You Made Me Do It!
At work, I meet with men and my wife and I meet with couples for “faith checkups”. We talk about their engagement with scripture, the God’s apparent working in their lives, and personal struggles. Sometimes, that involves encouragement. Sometimes, it calls for rebuke or correction. In the latter case, maybe a guy has said something to his wife, his kids, or someone else he shouldn’t have said, maybe at a volume level he shouldn’t have used. Jesus would call that “sin”.
In those conversations, I try to separate “reasons” from “excuses”. All our “dones” are done for a reason. However, no reason excuses us from our actions. One day, we’ll all stand before Jesus to account for what we’ve done and said (the “bema” seat judgment [see 2 Cor. 5:10]), and in receiving eternal rewards for the things we did and said, we cannot effectively invoke anyone else’s name to our defense but our own:
- “You made me mad!”
- “He stole my idea! It’s not fair!”
- “She cracked my screen; of course I’m going to get angry!“
None of these reasons will excuse us from losing a reward for that specific action. (Note: this is not a matter of salvation, which comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone; rather eternal rewards – such as crowns, treasures, honors, etc. – which come by works that flow from a grace based salvation.) (more…)
In 2001, Mercy Me released the song “I Can Only Imagine”. The writer reflects on the day we all meet Jesus face to face for the first time. Within a few years of its release, it was all over even the Adult Contemporary charts. Why? Because we all wonder what that day will be like, don’t we?
The same year the song was released, Tim Stevenson wrote a book about a fictional character – Dan Matthewson – who comes before the “bema seat” for judgment to receive rewards “for the things done in the body, whether good or bad” 2 Cor. 5:10. Stevenson’s book about a day in Dan’s life takes a pretty smart stab at what judgment day could actually look like. Will it look more like a board meeting, a jury trial, or could it be more like one, big Oscar party?
Over the years, many have taken to the pulpit or the stage to tell Dan’s story. Beginning in 2010, I had a chance to be one of them. Over the past few years, we’ve reached a whole lot of people in the metro Atlanta area, giving them an entertaining look at what “That Day” could be. Dan’s a result oriented guy – moving up and today, he’s at the top of his game. But, like you and I, his plans for this day are often interrupted by people and other pesky “distractions”. Things get a bit tense for everyone just about the time God throws Dan the ultimate interruption… the judgment seat of Christ.
What’s My Biggest “That Day” Battle?
It takes me a lot of work to prepare for what amounts to a 90 minute “monologue”. As an actor, you have to keep the audience engaged and by grace and a lot of clever technique, we’ve done just that. Do you know what’s even harder for me? Getting people to understand they need to see this story not because I’m in it, rather because it’s vital truth for our souls that impacts our every day decisions. After our last performance, a friends’ comment told me we really hit the mark. He said his greatest regret was that he’d only brought some of his immediate family to the show, but “…next time, rather than asking people to come, we will go get them and bring them.” Thanks, David!
Can You Imagine?
When I teach our Clean Slate workshop and coach people on productivity, one of the key reference points used to help them sort through the “trivial many and decide on the vital few” is the rewards we may receive (or forfeit) at the judgment seat. It’s a crucial filter for every Christ follower to apply. But, without a vivid picture of that day in mind, it’s a more challenging exercise. What would it look like if everyone around us lived every day with eternal rewards front and center? Well, October is coming and That Day is coming to Alpharetta, GA.
If you’re interested in taking a look at what That Day might look like, we’re building our guest list for a special October showing. To be considered for an invite, fill out the form below. We may have an inside line on the tickets… 😉
Ever Felt Overwhelmed?
Ten years ago, I got a job promotion. Sounds good, right? But, without an immediate replacement for my old position, I found myself responsible for both my new job and my old job… for almost 4 months!
In very short order, I started experiencing burnout. All the while, I was being told “work smarter, not harder” by several well meaning colleagues. But, when I asked them “what’s that look like”? No one had any definitive answers that I could immediately put to work. Besides being frustrated, I felt like the light at the end of the tunnel was getting dimmer the harder I worked.
After a ton of fervent prayer, God brought to my attention a book by a secular author outlining what appeared to be completely secular ideas and practices. I would later learn he hadn’t taught me anything that God hadn’t already thought of first. Once I understood this framework, I was able to process (not merely “delete”) over 4,500 emails and make a respectable dent in my swelling in basket… in just 72 hours.
I got to share a little of this story with Ministry Ventures’ “Leader Infusion Podcast” last quarter. You can listen to it here.
God has never given us work to do without the perspective needed to accomplish it. Productivity is woven throughout the scriptures, believe it or not, and an experienced guide can help you pick up that trail, if you’re willing to watch and listen. We call it “Clean Slate”. We’ve designed a full day workshop to help men, women, and organizations rethink their work from God’s perspective and remove as many barriers to “productivity” as possible. Stage 1 of engaging with is like “Clean Slate Lite” – a free, introductory webinar that serves as a first step on the road to freedom from overwhelm.
If you’re overcommitted, overwhelmed, or just plain “over it”, carve some time out on Wednesday afternoon, August 12th and attend our introductory webinar “5 Steps to End an Inbox Crisis”. My friend, Don, attended our workshop last year and regularly reminds me how we worked together to get him from thousands of emails in his inbox to “done” in just 5 days. A ministry leader friend who attended our last webinar reminds me that if people actually do what we’re teaching, there’s no reason why they can’t catch up and get ahead when it comes to “to do”.
I hope to see you or someone you love on our upcoming webinar and look forward to helping you do what God designed you to do, further, faster, with greater impact.
- To attend the webinar, click here and register. We’ll handle the rest.
- To spread the word on the webinar, click here to watch & share our video.
Sometimes, the words of Jesus bother me.
Care to jump in the mirror with me for some plank yankin’?
It’s then that I try to shut my mouth and silence the alerts and distractions around me to examine the bother:
Sharp, yucky bother? Just the enemy trying to condemn me over a thing of which Jesus has already pronounced me “not guilty”.
Warm bother? That’s the Spirit drawing me closer to the mirror for some good old fashioned plank yankin’.
While our written blog has been back burner’d in favor of building a few recently released and soon to be released YouTube video blog (vlog) articles, this week I had a hard time not passing on the following post from a really sharp thinker some of you already know – Daniel Diaddigo. Dan’s had a good look at the plank that was in his eye, my eye, and probably yours…
Allow me to hand the mirror over to Dan so you can stare long and hard at it. I pray you’ll join me for some plank yankin’.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17
We’ve been talking about things that distract us from Jesus, deep things that growl at us from the corners of our hearts. Last time, we discovered that we can trace our fear to misplaced hope. To conquer fear we must confront it and bring it before Jesus. Fear approaches us from the future, with things that might hurt us tomorrow. But what about those things that hurt us from the past?
A college roommate once told me, “Just because I’m a Christian doesn’t mean I have to like him.” The “him” was a mutual acquaintance who had apparently fallen from favor. I was a babe in the faith, begging wisdom wherever I could find it. Here was a friend, more seasoned than I, telling me over milk and cookies that there would be people I just didn’t have to like.
A liberating thought.The fact that I recall this conversation so many years later gives me a clue that I must have made some space for the idea. I see now this is the Spirit’s prompt to shine light into a corner that needs attention.
Live long enough, feel long enough – and you’ll experience the pain that accompanies the human condition. It is a pain born of brokenness. Deep cuts. Wounds of the heart that pump the serpent’s venom into our souls. Wounds at the hand of another.
For some, these wounds bear the scars of physical or sexual abuse. Others carry the weight of an absent dad or a cheating spouse. People who have hurt us, who left us hemorrhaging and gasping for air. People we don’t like. People, if we are willing to go there – we hate.
Jesus says that anyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer. And somehow we’re okay with that. “You know Jesus, always using hyperbole and parables to make a point.”
“Yeah, like when the disciples asked Jesus how many times they had to forgive their brothers and Jesus said, ‘seventy times seven’ which meant, like, ‘infinity’?”
“I know it. That’s crazy talk.”
How are you doing with loving “difficult” people?
I’ll be honest. If I could write my own story, there are people I would remove from its pages. I would erase them completely. I’d pencil in new characters to take their places. Characters who were neither arrogant nor hypocritical nor small; characters who did not steal from me, or belittle me, constantly compete with me, or otherwise cover my light with their bowls. I would cut the characters that cut off people’s heads in God’s name; and I would dispose of those who sell girls to wealthy bidders. There are people who simply would not exist in my world – if I could write my story. Hmmm. Maybe Jesus is onto something.
Unforgiveness distracts us from Jesus. It diverts our gaze from Him and cements it to our pain. Jesus wants to break the shackles that bind us to our wounds. To fully experience the freedom that Jesus offers, we must choose to walk away from the wounds and to release those who inflicted them. We must… forgive.
Forgiving “those who trespass against us” is not easy. It can be a process. Here are some things that help me. I hope you find them to be useful:
- Surrender your right to not be wounded. Or, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “why not rather be wronged?”
- Cancel the debt. Write down on a sheet of paper what the offending party owes you. Respect? Credit? Dignity? Reputation? Then tear up the paper. Debt cancelled. It is Jesus who makes us whole, not people.
- Embrace Jesus’ suffering. Jesus suffered unjustly. Sometimes He gives us an opportunity to share in that suffering. Truly, an opportunity. I have discovered there is a special flavor of intimacy in that place where we consciously occupy Jesus’ suffering. It’s hard to describe, but I know it when I taste it – and it’s sweet, not bitter.
- Set up my assailant as a prayer target. Have you ever tried to forgive someone but it just doesn’t seem to stick? You find yourself having a thousand imaginary conversations, reliving the offense again and again? Remember, we have an enemy who will leverage our pain to distract us from Jesus. Try this: Every time these thoughts assail you, fight back with prayer. Aggressive, war-footing, prayer. Speaking out loud may help:“Here’s the deal. Every time I hear these thoughts, I am going to pray for _________. I’m going to pray for this person everything I would pray for myself. I’m going to ask the Lord to prosper him / (her) and draw him near and conform him to His image. So, if that’s what you desire as well, I invite you to keep bringing me these thoughts to remind me to pray. Thank you for the prompt.”
Then, allow for the possibility that your persecutors may have been brought to you by the Lord so that they may be set free in response to your intervention. I know, twisted, huh?
Okay, let’s strip this down to its foundation. Is it possible to forgive, to truly forgive at a heart level, absent the life of Jesus pulsing through us? I would say “no”. No, because in order to forgive, something in us must die. Let’s call this something the offended Self.
We who are being conformed to Christ’s image will eventually experience what it means to forgive someone who does not deserve our forgiveness. In this, we are invited to join God in the ministry of reconciliation of which Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians.
Yes, forgiveness will cost us – just like it cost Jesus.
“While we were enemies of God, Christ died for us.”
My roommate was right. We don’t have to like them. We have to LOVE THEM. We have to love them to death.
1 Corinthians 6:7, Romans 5:8
Who Am I to Judge?
It’s no secret that before I surrendered my life to Christ, I consumed a lot of porn. Even a year or so afterward. Never did I imagine I’d go from wanting free porn to desiring “porn free”. Until Jesus. Today, 14 years clean (by grace), I rely on Him to daily tear down and fend off images in my mind that I wish I could “unthink” and I meet with men regularly to talk them off the ledge of porn addiction. If you struggle with it or just haven’t made up your mind yet that it’s not healthy for you, let me start here:
I’m not here to judge you. AND… I want better for you, even if you don’t see porn free as “better”.
Porn’s far more accessible and how it’s defined is far more a “Grey” area than ever. It’s headed for the big screen again. So, I’m back after a long blogging absence to point to a few matters of great cultural significance that must be examined through a biblical worldview. After all, we’re all discipled by something.
God calls us to train ourselves in righteousness. A boss may teach us to walk in their footsteps so we can take over the division or organization when they retire. In both cases, it’s got a name: grooming. Grooming is a strategic training process implemented by degrees. Just ask any judge who’s had to preside over a pedophelia trial. Perpetrators groom their victims. Of any story we must ask: “for what is the author grooming the audience?” Love? Or, a new version of love?
What Is Love?
Porn is not love. But, love is under attack: we love tacos, Coca-Cola, that smartphone, those shoes. We love… too easily and out of a weak definition. In embracing the cheapened, modern usage of “love”, we lose the value of love. Speaking of “value”, if you typed Command-H and replaced every instance of the word “love” in your Bible with the word “value”, do you realize how little meaning would be lost?
“God so valued the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)”
Love is not an emotion and it’s not an event. It’s an expression of value. I stole my working definition of love straight from Voddie Baucham – “Love is an act of the will, accompanied by emotion, which leads to action on behalf of its object.” We love tacos, Coke, that phone, and those shoes because of what they do for us. But, that’s not God’s way: “God loved… [so]… God gave”. Love – true, crazy, sacrificial agape love – is about what we can do for others, not what we get from them.
Baby, Don’t Hurt Me… No More
Naturally, you can understand my outrage regarding the worldwide popularity and excitement surrounding the 50 Shades book and upcoming movie release, right? When we reduce love down to merely a highly sexual relationship, the participants become a commodity (especially when expressed through bondage and sadomasochism ala FSoG) and we miss out on God’s design for love. The economic reality is that every time we “vote” for a book or a movie like this one – and every dollar is a vote – we tell the people who created it “We approve! Make more!” What gets rewarded gets repeated (see article below for the “inside” scoop on “9 Things You Should Know…”). Why are we participating in it… investing in it… rewarding it?
What’s worse, this story is shaping what we believe is “OK” to be on the shelf, on the screen, in our hearts… And, in so doing, it promotes the rape myth and the culture of objectification and enslavement that Jesus came to free us from. In God’s economy, we are not objects. We are the image bearers of our Creator. Let’s not relegate others to any lesser status… God has better in mind for all of us… a clean slate…
Now, What You Came Here For:
Today, I want to share with you
two three excellent articles on the Fifty Shades topic, again from a biblical worldview. Also, a supplemental article on the neurology behind pornography. Last, a little from Paul David Tripp on what love is all about from God’s point of view. I hope you are edified, perhaps corrected, and encouraged by them and pass them on to those who God impresses on your hearts.
For further reading:
Have a Happy Valentine’s Day, God’s way!!!
Don’t forget to watch our new “Death to Delilah” and “Share Frank’s Story” videos on our YouTube channel.