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Monthly Archives: November 2009

#9…. Following All the Rules Can Ruin Your Faith!

#9  Following All the Rules Can Ruin Your Faith

Seems strange to say but it is true. Following all the rules can, and I believe will, greatly diminish or even RUIN your Faith. Here is what I mean…

The Pharisees found this out as the relatively few old testament guidelines ballooned into hundreds of well-intentioned, albeit, suffocating rules. These rules essentially boiled God down to a list of “do’s and don’ts”. The same can be true of well-meaning Christians who have developed rules for almost every area of their lives. From where they can and cannot go, whom they can be seen with,  how they must worship, music they must listen to etc…..

Jesus Gave us two primary rules to follow……. Love th Lord Your God with all of your heart   and love your neighbor as yourself…… the rest is just window dressing.

Matthew 22:37-40   “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[b] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I am convinced that far too many of us rely on our rules (or systems) for guidance without a thought for the leadership of the Holy Spirit.  In doing so we diminish our need to “walk” with Jesus at all!

About two years ago a man sat in my office, embarrassed and uncomfortable. He was the epitome of rule following Christianity. He dressed well for church, looked you in the eye when he spoke, his kids were orderly if not a little stiff, his wife was pleasant and quiet, he gave both his time and income to the church, he was a leader in the community and had the civic awards to prove it, he understood much of what he was taught about scripture and how God works in our lives. After all,  he had endured a thousand conservative biblical sermons……………………… and yet he was also drowning in despair.

During our long meeting together he confessed to deep disappointment in God. God, it seems, had not delivered on His promise to bless my new friend. He did everything he was supposed to do, he followed every rule he knew and yet……. he confessed….. he and his wife were not getting along, his kids were distant and rebellious, his faith was dry and stale and he had even thought about just “walking away”.

He had altered what was supposed to be a dynamic, exciting life of faith into a simple checklist of behaviors……very dangerous indeed.

Today my friend has found great freedom in two simple rules:

#1 LOVE JESUS

#2 LOVE OTHERS

Quick points:

  • Too many rules “Insulate us” from a dynamic walk with the Lord.
  • Too many rules prevent God from working in our lives.
  • Too many rules “dumb down” our faith.
  • Too many rules create a checklist to present to God for approval instead of a life willingly offered to bring Glory to the Most High God.

from The Bible Study Series, “Things They Did Not Tell Me About My Faith” – Hixon Frank 2007

 

#10…. A Holy Life Is Supposed to be MESSY!

Things Nobody Told Me About My Faith

I became a Christian in 8th grade after a Dawson McAllister “Walk to the Cross” Conference. Dawson took a lot of time to explain the life of a Christian was designed to be one of exciting faith and trust in an Almighty God.  It was to be a life filled with challenges, adversity, victory, defeat and most of all “a life worth living!”.

Needless to say I was pretty “pumped” about beginning my life with Jesus.   But after a while I began to see that many of the folks that said they love Jesus, were neither exciting nor offered much challenge. In fact the goal for many of them seemed to be safety, comfort and control! The pursuit of the “Leave it To Beaver” life!

I see this quality in many men as they sit in my office and have boiled their faith down to a simple list of “do’s and don’ts”, niceties that neither satisfy or inspire.  They are neutered and many believe that is how God intended. While I am not a huge fan of the John Eldredge’s theology he was right in his book “Wild at Heart” when he proposes that men (and women) were born and re-born for more than “behaving well”.

Starting off at #10.

A HOLY LIFE IS SUPPOSED TO BE MESSY!

Christians are called to:

  • confront a brother in their sin (Matt 18)
  • care for widows and orphans (Acts 6, James 1, 1 timothy 5)
  • visit the imprisoned (Acts)
  • apologize for offenses to others (Matt 5)
  • stand alone when no one else will (2 Tim)
  • turn the other cheek when we want nothing more than to fight back (Matt 5, Luke 6)
  • forgive those who have offended us (Entire New Testament)
  • suffer for the cause of Christ (2 Cor.1, 2 Tim 2)
  • submit to authority (both good and bad)  (2 Peter)
  • be “salt and light” (Matt 5)
  • look at people with compassion (Eph. 4, Col. 3)
  • Etc….

I am not sure how a person does any of the above mentioned things without getting their hands dirty.

Far from being called to a “Leave it to Beaver” life of propriety and safety, God calls Christians to an exciting and dangerous life making an impact in the world that desperately needs Him.

Illustration: I was standing in line at a church cookout several years ago when one of the my friends in line picked out a diet 7Up can from the ice chest full of soft drinks. The can was silver and the afternoon sun reflected off of it brilliantly. I did not think much about it until she made a clever comment about the how it looked like a Coors Light can (only funny to Baptists). It was almost as if she had used profanity as the group within earshot got a little bit tense.

Then the “ringleader” of the other women said abruptly,”I would not know what a Coors Light can that looks like!”

Implying that the fact that my friend even knew what a Coors Light looked like showed a lack of purity and devotion to the Lord. (are we in Junior high or what?)

In my mind I thought how silly it was that the “ringleader” felt compelled to belittle my friend… especially given the fact that her husband has no problem having a beer with his meals. While I cannot speak to this woman’s heart, her actions illustrate what many folks believe is the chief end of their faith; to be separate from the world… or at least to appear that way.  She seemed to take pride in being ignorant about the culture that surrounds her….or worse, she had buried her head so far in the Bible that she was of little use outside the walls of the church. (harsh)

I’m pretty sure that was not the approach that Jesus took:

Jesus spent time with women, prostitutes,tax collectors, thieves, and yes even religious hypocrites. He did not separate himself from the world he came to save.  (of course at times He did for reflection and rest) We see throughout the Gospels how Jesus views people who have no hope….. with compassion and involvement in their lives. (Matt 9,14,26,  Luke 10,14, 15,  Hebrews 10:34, James 2…..more)

As I have grown up a little bit in my Faith I have found so much freedom in worrying less about how I look to my brothers and sisters in Christ and more about how I can reach people that do not yet know my Savior.

from The Bible Study Series, “Things They Did Not Tell Me About My Faith” – Hixon Frank 2007

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2009 in Discipleship, Leadership

 

Lesson Learned…Compassion

On Thursday afternoon I was on the way home from a fruitful but tiring day at the office when my wife called. She was a little distressed that two strangers were in our front yard picking up  the pecans that had fallen from one of our mature pecan trees. I was only a few blocks from the house but sped up nonetheless. When I turned the corner sure enough there they were. A man and a woman. Both seemed a little “off” and as they saw me park they gave me the strangest looks. Neither were intimidated (I was going for that when I abruptly pulled in) or made any indication that they would stop what they were doing.  While I’m not usually aggressive I was more than a little bit “torqued” that they not only were not slowing down their collection of MY pecans but they actually went faster gathering them!

Feeling a sense of justice overtake me I grabbed the man’s attention by raising my voice and asking, “Is this your property?”

“No” came the response.

“Are those your pecans?”

“No sir”, he mumbled.

That is more like it I though to myself as he showed a bit of contrition.

“They are my pecans and it looks like you are stealing them. I have told my son he could collect them to earn money for Christmas.” I said with parental pride in the fact that I was training my son the value of hard work.

Then I launched into a lecture about asking first, and if they had of just asked they could have had all the pecans they could carry. But now it was too late and I needed them to leave the neighborhood.

Yep, I actually banished them from the neighborhood!

The man’s eyes and whole demeanor changed and he apologized and they quickly got on their bikes and left.

Today (Saturday) my son and I raked leaves in our backyard. He worked hard and I explained to him that “today is the day” and if he would pick up the pecans that had fallen from the trees we would take them to the local “Pecan Shed” and sell them. He could keep the money he made  for Christmas like I had promised.

He collected several bags full from our backyard and with anticipation loaded the pecans and climbed into my truck. After the short drive we arrived at the “Pecan Shed” about 15 minutes before they were to close for the weekend. Both of us were a little bit excited to see what my son’s hard work had earned him.

“Five bags of pecans should get you something”, I said with a smile and gentle shove.

He just smiled back a smile of satisfaction that hard work brings.

Upon entering the warehouse we were greeted by clean cut men in jeans and boots who showed us how the whole show works. Examine the pecans, weigh them and get paid!

As we looked around at the other folks there I noticed that they all looked a lot like the man and woman in my front yard two days before. All were weathered, distant and a little dirty.  They all seemed down and anxious about what their bags of pecans might bring. All (or certainly most) appeared to be  folks who needed this money for things a whole lot more serious that extra cash for Christmas. They seemed to need it to live. (I get that some were in this situation because of addictions and bad choices but c’mon)

My son noticed it too. He was quiet when we went back to the truck.  I was expecting him to be more excited about his $4.95 payday but he  is a smart 10 year old.  He was aware of the situations that surrounded him.

As we drove home the conversation was muted. I was trying to deal with my arrogance without throwing up!

How could I have the audacity to lecture a homeless couple about the etiquette of picking someone’s pecans?

Why did I tell them that these pecans were for my son and not for them? My son has everything he needs and then some. I felt like a spoiled, snotty little  child who was unwilling to share his candy.

I asked God to forgive me. Sure hope I get another chance…

Not exactly my best.

Lesson Learned.

 

“RELUCTANT LEADERS” WANTED

God sometimes calls us to ministries that seem “out there”! But when you are sure it is God doing the asking….you can be sure he will also order your steps to succeed at that which he has called you to do. (His definition of success and not ours)

The following is inspired by OS Hillman.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'” (2 Cor 12:9).

If there is one thing that is consistent throughout scripture, it is this: God calls people when they are not ready. God will never call you into service when you think you are ready. This is intentional on God’s part. And, you can be sure when God calls you, you will have similar responses as Saul did when he was called to be the first king, or Gideon, when he was called to take down the idols in his nation, or Moses, when he was called to deliver his people from Egypt.

  • Saul answered, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?” (1 Sam 9:21).
  • But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (Judg 6:15).
  • But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Ex 3:11).

When God calls, you will most likely be in the most unlikely circumstances to receive that call. You will be in the midst of a crisis, you will lack resources, you will not have the skills you think you need. This too is the way of God. God does this because He wants you to know your call is only based on His ability, not yours. When you think it is based on you, this is a false humility. And, it is unbelief and disobedience on your part. Has God called you to something you have failed to do because you felt you were not ready? Repent before the Lord and let God accomplish great things through you.

 

Favorite Leadership Quotes…

These quotes can be found in most leadership books and websites.  Wanted to pass em along…

Favorite Leadership Quotes #1

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

Peter F. Drucker

Favorite Leadership Quotes #2

Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.

George S. Patton

Favorite Leadership Quotes #3

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

Dwight Eisenhower

Favorite Leadership Quotes #4

A leader is a dealer in hope.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Favorite Leadership Quotes #5

I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?

Benjamin Disraeli

Favorite Leadership Quotes #6

The leadership instinct you are born with is the backbone. You develop the funny bone and the wishbone that go with it.

Elaine Agather

Favorite Leadership Quotes #7

Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too.

Robert Half

Favorite Leadership Quotes #8

Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men — the other 999 follow women.

Groucho Marx

Favorite Leadership Quotes #9

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.

Theodore M. Hesburgh

Favorite Leadership Quotes #10

The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.

Theodore Roosevelt

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2009 in Leadership

 

A Word to “Middle Managers”

A Few thing to consider for us “Middle Managers”….

Most of us will be “middle managers” of some kind. We will report to someone and have others report to us. It is a difficult spot to be in for sure!

We must develop the ability to:

… put much of our personal agenda on someone else’s timetable. For those of us wanting to “climb a little” it is easy to get impatient. If you are a Christian and reading this then remember: God is more interested in your character than your position. Let Him use your job to build into your life qualities that reflect a love for Jesus.

never speak disparagingly about your boss. That is tempting. It may not get you fired but will limit your potential. If your boss is that bad, every one else is thinking it too. No need to say it. The boss always finds out.

…”speak up” in a manner that communicates teamwork and not division. We all hate “yes men” but it is key to know when to address key issues that are important to the Sr. leadership of an organization. Usually that means that you communicate approval for an idea or direction the organization is going when you are in public (meeting etc) but seek to bring up valid points in private when it is safe. Rare is the boss who will allow you to debate a point publicly.

be trustworthy when given assignments. “I don’t have the time” is usually a reflection of poor time management on your part or lack of commitment to getting the job done. Yea, I know, sometimes it is the fact that your boss is unreasonable too.

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2009 in Discipleship, Leadership

 

Wanna Be Irreplaceable?

In the last week alone I have received 5 brochures for church leadership conferences that will be meeting all over the country. These conferences promise to be “life changing”, “paradigm shifting”, “leadership demanded”, “dynamic”, “next generation”, “creative”, “culturally relevant” and “impactful”. I’m sure they will be….

I have been to several of these type leadership conferences and to their credit were very well done and professional. Yet I can’t help but ask myself (as I paradigm shift and become culturally relevant) WHERE IS THE…..(or rather, where is my…)

1. HUMILITY? – while it is sometimes addressed, it is done so in a way that used scripture to simply give a prerequisite to getting to be the “Chief”.   “Humble yourself in God’s sight and he will lift you up” is not a promise that you will get the job….. it is a promise that you will be pleased with whatever God decides to do with you.  Primarily because you will be more interested in His promotion than your own. 

2. SUBMISSION TO AUTHORITY? A leader will often want this given to him but rarely wants to come under it.  People submitting to us is easy….submitting to someone else is much harder.

My own testimony: I wasted years of potential because God would not significantly use me until I understood that “Submitting to Authority” has little to do with value and much to do with structure. (2 Peter)

3. LOYALTY? I have not heard a lot about the fact that loyalty is not related to agreement…it is related to committment? I may not agree with those in authority over me however my committment to them dictates that I will support them (moral ethical or illegal difference not withstanding)  My preferences are secondary to those over me. My choice is to stay and support or to leave and flourish. I cannot stay and be subversive.

So many young ministers will save themselves bitterness and frustration if they could really take these three qualities and, instead of bristle against them…embrace them!

These three qualities are mocked in our culture yet they are qualities that every good leader is looking for in his/her people.

Wanna be irreplaceable?  Try submitting to the AUTHORITY God has placed in your life. Do so with HUMILITY and OBEDIENCE!

 

Random Questions 21-29

#21  Who did you vote for in the last election? None of your business:)  but I will tell ya that I was not real happy with the folks we had to choose from. Think I’ll write in a name next time.

#22 What person in history would you like to meet and why? Gotta go with more than one.  George Washington, Francis Marion, Eric Liddle, Apostle Paul, Josephus….a bunch of em. (by the way, didn’t  list Jesus cause I already met him)

#23 When were you “called to Ministry”? Sophomore in College…I was gonna be a rich business man  up until then.

#24 What is best gift you have ever received? (duh!) 2nd best gift was a Schwinn “Lemon Peeler” 5 Speed bicycle.  Big tire in back, small one in the front. Nothing was cooler in 1975!

#25 What is your proudest achievement? So far? My family. I know they are great sometimes in spite of me but I’m gonna take the blame if they mess up so I may as well grab some credit.

#26  If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?  Your kidding, right?

#27 What do you like most about your ministry? Love seeing the “lights come on” with people. Mine is a “teaching and training” ministry so that is the point right?

#28 What do you like least about your ministry?  Well, right now Iam frustrated in dealing with people that want to “go deeper”. I think that “going deeper” is sometimes code for: “I’m the most spiritual person in the room and I can’t learn from someone unless it is served up like I like it.” What is deeper than Jesus Loves me?  That Too harsh?

#29 What do you do to relax? Work out, read, watch Discovery, History, Smithsonian or SyFy Channel. Yep….classic “geek”.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2009 in Biographical, Family

 

Events That Changed My Life…pt 1

Every Fall I spend some time remembering events that have shaped my life.
It just kind of gives me a sense of who God has made me to be. The following are a few examples.
  • Became a Christian in Summer of 1980…. gave my life to Christ.  The Youth Group from the church came and “kidnapped” me. Took me to church promising pizza and girls. (think 7th grade) What they did not tell me (sneaky little rascals) is that I would be expected to sit through a sermon. Though I had been to church I never really heard the gospel before. I was blown away! That night, in my room, I prayed and asked Jesus to save me and be Lord of my life. That began a journey that continues to this day.  My oldest brother had given his life to Christ a year or two before and his life was changed (still is). It was his consistent life that convinced me that the “Jesus thing” is real.
  • Dad Died in Fall of 1980… Halloween morning. Woke up to an ambulance and Dad, covered by a sheet, being taken to the “hospital”. He had died in his sleep of a heart attack. That was 29 years ago and I still miss him terribly. Wish I could show off my wife to him! He would have loved her. My kids would love him as he was a very gregarious, whimsical and thoughtful man. Whistled all the time.   …… Did I mention that I hate Halloween
  • First Kiss – Ann Tetrick in 7th Grade. Weird…real wierd. (The Kiss not her)
  • Best Kiss – Margie Baxter in 10th Grade. (That kiss was so good I married her 6 years later!!!)
  • Married Margie Baxter  – January 7, 1989. My High School sweetheart! She has stuck with me through ups and downs….In some ways my mentor, my trainer, my lover, my counselor but in all ways my best friend! Much more on her later….
 
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Posted by on November 12, 2009 in Biographical, Family

 

3 Keys to a Great Marriage…

3 Keys to a Great Marriage that NOBODY is talking about….

  1. Every man should SUBMIT to the authorities placed in his life. 1 Peter 2:13-17, 1 Samuel 15:22-23.  If the man you are interested in spending the rest of your life with has an authority problem…  RUN AWAY!  You want to marry a man who “gets this”! You are  begging for problems and pain if you get involved with this guy! Can’t keep a job, disloyal to those over him, “smartest guy in the room”….. we call that a 5th grader not a man!
  2. SELF AWARENESS is more important than spouse evaluation. .  Psalm 17:3, 2 Corinthians 13:5, Jeremiah 17:10. God examines us FULLY. We really need to know what God sees in us. Fix you first, then worry about your spouse!  He/she may be broken because of you anyway:)
  3. Married people should “SET APART” their spouse as unique among every other person on the planet! Acts 13:2, Romans 1, Ephesians 5:25. Never ever compare your spouse unfavorably to anyone else!  Ever. Even if she says she “doesn’t mind” or he insists it is “ok”.   No one else is your spouse……. so don’t treat anyone with the same deference that you give your  spouse.

Taken from the Bible Study series “Things They Did not Tell Me about My Faith”…. HF, 2007

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2009 in Discipleship, Family