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God Before Me

I’m very grateful to be chosen as a guest writer for Patheos.com for the new movie Me Before You. The movie is a love story about a young couple – and the extraordinary challenges they face when things take an unexpected turn. What does it really mean to...
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Pulling Teeth From a Roaring Tiger

PULLING TEETH FROM A ROARING TIGER

One of the reasons America is in such a mess is because we Christian leaders don’t seem to give a darn about the damned. The level of mistrust, competition and disinterest between pastors works against the unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17:23:

I IN THEM AND YOU IN ME, THAT THEY MAY BECOME PERFECTLY ONE, SO THAT THE WORLD MAY KNOW THAT YOU SENT ME AND LOVED THEM EVEN AS YOU LOVED ME.

In light of the moral decline, racial division, financial turmoil and political nonsense we are seeing this election year, I’ve been reaching out to pastors and Christian leaders, trying to get us all on the same page – God’s page – so that we can fulfill Jesus’ prayer in John 17 and actually reach the lost. Here’s what I’ve found: getting Christian leaders together these days is about as easy and comfortable as pulling teeth from a roaring tiger.

We don’t need the devil to derail us. We are doing a find job all by ourselves. Isn’t it ironic that we are pursuing church growth and “ministry” without prioritizing unity – the most important ingredient for church and ministry success? At the end of day, we’re shooting ourselves in our own feet by diminishing the importance of Christian unity. No wonder the world yawns when we open our mouths. Can you blame them? We don’t practice what we preach.

POWERFUL PERSUASION
We don’t seem to believe what Jesus taught: people are persuaded about the love of God in proportion to the unity among Christians. The greater the unity, the more irresistible God becomes. The more divided we are, the less people care about Christ. If our objective is to get people to follow Jesus, we have to start following Him ourselves. Until we do, we are nothing more than hypocrites. We want people to love and follow a Jesus we’ve left behind.

It’s not complicated. Our disunity reveals that we Christian leaders don’t seem to really care about reaching the lost. If we did, we’d be doing far more to be unified, because unity convinces people that God is real and the message of the cross is true.

MISSING IT
A few months ago, I asked my assistant to reach out to senior pastors from neighboring churches, asking if we could “set up a time to meet in regard to the state of the nation and how churches can cooperate together in unity.” Here is the ironic response of one such pastor:

From what I know about Mike, which is not a lot, he and I probably think differently about these issues and how churches should/can respond. So I’m not sure how fruitful a meeting about this subject would be. But if Mike wants to meet together as two pastors in the same community, to talk shop, I’d certainly be open to that. God’s very best to you . . .

Is that really God’s “very best”? We make false assumptions about each other that keep us at arms length – in the same city, at this pivotal time in American history. What is wrong with us? We leaders have lost our way. How is it possible to talk “shop” without the shop itself? If we keep talking about all the other issues we face, except the most important issues of the day, aren’t we merely postponing the inevitable day when the circling wagons will achieve their goal? Aren’t we wasting precious time – and precious souls – in the process?

We pastors and Christian leaders all need to repent – big time. We’re too divided to be of any use to the Jesus we say we want other people to follow. The National Week of Repentance is coming October 30 – November 6. Get involved and be part of the solution to the division that is so obvious within the Church. Visit RevivalMatters.com and sign up, now.

ARE YOU A CATALYST FOR UNITY, OR ARE YOU SHOOTING YOURSELF IN THE FOOT at this key time as history is being written? do you give a darn about the damned?

 

 

The Magic of Wisdom

THE MAGIC OF WISDOM

At the end of the day – this day – you will have had a good many chances to be a sexy, magnetic, a person of high moral character whom others find irresistible. You’ll also have many chances to be the exact opposite. Which will it be? The choice is largely up to each of us. Today, that choice is up to you. 

Wisdom is magnetically . . . sexy. Yes, sexy. It makes us irresistible. It transforms us. If you think about it, you’ll agree. When we detect wisdom in a person, we’re drawn to them with a magnetic pull that’s indescribable, likely because we each realize our own need for what they have.

We all want wisdom, and when we get it, we become the kind of person others seek. We become sexy – without doing a single thing to alter our physical appearance. Wisdom is a really magical thing.

Proverbs 15:2* says,

“The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive, but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness.”
 

Throughout the Book of Proverbs, a foolish person is synonymous with the person who lacks discernment, knowledge, integrity and high moral character. It is the fool, for example, who is impatient and has a short tempter (Prov. 14:16, 17, 29) that drives other people away.

When we see people who lack intelligence, integrity and good moral character, we’re typically turned off. We find foolish people repulsive. Yes, certain celebrities and Twitter personalities have done well attracting a following precisely because of their deviant lifestyles and comments, but other people follow them not because they want to be like them, but because they are looking for a source of twisted entertainment.

Foolishness is a freak show. No one, for instance, fantasizes about marrying a fool. Wisdom is respectable.

HOW TO MAKE YOURSELF MORE ATTRACTIVE
No one wakes up eager to show the world their morning face. We all do our best to present our best face to the rest of the world, because we know that without it the day will be an uphill battle. Why add insult to injury by making life, which is already hard, more difficult? Looking good simply makes things easier, better, more enjoyable.

These days, wise speech is so uncommon that when we hear even mildly wise words, everyone sits up and takes notice. One of the best ways to make yourself more attractive is to make sure the words that come out of your mouth are words of wisdom. This is what Proverbs 15:2 is all about. There is nothing more attractive than wisdom rolling off the tongue of a mere mortal, no matter how otherwise unattractive he or she may be.

If you want to make yourself more attractive, consider the words that come out of your mouth. Are they self-centered? Do you tear down other people? Do you gossip or slander? Do you lie? Do you whine or complain? Do you do what Proverbs 12:16* says by showing your displeasure immediately?

“A fools’ displeasure is known at once, but whoever ignores an insult is sensible” – Proverbs 12:16*

 
Sensibility is another trait of a wise person. Every day is filled with opportunities to be sensible or to become incensed. Opportunities to become insulted abound – but if you are wise, you will not immediately show your displeasure, but learn how to master the fine and rare art of overlooking an offense, as Proverbs 19:11* reminds us:

“A person’s insight gives him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense” – Proverbs 19:11*

What kind of person will you be, today? Will you be wise and sexy or foolish and ugly?

WHAT’S ONE THING YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN DO THIS WEEK TO BE WISER, AND MORE ATTRACTIVE, LESS LIKE A FOOL?

TODAY’S TIP: Try one chapter from the Book of Proverbs each day, first thing in the morning. There are 31 chapters, more than enough wisdom for every month of the year. Proverbs will help you learn the traits of a wise person – an irresistible, intelligent, moral, magnetically attractive person – and move toward becoming one.

The National Week of Repentance is coming October 30 – November 6. Get yourself and your people ready at RevivalMatters.com. It is time for the hope and change only God can deliver. The humble courage we so desperately need will only arise if there is a real move of repentance in America, and it needs to begin with you and me.

*Scripture quotations taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, Copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.

 

This Little Thing Is Huge

This Little Thing Is Huge

You can be undermining yourself and not even realize it. We tend to think power comes with money, formal education, a degree or a promotion, but it really comes down to something everyone has, regardless of our social class, financial status, education, race, or anything else. Chances are very high that you have something you were born with that is very small and exceptionally powerful – but you may not have mastered how to use it to your full advantage. I’m talking about your mouth. If you don’t learn how to use it for good, well, that would be very, very bad.

Your entire life could be suffering for no other reason than the way you are using your little, tiny mouth. That’s huge.

Proverbs 21:23 says,

He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.

By all means, think about your mouth – but do far more. With great intention, learn how to use it for good – great good – and not a single shred of evil. 

Proverbs 18:21 (ESV) says,

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

 

James 3:9-10 (NIV) says,

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

The words you speak to others (and yourself) affect far more than you may have ever realized. Take your quest for success to a new level: master your mouth. While you are working hard to get a better education, put food on the table, get ahead or whatever it is you think you need to do to succeed, don’t overlook the power of your mouth.

Until we learn how to use our mouths so they speak life and blessing to other people and ourselves, we are undermining God’s very best. We are working against Him, no matter how we may think we are working for Him. You and I can be causing calamity rather than calm, creativity and the culture of goodness that greatly honors God. Your own mouth can cause more problems than anything and anyone else in your entire life.

Learn to use your mouth for good, because that little, tiny thing is actually pretty huge.

Has this blog helped you? we’d love to know . . .

Jonah’s Problem Wasn’t A Whale

When I was five years old, my father took me on my first fishing trip off the Jersey shore, in a party boat. I wouldn’t call what happened on that boat a “party” by a long shot. To this day, it remains one of the longest days I’ve had to endure. I got so seasick that traditional chum was not needed to lure the fish. I recycled my breakfast into the ocean, offering the fish my bacon and egg breakfast, complete with orange juice and buttered toast, thickly smeared with jam.

There were too many other fishermen on that boat with iron stomachs – and every single one of them was there to catch fish. No chance they would turn around and bring me back to the docks.

He kept me somewhat stable as the boat swayed, the ocean sprayed and the sickening stench of diesel fumes, mixed with cigarette smoke filled my gut.

Dad figured he might as well make due. To keep me from stumbling overboard, and to accomplish his goal of fishing, he wedged me between his butt and a bench. He kept me somewhat stable as the boat swayed, the ocean sprayed and the sickening stench of diesel fumes, mixed with cigarette smoke filled my gut. I fed the fish again and again. Why Jesus didn’t use this imagery to describe Hell beats me. I love the ocean – from the beach.

JONAH'S PROBLEM WASN'T A WHALE . . .

JONAH’S PROBLEM WASN’T A WHALE . . .

When I am at the beach, my mind invariably drifts toward the story of Jonah and the big fish (it wasn’t a whale). The problem with the biblical story of Jonah isn’t in figuring out how a grown man could be swallowed by a big fish. It isn’t in figuring out how Jonah could survive inside a fish for three days and nights. The problem is how much I am just like Jonah – and I don’t like it any more than diesel fumes on a rocking boat filled with smoking fishermen. Jonah’s problem was that he was more concerned about a doggone plant than human beings. How is that even possible?

After finally obeying God and preaching to the people of Nineveh, Jonah took time to see if the people would respond to God’s message spoken through him. Here’s the account in Jonah 4:6-11 (ESV):

Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’ But God said to Jonah, ‘Do you do well to be angry for the plant?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.’ And the Lord said, ‘You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?’

The only thing worse than diesel fumes, cigarette smoke and recycling a bacon and egg breakfast on the open sea, is to be called by God and not care about people. To know the love of God – to receive His favor and calling – and to not care that others receive the same is more disgusting than a seasick venture on a temporarily full stomach. It’s far too easy to sail through life and have more affection for things than for people.

Jonah’s problem is my problem, and it needs to make me a bit sicker than I am these days. What about you? Can you identify? Is it easier for you to care about things, and your own comfort, than it is to care – to truly care – for people?

The honest to God truth is that I’m far more like Jonah than I am Jesus. I bet I’m not alone, am I?  

God Before Me

I’m very grateful to be chosen as a guest writer for Patheos.com for the new movie Me Before You. The movie is a love story about a young couple – and the extraordinary challenges they face when things take an unexpected turn. What does it really mean to “live boldly” as the movie encourages? When is a live worth much – or not much at all? Here are my thoughts – which I’m sure will make you think about what it means to “live well” . . .

BRAND NEW GUEST BLOG ON THE NEW MOVIE

BRAND NEW GUEST BLOG ON THE NEW MOVIE “ME BEFORE YOU.” What does it really mean to “live boldly”?

Have you seen “Me Before You”? What are your thoughts about when a life is no longer worth living? Who can make such decisions? What does it mean to “live boldly” and to “live well”?

When Failure Isn’t Failure

MOST OF THE LESSONS I’VE LEARNED IN LIFE I’VE LEARNED THROUGH FAILURE. The profound truth is that we postpone our own success until we learn from our mistakes, sins and shortfalls. In fact, when you develop the habit of examining your failures, you accelerate and enhance your odds of succeeding. In order to do this, you have to learn to think counter-culturally – because our culture worships success without understanding the importance of failure.

Success requires that we learn to think deeply. This can be painful work when it comes to examining our own pitfalls. And, it’s exactly why so many don’t want to do it. In a culture where thinking deeply is a lost art (we are more often told what to think rather than how), you have to make a decision to swim up-stream if you really want to change. In the final analysis, change is exactly what success is about. It requires re-tooling, improving, refining . . . metamorphosis.

Eternal attentiveness is the price paid for real success. Deep thinking, introspection and personal evaluation have to be the new way of life – unless you don’t want to succeed. This is why embracing our failures, rather than running from them, ignoring them and pretending they didn’t happen in the first place, is one of the most foolish things you can do to undermine your own success.

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” said famous philosopher Socrates.[i] Another philosopher put it this way:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test!

These words, penned by Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:5, help us understand the importance of constantly reflecting on our walks with God. Specifically, it’s not possible to walk with God until and unless we are walking with Jesus Christ. To have Jesus Christ within us, says Paul, is to have Jesus Christ leading us. In other words, true faith is lived from the inside-out.

It is only when we do the hard work of self-examination and testing that we bring the Bible to bear against our sinful nature, bad habits, resistance to God and . . . failure.

IF WE WANT TO SUCCEED, WE MUST SPEND TIME CONSIDERING OUR FAILURES.

IF WE WANT TO SUCCEED, WE MUST SPEND TIME CONSIDERING OUR FAILURES.

The person who gets himself/herself into the perpetual practice of self-examination and testing, specifically in regard to obedience to Christ, is living an examined life. It’s the only life worth living. This is where all change begins – and it’s where all change deepens, broadens and becomes contagious.

There is nothing more contagious than a person who is truly walking with God. There are a lot of posers these days. You don’t want to be a poser. You want to be the genuine article. Remember that Scripture memorization does not mean a person is walking with Christ. Nor does the amount of time one spends in prayer or how one serves in church. If these were the measuring rods of walking with God, the Pharisees and Sadducees would have been prime candidates to pick up the mantle of Jesus. Alarmingly, Jesus did not choose one such man as an Apostle. We would do well to learn a lesson in Jesus’ selection: one can know the Bible – really know the Bible – and miss Jesus nonetheless. The Bible, without self-examination, will not change us. It is only when we do the hard work of self-examination and testing that we bring the Bible to bear against our sinful nature, bad habits, resistance to God and . . . failure.

Get into the practice of bringing the Bible to bear on all your failures. Ask yourself – often – if Christ is in you to such a degree that it’s not possible for others to miss Him when they find themselves in your presence. To be in the presence of a Christ-follower is to be in the presence of Christ. At least this is God’s intention. Is it ours?

I struggle with failure and I bet you do, too. HAVE YOU MADE THE MISTAKE OF VIEWING YOUR “FAILURES” AS ENEMIES RATHER ALLIES? HOW CAN SELF-EXAMINATION AND DEEP THINKING HELP YOU SUCCEED?

 

[i] This quote is attributed to Socrates, but not with absolute certainty.

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