Archive for Leadership

Our Emotional Health

Every morning I step onto a scale in order to weigh myself. I don’t HAVE to do this, but I CHOOSE to. Some days I’m encouraged by the progress I’m making in terms of “dropping a few lbs” and other days I want to get the scale professionally checked for accuracy (know what I’m talking ’bout?).

Being faced with the truth can be frustrating. But the numbers don’t lie, and neither are they personally invested; they are merely reporting information. It’s our responsibility to consider those numbers and give them subjective weight (pun intended).

What will we do with the information that the scale has revealed to us?

How will we process it?

What actions will come as a result?

Information should lead to introspection.

Truth begets thoughtfulness.

To get physically healthy we must wrestle with what the scale reveals. Such is the case with the physical, but what about the emotional? We can’t weigh JOY like we can pounds. Can we say no to ANGER like a donut? Friends, it’s difficult to quantify our emotional health, and much easier to hide than the physical aspects.  Don’t you wish we could simply step onto a scale, get a read out of emotional health, and then take appropriate steps? But alas…

What are some things that we can do in order to enhance our emotional health?

1.  Enlist Coaching and Accountability.  Get yourself a team of quality people that are rightly aligned with your desires for better emotional health. You cannot afford to go at this alone.

Who will coach you?  These ought to be people that are further along in their life journey, and have seen a degree of success in areas of emotional health.

Who will cheer you on?  These are folks that you can be completely transparent with, and that will in turn spur you on.

For me personally, I have enlisted a couple of older, wiser, Godly men that graciously serve as my coaches. These are not “buddies” (although we have mutual friendship), but rather they are “clear voices” that I have chosen to listen and respond to. As well, I have those that cheer me on;  “emotional health running partners”, if you will, that are on a similar track as I am, and get the rigors of the race.

2.  Set Goals and Plans.  Once your team is in place, then together you are able to set some targets and timelines. Perhaps you are determined to focus your energies towards increasing your joy quotient, lowering stress, or getting a handle on depression. Set some goals regarding those areas of emotional health, and then expand upon that with clear and reasonable plans (how the goal can be achieved). This all seems very ethereal, I know, but the process is well worth it.

Perhaps you may set a goal of waking up happier three days a week. Or you may want to respond to adverse situations with less anger. Set those goals and plot out the plan. It’s important to write it down and then communicate it with your avenues of accountability. In other words, inspect what you expect!

3.  Celebrate Wins and Forward-Progress.  An important step in our emotional health is to celebrate successes (or even hints of success). It’s been said: “What gets celebrated gets repeated.” Of course, we know from various schools of thought such as child psychology, that positive reinforcement is an important facet in the forming of habits (hopefully good ones).

So, if you or those you’ve enlisted to help you, see areas of emotional growth, then be quick to celebrate! That kind of energy can be marshalled in order to tackle other aspects of emotional health and growth.

Why is all of this so important? Well, because Proverbs 4:23 tells us “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Other translations of this passage call our heart the “wellspring of life.”

In other words, our emotional and spiritual heath matters.

Keep up the good work.

 

 

 

Through the Roof

Zig Ziglar once said, “I have such optimism, I’d go after Moby Dick and take the tarter sauce with me.”

I love this quote, because I am an optimistic guy. I enjoy taking on big challenges (I know, I know…I’m kinda sick in the head).

I tend to look at impossible situations with tarter sauce in hand.

I’m a cup half FULL kind of person.

What about you?

Recently I was in Capernaum on the north side of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. It was at this historical site that Jesus was teaching in a home. You can read about it in Mark 2:1-12. As Jesus was teaching in a packed out home, four guys brought their sick friend in order to receive a healing touch. They couldn’t get through the doors or windows due to the volume of people engrossed in Jesus’ teaching. There was simply NO WAY to get their friend inside the house.

Or was there?

It is at key junctures such as these that most people get discouraged and walk away (picture Charlie Brown sulking).

But not these guys. They went after Moby Dick with the tarter sauce in hand!

They went through the roof.

Not many folks would think to go through the roof. That takes work, costs money, makes a mess and causes a scene.

AND…it’s what gets friends healed.

I love the optimism. May we become more and more like these guys, especially when it comes to our friends that need to get to Jesus.

Young Mountain Men

I saw something in the Bible that I hadn’t seen before.

This is not abnormal, in that I’m always discovering things in the Bible that are new and revelational. But, in this case I thought I had “mined” most everything out of this particular passage: Genesis 22.

Genesis 22 is about Abraham’s call to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah (fairly familiar story, right?).  Obviously the primary characters are Abraham and Isaac. You could also throw in an angel of the Lord and an innocent ram caught in a thicket.

The angel of the Lord, speaking on God’s behalf, gave last second instructions to Abraham to NOT slaughter his son Isaac (whew). Evidently, God was looking for obedience more than sacrifice.

Abraham passed the test. End of story, right? Nope. I found something that I hadn’t seen before. There are two other characters in this story that leapt off the page in my most recent reading of Genesis 22.

Two Young Men.

When Abraham woke up early in the morning, verse 3 tells us that he not only saddled his donkey, but he “took two of his young men with him.” No big deal, huh? Abraham probably needed some extra help for his journey. OK…so I read on.

Coming to verse 5 I discovered a second reference the young men: “Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey.'”  That caused me to underline the passage in my Bible AND go back in order to underline verse 3. I’ve been reading the Word of God long enough to pick up on patterns such as these. As a matter of fact, under my breath I whispered “I’ll bet these young men show up again in this passage.” And with that, I read on…

In verse 19, my suspicions were confirmed: “So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba.”  

OK. So there it is: three references to two young men in a story that is predominately about Abraham and Isaac.

Who are these young men? I don’t know, but their inclusion in this story has reminded me of some really important things in leadership and ministry.

1. Take others with you to the mountain. Abraham obviously took Isaac with him, but he extended his circle to two young men. I love this model. It may not always be practical or possible to take people with you, but when you can, do it. As a pastoral leader, I try to make room for as many young leaders as I can. Going to Costco? Grab someone. Heading to a conference or hospital visit? Bring a young leader with you.

Recently, I invited two of our leaders to go on a road trip with me to a memorial service for Jerry Cook, who is an author and Foursquare legend. With notebooks in hand, we captured our thoughts and impressions during the service then debriefed over a meal and the trip home.

Are you climbing a mountain (metaphorically speaking)? Then, bring others with you.

2. Young leaders are developed daily…not in a day. There came a point in the journey to Mount Moriah that Abraham determined the young men should “stay here with the donkey.”  Man, that must have been frustrating for them. Who wants to babysit a donkey when they could climb a mountain? I’ve known many emerging leaders that have felt similar frustrations; desiring to experience more and lead further.

Friends, leaders are not made in a day. It takes time. Be thankful for and faithful with the opportunities you’ve been given. I often say this to young leaders: “Don’t demand a ministry. Develop one.” And that may involve the care of donkeys, while more seasoned leaders go to the top of the mountain. You’ll most likely get there some day, and when you do you’ll realize just how stinking hard it is, and the intense sacrifice that is involved.

So, be patient.

3. Develop long-term mentor/student relationships. In verse 19, when Abraham returned to the young men (with an alive Isaac in tow), they all together “arose and went together to Beersheba.” One can’t read too much into this, but I appreciate the imagery of them all moving and living together in one place.  For me, it illustrates symbiotic relationships that can be formed and nurtured between mentors and students over a long period of time.

There are great benefits found in learning communities of mentors (Abraham) and students (young men). In my personal and ministerial life, I have grown to highly value the godly, older men that have access to my life. Similarly, I’ve chosen to be that kind of a person to a number of younger leaders.

So much is gained. So much is learned. So much is deposited…and withdrawn.

Are you a leader? Do you have “young guns” around you and going places with you?

iLeadership

As the primary leader in a growing organization, I am always on the look out for good people to be a part of our team. My eyes are perpetually peeled. I’m looking as I stroll through the church lobby during our weekend services. I’m watching out of the corner of my eye while ministering at camps, retreats or conferences. I’m scanning to see who is serving, caring, giving, and developing their God-given talents for Kingdom purposes.

I love my job.

Occasionally I have the opportunity to invite certain folks to join our team. It doesn’t happen often and it isn’t for everyone. Of course, any follower of Jesus could have the capacity to be a leader, and may function as such to varying degrees, but not all can be called or commissioned to full-time, professional service in the local church. That simply wouldn’t be practical or possible.

When I look for leaders, I watch for three very important characteristics in that person. I call it iLEADERSHIP.

1.  Leaders that Initiate.

First and foremost these individuals must be able to move forward with initiative and not wait for someone to hand it all to them. We know that the road to somewhere nasty is paved with good intentions. Good intentions are noble but not enough. One must take further steps to initiate action.

2.  Leaders that Integrate.

I look for people that can partner and play well with others. Lone Rangers need not apply. Sure, those kinds of folks may be workhorses and high capacity initiators, but if they don’t have chemistry with a team then problems will ensue. Mark my words: in the short-term you may think you have secured the best leader, but in the long-run you will experience acute misery. So, place a high value on integration.

3. Leaders that Innovate.

Simply put: they have the capacity for change. One must be able to creatively take nothing and make it “something.” It’s an art (Max DePree calls it Leadership Jazz). Understandably, not everyone can pull this off. That’s OK, because the Body of Christ is big and all are welcome. But when it comes to leadership, I find it extremely important to have people that can embrace change and run point on innovative efforts. 

This is iLEADERSHIP.
What leadership characteristics would you add?

Preachers and Drunks

JesusLovesYouThe story is told of a drunk man that stumbled through the woods until he came upon a preacher baptizing people in the river. He tripped into the water and bumped into the preacher who asked the drunk, “Are you ready to find Jesus?” “Yes I am,” the drunk replied. The preacher dunked him into the water then pulled him up and asked him, “Brother have you found Jesus?”  The drunk replied, “No!” Shocked at the answer, the preacher dunked him into the water again a bit longer. He pulled him out of the water and asked again, “Have you found Jesus, my brother?” The drunk again answered, “No, I have not found Jesus.” By this time the preacher was at his wits end so he dunked the drunk in the water again, but this time he held him down for about 30 seconds. The man started flailing his arms and legs so the preacher finally pulled him up and asked the drunk the last time, “For the love of God, have you found Jesus?” The drunk wiped his eyes and caught his breath only to say to the preacher, “No, but are you sure this is where he fell in?”

Aside from the obvious theological problems of this story, there is a bigger reminder to us about how Jesus can get lost by Preachers and Drunks alike.

Sometimes we lose him in the cultural stereotypes that we’ve been given. Other times we lose him in the trappings of the church, with all it’s traditions, rules, and hypocrisies. Oddly, we can sometimes lose him in the Word of God. We can become so caught up in the phrases and miss the person. This is verified in Jesus’ own words found in the Book of John “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you have life” (John 5:39,40).

Where did Jesus fall in?  Where can he be found? How can we truly understand his love for us? I like how the French Philosopher Maurice Blondel puts it: “If you really want to understand a man, don’t just listen to what he says but watch what he does.”

We know that Jesus loves us because the Bible tells us so (you’re humming the children’s song right now, aren’t you?). But what I appreciate about Jesus is that he didn’t just TELL his disciples (us) about his love…he SHOWED them (us).

I believe he showed them (and still does to us today) with a towel, tears and a table. I want to unpack three  familiar passages and look for where Jesus fell in…

Towel // John 13

Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:1,4,5)

It was historically customary for a servant to wash the dust off of the feet of anyone who entered the home of the master.  But in this particular case no one did that, so the guests feet remained dirty until Jesus humbled himself, took off his outer clothing, wrapped a towel around his waist and began to wash their feet. 

Jesus was showing us what love looks like. He knew that before he could TEACH he had to TOUCH.  The disciples didn’t need a lecture on dirty feet. Neither do many of our unsaved friends. They need someone to get down and simply wash off the crud!

I love how Philippians 2:7 drives this home. Note the connections I’ve made to John 13:  “He made himself nothing (took outer clothing off), being made in human likeness (towel), and took the very nature of a servant (wash the disciples feet).”

This is how Jesus SHOWED us love.  How else does he show us? 

Tears // John 11

Jesus wasn’t there when his best friend Lazarus died. When he finally arrived everybody was a mess. Mary was crying. The Jews (perhaps paid mourners) gathered around the grave and joined in the grieving. This must have been like a room full of people watching Marley & Me or My Sisters Keeper (trust me: these are Weep-Fest films).

Vs. 34 – “Where have you laid him?” “Come and See Lord,” they replied.

Vs. 35 – “Jesus wept.”

Vs. 36 – “See how much he loved him!”

Jesus didn’t just say it, he showed it. You may wonder why (if he really loved him) he didn’t do more than just cry. Other wondered that too:

vs. 37 – “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

If Jesus really loved Lazarus, why didn’t he keep him from dying? The same logic can be applied to this question:  Why doesn’t Jesus keep bad things from happening to us?  If he’s really sovereign then wouldn’t it make sense for him to cut off death, pain and suffering at the pass?

Consider this scenario:  Have you ever said to someone “I don’t want you to fix it. I just want you to listen?” Over the years, I have discovered that some of my greatest growth has come out of lots of pain and I honestly didn’t need someone to fix it, but instead I needed to know someone was walking with me, listening to me, and weeping with me.

Such was the case with Jesus.  He wept before he ever raised Lazarus from the dead. You know, perhaps the greater miracle is that the God of the universe can cry. Through his tears he SHOWS us the full extent of his love.

Table // Luke 7

In Luke 7 we discover a pretty shady meal time. The table was set and around it we have a Pharisee, a Prostitute (called The Sinful Woman) and Jesus.

This all sounds like the makings of a good joke: A Pharisee, a Prostitute and Jesus walk into a house…

Both the Pharisee and prostitute were shunned by society, but Jesus sat at the table with them. That’s him showing LOVE. Thankfully he does the same with us. He invites us, with our shady backgrounds and sinful propensities, to eat with him. He welcomes us to the table.

Consider the Last Supper.  At that particular table was one who would deny him (Peter), another who would betray him to be killed (Judas), and a bunch of folks that would abandon him (rest of the disciples).

Looks like Preachers and Drunks are in good company.

Towel, Tears, and a Table: It’s through examples such as these that we discover again how God demonstrated his love for us in this: that while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Awake My Soul

awake7Ah Ezekiel.

Ezekiel was a prophet at the same time as Jeremiah. When he was 26 years old he was taken into captivity to Babylon along with about 10,000 of his fellow Jews. In the fifth year of captivity Ezekiel received a call to be a prophet of the Lord and for the next 22 years he ministered to his fellow captives.

If you were to split his prophetic ministry into two halves and used the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem at 587 BC as the dividing line it would look like this:

1. Prior to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem Ezekiel spoke of DOOM.

2. Then after 587 BC Ezekiel was a prophet of HOPE.

Isn’t that what we need sometimes?

Not doom. We have enough of that.

I think we need more Hope.

Especially when we’re feeling spiritually dry, dusty, or dead. Lord, give us hope! When we’re in a spiritual valley, we need glimpses of perspective that comes through hope.

I think we all understand the concept of “valleys.” This is where we feel trapped, confused and discouraged. I imagine that’s how the children of Israel felt while they were in captivity…until one of their own, Ezekiel, started to speak hope into their valley.

That’s what he did in chapter 37, the famous vision called ‘The Valley of Dry Bones.” It was given to him more than 2,500 years ago for the Babylonian exiles. I think the words still apply to us today.

Here is the Vision:

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?

“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”

So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.

God’s question to Ezekiel is an important one: “Can these dry bones live?” I think this is a question He is still asking us today. Now, from a human point of view the answer to this question is obviously NO. But with divine perspective, we know nothing is impossible.

“God gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” Romans 4:17

God takes that which is dead and makes it live again! How does this happen? I believe the text gives us two ways:

1. The Word of God

2. The Spirit of God

As Ezekiel walked through the valley of dry bones the Lord told him to prophesy (which means “to speak”) to the bones.  He said to the bones: “Hear the Word of the Lord.” As he spoke the Word of the Lord the bones started coming together with sinew, muscles, and skin.

Imagine this scene. Freaky and weird, huh? Especially for a good Old Testament Jewish prophet, because he isn’t supposed to touch dead things! But when God’s Word gets in contact with dead people it causes life.

Is it doing that in you? If not, then are you in close enough contact with God’s Word, and is it getting into you?

What is the Word of God saying to you? God is speaking, but are you listening? When we listen to God and his Word, it has the power to pull the dry, fractured parts of our life together. Things start to make sense again.

 

In a nutshell: The Word forms us.

 

When your life is falling apart, when you are in spiritual valley of dry bones then be quick to get in contact with the Word of God and let it form you.

Notice then in the text that the bodies that had formed didn’t have breath so God said to Ezekiel:  “Speak to the breath and tell it to breathe on these dead bodies so they can live again.”

 

In a nutshell: The Spirit fills us.

 

The BONES became a BODY with the Word of God and the body became an ARMY with the Spirit of God.

Friends, we need BOTH! Oh to be formed with the Word AND filled with the Spirit!

Join me in this pursuit. Join me in crying out to the Lord: AWAKE MY SOUL.

Generosity Is…

Generosity-21“As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4

Lest we think that Jesus is ripping on the rich folks, let’s be clear: he is not SHAMING them for their gifts, he is CELEBRATING the widow for her gifts. The reason is because her generosity flowed out of severe need and lack, whereas the others gave out of abundance. For one group it was most likely easy to give. For the poor widow it was undoubtedly painstaking.

Jesus affirms her generosity.

Paul did the same for the Macedonian church in his letter to Corinth:

“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” 2 Cor. 8:1-5 ESV

From this passage, as well as others in 2 Corinthians 8, I’ve discovered a few principles regarding generosity.

• Generosity is sacrificial (2 Cor. 8:2). It’s been said that it’s not about “equal gifts, but rather, equal sacrifice.” That’s really the bottom line of what Jesus was communicating in the story about the rich givers and the poor widow.

 Generosity indicates a maturing faith (2 Cor. 8:7). In this verse we’re challenged to grow not only in our faith, speech, knowledge and love, but also in the area of our giving. Is this an area of your Christian journey that needs to mature?

• Generosity is a response to Jesus’ life and work in us (2 Cor 8:9). Elsewhere in the Bible we’re reminded that we “love him because he first loved us.” This works in tandem with the understanding that our giving is a natural response to Jesus’ super-natural gift of grace and salvation. Simply put: we can’t out-give God!

Friends, I want to encourage you to live a generous life – modeled after God the Father giving his only Son, and extended through the life of Jesus, in the willful laying down of his life upon the cross.

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”  2 Corinthians 9:15

My Social Networking Purge

socialmedia-addictionSo I took a month off of all social networking…and lived to blog about it.

It’s not uncommon for people to “fast” from particular things such as chocolate, coffee, and carbs. I’ve been known to do that off and on.  I’ve also fasted from Facebook a few times. But since the advent of Twitter, Path, Foursquare and Instagram, I had yet to purge my system of ALL forms of social networking at once.

So that’s what I did in August. Now by no means does that make me a saint or superhuman, lest you be wondering “John, how in the name of all that’s good and right did you possibly abstain from all forms of social networking? How did you manage?  Was communication with the rest of the human race somehow truncated?” These are wonderful and jest-filled questions, because I know of no one that has DIED due to lack of internet-ready networking apps.

But I nearly did.

At least it felt that way.

It’s kinda sick how disconnected I felt just days into my 31-day fast. A buddy of mine declared that I wouldn’t make it the whole month, and he was nearly right. I wanted to check. I just had to see what people were saying. Who was thinking about me? Was a tagged in a photo?  Is anyone quoting rich and profound thoughts from my weekend sermons?  Someone has to capture an Instagram of me and my new bro-tank shirt!  Not to mention: who else “checked in” at the State Fair and are they going to the REO Speedwagon concert?  I gotta see a Vine Video of that epic 80’s band!

When you really get down to it: pride rears it’s ugly head. That’s not to say that social networking is ALL about pride and ego. There are certainly wonderful and redeeming aspects. Connections are made. Information is shared. Prayer and praise are facilitated. All good stuff.

But the dark side of social networking is excessive vanity.  It can quickly become about ME (insert SELFIE photo here). That, of course, is a pretty unbecoming characteristic of a Jesus-follower. Author Brett McCracken says “social media like Facebook and Twitter reinforces our sense of self-importance, urging us to say whatever is on our minds because some audience, somewhere, really wants to know.”

And yet, Philippians 2:4 challenges us to “look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Easier said than done, I know.

So moving forward in my social networking venture, I’ve developed a few personal guidelines that, if properly interspersed, will help me not make it all about ME.

1. Ask questions. Lots of them.

2. Quote smarter people than myself (which gives me a bunch of folks to draw from).

3. Be a resource of helpful thoughts, ideas, books, etc that benefit those that follow me online.

 

On another note regarding social networking: some people have asked me what apps and systems I utilize. Here are my personal thoughts on the matter. I try to create systems and use apps that serve and conserve. What will serve me and my ministry as well as conserve time and energy? To that end, I do the following:

• I use Instagram as my social hub. I will often take a picture of something and it automatically posts to Twitter and Facebook for me.

• I try to stay off Facebook as much as humanly possible. It’s a jungle out there. Recently, I switched to a “Public Figure” Facebook page, which gives me a few specialized options like turning off messaging, and it doesn’t give me access to other people’s timelines. And also, sadly, I discovered last week on my birthday that others couldn’t see the day of my birth nor post their well-wishes on my timeline. That was a tough pill to swallow. At the end of the day I peeked at FB to discover only a few messages from close friends. Ouch. It felt like my birthday got cancelled this year!  Anyway…even though this feature removes me somewhat from the “Facebook Flow,” the time-saving benefit is great.

• I will often post to Twitter from sites like Zite (personalized news magazine) and YouVersion (Bible reading). I then try to stay off my Twitter feed because it’s mind-numbing. The thousands of posts with 140 characters and links start to blur together and my eyes gloss over when scrolling my feed. So, by and large, I’m trying to stay off of it, except for the posts of a few trusted people and sites that I know can keep me current on news and events.

Instagram is frankly my kryptonite. My thumb goes to my iPhone app like Pavlov’s dogs. Thankfully I don’t follow a ton of people. And if you post trash, too many selfies, or more than five pictures in five minutes of your “smoking hot wife” then I stop following you!

• I check in on the Foursquare app periodically, but haven’t found it to be a very vibrant community. Google+ and LinkedIN bug me (sorry). Path is of interest, but I’ve not spent much time there. Vine and SnapChat don’t grab me at all. I think they are novelty and, bottom line, sin portals.

On that note: every social networking tool can be used for good or evil. I know that sounds very Obi Wan Kenobi of me, but it’s true.  I encourage you to choose good. Run from evil.

Happy Networking!

 

The Postures of Jesus

writing_in_sand.250w.tnThe biblical passage of John 8 captures the famous story of the woman caught in adultery. I’ve read this portion of scripture dozens of times over my lifetime and have always been drawn to Jesus’ grace, clarity of thought and balance.

Interestingly, this passage has been referred a bunch over the last few weeks at West Salem Foursquare Church. My family and I were able to take the whole month of July off as vacation, so I had some great friends come in to share the Word of God with our congregation. I was told, and now have been able to verify it by watching the teaching videos online, that each of the preachers made reference to the woman caught in adultery from John 8.

Interesting, huh?

This wasn’t planned. Maybe if we were more clever, we could have synced it all up into a nice summer teaching series, complete with graphics and a cute jingle. But, alas…we’re simply not that clever.

But, the Spirit of God sure is.

I wonder if there is something the Lord is trying to say to us.

Unfortunately, I think folks are way too quick to jump headlong into the “He who is without sin, cast the first stone” aspect of this story. This has become a mantra of sorts in our permissive culture. We are so prone to quote this verse when we are looking for a “free pass.” It’s almost as if there is nothing more to say when someone drops the “he who is without sin…”   It’s like when someone tells you that “God told them” – how do you refute that?

“God told you?” 
“Hmmm….OK then, I’ll just keep my mouth shut.”

“He who is without sin cast the first stone.”  
“Hmmm…OK then, again, I’ll just keep my mouth shut.”

But this is not an accurate or complete picture of what this is about.

The thrust of Christ’s statement—“He that is without sin . . .”—was this: “None of you is in a position to stone this woman, for you have disregarded the very law you profess to honor.” You see, the Old Testament code demanded that both the adulteress and the adulterer be subjected to the same penalty (see Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22). Where, then, was the man? These sanctimonious prosecutors were themselves in stark violation of the law.

When the Jewish leaders decided to be so specific, by mentioning that the woman was caught “in the very act,” they acknowledged an important point: they absolutely knew the identity of the male participant! In other words: it takes two to tango. If they caught the woman “in the very act” then it’s a given that the man was in that very act as well! But they chose to not haul the man in for stoning, and thereby didn’t follow Leviticus 20 and Deuteronomy 22.

They broke the law.

Guilty as charged.

Aren’t we all?  Guilty that is. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have all missed the mark.

How does the Lord Jesus deal with us fellow lawbreakers? Here’s how: the same way he dealt with the woman caught in adultery:  with grace and truth.

Jesus’ posture was, is and will always be grace and truth. These spiritual postures are so clearly seen in three of Jesus’ physical postures.

Jesus sat down.  
Jesus bent down.
Jesus stood up.

When Jesus sat down he was displaying his authority. Famous rabbis of the past would often sit and teach for hours, while their students stood, listening and learning. The students were simply grateful to have the opportunity to hear the words and truths of the “master.” Jesus, the Great Rabbi (which means Teacher), opted to sit down while he taught the people in the temple.  It was while he was in this position of authority that the scribes and Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery to him for his “judgement.” He, being in authority, could have pronounced that she be stoned, but instead he chose another posture, one that integrated seamlessly with truth…that is: grace.

Next in the text we discover Jesus bent down, writing something in the sand. He did this twice. No one, not even the smartest person, is clear as to what Jesus was writing with his finger, but I believe this posture was intended to display humility. Throughout the Gospel of John we see images of Jesus bent low to the ground. The most obvious occurrence is in the John 8 passage. There is also John 9 where Jesus made mud from spit and dirt to smear on the blind man’s eyes. John 13 reveals how Jesus bent down to wash the disciples feet, and finally, in John 21 post-Resurrection Jesus bent low to make breakfast for his bewildered friends.

Each of these references illustrate the fundamental understanding that God, in the person of Jesus, was willing to bend down and reach us where we are.

Authority and Humility.

Truth and Grace.

The final posture in the vignette of John 8 was a display of certainty. Twice Jesus stood up and made bold declarations.  First he said the famed phrase, “Let him who is without sin be the first to throw a stone” and then secondly pronounced freedom from condemnation and “go sin no more.”  These two statements again add to the tapestry of grace AND truth.

Humility sandwiched by Authority and Certainty. 

So, what might the Lord be trying to say to us?

Perhaps it is this:

Jesus is the truth AND the truth will set you free.

The truth is that we are all sinners. Don’t throw stones unless you have an extra one to hit yourself with.

The grace is that we’re not condemned. We are free to go. But we are also free to go…and sin no more.

These are good postures for us to take.

Ride On…Q&A with Joseph Fehlen (Part 2)

josephfehlen-cover-thmbJoe is my brother (and he’s not heavy). Recently I had a Q&A with my brother about his book “Ride On: A Motorcycle Journey to Awake your Soul and  Rediscover it’s Maker.” It’s available on Amazon: As well, you can purchase his book at his blog (www.agrowingfamily.com), or at West Salem Foursquare Church on the weekend of July 6/7.

 

This is part 2 of a Q&A with Joe.  Enjoy.

 

JOHN:   I feel in Ride On you left me with a cliffhanger. I was wondering if you would ever come back? Are you working on a sequel? 

 

JOSEPH: Yes, I do come home but I just take the long way! I got ideas in the works for two other books. One called, Rebuild: When your life and your bike seem beyond repair.  I am rebuilding a 1974 Honda CB360 that was my father in law’s bike back in the 70’s. He sold it in the early 80’s and two winters ago we found it buried in several feet of pine needles and with a five-foot pine tree growing up through the frame.

It is now in my garage and we are trying to get it restored…but I don’t know what I am doing. Which makes a great premise for a book. I got some ideas for a third one but don’t want to get too far ahead of myself because I am currently writing one about hunting.

 

JOHN: Hunting book? You don’t know anything about hunting.

 

JOSEPH: Yes, that’s correct. Another hobby I took up in earnest in my late 30’s and I am fumbling through it.  I am tracking along and hope to have it ready to go to the editor early 2014. My working title is, Nine Arrows: A Hunters life of patience, practice, perseverance and utter failure.  It has been really fun to write and I hope it will be an encouragement to others that are thinking about quitting.

 

JOHN: Wow that is great… One last question.  Many in my church make fun of me for riding a Vespa. When you come out here would you ride with me on a Vespa to let them know they are cool also? 

 

JOSEPH: I almost purchased a scooter instead of the motorcycle and have a chapter about that dilemma. Because my motorcycle is not huge, and not a Harley, I have a lot of love for any two wheeled vehicle. All of what I talk about in Ride On is applicable to scooter riders as well as those that peddle around on two wheels. So, yes, I would be proud to ride with you on a scooter.

I will, however, not wave to you when I am on a motorcycle and you pass me on your scooter. That is reserved for those on real motorcycles.