From the category archives:

Insight

Adversity

Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces.” -Matthew Henry

You’re thinking you must have done something terrible.  Or maybe that God’s been playing favorites, and you’re not one of them.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re going through adversity, you seem to be surrounded by people whose lives seem so easy?  So effortless?

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to feel offended – actually offended – when you’re plowing through the tough stuff?  As if God or life or the world owed you something and hasn’t paid up?

Let’s face it – nobody gets up in the morning yearning for a hard day.  Nobody prays for more pain.  And yet go to any source of earthly or heavenly wisdom, and you’ll see somebody talking about the pure value of adversity.  Let’s just start at the top:

It is good for me that I was afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes (Psalm 119:71).

Speak for yourself, holy man!  This is twenty-first century America, where God owes us an easy life.  We’re on his winning team and all that.

Right?

Think again.

Some of the most profound wisdom you can ever attain will come at the other end of affliction, which is a general word for whatever crap you’re going through.  If it hurts, it’s affliction.  I know, yours is unique and your situation is different.  I know – believe me, I know – that your pain is real and you’d do just about anything for some relief.

I also know that if you’re right in the middle of the affliction right now, you may probably want to save this for future reference.  Sometimes it’s hard to see the abundant treasure when all you can do is feel the fire of the furnace.  But I want to tell you that there truly is beauty, even in your moments of deep pain.  Learning from the experience of the psalmist, you can find ways that what looks bad today can lead to extraordinary goodness tomorrow.

What’s so good about affliction? [click to continue…]

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Mama and the Twins

Today my mother would have turned 76 years old.  She passed away suddenly four years ago – a reminder to anybody who’s paying attention that there are no guarantees in this life.

Like anybody whose life has touched another for that long, I have lived long enough myself to see Mama’s mental, emotional, and moral DNA flowing throughout my own and my sister’s life, as well as through the lives of her grandchildren and now seven (soon to be 9) great-grandchildren.

We had our points of disagreement, some of them quite loud.  We also had hours of conversation – some of them way past bedtime.  And like Abel in the Bible, I love the fact that long after her life here was over, she still speaks to me today.

Give her a chance, she’ll speak to you, too.  Here, in no certain order, are the life lessons I learned from her. [click to continue…]

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Diaper Derby

I never laid eyes on you before.
Never had dreams come true before.
But there’s always a time for a new beginning.
Our multiplied sorrow now is through.
And all of the waiting’s over, too.
And it’s been worth it all, for this new beginning.

And who is like the Lord, who turns my mourning into dancing,
And holds all things together, in His hands?
He whispered, “Let there be…” and He began the world all over.
But this time He laid its future in my hands.
(Unfinished song I started 30 years ago today, when my baby girls were born)

Your life is an adventure in starting over.

You may prefer maintenance mode.  You may want to pretend that you’re in perpetual motion.  You may claim to be too old, too successful, too far along, or too [insert excuse here], but the fact is, your entire life is a collage of cycles and rhythms.

And that involves starting over. [click to continue…]

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waterfall 10

It all started with that “Welcome to Mobile” sinus headache.

Ever go to bed with a mild ache that says, “You should probably address this before you get in bed?”

Yeah, about that.

I had this dull ache that turned into an evil roar at 3:30 in the morning.  Sinuses. Head. Neck.  Attitude.  Everything was in pain.

I didn’t want to wake people up, and didn’t have a lot of options, so I tried taking a shower.  That’s when my wife came in to see what was up.

Did I want some pain medicine, she asked?

Boy, did I.

Now I should mention that the “pain medicine” she referred to isn’t your basic over-the-counter pablum.  This was he-man stuff… soon I’d be pain-free and loving everybody.

I should also mention that it isn’t wise to take this on an empty stomach.  Bad things can happen. [click to continue…]

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200446082-006

Another semester has passed, and in the transition to summer school, I’ve been reminded again that some of the most powerful expressions of language often come from people who are just trying to get an A in a class.

I shared a collection of seven profound insights I gained from students here.  Today I thought I’d take another swipe at it.

Read these slowly.  Enjoy the insightful use of words and truths.  This is good stuff… Click here – you’ll be glad you did…

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Balance

You can get yourself in serious trouble for using the “B” word in some places.  Easy girls, I don’t mean that one.  I’m talking about balance.

I know several people, in ministry of all places, that come out with guns blazing when people start talking about the search for life balance or balancing the demands of ministry vs. family and all that.  “It’s compromise!” they declare.  “You give all you’ve got to everything that’s important,” or something like that.

I know some other people who sincerely are trying to keep all the plates spinning.  They’ve given up on excellence (sadly) – they’re just looking for survival at work, avoiding bankruptcy, and keeping their kids out of Juvenile Detention.  “Balance” for them would be to somehow crawl out of those holes and get back to ground level.

Soon after I wrote that last post on diligence in leadership, I was reading some assignments for a class I teach, the subject of which was life balance.  About 90% of them lamented something to the effect of “I stink at this!”  Some of what I read broke my heart.  Most of these people are mid-life, mid-career professionals who are in – or are headed for – ministry.  They have kids, parents, congregations, a full-time masters-level school load, and usually a full-time job to go with it.  And here, on Easter week, for crying out loud, we were asking them to write about balance.

All that has my wheels turning and my mental oven preheating.  When something’s still in the oven I like to advertise it, so consider yourself warned.  What follows is half-baked and still in the oven.  But if you’re struggling to find some balance to your life and its multiple demands or feeling guilty because you just can’t seem to keep all the plates spinning, then call a time out.

Stop.

Put these ideas in your oven and let ‘em bake for a while and tell me what comes up. [click to continue…]

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Leap of Faith

One of the most charming words in the English language is the word “promise.”  Do you realize that so much of what we experience, of what we know about God, of our spiritual maturity, and of our success or failure in the Christian life has something to do with how we respond to the promises of God? Check this out:

Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God (2 Corinthians 7:1, NLT)

We do not want any of you to grow slack, but to follow the example of those who through sheer patient faith came to possess the promises (Hebrews 6:12, Phillips).

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires (2 Peter 1:4, NLT).

To put it simply, we are People of the Promise.  So let me get nosey a minute.  What are you trusting God to do today that only He can do?  Where is the evidence in your life that God is keeping His word to you?  What is there about your life that can only be explained by the faithfulness of a loving God?

The original card-carrier for People of the Promise was a man named Abraham.  And we can learn some things from his example.  [click to continue…]

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(Part 1)

Abandoned Boat

There come those times in the life of every Christ follower when we are faced with a set of choices.  These aren’t salvation issues – far from it. But they are faith issues.  Growth issues.  Issues of maturity and usefulness and power.

One of those choices has to do with your strengths, or areas of confidence.  It has to do with whether you will acknowledge that even in the places where you’re an outright genius, God may have a better idea.  That maybe – just maybe – He’s even smarter than you are.

Another has to do with just the opposite – your areas of fear or insecurity.  Will you be willing to leave the predictable, the safe, and the orderly to do something completely unprecedented if Jesus calls you there?  Even if the people closest to you are telling you you’re a complete fool?

Still another has to do with having courage in the wake of failure.  Will you believe the testimony of grace that Jesus declares over you, or will you give failure the final say in your life?

It all comes down, friends, to what you do with your boat. [click to continue…]

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Contemplation

In his classic book, The Friendship Factor, Alan Loy McGinnis gives the following characteristics of a good listener:

1.  Good listeners listen with their eyes.

2.  Good listeners dispense advice sparingly.

3.  Good listeners never break a confidence.

4.  Good listeners “complete the loop” of communication.

5.  Good listeners show gratitude when someone confides.

That certainly works in your relationships with people. But it’s also an opportunity to remind you that the God of Heaven invites us into a friendship with Him.  In some ways, the things Dr. McGinnis has to say about listening well to other people can translate into listening to the Lord.  Based on his wise advice, let me offer a few suggestions for being a good listener in the spiritual realm: [click to continue…]

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Bible on Table

During World War II a South Sea Islander proudly displayed his Bible to an American GI.  “We’ve outgrown that sort of thing,” the American replied.

“It’s a good thing we haven’t,” smiled the native.  “If it wasn’t for this book, you’d have been a meal by now!”

Do you ever find yourself feeling restless or uncomfortable when you hear someone else quote the Bible in public?  Do you find yourself at times living like the American GI, as though you’d “outgrown that sort of thing?”

The truth is, you never outgrow your need for the word of God because you never outgrow your need for the voice of God.  Ever since the days of Eden, however, the enemy has tried to stand between us and our most authentic source of life.

Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  Why is it so important to hear God speak?  [click to continue…]

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