Sunday, July 31, 2011

Five ways to listen better ...

In our louder and louder world, says sound expert Julian Treasure, "We are losing our listening." In this short, fascinating talk, Treasure shares five ways to re-tune your ears for conscious listening --- to other people and the world around you.

Julian Treasure: 5 ways to listen better | Video on

Either do it, or stop talking about it!

Some of the most gifted, talented, skilled, capable, educated Christians I know, who have tremendous potential for making an impact for the kingdom of God, are the ones sitting on the sidelines talking the talk and fooling themselves into thinking they're walking the walk.

Sadly, these are people who could be effective leaders. They actually think they are leaders, because when they "go to church" on Sundays, they act as leaders and are often listened to as leaders.

But many of these people spend more time on the sidelines than in service to Christ. That's because their unified mantra is something like, "When the kids are grown and out of the house, then I'm going to ...," "When I retire, I plan on really focusing on ..." "I have a great idea I want to pursue once I get further along in my career ..." and so goes the litany of excuses.

These potential leaders soothe their consciences with the thought they have a plan to achieve some big things for God ... some day. Later. Just not now. They're too busy right now.

For now, they are content to look, sound, and occasionally act leader-ish, but the life lived is not the example it should or could be.

It reminds me of a great saying by that well-known guru, Unknown, that says, "People gather bundles of sticks to build bridges they never cross."

Fortunately, while the Well-Potentialed Ones are pretending, there are others who love Jesus Christ so much they can't not pour out their lives now. Often, these are the blue collar types who work hard to make a living from a smaller talent base, less education, limited skill, a lot less money, and sometimes even fewer spiritual gifts. But they have bigger hearts that simply cannot be contained!

These are the Christians who could care less if they look like a leader, they just want to help people in the name of Christ. And they do!

These are the Christians who understand that Jesus Himself puts a sense of urgency into His call to follow Him. Look at the immediacy Jesus emphasizes with His words recorded in Matthew 8:18-22:

"18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he instructed his disciples to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go. '20 But Jesus replied, 'Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head. '21 Another of his disciples said, 'Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.' 22 But Jesus told him, 'Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead'."

Jesus isn't concerned about the big ideas you talk about accomplishing years into a future you have no promise of. He's concerned about the fullness of your walk with Him now! Today. This week.

The real leaders in the church are those who have placed no barriers on pouring out their lives in service to Jesus Christ. The talkers should look at them and learn.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Like a holy terror on a rampage, or ...

Sometimes parents wonder who the stranger is terrorizing their home. And when that "wild child" behavior strays into public, you might hear them say, "I didn't teach you to act like that!"

Or did you?

A lot of the behavior we see from children is a parroting of what they see their parents do. But not always. We all were created with a free will, and each of us are quite capable of exercising it routinely!

Even as adopted children of God.

How often does God look at us and think, "I didn't teach you to act that way ..."? It's a statement fairly close to what Paul writes to the Ephesians. First, Paul describes the wayward behavior in question in Ephesians 4:17-19:

"17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity."

Then comes the line that sounds like a parent speaking to a child, "But that isn’t what you learned about Christ" (Ephesians 4:20).

Closed minds, hard hearts, no sense of shame, desiring lustful pleasure, practicing impure behavior ... you didn't learn these things from Jesus! This isn't what we've seen from our heavenly Father! Our "spiritual Parent" taught us to behave better than this, is the gist of Paul's statement. Paul helps us understand that because God is our Father, and we have the example of Christ, here is what is expected of those who are His children:

"21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy," Ephesians 4:21-24. For the rest of the chapter (verses 25-32), Paul gets more specific, as if to leave no question about the kind of behavioral change he's talking about. And then he caps off his exhortation by summing up what he's urging us to do:

"Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children," Ephesians 5:1.

Paul says simply, if you're God's child you should act like it by imitating Him!

Whose child would people think you are?


Friday, July 29, 2011

You're so busted?!

At some point --- probably as kids --- we've all known that cold, paralyzing feeling of terror seizing us when suddenly we were busted.

I was reminded of that a few days ago when a friend on Facebook commented he was at his home listening to several teen boys who weren't aware he could hear what they were saying.


Could you imagine the surprise when they discovered an adult heard every word they said?


Well ... maybe. Maybe not.

Just because they're teen boys doesn't mean what they say among themselves would have to be something an adult would find objectionable or get them into trouble. Perhaps no more so than what is said around the water cooler or break room table at your place of work about your boss or co-workers ... right?

Is there a reason a teen would be uncomfortable having his conversations laid bare before his parents? Or for you to be timid about your boss overhearing what you have to say about where you work?

Or is it that you portray yourself as being one person in front of your parents or boss and actually think, feel, and act differently when away from them?

Living as a Christian is perpetually living before a Parent. God not only hears everything we say, He sees everything we do, knows everything we feel, and knows everything we think, all the time. There's not a place you can go to escape His view or His knowing. King David wrote about God's all-seeing, all-knowing capacity in Psalm 139:7-12:

"7 I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! 8 If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. 9 If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, 10 even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. 11 I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— 12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you."

If that fact scares you, then you're likely living a double life; one where you try to appease God, another where you think, feel, and act the "real" you. Here's what scripture says about a person who lives that way:

"... for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do," James 1:6b-8.

Living for Christ requires living authentically before Him. No more pretense. No more trying to wear a mask in front of the one who sees your mind and heart. But instead, yielding your entire being to Him so that He can mold your thinking and desires into something you wouldn't have to fear anyone (especially God) seeing or knowing.

Now is the time to become authentic with God, before the time comes when those who are living a double life will be busted for good: "So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due," 1 Corinthians 4:5.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Life as a human pet ...

I was reading through my Twitter stream yesterday when I was struck by a phrase in one of the tweets: "pet fear."

I've had two kinds of "pets" in my life. I've had a great quarterhorse I owned as a kid for a short time, and I've had several dogs.

I love dogs. I've had Golden Retrievers, a Black Lab, a Beagle/Shepherd mix, a Collie, an Australian Shepherd, a Chow, and a few others.

One thing each of my pets had in common was that they brought me great joy. Interacting with them was fun and it enriched my life.

On the other hand, I've never had a fear that brought me joy. I've never had a fear that enriched my life. I've never had a fear worth keeping!

Yet, many people carry around the same fears for years or decades, as if it were a "pet." It doesn't bring them joy, it doesn't make their lives richer, but they fail to give up their fears.

Sometimes, we carry certain fears with us so long, we're actually afraid of what life would be like without them! We've become so accustomed to the boundaries and limitations the fears have created that we're afraid of expanding beyond them. We allow the fears to establish the boundaries of our capacity, thus we create a need for the fears to provide us with our excuses for limiting ourselves.

The problem is, fear will always draw a boundary far short of God's will for you!

When our fears become as familiar to us as though they were our pets, it's the fears that have become our master.

Jesus wanted us to turn that around. He understood for us to become everything He wants us to be, we have to get rid of fear, especially our "pet fears." Jesus said in John 14:27, "I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid."

Instead of a life lived on the leash of our fears, Jesus calls us to a life with a heart that is untroubled and free of fear. Even more, He enables us to face and overcome our fears by the gifts He gives:

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline" 2 Timothy 1:7.

Through Christ, we have the ability to master our fears and free ourselves of them. Any fears that remain are stubborn "pets" we need to see as limiting to our lives rather than finding a false sense of comfort in them.

What are you doing with your fears: feeding them as pets, or freeing yourself of them?


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "The Walk" lacks adequate biblical foundation

While reading "The Walk" by former pro football player Shaun Alexander (published by WaterBrook Press), I kept wondering why this book had been written and published.

The subtitle of this book claims the contents provide "Clear Direction and Spiritual Power for Your Life" and it defines how a person walks with God. In that case, the book misses its mark.

In order to provide to countless readers a definition for what it means to walk with God, and how to go about doing that correctly, a writer would have to rely entirely on scripture in order to be accurate about such a significant topic. What troubled me was Alexander stretching scripture by creating his own structure for walking with God --- a structure he insists must be followed in the specific order outlined to successfully walk with God.

I don't know Shaun Alexander. From his writing, I would easily give him the benefit of the doubt his intentions were sincere. Nevertheless, in "The Walk" he lays out five stages of spiritual maturity that have some elements of truth to them, but are elements that can be as wrong for some as they are right for others.

First, Alexander claims we start as either Wanderers or Wonderers and in order to walk with God we must follow the stages of Unbeliever, Believer, Example, Teacher, and Imparter, in that order. Of course we all start as Unbelievers, and if we're going to walk with God, we must become Believers. Scripture teaches that all Christians are to be examples, but not all are to be teachers. And Alexander's view of an "Imparter" is one who has special power from the Holy Spirit, a view many would disagree with from a biblical basis.

In addition to the structure he provides as a path for spiritual maturity, Alexander also claims each maturing stage has its own specific "Traps, Trials, and Victories" which he describes. However, these are just his opinion, based on what he has observed. Again, these observations are given as specifics, rather than as generalities that are not universal truths for everyone.

Additionally, Alexander supposedly is drawing on the life of Peter as a primary example for his content, yet he is inconsistent in using Peter's example throughout the book.

The problem with "The Walk" is that Alexander draws on scripture to create a structure that scripture doesn't itself provide. Instead of creating a formula for spiritual maturity, it is imperative that Christians actually heed what scripture does say, rather than randomly placing together scripture to create your own guide. The outcome is what you have in "The Walk": the occasionally accurate and insightful information for walking with God, as well as plenty of information that is interesting to ponder but not necessarily biblically accurate.

As a result, I could only come to one conclusion why this book was written and published. The information given about the author only refers to his professional football career, and the fact that he now travels the country speaking to thousands of people. Such speakers almost always have a book to sell. Alexander has already published one book of a more personal nature; it appears (emphasis on "appear") that this book was written as a tool to compliment his speaking tours.

Unfortunately, it's not a wholly reliable guide to turn to when you want to better understand what is needed to walk with God.


I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Love trumps relationships ...

The incessant talk within the church about "building relationships" has often been very hollow for this simple reason:

Love trumps relationship.

Church leaders have encouraged us to focus so much on a cultural concept of "building relationships" that we often wind up pursuing "building community" rather than loving one another. And whenever there's a choice between genuine love, and a "relationship" that is cultural in character, real love always trumps.

If you look at the example of the early church, we see a family of believers who really loved each other. They had each other's backs. They didn't simply care for each other self-sacrificially, they loved each other and that love was visible and tangible. They loved each other so much, it was what they were known for. Paul writes in Colossians 1:4, "For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people."

Getting to church 15 minutes before worship service begins to have a cup of coffee with people you rarely interact with beyond Sunday mornings isn't love, it's a cheap cultural knock off. It's "community." It's not even fellowship!

Churches across the country have small groups that meet together every week. That's because we teach we can better build "relationships" in small groups. And we have lots and lots of relationships within the church. But not nearly enough love!

Simply bringing people together in "community" does not magically result in them loving one another. Building cultural relationships doesn't automatically result in loving relationships. Maybe we need to talk less about building "relationships" and building "community" and more about being an actual family who loves each other the same way Christ has loved us.

What are you striving for: relationship building, or loving one another? There's a huge difference! What are you teaching: the need for community, or the need for genuine agape love? What are you modeling: the cultural idea of a relationship, or the love of Christ?


WOMEN: If you miss this, you're blind ... GUYS: Get a clue!

Let's jump into two of the most commonly complained about issues regarding men by women, and about women by men ...

WOMEN ABOUT MEN: He never shows his emotions ...

Ladies, if you believe that, you must be blind! The stereotype of men not expressing themselves emotionally is one of the least accurate statements about men ever made.

Women who believe this myth usually are struggling with the "can't-see-the-forest-for-the-trees" syndrome. That is, men so often express their emotions women often don't see them amid their volume.

Oh, and also because men express their emotions very differently than the way women do.

Women talk about what they're feeling. A lot. Sometimes, a whole lot. Men have bursts of emotion, which means they don't always express emotions just by talking. Men routinely show their emotion by expressing their passion through action.

Yes, believe it or not, men often tend to be far more passionate than women!

Have you read the stories of men who fought in battles so gallantly they did the impossible to defeat the enemy? So they could save their friends, or family, or village ... the people and places for which they felt passionately.

Have you known the great businessman who built an empire? To shower provision onto his family, help friends, contribute to his community ... people and places he feels passionately about.

Have you heard of the stories of the firemen who run into the burning building to save the people trapped inside? The policemen who face the drug dealers who are better armed than they are? The roughneck working on an oil rig --- a physically demanding, dangerous job --- to build a better life for his wife and children? These are all men who feel deeply and passionately. What do they do with those emotions? They act on them. They sometimes talk about them, but men tend to act on their passions rather than talk about them.

Ladies, before you think men are void of feelings, go beyond listening to what they say to include seeing what they do. Otherwise, you'll miss much of what they're communicating in their own way ...

MEN ABOUT WOMEN: She always wants to talk ...

Listen Bubba, in really great relationships couples can often experience a connectedness where simply being near each other brings a peaceful, fulfilling feeling. But just your presence isn't enough for the long haul.

Men are more utilitarian with conversation: conversing with others more often has a specific purpose in order to achieve something in particular. Women more often use conversation as a primary means of both building and maintaining relationships. For women, a lack of conversation is seen as a lack of action. That's because for women, often the simple act of "sharing" emotions through conversation is what they use conversation to achieve!

Guys, you don't always have to achieve an "action" in order to converse with women. Simply sharing what you're feeling is the achievement many women are longing for from you! And if you think about it, that's often far easier to do than achieving some grand act, especially one she's not even asking for!


Monday, July 25, 2011

If God would, we wouldn't ...

"Why?" is the most common question asked of God.

Why does God allow war, hunger, hurting, death, disease, illness, divorce, pain, suffering, injustice, bad things to happen to good people while good things happen to bad people, poverty ... and on goes the list.

Chances are, you've had a "Why?" of your own for God.

So just imagine that after thousands of years of hearing these questions, God decided to answer every prayer. Suddenly, God decides to intervene and eliminate pain, suffering, disease, and all the other stuff that's really bad.

What would happen then?

Would the lost suddenly bow in grateful adoration to their Creator?

Would the antagonist suddenly become an evangelist?

Would those who reject God now suddenly surrender their lives to Him then?


They're human beings. They would continue in their sinful ways free of death, disease, pain, suffering, and so forth, all the while continuing to reject God. And then, as they continue in sin, the results of sin would again break what God had just fixed.

There is coming a time when all tragedies will be no more. But at that time when God puts an end to all earthbound brokenness, He will also address His standing in the lives of every human being.

Until then, He allows the brokenness we have brought into His world to play out while providing to those who love Him the grace to endure.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Exception ...

We've all walked past them, sitting there (often talking on their cell phone) in their vehicle parked in the "No Parking" fire zone in front of ...

... the grocery store ...

... the mall entrance ...

... the movie theater ...

... the gym ...

... the restaurant ...

... the school ...

... believing they are The Exception.

"Hey, you can't park there."

"I'm just picking up someone ..."

"I'm only here for a few minutes ..."

"I won't be long ..."

"I'm just waiting for someone ..."

... they say.

Whatever their justification, what they utter is just that: a cheap excuse. They believe they are The Exception.

As far as they are concerned, the red stripe on the curb and the posted signs prohibiting parking for any reason don't apply to them. Such restrictions only apply to the rest of us. But they have every right to stop and sit in their vehicles right in front of the entrance to wherever they are.

Just because they are The Exception.

We've all seen them.

Perhaps, at times, you've been them. You sat there in your vehicle and became angry, even belligerent, to the store management who came out and told you that you had to move your vehicle because you actually were not The Exception.

There are a lot of people in this world who believe they are The Exception. The unique one to whom rules, standards, laws, regulations, requirements, or commands simply don't apply. If someone complains, you'll initially feign ignorance. If they persist, you'll demand your rights that by common sense you should be The Exception.

Many even try this attitude with Jesus Christ. Yes, even Christ has His commands, and He says about them, "If you love me, obey my commandments," (John 14:15). He's not interested in excuses or justifications, although an abundance are offered.

The Bible tells us there is coming a day when the attitude of seeing ourselves as The Exception to the rule will be forever over. The Apostle Paul describes that day like this in Romans 14:11-12:

"For the Scriptures say, ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.’ 12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God."

If you're not The Exception, then full obedience from a willing heart is the only response that remains. Which is yours?


Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's NOT a disease ...

Let's bust a big man-made myth: many things often referred to as a "disease" in 2011 are NOT diseases.

First, let's get a better grasp on what is meant by "disease" since the "mental health" industry has led the way in warping and twisting the true meaning of this word. In order for something to be a disease, it's origin MUST be organic in nature. That means its origin is NOT cognitive-behaviorally based. For example, Alzheimer's is a disease, alcoholism is not.

Second, some serious issues such as alcoholism, start with a cognitive-behavioral origin but can impact the body to the point disease occurs as a result of the ongoing behavior.

Third, the overwhelming body of scientific and anecdotal evidence regarding many addictions and similar topics such as obesity, hoarding, gambling, sexual promiscuity, etc., point directly to compulsivity being a root cause for these issues which originate as cognitive-behavioral problems. Even if disease occurs as a result of cognitive-behavioral disorders, it would be inaccurate to define cognitive-behaviorally originated issues as diseases since their resolution is not (and cannot be) primarily organic.

Most addictions and similar issues require a change in thinking and behavior in order to achieve healing. There isn't an organically-based disease to treat in order to eliminate the problem. Instead, the compulsive thought-life of the individual, which drives the emotions and behaviors of the person in a disorderly fashion, must be changed in order to impact behavior.

For example, let's look at the issue of obesity, which is now routinely referred to as a disease. However, obesity usually does not have an organic root cause. Many are quick to refer to thyroid problems, etc., as an excuse for obesity. However, such organic symptoms are not typical for most people, and those can often can be treated with success. In most cases, obesity is a direct result of what and how a person eats, coupled with a lack of exercise. Thus, its root cause is cognitive-behavioral. It may be the obese person struggles with compulsivity that negatively affects thoughts and emotions which generate the negative behaviors of a lack of self-control, a self-esteem so negative they abuse themselves, or self-medicating through food, but those cognitive-behaviorally based problems are not a disease. They are warped thought processes that create negative behaviors!

The issue of compulsivity is an ugly monster behind many destructive behaviors. Because thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are tethered to morality, secular science has opted to re-label them as diseases rather than be candid about their cognitive-behavioral origin. Why? Because anything with a cognitive-behavioral root cause has personal responsibility attached to it.

The obese person is obese because they eat too much and exercise too little. There is nothing that organically forces the alcoholic to drink without control. There is nothing that organically forces the substance abuser to get high. While compulsivity is usually the driving root disorder behind such issues, it can be corrected by addressing the issues from a cognitive-behavioral position rather than trying to dodge the personal accountability of the behaviors by mislabeling them as organic-based diseases.

One last, but overarching point: a primary reason why secular science does harm by labeling behaviors as disease is because anything of a cognitive-behavioral origin is primarily spiritual in nature. What we do with our thoughts and emotions, and the behaviors they create, have real spiritual ramifications.

Scripture helps us understand what we easily observe in countless lives. That is, we don't need a devil to tempt us, or a disease to overwhelm us, in order to be self-destructive. The single root to that is our own selves! James highlights this in James 1:14-15:

"14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death."

We only further enable and contribute to the self-destructiveness of others (or ourselves) when we purposely mislabel significant issues that are cognitive-behaviorally based and, ultimately, have at their core a spiritual root.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Can you cook, or do you burn water?

Could you cook a nice meal for someone? If so, what could you cook up? Do you have a signature dish?

I'm a survival cook. That means I'm not really a cook, but I can do enough in the kitchen in order to survive. However, I have done some decent grilling (thanks to male genes?).

But if I really had to make a nice meal for someone, I would have to turn to a good cookbook to give me some clear direction. I would be clueless about real cooking without a guide like that.

Here's another question: can you cook up an excellent life on your own? When it comes to doing something like that, we all need some help!

We have it: the Bible.

Why the Bible isn't widely thought of as a "spiritual cookbook" is a mystery to me. The Bible is loaded with life's greatest recipes:
  • Want a recipe for a loving, lasting, blessed marriage? The Bible has it.
  • Want a recipe for being the best parent you possibly can be? The Bible has it.
  • Want a recipe for being a great friend? The Bible has it.
  • Want a recipe for love? The Bible has it.
  • Want a recipe for wisdom? The Bible has it.
  • Want a recipe for healthy living? The Bible has it.
  • Want a recipe for happiness? The Bible has it.
  • Want a recipe for joy? The Bible has it.
  • Want a recipe for peace? The Bible has it.
  • Want a recipe for living for ever? The Bible has it.
  • Want a recipe for wise money management? The Bible has it.
  • Want a recipe for being a good business person? The Bible has it.
  • Want a recipe for being an effective leader? The Bible has it.
  • Want a recipe for justice? The Bible has it.
  • Want a recipe for hope?
Are you getting the picture?

God made us, then He loaded into the Bible all of His perfect recipes for a full, delicious life! Regardless of that incredible fact, many settle for being "survival cooks" instead of cracking open God's book of recipes. Without doing so, there won't be much surviving on what's cooked up!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Do you need a mood ring?

Arby's has new television ads promoting what it calls "good mood food."

That's a smart message to connect with. After all, who doesn't want to be in a good mood? Who likes being in a bad mood? The idea is, you'll be in a good mood if you eat at Arby's.

"Mood" is something we rarely think about, yet it impacts our lives greater than most other issues. The reason is because we tend to live life by following our moods!

Understanding Moods
Human behavior, at its core, is actually pretty simple. It's composed of the following formula:

Our thoughts create our emotions.
The combination of our thoughts and emotions create our behavior.
Thoughts --> Emotions --> Thoughts/Emotions = Behavior

Now add to that this reality: the more shallow our thoughts are, the more selfish they are.

Our thoughts are similar to an onion. Have you ever tried to peel an onion? It has multiple layers that can be peeled away until you finally get to a core. Our thoughts are like that, our surface level thinking is often quite shallow, with little consideration or even much conscious attention given to it. The deeper we go, we find more significant thought processes until finally we reach that which has become foundational to our thinking ... the "core."

Our culture has shifted away from more "critical thinking," or depth of thought. Early in our history, what you needed for living you generated yourself: you grew your own food, you built your own house, you handcrafted your own furniture, you made your own clothes. For entertainment, you read books, were active outdoors, or interacted socially. Such a lifestyle required a life of learning, multiple skill development, and greater critical thinking. There wasn't a helpline to call to troubleshoot whatever task you might be struggling with.

Jump into our current culture and you see we think a lot more at surface levels. Most things are bought, many skills are unnecessary because needs are provided via a plethora of purchased services, we read much less, and entertain ourselves with methods that don't challenge us to think critically. The result is that we are often most influenced by whatever is our prevailing emotional tone. That is the definition of a "mood."

By following and feeding our moods, we're indulging our more surface (and thus, more shallow) thinking and emotions. Our focus, then, becomes satisfying our prevailing emotions and keeping them satisfied. The result is little depth to our self, our situations, and our relationships. You might feel good for the duration of a mood, but because moods are based on more shallow thoughts and emotions, they don't last long because their foundation isn't durable. A common result: the "moody person."

A durable foundation
Try as hard as you might, you simply cannot piece together a fulfilling life on a foundation that isn't durable. When a mood finally fails, you must either shift moods or foundations.

Jesus exhorts us to shift foundations. Here are His own words from Matthew 7:24-27:

"24 Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

When we make Jesus Christ the foundation on which we build our lives, we begin by changing how we think: "Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes," Ephesians 4:23. The Holy Spirit works at changing us until we think like Jesus thinks. The result isn't meandering through life by moods, but a gracious maturing:

"14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 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 4:14-15.

The right foundation is vital for developing depth and durability.

A critical need for discipleship
A life has to be built on the foundation Christ provides. The process for that happening is called "discipleship." But the church has spent the past few decades responding to the "felt needs" of people rather than providing biblical discipleship. To meet "felt needs" is often the same as feeding moods.

True biblical discipleship peels away the surface layers of thinking (like an onion) to help build a new "core" or foundational thinking for believers. But a believer left undiscipled struggles with a life lived at the whim of his moods and his immaturity.

Do you live life pursuing the prevailing emotions of your life? Or are you anchored on a foundation that is maturing you in the image of Christ?


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A new way to promo the Bible?

Below is a new commercial for the BlackBerry PlayBook. Check it out ... it contains a fantastic promo line that's a perfect description of the Bible. See if you can find it ...

If you caught the tagline at the end, you discovered a great message about the Word of God: "Powerful, portable, PlayBook!"
  • POWERFUL! Hebrews 4:12 states, "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." It's the most powerful tool for living a Christian life that is easily available to you.
  • PORTABLE: You can take the Bible with you anywhere, and with our technology today, you don't even have to carry it! You can access online Bibles, or have the entire Bible available to you via your smartphone. Everything God has wanted to share with humankind through scripture can be accessed about any time, anywhere.
  • PLAYBOOK: If life were a game, and God our Coach, certainly scripture is His playbook. If you want to know how God would call things, either offensively or defensively, open the Bible and see what the Coach has to say.
So which will you use the most, or which will have the greatest impact on your life: the Word of God, or an electronic device? Sounds like a silly question, until you consider the average Christian doesn't crack open their Bibles during the week.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Listening like Google ...

I've found Google's attempt to make its search feature be more intuitive to be annoying rather than beneficial.

Just type in a single letter and immediately the feature tries to "guess" what you're about to type, suggesting numerous possibilities. Most of the guesses are wrong, at least initially. You have to nearly complete what you would type in before the intuitive feature becomes very accurate. In that case, there's no need for a not-so-intuitive feature!

A lot of people listen like Google ...

... you barely speak a few words and they think they know what you're about to say. They instantly generate their thoughts and emotions on their intuition of what you haven't yet finished stating, and often cut in to give their view of what they think you're trying to say.

That's not listening.

We do the same thing with God. We get hints of what we think the Bible says, without actually reading it (especially in context) to "listen" to God, and our intuition kicks in. Usually very inaccurately. That's why Jesus, on more than one occasion, prefaced or ended what He said with these words:

"Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!" Matthew 11:15.

We all have ears, but we don't always use them for listening, much less to achieve understanding.

Just because someone is speaking doesn't mean he is being listened to. Listening does not occur naturally but is the result of a conscious choice. People can also make the conscious decision not to listen. Most of us decide to "guess," to attempt an intuitive understanding from which we formulate responses instead of focusing in on someone to really listen them.

The result is what we often take as truth is, in fact, flawed with error. Responding to anyone with error-riddled "information" usually makes us wrong, and weakens the relationship.

That's why Jesus' exhortation is a simple guide to becoming better listeners:
  • Don't just hear, but choose to listen. That means you're not talking, you're listening.
  • Listen for understanding. That means you focus in on the one who is speaking, actively taking in what they are saying instead of thinking about your opinion of what they're saying while they are speaking. When the other person has finished speaking, you can clarify your understanding by asking questions. And once you have gained understanding by listening, you're then equipped to respond knowledgeably.
Do you listen close enough to gain understanding? Or do you listen like Google?


Friday, July 15, 2011

What you can learn at Jesus' leadership conference ...

There are so many different leadership conferences offered to today's church leaders they don't have the time or budget to attend them all.

Even with the plethora of opportunities, the content won't vary much. In fact, many of the the conferences will feature the same speakers. And if you can't attend live, you can buy the DVD, read the books the speakers write, check out the conference blog, and probably catch some of the event via live streaming online.

With all that learning about leadership, none of it will come close to the last three lessons for leading that Jesus provided us. Here's a few lessons Jesus gave before his ascension:

1. Jesus washed the feet of those He led. John 13:1-17 tells the story. Jesus didn't view leadership the way many leaders do today. His concept of leadership was one of such humility, love for those He led, and devoted service to them that to get on the floor and wash their feet was not beyond Him. After that incredible example of leadership, Jesus gave this instruction in John 13:12-17:

"12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, 'Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me "Teacher" and "Lord," and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them'."

2. Then He went to the cross where He emptied Himself, giving even His life. That's after enduring the ugliest of ridicule, nearly being beaten to death, and being mocked and jeered while He hung dying a disgraceful public death. Regardless of what He faced, Jesus stayed on mission until He could say, "It is finished" (John 19:30).

3. Jesus wants His lambs fed. In John 21, we see Peter restored from his denial of Christ as Jesus provides him with three opportunities to state his love for his Savior. In that interaction, Jesus gives us great guidance for church leaders in verses 15-17:

15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

“Then feed my lambs,”
Jesus told him.

16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”

“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep."

I don't question that some great things can be learned in a variety of conferences. But imagine the impact to the church if today's leaders learned, and lived out, these lessons for leaders that Jesus provides.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

A critter characteristic creeps into Christianity ...

A widespread acceptance of "Possum Christianity" is a key contributor to draining the church of both its purity and its power.

The opossum, more commonly referred to simply as "possum," is the fairly defenseless critter that plays dead when it's actually quite alive. Like that deceitful creature, many church members sitting in sanctuaries are playing like they are dead to their old (sin) nature, when the truth is their flesh still rules outside (and sometimes inside!) of church services.

The church cannot be the empowered body of Christ in such an impure state; sin robs the church of its power to present the Gospel in a compelling way to a lost world. For this reason, the Apostle Paul exhorts us toward staying dead instead of playing dead:

"For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God," he writes in Colossians 3:3, and continues with, "So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you" in verse 5 and "Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him," in verse 10.

It's only by staying dead to our old nature, and putting on our new nature, that we can carry out the remainder of Paul's exhortation in verses 16 and 17:

"16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father."

Are you playing dead to your old nature, or staying dead to it?


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What to do about the burdensome people in your life ...

What do you do when someone literally becomes a burden?

Most of us bail out on others long before we let them get to that stage.

We like to think we're generous people. We write the checks that feed and educate starving orphans in far-off lands. We take our kids to the local mission to help serve meals to the homeless. We donate our old clothes to Goodwill. We drop off canned goods in the box for the community food pantry at Starbucks while getting our coffee. We even let a friend sleep on the couch when they've had a tough spat with their spouse.

But for most of us, there's a line that we draw. That line is usually spelled, "B-U-R-D-E-N."

A burden often means when you cost me real money. Or when you encroach on my comfort, sap my time or impinge on my resources.

So what do you do when someone becomes a burden?

Here's some biblical insight: "Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ," Galatians 6:2.

The answer? You bear it!

You cannot share someone's burden without carrying a part of it. You cannot do that without feeling the burden. You cannot feel and carry part of someone's burden without it costing you something.

Jesus set the example for us by sharing our burden of sin. It was far too heavy for us to handle on our own. So He laid aside everything to share our burden with us. He shouldered our burden at such a cost to Him that it took Him to the cross and a grave.

When it came to sharing our burden, Jesus didn't have a line. He did whatever it took to help us beyond our burden.

We can't really say we're sharing someone's burden if it doesn't become a burden for us as well. Something that is heavy and costs us.

So when someone becomes a burden to you, where's your line?


Half messages leave lives broken ...

Pointing people to half an answer won't lead them to a whole life.

Such is the situation we see all too often in the church.

For all the loud talk about being bold, being a leader, blazing a trail for Christ, and achieving great things, many church leaders don't have the courage to say the "s" word when sharing biblical truth: sin.

The focus, often overly so, remains on grace alone. Without question, that's a vital topic to understand. But there's a reason for grace: sin.

In running from the issue of addressing sin, some leaders immediately throw out the example of how Jesus treated the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, as told in John 8. Some teachers of religious law and Pharisees challenged Jesus:

"4 'Teacher,' they said to Jesus, 'this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?' 6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him ..." John 8:4-6a.

We like to focus on just one part of Jesus' response, that famous statement from Jesus found in verse 7:

"They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, 'All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!'”

Many leaders tend to stop right there, as if that is the entirety of Jesus' example for us. But it's not. It continues in verse 10 and 11:

"10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, 'Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?' 11 'No, Lord,' she said. And Jesus said, 'Neither do I. Go and sin no more'.”

While no one has ever displayed grace and lovingkindness as greatly as Jesus Christ himself, we need to note that He also addressed the issue of sin: "Go and sin no more."
It was a gracious thing for Jesus to not condemn this woman to death for the sin she was actually caught committing. There was no question of her guilt. But if Christ would have simply let her off the hook and walked away, this woman would not have had direction to wholeness. It was vital she receive the instruction she needed to be able to live a life that would keep her from such brokenness, and Jesus gave her that message:
"Go and sin no more."

People today need to hear the same message. Coupled with a gracious response, we must address the issue of sin with the same direction Jesus provided in order to point them to wholeness: "Go and sin no more."
Do you provide people with a whole answer, directing them away from sin to a gracious Savior? Or do you lack the courage to speak the truth in love?


Purpose-Drift: Three subtle distractions to our mission picked up one of my articles. You can find it here ...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Making THIS life matter ...

THIS life matters!

It seems more people in our culture are understanding that fact better when it comes to the quality of relationships they have. We have a long way to go in this area, but more people are learning that at the end of life, we won't be wishing we spent another hour or two at the office. We will cherish the time we had with loved ones, or regret the opportunities with them we've lost.

But we don't seem to have the same kind of mindset when it comes to living each day for Jesus Christ. In fact, many have a "spiritual philosophy" that the only vital thing about this life, spiritually, is that we make sure we can get into heaven once this life is over!

That greatly misses the mark of God's intent for our spiritual lives in this life. THIS life matters spiritually!

Just as we strive to have marriages that bless us and our spouses ... just as we strive to raise children who become faithful adults who live a Christian life of integrity ... just as we strive to contribute positively to the lives of others beyond just our family ... God wants us to have a full (and fulfilling) Christian experience in THIS life!

In fact, we will never achieve the fullness of life we possibly could in any aspect of our lives without fully living up to our "spiritual potential." That's because we are primarily spiritual beings. Our spiritual condition affects every aspect of our lives. The better Christian we are, the better spouse we will be, the better parent we will be, the better friend we will be, the better employee or boss or leader or whatever, we will be.

God's intent is that we have a full spiritual life here and now. He wants to walk through each day and each night with us. He wants us to learn, understand, and become wise as His children. He wants us to delight in life with the same attitude as Jesus Christ. He wants us to spend our days as His personal Ambassadors in any setting we're in. He wants us to find delight in Him now. He wants us to find great joy in holiness, and righteous living. And at the end of this life, the result is that we end this spiritual journey with great satisfaction with our spiritual experience.

There's a multitude of blessings He would like for us to know spiritually, by growing up, maturing, and living a full Christian experience in this world.

Today is not just about eternity. It's also about today!

So how vital is your spiritual experience, your spiritual health, and your spiritual vitality to you? Do you strive to grow to your full Christian capacity as you do with other areas of life, or are you just marking time and waiting on heaven?


Monday, July 11, 2011

Discovering the joy of other people's blessings ...

I love how the Holy Spirit works, even through Twitter!

This morning I received a tweet from a friend sent to a group of guys, including myself, that stated, "Wishing you all a blessed week!"

That tweet was followed with a response from one of the guys that read, "Wishing y'all a blesseder week!" to which I replied, "... and the most blessed week just for you!"

While I was enjoying the good-natured humor, it struck me as I sent my tweet how our sincere banter was straight out of God's playbook. Check out these verses:

"Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other," Romans 12:10.

"Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves," Philippians 2:3.

The Apostle Paul, who wrote both those lines, gives a little insight as to why we're encouraged in such a way with the next verse in Philippians 2, now verse 4:

"Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too."

Before we became Christians, our existence was selfishly-based. It's easy to get wrapped up in yourself, even to the exclusion of others. That sometimes is a hard habit for God's children to break. But at the heart of the call to follow Christ is the necessity to give up our selfish focus. Jesus said it this way:

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me'," Matthew 16:24.

A significant change we experience in becoming the adopted children of God is learning to see people the same way Christ does. Paul says it this way in the next verse of Philippians 2, now verse 5:

"You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had."

Jesus gave such preference to others that He gave up everything, including His life, for our benefit. It's an incredible thing to know that God takes such great delight looking after our best interests.

That's how we should be with one another: caring for the best for others and finding genuine delight in their being blessed. It should be a joyful thing for us when a brother or sister in Christ (or a different local church body) is blessed, regardless of our own current circumstances.

How are you giving preference to others over yourself? How do you exhibit toward others the same attitude Jesus displayed?


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Test whether you're a church leader or an imitator

Are you a competent church leader, or are you mimicking someone else's competence?

On more than one occasion I've highlighted how many church leaders seem obsessed with the topic of leadership. Yet, much of what such leaders have to say about leadership comes from what they hear or read from a handful of "famous" leaders.

In fact, many of the sermon series preached from pulpits today are a regurgitation of some other leader's popular book which he wrote from one of his original sermon series. In one church I visited, the pastor didn't even attempt to develop his own sermon from a famous pastor's book, he simply read from the book and added some comments!

A distinguishing factor between great leaders and the rest of the pack is that great leaders are originators but what is important about that is this: great leaders have the skill and commitment to originate. They do all the hard work and study necessary to generate their own material.

So here's a great way to test your leadership: If all you had was a Bible and one Bible study resource, could you use your study of the Word of God, along with prayer, to generate the competent leadership your church or ministry needs to achieve what God wants you to accomplish?

If the answer is "no," you need to develop as a leader until the answer becomes "yes."

There's nothing wrong with using other sources as part of your study. There's nothing wrong with listening to or networking with other leaders. There's nothing wrong with attending conferences. There's nothing wrong with seeing what other leaders are doing and getting ideas from them. But the fact is, if you're reliant on other leaders, you're not leading.

Leading your church to accomplish the mission God has given His body has to first be about you being immersed in the Bible and prayer, and sensitively attuned to the Holy Spirit, so that you may lead the people you're responsible for. To some degree, that will look different from every other local church body. So your capacity to bring about the best out of the local congregation you lead requires you to originate from the people and resources unique to the local body you serve.

You cannot lead a congregation to bring out their unique abilities if you're consistently parroting what some other leader is doing to lead their local church body.

How can you become a more original leader? How can more of what you do come more directly from the time you spend in God's Word, prayer, and leading of the Holy Spirit?


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Which would your community miss the most?

Please take 30 seconds to watch this video ...

Wow! That's a part of what the church should be saying!

"2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important." Galatians 6:2-3.

"34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples," John 13:34-35.

Insurance is a prudent thing. But shouldn't the real "good hands people" be Christ's followers? Which would your community miss the most: an insurance company, or your local church body?


Friday, July 8, 2011

This is the leader the church needs ...

What must be one of the greatest weaknesses of the church is its tendency to respond to assertions like a pendulum.

When someone says the church is too legalistic, is swings to liberalism.

When someone says the church is too liberal, it swings back to legalism.

When someone says Christians can't have fun, the response is unbridled indulgence.

When someone says the church is shallow, it becomes too serious.

When someone says the church is too serious, it becomes a Sunday morning concert.

In its pendulum approach to responding to assertions, the church more consistently misses the mark. Truth is specific, and it's usually not found pegging either end of a spectrum. Yet, that's not what we often see from church leaders.

Today, it's very trendy to see a "Christianized" version of a "frat boy" as preacher. He's cool, he's hip, he's fashionable, he's entertaining, he's all about having fun; everything is about grace, chasing dreams, building a personal brand, and keeping the party going.

His nemesis is the relic of the past, the preacher who finds sin at every turn but can't seem to find much joy in life. This guy is often a spiritual control freak who sometimes demands more of his congregation than scripture does. He's driven by a sense of duty, and expects you to be the same.

Somewhere between these two extremes is the leader the church needs.

The Apostle Paul helps us gain insight as to what that leader looks like in his letter to Titus. In chapter two, he admonishes Titus to promote right teaching so as to avoid the pendulum extremes we often see today. In Titus 2:7b-8a, Paul writes, "... Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. 8 Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized ..."

So what is that truthful teaching that Paul promotes? He simplifies it in Titus 2:12, "And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God."

What a great definition for leadership and for living:
  • Turned away from godless living.
  • Turned away from sinful pleasures.
  • Informed from wisdom we get from God.
  • Righteous rather than reckless.
  • Devoted to God.
If our leading or following --- or, simply, our living --- is characterized by these things, the pendulum loses its swing and settles on the mark God has set for us.


Is this how you live?

As a young boy, it was almost overwhelming watching all the people come and go in Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. It was my first time being in an airport, and that morning would be my first time meeting my grandparents.

Both of my parents' families lived in Arkansas. Like my parents, I was born in that state but my family moved shortly after I was born, so most of my experience was growing up in the West. Because of the distance, we didn't have any interaction with extended family ... no aunts, uncles, or cousins as part of growing up.

My dad was a mean man, and all we knew about his dad was that he was supposedly even meaner. But my mother was a wonderful woman, so I was fascinated with the chance to meet her parents. As I watched the airplane taxi up to the gate, I felt great expectation and a sense of joy of having loving grandparents enter into my life.

As we watched the people file out the gate, my mother suddenly pointed. Headed our way was a gray-haired woman with a genuine smile, and a kind-looking man wearing blue overalls topped by a straw hat. My grandparents looked like a stereotype of a couple from rural Arkansas. I couldn't help but think getting to know them was going to be fun ...

It isn't very often we experience expectation of great new relationships in our lives, or a new joy that would run deep. But living with expectation of a promised joy is exactly how God has designed for His children to live! Look closely at the following scripture:

"3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. 6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while," 1 Peter 1:3-6.

It's easy to live life with our eyes on today's troubles. But how much better is it to live life with real expectation of a coming joy that will eclipse anything we've yet experienced? That gives us something to be glad about even on our toughest days!


Thursday, July 7, 2011

How to figure out life ...

Do you know anyone who was born with a knowledge about life and how to live it well and fully?

I don't either.

From our earliest days, we start what is often a long struggle to figure out what's important and what isn't, what's right and what's wrong, what's fulfulling and what brings regret, what can be achieved in life, what's worth pursuing and what isn't.

Such exploration is daunting. So much so we often follow someone else's lead. Many of us look to our culture since it's one of (if not the) loudest voices giving direction about how to live.

But the One who actually created us has a lot to say on the subject as well!

In fact, God has been speaking to this issue since He created the first man and woman. And early in scripture, He gives us some simple, clear guidance:

1 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. I am the Lord your God. 3 So do not act like the people in Egypt, where you used to live, or like the people of Canaan, where I am taking you. You must not imitate their way of life. 4 You must obey all my regulations and be careful to obey my decrees, for I am the Lord your God. 5 If you obey my decrees and my regulations, you will find life through them. I am the Lord," Leviticus 18:1-5.

Following culture takes us away from God's will and God's way. That's why God told Moses to instruct His people not to imitate the culture around them. Instead, they should look to His instruction for direction, and by doing so they would find life. He has even provided a perfect example that we should follow:

"1 Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God," Ephesians 5:1-2.

Is the Word of God the primary source of the "norms" in your life? Or are you trying to figure out life by following the culture around you? Which is your guiding influence: your culture, or your Creator?


Sunday, July 3, 2011

What's worse than a day without rice?

My new friend was genuinely panicked. So I ordered some rice to put him at ease.

I met Rex on my first venture out onto the streets of Manila. He was friendly and offered to be a guide for me during my stay. He quickly became a real friend.

Like most of the people in that sprawling city, Rex struggled to make a living. That means he struggled to make enough to be able to eat something each day. So during my time there, it was a humble privilege for me to make sure he had plenty to eat every day as he guided me around and we shared a new friendship.

It was during our first meal together that Rex panicked. We were having lunch at a TGI Friday's near the hotel I was staying in. As the food was served, Rex rose partially out of his chair and was looking all around the table at every dish. He seemed startled.

"Where's the rice?" he asked with a worried tone.

"Did you order rice?" I asked, not remembering him asking for it when we had placed our orders.

"You mean this doesn't come with rice?" he asked, increasingly panicked.

"No," I responded, "but no problem, we can order some rice."

With that statement, Rex immediately relaxed and sat back in his chair with obvious relief. I ordered a side of rice, and a few minutes later he was scooping the starch onto his plate. I asked Rex if rice was a favorite dish of his, and he explained that rice is the basic staple of the filipino diet. It's the one dish that is always served with any meal, or for the poor it may be the only dish available.

The next meal we had, Rex looked at me as we surveyed the menu, and asked if the dish he wanted came with rice. I explained it didn't, but we could order a side of it.

The following meal, before we even opened our menus I told Rex that we would order rice, not just for that dinner, but each time we ordered food. That finally put him at complete ease. He knew he would be getting the staple of his diet.

It was interesting to see how Rex simply couldn't imagine having a meal without rice. It was the basic component of the daily diet throughout the Philippines, much like it was in Hawaii where I was living at the time. When I first arrived in Waikiki and was touring my apartment with my new landlord, the first thing he showed me was where the rice cooker was stored in the kitchen, as if that was the most important aspect about the apartment!

Just as millions have a hard time imagining a day without some rice, Christians have a staple for their lives: the Word of God.

Matthew 4:4 says, "But Jesus told him, 'No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God'."

As human beings, we must have sustenance for our bodies. But we also must feed and sustain our souls. We do that by feeding on the Word of God every day.

1 Peter 2:2-3 says, "
2 Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, 3 now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness."

Is God's Word the staple of your daily life? Could you imagine going a day without feeding on scripture? How are you drawing spiritual nourishment from the Bible?