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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 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 Jun 17, 2015 in Apologetics, Blog, Culture, Featured, Grace, Intentional Living, repost, Truth

Forcible Diversions: A 6 Step Response To The Issues Of Our Day

Forcible Diversions: A 6 Step Response To The Issues Of Our Day

Recently, I found myself in a conversation with someone about one of the hottest topics of today. I don’t want to get into what it was or the details of the debate. I have no desire to belittle someone who is struggling with any of these issues we hear of. I felt as though I was being forced into a debate I didn’t want to have. Especially in this case. Fortunately it was lunch time, so I had an escape hatch. But, as I was in the conversation and for days afterward, I found myself wondering how can I share the gospel with the person whey they so clearly believe I am wrong for believing the Bible on issues of morality. Here is my response on how we ought to respond. It’s long, but hopefully worthwhile.

Let be begin with some background.

We are passionate about the gospel at our church. We believe in it’s work and that it is the one thing we would love for everyone we come in contact with to experience. All of our efforts as a church are designed to lead people to it. We spend a great deal of time training our people to live it out and share with the people in their sphere of influence. This is the main thing for us. The gospel, the good news is that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the dead sets us free from the punishment of our sins and gives us an inheritance as a child of God in the Kingdom of God.

Problem #1

I have talked in the past of the struggle we face in our culture today due to the justification of sin. So many issues that we would classify as sin have become justifiable rights. The challenge is, if we no longer sin, why do we need grace? So our first problem is, the moral boundaries are being pushed further and further out. The road is getting wider and wider – so to speak.

Problem #2

I have also heard it said that you can’t legislate morality. Which I don’t necessarily agree with. But, let’s say that’s true – that you can’t legislate morality. What appears to be happening now is that we are trying to legislate a guilt-free society. A society where we can do whatever we want and we don’t have to feel guilty about it. So, we make more laws (or do away with existing ones) that make it legal to do or be whatever we want in the hope of not having to feel guilty about whatever it is.

If the cross is supposed to put us in a right standing with God (atonement), there has to be something that put us in a wrong standing with God. Right?

Problem #3

We have also talked, at length, about truth. There is such a thing as absolute truth. Truth is not relative. The fact that you may or may not believe in something does not make it true/untrue. It’s true whether you believe in it or not. 2 + 2 = 4. Always. You may choose to believe that 2 + 2 = cat, but that does not make you right.

So, we have justified sin, legislated out guilt and rid ourselves of the idea of truth.

That makes it a challenge to share the gospel with people. It’s hard to tell people they need grace when it would appear we have done everything we can to erase the need for any kind of externally received grace. We, in essence, have become our own savior.

Forcible Diversions

So then, how are Christ-followers supposed to respond when issues of morality are forced upon the church?

Let me explain. For me, grace is the most important issue. All the other sin-issues are secondary. We all sin. We all have sin issues. That’s the problem. The solution to that problem is grace. So, the primary issue is grace. To be honest, I don’t care what your sin issue is. We all have sin in our lives that requires grace. The more important thing is grace.

So, how are we to respond when sin issues triumph and are touted as a primary right?

One more clarification. You might be surprised to hear me say this, but you do have the right to do whatever you choose. You can be as nasty of a person as you want to be. God gave you a free will, and you are free to exercise that free will however you choose. But, as you have probably read, “You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequence of your choice.” You may choose to be as evil as you wish, but you are not free from the consequence of that choice.

Our culture is working really hard to remove the consequences of our bad decisions.

So, you are free to live however you wish. And yes, you can even say you have the right to be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do.

But, what you may not do is require truth to change to alleviate the guilt you feel or the consequences you encounter as a result of your choosing.

This is where some veins of the church are getting into trouble. They are allowing the pressure of an unbelieving world to affect the truth that we have believed and been guided by for Millenia. People can live however they please. But, the church is not under any kind of obligation to acquiesce to the demands of society to alleviate the consequences of that choice.

How do we respond? 

The temptation is strong to want to get into a verbal exchange about how we are right and they are wrong. While I believe we need to know what we believe and be able to give a defense of our beliefs – the majority of people aren’t brought to grace in this way. Honestly, I wish they were. Because the logic of scripture is infallible, it would be much easier to just argue the truth of our faith with those who don’t believe. But, that’s just not the case most of the time. In fact, when you find yourself in a conversation that has been forced on you, you will realize that truth has no place in the argument. Trust me. I have been in these conversations. Logic doesn’t matter.

So, how should we respond?

Let me first say, I don’t think it does us a lot of good to get into debate that is devoid of relationship. Instead, I think we should get to know someone and build trust with them. Does that make the dialog harder? I guess it can. But, remember the ultimate truth is that they are ultimately lost if we don’t. We want to set ourselves up for the best chance to have the most important conversation. We don’t want to put more up more road blocks.

So, this is how I think we should respond.

1. We love people unconditionally. 

No matter how repulsive their behavior is, we still love unconditionally. Of course, we don’t want to put ourselves into unnecessary danger. But, we have to be in the mess if we are going to be used by God to redeem people out of it. Your hands will get dirty. You may suffer some scars and bruises. But, everyone is made in God’s image. Regardless of their beliefs or actions, they still deserve to be treated with dignity and respect because of whose image they resemble.

2. We follow the truth unswervingly. 

As difficult as it is becoming, we still cannot neglect the truth. When we are pushed to condone a behavior, we simply cannot. It sounds intolerant. You will be called intolerant. You will be called a bigot. Get used to it. How can we condone a behavior when someone doesn’t believe and then condemn it once they do? Do they have the right to do whatever they want? Yes. Does that make what they are doing right? No. We believe that following God’s design for humanity is what brings about human flourishing. If we live by it, we find a better way of life. When we live against it, we struggle. If we compromise on that truth, we are not living by God’s design.

3. We live out the gospel universally.

We cannot have any area of our lives where we aren’t living out the gospel. No, we don’t have to be little holiness machines, running around trying to scrub the earth of any form of ungodliness. But, we have to be consistent in all facets. You never know when someone will encounter you in a different arena than they normally do. You need to be the light, even if you don’t think anyone is watching. Every chance you get, be the light. Do good deeds so that people will see God through you. Live out Micah 6:8 in all areas of your life.

4. We share personally. 

While it may be difficult to tell another person they are sinning, it’s not difficult at all to point to the sin in your life and how you have been forgiven. Don’t focus on trying to make the other person feel guilty for what they are doing. Instead, speak of your own life. Speak of how the price you had to pay for your wrongdoing was paid by Jesus. And how amazed you are by grace.

5. We pray incessantly.

Pray for those you encounter without ceasing. Pray for them in your head while you’re speaking with them. Pray for them as you’re walking away. Pray as often as you can. Pray that God will send His Spirit to open the eyes of their mind and heart to His truth. Pray and expect that God will not only do it, but that He will give you opportunities to share with them.

 

6. We  invite them to receive freely. 

Invite them into the Kingdom of God. The door is open for all who choose to walk through it. It’s not our job to decide who can come in and who can’t. It’s our job to invite freely. Instead of condemning their lifestyle, invite them into something they can’t experience on their own. Don’t try to get them to your side of the argument. Instead, show them what they’re missing out on. Then, maybe they might be drawn into the Kingdom and be willing to lay everything outside the gates.

Perhaps we’ve been focused for too long on trying to convince people that they are evil instead of trying to show people the joy and goodness that awaits us all in the Kingdom of our Creator. The next time you find yourself in a conversation where someone is trying to force you to condone a behavior the bible says is wrong, remember that you too once stood on that side of the argument. It is only by grace that you stand on the other side now. It will only be by grace that they come stand with you. Focus on inviting people into something instead of on what’s keeping them out.

Life the life. Don’t compromise. Invite people in.

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Posted on Mar 24, 2015 in Blog, Featured, Humility, Intentional Living, Proverbious

The Prayer of Jabez – Rev. Ermal Wilson

The Prayer of Jabez – Rev. Ermal Wilson

In this edition of “Timeless Wisdom from Rev. Ermal Wilson” we will  hear the first of three sermons from a Revival at Trinity Wesleyan Church in Oak Hill, Ohio. In this first message he shares with us from the prayer of Jabez, which he had been preaching on long before the book make the verse popular. You’ll hear a little of the Pilgrim Holiness style prayer meeting at the end of the talk. But, just before that, there is a really powerful illustration that I had never heard him share before. The illustration is worth the time listening in and of itself. (There is a bit of a gap in the content of the talk. This was recorded in the days of Tape. So there is a gap where the tape had to reverse directions to record.)

Listen in!

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Posted on Jan 27, 2015 in Blog, Featured, Humility, Intentional Living, Proverbious

If God Will Give You One More Year – Rev. Ermal Wilson

If God Will Give You One More Year – Rev. Ermal Wilson

We live in a world where you can find pretty much everything online. There are archives of all kinds out there. You can hear voices every since there have been devices to record them. Of course, this massive online collection is also filled with billions of hours of meaningless content that makes many of us question our very existence.

And that’s exactly what is motivating these posts.

My grandfather, who passed away in April of 2014, was a preacher. He spent much of his life behind the pulpit in one way or another. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of recordings of him preaching. But we do have some.

Over the next few weeks I plan on sharing those recordings with you. He spent a lot of his life traveling and sharing with churches in revivals. And I’ll be honest with you, I’m hoping that by sharing these with you, there may be others who have recordings of some of his sermons that will dig out those old tapes and share them with me.

Nevertheless, the messages he preached, including this one that was preached over 20 years ago, still have a very timely message for us today.

I encourage you to listen in and let God speak to you!

(The audio starts at about 10 seconds in. Also, early in the recording, for about 30 seconds it will sound like he walks away from the mic, but he gets back quickly.)

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