Friday, September 26, 2008
2:30 pm edt
I learn all kinds
of stuff as a consultant. I happened upon some research done for a school system. They
we interested in finding out whether their impoverished constituents would be able to get access to technology and the internet.
Here is what they found out. Impoverished people have a tendency to spend money on entertainment
and luxury before they will spend it on necessities. Let me restate that… Poor
and poverty level people are more likely to have nice clothes, drive nice cars, and have the latest toys before they will
feed themselves or pay for housing and utilities. Does that surprise you?
It did me at first.
Then I started to notice that as I drove through affluent neighborhoods, the front rooms were empty of furniture.
As I met people who lived in these communities, I found out that some of them were just making ends meet and couldn’t
afford furniture and furnishing yet. Having a particular mailing address was more important than being
able to sit on furniture. That struck me as being similar to the impoverished (as a tendency and yes it
is a generalization – be patient with me).
Then I looked at my own life. Most of the times I’ve encountered
frustration, anger, disappointment have been as a result of availing myself of what I wanted instead of being satisfied with
what I needed or what I had. Their story is my story! Maybe you can relate.
I find here a principle…
“Want” is a very powerful motivator. It defies reason.
I learned this week
(or I should better say relearned) that God doesn’t need me. He is not, His plans are not, the Kingdom
of Heaven is not diminished if I am not a part of them. That’s hard for me to take. I
want to be needed. That is a paradox (“I want to be needed”).
Remember, “want” is a very powerful motivator. It defies reason.
My desire to be needed
sometimes prompts me to do unreasonable things (like push God – see my previous blog entry). I will
try to force myself, my wishes, my agenda, my desires and will do things that are unreasonable. For instance,
I want the institutional church in America to change. I want to be a compelling argument against the wrong
thinking of religiosity that we have accumulated over several hundred years. I think I will make a difference.
I think what I have to say on the subject will prompt change. I think if I challenge enough “wrong
thinking” I can help overcome history.
It is unreasonable to think that I am going to change the church in
America. It is also unreasonable to believe that I am going to convince and help church people across America
unlearn the baggage resulting from years and centuries of reinforcement. It is unreasonable and yet because
I want it, because I believe I make the difference, I launch off into conversations and articles and personal campaigns.
Guess what. I get frustration, anger, and disappointment. I also cause frustration,
anger, and disappointment.
God is the Change Agent, not me. I am a witness. He doesn’t
need me to change the church or right the wrongs. He asks me to support Him in changing the church and
righting the wrongs. For me to lead the charge is a form of pride and idolatry. I want
it. I believe I make a difference. I try to or am successful in affording for myself
these indulgences and in doing so tell God that He isn’t enough for me and that He isn’t moving fast enough or
that He is depriving me. That is, flat out, arrogance of the highest order.
is a powerful motivator. It defies reason. There is good news in this. God
wants me. God wants you.
Because God wants us, He did the unreasonable in order to have us. His
Son sacrificed himself to pay a penalty He didn’t incur (or deserve) on the hope that we would
choose to want Him back. That is unreasonable. However, that is grace.
is a very powerful motivator. It defies reason.
Father, I am trying to learn to want “Thy will…” ahead
of “My will…”. Guide me, teach me, give me the strength I need through your Holy Spirit
to want what is the good, the acceptable, and Your perfect will for me. Continue the lessons the help me
learn that I am unneeded but wanted. Be my God and replace me in that role. Forgive
me for getting it backwards. Thank you for being my Want. My powerful motivator.
For defying reason for my sake. Amen.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I tease about my dog. I tell people that if you set a bag of rocks next to my dog, he'd think he had a play mate.
Right now, I think if I were next to a tree stump, you might have difficulty telling the difference. You see, I've
been trying to push God.
1:32 pm edt
There is stupid and then there is stupid. Its kinda like jumping off a building
and hoping you can fly. The results will be disappointing at best.
From time to time I'll get a thought
in my mind and commit to it emotionally. Then a sense of urgency sets in and I'm off trying to "make it
happen". I've been taught by some of the best about the "you make it happen" philosophy. Don't
get me wrong, there is a place for initiative. Paul says (in Ephesians 6:10-20) multiple times to "stand",
"do all to stand", "Stand firm". He also says in Philippians 2:12 to "work out your salvation".
Peter says in 2 Peter 1:3-11, to work at growing "actively and effectively". These all demand initiative.
What I'm talking about trying to push God.
Just because I'm convinced of something in God's
Word or some agenda I believe God supports, it doesn't mean He is going to implement it on my time line. So I end
up pushing God. "Go faster" I say. "Make them understand" I plead. "Steamroll the
obstacles" I shout. Then I start running around talking to people, coaching them. Writing epistles exhorting
"the troops" on. Trying to push God. The problem is, God doesn't march to my timeline.
I'm afraid I'm being very un-Christlike in this. At best un-Elder-like. It doesn't appear to me
that "Force" is anywhere in God's vocabulary. While we are told to "go", we aren't told
to shove it down people's throats. In fact, in Matthew 10, the instruction is to "shake the dust off your feet"
and move on. Many of the qualities of Elders in 1 Timothy represent the quality of finesse as opposed to force.
There is very much a sense that we are out in the middle of life but at the same time waiting for it to come to us.
("It" being the God moments.) Which leads me to looking like a stump.
The fact that I have articulated
my understanding of God's Word in the context of this article is a clue that I have not acted on what I know. This
is something Paul challenged his hearers to do ("only be sure to act on what you have learned"). That makes
me a stump. I find myself needing to re-inforce lessons previously learned. Duh!!
I am getting better.
I am learning. It is times like these that make me wonder however. These times also make me grateful for God's
grace. I think I'll take up other activities that are more likely to produce results than pushing God. Something
like "mountain hurling" or Polar bear wrestling... (humor intended).
Pray for me as I pray for my self
and you. Pray that we are pursuing God without pushing God.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Subtle and Profound
I was thinking this morning about my perspective on things. I realized there are multiple ways to say similar things. I
could be saying the same words but in an incorrect sequence. The differences are subtle and profound at the same time.
Here's an example...
8:53 am edt
Am I an American who happens to be a Christian or a Christian who happens to live in America?
That I am a Christian is a fact of my faith and God's Word. That I am an American is a fact of record as
a result of my parents and the location of my birth. As a Christian, I have responsibilities to God. As an American,
I have responsibilities to my country. What is the difference?
I believe the difference is a clue
as to priority. (Here's the subtle and profound part.) God's Word tells us that what comes out of our
mouth is the overflow of what is in our hearts (our core, our thoughts, our perspectives). If I am first an American,
my patriotism may supercede my alegience to God. If I am first a Christian, I will choose God's way ahead of my
country if and when they conflict. If I am an American first, I am likely to focus on the cause of America and it's
preservation before (or more likely under the banner of) matters of faith. If I am a Christian first, I am about the
Kingdom of Heaven before all other kingdoms.
This question is interesting to think and talk through. The
question though that prompted me to write is this one... What am I doing for God versus What does God want me to do for Him?
Again, the issue here isn't my doing or God's desire that I do. The issue is priority. Am I deciding what
will be done for God and what God wants or is God deciding?
If you read (or probably better struggled) through
my last blog entry, you probably came away scratching your head and wondering what I was talking about (as some of you shared).
I was wrestling with this question (although at the time I didn't realize it). I have a tendency to insert myself
in God's agenda ahead of where He wants me inserted. Whenever I do that, life tends to get confusing and frsutrating.
Here's an example.
I have the gift of teaching and communicating. I like to study. I like to think
about things, I like to share them with others and help them come to new levels of understanding. Sometimes, I
will insert myself ahead of God in the lives of others by wanting to be their teacher instead of waiting for God to create
a teachable moment and deploying me as His instrument of instruction.
To study and prepare and decide what to deliver,
even if it is God's Word that I am planning on delivering, puts me ahead of God. It puts me in control. God
wants and will be first. He is the one who is ultimately in control. He wants to decide what and when and to whom.
Its not a matter of study. I still need to study, to be prepared for when God wants to use me even if He does want to
give me "the material".
The other thing I realized is that teaching (Stand and deliver) is a more superficial
relationship than having a relationship where I am both present and credible in the "teachable moment". Intimate
relationships are God's way.
What are the take aways?
1. Priority. Keep God first
before any and everything else. He won't stay second. Read theBook of Jeremiah. God is pretty clear
on this point.
2. Follow. Follow God's leading even if you are called to be a leader (especially
if you are called to be a leader). God told Jeremiah that the leaders of Israel (spiritual and political) weren't
following Him. They were using His name but were using it in vain and profane ways.
3. Think. Where
may I be subtly changing positions with God? If I never question it, I may end up where I don't want to be and require
God to "get my attention" (ref. Jeremiah). This is why Journaling and meditation is so important to
me. If is the time when I can get some distance spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and "see" what I'm
really saying and thinking.
Thanks for reading and for your comments. More importantly for your prayers and
your commitment to discipleship.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I got confronted with God's Word today. I don't know about you but I don't like it when I'm wrong or
feel like I've been wrong or realize I missed something major. I just have to say "Crap!".
3:22 pm edt
missed it. Well, not so much missed it but didn't realize the significance of it. "It" is the way
the church functioned in Acts. I blame Brent Gilmore for being God's messenger on this one. Here's what
I missed. (By the way... thanks for being my brother Brent!) The church in Acts was holding all things in common.
They were selling stuff and using the money to help support each other.
Some of this the church has delegated
(or off loaded) to our government (i.e. welfare). Some of this the church has delegated (or off loaded) to our employers
(i.e. insurance). Some of this gets off loaded to social agencies (i.e. United Way, Soup Kitchens, etc...). Believe
it or not, there are still some things we can do for each other and maybe some things we should take back on behalf of each
This is not a conclusion. This is a work in process.
What would happen if we supported
our own? Would there be abuses? Probably. Would there be members who didn't participate? Probably.
Would some carry a heavier load than others? Probably. How would we manage it? Church discipline.
Wouldn't it be messy? Yes. Would some leave or complain? Yes.
I'll ask the same question
I was asked. Are we going to be the church or play church? Paul's letters document the correction of some
of the abuses. Certainly Peter dealt with them (i.e. Ananias and Saphira). Behaving this way would certainly distinguish
this group of people from other institutions.
This is the point where I was confronted with God's Word.
Am I going to play church or be the church? Do I wade in and put myself and our resources in play or do I send a check
and deal with it all through programs and processes and excuses and others? I want to tell you I'm ready to wade
in. The answer is going to be worked out as I make decisions from one moment to the next. It is so different than
anything I've experienced or practiced. It is a different way of thinking. It is a different way of living.
It is certainly contrary to patterns of this world which makes me suspect there is truth in this particular confrontation.
Pray with me. Pray for me. I don't want to play church. I don't care if others think I am an idiot
(Yes, I hear it... "Too late"). It will be messy and I will be exploited and I will be in good company
(the best...). Keep me honest on this one. Send me a note. Ask me if you see me. Hold me accountable
to be the church. I'll take some partners and fellow "Journeymen in process" if you are interested.
Write me back.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
9:02 am edt
I am not a doctor nor am I a certified counselor. I am a student of my own behavior.
As hard as
it may be to believe, from time to time I haven't always done the right thing. I know, I know it comes as a real
blow to you (sarcasm intended). As I become aware of those areas, through God's prompting, I have learned to diagnose
in order to correct unwanted behavior. Too many times in the past, I have only dealt with the symptoms and not dug out
the roots of behavior.
I think much of the process can be found in Job and the Prophets. Certainly, Galatians
6:4 is the core of what I intend to share..."Each of you should examine his own conduct, and then he can measure his
achievement by comparing himself with himself and not with anyone else; for everyone has his own burden to bear."
In context, this follows an adminition to "restore" a brother or sister overtaken in a fault (Galatians 6:1-2).
So here goes...
1. Keep a journal. Write down the when, where, what, your feelings (before, during,
and after) of the behavior you examining. Be specific and above all honest with yourself.
2. Find out
what God's Word says. (i.e. Read your Bible). Paul told the Romans that faith comes by hearing and hearing
comes through the Word of God. The Hebrew writer tells us that faith is the substance of what we hope for and the evidence
of what we can't see. James tells us that faith and action are inseperable. Lastly, back to Paul in Romans,
faith is the source of our righteousness. Faith in Jesus Christ.
3. Ask questions of yourself...
a. What am I choosing to believe in "the moment" of the behavior? Is it truth or a lie?
b. What leads up to "an incident"? What am I doing? What am I listening to,
reading, watching, thinking? Where am I? Am I with someone or alone?
How do I feel afterwards? (Good and bad) What do I do?
d. What is there in my life
that "feeds" the "moment"?
4. Give someone permission to witness, observe, and provide
you with feedback.
5. Review your journal, your Bible study, your answers to the questions, your observers's
feedback. Do this with a trusted Mentor. Give your Mentor permission to talk with your
6. Pray and listen. Ask God for insight. Ask
God for strength. Ask God for answers. Don't ask
God to override your will (He
won't do it). Then listen. Use your journal to record what you
think God is
saying to you. Does it line up with God's Word? What is your Mentor's input on it?
Allow God's Holy Spirit to giude and teach you. This means "hearing God" and being obedient
to what you hear. Remember, God will not override your will.
8. Create an "Ebenezzer", a
reminder. Maybe several. Put them in your way to remind you of
God's Word and
of your desire to be obedient to God.
9. Don't live in isolation. It is not good for man to be
alone. Share your life with someone. Be
open and honest.
10. Live in
the light. God's children are light bearers. The truth lives in the light. Evil hates the
light. Don't create or spend time in places where you feel "hidden" from sight (physically,
There it is. Discipline is the process of putting the DISCIPLE IN. This is a discipline
intended to help me be a better disciple of Jesus. Let me know your feedback if you too choose participate in this discipline.