Monday, December 3, 2012


 
 
Recently, I saw a photo of a New York City police officer kneeling down to give a new pair of boots to a barefooted homeless man.  It warmed my heart to see such a kind act being carried out in such a large, and often uncaring world.  The officer in that photo, Lawrence DePrimo, did not know that his act of service to this man was being photographed.  He simply saw a need, and met that need.  When interviewed about why he gave such a gift to someone he did not know, he said ““I didn't care about what the price was, we just have to help him out.”  Clearly, Officer DePrimo understands that the world is much bigger than himself, and that all of us will need a helping hand at some point in our lives.

I do not know Officer DePrimo, but I pray that he knows Jesus.  His acts so vividly portray what Jesus tells us in Luke 6.  Jesus tells that we are to give to those in need, to love those who may not love you back.  “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” (vs. 31). 

When I read this story, in the light of Luke 6, I am humbled.  How many times do I pass by someone in need, without any thought of helping them?  Sometimes the need around us seems so great that we feel like we could not possibly make a difference.  This photo and story is a reminder that to meet the needs of many, we have to take the time to help just one. 

 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Who's on The Throne?


“But the LORD sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.
The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.”  --Psalm 9:7-10 (ESV)

 I read this passage in Psalms early this morning, and was taken aback by how often I neglect this fact.  No matter what happens in our world, God has never left His throne.  He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.  Too often, I try to put myself on that throne...and that never works out well.  I worry, I fret, I…well, you get the picture…there’s too much “I” in the mix. 

I am reminded that I cannot do anything on my own.  I need to run to the stronghold, the rock that is Jesus, for my strength and guidance.  He tells us over and over that He will not forsake (walk away from) those who trust in Him. 

I found an old letter from my grandmother this morning.  Her closing remark was just a further word from the Lord this morning, “He always supplies our needs if we just ask Him, whether great or small.”  It never ceases to amaze me how God will speak from His word, and then affirm it with wisdom from Godly people in our lives.  Even though my grandmother is now in heaven, her words of wisdom still hold true.  I pray that you will see God’s love in the scripture this week!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Down the Dark Path...

While studying in the book of Judges this morning, I was reminded of how serious God takes our obedience to Him.  If Israel "did evil in the sight of the Lord" (Judges 4) and were punished by God, we Americans should not be surprised that God is allowing our nation to suffer the way it is.

Regardless of who is in "leadership,"  our debt is soaring, our people are trapped beneath piles of credit card debt, and massive healthcare costs.  Gas, food, and utilities are increasing at an alarming rate.  We continue to see deadly violence and hatred spread throughout the country.  Workplace shootings have almost become commonplace on our news networks.  American households have a 48% rate of divorce (higher in Christian families), as well as record numbers of people who claim to be suffering from depression.

We have wiped out an entire generation of Americans through abortion, and we deny God in schools, in government, and at home.  We allow leaders (on every level) to lie, cheat, and get away with all kinds of unGodly behavior.  Why then, are we surprised at the devastation around us?  We, as Christians have sat in silence while our country walks down the dark path that leads away from God.

Now, more than ever, we need to remember God's words in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14:

"13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place."

We must do more than pray.  A national day of prayer will not "fix" our nation.  God calls us to "Pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways."   That requires action on our part.  We must stop allowing ourselves to be okay with the sin that entangles us.  We must be different...even when doing the right thing is not in line with popular opinion.  We must take our direction directly from the Scriptures...not from famous pastors or entertainment personalities.  These people have their place in leadership (if they are actually following the Bible), but each of us has the responsibility to be God's hands and feet to this world we live in.  We MUST live what we say we believe.  Then, maybe God will begin to heal our land.  I pray for that healing....

Monday, September 24, 2012

Have you prayed for a missionary today?


Hello online friends!  I want to take a minute to ask you to lift up some folks in prayer.  In recent days, I have heard from many friends throughout the world, who are serving as missionaries with the International Mission Board.  I have heard stories of great spiritual victories, about new discipleship groups forming in tough places, and new Christians growing in the faith.  These are very exciting times, as we see the Gospel being heard by so many unreached people groups!
 

However, if you have been around Christian ministry for long, you know that with great progress, you can also expect greater attacks by the evil one.  Along with these stories of great triumph, I also hear stories that remind us of the unrighteous and dark world that we live in.  Our missionaries face some pretty incredible situations in the field.  Dealing with foreign governments, religious (non-Christian) opposition, language & culture barriers, as well as the challenge of running a ministry can be overwhelming.  Couple these with taking your family to a distant land, often as the only Americans in the area, and you can see why we need to pray for them!

 
I thank God that He calls men, women, and children to take His light to the nations!  How can we be a part of their ministry?  Well, in a few ways.  First, please pray for these missionaries.  Second, give to our missions offerings, such as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.  This goes directly to our missionaries on the field!  Third, get in contact with one of our missionaries.  There is no better way to find out about their needs, and how to pray for them, than by talking to them directly!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Are You Proud To Be An American?

I don't know about you, but this election year has been particularly frustrating for me.  No, this is not a rant about who you should vote for, but a by-product of all of the stuff coming across through all forms of media.

Americans are being told that we should be ashamed of who we are...where we came from...and the values that established our country.  We are told that we are power-mongers, oil-mongers, and war-mongers...that we should be apologetic for the success of American business, and taking a stand for nations like Israel.

Somehow in all of this "politically correct" nonsense, we have lost the sense of pride that we once had as Americans.  I heard it during the Olympics...that maybe we should continue to cut out certain sports from the Olympics because we are simply too dominant.  Case in point, softball was cut from the Olympics, some say for this very reason.  I heard American newspeople suggesting that maybe we needed to do this to make it fair for other nations.  Seriously?  Why should we Americans shrink back from the rest of the world, just so they feel okay about themselves?  That's just nonsense...

We have made ourselves hostages of our own odd need to be viewed as politially correct, and non-offensive.  Our leaders continually apologize to other nations...which does what?  If we truly had wronged a nation or people, that would be different.  However, just because we are a nation founded on Biblical principles, by Godly men...why should we apologize for that?  Like it, or not...that's who we are.  We take God out of our history books, out of our schools, and out of our government, and expect to stay blessed by Him?  Make no mistake, we are the greatest nation in the world BECAUSE of the blessings of God, not because we are better people than everyone else in the world. 

For the first time in my life...I hear young men and women talking about the dark days ahead in our country.  I see people disallusioned by the political mess on the federal, state, and city levels.  Corruption, dishonesty, and manipulation seem to be the standards that our leaders portray.  Where did the pride for our country go?

Tonight, I was at a football game here in Austin, TX.  One of our youth sang the national anthem with her school choir.  As I stood facing the flag, listening to that anthem I was reminded once again that we live in the greatest nation on this planet.  Our flag should remind us of all of those who have fought and died so that we could have the freedoms we have right now!

I would love for our young people to understand that sense of pride that our veterans have when they talk about our country.  That twinkle that comes in their eye when you talk to them about how much they love the United States.  These men and women take our freedom seriously...so why don't we?

No matter what your political views are, all it takes is a trip out of our country to understand just how great it is here in America.  Sure, there are great places to visit in our world, but none of them compare to living in the United States!  I sure am proud to be an American!  We make mistakes...no one does everything perfectly.  However, I hope that you will all vote this November...take your freedom to elect our government seriously!   Praise God for the United States!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Hipster Church

Hipster...this term is being bounced around a lot these days, and probably many out there have no idea what a hipster even is.  Honestly, I'm not even sure self-proclaimed hipsters themselves really know for sure, but urbandictionary.com defines it this way:

"Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20's and 30's that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter."

It goes on to talk about how "Hipsters reject the culturally-ignorant attitudes of mainstream consumers, and are often be seen wearing vintage and thrift store inspired fashions, tight-fitting jeans, old-school sneakers, and sometimes thick rimmed glasses." 

Getting the picture so far?  Now before my friends and former students who may fall into this category defriend me on facebook, I'm not here to bash the "look," or the generation that falls into this category.  I want to talk about this movement in the church.  A movement that is really not new, or one that can be solely atrributed to this generation.

I'm not talking about the clothing styles.  Those styles come and go....and come again, and go again.  :)  I am talking about the part of the definition where it says, "that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter."  We have seen a continual movement in churches towards a liberal, or in church-speak, "moderate" position over the past couple of decades.  What do I mean by that?  Churches taking down crosses for fear of offending someone, sermons are watered down to the point that Scripture is a mere afterthought in regard to the delivery, word crafting, and ability to inspire.  Granted, all of these things are necessary parts of a good message, but they should not overshadow the Scripture.

Music has, and will continue to be a part of this movement.  It's easy for us to sit back and cast stones at the "younger crowd," who are exploring new types of music in worship, and forget that just a few years ago, we were doing the same thing.  The worship movement of the 90's really showcased our generation's "independent thinking, counter(church)-culture, and progressive politics.  Many of us were sure that we had to show the older generations how church worship should really be done.  Remember the church splits, ruined relationships, and battles within churches over music?  Did we REALLY usher in a new outpouring of the Spirit with our music, or did we just adjust the church to fit our own more "progressive" tastes?  Sure, change is necessary in any organization.  The church must adapt to the culture that we live in, but how far do we take that?  At what point did we cross a line that maybe we should not have?

That line for all generations should be the Bible.  It is a book that has guided the church since before Jesus walked the earth.  When we ignore what the Bible says, and do church our own way...we are being prideful and disobedient.  We are reflecting our own image, rather than that of God.  By holding up "independent thinking, counter-culture" people, we tend to see people basing their theology (or how they believe) on their own personal convictions and opinions.  While we may get some noteworthy causes from this line of thinking, the end result is a prideful worship of our own selves.  We think we know better than God, Himself.  The "Love Wins" mentality is the case study for what I'm talking about here. 

This is not about bashing a generation, plaid shirts, thick-rimmed glasses, or even skinny jeans (not my favorite style, I'll admit).  This is about pointing out our need for constant leadership and direction by the Lord, through the Scriptures.  Call it "emergant," call it "hipster," call it "traditional," call it whatever you like...the point is that over the past few years, we have ignored and forgotten the quiet humility that Jesus displayed while on this earth in favor of what we think is acceptable.  His ministry was not about what his clothes looked like, what type of music was played at church, or being accepted by those who were "In" as the popular opinions in Jewish culture.  He simply lived with the love of God, and made disciples as He taught the Word of God...while proclaiming the holiness and fear of God.

Instead of focusing on what is wrong with the church (not hip enough...etc.), can't we focus on what the greatest NEED is in our world?  Point blank, our world is in desperate need of some pure Jesus, and to know the will of God...as He taught us in the Bible.  Maybe we need to quit labeling generations and groups, and just call ourselves Jesus Followers.  Live by the Bible, love like Jesus, and long to see others know Him in the same way!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Whatever happened to our Witness?

After a recent discussion on facebook regarding the movie "Magic Mike", I've been giving the subject of our Christian witness a lot of thought.  First, what exactly is our witness?  Your witness is how the world around you sees Jesus through your actions.  The last thing that Jesus said to his disciples was

"...you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." -- Acts 1:8 (NIV)

In Matthew, Jesus tells us:

 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."  -- Matt 5:14-16 (NIV)

Jesus never intended for us to be like the sinful world that we live in.  We are expected to stand up for HIS truth (the Bible), for HIS standards, and to live a life that does not cause others to stumble...to think poorly of our Savior.  When we do what's right, we are not going to be popular with the world.  Jesus reminds us of this in John:

"18 "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." -- John 15:18-19 (NIV)

Why all of the scripture?  Too often, we base what we believe on our own opinion of what is good, and what is not.  Friends, this simply CANNOT be the way that we live our lives?  Jeremiah tells us that "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?" -- Jer 17:9  When we can be easily fooled by our own hearts (i.e. minds), then what do we rely on when we need to make a decision, or whether or not we should be involved with some activity?  Obviously, for a believer in Jesus Christ, our standard MUST be the Bible.

I have been dumbfounded lately as I've read through posts on Facebook, articles in the news, and listened to countless conversations regarding the movie "Magic Mike," and the book "50 Shades of Gray."  Listening to people justify watching and reading pornographic material does not work when you read the scripture regarding sexual sin. (Eph. 5:3, Col. 3:5, 1 Cor. 6:13, 1 Cor. 6:18).  I'm sorry, but it needs to be said....if we are justifying sin in our lives as Christians, we are dead WRONG!

Before anyone claims that this is merely a soapbox about a movie and a book, let me assure you...it goes much deeper than that.  I cannot log onto a social media site without seeing all manner of my fellow believers promoting and engaging in things that the world does not see as Godly.  Countless pictures of Christians proudly hoisting their drink at the bar, while their status talks about church on Sunday.  Seductive, scantily dressed poses in pictures...all in good "fun."  Reposting quotes, pictures, and videos with foul language, sexual humor, or degrading comments.  You get the point.

Why is this such an issue?  Friends, because it blurs the line between Christians and the world that we live in.  If non-believers cannot see any difference in our lifestyle, then why would they ever feel the need to investigate Jesus?  We are CALLED to be different...we were COMMISSIONED to be the light to this world.  Why then, are we making allowances for sin in our own lives?

It is time to stop being led astray and knocked off course by every temptation that is thrown at us.  Satan knows that if he can keep our attention on ourselves, and our relationship with God marred by sin, that he can make us ineffective witnesses.  Stay in the WORD....Pray....and most important...love the people around you enough to live a life that reflects Jesus in every way!

Don't fall into the group of people described here...your witness matters!

"There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them."  -- 2 Tim 3:1-5 (NIV)

I must decrease, so that HE may increase!

Monday, May 7, 2012

What Motivates You?

Seriously, what motivates you each day?  A paycheck, your family?  For me...it can be rather sobering to think about.

“Good” vs. “Great” things in life.  After mulling that topic over for the past week, God really hit me this morning with another big word…Motivation.  Webster’s defines motivation as “a motivating force, stimulus, or influence.”  What influences me to do the things that I do?  When I am trying to sort between “good” and “great” things in my life, what helps me make that decision?  

Proverbs 3:5-6 tell us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.   

 Too often, I motivate myself, based on my own desires.  While what I desire may be a “good” thing, I may just miss that “great” thing that God had in mind.  This quote from Oswald Chambers really hit home with me:

"All that we build is going to be inspected by God. When God inspects us with His searching and refining fire, will He detect that we have built enterprises of our own on the foundation of Jesus?" -- Oswald Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest)

What I am continually learning is to stop acting based on my own motivations, and learn to acknowledge God in all my ways, so that He show me the “great” paths in this life!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

News for the Non-Newspapered


This was TOO GOOD not to pass along in it's full format...not my words, and credit is given at the end....enjoy...:)


"News for the Non-Newspapered

Imagine you are a journalist at a small-town newspaper. Because of the size of the operation, you not only initiate stories, but write them up as a reporter, and then help distribute the paper to those interested in getting a copy.


Your paper has around five thousand readers.


One day it occurs to you that while you have five thousand readers, you live in a town of over fifty thousand people. So while you are reaching a large group, it is far from the majority. Over forty thousand people are not reading your news.


You decide to reach them.


But how?


One thing is clear: designing, and then marketing, a newspaper to people who demonstrate no interest in reading the existing newspaper presents a challenge. You can’t simply do what you’ve already been doing. If it was working, they would already be readers.


You decide to go with some “blue sky” thinking, freeing yourself to reflect on the situation in ways you may never have considered before. After many hours, over many days, you come to three significant understandings:


First, you realize you are not really in the newspaper business, but the news business, and thus you can be free of older, traditional “newspaper” formats and pursue newer, more contemporary mediums.


In other words, you realize you are in a similar situation as the old railroad barons who were confronted with the development of the car and truck. When automobiles came along, the railroad companies were uniquely poised to take advantage of the new breakthrough. Instead, they fought it, clinging to trains as if that was their business. They failed to realize they weren’t in the train business at all, but the transportation business. If they had made this realization, they would have led the way into the new century. They didn’t.


This leads to your second insight: It isn’t news itself that people are rejecting, but way that news is being offered. News in print is not as up-to-date, convenient, portable, accessible, or cheap as news online. This is the day of the internet, and content is increasingly preferred to come to iPads and smart phones.


You see, as never before, that it’s not the message, but the medium; it’s not the content, but the delivery. You are free to convey the news in whatever medium seems best.


Finally, you understand that because of the tsunami of news and information available to the average person, you have to find a way to gain their attention. You don’t want to become akin to a tabloid, and you don’t want to give up the importance of serious journalism. But somehow you have to find a way to gain a hearing, win their loyalty, and then earn the right for them to read the more thoughtful, challenging pieces you’ve given your life to convey.


This means you will have to find out what news is considered relevant to their life, and then use that interest to create lead articles that hold value for them. This will encourage them to delve deeper, and expose them to a wider spectrum of events that are more critical for them to know; even more than they realize.


You know there is much more to understand, but you have a new sense of true north, a new freedom to innovate, and a new set of challenges that never occurred to you before.


Now, imagine you are a pastor at a small town church…


James Emery White"


Editor’s Note


James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is A Traveler's Guide to the Kingdom: Journeying through the Christian Life (InterVarsity Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Good...vs. GREAT


Do.  Doing.  Done.  We use these words a lot, don’t we?  What I’m about to do.  What are you doing right now?  We have done some great things, haven’t we?  The Lord has really convicted me lately about the motivations behind the things I do.  I realize this may be sounding like a tongue twisting passage like that in Romans 7:15-17, but stay with me, and I think this will all make sense. 


There are a lot of “good” things in this life.  Activities, projects, even church things that are wonderful, often necessary things.  However, there are very few “great” things in this life.  I would assume that most of us would rather do the “great” things in life rather than just “good,” right?  How do we know a great thing when we see it?  Most of the time, we will miss them on our own.  We must rely on the Lord to guide even our smallest steps.  When He speaks, we have to be ready to move.  Otherwise, we may get distracted by something that is more attractive to our own desires, rather than God’s.  I know that I am guilty of doing the things that I enjoy more than the things that I do not.  But what if God is wanting to push my boudaries a bit?  What if He is not satisfied to let me just stay the same? 

None of us like to be out of our comfort zone.  We prefer the safety of our own corner of the world.  I like to surround myself with "good" things, but I must admit that many of the "good" things that we do seem a bit hollow. 

I turned 37 last month.  I have no idea why, but this is the first birthday that really got my attention.  30 didn't bother me, 35 was no problem...but the realization set in this year that my "I'll do that someday" thoughts needed to go away.  I have been a part of some amazing things so far in life.  Grew up on a farm and ranch, went to an awesome university, married an amazing Godly woman, was given two beautiful daughters, that's just the personal highlights.  God has allowed me to be a part of some amazing ministry over the past 20 years.  Mission trips to far points on the globe, ministries right here at home, watching youth catch the vision of Jesus, and so many things that I do not have time to mention here.  At 37, I could start taking it a bit easy, and admire the things that God has allowed me to be a part of.  I could look back forever....and live like Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynomite.  "We coulda won state in '82!" 

I love where I came from.  I love being who God made me to be.  But I do NOT want to live in the past.  I want to be a part of what God is doing right NOW!  His greatness being shown to a dying world is my greatest desire!  This passage has really hit home with me lately.  Hope it speaks to you, as well!

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does.”  -- James 1:22-25 (NIV)


Monday, April 23, 2012

Strength


Where is your strength today?  We are constantly bombarded by ways to make our bodies “stronger,” to “strengthen” our retirement fund, or shampoo ads that tell us how to have “strong” hair.  We see the word so often that we often find ourselves believing that our own strength is up to us.  If we go to the right gym, retirement planner, and make proper choices in the shampoo aisle, we should be “strong,” right?  Of course, this is false…but where does true strength come from? 

Webster’s defines strength as:  the quality or state of being strong, capacity for exertion or endurance, or the power to resist force.”  Honestly, being strong on our own is a complete illusion that man has come up with.  None of us can be strong at all times, and in all situations.  From the strongest athletes or the brightest minds in our society, to those regarded as “lowly”…when it comes to our spiritual condition, we are ALL weak.

 Throughout the Bible, we see kings and queens, prophets, servants, and even Jesus himself seek and find their true strength in the power of God.  Like King David, we need to remember that the true source of strength in our lives is the Lord.  I pray that you find comfort in shelter of the Almighty today!

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.   The LORD is the strength of his people;  he is the saving refuge of his anointed.  Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!  Be their shepherd and carry them forever.” -- Psalm 28:7-9 ESV

Monday, April 2, 2012

Do You Worry?

Do you worry?  I mean seriously…do you?  Sure, we know that we are not supposed to worry, so we call it other things.  Concern, doubt, fear, heartache, uneasiness, apprehension are all terms that we use to replace the word “worry” in our everyday lives.  I confess that have my share of worry in my own life.  It is when I find myself in the midst of a very trying situation that I begin to let these thoughts consume me. 

I have heard the term defined in this way, “Worry is telling God that He can’t…”    Another source shows the root form of the English term worry to mean, “to strangle, or to choke.”  When we make the decision to worry, we are making the judgment that our problems are bigger than God is.  Our lack of faith “chokes” out the power of God in our lives.  Jesus tells us this:

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.”  -- Luke 12:22-23 (NIV)

 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” -- Matt 6:33-34 (NIV)

I need to be reminded that my focus MUST remain on God, and not the things that the world tells are important. God must show me these important things!  I think of this quote from Francis Chan quite often.  It’s words are so true!

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter.” – Francis Chan

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Choosing to Cheat

If you are like me, the first time I saw the title of this book, I did a double-take.  As a youth pastor, I am constantly talking to our students about NOT cheating on tests, homework, etc.  We know we are not to cheat on our spouses, cheat to get ahead at work, etc.  So, when another youth ministry friend recommended this for me to read, I reluctantly agreed.  I must say that I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) at it's actual content.

The basic premise of the book is that, especially in ministry, we choose to "cheat" our families and ourselves out of quality time...all in the name of "ministry."  Sure, our families know that getting phone calls at 3:00 AM, going to four different graduation ceremonies, and getting home late are generally pretty normal for what we do.  Because we know this fact, I think we often have the tendency to excuse missing time with our families.  After all, I am doing this for the Lord, you know.  Seriously...that's about like Nacho Libre labeling a bag of chips "the Lord's chips." 

We are called by our God to love our families, to lead our families...not leave our families in the name of good things.  I know that my life can easily become overrun with "good" things, and when that happens, it is usually the GREAT things that get neglected.

The challenge of "Choosing to Cheat" was a valid one.  Not the best book I've ever read, nor did I agree with everything in it.  However, it does uphold what I see to be a Biblical standard for men...ministers, or not.  Choose your wife, choose your kids first.  Choose the GREAT over the good.  No, use this as an excuse to neglect your job.  That isn't Biblical, either.  Just remember to keep your priorities in line....God first, Family second, everything else after that....

Monday, March 19, 2012

This Ain't My First Rodeo

I grew up on a farm and ranch.  Might be hard to believe, but I did.  Our family had a ranch on the caprock, cattle, horses, tractors, you name it.  For my seventh birthday, my grandpa showed up with a horse...that was for me!  Now, this wasn't a pet to lead around on a leash (halter as it's really called).  It was for me to use and enjoy around the farm (meaning I had to do work, too).

Over the next few years, I got to know that horse (her name was Cocoa) very well.  I knew what she was going to do before she did it.  I could tell if she was tired, grumpy, scared, or whatever.  I learned to ride on that horse, and learned a lot about herding cattle, even riding up and down the sides of the caprock.  She was a very dependable, and even-tempered horse.  I knew what to expect every time I took her out for a ride.  Knowing her tendencies let me focus on what I was doing with the cattle or watching a fenceline.  Her reliability  was easy to take for granted.  Cocoa was a great horse.

After a few years, though, her age began to catch up with her.  By the time I was in early middle school, arthritis had set in, and I could not ride her much.  One day we were rounding up our cattle to do some work with them.  As we were pushing toward the house, I saw one of the cattle bolt off in the wrong direction.  Now, this was not uncommon, and it only took a few seconds with a horse to head them off and send them back in the right direction...usually.   Due to my horse's condition, I had to ride one of our other horses named Stoney.  We had owned Stoney for several years, and he was more high-spirited than trusty old Cocoa.  He was also quite a bit taller.  However, I wasn't too nervous...and we were not going far, so off we went.  The one thing that my parents and grandpa had told me about Stoney was not to let him take off too quickly (running), as he would get excited and start bucking.  I knew this...I had been around him a long time...I knew this.  However, when I saw that cow take off, my instinct kicked in and I spurred Stoney  and took off to head off the cow.  I realized my mistake about 3 seconds later, as I felt his gallop turn into a buck...  If you have ever been on a bucking horse, then you know...it's not exactly fun.  I held on for quite a while, but he just didn't stop bucking.  Finally, I just let go and found myself hurtling towards the ground.  That hurt...it hurt a lot, and I'll never forget it.

After a few days of mending...my dad and grandpa did something that I'll never forget.  They took me to the corrals, and there stood Stoney, all saddled up.   They told me that I needed to get back up on him and ride for a bit.  Of course, after my last encounter, I wasn't too eager to oblige them.  With some coaxing, I found myself back in the saddle, and riding Stoney.  Did I trust him?  No way...but I was not scared of him anymore.

My dad and grandpa taught me a very valuable lesson that day.  Yes, I had been hurt and scared by that horse.  But they taught me that when (not if...but when) you get thrown to the ground, you HAVE to get back up and go again.  Otherwise, you end up cowering in the corner, afraid to experience anything.  I loved to ride horses...I still enjoy it.  So, letting the one bad spill that I took ruin me from something I loved would have been crazy.  I'm sure it was hard for them to put me back on that horse, but I sure am glad that they did.

I no longer have a horse...and I no longer live on a ranch...but the lesson I learned back then is so relevent in every area of my life.  I love my family, but I'm going to fail as a dad/husband in some area.  I love working in church ministry, but at some point, the church is going to throw me...or I'm going to fail in my responsibilities.  Life will throw you much like Stoney threw me that day.  Many times it will be painful, embarrasing, and hard to handle.  It may be the result of a misake on your part, or through no fault of your own.  Whatever the case, how will you handle yourself?  Will you stay down?  Will you walk away?  Or will you get up, dust yourself off and try again?

Don't let one (or maybe a few) thing stop you from doing what you love, from doing what you are gifted and made to do.  I needed help getting up that day...just like I've needed help getting up from hard times in life since then.  I'll never forget my grandpa running over and picking me up off the ground.  I'll also never forget the times that the Lord was there to lift me up, often through fellow brothers in Christ, after a tough spill in life.  So no, this ain't my first rodeo...(honestly, never really got into rodeo)...I've been thrown a few times since then.  However, the lesson is the same...don't let a fall, discouragement, trials, you name it...keep you down.  Life happens when you get up off the ground.  Stay focused on Jesus...and He will always be there to pick you up.