Life Is Out Of Balance And I Am OK With That.

I will admit my life is out of balance right now and I am ok with that. In fact, I am about to enter the craziest time of a youth pastor’s life: The Summer. I will be at two different camps, a number of regular events, a couple of speaking engagements, and will squeeze a couple of family trips in as well. And while at the end of the summer I will be exhausted and need to take some time to recover, I will love every minute while in the midst of it.

Long ago when I was first getting into ministry I was encouraged to make sure I was balanced in my ministry and personal life. Find balance or you will burn out. I didn’t and I almost did. I was available at all hours of the day and day of the week. I wanted to do all I could for the teens that I had been called to minister too and I assumed that meant to be available. And then I was encouraged if not commanded to find balance. And so I began to try to find this mystical balance between personal/family and work/ministry balance.

I read books on rest. I went to seminars on time management. I would listen to speaker after speaker at conferences and training sessions on the importance of balance but I could not ever hit a point where life was in balance. I would say that there were times I got tired and weary trying to make sure I was finding balance.

Then over the past few years especially during a season where my ministry role changed and I was busy during the school year and summer was a time of rest, I learned a very important lesson and it has shifted the way I view my family and my ministry. And to be perfectly honest, I most of the time I think it makes me a better husband, daddy, and pastor. I stopped seeking balance and started to seek something better.

I am seeking Harmony.

Some might wonder what is a difference. But as I have become more engaged understanding my roles, harmony fits better. In fact, I would say that harmony actually makes more sense and allows me to be my best in the moment rather than trying to split or protect or be worried about overdoing it.

Balance is defined as: “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady; a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.”

And while that sounds good, the truth is to find balance you have to give up something when it’s too much. And there are those who would say that anytime work gets in the way give that up but often we sacrifice from all areas in order to really achieve a balanced life.

Now compare that with the definition of harmony; “Agreement, accord; harmonious relations; a consistent, orderly or pleasing arrangements of parts.” I love that! To be in agreement, a pleasing arrangement of parts. When there is harmony in music, things are being presented in their correct way that work together in a positive way. It’s “the simultaneous combination of tones, especially when blended into chords pleasing to the ear; chordal structure, as distinguished from melody and rhythm.”

Which is why I have decided to seek harmony rather than balance. When I was seeking balance, my ministry AND my personal life suffered because I was constantly trying to weigh how much I had given and how much I had left to give. When I started seeking harmony, I realized that there were going to be times where I would have to give more to ministry to make sure I was fulfilling what it was that God had called me too. I want to be a faithful servant to all that God has entrusted me with both professionally and personally. Which means there are times I have to give more to ministry and my family gets me a little less. But then, we hit those slower seasons and I am able to give more to my family while still fulfilling my duties as a pastor.

The trick with harmony is making sure you are playing the right notes, the right part, in the right timing. It’s being as fully present as you possibly can. See harmony doesn’t just happen. It takes some serious focus and intentionality. But I have found that the more I seek harmony, the easier it is to find and the less amount of energy it takes to stay present and focused.

And I don’t think this is just a pastor thing. There are so many who know their lives are out of balance and yet don’t know how to remedy it without making one or all areas of life suffer. Regardless of what you do, who you are, what roles you are asked to play, seeking harmony brings the beautiful sound to our ears that life is humming along and making beautiful music.

What If…It’s Greater?

What if it’s bigger? What if it’s broader, deeper, wider than we realize? What if it’s broader, deeper, wider than we are comfortable with? What happens then?

The “it” that I am referring to is God’s grace, mercy, holiness and love.

I have absolutely no doubt that most people believe that God’s grace, mercy, holiness and love is big but what if it’s more than we realize? I think for many of us, we are ok with these things being great. However, I know that for me it’s difficult to keep from, at times, wanting to put a cap on that grace, mercy, holiness and love at  the level of my greatest failure and my greatest sin.

For the sinner, for the rejected and despised, the need for God to be bigger than what they have done is paramount. He has to be and provide something greater than all their failures. And yet, once a recipient of that grace, mercy, holiness and love it can become easy to cap it at the worst thing they have done. And while speaking of how immeasurable these things are measuring them against our story. So what happens when it’s bigger, broader, deeper, and wider than we realize? What happens in our lives and the lives of those whose issue is not ours, when God’s grace, mercy, holiness, and love is made available and puts them into right standing?

This is not a post condoning sin. I believe God has called and is calling all of humanity to righteousness and holiness. I believe Scripture is clear on this mandate. And yet in the very interactions of Jesus with society we see God offering grace, mercy, holiness, and love to those whose sin was “greater” than that of the religious or so they believed.

Think about it. We see space being made at the table for tax collectors. Value and worth was given to the adulteress and prostitute. Acceptance was provided for those considered unclean and unwelcome. We see sins forgiven before forgiveness is sought. We see all the promises and blessings promised to those that society deemed unworthy of even dignity in death.

The thought that I find myself wrestling with is this: I am not worried that God’s grace, mercy, holiness and love isn’t enough but that they are greater than I am often comfortable with.

I know that this post has the potential to be challenging. I know that, because it was challenging to write and even more so to wrestle with over the past several weeks and months. So the question I want to leave with you is this. What if God’s grace, mercy, holiness, and love is greater than I am comfortable with? What happens then?

Just Say No.

This week I got sucked into reading a comment thread on Facebook in a group that I am a part of and I will be honest I literally lost 20 minutes and it served absolutely no purpose. The initial post was asking about a blog article and the groups take on it. I did not read the blog post and here is why, it was written by an individual who specializes in clickbait titles and who’s writing is mainly focused on stirring up fear.
We have to stop giving into the clickbait! Please Just Say No to Clickbait!

laptop-820274_960_720If you are unsure of what clickbait is then let me explain. According to wikipedia:

Clickbait is a pejorative term describing web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines or eye-catching thumbnail pictures to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material over online social networks. Clickbait headlines typically aim to exploit the “curiosity gap”, providing just enough information to make the reader curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content.”

The author of this particular We blog thrives on clickbait. He uses a fear based tactic to drive readers to his blog and then relies on those readers sharing his posts on their social media platforms. The only purpose of a clickbait title is garner views, clicks, and ultimately financial gain from the number of visitors who will see the ads that are on the page.

Now I am all for using your platform as a business and making money on your blog. A good friend of mine has secured book deals, speaking engagements and more because he writes and uses his blog to provide for his family. So this is not a rant against financial gain. However, as Christians, it seems we are becoming more and more susceptible to clickbait and then promoting and sharing it so that others are sucked in as well.

Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” When we give into clickbait, we succumb to fear and anxiety. And we lose. When we read it we lose the peace that should sustain us as believers. If we share, we lose the ability to speak about that peace of God that surpasses all understanding. We lose our credibility to speak into situations that are truly important because we have “cried wolf” too many times. In fact the only one who wins is the individual who wrote the article as an onslaught of readers give into clickbait as they continue to profit off of our fear.

There are a number of sites that are constantly filling my feed with sensationalized articles and the title of the post is practically the same every time, “dire consequences,” “we need to pray,” “shared devastating news,” and the list goes on and on. If the article requires you to read based on fear, it’s clickbait. A well done article, blog, etc… should not have to scare you into reading it. Can a title be provocative? Of course. But it should give you at least an idea of what is going on and the writing of the article should be well done and offer hope.

Hope of something better is what our faith is built upon. Hope that sustains even when the world is crashing down around us. Hope that love and peace and not fear will win the day. At some point, as Christ followers, we need to make sure that the message that we are bringing is one of God’s transformational love and as 1 John 4:18 points out, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Don’t give into clickbait. Don’t allow fear to be the driving factor of why you read or share something. Let love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control be the driving factors. It’s more attractive and besides, there is enough fear being spread in our world. As followers of Christ, we have been tasked with bringing the Gospel, the Good News. So next time you are tempted to click on or share that article on Facebook that speaks of dread and doom stop and read Psalm 91 and allow the words of David be your prayer.

I Don’t Always Need God To Move.

Three weeks ago or so, I was sitting in my office and I read some random post on either Facebook, Twitter, or some news story and I was struck by this thought:

What you don’t need is a God giving you a fresh/more vision when you haven’t done anything with what you already have. What you need is to put into action what you have already been given and then when that’s has been fulfilled, then ask God for more.

I realize that sounds harsh but, I think too often we get in this place where it’s easier to ask God for more when we haven’t acted on the last thing we were given. And this is not a stop asking God for stuff post either but it is a call to do something with what we have before we ask God to move and provide more. We have so much already in our grasp, but we would rather ask God to move than take inventory give what we have already received. That’s what has been bouncing around in my head for the last several weeks.

Now fast forward to a week and a half ago and I was sitting in a service as part of our church’s denominational meetings and one of our main leaders, started to speak on this very idea. It was one of those moments where I wanted to stand up and shout AMEN and Thank you!! He went on to share a story about Tony Campelo who was speaking at an event and the leader had talked about needing raise several thousand dollars and asked if Mr. Campolo would pray for that. He politely refused and talked about giving what was currently available and took out his wallet and laid down the first $100. He then asked the leader of this group to do the same. On the spot she put what she had in her purse with Tony’s $100 bill. He then asked every single person in the room to do the same and in the end they raised all they needed. He then said that he would pray that God would use this to do an amazing thing.

Just like the people in that room, what we don’t need is God to provide something more. We, have often, already been given all we needed to reach or accomplish the goal and make the impact we want to see. But it is a serious stretch to actually take into account what we already have and to give from that place. It is far easier to pray and ask God to give more.

Again, this isn’t a post condemning seeking something more from God. I think there are plenty of times we need to ask God for a fresh outpouring of vision, strength, provision. There are times when what we need, we really don’t have access too. But I believe there are more times when we ask God to do something new or to provide something that has already been put in our wallets, our strength, our minds. We have what we need to fulfill what we have been called to do. We have in our ability to make the difference that we need to make but it will require some sacrifice on our part. By all means seek God and a fresh filling of the Spirit, a fresh provision of needed resources. But before you do that take into account what you already have, give all that you can, and then ask God for more once you have given all you can.

My guess is that some might be bothered by this post and I get it. In fact, I have been guilty doing this very thing over the past week or so. We read and have been taught to bring all our cares, desires and needs before God and that’s great! But what if we were to stop and take into account what we already have before doing that? I was reminded of what the first century church experienced and before they asked God to provide for the widows in their community, they sold their belongings and gave all they had (Acts 2:42-47). God had provided, they had to be obedient with what they had already been given and then God moved and added to their number.

So what do you need to take into account?

Transformers.

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I have been thinking about the act of transformation recently. There are a number of reasons why. One is probably due to the fact that every time I open Netflix or Amazon I am seeing in my suggested for you feeds, one of the latest Transformer movies. But deeper and more meaningful than that is a desire to see transformation in my personal life as well as those that God has called me to lead. What I love about the Transformers is that even though they offer value as the vehicles they hide as, it’s not until they transform that the real value of what they offer can be seen and experienced. I believe the same is true for you and me.

Here’s the deal about life transformation though, it is not easy. In fact, real and lasting transformation takes intentionality and discipline. It doesn’t just happen because we hope to get into shape. We hope to grow in our spiritual faith. We hope to be a good spouse, parent, friend, etc… We may want all those things, but in order for transformation to be evident in our lives to those who see us, we must first personally make the intentional and disciplined decisions made that no one else will see.

I was reminded yesterday that before real transformation can take place we have to answer two questions about the transformative process in our lives. First we must answer the question “Why.” Why do I want to transform? Why is it important that I be different? If we don’t understand the why, if we cannot verbalize why we are going to go through the transformation process when the difficulties come, it will be much easier to throw in the towel.

This leads to the second question, “When.” Once we know the why of the need to transform, we have to know the when. When have we given up in the past? When did I stop pushing for the change that I know I need? Knowing the when will help us see the roadblocks that we must bust through in order to reach the transformation that, let’s be perfectly honest, is absolutely crucial to the life we know we need to be living. That goes for every aspect; relationally, spiritually, emotionally, health.

To transform, is to change. Change is not natural for anyone. While there are some who like change, what they really like is the newness of something and not the process of change. I know because that is me. I like new challenges, new locations, the change that comes with that but there are still aspects of my life that I struggle to change even though I know they are necessary. Even when I like and look forward to a certain amount of change in my life, I still struggle with change in habits, schedules, and the areas that make me comfortable.

When we transform we change and we grow. But it should not be only for our benefit. We may reap some rewards from our transportation but true transformation should also be about others. When we transform spiritually, it’s so we can help others experience the transformative power of God in their lives as well. When we transform physically it’s so that we can enjoy the life we want to experience with loved ones. When we transform relationally, it so we can be a better half of whatever relationships we have with others.

I want to be a better husband, father, pastor, Christ-follower. I want to be healthy emotionally and physically. I want to transform in the areas not so I feel better but so that I can help bring about transformation in others. I want my wife to know she is loved at a deeper level so she can love more deeply. I want my children to understand their value comes not from what the world says but who Christ says and that as they live into that they can add value to others. I want the teens I lead to see the transformative love of Christ in me so they hunger and desire that in their lives and it leads to their friends and families wanting that too. The list can go on and on.

If you know there are areas of your life you need to transform, first are you really interested in changing? If so then answer the questions Why and When. They will be crucial to helping you move forward even when everything else is going against you. You will know the reason behind the necessary change. You will be aware of the stumbling blocks that have hindered you in the past. And remember transformation is not just about what you will get out of being a different person, it’s about what you bring into the lives of others. When we are transformed spiritually, it’s not so we can hang onto it for ourselves, it’s in order that we can be an instrument that brings about transformation in others.

Here I am, Stuck in the Middle With You

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When I was a senior in High school I got a job at the local grocery store as a stock/bag boy. It was fun job that gave me a decent salary and hours. One of my co-workers was a year or two  younger than me and had a big Dodge Ram with a serious lift kit on it and one day after a particularly wet week we decided to take it mudding on some of the country roads. After spending  decent amount of time spraying mud all over, well everything, we got stuck.

We had seen a ditch with plenty of mud and water and decided to spray most of it into the neighboring field. What we did not realize was that it was deeper than we expected and upon entering it, we buried the driver side in this long, deep trench. We tried for quite a while trying to get the truck unstuck but eventually gave up and had to walk to the closest house we could find and get a tractor to come pull us out. It was humiliating to say the least but taught me a life lesson that I have been thinking about this past week.

I have recently gotten “stuck.” Not sure exactly why but I have definitely hit a point where life just seems to be stuck. I am stuck trying to write sermons, stuck trying to write for this blog, stuck in an old routine I was not wanting to repeat in 2016. Even this morning I got stuck in serious traffic. Maybe you can relate. You have been stuck in traffic, stuck in the middle seat on a plane, stuck in your job, stuck in your faith, just feeling stuck in life overall.

The thing about being stuck, regardless of where or how we are stuck, is that time and life continues to move forward. Time never gets stuck and life doesn’t stop. Because time is constantly moving forward, when we get stuck we have this overwhelming sense of having to get unstuck as quickly as possible. It can be difficult to get unstuck and often requires some serious work to get out of that place. Sometimes it even requires that we change our methods and our approach to how we will get unstuck.

My friend and I worked really hard to get out. The problem was the harder we pushed it, the deeper in the ditch we went. At first he could have gotten out of his door, but when we finally admitted that we were really stuck, he had to climb out the passenger door. We had to change our plan of attack to get out of that ditch.

The truth of the matter is all of us will be stuck at some point in life. In fact there will probably be many times we find ourselves stuck and unable to move forward for a variety of reasons in a variety of different areas. And because time and life don’t stop, we will find ourselves doing all we can to get unstuck as quickly as possible. We might start putting in the hard work of just doing what we always have and that might work, but sometimes we might find ourselves putting ourselves deeper into the ditch. When that happens it can lead us to feeling overwhelmed, ill-equipped and uncertain of how to fix “it”.

The question then becomes what do we need to do? How do we move from stuck to unstuck while not putting our lives deeper in the ditch? Well first, it requires that we admit to ourselves that we are stuck. Then we need to get to a place where we can evaluate the situation.

  • Why are we stuck?
    • Are we stuck because of the circumstance we have created (we put ourselves in the ditch)? Or are we stuck because we hit a place where things just came to a halt (like the traffic jam)? Recognizing, and owning this if necessary, is a crucial piece getting unstuck. If we are stuck because of something we did, it often requires our owning that mistake, that sin, that issue and then doing whatever is necessary to make things right. If we are stuck simply due to circumstances then it helps us know how to answer the next question.
  • Are our current methods of getting unstuck working or making it worse?
    • Do we need to just keep pushing forward till we get to a place where we have the traction to get out? Or do we need to get help from one who has the necessary tools to get us out? There are times we just have to keep pushing. (Like me forcing myself to write this very article.) Then there are times where just trying to push through will lead us to digging ourselves deeper into the ditch. If you keep plowing on and find yourself getting deeper and deeper into the ditch with no chance of getting out then you probably are needing some help.
  • What can we learn about ourselves in this “stuckness”?
    • What good can come out of this time? Being stuck can be a good thing if we choose to learn from it. There are times being stuck causes us to slow down, really be present to our situation and listen to our life, engage with those around us and realize we are in this with others. We can also learn valuable lessons like making sure we avoid making some of the same mistakes that led us to this place.

I admit that I am currently feeling stuck and so here is what I am doing to get unstuck, I hope.

  • Sharing with those that know me best that I am feeling stuck and then spending a great deal of time in prayer seeking out why. Is it something I did or is it just one of those traffic jam like moments.
  • As I pray I am evaluating my circumstances and taking a hard look at what led me to this place. If I am stuck because of something I have done then I want to correct it. It it’s just how life feels right now then I need to know that too.
  • Changing things that I have control over. Making myself do things differently so that if it’s just a moment that I can get out of the ditch.
  • I am forcing myself to write this blog. One area that I am feeling stuck is what to share here. After posting a few days in a row I haven’t touched this. So I am forcing myself to share this in hopes that i gets the creative juices flowing so I can get other things done.

So now let me ask you this, what do you do when you get stuck? What is your approach to getting out of that place? Feel free to share in the comment section.

Leaving Well

I wrote this shortly after my move to Portland and it was published on a friend’s ministry blog called Velcro. Big Chap is a great friend and has an incredible ability to impact every age. Wanted to post this on my own blog and just hadn’t done it yet but figured with a new year and knowing that for many it might signal a new direction in life, chances were there would be those who would be experiencing some sort of transition over the next few weeks and my prayer is that even though this was initially written for ministry you will find a way to apply it to any transitional situation you might find yourself in.

If you are in ministry then there is a great possibility, if not certainty, that you will make at least one transition during your ministry career. It’s very likely that you will make more than that. I do know a small handful of ministers who have started their careers at a church and have been able to stay. To them I say well done. I think there is something very powerful in being able to remain in one location and really invest in a community. I, however, have not been one of those and I most recently made a major transition from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest, which is why I write this. I hope that I was able to leave my ministry well. In my decade plus of full-time ministry and almost another decade of filling every role imaginal, I have found that far too often many of us in ministry are unaware of how to transition and leave well. For those who do or have been in the game long enough to know or have learned I am sure you can relate to this, but for you who are just starting out, please, for the sake of all that is good, learn to leave well.

Here is the truth about transition, it is painful for all parties involved. The one leaving and the ones who stay behind. When someone has invested heavily in your life, to see them leave is difficult. There are numerous emotions that go into that experience. And because we are humans and we often let our emotions dictate what we say and think, there are times when the words said to those leaving can be harsh, critical, and hurtful.

As humans, our initial response to those who hurt us, whether intentional or accidental, is one of wanting to protect our image, our hearts, our lives. We want to make sure “our story” is told correctly. As ministers of the Gospel and even as Christ followers, our initial response should be one of love and understanding that what is being said comes from a place of deep hurt, sadness and although not intended, maybe a feeling of betrayal.

When you leave a place where you have invested a great amount of time and energy, it is difficult, but leave well in order to set up those who come behind you for success. Now I realize that there are number of reasons for why you might leave, some are within your power others are not. But regardless of the way or why you are leaving, leave well. Sure what is said to you, done to you, reason for your exit might suck, but you can control what is said and modeled to those you lead.

To leave well, and this might sound like of those “well duh” kind of things but when you are in the midst of transition often common sense things go out the window takes some real intentionality. So if and when you face transition regardless of the reason:

Take the high road. While you may want to defend yourself from harsh words or personal attacks, don’t. Sure it sucks and it is immensely more difficult, but taking the high road guarantees that you don’t say or do something you may regret later.

Be mindful of who you confide in. Not everyone you talk to needs to hear what you are thinking, feeling, or have experienced. The reason for your departure or what is said to you might be incredibly painful but not everyone needs to know so be aware of who you share what with. Not just for your sake but theirs as well.

Prepare your ministry for the next chapter. Unless your departure is due to the elimination of your position, there is a great chance someone will follow you. They have a monumental task of following someone who was loved. They have to fill your role while trying to do ministry the way they are gifted. They way you leave, sets up the next person for success. Encourage those in your ministry to open their hearts to this person and to really give them a chance. Let them know they won’t do it like you but that is ok. In fact that is good because them trying to be you would be colossal disaster.

These are just a few things that I wish someone had talked to me about when I first started in or even when I was preparing for ministry. There are plenty of others that could be added to this list and the longer I serve in ministry the more I am sure will come to formation but these give a great start when transition is upon you. If you lead and serve well, it will be difficult but your tenure will not just be summarized by what you did but how you left so for the sake of those who come behind you and those who stay behind: Leave Well.

2016 Goals

A few years ago, I decided that resolutions were weak and so I decided I needed to set goals for the next year because a goal required an actual process to get there. Then learning over the last couple of weeks that only 8% of people actually complete their resolutions. Not that I have been great at this but I have also not taken the time to really focus on what certain steps needed to be to achieve my goals and I have often set up too many goals to achieve and got overwhelmed by my own desire to over-achieve. And let’s be honest, when we get overwhelmed by stuff we often shut down and don’t take the necessary steps needed to see any kind of success.

So for the next year, here are the goals that I am setting for myself.

I will lose 20 pounds. 

It’s not that I am overweight but I need to be in a healthier place for my family for myself and that would remove the excess weight off my mid-section and if I should happen to tip the scales again at over 200 pounds I want it to be because of muscle mass and not fat. So here are the steps I am taking to see that goal accomplished:

  • Eating less junk food and more salads.
  • Eating sensibly and not over-eating.
  • Cutting the number of sodas I drink in a given week. More water less empty calories.
  • Exercise on a daily basis as I was doing before the move to Oregon.

I will average a book a week.

My schedule is often hectic but if I am committed to growing as a leader then I need to read more and couch potato less. Instead of filling empty space with TV, video games, or apps I will read. I have more than enough time to do this if I will re-apportion the use of my time. I don’t want to simply read what I agree with either. I think it’s good to read different points of view and even authors that I absolutely disagree with to stretch myself. Looking at a breakdown that looks somewhat like this.

  • 13 books for fun (fiction or subjects that excite me)
  • 13 books on leadership development
  • 16 books on ministry (theology, about youth ministry, church growth, sermon prep, etc…)
  • 5 biographies
  • 5 books on personal development (time management, finances, writing, habits, etc…)
  • I will post monthly reviews of what I have read for my sake of keeping myself accountable.

I will write/blog.

I have owned this blog for right at 6 years and I enjoy writing on it. I have not been disciplined in my writing though and I need to be so I want to start writing/blogging on a regular basis and use this as a creative outlet. It’s not about readers/followers but writing to simply enjoy the creative process. And while I have created “schedules” in the past this year I just want to be consistent in my posting. So instead of schedule of what to write on daily, I am shooting for consistent posting.

  • I will post 3-4 times a week. Days of the week don’t matter as long as I average 3-4 posts a week unless it’s a vacation week and I am offline for sake of family.

I will be present.

It is very easy to fall into the trap of busyness and then use down time as an opportunity disengage from everything family included. This next year I don’t want to miss those opportunities to disconnect from busyness and really engage and be present with my family. They need me and I desperately need them.

  • Less time spent behind or glued to a screen
  • More time playing with toys, on walks, playing ball, anything that really forces me to be present to the situation and finding rest in that.

These are all the goals I am posting for now. It’s not that these are all the goals I plan to achieve this year and I hope that I either meet or exceed all of these and then in a couple of months I can set other goals to add to this list. But this needs to be a written down, return to reminder that I am seeing to challenge myself.

What goals are you setting and what steps are you setting to help you achieve them?

I Am Living Next Year In The Red.

I have decided I am going to spend the next year in the red. I know that lots of people commit to getting their finances in the black each year. Or they commit to reducing their schedules so there is actually margin for things. And so the idea of living in the red seems to be opposite of that and for good reason.

Red signals that you are pushing it too hard or too close to maximum. When our fuel gauge is reading in the red it means we need to get gas ASAP. When we push the RPMs too hard the red line warns us to back off. When our bank account is in the red then we have not been diligent or responsible in our spending habits. When our calendars are so full that one more thing pushes us over the edge we are living in the red with our time. So for most people they want cushion. Stores and companies want their sales and profits to be in the black. Most people want to have their bank accounts in the black and their calendars with margin. No one likes to live in the red feeling stressed and pushed to a breaking point.

But with all that said, I am still going to spend the next year in the red. The red that I want to be in are the words of Jesus. I have read the Gospels many times. I have read the writings of the prophets, the apostles, the biblical historians, the poems, the wisdom, the stuff we get and the stuff we don’t understand but wish/act like we do. But I have never committed an entire of personal study simply to the words of Jesus. The words in RED. So this year for my personal study (which I am sure will greatly impact my ministry study as well) I am going to focus on reading just the words in RED.

Of course I have lots of questions about this. Will I get bored with just reading the Gospels? Will it become routine and lose it’s impact? But I am also asking questions like; How will my life be drastically different in a year if I read and put the words of Jesus into practice? How will my attitude be different?

So it begins. Starting January 1, I will be spending the next year in the RED, and I fully expect to be different when December 31 comes around and I have spent a year reading, living, and experiencing the Words of Jesus.

I would love for others to join me and share your experiences, your challenges, your questions, your take if you spend the next year in the RED as well.

What Ricky Bobby Taught Me About My View of Jesus

Over the past couple weeks I have been working on a sermon for our Christmas Eve service. As with most of my sermons, I have a ton of different ideas that get written down, thought about, even pursued to some degree. All of these ideas are prayed over. Some are quickly dismissed because of that prayer and others stick around a while. While initially thinking about this specific message and trying to keep it in the theme of our current Advent series, I had this idea about how the movie character Ricky Bobby was going to help me with a Christmas message.

I really wanted to use the scene from “Talladega Nights” where Ricky Bobby who is played by Will Ferrel is praying to “sweet baby Jesus.” What strikes me about this scene is that Ricky refuses to acknowledge that Jesus grew up. He likes the baby Jesus and that is all that matters. But after that time of prayer, the message went in a sharply different direction and so it left me to consider Ricky Bobby and how his image of Jesus can often be like ours.

The more I have thought on this idea, the more I wonder if we are often guilty of the same approach. We like or have a certain idea or version of Jesus that fits into our worldview, our theological identities, even our political leanings regardless of to the right, center, and left. And I get it. It makes us comfortable.

But what if Jesus doesn’t fit? What if Jesus is not at all how we have constantly viewed him? What if he doesn’t fully fit into the nice view we have? What if our view is only a small glimpse at his greatness? What happens at that point?

While I cannot speak for everyone, what I have discovered based on my own personal experience, is that my view or image of Christ is based largely upon how much I trust him. The smaller my view of Christ is the less I tend to trust him to be bigger than the issues I am concerned with. This leads me to try and deal with “it” on my own or look for someone else to “take care” of things in a way that I see as best. When my view of Christ expands, it quickly shakes me out of a place where I am comfortable and to a place where my level of trust also grows.

The questions then becomes how much do I trust Jesus to be Jesus in all situations? Do I trust him enough to be bigger and to handle things as only He knows how that will bring glory to His name? Do I trust that even in my fear, and struggle, and theology, for Jesus to work in and through my life and bring about the completeness that He longs for in creation? Can I move past the baby version of Jesus because my trust in Him has allowed my eyes and my heart to see the Son of God to be more than a baby in a manger but a man beaten and broken on a cross? Not a helpless baby in need of care but a resurrected King who has defeated sin and death and is redeeming all of creation to himself?

As our view of Christ grows so does our trust in Him. As our trust grows we should fear less because perfect love has driven out all fear and trust in Christ is grounded in love of Christ. And while the world may be dark and scary at times, and we wonder how God can move, he is still very active and bigger than all we tend to get hung up on. His grace and mercy and forgiveness in my life is greater than I will ever be able to understand. And because of that my trust in him pushes me to believe that if its great for me its as great for others.

As Christ followers we have to get to a place where we trust that God knows what He is doing and is calling all people to himself and as they encounter Him in his truest form, He will make sure they understand what it is He is calling them into.