Monthly Archives: February 2013

Why the little things might matter!

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Someone once said, “Life’s too short to sweat the small stuff!” If by that they mean it’s better to live our lives in the present, instead of trying to live in the past, I would agree. If by that they mean some things are just not worth getting upset over, again, so true. But if they were implying that the “small stuff” is always inconsequential, I would disagree.

If you don’t think small things matter, you’ve probably never tried to sleep in a room with a mosquito.

MosquitoCertainly, too often we let things matter too much that really shouldn’t matter. Sometimes we do, indeed, make a mountain out of a molehill (to use another worn out cliché). Just as often, however, we tend to ignore some important small things that do deserve our attention, but we blow them off like they’re no big deal.

For example, the fact that I’m a slob who drops his socks on the floor right in front of the dirty clothes hamper rather than inside it might not really matter at first. It’s no big deal. However, about the 100th time it happens, that little thing becomes a big deal to my wife.

One small ding on my car door from a careless person in the parking lot is just one small blemish. No big deal. But a hundred dings become a noticeable dent.

I had a conversation with a guy recently who told me he didn’t like a negative comment I made about Victoria Secret commercials. He thought I crossed the line in calling it soft porn. His exact words were, “It’s no big deal.” I asked him how his wife felt, and he said, “I don’t know” (translated, “I don’t care”).

I’m not trying to be a religious prude, but a little look here and little peek there can lead to a much bigger problem, it’s called lust. And for the record, there’s nothing little about lust. Jesus, in fact, called it sin.

When it comes to doing kind things for my wife, she always appreciates the big things I do for her, but she deeply values the many little things too.

Little things like . . .

Opening the door for her.

Holding her hand in public.

Calling her from the office at least once a day just to say, “I love you.”

Texting her when I’m on my way home.

Just little things. Yup! But the angel is in the details.

So how do you know what really matters? When are the little things truly no big deal and when are they potentially a very big deal?

Here are some ways to measure what matters:

1.            Ask and listen. When in doubt, ask your spouse or friend, “Does this matter to you?”

2.            Be a good fruit inspector. Take some time to honestly evaluate the fruit (i.e. results) of your actions.

3.            Does it matter to you? If so, it probably matters to others around you. The biblical mandate is to treat others the way you want to be treated.  (Luke 6:31)

4.            Did the stockpiling of what you thought were little things lead to some serious conflict?

5.            Has the ignoring of little things resulted in any desensitizing on your part toward sin or the feelings of others (remember the frog in the kettle)?

By no means am I suggesting that we become worrywarts who constantly fear that some little thing might become a huge problem. But it’s wise to stop from time to time and reflect, “Am I living in a way that demonstrates the kindness and love of God to those around me? Are there some things I’ve ignored that I should pay attention to for the health of my relationships?”

Be wise. Be careful. Don’t let a pesky relational mosquito bite you!

 

 

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Let it rain…

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Rain

I love the sun, but it takes rain to grow
I love the good, but it takes pain to know
That pain is a teacher, not an enemy, but a friend.

The strain makes me stronger
The agony makes me deep
The lessons of this moment come as I weep.

And through tears of confusion
And cries of great grief
It is there I discover His presence, His peace.

This valley is not long
Your suffering but a shadow
My strength becomes yours
His whispers are hallowed.

Hold on, hope
Stand firm and stay true
My promises are yours
My Words will come through.

So let it rain, let it come
Bring the pain, He will reign
For in the distance, I still hear the train.

The train of His glory
The train of His love
The train of His presence coming down from above.

Yes, I love the Son
But it still takes rain to grow
So I let Him reign, because now I know.

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The Dangers of Pulling the “God Card”

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You’ve heard it many times and so have I, “The Lord told me . . .” And that response is supposed to quiet the critics or explain some bold leap of faith.

“The Lord told me I married the wrong person and that I am to divorce my wife and marry so and so.”

“God told me to quit my job and start an Internet business.”

“Jesus is calling me to Bora Bora as a missionary.”

CardsDespite the fact that the Bible is clear about how God feels about divorce, what they “heard from God” trumps everything in their opinion.

Regardless of the reality that the guy starting a new business has zero financial savvy or business experience, because “God told him” we’re suppose to smile and jump on board.

Because “God has called them” we’re expected to get behind the people wanting to go to the mission field and ignore the truth that they have no formal training. We’re supposed to disregard that fact that the only experience they’ve had as a missionary was a short-term trip to Mexico.

Now read this next part carefully, I do believe God still speaks. I know the value of that “still small voice” of the Spirit. Many times, I have personally “heard the Lord” in my heart giving me direction. Biblically and historically, those who’ve heard God call them to something way beyond themselves have done many amazing things.

So let me be clear: I believe in listening to and following the Spirit’s guidance.

But I also know that many crazy things have been done in the name of the Lord. I’ve seen lives, families, and ministries destroyed because something foolish and wrong was executed under the “Thus Saith the Lord” banner.

So are there any guidelines we should follow when people think that they’ve heard from God? Are there some Biblical safeguards that we should exercise when we think the Lord has spoken to us? And what can you say to someone who pulls the God card as if that’s the end of the conversation?

Good questions. Great questions!

Here are some things to consider:

1.            Is it Biblical? What does the Bible have to say about it?

Trust me on this one; God is never going to contradict himself. He doesn’t say “I hate divorce” or “No one should seek a divorce except in adultery” and then tell you, “It’s okay, she’s not really who I had in mind for you, go ahead and marry your secretary.”

God’s never going to tell you to lie, cheat, steal, or abuse. If it’s clear in the Word of God, then that always trumps anything you think you’ve heard.

2.            Is it wise?

God is a God of wisdom. He’s given us his Word that is full of truth and wisdom. An entire book of the Old Testament (Proverbs) is pretty much dedicated to helping us operate in godly wisdom.

Yes, there are times when what God asks you to do will contradict the wisdom of this world, but functioning in his wisdom is always wise. Simply put, God might ask you to do something completely out of the ordinary and apparently crazy at times (like Gideon reducing his army from 30,000 to 300), but it will not be unwise (like starting a business when you’ve got a track record of financial mismanagement).

3.            Is it confirmed by godly elders and pastors in the Body of Christ?

Any one of us can find friends to support our crazy ideas. Some of us are master salesmen who can talk our wives into just about anything (been there, done that!). It’s fairly easy to surround ourselves with people who like us enough to back us up.

In 1 Kings 12, there’s the story of King Rehoboam. He made a huge mistake in “rejecting the advice the elders gave him (as he) consulted the young men who had grown up with him and who were serving him” (1 Kings 12:8). In the end, things didn’t end so well for Rehoboam because he only listened to his friends and pals.

Every major decision I’ve made in my life and ministry that ended well came in the context of wise and godly counsel from my pastors. They are people who know God, know me, and know wisdom. They have worked with me, and they know my strengths and my weakness. And they are unafraid to speak the truth in love to me.

The writer of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 13:17 (NIV), “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” The Bible expects us to submit to godly authority in our lives.

So let me wrap this up by encouraging you to listen to God. Expect him to lead and direct you by his Spirit. Be bold to trust and believe in him. Absolutely!

But never simply pull the “God card” as an excuse to do whatever you think you should do. If it is God, it will line up with Scripture, it will be wise, and those in Biblical authority who know you best will confirm it.

When we were given the opportunity to expand our facility at Eastpoint, it was in the shadow of the great recession. I prayed and in my heart I felt God’s prompting, “Go for it.” But I knew if it was truly God that it would need to be confirmed by the pastors and board members of our church. I knew I needed their wisdom and their support before moving forward.

To a person, the counsel I received from these godly leaders was, “Go for it.” Believe me, if they had said, “No!” I would have submitted to their counsel. Why? Because God protects the humble and the submitted, but he opposes the proud.

By the way, God did a miracle of epic proportions in our last remodel, but that’s another story!

Here’s my prayer for you found in Ephesians 1:17: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spiritof wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”

It’s always best when we move in “wisdom and revelation.” Not either-or, but both-and.

When God speaks to you, check the Word, check your heart, check it for wisdom, and check with your pastor before you do anything. This is God’s way, and it will protect you from error and foolishness.

 

 

 

Photo used by permission: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Casino_and_Gambling_g213-Stack_Of_Playing_Cards_p133630.html

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8 Responses to The Dangers of Pulling the “God Card”

  1. I agree. This is a often frustrating as a leader. I think it is too easy to excuse poor planning, lack of accountability, preparation and training by simply saying, “well, it’s God.”

    Biblically, we see that the most prominent, anointed leaders in the New Testament weren’t lone rangers. Peter, for example, was given a vision of a sheet unfolding from heaven as a heavenly voice instructed him (how’s that for revelation?). Yet, after ministering in the power of the Spirit to Cornelius’ household, he came back and gave an account to the elders in Jerusalem. He felt compelled to minister within the framework of peer review.

    Paul also was called by the Spirit–set apart for the special work of reaching the gentiles. Yet, this calling was confirmed by the group he met to pray with often. The Spirit didn’t just speak to Paul and Barnabas, he spoke to all of the elders and brothers there.

    Paul also prepared for ministry. He spent nearly 14 years in Arabia before being commissioned and sent in the direction of Rome. Accountability, peer affirmation, and preparation are critical when God calls us to do something in his Kingdom.
    Good post. Hope it goes viral.
    jeff

  2. Yup, been dealing the “God said” trump card/conversation stopper for years in Charismania. It was a significant factor in blowing up a church I was part of years ago. Basically, “everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes”(Judges 17:6) and justifying it with “God said.” Eventually the whole thing imploded and then spewed out broken and wounded people for years after. Sad.

    God has redeemed some of that over time because many of us learned our lesson and now watch for it and address it head on in love.

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How to Deal with Painful Post-Exit Encounters

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CIt doesn’t matter what size your church is or how big your city is—running into people who used to go to your church can be tough.

Like a gazillion other Americans, I’ve recently spent a lot more time in the local mall than usual. I went to shop for my dear wife one Saturday before Christmas. As you can imagine, the mall was jammed full of people doing their last minute shopping in a not-so-merry mood.

It’s not rare for me to run into folks from our church, but my walk through the mall on that particular day was painful. In the span of about an hour, I encountered five people who once thought I was awesome but now think I am awful. They were all former members of the church I pastor.

Some of the former attendees were cordial, a couple ignored me, and one gave me the look of death. There was no doubt in my mind how this man felt about me, and it cut me to the bone.

I wish I could tell you that I’m secure, confident, and treat difficult experiences with ex- members with ease. The truth, however, is there’s always at least a little sting with rejection and often a painful blow to my soul.

Years ago, I learned this simple truth: People come and people go. Unfortunately, they sometimes come for the wrong reasons (e.g. they got mad at their former pastor), and they often go for the wrong reasons (they’re mad at me).

I understand the reality of church-hopping and the all too prevalent consumerist mentality in the American church, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. I still hurt every time someone leaves. Especially when they leave cursing my name on their way out the door.

So how do you handle those potentially painful encounters with the sheep that now bite?

1. Take the bites with grace.

Certainly, there have been many times when I wanted to bite back! I’m smart enough, biblically-literate enough, and self-righteous enough to blast someone for their foolishness. Giving them an earful would not be difficult. Giving them grace is. And grace is always better.

Being right is never more important than being relational. Blessing those who curse us is what we are called to as Christ-followers and leaders. (Romans 12:14; 1 Peter 3:9)

2. Forgive like your joy depends on it.

We all know the value and importance of forgiveness. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven. This is a no-brainer. That being said, I still frequently find myself struggling through the steps of forgiveness after agonizing encounters with someone who has wounded me.

No matter how mature I think I am in Christ, it seems like this is a lesson I keep learning: We can become bitter or better, and better truly is better, so it’s best to let it go.

3. Stay focused on the good rather than the bad and the ugly.

Because I’m a pastor, I care for people. I pray for them more than they know. I remember dedicating their kids, and I know exactly where they sit in every church service. So when they depart, I feel it because I’ve invested a part of my life into their lives. That’s why it hurts when they leave—a part of me is leaving too.

While complaining to God about some recent hurtful departures, the Lord whispered to my heart, “Focus on the many who are with you rather than the few who are not.”

Every Sunday I have the honor of serving about a thousand adults. Why do I let the unkindness of a few outweigh the blessing of the many?

Perspective is everything. We can look in despair at what we have lost or gaze in awe at all that God has given to us. I’m choosing to be humbled by and thankful for the many who still call me pastor.

4. Resolve to grow through rejection.

Let’s face it, sometimes people leave because we blew it. Maybe we didn’t care for them adequately. Maybe we didn’t lead them like Jesus. Maybe they expected something we couldn’t deliver. There actually might be some legitimate reasons for their departure from our ranks. We can go through the sting of that reality or grow through it.

I’m not suggesting we walk around in a self-induced funk over our imperfections. I’ve never been perfect, and on this side of eternity, I never will be. I’ve also never been a pastor who pretended to have it all together, so getting depressed over my inadequacies is just stupider than Jupiter.

Therefore, maybe then the wise thing is to simply acknowledge my many opportunities for growth. Perhaps, when someone leaves and I run into them elsewhere, I could see those post-exit encounters as a reminder that I’ve still got a ways to grow. And it’s okay.

The next time you’re in the mall, at the gas station or post office and you run into them—smile and guard your heart with grace.

Remember, you are loved, and so are they.

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