Tag Archives: Monday Morning Momentum
Don’t Do This, This Year…
Every one of us has experienced setting a goal or making a New Year’s Resolution at least once in our lives, yes? Some of us have become so jaded by the experience of failing at the “eat better, read the Bible more, get in shape” routine that we don’t even bother anymore. Others are amazing goal-setters and have a complete Life Blueprint binder sitting on your desk at arm’s reach.
“Watch my weight”, “watch my mouth”, “watch less TV”… Resolutions often have the “watch” word in them. While were at it, who doesn’t like to watch a good episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” or “Restaurant Impossible” or “What Not To Wear”? Chances are, you’ve been sucked into one of these shows by the whole “before” and “after” theme that makes grown adults scream like children “Move… That… Bus!!!” and then cry like babies when they see the finished result. We love to watch the reaction of the people whose lives have now been changed forever…
We’d all love to be one of those people, wouldn’t we? What if we already are?
Lost in Translation…
Recently as I was reading Romans 12:2 I saw something I hadn’t noticed as vividly as before. We’ve talked before about the word “suschematidzo” – to conform. It’s a word that’s used only twice in the NT and both times as an “avoid doing this”. Don’t be conformed any longer… You’re free – be free. Sounds like a good resolution, right?
Unfortunately, the NIV – one of the most popular translations – renders another word rather weakly and causes us to lose significant impact from this verse. The word “metamorphosis” comes from the word rendered “transformed”. A better translation of that word alone could really give this verse some deep-sinking teeth, no? But, the word that really jumped off the page for me is the word turned into “renewed”. Wimpy word. The Greek for this word is “renovation”.
I understand. Before you tune out all disappointed, let’s compare the two words at the checkout counter at Home Depot. Cool?
You walk into Home Depot and Frank greets you at the door. “Finding everything you need?”
You: “I’ve got to renew a room in my house. What have you got?”
Frank: “Paint counter’s right over there.”
You: “Thanks, Frank.”
Total Cost: $22.45 and a couple hours taping, cutting, and painting. Room renewed.
You see where we’re going here, right? There’s a huge difference between “renew” and “renovate”. How radically different would your conversation with Frank be if you told him you needed to renovate a room?
Four Things About Renovation… and then Three Keys
Having done hundreds of home theater jobs, flat panel TV and surround sound installations, and been around contractors and home owners for over a thousand hours, I can tell you four things about virtually every renovation I’ve ever seen:
- They always take longer than planned.
- They cost more than planned.
- Create a bigger mess than you ever dreamed.
- You appreciate the finished product far more than any other human being ever can.
So, why “renew” when you can “renovate”? Why renew, when you’ve been commanded to renovate “so that you may be able to test and approve God’s good pleasing and perfect will”? Why would you settle for less than the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God… if it’s there for the asking? Most of the time it’s because the mess of the demolition, the cost of the job, and the ever expanding time line give you a pit in the stomach.
Scripture tells us to “put off the old self” and “put on the new self”, “renovate”. This means demolishing a lot of old patterns, old ways, familiar habits, and developing a Spirit-led habit of saying “no” to the flesh.
- Fast & pray – Fasting is telling the flesh “no” for a prolonged period of time so that we may “sow to the spirit”. Each year, our home church does a 21-day Daniel Fast. For great resources to help you on your way, go to “http://danielfast.wordpress.com/”. Or, contact us and we’d love to share stories and help you plan for your first 3 day, 7 day, or even 21 day fast.
- Renovate, not renew – Your mindset going into the fast is as simple as this: are you asking God to inform your conscience of the things He desires to do in and through you from this point forward or are you begging Him to lock arms with you as you seek to put to death the flesh and renovate your mind/life/past? Resolve to renovate. It will cost more, take more time, but in the end be worth it.
- Be accountable – Left to ourselves, we can justify anything. My blood pressure spiked a few weeks ago and I immediately sent out an email to 5 guys in my life that will hold my feet to the fire about diet, exercise, and workflow management. Today, I’m down 9 points on both sides of the “/”. If you’re not in close accountability with a group or individual, you’re prone to drift off course or quit altogether.
“I pray that He may strengthen you with power through His spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Don’t settle for slapping a new coat of paint on your life. Renovate. He commanded you.
Later today, I’ll post part 5 of this series. But, this morning, I hope you and your family are richly blessed by this “pass on” post of Daniel Diadiggo’s “Christmas Chronicles”. For previous posts in this series, click below.
Grace and peace,
#4 when God speaks
The shepherds understood what it was like to be outsiders. These were society’s forgotten, the ones the mothers didn’t want their daughters to marry. They were not, as some might say, relationally connected.
The shepherds were generational outcasts, removed to obscurity from the centers of power and influence.
One night a group of shepherds went to work as they had hundreds of nights before.
… the same as their dads had done
… and their grandfathers before them
The shepherds had no reason to believe that this night would be any different from the others.
And yet this night… would be unlike any other.
This… is the night God broke through…. the night He split the darkness and lit up the sky and declared peace between men and their God.
With the angels and all the universe leaning in… and while Jerusalem slept… God announced the birth of the Christ child – to a group of shepherds.
I wonder why He did that? Why did he choose the shepherds?
Maybe.. since nobody listened to them… they were more inclined to listen to God. For when God spoke the shepherds listened and left.
History remembers the shepherds – the lowly ones who stepped outside their own stories and into the miraculous.
Thank you Lord that you break through into our world and speak to us. Thank you that we hear your voice. Thank you for extending compassion to the undeserving and for drawing us to Yourself. We pray for the outsiders tonight, for those whose hearts are broken and for they who are lonely and afraid.
Angels We Have Heard on High
Lost the Plot, Did We?
Amazing how great and tragic loss gets us asking the right questions, isn’t it? Sad there are so many distractions to take our eyes off the plot. Ever felt so stuck in the swamp you forgot you were sent there to drain it? Then, you must have seen the news on Friday, too… Terrible that we have to lose dozens of precious children to get us to pray more fervently, attend church more faithfully (even at all), or take a break from the busy-ness of business to consider what really matters at the time of year that really matters… Then, as the media cycle dies down… back to our Christmas shopping again, right?
Which is more tragic, the tragedy we saw or the tragedy of forgetting it?
OK, Shift Gears…
In Pursuit of Happiness…
At the intersection of all the newer stuff out there every year – the better, sleeker, smaller/larger (depending on the technology) – the “better deals than ever“, and the constant IV-drip of the marketers’ “you, you, you”, lies what used to be the village of “I really ought to get something for me”.
It was founded decades ago when Madison Avenue discovered that adding a few drops of consumer psychology to our water supply could turn grown adults into whiny, tantruming children who lose their minds when they can’t have what they want when they want it. Today, the town has grown up into a bustling city, renamed “Gimme” and you and I all have hearts that speak its native language.We even have a gift or two on our list that we’re buying just for us, right?
Paul makes in interesting point in 1 Corinthians 1, as he points to the identity of his audience:
“[I am writing this letter] to those who have been set aside/dedicated to serving God – holy by calling”
In fact, the letters God inspired Paul to write are all reminders to people who have lost the plot. “You started out on the right foot. You just got so caught up in the walking, you forgot where you were supposed to be headed. You’re so wrapped up in the men around you, you’ve lost touch with the Maker. You were called out to be holy – turn around and stick with first things in light of what’s been done for you!”
See? You just read half of the New Testament.
To Regain the Plot, Consider the Characters
We were created in God’s image, not a carbon copy of God, though. We are the creation, not the creator, and not endowed with the wisdom of all He knows. We lose the plot constantly because we don’t think like God. Yeah, you’ve been reading the Bible for a decade or two. That’s great. Me, too. That just makes me more prone to the sin of pride. God calls out to His people over and over again – “repent” – change your mind, radically and agree with the ways of God.
God isn’t so busy wrapped up with my deadline, your project problems, her sales quota, their ballet, soccer, karate, and gymnastics schedule. He always knows what the plot is… His glory. He’s totally stuck on Himself, but it’s okay. He’s the most important person in His life, and that’s okay. Implication: we’re not. We’re not the reason we’re alive, not the answer, not the point of the story… So, when we get all caught up in “us”, by whatever device, we’ve hijacked the lead role and lost the plot.
The Good News
The Good News, of course, is Jesus. But, the message of the Gospel isn’t. The Message of the Gospel is something far more offensive to our carefully tuned ears: “repent”. That’s great news – there’s a solution to… us. Repent… Turn away from the way that you used to think when you were, as God calls us, dead in your sin. Take off the old self, what’s familiar to you, “The Pursuit of Me and My Stuff”, and put on new thoughts. Renovate your mind.
But, the news Paul writes in 1 Corinthians is not to those who don’t know Christ. These aren’t people who are “dead in their sin”. These are people who’ve received grace by faith, but are being tugged this way and that by “every wind of teaching and the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14). Know anyone like that?
The great news is, at least we know the Main Character and the plot. At least we have a means to regain the plot once we’ve lost it. And, despite the pain we’re feeling over our loss, their loss, any loss, we have gained something by the tragedy – a painful post it note that reminds us there was a plot in the first place. Go ahead, put your kids’ picture or one of the photos of those victims of the shooting on your dash board. But, don’t let it be there in vain – let it be a reminder of who the story is about and who you and I are not.
Pray for comfort for the families who have lost. Pray that God puts a smile on their face through the comfort that can only come from “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles (2 Cor. 1:3-4)”. But, pray also for the salvation of all around them. No sense in showing up to the gates of Hell with a smile on your face… Let’s not gain a smile and lose the plot. Give the gift of the Plot Writer to yourself and others this Christmas.
Jesus is the reason, not just a season.
Grace, peace, and momentum to you today in Christ!
The point of Monday Morning Momentum is to ensure your week maintains the momentum you got from the shot in the arm your pastor gave you yesterday. I try to pass on some brief word that has me jazzed about jumping out of bed and taking a bite of of Monday. This week, I had a few great thoughts to share. But, none of them were as well ironed out as the one that I got in my email from Daniel Diadiggo a few weeks ago.
I’ve posted some of Daniel’s stuff here in the past – Diadiggo is one of those guys who “gets it” when it comes to Jesus, grace, and truth. He also really gets it when it comes to the pattern of this age and the pattern of God (example). On top of that, I find him to be an incredibly insightful and cogent writer, able to articulate complex ideas in a staggeringly simple way.
A few years ago, I witnessed one of his family’s traditions, performed at a local restaurant, called “Christmas Chronicles”. For the next few weeks, as I take some time off from the blog to soak more thoroughly in the word and unclutter some of my own brain at year end, I’ve chosen to unleash his “Christmas Chronicles” for your consumption and cogitation.
I hope as you disciple others it will serve as a helpful framework for sharing important truths about Christmas, Christ, and the God who loves us with a crazy, crazy love. It’s a tradition I’m sure the Pina family will adopt in years to come and I hope it proves to be a unique blessing to you as you and your family gather to celebrate the incarnation of a risen Savior.
Merry Monday Momentum & Merry, Merry Christmas!
Foreword: Twenty-two years ago as newlyweds, Kelle and I invited family and friends to our tiny, rented duplex to read the Christmas story. Together, we read Scripture, prayed, and sang hymns. Sprinkled in between were some vignettes I wrote which were spoken by alternating readers. The idea has survived as a family tradition in some form through the years and has become known locally (as in our family room) as “the Christmas Chronicles”. dcd
#1 in the midst of the mundane
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
Joseph was doing his taxes when Jesus was born. He was rendering to Caesar that which was Caesar’s – he was giving the world it’s due.
What a pain.
Life is a strand of ordinary things, often inconvenient things.
… things we’re supposed to do
… things we have to do.
This was one of these.
Joseph hoisted his very pregnant betrothed onto a donkey and set out for Bethlehem because
… that’s what he was supposed to do.
It was in Bethlehem, in the middle of Joseph’s drudgery
that God punctured time and appeared in flesh.
God does that a lot.
He interrupts our routines…
At the most inconvenient of times
…when we’re bothered by something else
…times when we’re too busy to pay attention
God breaks through
And delivers… LIFE!!
Lord, thank you for the mundane – for those burdens You have pressed upon us, for those things that are in the way. Thank You for delivering life into the midst of our mundane!
Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
Get Free, Stay Free
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen Shawshank, I’m about to tell you things that will “spoil” some of the surprises in the plot.
Okay, let’s talk “The Shawshank Redemption”. Smart script, brilliant plot, bad theology (e.g., “it’s okay to steal money from a thief and take the law into your own hands”?), coarse language. You don’t need to see it.
Their Story, Much Like Yours “Not Guilty?”
Main character, – “Andy Dufresne” (Tim Robbins), convicted on circumstantial evidence of a murder he didn’t commit. Sent to Shawshank prison where he falls in with a bunch of “not so bad” guys including “Red” (Morgan Freeman) and an old timer named “Brooks” (James Whitmore), who’s been in prison for about 50 years. Every one of these men, much like you and I “didn’t do it”, right? “Innocent men.” At least, that’s their story. What’s yours?
Brooks isn’t the main thrust of the movie, but he provides insight into a problem you and I face on a daily basis, and a problem that’s been weighing on a guy I’m discipling right now, whom I’ll call “Hank”. Brooks spends 50 years entrenched in prison culture before he’s paroled as an old man. Hank’s a lot like Brooks. He’s been imprisoned by his past – shameful things he’s said and done – and now in Christ his term is over and he’s out on parole so to speak. (Note: theologically, Hank’s in a different situation because he’s really been pardoned, not paroled, but in the eyes of the law, he’s a free man. Tracking?)
Brooks realizes in a sharp hurry that 50 years of being told when to eat, when to go to the bathroom, when to sleep, etc. that making his own decisions and “walking in freedom” is utterly foreign to him. He becomes overwhelmed by “life on the outside” because he’s so used to “life on the inside”. In desperation, Brooks carves a note on the rafter in the room he’s rented and hangs himself.
When his final letter reaches the old inmate buddies back at Shawshank, Red explains to Andy the concept known as “institutional syndrome”:
“individuals in institutions may be deprived (unintentionally) of independence and of responsibility, to the point that once they return to “outside life” they are often unable to manage many of its demands” – Wikipedia, “Institutional Syndrome”
or, as Red explains the effects of being behind prison walls to Andy:
“These walls are funny. First you hate them, then you get used to them. After long enough, you get so you depend on them. That’s “institutionalized.””
Are You “Hanking It”?
I’m sitting down with Hank last month and he seems stuck in neutral. He’s bitter and puzzled about it. “You sound like you feel… ‘stuck’. What’s got you stuck?” He lands on some things he can’t forgive someone for and the things he can’t ask forgiveness for. He’s got a bad habit – pride. Huh? Let me explain. I asked him what causes him to not ask forgiveness and he nails it after only a three second pause. “Pride.” But, pride is a habit, a prison wall we build ourselves…
“Hank, do you realize she’s [the person who offended him repeatedly] has been forgiven by Jesus what that means?” He squints and thinks… “Essentially, you’re looking at her and saying ‘Jesus forgives you, but I have a little bit higher standard for you than He does…”
Pride… Pretty ugly, right?
So, what does this have to do with you and I?
Leave the Walls Behind
Ephesians tells us to put off the old self… and put on the new self… Scripture tells us we are “new creations”. But, Brooks didn’t feel free even when he stepped out of the prison walls. He was so used to the old flesh, the old habits, the old walls that he reverted back to prison mentality even when set free. Hank is so used to forgiveness being about his standards, that now as a believer in Christ’s substitutionary atonement, he’s having a hard time walking in freedom without imprisoning others with him… Ouch.
|Andy Dufresne stands in the rain outside
Shawshank prison for the first time as a
“free man”. You and I are washed clean by
the blood of Christ. We have an even greater hope.
Red called it. Are you depending on the prison walls from your old self? Are you putting your confidence in the flesh? A friend wrote on his Facebook wall last week something to this effect: “Christianity is freedom. But prison is often so hard to leave…” Andy Dufresne knew what he’d do with his freedom – he had hope in something greater. He hadn’t put so much faith in the prison, fear, and shame that he’d forgotten what freedom could look like.
So, today, will you walk in freedom? Will you consider your ways and the freedom that is available from the lies of shame and guilt? Leave the walls behind. You’re free. Walk free.
Slaying the Fame Monster
Killing the obsession with earthly fame comes for some through stoking the fires of personal gain rather than achievement – they’re not concerned with who remembers them as long as they got what they wanted while they were here. Others don’t have to kill the beast, because their desire is like John the Baptists’, to minimize their own name while maximizing the name of Christ.
What’s the Problem?
Whether you desire to kill the fame monster or you’re hopelessly beholden to it, there’s a tension that showed up in your gut when you read “Will what I’m doing right now matter in 100 years?” If you felt that, you get it. You get that we all have a desire for significance.
There’s a universal tension between who we are and who we will become that grows more vivid the closer we get to death. Just ask anyone that’s been in a car wreck or overdosed or had some other near death experience. The thought of losing control over how we’re perceived by others is a cliff far more terrifying than the fiscal cliff in the news these days. We don’t just long to be remembered, we long to be remembered on our terms.
True Fame in Your Future
In the book of Revelation (not Revelations, please), Jesus tells the church at Philadelphia they’re on track to earn a crown – a highly coveted chunk of eternal reward – but, if they don’t persevere in doing what is right, they’ll forfeit it.
He also tells them of an even more coveted reward – “I will make [him who overcomes] a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. (Rev. 3.12)”
A pillar is strong, a support that holds up something (in this case, the Heavenly temple of God), and important pillars often have plaques with inscriptions on them. Jesus tells them God will autograph the person, put the name of the new Jerusalem on them, and write a new, personal nickname on him or her. Biggest fame, ever… and on God’s terms! Trust me, way better than anything you or I could come up with.
Cue the Soft, Peaceful Music…
I love the Christmas season. The deeper my walk with Christ, the more I appreciate the time when we celebrate His incarnation. Yes, I’m a foodie – all the foods, drinks, smells, and flavors of Thanksgiving and the weeks leading up to Christmas create vivid, IMAX moments in my memory of seasons past. The most powerful thought that comes to my mind each year is that Jesus came to earth to deal with the source of our troubles – sin and death.
Everyone around you has the same problems. Sin and death. Some just experience louder and longer versions of the same struggles. Some just have layers and layers of problems piled on them. But, essentially it all comes down to the problem of living in a broken, Genesis 3 world. We’ve trained our oldest daughter to recognize one of the simplest results of the Fall – hurt people hurt people. And, we’re all hurt people, but grace means we don’t have to let the cycle continue and we don’t have to be the source of someone else’s hurt.
Enter “The Awkward Conversation”
What does the intersection of Thanksgiving/Christmas and “hurt people” mean to you? Sometimes, it means running into someone you haven’t seen in a long time and asking one of those “awkward” questions:
“So, Sandy, you and Rick getting married soon?” Rick just left Sandy for his executive assistant. Oops.
“Hey, great to see you! Where’s Margaret?” Margaret died of cancer three weeks ago. Tragic silence.
Rewriting the Script:
Too close to home? Been there. Done that. So, what do I do, show up and not say anything? Well. That’s an option… But, the bible offers several practical disciplines that God commands us to practice before that awkward conversation that will make it ten times easier to handle the kinds of situations that only exist in a fallen broken world filled with fallen broken people. Actors don’t just “learn lines”, they prepare their character. Athletes don’t just work out, they practice their craft. Wise disciples of Christ engage the Master and His wisdom.
1. Show up “Clean”.
For years, Men Step Up’s table leaders have carried a card around in their wallets that demands of them 5 things, one of which is “Show up clean and on time.” “Clean” to these guys and to anyone as a disciple of Christ who disciples others, means asking themselves and the Lord this one question: “Lord, is there any unconfessed sin in my life?” David wrote “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139.22-24)” Jesus would later teach in the Beattitudes: “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Bottom line – sin clouds our vision and numbs us to not only the voice of the Holy Spirit, but the innate sensibilities God has impressed on our conscience and memory of Godly wisdom. This prevents us from paying attention to the fact that “Rick” isn’t in the room and Sandy looks a bit emotionally aloof or that Margaret, too, isn’t at the party and we recall her name showing up in a prayer chain email a few months back. What if we prayed those lines from Psalm 139 on the way to ever function and begged God to “create in [us] a clean heart?”
2. Stay Clean.
For personal reasons, Cristine and I have eliminated alcohol from our diet as of about two years ago. But, have you ever noticed that some of the most careless things can come out of our mouths after only one glass of wine or one snobby, locally-micro-brewed IPA? Scripture is replete with commands to “be alert”, “be sober minded”, “consider others better than yourselves”. When we’re not at peak performance, around tons of people (each of which bring their own “holiday” baggage to the room, not to mention our own), how can we possibly be as alert, sober minded, and attentive to the needs of others when we’re even mildly impaired? I could focus on the word “mildly”, but it’s used here to describe the word “impaired“. Are you with me?
So, as a rule, I used to show up with a “two drink maximum”. But, since we are all easily blinded by the wiles of our own indiscretions, what would it look like if you took the number of drinks you consider “conservative” and cut it in half or quarter?
3. Got Dirty? Get Clean Fast.
The most astounding prayer Jesus ever prayed was hanging on the cross while insults were being hurled at Him: “forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” For you and I to get great at praying (and really meaning) that prayer is a major chunk of walking the Christian walk. Family times often bring awkward tensions brought about by unconfessed or unforgiven sins. Work parties can so easily turn into contests of who can suppress the urge to tell someone what they’ve wanted to say about unfair conditions the longest. But, forgiveness is the only true solution.
John Woodall once asked me “are you aware of your subtle methods of seeking revenge?” That question stuck with me like a drop of gas fallen from the pump onto my shoe. Impossible to shake the smell, right? It’s true – you and I all share in Cain’s folly… “I’ll show you!” The regular practice of confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation ought to flow from the believer with force.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Have a great Thanksgiving and a Christmas season marked by incredible “un-awkwardness”.
Two Ways to “Stop Being So Judgmental”
“You’re so judgmental.”
Stings, doesn’t it? Begs the question “How can I stop being so judgmental?”
Short answer: curl up and die.
Not helpful? Okay, I’ll give you the long answer. But, for context, I have to go way above my pay grade and make a football analogy:
Any pass has at least three parts: the ball, the throw and the receiver. Throw a perfectly good ball poorly and the receiver will need a miracle to catch it. But, even with a regulation ball and a great pass, there are three things that will result in an incomplete every time: wickedness, pride (mockery), or a wounded receiver.
“Gimme the Ball”!
A friend asks for advice. A regulation football represents God’s wisdom. So, you throw it to them where they are. Should be a complete, right? Instead, they snap back at you and accuse you of being judgmental and “holier than thou”. For weeks, there’s enmity between you. You feel rejected. They’re offended. Yet, in your heart, you’re between a rock and a hard place because they asked for the ball and you delivered. What the dilly?!
What’s Their Problem That Was a Great Pass?!
Wisdom invites two distinct responses: a “toward” response “growing wisdom” (complete) or an “away” response of insult/abuse/hate (incomplete). The toward response is born at the intersection of a healthy heart and the tendency of wisdom to add to itself. The away shows up at the intersection of unhealthy conditions of the heart and a natural tendency to protect that heart from further harm.
Scripture tells us:
“Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult;
whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.
Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you;
rebuke a wise man and he will love you.
Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still;
teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. (Prov. 9.7-9)”
Ultimately, how we react to wisdom is a symptom of our overall spiritual health: your doctor may run tests to tell what’s wrong with you, yes? If he gives you a plate of wisdom and you eat it, the proverb above tells us you’re healthy – you were just suffering from a slight case of ignorance in that particular area, but if you add this wisdom to your learning – you’re cured! Reject it though, our proverb says you’ve got a case of wickedness or mockeritis.
We have to judge. We’re designed to judge. Our brain is constantly comparing and contrasting things and making conclusions that could easily be classified as “judgments”. If you or I saw someone about to fall into an open manhole, we’d warn them, right? But, if we’re a Christian following the above logic, we’d be considered “judgmental”. If we lied down on the warm pavement of a busy street, we could easily be classified as “having poor judgment”.
Jesus’s teaching on the plank and the speck of sawdust (see Matthew 7) illustrates that we are not to pass final judgment (Greek: krino) on others, but to judge them or their behavior in light of our own faults and the fact that we, too will be judged. This implies a more compassionate confrontation than I or my friend may have in mind above. But, Jude 23 tells us we must “snatch” them from the fire – which may be abrupt and could be considered harsh if not explained.
Judging is necessary for survival. But in Christ, we are free to judge a behavior and free from having to condemn the “behaver” in the process (Greek: krino, brings a connotation of final judgment and condemnation). We are also called to love one another, abruptly pull someone in danger from their danger, and to consider others better than ourselves. Not everyone receives wisdom well. Thus, the only other way to win 100% of the time is to pass wisdom only to people who are “all-wisdom, all-the-time” instead of those who are wounded, wicked, or proud.
Good luck with that.
In a Genesis 3 world, we will never fully get this to work seamlessly. There are creases, folds, and tears in everyone’s life and even godly advice delivered with best intentions can set off a fire storm of resent. There is great news for those situations – Jesus died for the fire starter and the fire breather. But, He also promises reward to for everything we have done in obedience for His name and by the Spirit. Suffer persecution, even from followers of Christ, and you will be rewarded as an overcomer. Perhaps not right now… but God promises a retirement plan that is out of this world.
Prisoners of Our Own Device
Overwhelmed? Overloaded? Overcommitted? Overworked? Overburdened?
Me, too. Or, should I say “I was living that way, too.” Until God broke the dam and gave me some great relief. Many of you have been following these strange posts on my Facebook page about “inbox = empty” and wondering either “who cares?”, “is it Christian to hate him?”, or “how can anyone get their inbox to empty so often and why is Aarron Pina taunting me?!”
Let me explain.
About 6 ot 7 years ago I read David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” and implemented a good portion of it, experienced great success for a time, but eventually fell off the wagon enough times that I think I broke (and subsequently, lost) my spine. About 2-1/2 months ago, after reading over our family mission statement which includes part of Romans 12:2 (“…be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds”), I started listening to David Allen’s podcasts and re-implementing the GTD system.
Ever pray to God for a breakthrough and hear no response only to find out He was silent now because He’d already clearly told you something several times before? God had given me an answer, freely and without reproach, but this time He made me uncover it when I was so fed up with my own mess that I moved Heaven and earth to find His answer:
1. Track your commitments. (Wait, something fell through the cracks?!)
Every one of us has (at the 10,000 foot level) between 30 and 100 “projects” at any given time. (A project is any multiple step activity that when all the steps related to it are checked off, it can be considered “done” – closed-ended.) These commitments need to be tracked or they will “fall through the cracks”. Every one of us has (at the 20,000 foot level) between 10 and 15 categories of commitments, called “Areas of Responsibility” or “Areas of Focus” that cannot be completed because they are ongoing and open ended. Ex. “market research”, “bills”, “customer service”, “health”, “strategic planning”. These, too, must be tracked. Some people call this “getting organized”, but what I’m suggesting is a larger, richer, system of workflow management that includes “organize” as a component without being limited to just getting there.
2. Run the Prison, Don’t Let the Prisoners Run You
God is a god of order and He designed our minds to be like “steel traps”, capturing thoughts and storing them. But, most of us are very sloppy in the way we run the penitentiary of steel traps in our head. I was taught a long time ago that when it comes to lust, there’s no excuse for sloppy thinking. However, the verse above isn’t just limited to lustful thoughts. Yes, we need to get unruly, unwelcome visitors like lust out of the lobby, but we need to make sure the rest of the prison stays in control.
The “to make it obedient to Christ” part means, from a practical standpoint, identifying a thought as either godly or wicked. Here’s a simple question I’d been blowing off hundreds of times a day, resulting in towers of clutter on my desk: “What is this?” Every email, every memo, every assignment, every “note to self” can either be acted on or not. That’s helpful information. It’s either a prisoner, a prison worker, or a visitor. Unfinished business is like an extra inmate with no place to go – accumulate enough of them and the guards… the prison… will be overrun and out of control.
Identifying each thought (email, commitment, inspiration, project) is vital information to me now, because I know there are only four possible places something can go once identified:
- A. Do – if it’s something that I, and only I, can do and it’s less than two minutes (I have a sand timer on my desk called the “2-minute Nazi” to hold me to this) I’ll knock it out, immediately. If it’s something that requires other input from other people or that takes longer than two minutes it gets “Dated”.
- B. Date – I’m funny like this: if it’s on my calendar, it’s pretty likely to get done on the day it’s listed on my calendar. If the answer to “What is it?” is “something that cannot or should not be done right now, it goes into my “tickler” file (see below for definition) on the appropriate day or gets scheduled on my calendar in a “free” block, so it doesn’t fall through the cracks so easily. No stray prisoners allowed in the hallways!
- C. Delegate – If this is something that should be done or worked on until done but just doesn’t fit into my job description (Disciple – Grow – Promote), it must be delegated. This is like transferring a prisoner to another facility into someone else’s care until their sentence is served.
- D. Dump – Can I tell you about two of my newly favorite tools in my office? The trash can and the shredder. Love ’em. Now, I even know how to use them so well, they get emptied sometimes twice a week! How awesome is that? Talk about freedom. Get them out of the prison if they don’t belong there and you keep the prison clean!
3. Roll Call – the Glue that Keeps It Running
Every week, I now have a sacred hour or two on my calendar called “Weekly Review”. Read Getting Things Done and you’ll get a better feel for what it looks like or email me about our upcoming “Getting Things Done God’s Way: Restoring Order to Your Mind, Work, and Life” workshop in January and I’ll get you more detail. Essentially, this is a time for me to clean out all of my inboxes (virtual and physical) update all of my “next actions” lists, get clean and clear on what commitments are still waiting for other peoples’ inputs, etc., and check off items that may have moved so fast I couldn’t track them in the moment – “Mom called, she’ll be coming for dinner on Sunday, at 5:30” – great, I don’t have to call Mom about that.
Freedom Found? Be Encouraged.
For me, staying on the GTD wagon for 9 weeks, the payoff wasn’t just increased productivity. I’ve never felt like I literally “found” two extra hours of time in a week before, but that wasn’t the payoff, either. It was an even cooler reward than I had imagined. Have you ever emptied out your sofa or even the back seat of an old car and found $20? A five? Okay, enough change to buy a #4 breakfast at the drive thru? It’s like all this STUFF was in the way covering a buried treasure.
My treasure was more than cash. It was an unexpected gift from God: once I had uncluttered my inbox, my “to do” list, and my “current commitments” pile, it was clear I had been making dozens of choices based on either fear of rejection or the approval of men. Idolatry no matter how I looked at it. That was a set of commitments I knew just what to do with: I wrote them on paper “fear of rejection” and “approval of man”, said a little prayer “Lord, you have set me free from these. Let me stay free, indeed”, rolled my chair to the shredder, and listened blissfully as is churned away.
Free at last, free at last…
Doing Two Things at Once… Have you ever been on the phone with someone while you were driving to work, get to work and think “Wow, how did I get here?”
There’s great brain science out there that explains this phenomenon. Without getting hyper-biological, let’s just say that God designed our brains to do really great things. One of those things our brain yearns to do is to embed familiar routines into the “auto-pilot” section of our brain. We’ve subconsciously trained ourselves how to get to work by storing “directions to work” in the routine-function section of our minds (also called the basal ganglia). When we shifted our “full” attention to the phone conversation, auto-pilot is what helped us arrive at work instead of Peru.
Much of what you and I have learned as children has been broken down into easily recalled “chunks” (how to go to the bathroom, how to lift a glass, what to say when someone gives you a toy, how to respond to someone who yells at you, etc.) and stored it in autopilot. This saves us from wasting time and energy rethinking the routine each time we have to do it.
The Old Testament teaching from Proverbs 22:6 is echoed in Jesus’ teaching “…but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40)” Which, begs the question:
We’ve All Been Discipled by Someone
Many of my teachers growing up were contrary or marginally average examples of godly behavior. It took time in the Word and the Holy Spirit to expose to me the places where I’d learned wicked examples of auto pilot. Today, I was interviewing a mental health professional and he reminded me that when men and women are under great pressure they tend heavily to fall into default modes of thinking learned from their childhood/family of origin. The brain science I’m reading right now fully confirms this assertion: while we may have new ways of thinking and be a “new creation” in Christ, we don’t always let go of our old programming. Could this perhaps explain why some of the following passages appear in scripture:
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12.2a)”
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor. 10:5)”
“Finally, brothers, 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. (Phil. 4:8)”
All Things New?
When we come to faith in Christ, we do, indeed, become new creations, but this does not mean our most basic programming is completely erased. How much good would we be to God’s kingdom if our mind were erased, personality wiped clean, and we had to learn reading, writing, even potty training all over? We have been “trained up (Prov. 22:6)” for a reason. But, submission to God in all we do, abiding in Christ and walking by the Spirit, demands that we are constantly renewed in our minds. We have much to relearn and the Holy Spirit who is our teacher, but we must dedicate time and mental bandwidth to the process.
- Take an inventory of “pretension that set up against the knowledge of God” and pray – multiple times daily – that the Holy Spirit will renew those old, bad, faulty thought patterns, giving you a “new” auto pilot. But, make sure to do this on paper – soon, I’ll be posting on how your brain isn’t designed to hold too many important things in the forefront – there’s great practical value in getting things out of our heads and onto paper.
- Think on these things – don’t just say “I’m going to not do x.” There’s great truth to “garbage in, garbage out”. Ask God to fill you with new desires and that’s likely what you’ll get. We’re in charge of our minds and what we consciously let in. Memorize the fruits of the Spirit – (Gal 5.22-23) and Philippians 4:8 and actively pray that God leans you toward these new ways. Life in Christ is not about good behavior, rather a changed heart that puts out godly behavior. But, let’s at least have a Holy Spirit Wish List.
- Say “no” to self-condemnation when you “fall off the wagon”. Looking in any mirror can show any of us far more faults than we’d care to think about tackling. But, at least now, we’ve got a more exhaustive list of what to pray for. Remember that while you are imperfect, God is leading you to perfection that will only be complete in His Kingdom reign.While you will make mistakes, Christ already paid the price for them – no sense beating yourself up when Christ has already been beaten for you.
This January, I’ll be running a half day workshop called “Getting Things Done God’s Way: Restoring Order to Your Mind, Your Work, and Your Life”, where we’ll be covering how this stuff is just as related to getting your inbox to “empty” as it is to sharing the gospel at work and loving your enemy while you’re under attack.
God wouldn’t have put this stuff in the Bible if He didn’t intend to help us on the journey.