That’s A Great Quote

I have never been a fan of using quotes. Friends in ministry love to place quotes in their writing, sermons, speeches, and blogs.  Still, others share an endless supply of them on social media from every book they read and sermon they hear. They are only valuable for me when I know the source, the context, and the story behind them.

Sometimes people have tried to use quotes to teach me.  There was the professor who continually said, “People don’t care what you know till they know that you care.” A lady I know likes to remind people, “Preach everywhere you go, if necessary, use words.” The list is long of all the statements people have made about faith regularly to me and others. 

My caution is simple.  Make sure they align with scripture.  That quote that you love may be great, but it might not be Biblical. 

Let me take my professor’s quote, for instance.  Jesus went from town-to-town preaching. I know he healed people and showed compassion to them.  But he also preached the truth.  Some came to hear him simply for that fact.  The Apostle Paul would stop in a town and immediately start teaching about Jesus.  He spoke the truth of the resurrection, and lives were changed before he even knew the people.  The problem with the quote is it creates a false dichotomy.  You do not have to choose between caring and teaching.  As a believer, we are called to do both.

Quotes can be great.  But make sure they are not ever equal to the Bible in your mind.  Then take them and run them through a grid of sound teaching of scripture to make sure they align. 

It is okay to enjoy a quote because it underlines the truth. But, never allow it to replace your Bible.  And never allow it to let you avoid the acts of righteousness we are called to do.  Never, ever let it become a way to fuel your selfish agenda above God’s.   

The Look of Truly Caring

The book by Gary Chapman called “The Five Languages” was revolutionary for marriages across the globe. People began to recognize how they wanted to receive love and how their spouse might be different than them. I have seen this concept change couples’ interactions and feelings toward one another in significant ways.

Unfortunately, the ideas presented in the book have not made it beyond the boundaries of marriage for many people. I recognized this recently when a person I know was accused of being unloving. I know for a fact that this person is a genuinely caring person. However, the more I probed the situation, the more apparent the definition of “caring” was being called into question.

The accused person views love through the lens of service and serving. They feel love when someone does some type of work that blesses them. This then translates into them prioritizing physical ministry for others above all else. For example, imagine you are feeling bad about some of the things going on in your life. This person will show up and mow your grass, clean your house, or watch your children.

The recipient of these gestures receives love through words of affirmation. What they wanted was someone to come and sit on the couch, sip coffee, and say nice things. They long for conversation and the time to connect.

You can see where this is heading. One Church member complains that another Church member is calloused and uncaring when nothing could be further from the truth. They are both just speaking different languages when it comes to caring. Neither one is correct in their definition, and at the same time, they both are right.

One challenge for the Christian community is understanding how we receive love and concern and how other people are trying to deliver it. That person you think is cold or unfeeling is probably trying to express themselves in a way you do not notice or feel.

My love for people may look different than the way yours looks. However, I care about people, and I express myself in my unique way. True community is found when we accept and embrace that fact with each other.

One Reason Marriage is So Complex

You meet someone of the opposite sex.  You like how they look, you like their personality, and you think you can get along, so you decide to get married. 

What you don’t know at the time is that you are marrying more than your initial experience.  You are going to get their family of origin issues.  You are going to get the baggage left over from their parents’ successes and failures.  Their childhood trauma will come to the surface in ways you never expected, and at times you cannot predict.  The choices they made as teenagers will haunt their minds, along with the hurtful comments of their peers.  There is an entire life before the age of 21 that shaped their heart and mind. 

Then there is the addition of their adult issues.  Their communication skills that have developed to protect themselves.  How they react to pressure at work will spill over into your home.  Their love languages will shape their interactions with you and their expectations from you. 

The list of complications you will face could go on and on.

One reason marriage is so complex is because you are committing to spend time with a whole person.  Their past life and present reality and their future dreams are all dumped in your lap as a spouse.  You no longer get just the good parts that you see on dates and at special events.  You get EVERYTHING. 

The flip side of this issue is also true.  One of the reasons marriage is hard for your spouse is because they are getting the whole you.  They are trying to understand your past, help you in the present so that you can have a future together. 

My simple encouragement for married couples is that every time your spouse gets under your skin, remember that you are not easy to live with either.  But if you stick together, your time as husband and wife will be more than your time as a single person.  Every new year your lives will be the product of your current interactions and not the distant past.  You will form new patterns together, and the two will start to become one. 

Seemingly Insignificant Moments

People love significant events.  We travel miles and pay large sums of money to attend conferences, conventions, seminars, and large gatherings.  In addition, mission trips, weeklong camps, and retreats are sure to inspire us.   They offer encouragement, and we expect great things to happen. 

Sometimes this is true.  These activities move people and grow their faith. 

In my experience, the times I have grown the most have been the seemingly insignificant moments.  Those times when a professor stopped to talk to me as a regular person and not a student.  The occasions when someone shared their heart with me about what God is doing in their life.  There are also those hours when God used one random conversation with a friend to make my thinking come clear.  That is not to mention all the little texts or emails that have brought me joy, encouragement, and enlightenment. 

Each day you never know the amount of good you will do for God in those moments that seem so normal and insignificant.  A kind word, a smile, a friendly text, taking the time to listen, sharing your story, and opening your life to another person may do far more to help others than you ever imagined. 

Sure, put one big item on your calendar each year, but please remember that God is working every day in the little things. 

The Jesus of Our Imaginations

The New Testament gives us four different writers sharing their perspectives on the life and ministry of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

That concept alone raises questions in my mind.  Why not one? Shouldn’t every story be precisely the same?  Why are some stories found in one account and not in another? 

I think that God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that we need to hear the story of Jesus over and over again.  Not just having it repeated to us but shared from different perspectives. We need to listen to the words of eyewitnesses as first-hand experiences (Matthew & John).  We also need the cumulative story as gathered by a researcher (Luke). Finally, there needs to be uniform accounts along with something completely different (John).  Each person’s perspective shines a little bit of new light on Jesus and opens our eyes to something we might have missed.  Therefore it is essential to read all the gospels in detail.  You cannot give a casual glance over one of them and think you know Jesus. 

I write this because I encounter numerous people who have created a Jesus of their own imagination.  They know some of his stories and teachings while being oblivious to others.  My personal conversations and online exchanges reveal that they know just enough to be partially correct but only partially. 

Here are some areas to test to see if you have created a Jesus of your imagination.  If your Jesus is always a nice guy who likes the things you like and hates the same things you hate.  He is full of love for people who think like you do and have similar viewpoints.  He never says anything you disagree with or causes you to change your ways.  Your encounters with him always make you happy and fill you with self-love.  Your Jesus never judges sin, pushes you toward holiness, or questions your life choices.  He is not connected to any community, and neither are you.  Finally, his only message is not to judge so that we can love our neighbor. 

The Jesus of the Bible is difficult.  He challenges us.  He forces us to rethink our positions, change our lifestyles and bring everything under his lordship.  The Jesus found in the gospel accounts is not easy to know, understand or follow.  His ways are not our ways, and it takes a lifetime to surrender to his leadership. 

I really want people to know Jesus, including you. But, I also want to make sure you follow the one revealed on the pages of scripture and not the one you have created in your own image. 

I Want to Talk About Me

Toby Keith released a song in 2001 entitled “I Wanna Talk About Me.” The chorus states boldly,

“I wanna talk about me, wanna talk about I

Wanna talk about number one, oh my me my

What I think, what I like, what I know

What I want, what I see

I like talking about you, you, you, you usually

But occasionally

I wanna talk about me (me, me, me, me)

I wanna talk about me (me, me)”

Most people listened to the song with a smile because we all know someone (or more than one) who loves to talk about themselves.  If you don’t know anyone like that, then there is a good chance it is you.  Some of us are obsessed with talking about ourselves.

We meet them at the store, and they talk about all their issues.  They come to Church and talk and talk and talk about what they need to be prayed for this week.  At work, you avoid them because you know they will not allow you to get your job done while spending unlimited time on their issues.  I once had a lady say she needed to come to my office to talk.  Right behind her sits a clock on my shelf that I use when counseling.  She spoke for 57 minutes straight, and I never said a single word.  It was almost an hour of every issue in her life. 

Think about your last five to ten conversations.  Honestly, what was the focus of your time talking?  Would the other person agree with you if I contacted them? 

One challenge of a follower of Jesus is put elevate the needs of others.  We are to love our neighbors, submit to one another and encourage each other.  Sometimes one of the sacrifices we need to make to follow Jesus is to shut our mouths and listen more than we talk.  When we do speak, then we ask other people about their issues and struggles. 

I know that in your mind, you think, “But I want to talk about me.” The reality is that to follow Jesus; you need more of him and others – even in your conversations. 

Everyday Heroes

A hero is defined as “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.” (Oxford English Dictionary) Most of us understand that it is someone who sacrifices themselves for the sake of others.  In their sacrifice, people are made safe, shown what courage looks like, and given unexpected opportunities.  

We often think of heroes as people who have fought in wars, stand firm in the face of danger, or stand up for what they believe in ways that garner national attention.  They are highlighted during the news, have stories written about them, and their lives are made into movies.  We see heroes as these rare people who rise above others when duty calls. 

While all of that is true, I also believe there are everyday heroes.  We are surrounded by people who sacrifice themselves for the sake of others.  Some men work extra hours to provide for their family’s needs.  Women let go of the pleasures of youth to raise their children.  There are people serving others in the Church and the community without reward or remuneration. 

This week I am encouraging you to think about all the people who have sacrificed so that you could be where you are today.  Look around and notice the people who are helping you to achieve right now.  Take note of those who are helping you to pursue your dreams while setting theirs aside.  Everyday heroes surround you. 

Then ask yourself, “Who might see me as a hero?” Take the time to also give of yourself to others.  It will be far more fulfilling than anything you do in this life. People have sacrificed for you, now is the time to pay it forward to others.  

The Dynamics of Church

The Church is the family of God.

I believe this is a true, Biblical, and important statement.  But I need to add some clarification.   

When we say the Church is a family, most people picture a husband and wife with 2.3 kids.  They imagine a tiny little group where everyone is close emotionally and knows everything about each other.  They care deeply about one another and spend all their time together. 

A local Church may start as a tiny family, but families expand.  I have four boys, and one day I hope they each marry and have children.  And they grow up to have their own kids.  With time, my intimate little group will grow to a large gathering.  In fact, once we get big enough, we will only get together on special occasions and at family reunions. 

As a Church does the work of sharing the message of Jesus and discipling people, new people will be added.  When that happens, the dynamics of the family change.  No longer does Sunday morning feel like an evening at home with tight-knit relatives.  Now it is more like a family reunion held to bring everyone together. 

The goal has never been to keep the family small or for us to know everyone intimately.  Growth is good.  Just know that as it happens, things change. 

One day I pray God will allow me to sit at a table surrounded by my children, their wives and children, grandchildren, and their wives and kids.  At that moment I will be glad that we decided not to stay small. 

The same is true for the Church.

The Way You Leave Things

Life is a combination of experiences, knowledge, beliefs, and values that we each hold dear.  One of my core values is, “Leave things better than you found them.”

At my job, I have practiced this with the buildings the Church owns.  I have thrown away junk, help paint, and asked the board to make improvements.  Throughout the years, I have helped lead in significant remodeling projects, adding accessible restrooms, installing lights, along with the addition of new siding.  Each project left the building in better shape than when I arrived.

This principle works itself out in other ways within the Church.  The infrastructure of a Church is a critical part of it achieving its mission.  I have worked to improve bylaws, provide leadership training, and teach whenever possible.  It has led me to implement ministry teams, create procedures and start membership classes.  I want the next minister to walk into an organization that is well run and ready for the future.

Finally, it also applies to people.  Whenever I encounter people who attend the Church I lead, I want them to grow at least one step closer to God in their faith.  John Maxwell talks about “Adding value to people,” and I think he is correct.  Believers help other people carry their burdens, encourage them when they are down, and lend a helping hand when needed. 

As you walk through life, you have two choices.  Will you be a user who takes without giving back?  Or will you be the type of person who leaves things better than you found them?  I hope that my work with buildings and programs is not in vain, but I know that working with people never is. 

Why Church Hurt is So Painful

Having issues with someone in the Church can be one of the most painful, frustrating, and aggravating things in the world. It causes people to leave the faith, quit Churches, and curse both God and Christians to everyone they encounter.

Why do Church struggles seem so ugly and leave such lasting hurt?

Because the people who follow Jesus should know better

They should have read their Bibles and understand what God desires from them. They should be making changes to be better people who love their neighbors. They should be the best people in a community at love, compassion, and truth.

The people of the Church should practice grace, be kind, overflowing with love, and understand the need to value people over buildings, programs, or projects. They should reflect Jesus in their actions and attitudes as they handle people.

Every believer should know better.

That includes you.