Friday, June 29, 2012

You can't make a point without getting to it ...

A friend sends you a text with a link to a video, saying you just have to see this ...

A Facebook friend posts a video ...

A Twitter friend has a link to a video he says will blow your mind ...

A buddy sends you an email with a video embedded on it and a note, "You gotta see this!"

... if only it would play!

You're curious, and partially excited, to see what your friends are saying is so great, but you spend more time just waiting while the video displays the message "Buffering." You finally tire of waiting all those seconds, and move on to other things.

"The video probably wasn't so great anyway," you think.

But you'll never know because you missed out on the message.

Too many speakers today are like that buffering video, they get so bogged down in ramping up to say what they have to say they wind up losing their audience before they hardly get started sharing their real message.

Effective communicators understand the value of getting to the point, quickly and concisely. There's nothing wrong with using a hook to capture attention, or drawing in listeners with a captivating story. But if you don't capture attention in a matter of seconds, modern audiences will start to tune you out and you may not get a chance to communicate the core of what you have to say.

Whether you're speaking, writing, or even sharing a message one-on-one, get to the point quickly. In other words, make sure your point really is the real point of what you have to communicate! If your point is buried in a whole lot of other stuff before you ever get to it, is your point really your point? Be clear and concise. Remember, the real mission is to communicate your message.


Monday, June 25, 2012

You don't get real with God until you give up this ...

A man who made his living buying items at auctions and then reselling them for a profit was teaching his son the business. He told his son before ever bidding on any item, you must set your upper limit. You have to know how much you're willing to pay, but not a penny more.

A lot of us have adopted this philosophy in our relationship with God.

We've set an "upper limit."

We're willing to go only so far, but not an inch further.

Some are willing to do whatever God wants. And they're willing to go wherever He leads. So what's the upper limit? They're not willing to be fully who He wants them to be.

It's one thing to do something, or to be somewhere, even if your heart isn't entirely in it. It's another to be someone you don't want to be.

We talk a lot about Christianity being a relationship, but it is more than that. It is Jesus Christ transforming you into an entirely new person! It's more than doing things, or a matter of where you are. It's who you are becoming in Christ.

That's why we often make the "who" our upper limit. If we hang onto the "who," we remain "master" of our lives. You never really surrender until you give up the "who."

Jesus Christ wants your "who."

"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" 2 Corinthians 5:17.


CPR and an AED can't do this ...

Every two years I have to renew my CPR/AED certification. So I spent yesterday evening with the CPR dummy shown above, honing my skills to the revised CPR standards.

CPR/AED training is one part of my education I hope I never have to use.

I wouldn't hesitate in helping someone with a medical emergency, my concern is making sure I remember how to apply assistance correctly so as to be able to help someone. Would I apply the compressions correctly? Not too hard to try to avoid breaking ribs. Hard enough and fast enough to keep the blood flowing. Now that's 30 compressions followed by two breaths ...

And using an AED? That would be a shocking experience for more than the patient!

I've never had to use these critical skills, and I hope I don't come across a situation where I have to.

I have, however, spent much of my adult life studying and training to help others in critical need. Their problem isn't a medical emergency, but a spiritual one. I've never come across someone experiencing a heart attack or cardiac arrest in public, but we are all continuously crossing paths with people who are already spiritually dead.

There's a treatment for that.

You can learn and apply it.

It's called the Good News of Jesus Christ.

That's right, by applying this treatment, the spiritually dead can have life. Not the old life that led them to their condition, but a whole new life created in Christ.

But these spiritually dead people need someone to see their condition and apply the treatment.

Surely you wouldn't walk by someone having a heart attack in public ... right?

Surely you wouldn't walk by someone dead in their sins ... right?

Get equipped. Learn how to concisely and clearly share the Gospel with another person. Then apply to lives in need. It'll make more difference than a CPR course would ever make to you and those you serve.

"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.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Use your imagination ...

Growing up in a poor family, one of the things that brought about a richness to my childhood was a vivid imagination. What you couldn't do for lack of resources you could, at least, imagine!

Summers could become transformed into great adventures by reading "Robinson Crusoe," "The Swiss Family Robinson," or any number of sci-fi books. A host of never-played-before games were tried. Life --- at least temporarily --- was altered, stretched, shaped and re-shaped by using just a little imagination.

But imagination isn't always fun and games. Imagination is not always wholesome. In fact, imagination can be a breeding ground for sin ...

"5 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart," Genesis 6:5-6.

Our imaginations need biblical direction. Without it, they are guided by human intrigue and desire, which usually wanders away from God's will and God's ways.

What are you doing with your imagination? What foundation are you anchoring it to?


Summer reading for executives ...

I once knew a guy --- a very successful professional --- who used to wear nicely polished dress shoes with casual shorts.

He was a nice guy, but he just didn't know how to lighten up.

It's summer time, and there's many executives lounging around pools and throwing blankets down on a beach while half their minds are back in the office. They have a hard time unplugging and leaving the work at work.

So let's make a deal: if you promise to find some time to truly play and relax on your off time this summer, I'll reward you with a great recommendation for some "lighter" business reading that can greatly benefit you when you get back to the office.

Okay, since you've agreed here's my recommendation: check out the books written by Patrick Lencioni. Lencioni is the president of The Table Group and spends his time consulting, writing, and speaking on leadership and organizational life. His books, from "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team," "Silos, Politics and Turf Wars," "Death By Meeting," "The Five Temptations of a CEO" and others are all outstanding in content and quality of writing.

They are somewhat of a lighter read because Lencioni tends to focus on a single concept in his books, and his books are written as stories that deliver deep insights on business leadership and organizational life. They're also smaller in size, easy to slip into a backpack with the sun block and snorkel (because surely you aren't packing around a briefcase at the beach ... right?).

Here's a link to Lencioni's book page . Enjoy some good summer business reading ... and some fun!


Who cooked this?

The company used to deliver complete gourmet meals to the back doors of their customers. That way it wouldn't be obvious to any guests who may be around that the host purchased the meal instead of preparing it themselves.

But that wasn't a sufficient amount of deception. To respond to the desires of its customers, the company now delivers delicious meals created by its chefs ... plus the dirty pots and pans used for making the meals ... so the host can stage his or her kitchen to look as if they really did all the cooking (you can read about the company here ).

That's taking deceiving your dinner guests to a whole new level!

 You might be surprised at just how may people live their lives practicing "intentional deception." They have developed a well-honed exterior, presenting themselves as they would like to be portrayed, rather than as they are.

Such lives are a lie, but they're lived as a means to desired ends. The problem is, deception never delivers a sustainable reward.

Here's a few things the Word of God says about such a lifestyle:

"The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth," Proverbs 12:22.

"Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds," Colossians 3:9.

"People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall," Proverbs 10:9.

"7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit," Galatians 6:7-8.

Life is always lived according to some intention. Instead of a life of intentional deception, we're called to live a life of intentional Christianity.

Remember when that phrase was very popular among the church? Whatever happened to it? What did you do with it? More importantly, what are you doing with it? To what intent do you live your life each day?


Friday, June 22, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: "Break Through" is no breakthrough ...

When a big name in Christian counseling circles writes a book, even with a co-author, you naturally expect an excellent read. That was not my experience with "Break Through: When to Give In, How to Push Back" by Tim Clinton and Pat Springle (published by Worthy Publishing).

First, let me say much of the content of the book is solid. I simply found the writing of it somewhat confusing.

My initial expectations regarding the content was garnered from the title on the cover of the book. But once I opened the cover and started reading, I was not able to definitively zero in on what this book is primarily about. The content seemed to be a mishmash of subjects from enmeshment (what I think is supposed to be the core topic) to boundaries, trust, parenting, forgiveness, and other topics, some of which seemed to be repetitious.

I think the problem with "Break Through" was a lack of concise communication, starting with clearly identifying a focal point for the book, and then continuing with a concise unfolding of the issues pertaining to that focal point. The content is more an ongoing rambling, switching from one topic to another, and then back again without clearly connecting everything to easily identifiable focal points.

Because of the odd way the book is written, it is not a standout regarding the topics it does cover. There are multiple other books that more concisely, more clearly, and more simply convey as good of content as you will find in this book.

For these reasons, I have to say "Break Through" is no breakthrough. Even with that said, I have no doubt there are many who would find themselves blessed with some of the content if they're willing to work through the muddle of the message.


I received this book free from Handlebar Marketing. 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.” 

Real life in Starbucks ...

Most of the chairs and tables in the local Starbucks were empty. I was in the middle of some complicated study when the three women came in and sat at the table about two feet from my chair.

Here we go again ...

... it would be one of those evenings of trying valiantly to tune out the conversations of people who decided they wanted to sit right next to me and speak loudly. But it didn't take long to notice this little gathering of women was a prime example for the vital need of discipleship in the church.

The first part of the conversation included personal struggles, mostly of the relational kind.

The second part of the conversation was a Bible study.

Yes, this is Texas, where you often can find someone studying the Bible at Starbucks.

Anyway, what was noticeable was the complete shift of conversational tone and style of interaction between the two parts of their conversations.

During their sharing time, the women were loud and physically animated; emotions were raw, frustrations were vented, and questions were raised.

The study time was calmer and much more intellectual in nature.

Here was the obvious: it seemed the struggle was to bridge the gap between what was actually going on in their lives, and actualizing what they were studying in scripture.

The need?


Helping a person traverse from their world into God's Word, and back into their world equipped with the Word.

Lives change when we take our realities and subject them to an embracing, internalizing --- an application of --- the Word of God.

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work," 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Even though the ladies struggled with the meaning of the scripture, their fellowship in the Word began to connect with their lives. After reading a passage about encouraging one another, one of the women stated, "No one in the church has encouraged me."

Big statement!

But the other two women were her new sources of encouragement ... and that was a step into actualizing the Word of God in her life.

How vital to lives it is for the church to be passionately committed to equipping the saints in the Word, so there can be spiritual maturing and much needed transformation of lives. 

"28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me," Colossians 1:28-29.

"... This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ," Ephesians 4:13.

Do you have a need to be discipled? Are you discipling someone? How are you encouraging others through fellowship in the Word?


Thursday, June 21, 2012

How do you decide what's important?

When you log into Facebook, "it" has already decided what are the "top stories" for you to read.

That's right, of all the posts your friends have made, Facebook --- in some unknown way --- has already decided what the order of importance is for your reading. You can click on "sort" and change the option to "most recent" if you would prefer a chronological stream of postings.

I thought it was remarkable that the folks at Facebook thought they were wise enough to automate the postings in my Facebook and know better than I which are the most important things I would want to read from the people I've befriended. But this social media site isn't the only source that tries to tell us what should be important to us.

In fact, we are inundated on a daily basis with sources --- media outlets, family members, friends, bosses, co-workers, advertising, leaders, politicians, church, homeowner associations --- to name just a few of the myriad of sources that are more than happy to tell you and me what should be important to us.

Fortunately, God has helped us out with this issue in a few vital ways.

First, He created us with a free will that even He honors. Sources in our lives may have their influence, but only to the degree we give them. No one can force us to believe what we choose not to.

Second, He's provided us with the truth of His Word so we can know how to rightly value what is important.

And third, He's given us the gift of the Holy Spirit as our Helper. John 16:13a says this about a role of the Holy Spirit in our lives: "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth ..."

When we allow God to be the source we use for determining values and what is important, what can we expect? Jesus answered that question this way:

2“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,” Matthew 7:24-27.

What is the source of your values? What or who do you draw from to decide what's important to you?


Monday, June 18, 2012

How to use the influence of friendship wisely ...

My friend was apologizing for something I was momentarily confused about.

I had been in the midst of taking on a big personal challenge. Apparently, this friend had developed his own views as to what I should be doing, and had been judging me according to his own thoughts. I didn't have a clue he had created all these expectations for me. He had never voiced them to me, and I had never asked him to create them.

Yet, there we were, with him apologizing for judging me on something that was happening only in his head. It had not been something mutually shared. But still, I was judged and, according to what he thought I should be doing, was found wanting.

That real situation is one example that it doesn't take real failure to disappoint others. It simply takes failing to live up to what they think you should be, or doing something other than what they think you should do.

All too often, a person would respond by trying to live up to what the other person thought. We react like that routinely. In this case, I didn't. I knew that, with regard to the challenges in my own life, I was walking by God's guidance, and so I wasn't bothered in the least that my actions didn't match with someone else's "expectations" for me.

 But here's the dangerous part: what if I would have deviated my actions to align with what my friend thought I should be doing? I would have moved out of the will of God for me, and into the "will" of my friend.

Influence is a powerful thing. Be careful how you use it!

Here are a few things to check before you attempt to influence someone else:

1. If your opinion isn't solicited, most of the time you should not only not share it, but don't build it. In other words, mind your own business! Don't justify a reason to sit in judgment of someone else.

2. Make sure you're right. That would mean making sure your thoughts align with God's will for someone else. That would require knowing the truth about another person. That would require their sharing correct information with you. It isn't often a person can draw accurate conclusions from simple observations or partial information about another person. Be right, or be quiet.

3. Make sure your motive is right. It's not about what you think another person should be, how you think they should live, what you think they should do, or what your community or culture would think. It's about what God thinks. God often calls us to swim upstream, to move counter culturally. If your motive is to help a friend move into the center of God's will, then you have the right motive. Anything less, and you're acting from the wrong motive.

4. Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). If you won't do that, then don't speak.

Perhaps the best insight regarding any attempt at influencing others comes from Jesus himself ...

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye," Matthew 7:3-5.


The placebo effect ...

"I think I'm feeling much better. I think I'm doing well. I think things are fine."

Those are some of the comments you may hear from someone assigned to take placebos when they are really very sick. And yet, they think everything is okay or improving.

Those are some of the same comments you may hear from someone who's life is a wreck, but when they discover what is needed to turn their lives around, suddenly the mess they're in is tolerable, at least for the moment.

That's because we're addicted to placebos.

A placebo is a synthetic pill that lacks any medicinal value. It's sole purpose is to make the taker think they are being treated for their illness when they really are not.

We're addicted to placebos, the appearance of taking action or making change when neither is really happening.

We want to offer the appearance that we're doing something about the mess of our lives when we really aren't. We don't really want to make changes but we don't want that fact to be evident, so we opt for the camouflage of a placebo.

Jane is obese because she grossly overeats and never exercises. She wants to eat --- a lot --- and she doesn't want to exercise, but she doesn't want to admit it. So she adds a salad to her meals, now she's "working at eating better."

She's added a placebo.

John never reads his Bible outside of preaching time at a church service. John never prays outside of a church service, and often even during a service he's thinking about other things when his head is bowed and eyes are closed. John believes in God, intellectually, but the rest are outward actions so others don't see he hasn't let go of much of his worldly life.

He's added a placebo.

How have you added placebos to your life? How are you offering the outward appearance of changing, maturing, or growing when you're really hanging on to inappropriate or sinful thoughts, attitudes, and/or behaviors?

How's that working out for you?


Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Father Effect ...

With Father's Day fast approaching, a lot of people are reflecting on the effect of their father in their lives. Below is an excellent short video looking at that subject. It was shared with me by cyber friend David Higginbotham, and I share it with you here ...


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: "Man Alive" aims at helping men thrive ...

Whether you've met every objective you've set for yourself, are still striving to achieve your dreams, or have never written down a goal, many men find themselves thinking with regard to their lives, "There must be more ..."

Author and men's ministry leader Patrick Morley believes there's much more for men. The subtitle of his latest book says just what: "Transforming your seven primal needs into a powerful spiritual life."

In "Man Alive," published by Multnomah Books, you get a glimpse of the heart of a man who has been ministering to other men for decades. This book reads like Morley's personal notes of what he has witnessed thousands of men wrestling with over the years. Then he engages the reader in clear, simple, and straightforward conversation about a handful of these issues, with the intent of providing guidance about each need that will lead men to a transformed, thriving life.

"I'm going to show you how God has provided ways for you to transform that raw, restless energy you feel into a powerful spiritual life, " Morley writes.

To do that, Morley shares real stories --- including some of his own --- to identify a handful of basic needs he believes most men wrestle with, fail at, and as a result, find themselves feeling half alive. But with every identified need, Morley lays out steps any man can take to meet those needs and push forward to building the life God has intended for them.

Along the way, Morley relates to his readers like an understanding buddy, keeps the conversation practical, dishes out generous doses of encouragement, and provides concise direction with just enough challenge to make this book more than an intellectual exercise for men.

If you find yourself restless and thinking there must be more to your life than what there currently is, "Man Alive" just might be the quick read that helps you discover that there is, indeed, much more!


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.”

Monday, June 11, 2012

Blasting away that spiritual flabbiness ...

It might be easier to get someone to go see their dentist than it is to get them to hire a Personal Trainer. After all, the screech of the dentist's drill is done in about an hour visit, but the pain of a Personal Trainer lasts for months!

That's partly why fitness boot camps are growing in popularity. Boot camps are intense, but for a shorter duration, and you can coerce your friends to come sweat and suffer with you. Boot camps get you to an achieved goal quickly, and some think with a little more fun.

Why not bring the boot camp concept into the church?

It's painfully apparent many Christians today are significantly out of shape spiritually, but getting them into a small group or Sunday School class that doesn't end hasn't worked or isn't yielding good results. So why not target key topics, with clearly identified objectives and outcomes, and offer training in a boot camp style?

The training will be more intense, the meetings will last longer, homework will be required, and you can't miss a meeting. But you can bring friends, study together, and you know what you'll learn by the end of the boot camp. And yes, there is an end date!

If the traditional methods of biblically training your members hasn't had widespread success, maybe it's time to try a boot camp (or similar) concept to boost the spiritual equipping and maturing of your congregation.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Branding for Jesus ...

So if Superman puts on a suit and a pair of eyeglasses, no one thinks "Clark Kent" is really the man of steel?

I never got that!

Hiding behind the thinnest of disguises, people couldn't tell the two characters were the same person?!

Okay, Superman is a fictional character, but he's not the only one who uses thin disguises.

Take, for example, the popular push for church leaders to "build a brand." The common argument is creating a brand helps the leader expand his influence for the sake of the Gospel.

But if you look at the expansive efforts of some, you have to ask: Is this a ministry or a personal platform? Is this a means to teach and touch lives with the Good News of Jesus Christ, or just a platform to sell books, garner speaking invitations, and otherwise inflate their own names?

John the Baptist, as unrefined as he was, knew how to draw a crowd. But he had a purpose, that of preparing hearts for the Messiah. And he understood his own position within the ministry he was called to:

"He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less," John 3:30.

Who's name do you work the hardest at lifting up: the name of Jesus Christ, or your own?


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Let's try that again ...

We love a second chance!

When we're behind, we love a second chance to rally back.

When we've made a mistake, we love a second chance to get things right.

When we've blundered, we love a second chance to correct things.

When we have been caught in the wrong, we love a second chance and the mercy that comes with it.

When we've sinned, we love a second chance and the grace that restores us.

But as much as we seem to love second chances, we often aren't very wise or assertive about seeking opportunity from some of them. Especially as a church, when we have failed to be the church to people who came in the front door and very quickly left through the back door.

Time and again I've observed how people come into the midst of congregations but soon leave. Not because they didn't sense they would like to become a part of God's family there, but because they weren't embraced personally.

Sure, someone said hello and handed them a bulletin. Someone else may have stepped up and shaken hands. Invitations to attend this or that may have been extended and actually responded to. Functionally, there were some interactions.

But not personally.

Th family wasn't invited into a home. A personal time over coffee wasn't offered. Nothing of a "outside-of-church" nature was ever offered.

And so the person, or couple, or family moved on, looking for someone and some place that would not just receive them, but love them.

Someone posted recently this statement: "Funny how someone you once loved can become someone you once knew." Funny how so many become someone we once knew because we didn't really love them.

What I have found to be bothersome is how some churches look at the people who have passed through their midst in such a manner, shake their head and wander why, then forget the people. They overlook any opportunity to pursue a second chance to revisit those people, seeking for a new chance to embrace them and love them.

To get personal.

We give a great deal of lip service to "loving people to the Lord," but when we actually have the opportunity, we often let people "fall through the cracks."

Has your church had people come and go lately? Could you possibly reach and serve some of those people if you sought a second chance, not to receive them organizationally, but to get to know and love them personally?


Monday, June 4, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Digging into the humanity of Jesus ...

 We've been taught the Bible says Jesus is both fully man and fully God, but struggle to wrap our minds around such a reality. Then we open the Bible and read of the wondrous acts and profound teachings of Jesus.

The result: we quickly forget the humanity part of Christ's life and see a dynamic savior.

In "The Jesus We Missed," published by Thomas Nelson, pastor and theologian Patrick Henry Reardon attempts to take us back into the earthly life of Christ for a deeper look at the humanity of Jesus. Just what does it mean that Jesus was fully human yet fully God, and how did that play out in reality as Christ walked this earth? All good points Reardon initially does a respectable job of delving into.

However, as the book progresses, it gradually slides from a focus on the humanity of Christ to being just another study of the life of Christ written by a scholar.

And the reader can certainly tell a scholar wrote this book.

"The Jesus We Missed" is written for readers with a reasonable Bible knowledge of their own so they can keep up with Reardon's more academic approach with the subject matter.

If you're looking  to broaden your knowledge of the life of Christ, are intrigued about going deeper into the humanity of Christ, and can handle a more studious read, then you may want to check out this book. There will be plenty of content to challenge and sharpen you. If, however, you're looking for a more general study of the life of Christ that is an easy read, you'll want to pass on this title.


I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers 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.”

Time to break out the tiaras ...

Elizabeth is throwing a party!

Queen Elizabeth, that is. The reason is to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee --- 60 years of serving the United Kingdom as its queen.

That's a long time on the job!

But the job has changed a great deal since the days of old when England and its empire were actually ruled by a monarch.

Today, the Prime Minister and Parliament handle day-to-day governance. For many, Elizabeth is a governmental figurehead. They may still curtsey or bow as a show of respect, but would they bow the knee in actual submission?

Like I said, things have changed.

The same with the King of kings.

For many who call themselves subjects of King Jesus, few bow before Him in complete submission. Some serve in His kingdom, others seek only to benefit from it. However, the benefits of the kingdom are reserved for those who serve its King in spirit and truth:

"21 Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws'," Matthew 7:21-23.

Is Jesus your King and the true ruler of your life, or is He just a spiritual figurehead?


Blessed discontent ...

The couple who had just left my office were busy making radical changes to their lives. And it all came about because of "blessed discontent."

How can discontent be a blessing?

It's a blessing to those who have made a profession of Christ but try to hang onto control of their lives, or hide away a few pet sins, or outwardly obey but inwardly rebel. As a result, God doesn't bless their double-mindedness and so they are blessed with a level of discontent.

That seed of discontent works like a sharp grain of sand rubbing a bare foot in a shoe. It's a constant reminder that change needs to happen. Often, because of blessed discontent,  we come to that place where we realize we need to make complete surrender of our lives to God.

Blessed discontent prompts us to full surrender that leads us to godliness and a contentedness in that. The result?

"Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth," 1 Timothy 6:6.

If you're experiencing blessed discontent, don't try to force contentment. Instead, surrender. Repent. Give to God what you've withheld so that, with godliness of living, you may discover true contentment and the wealth of blessing that combination brings.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Outsourcing the Way ...

One of the toughest challenges church leaders have is that of imploring people to actually live out what they claim they believe. We work hard at discipling people so they can see others as Jesus sees them, and respond accordingly.

But that often isn't the issue in the church today.

Sometimes, the challenge is for people to respond to what they actually do see. Not just from the guy holding the sign at the street corner, but in the life of the person sitting next to them "at church."

I love a tweet I read recently. In just 140 characters, a Twitter friend related he and his young son saw a man who was hungry. His son suggested they feed the man. And that's what they did.

Simple: they saw a need, and from compassion, they met the need.

That's very different from the experience another man faced. He was a faithful follower of Christ who had fallen on hard times. No, those hard times did not come from either sinful or bad choices. They came in spite of his faith and his persistent efforts. A minister encouraged him to share an email with Christian friends sharing just a snapshot of what his needs were and simply asking them to join him in prayer. Here's an actual clip of one response sent to that man from someone claiming to be both a Christian and a friend:

"1) don't you think God knows your needs. Why do we need to know?
2) why do you feel the need to tell your problems to your friends?
3) if you need to talk why not go to a church councilor?
4) if  you need food, go to a food bank
5) if you need shelter, start looking for a rescue mission. ( maybe you could minister at the  mission and get free room and board.)
6) maybe volunteer at a place you might want to work at and maybe they will hire you after they see your work.
You have lots of options. Better to use your energy taking care of yourself than talking about it with friends."

Yes, the person responding did actually number his responses. And this person (who had no real understanding of the efforts the Christian in need had been taking each day)  has taken a view too many have --- outsourcing real Christlike compassion to some place other than the church. Instead of the body of Christ caring for one another as we see recorded in Acts, hungry people should be outsourced to food banks, homeless people should be outsourced to rescue missions, prayer requests should be supplied to God alone, and someone needing a friend should be outsourced to a counselor.

Surely, we wouldn't want such challenged lives messing up our pretty churches, would we?

Yes, there are good services and resources people in need might be able to access, although not always. But access to governmental or private charity is no replacement for the love of Christ that should be the natural response of those who truly follow Christ. The Apostle John was abundantly clear on this subject:

"14 If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. 16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? 18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions," 1 John 3:14-18.

Perhaps one of the reasons the church has been in decay for decades now is because we try to outsource the compassion of Christ, and the love of God, for someone other than the church to provide.

Imagine what might happen if we reversed that. Imagine what might happen if the church became known for displaying the love and compassion of Christ without reserve!

Instead of imagining it, perhaps it's time we consistently do it.

What can you do to live a faith that doesn't outsource the love and compassion of Christ?


Friday, June 1, 2012

So which one are you?

If a man studies to be an airplane plot, gets his license but never flies ... is he a pilot?

If a woman studies to get her teaching certificate, and finally gets it, but never teaches ... is she a teacher?

Or how about this one: if a person believes in Christ, believes what he reads in the Bible, but doesn't follow Christ by applying scripture to his own life ... is he a follower?

Are you a believer, or a follower?

It's one thing to have information about God, or even a studied, thought out and well-defined theology --- it's one thing to believe --- but it's quite another thing to internalize and live out those beliefs by daily following Christ.

"3 And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, 'I know God,' but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did," 1 John 2:3-6.

Are you a believer, or a follower?