Sheltering Your Kids: A Christian Parent’s Dilemma

protecting-childrenYou don’t have to watch the news for long before realizing we live in a broken world. As parents of young kids my wife and I often joke about selling it all and moving to some remote island! Sometimes that seems like the safest option…but is it the Biblical and most loving option?  There is a difference between sheltered and unaware, however we frequently use these words as synonyms. Being sheltered is Biblical and describes our relationship with God.  Psalm 91:1 reads, Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Throughout the rest of Psalm 91, we see how God shelters us and protects us. He even shelters us from the eternal consequences of sin through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  So if sheltering is Biblical, as a parent how do we shelter our kids without raising an unaware and unprepared child?

Being Full of Grace AND Truth

John 1:14-17 talks about Jesus being full of grace AND truth. That is a difficult line to walk that carries with it quite a bit of tension.  As parents though, that is part of our job: to show and be an example of grace and truth.  When we are full of grace with little to no truth, we are lovingly unaware. When we are full of truth with little to no grace, we are legalistic and typically unloving.  Both are vital for us to parent in an age-appropriate context.

Realizing It’s Not If But When

All kids will be exposed to the realities of the world at some point. It’s not “if” but “when”. But as parents, we have the opportunity to create the kind of open  relationship with our kids where we are the ones to explain the realities of life as they grow up.  The value of this kind of relationship is that as our children will come to us first to talk and ask questions. If parents avoid the realities of this world then we are communicating to our kids they should not talk about them to us. When that is the case, our children will still talk to someone, it just won’t be us.

Parents have the opportunity and responsibility to share the realities of the world while teaching Biblical truths. This is much healthier and much less reactive and produces long-term relational results. The family should be a place where nothing is off limits and everything can be talked about and discussed. Unfortunately, many parents procrastinate discussing the tough topics due to awkwardness or just not knowing what to say. In our home we try and create a safe place where no subject is off limits. A key to creating this culture is starting while they are young.  But it’s never too late.

Raising an Adult, Not a Child

The day is coming when our children will leave our home (hopefully) and venture out on their own. Our relationship with them will not cease but will shift. A question my wife and I use in getting our kids ready for that exit is, “What kind of adult are we raising?”  In other words, is what we are doing now preparing our kids to become healthy, responsible, and Godly adults?  Are we seizing the realities of our world and turning them into teachable moments: to explain what is right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate.  And to also teach God’s Word and help our kids understand the why behind the what.

When Jesus’ ministry on earth was coming to an end he prayed for his disciples saying, My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one (John 17:15). Jesus asks God not to isolate them from the realities of this life, but to keep them from being under the world’s influence. May that be our prayer for our kids. That God would help us raise our children in a way that doesn’t take them out of the world but prepares them to survive and thrive in this world. Take time this week to reflect upon Jesus’ prayer and look for opportunities to put His words into practice with your kids.

Permission to Bother God

I truly do LOVE being a dad. Before having kids I never could have grasped the joy I would get from being a father. With that being said…I also could not have imagined how annoying and bothersome my two boys could be. Saturday morning, trying to sleep just a little bit more is impossible with the constant, “Dad…Daddy….Daddy…It’s morning time…Daddy…I want breakfast…” and on and on and on my three year old goes until I finally and reluctantly begin to move out of bed.

There are many behaviors that we don’t have to be taught in order to become experts…Persistence is one of those “expert at birth behaviors”. We have the natural tendency to be persistent with what we want. It is an ingrained behavior of a child: nagging, whining, complaining, crying, bothering until they get what they want. We are familiar with the common phrase, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”. In other words, the one who complains the loudest tends to get an answer sooner.

What is interesting and has begun to change my prayer life is we are given permission to have this kind of relationship with God. We are invited to “loving bother God” with our prayers and requests.

In Luke 11, Jesus teaches us how to pray (aka The Lord’s Prayer). Now look at the parable that Jesus tells to show how to apply what he just taught.

Luke 11:5-10 (NIV)
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

Jesus says it is because of “shameless audacity”…or persistence, that the request would be answered. Jesus goes on after this parable to say:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Persistent Pursuit through Prayer

Jesus gives us permission to ask, seek and knock…and to keep on knocking until we get an answer. It’s important to not misunderstand, there is not a promise that we get whatever we want as long as we keep asking. Our God is not a genie that snaps his fingers at our every wish. But He is a good Father (Luke 11:9-13) who hears us, listens to us and answers us but also desires us to persistently pursue Him.

Interestingly enough, praying with persistence is what grows and deepens our relationship with God, NOT the answer He gives. It is our pursuit of God through persistent prayer that develops and deeps our relationship with Him. And that is what God desires, a relationship that consists of a mutual persistent pursuit of one another. He persistently pursues us (Psalm 139) and desires that we would do the same. Persistently praying is the rhythm of asking, seeking and knocking…and never stopping until we hear from Him.

Don’t give up on your prayers but rather, keep praying: keep asking, seeking and knocking…and knocking…and knocking. Just as a child persists, may we lovingly bother our Heavenly Father with our prayers. May we persistently pursue our Father through prayer!

“Some people think God does not like to be troubled with our constant coming and asking. The way to trouble God is not to come at all.”
– D.L. Moody

For more study on praying with patience and persistence read 1 Kings 18 as Elijah persistently prays for rain.

Why I love Halloween!

porchAs a pastor of a local church my heart breaks for those in my community who have yet to come to know Jesus and be part of His Bride (the church). I love my community and The Church and have given my life to Him and to leading His church.

Throughout the year, I pray and strategize on how to best make an impact and create lasting influence. I read leadership books so my influence and capacity may increase and grow.  I prayerfully study and dig into God’s Word so I may be able to teach, lead and disciple those God has allowed me to shepherd. I challenge and encourage the people of my church to invite friends and neighbors to church and to introduce other to Jesus. I am involved in civic clubs and active in my community so I can know my community and get to know others in my community. I look for those God given opportunities to meet someone new, talk with someone, introduce someone to Jesus, pray with someone, invite someone to church…

And personally, I have found no better opportunity than Halloween! I have not found another time that I can meet just about every person in my neighborhood and their kids within a couple hours. I have not seen another moment that just about every person in my neighborhood (and from surrounding neighborhoods) will come up and knock on MY door! Think about it, this is the only time knocking on every door in the neighborhood is acceptable and even encouraged! Could Halloween be an answer to prayer?!

We’ve all noticed it: it is not as easy to interact regularly with neighbors. We come home late from work, pull in the garage and shut the garage door only to be seen again to get the mail or head back out to work. In a culture that is becoming more and more “close-doored”, Halloween is a golden opportunity.

Lights On: Jesus says we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-15)! This Halloween, let your light shine bright and turn on your porch lights! I pray that every family that visits your home this Halloween sees something in you that lights up the night!

This Halloween, try silently praying for every family that visits your home. Compliment every child on his/her costume. Thank the parents for coming. Wave and smile. Make small talk and get to know your neighbors. Look for neighbors with kids the same age as yours to be able to connect again. Be the friendliest home on the block! Maybe instead of just having candy, you have s’mores available on your driveway with hot chocolate for the kids and coffee for the parents.

The point is answering this question: As a Christian, do I live in a way that is full of light: attractive and appealing, leading people closer to Jesus or do I come across as unavailable, turning people off to the gospel? 

Due to the roots and history of Halloween, Christians can be uncertain on what to do with this “holiday”. As Christians, we can either use Halloween as an opportunity to show our neighborhood what we are against OR use Halloween as an opportunity to be LIGHT.

So yes…I love Halloween!

May this Halloween be a great opportunity for you and your family that ultimately brings LIGHT to your neighborhood!

Replenishment Cycle: Fuel Up and Rest Up

aaf92620a8119445_heel_strike_at_sunset.preview“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

As Christians we paraphrase this into “Love God. Love Others.” but forget or rather neglect the “as yourself” part. Which poses the question, is it possible to love others and God without loving yourself (in a Biblical and Godly way)? No. Jesus teaches and gives the ultimate example of self-sacrifice and a lifestyle of serving but does not teach or promote self-hurt or self-harm. When we neglect ourselves we mask it by calling it “sacrifice” or “serving” but in reality it is harmful to ourselves, our relationships and our ability to work for The Kingdom!

Prepare to Persevere:

When we love our self in a Godly way we are not only obedient to God’s Word but we are preparing ourselves to persevere; which we would all agree we need to be able to persevere. Jesus never indicates that this life will be easier by following him, in fact it may be the opposite (see John 16). But just because life will have troubles and difficulties doesn’t mean the only option is to quit. The last part of Hebrews 12:1 says, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”. Perseverance is only possible if we are and continue to remain healthy in all areas of our lives (which is a Godly definition of self-love). Jesus models the way of a Godly and healthy self-love by showing us how to FUEL UP and REST UP (check out Luke 5:15-16; Mark 2:27; Mark 1:35-39)

So what does it look like to love yourself in a Godly way, to prepare for perseverance by FUELING UP and RESTING UP? It will look different for everyone but there are many tools to help identify what it is for you! One of these tools is called “The Replenishment Cycle” (developed by Tom Paterson http://www.patersoncenter.com/lifeplan/paterson-lifeplan.html)

The Replenishment Cycle:

We all have aspects of our lives that either drain us or recharge us. If we do not identify what refuels us and make intentional time and effort to implement those into our lives we will not be able to effectively love ourselves, others and ultimately God. Below is the Replenishment Cycle (which has been adjusted by Gil Stieglitz: http://www.ptlb.com)

replentishment cycle

Loving yourself is to have a life that is full enough that you can pour into others and into persevering. If you are drained and empty you have nothing to give or offer (the obvious image of trying to pour water out of an empty glass). But when we stay filled we can effectively and more continually pour into others and into the demands at hand. As you begin to identify what you need to stay replenished and healthy, it would be good to look at this from different time perspectives: what do you need in each of these boxes daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually? Everyone is different, so what replenishes you will be different from your spouse, friends, kids, coworkers, boss, etc…

Rest/Sleep: How much time do you need for sleep to stay replenished? Do you need to go to bed early and get up early or stay up late and sleep in? Do you need one or two power naps? How often do you need a day off? How often does your family need a vacation and for how long? When do you and your spouse need a date night?

Right People: There are three types of people in our lives…those that drain us, those that recharge us and those that destroy us (Toxic Relationships). The draining people in our lives are not bad people…they are the people who we need to be pouring into! But if we are only spending time with those who need us/drain us then we are going to be running on empty in no time. Who are the people who recharge you? How often do you need to spend time with them and it what capacity? 

Creation/Recreation: What is fun for you? Do you like making art, refinishing furniture, making music…? Does creating replenish you? Or is it recreation: sports, games, sewing, etc…? Identify what creation and/or recreation activities replenish you and how often you need to be engaged with them.

Right Work: My dad always told me if you enjoy 75% of your job then you have the perfect job! Ideally you want to be in a career that isn’t a constant stress or drain; however the reality is we do what we need to do to provide for ourselves and our family. But ideally, what is the right work for you, what is the right career for you right now? If you don’t have the option to have a career that is replenishing then can you supplement by volunteering or doing something on the side that keeps you replenished by doing what you love.

New Information: Learning will replenish you! This may or may not be in a classroom or school setting. For some this is taking additional classes or continuing through the educational system. For others it is reading, watching documentaries, going to conferences or learning to fix your car by watching YouTube videos. What do you like learning about? What would you like to know and learn? How do you get replenished by learning?

Eliminate: Bob Goff (http://bobgoff.com) is known for saying he quits something every Thursday! The most replenishing thing you could today may be saying no to something. A healthy leader knows when to say no. What is on your plate that needs to be taken off? This is difficult because most of the items on our plates are important but we cannot do everything. What do you need to eliminate? (If you want to hear more on this specific subject, click here for my podcast on “the good that hinders” or visit: https://vimeo.com/127467280)

Nature: There is something rejuvenating about being in God’s creation! Whether you consider yourself an outdoors person or not, nature is reviving. You need to determine what form of nature you need and how often you need it? Maybe you need to be outside hiking weekly or once a year need to be someplace where you can admire nature from the comfort of an air conditioned room.

Add/New Actions/Habits: What are you currently NOT doing that would replenish you if you started doing them? This could be starting a new hobby, exercise routine, healthy eating regiment, family dinners, date nights, etc…  Just as it’s important know when to say no, it is just as important to identify what you need to begin.

Jesus: In John 15:1,4 Jesus says, “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener…Remain in me, as I remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” Our souls are replenished by being with Jesus! How will you remain in Jesus and remain filled?

6 questions to ask before the day starts

wake-up-early

Growing in our relationship with God is an ongoing, daily endeavor. Someone once told me it is stumbling in the right direction. Often we look at the big picture, the long-term plans and goals and invite God into those yet dismiss or gloss over the every day. Psalm 37 gives us a great guide for approaching God in our every day to prepare for our day…especially in small things. I have found it helpful and productive to ask 6 simple questions every day before I begin my day:

How am I trusting God?

Psalm 37 say tells us to “trust in the Lord”. Of course, our default answer is “yes, I trust God”. But the question to ask yourself is HOW am I trusting God. Right now, currently, today…HOW am I trusting God? What do I need to trust God in my day today? Take a look at your calendar…what meetings and appointments do you have scheduled? Who are you meeting with? What obligations and opportunities will you have today? How do you need to trust God today? What seems too big for you to handle on your own? What seems beyond your capabilities or capacity? Where do you feel like you can’t…and that is where you can trust God today.

What good can I do?

After trusting in God, Psalm 37 tells us “and do good”. It almost sounds like something your mom would say to you as you walk out the door to school, “make good choices…be good!” Often we neglect the simple and profound impact of doing good every day. The Christian life, if misinterpreted can feel like a list of what NOT to do. So ask the question, what good can I do? Think through the people you will interact with today: coworkers, family, friends, waiters, baristas, clients, etc…what good can you do for them today. You may not be able to do something good for everyone who encounter today but do for one what you wish you could do for all.

Do I take delight in the Lord?

This is kind of an odd question. Taking delight is not a phrase we commonly use. The meaning here is to desire what God desires, enjoy what God enjoys, focus on what God focuses on. It is to allow my desires to line up and run parallel with God’s. Today, what objectives and plans do you have? What are you trying to accomplish today? In your daily tasks today, how can you take delight in the Lord? How can you accomplish what God wants to accomplish in the midst of your daily grind today?

Where am I not fully committed to God?

Psalm 37:5 tells us to “commit your way to the Lord”…and if you keep reading you see the benefit of doing so. It’s easy to commit to God in the “big” things, “God I commit to not murdering someone today”…well, that may depend on the intensity of your commute to and from work. But for the most part, we commit SOME OF our ways to God. But notice Scripture tells us to commit our WAY (not WAYS) to God. In other words, will you commit to allowing God to direct you today? Will you invite God to interrupt you in your day? And if God does interrupt you will you commit to your way or His way? Prayerfully prepare yourself to commit to God’s way today, doing things His way, following His way…even if it feels like an inconvenience or an interruption.

How am I trying to move before God moves?

Being still may be the most difficult thing to ask someone to do. In fact, that’s almost something we never ask, except of our kids. Instead, our day is full of “go go go”! So before you DO, before you GO, before you MOVE…see if that is what God wants. Be still before the Lord means to stop for a moment: to stop and pause long enough to approach God and see what He says. If we are constantly doing and going we may be running full speed ahead in the wrong direction because we never stopped to see where God was going. In your ambition and dedication today, stop and pause long enough to approach God in stillness before moving forward. Seek HIS wisdom, HIS council and HIS advice before making the decision on your own.

Where am I frustrated?

Take a look at your day and look for hurdles, obstacles, barriers…anything that may frustrate your plans or agenda. Where are you already frustrated or what has potential to be a frustration today? The opposite of frustrated is patience. When we are frustrated we have a great opportunity to grow in our patience. Psalm 37:7 tells us to “wait patiently on Him”. So ask the question and identify your frustrations to allow God to grow your patience. When you bring your frustrations to God first thing in the morning you will discover your ability to be patient increases throughout your day which in turn will lower your stress, anxiety and disappointment. Let your frustrations turn into patience opportunities. 

Psalm 37:3-7 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord and do good;

    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Books for 2015

book-and-coffee

Leaders are readers because leaders must constantly be learning. If you haven’t read them yet…here are my 12 book recommendations to read in 2015 (one per month):

The Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards – A must read for every leader (especially pastors)! Discover how to lead even when you are not the main leader and how to lead through pain, brokenness loss, heartache and frustration.

Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson – A great read talking about change

Winning by Jack Welch – Great lessons not just on being successful but developing healthy culture within an organization from a true expert!

Humilitas by John Dickson – A history, study and practical application of humility

Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson – A very practical and helpful book for spouses, employees, managers and leaders to be able to say what needs to be said and get the results you need and want.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – Answers the question, “what makes high-achievers different?”. Discover the “what’s” to discover what you can do to be a high-achiever.

Once Upon a Town by Bob Greene – An interesting look into a town that changed lives through love, compassion and hospitality. Great lessons for anyone, especially churches!

Church Planting Landmines by Tom Nebel & Gary Rohrmayer – Not just for church planters but anyone in ministry.

The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr – We can’t add time to our day but we can work to increase our energy capacity and focus. A very practical book in increasing energy in all aspects of life.

Choosing to Cheat by Andy Stanley – A must read for every husband and/or father. A reminder that our family must come first.

The Go-Giver by Bob Burg – The secret keys to real success!

Leadership Axioms by Bill Hybels – Practical, inspirational and quick easy reads.

I’m Doing It My Way

Bedroom Confessions #2 “I’m Doing It My Way”

BC_Facebook_Cover

From Mountain Lake Church Dawson’s Sermon Series
View the service online at: vimeo.com/dawsonmlc

My Way

We love our freedoms and our independence. We want to do what we want, when we want, the way we want. Culturally speaking, our entire lives are oriented towards achieving the goal of being self-sufficient, self-reliant, completely independent and free. Understand there is a difference between independence and selfishness. Independence is not always a negative in our day and age but making our personal freedoms and independence the top priority is selfish and leads to unhealthy relationships.  The problem we will continue to run into is when we value our independence and freedoms above what is best for our relationship with God and others.

When replying to the church of Corinth Paul writes, “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

Paul is helping the early church (and us) understand that yes we have the right to do anything…but that doesn’t make it right and doesn’t mean it is always beneficial…Especially in our relationships!

God’s Way

God has given us very specific standards to live by FOR OUR PROTECTION and for our benefit. These standards are the Ten Commandments. When we choose to “Do it our own way” instead of “God’s way” we invite pain, hurt and consequences into our lives and relationships. However, that means in order to live within God’s standards we are required to give up certain freedoms that we may want to hang on to. We still have freedom…but it is freedom within the standards of God.

Self-Control Protects Intimacy

Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control. (Proverbs 25:28)

Selfishness destroys intimacy and our capacity to be intimate whereas selflessness rebuilds intimacy. At the root of selflessness within a relationship is self-control. We all have desires and temptations and we have a choice to “do it my way”, to choose to exercise my freedoms to benefit myself OR “do it God’s way” and practice self-control by not giving into the selfish desires. Self-control is intentionally choosing not doing something just because you want to or feel like it. When we are able to consistently practice and show self-control within our relationships (as singles or marrieds) we increase the capacity for intimacy within the relationship.

Fast Food & Porn

The lack of self-control is the easy way out…it’s lazy! Within our culture, we celebrate and glorify instant gratification: it has become a norm and even an expectation. We go through the fast-food drive thru because its fast, easy and convenient compared to planning ahead, going to the grocery and making dinner. We use porn because it’s instant and more convenient compared to developing an intimate relationship over time through selflessness. The lack of self-control becomes very dangerous within relationships and sexuality. When self-control is not a standard, there can be no standard on what is or isn’t acceptable which leads to pain, problems, heartache and the death of health and intimacy within the relationship.

Side Note: Our circumstances and situations do not determine our capacity for self-control. If we are unable to practice self-control in the seemingly small and insignificant areas what makes us think we can have self-control in other areas!? If porn is a self-control issue as a single…it will still be an issue when married. If sleeping around is an issue now…it will still be an issue later! Changing our relationship status does not automatically change our ability to have self-control

Pure Sex Challenge

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

We gave this challenge to our church this last week…The 7 Day Pure Sex Challenge! (let me explain…) For singles and marrieds, this is a challenge to practice self-control over the next 7 days, to not engage in selfish sexual relations or acts. That means: no porn, no masturbation, no sexual relations outside of marriage, no affairs (physical or emotional). To commit to practice self-control in what we think, say, wear and do! To commit to “Doing it God’s way” instead of “My way”…to live within the standards God has set

For marrieds, that does not mean sexual abstinence…that means to pursue intimacy at a higher level (to selflessly serve one another and meet your spouses needs more). That may mean MORE sex, MORE date nights, MORE conversations and pillow talk once the kids are in bed…Take a reality check of your marriage and together determine which areas of intimacy do you as a couple need to increase and press into.

The Body Follows the Mind

but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15)

Committing to self-control, especially within the context of sex, is easier said than done! James helps us understand how we can set ourselves up for success! It starts with our mind’s desires. When evil (evil = anything outside of God’s standards) consumes our minds we will be tempted. And even though the temptation itself is not a sin…if we continue to dwell on that desire it is eventually going to “drag us away”, as James says, and lead us to sin and eventual death. Death here does not refer just to a physical death but a spiritual death, the death of intimacy, the death of relationships.

As we find ourselves living outside of God’s standards we must begin with our mind. What we think about, what we allow in our mind. If we change what is in our mind…eventually our body will follow.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

God’s Grace Restores Our Intimacy and Refines Our Desires

Of course, this is not something we can do on our own! Ultimatly we must give up our independence and rely on God, become more dependent on Him, trust His Ways are better than Our Ways. When we are unable, God is very able and that is the truth we must lean on in our lives and our relationships!

King David knew that in order for him to change his lifestyle and desires he first had to ask God to change what was in his mind and heart: asking God to do what he couldn’t do! A great starting point in asking God to restore intimacy and refine desires is to pray as David prayed:

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

Kingdom Eyes and Ears

A New Lens

A prayer of mine recently has been to see with “Kingdom Eyes” and hear with “Kingdom Ears”. How differently would our attitudes and lives be if we filtered everything through God’s lens of what is best for His Kingdom…and not necessarily what we would say is best for us personally in that moment?! If we are not careful our prayers can become a selfish wish list instead of a desire to see the Kingdom of God grow.

For Your Name’s Sake

In the Psalms there is a phrase that is used over and over, “for your name’s sake”. The writer is asking and praying for things just like many of us do: forgiveness, guidance, provision, deliverance, etc… But the notable aspect of these prayers is the motive and heart behind what is being asked. WHY do I want to be forgiven? WHY do I want God’s guidance? WHY do I want to be helped in times of trouble? The question is not what but why. Do we want God’s help just so we don’t have to hurt or deal with pain which would make our lives more comfortable OR do we want God’s help so He can show the world His great power? Do we want God to guide and lead us so we end up in a more successful position OR do we want God to guide and lead us so His Kingdom is advanced?

When you pray, what is the “WHY”, the reason behind what you are praying? Is the “what” God focused and Kingdom minded or Self focused?

Psalm 25:11 For the sake of your name, Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
Psalm 31:3 Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Psalm 79:9 Help us, God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake.
Psalm 143:11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.

Change the focus, change your attitude

Yes, God is our Father and He desires to provide for us and give us blessings (Matthew 6:25 – 7:12) because He loves us! But is our driving motivation of prayer for God to just accommodate us? What if our prayers were Kingdom Minded? What if our prayers were rooted in what would be best for advancing the Kingdom? And what if my personal needs and comfort took a backseat to the Kingdom of God.
Next time you pray and ask God for something…ask with the Kingdom in mind. How does what you are asking help move the Kingdom forward? Next time something doesn’t go the way you were praying take another look at the situation and see it with Kingdom Eyes.
God loves us and wants what is best for each of us! As we grow in our love for God may we want what is best for the Kingdom!

Love Self? (The Replenishment Cycle)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

As Christians we paraphrase this into “Love God. Love Others.” but forget or rather neglect the “as yourself” part. Which poses the question, is it possible to love others and God without loving yourself (in a Biblical and Godly way)? No. Jesus teaches and gives the ultimate example of self-sacrifice and a lifestyle of serving but does not teach or promote self-hurt or self-harm. When we neglect ourselves we mask it by calling it “sacrifice” or “serving” but in reality it is harmful to ourselves, our relationships and our ability to work for The Kingdom!

Loving Self:

So what does it look like to love yourself in a Godly way? It will look different for everyone but there are many tools to help identify what it is for you! One of these tools is called “The Replenishment Cycle” (developed by Tom Paterson http://www.patersoncenter.com/lifeplan/paterson-lifeplan.html)

The Replenishment Cycle:

We all have aspects of our lives that either drain us or recharge us. If we do not identify what refuels us and make intentional time and effort to implement those into our lives we will not be able to effectively love ourselves, others and ultimately God. Below is the Replenishment Cycle (which has been adjusted by Gil Stieglitz: http://www.ptlb.com)

replentishment cycle

Loving yourself is to have a life that is full enough that you can pour into others. If you are drained and empty you have nothing to give or offer (the obvious image of trying to pour water out of an empty glass). But when we stay filled we can effectively and more continually pour into others. As you begin to identify what you need to stay replenished and healthy, it would be good to look at this from different time perspectives: what do you need in each of these boxes daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually? Everyone is different, so what replenishes you will be different from your spouse, friends, kids, coworkers, boss, etc…

Rest/Sleep: How much time do you need for sleep to stay replenished? Do you need to go to bed early and get up early or stay up late and sleep in? Do you need one or two power naps? How often do you need a day off? How often does your family need a vacation and for how long? When do you and your spouse need a date night?

Right People: There are two types of people in our lives…those that drain us and those that recharge us. The draining people in our lives are not bad people…they are the people who we need to be pouring into! But if we are only spending time with those who need us/drain us then we are going to be running on empty in no time. Who are the people who recharge you? How often do you need to spend time with them and it what capacity?

Creation/Recreation: What is fun for you? Do you like making art, refinishing furniture, making music…? Does creating replenish you? Or is it recreation: sports, games, sowing, etc…? Identify what creation and/or recreation activities replenish you and how often you need to be engaged with them.

Right Work: My dad always told me if you enjoy 75% of your job then you have the perfect job! Ideally you want to be in a career that isn’t a constant drain however the reality is we do what we need to do to provide for ourselves and our family. But ideally, what is the right work for you, what is the right career for you right now? If you don’t have the option to have a career that is replenishing then can you supplement by volunteering or doing something on the side that keeps you replenished by doing what you love?

New Information: Learning will replenish you! This may or may not be in a classroom/school setting. For some this is taking additional classes or continuing through the educational system. For others it is reading, watching documentaries, going to conferences or learning to fix your car by watching YouTube videos. How do you get replenished by learning?

Eliminate: Bob Goff (http://bobgoff.com) is known for saying he quits something every Thursday! The most replenishing thing you could day may be saying no to something. A healthy leader knows when to say no. What is on your plate that needs to be taken off? This is difficult because most of the items on our plates are important but we cannot do everything. What do you need to eliminate?

Nature: There is something rejuvenating about being in God’s creation! Whether you consider yourself and outdoors person or not, nature is reviving. You need to determine what form of nature you need and how often you need it? Maybe you need to be outside hiking weekly or once a year need to be someplace where you can admire nature from the comfort of an air conditioned room.

Add/New Actions/Habits: What are you currently NOT doing that would replenish you if you started doing them? This could be starting a new hobby, exercise routine, healthy eating regiment, family dinners, date nights, etc…  As it is important to know when to say no, it is just as important to identify what you need to begin.

Jesus: In John 15:1,4 Jesus says, “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener…Remain in me, as I remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” Our souls are replenished by being with Jesus! How will you remain in Jesus and remain filled?

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. Upon Jesus’ arrival he was received with many different people welcoming him in different ways. One thing everyone had it common was they were unable or unwilling to see what Jesus was really doing. They were blinded by their own hopes, assumptions, expectations and plans.

The Crowd: Misunderstood Jesus (John 12:12-13)

When Jesus entered the town people celebrated and honored Jesus! They declared him king of Israel and gladly welcomed him! However, the crowd misunderstood Jesus. The crowd assumed and expected Jesus to be their military messiah…the one who would save them from their political oppression. Jesus did come as the messiah and did come to save…but he came to serve and to be sacrificed to save us from our sins not raise up an army to overthrow the government. The crowd had their messiah but he was not the messiah they were expecting! This misunderstanding led to the crowd shouting “Crucify” instead of “Hosanna” just a short time later. Many times we become blinded by our own assumptions, hopes and expectations. May we pray, “Open our eyes to see Jesus as He is and not as I want Him to be”.

The Disciples: Didn’t Understand Jesus (John 12:14-16)

As Jesus rode into town scriptures tells us that his disciples didn’t understand why all this was happening. In Luke 19:28-31 we get a more detailed account of what Jesus asked of his disciples.  It was obvious that his disciples were confused. “Why do we have to go find a donkey?” “Why does it have to be one that has never been ridden?” “Why do we have to be the ones to go get it for you?” “Why do you have to come into town like this?” “Why…why…why?” We make the false assumption that upon becoming Christian we all of a sudden know everything. That’s just not the case! But there does come a point when we do get IT…and so did the disciples. The disciples had their “Ah-ha” moment, scripture says, after Jesus was glorified. So AFTER everything happened and Jesus was glorified THEN they understood. It’s much easier for us to gain understand afterwards rather than before. The disciples were blinding by their lack of understanding and in some ways their lack of faith. We need to be ok not knowing everything…but trusting in God and having faith! May our prayer be, “Give us the eyes to see what Jesus is doing and faith in what we cannot see”.

The Pharisees: Didn’t Believe Jesus (John 12:17-19)

Ignorance is bliss (just read this story: click here). It is easier to ignore or deny reality than it is to adjust to reality. The pharisees had two choices: 1) to accept that Jesus is the Son of God and therefore change and adjust their traditions, beliefs, teachings, etc… or 2) deny that Jesus is the Son of God and remove him as a threat. We know the story…they chose to deny Jesus and plot to arrest and ultimately kill him. Many times it’s not that we don’t believe but rather we don’t want to believe. We don’t want to face reality; we don’t want to change. The pharisees were blinded by their own wants and desires and were unwilling to change. My our prayer be, “Give us the eyes to see reality”.

For further reading and study: Read 2 Kings 6 and pray for your eyes to be opened like Elisha and his servant!

Sermon Notes from Brian Haas
Adventure Sunday Nights
Series: “Palm Sunday”
April 13, 2014