Episode 22, The AWP: Theology-What’s Your Knowledge of God?

Episode 22, The AWP: Theology-What’s Your Knowledge of God?

What you believe (or don’t believe) about God says a lot about the quality and direction of your life.

It also has some pretty outstanding eternal consequences.

My main preoccupation here as I interview Dr. Vance Gardner-Doctor of surgery, clinical studies and of course, Theology-is to get at the question of why people have left the church.

But I start from one major premise and that is this:

Every human being on this planet is born with a sense of the divine. This sense is instilled form within (our biological DNA) and without (the natural world around us).

So from this position, the question becomes really interesting: why don’t you believe in the God of the Bible or his local Church?

Here is the link to the show:

MP3

iTunes

Are you suppressing the innate knowledge of God within and around you?

Why or why not?

Because you find the Bible offensive?

Because you find the example of so-called Christians detestable?

Or maybe because you have been personally hurt by the Church or someone who bears the name of Jesus…

As you can see this topic is transcendent as well as deeply personal!

References:
-Disappearing Church by Mark Sayers
-This Cultural Moment podcast by John Mark Comer
-Deuteronomy 30:11
-Romans 1

Episode 10, The AWP: The Language and Led Blanket of Love

Episode 10, The AWP: The Language and Led Blanket of Love

Featuring Special Guest Eric Markle: father, friend and fellow church leader.

Early last year I talked about the rare and unlikely event of having a very tranquil experience in the dentist chair…

I know, like I said, rare and unlikely.

But I wrote about one particular aspect of which: the moment that big, heavy, led blanket is laid across your chest and hips prior to x-rays of course.

So there is our metaphor for God’s love in fact.

God’s love is like a led blanket in at least 3 ways:

  1. It is the only place you will find real and lasting protection
  2. It must be made available to every single person and deserving of every single person
  3. It is used indiscriminately, even with an arch-enemy

Please have a listen!

Here is the MP3

Here is the iTunes link

References:
Gary Chapman book “The Five Love Languages”

1. There is no protection like the Led Blanket of Love
2. You are worthy of a love like the Led Blanket can offer
3. Led blanket love is enemy love

Bonus:
-in all things, choose love
-optimize love by loving others according to how they best receive and experience love

Application:
Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman
1. Gift Giving
2. Quality Time
3. Word of Affirmation
4. Acts of Service
5. Physical Touch

What are some examples, in your daily walk with God, of how he shows His love to you?
What is your strategy with your spouse, to express the ethic of love?
What is your strategy with your children, to express the ethic of love?

Episode 8, The AWP: Two Things you Must Tell Your Leaders every Week (Vision & Affirmation)

Episode 8, The AWP: Two Things you Must Tell Your Leaders every Week (Vision & Affirmation)

Another really personal topic for me this month: leadership identity.

The truth is: in the constant swirl of self-doubt, negative self-talk and overall mental negativity bias, we all need to hear the following words early and often:

Who you are as a leader is worth multiplying.

Fresh & passionate leadership lies at the intersection of consistent vision and identity affirmation.

If you have even one person in your life who counts on you, a child, a friend, a co-worker or mentee, then you are a leader. You have tremendous influence. And the “stuff” that’s inside you-all the character and competency and heart and faith-is worth multiplying in the next generation of leaders.

I hope you are encouraged by this month end post.

As always you can have a listen using the following two platforms:

MP3 file

Or

iTunes

Here are some application questions and links for further support:

Application Questions:

1, Who is one person you may have overlooked calling out the best in?

2, What is one thing you can do to begin building the habit of offering consistent vision & affirmation for your people?

Are You a Leader that People Love to Follow?

Are You a Leader that People Love to Follow?

I have exciting things coming in 2018 that I can’t wait to tell you about but for now let me leave you with this question…

Are you a leader people love to follow?

As 2017 comes to a close, we all find ourselves at the wonderful intersection of looking back and looking forward.

(Don’t miss that part by the way-looking back. There’s learnings and lessons and all the good with the bad; you’d be a fool if you didn’t devote a serious portion of your thought life and let all of that inform you goals, hopes and dreams for 2018).

As you look back and look ahead, I want you to ask that question and I’ll be doing the same.

To get you started, I want to give you a surprisingly beautiful picture of why, of all the questions, this should be the question for you in 2018.

And I want us all to be reminded of our legacies in this picture. That’s what the end and beginning of each year builds anyway-our lifelong legacies.

It happened early this month watching (for the first time) the mid-century classic White Christmas with the wife and kids.

There’s this opening scene on the front lines of WWII and if you know anything about the film, of course, the guys break out in song.

It is the content of this one old Hollywood musical classic that is haunting me… and it goes like this:

We’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go

Long as he wants to go opposite to the foe

We’ll stay with the old man wherever he wants to stay

Long as he stays away from the battle’s fray

Because we love him, we love him

Especially when he keeps us on the ball

And we’ll tell the kiddies we answered duty’s call

With the grandest son of a soldier of them all

I mean part of it is a satire because they only wanna follow him so long as he steers clear of any danger, and yet we all know that part’s not the picture of real life-hence the satire.

Real life is a battle; you’ll face foes both spiritual and natural-this was true in 2017 like it’ll be true in 2018. The defining moment for every leader is the repeated facing of decisions through conflict. Those who fought in WWII and any conflict since then would assuredly attest to this.

So if you can take the satire for what it is, then it’s: “We love him… we’ll follow him wherever he goes…”

That’s influence you cannot buy.
That’s a leadership built on love.
That’s a legacy of fear-no-evil followership.

The romantic side of me loves the military allusion and respects the character required to attain the rank of General (who this song is devoted to).

The Jesus-follower in me understands the fundamental difference between leadership by power, force, merit, rank or even pay and leadership by humility, compassion and peace-brokering martyrdom.

Which one inspires you more? Which one would you give your life for?

You think the disciples felt that way about Jesus? I bet you they did. Every last one of them followed him all the way to their own gruesome deaths. All for the leader they loved.

Can and will your people say the same? Your kids… your staff… your team… your employees… your church?

Man I sure hope so.

And because I know I’m not there yet, I want to be willing to have the passion, grit and discipline to do the things necessary to get there… starting today, tomorrow and 2018.

What are some of your hopes for 2018?

Viva Las Vegas? What Jesus Says in the Midst of Tragedy, Chaos and Pain

Viva Las Vegas? What Jesus Says in the Midst of Tragedy, Chaos and Pain

This morning in my Bible time, I feel that God spoke to me… (and I was moved to blog about it… naturally).

This morning I was in Matthew 14, which is a chapter most noted for 3 pretty sizeable events: the death of John the Baptist, Jesus Feeding the 5,000 and Jesus walking on water.

At first, I caught myself thinking: man this is a weighty chapter for Jesus and very clearly you see him-every other paragraph-trying to steal away… to be alone, still and quiet. When you read the Gospels carefully, you’ll see this remarkable trait of Jesus’ and it’s our first marker for what I want to talk about today.

You see Jesus was in anguish… I mean just generally speaking he was-think about it: the weight of the world on your shoulders-literally to carry the burden of every human being’s brokenness all around you… painful, unimaginable. This is, perhaps, one reason why he was in constant pursuit of alone time with the Father.

But then when we find him in chapter 14 he’s also in a degree of specific anguish I imagine. In the preceding chapter he’s coming home and I’m just amazed how quickly the scene changes here in verse 57…

54 He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” 55 Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. 56 All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” 57 And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

And even though he goes on in the rest of that last verse saying, ‘yeah well typical… a prophet is never well-received in his home town’ as if he had already anticipated their response (duh, he’s Jesus), but still: these are his people, his hometown, his neighborhood, his original community. And please don’t underrate the community ties of 1st century Palestine… they did not have the same universally accepted norms of individuality.

So he’s coming off of that slap in the face and goes right into hearing the news of the mortifying death of his dear friend, cousin and, in his words, (Matthew 11:11) the most enviable man who ever lived.

That happens, he tries once again to get some solace and yet people find him, track him down, follow him and even here (in feeding the 5,000) he’s very moved (in anguish) for these people-and no, not just because they’re hungry, but I would venture that he was ‘moved with compassion’ for their spiritual hunger… they were ‘sheep without a shepherd.’

It’s what happens next that interests me the most as a teachable moment for what we are going through in our country and our world RIGHT NOW…

The disciples are caught in a storm and here’s what happens…

24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

And here’s the radical perplexity of a life oriented toward Jesus and Kingdom-living:

Yes, even in tragedy, even in tremendous loss and sorrow, even in unimaginable pain-these may all be used as an invitation to experience the real and living God.

So when it may seem callous and untimely to suggest, ‘yes all things do happen for a reason’ it is nonetheless the truth of what we believe, the hope of what we live for:

that all things may be redeemed
that all things can be used for good
that all things are a means for showing us and growing us in something

So here is what I want to say:

For you out there where it’s 3 am and the waves are pounding in depression and anxiety…
For you out there where it’s 3 am and the waves are pounding in your marriage or parenting…
For you out there where it’s 3 am and the waves are pounding feeling isolation, lonliness or rejection…
For you out there where it’s 3 am and the waves are pounding in sickness and death…

For any of these, Jesus is very present, very real and he bids you come…

To the person who says, ‘keep your prayers’ HE says YES COME
To the person who says, ‘why does God let this happen’ HE says YES COME
To the person who says, ‘why God, how God, Where’s God’ HE says YES COME

I’ll leave you with one more proof for this as God’s operation in the world.

There’s a wonderful passage from Jeremiah 29. Jeremiah-God’s messenger-brings a word from the Lord to his chosen people-the Jews-who are in captivity (again, 3 a.m., darkest hour) and while there’s a hugely popular part of the passage in verse 11 (for I know the plans I have for you says the Lord…), what I love is what comes next in verse 13: “if you search for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”

Do me a favor and repost/share this with anyone in you life who may be struggling in this way and if someone reaches out-good, bad or otherwise-send them a direct message, setup a phone call or coffee date and really lean into it with them… it’s worth it and it might just change a life.

A Microblog about What’s Wrong in Our Country Right Now

A Microblog about What’s Wrong in Our Country Right Now

Are you ready? Here we go: 

  1. We are possessed with listening to respond rather than listening to understand 
  2. We fundamentally cannot agreee to disagree well. Not only that; when we come upon a differing view we must demonize that person (or group behind that claim) by making them morally reprehensible 
  3. (Bonus point) we all just need a little more Jesus…

I’ll expound only on this last one then make prescriptions (cause diagnosing problems/making declarative statements about “what’s wrong” is damn folly without actually prescribing potential solutions… as Ghandi said, “BE the change you wish to see.”)

So I’m sorry for playing into the really old church joke (the answers always “Jesus!”), but I’m afraid it’s just plain true.

In other words, I believe placing Christ at the center of each and every area of our lives in greater and greater proportion is the very essence of the Christian faith. 

So yes, a little more Jesus; 1% more Jesus each day might do us all very well…

At the risk of being redundant, I make this claim because Jesus is the literal complete manifestation of perfect: truth, love, peace, hope, grace, mercy, strength, justice, goodness and life that ever was. 

He is life giving; his words and his life (as preserved historically in the Gospels). 

Our national dialogue is not very life giving right now. 

So do yourself a favor and invite some life into your… life.

That’s prescription #1.

#2 is this: practice.

When you come upon someone, in person or in community or online who has a different view than yours: practice just actually hearing them… 

Ask questions-not in order to load up rebuttals-but rather to fully hear and understand. 

And keep asking questions until you get to a part of them that’s so personal and vulnerable that you begin to see their humanity.

When you run out of questions, just sit quietly until you think of more. 

And then thank them and walk away… 

What you do next is critical:

Think about what you heard-compare it to the origins, factual accuracy, logical consistency and existential reality of your worldview and move forward. 

This, I think, may present us with a better way to live…

10 Questions From one of My Favorite Former Blind Persons

10 Questions From one of My Favorite Former Blind Persons

Just in the last 48 hours alone, odds are you’ve had loss of story, loss of identity, loss of point, purpose, direction or destiny.

We all have these momentary lapses of direction and belief. What I read in John chapter 9 about the blind man who stood up and spoke truth to power gives me hope and encouragement for each new day of crisis.

John 9: 1 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 2 “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”

3 “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered.

6 Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. 7 He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!

13 Then they took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, 14 because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him. 15 The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!”

A big back and forth between the man and the pharisees (Jewish church elitists); they even bring his parents in to testify. Then it gets REALLY interesting…

24 So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.”

25 “I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”

26 “But what did he do?” they asked. “How did he heal you?”

27 “Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

28 Then they cursed him and said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses! 29 We know God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where this man comes from.”

30 “Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from? 31 We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. 32 Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it.”

Here are some considerations for you that I think are power applicable (PA) to your life…

The rest of v. 3 says, “This happened so that the power of God could be seen”… where in your life is God trying to show the world how real he is, what evidence can you find of his work in your life?

Wash yourself in the pool of Siloam (the sending pool)… the thing, the material, the vehicle that corrects and heals, also sends… What is it in your life that God is trying to use to show, teach, reveal, correct in you but you possibly can’t even see that it’s a means of catapulting you into what’s next? v. 7

Recount how people just didn’t believe that this healed man was the same person… it’s a reminder that there will be people who mistake your identity but you declare it still. v. 8, 9

Your identity is closely tied to your story… stick to the facts and know your story, the truth of God’s work in your life is plain as day… how have you attempted to alter the narrative? v. 25

In the end do not give up hope, it is just a fact that some people will remain blind-never to catch the vision, your vision, God’s vision v. 27

How do you know if a thing is genuine and true? Test where it comes from. Jesus is from the Father, he does the Father’s work, that’s how you know he’s from the Father. Can you say the same thing about your so-called Christianity? The actual, tangible material of your life-does it reflect the One who saved and sent you? v. 32

Notice something and just let it mess you up a bit… this man comes to faith AFTER having been healed, AFTER being sent on mission  THEN Jesus has the conversation with him. What might this suggest about God’s grace, about his allowing people to be in process, about how his ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55) v. 38

Jesus ends by telling you the point of the story: some are blind and are blind to their blindness, and I want to make a point out of them. What are your blind spots… can you even admit that you have them? v. 39


But what is it that I love most about this story? Two things:

It is upside down kingdom at its finest.

If you look closely you can see that Jesus took a seemingly worthless side-of-the-road bum and turned him into a fire-breathing prophet right before the eyes of the religious elite. It’s just whether we view the world this way or not, whether we are intentionally pushing forth and multiplying the upside down in our daily lives…?

AND

It is the extraordinary use of the ordinary person at its finest.

This is how Jesus has made his name famous-through the names, faces, stories and sentness of each and every one of his billion-strong followers. It’s just whether we believe it or not, whether we believe we might be used in this way or not…?

Maybe, just maybe, these are the twin themes of Jesus’ entire coming…?