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Archive for July, 2013

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 65

65. now we have heard for ourselves (John 4:42).

There is no pressure on God’s witness to convince. The woman shared her Jesus encounter with friends, but then they heard for themselves, and faith emerged. As we share our experience of Christ with others, we can be confident that He will reveal Himself to those who have heard us. We aren’t alone and God leaves no one to live off the excess of our experience. He will reveal Him to them as He has to us. But it is our story that causes them to seek Him out. Only when we tell what we have seen and heard will others begin to look and listen for His presence and voice in their lives.

 

The Brotherhood – Part 105

July 31, 2013 1 comment

The Brotherhood of the Second Cross was established on Father’s Day 2005 where 160 men stood before their wives and children to pledge themselves to purity, self-sacrifice, loyalty, and excellence. Today, hundreds more have joined the commitment.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve watched the very public demise of another professional football player. Somehow, in spite of a multi-million dollar contract and access to some of the finest leaders in both the college and NFL ranks (both on and off the field), he couldn’t extricate himself from the kind of relationships that marked his troubled youth. So now he is accused of at least one act of murder and it seems new revelations float to the surface on a daily basis.

Tragedy? Absolutely.

Avoidable? You bet.

You see, the friends one chooses in life always end up shaping the horizon ahead. The book of Proverbs has much to say about making good choices in companions. Get the wrong friends and you’ll end up in the wrong place.

One thing we often forget is that every friendship comes with a destination. We may make a connection for the short-term benefit. We work together, play on the same ball team, have classes together, or get pushed together by some other moment in life. Or we make a friend who can help us climb life’s ladder or invest in our plans. And when we begin, we aren’t usually thinking about the end.

My wife and I often used a unique standard when evaluating our sons’ friendships. We would tell our boys that we’ll know if that’s a good friend by asking, “Do I like you when you are with him?” In fact, we use the same question to evaluate their dating lives. “Are you a better you when you’re with that person?”

Might not be a bad question for middle-aged guys to ask themselves either. Are you the guy you want to be when you ware with that person? If you have to be someone else or do a few things that don’t truly reflect your character, then that relationship isn;t taking you where you want to go.

Every friendship comes with a path. It might be good to look at the path, pay attention to the road signs you’re seeing, and be more diligent in determining who you should be spending time with. As the young football player helps prove, there’s no amount of money or fame that can pull you back from the cliff your friends are jumping off.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 64

64. Because of His words, many more became believers (John 4:41).

The woman’s testimony made a huge difference for her community. Her own words convinced some, but even more believed as they went to hear Jesus–because of HER! Here is a powerful truth about our testimony. Sometimes we are sowing seeds. There are times when we share our love for Christ and people respond to us, but there are even more times when our words spark their curiosity. Rather than believe because of our words, they simply begin looking. And they discover for themselves, the truth about a Savior they hadn’t even looked for prior to our encounter. That’s why our testimony matters, whether we’re sowing the first seed or celebrating a moment of harvesting faith.

 

Unnoticed? Join the club…it’s a good one! – Part 5

Today, we finish our look at the “parable of the talents” and the insights it offers for those of us who weren’t given as much talent as others. To catch the whole conversation, check out the previous four blogs titled, Unnoticed? Join the club…it’s a good one!

3. Duplicate Response

The final piece of comparison between the five-talent servant and the guy entrusted with two is response of the Master. The day of his return must have been exciting and a bit intense. Certainly the third servant  would be stressed out, probably having hoped for some travel accident to prevent the day he’d have to face the Master again.

But for the two servants who had done their best with what they’d been given, well, this is a good—perhaps even a great—day. Look at the news they receive:

21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over    many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’                                         Matthew 25:21

Now that’s the applause for the first servant, and it’s easy to see why the Master was pleased. After all, this guy took the 1800 shekels (a talent = 360 shekels) his Master had asked him to care for and now he presented the Boss with 3,600! What a great moment for our gifted friend. Let the high fives and chest bumps ensue!

Then up steps our friend, the second servant, ready to give a report of his work with the 720 shekels he had been given. He had worked hard for this day and now lays 1,440 shekels in front of the Master. Clearly he had made a strong effort, but his pile is 2,160 shekels smaller, so the media may not have scheduled many interviews and the pictures probably weren’t as good. But how did the Master respond?

23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over    many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’                                         Matthew 25:23

Sound familiar? Those are the exact same words—the exact same response—that the Master spoke to the first servant. The exact same words!!

There’s no, “Good job, little buddy. Not bad for a guy like you…” Instead, the same balloons, the same confetti, the same celebration of the remarkable work accomplished by the “less-gifted” servant.

Why? Because two differently resourced servants had been faithful and they had met the Master’s expectation and fulfilled His joy. Both servants had taken the circumstances they’d been given and worked diligently for the Master’s purpose. And both would receive the same amazing reward!

So what does this mean for the second servants in today’s stories? Give your best to God’s unique vision for your church. Stop wishing you were somewhere else or someone else. Show the Master the best version of what you can be and stop comparing yourself to other people and other situations.

From Kindergarten to my Senior year, I was always the smallest guy in my class and among my friends. I dreamed of being big—6’10” was my goal—but I never topped 5’9”. I imagined my long arms dunking a basketball or swiping away an opponent’s shot like Gulliver could when he played ball with those little guys he found. I knew if I could be big, well, I could live all my basketball fantasies.

So I tried to be big. I ate spinach (sill don’t like it). I hung on the swing set in my backyard, hoping gravity would do what the spinach wasn’t getting done. I practiced dunking on the nerf set my parents had given me, figuring I’d perfect the moves so when I got big, well…you can probably picture it. No one could dunk on that nerf goal like me—not even my little sister!

But I never got big. And, at age 52, I’m about to think I never will.

So somewhere in my early teens, my dad bought into my basketball dreams and bought a hoop for the driveway—one you couldn’t lower so little guys could practice their dunking. Then he taught me to dribble the ball, steal passes, and hit shots the big guys never took. He helped me learn the parts of the game that my small size and quick feet could master.

I ended up making the high school team by learning to do the things that big men couldn’t. I gave my best to what I was equipped to do, and at the season’s awards banquet, the letter they sewed on my jacket was as big as everyone else’s!

So, be who you are made to be. Love people dearly; serve people gladly; worship God wholeheartedly. Challenge yourself and others to great dreams and celebrate every victory. Wrap your arms around the people God gives you and never let go. Find your talents and use them for the pleasure of your Master.

Stop saying, “What if we were like them?” Start asking, “What is we were everything God designed us to be?” If you reach for your best, you’ll really enjoy that final day when the Master comes back.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 63

63. “Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits” (John 4:38).

As one becomes consumed with ministry activity, it is easy to forget the truth of these words. The kingdom of God didn’t begin when I arrived on the scene. Seeds have been sown, years have been given, and my moment is the continuation of usually a long line of those who’ve spent themselves so today’s successes could be found. Too many leaders try to build their ministries on the perceptions of their predecessors failures, but few of us put the first shovel in the dirt. Rather than looking for failures to exceed, we should rejoice that the ground has been tilled and seeds have sprouted we didn’t work for. Rejoice over those and you’ll end up working a healthier field.

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Brotherhood – Part 104

The Brotherhood of the Second Cross was established on Father’s Day 2005 where 160 men stood before their wives and children to pledge themselves to purity, self-sacrifice, loyalty, and excellence. Today, hundreds more have joined the commitment.

In the Brotherhood, we speak often of excellence. It’s the choice we make for ourselves. But what do you do if your best isn’t good enough, if you give it your all and come up short? Two thoughts immediately come to mind:

First, always remember that as a child of God, your capacity isn’t limited to your capacity. Okay, that sounds odd, but in reality you are working with more than your best. God is with you and is able to take your best to levels you can’t reach. Remember how he took a kid’s lunch and fed thousands. God can take your best and elevate it way beyond what you thought possible.

Of course, you have to give your best. Jesus could have done the fish and bread miracle with only half of the boy’s lunch. The kid could have said, “I’ll donate a fish and a biscuit to the cause,” and kept the rest for himself. It seems that still would have been more than what others were giving. But the boy went “all in” and gave everything he had. That seems like the best approach when we really want to get the job done. I give my all, even when I know it won’t be enough, and I trust God to be sufficient.

Second, keep in mind that your insufficiency is a necessary reminder that you need God. If you had enough for every challenge, what would motivate you to pray? Why ask for God’s help if you think you’ve got it covered? You see, every time you think you fall short, you prove your need for God. And God seems to like it when we need Him. He said that His “strength is made perfect in our weakness.” If we never had weakness, would we ever find His strength?

No one likes to fall short or have their inadequacy on display. But when those moments come, see them as valuable in your life. They may be opening the door for God to work amazing things for you, or they may be just the reminder you need to seek His face every day.

 

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 62

62. “…so that the sower and reaper may be glad together” (John 4:36).

I’ve typically heard this passage in the context of usually being a sower and hoping someday a reaper will finish the job, or as a reminder that when I reap, I should be thankful for the one who planted the first seed. Surely, that’s a good use of this Scripture. But the real idea is that the harvest is ready sooner than you think. Sower and reaper can be glad together because they’re doing their work almost simultaneously–as though they might run into each other out there in the field. That’s Jesus point in rejecting the idea that the harvest is four months off. It’s now–people are ready now. We should be sowing with the expectation of reaping as well. Jesus is telling His disciples that “we’re not just planting a few seeds,” but that the day of salvation has fully come for those who will receive–like the woman they just looked past on their way back from lunch.

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys