Archives For Life

My friends at The Point Church in Seymour, Indiana invited me to teach a 4-week series on the intersection of our faith and the work we do in the “secular” world each day. What God’s Word has to say about this subject might surprise you.

When we work, we “image” God, we cultivate His creation, and we love our neighbor. I hope this encourages you as your alarm clock goes off tomorrow.

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Last week I sat in a hotel conference room in Dubai for a three day meeting with the following list of people:

• The head of the Russian Pentecostal Church who oversees a Gospel movement that stretches across 11 time zones.

• The pastor of a multi-site South African Church of 30,000 people and two of his staff who are leading a Gospel-restoration movement that is transforming cities.

• A German church-planter and businessman who started 50 congregations throughout Deutschland and is launching business models to support them.

• The leader of an European ecumenical movement that is drawing hundreds of churches together across England for the sake of city renewal.

• The pastor of a 6,000 member Kenyan church and Bishop in the Kenyan Assemblies of God who is building self-sustaining revenue models through schools, housing, and retail that support his church and meet the needs of the community.

• The pastor of a massive Ugandan congregation that cares for 4,000 mothers infected with HIV and their children.

• Two French pastors that are having unheard of Gospel impact on their cities in a post-Christian culture that has long replaced Christianity with secularism.

• The President of a global-impacting missions organization and chairman of a major Christian University.

• The oldest grandson of a famous American evangelical preacher (you would know very well) and acting pastor of a large church in Florida.

• The 80-year-old founder of a global missions organization that has tangibly taken the Gospel to millions of children across the world.

• The pastor of the largest church in India.

• A half dozen other brilliant pastors, missiologists, and organizational leaders.

ª (Oh, and I can’t forget my “Pastor-preneur” brother-in-law who leads a fantastic congregation in Bloomington, Indiana).

Needless to say, I instinctively felt small. Very small. Even as I typed this list my flesh fought back the feelings inferiority. What am I doing in this room? What stories do I have to share that can possibly measure up to what these men are accomplishing? How will the work of my hands ever make that kind of impact? As we obsess and compare within certain circles, it’s easy to shrink.

But throughout the course of our three days together, various members of the aforementioned “superstars” (my word, certainly not theirs) shared insights on the book of Nehemiah, the tumultuous and inspiring story of the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls after years of lying in rubble. Each citizen was given a designated section of the wall to rebuild, and therein lies our answer.

Each of us has been assigned a portion of the wall to rebuild. Our portion.

When I feel small, it’s because I’m focusing on someone else’s portion. Someone else’s calling. Someone else’s work. My responsibility is to the work of my hands.

If you’re feeling small today, I challenge you to recenter your attention on what God has called you to. What can you touch? What can you impact? What can you restore? Because all of it – all of us – are vitally important to the overall work at hand.

Now get back to rebuilding.

RememberingToBeThankful

I never wanted to be the guy who lived vicariously through his kids, but suffice it to say, it happens. I was (rightfully) cut from my 7th grade basketball team (strangely enough, there wasn’t much demand for a slow white kid who couldn’t jump), so when my oldest daughter made the JV squad her freshman year of High School, I at least felt my Hoosier DNA had been mildly vindicated.

We’ve watched her blossom the last two years, not just as a player, but as a person. And the whole family has been so grateful for every unexpected opportunity:

Making the freshman team. Cheesy grin.

Those first JV minutes. Wide-eyed wonderment.

Her first points. Wow! How cool is that? She made the stat sheet!

And the thankfulness scale just kept tipping:

Dressing varsity. What an incredible opportunity!

A few varsity cleanup minutes at the end of a few games. Can you believe it? Our daughter is playing varsity high school basketball!

Making an impact on the court. Who is this girl? I’m so proud of her.

And then two weeks ago she came home with the craziest news of all:

“Um, dad. Coach said I’m starting Tuesday night,” she tried to mute her glee. “Ok, goodnight!” As she ran up the stairs, I couldn’t believe the metamorphosis we were seeing. Steady, faithful Emma, lacking in the years of playing experience many of the other girls had, was reaping the benefit of showing up, working hard, and giving it her all every time she stepped on the court. We were so grateful.

Two nights later, her mom and I pushed back tears of thankfulness as we watched her run through the tunnel formed by her teammates as the starters names were announced over the loudspeaker.

And then something strange happened inside me when I wasn’t even looking. 

Two games later she was back to the bench. “Coach said this team is really tall and we need more height on the post.” She wasn’t phased in the least, but I was.

My dad gene faked it. “That’s ok, kiddo. Every player matters to the team. It’s not about starting.”

( Inside though, my flesh was singing a different story. Why? She played so solid. What did she do to get moved back to the bench? Did she not play as well as I thought she did? What happened?).

In one short moment, my instincts shredded the long list of things we had been so grateful for for so long. My overwhelming sense of gratitude had become an ugly sense of entitlement. I forgot what I used to be thankful for.

Thank God for conviction of the Holy Spirit. If my kids only realized how many of the inspiring speeches I manage to concoct for them are really just God smacking me around. Somewhere inside, I found this truth:

“Every minute you get on the basketball court is a gift. If you play starting minutes, be grateful. If you come off the bench, be grateful. If you play 20 minutes of prime time, be grateful. If you get 3 garbage minutes when the game is already decided, be grateful. The posture of your heart is what matters. We deserve nothing. We’re grateful for everything. The most important characteristic you can carry in life is a spirit of thankfulness.”

I don’t know about you, but I am quick to forget the things I used to be thankful for. Gifts subtly transform into expectations when I’m not even paying attention. And when my focus shifts from thankful to entitled, I lose so much of the beauty in this life. I become completely obviously to the things that used to breed wonder and joy, and I set a course for disaster.

This Thanksgiving, what if we took some time to remember the things we used to be thankful for and let them overwhelm us with gratitude once again?

prayer

I’ve been praying this prayer every day for awhile now.

Not these exact words in a rote, memorized fashion. But this general heart cry, aimed at recalibrating my spirit in a vital way each day.

And it’s changing everything. Take a look:

“Lord, today I put You back on the throne. I put You back at the center. I so readily replace you Jesus. It’s not even conscious most days. I instinctively cling to other saviors that I fully know are powerless, yet in the moment they seem so natural and necessary.

Money.

Power.

Pleasure.

Control.

But it’s not just the “ugly” imposters, Jesus, there are some seemingly beautiful ones that take over, too.

Family.

Morality.

My job.

Sports.

My kids’ happiness.

Good things, even gifts from you, that slowly become my ultimate treasures. Things I can’t imagine living without. Things that I so easily allow to define who I am. Things that replace you, Jesus.

My heart manufactures these false saviors on its 24-hour fraudulent assembly line. And so today, Lord, I make a conscious effort to stop my insane manufacturing process. I repent and return to you. Forgive me and help me. Get me on your page today, Jesus. Lead me to your solutions, Jesus. Introduce me to your people, Jesus. Give me your heart, Jesus.

Everything beautiful cascades from my life through my connection to You. So today, I return again. To my only Savior. My only hope.

Jesus on the throne. Jesus at the center.

Amen.”

As I look back over the last year of posturing myself before God in this way, some subtly developed, yet definitive patterns have emerged:

• New Ideas: Exciting concepts and possibilities have suddenly been unearthed, ideas that are far above my creative pay grade.

• Unexpected Relationships: Dots have begun to miraculously connect, creating the opportunity for trajectory-changing partnerships.

• Surprising Opportunities: Out-of-the-blue phone calls have uncovered stunning new possibilities.

• Gut-Wrenching Heartache: Yeah, this is the part no one likes to talk about. But when I ask Jesus to help me destroy my false gods, I must be ready for a massive onslaught of anxiety, pain, discouragement, sadness, questioning, sleepless nights, failure, disappointment, grief, betrayal, and suffering. Putting Jesus at the center takes my life on a different journey than the one I saw in my mind. Sometimes in a major fashion, but always in a thousand little ways that destabilize the trust I had placed in anything other than Christ Himself. If you pray this prayer, brace yourself. Jesus doesn’t share His throne with others.

• Unexplained Courage: A boldness has emerged in the face of fear and suffering, a courage that can only be explained by Something Greater.

Jesus on the throne.

Jesus at the center.

Pray this prayer every day. I dare you.

The Danger of Chasing Happiness

admin —  August 5, 2015 — 2 Comments

I went looking for happiness.

She’s hard to chase down.

I pursued her down many hidden corridors and back alleys, occasionally catching the faint gleams of her beautiful hair blowing in the early morning light.

To no avail.

She was there, and then she was gone. She was there, and then she was… 

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No wait! There she is! A faint silhouette! Her shadow dancing in the soft glow on the stone path ahead. Just over the hill, I see her now. Keep pushing on!

So we climbed. Up, up, up we pushed, the hem of her dress just beyond the reach of my straining fingertips. Feet grinding, stomping, pushing desperately for solid footing to propel me higher and closer to the object of my desire.

Almost there. Almost. There. Almost….

Gotcha!

She collapsed beneath the weight of her passionate suitor. I had finally caught her! All those years of manic pursuit had paid off.

I had happiness. I finally had happiness.

I grasped her delicately by the back of her shoulders and slowly spun her graceful figure. I couldn’t wait to stare deeply into those beautiful, fulfilling eyes.

But oh, the horror!

Her face was distorted and mangled, and her eyes glared with a fiery hatred that sent fear deep into the recesses of my soul. I pushed her away in disgust. What is this?!

I pursued happiness, but I caught misery.

As I slowly regained my bearings, I looked back down the path we’d been so manically climbing, There laid the crushed remnants of joy, and friendship, and intimacy, and peace, crumbled beneath my feet as I desperately clambered after the happiness imposter.

You see, happiness is not a pursuit. It’s a byproduct.

Chase her, and you’ll never find her. Chase her, and you’ll find nothing but sorrow.

On the journey toward love, and service, and sacrifice, and adding value to the world – toward walking the path that puts loving God and loving others ahead of loving ourselves – happiness just shows up. She’s cool like that. It’s true. She always comes to hang out when you least expect it.

When you weren’t looking for her at all.

So what are you chasing?