What Story Do You Tell?


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

Imagine you’re 85 years old, living in a nursing home and your health is beginning to fail. Your grandson has always had a special place in his heart for you but over the last few years, he’s been busy finishing college, getting married and starting his family. One day, out of the blue, he calls and asks to visit. “I want to talk to you about real life Papa” he says. “I wanna hear your story.”

What story will you tell?

It’s easy to tell him your career story. About finishing school, getting your first job, getting promoted (or let go), starting your own thing, selling your company, becoming a Principal, finishing your residency, starting a practice, becoming a partner, selling out, retiring, getting forced out . . . whatever. He won’t care.

Of course, you can tell him your family story. Your parents, siblings and how you grew up. How you met your wife . . . the divorce, his mom or dad’s birth, his uncles and aunts. This story’s a little harder to tell. There’s some raw spots you have to tread lightly around . . . the divorce or the distant relationship you had with his grandma or even his mom or dad. He might be mildly interested.

If you’re a church person, you can tell him your faith story. How you were baptized (or not), how you came to believe, the churches you’ve been a part of, and maybe your favorite parts of the Bible. His attention span will depend on his own faith story.

But what your grandson really wants to hear is your life story. He wants to hear about your heart. What mattered to you when you were young and what matters to you now. How you saw things then and how you see them nowSure, you want to tell him about your successes and things you’re proud of. He’ll be much more attentive as you tell him about your failures, your bad decisions, your regrets and your missed opportunities.

Now pause.

Unless you’re 85 and in a nursing home, your story isn’t over. You get to choose how you finish your story. When they make movies in Hollywood, they often film multiple endings and show them to focus groups to decide which ending resonates best. So, which of these ‘endings’ would you rather tell your grandson? 

Story #1
“I really wanted to be happy and successful, so I ‘doubled-down’ at work. I was able to send the kids to private school and great colleges. I took golf lessons and hired a personal trainer. I got in the best shape of my life and lowered my handicap 8 strokes. I moved our family into the big house on Tuxedo Road where we lived until your grandmother left and put me here in assisted living. I’m afraid I don’t have a lot to show for my life and it’s pretty lonely here. Can you come back to see me again soon?”

Story #2
“As I took stock of my life, I realized that everything I’d done in my life was for myself. So I started to pray and ask God what He’d have me do with my life. He gave me the idea of investing time in men who are a couple seasons of life behind me. I started mentoring younger guys and that became my purpose and my calling. I got my church engaged and now there’s a bunch of guys involved. I found that joy and fulfillment comes from loving and serving others, showing them Jesus and encouraging them to follow Him. I’m surrounded by people I love and who love me. God is so good!”

So, what’s it gonna be? What story will you tell?

Scripture: Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. (Psalms 71:18)

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The Total Surrender Contract



Reposted from Radical Mentoring

I get a little nervous when I hear the preacher say “Surrender your life to Jesus.” I don’t remember Jesus using those words. I thought He talked about giving us “life to the full.” What’s this surrender thing about?

When I think about surrendering, I see a scene at the end of a war movie. The fight has gone on and on and finally, one side is surrounded. Absolutely no way out. So, they hoist a white flag and come out with their hands over their heads, yielding themselves to the more powerful. Now it’s up to the victors to decide what happens. The will of the losers has been yielded to the will of the victors.

I can relate to those losers. Why? Because I was one when I surrendered. After flailing around for years, trying to matter through career success and all the trappings that come with it, I found myself in my backyard. Alone. Broken. Out of options. I turned my eyes to the sky and I surrendered. I said, “Lord, I give up. I have totally screwed up my life. I know you’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. I accept your forgiveness. I’m yours. Whatever happens from here on out, it’s up to you. I trust you. I know you love me. It’s you and me Lord . . . you and me!”

That was the end of the life that I knew . . . the one where I was in charge. The one where I didn’t think or care about anyone else. But it was the beginning of a new life. One that matters. A life of peace, love and meaning. And it began with surrender.

So, what does it really mean to surrender? To trust God with everything? My friend Larry Green has taught me a lot about surrender. He shared the Total Surrender Contract with me a few years back and it’s become a part of my mentoring group process. I hand it to my guys during our Commencement Retreat and challenge them to sign it only when they’re absolutely ready to abide by its terms.

My challenge for you is the same. Download the document here. Print it. Read it. Read it again. Pray. Pray more. Ask God to give you the courage to sign it and honor its terms for the rest of your life. Then, when you’re ready, sign it and put it somewhere you’ll always remember . . . maybe somewhere you’ll see it every day.

 

Total Surrender Contract

Dear Lord,

I give myself to You without reservation, and surrender to You my will, my mind, my emotions, my body, my plans, my hopes and my dreams. I give You my home, my marriage, my spouse, my children, my geographical location, my recreation, my entertainment, my career. I commit into Your hands my successes, my failures, my habits, my finances, my problems, my time, my integrity, my character, my attitude, my business conduct and relationships, my Christian walk and my response to authority.

I am relinquishing the following rights to You . . .

My right to . . .

  • my possessions
  • my reputation
  • acceptance from others
  • be successful
  • have pleasant circumstances
  • presume upon what your will may be for me
  • beauty or strength
  • have friendships
  • be heard
  • take up offense
  • avoid reaping from what I have sown
  • handle or control my addictions
  • be right
  • see results
  • be loved by others
  • change others
  • life itself
  • ________________

Lord,

I give You permission to do anything You wish with me, to me, in me or through me. I claimed the above once as mine. Now I acknowledge that they all belong to You and are under Your control. You can do with them as You please. I willingly make this commitment in the name and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I recognize that this is an agreement with You that can never be broken. Now that I have surrendered ownership of my life to You, I understand that You will never give ownership back to me. I accept that I am “not my own . . . that I am the temple of the Holy Spirit . . . and that I have been bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Amen.

 

__________________________________                         _______________

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Dinner With My Dad


Reposted from 

I had dinner with my dad once and learned a lot about going places.

When it came to my dad, I carried some stuff around for a while. It was big, heavy stuff and had messed up our relationship . . . resentment, stubbornness, expectations and the heaviest of all . . . pride.

Have you ever had your luggage at the airport over the 50-pound checked-bag limit? I have. You and your bag are in it together and if you don’t take some stuff out, neither of you are going anywhere. Unless you lighten your load, you’re stuck.

I wanted a relationship with my dad, but I couldn’t travel closer to it with my overweight baggage. Our relationship was stuck . . . miles apart.

When my wife Claudia and I got engaged, I hadn’t spoken to my dad in 8 years! But she told me we weren’t getting married until she met my dad. I knew if I wanted to marry the woman of my dreams, I had to lighten my load. If I didn’t take inventory of my stuff, get on a plane and have dinner with my dad, she and I weren’t going anywhere together . . . and I’d be stuck single.

So, I left the stuff on the curb at the Atlanta airport and flew to Memphis, where Claudia and I had dinner with Dad. We ate steak and cried. We were finally able to travel together to a place previously impossible to get to for 8 years because my baggage was overweight.

It still happens though. I try to go places with too much stuff. I wish it was easy stuff to unload like socks and toothpaste. But it never is. It’s heavy stuff like . . .

A bad attitude and critical words.

Pride and entitlement.

Jealousy and comparison.

Expectations and opinions.

Fear.

These things weigh me down big time. You know what’s way lighter? Kind words, gentleness, gratitude, empathy and courage. When I choose to travel with those things instead, it’s like taking a jackhammer out of my bag and replacing it with a box of chocolates. I’m clear to fly. And happier too.

Jesus chose to travel light and load His bags with love and grace. Those things kept Him moving toward people. He must have known a bunch of other stuff would have slowed Him down . . . which feels like good packing advice to me.

Sometimes the places we get to go are destinations on a map. I unloaded fear and ended up in Mogadishu, Somalia once. But more often, the places I get to go are in relationships. Moving closer to family, friends and Jesus. Those are the best adventures and the ones where I learn and grow the most.

Usually I need a push to take inventory of my stuff, get moving and get unstuck. My wife, my friends, some great mentors and words from Jesus and his pals have been super helpful for me. Their encouragement helps me take inventory of the stuff holding me back. And when I slow down and really listen, I know I’m moving closer to going places and doing more things like having dinner with my dad.

Scripture: So since we stand surrounded by all those who have gone before, an enormous cloud of witnesses, let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us. Now stay focused on Jesus . . . (Hebrews 12:1-2a)

Speaking of Jesus


 

Reposted from Radical Mentoring

A treadmill . . . a rowing machine . . . an elliptical . . . the piece of exercise equipment doesn’t really matter. With each one, no matter how hard you work, when you finish, you’re still in the same spot as when you started. If I’m being transparent, that feels much like the season of life I find myself in right now . . . busy, tired, and not making much progress. Summer baseball and a family health issue combined with my work not to mention a few new aches and pains (I guess I’m getting older) have led me to do a little self-assessment and reflection. And guess what I realized? I’ve been leaving no time for me and Jesus. Yes, I’m listening to some sermons via podcast and sprinkling in some worship music but its all becoming the background music to my (self-inflicted) busy life.

So the other morning, I grabbed my Kindle and began looking for something to read. I landed on a book I read once before, Speaking of Jesus. The author, Carl Medearis is a Jesus-follower with a huge heart for the Middle East and specifically for introducing Jesus to leaders in the Arab World. Carl loves Jesus . . . not Christianity. He focuses his time on ‘pointing people to his friend’ instead of on the ‘us vs. them’ mentality plaguing us today.

In Speaking of Jesus, Carl explains how we often get caught up presenting Christianity to others instead of just introducing them to Jesus. While probably not his original intent in writing the book, for me it served as a beautiful reminder of my friend Jesus . . . who I had left behind in my quest to conquer the seemingly important but ultimately insignificant matters dominating my calendar. It was a powerful reminder and I wanted to share some of my insights with you as I would venture a guess I’m not the only one who has been in this spot recently.

  1. “We have an unfair advantage. We know the Creator. We’re friends with the King.” – In almost every area of life, we all look for advantages. Yet, I found that in my faith, where I already have the greatest advantage, I was leaving Jesus on the sideline.
  2. “We have salvation insecurity. We want to measure, scrutinize, and secure our place.” – Others call it eternity amnesia; either way, I had it. I’d replaced spending time with Him with spending time simply doing things.
  3. “Follow Me” is a matter of personal contact – Jesus gives us a simple invitation with simple instructions.
  4. “My faults don’t keep Jesus from me, but they keep me from Him.” – Too often, I allow my sin and shame to build a wall between Jesus and myself.
  5. “We spend so much time laughing at Peter for sinking, when in reality, every single one of us would probably have stayed in the boat.” – Peter had what I’ve lost: the wonder of Jesus.1

So, my plan for this summer is to reintroduce myself to Jesus. As Medearis writes, “living a life like Jesus must begin with being a student of Jesus.” I am going to dig into the Gospels . . . to see how Jesus treated others, to read what He said, to better understand who He was and is today.

Scripture: You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately tried to keep it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did – Jesus crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

We Live for the Lord??


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

It’s not hard to find someone who is for the Georgia Bulldogs. Or for the Clemson Tigers. Americans are for America. We relish our identity as Americans when we celebrate our independence each July 4th. As husbands, we’re for our wives and our kids. When you’re for something, you identify with it, you advocate for it and you even set your priorities around it.

Merriam-Webster says ‘for’ is “used to indicate the person or thing that something is sent or given to.” But what are we ‘given to’ in our daily lives? What (or who) do we think about? Identify with? Advocate for? Set priorities around? Could it be one (or more) of the following . . .

  • Our work and career?
  • Our golf game?
  • Our favorite college team?
  • Our vacations and time off?
  • Our home and/or lawn?
  • Our church?
  • Our wives?
  • Our kids?
  • Our parents?
  • Our retirement?
  • Our kids’ sports?
  • Our finances?
  • Our health and fitness?
  • Our friends?
  • Our problems?

God is about motives. He’s about the why far more than about the what, when or where. Through all of history, God has been about relationship. That’s the whyHe created us to be in a personal relationship with Him. We’re called “Christians” because of that relationship, but somehow we still don’t have much time for Him.When we think about the time and attention we give God every day compared to the time and attention we devote to the things on the above list, it’s almost comical. When it comes to the Creator God who invited us to call him Father, the omnipotent Almighty God of the universe who wants to be our best friend, who controls everything . . . well, He gets a few minutes each day before we hit the gym (if we don’t forget). Except for maybe ‘our problems,’ there’s not a single bad thing on that list . . . they’re all good and some of them are even necessary. So, what gives? What does God want from us?

And lest you think I’m throwing rocks, I live in a glass house. As much as I love God and try to follow Him, I’d hate to see a pie chart of my daily thoughts. God would be there but I’d be ashamed of how little I actually think of Him or talk to Him. But oh . . . when I’m under pressure or in a crisis, His piece of my time, attention, energy and mindshare gets really big!

We live for the Lord when we’re constantly praising and thanking Him. When we’re looking for opportunities to serve others. And when we slow down enough to read His Book, listen to His voice and live as He wants us to live, we feel His peace and His presence in our lives. That’s what He wants for us.

Scriptures: If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:8

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:12

Faith Is


Faith is not a precarious experience of chance…It is the solid, massive experience of God. – Eugene Peterson

What Should I Do When I Disagree With My Church?


Reposted from rethink

If you’re in community, your likely to experience conflict.

Conflict is healthy for any growing organization, church, marriage, and friendship. To not have conflict probably means that passivity has taken residency in your conversations. We are all allowed to have have our needs met and challenged.

What happens when we disagree with our Church? Let’s explore 4 questions.

1. Is this personal conflict or communal conflict?

Personal Conflict

In Philippians 4:1-4, Paul pleads with Euodia and Syntyche to get along. There is personal conflict between two ladies. Paul asks the church’s leaders and members to come alongside them.

Spiritual formation is critical to your personal conflict. Are you taking the inward journey? Why do you care about the issues that you keep bringing up? How many people need to know your bent towards other things? I know a lot of Christian who do a lot of stuff. I don’t know many Christians are focusing on being at peace.

Communal Conflict

In Leviticus 4, Moses writes that the entire Israelite community is guilty of sin when the High Priest sins. Sin/Conflict/Tension is personal, but it’s also communal. It’s not just your conflict, but it’s our conflict.

Are the issues you are feeling/thinking through also being felt by others? By others, I don’t mean your friends. That’s easy to leave a church if your friends feel the same way. Do people outside of your circle feel and express the same thoughts and feelings? That might be worth exploring. When an issue is disrupting an entire congregation, you might be stepping into an unhealthy congregation.

2. Is this a problem to solve or a tension to manage?

Problem To Solve

There are multiple ways to approach conflict. This is necessary, because you won’t get the same result if you use the same approach.

A problem to solve is something that must be “figured out.” Your personal, theological, ethical, preferences and bents have been violated, called into question, or aren’t valued. This is something where you feel like the church has crossed one of your personal boundaries.

Are you the one that’s supposed to “figure out” the problem? Are your church leaders supposed to “figure out” this problem? 

Tension To Manage

A tension to manage is a conflict that doesn’t need to be solved now or possibly ever. This conflict doesn’t cross any of your boundaries. You are ok with this.

If it’s something to manage, the inward journey is critical. It means you don’t have control of how something may be decided upon, managed, or executed. If that sits well with you, then growth happens when you decide to not jab at it or passive aggressively get others on your side. Your spirit is at peace.

3. Is this a conflict of Theology or a Conflict of Proxy?

Theology

In any discussion, on theology, there are open-handed and close-handed positions.

Open handed issues are issues that you believe strongly, but are open to discussion and seeing where others land. These are different for different people. These conversations are fun (for me), because they can be heated and intense debates, but at the end you are ok with having your views moved or remain the same.

Close-handed issues are issues you believe strongly about and are not willing to change your position. For a lot of Christians, these are issues like: Is The Bible true? Did Jesus actually live? Did Jesus rise from the dead? Is Jesus the only way to heaven?

You need to know what are your open and close-handed issues. Churches need to know theirs too. Every church as a right to their own beliefs about Scripture and its theology.

What gets a lot of churches, in trouble, is when they don’t have an official position on a given issue. If there is an issue you care about, What is your church’s official position? If your church doesn’t have any official position, set up a meeting and explore it.

Proxy

Proxy is often the reason why most people leave their church. It’s not such much their church’s beliefs as much as it the way people live. They don’t like how they are treated or how things operate.

There are a lot of great churches whom have deep convictions about theology. However, they are not willing to invite discussions with people on the “fringes of society.” They will talk about suffering, but they are not quick to help with rocky marriages. They may say everyone is welcome, but only to a certain point of comfort.

Are you someone who prefers a more “conservative approach to theology” and a more “liberal approach to loving people” or is it vice versa or something else? How you sit with those questions might help you decide if your among the right community of believers.

4. Is this a conflict for decision making rights or reconciliation?

Decision Making Rights

Every church should know why they exist….beyond the great commission. Loving everybody is a great mission, but everybody isn’t everybody. We are all different people with different preferences, dreams, and hopes.

If your church has a mission, vision, and values to reach a specific target audience, allow them to do this. It’s a heavy weight to hear from the Lord. A church shouldn’t change who they are and what they do to win everybody. It’s impossible. Jesus didn’t win everyone, neither will his churches. Sometimes people have their minds made up.

If you disagree with a church’s mission, vision, and values and it crosses your personal, theological, and practical beliefs, it may be time to go.

Reconciliation

The high note of the Gospel is reconciliation – enemies of God to peace with God. It’s hard to seek peace if we haven’t taken the inward journey. If your goal is a curiosity that leads to peace and understanding, you should remain. You should stay even if it’s not something completely  the way you would do church. If it doesn’t violate those personal beliefs and actions, stay with your church family. You have a Kingdom to gain, community to extend, and depth to growth into.