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You Are Enough. Pass It On.

You are enough. We have heard these words all over social media and authors have penned them for theories and ideas in their books; however, what does it mean? And how does my faith inter-mesh with this idea?

The idea of being “enough” is as simple or complex as we make it. If you are a Christian and assuming you are (or curious) because you are on a faith-focused blog, you wonder what God says. God loves you tons. He sent His Son (Jesus) to die on the cross for you. Yes, YOU! The sinful you. The broken you. The married you. The single you. The divorced you. The old and young you. God loves you and you are enough!

The self-help genre of books is a massive marketing beast. If you can write a good self-help book, then you will probably make truckloads of cash. However, “self-help” means you are helping yourself and you are. It is bigger than this! To find deeper healing and find your identity, a person must go to God. The God of ALL Creation—-the autumn beauty of fall foliage, uniquely made human beings, deep oceans, and outstretching mountains. You must go to God and you must be ready to MOVE!

Here is where people get stuck. You are loved by God no matter where you have been or where you currently are. No one and nothing can change that. But as far as being enough, this is not a license to simply do nothing. This is where we put our faith into action. If there is anything that is KILLING THE CHURCH right now it is passivity. We complain about culture and sit on the sidelines. We reminiscence how “things used to be”; however, we fail to attempt new ways of reaching outside our church walls.

You are enough. You are loved. Now, bring this to others. Love God. Love others. Preach with your actions. Be mission-minded in your movement. But for goodness sake, do not sit on your laurels. There are enough Monday morning quarterbacks. “This is what my team should have done on 4th down last night”. Don’t be that person. The Kingdom needs YOU. Yes, YOU!!

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Hearts of Swiss Cheese

I love cheese. I mean, who doesn’t? (Sorry vegans! We still love you.) There is nothing better than cheese on a burger. And then we have the concoction known as Swiss cheese. Swiss cheese has the big and small holes in the cheese. Whether you like Swiss cheese or not, you could probably agree that sometimes, our heart is like Swiss Cheese.

Our hearts take a lot of hits. Heartbreak, traumas, loss, grief, pain–all of these things hit us hard. The problem is we usually know this about ourselves; however, we bury the problem. We ignore the pain but post on social media about our “best life”. And we indulge in something—anything that will serve as a distraction. We follow lesser gods and bigger egos and we are left with more emptiness.

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” -Proverbs 4:23

We must guard our hearts. It sounds like something out of Robin Hood or a modern love story. If there is something we have not IGNORED in today’s culture it is mentioning the heart. We talk about the heart all of the time in music, social media, and art. We get tattoos of hearts and names on our bodies. We spend money on cute signs with love quotes and hearts for our homes and offices. And the heart emoji is used endlessly in texts and on social media.

There are two extremes that usually exist in dealing with our hearts (unless we are guarding them):

Extreme #1: Throwing your heart all over the place. This is not vulnerability. This is someone who puts everything out there on social media and to the world all of the time to “just be real”. You didn’t guard anything. You gave your heart and all of you to everyone and everything. There is a time and place to share personal things to give others a piece of wisdom. Don’t overshare. You are worth getting to know!

Extreme #2: Lock your heart up. This is common if you have experienced some significant trauma or loss in your life. It is easier to never let anyone in again, correct? Looking at it for face-value, sure, you will never get hurt again. However, with that mindset, you will never experience deep relationships (friendly or love). We were created as relational beings.

So what does guarding your heart look like? It means praying for wisdom. Who can you trust with your heart? These are people that will walk through the heavenly highs and hellish lows with you. They will breathe life into you in a culture that is bent on tearing others down. And they will be few in numbers. Jesus did some of his most profound ministry in small numbers—12 disciples, 1-on-1 conversations, etc. Your greatest heart-work as a believer will be in smaller settings.

Guard your heart. From it springs LIFE. And be sure to pour into others and those who walked that road with you.

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Unity: An Intro and Why It Scares YOU!

Now, I am not naive and I have worked in the Church on various levels as a student, intern, ministry leader, and pastor. I have encountered many different attitudes in regards to “unity”. Some people associate unity as getting together with other churches of the same denomination/affiliation on an annual basis. Others take the approach that unity is not possible because our churches and communities are too different.

Christian unity scares people. It scares God’s Church but it should not. Unity should not scare Christians. Unity scares people because it brings our INSECURITIES to the surface. Our prejudice or assumptions about other churches or denominations is exposed when we aim for unity as One.

Unity scares the Enemy. And no….the Enemy is not the church down the street from you whose building is prettier or bigger than yours. The Enemy is not the church who hosts bake sales, fish fries, or youth activities in the parking lot. The Enemy is not the church who sings only hymns or only contemporary worship music.

The Enemy is the enemy……Satan. Satan hates to see Christians getting along. When Christians work together, much good can happen for the Kingdom. Satan hates that; it probably gives him heartburn.

Unity starts at home. It must be modeled and lived out at home. What we teach our children, friends, and siblings about Christian unity will trickle down. This is crucial because we must confess that we are not perfect. You and I are not perfect. Our churches are not perfect. We must agree to disagree.

A big assumption in Christianity is to assume we know what another church or denomination believes in. Do some research. Ask questions. Talk to people associated with those churches or denominations. You might learn more than that Bible course you took in college.

My next couple of blogs will tackle the topic of unity and I encourage us all to stay open to God’s Spirit. May we be One……….One united Body……..fighting for the hearts of men and women and bringing them restoration and healing in God.

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Why You Should Write…..

You are reading this blog because you are curious. Maybe you stumbled here due to a Google search. Or maybe you are one of my friends and family who read what I write. (Hint: I do not write like a Harvard scholar. I hope you figured this out by now.)

Even though you came here to read, I would encourage you to start writing for yourself. Everyone has a story. Each of our stories are filled with joy, surprises, achievements, heartache, and trauma. The last word there (trauma) scares everyone; therefore, they try to minimize any pain in their life. “I’ve never experienced anything traumatic or horrible. I just suck it up.” <—- Right, because that has worked well for you and the rest of us. I speak in pure sarcasm.

Writing is good for you. Whether you write a blog or keep a journal (or both), it is like therapy. As you are thinking and processing life, you begin to write due to something in your life, good or bad. You know the living hell you walked through. And because you are STILL STANDING, you desire for others to have hope and healing.

Take some time today and evaluate your life. Start a journal where you can look at your journey and how God and others have walked with you in that journey. Be mindful of your style. Some people write huge paragraphs and others use bullet points on their pages. This is about process; not perfection. If you are into a topic of interest and wish to start a blog, go for it!

Don’t wait! Act now!

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W.A.Y.

When I was first out of college, I worked at a church and Latchkey program. They were interconnected and this was great as a 4th and 5th grade pastor for ministry opportunities. In the Latchkey program, we provided before and after-school care to a large group of students from Kindergarten through 5th grade. Organization and structure were key. This was when I was introduced to “the W.A.Y.”

W.A.Y. stands for Worry About Yourself. One of my esteemed colleagues provided this idea to the children and the staff at the program. If a situation was out of control, we pointed the children to Worry About Yourself. This idea is not mind blowing. This idea is not something that Harvard researchers came up with after months of research and tests in a lab. W.A.Y. is meant to be behavioral but this can be applied to the spiritual life.

This was introduced to me in 2006. Yes, 15 years ago. But the truth that drips from the mantra holds true! Worry About Yourself can apply to our spiritual life. What does our time with Jesus look like? We cannot pour from an empty cup. Instead of being focused on how holy someone else’s spiritual life looks like (thanks social media), get close to Jesus. Talk to him. Hear from him. Really!

As I write this blog, I know there are people who are dying to say: “But aren’t we called to serve?!” Instead, we are! And herein lies the dilemma, you cannot offer others what you do not have. Your church attendance and service in the local church is admirable and needed; however, this does not go before your relationship with God. There is nothing more sad than when people are busy and neglect Jesus in the process.

Social media has provided everyone with a microphone and a platform. If you have something to say, then you have a place to say it. You will probably have an audience given how much time we spend on social media. And with your audience comes those background beasts fondly known as trolls. Trolls are interesting. They may be passively nosy or they may want to engage and fight in the Daily Keyboard Olympics (its like Fight Club but for trolls). Pick your battles wisely.

Why W.A.Y. when dealing with all of the possible battles out there? Because you cannot be in ALL things, ALL of the time. In John Eldredge’s book Get Your Life Back, he teaches about Benevolent Detachment. Benevolent Detachment is an act of giving everyone and everything to Jesus in a time of intentional pause throughout the day. It is NOT a “I am done with the world, forget them” mentality. It is releasing your burdens and the burdens of others to God. We are not God.

Worry About Yourself. Your heart and soul need it. And when you care for your heart and soul, then you can help others.

The Best Life NOW Fallacy

There is a movement that is pretty strong and only gaining momentum. This is a force to be reckoned with and it has found its way onto may social media platforms–complete with cute quotes and pictures that are meant to empower and inspire. And light a fuse. This movement is: the Best Life NOW.

Because I like to be creative, I will be capitalizing “NOW” for the duration of this post. And I will also provide you with some thoughts on why the #BestLifeNOW movement is toxic to our hearts and souls. And because I am a pastor by trade and writer by hobby, I will play wordsmith and break down the elements of the movement.

Best: This implies that you are creating the BEST life for yourself. You are making things happen. You will make things happen right now and no one will stop you! One Google search and you will see that the Best Life has been greatly aimed at women. “You don’t need anyone”. “You don’t need a man”. “You do you!” The issue with these theories is they are crap. We are relational beings. God made us in His image during the act of Creation. God created us for perfect fellowship with Him and then Adam and Eve messed it up.

Adam and Eve wanted their best life too. In the Garden, the serpent (translated as Satan) tempted Adam and Eve to want more and more. They gave in and they broke that perfect relationship with God. Many times, people read the Bible and only point to Satan tempting Jesus. As you see, evil has existed since the beginning of Creation. Evil lingers in our heart and causes us to be selfish. If you want to focus on being the best, start with yourself but not the exterior: relationships, job, selfies, etc. Start with your heart. The best worldview you can operate in is in one where you know the world does not revolve around you. Start in God, not the world.

Life: Our life is not our own. Time is not unlimited on Earth. This is not to scare you but to make you aware of how fragile life is. People cry for joy when they become parents and cry in sorrow when they lose their parents or loved ones. When people are near the end of life, they will often look back and have regrets. They should have, would have, could have. This is a normal human response. Their normal human response is also the end of time with others. Life is precious. When we view life as more than these monumental moments and more about the everyday love that we can give others; it will rock our world. Consistent is more important than magnificent.

NOW: Herein lies my biggest issue with the #BestLife movement: the NOW. Now = everything is about the here and now and forget the future. This is bad ideology and if you believe in God, this is really bad theology. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer in our churches and at funerals and weddings, we pray “your Kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth and it is in Heaven”. We sometimes forget that the Christian life is not just getting our passport stamped for a future in Heaven. It is about the now and the future.

The Christian NOW should look different than the world’s NOW. The Christian’s NOW should be on relationships that are healthy and fruitful while staying GROUNDED in Jesus. We are grounded in Jesus and this keeps us open to continually being made more like Christ. Growth is a daily process. We are never done. The world’s now is about instant gratification: people are a temporary means to a greater gain. When someone is advocating to “live their best life now”, they must be careful what fire they will play with to move on up.

We must also look to the future. One day, we will walk with Jesus in Heaven. We will be free of any suffering, racism, hate, turmoil, etc–that we see on Earth. When we walk with Jesus, it will be a glorious moment. And that, my friends, is truly living the Best Life.

Life Principles: It’s NOT All About You

In Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, he opens up the 40-day journey by saying “It’s Not About You”.

Say what???

Life is not about me?  But….what is life about then?  I mean…..I have desires, needs, dreams, goals!!! Come on now!

Yes, we all have desires, needs, dreams, and goals.  But WHERE did we get these things come from and WHY are we pursuing them in the first place?

God GAVE THEM TO YOU!!  God gave everyone a purpose.  God gives all of us dreams and desires and goals.

But, LIFE IS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU.

See, as a human being, we need each other.  WE need each other for living.  We need each other for encouragement, fellowship, and getting through the tough times.  No one can do life alone.  They may say they can–but they can’t.

What is your purpose?

What are your dreams?

Ask God.

Ask your most trusted allies.

Friends, we live in tough times.  Let’s face it!!  The economy stinks, jobs are hard to find, and some families are all living together under one roof.  One thing that we need during times like these are purpose.  If we do not have purpose, we are just breathing and going through each day—-just getting by.  Who wants to just get by? Why not find our purpose?

Here is how to find your purpose:

1. Pray-It sounds like a Sunday School answer.  And it is! 🙂   Pray for God to show you what he wants from you.  Are you in the right job?  Do you need to prune some of the branches on your tree of relationships?

2. Discuss-Talk to trusted friends and advisers. Remember this: Look at your friend’s lifestyle.  If your friend does WHATEVER they can to get ahead in life; you probably do not want to seek advice from them.  Compare morals.  Not in a Pharisee-type way but in a realistic manner.

3. Explore-Look at your education, your passions, how you spend your time.  This will show you what REALLY SETS YOU ON FIRE!!!

4. Action-Take a leap of faith.  Why sit around and wait for things to happen?  There are two kinds of people: people that sit around and complain about what should be done AND people that make things happen.

Unity from the Pulpit

(Note: This was written 3 years ago by I feel my words are just as true today!)

Unity must come from the front. I am not talking about the front pew or the front row of people who have been holding down their seats since 1955.

Unity must be preached from the pulpit.

Ah ha! A light bulb flashed in your cranium. You are ready to jump out of your seat right at this very moment. Yes, we may teach and preach on unity in our churches; however, is this just a local church unity ordeal (MY church) or are we stretching our arms out to other churches (the Church)?

Again…….unity must be preached from the pulpit. Unity is much bigger than cooperating with other churches within our denomination. It will take great humility, love, grace, and acceptance in order for unity to occur between various Christian communities.

The pastor/priest/preacher sets the tone for their respective local churches. If they teach their flock the importance of embracing other Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ, the lifestyle of unity will flow freely through the congregation. If the congregation is taught that other Christian denominations are inferior to their church, the congregation will develop an elitist mindset.

John 17 20″My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24″Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25″Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Christ called us to be One. He is the Lead Shepherd (Psalm 23). All other shepherds (ministers) are to model Christ. If you are a pastor, what do you model to your congregation in regards to your attitude about other churches? If you are a church attendee, does your pastor or elders reflect an attitude of Christian unity?

Some of you reading this are thinking…”well we never partner with other churches or reach out to churches who need spiritual or financial help. I do not know what to do or where to begin. My pastor does not like those Catholics or Methodists.”

News flash. Doctrine differences between churches will always exist. We must ask ourselves…….Are we united as Godly brothers and sisters AND what is our agenda? Agenda = Walking with God as an individual and as a community. We must seek often God’s agenda.

It starts with one. One person. That person could be YOU. Approach your pastor or leadership and see where they stand on the idea of Christian unity. After all, if you attending a church, you want to know what your particular church REALLY believes about the Body of Christ. You are not attempting to start a revolution here. You just want to know the essentials……..such as…………does your church preach unity within Christianity and if so then how is this lived out in your faith community.

Resurrection

Today is Easter…………..the topic of Resurrection is on our tongues, hearts, and minds……..especially today.

I recently watched the newest James Bond movie “Skyfall”.  (SPOILER ALERT!!)  In the movie, Bond is tied to a chair and the villain is taunting Bond.  The villain talks about how he has been spending his time in all of these “hobbies”.   The villain then asks James Bond what his hobby is, to which Bond replies “resurrection”.  Bond stated this because he was believed to be dead……….his own agency moved on without him.

Today is Easter and Christians around the world will celebrate Easter.  What if we lived everyday in a resurrection mindset?  By this, I am insinuating that we live everyday like Jesus is alive.  Too often, we just celebrate the church calendar.  Nothing wrong with celebrating the church calendar,  but what if we firmly believed and lived like Jesus is alive (and Risen) everyday?

Happy Easter!!

Be glad for Jesus’ Resurrection today and the amount of second chances that he gives us.  His love never fails.