Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Teachable Moments

Last week I took a week of vacation. Well, a "stay"cation...well, actually, a "honey, we've got to get the basement tiled and you need to do it"cation. You get the idea. 

Needless to say, while on my knees all week, I had quite a bit of time to think, and to listen. It is interesting when we pause to listen to God, what he can teach us. (More on that in another post.) 

It's also interesting the opportunities, when we are looking, we have to teach others important aspects of the nature of God, the salvation God offers, or to simply share what God is teaching us. 

The other morning I was taking our oldest to school. We were talking about the seasons of the year and how winter is, far and away, my least favorite season. Then came the question that opened the door: Why? There are all sorts of reasons I listed: it's cold, it's muddy, gloomy, the kids have to stay inside (and thus are more likely to drive everyone absolutely insane - I kept that part to myself), just to name a few. Then, in a moment of clarity, I realized that God opened a door for me. 

Here is how the rest of the conversation went:
Me: You know what winter reminds me most? Everything is dead. That reminds me of my sin. All the things I do wrong are as ugly, more ugly, as my sin. Because of sin, I am dirty, my life is gloomy, and hopeless. But do you know what my favorite part of winter is? The end of it. I know spring is coming. You know what spring brings? LIFE! Trees start budding, flowers grow, grass turns green, everything comes back to life! That reminds me that my sin is not the end of the story. It's because of Jesus' death on the cross that I, too, have life. He forgives my sin, washes me clean, and gives me new life! That's why I can tolerate winter, because spring is coming. 
 My Eldest: Hmm.
No, there was no major conversion moment. We weren't rushing to the nearest body of water for a baptism, but it gave them something to think about. Seeds were sown. God alone can do the rest. 

1 Peter 3:15 says:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
The conversation could have gone completely different and I could have missed a teachable moment. (Full disclosure: I miss teachable moments ALL THE TIME. This was an instance where I was prepared and listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit. I don't want you to get the wrong impression.) 

There are opportunities each and every day that we miss with our children, our co-workers, the kids we coach, teach, those within our circle of influence. We miss opportunities to teach, to rebuke, correct, or train. 2 Timothy 3:16 (catching that there are quite a few powerful 3:16 verses in the Bible?) says, 
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
How to we ensure that we are prepared for opportunities?

1. Be in the Word. This is critical for every Christian. We will not hear the leading of God without the Word of God. Invest it in your life. If you need help learning how, ask me, ask someone, whatever you do, don't let more time go by without being in the Bible. 

2. Pray for opportunities. Ask God for opportunities to share the hope that you have. I will 100% money back guarantee He will provide. Be specific. If there is someone you know you need to talk with, ask God for opportunities with the person specifically. 

3. Speak up. With gentleness and respect, respond to the opportunities. Whatever you do, remember the gentleness and respect part. Imagine how differently my conversation could have gone if I simply said: "Winter reminds me of my sin and if I have sin I am going to burn in hell. You want that for your life, kid? You better straighten up your attitude then!" Imagine how scarring that could be! More damage has been done against the Kingdom of God by Christians who were arrogant, condescending, and rude. We have to remember that unbelievers are not approaching life with the same worldview as you. We cannot expect a non-Christian to act like a Christian. We can expect, however, a Christian to act like a Christian. Use gentleness and respect. 

  • As a side note for parents: Talk with your kids, especially in the car. Some of the best, and most intimidating, conversations are made easier in the car. You know why? You have no eye contact. You have no other option. It is often easier to have challenging conversations, you will also notice they will have an easier time opening up when they don't feel like you are staring them down. Take advantage of drive time. (Be prepared if they drop the bomb on you about something shocking...there are inherent dangers learning about these types of things while driving...1. Breath. 2. Brake gently if you must use your breaks. 3. Keep your hands at 10 & 2. This is not the time to choke anyone or to steer off the road. You get the idea.)
  • Don't force it. Everything doesn't have to be a "lesson." Pray for wisdom in choosing the right moments. 

4. Pray again. Pray that God will bring life. You can't do that. Only God brings life and hope. Allow All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God  may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. to be used by Him how He sees fit and trust Him with the results. 

I believe if we are actively and wisely listening and looking for opportunities, you'll see a whole new world before you. Look for where God is at work and join him. 

Image Credit

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

See Through - Part 2 (from the Archives)

Last week I talked about our tendency to live "fake" lives in an effort to put up the facade of perfection that culture seems to call us to.

If we're honest, sometimes we feel freedom in wearing these masks, hiding who we really are. But is that really freedom? How can we start living see-through lives? Becoming free from the "fake" starts in being content with who you are.

Being content with who you are is much easier to
say than it is to love. Contentment is very difficult to find and keep. Trying to put on the air of perfection and "fitting in" with culture or community can sometimes limit our freedom. We can become prisoners of our own choices.

Remember last week we talked about how our feelings of insecurity can cause us to:

  • Embellish our accomplishments at work. This creates the pressure to continue embellishing to impress our peers. (aka as lying and building on lies and we know what a tangled web that can be!)
  • Go into debt to get that house or car to "keep up." We find ourselves so strapped for cash that it adds undue stress on our marriage and families. We feel the weight of a responsibility we are not capable of handling on our own.
  • Faking our spiritual depth.
  • Shying away from opening our homes to others because we don't want anyone to see what we don't have or how we live.
All of these things can imprison us and limit our freedom.

What is the solution? Contentment. Ah...again, easier said than done.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11 - "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Paul faced public stoning, beatings, and imprisonment and that's just touching the surface. Yet somehow, we found contentment.

I would admit that early on in our marriage that Kari Jo and I felt the pressure to "keep up with the Joneses." It's only by the grace of God that we didn't get in over our heads with debt. But our desire to have the things that the people around us had could easily consume our thoughts and time and before we knew it jealousy and envy crept in and had the potential to damage relationships with those around us.

How do we find the contentment Paul speaks of?
  • Contentment comes with practice. It takes the determination to capture every thought and reframe it, realizing that there are blessings in your life. They might be different than you'd prefer, but they are there nonetheless. (There's also the other side of things...when we are envious of what others have, what's the liklihood that they are imprisioned by some of their own choices and the "perfection" you see in them is really just a mask? My guess...100% certainty.) The grass is always greener on the other side? It might do some good to stop and look down and see that you're grass is just as green, maybe just a shade different.
  • Throw off the "fakeness" that hinders you. I love Hebrews 12:1-2 - Therefore,since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw offeverything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us runwith perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, theauthor and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured thecross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
  • Remember that you are God's masterpiece created to do what He has prepared for you, not what He's prepared for someone else to do. Forwe are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which Godprepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

Let me leave you with this challenge...give living a see-through life a shot. Determine to not care what others think. It's not going to be easy at first, but I can assure you there is great freedom to be found!
This post originally appeared on this blog on September 5, 2012

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I can not change anyone, but I can love a few.

What does it mean to be “rooted in God’s love” on a daily basis? Jesus said: "The greatest commandment: 'Love the Lord your God.' The second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself."(Matthew 22:36-40) This is easier said than done, isn’t it? The more we unpack what this means as a church and as individuals the challenging it becomes. There are people that are easy to love. They’re the ones who love us in return, the ones in which we see spiritual change, those are the easy ones to love. I ran across the following from Craig Groeschel, he reminds us:


I am not God.
I am not the Holy Spirit.
I cannot change anyone,
But I can love a few.

Let’s give that a try this week without expecting anything in return.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Are you getting the point?

I used to have a poster in my office similar to this. It simply said, "If you're not serving, you don't get the point." It was actually an advertisement for a missions organization. The volleyball in the picture was filled in with a map of the earth. It was a reminder that our purpose in this life is to seek and save the lost. That, most often, happens through serving others. 

It was a really cool poster until they changed the rules of volleyball. (Thanks a lot volleyball rule makers!)

Though the saying might not be an accurate sports metaphor, it still has unmistakable spiritual application:

  • Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10
  • Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,    and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)
  • For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
Serving is not simply a "good idea," it is what we are made for. As we continue our "I Am A Church Member" series, I would say again, "If you're not serving, you really don't get the point." 

As part of our goal of becoming "rooted in God's love," we express our love for others in service. We've created a number of personal growth goals. When it comes to service, this is what it says:

I am aware of my unique gifts and am using them 
in service to share Christ outside the church. 

Let me give you some examples of what this looks like:

  • One of our small groups took it upon themselves to prepare and deliver 100 meals to people in need. (this is only the beginning - stay tuned for more)
  • One of our members picks up a 10-12 guys from the Healing Place to play basketball on Monday nights, an opportunity many of them would not otherwise have during the winter months.
  • Another small group has prepared food and delivered supplies to the Green River Ministries homeless shelter.
  • We have a group of men and women who consistently provide worship opportunities at the Taylor County Detention Center on Sunday's.
  • Diapers are being provided to the Crisis Pregnancy Center.
These are only a few of the things that are happening in the lives of people who are "getting the point." Church membership is quite frankly not about you. Life is not about you. It never has been. Maybe you've missed the point for some time. It doesn't have to stay that way. As the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:3-11:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 
Who, being in very nature  God,  
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature  of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Baptisms, Football, and Bill Nye.

It's a big week!

1. Yesterday during 2nd service something special happened. First, baptisms are always special, but, in my opinion, a father baptizing his child is beautiful. I hope I get that privilege one day. A very special moment!

2. Yesterday was the Superbowl and I couldn't care any less, but I watched it. Whether you're a Seahawks fan or a Bronchos fan you can certainly appreciate that there are some stand up guys on the Seahawks (I'm sure there are some that play for the Bronchos too, but they weren't featured on this "Making of A Champion" video featuring the Seahawks).

3. Tomorrow night Bill Nye (the Science Guy) is going to debate Ken Ham (the guy behind the Creation Museum and Answers in Genesis). The subject is simply this: "Is creation a viable form of origins?" Simple enough. I am very interested in the content of the debate, but what concerns me more is how we respond. No one will "win" this debate. Even among Christians there is such a widely varying opinion on the interpretation of the Creation account (most of which respect the authority of Scripture and are honoring to God) and that helps me realize this is not a problem to be solved, but a tension that we will always live in. Our responsibility is to act like Christians, first and foremost. People on "the other side" of the argument are not the enemy, Satan always has and always will be our enemy and his goal is to make Christians seem irrelevant and judgmental. I hope that we will not help our adversary out in our response to this debate on social media or in our public discussions

You can watch the debate live tomorrow night at 7:00 PM (eastern) right here.

Let's take our lead from the Apostle Paul in Colossians 4:5:

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.