Unfortunately, I think that we introverts all grow up thinking of ourselves as being rather defective because of our introvert natures. We have looked at others who always seemed to be in a big crowd of people and wished that could be us. It just seemed like the right way to be. But it isn't us. Not anywhere close.
I tended to always have a small group of fairly close friends growing up. I wasn't a loner exactly but I was far from being a "big group" kind of person. Whenever one of those close friends moved away or perhaps graduated, I felt a deep sense of loss.
The last few years, though, I have discovered something different in Christian community. I have discovered relationships that naturally carry a level of trust and love which can take years to develop outside of that community.
I have found people who care about me and want to know about me ... and that breaks down my walls of "introverted-ness" and makes me want to know them as well.
It is all very different to me ... but very nice. I finally feel like maybe more than one or two close friends will show up at my funeral someday. (Am I the only person who sometimes thinks about what their funeral will be like?)
Anyway, in the midst of true, authentic Christian community, we can sweep aside all of the trappings of this world. We can care deeply about each other as individuals ... as fellow travelers ... rather than as materialistic beings comparing cars or houses or watches or kids.
Discovering Christian community, and changing one's heart to live genuinely in it, does not occur overnight I do not believe. It takes time to break out of the cast into which we have been molded as humans. But, when you're in the middle of fellow followers and you all share values that point you to what is truly important, you begin to appreciate and live out relationships with each other that are faith-deepening and soul-enriching.
In my case, I cannot change being an introvert ... but I can begin to appreciate other things and see the value of multiple relationships where I am safe.
But we cannot keep this hidden in Christian community ... we are called to carry out what we experience in fellowship with other believers ... and use the things we learn there to break down walls, to bring peace and understanding, and to forge lifelong relationships outside of our local churches as well.
Today I received an email from atgodstable.com which really brought together these thoughts I have been having about community and relationships.
I share it below:
Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
"Bear" – How long will it take before we truly understand that the New Testament authors thought in Hebrew but wrote in Greek? Let me tell you how long. It will take as much time as it takes to realize that the Greek world that underlies our culture seduces us into behaviors that not only do not work but are opposed to God’s point of view. No better example of this tragedy can be found than what happens when we expect this command to work in most churches.
Paul was as Hebrew as they come. As a student of one of the world’s greatest rabbis, he was considered a successor to the position of a teacher of the Torah. In addition, Paul was zealous for the faith. God took those admirable characteristics and used them for His purposes. But that does not mean that Paul lost his Jewish perspective. When Paul tells the newly-formed churches to bear one another’s burdens, he means something very Jewish. Faith is not to be found in my private, inward experience of God. It is to be found in the outward actions that demonstrate that I see the world with God’s eyes. In particular, faith is to be demonstrated by my care for my neighbor. I need to step up to carry take the load from his shoulders. How else can I fulfill the law of the Messiah – to love one another?
You’ve heard all this, I’m sure. But have you thought about what it implies? If I am going to lift the burden off your shoulders, and so fulfill the law of Christ, I must know what burdens you carry. This implies that you and I share our deepest struggles, concerns, hurts and worries. I cannot fulfill the law of Christ if I don’t know what kind of load you carry. I cannot lift you up (Greek bastazo) and support you if I don’t know the real you.
Suddenly, our Greek world is threatened. The Greek world emphasizes private religious experience. It is the world in my heart. It applauds the independent, self-reliant person. It mounts a façade that masks my struggling self. No wonder the very thought of telling you precisely the burdens that weigh me down is so frightening. I don’t want you to think that I am weak. I don’t want you to know that I struggle with secret sins, that I sometimes doubt God’s grace, or that I worry about my life. I want to look like I am in control. I want to be Greek.
The Hebrew view of the world is very different. In the Hebrew view, the struggles of life are part of the process of God’s grace in me. I am weak because all men are weak. I falter because every human heart falters. If I were the perfect person that I pretend to be, I would not need God and I would not need you. When Paul tells us to bear each other’s burdens, he is advocating a view of life as it is, filled with faults and frustrations.
Will it be easy to switch? Of course not. I will always be tempted to protect my ego. But it is essential to change my thinking. Without opening myself so that you see who I really am, I prevent you from fulfilling the law of Christ. Do you think God will forgive me when my ego got in the way of His plan to bring both of us into conformity with His Son? Are you ready to strip off the Greek mask and become Jewish? Start now. Who really knows you?
One is leading by authority. It tends to be very much based upon hierarchy.
The other is leading by serving.
In authority-based leadership, people perform usually out of fear. This creates an atmosphere where ultimately people do not trust their leader, nor do they trust each other. And, to boot, folks trapped in an authority-based organization who "get" what the other type of leadership is, will get very frustrated and eventually seek greener pastures.
In servant leadership, people perform because they see themselves as part of a team where folks are working together and where they are appreciated. I would almost go so far as to say that they perform out of gratitude but I think that team dynamics prevent it from being quite that simplistic.
Jesus didn't bring the Israelites what they were expecting in terms of a Messiah. Despite consistent ties back to the various prophecies, this guy wasn't the kind of authority-based ruler they expected.
Jesus came not to enslave people but to free us. He came with a consistent and strong voice but He also always showed His servant's heart. And people began following Him ... because He represented something different.
Today, disciples still follow Him by serving. The great commission remains -- to carry His name to all people everywhere -- but the best way we can do that is by setting an example of servanthood steeped in love.
Jesus' example sets the best lesson for any leaders in all organizations today as well.
When Jesus told His closest followers, "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19), He wasn't just talking about the one-time event of Salvation; He was referring to the life-long process of "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded" (Matthew 28:20). The process of discipleship begins prior to Salvation as we are taught the truth of the gospel message, and it continues as we are "conformed to the likeness of His Son" (Romans 8:29). The need for discipleship is made clear as Jesus explains the parable of the soils.
"The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop."
Praise God for those who are sowing seed! The Word of God will never be received if there are not those willing to sow into the lives of others. However, receiving the word, or even initial growth, is not Salvation! Receiving, and being initially excited about the Word, can occur without conviction and certainly without a change of heart. Without proper nourishment and protection - without some form of discipleship - the received word will die and never produce fruit.
Discipleship prepares the soil and leads those who receive the Word to a true understanding of words like, "Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Discipleship then helps our roots go deep and provides water for sustained growth; it teaches how to recognize and eliminate the thorns which choke and kill; it provides the necessary nutrients to produce a crop.
We must commit to being discipled through reading God's Word, seeking Him in prayer, receiving biblical teaching, and being in fellowship with other believers. We must also search for other young plants who are beginning to grow, and disciple them as they "come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4).
A true relationship with the Living and Holy God is not a one-time event or prayer, it's a lifetime commitment. Let's reach up to our Heavenly Father and reach out to those He places in our path. The world is searching and the precious life-giving seed is being sown. Let's nurture and encourage at every opportunity. The planted seed will only produce fruit and live to bring Him glory and honor as each of us commits to a life of discipleship.
Here they are: (Please share yours if you wish.)
1) Showing up for elementary school in my pajamas.
2) Being at elementary school but being unable to walk, having to instead drag myself around the halls.
3) It is Finals Week in college and I discover that I have to take a final exam in a class that I had forgotten about during the term and never showed up for except for the first class of the term.
So, where does that leave us with the early part of Chapter 12. Was it actually a prophesy of Jesus' birth ... and the change that brought to the world ... rather than a prophesy Armageddon?
God's Word, of course, is eternal. These same facts and conditions exist today.
Good Morning my Friends,
I flew out last evening to southern California for two days of meetings here in Redlands.
I arrived at my hotel in Redlands about 9:30. When I pulled into the parking spot a couple were sitting on the curb by a car a couple of spaces over and they looked pretty somber and weary. The woman looked like she had been crying for a very long time. They ended up riding in the elevator with me and another couple who had been evacuated from Arrowhead.
It turned out this couple from the parking lot had lost their house in Running Springs which is up the mountain and on the way to where we used to live. It was pretty sobering to listen just briefly to both couples stories. The other couple did know yet know about the fate of their house and this couple from the parking lot shared that they had lost everything.
It made me again think how easy it is to take things for granted. I don't think I will ever forget that women's look because as I saw her weariness the Lord reminded of the verse in Matthew 9:36, " And seeing the multitude, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd."
It does put things in perspective. "Calamity indeed does Clarify!"
So Let's Keep Walking with the Lord and remember not to be focused on ourselves because the days are truly short!
Last week when I finished my little speech at the alumni awards banquet and returned to the table where my family was sitting, Evan put up his hand to give me a high five. That was very cool. Totally inappropriate but very cool.
We all fall prey to it.
However, the life transformed in Christ knows better.
Travis Johnson has some great advice in this post on how to deal with gossip when others bring it to you.
A cover story in Fortune Magazine way back in 1990 said that customers really only want three things: service, service, service.
I don't think things have changed at all.
Harry Bullis, former chairman of General Mills, certainly understood this philosophy. He always told his sales force: "Forget about the sales you hope to make and concentrate on the service you want to render."
The moment someone's attention is centered on service to others, he said, they become more dynamic, more forceful and harder to resist. How can you resist someone who is trying to help you solve a problem?
Bullis said, "I tell our sales people that they should begin each morning with this thought: 'I want to help as many people as possible today,' instead of 'I want to make as many sales as possible today.'" Bullis said sales people who do this will find a more easy and open approach to their buyers, and they will make more sales.
He added, "The person who goes out to help people to a happier and easier way of life is exercising the highest type of salesmanship."
Greatness lies in helping somebody, not in trying to be somebody.
For years I have tried to live by this slogan: "The sale begins when the customer says yes." Anyone can sell a customer the first time. It's how that experience plays out that determines whether your customer comes back again and again. Unless you are selling a truly one-of-a-kind item, you have competition. And that competition is willing to go the extra mile if you are not.
Without a doubt, one of the qualities that make a good salesperson is a service mentality. Good salespeople have second sight: They can see things from the customers' point of view. They willingly go beyond their traditional job descriptions to be sure the job gets done on time—and done right.
These are the salespeople who come out with the delivery truck to see that an installation is handled properly. They personally take care of a customer's complaint or hound the factory until the order is filled to their exact specifications.
For good salespeople, it's a long-term proposition, not a one-night stand. They insist that things be done to the customer's satisfaction. They not only want their customers to come back, they want them to tell others, who may become customers themselves. Forget yourself for others, and others will not forget you.
My philosophy has always been this: Do what you are expected to do, and you will survive. Do more than you are expected to do, and you will thrive.
The late Napoleon Hill, one of this country's most respected motivational authors, wrote the classic, "Think and Grow Rich." He's known for his emphasis on service, and wrote: "By rendering more service and better service than that for which you are paid, you thereby take advantage of the Law of Increasing Returns through the operation of which you will eventually be paid, in one way or another, for far more service than you actually perform."
The results may not be immediate, but they will materialize. Keep rendering better service than everyone else, and your customers will take care of you.
Nothing is more important than customer service. No customer service, and pretty soon ... no business. If your product is worth what you are charging, your service is worth its weight in gold.
How many times has this happened to you? You call to talk with a salesperson and you're told, "The person you want to speak with is in a meeting. Would you like to leave a message?"
One of the best sales meetings I ever attended started out with this statement: "I'm the sales manager. We are here to discuss ways to improve our sales. If you'll notice, the door to the room is open. That is for two reasons. One, because I have left instructions to let anyone know immediately that if they get a call from a customer, I don't want the customer to wait a second longer than necessary. Two, the door is open so that if any of you are in the midst of a sale or can use the time we're spending here to be in contact with a customer, you are to get up and go. Now. In fact, I expect the people who are the better salespeople to walk out of here right this minute."
Half the room emptied.
Rule #1: The customer comes first.
Rule #2: Never forget rule #1.
"Think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the thingsthat are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected." (Philippians 4:8)
Change the thoughts, and you change the person. If today's thoughts are tomorrow's actions, what happens when we fill our minds with thoughts of God's love? Will standing beneath the downpour of his grace change the way we feel about others?
Paul says absolutely! It's not enough to keep the bad stuff out. We've got to let the good stuff in. It's not enough to keep not list of wrongs. We have to cultivate a list of blessings. "Think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected." Thinking conveys the idea of pondering -- studying and focusing, allowing what is viewed to have an impact on us.
Rather than store up the sour, store the sweet!
I was talking with some others from my church the other day, essentially about how to promote and encourage spiritual formation. I did not mean it to come out sounding like we're not doing good things already but I just keep going back to how "institutionalized" most church attendees are in regards to what it means to be a Christian, and how very very difficult it is to change that. We continue to make great strides at our church but it is hard to change things that have been bred into peoples' DNA over many generations. Goodness knows it's been hard to change me ... I talk only from the experience of "being there" (both in the past and at present!)
This post by McKnight, and apparently the book he is reviewing, seem to show that this whole situation truly is worsening with the generations ... we are becoming less and less likely to really understand what we, as Christ-followers, should be striving for in our lives.
Unfortunately, as we do this, it is juxtaposed against a pagan world that has certain thoughts of Christianity that are increasingly different from what we're putting forth, making us look more and more hypocritical all the time.
(That last paragraph was a tough one to figure out how to word ... it is I think a very interesting idea though ... I hope it came across as intended.)
I found your blog by googling “bibles for halloween”…I was just interested in knowing if anyone else ever gives them out.
I gave my life to the Lord 8 years ago, and one of the first questions that I dealt with was what to do on halloween night. I didn’t have children, and so I thought I’d just turn out the lights and go somewhere.
Well, God pierced my heart and led my husband and I to give out Bibles for halloween. We gave really nice ones, that were kid focused, and related to their different ages.
I expected the children to be bummed out that I didn’t have a candy bar for them…yet, we were both AMAZED at the overwhelming responses from the kids! One of the children who came lived in a million dollar home, and as he walked away from our door, he kept saying, “DAD! Look! They gave me MY VERY OWN BIBLE!”
We did it again the next year when we lived in another part of town, and that year children were knocking on our door saying, “Is THIS where I can get a Bible?!”.
That same year, a mother came to our door and asked me to step outside. She pointed to a huge group of kids standing in the middle of the street on halloween night, reading their new Bibles.
I disagree with the above poster. I don’t believe that our lives as followers of Christ are to be separated into “church at church” and all else as we please.
I have been humbled by what God has done through giving His Word to those who don’t have it.
We’ve seen 2 children come to Christ as a result, and won’t know until we get to Heaven one day what God did in the hearts of all of the others.
The Bibles we’ve given were the Adventure Bibles, and the Teen Study Bible.
Oh, yes…one year a teenage boy about 17 came by to ask for a Bible for his little brother. While he was at the door I asked him if he had a Bible of his own, and he said “no”. I then asked him if he’d like one, and he said, “oh, yes!”.
So, we took down his name and number, because we had run out of the Teen Study Bible and ended up getting him a nice Quest Study Bible in leather with his name on it.
When we dropped it off to his LARGE and BEAUTIFUL home, the young man had huge tears in his eyes. He said, “I can’t believe you did this for me.”
I responded, “It pales in comparison to what God did for my by sending Jesus to pay my sin debt. This isn’t from us, it’s from Him, and He wants you to know how very much He loves you.”
I say give them out. Pray hard and long and strong for each little soul that will come to your door.
You’ll be amazed by how thankful the children will be. The ones that have been MOST excited about them each time we have given them out, have been the pre-teen and teenage kids.
I can see how your posters above would think as they do, because I thought the same way…but was totally and completely surprised by the gratitude each time, and we’ve done it now 3 times.
Expect God to surprise you in a big way, because He promises that His Word will not return void.
If you want to share what happened, should you decide to give them out, please feel free to visit my blog and leave a comment…I’ll then send you my e-mail address.
Have a super day!
I thought that was extremely interesting but it falls right on the heels of my spending yesterday morning on the campus of Ohio State University along with about 100 other Gideons distributing Bibles.
This is the second year I have taken part in the OSU Bible distribution. Truth be told, it's the only thing I have ever done as a Gideon.
Both years, I have walked away amazed by the courtesy and friendliness of the students we encounter on campus. I would say that, overall, you give a Bible to about one out of every three students you approach. I was working at a bus stop yesterday with another Gideon and, together, we gave out about 260 Bibles in maybe four and a half hours. That would mean we talked to maybe about 800 students.
About another third of the students reply that they already have a Bible at home, or they have already gotten one from another Gideon that morning. Only about a third refuse the Bible without giving much reason.
I had probably a half dozen or so folks tell me they are of other faiths or atheists. Obviously, I am troubled by those encounters but I am also pleased that, at the very least, they are thinking about their spiritual side and trying to come to some decision.
I had one young man initially refuse the Bible but then go ahead and take one on second thought before running over to the trash can and tossing it in. This was at a busy moment at the bus stop. Other students were overheard to show shock at the "rudeness" (their word) of this young man's actions. Partly because of my surprise and lack and preparedness for this and partly because of things being so hectic at the moment, I had nothing to say in order to engage him in conversation.
A half hour later, I had all kinds of ideas for things I could have said ... I will be better prepared next year. I feel like I missed a real opportunity this year with him. I wish I would have said something like "I sense maybe you've had a bad experience with the church, is that true?" and seen where things went.
Next year I hope to be better prepared.
Yes, I expect to take part in the distribution next year. I hope the weather is warmer but, really, yesterday wasn't too bad.
Of the third of the students we approached who went ahead and accepted a Bible -- many of them seemed very appreciative. Some seemed to be taking it the way you give a few cents and accept a poppy in front of the post office -- so that no one will bother you again. A few could be seen reading their Bibles, leaving me again to wish that we were distributing something a little easier to read than NKJV.
Handing out Bibles is certainly not to my mind the best way to reach people but you can reach large numbers in a short period of time and I suspect that a few lives will be touched in ways that will bring them life eternal with Jesus ... and other lives were touched in ways of inspiration and encouragement for existing faith journeys. I do not know a final number yet but probably about 12,000 Bibles were given away at OSU yesterday.
It is not part of their faith necessarily but yet grace and forgiveness towards others are things that we all live out at least to some degree, aren't they?
I guess I am curious though -- skipping over other religions -- if you're an atheist and happen to stumble across this blog, what does the concept of "grace" mean to you? Where is its root? Is it natural to mankind? Is it put there by some innate morality? Is it something we have just picked up over the years? Is that really possible?
Would love to hear your thoughts!
Some people, on milestone posts such as this, will tell things about themselves that their readers may not know.
I am going to put a different spin on it ...
if you read my blog and there is anything at all you would like to know about me, just ask.
I will probably answer.
It got me to thinking ... in all seriousness ... do you know of any private organizations local to your area serving and helping the underprivileged which are not faith-based?
Just curious ...
They had a dinner last night where four people received awards. Each of us was asked to speak for a few minutes after receiving our award. I was sandwiched to speak in between Judson Laipply and J Denny Weaver. Judson received the Young Alumni Award. He is the Evolution of Dance guy who has been seen on YouTube by probably a hundred million or so people. Professionally, he is an inspirational comic and he is a very funny and natural speaker. J Denny Weaver was head of the religion department for many years at Bluffton and is quite revered by anyone who was involved with the college during his time there. So, sandwiched between those two, I started speaking by asking if my life could possibly be any worse at that moment!
Speaking after J Denny was an alumni who is about 95 years old but sharp and keen as all get out. I hope I am doing that well at 95!
Anyway, following are the words I chose to say last evening, complete with the really lame joke I opened with ...
A man was standing trial for stealing a can of peaches from the local grocer. The judge asked him why he had stolen them, to which he replied that he and his wife were without food and starving. The judge asked him how many peaches had been in the can. He answered six. The judge then sentenced him to six days in jail for stealing a can with six peaches. At this point, the defendant’s wife, who had been watching the trial, asked the judge if she could say something. “Yes, go ahead,” he said. And what did she then say? “He also stole a can of peas, your honor.”
As I think back on my years at Bluffton College, a lot of things come to mind. Professors who genuinely cared about their students. The establishment of lifelong friendships. Saying “hi” to everyone as you walked through campus. Class trips in really old vans. Going to the Shannon each week for dollar movie night. The hot water going off in my dorm and then sneaking into old Ropp to take a shower. Squirrels falling out of trees as I walked across campus. What’s that all about anyway? Have you all experienced that, too? I think it happened to me three times when I was here … I would be walking over in the trees by Musselman and a squirrel would come plummeting out of the sky, crashing to the ground. It always seemed pretty odd because squirrels are sort of designed for staying in trees, not falling out of them. I sometimes wondered if, even though the students at Bluffton weren’t drinking, maybe the squirrels were.
Anyway, as I try to get an overriding picture of those four years in my mind, the biggest thing I keep thinking about is that this is an institution that loves people more than it loves rules. Now, I know that may sound strange and it really doesn’t mean that chaos is rampant but it does mean that this college provides the world with a message about love and care for individuals that prevails over any rules that man might create.
Where else will you find a school that respects individuals enough to have an Honor Code under which students take tests without a professor or other proctor in the room? If that alone doesn’t show more of a love for individuals than it does for rules, I don’t know what does.
When you think about it, this love for people over rules was taught to us over 2000 years ago by a guy walking around in the middle east named Jesus. That’s a pretty good example for a college to model, wouldn’t you say? Think of some of the well-known examples of when Jesus showed His love for people far over His love for the rules.
One of the most obvious was his distaste for the Pharisees. They were all about rule-making but Jesus made it very clear that He was not “all about” their rules. “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees – you hypocrites …” Those were pretty strong words that He spoke at great risk yet He said them because He knew that the value of humans and relationships far outweighs the value of laws and rules.
And what about when the woman caught in adultery was brought before Him? Did he join in on the rules of the day and say, “Yeah, let’s stone her.” No, instead He showed her the utmost respect. He even averted his own eyes and attention away from her by kneeling to write in the sand before saying “Let the one of you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone….” Jesus didn’t join in on the rules. He cared more for people than He did rules.
And, of course, remember Jesus “working” on the Sabbath – performing miracles? That was against the rules yet He saw there was work to be done … lives to be touched … people to be healed … and, out of His love for people, He broke the rules.
I truly believe that Bluffton University is a place that models Jesus by loving people more than it loves the rules of man.
One of the first times I remember experiencing this was at the end of fall term my freshman year. I had been taking some classes that, for me, were very difficult. I was staying up late studying and getting up early for class. I guess that I just got worn out because I came down with mono and actually ended up going home and missing school the last week of the term which, of course, was finals week. One of the finals I missed was in Econ 101 taught by Sally Weaver Sommer. When I got back to school and went to her about taking my exam, she said, “Don’t worry about it. You’ve been through a lot … just get feeling better. You don’t need to take the exam.” Now, I am not certain … maybe that means that my degree technically isn’t valid. Afterall, she broke the rules. But what she really did was teach me something bigger … she showed me tolerance, love, respect, grace and mercy … she showed me a love for people that far outweighs a love for the rules. Her actions showed me that I was at a place that cared about people. And that meant a lot to me as a college freshman away from home for the first time.
And there were other times, too, that Bluffton showed me a love for people over rules. I wasn’t exactly a “radical” during my college years. In fact, I was the epitome of a button down collar Reagan Republican. Okay, maybe that did at times make me a bit of a radical here at Bluffton. In fact, I remember getting into quite a discourse in the college newspaper once over some political differences I had with a lot of the rest of campus. But I was allowed to state my opinions and it didn’t damage my relationships with others. Again, this campus showed a love for people that far outweighed a love for rules.
I also remember some stunts I pulled pertaining to a couple of classes I took … one of them was with one of the best profs I ever knew … Dale Dickey … I’m not going to go into details but these were stunts that I certainly would have corrected a student for but yet both these profs showed me grace and love … because they loved people more than they loved rules and they saw these events all as part of a maturing process that I had to go through.
Loving people more than loving rules. It sets a huge example.
This didn’t happen around here but I heard a story the other day about some folks who visited an upscale restaurant in the town where they live and one of them asked if they could have a fruit and cheese plate as an appetizer. They knew it was not on the menu but they thought it was something they’d had there before and they figured it would be no big deal. The waiter took their order but quite a bit of time passed before the cheese and fruit plate came to their table. And why do you think that was—it was because one of the cooks had to run out to an area store to buy the necessary cheese and fruit. They obviously loved people more than they loved rules. What a lesson that is to anyone in sales or customer service!
Think of this university turning out teachers and school administrators … do we want them to always be caught up in rules and regulations or do we want them to care more about the human side of things?
How about nurses and doctors … do we want them to love rules first or people first?
Think about pastors and other Christian leaders that this institution turns out. Do we want them more concerned with rules than with loving people? Probably not.
And, myself, as a business owner, I could be ruthless … I could fire a person every time they make a mistake but I know that would ultimately leave me with a distrustful and non productive team. And besides, it just isn’t me because it isn’t the way that Bluffton, and other influences in my life, shaped my DNA. So in my workplace I strive to love people more than I love rules.
Is it always easy? No, it is everything but easy. We live in a society that wants to stereotype people – stuff them into little boxes … create rules for them to live by … but Jesus calls us to something bigger. He calls us to tell all the nations … to carry His love for people – all people – out to the world. You can’t do that by always following the rules of man.
In my workplace, we mess up on occasion, sure, but I’d like to think that we break rules every day in order to deliver exemplary customer service. Sometimes policies, rules and guidelines have to be bent a little bit but you do what it takes when you love people more than you love rules. Several years ago, my company joined up with several of our competitors in the metal roofing manufacturing industry for the purpose of working together to create consumer interest in our products. Up until that time, it was unheard of for competitors in our industry to work together. We’d be at trade shows together and not even look at each other. Those were the rules of being competitors. But once those rules were broken, we discovered that we could accomplish more working with one another than against one another. We have proved that we love people more than we love rules.
You know, when I first heard that I was chosen for this award, I thought about refusing it. I am not a big “awards guy” and I really don’t feel anywhere close to being worthy of this. But then I realized that, alone, I cannot do anything and I am not worthy of anything. This award is not mine … it really belongs to this institution that helped shape me at a critical time of my life … it belongs to all of the profs who had an impact on me and on this institution … it belongs to my parents who always showed their love for me and made it possible for me to attend here … it belongs to my wife, Lisa, and our son, Evan, for all of their support, encouragement and love … and it belongs to good friends and co-workers who put up with me and join me in my recognition of people over rules. But, most of all, it belongs to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ because without Him … without His love for people that so outshadows any love for rules, I am nothing.
So, Bluffton University … I thank you for this award from the bottom of my heart but I also challenge you. In a world that seems to be falling apart at the seams, necessitating more rules and more regulations and more oversight all the time, don’t forget about people. In fact, throw out the rules when you need to and keep loving people more than you love rules.
I put in the earplugs for my iPod. I searched for something that would help me sleep. I tried some Andrea Boccelli. It didn’t help. I tried Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Still no sleep. Instead, they just seemed to get me more stirred up. So I gave up. I started listening to the Ramsey Lewis Trio. The first song on the album I was listening to was good but I didn’t care for the second one so I flipped to the third. It was a vocal and instrumental of one of my favorite songs – “Wade In The Water”.
I started listening intently on my iPod … “Wade in the water children … God’s going to trouble the water.” And then I looked out the window to my left. A huge and magnificent lightning show was taking place. It was an incredible storm with almost constant lightning. The pilot came over the loudspeaker and said that it could get bumpy.
“Wade in the water … God’s going to trouble the water.” As I listened, I noticed something incredible … the lightning and the music were in total sync with one another. Dramatic parts of the song brought on big strikes of lightning. More mellow parts of the song resulted in just a soft lighting of the ominous clouds off to my left. It was phenomenal. God was orchestrating it just for me. How often do you get treated to that, I thought to myself?
“Wade in the water … God’s going to trouble the water.”
It’s a song about freedom. Sung by the slaves, it offered a secret code that the way to freedom was to walk in the rivers and streams because dogs would not be able to track you there.
But the “troubled water” has additional meaning. Think about the paralytic waiting near the Sheep Gate in John 5. He was waiting for the water to bubble up – to be troubled, hoping to be carried to it as it bubbled so that he might obtain his freedom from paralysis. When Jesus heard this story, he gave the man his freedom … in more ways than one.
But what does that story mean to us today? What does it mean to be free in Christ?
Let's take a look at John 8:31-36. For context, realize that Jesus was trying to help the Jews of His day understand that truth was no longer to be reached through following rules and customs. The intersection of God and earth was no longer in the inner depths of the temple. In the future, you would come to the Father through the Son.
31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
33They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants[b] and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?"
34Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Slaves to sin … think about that …
We're all tainted ... tainted by humanity. Or maybe a better way to say it is that we're all dipped, soaked, and soggy in humanity.
For me, a big part of "freedom in Christ" is the realization that we all -- and by that I particularly mean "me" -- are tainted. Freedom in Christ allows me to see that we are all the same. We're all broken, we all make mistakes, we all have things in our past that haunt us, we all deal with "stuff" today as well. We're all the same. Dipped, soaked and soggy in humanity.
Freedom comes when we see our true state. When we see that God created us for perfection but humanity drags us far short of it. When we realize this, we can relate to our fellow man on common ground, realizing that we are all broken. We have all sinned and no sin is worse than any other. Admitting this brings a humility that invades, permeates, and propagates our love for others. And when we have that love for others, God calls us to step off the shore … to wade in the water.
But what happens when we wade in the water? We know that things sometimes can get a little rough. Think about Peter. Jesus didn’t appear right at the side of the boat and say “Here Petey-boy, grab my hand!” No, He was in the distance and He said “Walk to me.” Peter had to make the move … he had to go into the troubled water.
“Wade in the water” … there’s freedom in the water … the slaves and the paralytic knew that.
But at the same time “God’s going to trouble the water.” We may get our hands and feet a dirty. God often calls us into what we see as troubled water because that is where growth occurs. Wading in will bring our own spiritual growth and formation but also, by example, it can bring growth to those we serve and those who observe us.
Where is He calling you? Where is He calling your small group? Where is he calling your church? What is the troubled water He wants you to wade in? Is it a huge step or is it perhaps reaching out more to relatives and co-workers? What is it that scares you – that looks like troubled water? When God’s calling, I think we all know it. But the question is, will we follow?
“Wade in the water children…” Just do it. It’s His work and He’ll hold you.
I have been traveling way too much lately. It was nice to spend time with Lisa and Evan this weekend. Make that "great" instead of just "nice".
I sort of forget what my office looks like. I will find out in the morning. Curious but not particularly anxious. :-)
This is the first week in many that I do not have any overnight travel. That will be nice.
Evan is brilliant. He proves that to me more and more each day in his wisdom, insight, and humor.
Church was packed today. A good friend of mine led worship for the first time in a long time. He did a great job ... it was good to have him back.
I have been reading "Simply Christian" by NT Wright. Usually I read books pretty quickly ... am forced to take my time on this one. I am though anxious for when I complete it and get to write a review on it.
I should see the cover art for my book this week. Curious what the publisher came up with.
I have something going on late this week that is sort of embarrassing and I am very undeserving of it but it will be fun. More on that later in the week.
Spent a lot of time this weekend watering our yard and shrubs. This dry weather has made our yard into a potential mud pit this winter if we don't get some grass revitalized in it.
The school is having its annual Faith Banquet this week. It is typically a strong source of our annual funding. Please say a prayer for it (and donate if you wish!)
Our church is starting a weekly in-depth Bible teaching this week ... led by one of my favorite people ... unfortunately we will miss it this week due to another commitment.
Next Sunday evening our church is taking a look at Islam. I hope I can make it.
Lisa is awesome. She is training on her new job at the school. I am, as always, so proud of her.
I have been trying to find a new pair of shoes but cannot find anything I like so I got a pair of "gel" inserts for my old shoes instead. So I expect to walk around tomorrow with a stupid grin on my face telling everyone that "I'm gelling."
What new Nickelodeon character can we all relate to when we don't feel well?
I can't heeeaarrr you!
I must admit ... I am not familiar with the guy who was my number one match ... Duncan Hunter. I sort of like his name though ... sounds like a man always in search of a birthday cake. (Think about it.)
It was also notable, though, who my next to last match was. Hillary Clinton. Sorry, babe.
My friend (his name was also Todd) and I were doing our usual recess thing. Not much. Sort of walking around talking and exploring a bit. But then Mrs. Swailes, our teacher, approached us to ask us something. She pointed to the swing set. Generally, our class had gotten too old for the swing set. No one played on it anymore. Well, almost no one.
We immediately knew what, or rather "who," Mrs. Swailes was pointing at. The one lonely girl who would play on the swing set by herself each recess. She had her body sort of flopped face-down over it, the flexible seat holding her abdomen. Her feet were dragging in the dust and her face was looking at the ground as she slowly, almost morosely swung ever-so-slightly back and forth, back and forth.
Her name was Belinda O'Reilly. I really didn't know her story. I don't think that anyone did. Fact is, there was a reason that we didn't want to know her story. But then Mrs. Swailes said what I knew was coming -- "Why don't you boys go over and play with Belinda? She looks so sad and lonely."
I am sure that Todd and I were thinking the same thing. "Why us? We don't want to go play with her!"
Almost immediately, though, we were saved. One of the teachers blew the whistle which meant that recess was over. While most kids didn't like the end of recess, this day at least Todd and I appreciated it greatly. We were able to get out of this conversation with Mrs. Swailes ... and we didn't have to go play with Belinda.
As I mentioned earlier, there was a reason that no one really wanted to know Belinda's story. She was a nose picker. At almost any time during class, you could see her picking her nose and, well, eating her boogers. I had seen her do this ... we all had seen her do this.
And Belinda didn't "look" quite like the rest of us. She didn't dress as nice. Her clothes looked like they must have been hand-me-downs and they didn't always seem as clean nor as neatly ironed as the rest of the class's clothes. She was a below average student, didn't really participate in anything and, if you ever did hear her speak, you couldn't help but notice a sort of lispy impediment.
I went home from school that night wondering how things would go tomorrow at recess. Was the teacher going to bother us again about playing with Belinda? Fortunately, we had been saved by the whistle that day but what would tomorrow bring? Why had Mrs. Swailes asked us? Why, we were even still at the age where boys and girls didn't play together much. Didn't she know that? Playing with a girl bothered me as much as anything about Mrs. Swailes' suggestion. But had Mrs. Swailes seen something inside of Todd and me that made her think we would be good at reaching out to Belinda ... at perhaps even changing this sad girl's life? I didn't know.
Today, I no longer remember exactly what happened at recess that next day. But I do know this. Todd and I never played with Belinda. Not the next day nor the day after that nor the day after that. Not ever.
When I look at my son, I wonder if kids still behave the same way we did back then. Are certain kids still completely ostracized because they just don't quite "look" or "act" like the rest of us? I suppose that, overall, things have not changed much but, sometimes, I see glimmers of hope that kids are more tolerant, more accepting, even more loving than we were 35 years ago.
And then I look at my adult colleagues. How often do we still set out to not only ignore but sometimes even damage other adults because we don't like them, or because we don't understand them? In reality, it is usually because we don't take the time to understand them. We never take the time to understand their stories ... stories that could take us from dislike or even hate to acceptance or even love. But we don't want to do that. Apathy is easier than action. Hatred is easier than love.
Worst case ... wars are started this way. Best case ... we miss out on opportunities for life-enriching relationships.
I am hopeful that, today somewhere on a fifth grade playground, there are kids -- even boys -- reaching out to the Belinda O'Reillys of the world. I am hopeful that the future will be brighter.
But yet I also know that, if that is going to be ... if it is going to really take root ... then it must be modeled by me and my contemporaries.
He seems to miss the fact that, when Jesus came, He met those OT prophecies and ushered in a new Kingdom but anyway ... here is what really struck me from the story ...
One of his comments was that the experience changed his life BUT, as he said, "I'm no Ghandi or Angelina Jolie."
To which I could only say, "Huh?"
I do always marvel at the architecture and detail of the hotels out here.
My most recent trip brought me to Mandalay Bay for the first time. They have a long hallway leading to their convention center that is lighted by huge custom chandeliers. My building products expertise tells me these are probably, at minimum, $35,000 each and there were a whole bunch of them.
I know as well as anyone that you have to spend money to make money and that making money helps stimulate economic growth ... but ...
I also thought of the several non-profits I work with ... the money represented by just a couple of those chandeliers would have a MAJOR IMPACT on the ministry activities of those groups.
A few years ago, "minimalism" was the fad in architecture and design. That may still be the case some places but definitely not in Vegas.
It would be an interesting trend, though, if it freed up funds that could be used for the least of us.
I came up here [to his hermitage] from the monastery last night, sloshing through the cornfield, said Vespers, and put some oatmeal on the Coleman stove for supper. It boiled over while I was listening to the rain and toasting a piece of bread at the log fire. The night became very dark. The rain surrounded the whole cabin with its enormous virginal myth, a whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence, of rumor. Think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out the places where men have stripped the hillside! What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forest, at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges, and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!
Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts." Psalm 139:23
Try Me – “bekhaneni,” says the Psalmist. The verbal root (bakhan) is direct, powerful and compelling. Put me to the test. Prove me. Throw me in the crucible of life’s fire and see if I emerge refined and pure. If you thought asking God to perform heart surgery was insane, just imagine what is implied in this!
Let me tell you a secret. The measure of God’s trust in you is determined by the amount of trials and hardships He allows you to bear for His glory. God knows exactly how much we can take before we break. God is not interested in crushing us. He is interested in providing us with just the right amount of testing so that we can emerge victorious, glorifying Him. He doesn’t need to see how much we can handle on our own. That is never His plan. He wants us to learn the exact measure of our total dependence. We’ll need to know this when we assume our roles in His eternal plan. Now is the time to find out just how much we can’t handle.
God promises never to give you more than is essential for your perfect growth. He promises to always provide an exit door leading straight to Him. But remember, no pain – no gain. Stop praying to be removed from trials and heartaches. Don’t you know that they are precisely what is needed for your painful growth? Stop asking God for the easy path. Don’t you realize that if He grants your request He will have to shelter you from all you needed to become like Him? Why are you so intent on finding a way out when you should be pleading for God to give you a way in – into the via Delarosa – the way of the cross? Your perfection cannot be accomplished until the nails are driven home.
Did Jesus plead to avoid the hard way? Did He beg God to give Him peace and tranquility? Not a chance. He knew that the pathway of obedience was bloody.
When you’re ready (or, maybe, when you feel the least ready), say this – bekhaneni. Try me! Ask God to bring it on. Tell Him you want to be all that He wants you to be. Give Him the green light for proving your worth. He honors that kind of prayer. In fact, nothing pleases Him more. What is devoted to destruction is sacred in His sight.
I have been thinking a lot about the phrase "freedom in Christ". I have done a little web searching to see what that phrase means to other people and I have found that we, as Christians, are all over the map in terms of what we think it means. No wonder pre-Christians looks at us and decide that we are a confused lot!
For me, I think a big part of "freedom in Christ" has been exactly what I opened this post with -- the realization that we all -- and by that I particularly mean "me" -- are tainted. My freedom in Christ allowed me to see that we are all the same. We're all broken, we all make mistakes, we all have things in our past that haunt us, we all deal with "stuff" today as well. We're all the same. Dipped, soaked and soggy in humanity.
This realization has set me free in how I think about and, hopefully, how I approach others. Don't get me wrong, freedom doesn't come in one fell swoop ... it is a never-ending process. But I hope I am progressing.
This freedom involves looking at all others as our equals ... knowing we are on the same footing in terms of our brokenness and humanity. It encourages a reaching out to others for relationships that are on even ground. It brings humility that hopefully invades, permeates, and propagates our love for others.
I can still, sometimes even with great frequency, lapse into putting myself above others ... tearing them down in order to raise myself up. What a weak and pathetic existence that is, though. It is a life full of comparison and full of dependency on others for our own self-worth.
Freedom comes when we see our true state. When we see that God created us for perfection but that humanity drags us far short of perfection. When we realize this, we can relate to our fellow man on common ground, realizing that we are all broken. We have all sinned and no sin is worse than any other. It is sin regardless of how our human nature wants us to rank it.
Tainted. Dipped, soaked, and soggy in humanity. That is what we are. But in the realization of that fact, there is great freedom.
I pray that I not only realize it but that I live it out.
I put in the earplugs for my iPod. What to listen to? I tried some opera and some Beethoven but even they didn’t help me sleep … they just seemed to get me more stirred up. So I started listening to the Ramsey Lewis Trio. The first song was good but I didn’t care for the second so I flipped to the third … vocal and instrumental on one of my favorite songs – “Wade In The Water”. I like the melody and rhythm of this song. It also makes me think of a junior high friend I had by the name of Wade. Needless to say, he got some ribbing about this song.
I started listening intently on my iPod … “Wade in the water children … God’s going to trouble the water.” Wow. What is that all about anyway? And then I looked out the window to my left. A huge and magnificent lightning show was taking place. It was an incredible storm with almost constant lightning. The pilot came over the loudspeaker and said that it could get bumpy. I thought about a plane I was flying in once that got hit by lightning. And another time when a building I was in got hit. But I wasn’t afraid.
“Wade in the water … God’s going to trouble the water.” I noticed something incredible … the lightning and the music were almost in total sync with one another. Dramatic parts of the song brought on big strikes of lightning. More mellow parts of the song resulted in just a soft lighting of the ominous clouds off to my left. It was phenomenal. Like God’s orchestration just for me. How often do you get treated to that?
“Wade in the water … God’s going to trouble the water.”
What does the song mean anyway? I knew it was a black spiritual but I really didn’t know much about its derivation so I thought about it …
In our lives, growth doesn’t come without some form of “trouble”. Maybe it’s our own spiritual or intellectual growth or maybe our “trouble” is for the benefit of someone around us so they can see it and see our reaction and learn and grow themselves. But, even though we may not like it, growth requires “trouble”. Maybe the “trouble” is just what we must do in order to show Jesus’ love to others.
God calls us to step off the shore … to wade in the water. Things may indeed get a little rough but, if we play it safe and stay on the shore, nothing happens. (Except we may get sand in our shorts and that could cause a chafing that sends us into the water!)
Jesus was a rule breaker. Think about it. No better example of someone who did not play it safe. Healing on Sundays, showing love and compassion to whores … none of that was “safe” but He waded into the troubled waters because He knew that there were greater things than His comfort to be accomplished.
Think about Peter. Jesus didn’t appear right at the side of the boat and say “Here Petey-boy, grab my hand!” No, He was in the distance and He said “Walk to me.” Peter had to make the move … he had to wade into the troubled water. And even then, we all know what happened when he started to take his eye off the one who called him.
“Wade in the water … God’s going to trouble the water.”
Life isn’t easy … sometimes folks think that it should all be roses and daisies when you accept Christ. Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. Growth occurs in the troubled waters. It may be our growth or the growth of an observer but troubled the waters must be.
Where is He calling you? Where is He calling your small group or your church? What is that troubled water He wants you to wade in? It may seem like a very spiritual calling or it may not but, when He’s calling, you’ll know it and rest assured, the waters will get troubled but it is for good reason.
“Wade in the water children…” Just do it. It’s His work and He’ll hold you.
The phrase "freedom in Christ" gets bandied about a lot by church folk. I have used it myself. What, though, does that phrase mean to you? And what do you think that phrase says to a "pre-Christian"? Is there not a bondage in / to Christ also? Does that cast any shadow over the phrase "freedom in Christ" for you?
This week, they are showing "The Ultimate Gift" as their movie. So, the sign out front reads:
"The Ultimate Gift"
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:3-12, NIV)
Having grown up near the Galilee area where these words were spoken by Jesus Christ, Elisa Chacour has been followed by these words all his life. And, if his book Blood Brothers is any indication, he has strived to live out those words ever since he was a very young boy.
I recently read Blood Brothers. I bought it a couple of years ago on impulse from the WalMart checkout line. As I have mentioned, increasingly I find myself drawn to stories from eastern Europe and the middle east. Stories that naturally then draw one into seeing similar situations arising in other parts of the world, Myanmar being only the most recent.
Elias Chacour is a Palestinian Christian. Carrying that label had to have been confusing for the world and conflicting for himself but he has borne that label and lived it out well.
His family's peaceful life was violently uprooted in 1947 - 1948 with the establishment of the current state of Israel. They were relocated and all they had was taken from them, later put in a position of having to work the land they had once owned. Elias himself even as a young boy was suspected of being a terrorist and beaten in front of his family.
This book bears out the truths of how wealth and power corrupt. Without those things, individuals and societies can operate on the basis of principles but wealth and power bring greed and greed brings fear ... and our humanity drags us down further and further.
Blood Brothers is a great read ... the story of a man whose life is still devoted to education and bringing peace between Israelis and Palestinians.