Who Is The Problem?

Cheryl and I were out of town recently and visited a local farmer’s market. I was eying the homemade, organic cookie booth while Cheryl looked for healthier options like tomatoes. I also used the time as a people-watching opportunity. (Almost better than cookies…not chocolate chip mind you, but certainly some cookies.)

Anyway, I couldn’t help but pick up on the argument taking place next to me. There was a lady trying to buy some potatoes. The seller couldn’t get the quantity to meet her expectations. It was either too heavy or too light. He was trying to cheat her. Nothing was fair at this booth, in her opinion. There wasn’t really fifty cents difference, but you would have thought it was fifty dollars based on her reaction. She became mad. After a few minutes, she kept her money, left the potatoes, and kept walking. I couldn’t believe how irate she became over potatoes.

I decided to follow for a few minutes…just curious what she would do.

I know, sounds weird, but I was chasing a theory.

Sure enough, just as I suspected, everywhere she went there was a problem. No one treated her fairly, in her opinion. At each booth there was a problem, and the problem was the person at the booth…again…in her opinion.

My theory…which I believe she helped prove:

If you seem to have a problem with everyone, the problem could be you.

By the way, that’s true for all of us. Sometimes when we complain, pitch a fit, lose our patience, kick the dirt up…

Whatever your phrase…

No one likes us. No one treats us fairly. Everyone….you know…finish the sentence…

Sometime the problem isn’t everyone else. Sometimes the problem is us.

Recognizing when that is true and admitting it, seeking help if there’s a root problem rather than blaming others continually…that is a sign we are growing in maturity.

Can you admit when the problem is you?

A Dying Tree

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.” Luke 6:43 NIV

We once had this tree.

Over the time we owned the house, every year I thought it was one year closer before we would have to cut it down. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the tree. The tree really wasn’t in the way. I could easily mow around it. The tree just didn’t seem to be making it. It barely had any leaves on it and whenever the wind barely blew I had to pick up all kinds of broken branches. The tree was going “bad”. The only reason I didn’t cut it down yet was because I had sentimental attachment to it. Plus, it used to be such a beautiful tree.

We’ve since moved from the house, but, honestly, I know believers who are like that tree.

They used to have excitement in their faith. There was a time when they got motivated at just the thoughts of going to church. They were eager to hang out with other believers. Something happened to them and now the enthusiasm is gone. I’m not saying they no longer believe, but they certainly aren’t producing much “fruit”.

Are you one of “those” believers?

One of the saddest things for me in ministry is witnessing people who once were vibrant, blooming, growing church members. Now, I never see them. That breaks my heart.

Has your motivation for church, for God and your fellow believer waned in recent years? Ask God to “prune” you back to vibrancy in the Kingdom of God! Ask God to give you back your fervor for His glory.

If you are a part of the body, we miss you when you aren’t with us.

See you Sunday?

I sure hope so.

And while you are praying…say one for the tree! As far as I know, it’s still standing. There is still life in that tree. Hopefully there is for you too!

 

One Key to a Lifetime of Contentment

Learn to enjoy the mundane.

The everyday life.

The dishes (You like clean dishes, don’t you? And, you’re thankful for clean water, right?)

Brushing your teeth (Don’t they feel better when you do?)

Mowing your grass (I just love that freshly mowed look)

Smelling a rose (They smell best among the flowers…in my opinion)

Admiring the clouds. (I like Cumulus)

Having a discussion over coffee. (Cheryl and I have our best talks then)

A simple walk in the park (On a sunny, or not so sunny day)

A random thought (Some of my best ideas start that way)

A routine prayer (Okay…nothing mundane about that, but sometimes we take it for granted)

A text message from a friend (At least you have one)

An average Sunday at church (Thank God for the freedom to attend)

We tend to love the grandiose. The unusual. The vacation. The miracles. The shooting star. The celebrations. The once in a lifetime experience.

Those times are great. We love them. We want more. Nothing wrong with that.

The problem is when our happiness is wrapped in those occasions alone. Life is often lived in the mundane. Most of life, in fact.

Get up. Shower. Brush. Shave. (Or not) Dress. Drive. Work. Come home. Go to bed. Do it again. And again. In between those routines are the real moments of life. Even if seemingly mundane…non-miraculous.

Learning to love the mundane times of life, scattered among the routines of life, will help you find a lifetime of contentment.

What’s one seemingly mundane thing in life you love?

Pornography Accountability

This is a guest post by the makers of Ever Accountable. I agreed to this post, because as a pastor I have witnessed the destruction pornography can have on a person’s life…and on marriages. I’ve addressed this issue before in the post “I Could Battle an Addiction” and “Addressing a Porn Generation“.

Pornography Accountability

Pornography addiction comes with a heavy price, whether you’re single or in a committed relationship. The American Family Association (AFA) says that pornography “promotes physical satisfaction without love, sex without responsibility, union without obligation for the consequences, and exercise of privilege with no regard to the eternal consequences originally designed to accompany it” (afa.net). While a pornography addiction deteriorates trust between people, perhaps more troubling is how it slowly rots the individual from the inside, causing them to question their own self-worth and their relationship to God.

God tells us in Romans 6:12, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” Dr. Victor Cline, a specialist in treating sex addictions, offers information that is helpful in understanding this Romans verse. He notes that what starts as casual viewing of pornography can eventually lead to an escalation of more hard-core, aberrant material. This naturally leads to deviant sexual acts. Dr. Cline says pornography addiction, “like a cancer” will continue to grow and spread. The cancer “rarely ever reverses itself, and it is also very difficult to treat and heal. Denial on the part of the male addict and refusal to confront the problem are typical and predictable, and this almost always leads to marital or couple disharmony ” (Familyindex.net). As the Romans passage admonishes, a pornography addiction must be confronted before it spreads and has more power over an individual than God.

Overcoming this addiction can take an enormous amount of courage and fortitude. Focus on the Family, an online support network, says “Experts believe that a pornography addiction may be harder to break that a heroin addiction” (focusonthefamily.com). Yet a life free of the pornography burden is possible—and help getting there is crucial. Websites like FocusontheFamily.org and ThroughtheFlame.org offer online support through member forums, free counseling, and available resources. Locally, church leaders can offer prayer, guidance, and encouragement without judgment. What most pornography addiction websites, forums, blogs, journals, and experts tend to agree on, is that asking for help is crucial.

Addicts must disclose their burden to people they trust in order to live above pornography. AFA reminds us of Jesus’ teachings, that “We are our brother’s keeper. In fact, we are accountable to each other” (afa.net). Dr. Cline, also, agrees: “A commitment made to yourself can easily be broken. But when you make a commitment to another person who loves you and who cares deeply for you, there is an increased incentive to change right now” (familyindex.net).

Another valuable tool toward accountability and support are mobile phone accountability apps, such as Ever Accountable (www.EverAccountable.com). They provide support through monitoring online behavior and sending accountability reports to trusted family members and friends, rather than just blocking sites. The idea behind Ever Accountable was to metaphorically “keep the computer facing the room” where other people contribute to an individual’s sobriety by simply being present. Apps like this one are encouraging and offering new solutions to those struggling with addiction.

If you are struggling with pornography, get help now.

(I am not claiming this app will solve your problem. It is one option. I do suspect, however, that if you continue to try on your own to battle your addiction, you’ll keep having the same results.)

No Excuses…No Fear: T-Shirt Giveaway

A student at Covenant Seminary contacted me recently. He’s helping launch a new t-shirt company called WhoopTee. I love seminary students, since I once was one and have a son who will soon be one, so I decided to help.

We are giving away 10 custom shirts with the design as shown.

No excuses…No fear

There’s a story behind it. Recently our student ministry began discussing how they could share the Gospel with fellow classmates. Admittedly, the number one obstacle was fear. As a reminder of faith, the group designed bracelets for the students to wear, matching the t-shirts I’m giving away here.

I liked the idea so much, in a recent sermon series on fear, we introduced the bracelets to the entire church. Now you can win a t-shirt like our bracelets.

So here’s the deal:

  • Share this post via Twitter or Facebook.
  • Comment on this post with your greatest fear.
  • Make sure you register a valid email address.

I’ll choose 10 random winners to win a t-shirt.

In the meantime:

No excuses…No fear

By the way, if you need T-shirts for your organization, consider WhoopTee. If fear is your issue, here are previous posts I’ve written on the subject:


7 Questions to Ask When Facing Fear

5 Reminders for Ridding Your Life of Fear

Perfect Love Can Overcome Fear

A Devotional Encouragement for Overcoming Fear

The Greatest Obstacles to My Faith

Faith develops. Faith grows.

I understand that. None of us have “perfect” faith.

Yet, without faith, it’s impossible to please God. (The Bible says so.)

If I want to please God, which I do, then I have to be a man of mature faith.

There are many times though, if I’m being honest, where my life is defined more by my lack of faith than the strength of my faith.

Just being honest.

It seems to me there are certain things that get in the way of my faith.

The greatest obstacles to my faith:

My self doubt and tendency to worry rather than pray (Ouch…that one hurts!)

My inability to forgive others (Yea, that blocks pure faith)

My lack of closeness to God when I neglect our relationship (That hurts to admit too…being honest again)

My lack of knowledge…or reflection…of who God is (The more I know him, the more faith I tend to have)

My inconsistency in spiritual disciplines (If I’m faithful to them…My faith is strong)

That’s my story.

Do any of those ring true for you?

Any you would add?

Election Results Prediction


 

Call me a prophet, but I have the results.

Here’s what you may not have known.

You’ve seen the commercials. You’ve seen the debates.

But it was really only a one candidate race all along.

And only one vote was cast.

Here’s my prophecy.

The votes are in and I’m happy to report.

Jesus wins!

He is Lord! He is King!

He has risen. He’s alive. He’s the Victor!

No need to stress. Don’t be worried. It’s all under control.

The election results are in and Jesus wins!

For the literal reader: Maybe there were three candidates if you count the Trinity separately. But really the three are one… (But that’s another post.)

What election did you think I was referring to? Is there one more important than this? 

An old story…A timeless truth

I read a new detail and was reminded of an old principle…from an old story.

Maybe you’ve heard this one:

Pharaoh then commanded all his people: “You must throw every son born to the Hebrews into the Nile, but let every daughter live.” (Exodus 1:22 HCSB)

But, you know what happened:

Now a man from the family of Levi married a Levite woman. The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son; when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with asphalt and pitch. She placed the child in it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. Then his sister stood at a distance in order to see what would happen to him. Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe at the Nile while her servant girls walked along the riverbank. Seeing the basket among the reeds, she sent her slave girl to get it. When she opened it, she saw the child-a little boy, crying. She felt sorry for him and said, “This is one of the Hebrew boys.” (Exodus 2:1-6 HCSB)

It’s an old story. You know it.

But, do you see the part in bold? (I added the bold, of course.)

Moses was crying. Somehow, I’ve always missed that. It wasn’t the childhood Sunday school picture I had in my memory, where a sweet little baby is cooing in a basket floating behind some grass along a quiet river.

It was a crying baby. Moses was upset. Probably hungry. Needing a diaper change perhaps. It’s what got Pharaoh’s daughter’s attention.

But it was a good reminder of an old principle.

God uses tears to bring forth joy.

This story of Moses ends well…he was protected…well fed…diaper clean…you remember the good part of the story, right? That’s the part I always chose to remember…but it started as a story with tears.

“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

Are you in a moment of tears?

Leave a comment and we will pray for you.

God is working…even now…towards an ultimate joy.

7 Things I Attribute to Personal Success

A young leader asked me recently, “What has gotten you where you are today? When you look back over your life, what would you attribute most to your success?”

Great question. I love people who think.

My first thought was to ask, “What success?”. When I look back at my life, in many ways, I see a life scarred with personal failures and setbacks. But, as I pondered the question for a couple days, I knew God has blessed me greatly, so I came up with a more comprehensive reply. Let me be clear about something, one of my missions in life is to help younger leaders succeed, so that’s why my motivation for answering this question. I am still very much a work in progress, but as I reflect on where I am midway in my life and career, I can clearly point to some things that have helped me succeed personally.

Here are 7 things I attribute to personal success:

God’s grace – I can’t deny it. It’s really all grace. I do not deserve the favor I have found. His grace has been amazing in my life.

Other people – I have had so many people invest in me. Don’t misunderstand. I’ve been intentional with networking and wisdom seeking, but I’ve had great people in my corner to help me along the way.

A little luck – Honestly, I don’t believe much in luck. It IS all grace. I think God is always at work around us, and He certainly has been in my life, but sometimes we find ourselves in “the right place at the right time”. Learning how to capitalize on those times has been key for me.

Purpose – I have usually known what I ultimately want to accomplish. I believe you hit more targets that you have in site. Sometimes that has been a few months down the road or a few years down the road, but I’ve most always tried to keep some direction in front of me…as much as God will allow me to see at the time.

Intentionality – Probably if there were one word to describe how I live my life it would be this one. Since I was in high school, I have intentionally pursued opportunities to accomplish where I felt God was leading me. But, I’ve been intentional in every area of my life, not just in my vocation. I think that is critical to living a balanced life.

Tenacity – I have weathered a few storms…actually, many storms. My list of failures, setbacks and disappointments is long. Every time, again, by God’s grace, I have gotten back up, refocused, learned valuable life principles and moved forward.

Commitment to help others – I genuinely love helping other people succeed. It’s been a pulling force in my life to do much of what I do. The purpose of this blog, for example, is for that reason. My personal investment in others has always returned to me tenfold.

So, there’s my attempt at an answer. How would you answer that question?

What has gotten you where you are today?