We Are Evolving

Not scientifically, but personally. Each one of us is ever-changing. 

Our bodies are changing with age. Our personalities change with every new experience. The things we like and dislike are new with every season. As a result, we are not the same people we were just a few short years ago. 

Most of us would agree with that wholeheartedly. We say with an element of pride, “Yes, I am growing and maturing with age.”

Have you ever thought that is true of the people you have relationships with? Your parents, spouse, and children are also evolving. They are not the same people you knew just a few years ago. 

One challenge in all relationships is to keep up with the adjustments we make as we get older. This is possibly the easiest to do with children as we see them mature. But it is most difficult to notice with our spouse. We want them to stay the same person we met and married. And that is not possible. 

It will significantly benefit our marriages to ask, “How has my spouse changed?” It is even better to sit down and ask them, “How have you changed lately? What new things are exciting you, and what is now boring you? What new things have you learned, and where did you learn them? How have your views changed with each new season?”

You might be surprised by the answers. Sometimes the person you spend the most time with is also the person you know the least. 

Good or Godly?

Are we trying to mold the next generation into good or godly young people?

Good people work hard, stay out of trouble, and are frequently helpful, friendly, and kind to those around them.  Everyone likes them because they are easy to deal with in various situations. 

Godly people are those who build their lives on the word of God.  Their biggest priority is trying to please God in what they do.  They do not always have it all together, but they rely on grace and God’s forgiveness. 

Numerous adults are trying to raise a generation of good people.  Unfortunately, many spend their lives without God because they think people simply want them to be good.  Or worse, many make a decision that is not good and feel like they are no longer worthy of love.  They crash hard and often spend a lifetime trying to overcome their apparent lack of goodness. 

Believe me, I want my children to be good, but I would rather have them rely on Jesus than on themselves.  A young person connected to God will not always be good, but they will have the grace they need.  

The Ending

Regrets.  Remorse. 

There are so many things about my life that I would like to go back and change. 

Honestly, I cannot change the past, no matter how hard I try. 

I do, however, have the ability to make a better future.  I can learn from the past, make a plan for the future and work hard not to repeat the same mistakes.

The past is no longer in my hands, but I have the power to write an ending with fewer regrets and remorse.  

The Church You Want

It does not exist.

Every Church has flaws, problem people, leadership issues, worship struggles, and lacks ministries. Every. Single. One. 

The only way to improve the local Church is for God to work through you. It is not someone else’s job to fix things to please you. Your responsibility is to dig in and start working beside the people for a better outcome. 

Christianity is not better if you find the right Church. It is better when you commit to making the best Church possible while allowing God to work through you. 

The Power of a Good Story

I heard a preacher say something to the effect of, “I just preach the Bible. I don’t tell stories.” He meant he walked through the Bible when he preached passage by passage without personal illustrations. There was no place for our anecdotes in the presentation of God’s word to him. 

The problem is that the scriptures are a book of stories. The Old Testament comes to us as laws, psalms, proverbs, prophecy, and … stories. It is an account of the people of God being formed and trying to live what they claimed to believe. The gospels also come to us as stories. Within those gospels, Jesus told more stories that we call parables. The rest of the New Testament uses word pictures that capture the meaning of Jesus’ work. He frees captives, adopts us as his children, and brings us into his family. 

Stories, illustrations, analogies, and anecdotes are essential for understanding God’s work. They are also critical in helping us explain the good news to other people. 

In fact, I would say that YOUR story is making an impact for the kingdom of God right now. Some people are amazed at where your life is today. Others might be shocked to see you in Church and walking with God. 

The preacher who I heard say that was absolutely wrong. Part of sharing the gospel is telling stories, including your stories. We do not do this to show that you are a good person but to demonstrate the power of God working both in and through you. Your life intertwined with God’s story is the most potent tale you know. 

Termites of the Soul

Termites destroy over 600,000 homes in the United States each year. They also do an estimated five billion dollars worth of damage annually. To put that in perspective, depending on the year, that is more than wildfires and tornadoes combined. 

We fear the other two because they have the potential to take a life, but each year the total damage done is far more significant by this tiny insect. 

Unfortunately, the tiny things that go unnoticed or unchecked do the most considerable damage to our world and our souls. The quickest path to self-destruction is to pay no attention to the little compromises in your life.

Big issues are scary, and we need to keep ourselves safe. Let us also not forget to check the small dark spaces of our lives for the unseen problems that can destroy us.  

I’m Gonna Change the World

There is a five-year degree at the college I attended called a Bachelor of Theology. The workload is intensive, and only a handful of students choose this path each year. Those that do are rewarded with an opportunity to speak in chapel their senior year. They can preach a sermon to faculty, staff, and the student body on whatever they feel called to say. 

While I was on campus, one student started his sermon by putting duct tape on the floor in a straight line. He then said, “I’m gonna change the world. Wanna come?” He preached a sermon that I do not remember, but he challenged any student who wanted to be a world-changer to walk to the front and cross the line he had taped. 

Several students jumped at the occasion. When you are in your late teens or early twenties, you have this insatiable desire to do something meaningful with your life. You want to make your mark on the world in a positive way. 

Well, that was thirty years ago now. I recently looked up that student online, and his life has gone much the same direction as mine. He worked in local ministry at the Church, did some writing, and tried to help young believers on their faith journey. Unfortunately, on the surface, it looks like neither of us became the world changers we dreamed of at the age of 21. 

With turning 50 years old this past January, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the impact of my life on this world. There is a sense of failure that sweeps over me some days. I never did anything that most people would consider significant. I have preached at five small local churches, led some small groups, wrote some blogs, taught some classes, and did my best to help people follow Jesus. I have received no awards, honorary degrees, or recognition from anyone. I get up and do my job every day to the best of my ability. No one knows about most of what I do but God and me.   

Neither that student nor myself changed the world. But hopefully, along the way, we did change a few people’s worlds. I pray that I have led people to follow Jesus, find forgiveness, and showed someone the next step on their faith journey. 

I often think that my ministry life is not a failure as long as I am able to help a few people become disciples of Jesus or at least a better one. Many of us wanted to change the world, but we never dreamed it would happen one person at a time.  

It’s Raining Outside

There has been a cold rain almost every other day for the past two weeks here in Missouri. 

I wish I could make it stop. Bring out the sunshine and dry everything off while warming things up. 

But alas, I cannot do it. I lack the power. 

I can hold umbrellas.

Each one of us has the power to impact the lives of those who come near us. We can add a little sunshine to their day and make them feel the warmth of kindness from another person. 

It may not be possible to fix everything for people but keep your focus on what you are able to do. 

Church Connections

People want and need connections to other believers.

The trouble comes when people think that the best relationship should be with their preacher.

I am here to break the sad news to you, “It is not possible for the preacher to be good friends with everyone in his Church.” No one has the relationship capacity to be a good friend with more than 12-15 people. Usually, 2-3 people are all that can be very close to anyone.

Let me make sure we are clear. Even in a Church of 50 people, the preacher is not everyone’s friend. They may know “about” all 50 people, but they do not “know” them personally. My definition of “knowing” is that they understand what makes a person laugh and what makes them cry. They know what brings the other person joy and pain. I want to clarify because knowing someone is not the same as being able to give you their spouse’s name, kid’s names and ages, work info, and a background overview. A friend is someone who knows your heart and soul while caring deeply for you.

No one can be an excellent friend to 50 people or more, even your preacher.

The goal of a Church has never been to have everyone connected to the preacher. In fact, that might be a sign of a very unhealthy group of people. Instead, the desire is for everyone to have a relationship with someone.

You do not need to be my friend, but we both should have friends.

Don’t get me wrong; we should care about one another as brother and sister in Christ. Both preacher and congregation should strive to know more about each other and be as friendly as possible at all times. Both groups should eat together and share their lives.

But to find soul-fulfilling relationships, you will usually need to look around at the people sitting next to you, not the person on stage.

Personal connections in Church are vital to have with someone. And that is true for everyone.