What if we weren’t insecure?

If you’re anything like me, at some point today you will be insecure about something. It could be an insecurity about your skill in a certain area, your ability to do something, your age, the way you look, or any number of things. Maybe today is one of those days where you accidentally turned on a red light, and now you’re feeling insecure about your driving skills as that person you cut off is now driving behind you (that definitely didn’t happen to me this weekend…….). Or maybe you tripped on the stairs and the people around you saw it and tried not to laugh too hard, so now you’re insecure and feel like everyone is looking at you and you take extra care the next time you approach the stairs.

Whatever it is that’s going to happen, or has already happened, today, insecurity can be a normal piece of life for us. But what if it wasn’t? What if we cared less about our “security” in front of other people? In actuality, where does insecurity even come from? For me, my insecurity comes when I am thinking about myself and wanting to look good or maintain a good image in front of other people. Insecurity encourages me to be less than genuine and to hide behind a made-up mask.

That just doesn’t seem like the way things should be. Insecurity and authenticity don’t fit in well together. Good relationships, strong friendships, are built on authenticity. insecurity prayerI’m blessed to be a part of a group of young adults where authenticity is almost a requirement. It’s an unspoken sort of expectation that really isn’t required, but is lived out and so most everyone simply follows that example.

I think this is the way Jesus modeled for us in the Bible. He was genuine and authentic. He cared. He loved. He shared. He did life with other people. He didn’t hide behind anything. He didn’t live in insecurity. Instead, Jesus let God be the ruler of His life.

Imagine today if you let God be the one who dictated your actions instead of your insecurity. I know for me that would make a big difference. I would respond differently. I would see people differently. I would be others-focused instead of self-focused.

Philippians 4:6 says: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Matthew 6:31-34 says: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Today, don’t seek your kingdom. Don’t live from your insecurity. I won’t either. Instead, let’s live for the kingdom of God first and take all our anxieties and insecurities and ask God to take them away.

 

God loves you

God loves you. Did you know that? I think we all want to know and believe that is true. I think we want to believe it in the depth of our heart. But He doesn’t just love us so that we can do whatever we want to do. God loves us and wants us to know Him. He wants to have a relationship with us; He doesn’t just want to be a salve or a bandaid we put on our wounds.

God is not someone who only wants to be contact when we are in pain or when we are sad so He can make it go away. He wants to walk with us through the good and the bad, and have us realize that we can’t do really much of anything at all on our own. We can only breathe because God is constantly sustaining His creation. God wants us to be in relationship with Him when we are thankful, when we are happy, when we are in need, when we are sad, when we are in pain, when we are in tears, and when we are in laughter.

God-loves-youThat is what His love is there for. He wants us to know that He loves us. He wants us to know Him, be known by Him, and spend our lives getting to know Him more. God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, so that we could know God as our Heavenly Father. This is an intimate knowledge, more than some big guy in the sky, or the man upstairs. God sent His Son to show us His love. Romans chapter five verse eight says that God demonstrates His love toward you and me in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

God knows we are not perfect. He created us. He knows we’ll mess up, that we have messed up, and that we will never fully arrive in getting it right all the time. But God still loves us. He wants us to know Him, but more than that He wants us to follow after Him. He wants us to see the example of Jesus Christ in the Bible and to follow it. He wants us to follow His commands because that is the most abundant and blessed and fulfilled way to live.

To follow Him means following a different Way… a better way. It is a way that is not easy and is often uncomfortable and selfless, but it is much, much better than the normal way of the world. God’s Way is a Way of fulfillment, satisfaction, and wholeness. It is a place where love and forgiveness abound. It is a place with a high calling to live life in the right way and to tell other people about this different Way. It is a challenge, for sure. But it is well worth the struggle.

What’s holding you back from following The Way?

What is it about the bare minimum?

I think we often do only what is asked of us. We don’t do less than what is asked, but we also don’t try to do more than is asked. We settle for mediocrity in most things. What if that’s not what we should be doing? What if we aren’t here, still breathing, still living, just to be okay at something? What if the reason we are still living is so we can excel and be great at something we have been born and specifically created to do?

There was this lawyer, and he wanted to make sure he was doing the right things. He had money and popularity. He was skilled at his job and had plenty of clients. But he wanted to make sure he wasn’t missing anything. So he went and asked Jesus a question about how he could inherit eternal life. The question and response is recorded in Luke 10:25. Jesus responds telling him to follow two commands with a central theme of love (first loving God and then loving your neighbor). Jesus told him to do these things. The lawyer, wanting to make sure he gets it right, asks, “Who is my neighbor?” He wants to make sure that he does enough to inherit eternal life, but he isn’t keen on going much further than that. He could really be asking, “Jesus, tell me who specifically I need to be loving toward so I can just be loving toward them and not have to worry about the others.” He essentially is asking Jesus what is the bare minimum I can get away with in “loving my neighbor”?

Jesus asks big of the lawyer. He tells the story many of us are familiar with, The Good Samaritan, and reveals to the lawyer that gender, race, age, and/or belief don’t matter in defining who is your neighbor. Everyone is your neighbor and deserving of love and value.

Today lets not settle for the bare minimum. Let’s not settle for just getting by or just doing enough to be a “good Christian”.

Let’s not only love and care about and have compassion on a fewDo more people we really like. We can treat everyone we come across with dignity and respect, we can add value to every life we encounter. We can do this even if we disagree with their political views, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation. Christians should be known for their love, not their hate or judgment or condemnation. Jesus was known for His love and for going to where the lost hang out. But know this, too, love and approval are not the same thing. Let us be known for our love, for speaking the truth wrapped all over and around with grace and love.

Go above and beyond the bare minimum in loving your neighbor today.

What are you known for?

What are you known for? It is usually by what we do that we are known. Peyton Manning and Brett Favre are not known for their skill in bowling, but for their incredible ability to play quarterback. Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber are not known for their athleticism, but are known for their musical talents. Vince Lombardi and Bill Belichick are known for their skill as coaches.

There are many quotes that talk about the outward actions of our lives.

“Actions speak louder than words.”

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”

“Show me, don’t tell me.”

“Characterize people by their actions and you will never be fooled by their words.”

All of these may be true, to one degree or another. But, for our Tuesday Challenge today I want to dig deeper. I think we can agree that what we do is a reflection of who we are.

Ultimately, what are you known for is another way of asking, “Who are you, really?”

If my actions (especially those actions in moments of weakness, of pain, in privacy, in reaction, etc.) reveal who I really am on the inside, what are they saying? Is it a positive thing? Or negative? Does it worry me? Or do I like who I am?

The challenge today is to be someone worth knowing.

Someone worth knowing is someone who is caring, loving, speaks truth, is gracious, servant-hearted, and adds value to the people he or she interacts with.

This kind of person is irresistible. I want to hang out with this person.

Experience a blessed life

This past Sunday I had the privilege of preaching at Calvary (if you want to listen, you can follow the link here to the audio). We explored Psalm 1, where there are these two different ways described by the author: the righteous (or blessed) way and the wicked way. As I was studying and researching this Psalm, a couple of things impacted me more deeply, and that is what I want to share this morning.

The first thing that really redirected my understanding of this Psalm is recognizing that living a blessed life, in reference specifically to the Hebrew term ‘esher used at the beginning of verse 1, is a direct result of the actions of our life. Galatians 6:7 says that we reap what we sow. Whatever actions we sow in our life, we reap the outcome. Whatever we plant in our lives, good things or bad things, we eventually experience the result of them. That is what “blessed” is referring to here. The Psalmist lists some things to avoid and some things to cultivate in order to experience that blessing.

The second thing that caught my attention and really impacted me is one of the things the Psalmist advises us to cultivate is a delight in the Law of the Lord. This is a deep desire, a longing, or intense emotional connection with the Bible. It is a falling in love with the Bible, having a strong desire to read and spend time in the Bible, and longing to make it a part of our daily life. This is more than just something we like doing, it is something we love and think about and constantly are doing.

Today’s Tuesday Challenge is this: If you want to experience a blessed life, a deep-rooted joy, then you must cultivate a desire for the Bible. Pray that God would increase your longing for the Bible, spend time diving into it. Maybe even memorize Psalm 1 or read and study a specific book of the Bible (like the book of John, for example). Do this and it will change your life.

Cultivating a longing for the Word of God is the difference between living a blessed life and not.

Are we able to have a conversation with someone outside of our “group”?

“This splintering and polarization of American culture has made it more difficult than ever to have a good conversation, especially about faith,” says David Kinnaman (President of the Barna Group).

I recently read the article quoted from above, and just had to write a post about it. Barna is a research powerhouse, and one of their recent studies found that evangelical Christians “have a particularly difficult time talking to those outside their group.” In fact, the research found that 9 in 10 (87%) would find it difficult to have a natural or normal conversation with someone from the LGBT community, while only 6 in 10 (58%) from the LGBT community felt the same way toward having a natural or normal conversation with someone from the evangelical community.

Reading this, it struck a chord in my heart. Jesus consistently, often, controversially spent much time with people outside of his “group.” He spent so much time with people outside the religious community that the religious community questioned him on the topic:

“And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?'” – Matthew 9:10-11 ESV

The Pharisees, the religious elite, could not understand why Jesus went outside of his “group” and hung out with them, ate with them, valued them and cared about them. Jesus had no difficulty having natural and normal conversations with people very different than Himself, and actually people outside of His group wanted to be in His group because of the way He treated them. He was contagious to be around. Why aren’t followers of Christ today contagious to be around? There are certainly many reasons, including because we believe and state emphatically that Jesus Christ is the only way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

However, I think one of the biggest reasons Christians are not contagious to be around is because we can be harsh. We can be off-putting and sometimes just downright mean. Truth without grace and love can simply be mean. We must balance truth with grace and love. We must extend love. We must allow people to belong before they believe. We must allow them to be in our community before the Holy Spirit convicts and they are converted from their old life of sin and death to a new life of freedom and life.

This post can by no means deal with all of the varying viewpoints and all the theological, social, political, and relational intricacies of what it means to love the lost, but it is something we must do. We cannot hold the world to the behavioral standards of a Christ-follower because they are not Christ-followers. The only way to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20) is to go into the brokenness, go into the lostness, with the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Loving the world so much that we can’t help but proclaim with love and compassion the necessity of repentance of sin and belief in Jesus Christ, while at the same time journeying with them as they work to figure this out and understand the implications of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Let’s be the light and the salt, not the judgment. Let’s bring Christ with us wherever we go, living out our faith and changing the world around us as we are known for Who we are for rather than what we are against.

2 Life Lessons from a Teenager

This past Sunday afternoon we had a student leadership team meeting in our youth group. This team is working through the book “The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do,” which I referenced two weeks ago in a post about servant leadership. We are reading through and discussing the leadership implications in the book, and this week one particular image came up in the book. Mark Miller describes leadership like an iceberg, with skills being the part that people see (above the water), and who someone is at their core being the part that people can’t see (below the water).

As we talked about this imagery of the iceberg, a couple of our students brought up implications of what it means in our lives. This is something that impacts how we live on a day-to-day basis, not just someone in a position of leadership. The following two points were just too powerful not to share. And it’s even more impactful that they were pulled out by some of our teenagers.

1. There is much more beneath the surface than above

This was the first point. Who we are as individuals, at the core of our being, is more important than what we do. Yes, people may notice the things that we are good at, and people can be successful through skill and maybe even be a decent leader because of a particular skill. But, no one can become a truly great leader unless he or she is a person of character and integrity.

Wherever you are at today, make it a point to be genuine and full of integrity. Let what you say come from who you are. Don’t fall into the trap of the world, saying you are one thing when you are really another. We can find freedom in taking the mask off and living out of who we are, not who someone thinks we should be. Cultivate your character.

 

2. Icebergs are made up of fresh water, but they float around in salt water (i.e. they are different from their surroundings).

Wow, this one caught me off guard! Icebergs are fresh water floating in salt water… They are literally in something that they are not of. As a follower of Christ, we live in the world, but we are not of the world. This means that we go into the world that is dark and lost, and we bring the light of Jesus Christ with us. We look and talk and act different than the rest of the world that we are living in.

This is a tall task for us today, isn’t it? Our world is increasingly becoming less kind toward Christ-followers. There is a double-standard of acceptance and tolerance and judgmentalism. But the second thing we can do today is to live different than the world around us. We cannot stay separate from the world because we live in it, eat in it, work in it, go to school in it, etc. But imagine if we were to talk differently (with encouraging, kind, loving, truthful words), think differently (like how can we use certain situations to make much of Christ), understand and see things differently (like not seeing annoying or obnoxious people, but seeing people who need a Savior and loving them where they are). That is how I want to impact this world.

 

There is a two-fold challenge today for your Tuesday Encouragement:

  1. Cultivate your character and integrity (let who you are be more important than what you do or how well you do it)
  2. Act differently than the rest of the world, with actual kindness and generosity and love (act like Christ did when He walked on this earth).

These two things will go a long way to living out the Gospel so others can clearly see the way we live and give glory to God the Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16).

What’s the plan?

When it comes down to it, everything requires a plan doesn’t it? Today you woke up and you followed a plan. Whatever your morning routine, it’s usually a premeditated plan that you follow to get ready and out of the house on time. I have one too. From waking up, getting that first morning cup of coffee, eating breakfast, showering, brushing my teeth, getting dressed and ready for the day, packing my bag up, kissing my wife, and getting in my car to drive to work. That’s my fairly consistent daily plan for the morning.

The same is true when you get to work or school. There is a plan for the day. School is pretty straightforward: you go to your assigned classes, do the assigned reading and tasks, and follow the teacher’s plan. At work, often you follow the boss’s plan or the company’s plan for your particular job in the organization.

Action Plan - Man on Arrow Over WordsAction plans. There are everywhere we go every day. We do almost nothing without them. But something I’ve noticed in my life is that there is at least one particular place where action plans are not very welcome: CHANGE. When something needs to change in my life, and I know something needs to change, it usually takes too long to actually change. That’s because I don’t make a plan, because that plan will make me do something uncomfortable and the change will have to become all too real.

But really, we all have things that need to change, don’t we? We have bad habits, negative moods, poor reactions and attitudes at times. We believe something false, we get stuck in a routine or pattern. Nothing changes, nothing different really happens without a plan.

The Tuesday Challenge today is to identify one thing in your life, one bad habit, one bad attitude, one negative feeling, and change it. Don’t just wish it would go away, wish you didn’t feel that way, wish you didn’t keep giving in to something. Identify just one thing, and then make a plan to change it. Whatever it takes. Root it out. Get it out of your life. Make an action plan today so that your life tomorrow will be just a little bit better.

And then let me know how it goes! I would love to hear back about how this impacted you :)

 

The most impactful thing we can do today

Recently I started re-reading a book called The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do by Mark Miller. It is an excellent book, and a very easy read. I would encourage anyone to read it, whether you think you’re a leader or not! It is definitely worth your time.

Mark Miller writes in the book and shares a secret he has discovered about a great leader. The secret is really the most impactful thing you and I can do today: serve. Great leaders serve. That is the secret (*spoiler alert*).

But what does this mean? What does it look like? Really, when I think of serving, I can’t help but think of humility. It takes humility to serve other people. It takes humility to take the focus off of myself and see that people around me actually might need help and might need someone to serve them. It could be seeing someone that has their hands full and opening the door for them. It could be helping someone reach something on a top shelf in the grocery store. It could be picking up trash off the side of the street. It could be cleaning up some kind of mess even if it wasn’t you that made the mess. It could mean letting your brother or sister use something first. It could just mean taking the time to be quiet and listen to someone else talk for a little bit.

serveHowever it works out in your life today, the most impactful thing you can do is look at how you can be a servant to those around you. Whether you are a CEO or unemployed, you can live out this leadership principle and make someone else’s life just a little sweeter. People respond to kindness. You and I taking the time to serve people with humility may be the exact bridge God is trying to build so we can impact this world with the Gospel.

Go and serve. I will too. Share a story of what happens!

What is it about relationships?

Last week I wrote a post about how busy we all are. The post ended with a focus on relationships. But what is it that is so powerful about relationships? Why are they such a big deal? Why do we need them?

You and me, we are wired for connection. Far down in the depths of who you are and who I am, we desired connection with other people. We want to know and be known. Yes, it is scary to be vulnerable with other people, but there is also something so freeing when we are able to be our true selves around other people.

It’s so easy and so common to build walls. It’s almost just expected that we build walls between us and the people we work with, us and the people we hang out with, and even keep some walls up with your significant other or spouse.

Why? I think there is a strategic purpose behind this. We have a very real enemy who very seriously wants us to be disconnected. We have so many outlets for venting ourselves, so many things in our lives that give us an illusion of true connection with other people, yet so many of us are still empty and lonely because we do not genuinely open up and be vulnerable with the people around us.

We need good friends. We need to be a good friend. Life is too hard to do it alone, or to only do it with the people who are your Facebook “friends.” The Tuesday Challenge today is to begin building a genuine friendship. Call someone instead of texting or emailing, set a coffee date, and hang out for an hour or two just sharing your heart and then taking the time to listen. It’ll do something powerful in your life that you have to experience in order to really be able to understand.

Try it out. Let me know how it goes!