Archive for the ‘Discovery’ Category

We are all the Same. Unique.

June 29, 2007

We are all the same. Unique.

We are unique. We are all the same in that we are unique. We share uniqueness.

No matter how hard you try you are going to be different. You can’t be like anyone else. Don’t try. You can’t.

You are unique.

You were born unique and you die unique. Some were born into wealth and others into poverty. Why? One little girl was born into the poorest of homes and became the richest woman in the world. Her name is Oprah.

Why is it that we see those who are poor as unfortunate?

It doesn’t make any sense does it? Is it meant to?

Why do I weigh 110 and feel so sick (at the time of writing this over a month ago)? Is it because God wants to teach me something or make me better? Maybe. Maybe not. Is it okay for once to accept there may not be an answer? YES, it is! Embrace the mystery, but more importantly-embrace your uniqueness in this mysterious maze of life.

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Top 10 Lessons I Have Learned From Being Sick

June 28, 2007

Last Sunday, I shared at my Dad’s church some of the top lessons I am learning right now through all my health deficiencies. Here’s a look at my short-notes:

1 “I didn’t know how to be sick.” All of us are suffering. No one is immune to suffering. We all suffer because of the fall.

2 “Sometimes, I don’t feel spiritual.” Feelings are fleeting. Feelings are fickle. I didn’t know it was there. I had to relearn what it means to be a spiritual being. I put some stock in what God made me feel, but when I became sick I was forced to realize how dangerous this was.

3 “I took for granted the good times.” It’s amazing how much it hurts when we can’t operate like we used to. And it’s unfortunate how many of us don’t stop and consider how fortunate we are. We misuse the gifts and sometimes we control and overpower people with our strong personality and ability to outsmart people. Well, what happens when that’s all taken away? Then what do you do? We should remember whose we are and what we were created for. While I have been sick I have been able to reflect and I’ve realized how much I live for myself. It’s sad, really. I think of me far too much and place far too much attention on me. It’s quite embarrassing once you think about it in light of our God and eternity. It’s hard to imagine what it feels like when your personality changes. Yes, when you get sick it affects your personal makeup, the way you interact, the way you lead, the way you communicate, everything. If I depend on achieving I will eventually get depressed.

4 “Being sick doesn’t change your life.” It reveals who you really are. And being sick is a good time to let people into your lives. It’s an opportunity to see how we respond and struggle through hard times.

5 “Suffering without meaning is despair.” And meaning might not be a two-step formula. It might mean there is no reason at all, just a loving God whose allowed you to hurt. And while he allows it, he hurts with you.

6 “You can’t deny yourself unless you know yourself.” Sure, it helps to study others and how God worked in and through them, but it’s far more impacting to study ourselves, and how God wants to uniquely lead us. I think there’s something drastic missing from our lives when we ignore the study of who we really are. God made us to be unique. He made us with specific distinctions and purposes, yet we don’t put emphasis on learning what those are.

7 “Sometimes we’re so worried about the what, while God is more concerned about our motives.” I may not be able to “discern” or “feel” (if that matters) if my whole heart is not in line with him. I have to be completely surrendered in order to do the what. It’s amazing how “simple” the what is when we’re this way.

8 “Your misperceptions might be perceptions.” When I was a young, brash 17 yr old who was transformed by Christ, following Him was simple, thrilling and impactful. I read the Word and obeyed. Simple as that. I shared my story with others and saw fruit almost every day. Five years later, I started trying to figure everything out and do it “better”. At that moment something began seeping out of me. I have to work hard to remember my salvation, and what matters and doesn’t matter. Misperception: I am called to do this or that. Perception: I am called to “live in Christ, die is gain”, “to make disciples of all nations”.

9 “People will fail you, but our Heavenly Father never will.” I will fail my wife. My wife will fail me. Your earthly Mother and Father will fail you. But our Heavenly Father will never fail you.

10 “Why are you afraid to make a mistake?” Those who do most make the most mistakes. God doesn’t bless leaders. He blesses faith.

Also, this is a word I wrote in my journal the night before:

    I am not seeing God as he really is, as the Old Testament prophets saw him. When I pray and when I ask what he wants I have my own agenda in mind because I doubt that what he wants is what I would want. I have too little respect and perspective of who this Great and Mighty God really is. When I pray in the back of my mind is this little tug-of-war of thoughts saying what I think is best for me and not what he thinks is best. Yet, I am doing this with the Creator of Heavens and earth – the Mightiest thing that my mind can’t even comprehend. Yikes!

As I try to constantly recall this thought, it is changing me!

Nice People Don’t Change the World

June 28, 2007

I just came across this book and idea that resonated with me. It’s by Lynne Hybels, wife of ministry guru Bill Hybels, and I believe it reflects the struggle of “many”. I don’t think this book is for women only, and in my opinion it might as well be called Nice People Don’t Change the World. Yet, she’s writing to women who only in general terms struggle with this more than men (men struggle with it their own ways). But I like how she uses that to help spur women to use their untapped potential, to “respond compassionately” to the world with the “talents, skills, education, and financial resources that women didn’t dream of in the past”.

    cover.gif

Nice Girls Don’t Change the World is also about Lynne’s transformational story “from a people pleasing ‘nice girl’ toward becoming a change-maker (or as she prefers to say, a ‘dangerous woman’)”, one “that has taken her through a painful crisis of identity, a pitch-dark night of the soul, and a fierce battle with fear.”

We’ve got to let go.

We’ve got to let go of the things that are tying us down, like fear, perfectionism and pride – and use what God has given us to change the world! We’ve got to stop hesitating and move far and away from passivity and indecisiveness, and have courage. Faith is having hope in the future. Fear is losing hope in the future. God says to never worry about tomorrow, but have hope in it – and focus on today. This is what makes a person come alive!

It’s so hard to motivate those who are gripped by fear because they’re afraid of making a mistake, and with so many options to choose from choosing anything can be a daunting thing. This is why we are afraid of commitment and would rather use our time to watch a few hours of Television than serve the world. And as our confidence drops and our focus hazes we become nice people. When we are too concerned about what people think of us it’s a sign of meism, which is rooted in selfishness and fear. All we have to do is re-surrender our lives to God and put our faith and motives in him, and we’ll move from nice to dangerous.

As Erwin McManus says (as I recall in my head, misquoted), “When we are out of God’s will, we are in danger, but when we are in God’s will we become dangerous.”

Presuming on God

June 11, 2007

A few nights ago, I slowly and carefully read (and digested) Robert Clinton’s systematic masterpiece The Making of a Leader. Words can describe how much I needed this right now. One thing I was particularly struck by was his section on presuming on God, what he calls flesh acts. Here are my notes. Please read!

I don’t want to presume on God any more…ever again!!!! Though, I will. We all will. But we can fight and do our best can’t we? Thought you’d enjoy it too.

Presuming on God

In The Making of a Leader, Clinton writes about the flesh act (pg 136-138. A flesh act, according to Clinton, “refers to those instances in a leader’s life when guidance is presumed and decisions are made either hastily or without proper discernment of God’s choice.” Clinton says, “Such decisions usually involve human manipulation, which brings ramifications that later affect ministry and life negatively.”

(more…)

The Group That Changed The Way I View Discipleship

June 6, 2007

About six months ago, a friend of mine asked me a question. He was a little curious, and wanted to know what I thought was the purpose of this mentor group I was a member of. It was a group of businessmen and ministry leaders led by Boyd Bailey a man who is very special to me and many others. Well, I wrote my friend and said some things I’ve never said before. I didn’t realize until it was almost over that this group and this one man helped changed the way I view discipleship.

So, when I recieved my friend’s email many thoughts rushed through my head and then I wrote the following:

I admit I had lots of reservations coming into this group. My reservations came from this lack of desire to join another Bible Study or accountability-type group. I guess it’s because I’ve been in so many of them that pumped me full of new knowledge and wisdom. I’ve found myself getting caught up (without admitting it of course) in the celebrityness of being around all these great men of God who have written all these great books and accomplished all these amazing things for God and culture. And I felt so high after soaking in their knowledge and wisdom. But it rarely changed me.

So when I felt the Spirit nudging me to be a part of Boyd’s group I was restless, until a few weeks in, when I begin to feel a deeper connection to some of the guys. I began to enjoy Boyd’s laid-back approach and it was evident he cared about us and would do whatever he could for us…with us.

To me, the purpose of the group was to come together and see what God had in store. And I saw amazing things happen throughout the year in each person’s life, including mine, and together off-group time. I looked forward to each meeting because I knew I didn’t have to do something in order to feel respected and loved by the guys. I just innately knew this was an environment of trust and unfailing love. One of the guys in the group lives around the corner from me and has become one of my closest friends, which is one of the most special things to experience in a lifetime that doesn’t just happen.

As a format, it was refreshing to be a part of something that was simple, that just flowed (the kind of flow I enjoyed personally), even without a slight of expectancy (I mean that in a very good way). Different, indeed.

To me, Boyd is an example of grace. He doesn’t try—he just listens, serves and learns with you. I’ve been around too many leaders who feel like it’s their job to present the knowledge and wisdom God has bestowed upon them. That’s not a bad thing. But it seems I’ve never once been changed in the right way by such a process. What has changed me is the people I get to know God with. Those who allow the Spirit to form a bond between brothers and sisters, who open their hearts up to whatever God has in store.

Example: As you know I’ve been able to get to know Josh McDowell who is well-known as someone who has a lot to say. And he does. But knowing Josh McDowell didn’t begin to change me until I begin getting to know him personally. I learned some great information and was affected by the piercing biblical Truth he presented day in and day out, but it was his life that I watched and listened to that awakened me to the unfailing love of God. I could have never experienced that without spending a lot of time with him. I could not have experienced that just hearing him preach and teach every day. Not a chance. Josh actually teaches what I am writing that it’s all about relationships – a perfect blend of truth and relationships. You know, I’ve never even thought of it this way before. Your questioning has blessed me. It’s revealed to me that I am changing. I feel slightly shocked while writing this. Josh’s teaching has taken years to truly resonate with me, to actually become a part of who I am becoming.

~Bry

Neverland

March 14, 2007

The imagination is quite a remarkable thing.

Knowing God is a beckon call to another world. It’s losing yourself in your imagination, a world where people become set free into a life that doesn’t seem possible. Some of my most exciting moments have been the days where I burned with such excitement and passion that felt like I was in another world. I was in the “real” Neverland. With God never becomes actuality.

Something is the new something

March 3, 2007

Sometime ago I came across this list of clichés (via google) about how something is always being transposed to be the new thing:

Clarendon is the new Helvetica
The location field is the new command line
Fake is the new real
Orange is the new black
Quiet is the new loud
Nearshore is the new offshore
Red is the new blonde
Blacker is the new black
Iraq is the new Vietnam
Movies piracy is the new plague
Fat is the new thin
Wide is the new black
Fat is the new tobacco
Organic is the new kosher
MCA is the new MBA
Small is the new big
Spim is the new spam
Being uncool is the new cool
Gay marriage is the new abortion
30 is the new teenage

The Anatomy of the “What if”

June 30, 2006

What if?

What if I could change the world?
What if I could be a leader?
What if money wasn’t an issue?
What if I could be like an Apostle Paul?

A “What If” has a positive and negative connotation. A “What If” thinks potential and at the same time it can think devastation.

“What if” the world looked liked this? “What if” that happened to me?

“What if” I could race cars for a living? “What if” I crashed when I raced the car?

All “What if’s” carry risk. Some people are willing to risk, while some aren’t. What kind of risks? Criticism…failure…pain. To see your “What if” happen, you have to be ready to face every one of them. It just requires it – but it’s so worth it.

We have to train our minds to relish the fact that – the price is worth it. And even more—to enjoy it. Have you ever gone through hurt and pain that didn’t grow you? None of us like it while we’re going through it. However, on the flip side, we know we’re better off having gone through it.

Think about it.

“What if” we trained armies and communities of people to think differently? To think “What if” while preparing them for what will be.

We know that innovators bend the world, but it’s the spiritual innovators who amend the world.

How far away is your God?

May 9, 2006

Here’s an article I’ve been working on. I’m calling it “Binoculars, please!”

How far away is your God?

I think a relationship with God is a lot like a romance or a love story. If only more people caught on to that kind of thinking. It’s sad when people see God like themselves – self-centered, self-sufficient, in-charge kind of God. Just because we see ourselves that way has no effect on who God is. A.W. Tozer has a lot to say about knowing God. He said the most important thing about you is what you think about when you think about God. What do you think about when you think about God? Is your God far away or close by? Is your God someone who keeps score – who watches you like a hawk and comes down and strikes you when you do the wrong thing? Do you see God like your parent or grandparent – a quiet, proper, old, traditional, forever kind of God? Is your God someone whose so busy running the world he doesn’t have time for you – he’s far away from you has no relevance to your life? There are some who have chosen to be the “I don’t believe in God” people. There are others who are mad about the God thing because of their parents or those who go to college and enjoy buying in to a professor’s views. All of us have constructed a view of God. We carry this view with us through life.

The reality is how you see God is the litmus test that’s going to affect everything single aspect of how you will pursue him. If you haven’t nailed down a God whose love for you as his son or daughter, is more affectionate than you could ever truly understand. If your view of God is wrong then you are going to have difficulty with everything. We read in Daniel that people who know their God will be much stronger.

But you can know how to view God. Did you know God made you for himself – to enjoy, to love, to cherish, hold? When you capture that kind of reality sharing him with others will become your affection too.

This is something that’s dear to my heart because I too never developed a real sense of who God is until Amber and I married and we moved to Atlanta. I started spending time with some people who clearly saw God and life in a different viewpoint than I did. I was captivated by that; confused at first, but intrigued. So I went on this little journey of rediscovering God. It took longer than I anticipated it would because I had to shatter my old view of God. At the Christian university I attended I developed a view of God that was dutiful, rigid, political, rude if needed, always do the right thing over anything else even if it meant to run over people. I don’t want to point fingers at my school. I would never blame them for a view I had of God, but it was there that I developed it and I needed some clarification in my life of who He was. In Atlanta I found it. Two men who really affected me were Louie Giglio and my pastor Andy Stanley. Louie taught a gathering on Tuesday nights and preached at my church some. They were close friends from grade school and grew up in the kind of environment I was used to and where I developed my view of God. And I’m grateful to sit under their preaching especially when I needed to see God in a different light. They know how to speak the language of the culture.

God made you for his pleasure. You were made for God. “All things have been created by God and for God.” You were not only created in God’s image but for his pleasure as well. Inside our hearts are these evidences – these homing devices that intensely crave after God. More is never enough when were after God because we were created to live in deep, passionate communion with Him all the time. When were not, something’s wrong – a gap is created and we thirst for him. We go our searching and while there are these offbeat cultural textures that are after our minds as well, we will stay thirsty until we find God. Some people stay thirsty for a long time. Every human being craves intimacy – a kind that only God can give. Yet some of us aren’t aware of this. This is what happens – we respond to all of this by the way we see Him. If we see him like a God who keeps score then we will try to do things that might make him happy. If we see him as far away then we’ll respond to him like he is far away. If you think he is old or out of touch with us then you will just do what you want because being cool is important to some of us. Some of us think God doesn’t understand us at all.

What’s amazing about God is that right now as you try to understand more about God, God is saying, “I understand what you’re going through. I get the deal.” That means a lot when you enter a stage of confusion and clarification like that. One of his characteristics is patience and He’s committed to patiently wait on you as you go through this process. That’s encouraging! God knows what’s going on, on TV. He knows whose going to win the Amazing Race. God isn’t out to judge us He’s out to capture us with attention, love, and understanding. Who wouldn’t want that?

Here’s an important catch: God has told us about Himself so we could know about who He is. God is not what we choose to think of Him, what our parents or family thinks of Him. God is who He is…period. We have to get in our heads that we can’t decide that, He does. He’s God.

First, we need to unveil his character, what makes God to be God. He’s displayed his amazing traits. God is revealed in his son, Jesus. God established a relationship with us through his son, Jesus. Jesus taught that God is the: Perfect Father. Creator. Savior. Redeemer. Majesty. Ruler. He is: Love. Joy. Patience. Kindness. Faithfulness. Jesus taught you are the: Son. Daughter. He is the Father. This is a love relationship. The greatest romantic story ever told. He sent Jesus for you, his blood filled the gap sin built, the crave we endure. The enemy is out to derail your relationship with God.

He is a knowable and relatable God. He is the tender mercy to a crying heart. He desires to be intimate with me. That’s one that I continue to wallow in.

So now what? We have to say, “I get it and I trust you.” We have to decide that he knows best and put our entire trust in his ways. Tell God, “I trust you.” He loves me more than I love myself. That’s the first step to knowing God and beginning spiritual conversations. He’s in control of every conversation you will have. He’s the one that holds everything together. When we get that – our lives become fluid, something God can fill up and overflow on to others. Conversations are nothing more than an overflow of what God is doing inside of us. The intimacy spreads through others and we get the privilege of enjoying community like it was meant to be. Then there’s connectiveness in our lives.

Once we understand how God sees us, it should free us up to pursue him.

Converse with him.

We don’t have all the answers, but Jesus surely does. He encourages us to experience him, to bring him into the conversation we so desire to have. We are limited in what we offer, but Jesus is limitless. No boundaries with him.

So, go for it!

Talk to him. Love on him. Then go love on others. And leave the rest of the story to the storyteller. You’re immersed in something that’s far more beautiful that you’re most amazing mindscapes can comprehend. Something compelling.

You’ll never tire of hearing about God when it’s truly representing who he is. That makes life so exciting and liberating doesn’t it? The story never ends.

When you spend time with him it’s not like going online, it’s more like sitting down on the couch and together having an intimate talk. The difference is that God sends his spirit to interact through the conversation. The spirit makes it a lot more intimate. In the spirit you feel his love and his pride in you. Your outlook of the world all of sudden turns small. You realize that the world is so minute compared to the Creator of the Universe. The only downsize, if there is one to those who experience this amazing connection, is that it takes more time with him, to really grasp the reality that he won’t be able to fill your spirit like that all the time unless you keep seeking him. You crave for it. You search for it. You try all kinds of ways to fill that vacuum that you’ve had before. You learn over time that he can’t do it for you unless you allow him to. It’s called freedom of choice. Through time, if we’re willing to endure and keep searching, we’ll learn how to discipline ourselves to hear his voice and obey. We’ll learn how to talk to him and get results. It is a discipline and a language. People don’t master it they just trust him and go with it. A person who is godly isn’t someone who knows a lot about God; it’s someone who knows God and maintains a vibrant relationship with him.

Conversations with God / Conversoulogy

I’ve heard some people say that life is one big conversation. The life you live is a conversation with God.

In the Spring of 1997—it was in the middle of February, as I recall.

I heard someone say one time a lot of us are sure as hell about things, but do you want to be as sure as heaven?

It was a timely moment for me. I cried out for a connection with God. I was stung. My pain had to go away—I knew I needed to be healed. I was almost completely certain that only God could heal me. I believed it for a moment—just a moment—a divine moment it was. Immediately everything changed.

So what healed me? God did. How did he heal me? -Through my heart’s cry for him. He wants to be sought. Now I wanted to play my role as the seeker. He’s God. I’m man. He’s to be sought while I’m to seek Him. It truly makes sense.

That day I began to have conversations with God. It’s called prayer. A guy named Charles Spurgeon said it best: “prayer is the slender nerve that touches the omnipotence of God.” Ever since that day I’ve been in this magnificent dialogue with the Creator…aka CEO himself.

Before then I couldn’t talk to him, nor thought I really wanted to. The reason I didn’t want to was because God cannot hear us until we thoroughly introduce ourselves. I had introduces myself the way people told me to, but I didn’t really want it that badly. It wasn’t until that day that I really wanted it and when I did, he came and I’ve spent every day since wishing the world could experience what I’ve experienced.

I told a guy the other day “you’ll meet God when you figure out that he works. Am I right?” His reply was, “I think you’re right.” I said, well hang with me a little while and you find out that he works. He said, “Great.” Well, this young intellectual had told me just weeks before that conversation that he didn’t believe in one God. Yet, he’s admitting openly and honestly now that if there is one God and he discovers a piece of him, he’ll believe it. That’s the way a lot of people are. They don’t believe it because they haven’t met Him. Until you meet him you won’t understand.

Generalization is the death of art. It’s in the details where God resides.
ARTHUR MILLER

It’s a Heart Issue

January 9, 2006

Tozer has me thinking this morning.

You and I are a part of the legion of seekers who’ll only find what we’re looking for in the quietness of the soul. The ones who find God discover this.

Tozer reminds me that I won’t find the soul connection with God in something. There is no particular method for finding what everyone’s looking for. People flee the norm world for a getaway condominium of rest and quietness, but only discover their thirst unquenched. Rest is found where God is – and God for you might be a closet or a parking lot. Rest assured, he is found when he is sought and rest flows from without.

Life and world issues that are thrust upon us are heart issues. We are so entrenched in what happens to us, or protecting what we have (especially, if it’s good), when the root of our happiness is in knowing how to react and pro-act to life. We jump into life waiting for the world to take us where it wants, but it’s a never-ending cycle isn’t it?
All of life’s issues are heart issues.

A generation is crumbling not because of it’s misuse of sexuality, but because they haven’t uncovered the power of the heart. You find the heart of life in the quietness of the soul – where God resides. It’s the place where you find the intimacy you’ve been looking for you’re whole life. When you taste it, you’ll do whatever you can to get it back.

Yet we want to focus on what to take way. “I’m struggling with this sin so I need to stop watching TV.” That maybe a great idea but I can guarantee you it’s not your problem. Your problem is in the heart. Go find your heart – the heart of God – the intimacy you long for. Satan wants to point you toward a TV, but it’s all part of his confusing scheme. The issues is we’re selfish. We live for ourselves. That’s the root of our struggle and sin.

When you taste God for who he is, you’ll never forget it. Nothing – not an experience or a preacher or a book or a overseas trip or anything can compare with tasting God like he truly is. There’s freedom and rest and understanding and single-mindedness and willingness that pours in here.

You can have all the money and possessions in the world, but if you lack this you’ll stay restless. God doesn’t want us to live in poverty, but it might take that (like the young rich ruler) to get your heart. It might not take giving much of it up at all. All that God wants is your heart – the motives, desires, tastes, all of it. You’re just be managing what he already owns anyway. Why would he care about taking away your things? Everything with God has to do with the heart. If he asks you to give up something, it’s because he’s after your heart. You just have to trust him and obey him with a fierce single-mindedness.

A close friend sought God and found him. Then God led him to give up his very influential and lucrative career to pursue his God-given aspiration. He did. But months later after God knew he had his heart, he led him back to his old career with an even more affluent position, only this time he was working with churches. God wanted his heart and my friend gave it to him.

I have this thing about giving up on God. What I mean is: I give up on God a lot. I’ve often thought up my own ways too much. My wife has told me in the past that my mind is my greatest strength and greatest weakness. I can think up stuff with my mind that is good, but that same ability can be used negatively. There have been moment when I’d have this thing for scheming up reasons why I need to do things a certain way rather than uncovering his heart. I’d convince myself I found his heart when I’m really still searching. The more I go through this motion the better, but it’s a tiring and turbulent way to live.

We go to God for an answer. We go to God out of duty. Why not go to God to stay synched. When you need to make a decision, the answer is right there, in the spirit that has you completely full and content. It’s common sense to keep oneself synched up through the word of God and conversation with God.

Why are we afraid to teach people about the heart? They get it…at least, they can pick up if we know the heart or not. And they will look at you like, “Why haven’t you shared this before? This explains everything!”

Six Viewpoints

January 6, 2006

I just did an article on evangelism for a magazine. I thought I’d post some of the viewpoints I propose (a modern magazine needs points).

1) Transformation is a life-long process, not just a one-time event.

2) Unless we put more emphasis on authentic, connective relationships we will lose this generation.

3) The most effective evangelism strategy is to cultivate genuine friendships with people who are non-believers and engage them in thoughtful, respectful conversation about what’s important to them.

4) Those with the foresight and strength to speak the truth in love will have the most impact.

5) Genuine humility and love will win over anyone anytime!

6) Centralize everything with Jesus. They like Jesus but they don’t like the church.

Checklist for Your Purpose Statement

December 20, 2005


Very few have marked my life as Tim Elmore has, and I want to introduce you to something he lives and teaches really well – living up to your potential. Tim is the long-time right arm of John Maxwell. He’s also the founder of Growing Leaders “Growing Leaders” which is becoming the go-to organization for leadership development among high school and college students, and those who work in that arena. On top of that, he’s one of the best communicators I’ve ever heard in my life and a humble man of God.

Last week, I carved out two full/valuable days to think and prayer real hard for the third time in four years. Along the way I filled out Tim’s “Checklist for Your Purpose Statement”. The first year I took up a page…the second, four pages and this time it was over ten. This is one of the most productive things I’ve ever done!

I highly recommend you find a way to think deeply about the calling, wiring and dreams God has made you to do, write it out and never stop working on it. I don’t plan to stop, ever! Enjoy…

The Checklist for Your Purpose Statement
Now we are ready for the exercise. The following list of ten items could be called: “Life Planning in Ten Steps.” It is designed for you to respond to during an extended block of solitude time. I suggest you carve out a D.A.W.G., (Day Alone With God), and take this lesson with you, along with your Bible, a notepad and a pencil. Fasten your seatbelts, and get ready to reflect and respond…

1. BURDENS
What needs tug most at your heart? What are the things that make you cry or make you angry or cause you to become passionate?

2. HALLMARKS

What are the major hallmarks that have made up your life? List significant books, people, accomplishments, and events that have shaped you into who you are today.

3. TOOLS & RESOURCES
What specific resources or tools do you have at your side that you could employ as you fulfill your mission? These could be possessions, people, computers, skills, etc.

4. DREAMS
What are some of your aspirations or ideas which could become a God-given, clarified vision in the future? What are the things you’d love to do or be?

6. MISSION
This is it. Begin to write out your mission statement which answers the question: Why do you exist? Why did God give you to the world? Write out the central purpose of your life in one to three sentences.

5. VISION
Based on your mission, describe in detail what you see as the ultimate results of your life as if you are seeing your contribution from the other end of your life. Start the statements with the words, “I see…”

6. GOALS & OBJECTIVES
Finally, list the areas in which you will need to stay involved on a regular basis, if you are to accomplish your mission. What will you need to do on Monday morning if your life purpose is to be accomplished? What immediate steps can you take?

NOTE: You may want to write your responses down on a pad of paper so you can have unlimited space. When you’re done, don’t just set it on the shelf or in a drawer. Contemplate what you have written, pray through it, and allow God to soak your heart in the purpose He has for you.

If You Could Do Anything With Your Life

November 6, 2005

My newfound friend Margaret Feinberg, who is an excellent and accomplished writer was speaking at a event in Dallas called Fusion. While there she asked her audience the following question: If you could do anything with your life, assuming that time and money were no object, what would you choose to do?

Check out the answers at margaretfeinberg.blogspot.com… I was shellshocked by how many said they would write. You know, when I read that it hit me how many people have told me that they’d love to write too. I get asked all the time about my journey in writing. My answer is always simple: I just did it because God told me to and he backed me up. That’s it. Sure, I’ve had to pay a price for it, but it’s worth it because I love doing it and he’s guiding me.

My charge to people is to go for it! And don’t depend on a publisher for crying out loud. Writers are prophets, not puppets. I’m just getting started but my faith muscle has grown a lot in a year. Someone told me one time he thinks the evangelists of the 21st century will be writers. We have so much baggage as a religion, we will have to build our platform through writing.

Can you imagine the kind of material God could put out there if more people would just go for it?

Spiritual Environments

October 23, 2005

This morning I was interviewed in a leadership breakfast led by Travis Vaughn, who is a good friend and pastor of a church plant in Cumming called Lake Ridge Church. This discussion stemmed from Travis’ desire to see his leadership team create more spiritual environments where people could ask questions about life and God.

I’m not going to go into detail with where the dialogue went but I’d like to share a couple things that I seem to keep bringing up lately when people ask me about the conversations I’m having…

• They don’t like the church or even Christianity but they do like Jesus.
• We have this “thing” with assumptions. We assume people think like we do. No one – I mean no one likes it when someone assumes something about them.
• Why is our evangelism efforts focused on recievers, rather than real people?
• Why do we assume that when a person becomes a Christian they are automatically a disciple?
• From my experience the number one way to have lots of amazing spiritual conversations is humility. If you’re humble anyone will talk to you. How can we be an image-bearer without it?
• The message we must present today needs to focus on heaven and the honing device our hearts are already after rather than hell and the decietful heart. Jesus’ message is and was attractive!
• We must put our ideas into a language people experience on a daily basis.
• Is our goal to become better Christians or more Christ-like? The most important thing is to do what Jesus told us to do. We have got to get our heads out of cultural Christianity, if we are going to create powerful spiritual environments.
• People do want to have spiritual conversations! It all depends on how you go about it.
• The two hot bed topics in my conversations with 20 something’s: spirituality and sexuality.

Emerging Culture – Outline

October 13, 2005

Here’s the real outline. What’d you think?

I. Understanding Emerging Generations

How do we bridge the gap between the modern and postmodern cultures?

1) Our generation is now a missionary frotier
It’s time see the young generations as a missionary frontier.

2) Significant desire for experimental spirituality
We have chosen an extreme openness to experimental spirituality

3) Intense openness to spiritual things
We have become a deeply “spiritual” generative.

4) New Methodologies
Youth and College pastor must change their methodologies if they are going to reach the postmodern.

5) Christian Subculture
The Christian and non-Christian are becoming all too alike and this must come apart.

6) A Cultural and Global Generative
The leverage of the media and the Internet

7) A Disconnected Generation
Deep desire to be understood by their fathers and mothers.

8) Pluralistic Culture demands new approaches
Truth has to be personalized because we have been impacted by a pluralistic culture.

II. The Heart and Role of Leading Emerging Generations

What does this generation look for in a leader?

1) Relational vs. CEO Approach

Trinitarian-Shared Leadership

We have chosen Trinitarian leadership; instead of a hierarchy we should lead as a community of voices sharing each other’s roles unified in one direction.

2) Event vs. Process

Process Oriented Leadership

We have chosen to lead more by a process and less by events because that’s where real transformation takes place.

3) Being a “Poet and Gardener” Leader

Evolution of Leadership

We have chosen to embrace the evolution of leadership, understanding our role in God’s story.

4) Creative Innovators Artist Leadership
We have chosen to embrace our uniqueness so we artistically replicate our God.

5) Relevant Environments
We have chose to create environments that are conducive to the hearts of people. This will allow us to connect with people.

6) Organic Flow of Ministry

Participatory Leadership

We have chosen organic growth, ministry and movements instead of organizations and institutions. We live with a “tourist” mentality rather than a “maintenance” mentality.

7) Missional vs. Consumer Mentality

Reproduction Leadership

We have adopted the concept called missional living; therefore our theology has shifted from developing one system called “missions” to turning theology into one department of mission and moved from consumer church to missional church.

8) Leadership Conclusions

III. Spiritual Formation and the Emerging Church

How does this generation relate & connect with Christ?

1) Tribal Community Togetherness Formation
We have chosen to channel our growth through tribal communities instead of bureaucratic programs because we believe in a call to community where we live as one big family on a journey together.

2) Engage Culture Holistic Formation
We have chosen to integrate our faith into all areas of life Instead of separating the spiritual realm from normal life.

3) Return to the Sacramental Ancient Depths Formation
We have chosen to return to the ancient depths of our heritage.

4) Centralize Everything with Jesus A Jesus Formation
We have chosen to be like Jesus.

5) Greatness is Servanthood Slave Formation
We have chosen to walk by action and not theory.

6) Authentic Eyes Visual Formation
Reading the word through a refreshing lenses.

IV. Conversations and Communications with the Emerging Generations

How should we communicate with the emerging generation?

1) Moving from sin-management to kingdom-management preaching”

2) A new hunger for depth and theology vs. shallowness and anthropology

3) Who is truth? Vs. What is truth?
Apologetics focused on “Who is truth?” vs. “What is truth?”

4) Fellow-journeyer vs. problem-solver
The preacher as a “shepherd” and fellow-journeyer vs. a message presenter and problem-solver

5) Questions and Thinking Allowed

6) Use Visual eye-catchers in messages

V. 8 Postmodern Branding Trends You Can’t Afford to Miss

AS THESE SEVEN KEY CHURCH CULTURE TRENDS SHOW, BRANDS ARE LESS AND LESS ABOUT WHAT WE DO, AND MORE AND MORE ABOUT WHO WE ARE. THAT’S TURNING THE CHURCH CULTURE BRANDSCAPE INTO A MINEFIELD.

That’s turning the church culture brandscape into a minefield.

Evangelism replaced by “Spiritual Conversations”

Discipleship replaced by “Replication”

Good News, a Worthy “News Flash”

Sermons replaced by “Weekend Talks”

Church Membership replaced by “Partnership”

Conversion replaced by “Allegiance to God’s Kingdom”

Systematic Theology replaced by “Worldview”

Missions replaced by “Missional”

The New Lingua Brands that are being made new by the Emerging Culture:
• Communal
• Radical
• Revisionist
• Social Activists
• Tribal
• Revolutionary
• Emergent
• Participatory
• Image-Driven
• Apostolic

Rethinking Ministry for the Emerging Culture

October 13, 2005

Last year I wrote a series of messages for Josh on the emerging culture. I have some other ideas for it and would love to hear your reaction as you read this broad stroke outline. Does it spark your interest? Make you want to read more? (wish I could figure out how to use my fonts – but I’m still blog-illiterate)

Rethinking Ministry for the Emerging Culture
“…exploring ministry in a post-Christian world…”

Contents

Outline

Goals

1) Understanding Emerging Generations
A foundational look at our emerging culture, where it is heading and how it influences where the church is heading

2) The Heart and Role of Leading Emerging Generations
Ministries suffer from a great lack of quality leaders; this generation has to rethink how leadership is done

3) Spiritual Formation and the Emerging Church
Thinking through how this generation experiences and connects with God

4) Conversation and Communication with the Emerging Culture
Rethinking how to dialogue with this culture

5) 8 Postmodern Branding Trends You Can’t Afford to Miss
As these eight key church culture trends show, brands are less and less about what we do, and more and more about who we are

Appendixes

Bibliography

Branding and Evangelism

September 21, 2005

We must learn to leverage a copious of traditional and non-traditional stories alike to make a connection with the most people possible. We’ve got to leverage every potential point of contact between Christ and hearer. That’s why we use experimental marketing. Use muti-faceted, multi-sensory, multi… The greatest ministries are the best storytellers that tell it in a way that never completely tells it. They just keep adding value to them – week after week, filling up their thirst tank and they keep wanting more. That’s what Jesus did. He didn’t sit down and tell the whole thing at once, rather, he wetted their appetites to keep them coming back. That was the genius of Jesus. Everything we do is a means to a greater end. The problem arises in our strategy or lack of. You’ve got to be strategic when you evangelize. We’re good at presenting the problem, but bad at offering solutions. And we wonder why so few evangelize. The ones that do are the rare ones who maintain the right perspective.

We have the job of creating such powerful emotional ties that stick with people in a way that overlooks our humanness. That’s why the Scripture is so powerful – it takes us into a different world. We have to be careful how we handle that kind of power. Jesus did. He maintained a dependent humility even as his power with people increased. As he spoke the word his fame grew, but his dependence on God also increased. With that in mind, it’s not what we do, but how we do it. It’s not what we say, but how we say it. That’s what keeps the unsaved coming.
Whether you like it or not, we are a brand.

We must continually keep asking the questions: what are the intrinsic core values that are fundamental to our ministries? What are our guardrails for growth as we emerge into a new era? It’s important to have a deep understanding of sound doctrine and Jesus’ methodology before we develop our own dynamics for ministry. Otherwise, the brandwidth of ministry can become dangerous. As we grow into an era of globalization it’s ever so vital to keep all this in mind and sense. We must learn how people not only view us but feel us – an ever more intimate understanding of our target. As brand expert Scott Bedbury noted, “Success in the future will be achieved not just by doing things right, but by also doing the right thing.” I’d wholeheartedly agree.

Survival is Dangerous

September 17, 2005

If there ever was a time to stop scheming myself into writing revolutionary thoughts it is now. I have to admit that I’m coming off a two-month journey through what I’d call the wasteland (normal thinking living) – caused by doing what I need to do to survive.

I became a survivor when I said yes to a writing job that God was nudging me to say no to. I took it to survive, to pay the bills, and to take up a great opportunity, but at the time didn’t realize that fulfilling my commitment to finish the job would have a huge toll on me. It was good, but not freeing. It was productive, but not powerful. My spiritual walk like vaporized and I couldn’t figure it out. I’m not talking about a spiritual walk where I ‘feel’ great, I am referring to the kind where Jesus is walking through you all day long and it’s like a sailboat all the time rather than a paddle boat or a boat that runs out of gas at times.

The desire for survival is what takes us all down – unless we find some way some how to stay free in a spiritual walk. Models. Systems. Programs. They kill the spiritual walk. Then why do we continue to create them? For one reason alone: to survive. Suddenly, we sense that our freedom is gone, yet we’re confused at what it could be, so it’s natural to find something – some kind of outlet, to get by. At least then we can look like we know what we’re doing. At least then we feel successful.

The thing for me is, God did not call me to get by, he called me to walk with him, and walking with him is always above and beyond getting by. Walking with him is on the cutting edge. Walking with him is a conversation. When the conversation depletes, you know something’s wrong. Today, I am afraid not to keep the conversation going. My conversation with God is my lifeline, my spiritual walk, my freedom. Millions of believers lack these things, yet don’t have a clue that there’s so much more to life.

How many people live long lives surviving? How does the surviving mentality affect the spiritual walk? How dangerous are survivors to the cause of Christ, particularly the leadership?

To be literal, survivors kill the message of Christ.

On a bigger scale, as a whole the reason most people don’t understand this is because pastors and church leaders don’t get it. Their own leadership models are just surviving, and the only reason they’re successful (if) is because the word of God prevails. Yet, there’s ministry burnout and the reason they is because they have a messed up paradigm. On far too many days, my wrong paradigm needs a transplant. They need it. I need it.

The spiritual leaders we read and read about have a quality that separates them from the rest of the world. That quality is the strength to do whatever it takes, and never just survive. The day they start simply surviving is the day their ministry dies.

I am tired of allowing survival to creep into my mind and life.

• Not surviving is having the willingness saying “no” when needed.
• Not surviving is listening to God and obeying, no matter how crazy it sounds or what it takes. *Remember how Jesus called his disciples to follow him. And it wasn’t a popular or normal thing to do in that culture either.
• Not surviving will look strange to the world. *Remember Jesus was the most peculiar of people.

Survival vs. Thrival
• Lynn, who left his high profile job to work with abandoned children for little money rejected survival.
• Lee, who once pastured a mega church and was president of a large bible college decided to pour his life into small groups of disciples rejected survival.

The Voice

September 15, 2005

When Jesus called out his disciples he doesn’t tell them to figure everything out on their own (Matthew 10:5-6), he tells them to go where they are sent. In other words, when God calls us to go somewhere He doesn’t have to explain why, we are just supposed to be obedient. It’s not a matter of it sounding right but a matter of us knowing what the right thing is to do. We spend a lot of time trying figure out evangelism while God wants us to know that He will tell us what to do.

When I share this with people often they become frustrated because I may sound vague to them, so here’s what I tell them: “I’m not the one who sounds vague, Jesus doesn’t have to paint clear pictures of exactly what we are to do. What Jesus wants us to know is that His voice is all we need. We will hear his voice. All we have to do is position ourselves to hear his voice. You will know what the right thing is to do. If you aren’t clear on what to do, then wait. It’s that simple.” Evangelism becomes most natural as we become familiar with the voice of God.

Change the Heart, not the Mind

August 17, 2005

It’s important to change the way people think about things, but when it comes down to it, the mind war will always lose, whereas, the heart war will always win. As we enter a new era of ministry I recommend that we work harder at becoming authorities at changing the heart rather than the mind. This is a far off concept to the modern world and reasonably so, since for many years changing the mind has been an effective model, but today is a new day.

We’ve become a well-oiled machine at building great conferences and churches. We know how to attract people and we are surely knowledgeable at church growth, thanks to the Donald McGavern’s and John Maxwell’s. We’ve even put enormous attention on the inner qualities of the church called church health. Yet there is yet another wave growing amidst the church world, as God places holy discontment inside leaders, the same kind of righteous frustration that spurred church growth and church health movements. Without oversimplifying a big, complex thing, I’d like to think what is actually happening is a needed focus on relational health. This is because relationships change people, including hearts because they change what people care most deeply about. Churches are creating experimental environments, community societies, tools that replace our independence with dependence. Most people have holes inside of them because they miss-out on things that give them relational fulfillment. The business world is doing the same thing. Today, you can find gardens and bars, even a baby nursery inside of businesses. Whatever they can do to fulfill their employee’s needs they do. The church is trying to do the same thing.

This is something that is dear to my heart because for a few years I spent my ministry time dipped in trying to change people’s minds. My mentor has spent most of his journey trying to change the way people think about God, life and relationships. My respect for him is higher than almost any other person I know, but what I respect more than anything today is that he realizes how important it is to change the heart. I respect him for sticking to his calling – to help change the way people think because that’s important for vast reasons. Yet he admits today that it’s more important to change what people care about. You change what people care about through the relationship factor, building environments of relational health.

The reality is people don’t care about personally what they believe theologically and biblically. That is true because they don’t know how much it affects them personally and relationally. They believe good things but don’t care that much about it. Their loyalty lies in their membership rather than their heart.

Branding the Gospel

August 16, 2005

I’ve been thinking a lot more about the ‘art of branding’ and how I can think with practical “sense” about it. Here’s a couple thoughts going through my head today pertaining to branding:

First, there’s Culture.
A culture has a texture – something you can see and feel. They can feel how rough or smooth you are when they face you. Is your surface a rugged edge or a cushioned environment? An environment is your season, not your foundation. In a spiritual culture your foundation, your goal and your message is the gospel. When someone meets the gospel they’re faced with a decision and they know it. For some it creates a cringing or for others it thrusts meaning. And that all depends on their former experience with it. Maybe they met, even desired it, but it felt irrelevant to everything in their journey but death. But…they might not have met the true gospel and now they have a bad taste in their mouth.

Second, there’s People.
Never choose to create a foundation that has any potential to downgrade the gospel all because of someone’s human opinion. All because of someone’s tradition. The only thing that matters is for your culture to become a redemptive healing place. If anything stands in the way of that tear it down immediately so Jesus can come back into your place. You can only do your best, I know, but God needs us to create environments that are inviting…even to a mainstream culture, so his message has no strings attached besides what it is. The number one reason the gospel fails to reach people is because of people.

Third, there’s Sense
If anything it’s wise to understand brand sense in a sensory world. Branding is an art involving: Touch, Sound, Sense, Sight. Branding is for those who desire: coherence, common sense, soundness, logic, wisdom, meaning, and just plain intellect.

Fourth, there’s Presentation.
Was the gospel meant to be delivered in the air? Can you just speak it out loud and it will penetrate a culture? Yes, but that’s just one piece of the pie. Let me add – A very important piece, especially to me personally.

Did Jesus do His greatest work through his gospel presentation or was it the way he lived? Was it through his sermons or through his quality time with those he has close relationships with? The answer is both.

I’d like to bargain that even though the sermons were immensely effective (and I’m happy about that since I am a preacher) the most effective way to live a Christian life is through 1) trusting our Heavenly Father. The movement we are a part of succeeds the most when we just stay close to him and do what he wants with every single part of our lives. This cannot be overemphasized nor watered down. 2) relationships – the kind where quality matters more than quantity. Where depth matters more than giftedness and intellect. God didn’t call most people to be preachers and sermonizers for the sake of preaching and presentation. He called all people to “make disciples” through relationships with others and a relationship with himself. The two great commandments are to 1) love God and 2) love others. Can you think of a better way to change the world than to create environments where it becomes most natural for the culture to love God and love others? That is, removing everything and anything you can think of that could get in the way of that.

Is the Gospel like a virus? When it enters the air it spreads like the flu. It did that powerfully at one time here in North America. But they’ve discovered how a vaccine for it – ignore it and do what you want. In Africa, the virus is beginning and succeeding but it will only last as long as the church doesn’t kill it. In America the church has killed the gospel virus with a vaccine.

Someone told me yesterday this: “I’m just evangelistic! That’s why I am going to do church this way.” My response was: “What does it mean to be evangelistic? Does it mean you have the ability to speak truth to the lost culture? Does it mean you just love to share Jesus in the way that worked for you 30 years ago? You’re not evangelistic! The evangelistic church is the one where people are getting saved. That’s it!” This person’s methodology and philosophy for evangelism is just a habit, not an effective God-led presentation for Christ.

Another question arises: Is your target audience worth it? Worth what? Worth the time and energy to understand them for who they are. They aren’t into cutting edge. They love tradition. They love authentic. They are this… Do you know that or preconceive that? They ARE worth KNOWING those answers.

Does your church culture look like that? Does your church culture resembles the needs of the churched or the unchurched? God loves his church, the one he meant to be filled up with the unchurched. His eyes see everyone, but his laser focus is on the unfound, the lost he desires more than we could comprehend to save.

These are the kind of questions and answers that could set you free to leverage your ministry into new heights.

My ‘Don’t Forget’ List

August 13, 2005

A few days ago I took some time off for a couple hours to sit, think, meditate and pray. I began to write down the things God keeps bringing up to me, when I do this. There’s many, many more I could add, but here’s my ‘Don’t Forget’ List for today:

• The will of God is the most dangerous place to be.
• Step out and trust that God will open and close the right doors. Simply walk with God.
• Read God’s Word and Simply Obey it. Want to be smart – meditate on the Word. Make the Word central to your thinking.
• Embrace the price you have to pay. Suffering is inevitable to a true Christ-follower. So don’t run from it – embrace it.
• Ministry is not a means to success. It’s simply obeying our Father. Nothing is a means to success. We are to simply obey the Father. We can learn that the easy way or the hard way, but, in reality, there’s not really an easy way to learn this one.
• The call of Christ to me is a call to live a heroic life. Prosperity – NO! Consumerism – NO! Live noble and heroic in this broken fragmented culture.
• Refuse to live a victimized life. Embrace the innocence and lifefulness of God.
• Spend loads of time studying the life and ministry and message of Jesus. He’s the centerpiece. Study the relationship – it’s a love story written directly to me.
• Learn to labor in prayer. Ask God to show Himself and be ready – James 1. Prayer is not a convenience; it’s a discipline. No one feels like praying. I’ve heard numerous people say you have to pray when you don’t feel like and pray until you feel like it. Prayer is the most powerful force in the universe, yet we the church, have discovered how to get by without it.
• Discover the path God is calling you to and have the courage to “do” it.
• Love to live and live to love. Dream to live and live to dream.
• God gets a lot of joy from us coming after him. He loves “the try”.
• Are you grateful that God loves you? That will come out. Love is the fuel. If not, you’re going to run out. Am I taken hostage to love?

Many Dream to Live

August 12, 2005

I like to look back long enough to draw some understanding. Here’s a bit of that…

MANY DREAM TO LIVE, BUT FEW LIVE TO DREAM. Every story is filled with people who are of the dreamer sort. It is in building the dream that we discover the value and the reality that the one carrying the dream has to be shaped before he is able to fulfill it. The present state of wherever we are on our journey captures the essence of God’s wisdom and sovereignty. There are a lot of dreamers and visionaries but few who actually do something for God – Why? They aren’t willing to be shaped so they can be walked through so the dream can occur. Too many of us desire too badly to be the CEO while we are supposed to be apprentices.

I think we have to choose to embrace the price in fact, enjoy the price we have to pay. The reality that the person carrying the vision has to be ready before the vision comes about. I think both of us are a prime example that vision carries a tremendous weight. It is so much more than, “I’ve got a vision, its time to achieve it.” Vision resides in a much deeper place and we have to learn how that can be such a beautiful thing to appreciate rather than dispute.

Vision has become some sort of a truism but oh, our life hopefully can teach that it CAN be understood much more clearly. I am learning that visions often lead leaders into deep pain and confusion. I think I’m learning to embrace the struggle a visioneer has to go through instead of falling hard again into the pit of confusion.

When we go through the experiences the dream requires wisdom will drip from our mouths because we’ve been through it. The best teacher is not all the books I read or the amazing leaders I know; it’s experience. Knowledge will get you so far, but wisdom takes you places.

Someone might be tempted to say, “Experience! You’re just getting started.” I am not going to argue with that but I will say that when you’re online with God, age is unimportant, but grasping who God is, that’s what matters most. And you won’t grasp who God is until you’re willing to buck the safe zone and step out in the faith zone. I think too few young (and old) leaders are willing the pay that kind of price. And that’s a tragedy because they’re missing out on so much. My philosophy, “Listen to God, then jump in!” That’s exactly where wisdom leads us.

A Studdly Life

June 14, 2005

I’ve been thinking about how great it is that youngsters are embracing vintage Christianity. Three years ago I couldn’t have imagined it. They actually like to hear what the old and gone, retro leaders had to say. Thank God! There’s powerful material in there. I’m learning firsthand that nothing’s new. Every time I hear an amazing metaphor I hear something similar from a retro leader. I guess that’s good – so we can modernize our language to a culture. That’s talked about in the bible in very clear terms. Thank God, for now, my pursuit in modernizing can take a pit stop and soak in the spiritual hero’s. Their words reveal so much – particularly to me how much they TRUSTED our Heavenly Father – the same kind of bond we’re all after.

Today, I’m a jottin some C.T. Studd quotes. Ooh! I feel like to not share some of these magnetic, beguiling, power-packed lines would be selfish. Allow me to take you on a journey through a bucket of spiritual aphorisms!

Yes, these are provoking thoughts for all you studdly folks. I was thinking of writing a update but Amber and I both agree that we get so many information sources that we don’t enjoy a long and compelling letter. So in reality, this is more of a upend than a update.

C.T. Studd was a famous Cricketer in England who chose to forsake his fame and family fortune and follow Hudson Taylor to China. After 21 years in China and India, he unexpectedly received a call to the epicenter of Africa. He left everything and had to trust God for everything. His answer to those who thought he was mad to go was simply: If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him

Here’s my favorite for all ye fund-raisers: “Funds are low again, hallelujah! That means God trusts us and is willing to leave His reputation in our hands.” In fund-raising if we begin with nothing then our potential is huge. You can only go up. It was James who said the poor are honored and the rich are humbled. Either or, we have the God of the universe as our CEO.

I hear a lot of opinions all the time about seminary training. Personally, on some days I’d like to blow up cemetaries, uh…I mean seminaries but I guess they can be useful too. Seminaries teach a bunch of knowledge, definition-frenzies and even some bad practicality. Of course, God does call some to go to seminary and that’s what’s important. In any case, my man C.T. had a few perspective-lined thoughts too: “The best training for a soldier of Christ is not merely a theological college. They always seem to turn out sausages of varying lengths, tied at each end, without the glorious freedom a Christian ought to abound and rejoice in. You see, when in hand-to-hand conflict with the world and the devil, neat little biblical confectionery is like shooting lions with a pea-shooter: one needs a man who will let himself go and deliver blows right and left as hard as he can hit, trusting in the Holy Ghost. It’s experience, not preaching that hurts the devil and confounds the world. The training is not that of the schools but of the market: it’s the hot, free heart and not the balanced head that knocks the devil out. Nothing but forked-lightning Christians will count. A lost reputation is the best degree for Christ’s service. It is not so much the degree of arts that is needed, but that of hearts, loyal and true, that love not their lives to the death: large and loving hearts which seek to save the lost multitudes, rather than guard the ninety-nine well-fed sheep in the British pen.”

Okay, living in a prozac culture can be discouraging at times. Can I hear paradox? I think part of the problem is…besides sitting in front of a computer and TV over four hours a day (US average) we should be out and about serving the Lord, trusting Him and laying our life on the cutting edge fine lines a little more. Ole C.T. said, “The best cure for discouragement or qualms is another daring plunge of faith.” If only I lived like that…when it’s soo easy to enjoy all my movies.

Comfort and Convenience. The killers of a Christian walk. This is right where I’m trying to war against because God gives us so much freedom. But Christianity is earmarked with suffering…can I hear the cross? Paying a price is a good thing. I think we should get real good at EMBRACING the price b/c the dream can’t be fulfilled without the dreamers being molded into the person God needs him to “be”. Emphasis on “be”, rather than “do”. Like we said earlier: “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”

One of the reasons we don’t like to pay the price is because when we do we get gutted in more ways than one by the slickest, slyest of them all: the devil. Mr. Studd nails it here. I’ve had to read the fourth one at least five times. Whoa.

“Here’s my final advice to my followers:
1. If you don’t desire to meet the Devil during the day, meet Jesus before dawn.
2. If you don’t want the Devil to hit you, hit him first, and hit him with all your might, so that he may be too crippled to hit back. ‘Preach the Word’ is the rod the Devil fears and hates.
3. If you don’t want to fall – walk, and walk straight and walk fast!
4. Three of the Devil’s dogs with which he hunts us are:
Swelled head.
Laziness.
Cupidity.”

I remember traveling overseas a couple years ago. “I know so much and have so much to offer,” I thought. Yeah right! I knew stuff, not the God-given Word like these men who have nothing, except the Word. It’s the whole preach what you live thing. I’m still a-learnin. I don’t know much at all and that’s okay because it’s right there in the Word. The Word truly does take you hostage when you pursue it and challenge it. C.T. gave me some perception on this. I need to read this every day!
“Our recruits come out from home vastly raw and are largely parrots. They have been crammed with religion as though for an examination, and seem to come out to carry on their education rather than finish it. So many are just taught doctrines without ever having thought them out or searched the Scriptures for themselves. They come out like infants with pop guns. They need to be trained into soldiers with real devil-defying weapons. Some arrive thinking they are the last thing in high-class Christianity and have to find out they know little. That is why I keep the newcomers here at base for a time till I can make them really think out things and settle questions, not from hearsay but from Bible-say.”

Preach it C.T.! “How could I spend the best years of my life in living for the honours of this world, when thousands of souls are perishing every day?”
“Let us not glide through this world and then slip quietly into heaven, without having blown the trumpet loud and long for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Let us see to it that the devil will hold a thanksgiving service in hell, when he gets the news of our departure from the field of battle.” Will the church mourn your loss and will the devil throw a party when you die?

Allow me to pose a question: Is the Christian walk that easy? “Very many are half asleep or deluded, and make up fancy doctrines of their own, which practically mean that an unholy man can get to heaven without being holy. But remember, Christ did not die to whitewash us, He died to re-create us, and none but His re-creations enter heaven.”

God wants action and I’m happy about that because I stink at this patience thing. Patience is required most right now as He tries to mold me in character. I’m truly all about living as a warrior. What challenges me is living as a warrior in holiness and loving-kindness. That’s where the miracle of God comes into play. I like to fight more than I like to love, but as I get to know Him a merge is taking place. All of sudden I’m taken hostage by love.
“Too long have we been waiting for one another to begin! The time of waiting is past! The hour of God has struck! War is declared! In God’s Holy Name let us arise and build! ‘The God of Heaven, He will fight for us’, as we for Him. We will not build on the sand, but on the bedrock of the sayings of Christ, and the gates and minions of hell shall not prevail against us. Should such men as we fear? Before the world, aye, before the sleepy, lukewarm, faithless, namby-pamby Christian world, we will dare to trust our God, we will venture our all for Him, we will live and we will die for Him, and we will do it with His joy unspeakable singing aloud in our hearts. We will a thousand times sooner die trusting only our God, than live trusting in man. And when we come to this position the battle is already won, and the end of the glorious campaign in sight. We will have the real Holiness of God, not the sickly stuff of talk and dainty words and pretty thoughts; we will have a Masculine Holiness, one of daring faith and works for Jesus Christ.”
Difficulties, dangers, disease, death, or divisions don’t deter any but Chocolate Soldiers from executing God’s Will. When someone says there is a lion in the way, the real Christian promptly replies, “That’s hardly enough inducement for me; I want a bear or two besides to make it worth my while to go.”

I hear you…that’s enough. But I leave you with one more Studd line. It’s truly studly:

“Some wish to live within the sound
Of Church or Chapel Bell.
I want to run a rescue shop
within a yard of Hell.”

Go get em this week! Live hard and faithful for God’s glory.

Bryan

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