I am Transient…

open-bible 2Over the past four months or so, I have experienced an increased sense of urgency in my life. A sense of urgency for the Gospel. In me was rekindled an awareness that life is short, death is certain, and then comes the judgment of God for every man.

Now in case you want to write this off as a doomsday article, hear me out. An awareness of the transitory nature of life is not in itself bad or harmful. In fact, it may be the antidote to procrastination.

Every school project I “put off” growing up…was directly related to the belief that I had another day to do it. I have always worked well with deadlines. Saying “get it to me when you can” is like saying, “If you never get to it, it is okay.”

I wonder if one of the contributing factors to the anemia of the American church is a sense of self-sufficiency and no sense of urgency?

The Psalmist thanked God for placing in his heart a sense of his own transience:

“Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am.” Psalm 39:4, NASB.

Truthfully, I think we would all live a little differently if we believed we only had a few and fixed number of days to live. I think we would live better, love more, and seek eternal blessing rather than the temporal distractions of comfort. Frankly, this does not appear to be a new observation. Throughout the Scripture we find a call to urgency and an indictment against pursuing temporal pleasures that wear out, rust out, or are destroyed by the curses of this world.

Today, live like there is no tomorrow. Do it for the Glory of God.

My Father Taught Me…

open-bible 2This morning I was reading in the Scriptures and came across this “nugget” that became a point of meditation:

“When I was a son to my father…he taught me and said to me, ‘Let your heart hold fast to my words; keep my commandments and live.”

Proverbs 4:3-4

Solomon is writing here to his son about the lessons of King David to Solomon. There are several things about this that resonate with me:

  • Fathers are, by design- teachers of their children. It is the father’s responsibility to teach his children, particularly in the area of relating to God. Honestly, by nature of the relationship, a father is always teaching…but it may not be the lesson he hoped to teach.
  • Fathers can only confidently teach what they have learned themselves. The reason many dads don’t take a more active role is that they have not devoted themselves to the deep things of God. They know the range and trajectory of their favorite hunting gear. They know the best lure to use for a particular fish. They know the most effective manner to accomplishing their tasks at work. Our relationship and understanding of God deserves no less attention and mastery.
  • A Father’s teaching extends to multiple generations. WHat you teach your sons and daughters will be taught to theirs.
  • Teaching your children is important. It is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that God directed it.
  • Many fathers feel inadequate to teach their children. As such, they desire to farm it out to experts like pastors and coaches and other leaders. We can farm out the task, but not the responsibility. Further, if we deal with our own inadequacy properly (but turning to our heavenly Father in utter dependence) then we will learn while teaching.
  • Finally, dads need to lighten up sometimes. You can’t teach your kids to be perfect. You have no experience there. Teach them to relate to God perfectly…which means to learn to depend on Him. Model dependence, repentance, and personal devotion. Show them how to apologize for failure/sin by quickly apologizing. Teach them to be dependent by being dependent.

My dad taught me a lot. Probably more than he intended to. I am thankful for that. I am also aware that not every son has a dad like mine. If that’s you, then hear me: “This is no excuse for your continuation of that legacy.” Choose today to change the course and step up to the responsibility God has laid on you. You are accountable to it anyway…you might as well take it seriously and do it right.

“I Can’t Help it. I am just that way.”

dalecThere is much to be said for the oft quoted saying of Dale Carnegie, “If you want to be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic.” It stands as an example of motivational approaches of numerous people including Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, Tony Robbins, and the great Zig Ziglar. All of these motivators offered the advice (in their own way) that how you speak of yourself affects who you become. If you give yourself good “self-talk” then you will see yourself as good. If you want to become something, you can “fake it ’til you make it.”

Now I certainly have shifted a bit in my thinking through the years. From my early days in sales when I “ate, drank, and breathed” Ziglar and Carnegie…to the place where I am today as a follower of Christ with a growing base of understanding about a person’s worth, I have seen “truth” in the underlying premise of the great motivators.

Our understanding (the internalized and driving assessment within us) of our ability and worth has a “shaping” affect on who we become. This is true in both a positive and negative light. If we see ourselves as devalued, we often will become just that. If we think of ourselves as “capable,” we will often demonstrate capability in an area we were once uncertain of.

Now I disagree with statements like “fake it ’til you make it,” because the diction gives an air of deceptiveness. At the same time, our view of ourselves can become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Furthermore, I believe the Bible itself speaks to this underlying principle in some degree.

The Apostle Paul said:

Philippians 4:8 (NASB95)

8Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

…and…

Ephesians 5:18–19 (NASB95)

18…be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

Colossians 3:16 (NASB95)

16Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

In the command, we are told to direct our speech in a positive way based on our understanding of a higher truth (the Word of God) and meditate on these things. We are told that this is possible because of the Spirit of God in us.

How does this facilitate a self-fulfilling prophecy? How we speak to one another and how we think of ourselves sets a tempo within us and among us. If we think we are “losers,” then we are already halfway there…even before the contest begins. Every “set of downs” will either bear this out, or delay the inevitable consequence (of losing) in our minds. If we think a tax audit is terrible, it probably will be. What if, though, we saw it as an attempt to find an error in our favor? What if…when we meet a difficult client and we know that we are one of three salespeople vying for the assignment…instead of assuming we will not get the job, we CHOOSE to think of our capability and how tough it is going to be on the others? Might our demeanor in the interview shift? (I say yes.)

Here’s truth to stand on and to leave (this article) with:

  • God gave you His Name after He sought you and adopted you. (1 John 3:1).
  • He knew you and did not see you as a liability in His economy. He saw you as valuable (giving His own Son’s life in exchange for yours).
  • He is in the process of doing a great work in your life for His own glory. (Romans 8:28)
  • The outcome of God’s work in your life is ALREADY determined to be glorious! (Romans 8:29-30).
  • It is impossible for God to fail or EVEN FOR YOU to thwart His plan (Romans 8:31-37).

Today, you can say, “I can’t help it. I am who I am” and see doom and gloom…or you can choose to understand and speak within yourself, “I can’t help it! I am who I am! I am a valuable, growing, work in progress committed to the hand of God who is working all things together for good in my life that I might reflect Christ to His own glory! God’s victory in my life is ASSURED!

 

Guaranteed to Fail

Open Bible 1This morning was a bit unusual. I woke up from a fairly sound night of sleep in the midst of a dream that was very unusual. I was no longer in pastoral ministry. I was working for a non-profit and was experiencing a tremendous time of worship AT MY WORK. So, after I woke up and was working through my first cup of coffee, my mind began to wander. I was DAYDREAMING.

Now I am not a “dream interpreter.” Sure, God can use a dream to reveal new or next steps in our lives. He could realign stars or write it on the sky with an airplane too. I am analytical enough to ask if there was some stimuli in my mind from the previous day that maybe I was subconsciously processing that led to this change in ministry assignment. Maybe I was thinking about the pace of incremental growth among my people at church. Maybe I was thinking about those through the years that have given up the “steak” of the Word and chose a liquid diet of “Your best life by Friday.” Maybe, I was just tired still.

Then it happened. I was in one of my morning devotionals and it referenced 2 Timothy 4. So, I diverted there and realized that…if I was not careful, I was guaranteed to fail. 

The Apostle Paul’s exhortation to his “son in the faith” (1 Tim 1:2, 2 Tim 1:2, 2 Tim 2:1) was simple. If you are looking for success the way most people measure it, you are guaranteed to fail. If success for you is a widespread revival sweeping across your City with hundreds of thousands of people burning their magic books and casting their idols into the depths of the sea, you are destined to fail. If success for YOU is watching every person who enters the doors of your church become clones of Billy Graham, Jim Elliot, or “Lottie” Moon, you are guaranteed to fail.

NOW PAUSE but don’t turn away yet. I know it sounds painful to read further. You may want to conclude that Chris is “depressed” and move on…looking for rainbows and lolipops. Maybe you should…or maybe, you could find out how Paul encourages his “son in the faith.”

In 2 Timothy 4:1-8 we find:

  • A Predicted Outcome (vv.3-4).People will choose paths of less resistance. They will want to feel good about it, so they will find teachers who make them feel better. Teachers that offer “six steps to being awesome” lessons. They will shrink back from the commitment associated with the Christian life by the droves. We also find…
  • A Prescribed Activity (vv.1-2,5). This is an authoritative and solemn charge from spiritual father to son… PREACH the Word, always, rebuke, convince, exhort…and do it with GREAT PATIENCE. Think clearly and correctly about what success is. Endure hardship. Do the WORK of an evangelist. FULFILL YOUR MINISTRY. Finally, there is….
  • A Promised Reward (vv.6-8). The reward is found in the example of Paul himself who says, “This is what I am holding onto.” I have been faithful to do all that I have instructed you above. I have run my race all the way to the ribbon. I have KEPT THE FAITH. Because of this, Jesus has laid up for me a victor’s crown of righteousness…but not for me only…also for all those who have done likewise.

 

Faithfulness to fulfill our assignments is the basis for reward. It is not outcome-based but activity-based in spite of outcomes. We are fine to have goals and pursue them passionately and we are exhorted to celebrate achieving goals when they are God-centered and God-honoring! Praise God! Another ten people saved! Another encounter where I magnified the Gospel!

Hey friend. Be encouraged today…if you are faithful today. Be encouraged today if you are doing the work and running the race assigned to you. Be encouraged today if Jesus is the only one in the stands cheering you on…and run all the way to the ribbon.

What’s YOUR Plan?

personal-planner-template_180Three weeks into the new year. How are you doing on your resolutions? Are you achieving the goals that you set and are you pleased with your progress?

If you answered, “No,” The reason may not be related to your abilities or personality or even opportunity. The reason may be your plan.

Your employer has a plan. He or she has an enumerated and measurable goal. It is broken down into articulable steps and progress is measured daily.

The politician on television has a plan. He is working on a specific timetable of when to tell you what he wants you to know in order to provoke you to act in a desired way at an election.

Retailers have a plan. They know that President’s Day will soon be here and we can have a furniture sale and use some of that tax return to purchase a new sofa on an 18 month “same-as-cash” (2.5 times the normal retail price) plan…and while you’re there and you’ve spent so little money…you can upgrade that bedroom suit too (according to their plan).

The fact is… all of these entities have plans and planning is not bad. It is good. It is very good. The question is, “What’s YOUR Plan?”

WEIGHT LOSS: 

What is your “dream” goal? How does that break down into daily activities? Which ones will you embrace today and schedule for tomorrow and the next day and the next?

SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT: 

Where will you go to church services on Sunday? What are you reading today? Which strategy for Bible reading have you adopted and what is today’s passage? Who are you sharing the gospel with? Who do you need to meet and get to know to answer the question of where they are in the area of personal faith?

SELF EMPLOYMENT: 

Just because there is not an employer demanding your “straight eight” (hours) today doesn’t mean you should not have a plan for them. What needs to be addressed? What defines success for you? How will you take steps today, tomorrow and the next day to move toward success?

HOUSEWORK: 

What does the menu look like today? How about tomorrow? Can you set out a menu for the week and go to the supermarket only once (instead of three times) this week? Did you look to see if there was coupon for one of the items? How about laundry…what day is that scheduled?

Honestly…you may have just said (as many do) that you hate the rigidness of a “schedule” or the “demands” of a WRITTEN plan. With a big smile and my sweetest “Dr. Phil” voice, “How is that working for you?” See, you need a plan to accomplish the necessary tasks to get you to your goals. There is a plan for your life…and if you are not the master of the plan for your life, someone else will be.

“Go to the ant, O sluggard, consider her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, she prepares her food in the Summer and gathers her provision in the harvest.” Proverbs 6:6-8.

The ant EATS in the Winter because she planned and acted in the Summer and the early Fall. No one told her. She had a need/desire/goal and made a plan to get there. Now, she has achieved the goal and is set for the winter. (Consider also the example of the P31 Woman).

Lest you look about in May still weighing the same, still with no sales or prospects, still struggling with an empty spiritual feeling inside…answer the question, “What’s YOUR Plan?”

Shalom.

Context Matters

Open Bible 1“He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” Proverbs 18:13.

My family and I have been traveling this MLK weekend. We drove out to Fort Hood to visit with my son and his precious wife. In one of our conversations, my son Dillon reminded me of a very important truth…Context matters.

It is easy enough to form a strong opinion about something we see on the news. We hear a perspective and dig in our heels on what we think happened and why. What’s crazy is…sometimes…we find out later that there was information we did not know when we came to our firmly held belief. Once this new information comes to light…we may shift our view.

This is true of politics and economics. It is often true of our observations of decisions that leaders make. It is true relationally. Someone walks by without speaking. We “assume” that the reason is “us.” As a result, we “decide” that we won’t put up with that and sever the relationship. If we had considered the circumstance from the other party’s perspective for a moment, we might have developed a different opinion.

True humility is demonstrated in our willingness to understand all of the fact prior to declaring our understanding. This is wisdom. Humility assumes that we might not have all of the facts about a relationship. Humility assumes that there is another angle to the story. Humility assumes there is a possibility that we are WRONG.

Wise men walk in humility. Wise men leave room to change their minds if new information surfaces. Wise men withhold opinions until they know the context. They seek context before declaring their position realizing that context is key to understanding.

Humbly choose wisdom.

Mr. Trump, Character should STILL matter!

150810-donald-trump-debate-743a_ded2a0af932f2c2332757273ea911da2.nbcnews-fp-1200-800Last evening, the candidate leading the GOP primary race, Donald Trump, made a visit to my fair city. The downtown was all abuzz with thousands of people piling into the civic center to hear from the man who, by many accounts, could be the next President of the United States. Honestly, I am a bit of a cynic on political campaigns because they are often scripted and “poll-tested” to the point that Joel Osteen could run for office and give you your best life by Friday.

On the ride home from a late meeting at the office, I listened to the live broadcast on the local AM Station. It is about an 8 minute ride and as I was driving I heard some of the most “crass” language I have ever heard from a political candidate for the highest office in the land.

Now before you “x” out of this article…give me 3-4 more minutes. I am not anti-culture. I am not an establishment Republican, a die-hard Democrat, or an anti-Tea Party subversive. I am a father, a husband, a pastor, a veteran and a die-hard patriot.

I am not even going to take issue with the SUBSTANCE of Mr. Trump’s platform. On many points I agree with him and on many others, I scratch my head, but am not opposed to him. I differ with him on a couple of things (perhaps) but I don’t think that will cause him to send the jet to bring me to his HQ to vet my ideas for a possible platform shift for his campaign.

My concern…that which causes my heart to struggle is more about “style” than “substance.” It relates to the internal drive of a man…both the man speaking and the man listening (and cheering him on). It is actually deeper thn style…but is an issue of character.

In my short listen yesterday, I heard “the Donald” drop 3 expletives about the audio system. The man who installed the mic, the SOB who did that should not be paid. If a man doesn’t do his job, I don’t pay the b_st_rd.

So we are not taking about little accentuating words that cause eyebrows to raise. This language, while possibly second-nature to some folks was used to illicit a response. Mr. Trump was trying to fire up the crowds! He was seeking to create a heightened emotional response! And his actions lacked CLASS.

The Office of President of the United States should be the most revered office in our land. The single leader of the greatest democracy of the world should be the classiest, wisest, most character-exhibiting figure on the planet. He should be one that parents refer to when they tell their children that they can be anyone they choose if they work hard and do the right thing.

The highest office in the land needs some class. It is time to hang our heads in shame over “cigar” jokes or when defining what “is” is. We should shake our heads over “beer-summits” for photo-ops. We certainly should have a man in the office that knows that language matters and has enough command of it that he can make a point without being crude or brash. Leading a crowd in a chant that we will have Mexico build a wall for us is not the same kind of leadership exhibited by another revolutionary leader who boldly exclaimed, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

By the way, I think Mr. Trump DOES have a command of the language and chooses his words quite carefully. His intent IS to fire up the spirit within many Americans that we need substantive change in our country. He is stoking up a revolution and I do not necessarily disagree with the premise. He is appealing to the most base desires within the people…an appeal to the emotional catalyst within us. The fact that this approach works, IS AN INDICTMENT ON OUR CULTURE EVEN MORE SO THAN ON THE MAN CAPITALIZING ON IT.

In case you’re wondering if this means that I would not support Mr. Trump for President against Secretary Clinton or Senator Sanders…you’re wrong. That conversation will take place AFTER the primary season. For now I think we who are FED UP with the reckless behavior of politicians should look for a voice with the message who also exhibits the character that is necessary to represent our nation well. In my opinion, Mr. Trump is not that voice.

Now HERE is a link to the rally in case you think I am overstating the case. It is long but bears out the basis of my commentary. If you feel differently, I’d welcome your input.