What's In a Name?

On March 5, 1962, my parents named me Jimmy Alan Ladd. I have had a love-hate relationship with that name most of my life. Jimmy was fine as a little boy. It’s all I knew and sounded fine in Texas. Then as an adult, finding my own way in college and beyond, I began to hate it. 


I preferred a more adult, educated name. Jim was great. Some prefer James, but that wasn’t actually my name, so I never considered it. I like Jim.


Jimmy Ladd makes me think of a radio commercial for a used car lot - “Come on down to Jimmy Ladd’s Used Cars! We’ll treat ya right!.” (Not that there's anything wrong with that).


Here’s the deal - your name doesn’t tell me about you - it tells me about your parents. They’re the ones who named you, right? Think of Johnny Cash’s song, “Boy Named Sue” for example.


But God named Himself and that is significant because His name is chosen by Him to reveal Himself to us. 


Our Father, who is in Heaven; Hallowed be your name. Hallowed means “set apart” or “holy.”


It turns out His name is not only Holy, it is powerful and unstoppable. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 124:8). “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10). “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21). 


Solomon built a house for the Name of the Lord and when it was dedicated to His Name, the glory of God filled the temple and the priests could not even stand in it.


Take a few minutes and reflect on the names of God given to us in Scripture:

  • Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

  • Emmanuel, “God with us”

  • I am (I will be who I will be)

  • The King of Glory

  • The Father

  • God my provider

  • God my healer

  • God my banner

  • God who sees

  • God who is always there


And one day, hopefully not too far from now, God will roll up the human experience like a scroll and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess the name of Jesus Christ as Lord over all Creation. His name will be the dividing line for the eternal destiny of all mankind!


What’s in a name? Everything! He commands us to never take His name in vain, but rather to honor His name as Holy and live in the power and protection of His Name forever!


How To Bring It Every Time

When I ask people, “What is it that people want from you the most?” they always answer, “My time” because that is what people ask for. But they are wrong.

People don’t want your time - they want your energy.  

They ask for your time because they love the energy you bring when you spend time with them. The gift you give is your energy. No, not some kind of karma, fruity, mystical kind of energy - the energy of your personality, strength, and love - the best of yourself.

 

Here are five tips on how to bring what people are looking for every time:

  • Pause before every “meeting” and summon your energy. Before you step into their presence, resolve to forget everything else and bring your best in a focused way just for them.

  • Eliminate distractions. Put your phone away. I know you can commit to looking at it less, but trust me, just put the dumb thing away. The average person unlocks their screen 80 times per day. We are addicts and need deliverance.

  • Don’t worry about the time. I find that when I’m worried about keeping the interaction short, I make it fruitless, I am not fully present, or I am wrapped up in anxious stress the whole time. But when I ignore the clock and give focused attention, it always takes less time than if I’d been clock-watching.

  • Be in the moment. The substance of your life - the stuff you’ll savor on your deathbed - will be made up of moments. If you won’t be fully present in the moment, you are going to miss the gold that daily life can surprise you with.

  • Speak less and listen more. Maybe this one is just for me and my big mouth, but my interactions give me even more energy when I listen more and talk less. I try to think to myself, “WAIT” - Why Am I Talking?

You have something no one else can deliver but you: your unique energy and presence. Steward that well and bring it on every occasion.

Take Action, Not Passivity

You’ve probably heard statistics that reveal an increase in the number of random active shooters in public places. We live in a fallen world in which lives don’t matter to someone who’s highly angered with someone or something, or they’ve somehow become enthralled with the newfound notoriety that comes to people who’ve committed such a tragic event. Churches must be prepared if such a person comes on their campus to do harm. While Evergreen Christian Community is blessed by numerous active and retired law enforcement personnel who are armed and ready to address these threats, not all churches have that luxury. So what can people do when someone is suddenly shooting near them in church (or any public place) and they are unarmed?

 

The first thing we have to do is change our mindset. In a vast majority of school, church, and public places where shootings have occurred, people choose to be passive or try and hide in places that won’t help them. I’d like for you to imagine how different things would be if we started throwing objects at these shooters while we advanced toward them and attacked.

 

Shooting a weapon accurately is not nearly as simple as it looks on television. A shooter needs their vision, a sturdy base, the proper grip, control of their breathing, and proper trigger control. These are all reasonably simple if a person is uninhibited. But if things are being thrown at you they’re very hard to accomplish properly. Consider for a moment how hard it would be at a shooting range to hit a target while three or four people were throwing the hardback bibles at you from our pews. Wherever those hit, they are going to hurt! You would naturally be forced to duck and move, and most of the necessary shooting requirements for accuracy would be lost. Then if these same people were advancing on you from different angles, and punching, hitting, kicking, and tackling you, the number of accurate shots you could actually get would be minimal.

 

In the Virginia Tech University shooting in 2007, students tried hiding under desks. If they had attacked the guy while throwing their books, laptops (tablets), and backpacks at him from all angles, considerably fewer students would have perished.

 

If a shooting is happening well away from you, run in the opposite direction and get away! If the shooter is far enough away that you can barricade people in a locked room, do it! But if it’s happening right near you, consider throwing things at this person to upset their equilibrium. Use whatever you can! Books, coffee cups, purses, tablets. The harder the object the better, but even soft objects are startling because they’re unexpected. Grab a nearby fire extinguisher and unload it on their face so they can’t see well! Encourage others around you to join in. Then you must render this shooter helpless until the police can get there.

 

We pray for a hedge of protection around our churches, schools, and public places. But if faced with a nearby threat, take action versus passivity. 

What Does Deliverance Look Like?

What does deliverance from God look like for you and me? How does He deliver His people and how should I pray when I am in need of deliverance?

“Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body,whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.” Philippians 1:18-26

Consider the deliverance of two men, both of which occurred in the town of Dothan in the Old Testament:

  • Elisha and his servant were delivered from a powerful army when God opened their eyes to see that the hills were covered with mighty warrior angels who delivered them without them having to even lift a finger. (2 Kings 6)

  • Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers at Dothan. (Genesis 37) This resulted in his being moved to Egypt, where he was later imprisoned for a rape he did not commit. Then, through the miraculous and delivering power of God, he was elevated overnight to become the second most powerful man on earth.

Elisha was delivered FROM his battle while Joseph was delivered THROUGH his battle.

What does deliverance look like? 


Sometimes it looks like:

  • Armies of angels to deliver you

  • Earthquakes while singing worship in prison

  • An angel waking you up in prison while you sleep

  • Marching around a city quietly for 6 days before marching with a shout on day 7

  • “Take up your mat and go home”

And sometimes it looks like:

  • Joseph - angels holding you up as you’re sold into slavery and then sent to prison

  • God’s sufficient grace for your thorn (messenger of Satan to torment you)

  • The garden of gethsemane and “let this cup pass from me, but your will be done”

  • Take a little wine for your stomach (Paul’s advice to Timothy, rather than praying a deliverance prayer)

Sometimes God delivers us FROM and sometimes God delivers us THROUGH.

This we know - deliverance is ours, through Christ Jesus.

What is all this about, anyway? Like everything in all creation, it is all about the glory of God!

Last time I checked, the mortality rate in this region is still 100%. We are all going to die someday. Eternal life is for our heavenly bodies, not our earthly ones.

Two Keys to keep in mind when you need deliverance:

  1. Stay on that altar as a living sacrifice - Romans 12:1-2

  2. Always ask God for deliverance FROM the battle and be willing to experience deliverance THROUGH the battle.

Go Outside the Camp

One of the most important things we as followers of Jesus Christ are to do is to “go and make disciples” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” We’ve heard it said many times and yet when we look around us it seems that isn’t happening. Our world is divided, and there is a lot of hatred around us. There’s a sad reality that Christianity is no longer seen as the answer for peace and compassion in our country. So how do we change that? How do we as Christians find a better way of loving people?

 

In Hebrews chapter 13, the author uses an analogy to describe the great sacrifice of Jesus to us. It says this:

 

“The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” -Hebrews 13:11-14

 

Before Jesus came to earth, the sacrifice of animals was necessary for the forgiveness of sin. And only the priest could bring the sacrifice to the Most Holy Place. He had to be “clean”. So when the Israelites were camped, the bodies were considered unclean and had to be burned away from camp. But here’s what the author shows us. Jesus stepped outside of this camp. He stepped out of the Most Holy Place, and he took on the lowliest of positions. He died as our sacrifice! He paid the price we owed. He made us holy.

 

And the author continues saying we should join him “outside the camp.” We are to join him in this mission to find those in the lowliest of places. He didn’t leave us where we were, He loved us while we were still sinners, in all of the mess this life has to offer. How comfortable are we in our church buildings? Are we so afraid of abandoning our comforts that we aren’t stepping outside the camp to love the unlovable?

 

We as the people of God need to be ready to step outside of our comfort zones and love people. That means seeing all the ugly, all the depravity, and all the brokenness that comes with it. What our desperate world needs is the great, all-encompassing love of Christ. And we are to leave camp and walk with God to show that love.

 

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” -Hebrews 13:15-16

5 Reasons Christianity is Suffering

It hasn’t been hard to notice that Christianity seems to be “bleeding out” - you see this thanks to reports after reports of Christian leader’s moral failures, notable Christians leaving the faith, and unfortunately, young people deciding to either resist or leave Christianity altogether. But why is this happening? Why is our faith in the one true living God getting a bad reputation? This is a huge conversation to tackle, but let’s get into five reasons why this is happening and some insights into how we can deal with them.

1.Judgment

This has caused Christianity to suffer simply because we turned our “be holy as He is holy” into “be holy as we are holy”. This is not to say make no judgments at all, but our criteria for what we judge people for and our intentions need to be healthily defined first. Luke 6:41,“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Can you accurately judge yourself? Does the situation call for judgment or a hand of compassion? John 16:8-11, “When he (The Holy Spirit) comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”

Allow God to do His work in us as we focus on the work He’s called us to.

2. Lack of Integrity

Because we are Christians, everyone around us has been listening and watching our every word and movement. When we have preached, gone out to eat, posted on facebook, performed at work, stood in line at the grocery store, and even when we go to church. For generations, the church has been called out for being a group of hypocrites. We can talk the talk but we can’t walk the walk. I think the issue comes down to something very simple. Do you love your God enough to obey His commands? Righteousness isn’t obtained, it was given. Salvation isn’t obtained, it was paid for. Life isn’t obtained, it’s lived. 

Choose to love God enough to pay attention to what He commands and you’ll not only desire a life of integrity, you’ll live it. 

3. Division

For a while, the church seems to be divided. Everyone seems to understand that we really love Jesus and we really love the bible. But it’s everything inside the spectrum of those two things that we will fight each other over. Luke 11:17, “Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.” I am a firm believer in the power of unity. Show me two people who are unified in EVERY way and I can show you what heaven is like. Genesis 6:11 “The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” When people see a unified body of believers focused on Jesus and following him there is nothing He cannot accomplish through us.

Unity will define our ability.

4.Moral referees

Often Christianity is viewed as this religion that says no to just about everything. It’s okay to believe something is wrong, a lot of things are! But it’s not okay to condemn someone on the moral ground that you yourself can’t even stand on. Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. That means we have to accept that we are sinners also. As Christians we are called to make disciples, not to referee the moral guidelines. We should be raising a standard for others to aspire to.

Allow God to make the rules, so we can play one heck of a game.

5. Altarless Discipleship

The reality is that nothing matters to someone until there is proof. Until something in their life is compelling enough to bring them to a revelation of the living God and His love for them. Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” We cannot win people over with our words or our talents and dashing good looks, rather by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But from there we are called to disciple others. We need to present a life to others that show the power and presence of God in our own lives. We rely on kind words and traditional repetition to convince ourselves we are living according to God’s will. Let me ask you this, do you read your bible? Do you pray? Do you live a life of victory and freedom? Do you desire to see the will of God in your life and others? Our lives should be walking reflections of the power and presence of the living God, and we should be able to teach others to walk in that as well.

Christians should be the leading edge in life. Not because of their agendas, but because of the evident power of God.

Private Health // Public Fruitfulness

In our cultural obsession with celebrities, success, and image, we have forgotten this fundamental principle: Private health precedes Public fruitfulness.

Negligence of this principle results in the kinds of failings that have become commonplace these days: church leaders who live double lives, tragic stories of abuse or sin that becomes public, government leaders who have dark secrets, and more. In fact, it’s becoming almost impossible for people to hold a high degree of confidence in the integrity of anyone or any institution.

The Bible calls it the “law of the farm” which is to say that we will always reap what we sow. When we sow no seeds of continual spiritual formation and character development in the private place alone with God, it is only a matter of time before we see a corresponding famine of character, strength, or courage in the public space.

The simple way to say it is that we have become Christians without an Altar; followers of Jesus who actually spend almost no time alone with Jesus to hear His voice, learn His character, or answer His call.

Following Jesus is a life of both Altar and Obedience:

ALTAR:

  • The place of communion, consecration, and commission for every servant of God

  • The place of private health

  • The place of power for growth and change

OBEDIENCE:

  • The disciplined lifestyle and focus of someone surrendered to the ownership of Jesus

  • The place of public fruitfulness

  • The process of growth and change

We receive 3 Graces at the Altar, which we can find no other way:

  • Authority - over the flesh and the voices of the world

  • Assurance - of our mission from Jesus

  • Anointing - to fulfill our life of obedience with bountiful fruitfulness


I believe God is calling His people back to the practice and priority of the altar, both privately and corporately, and that, as we seek Him in that sacred space in our lives, we will see Him move among and through us like never before. 


The world is starving for followers of Jesus who prioritize their altar time with Jesus and, therefore, carry with them the aroma of Christ.


Self-Preservation and the Mediocre Life

Is there a connection between self-preservation and mediocrity? Does the desire to save oneself impede the impact we have on those around us? Think about our cultural heroes: men and women like Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, and Nelson Mandela. All of these paid a great price to serve others; all of these disregarded the preservation of self in order to serve a greater cause. But we don’t need to look towards such idyllic leaders to see the connection between sacrifice and significance. The boxer who risks his body for the fight, the artist who reveals her heart on the canvas, and the nurse who cares for those who cannot pay give exceptional service to their own detriment. Pain, exposure, and poverty are their reward… unless they are working for something greater than themselves. 

Save yourself and limit the impact you have on others.

Jesus taught that, “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” He draws a direct connection between self-preservation and the loss of life. Our efforts to keep safe, comfortable, and alive result in a spiritual death. However, our willingness to spend our life towards the cause of Christ takes purchase of eternity. 

Are you working to save yourself or spend yourself? Is your desire for self-preservation keeping you from doing something significant? Consider these things as you go about your work. And consider the amount of energy you spend helping others and saving yourself.

The Four Essential Habits of Spiritual Vitality

 

Last Sunday I mentioned in the message on Psalm 133 that having relationships where you attach your heart to others of faith (unity) is one of the four essentials habits of sustained spiritual vitality.

 

I want to tell you about all four.

 

The first habit is having regular encounters with God. I describe a God-encounter as any time I gain revelation or insight about who God is, what God is doing in me, or how God is working in the world. This happens most regularly in Church gatherings and personal prayer/study times. It can also happen in the woods, on a walk, listening to music, and lots of ways.

 

The second habit is transformational relationships. Our faith gets shaped by our relationships and it is essential to have a community of faith where I am having faith-shaping conversations with people I trust. This is best in a mid-sized group, small group or a coffee table with one or two friends, but it is an essential part of ongoing spiritual formation in our lives.

 

The third habit is personal spiritual disciplines. Our faith gets established in our hearts and lives as we wrestle with the Scriptures (hear it, read it, study it, meditate on it, memorize it, and apply it to our lives), wrestle with God in prayer, and deepen our reflection through journaling, fasting, solitude and other spiritual disciplines.

 

The fourth habit is meaningful service to others. Our faith gets energized when God uses us to impact someone’s life. He has given us gifts and experiences and when we use them to bless others, our own faith gets fresh fire. All addiction recover experts know that helping other addicts is a key to ongoing recovery.

 

When you practice these four habits - as a lifestyle - your will still travel through peaks and valleys, but your spiritual vitality will trend up and to the right over your lifetime. It is impossible to live these habits and stay stagnate in your spiritual life for long periods of time.

Until He Comes

Not long ago we participated in Communion and read the passage of scripture from I Corinthians 11:26, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”  So often we hear Communion referenced as something we should do, “In Remembrance of Me.”  Often times a Communion table will even have those words inscribed on its side.  While it is important to partake of Communion to remember what Jesus has done, we are also instructed to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”  Christ’s return is also important to our faith and hope!  How valuable it is to keep that hope in perspective. 

 

Jesus never promised us a life without problems.  Though none of us should complain when life is going perfect, we know that life rarely does.  In fact, Jesus said in John 16:33 that, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  There certainly is a balance that needs to be held between living God-fulfilled lives in the here and now, and looking ahead towards eternity.  However, if we are not careful we can often find ourselves wrapped up in the present without giving much forethought to the future.

 

Jesus is returning!  And that’s a good word for His followers.  Paul writes in I Thessalonians 4:16-18 that we are to encourage each other with this truth.

 

16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

 

May we always keep it on the forefront of our minds that our King is returning!  May we live in such a way that He will be pleased with how He finds us!

Eyes Opened but Still Blind

Have you ever prayed, “God open my eyes?” This is a prayer that often leaves my lips when I am seeking wisdom and understanding in a situation. I do think there is always more wisdom and insight that God is willing to give when asked.

 

The other morning in my daily reading, I was in Acts reading about Saul’s Damascus road experience and something struck me that I hadn’t noticed before.

 

“Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.” (Acts 9:8)

 

This is what struck me: Saul has this blinding- light encounter with Jesus. He is confronted with the truth of Jesus and is now a “believer.” No longer can he deny the deity of Jesus. What stood out to me was the statement “although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing.” My mind immediately was captivated with this.

 

I wonder how many of us have had an encounter with Jesus where our eyes have been opened to the truth of Jesus, but we are still blind to what exactly that means for us and the world around us.

 

How many people sit through worship service after worship service, whose eyes are opened to the truth of Jesus, but are still blind to the blessings, power, and authority of Jesus?

 

They have the truth in their heart but have settled in to a spiritual blindness.

 

Immediately after Saul encountered the truth of Jesus, a series of events took place. He was lead to a safe home, and he encountered an individual, Ananias, who was further along in the faith. God prepared Ananias and used him to speak more truth in order to remove the blinders from Saul’s eyes. From there, Saul went into a season of intense discipleship where his spiritual eyes were opened even wider and his understanding of Jesus and His gospel became a personal, burning passion in his bones.  It was after these experiences that Saul, now Paul, set out on arguably the most important mission the Church would ever embark on.

 

My mind has been captivated lately with this thought: how do we intentionally help those who have encountered the truth of Jesus? How can we lead those whose eyes have been opened to the truth, but yet are still blind to begin a similar growth journey that Saul walked.

 

The reason I bring this to you is two-fold. Maybe you find yourself in this story in one of two places. Maybe you see yourself and your situation as Saul. Your eyes have been opened to the truth of Jesus but you would have to admit that you are still blinded to what all that really means. If that is you, I would encourage you to reach out to one of the leaders here at ECC and let us help you enter that growth journey. I promise an amazing and enlightening adventure awaits you with Jesus.

 

Others of you might have seen yourself more in Ananias, your eyes have been opened and the blinders have been removed. God wants to use you to help others remove the scales from their eyes. Like Ananias, you might be hesitant to do so. Let me just encourage you to move beyond your discomfort and obey. You never know the Saul that God might lead you to will become a Paul.


Why Most Repentance Efforts Fails

Most repentance efforts fail and by failure I mean two things: 1) the repentant person fairly quickly returns to their sin, and/or 2) the repentant person feels continued shame, guilt, and a barrier between them and God even though they have left that sin behind.

Repentance is not remorse. It is not to feel badly about your sin, or to confess and grieve over your sin. To repent means to turn around and go the other way. It includes confession and remorse, but it also includes a renewed commitment to a new order of things. A connecting back to the work of Jesus, calibrating to the Presence of His Spirit in you, and re-entering a daily walk of dependence upon the Spirit of God in every moment.

What is missing in our repentance? I think the answer is in the first two verses of Psalm 51. This is the Psalm David wrote right after being confronted by Nathan and recognizing the depth of his deeds with Bathsheba.

 

““Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

 

The key? Recognizing that you are a far worse person than even your sin reveals and that you are utterly dependent upon God.

 

David uses three words to describe his problem: transgression, iniquity, and sin. This digging through the layers of our sin problem is an essential part of effective repentance. David begins with his transgressions; a transgression is a willful violation of the law. When the speed limit is 55 and your son is driving 80, he is transgressing the law. And David’s transgressions were brutal. We often call it his “adultery” with Bathsheba, but let’s be clear - it was a rape.

 

While we are not informed of Bathsheba’s feelings, the truth is she had no choices in the matter because the King decided he deserved to have her. He rapes her and then kills her husband to cover his sin. He doesn’t just kill a man, but a man who had been one of his mighty men of valor, risking his life numerous times to save David’s. Not only that, but this murder results in the deaths of other soldiers who’s wives and children lose their husband/father to cover David’s sin.

 

How does a man who loves God so deeply, whom God calls “a man after my heart”, fall so far? The same way I do, and you do - iniquity. “Wash away all my iniquity”, David prays. Iniquity means “perversity” or “bentness” and refers to the broken and sinful depravity that flows in our veins since conception. “In sin did my mother conceive me”, David adds.

 

Embracing our iniquity helps us recognize that our transgressions flow from the contaminated spring of our souls - that not only did we transgress God’s law in this particular instance, but transgression is about the only thing that we naturally and consistently do. Everything about us, even our efforts to love and serve God and others, is polluted, resulting in sin (David’s third confession): “cleanse me from my sin”.

 

Sin is an archery term, referring to our inability to hit the bullseye. Everything we do falls short of the mark of perfection, for it is polluted by our iniquity. We are incapable beings, desperate for God and His help. We are fundamentally broken and it colors everything about who we are and what we do.

 

This confession of complete brokenness and utter dependence upon God is the entry point of effective repentance. Let your sin drive you to this place and to the reminder of your desperate need of God. Learning to live in this space will also empower us to walk more closely with God, leaning into His Presence and power so that we live for Him more effectively.

5 Worship Misconceptions

I have been involved in worship for as long as I can remember. I’m convinced that it’s nearly impossible to define what it means to worship God in a single phrase. Worship is a lifestyle, worship is an attitude, worship is all about God, worship is a form of spiritual warfare, worship can heal the soul. The reality is, all of that is true, worship is all of those things and more.

 

Worshipping God is a bit of a lost art in modern church culture. There are many misunderstandings about worship and I’d like to highlight 5 of them. I hope this list will help you get a better understanding of what it means to truly worship God.

 

 

1.     Singing songs is my worship to God

A lot of people believe that worship begins and ends with music, singing and/or listening to “worship” songs. But music is not, in and of itself, worship. While music can be a very enjoyable part of honoring and loving God, real worship is all about obeying and pleasing God through our actions, attitudes and thoughts. Music is a small (although important) part of a lifestyle that aims to please God.

  

2.     Praise is celebration (fast songs). Worship is intimacy (slow songs)

I remember that is how we defined praise and worship back in the day. You start a gathering with some fast music (“praise”) then you transition into slower music (“worship”). Again, the misconception here is that worship is a “thing” you do. But worship is in fact a desire to obey and please God. Worship is not about fulfilling a religious obligation, it’s about showing God just how thankful we are for His faithfulness and goodness towards us. That is done through our obedience to Him.

  

3.     True worship is when “the glory” is felt in a gathering

The tingles, goosebumps, hair standing up, the “feels.” Many people believe that true worship is occurring when we feel a certain way. But when was the last time you were ridiculed because of your faith but you stood firm in your beliefs? Or when you stood up for God while He was being mocked. Or when you chose to go against the “flow” of this world because you know it dishonors God. Did it give you the tingles? Probably not, it probably hurt and I’m sure it was very difficult. Many times, true worship (obedience to God) won’t give you the “feels” but you know it honors God. I’ll admit though, I love when I hear a well written song that has just the right melody to strike an emotional response in me (gives me goosebumps or the “feels”). But based on that alone, it doesn’t mean it was “true” worship. Maybe I just really like that song.

  

4.     Certain songs and/or styles are considered more “worship” than others

One big misconception about worship is this idea that I get to decide what God likes and enjoys. I remember growing up listening to ministers on the radio and TV saying “y’all playin that devil music in the church!” They argued that true worship was “the ‘ol gospel hymns” and modern/contemporary music was dishonoring to God. Maybe they didn’t know it, but those very same styles of music were also being played at the time in the clubs and bars by famous artists such as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Elvis Presley. Thankfully, we now have learned a great lesson because of that, the power of purpose over preference. The purpose of worship through music should get us to acknowledge the goodness and worthiness of God. That purpose should far exceed our preference.

 

5.     Worship is a purely personal experience

“It’s me and God and forget everyone else.” That was my attitude for many years. I truly believed that worship was something that was between me and God and us alone. Then I realized the importance of worshiping God with others. There is a tremendous power in acknowledging God together and encouraging one another at the same time. Worship is personal but it's also communal. In fact, we are commanded to gather and worship together. Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) says: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

“Silence is a powerful Communicator”

Recently I read an article on communication tiled “Four Communication Barriers and How to Spot Them”. At times we all struggle with communication and how do we “get better” at it.

 

This article helped me, so I thought I would pass it on. Who doesn’t need a little help communicating better?

 

“Four Communication Barriers and How to Spot Them”

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott 

Silence is not the cause of poor communication-the fear of pain is. It’s human nature to seek pleasure and avoid pain. The truth is people actually avoid pain first, then seek pleasure. And under painful circumstances communication goes away and silence can set in.

 

There are four styles of miscommunication that result when a person feels threatened. Placating, Blaming, Computing and Distracting. By understanding these styles and recognizing when they occur you can ease your tension (and the one you are communication with) and get to the root of the cause before your communication breaks down

 

1.     PLACATING

 The Placater is a “yes” person. This person is eager to please and apologetic. You’ll frequently hear placaters say things like: “Whatever you want!” or “Don’t worry about me, it’s ok.” They want to keep the peace at any price, including feeling worthless.

 

Studies show that placaters have difficulties expressing anger and hold back so many feelings in they often become depressed. As a placater you should remind yourself that it is ok to disagree! If the person you are talking to is a placate try to recognize their actions so you can help them express their feeling when they are holding back,

 

2.     BLAMING

 The Blamer is a fault finder who criticizes relentlessly and speaks in generalizations. You’ll often hear blamers saying things such as “You never do anything right!” or “You’re just like your mother/father.” Deep inside, blamers usually feel unworthy or unlovable and can get angry at the anticipation that they won’t get what they want. Blamers tend to find that the best defense is a good defense.

 

If you (or the one you are talking to) are a blamer try to recognize when you feel the need to be defensive. You likely fear dealing with expression or pain – try to let this go. Once you recognize these behaviors, learn to speak on your behalf, without indicting others in the process.

 

 

3.      COMPUTING 

The Computer is a reasonable, calm and collected person. This person usually never admits mistakes ad expect people to conform and perform. You’ll often hear the computer saying: “Upset? I’m not upset. Why do you think I am upset?” Computers fear emotion and prefer facts and stats.

 

If you or the person you are talking to often find yourself computing, then it’s time to open up the communication doors and express your real feelings. Computers need someone to ask them how they feel and out certain things. If you recognize this trait in yourself or the person you are talking to, having an intentional conversation with them may help.

 

4.     DISTRACTING 

The Distracter resorts to irrelevancies under stress and avoids direct eye contact and direct answers. Distracters are also quick to change the subject. You’ll often hear them saying something along the lines of: “What problem? Let’s go shopping.” Distracters fear fighting and confrontation can bring this on.

 

The solution? Distracters need to know they are safe, not helpless. Problems can be solved and conflicts can be resolved. Encourage yourself (or person talking to) to confront problems head-on with productive conversation, rather than burying them.

 

The next time you find yourself communication with a placating, blaming, computer or distracter, remember that this is likely the result of feeling stressed or hurt about something. And vice versa. If you find you or the person you are talking has resulted to one of these methods, ease your or their tension by being sensitive and trying to get to the root of the issue.

 

By opening up the communication walls before they completely close, you will be well on your way to a solid and productive conversation.

 

 

Dad Priorities

Father’s Day is coming soon and I just want to brag on the incredible power of Dads for influence in the world. In fact, when you just study the tragic statistics of this world, you see the high cost of the loss of dads. For example, 90% of homeless and runaway populations and 80% of psych hospital patients are from fatherless homes. There are many more, but let’s not focus on the negative.

Here is what I know - there are no perfect dads! We are all flawed, but we can make a monumental difference for our kids and the world. I have friends in their 60s and older who still talk about their dads when they were kids - for good and for bad. Your influence is astonishing.

Here are three tips I got from Doug Clay at a recent Men’s Conference:

1. Give your best energy to your most important relationships.

Don’t let lower-priority relationships steal your highest-priority energy - protect it and give it to your family.

    2. Give your best resources to your highest priorities.

Time, money, attention, and energy are your most precious resources. Many of your resources are non-renewable and once you’ve used them, they’re gone. Preserve the best of you and your resources for your highest priorities.

    3. Give your most positive creativity to your deepest disappointments.

Focus your attitude in your pain toward positivity and creativity. Keep asking what you can do to move forward positively and how you can give your best to your recovery from deep wounds.


Short story? Bring your best, protect your best, and prioritize your best for the people and things that matter most. Call on your Heavenly Father to equip and empower you for this critical task and lean on Him.


No reserves. No retreats. No regrets.


My Daughter Taught Me Hospitality

My daughter taught me something about hospitality last week. I brought her to the gym for a kids-workout. This was her first time attending so she was a bit nervous and very excited. In preparation, she asked me questions about what they would do, if they had snacks, and of the other kids who might attend. My daughter never travels light and she packed a bag with extra clothes, water bottles, and a little pink med-kit.

The med-kit caught my eye and I asked her about it. “It’s for the kids if they get hurt,” she explained, “look.” In this toy designed for make-believe, she had prepared for every medical disaster imaginable. She presented two Band-Aids, hand sanitizer, a cough drop, and several small toys. My daughter continued to explain the significance of each item.

“What are the toys for?” I asked.

“The toys are there to cheer kids up.” She replied as a matter of fact.

She had a great time at the workout, running and jumping with the other kids, until a young girl fell and skinned her knee. My daughter instantly jumped into action. She retrieved her pink medical kit and bound for the young girl. She applied both Band-Aids, gifted a toy, and offered her patient and cough drop for good measure. Instantly the two girls were best friends. They exchanged hugs, plastic jewelry, and held hands for the rest of their time together. At the end of our time, my daughter offered medical advice on the removal of Band-Aids and they said their final goodbyes.

I was so proud of her.

She came prepared to love the little girl with a skinned knee. She anticipated a need and took the necessary steps to help. This hospitality required anticipation, anticipation empathy, and empathy compassion. No, my daughter didn’t know this girl but she knew that someone might need her and she planned accordingly.

Richard Gula wrote about this type of caring in his book titled, To Walk Together Again. He writes,

“Jesus’ command of love is tough. People throughout the ages have tried to make it work. Some people had vied for it, almost all have known the discouragement of failing to make it work. What does this love demand? Of all the attempts to bring some insight into what love demands, I have found those who explore the notion of “hospitality” to be the most helpful. The New Testament word for this kind of love which is commanded, and which is the love that reconciles, is agape. The Greek word, however, does not seem to work for most people today. Who knows what it means ‘hospitability’ works. Everyone seems to have some idea of what it means.”

Agape love is hospitality love. It is a love of anticipation, a love of compassion, and a love of empathy. Who are you anticipating today? Who needs your love in a new and compassionate way? Imagine the impact that your internal predictive compassion can have on the heart of another. I hope you can see it and plan accordingly. My daughter did and taught me how to practice agape in the doing.

 

The Chronic "Hurry Sickness"

“You must ruthlessly eliminate worry from your life.”

Dallas Willard

 

            Many people a battling a sickness and they aren’t even aware of it. This disease is called “Hurry Sickness.” In today’s society and culture, people are constantly trying to check tasks off of their to-do list at lightning speeds. We are living in a world where we are dreaming about the end result, even when the end result keeps moving.

            John Ortberg wrote a book called “The Life You’ve Always Wanted” where he shares several disciplines and practices that help align us with God’s plan for humanity. One of these disciplines is the “Discipline of Slowing.” I know what you’re thinking… slow down? Who has time for that? Slowing down is not only important, it is necessary.

            When we slow down and eliminate hurry from our life, we find ourselves enjoying life, enjoying others, being more intentional with our time, and focusing on what really matters. We are also able to really tune into our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health as we hear from God.

            We all need rest. We all need slowing. We all need time with friends, family, and Jesus that isn’t bound by time limits. Mark 6:31 says it like this, “Come with me, by yourself and get some rest.” May that be how we operate each day. May we slow down and share a meal with our kids, or pause to remind our spouses why we love them, or just hit pause on life to get away with Jesus.

            Time is a big deal, but eternity just happens to be a bigger deal. How are you spending your time?

Do You Hear What I Hear?

God is talking to us all the time through so many channels! Frequently, what I hear is very different than what you hear. Have you ever wondered why that is? Why what may apply to you does not apply to all people? Or, why we think that if God tells us something we should do or can’t do that it must apply to everyone in our traffic pattern? And the whole wide world for that matter!

The truth is, often it simply does not apply to anyone but the individual HE is talking to. We know that the 10 commandments apply to all, they are black and white. However, there are things that only apply to you or me, because God knows us individually. After all HE created us and HE knows the beginning, the end, and all the chapters in between of our story. He knows what is good for us and what is bad for us. That applies to us for protection, for prevention, and because it will bring glory to HIM.

There are times that I clearly hear from God! Sometimes it is through His Word, sometimes through other people; other times through creation or meditation. One of the many things I’ve learned is that recurrently HE is speaking directly to me and me only. Before this occurred to me that sometimes HIS message was for my information, conviction, correction or affirmation, I would hear HIM and make what HE said a new law for ALL to hear and to abide by. Just ask my poor husband, he can attest to this fact! This became a place of judgment for me; not my being judged, but my judging others based on what God was saying to me.

One example was being at church every time the doors were open. I could even line this up with scripture, (Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching,”). I would scan the audience on Sundays and any other event and think, “hmmmmm, I wonder why…..” and my mind would come up with judgey scenarios of why ‘ole so and so was not there, which in turn would make me miss the whole reason I was there. Then one day, I clearly heard God say something like this, “it’s really none of your business why they are not here, I asked you to come, and that’s all you need to worry about.” That cured me. Anytime I’m tempted to place my convictions on someone else, I hear, “it’s really none of your business.”

I learned that everyone will not hear what I hear.


If you experience such things, try this: Next time God speaks to you, bask in the realization that HE is talking to you! Thank HIM for taking time out of HIS busy schedule to bring life to an area of your being that needs HIS voice. Feel free to ask HIM if this is something to share or if it is a secret or mystery that He is sharing just with you. (Daniel 2:28"However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries…”) He will tell you. You see, HE is a personal God. He knows you by name and one of HIS greatest pleasure is HIS relationship with you as HE watches you become more like HIM and sees your character changing to HIS image. This will bring glory to HIM, and intimacy to your relationship with HIM.  Remember that we each have a personal relationship with HIM, which sometimes simply means, it’s just a you and HIM conversation. Finally, if you feel compelled to place your convictions on others consider this, HE also speaks to them!

Jesus and the Referee

I love watching sports events.  While I certainly concentrate my viewing on the big three (football, basketball, and baseball), my wife will tell you that I delight in observing almost every competitive sport.  The athleticism that some people possess really amazes me.  And like most people, I have my favorite teams.

One of the things I’ve noticed more and more lately is how quick we sports fans are to blame officials when our preferred team loses a game.  This is rarely true, but I admit I’m guilty of doing this myself!  A big part of this is due to the incredible instant replay we can view on our massive television screens.  We now have multiple camera angles, stunning picture clarity, and announcers and fellow fans to reinforce what we already knew.  If that official hadn’t screwed up that OBVIOUS call, my team would’ve won!

This reminds me that we have an enemy always pointing out our sinful behavior.  The replay evidence is clear and he has the proof.  The bible reminds us in Romans 3:10-12, There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. 

But if you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior, he’s there turning the table on the referee.  Jesus calls us safe when we were obviously out at the plate.  While it’s clear that the football hit the ground, Jesus is there to announce that we caught it!  And that shot that we took after the buzzer, he says it left our hands prior to the horn sounding and it counts!  Hebrews 8:12 tells us the Lord will forgive our wickedness and remember our sins no more!

I’m sure glad my Jesus is running the replay booth, aren’t you?

Miraculous Expectation

I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?
Jeremiah 32:27

What are your expectations when it comes to God and His miracles? I think we all can get stuck in certain incomplete stances when it comes to our expectations of miracles. People land all over the spectrum of faith here. Some people may choose not to believe in the miraculous. Some may live on the opposite side blindly expecting every good thing to come their way as long as they just believe while others may find themselves somewhere in the middle, struggling to know if they should let their faith extend in various circumstances to trust for a miracle.

I think there is potential for a flawed outlook on the miraculous if we are simply looking for miracles just to make life be what we want it to be or to be what we think our life should be like, as if we should have a standard of what life “should be like”.

Here is what I want to challenge you with: Expect God to be true to His character. You know what we can always expect? We can ALWAYS expect, count on, and depend on God to be God. He will never not be Himself!

Now, to be clear, I am not going to promise you a life of ease and smooth sailing ahead without any surprises, bumps, cliffs, or mountains along the way. In fact, I can pretty much promise that hard times will come.

So what’s the point? How does our expectation for God being Himself and doing miraculous things in our lives tie into this? Simply put: God is going to be right there with you in the midst of those hard times. We can place our hope in Him not because He makes life blindly navigable but because when hard times hit, He knows how to help us take the right steps and make the right turns on the road of life.

Consider the nation of Israel. They were enslaved to Egypt. It was miserable, they were mistreated, they were unhappy. God brought Moses up to advocate to Pharaoh on their behalf. God brought multiple plagues to get Pharaoh to release Israel from slavery and bondage. Pharaoh would give lip service and say “OK, OK” but as soon as the plague was lifted, he would go right back into being the way he was previously. One day, God took all of the first born of Egypt but passed over the families of the nation of Israel and spared their lives.

Pharaoh finally stepped back and let them go. Later, though, he changed his mind and chased after them. Cue the Israelites complaints: “We would have been better off slaves in Egypt than to be dead in the desert.




Then came the miraculous. Moses had an expectation for God to be God here and that is exactly what happened.

13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Exodus 14:13-14


The nation of Israel here was faced with a seemingly impossible situation: death or death. Either Egypt catches up and kills them all or brings them back as slaves or they hope the road ahead doesn’t lead to their demise either.

What does God do? He makes a way. It surely isn’t what any of the Israelites would have noted as their expectation. But Moses knew God would make a path. And He did, right down the middle of the sea.

Moses demonstrated some amazing faith here about trusting God for a miracle. He didn’t step out and say “This is what God has to do in our situation”. Nope, instead His heart said “I know God will do something.”

Simply put: Moses trusted that God would be… well, God.

My point here isn’t to try and say that everything turns out to be something beautiful, good and rewarding in the moment. Some things are just plain hard and painful. While that pain is at times inevitable, what’s beautiful about it is that God is right there to comfort us and guide us through any and all circumstances.

So whatever you’re facing or struggling with, remember that you can count on God to be Himself, true to His character. He will always deliver on that promise. He’ll comfort you in painful times, give you vision and wisdom for how to navigate the road your on and will ALWAYS be there, right by your side.