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How Do You Make the Hard Choices?

There are some people who have a choice to make, they see all of the options laid out before them, they are able to calculate the highs and lows of each choice, and they make a decision and move forward with confidence.

That is not typically the case for most people I meet, including myself on occasion. More often than not you hear people wish for sky writing on what to do, a sign, that doors will close, or even a fleece that will help them have a clear decision.

My take on decision making when it comes to “God’s Will” may be a little looser than others. I don’t think God has written a script that it is our job to figure out. I don’t feel like it is our job to pick the next right choice on God’s little “Chose Your Own Adventure” novel. If we pick the wrong one we will step off a cliff and that is the end. That is not how He works. I also don’t believe it is a recipe of adding 5 parts prayer, and 3 parts fasting, and 2 mentor insights and you will be guaranteed a perfect life. I believe that a Godly decisions come from three areas that will either guide you forward or maybe hold you back or even shut the door to your choices. I also don’t think that making the right choice always means that it is going to be easy or make us happy. It will bring ultimate joy because we are living to please God first, but that doesn’t mean it will always feel right. My friend and former pastor/boss, Brad Bell, gave me this guide and then I made it into a good looking handout.

1. Look Up: Our lives need to be about prayer and God’s word. We need to be spending the time knowing the character of God. If we understand that we are called to be good stewards with our money and not a lover of it, then it may not matter if we buy a Honda or a Toyota. Both are good cars, and if we can afford it then we should get it. The make and model is more preference. What I do know is that God is not a fan of debt, so if you can’t afford the car then it doesn’t really matter what kind of a safety rating the car has. Debt makes you a slave. So spend time praying and reading God’s word about what it says in the areas of your choices you need to make.

2. Look In: At the point that you place your faith in Christ, you are dwelt with the Holy Spirit. It is why we are now called the Temple. It is where God’s Spirit dwells. We are holders of God’s Spirit so that it can guide, comfort, convict, lead, and all around be with us at all times. In that, after time is spent in the Bible and prayer I typically find that I have a sense of what is to be done. Not always, but I believe that the Holy Spirit takes our willingness to seek God and guides that. Usually for me, the problem is that I do not allow the Holy Spirit the time or space to truly do His work. It may be that there is some change in our hearts that needs to take place. When I was deciding where to go for college I did not want to stay at home. The typical 18 year old goes away to college. That is just what you do. Well, for me I had no money, no job, no prospects outside of the home. After spending time praying about it, I knew the answer was to grow up a little more and figure out my major. I just didn’t really want that to be the answer.

3. Look Out: There are people and circumstances in your life that will confirm and resist your decisions that you need to make. This is a good check and balance to the other steps you have taken. Find people in your life that you trust. That also seem to make Godly decisions. These are the types of people who will help you to see the other sides of our choices that you may not have been able to see since you are so close to it.

 
 

Join me in the fight with B.M.P.P.S. won’t you?

I didn’t plan it…

I caught me by surprise…

I have become increasingly passionate about eradicating this horrible epidemic and got the privilege of shooting a PSA for it during our TRU Gathering last week.

…Together we can stop it.  One at a time.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 15, 2012 in birthday

 

White Knuckled Life

When I was 16, I got my driver’s license.  I didn’t do so well on the written test, but I kind of expected that.  I have been called many things in my life, and have even gotten a few compliments along the way.  “Book Smart” was never one of them.  Since I squeaked by for the written test, I was understandably nervous when I got behind the wheel of my 1975 Chevy Malibu Classic.

The lady who administered my drivers test was about the sweetest thing I could ask for. She never called me by my name, rather chose to say, “Honey if you wouldn’t mind turning left up here.”  Or, “be a dear and go around the block.”  I couldn’t ask for better.  Even though I got my grandmother as my tester, I was still totally freaked out.  Most things seem pretty big at 16 and I am not sure if there is much bigger than getting a driver’s license.

Near the end of the test, my administrator told me to do two more things.  She told me to breathe and to not hold onto the wheel so tightly.  She could see the outlines of my bones in my hands.  I guess it is fair to say I was a bit uptight.  Come to find out I not only passed my driver’s test, but got a 100%.  How you like me now?

The reality is, my standard way to handle difficult situations is to do the same thing.  Care more.  Work Harder.  Breathe less.  White Knuckle the situation until success comes about.  I’m sure I am the only one, so bare with me.

From there, a cycle seems to happen in my life.  When the outcome is less than what I hoped for or expected, there is a natural reaction that comes about.  I am tired, and worn out.  Burnt out and frustrated.  Embarrassed and deflated.  And frankly all of these emotions are appropriate.  And why wouldn’t they be?  If the calling is mine.  The decisions are mine.  The effort is mine.  Then the outcome is also mine.  And so, if all that is mine produces failure or at the very least, nothing, then I would hope my response is all of the above.  Because I should do better.

But I am not alone in this life (as I remind myself AGAIN).  There is a God in Heaven who is actively involved in all I do.  As a follower of Christ, He has given me His Holy Spirit who dwells in me.  He guides and leads me and teaches me how to pray.

As I progress in life, experiences, and age, I am discovering that there is a delicate balance between human responsibility and God’s sovereignty.  As fantastically gifted as I think I am, the reality is that God does not need me.  The Psalms remind me over and over again that He is powerful and I am not so much.  “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases.”  (Ps. 115:3,ESV)  And the list goes on and on.  He is Creator.  He is Merciful.  He is…

So there is something to be said for giving it your all.  Become excellent at what you do and excel at your calling.  We should strive for the highest quality in all we do and give it as an offering back to God.  (Rom. 12:1-2)  I will continue to do just that.  However, I have been reminded often that no amount of effort can change God’s will and timing.  I have the esteemed honor to be called a child of the Most High Creator, and He sees fit to involve me in His plans.  “Involve” is the word that keeps coming back to me.  Not “depends”.  If I fail, it doesn’t shock God or catch Him off guard.  He is in control and will continue to make the world spin and breathe identity into me.

As I type this, I think…this is basic life 101.  Isn’t it?  I have taught this, read about it, told others, and said I believe it.  So then why am I right back here?  Reminding myself and sharing it with others.  As the process goes on, I am still learning.  Trusting, failing, and desiring control.

For today, I am trying to remember to breathe and loosen my grip ever so slightly.

 

Who’s in Your Corner?

There is something totally entrancing about boxers and MMA fighters.  I watch them do something that I don’t think that I am equipped to do…physically or mentally.  Even more amazing than watching the actual fight is talking to them afterward.  I have had the privilege of serving with a leader who is getting his MMA carrer back on track after a surgery.  To hear him talk about fighting, you would be astonished.  It isn’t a street fight for him.  It is a chess match.  “If the other guy does this, I will do this, but if he turns and uses his left hand then I am going to change and do this with my upper body to block his attack.”  I could sit and listen to him talk about it all day long.

Another thing that makes him successful is the team that he surrounds himself with.  In the sport of fighting, there are timed rounds and a short break in between.  During that time the fighter sits in his corner with his team who has a totally different view of what is going on.  They bring another perspective.  Bandage him up.  Tell him to start doing things and stop doing other things.  They boost his confidence and tell him where he is performing well or poorly.  In this guys last fight, he was gracious in attributing his quick win to the collaborative effort of all those who invested in him.  It wasn’t just about his own amazing ability and fighting skill, he recognized that without those around him it would not have been a successful or victorious fight.

It is highly likely that I will never step into a ring to fight.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t have a battle of our own in the world of ministry.  What I know to be true is that in our success and failure, in our effort and our gifting we still have our own battle.  Part of it is physical in nature.  Some of it is spiritual.  All of it is about God.  In that, there will be times that we feel excited about our calling and ready to head out in the fight.  Even when we are “winning” we will take on some amount of “battle damage”.  Even the best fighters have a black eye or cauliflower ear from time to time.

Recently I had one of those days.  I was taking hits and they were beginning to have their effect on me.  I will neither confirm or deny that I may or may not have thrown a chair(s) in frustration.  My prayer time after this was less holy and controlled and more screams and accusations.  God and I worked through that, and I left that time confessing that I felt alone.  I told Him I wasn’t sure how long I could hold on if I was doing this thing by myself.  In the span of 24 hours God placed (or reminded me of) four different people in my life to sit and listen, encourage, and help me get perspective and get back out there…which was so necessary.

Being in a new city doing ministry I am still in the process of finding those people who are “in my corner”.  Not everyone is going to be your best friend or know all about you.  But what I found from all of my conversations is that these were people who had different roles in my life and different skill sets.  They are able to speak into different parts of my life.  The structure, the spirituality, the craft, and even to the nature of my own heart.  What they had in common was some level of care and affection for me.  They want me to “win,” if you will.

I would suspect these people don’t even fully know that they did what they did.  They were just being themselves and being generous with who God made them to be.

People in your corner come in different forms.  I have those I seek out and ask to join in my fight.  I have those who are in my life, regardless of what I am doing.  I have those who are fighting their own fight, but I can learn by watching them.  And then those people that God has brought into my life, and I have no good reason as to why I deserve them.

The great thing is, those people can change roles, evolve, and deepen in relationship over time.  So I try to not write anyone off.  I have also found that as I begin to establish who support me, I have become better at being in other people’s corner as well.  I wipe their sweat.  I bandage them up.  And then send them out into their own fight.  It’s not always just about my fight, but helping others in their own battles.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on May 4, 2012 in birthday

 

Everyone Has a Part

I got some great feedback and interaction from the last post where I compared Leadership and Team Building to a comic supergroup.  It got me thinking that the other part of building a team and working together is allowing each person to do their part.  For Friday, enjoy this video…

If each person doesn’t do their job then the whole thing falls apart.  Some people may see their job as unimportant, however it plays just as crucial of a role as the bigger, flashier roles.  Brings to mind…

1 Cor. 12:21-24 (ESV)

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

 

YOUTHWORKERS! Assemble!

I must confess that I am in geek heaven right now.  May 4th marks the launch of the Summer Movie Season.  Now you, like I, are probably confused.  I will not have my beach body or golden tan by May 4th.  All of my waxing appointments are at the end of May (more of a Memorial Day celebration really).  So how in the world can that be the LAUNCH?  Well, when a movie like the Avengers opens, it demands that the summer is starting.  After that comes Batman & Spiderman movies.  That doesn’t even include other great popcorn flicks.

Never before have we seen, on such a large scale, this many superheroes on the same screen.  And by early reports and reviews it was done masterfully well.  Sure you have seen Batman, with Robin, Batgirl, and a mess of villains.  The X-Men.  Or even Spiderman in the third offering with Sandman, Green Goblin II (Hobgoblin, if you will), and Venom.  What a sad waste.  So there have been other large superhero ensembles, but what is different about this is not only how many heroes, but the concept behind the Avengers.

There are a group of superheroes that come to the realization that they are better together than they are alone.  Sure, there will be the typical ego battle at the start of the movie for who is Alpha Dog, but eventually they all realize that they each have specific gifts, skills, and abilities that no one else can do, and if used with the other skill sets…well they are unstoppable.  Sound familiar?

It’s not like I needed an excuse to compare my life to that of superheroes, but it is what I am doing every day I call myself a youth pastor, or work in the areas of ministry and leadership.  I have the high honor of meeting people, helping them to discover who God has made them to be, and then assist in placing them in the perfect spot where they will be used and God will ultimately be most glorified.  Who needs the Avengers when you get to do what I do?!?  I read in 1 Cor. 12 where it says that God has given every one of us, who is dwelt with the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts.  Those gifts are not meant to be kept, but rather to be used for the building up of the whole body.  And then from there, it goes on to say that the body is not made up of many of the same part, but one of each part.  Who needs a bunch of Iron Mans?  Only one.  However, if you don’t have a Hulk, you are in big trouble.  When I look at my team like this, they think I am weird, but it helps me staff my own team, exhort and encourage them, and stick to my own skills.  It is a beautiful picture of God’s design when we have our team, doing what each of us do best, working side by side, proclaiming God’s love and pushing back darkness.  Dang, I need a costume!

A couple questions I am currently asking myself to assemble the best version of a team:

1.  What am I good at and who has God made me to be?

2.  What has God called our team/ministry to do and be?  If I don’t need a tech team (I do) then I should release them to do good works in other areas.

3.  What is it that God has gifted others to do and be…and then do I have a place for them?  If so, staff for that, and then let them fly.

4.  Am I praying that God will lead me to know the needs of the group I am ministering to, and that He is sending the right people?

Look around and see who is among you.  I am always shocked at the diversity that is among the people who call our church home.

Final encouragement.  This takes time.  I have been at my current job for 8 months and I am still missing pieces.  Not because the people who are there are doing a poor job, rather we are all tasked out in other areas and I am still learning my team.  The other issue is that I am working as fast as I can to assess and mobilize which often takes longer than you would think.

As the people come in and we assemble, the only thing I have left to get is a jet pack or maybe learn to do kick flips…all in due time I guess.

 
 

Time for Some Spring Cleaning

Most parts of my life need constant maintenance.  If left alone, my garage adds boxes and garbage.  If I don’t keep an eye on it, my diet adds too much sugar and fast food.  Overall, life gets cluttered and we add things that we never meant to…but there they are.  The same is true of our spiritual life.  If we are not careful there are things that will grab our heart.  Our affections will be drawn away from the God who pursues us.  Our mind gets cloudy and our hearts get hard.  There is a spring cleaning that needs to take place within us as well.

A few years ago I was introduced to Ross King and his music by my friends and fellow co-workers at The Well Community Church.  We used a song called “Clear the Stage” for a worship response time and it crushed me.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  One of my favorite artists, Jimmy Needham, remade this song and it continues to do a work in me.

“Anything I can’t stop thinking about it an idol.”  Well that describes just about most things in my life.  My family, my ministry, my career, my physical shape, TV shows, keep em coming…right?

What have I allowed to slowly creep into my life that has wooed my affections from my precious relationship with Jesus?  What has taken center stage in my heart and mind?  There is a reoccuring theme, but the faces of my idols often change. It is good to be reminded that I must clear those things and allow the Creator of the Universe to take His rightful place.

What better model can we show to our spouses, families, children, roomates, friends, students, and others when we clear the stage of our hearts?  If we expect others that we minister to, to begin the process, it must first begin with our own lives.

How do you do it?  It is probably different for each person but there are similarities in all of them:

  • Prayer-Ultimately this is about what has overshadowed God.  As followers of Christ, we are dwelt with the Holy Spirit which will guide and lead us to seeing what those idols have become.
  • Sacrifice-Whenever anything takes our affections over God, there needs to be change.  If it were easy it would have already been done.  Something will have to decrease so God can increase again.
  • Allow others to speak into your life-Wise counsel will often shine a light in areas that we ourselves can’t see.  Make sure they are trusted, respected by you, and can speak with authority.

There are more steps you could add.  It is not a simple three step process, but this is a good place to start.  What needs to be removed from your life?  How are you going to begin the cleaning and clearing process?

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 18, 2012 in idols, Worship

 
 
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