The 3 pretty important things

A few days ago I was doing a personal Bible study that asked me to do one of those summary exercises, you know where you look back and categorize some things in your life.

To be honest, I usually bug right past those… come on, admit it… you do that too. Just like skipping those Bible passages with all those names, or “skimming” all the geographic references in the New Testament… come on, you know who you are.

Let’s be honest, how am I going to be more spiritually mature if I know who ‘begat’ who, and I’m almost certain I don’t have to be able to pinpoint Tyre or Sidon and on a map to get into heaven.

Still, I know I shouldn’t skip stuff like that, so, on this day I was feeling a little obedient and went through the exercise anyway.

The end of the activity exposed that the majority of my life can be categorized into three different arenas. And after some grammatical massaging, I was able to put a label to each of them.

Work hard, have fun, make a difference.

I know there are organizations out there with a very intricate and detailed mission statements. I know there are a myriad of life coaches online and around the world who have multi-step plans to ‘get your act together.’

But, after pondering these three simple things… I think I’m good!

I don’t think plans have to be complex to be effective, and I don’t think everyone has the same need to take the same steps to get to the same destination.

So, if you’re looking for a little direction in life, let me share these with you.

Work hard: there is nothing less inspiring than working with people who don’t pull their own weight. And, there’s nothing more inspiring than working with people who go above and beyond the call of duty. I’m not saying every single one of us is going to be a productive powerhouse in every arena of life, or grow the perfect crop every time we put our hand to the plow of work. But, every single one of us can go all out and give everything we have when there is a task in front of us. There is huge satisfaction when you work hard, huge payoff when you give it everything, and huge credibility that you can give to yourself and others when you are someone who leaves nothing on the field.

Have fun: it’s so important to learn to have fun, both during the hard work that you do and when you take breaks… and let me emphasize, if you’re going to continue to work hard you must take breaks. To have fun in your work, you must be doing something you enjoy, you must be working with people you can learn to enjoy, and you must do things in a way that you enjoy. This isn’t the case every minute of every day, but it should be the norm. Believe it or not, having fun is on you… you can’t blame the job, others, or circumstances… having fun is up to you. And, regarding taking breaks, there’s nothing that will make you a Grinch, sourpuss, difficult person, or garbage can style grouch quicker than not taking breaks… and the problem is, you think you’re the one who’s doing everything right, blind to your own crumegeonness. Plan for breaks, take breaks, UNPLUG and enjoy them.

Make a difference: I believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe that God is alive and still works through His people. I believe that God has given us, the church, the Great Commission of reaching the world and we are to be about that task every day. Not just those who work in the church, but everyone has been assigned that task, because you are the church! Behind the cash register, changing diapers, laying asphalt, teaching kids, delivering meds… whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Don’t just share your faith, live your faith. You work hard so in other’s eyes you have credibility. You have fun so that people see the joy in you. And, you do it all for the purpose of pointing others to the God that you serve as they see Him working in your life.

I’m not the first person with the advice to work hard, have fun and make a difference. Thousands of years ago the wisest man on earth said this in Ecclesiastes 3:

9 What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

So, here’s the plan… increase the effort, check the attitude, and follow a purpose… The Purpose.

Life is too important to miss out. Work hard, have fun and make a difference.

Did you hear that?

“Did you hear that?”

That’s a question I get a lot these days. Probably because of my old mantra “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.” 
I now have a new go to phrase… “If it’s too loud, turn it down, what’s wrong with you!”

Whatever standard of audible criteria you live under, one thing is plain to us all… we need to hear clearly. 

We’ve been logging lots of road miles the last few days on our family vacation… Little Rock, Ak; West Monroe, La; Dallas/Fort Worth, Tx… the list continues to grow. 

After we play the alphabet game, make our plans for the day, and have our devotion time, my passengers tend to drift off into the land of YouTube videos on the smartphone, their own book, or… they just drift off period.

That’s when I pull out an audible book which has been my friend for several years on the road. I’ve recently been going back through the CS Lewis Chronicles of Narnia collection. I know it’s a children’s collection, but I absolutely love the imagery of Jesus as a massive roaring lion defending the realm, sacrificing Himself and interacting in such a very real way with broken people.

In the prequel to the entire series called “The Magicians Nephew,” there is a moment in which the children’s uncle who is a scheming scoundrel of a man needs help in a very serious way. And, even though he’s been nothing but vile to the children they ask Aslan, the massive and regal lion (Jesus), to speak a comforting word to him. 

Aslan responds, 

“But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good! “

Dear Jesus, protect us from ourselves! The words of this children’s book are all too true!

We have cleverly found ways to shut out God from our schools, courthouses and culture. In doing so, we have refused to hear His voice and God has given us what we have asked for… now the wisdom of God is nearly impossible to hear in the marketplace of ideas. 

The mercies of God have been reduced to veiled and confused sentimentalities robbed of God, truth and grace. 

The direction and guidance of God has been clouded by the pseudo-genius of this age and we have truly become the blind leading the blind. 

The roar of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah still rings and shakes the halls of eternity, but most in this world only hear a… distraction. 

Then they turn to one another and ask… “Did you hear that?” But, nothing changes; no one changes. 

It’s time for us to run back to Him, His word and His church, to plead for forgiveness and ask that God would soften our hearts and unstop our ears. 

That we would once again both tremble and rejoice when we hear the majestic roar of the Author of Creation, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. 

Matthew 11:15

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Dancing too close

I love being a Kansan.

Maybe that’s why I don’t mind being designated a flyover state.  We can just let those folks on the coast fly back and forth to each other, and will just keep on being Kansan.

I’m a strange one to make that statement, since I was born in a suburb of Los Angeles, but there’s very little about this state I don’t appreciate.

  • When we sing the song, I actually know what amber waves of grain are.
  • I appreciate describing driving distances not in miles, but time.
  • And I love seasons: hot summers, cold winters and those few minutes in between as well

However, there is one peculiar trait of Kansans that still baffles me. When the clouds are dark and dreadful looking, the forecast warns of impending danger and the sirens start screeching through the skies… that’s when we all go outside and start looking around.

You have to admit, that’s not really a very bright thing to do. But, I guess that makes us Kansans.

Hutchinson, Ks, tornado July 2015I’ve been told we all channel our inner storm chaser in those moments because that kind of weather is so common ‘round these parts.’  I suppose that’s true.

But sometimes, it’s familiarity that gets you in trouble. Sometimes we forget to respect the danger. Sometimes we act foolishly because we’ve  danced so close to the fire without getting burned, we think were fireproof.

Quite possibly, being that unaware of reality is probably the most dangerous trait of all.

Unfortunately, that trait is not limited to Kansans and their views on meteorology. Humans by nature  are a people that ignore very real danger until it’s almost too late.

Spiritually, every single one of us is a mess. If you’re human, if you can still breathe, then you have issues. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

That word sin is a bigger deal than we think. Romans 6:23 says,  “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Sin has become a religious term but originally it was athletic and nature. It was an archery term that meant you had missed the target.

When you miss the target and relationships things fall apart. When you fall short of the goal in life you pay consequences. And when you swing and a miss, chunk an airball, or drop the pass spiritually it has dire consequences in this life, and the next.

But there’s good news! 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

We’ve been given a warning system, a safe place to go to and a promise we can make it through the storm of this life.

You may choose to keep being Kansan and post those pictures of scary storms that you should have only seen through a basement window, but don’t  take the same chance with this even bigger storm.

Take  your spiritual life seriously. Honestly look at your own actions. And thankfully respond to a God who has nothing but grace for those who turn to Him.

This storm may be closer than you think.


Special Thanks to the Hutchinson News for publishing this article in the Faith section.

I know what you should be praying for

Psalm 84:2

My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.

I don’t know what you’re praying for, but I know what you should be praying for.

Usually we can categorize our prayers into predictable little compartments labeled, things, stuff, people, results, etc. We pray with an end in mind, usually one of our own desire and creation.

This is not wrong, Jesus did tell us to pray for our “daily bread”, but these request might be out of order.

Let me explain, I saved my marriage a few months ago… it was a brilliant move. As a guy who desires to one day have a man cave, I have been in training and preparation for years. Slowly I have been amassing the right components.

A stereo receiver with 7.1 surround sound capabilities even though I only have  5.1

speakers.. don’t scoff, I am preparing. A 1000 hour HD DVR with internet

Man with remote control
Man with remote control

capabilities… ok, so it’s just what you get with cable, but I’m getting ready. A TV that’s far too small and the constant drumming of the theme “we need a bigger TV” anytime we go near an electronics department… someday my diabolical plan will come together… (imagine a sinister laugh here).

As I have added these components over the years, my wife has – on a multiplicity of occasions – expressed, I think frustration is the word, over not being able to even turn the TV on.

You see it takes a bit of thought and energy to get the right component on at the right time set to the right input. I mean, nothing good ever came easy, right guys?

So, a few months ago I got one of those remotes that, with some dedicated set up, will turn everything on in the right order for whatever function you are desiring: TV, movies, games, NETFLIX.

Yep, saved my marriage.

While every component is important, the order of operation is paramount!

I was reminded of this in my Grow Group Bible Study and prayer time last night. We were praying for some ministries of the church and some outreach needs in our city, when one of our senior saints reminded us that we needed to pray that God would give us a burden for the work.

It’s so true, we pray for results, but what we need to pray for is a heart!

We want God to move in our circumstance, but God wants to start by moving in us!

We want churches filled with people, but God wants people of the church consumed with love for the outcast, compassion for the less fortunate and passion for those far from Christ.

If we had the right heart, His heart, then the results are automatic! We wouldn’t need more volunteers, or money, or excitement… it would already be pouring out of us because we finally got what we really needed… a heart transplant.

May we truly come to a place where our soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord, and may we be marked with heart and flesh that sing for joy to the living God!

I don’t know what you’re praying for, but I know what you should be praying for… a burden, a passion, a desire to become more like Jesus and to want what He wants.

Get your prayers in the right order… the rest will take care of itself.

The Sucker Punch

I got sucker punched this morning.

Ever read a passage of Scripture that you probably wouldn’t even need eyes to see because you’ve been over it so many times it’s burned into you mind and heart?

Then has that same verse reached up and smacked you in the face in a way you never saw coming?

Yeah, my jaw still hurts…

Psalm 139 is a passage I have read, studied, preached and written on, and if I am completely honest was a little ho-hum about when my daily Bible study asked me to read/pray that passage back to God.

But there it was, this line:

“…and are acquainted with all my ways.” – Psalm 139:3

I know it’s not even a complete thought, but it’s almost more than I can bear. This whole Psalm is about God knowing us: when we sit or rise, words in out mouth before we speak them, knitting us together in our mother’s womb, etc.

So, why would that line be so striking?

God has been acquainted, introduced, has a relationship with “all my ways”, and yet He still…

God has been acquainted with my past, yet He still tells me I have a future. Every dark little corner of my life He is fully aware of, has a perfect knowledge of, and understands even better than I do. He makes no excuses for me since my sin is my sin, my failure is my own and my history has enough evidence to convict me. But, still knowing all that… He is pointing, not at where I have been, but where He wants me to be.

God has been acquainted with my fears, yet He still trusts me with His plan. He knows the times I have cowered, staying closed lipped when He wanted me to speak. He knows the moments the crowd and public opinion swayed me more than His Holy Spirit. He knows the fact the future, and sometimes even the present, seem so utterly overwhelming that all I want to do is cave, hide, run, anything, other than move forward. But, still knowing all that… He assigns me tasks that overlook my fears and depend on His courage.

God has been acquainted with my heart, yet He still allows me to serve in His Kingdom. The impure thoughts, the selfishness and pride, the personal ambition, and the sometimes horrific absence of mercy in my own spirit, God is on a first name basis with… they’ve been acquainted. God has a better picture of my heart than I do, and while I know I should be the last one to be called on, He still keeps picking me for His team. I know of great saints, powerful sacrificial Christians, men of valor and women of virtue, and I know I am not them, but still knowing all that… He still wants me.

The list seems endless. He is acquainted with my doubts, my hurts, my secrets, my errors, my foolishness, my body, mind and soul. Yet, He still reaches, calls and comforts.

What a God we have. My past was known to Him before it even was, and He decided to make it right by the blood of Jesus even before I made it wrong.

My fears are no trouble to Him, for He knows they have no strength and He is able, they are like the child’s bad dreams and fears of a nonexistent boogie man.

My heart is no barrier to Him as He knew just how black and broken it was when He took it in His hands to heal, repair and restore by His own sacrifice on a cross more than 2,000 years ago.

What a God we have. He is acquainted with all our ways, and yet He still…