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Posted on Aug 18, 2015 in Blog, Culture, Deliberate Living, Featured, Perseverance, repost, Values

The Call for Finishers in a world of Dreamers

The Call for Finishers in a world of Dreamers

I’m a dreamer by nature. I love thinking about what’s possible. I spend a lot of my time thinking about all the things that could be done. And you know what, there are a lot more possibilities that most of us give consideration to. So, I will not argue that we should not be dreamers. That’s a vital role we play as people who were created to create.

But there’s another problem I have as well. I get about 80-90% through a project, and start running out of steam. I lose interest. Once it becomes functional, I’m okay to be done. Or, something new has gotten my attention and my focus is being drawn away.

Maybe you’re not like that. I know there are many who have a need to finish. When they’re not finished, it keeps them up at night.

But, I don’t think I’m alone. The intoxication of the dream is great. It’s easy to dream. It’s much harder to work and get things done.

The reason I don’t think I’m alone in this is what I see happening in the world around me. We want to get rich now, get fit now, get happy now, get married now, get a house now, get a new TV now. We want it now. We want to go to bed and fall right to sleep, then wake right up when we want to wake up. And we’re willing to take pills to accomplish this task if necessary. We want it our way and we want it now!

There are a thousand dreams out there, and we think we have a right to them. There are a million different ideas and we think it’s perfectly reasonable that we should see those ideas and dreams come into fruition.

But, there is also a great need in our culture today. We need finishers. We need people who will stay the course and get the job done. We need people who are committed and follow through.

Paul said it best:

24 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Cor 9:24-27)

When you’re training for a race, you’re training to win. If you’re not training to win, you’re at least training to complete the race. No one runs a marathon without training. To finish the race, to win the prize, we have to train for it.

What that means is, we have to endure. We have to stick with it (persevere). We have to be faithful. We don’t quit when it gets hard. We don’t quit when we think we’re ready. We don’t finish training until we have finished the race. You wouldn’t train for two months to run a marathon, then take a month off before the day of the race. You train until you have finished the race.

Endurance, perseverance and faithfulness are ideas that are fading in our society. When we don’t like something, we bail. It’s prevalent. You might even say it’s dominant. We’re more likely to quit something than we are to stick with it. If you had a pair of dice, the majority of the combinations would come up with quit. If we had a magic 8 ball, all the options but one would be to leave.

When things get tough in our family life, we leave. When things get tough at work, we find a new job. When things get tough in our neighborhood, we find a new house. When things get tough at church, we find a new church.

We have bought into the deception. We think there is a magical answer to our frustration. There’s a pill we can take, a 3 step plan to follow or lottery ticket we can buy. We think there should be a magic bullet to solve our problem, and if there isn’t we just quit, leave or walk away.

The world has convinced us not to follow through. Just throw it away and buy a new one. Just sell it and get another one. The world doesn’t want us to follow through because the world needs us to always be buying more stuff. If we’re satisfied, they’re not making money. If we’re happy, they’re going to go out of business. If we’re content, they’re going to lose out on profits.

It’s time to unravel the lie and embrace the truth. The lie has convinced us that things and status symbols are what leads to happiness. The lie has convinced us that contentment is bad and busyness is good. We need to see the lie for what it is. It’s false. It’s not true. We don’t really “need” all the things the world tells us we “need.”

What we need is to endure. What we need is to persevere. What we need is to be content. What we need is to be faithful. And anything that causes us to want to walk away from these concepts is a lie. Anything that causes us to want to give up on finishing the race, is a lie. Anything that causes us to be discontent is a lie. Anything that causes us to want to be faithful is a lie. It’s a distortion. It’s a funky mirror in a fun house. It kind of looks like the right thing, but it’s way off.

What we need are people who are willing to stick it out with their families, even when it’s hard. We need spouses to work together instead of against each other. We need parents to lead their children instead of letting their children lead them. We need people to be committed to providing for their families. We need people committed to loving their neighbors. We need people who are committed to a church body, no matter how imperfect it may be.

Why? Because this is what’s right. Leaving, quitting, walking away are what’s wrong. That’s the lie.

Are there exceptions to this? Sure. But we’ve allowed the exception to become the mode of operation. Now we live by the exception and those who follow the rule are crazy.

Let’s be crazy together. Let’s be the wack jobs that just don’t get it. Let’s be faithful. Let’s endure to the end. Let’s be committed to a crazy love that doesn’t make sense in today’s day and age. Let’s stand out for being so radically committed that the world notices there is something drastically different.

Then when the world falls apart and we are still holding our world together, they will want to know why. And we get to tell them.

It’s because we’re committed to finishing. We are finishers. We don’t give up. We don’t quit. We don’t throw in the towel. We endure to the end. We will cross that finish line. We will get that prize. We will not let all our training and effort got to waste. We will persevere.

“I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Paul – Acts 20:24)

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Posted on Aug 11, 2015 in Blog, Church, Culture, Deliberate Living, Family, Featured, Intentional Living, repost

3 Simple Steps for Getting Back Into The Swing (of things)

3 Simple Steps for Getting Back Into The Swing (of things)

Summer is a crazy time. It’s fun. We spend a lot of time together as a family. We do things we don’t do the rest of the year. And it’s good. It’s good to spend time together as a family and make memories that will last a lifetime. But, as we start to run out of steam on cramming all the summery goodness into our summer, we run the risk of making a different kind of memory. They last a lifetime too, but we wish they wouldn’t.

So, I wanted to give you 3 simple tips for getting back into the swing of things.

1.) Find a simple, but productive, daily discipline to begin. 

As we go through the summer months, it’s easy to let discipline slide. We’re living in the moment, winging it. And while there is a time and place for that, in fact it’s good to do that, we also need to have discipline in our lives as well.

If you’ve gone a long time without discipline, it can be hard to find the on ramp again. But, what I’ve found is that discipline always facilitates more discipline. I call it the begetting principle. That’s a post that’ll come later.

If you want to live a more disciplined life, find one small area you can succeed in with being disciplined on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be big. It shouldn’t be. You just need to be able to sustain it. It can be as simple as setting the alarm for a specific time, and refusing to hit the snooze. That may prove more challenging. You may want to get a simple devotional and read it first thing in the morning.

Whatever it is, do it every day and first thing in the morning. This will turn on the discipline switch in your mind, and you’ll start building up the getting things done muscles of your psyche.

2.) Make a list each day of what needs to be done. 

There are days when I feel productive, but then when I look back on what I accomplished that day, I realize I didn’t get nearly as much done as I thought I did. When you don’t give yourself specific things to do, it’s easy to feel like you’re doing a lot when you’re not really doing much at all.

So, another simple way to get back into the swing of things is to start making a list. Don’t get carried away. Just add 5-6 specific things to that list that need to get done today. If you do these things today, you will have succeeded. If you don’t do these things today, you know you need to work harder tomorrow.

When we get out of routine, we can easily do one thing in a days time and feel like we’ve exhausted our entire stockpile of energy for the day. But, let’s be honest, we all know we’re capable of doing more than one thing a day.

Some of the things on your list may be bigger and take longer. If it’s a bigger project, try to break it up into manageable steps that you can check off. Maybe you won’t finish the whole thing today, but I bet you can finish several steps.

And put a one or two simple and quick to accomplish tasks on your list too. That will make you feel like you’re making progress and get you moving toward getting the other things done.

3.) Plan & Build your fall routine. 

Life has a natural repetitive nature to it. Every week, we start a new week. (That was a really profound statement.) I think of the week as starting on Sunday. So, every Sunday I begin a new week. Every Sunday, my family begins a new week. The old week is done, a new week has come. Because of this natural cycle, it’s good to use the week as your framework to build your routine.

My number one suggestion for planning and executing on a successful routine is to go to church on Sunday morning. (DON’T STOP READING YET!!!) Yes, I’m biased because I’m a pastor. But I have a good reason.

Starting your week with going to church starts your week off with discipline. It’s easy to go to church. I know the excuses, I’ve heard them all. (I actually wrote some articles about it on our church blog: http://68church.com/12-excuses-for-not-going-to-church-and-why-you-shouldnt-use-them-part-1/) But, let’s be honest: It’s not that hard to go to church. Especially a church like ours, where you can come just like you are. You don’t have to look fancy and wear your “Sunday best.” Just come. Just be here.

Why does it help to start your week this way? There are a few reasons. It gives you structure. And when you’re trying to build structure, you need to start with structure.

Another reason is, if you can overcome the temptation and excuses to skip church on Sunday, you will help yourself overcome the excuses for other things throughout the week. So much of what we don’t do is because we’ve excused ourself and all we need to do is step up and be responsible.

Another reason? It’s a very healthy beginning. You have the servant aspect of church. Starting off your week serving others is a great set up. There’s the community aspect. Starting your week with a community of like-minded believers sets you up for walking through life in the same way. Tithing/Giving/Generosity is another great aspect. Prioritizing God in our finances also helps us to make other priorities in our spending.

Worshipping God is a great way to keep yourself in check. Exalting God makes it harder to exalt ourselves as the most important thing in our lives. When we are starting our week by humbling ourselves and submitting to the creator of the universe, that’s like saying, you designed this whole thing in the first place and I’m going to let you take the lead.

19 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,
    by understanding he set the heavens in place;
20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided,
    and the clouds let drop the dew.        {Proverbs 3:19-20}

Try these three simple steps and just see if you don’t have a better week! 1. Daily Discipline. 2. Make a List. 3. Plan your Weekly Routine. Try it.

I dare you!

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Posted on Jul 30, 2015 in Blog, Deliberate Living, Featured, Intentional Living, Pain and Suffering, repost

Can We All Really Be Victims?

Can We All Really Be Victims?

One of the biggest, and most dangerous trends I see in our world today, is the “victim state” we live in. Let me explain.

Everything is someone else’s fault now, and we are all victims of someone or something else. There is no responsibility on us to own up to our own shortcomings. When something bad happens, we immediately figure out who we’re going to blame for it.

We live in a virtual dark alley, and someone is always taking advantage of us. There is always some way that someone or something has mistreated us.

Is it even possible though? Can we all be victims? For there to be a victim, doesn’t someone have to be a perpetrator?

Bad things do happen. I would never make a claim that they don’t. People can do some really awful things. There are true victims. There are people who have been wounded by others, taken advantage of by others, used and abused by others. I do not belittle this truth. In fact, it is because of this truth, that I think we need to stop playing the victim in the small things.

Why? Because when we make ourselves out to be the recipient of someone’s abuse (when what really happened is we made a mistake or we came up short) we belittle the true victims who have gone through traumatic things.

More often than not, we bear the burden of responsibility in the problems we face in life. Yes, bad things happen. Yes, people take advantage of us. But, most of the time, we have done or not done something that led us to our current state.

The most common place I hear this is when it comes to work. Not very many people truly like work. I love my job and I love the mission of our church. But there are certainly times when I would rather be at home with my family.

What happens though, is this: because we don’t like our job or our boss or our pay, we find ways that we are being mistreated or taken advantage of or disrespected, etc. Therefore, when we’ve “had enough” we just call it quits. We walk away, and our story inevitably entails all the ways we were mistreated. Or, our attitude becomes so bad that we get let go. Either way, we are the victims.

Even though the reality may be that we didn’t do the job we were hired to do, or we just don’t like the idea of having to work to provide income for ourselves and would rather be sitting on the couch watching the Price is Right or blowing things up on our Xbox.

Contrast this mindset, with the mindset we are supposed to be living according to:

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” (2 Thes. 3:6-10)

Aside from work, there are other ways we make ourselves out to be the victim. But, aside from the ways we have actually been victimized, most of the ways we make ourselves out to be the victim boil down to our selfishness.

  • When a relationship goes bad, it’s always because of the other person.
  • When we get in an accident, it was always the other person’s fault.
  • When we are late to work, it was because of this or that – not because we got up late.
  • When we don’t pay our bills, it’s because someone took money from us who shouldn’t have.
  • When our car dies, it’s because the mechanic didn’t do this or that even though we never checked the oil.
  • If we’re overweight we sue McDonalds.
  • If we have high blood pressure we blame our parents.
  • When we don’t feel close to God, it’s the churches fault.
  • And when all else fails, we blame the government.

There are literally hundreds of ways we make ourselves out to be a victim. There are millions of excuses we make for why we can’t do something, or be the kind of person we are supposed to be.

Why does this matter?

It’s pretty simple really. When we are never to blame for our mistakes, we are always at the mercy of someone else to make us happy. We have so many reasons to be unhappy, because we have so many excuses and so much blame to push onto others.

In the end, we are the only ones who can live our lives in such a way that we improve our lives. It its not someone else’s responsibility to provide for you. It is not someone else’s responsibility to care for you. It is not someone else’s responsibility to make you happy. All that falls on your shoulders. But, as long as we are victims, we will never truly take control of the responsibility, our lives will always be at the mercy of our circumstances and we will live very unfulfilling and unsatisfying lives.

But, when you take responsibility, and especially when you start to make progress and have success because you are working to achieve it, your whole perspective on life changes. Instead of seeing mountains that can’t be moved, you get a shovel. Instead of seeing problems that can’t be solved, you start coming up with solutions. Instead of seeing a thousand road blocks, you see opportunities.

I’m not talking about some kind of positive thinking, if you dream it you can achieve it, false reality that doesn’t exist. There are limitations. You cannot live on the moon. You cannot own a unicorn. What I’m talking about is reality.

But, when you work hard, you get ahead. When you try to get out of work, you get behind. It’s pretty much that simple. Stop creating a false reality where your happiness is at the mercy of everything around you. Live intentionally and learn to make the most out of what you have.

If you would like to hear more on this topic, listen to these two talks I have given on the topic of responsibility:

http://68church.com/freeway-part-3-responsibility-ownership-and-grace/

http://68church.com/training-camp-part-7-responsibility/

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Posted on May 10, 2014 in Blog, Culture, Deliberate Living, Featured, Intentional Living, Lost Virtues, repost, Responsibility

The Death of Personal Responsibility (repost from 68church.com)

The Death of Personal Responsibility (repost from 68church.com)

(I wrote this article a couple of weeks ago for our church blog, and I wanted to share it with you as well. The original post can be found at: http://68church.com/the-death-of-personal-responsibility/)

A few weeks ago, this graphic was making the rounds on Facebook. And as much as you and I may dislike memes and they way they’ve destroyed Facebook, there is a lot of truth in this one.

childhoodisnotadiseaseWhat is the truth that is in this picture? It’s really a rather frightening one. Because what it contains is evidence that we apparently live in a post-responsibility world. We live in a time where responsibility only pertains to others and how what they did has caused my current crisis – whatever that may be.

“Hang on man, are you saying these aren’t real issues and diseases?” No. Not necessarily. However, I do think we are far to quick to jump to labeling someone ADHD simply because they have never been taught the discipline of sitting still and paying attention. We are too quick to write off our bad behavior as being some sort of psychological disorder. And when we have a bad day, we think the answer is a happy pill of some kind.

Do I daydream? I do. Does that mean I have ADHD, no. It means I need to focus.

Do I snap and get angry? Sometimes. Does that mean I’m bipolar? No. It means I need to work on my temper.

Do I find myself sad or upset about things from time to time? Sure. Doesn’t that mean I’m depressed? No. Perhaps it means I need to focus more on gratitude.

Again, I’m not saying these issues don’t exist. I think they do. I have no doubt ADHD is a real thing – for some. I have no doubt that some people struggle with being bipolar. And I know people go through depression. I’m not judging or condemning those who legitimately struggle with those things.

But here’s what I am saying: we are the cause of our problems. Even if you have a true and legitimate diagnosis of one of these or the hundreds of other “disorders” that exist today, you are still responsible for your choices. There may be some who aren’t responsible, but they are the exception. Don’t hear me wrong either. I’m not saying I’m immune to this. I have these thoughts creep up from time to time. It’s much easier to look for someone or something to blame instead of taking the blame for myself.

The moment you push responsibility off your shoulders and onto the shoulders of something or someone else is the exact moment you stop growing and moving forward. As long as it’s not your fault, there’s no need for you to work on it.

Sure, that’s an easier place to be. It’s always easier to not have to work on who you are. It’s always easier to not have to have any reason to try to change. It’s always easier to stay the same and blame something for why you can’t change. But as long as your a victim of some disease, you will always be at the mercy of it. And what you’re really a victim of is the definition we read online, then looking for those things in ourselves. We read articles like “10 signs of ADHD” or “3 ways to know you’re depressed” and, magically, we see all those symptoms in our own lives. As if it’s possible to self-diagnose depression with a 3 point article that we skimmed.

Here’s the great concern for us as followers of Christ. We can’t pursue sin and Jesus at the same time. We’re either pursuing Jesus or we’re pursuing ourselves. What I hear in a lot of this discussion is an attempt to be able to justify our sins by something we can’t control so we can still call ourselves Christians. We want the promise of eternity with Jesus without having to give up what we like in this life. So we rationalize and justify our sins with psychological disorders, claiming that we just can’t change.

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. (Matthew 16:24-27)

But you can change. We all can. But in order to change, we have to admit that there is something wrong with us. And unless you’re willing to do that, you’ll never get past where you are right now. But, if we can all admit that we are responsible for our choices and our actions…if we can all recognize that we’re sinners…if we can all recognize that we’ve made mistakes – then we have a chance at growing and changing.

Is it easy? No. But is it worth it? Yes! I will even go so far as to say, if we don’t suffer through the change, we will never know what it means to find joy.

“…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) 

And you know what, the day we decide to take responsibility for our thoughts and actions and start to work on turning away from the sins in our lives could be the best day of our time here on earth. Without that day, we never become more like Christ. But, with that day, we continue to work out our salvation and become more and more like Christ a little more each day.

Please, make that day – today! 

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Posted on Jan 29, 2013 in Deliberate Living, Encouragement, Intentional Living

It’s your life, are you willing to fight for it?

It’s your life, are you willing to fight for it?

How many people do you know who go through life just letting it happen to them? I’ve been caught up in that. It feels like there is no way to do anything about anything. Life is coming at you from every direction. It’s like being surrounded by fire hydrants with no where to turn to catch your breath.

My wife and I are working on what we want our family values to be. She mentioned one tonight in passing, and as I sat and thought about it, I realized how huge it is.

Initiative

I don’t want to be the guy that wrestles with life as it comes. It’s hard to be prepared for that. It would be like being in a boxing match in the dark while your opponent has night vision. He could see you and come at you with every advantage. And all you can do is take the blows, and maybe duck a couple.

That’s no way to go through life. And yet, so many of us live it that way. We let life happen to us and complain that things are never going our way.

Of course things are never going our way, we aren’t making anything go!

We walk through life as a pawn to be used in everyone else’s strategy. We let someone push us around to one space, only to find we were never meant to go there.

It’s Your Life…Sort Of

Here’s the thing, if you just aimlessly wander through life letting it happen to you, you will have wasted something very precious.

You were created for a purpose. You are who you are for a reason. Your personality, your body shape and size, your intellect, your creativity, your heart. It was all designed by your creator to be used for His glory.

When you let other people push you around, you’re allowing your life to be used for their glory. WHAT A WASTE!!! I would even go so far as to say, sacrilegious. If God created you for a purpose, and doing that purpose brings glory to Him, then when you’re not living up to that you’re living as a heretic.

Do you really want to honor God?

Then take the time to figure out who God has created you to be and be it. Don’t get distracted by what He has made others to be, that’s for them not you. Figure out who you are supposed to be, then fight for it. Go to the Mattresses to be who you were destined to be. Stand up to the bullies who try to use you for their own schemes.

Live your life with such intensity on purpose that even the passerby knows who and why you are. Don’t let life happen to you. Instead, bring the happen on your life.

When you figure out who God wants you to be – and then you go after it – it’s a lot harder for life to happen to you. You’re not caught in a mob of people with no road signs. You’re on a path walking past the chaos. With every step you live on God’s path for you life, you bring Him glory.

Is life happening to you, or are you happening to your life?

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Posted on Jan 21, 2013 in Culture, Deliberate Living, Lost Virtues, Pain and Suffering, Values

Dr. Martin Luther King on Faith, Hope and Boldness

Dr. Martin Luther King on Faith, Hope and Boldness

Broken-escalator-Faith-Is

There are two strong themes that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about that are often overlooked for the more popular “I have a dream” related quotes we hear. However, wanted to share with you today, some quotes that relate to us in very real ways this day. The two themes are Faith/Hope  and Boldness

Faith and Hope

“Faith is taking the first step, even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

I took this picture at our airport when dropping someone off for a flight. You can see that the first first steps of the escalator would have been a bit challenging. But if you could get past them, it would be smooth escalating.

There are things we will do or attempt to do in this life that will require us to have faith. If you’re attempting anything big, especially anything that’s new and bigger than you – you’ll know that you need faith. You also know that you need hope. There has to be hope that things will get better. We may face many challenges along the way that disappoint us, but we still have to hope. 

Boldness

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

While the issue Dr. King was speaking of has in large part been eradicated in our culture, that does not mean that there aren’t issues we need to stand up for. There amy have been issues you have faced in your life that you wish you had taken a stand for. Maybe it’s too late, but maybe not. I don’t know what it is for you, but there is always something.

There is always something we feel or believe we should be saying or fighting for, but for whatever reason we suppress those feelings because it’s uncomfortable. [tweetherder]Our lives will not be defined by our compliance,they will be defined by the stands we take.[/tweetherder]

Perhaps you can gain a little inspiration from someone who had faith and hope and was willing to take a stand for his beliefs.

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