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Fighting or Embracing the Process?

I just finished listening to a sermon (on podcast) by Banning Liebscher from Bethel Church in Redding, CA. He shared his story of being young and zealous for the Lord. At 19 years old he felt like all he wanted to do was travel around and preach (I think he’s in his mid-30s now). He didn’t feel “called” to the local church or to youth. Today he is the youth pastor at his local church and loves it. As he shared I found myself laughing out loud a few times because I could relate to what he was saying and his type-A personality. He talked about how he would think about the timeline of his life and how he would always feel like he was “behind” a few years (something I’ve thought about a time or two). Liebscher would get irritated when people would talk to him about “growing organically” in the Lord. He felt like that was code for just being lazy. He wanted to accomplish great things for God and he didn’t like the idea of going through a “process” of preparation. Then he shared about the different seasons of life God brings us through – the steps that prepare us for what God’s called us to do. And as he talked about his own struggle to submit to “the process” I realized I also have that same struggle. I prefer to set my sights on my destination and do whatever it takes to get there. I almost always seem to forget that God has a purpose in the journey itself. (Since this is Beyond Clichés I’m...

Is the Gospel Behavior Modification?

No. There are lots of great programs out there (i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous) that help you change your behavior. I don’t know many Believers who would claim that the Gospel is behavior modification. It’s not about trying to get us to just act a certain way. It’s the story about someone else, Jesus, who did everything for us so that we could become sons and daughters of God. Does our behavior change? Of course it does. When someone is born again they act different. When someone just starts “going to church” they might try to act different to fit in with the new church culture but just “going to church” will not change you on the inside. I know this stuff is fundamental. But personally, I love the basic principles of Christ. In a complex world like ours, it’s refreshing for me to meditate on simple truths like this. What we need is to have our hearts changed. We need to be awakened in our spirits. Yes, our minds need renewing but more than learning how to think “right thoughts” (which there’s nothing wrong with) we need to learn how to walk and live as new creations. The Word instructs (Col. 3:9-10) us to put off the old man and to put on the new man. I believe one of the greatest miracles of the Gospel is that we become new creations (not that we can think positive thoughts). We do not just become better versions of our old self. We don’t get an extreme heart makeover. No, we get a new heart. And that part (spirit) of us that was dead becomes...

Empathy: Weep with those who weep

It was a tough day. I woke up at 5:30 in the morning (after going to sleep at 1 A.M.) and packed my bags before I left for the office. I was running late so didn’t have time to stop for my usual cup of coffee (which would have probably helped with my nodding off in traffic). After spending an hour in traffic I arrived at the office to find six voicemails, twenty unread emails, and a stack of unopened mail. I stumbled down to the break room and made the strongest cup of coffee I knew how. Four cups of coffee and nine hours later I was ready to leave the office and get some rest. I would have preferred to curl up in my backseat and sleep but the seven hour drive to the conference meant that I had to suck it up and drive. I fantasized about pulling over and sleeping but couldn’t bring myself to do it so I just glance down at the speedometer and yawned. OK, stop reading for a second. In the past minute did you just yawn? If my account of tiredness made you yawn then you probably have a natural inclination for something called empathy. NOTE: I got this idea from Daniel Pink in his book A Whole New Mind. He also tells a similar story about being tired to see if the reader yawns. So did you yawn? I didn’t. But I will also admit that empathy is not my strong suit. My wife on the other hand is very empathetic. Without telling her this was a test I...

Pondering Perfectionism

  Josh, when you play so competitively in basketball the addictive behavior I see in you is perfection. I heard this during a Feedback Meeting when I was in drug rehab. We would take turns going around the room and pointing out addictive behaviors in our peers. I believe perfection was my most popular addictive behavior (I think second was masking with humor). I prefer the word competitive over perfectionist. It has a more athletic and honorable feel to it. Perfection sounds too rigid and exact. But whatever the case may be it was a label given to me by my peers in recovery so I had to process it. And even today, almost eight years after it was first brought to my attention that perfectionism could be a bad thing I still ponder its place in my life. I value the drive I have in me to win but I hate the paralyzing effect perfection can have. It really is a love-hate-relationship with this so called “character defect”. You know, growing up I never thought being competitive was a bad thing. I’m the oldest of five kids and from a young age I can remember a strong desire to always win. There were four of us boys and one girl. We were all into sports, so competitiveness was glorified. Yes, we played hockey to “have fun”. But we all knew the real reason was to win. When I lost I was mad and depressed. When we won I was content and the world was a better place. I’m 27 years old now and I still get mad when...

How to Guard Your Heart

“Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” -Proverbs 4:23 NKJV The New Living Translation reads, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” The Bible instructs us to guard our hearts above all else. I would say this is one of those really important life lessons. Last night I dug out one of my journals from 2005 and found a note in the front pocket sleeve that read: “guard your heart – from it come the issues of life. (Life issues forth from the heart – from “the abundance of the heart…”). Let God be the One who guides it. He is jealous for you and your heart. Don’t give it away to others.”   This was written by my friend’s mom, Linda VahnDijk, during one of our discipleship meetings. What I learned about guarding my heart has helped me immensely over the last six years. I want to share with you what I’ve learned and how it has helped me.   How Do You Guard Your Heart? I learned that I could guard my heart by deciding where I placed my affections. Our hearts have little strings attached to them which get tugged on by by different things in life. If you don’t know you have the power to guard your heart then those strings can too easily become attached to the wrong things. One practical way to have these strings connected to God is to worship Him. When we sing songs, adore Him and enjoy His presence our hearts start to become tied...

When Desire Overtakes Discipline

Discipline isn’t a bad thing but it’s not everything. There’s nothing wrong with having set times where we meet with God or in having a Bible reading plan. But let’s not think spiritual disciplines are an end in themselves. Jesus didn’t say the greatest commandment was to pray 30 minutes a day or to read two chapters a day. No, he said it was to love God and love others with all our heart. God’s desire is that we become laid down lovers. Meaning that we lay down our lives in love. When this happens we will want to be with God. We will want to read the Bible. We will want to worship and adore Him. Our have to’s will become want to’s. But what if you don’t want to spend time with God? How do you get from practicing spiritual disciplines to the place where you crave the presence of God more than anything else? I’m not about to give you some pat answer but I will submit an idea to you. There’s Something About Worship The more we are around God’s presence the more we desire Him. I don’t think the reason we lack desire is because God is not desirable – it’s because we don’t know (experientially) how good He actually is. We’ve heard and we confess that He is good but until we taste and see for ourselves we will not want more of Him. When I talk about worship I’m talking about drawing near to God in our spirits. Remember Jesus said that true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth. Our...