Archive for the ‘Make an Impact’ Category

Who’s Using Your Eraser?

April 20, 2010

There are some things that you can never erase – a misspoken word…

Sometimes the things that you want to erase aren’t your own actions, but the difficult times – whether they be life’s hard times, or the actions of others.

I’ve been thinking about conflict this week.  I contended in a Facebook conversation that conflict can be positive.  I don’t think it ever feels positive, but I think that it can have a positive purpose.

Romans 5:3-4 says:  “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

1 Peter 1:5-7 says, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”

We can’t learn faith we are at the end of our rope.  Goodness is added next – it means modesty, virtuous action, purity.  Interesting that faith comes before good action, not after.  To good action we add knowledge (which you don’t get without first realizing your lack thereof), to knowledge we add self control.

This list is so long – I think I understand why he put faith first!  I think we have to return to faith every step of the way.  Just the act of learning self control is the beginning of learning perseverence.  As you can see, this list requires us to rest in faith and learn to master conflict.

Do you see that giant eraser I started this post with?  The trick to the eraser is that it only works in God’s hands.  When we spend our energy trying to erase our problems, we aren’t using conflict situations as opportunities to grow.  If we start in faith, we find that God uses the eraser to shape our picture, add shading, and take out the errors.

In the end, perseverence will finish its work.  We will find that God has developed us into the peopel we were each created to be.

You Can’t Mess Up God’s Plan

April 12, 2010

Do you sometimes feel like this broken down barn – like your usefulness is gone? Do you feel like you somehow managed to screw up the design for your life and ended up with a saggy, moldy roof? Do you think God had a plan for you and you missed it?

The children of Israel really did miss God’s boat. They refused to go into the Promised Land. Once they were there, they continued to make mistakes. God’s response? God didn’t change his plan, He just delayed it and worked their mistakes into His plan.

God worked with the People of Israel until they were ready to do what they were called to do. He molded and shaped them, reworked their understanding of Him and themselves, until they were ready to walk into the Promised Land.

Once they were in the Promised Land, they discovered a few things:

1. God’s provision changed. In the desert, He always provided by giving manna. In the new land, they ate from the fruit of the land. I imagine at first this was a little sparse given that they hadn’t yet taken enough land to support the size of nation they had become.
2. God’s discipline was complete. He forced them to keep their focus on Him. When Achan disobeyed and took plunder from Jericho, the whole nation suffered and people died. God plays for keeps, and He is very serious about helping us attain our goals, but he demands our entire focus.
3. When they made an honest mistake, God used it for their benefit. The people of Gibeon tricked them. Joshua and the leaders messed up and followed their senses instead of asking for God’s input. They really messed up, but it wasn’t in rebellion, it was in stupidity. God used this blunder to bring five kings against Israel. At the end of the battle, Israel had continued the campaign and taken a huge part of the territory God had given them.
4. Adversity is often God getting ready to increase your territory. With the exception of Jericho and Ai, the battles that Israel fought were started when other nations came against them. They had a choice – fight for fright. They fought, obeyed God, and their territory increased.

God won’t leave you with a moldy saggy roof unless that’s what you really want. If you want to fulfill the purpose He created you for, He will make a way. He is the master of work arounds and new plans. He makes mistakes into new victories. If you are missing a support beam or two, He will build you a new one.

Barriers to Helping People

April 1, 2010

There are so many things that keep us from being able to help other people.

Years ago, when I was an apartment manager, we had a couple in our complex.  She was about five months pregnant with twins, and I think they had a small child as well.  This couple was nice, paid their rent on time and never really hit my radar until the night that the woman went into premature labor.  That night was a crazy night.  One of their neighbors had too much to drink, and as this couple were in full crisis, leaving their apartment to go to the hospital, she came out of her apartment and rushed the dad with a baseball bat.

Now he was a really big guy.  He had every right to use his might and force in that moment, but he just took her bat away and told her to go home.  The neighbors that saw it, told me it was amazing to watch.

The next day, I finally caught up with the dad and got a few moments with him to see how he, his girlfriend and the babies were doing.   We leaned against a wall and talked.  They had lost their babies.  His girlfriend was stable.  Lack of sleep and grief had brought him to a crisis point.  He heaved more than sobbed, but when I tried to offer a word, his rage at life boiled over.  “You have no idea what it’s like to be a black man.  You don’t know what it’s like to be me.”  It was a cry from the heart that continues to echo in my memory.  In all my years of working with people, I have never felt so helpless.

I didn’t back down though.  I told him that he was absolutally right, but I know what its like to be a human – and at some point, we all hit the bottom and need a friend.

His statement haunts me.  How many people don’t want to listen to what I have to say because of social barriers?  Is this fixable? On the other hand, am I obsessing stupidly?  There are six billion people on the planet.  Does it need to be fixed?

Living Free

March 24, 2010

A baby elephant is tethered with a very strong rope.  By the time the elephant is big enough to break the rope, his brain pathways have developed strong grooves and the elephant firmly believes that the rope will hold him.

From the time we are young, we are taught to fit in a system.  That system has social, mental and physical rules.

Then Jesus comes on the scene.  He came that we might have LIFE and have it to the full.  He came that our life might have more meaning that mere existence.  He came so that we could find joy when all we can see is drudgery.

The problem is that our brain has very deep grooves that tell us that we are supposed to stay within the system.

How do you change a brain pathway?  You do something different.  You learn something different.  This is the role of the Holy Spirit and of scripture.  God’s Spirit talks to our spirit, and slowly, we are changed from the inside out.  The thing is, we need to spend time talking to God.  The second part is scripture.  Reading the bible rewrites our brain pathways and helps us to see God’s way.  Let’s face it – we are finite.  We see things from a limited perspective.  God is infinite.  It would be wise of us to look for His input and ask for His help in gaining the leverage we need to live a life of freedom and joy.

The real definition of joy and freedom is living above the fray.  When we live life from God’s infinite perspective, we are able to walk in freedom:

  • to have joy when we see drudgery
  • to walk in love when we feel sorrow
  • to have an impact in the lives of others and see them for who they really are – valuable individuals created for a purpose.

So, I encourage you to join me.  I’ve been reading through the Daily Message this year and finding out what God has to say.  Today, He reminded me to live free.  What has He told you lately?

When a leader disappoints

November 13, 2009

Right in the middle of this letter of confrontation, Paul describes how he confronted Peter.

Have you ever been tempted to not live up to your ideals?  Have you ever been disappointed by a leader who didn’t live out what they preached?

This passage is terrific for two reasons. First, we will see the temptations of a leader, and second, we will see the incredibly gracious way that Paul confronts Peter.

Temptation of a Leader

  • “before certain men came from James” – Sometimes get our brain on backwards and begin to perform for all of the voices in our lives instead of the ‘audience of One’ (God).  We view ourselves in light of how others ‘might’ see us.  We place others’ opinions in place of God so that we no longer see ourselves the way He sees us.
  • “he was afraid” – we act on others opinions instead of discerning the Word.
  • When you are in a position of leadership, people will follow you – no matter where you lead.  Make sure you are going where God wants people to go.

How Paul Confronted Peter

  1. He reminded Peter of his allegiance to the gospel
  2. He led with a question, comparing Peter’s actions to the gospel

It looks something like:  “You don’t eat wheat.  Why are you eating a scone?”  (yes, that was me on Tuesday.)  Direct, but not “you are such a hypocrite!  I can’t believe you could do this to me!… ”

There is definitely a difference in these two approaches.  Leaders are people and many times they disappoint us.  God give us the grace to hold them with the respect and honor we would want ourselves and confront them in a way that brings correction instead of destruction.

What to do when you may be wrong

November 12, 2009

(This is a continuation of our Galatians series.  If you missed the rest, you will find them here.)

Paul brought the gospel to the gentiles for 14 years.  He was a tent maker, so he didn’t become a great evangelist and make great money at it, wearing the latest robes, walking through the town square letting people pay tribute.  He had a pattern.  He went into a town, talked to the Jews, if they rejected the message of Christ, he went to the gentiles.

For 14 years, he went from town to town preaching the gospel.  Barnabas was his constant companion.  Along the way, Titus joined him.  We know from Acts that he made friends in many of the towns, people valued his ministry and were willing to listen to his direction as he sent them letters from other parts of the Mediterranean world.

But then an issue arose.  Probably at first, there were some detractors, but the issue became large enough that it began to interfere with Paul’s ministry.  People began saying that Paul’s approach to the gospel was wrong.  These men were very serious.  They felt that one had to follow Jewish custom in order to partake of the grace offered by Jesus.  The tension caused by this group reached such a pitch that you can hear the juices churning in Paul’s stomach as he describes them to the Galatians:

“This matter arose, because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.  We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.” (2:4-5)

I think it is interesting that Paul didn’t call them “warmongers” or “tools of the enemy” or something.  He called them “ones who ostensibly know Christ but don’t have Christian knowledge or piety” (false brothers).   Paul treated them as people who were ignorant and questioned their witness, but he didn’t take their arguments lightly as we will see.

With the pressure on, and stomach juices churning, Paul finally decided to do something about it.  So today, we get to learn from his example.

What to do when people say you are wrong:

  1. Be humble.  Paul was willing to be wrong.
  2. Find the most reputable authorities that you can and get their input.  Paul went to Peter, James and John.  He presented his entire message to them and asked for their review.  Paul told the Galatians that it wasn’t because they were important, but because they knew God best.
  3. Be willing to accept the review findings.
  4. Let the end be the end.  You will always have opponents.  Don’t let them get in your head.  If you have good people walking with you, keeping you on track, AND you stay in humble acceptance of their reviews, then you need to stay focused on doing what God has called you to do.

How to Confront in Love

October 30, 2009

That knot builds in the pit of your stomach.

You avoid thinking about the problem for days.  Finally, you avoid the person all together.

God has made it obvious to you that there is a problem and you are the person He want to confront your friend/loved one about it.

How can you confront someone in love?  Personally, I think there are several good models.  I happen to be reading Galatians this morning, and found a model I thought I’d share:

  1. Set a background – Paul spends the first 2 of six chapters setting up his confrontation.  A full third of the book.  He reminds them of his personal story.
  2. Confront succinctly – Very briefly, Paul states his frustration.
    1. Lead with a question – the majority of Paul’s confrontation is in the form of a question – “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?”
    2. Address the root – Paul spent the next chapter and a half assuring the Galatians that they were Children of Promise, and didn’t need to ‘earn their stripes.”  Interestingly, he doesn’t identify their feelings for them, he just addresses the root.
  3. Show them your personal concern – Although Paul comes on strong in the beginning, he now lets them know he cares for them, is concerned for their well-being, that he loves them.
  4. Remind them of your history – Paul reminds them of their shared history, of their personal relationship.
  5. Provide a healed vision for the future – Paul then paints a vision for the future in chapters 5 & 6.  These chapters might say “this is what victorious living looks like.”

In short:

  • Set the stage
  • Confront
  • Confirm  Relationship
  • Show Vision for a Positive Future

Telling someone things they don’t want to hear is never easy.

How do you know when you have to confront someone in love?  When it is the most loving thing to do.

Stripped Naked

October 2, 2009

This week huge catastrophes have hit the world, again.

Jobless reports came out this week, and officials are no longer sure that we are ‘coming out of it’ quite as fast as previously reported.

There is an article in the NY Times  – Preoccupations – In Hard Times, Fear Can Impair Decision Making.  Hard times cause us all to hold onto what we have – it is a natural fear response.

Hard times tend to strip us to our basic selves.  They show us who we are.

There are some people that fascinate me in the Bible.  Elijah stood up against a nation, and then ran to the mountain of the Lord because he thought he was alone.  1 Kings 19:4 tells us that he wanted to die.  He reached the point of physical, mental, spiritual and emotional exhaustion, and the only thing left to do was to let God refresh him.   What would have happened if he had just curled up in a hut somewhere instead of running to the mountain of the Lord?  He gave everything he had, and God replenished him.

Next, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednigo – these guys amaze me.  They stood before the most powerful ruler in the world of their time.  They weren’t rude or belligerent.  They just stood in their beliefs, as respectfully as possible, and chose to honor God.  They expected God to do the rest.  They didn’t get their miracle until after they had passed through the mouth of the furnace.

Then, you have the woman, caught in adultery, thrown to the ground at Jesus’ feet.  How did she find the ability to straighten up enough to look around her and see that her accusers had left?  From what deep part of herself did she reach to find her voice to respond to Jesus’ question?  Where did she go afterwards?  Who gave her a cup of tea and helped her clean up?  Did anyone talk to her?

When we see devastation so far away, part of us wants to withdraw – so that we won’t get hurt, so that (our superstition tells us) we won’t be damaged by whatever wrath has been poured out on them.  Yet I saw tsunami warnings hitting the US west coast.  We aren’t so far away.  Devastation is here, it is us.

What brings destruction?  For Elijah, it was giving his all to God.  For Shadrack, Meshack and Abednigo, it was serving God in an impossible situation, for the woman caught in adultery, it was sin – hers and someone else’s.   We need to face our fears and put them aside.  We are all humans, on planet earth, facing our own type of destruction – some much more cataclysmic than others.

It isn’t safe to stay away, it is the equivalent of curling up in a hut.  Out of these times of destruction come new perspectives and new opportunities.  We can be a part of it, if we are willing to lend a hand, to be there and walk alongside.

Do you want to be the one to give a cup of tea and help put lives back together?  Do you want to be at the dinner with Shadrack, Meshack and Abednigo and hear about their time in the furnace and how they saw the face of the Son of Man?  Do you want to walk with Elijah and see his new, fresh take on life and ministry?  As people emerge from disasters, they bring stories of God’s deliverance and fresh perspectives on life and ministry – they see life differently because of what they have been through.

We learn not just from our own past, but from the stories of others.   We have much to learn from those who have faced these disasters and lived.

Want to help?  Check out Convoy of Hope and Samaritan’s Purse.

People aren’t Looking for Hope

September 24, 2009

Do you know what people think about?  I’ve been listening, and this is what I’ve heard this week:

They think about:

  • how to keep the silence away, so they turn the radio on.
  • how to keep their kids out of trouble.
  • how to make life just a bit nicer.
  • how to keep the emotional pain at bay.
  • how to be a responsible parent.
  • how to take the next step.

The closest thing I heard to hope in the last month was someone who is changing careers and hopes that the new career path will be a better suit.

Years ago, I was on a backpacking trip, and we hiked for a long time one day.  I have no idea how far we went, but I know that we went for about an hour straight up hill about two hours into the trip.  (Mind you, times might be relative) There comes a point where your body is crying so hard for relief that all you can do is put one foot in front of the other and keep moving.  I remember praying for one step downward just for a moment of relief.

When you are at the point of daily exhaustion, hope is a luxury.  Relief is a dream.  Existence is mandatory and must be tolerated.

When you want to share hope, you are sharing something that is a foreign language – something that is similar to trying to convince one of the women living in Tiajuana’s garage dumps that she needs to buy crystal and diamonds to make herself feel better.

Sharing hope doesn’t sound like Hope these days.  It sounds like someone else’s agenda.  It sounds like one more thing for the task list, one more hill to climb.  There really is no substitute for becoming part of someone’s world and being their friend.

How else can we explain that in God’s economy, adding one more thing to your life means making things less.

Matthew 11:29-30 (New International Version)

29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Baffled?

September 10, 2009

I read the news this morning.

People seem to be in limbo.  The boomers were going to begin retiring, but then their retirement went up in smoke.  So now, they are continuing to work for a while.

The workplace is trying to prepare for a mass exodus of workers, so there aren’t as many jobs anymore.  The post office is laying off – the Post Office – the one place you could never get fired from.

Because the world is changing – and changing rapidly.

The steps to transition are:

  • know what you are losing and say goodbye to it.
  • a place of confusion and unrest where you have no direction, but it is here that you redefine who you are without what you lost.
  • find a new direction.

No matter where you are in the process, there is a solution.  God knows where you are, and He has a solution – He wants to help define you for the next stage of your journey, and He wants to be the director of what you are doing.

Nature is full of examples:  A catapillar going through metamorphasis to become a butterfly; a dandillion becoming a whole new flower and blowing away as seed; the flowers on a fruit tree turning into fruit.

Each season of life feels like an end, but needs its own form of patience to bring new beginnings.  God has a purpose for your tomorrows.

Today, He has people for you to love and deliver His care to.  Start by asking Him to help you hear His voice and have patience to wait for His answer, His perspective.

Isaiah 30:20-22 (message)

Cry for help and you’ll find it’s grace and more grace. The moment he hears, he’ll answer. Just as the Master kept you alive during the hard times, he’ll keep your teacher alive and present among you. Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right: “This is the right road. Walk down this road.” You’ll scrap your expensive and fashionable god-images. You’ll throw them in the trash as so much garbage, saying, “Good riddance!”