply magnifying errors and minimizing success, something you so often see done in groups of Christians! For example, "I'm terrible with the kids since I just yelled at them" might be magnifying this momentary lapse when usually this mom is consistently an awesome parent.
Sadly, the church seems to have fallen for this one hook, line, and sinker, as we see it practiced in groups consistently. This cognitive distortion is about basing thoughts on feelings. For example, "I feel like a loser, therefore I am a loser." Feelings may be fleeting, but facts can be stubborn things!
I hear this cognitive distortion in distressed relationships all the time. These statements are a key factor in conflict. "Should statements" set arbitrary requirements without considering the consequences. For example, "I should be friendly with everyone I meet." That's sounds quite "Christian" but it's not accurate. There are some people we might need to be cautious of; it doesn't mean we have to be "un-friendly" but it might mean we shouldn't start out being "friendly."
Labeling and mislabeling
This happens often --- it's the categorizing of people based on limited exposure. For examples, "The person in the yellow car is really selfish," or "The guy in the red shirt is really flashy."
This is accepting personal blame for some negative event involving others --- those who often "play the victim" do this persistently. For example, "My family would be well-adjusted if it weren't for me."
These distorted patterns of thinking become an established part of our thought life and can cause us great difficulty. A competent Christian counselor can help a person identify these patterns in their own lives and make lasting changes to their thought life.
But the key is allowing God to change our thinking. Ephesians 4:23 says, "Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes."
The way we view people, places and things has to do with two things: (1) our temperament, and (2) our thinking. While we cannot change our temperament, we can learn to live to the strengths of our temperament. But we can change our thinking.
In order to change our thinking, we must first become aware of what our thoughts are about a person, place or thing. Then, we can choose to think rationally, based on truth, or we choose to alter truth to a view of our making … which is an irrational view of the person, place or thing.
What are the “mental files” you have stored in your mental file cabinet? What are your thoughts, views, beliefs, and emotions about:
- yourself … as a person … spouse … parent … employee/employer … Christian?
- your spouse?.
- your children?
- your home?
- your career?
- your church?
What are in these files that are honest and should stay in the file? What cognitive distortions, temperament weaknesses, or selfishness are in these files that should come out? The things that need to come out are the things you need to change your thinking about. It’s not simply a matter of removing a thought, but replacing it with a new thought. What would be a more appropriate replacement? How can you mentally retrain yourself to keep the new thought in the file in place of the old thought?
Ephesians 4:20-23, "20But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes."
Miscommunication - Effective communication can sometimes be tricky. To replicate in the mind of another person the same thought, idea, or picture that is in your own sometimes takes focus and patience. And it also takes some effort at listening on behalf of the other person. Not communicating well, and not listening well, are often sources of distress in a relationship. Communicating concisely and clearly, and focusing your attention without distraction on the communicator, are both essential for effective communication in a relationship.
Misinterpretation - The attempt to read another person's mind gets us in trouble probably more than our efforts at communicating. Instead of focusing our attention at hearing precisely what the other person has to say so that we can accurately understand what they think and feel, we often jump to conclusions by trying to read their minds and then make assumptions. Making assumptions in a relationship usually winds up in conflict! To avoid conflict, we need to set aside assumptions by hearing out the other person, focusing on what the other person actually says, and only then creating our reply based on a clear understanding of what they have actually said.
Misperception - Often we develop an opinion of something we have only tidbits of information about and then act from this lack of information, only later to find out our perceptions were not based on facts and are quite incorrect. By acting on this lack of information, we often create distress in our relationships. Instead, when we perceive something, it is wise to seek out additional information until we know we have the facts about a matter and can make an informed decision or create a response based on truth.
Mismatch of expectations and reality - Very simply put, often what we expect from someone is just unrealistic based on reality. A wife may want her husband to be successful so he can provide well for the family, but only want him to work 40 hours per week. In today's business world, that's probably not a realistic expectation. So when he comes home exhausted from working more than 60 hours that week, there may be some conflict between expectations and reality.
A husband may want his wife to have a successful career, be an exceptional mother, and an amazing housekeeper. It's easy to see such expectations are going to clash (loudly!) with reality!
Often, when working with couples, I find that failure to communicate effectively, failure to listen well and accurately interpret the communications of each other, trying to read each other's minds instead of actually connecting with each other, and holding each other to expectations that are unrealistic are consistently present when there is distress in a relationship. Each of these issues are relatively easy to fix if both members of a couple really want to improve their relationship. Some coaching by a competent Christian counselor in these areas can usually help the couple enhance their interactions and expectations with and of each other, resulting in a more harmonious relationship.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
"Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one," Matthew 5:37.
"Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church," Ephesians 4:15.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
The Holy Spirit is identified as a Person by John, using in the Greek the masculine ekeinos in John16:13. The Holy Spirit is presented as a personal being with a self-identity different from both the Father, and the Son. As the Father and Jesus make this distinction when speaking of Him. He the Holy Spirit says "Separate Barnabas and Saul to me;" He also is identified as "I" in Acts 13:2.
What does Scripture tell us about the Holy Spirit?
He is our Helper (Advocate)
A primary role of the Holy Spirit is to be a Helper to us, or Advocate for us. I like the definition that Dictionary.com gives for Advocate:
|1.||to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly: He advocated higher salaries for teachers.|
|2.||a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc. (usually fol. by of): an advocate of peace.|
|3.||a person who pleads for or in behalf of another; intercessor.|
|4.||a person who pleads the cause of another in a court of law.|
John 14:16-18, "16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you."
John 16:7, "But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you."
John 15:26, “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me."
HOW DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT HELP US?
Our thoughts - Romans 8:5-9
Gives us life, abilities, and "fruit":
- Romans 8:10
- 1 Corinthians 12:4 (see also 1 Corinthians 12:5-11)
- Galatians 5:22
Teaches/reminds us - John 14:26, 1 Corinthians 2:10-12
Tells us things to come - John 16:13
Empowers us to be witnesses - Acts 1:8
Brings life and healing to us - Romans 8:11
Encourages us - Romans 8:16
This is just a beginning of gaining a biblical look at the Holy Spirit. Let me encourage you to make time to go through these, and other scriptures, and build your knowledge and relationship with with Holy Spirit.
Johnny is barely sitting on the bench. He's been watching the action for most of the game ... for most of the season. Waiting for a chance. The coach turns in his direction and, once again, he pleads. "Put me in the game Coach! Put me in!"
The rising star pushes his chair outside the confines of his cubicle, peering down the aisle to the corner office with the big windows. "One day soon," he again thinks to himself.
The SEAL commander asks for volunteers from among his men. All of his men step forward. He wouldn't have expected anything less.
We all want in on the discussion ... in on the game ... in on where the real action is.
There's a massive battle waging ... a spiritual warfare. The war has already been won, but the enemy wants to take as many with him as he can before perishing. Jesus wants to save as many from perishing as possible. He's looking for those who want to do more than just get into the discussion ... those who want something more than to be a star. He's looking for those who are trying to get into the game, dying to get into the fight.
Who wants in?
"For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost," Luke 19:10.
"For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12.
"14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15.
Who wants in?