Perspective

Q. What did the snail say when he was sitting on the turtle’s back?

A. WHEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

Life is all about perspective.

Forgiveness: a lovely idea and then some

Let’s talk about forgiveness.

“Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” (C.S. Lewis)

It’s true that forgiveness is much easier in theory than in practice, but the failure to practice hurts all involved, including ourselves.

An unhealthy lifestyle

Some years ago a study was performed at Hope College in which volunteers were asked to remember wrongs they had experienced. In each case, the person’s blood pressure and heart rate increased, and muscle tension was shown to be higher.

Lack of forgiveness also leads to emotional strain. Physician Don Colbert says, “One of the secret causes of stress plaguing millions of people is unforgiveness.”

That’s why Nelson Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

The challenge for leaders

The Biblical directive is as simple as it is challenging: Forgive one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

To be effective in what we do, to maintain balance in our personal lives, leaders must learn to forgive. We’ll certainly get plenty of opportunities. When they come our way, we need to be prepared to forgive fast, forgive first, and forgive often.

What forgiveness can do

Frederick Beuchner summed up forgiveness with these words.

“When somebody you’ve wronged forgives you, you’re spared the dull and self-diminishing throb of a guilty conscience.

“When you forgive somebody who has wronged you, you’re spared the dismal corrosion of bitterness and wounded pride.

“For both parties, forgiveness means the freedom again to be at peace inside their own skin and to be glad in each other’s presence.”

A lovely idea, isn’t it?

Let’s take this lovely idea to the next level. Challenge yourself today to do the hard work of putting a past offense forever behind you, just as Christ has done for you.

The Law of the Harvest

Sowing Generously

We’re all familiar with the law of the harvest. You reap what you sow. We know that verse well; we can say it forwards and backwards.

And sometimes that’s the problem.

Sometimes we want to say it — and live it — backwards. We want permission to sow after we reap, not before. It’s revealed in our words and attitudes:

• I’ll get serious about generosity when I have more money.

• I’ll give 100% to my job when I have a job worth 100% of my effort.

• I’ll change when my spouse changes.

• I’ll start showing gratitude when my life gets better.

There’s no trick to side-stepping the process. The order never changes: you reap what you sow, after you sow.

Not too late to reap a different harvest.

If the harvest you’re experiencing today isn’t what you had in mind for your life, it’s not too late to change.

Paul was talking about money in today’s verse, but it applies to every area of our lives…

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” (2 Corinthians 9:16)

What if you decided today to sow generously everywhere you go?

What if you chose to pour yourself into your job, even now, while you consider yourself underpaid?

What if you chose to sow forgiveness for others, even if you’re pretty sure that you’re right and they’re wrong?

What if you chose to sow obedience, even before blessings come your way?

Can you imagine what might happen next?

“I don’t want my idea of God. I want God.” —C. S. Lewis

Jesus Plain and Simple

How the Apostle Paul described his style of preaching: I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did — Jesus crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2 The Message)

Preach Jesus front and center. Preach him above all else. Before you wander off into politics or pet peeves, talk first about Jesus.

Time to speak up

Time to Speak Up

(Following up on an idea from last week.)

There are times when it feels like God is speaking to you left and right: every Bible verse, every sermon, every conversation, every song is like it came straight from above. During these times, the best thing to do is keep quiet and let God speak. Your job is to listen. And take notes.

And then, there are those seasons when it seems that God has stopped speaking. Expectations get put on hold and inspiration is on short-supply. What should you do then?

When God seems silent, that’s the time for you to speak up.

Speak to the mountain.

“If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” (Mark 11:23)

The way you speak about your obstacles (and the way you speak to them) indicates how determined you are to confront them head on.

Speak to the people around you.

Give thanks to the LORD and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. (Psalm 105:1)

Instead of going on and on about the difficulty of waiting things out, let your conversations be full of grace. Keep talking about all that God has done for you. Tell others about his history of goodness in your life; it helps you avoid the “what have you done for me lately” attitude.

Speak to the Father again and again.

In addition to Paul’s admonition to give thanks for everything and to pray without ceasing, we have this word from Isaiah…

You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth. (Isaiah 62:6-7)

I love the phrase give him no rest. Have you ever had a child wear you out with repeated requests? I used to tell my kids to stop. God tells his children the opposite. He wants you to ask and ask and keep on asking.

God knows that it’s quiet in your life right now. He knows you’re tempted to give in to fear when answers don’t come easy. That’s why he invites you to keep calling on his name, to give him no rest until he establishes his work in your life.

When God seems silent, that’s your signal not to be.

Speak up. Speak his Word every chance you get. Speak it to the obstacles you face. Speak it to the people you meet. And every moment of the day, speak it to the Father who has promised to hear, and to act, on your behalf.

A satisfied life

Solomon said “…that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.” (Ecclesiastes 3:13)

Most pastors I know (and most people I know) could fall into this category — they could live a satisfied life —  if they would stop measuring their worth by someone else’s success.

When God Seems Silent

Jesus Over Rio

I live in a noisy, crowded city. More than 10,000 people live on my street, which is barely the length of a football field.

In spite of that, it gets quiet here sometimes, so quiet you can feel it.

When it happens it’s usually early in the morning, and it’s like I have the whole city to myself. I relish these moments when the entire population agrees to give me a few minutes alone.

Of course, it may feel like I’m alone — but I know that I’m not. I know it’s just a matter of time.

Soon there will be dogs barking and TVs blaring and horns honking. The construction crew across the street will plug in their jackhammers and this city will return to its normal volume.

It would be foolish to think on a quiet morning that everything has changed forever, and that the city will be silent from now on.

our seasons of silence

It’s the same in the life of every believer. We sometimes experience God’s silence. It’s a silence that you can feel. A silence that lasts longer than a moment, longer than a morning, sometimes it seems like longer than forever.

At such times I may feel all alone, but the truth is that I’m no more alone during these “seasons of silence” than I am in when the city slips into a lull. It’s just a matter of time.

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers reminds us that God’s silences are actually his answers, his way of telling us that there is more to be revealed, and more to come.

For example, in the days when Lazarus became sick and in the days after his death, when Jesus was nowhere to be found, I’m sure it seemed to Lazarus’ family and friends as if silence would never end.

But it was only a matter of time, wasn’t it? He was on his way. The silence was just the setup for what Jesus was about to do.

more than sand and samba.

This city is famous for many things, samba and sandy beaches among them.

It’s also famous for a statue called Christ the Redeemer, located on nearby Corcovado Mountain. For many it’s just one more tourist attraction to take in while you’re here, one more photo op for your Facebook page.

But every time I see it as I move around my neighborhood, it reminds me that he is here. When I can’t hear his voice or feel his presence, he is here. When God seems silent, I know that it means there is more to come.

Maybe it’s quiet where you are. Maybe you, too, can feel God’s silence. Keep in mind that God’s promise to Abraham is his promise to you and me, too.

“I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15)

It’s only a matter of time.

Advice on Preaching

FB MeyerIn the beginning of our ministry, our sermons are crowded with too many differing thoughts...we hurry from one subject to another, as the bee flits from flower to flower. At the close of our address our hearers may feel that it has all been very good, but they have no definite conception left with them, and they certainly do not feel compelled, as the Athenians were after hearing Demosthenes, “to go and fight Phillip.”

Everything that detracts from the main end in view should be carefully cut out; and the current thought should be kept within as narrow a channel as possible, that it may flow swiftly, and move the machinery along its banks.

This type of preaching makes heavier demands on careful preparation…every new paragraph has be to be weighed, and its place carefully considered…

— F.B. Meyer. Jottings and Hints for Lay Preachers.

Frederick Brotherton Meyer was a close friend and colleague of D.L. Moody. He pastored churches in New York and London, and was involved in inner-city ministry on both sides of the Atlantic. 

The difference between a rut and a routine

Difference between a rut and a routineOn a rugged highway somewhere in Alaska a warning sign says, “Choose your rut carefully. You’ll be in it for the next 50 miles.” Though I’m not fond of the word rut, this is actually good advice for life.

It would be better to say: “Choose your routine carefully. You’ll be tied to it for awhile. It determines what your future becomes, so make sure you’re comfortable with it.”

People often refer to the daily routine as if it’s a negative thing, as if it’s something you need to break in order to fully live. But what if your daily routine was designed in a way that could make your life everything you’ve dreamed it could be? Wouldn’t this be a routine worth living for?

King David said, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

Another way to say it: “Help us understand that life is short. What we do every day really matters.”

Our challenge is to organize our days in such a way — to create a daily routine that includes time for everything important. Stephen Covey said it this way: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

Look at today’s to-do list. It will take you either somewhere good, or nowhere good.

It depends on whether you’ve chosen a rut or a routine.

At the time, it seemed like the right decision…

DecisionsIn the fall of 2011, Netflix announced it would spin off its DVD division and give it a new name: Qwikster.The company was already in the process of losing almost a million subscribers due to a change in billing structure; the name change didn’t sit well with their customer base.

Analysts were unanimous in their opinion that the split was not a good idea, one calling it the dumbest move he’s seen a business make in a long time.

At this point, most companies would have stuck to their guns and bulldozed through the transition, determined to make the best of a bad decision.

Not Netflix.

Instead, less than a month after announcing their big Qwikster plans, they made another announcement: “Never mind.” They scrapped the entire idea and went back to the way things were.

Again the pundits howled: the management team have no idea what they’re doing; this could be the beginning of the end for Netflix.

Except it wasn’t.

In the three years since the Qwikster detour, Netflix has almost doubled their subscriber base and their earnings have gone through the roof. So much for those predicting their demise. And so much for those making jokes at their expense. At this point it appears that Netflix earned the last laugh.

It’s an idea worth trying.

Here’s why I like this story. When Netflix realized they made a mistake, they swallowed their pride, reversed their decision, and fixed the situation.

What a great principle to live by: Admit your mistakes and make them right — sooner better than later.

Errors are often embarrassing to acknowledge; our tendency typically is to keep pressing on, posturing as though the decision was right, pretending that square pegs really do fit in round holes.

Or we could learn a lesson from Netflix: Reverse the wrong decision and get back to the business of being successful.

While some decisions can’t be undone, most can. Wrong turns can be re-directed — if we’ll just take the steps. It usually involves some pride-swallowing and pie consuming (of the humble kind), but it’s worth it to be headed once again in the right direction.

We all make choices that have taken us off the right path, maybe even off the beaten path. At some time, everyone finds themselves facing situations that should be made right, that could be made right, and that would be made right with a simple change in direction.

And you? Are there any decisions you’ve made crying out to be reversed?

Let this be the week you make it happen.

“For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.” (Proverbs 24:16)

You’re half way there. So much potential lies ahead…

PotentialWe’ve reached the mid-way point in 2014. A half year behind us, a half year to go. Have you thought about what the remaining months can be?

Earl Nightengale noted that if you will spend one hour a day on the same subject for five years, you can become expert on that subject.

True, no doubt, but for now, forget about five years and an hour a day.

Think instead about the next six months, thirty minutes a day. Think about the potential that exists.

What headway could you make in one area of your life? Maybe attaining expert status is not realistic, but serious progress is.

• You could become conversationally proficient in a second language.

• You could learn to play the guitar; in six months you can reach the level of “decent.”

• You could walk 300+ miles.

• You could get in great physical shape.

• You could do a masters-level study of your favorite subject, such as church history.

• You could dig in-depth into one of the gospels or one of Paul’s letters, until you own it.

As one called to preach the good news, can you imagine how 30 minutes a day of focused effort could make a difference in your ability to communicate? What if, every day for the next 180 days, you devoted a half-hour to working on your craft? Can you imagine how the difference would be played out in the results you see?

The next 180 days will come and go, along with this 90 hour block of time. How will you invest it?

Some will watch 90 more hours of cat videos on youtube. Some will catch an additional 90 hours of zzzzs. Some will do whatever they feel like doing at the moment.

And you? If you’re willing to take the road less traveled, you can use these moments each day to move forward in the calling God has placed on your life. 

“The hands of the diligent will rule.” (Proverbs 12:24)