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I Am Clay

My life is on the wheel

Earthbound clay

Molded

Wondering

Why are His hands changing me?

Poking, prodding, pounding (it feels like punishment sometimes)

Moisture pouring out of me.

His hands working,

With purpose

What is He creating in me?

What does He see?

Is there a purpose in the pain?

Stretching, sensing, swirling, struggling

I’m smaller than I used to be, it seems

Then taller beyond my clay of dreams

The wheel- still spinning

I’m dizzy with change

I feel like I’m going nowhere at light speed!

The wheel slows as his eyes scan my shell

And he sees it.

I was hoping that he’d over look it.

Halfway hoping he would cast me aside and move on to a more fitting lump of clay.

He pauses-

Divine rejection is what I feel. Rejection that He sees who I really am-

Broken, tainted, impure, unfinished

A catastrophic mess

Deeply wounded-

Punished by personal demons and false aspirations

He picks me up again and throws me back on the wheel.

This is not the way it’s supposed to be.

The Artist’s hands- rough and scarred

Still working- it hurts because I’m still me

Can I ever be what He wants me to be?

He’s smiling as He works through catastrophe.

I’m spinning again- Oh God what do you see?

The heat of the oven- birthplace of sanctity.

Above and beyond all treachery

That separated my soul from Thee

Burning, glazing, waiting straining

I stand before the Master of clay

I see Him in full not in part.

The Master artist king

Regaled in glory

I didn’t know it then but I know it now.

He saw me in that mound of clay

He recognizes me.

And- He SMILES. He smiles at me.

And now I see Him

My creator

Who walked me through the fire of earth

And now I see him

The redeemer of broken things

The shepherd of lost sheep

The all-things-new Messiah

Worthy is the lamb that was slain

Worthy  King of Castaways

The Potter

The masterpiece maker.

And we will see Him as He is.

And we will crown him.

King

Victor

Creator

Jesus

In awestruck wonder we will stand

His masterpiece of grace.

Employee or Family Member

To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Galatians 4:5

There’s a huge difference between employees in a demanding organization and a loving home of grace. And yet so often I confuse the two when I thinkof the Christian communitity. We often are intimidated by our sentences that end with the word “enough.”

  • Not good enough
  • Not strong enough
  • Not smart enough
  • Not pure enough.
  • Not _______ enough….

Insufficiancy devestates strugglers. And we all struggle.

Paul urged the Galatians to look beyond the legalistic, judgmental mindset into the strange and beautiful truth of God’s redeeming love. Paul’s passion for grace is astounding. And yet we still struggle with it.

No matter how hard I try, I just keep messing everything up! I thought it would be easier than this.

The revolutionary truth of Christianity is that we weren’t saved into a behavior modification program. We have not simply been improved. We have been adopted. Jesus didn’t come to see if you’re good enough, smart enough or together enough. He came to reserve a seat at the family table for you.

This truth changes everything. Once we find our identity in Christ, He begins to do what we couldn’t do for ourselves- He transforms us. It doesn’t happen overnight, but as we lean into Him, Christ begins the process. We grow, we stumble, we fail and succeed, but we are never, ever disowned. No matter the struggles or obstacles we face, we are family.

Beware of the Madman

Many years ago, I encountered a madman and he happened to be a pastor.  He hired lots of young, idealistic staff and questioned them at every turn. They would all eventually limp away from the church he pastored wounded, shrouded in shame, self-doubt and anger. The harder they worked and the more they succeeded on projects and relationships, the more brooding and vindictive he became.

Throughout the years I’ve encountered many madmen and a few madwomen. I’ve learned through the years that most of the time, fighting a madman isn’t worth the time. It’s often better to just focus on yourself lest you become one. And if I’m going to be totally honest, I am quite capable of being that madman.

Here are a few characteristics of a madman.

They are often high-energy players. They love to win and they refuse to admit when they make a mistake. Actually many madmen in our culture are uber-successful because of the win at any cost mentality. Even in the church, they can be crude, slanderous, bullying and willing to lie about anything in order to get what they want. The difficult thing for many people is that if that leader represents a worthy cause, those under him will often throw character issues out the window for the hope of the success the strong leader represents and promises.

  • A madman is driven by accomplishment, not service.
  • A madman will win at the expense of his integrity.
  • A madman’s idol is personal authority.
  • He is consumed with his own notoriety and sees enemies as people to be conquered.
  • Although he may be seen as spiritual, in truth he spends little time alone with God.
  • A madman will make “scene” and call it courageous.
  • A madman communicates his dissatisfaction through emotional codes.
  • The madman can always out-humiliate his enemies.
  • These madmen look at life as black and white.”You are either for me or against me.”
  • A Madman is unwilling to have a free and productive conversation because he or she believes, really believes that they are always right. And when you’re always right, you don’t have to apologize.

Paranoia saturates the environment of a madman. A madman often speaks of feelings of being lied about or persecuted, or believes in conspiracies against him. The madman will make accusations with little or no supporting evidence. They have a general distrust of others even their allies. A madman just says stuff, suggests stuff without anything to support his claims, as if saying something makes it a reality.

God scattered madmen throughout His word as a recurring reminder that if you dance with a madman, you will, in time, regret it.  Here are a few symptoms of the madman known as King Saul:

  • Manipulating:

David was so successful that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the troops, and Saul’s officers as well.  1 Samuel 18:5

The madman will play the people in his life-like a game of chess. He embeds shadow missions and subplots into his decisions. The madman looks out for himself and the approval of the masses as he forgets his first desire, to serve and give glory to God.

  • Envious of Applause:

When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres. 7 As they danced, they sang:“Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”

Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?”1 Samuel 18:6-8

Envy is such an insidious state and no one is immune to it. Who hasn’t felt envy at an awards ceremony, or on Facebook, or at a performance? We all struggle with it, it’s just that some of us are a little further down the road of recovery than others.

  • Outbursts of Rage

The madman is capable of volcanic anger. One moment you see a small puff of smoke and then the next moment, a virtual shower of lava. These moments of rage often happen privately and sometimes publicly. For the madman/pastor we sometimes see it from the pulpit and call it passion.

The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully on Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice.

Proverbs warns us to beware.

Make no friendships with a man given to anger and with a wrathful man do not associate.  Proverbs 22:24

  • Revenge thinking

Perhaps you’ve known of someone who found themselves as the punchline of someone else’s joke and then from that moment they were set on defeating that person. A madman will cultivate revenge for years. The truth is revenge is never really sweet. It doesn’t work.  But don’t tell the madman.

  • Inducement

Now Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased. “I will give her to him,” he thought, “so that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” So Saul said to David, “Now you have a second opportunity to become my son-in-law.”
1 Samuel 18: 20-21

The madman weaves a web using relationships as thread connecting everything back to himself.

  • Repeated Strategies

Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape.

1 Samuel 19:9

The strategies repeat themselves over and over again through the life of a madman until he breaks apart or dies. Once a madman is broken, great things are ahead for the madman. It was too late for Saul. He never found his shalom he so desperately needed and truly wanted from time to time. We should take pity for the madman. He’s really not enjoying life. I have been that madman from time to time. It’s hard, complicated work.

The lesson I’m learning: Never fight a mad man, least you become one.

Be like David, who perhaps remembered the scripture he learned in Sabbath School: The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest.
Exodus 14:14

If you fear going mad (and we all should), please do these things:

  1. Take a close look at your schedule.
  2. Evaluate your activities with one other person.
  3. Re-create your schedule based on God’s priorities and calling upon your life.
  4. Commit your schedule to God every morning.
  5. Finally, memorize the passage below:

 

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God,did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:1-8

Further Reading on Leadership Problems and Personalities

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How to Solve Your People Problems by Alan Godwin

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Safe People Cloud and Townsend

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A Tale of Three Kings Gene Edwards

 

If you’re a Lot, you’re a little

Look, this town is close enough for me to run to. It is a small place. Please let me go there—it’s only a small place, isn’t it?—so that I can survive.
Genesis 19:20

This peculiar story is tucked away in the post fire-and-brimstone train wreck of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot and his family dodge their way out of town when a directive from angels orders them to head for the mountains. Lot, as would seem to be his custom, would much prefer finding a more comfortable option–a town called Zoar, which means “little.”

God had a vision for Lot and there’s really no telling what that future might have been if Lot wholeheartedly accepted the challenge. God wanted him to run to the mountains but Lot bargained with God’s messengers. “Please let me go to Little.” The angels acquiesced. It’s as if they were saying. “OK. Have it your way. You go to Little and be little, but God made you for the mountains!”

Fear does lots of things to a person but perhaps the worst thing it does is that it often closes the door of opportunity.

 

  • A guy avoids the mission trip to stay in a place where he feels more comfortable.
  • A business owner passes on the chance to expand because the risk of failure is scary.
  • A friend lets another opportunity to share his faith with a close friend because he fears rejection.

O Lot, what you could have been if you decided to choose God’s best! Eternity will leave some men smarting from the opportunities passed because they settled for a town called “Little!”

Some people give up early and settle for a humdrum life. Others never seem to learn, and so they flail away through a lifetime, becoming less and less human by the year, until the time they die there is hardly enough humanity left to compose a corpse.

Eugene Peterson

No matter what stage of life, what circumstance or relationships you’re struggling with, there’s always that decision to take the mountain or settle for just a little. You’ll never regret the mountain.

Jesus Loved Martha, Her Sister, Lazarus (and me)

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
John 11:5

Some versions enclose this verse in parenthesis- almost as if John whispered under his breath, “Oh, by the way, Jesus loved these three people.”

I think to myself, doesn’t Jesus love everybody? But I doubt the verse would have as much power if John would say, “Oh by the way Jesus loved Martha, and her sister and Lazarus like he does everybody else.” The way John said it excites me, even though the syntax is clumsy and some could accuse John of overstating the obvious.

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

Let’s look at this verse closer. 

Now Jesus loved Martha.

  • Jesus loves the people he rebukes.

It’s interesting to note that the timeline places this story after Martha’s conniption fit in the kitchen when she was left alone with the dirty dishes and Palmolive. Jesus rebuked her that day for obsessing over workload issues. The implication here is that Jesus loves those He rebukes. I feel the discipline of God often, but during those times I must remember that Jesus disciplines the ones He loves. So Jesus loves me. Trust me. He really loves me.

Jesus loved her sister.

  • Jesus loves the annonymous.

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John refers to Mary, but he doesn’t mention her name. Obviously, John knew Mary but perhaps he didn’t want to confuse the reader because there’s a trio of Marys in the Gospel narrative. Now if I were John I would have written, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister, Mary and Lazarus.”

But no. Mary only gets a token “her sister” in the Book.

 This tells me that God loves the anonymous. The ones whose names will never appear in print. There is a blessing- a tremendous blessing in remaining hidden. We should thank God for hiddenness because in truth, there are real danger in the value of our name. Maybe we should pray in those moments that our names don’t appear in the credits of the latest event or ministry, “Lord, I really thank You for keeping my name hidden for another day.”

Jesus loved Lazarus.

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  • Jesus loves the sick.

And then there is Lazarus. At this point in the narrative, Lazarus is sick. Deathly ill… John says, Jesus loves Lazarus.

It’s so easy for Christians to:

  • believe in karma
  • and if we experience illness, that somehow it’s what we had coming
  • and if Jesus really loved us then we wouldn’t be sick, disabled or isolated.

The words of the TV preachers echo through our being-“If you have enough faith, then you would be well. But this is not true. Jesus loved Lazarus.” Think about it. How much faith did Lararus have? Well, he died. A dead body can’t have faith. They’re dead! But Jesus has a mind of his own. He knows what he’s up to and He doesn’t need anybody’s help.

It think God would give us permission to add a couple of words to the end of this verse:

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus and (state your name).

I am so glad that Jesus loves me. That he loves the one He’s rebuking, the ones who remain anonymous and the ones who are sick. Chances are you’ll experience a couple of these this year. So remember this verse. You’ll need it. He loves you.

 

Everybody’s Been to Ziklag

David and his men arrived in Ziklag on the third day. The Amalekites had raided the Negev and attacked and burned down Ziklag. They also had kidnapped the women and everyone[a] in it from the youngest to the oldest. They had killed no one but had carried them off as they went on their way.

When David and his men arrived at the town, they found it burned down. Their wives, sons, and daughters had been kidnapped. David and the troops with him wept loudly until they had no strength left to weep. David’s two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelite and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had also been kidnapped. David was in a difficult position because the troops talked about stoning him, for they were all very bitter over the loss of their sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.

1 Samuel 30: 1-8

Ziklag experiences… Everyone has them.

We all have days when trouble comes in threes right after amazing victory.
We all have days when we are attacked from all sides. This is life!
We all have days when the people that we trust fall away from us in the battle.
We all experience those moments of betrayal when we hear people murmur and question our decisions.

These are Ziklag days.

As you read the narrative, put yourself in David’s sandals. Questioned, doubted, David became a scapegoat for all that was evil, unjust and wicked in the world. What a horrible place to be! But David had a strategy for this day in Ziklag. For the people who doubt the relevance of biblical narratives, I would invite them to cross into the unincorporated village of Ziklag and look into the eyes of God’s anointed one- David of Bethlehem.

What are some lessons we can learn from this scene in the sordid story of David? There are so many! Here are a three:

To get the victory when no one is in your corner, you’d better learn how to find strength in the Lord.
(Verse 6)  The King James Version is strong: “But David encouraged himself in the Lord.” There will be times when we have to preach to ourselves. When all seems to be lost and we’re on the back-alley road of abandonment, we have to know how to encourage and strengthen ourselves.

Not everyone who starts with you in a battle will be by your side at the end.
Not everyone in your world has the capacity to finish.  (verse 9) It’s hard to see the people which whom you’ve rejoiced, wept, prayed, and struggled suddenly leave you. It’s just life. It happens. People give up, give out, and lose hope. But this is when you have to say “adios”and keep on going.

To experience the victory, you’ve got to keep going.
Winston Churchill said it best: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” We can’t lose our zeal for the fight despite what others around us are doing. (What a great lesson for our kids!)

Think about times when you personally had a Ziklag experience.  What was it?

  • A job loss?
  • A false accusation?
  • A family betrayal?

Keep going. And remember to encourage yourself in the Lord. The battle’s not over. It’s just getting interesting.

Worship: A Pastor’s Perspective

Every now and then as a pastor I get an opportunity to scan the faces of my church family in worship. I know many of them well as they struggle through life.  And then there are many I don’t know or only know vaguely.  Many that I know are amazingly rising up to worship despite cancer, job loss, rebel sons, seizures, and divorce. They are the same hearts that Jesus wept over as He scanned the streets of Jerusalem. I’m sure there are floods of issues and heartaches under the surface, just as there are in my personal world.

Only God knows the heart but so often I see people that I love lazily letting the worship happen around them. I don’t know about you, but it bothers me. Do they come for the band? Their friends? Their kids? Their spouse? Or do they come expecting God?  Maybe they’re just bored and want to make some sort of connection. When I’m around a few of my members I feel more like a caterer than a minister. Can you relate?  Comments such as…

too loud
too old
too hot
too cold
too long standing

….slowly wear us down.

The heart of worship is not a sterile crusade for logic and pretences.

It’s not a frantic carnival of human opinion about God.

It’s far from a celebration of human talent and exhibition.  It is the reckless pursuit of something more dangerous and pure than anything we can see with our eyes.  Opinions, competition and control wreck the longing for the heart of worship because they just point back to who we are. Worship sinks deeply into our existence to proclaim who He is. The heart of worship surrenders all the formulaic traditions. It lays siege to every idle attempt to control the outcome.  We are ambushed by mercy, propelled into awareness and stripped of pride.

Maybe this is why so many Christians refuse to worship. We are comforted by the tactile-the things we can see and touch like spiritual spreadsheets that unconsciously access whether the believer is a “good man” or a “bad man.” Our hearts too often longs for check-the-box, jump through hoops religion because it allows us a bit of control and rational compromise. When we worship, God takes a sledge hammer to our scales, rulers, and formulas.  It’s all futile, even comic. But when we really make the heart connection with God, stuff happens. Spiritual mutations occur that allow us to experience ecstasy in the midst of our brokenness and confusion.  Everything really is stripped away. Worship becomes resurrection and it is best done in groups.  That’s my longing as a worship leader- to see groups healed and transformed when they pour everything out. I long to see personal alabaster jars crushed. It’s truly is all about Him.  And if it’s not then maybe we should all resign, step aside and go back to work at the widget factory.

13 Ways to Stay Small

(The Last One Works Every Time!)

Growth is easy when you’re 8-years-old. It gets harder at 30 or 40 or 50. However, it’s easy to stop growing. Your growth as an adult demands intention.

Stop growing? Easy as pie! But just in case you run out of ideas, here are a few ways:

1. Hold on to things

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Whether it is a wound, an awful experience or that old couch that you should have donated in 2007. If you want to stay stuck, then fear letting go. If you want to soar, you might need to drop a few pounds of excess baggage. If you want to move forward in relationships, you might need to stop white-knuckling grudges and myths.

2. Hang around people who aren’t growing.

The people you hang with will ultimately play a huge part in your growth as a person. If the people around you are constantly sinking into negativity and abuse, it may be time to get you some new people.

3. Stop reading.

Here’s some great advice from Groucho Marx:

“I find television very educating.  Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

 

4. Binge watch a greater number of television shows at the same time.

People who are living real lives must spend less time monitoring fictional characters trapped in screens on walls.

5. Place your Bible in your car and keep it there from Sunday to Sunday.

A sure way to grind your growth to a halt is to stay away from God’s Word. In an age of Bible apps and memes, may I propose that you get a real Bible-one that you can hold. Consume it, write in it and highlight it. But for goodness sake don’t just treat it like a Sunday prop.  It’s a sad commentary that many believers will not walk ten yards away from a smart phone but will leave God’s word in the car or on the shelf most of the week.


“The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

Yes, read books, but every day read THE Book.

6. Beat yourself up.

dont-beat-yourself-up1.jpgIf you want to stop growing, become hypercritical of yourself. Fill your mind with lots of regret and self-loathing. Don’t view yourself like Jesus views you: wholly accepted. Instead hold yourself up to impossible standards and when you fail, compare yourself and your life by the lives of your most successful friends.

This one is my specialty. I’ve been honing my craft for years. I beat myself up all the time! I can be so cruel to myself. I’m my worst enemy! (Wait. I think I just beat myself up about beating myself up.)

7. Spend time trying to get people to like you.

In truth, this was never the point of Christianity. Where do you think we would be if Paul, the apostle, spend his ministry trying to get people to like him. If that was the goal, he failed gloriously. Think about it:

  • Stoned (in the biblical sense, of course)
  • Beaten
  • Jailed
  • Doubled-crossed
  • Talked about
  • Ignored
  • Rejected

And that’s just confirmed stuff. Here’s how Paul writes it:

 I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again.Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.

2 Corinthians 11:23-28

8. Numb the pain.

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If you don’t want to grow, here’s the key: Every time you feel pain, reach for a pill, a drink, a pie, a website, a lover, a needle, a social media platform, or a hobby.

The last thig you want to do if you don’t want to grow is to feel it. All growth involves pain.

Growing pains? Is there any other kind?

You lose, you learn. You hurt, you learn. The smartest guys in the room wear their scars like a badge of honor. They are kind of like Jesus that way. The pain is where the truth comes alive. Don’t chase the pain but please don’t run from it.  I would agree with the ancient poet, philosopher Rumi when he said,

“Through love, all pain is medicine.”

Pain actually heals us and brings us home.

9. Take the credit and the blame for your children’s choices

If you’d like to stop growing as a person, live your life vicariously through your children to the extent that they are your identity. It’s a two-edged sword. When they mess up, you mess up. When they succeed, you find your identity in them. You can’t work on your own stuff if you are too focused on your kids stuff.

10. Pray sparingly and sporadically

If you want to stop growing all at once, stop praying immediately.  If you pray, you are growing.   It’s hard to not grow when you pray because it is so hard to be sinning and praying at the same time. Try it some time. (Actually, no. Don’t try it. It would be so weird.)  Prayer is growth on steroids without all the dangerous side effects. God wants your skin in the game, and the best way to get some skin in the game is through prayer.

11. Code your feelings rather than expressing them.

You know how frustrating it is when people with whom you work alongside choose to code their feelings. You know they are mad. They have just decided to use codes embedded in their overall attitude toward you. Adults use words not codes.   To not use words, when it comes to feelings, is to stunt your growth and the growth of any relationship. No one has ever truly changed from the inside-out by having someone pout at them for weeks.

12. Talk more than you listen

960.jpgThis is the ying in the yang of #11. If you don’t want to grow, talk more than you listen. I hope that one day people will say of me, “He really knew how to listen.” I’m not there yet, but I do know that I have rarely gotten it wrong by listening actively in a time of conflict or stress. On the other hand, I have very often messed things up terribly by speaking. It’s true what they say, “When you speak words that wound, it’s hard to get that toothpaste back in the tube.” When you listen, you usually grow. When you interupt, you usually churn.

Once again, the words of Rumi:

So just be quiet and sit down.
The reason is: you are drunk,
And this is the edge of the roof.

And finally…   The BIG one…

13. Blame others

This is the biggest shortcut to stunted growth. If you don’t want to grow, spend your life blaming others.

There’s no growth when you blame. So that’s why this is my best advice for people who don’t want to grow. Blame your mom, your dad, your kids, your job, your past, the market, your spouse, your ex,  the economy, the president and the devil. Find someone or something to blame, and I can assure you that you won’t grow. There is nothing in blame that has growth potential.

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”
~ George Bernard Shaw

There are many who love to just sit around talking about how terrible their friends, neighbors and family members are. But research says that complaining to a friend about how awful someone is will most likely reflect negatively on you. Researchers call this ‘spontaneous trait transference‘.

So if you want to grow, show a little grace. If you want to stay stuck, blame away!

~

If you truly want to stay small, these are my best recommendations. I hope you won’t take any of them. My prayer is that you’ll join me as I continue to grow. If you catch me using one of these growth stunting strategies, please call me on it. I promise I won’t blame you, beat myself up or numb the pain. (At least I hope not.)

~

 

What is Church?

What is the church?

In all of it’s glory and shame

What is the future of this beautiful wreck

And what will we do when we realize that the Church is a Bride not a business

How will we explain our constant desire to hoard all we can

and keep inside a building made by hands of men

Some call it logic but God calls it sin.

How will we stand when his hand is seen

And the holy messiah who was born as a babe

Whose heart is wide open to the sick and the lame

How will we feel if he finds the church inactive

More attracted to the culture than those who needed us most

From the hurting across the street

To the poor surviving on some foreign coast

To the missionaries on foreign fields

The penniless less than an hour away

How will we stand on that day

When we realize that we were amused to death

We stuffed our bellies on selfish pursuits

Ignoring the riches of God

Realizing that Jesus was at our door

But we were too busy, too tired, to distracted to listen

So filled with excuses, conflict and cynicism

Content with the models of others

We neglected the savior, his sisters and brothers

The struggling fathers and the heartbroken mothers.

But for our church, the hour is late.

Will we become God’s grand twist of fate.

It might be the hardest thing we’ve ever done

To leverage our lives to the plan of the Son.

Some might call it impossible

Others might call it irrelevant

Still others might call it foolish.

But when our church stands in the halls of eternity

Standing there before presence of God

Every other pursuit will seem rather odd.

Of course we’ll be saved by God’s grace

Absolutely we’ll be redeemed in that place

But what legacy will we lay at the feet of our Savior.

How will we explain our thoughtless behavior?

That day is coming as sure as the sea

As real as the sun, as certain as sand

But here we are.  We have this amazing chance to step up and serve

To leave everything on this field of destiny

To say it’s all about them.  It’s not about me.

 

The Man in the Arena

Perhaps the most repeated quote of the past few years, made famous through the excellent writings of Brene’ Brown is Teddy Roosevelt‘s anthem to those who dare to be in the arena:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.GettyImages-3246323-E.jpeg

This is true, especially for the Christ-follower. Scripture speaks of this trait through the lives of a myriad of saints who stories were told and untold. These are the unscripted lives of men and women who stepped out of the safe places into the the dangerous trappings of culture.We are reminded for the Warrior beside us with lighting in His quiver.

We are reminded in scripture of these heroes who rise up again and again in his or her moment of consequence.

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Here are a few verse of the sound like Teddy:

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Woe to the man in the arena who does not hear the roar. The enemy prowls the circumference of the area. Be alert, self-controlled, ready at all times.   You adversary longs to make meals of missionaries and fools of followers. What you are doing, even in the closets of prayer, is important work, even if no one is watching. You will face a reckoning of consequence there even before the critics notice.

Beloved, are you facing adversity? Take heed. It is not because you are deemed unworthy. The adversity exists. This is war. Don’t lose the fight in your bones.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

Whisper the mantra of Truth: He is with you. The enemy of discouragement weighs the believer down with doubt. Surround yourself with encouraging people who are in the arena with you and avoid those who are stuck in the sideshows of sarcasm and cynicism. Cynical people will never do anything more than spectate and comment on the battle. They aren’t in it. Avoid them or you will become one of them.

They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 1:19

We are not promised the absence of conflict in our lives. We are, however promised a Champion who is in the foxhole with you. I love how Eugene Peterson paraphrases Romans 8:

The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us?

Isn’t it great to have a big brother like Jesus?

I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.
Luke 10:19

We can walk over the things that we would normally fear. We understand that what is over us is infinitely more powerful than what is under us.