Saturday, May 11, 2013

Do I want to know the truth?

I woke up this morning and I went out to my front porch to sit and be still.  God gave me the gift of simplicity as I heard the birds chirp and I watched the wind blow through the leaves on the trees.  I breathed in a deep breath and exhaled.  I felt God's presence in the moment.  I was reminded that I was not alone in the world...

I was then led to Psalm 139 and I read it.  Psalm 139 is a wonder-fully personal Psalm.  David starts by saying, "You have searched me, LORD, and you know me" in the first verse.  From there, David describes how God knows us and every detail of our lives.

I received great comfort knowing that the God who created and sustains all things cares about me.  The following thoughts flowed into my heart and mind:

God knows me.
God knows me by name.
God knows my fingerprint.
God knows my DNA.
God knows my strengths.
God knows my weaknesses.
God knows my biggest mistakes and he loves me nonetheless.
God has never given up on me.
God knows me.

The final verses of Psalm 139 include a prayer that I have prayed in the past but I was struck by it afresh this morning.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.   
 Psalm 139:23-24

This is a bold prayer.

I thought, "Do I really want to pray this prayer?  Am I willing to let God in... really?  Do I want to know the truth?"

I have come to realize that I guard myself.  Like most people, I recoil at the thought of being hurt by another person.  I have been hurt in the past and I know the painful feelings that come with being hurt.  I have come to see that I naturally guard myself even as I seek to reach out and connect with others.

This prayer, the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24, invites God into that guarded space and says, "I am open to your examination."

Do I want to know the truth?

If I truly trust God, then I will let him in.  If I truly trust God, then I will have faith that he will share with me what I need to know in a perfect way in his perfect timing so that I can grow and be transformed to be more like him.

Do I want to know the truth?

If I truly believe that God is the God who loves me uncondionally and has the best in mind for me and that he can bring that about in his perfect way, then I do want to know the truth.  I want him to share the truth with me - through his Word, through my relationships, through his creation, through everything.  I want to know the truth.

Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth witll set you free." (John 8:31-32).

I want to know the truth and I trust that God will set me free to be more like him...

- to love others in the way that he loves me
- to love what draws me to him
- to love myself in the way that he loves me
- to love what he loves and to serve others in those areas

I want to know the truth.

Do you?

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

How is Life like an Open Book Test?


How is Life like an Open Book Test?

I spoke to a friend yesterday who shared an insight that has been echoing in my spirit.  

We were talking about the role of the Bible in our daily lives.  More specifically, we were discussing the impact of Biblical truth on our specific decisions. 

He then injected the observation, "Life is not like an open book test because challenges and decisions come too quickly for us to stop and look up the answer every time."

His observation immediately brought some questions to my mind:
  • When is the last time that I took a test?  
  • How did I face the challenge of completing the test and getting the right answers?
  • If the test was an "open book test" then how much time could I take to actually look up the answers?

Life is like a test.  We face problems every day that require an immediate response.  We base our responses on our experiences and knowledge.  Sometimes, we ask for help from another person or a source of information if we do not have the answer.

If we look to God and his wisdom in the Bible, then we can receive insights into how to respond to the challenges in our lives and we can receive his help to enact the best response to a problem.

The challenge, however, is that we cannot always open up our Bibles in the moment.  In some instances, we may have the time to turn to God's Word and look up the wisdom we need at that specific moment.  In most cases, however, we do not have the opportunity to sit down, open up a Bible, locate a relevant passage and then apply it to our situation.

Life is like an open book test.  We have the resource to find wisdom for our challenges.  If we had an infinite amount of time, then we could locate the necessary wisdom and insights in the Bible.  The reality, however, is that we need to know the content and how it can be applied before we get to the specific challenge or problem.  

We need to know the Bible and how to apply God's wisdom.  

We need to know the God of the Bible and ask for his tutoring help in our lives.
This doesn't occur by engaging the Bible only on Sunday mornings or every once and awhile.  On the contrary, we will come to know the Bible through regular, disciplined reading and study.  Furthermore, we will cement our learning and connect our thoughts to our actions through sharing our God-given insights with others and putting them into action in our daily lives.  

Life is like an open book test.  

The book is available but do you know the content and how to apply it?

The tutor is available but do you know him and ask for his help?

Psalm 119:11 - "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."

Paraphrase - "I have studied, learned and applied your word so that I know it before going into life's (open book) tests so that I may respond wisely in an obedient way that pleases you."


Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Stirring...

I have had a stirring in my soul recently... 

Today, I took a moment to pray and ask God why I was feeling this way.  I waited and the following question came to mind, "Why am I a pastor?"

I wrestled with this question and my mind wandered to my life story - my relationships, my mistakes, my memories, my desperately lonely moments, my joyful times, everything.  I recalled God's interrupting of my life story with his grace and how he reset the trajectory of my life in a new direction.

I then recalled my time in seminary when God shaped a Biblical vision for the church through my studies, relationships and experiences.  In particular, I recalled my studies in Missional Theology and the vision of the church as the people of God sent as witnesses to engage every person with the good news of Jesus Christ.

I realized today that this God-given vision had somehow become cloudy in my heart and mind.

Mentors and leaders from the past shared with me how I could easily lose track of this vision during the daily tasks associated with full-time church ministry.  They cautioned me to resist "playing church" by simply going from one week to the next without letting God stir things up.

I received a wake-up call tonight. 

I don't know what God is going to do with this stirring in my soul but I am ready to find out.

There are hurting people all around me.
There are people who do not know that God has not given up on them.
There are marriages falling apart.
There are children who hate their parents (and parents who hate their children).
There are men who are trapped in pornography, alcohol and addictions.
There are women who feel isolated and lost without a true friend to walk with them.
There are those who have been hurt by churches (and pastors like me!)
There is a young generation that doesn't care about the church.
There is an older generation that is growing bitter because nobody seems to care.
There are hurting people all around me.

All of us need to know that God hasn't given up on us.
All of us need grace.
All of us need restoration...

Am I going to sit back?
Am I going to wait for someone else to act?
Am I going to choose to swim in mediocrity?
Or am I going to humbly get on my knees and ask God for his wisdom and direction for how to be a part of his mission to share his love with a desperate world?

I am asking God to raise up individuals and groups who don't want to "play church" but want to humbly look to Jesus for his direction in order to participate in his mission in this world.

I am stirred up.  

Are you...?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Startups and Fire-building


I love fire.  I love building fires.  I always have and I always will.

My love for fire-building is directly related to my passion for starting new ventures,  envisioning possibilities and planning/executing the outcomes.

A Home Example
Last week, I began to build a fire in order to roast marshmallows for S'mores.  Two of my daughters and a bunch of neighborhood children descended on the fire pit and exclaimed, "Fire! Can we help build the fire?"  I agreed to let them help and I instructed them to grab some firewood from the pile behind my house.  I then proceeded to create a basic log cabin framework for the fire.  Before I could stop them, the children ran up and threw all of their wood into the fire pit.

I saw a teachable moment.

I shared with them how to build a fire.  In particular, I described how we needed to start with the small tinder and then build up the fire. In my mind, we needed to start with the end in mind.  The specific end was a bed of hot coals that would be ideal for roasting marshmallows for all ages.

As I was sharing with the children, I realized that I was describing any new start-up venture. 

Start-up Ventures
Every start-up venture requires a vision and a strategic plan that constantly keeps the end in mind.  In many ways, leading a start-up venture is like leading the creation of a fire.  A fire requires wood (physical resources), helpers (human resources), a vision of a blazing outcome, a strategic plan for executing to that vision and leadership to orchestrate the effort.

The temptation in many start-up ventures is to seek to create everything at once.  Like the enthusiastic children throwing all of the wood into my fire pit, the natural human tendency is to look for immediate results with or without an intentional plan.  

Leaders of successful start-up ventures, however, orchestrate the physical resources and human resources to work together to realize a vision through executing a strategic plan.  The strategic plans requires decision-making that is guided and controlled by the vision.  In the case of a fire, the strategic plan involves knowing what type of wood to add at each specific point as the fire increases.  As the correct type of wood is strategically added at the right moment, the vision is realized.
  • How do you strategically approach start-up ventures?
  • In what ways can you orchestrate your resources (physical and human) to realize a vision through a strategic plan?
  • How do you see and experience enthusiastic helpers throwing all of the wood into the fire pit at once and how can you help them think & act strategically?
If you have resources and enthusiastic helpers, then that can be a blessing and a challenge.  The blessing is that you have resources and helpers.  The challenge is that you have resources and helpers.  The difference between success and failure in a start-up venture is how well a leader orchestrates those resources and helpers to carry out a strategic plan in order to realize a vision.

I love leadership challenges like this one.  I love building fires...

Let's go build some fires...

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Rejecting Mediocrity - Decide to Be Present

Every man needs to decide to be present around his wife and family.  The impact of that decision has both immediate results with the current family and life-restoring ripples for generations to come. 

What will you decide?

Every decision like this one requires intentional action and every decision for action requires accountability in order to follow through.

I gather with a group of men for something we call "MANera" at a local Panera Bread every Thursday morning.  One of the primary goals of our discussions and resulting action steps is to reject mediocrity on all fronts of our lives.  

This movement of men started with 5 men who were sick and tired of mediocrity in their marriages, parenting, leadership and overall life impact. We met to have "throw down" discussions about these areas.  Each discussion yielded a tangible action step to be completed during that week with a report back to the group. This call to action has reset the trajectory of numerous lives and has resulted in having 90 men gather for MANera a few weeks ago.  MANera is not your normal "men's ministry" gathering.

A recurring theme during the 2+ years of MANera gatherings has been the challenge of transiting home from a day of work or a business trip.  I have heard countless men share how they struggle with reentering the home world after giving it all in the work world. 

There are three primary reasons that I have heard from men in the group discussions.
  • I feel more in control at work than I do at home because I have position-given authority.
  • Family relationships are unpredictable while work tasks are predictable.
  • I am more alive at work because I see results while at home I experience frustration.
Stereotypically, men struggle with navigating the differences between work and home. Men oftentimes, whether consciously or unconsciously, give up on the struggle and the result is they check out at home.
In response to this challenge, the MANera men have generated a set of action steps over time to reject this mediocrity in their lives.  

Here are a few that have helped the men who have decided to be actively present at home with their families:
  • Decide on a specific place on the commute home that is approximately halfway home.  At that point, make the conscious shift from thinking about work toward thinking about home.
  • Decide to never enter the house while talking on the cell phone.  Decide to do this and then actually do it.
  • Decide to ask your wife, "How is your day going?" at least once during the day (phone call, text message, email, etc.) so that you have a better sense of her emotional mindset when you come home.
  • Decide to ask your wife about her day first before you share anything about your day.  Decide to listen to her and pay attention to what she is saying.
  • Decide to make eye contact with each person in your family as soon as possible upon entering the house and saying something (a word, a phrase, anything) that lets them know that you care about them.
Every man has to make decisions.  What drives and shapes your decisions?

A majority of men do not have an intentional game plan for reentering the home world after being in the work world.  We would all criticize a football coach for entering a game without a specific plan.  We would all criticize a leader in our businesses for entering a new year without a plan.  We would all criticize the military if they entered a mission without a plan.  What then lets us off the hook regarding our families?   
It is time to MAN UP, make a GAME PLAN and decide to BE PRESENT at home.

Make the right decision.

If you decide to disregard this, then recognize that your wife and children are thinking and feeling, "C'mon Man!" even if they don't say it out loud.  They are feeling it.

C'mon Man!  MAN UP, make a GAME PLAN, and BE PRESENT at home with your family.

Your decision to do this will have an impact on their lives and countless generations going forward.

Decide to reject mediocrity and be present with your family when you are at home.