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Posted on May 2, 2017 in Blog, Church, Deliberate Living, Featured

What Keeps Sunday’s Intention From Becoming Monday’s Action?

What Keeps Sunday’s Intention From Becoming Monday’s Action?

Sunday can be a great day, can’t it? We gather together with other believers, we hear from God’s word, we humble ourselves before Him in worship. Often times, we will leave church on Sunday with a decision to do this or that differently. I don’t have something specific in mind. It’s just that God’s word has a way of illuminating the things that aren’t in harmony with his plan for our lives.

So, we leave, with the best of intentions.

But, then something happens between Sunday and Monday.

What is it?

I think it can be boiled down to a few underlying problems.

1. Margin.

We are too busy. I’ve been there. Still am from time to time. We’re busy with good things, (mostly), but we’re busy. We’ve got things to do on Sunday afternoon and if we don’t get them done today, they won’t get done until next weekend. So, we spend the rest of the day doing those things.

Then Monday morning comes. And, we don’t want to go to work (because we haven’t yet realized what a gift it is that God has blessed us with this job, and surrounded us with opportunities to live for Him…) so we hit the snooze button 7 or 8 times. We run out the door, cut in and out of traffic and make it to work a few minutes late.

Monday is a hard day, we have to work late, we get home late, rush dinner, sit down – exhausted, fall asleep on the couch and drag ourselves to bed.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday…You get the picture. Of course you do, you’re living it.

Before we know it, it’s Sunday again and whatever we intended to do last Sunday is long forgotten. All we remember is that we were going do to something and we didn’t. Now we wrestle with the guilt which keeps us from getting up and getting to church.

Can I add something to your “To Do” list? Spend some time right now thinking about your schedule for this week. What can you cut out so you can make time for the most important thing – spending time with God.

We can’t live this life on our own strength. We need the resurrection power fueling us. When was the last time you spent time with him outside of church? If it’s been a while, you might need to create some more margin in your life. Give God some room to help you turn your intention into action.

2. Old Patterns/New Habits.

This one is similar to my first point, but still different. It can take anywhere from 21-42 days to develop a new habit. It only takes a few days to undo a good habit. If you’ve ever tried to do an exercise regimen, and had some success, then gone on vacation, you know what I’m talking about. You come back from vacation and try to get back into the swing of things and realize that those 8 days undid most of what we had been doing up to that point.

But for some reason, there are old patterns in our lives that keep us from being able to create new, healthy habits. We’ve had unhealthy ways of thinking, self-talk, time-management, etc. that have been ingrained into our way of life for so long that we just can’t get out of them. It’s like what happens when you move. You leave work to go home, only to find out your driving to what used to be your home.

What old, unhealthy patterns do you need to cut out of your life so you can start working on creating a new habit of putting your faith into action.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. – James 2:14-17

3. Relying on the church/pastor for faith.

We may make a decision to follow Christ, get baptized and declare to the world that we are following Christ. But, then we stop, right there. We get comfortable, content and complacent. Our only experience with the God who created us, called us and redeemed us is vicarious. We don’t ever encounter or experience God for ourselves, we only experience Him through our pastor or church.

We have the presence of the Holy Spirit living with us and in us. But, we still treat that “with us” presence as a priest who has to intercede on our behalf. We all have access to the holy of holies, but the only time we ever go there is when our pastor takes us.

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. – Hebrews 10:19-22

What if we took advantage of this reality that has been gifted to us? What if we started spending time with God each day? What if we prayed and read his word? What if we worshipped him by living a life of sacrifice?

4. Lack of supporting community/accountability.

The last reason I have is that we think we can do this all on our own. We don’t need no stinking help. I can follow Jesus by myself, thank you. That’s the world we live in, at least in this country. Like a local ad says, “We are fierce, independent thinkers.”

“Now, wait a second. Didn’t you just say I needed to do this on my own?” Yes, yes I did. You/I/we have to follow Christ on our own, we can’t rely on anyone else for that personal aspect of our relationship. But, a relationship with God is not only personal, it’s communal.

God himself is communal. God’s existence is community. Three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit living together in an eternal relationship. Yes, we must pursue God on our own, but we must also pursue Him in community. We cannot live out all that is expected of us on our own, solopreneur power.

In fact, the verse immediately following that last verse is:

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 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. – Hebrews 10:23-25

Plus, there will come a time in the not too distant future when you will need a little help. You may be walking through a trial, you may find yourself being persecuted for your faith or having some of the trouble that was promised to us as believers.

Who can you invite into your life who will support you in your walk? Who can you support in their walk? How can you help live out the communal aspect of the God who saved you?

Intentions are good, but if they don’t lead to action what’s the point?

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I don’t know about that. What I do know is that the road to a deeper experience with God will not be found in the land of good intentions.

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Posted on Aug 22, 2016 in Blog, Church, Deliberate Living, Featured

Make Every Effort

Make Every Effort

I’ve discovered something about myself. This may come as a revelation to you too. That is this: things that require more effort are harder for me to do. 

I know, that’s a revelatory statement. You’re probably thinking, “I clicked on this link to read that. What a waste of my time.” Well, before you click away, give me a second.

At SixEight Church we’re in a series going through these verses of 2 Peter:

2 Peter 1:3-7

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

Granted.

That’s a pretty powerful statement. God’s power has granted to us, given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Those things we need for life and godliness have been granted to us.

How have they been granted to us? Through the knowledge of the one who called us to his own glory and excellence. The calling placed on our lives is not one of mediocrity and averages. We are called to the same glory and excellence of the one who called us.

By this knowledge of holy one who has called us we have been granted/gifted with his precious and great promises. The knowledge we have of the holy God who called us is where we find the promises He has made to us.

And it is through these promises that we become partakers of the divine nature. It is through these promises and divine power that we escape the corruption that is in the world through sin.

But at this point, Peter creates a contrast. To now Peter has been talking about what has been granted/gifted/bestowed to us. And it’s all great stuff. But, he’s going to change course.

Make Every Effort. 

Spoude. Pronounced spoo-day’. It means diligence. Earnestness in accomplishing, promoting or striving after anything.

You see, there’s the work that’s been granted and gifted to us. There’s the aspect of our faith that we have received freely. It’s awesome and amazing. But, the problem is, we stop there. We stop with the easy part. We’ve been given this great gift, but we don’t do our part.

What’s worse, is we often feel entitled to the outcome with out doing our spoude. We want God to just give us the fruit without making any effort to produce the fruit. And we get mad when God doesn’t make us the kind of people we think He should be making us into.

Even though we haven’t done anything to change.

Yes, there is the granted and given aspect of our faith. But, Yes, there is also the working, spoude, diligent, striving aspect of our faith. We have to “press on/strain toward the goal.”(Phil. 3) We have to “Do our best to present ourselves to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2)

We don’t become “spiritual giants” by waiting for someone else to make us one. We don’t become more like Christ by waiting for God to do all the work for us. Will God do the work in us? Absolutely. It can only be done through Him. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have any responsibility to work at becoming like Christ.

The problem is, I’m lazy. I don’t like doing things that require effort on my part. Can’t I just pay someone to do that for me? Isn’t there an easier way.

Samuel Johnson said: “What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.” Faith may not come naturally to you at first, but if you make every effort you can in it, it will come more naturally to you. Virtue/Moral excellence may not come naturally. But if you work at it, strain and strive after it, it will come more naturally to you. Knowledge will not just magically appear in your mind. You have to work to attain it.

The Question:

Instead of blaming God for not granting us our prayers for Him to do something in us that we’re not willing to do in ourselves, we should ask: “Am I making every effort?” Maybe we’re not there yet. “Am I making any effort at all?”

You and I will never grow in our faith, in our relationship, in our walk with God if we don’t make an effort.

How can we make an effort? Spend time reading his word. Read 2 Peter. Read it slowly. Read it once a day. It’s not long. If that’s too much, just read these 5 verses once a day. Think about it. Let it sink in.

Spend time praying to God. Just communicate with God, have an honest conversation with Him about your struggles. Ask Him to help you conquer this or that.

Worship Him. Humble yourself and exalt Christ. Humble yourself and lift Him up. Make sure you are not elevating yourself above God. Don’t make God a fairy or a jeannie in a bottle who exists to grant your wishes. Make much of him and less of yourself.

The Point: 

Our frustrations with our faith are nearly always because we’re not making an effort. What would change if you started making an effort today?

Probably a lot.

It’s time for some Spoude.

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Posted on Aug 15, 2016 in Blog, Culture, Deliberate Living, Encouragement, Featured

Recovering Pessimist

Recovering Pessimist

I don’t know if I’ve always been this way.

It’s hard to remember not being this way. I think some of us with certain personality types are a little more prone to it. However, I think a lot of my habitual pessimism came to me during my time in college.

There’s this way of thinking in college, and it’s in a lot of churches…well, it’s pretty much everywhere.

I’m afraid we’re becoming more and more pessimistic as time goes on.

It can feed your brain and ego to be negative and pessimistic. There are studies showing the way your brain rewards you for being negative and for other negative behaviors like gossiping.

I think that’s party of why we do it. I think we also do it because it makes us feel smart to be able to put something or someone else down. Being negative and pessimistic is a way of lifting ourselves up over whatever it is we’re putting down.

I’ve been trying to be a more positive and optimistic person for a while. But, I haven’t made it public yet. So, I wanted to do that today.

Hi, I’m David. And I’m a recovering pessimist.

I refuse to define myself as a pessimist. I’ve been and am being set free from it. That’s not who I am, that’s who I was. It is a journey. It’s a challenge. It can be tough to change ways of thinking and talking and interacting that have been pressed deeply into your psyche.

But, that’s not who I am, that’s who I was.

However, my confession is not merely a way of me going public with my journey.

It’s also a plea.

Will you join me? Will you go with me on this journey? Will you make a choice to abandon your negative, pessimistic ways of thinking, talking, interacting and seeing the world through that lens?

Especially for those of you who are Christians, we have so much to be thankful for, joyful over and to celebrate! We have been set free from the corruption and brokenness of the world. And while the world around us remains broken, we cannot be instruments of redemption with a mindset of corruption and pessimism.

I’m not saying we won’t have to endure hardships. I’m not saying we have to hide our pain and our struggles. Some of us have gone through unimaginable pain and sorrow. There will be seasons and times of our lives where we walk through the shadows.

But, they are merely that – shadows. They are passing. They are temporary. They exist because there is light. And, as dark as the shadow may be, as dense as the forest around us is – if we just keep walking, we will eventually find ourselves in the light again.

Will you join me in this pursuit? Will you help me in this pursuit? Because I don’t think we need anymore negativity in our world.

Instead, I think we need more hope in our world. We may be the only source of hope for this world. You may be the only source of hope for the people in your life. We cannot provide hope to the world through pessimism and negativity.

Should we be dishonest? Should we put on a front? No.

But, we should practice. It’s one thing to be fake. It’s another thing to practice being someone you’re trying to become. Athletes practice. Musicians practice. Artists practice. People learning to drive have to practice.

We need to practice our positivity, hope and optimism. And maybe if I, if we, practice it enough, it will become who we are.

And maybe someday, people will call you that optimistic person that they love being around.

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Posted on Jun 28, 2016 in Blog, Deliberate Living, Featured

Teach them to Obey…

Teach them to Obey…

If you’ve been around the church world, you’ve undoubtedly heard this verse. We refer to it as the great commission:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

It’s one of my favorites.

Jesus has just won everything, literally. And just before he goes back up into heaven, these are his final words. This is the most epic moment in all of church history. This is that rally point that began it all. Like our favorite scenes from our favorite movies, this is the locker room speech that got the church going.

But, we’ve missed it.

We have gotten a lot of it right. But, I think we’ve missed one of the most important aspects of it.

Teach them to obey.

Obey. We don’t like that word do we? Obey. It sounds old school. Don’t tell me to obey anything. I’ll decide what I want to do.

We like the authority part. Jesus has the power!

We like the idea of making disciples, at least we think we do. Most of us aren’t quite sure what it means to be a disciple, let alone make one. But we think we do. And if we don’t, we pretend to.

Baptizing them. Got it.

Teach them. That’s easy. But is it?

It can be easy to give someone information. It’s not that hard to help someone memorize statistics, facts and trivia.

But the real question we need to ask ourselves: Are we teaching people to obey.

This is where I think we’ve lost it. We have gotten caught up in knowing about Jesus, knowing what he taught. We know the most minute details of the greek meaning of the word that Jesus only uses this one time. We know how many times Jesus says this or that. We know which parables are in all of the gospels and which parables are only in one, and we even know how the parables are told differently.

We have wasted countless hours and generations arguing over pointless details. Did Jesus pass the cup before or after the meal? Well it depends on which account you’re reading. Also, who cares.

My point is, we’ve built institutions around the idea of knowing more. How many institutions have we built around the idea of doing more? We expect our pastors to go to Bible College and seminary so they know the truth, but of what use is knowing every “jot and tittle” when it never affects the way you live your life?

I don’t recall anywhere in any gospel, epistle, or any other part of the bible where Jesus/God say “Here’s all the information you need to know intellectually, but feel free to go ahead and live your life however you please.” Maybe I missed that part.

I do remember the places where we are called to a transformed life, where we are called to deny ourselves and take up the cross each day. I do remember that we have to lay our lives down if we’re going to experience true life.

I also remember Jesus really hounding the Pharisees and teachers of the law for ignoring the more important parts of the law.

Why has our focus been only on teaching? 

You probably already know the answer.

Teaching is easier. It’s easier to teach someone a fact than to walk with them in relationship that helps them change their behavior.

And we’re selfish too. We don’t want to change anything we don’t want to change. It’s my life, don’t you dare tell me how to live it. You can tell me what you “think” Jesus meant by falling to the ground and dying, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with you.

And even if we do agree, we’re selfish about our time, and we don’t want to take the time necessary help someone apply a truth to their life.

What’s the real issue? 

I guess we have to ask ourselves, does the gospel really matter to us? Is it a priority for us? Or is it just something we do when we’re able to find the time?

Because if the gospel matters, then we must incorporate all aspects of it. We must incorporate the teaching and the obeying.

Let me be clear…

I don’t give the tiniest iota about what you know or what you think you know. And I know you feel the same way about me. You don’t care about what I know. You care about what I do. You care about how what I do affects you. If you go to our church, you care about how what I do affects our church. If you’re in my family, you care about how what I do affects our family. It’s one thing to know what it means to be a good neighbor, it’s another thing to be one. My neighbors will never know I’m a good neighbor if my “goodness” toward them only exists in my intellect.

Let me be more clear…

I’m really kind of sick of people who think knowing a lot about God and the Bible makes them spiritual and righteous. I have a feeling you are too. Aren’t you tired of people who know the truth, but don’t live it out?

What do we do about it? 

1.) We must start obeying all the Jesus commanded. 

It starts with me. I have to be obedient to the call on my life. That means I must know what Jesus has commanded. But, If my knowledge never leads me to action, my knowledge is useless. I must know and do what Jesus has commanded. I must adapt my life to the standards God has created for Christian living. And if I’m not willing to do so, I need to stop calling myself a Christian. Because what does it mean to be a Christian if I am not going to live like Christ?

2.) We must change our teaching to emphasize action over knowledge. 

When it comes to discipling, I must change my emphasis from simply passing on interesting information to passing on practical advice for living out the information I am sharing. What are some practical ways I can be a good samaritan? What are some things I can do so that Justice can be done to widows and orphans I know of? What does it mean to be meek? What does it mean to be poor in spirit? How do I live my life in that way?

The choice is clear. 

Either we start being and making disciples the way Christ commissioned us to do so. Or we adopt the Thomas Jefferson approach and just start changing the the things we don’t like.

What are you going to do?

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Posted on Jan 26, 2016 in Blog, Deliberate Living, Featured, Intentional Living

Definition: Personification

Definition: Personification

It’s a fun word when it comes to writing. It’s fun to take an inanimate object and personify it. Me and my spot on the couch are best buddies. He knows me and I know him. When things are rough, my friend knows just how to comfort me.

What does personify mean?

v. to attribute human nature or character to an inanimate object or an abstraction.

That’s how we generally think of the word. But there’s another way the word is often used.

v. to embody a quality, idea, etc. in a real person or a concrete thing.

even better: 

to be an embodiment or incarnation of; typify.

To embody a quality. To be an incarnation of something. In other words, we might say that Joe personifies hard work. Or that Jane is the personification of a caring person. When we look at Joe’s life, we see in him the embodiment of hard work. When we look at Jane, we see in her the incarnation of care.

As believers, we are supposed to be the personification…the embodiment…the incarnation of God’s love.

Pause: what does it mean to be a believer? 

It’s worth figuring that one out. Because the essence of being a believer is not just someone who believes in the existence of something. People will say all the time that they believe in God. But that does not make that person a believer.

In the book of Acts we see the disciples say “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household.” (By the way, that word for household is the same word we get our idea of 6 to 8 from – there are 6 to 8 people God has put in your life to reach for His Kingdom.) So, if salvation comes from believing in Jesus christ, then it becomes very important that we understand what it means to believe.

So, what does it mean? Believe means to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, to place confidence in the thing to be believed. Here is the distinction. You can say you believe in God and still not be saved. Belief in the existence of someone or something is not the same as placing your belief in it.

Faith is important, but it’s not just faith. It’s a belief that leads us to change our lives completely. A belief that leads us to place our confidence in Christ.

Think about how you act when you really believe in something. When you really believe in a product what do you do? You completely incorporate it into your life and you tell everyone else about it.

Play: Back to personification

The point of being a believer in Jesus is that our lives look more and more like His life and less and less like the life of others who are still completely entangled in this world. We are supposed to look different, sound different, act different.

When it comes to our families, we love them differently. When it comes to our neighbors we love them differently. When it comes to our jobs, we work differently. When it comes to how we spend our time, we invest it wisely. When it comes to how we spend our money, we don’t hold on to as much as we can for ourselves, but we see it as something God has entrusted us with to build His Kingdom on earth.

We aren’t completely wrapped up in this world any more. We are being untangled. And as we are being untangled, we start to stand out. The more we are untangled, the more we will stand out.

The question is: Based on the actions of your life the past few weeks, would people be able to say that you are the personification of God’s love? Are you noticeably different? Do you make decisions that differ from the decisions your non-believer friends and family make? Of equal importance, do you live your life in close enough proximity to them that they are able to see the personification of this change?

I know I have work to do. I’m not there yet. But I’m getting there. It’s not okay to stay the same. I have to make progress. I have to grow in my walk with God. If I’m not growing I’m dying.

Where are you?

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Posted on Nov 17, 2015 in Blog, Culture, Deliberate Living, Featured

The Social Media Joy Revolution

The Social Media Joy Revolution

I wasn’t one of the first people to jump on Facebook. It took me a while. But, it didn’t take me long to discover there was tremendous potential in this tool.

As a pastor, I do my best to keep up on what’s going on in people’s lives. Prior to Facebook, this was quite a challenge. It took a lot of time, a lot of phone calls and coffee, etc.

Once I learned how to use Facebook, I could be in the know with a lot more people. It wasn’t necessarily the deepest knowledge, but I at least knew what was going on. I could make a list of people and scroll through their updates in about an hour.

Then I got on Twitter. I’m still not huge into it. I try. I’m not a big conversationalist. I can do better, I’m sure.

But, Facebook has changed. Twitter too. We’ve gone from sharing about our own personal lives to sharing news and politics. Social Media has become a platform for whatever propaganda we agree with.

You can’t get on Facebook right now without being bombarded with people’s politics and other opinions. Which, if you think about it, is kind of funny. We won’t talk about these issues with people face to face, but we’ll destroy our relationship with someone behind the security of the blue and white.

I loved being able to know what was happening in your life. I loved that I can connect with friends and family who are thousands of miles away and see what they’re doing today. I didn’t even mind the posts about food and coffee.

It’s fun to be able to celebrate when a new life is brought into this world. It’s fun to be able to celebrate a new job or a new house. Those are the things Facebook was meant for.

I don’t even mind you sharing when things are going bad in your life, and you need encouragement. That’s you. That’s your life. I don’t think our social media lives should be only the good parts. It’s good to share the raw parts too. The point is, I want to hear from you. I want to hear about your life. I know there’s a bunch of junk going on in the world. We all do. I don’t troll Facebook & Twitter to see the garbage. I do so because I want to know what’s happening in the lives of the people I care about.

But, for far too many, social media has become the prime landing strip for all the things we don’t like about the world, politics, religion, culture, society, etc. etc. etc.

I understand why we do it. Those things matter to us. They matter to me too. We want to have a voice in the discussion. We want to be heard. If we post something on Facebook, we can gauge if people have heard it. We see the metrics right before our eyes. These important things, that we’re probably too scared to share face to face with someone, have become the status quo for what’s in Social Media.

Right now, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of people arguing about Syrian Refugees. Last week it was full of people arguing about a red cup.

Considering this is the week leading up to Thanksgiving, could we all try to overwhelm our Facebook feeds with the things we love & the things we are thankful for. I know some of you are going through tremendous struggles right now, and I don’t discount them. But, the majority of us, if not all, have a mountain of blessings in our lives.

So, before you hit share on some political propaganda that will spread wide the divide, stop and think about something positive, encouraging, uplifting and inspiring you can share. Not a meme. Not the equivalent of an email forward. Something encouraging in your life. Something you are thankful for. Something good that is happening for you.

Will you join me in this joy revolution? I may not be able to start a revolution on my own. But I’m going to try. I could use your help. I’m not asking you to share this post, instead, all I’m asking is that you go share something about you on Social Media. Share something joyful and encouraging. Share something that has happened in your life. I have a feeling, that’s what we’re all wanting to hear.

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