Being the Same Person All the Time

This weekend I was watching the new XFL football league, and I found it fascinating. They allow you to listen to the coaches making play calls, they have cameras all over the place, and they interview players on the sidelines. This makes for exciting and often embarrassing interactions as I saw on Saturday.

One of the quarterbacks threw his second interception, and he was visibly upset. The reporter interviewed him immediately after the play, and instead of holding back, he let his emotions take over and ranted against teammates, coaches, and the play calling.

What the announcer said in response was some wisdom I had not expected to hear. He stated, “You have got to stay the same guy all the time. As the quarterback of the team, you are the leader and you need to control your emotions, whether you throw a touchdown or interception.”

I grabbed my pen and wrote down his words. He went on to say how a leader cannot lead based on the emotions of his last success or failure. He needs to focus on the next play and moving the team forward.

His words were wise and insightful to what it means to be a quarterback, but also had an application for our walk with Jesus. Every day is filled with successes and failures. If you focus on only one of those aspects of your life, you can be overcome with destructive emotions. See only the mistakes, failures, and negative parts, and you can become depressed. Keep focused on the successes, and you can quickly be filled with pride. You must be the same person all the time and lead from a place of your identity in Christ and not based on your emotions.

As a follower of Jesus, you are uniquely created in the image of God and saved by His grace through Jesus Christ. No failure can take this from you, and no success can add to it. No matter what last week or last weekend brought in your life, you can move forward in faith, confidently reassured that you are the same person.

The Church as a Body

The people of God, the Church, are compared to the human body throughout the New Testament. The Apostle Paul gives us this simple picture in his letter to the Church in the city of Rome. Romans 12:4-5 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, (5) so in Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (NIV 2011)

Paul uses this image in his letter to the Church in the city of Ephesus, Colossae, and his most extended discussion is to the believers in Corinth. 1 Corinthians chapter 12 gives us this lengthy analysis of our roles with this group of people who follow Jesus. His climax is a statement that carries so much significance that we cannot discuss it all here. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:27, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (NIV 2011) Christians together form not just a body, but the body of Christ on earth.

The scriptures contain other images of the believers that compose a Church. They are a holy nation, a bride, and an army, to name a few. I think the most compelling is the idea that we are a body working together like human flesh. This is primarily true because we are all intimately familiar with the human body. We know its struggles, sicknesses, pleasures, and interconnectedness. We have experienced a bad back that kept us from working, and the way a simple kiss can leaving you feeling joy for days. Our knowledge of the body makes this one analogy so easy to understand, and yet we can overlook its importance.

There are two understandings of the believers being together, forming a body, that is important for us to remember.

  1. When one part doesn’t work, all the parts suffer.
    For whatever reason, some parts of the body chose not to contribute. Sometimes they are absent and skip their connection with the body. Others have decided they have no desire to participate. Still, other people are too busy to give themselves to the work of the community of faith. When these people do not do what God has designed them to do, the rest of us suffer. An aching foot my not directly affect my hands, but it will keep me sidelined so that they will not be used in the game. Often people who are not an active part of a Church body do not think about how it impacts the rest of us.
  2. When one part succeeds, it blesses us all.
    The flip side is also true. When all the parts of the body are united and work together, all the components receive a blessing. Competing in sport and winning, will help the heart, the muscles, along with blessing the mind. All the parts have an experience in the victory. When we work together in the name of Jesus, I am encouraged, challenged, and blessed by other people fulfilling their roles.

Nowhere is our part of the body more clearly seen than on Sunday morning each week as we gather to praise, serve, learn, teach, and work side by side in the name of Jesus. I hope you will be there, and you will do your part. It will be a blessing to everyone in ways you never imagined.

Social Cues for Christians

A social cue is defined as “a type of indirect communication that informs or guides our interactions with others. These include certain facial expressions like a furrowed brow or a smile, both of which are indicators telling you how to proceed in the interaction.”

These cues are a part of all human interaction, but they are especially important to Christians because of our placement within a community called the Church, our command to love one another, and our desire to share what we believe with people. As Christians, we need to be aware of social cues in the different situations we find ourselves as we interact. Unfortunately, I have noticed many of my fellow believers are not well equipped to handle these indirect forms of communication. So today, I wanted to share a few critical social cues for all Christians to be aware of when dealing with other people. Many of these have a general application to everyone, but some are especially important for Christians to remember.

-Whenever someone offers you a mint: Take it.
-When you are talking about Jesus, and the other person changes the subject, quit talking about Jesus.
-Leaning in as you speak means the other person is interested in what you are saying, keep speaking.
-If someone crosses their arms, they are getting defensive, and it is time to quit talking or change the subject.
-Everyone’s personal space and boundaries are different. Watch how close you get to people (also remember the first suggestion above).
-Don’t hug (especially men to women). Side hugs are better than front hugs in every situation.
-Ask questions. People don’t want to hear all about you.
-Open body language indicates an open heart and mind. Closed body language means they are no longer open to your discussion.
-Watch facial expressions. They will show you questions, disagreements, and joy.
-Phone interaction is an indicator of their interest in what you are saying. People who are continually looking at their phones are distracted and often trying to get out of a conversation.
-If you walk up to a group already talking, and they turn their feet and eyes toward you, they are inviting you into the conversation. If they do not do those things, move along.
-Making eye contact is a sign of respect and shows that you are listening.
-Don’t interrupt other people talking unless it is an emergency.
-If the other person keeps moving toward the door, they want out of the conversation and possibly away from you.

These are some of the big ones that I notice. Hopefully, you will find them helpful. What would you add to my list?

I believe if we want to have a more significant impact for the gospel, we need to be aware of the world around us. This does not only include the words being used but the other social cues and what people say without using words. A keen awareness of ourselves and others will help us to make Jesus present in the world to everyone.

Pouring Your Life into Others

Yesterday I spent over five hours with a Pastor I recently met. We had a 20-minute conversation at a basketball game and hoped for a more extended time together. After a couple of emails, the date and time were set for a meeting at the Church where I lead.

In those five hours, I told about the Church I lead, my personal experiences, thoughts I have about ministry, and encouragements I have seen along the way. Before we met, I prayed that God would give me the right words to say that would bless his life and ministry. My wife gave me advice on a few things I should say, including, “Be sure and tell him about your failures too.” I spoke as the Lord led, and my wife instructed. In the end, I felt the meeting went well, and our time together was profitable to him.

Here is the exciting thing to me; it was equally as beneficial to me. As I poured my life, heart, emotions into someone else, my soul was filled at the same time. His stories of how God had worked in his life encouraged me. His pain and struggles were things I could identify with and know I was not alone. His victories were not just his but also for the same Lord I serve. His leaps of faith inspired me to take more significant steps in my walk with Jesus.

Faith is never an individual endeavor. The moment you buy into the idea that faith is a personal thing, you have purchased a concept of a distorted self-centered religion where you are the only important individual. Faith includes sharing your life with other people. Sometimes that is with people close to you, and other times it is with people who seem more distant. In either case, as you pour out your life into others, you, in turn, are blessed in your soul. Quite often, you find out after experiences like this, the person who needed the community of faith the most was actually you.

Sometimes It Takes a Struggle

Living in 2020, we want everything to come easy. We believe that our desires should be achieved at the touch of a button, downloading an app, or watching a video. If it doesn’t come easy, then we don’t do it.

We have our list of reasons from, “I can’t do it” to “I’m not smart enough” to “I am too old.” The excuses for why certain things do not come easy to us is long, and I have heard them all as a church leader and parent of four.

The biggest issue for most of us is two-fold. First, we really don’t want it. Second, we are not willing to pay the price, even when we say we want it. Everything comes with a price tag. It might be money, but it can also be time, security, embarrassment, or just plain sweat.

Usually, the only way to achieve anything is to work hard and put in the hours until we accomplish our goals. We do this to achieve the things we truly want.

For example, our Church is doing a program called Core 52. On Tuesdays (today), we are supposed to memorize scripture. Over the last five weeks, I have heard every excuse in the book as to why people cannot do it. They are too old, too young, too dumb, too busy, or too hardheaded to do it.

The honest response is that none of those excuses are valid. The author explains that it will take three things to memorize scripture. The first thing is to repeat, repeat, repeat. Say it till you can’t say it anymore. Second is hands and feet. The more you move and add motion to your words, the easier it will be to remember. Finally, he gives the rule of three, three, and three. Three minutes to remember it, three days before you can say it without looking at it, and three weeks before it is permanently in your memory.

When someone tells me that they cannot do the memory work, my reaction is to change their “cannot” to a “will not.” I ask them if they have used the methods he described. Have they repeated it? Did they try the motions he suggests? Have they done that for three weeks?

Most people admit that they have not done all the steps. They said it a couple of times out loud, and it was not immediately in their brain, so they quit. They did not “try and fail.” They gave minimal effort, and when it was not easy, they made up an excuse.

Sometimes, maybe all the time, anything worth achieving takes a struggle. It takes doing the same thing over and over again. It takes making mistakes and frequently embarrassing yourself. Achievement on any level comes with fighting against settling for easy excuses and working hard for outcomes. If you are not willing to do that, then let’s be honest, the problem is that you don’t really want it.

What You Consume is What You Become

Eat a large amount of junk food, and you will become less than healthy. Start a diet of fruits and veggies, and slowly, you become healthier. I don’t know of anyone who argues against that logic. The condition of our body is intimately connected to what we consume.

This is not true only for our bodies; it is also true of our minds. The material that we take in through our eyes and ears impacts our heart, mind, and soul.

Whenever I meet someone with a different point of view than mine, I instinctively ask about what books they read, podcasts they listen to, and people whom they hang around with regularly. Those answers will reveal the source of their thinking. People who are conservatives listen and read conservatives. Liberals will listen to liberal commentators and authors. Many have one or two people who influence all their religious and ecclesiastical thinking. If those people say it, then they listen and change. What they hear and read is molding their thinking in a specific pattern.

Not only does it affect our thinking, but it also impacts our attitudes. If you read and listen to people who are angry and argumentative, then you become that way. Your tone begins to imitate the people who you allow to speak into your life.

The material we consume is who we become. You, as an individual, are becoming exactly what you allow into your mind.

If this is true, then if you want to change your life, one of the most significant steps is to start listening to different voices. The primary application is to the Bible. If you want to know the things of God, then you must expose yourself to his word. But the application is bigger than that and often more practical. If you want to be kind, listen, and read people who are known for their kindness to others. If you’re going to overcome busyness, then buy books and find blogs by people who are not busy. If you want to know how to serve in a particular way, then find videos and resources to help you serve that way. We must remove the destructive voices and add constructive ones in order to change our lives.

We live in an information age. Sometimes it can be overwhelming; many times, we can use all that material to transform us into the person God wants us to become.

Weekend Reading

I started by posting these every week. Then it went to bi-weekly, next monthly and now it has been a couple months since I shared any articles. Here are some of the best of the best I read during this time. Enjoy

Church Attire – Human Tradition or Biblical Principle?

It’s Because of Jesus

3 Dangers of (Merely) Messy Christianity

13 CHURCH MEMBERS WHO SOMETIMES DRIVE ME CRAZY

10 WAYS THE WORLD DRAMATICALLY CHANGED IN THE 2010S

Again and again and again

The imprecision of “am”