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Posted on Oct 17, 2016 in Blog, Encouragement, Featured

At The Proper Time

At The Proper Time

Galatians 6:7-10

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I get tired and weary. There are times I wish things would happen faster. I wish I would see the progress quicker. I’ve been working hard on something for a long time and it’s still not where I wish it was.

I thought, by now, I would be further along. The benchmark I had in my mind for where I would be at this particular earmark is still quite a ways off in the distance.

I don’t know if you ever feel that way, but if you’re anything like me (human), I know you have.

It can be hard can’t it? Being patient. Waiting. Watching something grow every day, makes the growth seem small. Not much changed between yesterday and today. Not much has changed in the last week or even month. I keep watching the plant, but it just doesn’t seem to be making much progress.

But then someone, with a fresh perspective comes along. And they notice the change. They notice the difference. They remember where we were and compared to that, we’ve come along way. There is a difference. Things have improved. Things are better.

That helps.

But not for long. Because soon I’m back to my day to day grind and it just seems like things aren’t going where I want them to go.

What do we do when we get in this situation?

We keep going. We keep doing the good that we’ve been doing. We keep trying. We try a little more than we did yesterday. We get a little step further ahead, even if it’s a baby step.

Why do we keep going? Because we trust God’s word to us. “Okay, churchy guy, thanks for giving me the Sunday School answer.” Hold on. Don’t stop reading yet.

At The Proper Time

 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

On the front side of progress, all I see and think is: “I could be doing that.” I overestimate my abilities and maturity and think I can be doing what someone much wiser and more skilled than I can do. That’s where we get hung up.

We don’t have a proper assessment of our abilities and maturity. “Well, you’re being kind of harsh today, aren’t you?” No, just being honest with how I’ve been. And guessing I’m not the only one who’s been here.

Like I said, I thought I would be further along today than I am. But, I also have a perspective today that I didn’t have back then.

Looking back, I can see how unprepared I was for what I wanted. And if I had gotten what I wanted, it could have been potentially disastrous for me and lots of people involved. Why? Because when you’re not ready for something, you’re not strong enough to carry the weight of it for the journey.

We think we want the success, but we don’t understand that success has weight. And If we haven’t been built up for it, it will eventually crush us.

That’s why we keep going

Because, God is in the process of growing up. He’s building us up. If we are plugged into a committed community of believers, God is going to use that group of Jesus-followers to build us up. As we keep going, we keep growing and building up the foundation our lives need to withstand the success that we hope for.

So, don’t be discouraged today if, today, you find yourself far off from where you thought you would be. Because there’s a purpose in the process too. What you’re going through right now is significant for what you are going to be going through in the future. What you do today will prepare you for tomorrow.

So don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel. Just because you’re not where you want to be doesn’t mean you’re not in a good place.

And, just like God says: “at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

The harvest is coming. You may not have the tools or knowledge or skills you need to bring in the harvest. And that’s what you’re doing right now. You’re acquiring what you need.

And at the proper time, the harvest will come. And you’ll be ready.

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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 Aug 1, 2016 in Blog, Encouragement, Featured

The Nails You See

The Nails You See

If you know me, you know that I love apocalyptic movies. I don’t know what this says about me, and I can’t afford a therapist to dig into the issue any deeper.

Anyway, one of my favorites is “World War Z.” It’s a zombie movie. And the zombies are actually quite terrifying as opposed to the zombies in other movies and shows like the walking dead. Sure, they’re gross, but a zombie that can barely walk is pretty easily defeated. On the flip side, a zombie that torpedoes themselves into your windshield repeatedly until they break through can cause a little more fear.

Regardless, Brad Pitt says in a scene of this movie (while speaking to a Doctor who is the only hope they have to defeat the virus that is causing the problem), “These guys are hammers…” (Speaking about the army guys they’re flying with) “And to a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

It’s a great quote. There’s a lot of great spiritual material that correlates to real life in apocalyptic movies.

There are a lot of different ways to think about this line. But today, I want to use it to help encourage you in the way you see the world.

We have a tendency to form a point of view and then only see things through that point of view. We develop a way of thinking, and then we get stuck in that way of thinking.

At one time we were growing and learning and becoming all Christ has for us to become. But, we got comfortable. Or we were stretched too far. Or the next step was going to be too difficult. Whatever the reason, we stopped growing. From that point on, we only saw the world through what we had learned to that point.

Maybe you’ve continued to learn the facts of the bible without applying the truth to your life. I’m guilty of doing that. A lot.

Whatever your case (or mine), we stopped growing and now we only see nails. Everything is a nail.

Everything is a problem that has to be solved, and it can only be solved by my one solution. Whether it’s a screw or a clay pot, we’re bringing our hammer.

Or…

The world a big mess, and no matter where I turn all I see is the mess. More nails.

Or…

I can’t do anything right. Things never go my way. The world is against me and I’m a perpetual failure.

Or…

You get the point.

We have a tendency to get stuck in a rut of thinking about life and the world in the same pessimistic way. We allow ourselves to be influenced by social media and buy into the hype that everything’s wrong with the world.

After a while, all we see are nails.

“Hey, I thought you were going to encourage me?”

I am. Right now.

What I want to encourage you to is this: start looking for other things. Are there nails out there? Sure. But there are bolts, and screws, and bricks and mortar and millions of other things. There’s a lot for you to see if you’re willing to see it. Not everything has to be a nail. Not everything is bad. Not everything is falling apart.

Maybe the reason things around us seem so messed up is because that’s the only way we are able to see things. And until we start seeing the potential and possibility that lies around us, we just keep recreating a world of disorder and chaos.

A hammer is fine, as long as you’re pounding a nail. But not everything is a nail.

Look for things around you that aren’t nails…that aren’t problems…that aren’t falling apart…

Look for the good around you…look for the positive people…look for the hope…look for the love…

If we start looking for the good, we’ll see it. Do you know why? Because it’s there. We’ve just grown so accustomed to looking for the nails, looking for the bad, that we don’t see the good anymore.

Look for the good today. Drop the hammer and pick up a bubble wand. Blow some bubbles and see how far they fly.

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Posted on Jul 28, 2015 in Blog, Devotional Thoughts, Encouragement, Featured, repost, Worry

Near…Far…And Everywhere In Between

Near…Far…And Everywhere In Between

Do you remember Grover teaching us as kids about near and far? Maybe this video will help:

Grover was always one of my favorites. Perhaps it’s because he was so overly dramatic, just like me. I still love the little golden book, “Monster at the end of this book.”

On Sunday at SixEight Church, I shared a little about our cross-country road trip during communion. Jim had just shared a great message, and it fit pretty well with what he said. But, I thought it might help others today, so I wanted to share it in written form.

We spent the last two weeks driving from the Pacific Northwest to the midwest. In all, we drove 5,800 miles. The kids handled the driving really well, and it was a really great trip for our family.

However, and if you’ve ever made a big road trip you know this, there got to be a point near the end where it felt like we were never going to get home. We left on Thursday morning from northern Ohio and made it to Lincoln, Nebraska – where we feared for our lives. Seriously. The next day, the longest of the three days back, we drove from Lincoln to Salt Lake City, Utah – where they were shooting off fireworks as we arrived. I guess they were impressed with the fact that we had made it that far in two days. Then, on Saturday, we left from Salt Lake, got into Idaho. The speed limit had been 80 mph. Then as soon as we arrived into Oregon, the limit dropped to 65. Which is ironic to me. Because, Oregon is one of the most progressive states, and yet they are one of the last to change their speed limit.

It felt like all our progress had been stopped. We were never going to get through Oregon. We had hauled the mail through two-thirds of the country, and came to a stand still so close to home. We were so close, but home felt far away. We missed home and our life on the farm. We were ready to get there and see how much the garden had grown while we were gone.

Heading into the mountains in Eastern Oregon, we also faced a stiff headwind. Going uphill into the wind doesn’t do much to help with gas mileage. What I thought was plenty of fuel to get through the mountains to the other side quickly turned to fear that we were going to run out of gas far from a gas station. And, because our van only has 220,000 miles on it, we thought it would be safe to drive across the country without Triple-A.

Needless to say, we made it to the gas station and bathrooms in time. And we got home less than 4 hours later.

But something stuck me as Jim was talking, and God brought this scripture to mind from Jeremiah 23:

23 “Am I only a God nearby,”
declares the Lord,
    “and not a God far away?
24 Who can hide in secret places
    so that I cannot see them?”
declares the Lord.
    “Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
declares the Lord.

We drove a lot. We were very far from home. There were many times when we were far away from civilization. Nothing was near us except bugs and Semi trucks. Have you ever been somewhere without seeing a truck? And yet, not matter how far away we were from everything we knew, God was there with us. Whether we were in life-risking Lincoln Nebraska, the thunderstorms of Wyoming or the corn of Indiana, we were never far away from God.

Have you ever felt like you were far away from God? Like he was in a distant universe? Do you want to know something? You were wrong. Is God in the far off universe we have never seen? Yes. But, God isn’t only there, he is always here. That means there is no where you can go to get away from God. No matter how far away from home you are, God is still there.

Remember this the next time your driving through the mountains, heading into a strong wind and running out of gas. Even if you are stranded far away from everything you know, God is not only far away – he is near.

Near…far…and everywhere in between.

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Posted on Oct 23, 2014 in Blog, Church, Creativity, Culture, Encouragement, Fathering, Leadership, Pain and Suffering, repost

No More Cookie Cutter Pastors, No More Cookie Cutter Churches. (Why you’re not a failure even though it feels like it.)

No More Cookie Cutter Pastors, No More Cookie Cutter Churches. (Why you’re not a failure even though it feels like it.)

(Intro: This is a post I wrote in Sept of 2012, when I was fairly upset about some stuff, so I wrote this article and never published it. I just reread it and wanted to share it with you.)

Sometimes when it feels like we’ve failed at something, I think the basis of what we’re feeling is based on someone else’s imposed definition of who they think you should be – and you’re not living up to it.

You know what I’m talking about. People see a pastor at another church while they’re visiting on a weekend, and they instantly start comparing you (their pastor) to them. They notice all the little things they do that you don’t do. They notice their style and their voice. They notice all the things that make them who they are, and compare them to you.

What they don’t realize is that, they are experiencing them in a vacuum. For one, it’s not a fair, side by side comparison. It’s not like they’re in a Best Buy, looking at the TV’s where they can see the same movie on a hundred TV’s. Can you imagine that store? A hundred different worship leaders singing the same song or a hundred different pastors preaching the same sermon so you can pick the one you like best?

When they take the TV home, they begin to notice the flaws.

You’ve been there. You buy the TV, get home and realize it doesn’t have enough connections, or doesn’t look as big as you thought it did, or it looks bigger. You buy a used car, and on the way home you hear a noise you didn’t hear. You go to a new church, and then the pastor says something you don’t think is funny, he’s kind of a nerd, the worship leader is a little pitchy or sings a song you don’t like every weekend. Then they start to remember all the things they liked about their old pastor, forget all the things they didn’t like and long for the days when they were at their previous church.

I know I’ve been there before. I’ve had, in my life and ministry on a regular basis, people who judge me and how I do ministry against how they think I should be doing ministry. They have an image of what they think I should be in their head, and when I don’t live up to it, I am failing.

I’ve had people judge me against a flawed perception of themselves. They believe they are great at my job (even though they may have no training or experience) and that I should be doing my job as good as they think they could do my job.

Maybe they can do my job better, but the bottom line is, we shouldn’t judge anyone based on what we think they should be. But, you know how you work at a job for 40+ hours a week? You do this thing for 40+ hours a week that I don’t claim to know all about. There are things about your job that I don’t understand. Things that can’t be understood unless you’re in it all the time. The reverse is also true, but it’s not real PC to say. But I will. Unless you are a Pastor and you make your living pastoring a church and work in the church 7 days a week, you just don’t have an understanding of what it really means to lead a church.

The other bottom line, you shouldn’t let people judge you based on who they think you should be.

I know you can’t control them, but you can control how much you let them in your head. Don’t let their judgement of you drive you to try to be someone you’re not.

You are awesome just how God created you. The other guy they are comparing you to is awesome how God created him. When you try to be like him, you are being an imitation of a creation, not being the creation God created. When you’re trying to be someone else, that’s idolatry. We are made in God’s image, and our only pursuit can be the image the designer put in us since before we were born.

One thing I’m not saying is that we shouldn’t try to improve ourselves. But only if that improvement is based on principle and truth, not comparison. If the improvement is to keep up with someone else, or because we are under pressure from people around us to be something we’re not, we shouldn’t do it.

As we shape who we are and the people we lead, we need to build into them the ability to think and appreciate people for who they are. Don’t let your people get caught up in the comparison game. Don’t let them talk negatively about your pastor, don’t let them talk negatively about your subordinates. Teach them to learn to appreciate the good things and find ways they can step in and fill in the perceived gaps.

One final note: with the highly connected world we live in, it’s very easy to see what every other church on the planet is doing. Whether it’s worship styles or songs, programs or ministries, videos, graphics, stage designs or sermons. We need to be careful to be sure that we aren’t comparing what we do to what the rest of the world is doing. God has a plan and design for your church body, just as he as a plan and design for you.

Just as God created you uniquely, he created your church body uniquely. If he wanted us to all be the same and act the same, he would have prescribed it for us. And in the areas we do have such prescriptions, I do think we should strive to live up that prescription. However, just as each of us are unique, he wants your church body to represent him uniquely.

So, no more cookie cutter pastors, no more cookie cutter churches.

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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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