Here’s one that’s sitting on the edge of Cliché-ville…
“Do you believe God has forgiven you?”
“Have the people involved forgiven you?”
“I think so, yes.”
(Pregnant pause…) “But have you forgiven yourself… (more pregnant pause)?
I don’t mean to poke too hard at this – it’s a valid concern. I know plenty of people, myself included, who have become experts at beating themselves up for past failures. I have some vivid memories dating back many years that I can re-live with detailed emotional horror, usually followed by the out-loud words, “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” I sure haven’t forgotten those things. Does that mean I haven’t forgiven myself?
What about the person who isolates from others in the name of solitude, or who lives like Mister Achievement, as if he’s making up for lost time or in some kind of race? Is that what self-forgiveness looks like?
It sounds good to ask the soul-piercing question. But how in the world is somebody supposed to know in truth that they’ve actually forgiven themselves? [click to continue…]
For the last 2,000 years people from all over the world have staked their futures around two events that, for them, represent the most transforming experience in history. I’m referring to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
One of the most compelling proofs of the power of those two events is in the changed character of Jesus’ followers. Talk about Jekyll-and-Hyde! This ragtag group of crazies went from cowering wimps to a fearless army of witnesses with a single message: Jesus lives.
These people didn’t wait until the resurrection to believe in Christ. But they experienced a profound change in their faith when they encountered a living, victorious Lord.
So will you.
Even today it’s possible to know in your head that Jesus is alive, but live as though it’s still Friday night. In other words to believe in Jesus as though He were dead. So how can you tell the difference? Here are five signs you’re living on “Friday night” faith: [click to continue…]
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…]
In the last post I shared six signs of a leader who breathes life into organizations and followers, as opposed to those who have a way of sucking the life out of them. Definitely worth a review if you missed it. My guess is, you have probably experienced both types on a personal level, whether it’s in your workplace, your church, or your community. We’ve certainly seen both types on a global or national scale as well.
What I’m more concerned about, however, is the leadership you show, even if you don’t think of yourself as a leader. Everybody influences somebody, and you’re no exception. And all of us can learn from the example of the ultimate life-giving leader, the Lord Jesus. Here are six more signs of a life-giving leader. [click to continue…]
(Get Out of the Boat, Part 3)
(Note: Today is a very special day for me. It was 40 years ago today that the Lord made it clear to a young high school sophomore’s heart that He had a call and gifts for vocational service for me. All I had asked for is clarity, and on this night He did that in no uncertain terms. There are many things I wish I could have done differently in the last 40 years. But if I had one thing I could say – one lesson learned that surpasses all others during this time – what follows is a pretty good expression of it. Hope you enjoy…)
How long are you going to wear that?
How long are you going to treat that uniform as if it’s a tattoo?
How long are you going to assume that past results are a guarantee of future disappointment?
How long are you going to treat failure as if it is a person – namely you – and not an event?
How long will you believe that people who love Jesus never blow it? And people who blow it could never love Jesus again?
How long – how long – will you assume that forgiveness couldn’t possibly mean restoration?
Maybe you’re the one who needs to get out of the boat. [click to continue…]
Way back in the day, Chuck Bolte and the Jeremiah People did a hilarious skit called “The Service” about five people sitting on a church pew waiting for the service to start. There was an older couple, a younger couple who had it all together and knew it, and a young wife who in tears admits that her husband has left her and moved into a hotel.
Out come the clichés. In one place, Chuck who played the younger man, said something like, “You see, Julie, as Christians we’re on God’s winning team. We make our baskets, we sink our putts, we cross the goal line!” Then he asks that penetrating question: “Julie, have you made Christ the center of your marriage.”
“Look,” she says. “I don’t know how to make Christ the center of our marriage. I come here for help and all I get are words… words I’ve said to myself a thousand times.”
Ouch. But hey, at least she got some words. Sometimes church people don’t even do that.
In 35 years of some sort of ministry, I’ve been blessed to receive a lot of gritty grace. Sure, some people got it wrong. But I’ve seen enough people get it right to dismiss my own “inner Pharisee” and pay it forward. They taught me how to run to the spiritually wounded, not away from them. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way. [click to continue…]
A few years ago I was having coffee with an old friend and colleague. I was in a pretty wounded state at the time, and felt compelled to tell him my story. He was compassionate, listened attentively, then asked, “How can I help?”
“I was thinking about visiting your church,” I said, “and just wanted you to know.”
“Well, I’ll be honest with you,” he replied. “We’re not much of a healing place.”
Wow. There it was. Translation: We’re more interested in fresh blood than spilled blood. But to be fair, his church was and is true to its mission as they perceive it. And at least he was kind enough to be honest.
For years I have heard the old saying, “The Christian army is the only army in the world that shoots its wounded.” Let me say right up front, that’s not accurate. If you really believe that, you’ve never been in a corporate “army” or a political one. The wounded get eliminated there all the time.
But the church is supposed to be different, right? We’re supposed to be trophies of grace, havens of love, lighthouses of hope and (make your own cliché here: [blank] of [blank]). So what’s up with that right foot of fellowship? [click to continue…]
A cathedral in Europe was famous for the large, magnificent, stained‑glass window that was located behind the altar and high above the sanctuary. One day a violent windstorm shattered that beautiful window into a thousand pieces. The church custodian was hesitant to discard the fragments, so he put them in a box and stored them in the basement of the cathedral.
Shortly after the storm, a man who had heard about the damage asked for and received the broken pieces of glass. About 2 years later, he invited the caretaker to visit him in a nearby village. When the custodian arrived, the man explained that he was an artisan and that he had something to show him. When the craftsman unveiled his work, the visitor was astonished to see a lovely window fashioned from the broken fragments. It was even more beautiful than the original.
You can be, too.
Like the shattered window, sometimes we live in the wake of a painful experience that threatens to leave us broken and scarred – an unrecognizable leftover of what we once imagined ourselves to be.
Joyful? Are you kidding?
I heard a beautiful reflection on that a couple of years ago from a TV show, of all things: [click to continue…]
I keep a list of Darling Words – words that have a lot of charm or inspire the imagination. “Forever” is one of those words. It speaks of life. Grace. Commitment. And a long, long time.
Used poetically, Forever speaks of a depth of love that’s supposed to exceed the way we feel about watermelon or melted cheese on tater tots. It’s supposed to last longer than the latest distraction or the next annoying thing somebody does.
Forever is sometimes used to take a snapshot of a moment or a feeling. It’s the language of a hopeless romantic or magical thinker, inviting someone to a lifetime of adventure.
But more than that, Forever speaks the language of letting go of the past and starting something new. It speaks of a lifetime pursuit worth waiting for or something more powerful than death and the grave.
We come by our attraction to Forever honestly. The Bible says that God has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In spite of the vanity of our fallen condition, we are instinctively drawn to love for the long haul and life beyond this lifetime. Why, then, is “Forever” such a fleeting thing? Why don’t connections or commitments last beyond the latest inconvenience or frustration? [click to continue…]
I spend a lot of time trying to think up new things, or new ways to say the familiar things. I’m a big believer in singing a new song to the Lord and the exquisite beauty that comes from being completely random every once in a while.
That said, our brains were build to learn by repetition, and our hearts were made to be renewed by reminders. That’s why the Bible has four gospels, Kings and Chronicles, and the books of Deuteronomy and 1 John. All built on some form of repetition. That’s why the early church met daily from house to house or had a regular assembly on the first day of the week. To be reminded. To be renewed.
I know I accidentally repeat myself plenty of times, but today I thought it may be time for a little deliberate renewal – some purpose-driven (sorry, Rick) reminders of the big stuff – a harvested collection of some of the good stuff. Not my stuff, but those themes that keep us going and keep going themselves long after we’re gone. So here goes… [click to continue…]