2. It doesn’t matter whether you take your children on a far away vacation or whether you go somewhere only a couple of hours away. The memories your children will have about this years vacation is not dependent on how much the trip costs.
9 bikers dead. 18 in the hospital. Motorcycle gangs. Guns. A shoot-out with police. Blood. Death.
This takes place on a Sunday morning in one of the nicest shopping areas in Central Texas. Wow. I would have thought something like this would have happened at a seedy bar late one Saturday night.
In December 2013, we moved from Waco, Texas to Memphis, Tennessee, after having lived in that city for twenty years. The news is filled with details of these gangs and the shootings last Sunday. No doubt people will be talking about this tragedy in Waco for many years.
Having lived in Waco for twenty years, I can tell you that there is another important story about this city. This city has much that is good and is actually a wonderful place to live, raise children, and serve God.
I just read Bringing Heaven to Earth by Josh Ross and Jonathan Storment. This sentence caught my attention, “What is a Christian’s responsibility to bring to bear God’s will in this corner of the world, so that people throughout Memphis might come to experience a hint of what life is like in heaven?”
Maybe this sentence caught my attention because I live in Memphis. Or maybe it caught my attention because I have seen the power of a believer’s behavior, witness, and ministry in places that would otherwise be dark. Unfortunately, I have also seen the power of a believer’s behavior when one has been inattentive and even apathetic toward the world. Josh Ross and Jonathan Storment have written a book in which they explore the possibilities of the renewing and restoring work of God. This is so important in a world that is broken and dark. The book is a challenge for Christians to be serious about allowing themselves to be used by God.
Unfortunately, the answer to a dark world for some is to attempt to insulate oneself and one’s family. I once had a conversation with a person who said she was trying to figure out a way to surround her family with Christians and only Christians. The family moved to a street where several young couples from church already lived. They had a Christian doctor, lawyer, and dentist, all from their congregation. Their children went to a Christian school. Her husband worked in a firm which consisted, primarily, of Christian people.
There is no problem, of course, with any one of these. It is fine to go to a Christian school. No problem with having a doctor, lawyer, or dentist who is a believer. The problem is that they were trying to insulate themselves from the world instead of penetrating the darkness.
Perhaps much of this is due to fear. I found Chapter 13 to be particularly helpful as the authors address the problem of fear as we live as believers in the world.
The book reminds us that the world is broken and dark and that the work of God’s Kingdom involves restoring and renewing.
Have you wondered if there are any quality, young, godly men left? After all, it seems that the news is constantly reporting the horrible behavior of some man in the world. Then of course, you can talk to almost anyone and they can tell you a story about some man’s sorry behavior at work, his abuse of his own children, or his betrayal of a friend.
Let me assure you, I know some very fine young men. Almost every day, I have the fortune to have a conversation in person, by phone, or text with a young man in Memphis or in another city in this country. Again and again I am impressed. As I think about these guys (some of them have been in my mentoring groups and others I know as friends) here is what I see.
1. They take Jesus seriously. They aren’t simply trying to create an image of one who loves the Lord. It is so obvious that they are serious about their own obedient relationship to Jesus as Lord. Those who know them best describe them as the real deal.
2. They invest in others for the sake of the Lord. Yes, they value their friendships but it is much more than this. They influence their friends for good. Their friends often say, “I am a better man and closer to the Lord because of my friendship with him.”
When I was in graduate school, I thought that I was working as hard as I possibly could in my studies. After all, I stayed at my desk for hours and read an incredible number of pages each day. I thought that if I could do without sleep, then surely my grades would reflect the extra time of study.
I was wrong.
Quite often I simply became exhausted. My lack of sleep hurt my creativity in my thinking. My fatigue often resulted in a lack of engagement.
One thing has not changed. Just as I needed energy for school years ago, today I need energy to do my work. The following are some of the practices that have been helpful to me.
How do you know when a minister has great value? Or, if you serve as a minister of a congregation you may wonder how much value you really have. Perhaps there are times when you when you feel as if you have great value. What factors have led you to come to that conclusion? Perhaps there are other times when you feel alone, inadequate, and have little value as a minister.
Some believe that ministers have great value if one or more of the following factors are true:
1. People are asking this person to speak at their congregations or at particular lectureships, seminars, etc.
2. Congregations that are visible within our fellowship are asking this person to consider joining their ministry staff.
3. A particular minister has a much larger salary compared to other ministers who serve in the same role.
4. Many in social media quote this person and seem to rally around whatever this minister might say or do.
5. A minister may be well known throughout a region or even the nation and perhaps have a “following.” This may be evident either through conversations at particular gatherings or conversation through social media.
6. A minister who has served a smaller congregation begins preaching for a congregation that is highly visible. Suddenly that minister may be perceived to be “important.”
In this series, I share with readers resources (articles, books, reviews, etc). I do not attempt to list everything that I read or skim. The following might be helpful, insightful, interesting, or at least worth a glance.
I read this piece a few days ago and am still reflecting on this. “Colorado Teacher Shares Heart Breaking Notes From Third Graders.” Each note begins with the phrase “I wish my teacher knew.” I wonder what others might say regarding some of the significant people in their lives. For example:
Children – “I wish my mother/daddy knew…”
Church members – “I wish my preacher knew…”
A spouse – “I wish my husband/wife knew…”
See “11 of America’s Most Spectacular Libraries.” Wow!
You might read “On Jordan Spieth’s Bag: Part Caddie, Part Teacher and Encourager.” Part of the inspiring story of the 2015 Master’s champion. (New York Times)
Alice Walton has written an interesting piece entitled: “Can You Spot a Narcissist? It’s Not As Easy As You Think, Study Finds.” (Forbes)
Maria Popova has written a review of David Brook’s book The Road to Character. See “The Art of Stumbling: David Brooks on Character. . .” (I appreciate Maria Popova’s blog and find that she often offers a “nugget” that is worth my thinking or further reading.)
See Shane Parish’s post “Saying No: How Successful People Stay Productive.” Notice the emphasis in this post on scheduling. This post is very much in line with Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. For many of us, the issue is determining what things ought to be done and what things do we need to say “no” to.
Some believe that Christian people really have their lives together. Some Facebook posts seem to almost suggest that marriage, family, and life in general are always wonderful. The husband/wife is always thoughtful, amazing, awesome, etc. The kids are always cute, adorable, angelic, etc. Some even suggest that if one has really turned his/her life over to the Lord, everything in life will basically be smooth.
The truth is that sometimes life is very hard.
Marriage to the best person in the world can still be difficult. Parenting children (yes, I know you adore them) can still be very hard.
Even committed followers of Jesus still deal with temptation. I was once in a conversation with a person who was telling me about a temptation she was facing. In the course of the conversation she said, “I hope you don’t think I’m a bad person because I’m tempted by these things.”
Bad person? Hardly!
She was a normal person. Human beings – all of us – are going to be tempted by something. It is not a sin to be tempted. Sin occurs when we move from temptation into another realm.
There are often two negative consequences when churches believe that Christians have their lives together:
1. Some Christians believe that they really don’t have a sin struggle anymore and consequently look down on anyone who struggles or fails in life. Some people may even look down on some who experience certain temptations. In their minds, real Christians would not even have the temptation. Such people may come together on a Sunday morning and communicate in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that the people in their church just don’t have problems like other people.
2. Some Christians in such environments realize they must hide. When they are with people from their church, they think “I can’t let people know what I really struggle with. They would look down on me if they knew some of the thoughts that went through my mind this week.” Consequently, they work hard to project an image that they believe will be acceptable to their peers in the congregation. Such a person may often feel isolated and alone in a congregation because she doesn’t think she can tell anyone who she really is. After awhile, that person may wonder, “What’s the use?”
A church was never meant to be a spotless group of people on display. Rather, we have been called to display the One who has redeemed us in our brokenness and sin. Not only do we discover Jesus in such a church but we discover what it means to really be human.
- He is the most difficult elder in the group. Time after time, the other elders have attempted to appease their fellow elder. Yet, no matter what they do, he remains unhappy and demands other concessions.
- She is the drama queen in the family. She has two other sisters and a brother but at family gatherings she clearly dominates the conversations. She drains energy from others as she talks on and on about herself and her situation.
- He is immature and married. A few years ago, his wife told a friend that she felt like she had four children – her husband, their two daughters, and their son. She loves her husband but often feels as if she is the only adult in the family.
- She is known as a possessive friend. She regularly loses friendships because she demands so much from them. Yet, in her mind, all of these former friends lacked commitment to the relationship.
- This preacher has recently clashed with the elders of his congregation. He says they need to love the community and allow him to try out his ideas. The elders believe this isn’t really the issue. Rather they are troubled by his behind the scenes manipulation. They have lost some of their trust in him.
I’ve seen it happen again and again in churches. So often, we are only willing to hear what we are willing to hear. Consequently men and women go through life repeating the same mistakes again and again.
1. A college student erupts in anger toward his parents and various other family members. At the same time, he wonders why his dating relationships seem to to have disappointing endings. His fiancee saw how he treated his mom and dad and wisely became very cautions about continuing their relationship. Yet, in his eyes, he had no problem with his temper.
2. A young mother is inconsistent with her young children. One moment she is angry over a child’s misbehavior. Thirty minutes later she is ignoring the same behavior. On one occasion, she and her husband laughed the very behavior that put their daughter in “time-out” the evening before .