Category: daily surrender


so this issue, that moral truth is highly subjective & cultural, has been a talking point for people for quite some time.  it’s on the lips of political candidates [when it suits them], it’s water cooler talk [if there is such a thing anymore], &  it can be a dividing point for many people.

but, in a recent article by johnathan merritt, he explores the possibility that it may be, at least for now, in a downward trend [good read, he is a very engaging writer].  his premise is built on the cultural trends in media; movies, social circles & the like.  and i think there’s some verifiable merit to that line of thinking.  but my thoughts went down other paths as i came to the end of the article.

if the culture is bent, for now, on setting the boundaries [to some degree] of what’s good & what’s tolerable, what’s right/wrong or otherwise; that seems like a precarious situation.  my belief is that when God isn’t involved in that process it can lead to some pretty dark places.

one caveat to put out there – when we seek the unadulterated truth for the sake of truth we end up with God at the center point.  if, on the other hand, we’re seeking something that looks like truth to simply validate our line of thinking or behavior then we’ll concoct any belief system that props it up.

now back to the larger point…

as a follower of Christ i firmly believe that love is our greatest asset & the one that Jesus uses consistently in His life on earth.

so if the world at at large is beginning to rejoin the moral truth conversation again, i know that i must be very careful to not react too harshly toward their desire to reconnect to the unchanging truth of what truth is; God-mandated, Christ-centered, relationally-bound, and a host of other hyphenated words we could list here.

i’m convinced that if i, as a Christ-follower respond with the love of Christ that eventually people will find God at the end of the road.

yes, there are times & places when the truth is spoken in louder tones.  but it is never spoken with hate & discrimination as it’s fulcrum.  there are times when love is confrontational.  but never at the expense of someone’s dignity, devaluing them as less than whom God-created.

this premise of mine, love as the highest value, is one that i’ve written about before & firmly believe that this is the cornerstone of God’s church being a more vital part of the cultural landscape, a relevant stop of people as we continue to figure out what this life is supposed to look like.

do be someone that’s full of grace, a person of great hope & one who leads with love.

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PS_0720W_DUMB_THINGS

recently we’ve been working through what it means to be generous & how how closely a life of grace/graceful living is tied to our generosity.  and let’s be clear, generosity isn’t just about your money.  that’s a component, but it’s not the whole story.

so this line of thinking, conversation & teaching connects to another thing that i’ve been writing about here, and that is the idea/way of living; “doing dumb things”.

this is something that’s been brewing in me for the past couple of years & i’m beginning to get it out in a couple of different venues.

the premise here of doing dumb things is about the things that God calls us to do that look to those outside of relationship with God to be dumb.  they don’t make sense financially, don’t have the resources, don’t have the talent, don’t have the personnel.  if you’ll indulge me, that list reminds me of the time elaine runs the peterman catalog & puts the urban sombrero on the cover.  jerry then reminds her that she had “no brains, no ability, no training.”  essentially saying that she had no business doing what she was doing.

anyways, back to dumb things…

the call of God on our lives to pursue, to go, to do certain things is going to land us in places that are way over our head; and that’s by His design.

in the underlying tones of doing dumb things is the activity of generosity.  i am a firm believer that God, when active in our hearts, is calling us to give more of ourselves away; to be generous with all that we are.

through this recent teaching series 3 things showed up right away in relation to our generosity & the activity of God’s people

grace shows up in the people of God when we:

walk in humility

turn toward the hurting & oppressed

die to self

if you’ve been following Jesus very long at all there’s nothing new here.  but when we consider how these reflect weather or not we’re living generous lives, that may be some new territory in our hearts.

now the reason that this works into the “doing dumb things” issue is this;

when we respond to the call of God on our lives individually & as a church body God will call us, push us, urge us to give away what we have in ways that to the one not connected to God is going to look at & ask “what the heck do you think you’re doing?”  and it may not be in that soft a language.

and their question from a self-preservation line of thinking makes a lot of sense.  but when we get our moved by the the Spirit of God all of the common sense in the world, guided & defined by the world doesn’t come into play.

i have come to fully believe that the grace we exhibit to others is reflected in our ability to be generous with all that we have been given; talents, time, finances & more.  God is going to ask you to be more generous than you & have thought possible, and it’s going to be a beautiful thing when we respond to the invitation & the graceful nature of our hearts is revealed.

love as the highest value?love value [blog]

in the non-church world i think many would agree that this could be the highest value to pursue.  i have a working theory that in the world, in america specifically, we care more about money than we care about anything else; but that’s another conversation.

so love, that makes me feel all warm inside, & YES!! we should pursue love above all else.

but in the church…as followers of Christ…is this the highest value?

shouldn’t the pursuit of Christ be the highest value?

what about worship to God?

how about correct doctrine & theology, that’s certainly most important?

the list could continue for a while…

while it’s true that sound doctrine & theology are important,

and worship of God & all that He is matters greatly,

and we should always find ourselves in pursuit of Jesus Christ in all we do.

if we simply look at the life of Jesus [dangerous] we see that all He does is motivated by & through love.

the woman at the well…

zacchaeus’ redemption…

His walk to the cross…

i think sometimes that we get concerned about making sure the “whole” story of God is told.  and when we focus on something like “love” aren’t we then leaving out some important details about what God wants from your life & mine?

i think that can happen.  which is why it’s so important that the church you’re a part of is teaching the totality of God’s word.  but a beginning point, a motivating factor & daily, life-long pursuit is the love of God & how that impacts the world we live in.

i’m a firm believer that when we, no matter the station of life we’re in, pursue truth we end up at the feet of Jesus.

if we’re looking for a way to justify our lifestyle, we’re not seeking truth.

if we’re trying to find a way to do something that stands in direct opposition to God’s word, we’re not seeking truth.

 

if anything gets in front of our ability to love, we’ve begun the descent into a life, a church, without Jesus at the center.  we’ve decided that our preferences are of greater value than the people Jesus loves…the people that we’re supposed to love.

so love as the highest value, pursue it!

men-holding-ladder-funny-picturesthis idea is something that’s been rolling around in me for a while now.  probably because of the things that are going on around me.

no, this isn’t a call to do things that are just plain stupid or risky to personal health.  and it’s not a  reminiscing of younger days when i didn’t seem to care about life or limb.  but instead, this is an acknowledgement of the calling & pursuit of the things that God has placed in your heart.

so this is probably going to be an on-going series for this blog. it’ll pop up every now-and-then as i’m working out some of the details of what it means to “do the dumb things” God asks of us.

so some definition of the “dumb things”

the definition of these dumb things shows up in the activity i have found myself in; specifically in the activity of church-life.

right now i’m working with two small church, in what’s referred to as a duel charge; trying to help two struggling congregations see & pursue a new future that is missional in mind-set & bent on pursuing God instead of what’s been comfortable for far too long.

in the process of landing with these two churches, and the pursuit of missional thinking & activity, one of the churches landed on an outreach meal as a way of revitalizing our connection to the community, specifically to the neighborhood in which the church is situated.

now keep in mind that part of the reason i’m working with these two churches at the same time is financial.  neither church has the budget to support a pastor full time.  to put it simply, there’s no money.

as we investigated the possibility of hosting a meal at the church, realizing that we had a fully functional, licensed kitchen, and with the financial requirement that it would take to host a free meal once a month it was obvious…if we really felt like God was asking us to pursue this endeavor He would be the one that provides the way to make it happen.

so upon applying for & receiving our first grant we launched supperCLUB.  since that first meal in sept.2012 we’ve served over 5000 meals, moving to twice a month with the meals.

now here’s the dumb thing of doing this:  there is no logical reason for a church of 40-50 people, who haven’t made their small budget in many, many years, who cannot even afford to pastor to be around full time should try and maintain feeding 60-80 people twice a month.  so i found myself saying, “this is a really dumb idea, us doing this thing of trying to feed people in need.  this is such a dumb idea.”

but when not a dime of church funds has been tapped to help make supperCLUB run…

and when each time we have needed a new freezer or refrigerator is needed…

and when the supperCLUB fund has run low…

each time there is a need, God shows up…

a grant coming through to provide funds…

a private individual coming & giving a check for supplies…

…a group that we didn’t even know about, noticing what we’re doing & offering a financial gift…

and here’s the qualifier for “dumb things”:

the are only dumb things

through the eyes of the world

that doesn’t understand how God works

these are dumb things when we try to calculate the loss & expense without looking at the lives that are drawn closer to Him, who can ultimately save their souls & provide a new life here on earth.

we are called to follow a God who created the universe & created us;

have relationship with a perfect God, who wants us even when we’re not perfect;

a God who stays close to us even when we stray from Him;

a God who came to save us before we asked Him to, who told us He would do just that, and then we killed Him;

and even after He was dead, defeats death & instead of turning away from us, still wants us in the same fashion as before…

that all sounds ridiculous, in fact it sounds like a dumb idea; but it’s still true.

so here we are, in the pursuit of the dumb thing that glorifies God.

this issue has been brewing in me for a while now…bill-of-rights there are a host of difficult issues at play with the activation of the religious freedom act.

 FEAR

both sides of this issue have fear as a motivating factor.  for those that believe on one should be with-held services because of their sexual orientation through the lens of religious belief the fear could be placed at the feet of the question; “what’s next?  who are they going to bar next?  don’t i have the right to eat & sleep where i want?  isn’t this a free country where no one shall be unfairly judged or mistreated because of their nationality, creed, etc.?” the fear coming from the other side of the issue may sound like this; “if we, who morally object to this lifestyle, are forced to set aside our beliefs what’s next?  what will they take away next, our right to freely gather, our right to worship our God without mistreatment & persecution?” for the follower of Jesus the conversation, for me, begins in the wrong place. Jesus tells His disciples [and us] to not be afraid.  to let go of our fear, to trust in Him.  i kind of wonder, as one who is a follower of Christ, that our fear [Christ-followers] is a simple lack of faith that God has all things under His control.

 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

-mk.4:40

 something’s that at stake here for us all, is the answer to this question:  will you & i live in fear with what might happen if…? if we get under the surface at all that’s much of this is all about.

“are we headed back to segregation?”

“what will the government make us do next?”

“is this the end of religious freedom?”

“is this the end of my personal freedom?”

WORRY

are you, am i [as a follower of Christ], willing to trust in God that He has it under control? Jesus was very explicit that if we followed Him it would get tough [putting it lightly – He actually said we could die].  but that struggle, difficulty, persecution doesn’t mean that God had let go of the wheel & mayhem is on the loose.  it simply means that the struggle continues & government, no matter it’s form or goals, does not have the last word. “but what about the WORD of God standing tall?  don’t you want that?”   of course i  do.  but judgment is best reserved for God and God alone. accountability for actions is served best in the context of relationship.  picket lines & petitions don’t allow for any relationship & draw lines of one side against another; and i’m just not that interested in doing that.  i’m more interested in the love i show & how it reveals the work of Christ in me, broken & hypocritical as i can be.

 LOVE

as followers of Christ we are continually walking a thin line between demonstrating the love of Christ & doing whatever we want.  i saw a facebook post earlier this week from a friend when he simply reminded us that Jesus hung out with the prostitutes, tax collectors & those who partied too much.  and in the eyes of the religious elite, ruined His character. Jesus’ time here on earth was spent with those that the “church folk” didn’t want to have anything to do with.  and all Jesus does is spend time with them, offering them a chance to have a relationship with God. a God they may not have known. 1283-Indiana-Religious-Freedom-Restoration-Act-Frequently-asked-questions a God they may have felt abandoned by. a God they were not invited to know. we all have a tendency to get our rights all mixed up in all kinds of things.  as a follower of Jesus my rights take a back seat to the real call on my life; to love well.  Jesus tells us that how we love communicates whom we follow, so He says love others in the same way He has loved us.

 there is no fear in love. but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. the one who fears is not made perfect in love.      

1jn.4:18

 so our worry & fear stand in the direct path of God’s working in the midst of the muddy, murky water of life.

 FINALLY

the whole truth of how this all plays out is yet to be determined, but i have said this for a long time.  i believe that it’ll be settled by the wallet & not much else. we like money more than we like almost anything.  and this decision will have a financial impact on indiana more than the religious or LGBT community. when our wallets are affected we become different people, almost entirely regardless of our beliefs & convictions.  we have placed a great deal of importance on money & the false security it provides…

…but that’s probably a topic for another time.

so in the mean time love well, in the manner that Jesus loved. lay your worry to rest; and don’t let you fear be your spokesperson.  that guy gets enough air time.

neuroscience

i was just reading an article in leadership journal, it was from summer 2014 [i’m a little behind in my reading!] & the cover story caught my eye.  it’s one of those God-moments that you best-not ignore!

recently i’ve been drawn back to some thoughts & next steps for the churches i lead & it’s all been revolving around the issue of discipleship; & the question “how do we do this better?”

that question really is at the heart of it all is related to size & depth.  i have no interest in leading a church of 100, 150, 200 or more if we’re spiritually shallow.

have you ever tried to carry a cookie sheet [one with short edges; you may have to go back to your grandmother’s cupboard for it] filled with water?  not easy, darn near impossible!  it’s not a lot of water, but it’s so spread out on the cookie sheet that the smallest mis-step spills the water all over.cookie sheet & water

 

that’s a picture i’ve had with me related to spiritual depth of a church for a while now.

the health & impact of a church on its community is largely tied to its spiritual depth & health; not just its size.  it’s true, size matters, but depth matters more.  we could be a mile wide & and an inch deep; and with that you’re not getting anything of significance done!

 so back to that article i was reading…

it was written by john ortberg & entitled “neuro ministry – how brain science informs discipleship

we now understand more about the brain than we ever have in human history.  we understand the way the brain works & categorizes things, creates patterns in thinking & doing tasks.  and these understandings can have profound impact in many facets of life…if we take note.

here’s one of the big take-a-way’s i had from this article as john was talking about patterns & habits that we form:

 “a habit is a relatively permanent pattern of behavior that allows you to navigate life.  the capacity for habitual behavior is indispensable…learning to type or tie shoes, drive a car is hard;

so many little steps.  after you learn, it becomes habitual.”

 these patterns of doing the little, everyday things neuroscientist call “chunks”.  we operate, largely out of chunks of info. & patterned behavior.  this has a huge spiritual dimension to it as well.

ortberg  goes on to reference paul in romans 12:2

“…the renewing of your mind.”

he suggests that paul; without really knowing precisely what he was talking about when he wrote that phrase, but informed by the Holy Spirit; hit the nail on the head!

when we allow God to renew our mind we are, in effect, allowing God to “re-chunk” our habits & patterns.  surrendering those bad habits, destructive relationships, poor decisions & the like to God.  replacing them with habits that honor God, tap into the health of a deepening relationship with the Creator.

coming back to that God-moment of recognition, as God is calling me to till up the ground of discipleship, it’s paramount that we understand that we’re heading into a time of re-working our physical efforts & drawing people into intentional conversations.  but there is some serious “brain work” that’s going to happen as well.

so the big question for us is actually quite simple:  are you willing to allow God to do some “neuro-work” in your brain?

the decision to remain the same & not change is an easy one; your brain doesn’t have to do anything new.  the decision to experience change & shift requires new thing; new “chunks”.  the question is, will you allow new neurons to fire & then change the course of your life & the lives of others?

THE LEAK

leaking-faucet

i have to give credit to whom i think these thoughts came from.  i believe i first heard this idea of the leak from ron martoia a bunch of years ago at a conference.  much thanks to him for first putting this into my spirit.  i then took the basic principles of that teaching & condensed it down for a student leadership camp & added a few extra pieces

“we teach what we know, we reproduce who we are.”

                                                        -John Maxwell

The Leak Defined…

The Leak is the thing that flows out of us when we are not looking…

IMMUTABLE LEAK LAWS

#1   we all leak [it cannot be contained]

#2    leaking cannot be faked or fabricated long-term

#3    the leak of one can have impact, but the leak of the group impacts more

“the leak is more profound and pervasive than anything we teach.”

-ron martoia

“those positive attributes, actions, or attitudes that you model in EXCESS, those who follow you will perform in moderation.

conversely, those negative attributes, actions, or attitudes that you model even in moderation, those who follow you will perform in EXCESS.”

-Kurt & Lori Salierno

“remember your leaders, consider their way of life & imitate their faith.”

                                                                   -Hebrews 13:7

this is an issue of discipleship & leading others.

so, what are you leaking?
        is it worth following?
                are they following?

wonderful article on the call to unity through students we may never meet.

“We Are All Rwandans” by Christopher Heuertz.

looking-for-something1-305x305interesting bit of learning lately…

in romans 10:1 paul says that he’s praying to God for the salvation of the israelites.  this is interesting on a couple of fronts…

one > that word “praying” can be understood as beg

when was the last time you begged God for the salvation of anyone?

i mean you really put some “beg” into it?  that you were so hard up for someone to find Jesus that you pestered God to the point He might just hit you with that proverbial lightening bolt we sometimes think He’s carrying around?  that you couldn’t leave Him alone about it?

yea, me too.  i think our prayers don’t involve a lot of begging.  at times, yes.

healing, free from cancer, free from painful/difficult/abusive situations.

but begging God for salvation?  maybe it’s been a while.

so maybe that’s something that needs to happen in our churches, that we need to start begging God to bring people that don’t know Him into the churches where they can be discipled & mentored along the way.  beg God that He would create a problem of too many disciples & not enough disciple’rs…and that He would then do something about that problem too!

second thing of interest > paul is begging God for the israelites….yea, go ahead & think about that for a minute.

aren’t the israelites supposed to already know God?  aren’t they the “chosen ones”?  don’t they already know the words to all the songs & know how this religious thing is supposed to work?

and there it is, the thing paul wants us to pay attention to:

you and can be around all kind of “God” stuff your whole life, and still miss Jesus

just go ahead & substitute “israelites” with “church-folk” & we understand that paul is talking to us.  he’s praying – begging – God for our salvation.  because he knows that there are lots of people in synagogues [churches] that have been doing the “church thing” for most/all of their lives & they don’t know Jesus from an electrical outlet.

and here’s what i’m afraid of….

…that it’s all true.

the reason i’m afraid is that the church is loaded with people that have a relationship with their local church but lack a passionate love for Jesus,

and that’s what He’s really after.

so the question is this; do i just have a relationship, connection, bond with my local church?  that is to say, do i show up when they meet & do stuff when they ask & give when the need is high?

[which are all good things]

but in the midst of all that i don’t have any outside-the-church connection to Jesus?

if so, what needs to change?  how does that get corrected?  do we really want to correct it?

if you & i do really want to correct this pattern i offer no quick-fix solutions & “done in an hour” remedies.

what i do offer is simply this; commit yourself fully to giving more of you to Christ each day.  spend time in His word.  if you have a smart phone this couldn’t get any easier.  there are loads of bible apps to download to your phone with reading plans with settings & reminders that pop up for you.  the only thing you have to do is read it.  God is deeply desiring to connect to us through His word, so get into it.

thing 2 – find out what needs to be done @ your local church & do it.  but don’t just do it just because.  understand what whatever you do with your hands, mind, heart is to be done with the intent/understanding that you’re doing it to/for/with the image of God.  and if your church can’t come up with anything that great for you to do find out what’s lacking in your city/town/berg/village & do that in the same manner…in fact, that might be the place to begin.  serve your town as if you’re serving God Himself.

don’t simply dive into church stuff & miss Jesus.  don’t spend your time immersed in busy-work or church-life or even family life & miss Jesus.

He has loads to show us & beauty to uncover & challenges to guide us through & pain to over-come and, and, and…

 

we cannot do both.  if we try to do both it drives us nuts & it’ll end badly.

eph.3:20

“now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us…”

if we really believe this to be true of us as individuals & as a church [that’s all of us belonging to different churches under the banner of Christ] do we act like this?

we want to, desperately, answer this question with an absolute “YES!!”  and i think we answer the question believing in our hearts that the answer is truly “yes.”  this verse has the invitation to thrive in this life & not just focus on the life to come.  the truth of how we answer can show up in our practices & ways of operation.

something that i’m observing lately is the impossibility of thriving & surviving both at the same time.

here’s what i mean…

if we’re going to to all, exceedingly more through Christs we have to be willing to let go of our “we’re just barely making it” mentality.  for some of us this mentality is where we’ve lived for so long we don’t know any other way to be.

“we’re broke, don’t spend anything”

“we’ve never done it that way before”

“what if this doesn’t work”

“what if they don’t show up”

and there’s something significant that happens…

calcification of new ideas [creative arthritis]

when this happens other dominoes start to fall.  and as a result we are no longer seeking to thrive & grow & become this thing that God is trying to reveal in us.  at some point we decided the best thing to do was to cut our losses & just try to ride out the storm.

maybe this will be a helpful picture…

i’m not a horse rider, & have been on a horse a few time in my life.  but what i have noticed is the relationship to holding the reins & the horse moving.  i may need to check my facts on this, but i don’t think you can spur the horse on to move/run/jump/navigate the trail & at the same time hold the reins back.

while it’s true that there are times for survival & a tightening the reins. a ‘we’ve just got to get through this.” mentality.  but at some point the rebuilding needs to begin.  a re-structuring takes place.  recovery must happen.  we cannot afford to loose sight of what it was like to thrive & be & do something significant.  and if we’ve forgotten about those days, it’s time to connect with someone who does.  and if no one is around who remembers it’s time to re-cast a vision for tomorrow.

important point: remembering the significant things of the past do not entail a return to those things.  it’s just important to remember when survival wasn’t the only thing that mattered.

here’s another thought that’s just occurring to me.  history will record what happened; it always has & always will.  so you and i & our time here will be recorded.  i don’t want the things that i did & participated in to be thought of as missed opportunity & potential wasted; a missing of God’s call.