Agendas & People

“Nothing I have to do today is as important as the people I will meet.” That is a pretty good way to start your day. How quickly we become so consumed with what we have to do and where we have to go that we become blind to people around us.

We seem to power through our schedules, checklists, and agenda’s without even seeing what matters to God…and should matter to us. We are selfish by nature and quickly become caught up with what we have to do. We have little time or space for interruptions. And yet Jesus always seemed to have time for interruptions, for people—much to the frustration of His disciples. We, like those disciples, can tend to see people as a series of distractions, rather than a series of divine appointments. The next time someone steps across your path and blocks your way, stop and remind yourself who you are and why you are here. People.

“And his disciples said to him, ‘you see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?'” Mark 5:31

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Why do you do what you do? Answering that question will reveal something very important about you. In a world where we make much of how we look, what we do, and what we don’t do—God looks beyond all of that to the motives of the heart. These are the true revealers of who we really are.

I have been sharing a five-fold request I began praying in in 2008 (see previous post). My final request has been, “may you (Lord) receive all glory, honor, and praise in everything, and may I be hidden in the cross of Christ.”

The glory of God should be the motive and end of all we do. Only when we live for His glory do we really ever succeed. And living for His glory can only come as we find our identity in the cross of Christ.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 2:20, 6:14.)

But beware; living for God’s glory and not your own is not something you decide one day and never have to address again. It is a daily decision you must make. Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Look deep into your heart and ask yourself; “Why do I do what I do?”

Our Need

Whatever God’s will is for your life, it will be impossible. That is the way He works. That is the way He leads—in a path of impossibilities. These drive us to the God-dependance we need to succeed.

The Lord has promised to meet our needs as we follow Him. It is this promise that we have, not a visible stockpile of resources to calm our anxieties. To be honest, my flesh would rather see something stockpiled than have to believe something I can’t see. But, that is not the way it works. The Christian life works by faith. God Himself is our assurance. We need to believe that.

The fourth of my daily requests (see original post) is for God to “provide for my needs—for they are great.” The longer I live the more needy I become. Funny how that works. You might think that over time we need God less, but the opposite is true. Though we may gain knowledge, experience, and gather earthly goods, we only become more painfully aware of our weakness and inability. These words mean more to us now than ever before, “Give us this day our daily bread…” (Matthew 6:11).

If you have a little time read these words from Matthew 6:25-34:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Numbing the Mind

We all love to give our perspective, offer our opinion, and counsel others how to live. That’s because we are generally confident that we have figured life out and that people are eager to hear what we have to say. In truth we are probably more interested in hearing ourselves talk more than anything else.

Others might grow by hearing us talk, but not much. They are more likely to grow if we drive them to the Word and encourage them in the process of discovery. This way truth becomes their own. Discovery can ignite an internal path of transformation, while rules, regulations, and lectures are more likely to numb the mind and chill the heart.

Let’s drive others to the Word and to the joys of discovery.

“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11)

This is Not the Time to Quit

This is not the time to quit doing what you know is right. Sure it is hard! Change causes friction—and if you are to be moving from where you are to where you need to be, you will have friction, there’s just no way around it.

We must pray for boldness and grace as we follow through with what He has called us to do. This is the third request (see earlier post) that I have made to God, “Lord, give me boldness, because I know that doing the right thing is going to be hard…really hard. And, give me grace. Help me to have a right spirit through it all and help me to be full of joy.”

When attacked, there are two reactions that I find ever lurking in the back of my mind. The first is just to quit. The second is to get angry. Neither one of these will produce anything that pleases God. So, daily, I find myself running back to the Word, arguing myself back to truth, then praying through every part of this exercise of faith. It is not just “God’s will” for the ministry, He is also busy changing my life. I can say, “I don’t need this,” but God is bringing exactly what I need. Through this very struggle, I come to know Him more fully.

The fight—being criticized, judged, and misrepresented. This is what we don’t like, and this is what can make us want to quit. But remember, this same tension will also break us and drive us to greater levels of dependence—and fruitfulness. It’s worth it. Don’t quit.

Rethinking Things with an Open Bible and an Open Mind

While training for ministry I threw a lot of notes and files into my briefcase along the way—for future use. I am not talking about the fundamentals of the faith, but more of Christian living issues. I didn’t have a lot of time or a lot of interest in diving into the cultural debates on music, dress, facial hair, etc., and while what I was hearing from the experts didn’t always make a lot of sense, at that time of my life I just took people at their word. I was young, hungry, and eager. I really just wanted to get out into ministry and serve the Lord. There were a lot of things in my briefcase like that, that I really didn’t take time to examine in depth because I viewed them as “secondary.” I just took what I got, didn’t ask a lot of questions, and got busy starting a church.

Some of the concerns came when I pulled these files out of my briefcase and started teaching new converts what the Christian life should look like. Some of the these secondary things were not getting through and I and I was starting to get frustrated. I tried being more intense but that didn’t seem to work either. Then, having kids and working with college students brought this challenge to a whole new level. What does the Bible say? What doesn’t it say? It caused me to dig deeper. I started to rethink some things…with an open Bible.

So what do you do when you find you were wrong? Dig in, hold your position, and yell louder? Or, do you admit it and then do the right thing? I have had friends tell me, “I’m too old to change,” or “It’s just too hard to do at this point.” Well, we may be old and it may be hard, but I also think we have a great opportunity to encourage and influence this next generation by being honest with the Word of God and bold in doing what is right—no matter what the cost. They need that kind of leadership. They need that kind of example.

There are a number of things I have had to rethink—and at somewhat of an accelerated pace. Having kids of my own and being around students all the time has forced me many times to be honest with what the Bible does and doesn’t say. Over the past several years I have read through the scriptures multiple times—all with an intense desire to find what pleases God. I have come to the conclusion that some of my positions, though well intended, were more conservatively pragmatic than they were biblical.

Times are changing more quickly for my children than they were for me. It will be better for me to pass on to them the ability to discern the Word, as well as the times they live in, than to follow traditions, many of which have lost relevance.

We should not fear taking a fresh look, rethinking—with an open Bible, and an open mind.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Navigating the Change

When we start seeing things as God sees them, we can be certain that change will be in order. The more clearly we see the differences the more obvious this will become. But change is not easy. And that’s why I think many of us are tempted to stay where we are and with what we have become comfortable with.

“Lord give me wisdom to navigate from where I am to where I need to be.” This is the second of the requests I have referred to (see original post). Thankfully the Lord knows not only “what” it should look like, but “how” we get there. Even if we have the the right goal, we can make the fatal mistake of reaching for it in our own strength and wisdom.

For us as leaders there is even more at stake. Not only are we responsible for our own lives but for the lives of others. Feeling that weight is a healthy thing and a time when Proverbs 3:5, 6 becomes the air we need to breathe; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

“Seeing things as God sees them” is the first step, but God also calls us into continuing action, to lead the way and to navigate from where we are to where we need to be. Timing, teaching, pace, decisions, choosing what hills to die on, etc…all of these are important.

My dad is a retired Navy captain and he would refer to the command from the bridge, “moving foreword with all deliberate speed.” I love that phrase. It is not “puttering along” and it is not “full throttle.” It is a purposeful and calculated pace—one that communicates resolve and one that does not shrink back in fear.

My prayer is that when God shows us what needs to change in our lives and ministries that we immediately ask Him how these changes should take place. Then follow, teaching as we go. That’s what leaders do.

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.

Looking Ahead

One of the primary reasons I write on a blog is that I feel a great sense of responsibility to the next generation. I believe God in His sovereignty and grace has placed me in a unique position that allows me to help young men and women in ministry. More and more I see new ways I might encourage a generation that really seems to “get it.” I am as excited about this as anything else I am doing right now in ministry.

Today I think a lot about ways we can help move young people forward. Sharing about the things we got right can be helpful, but we also need to be honest about the things we didn’t get right—the things we got wrong. As we look back, we see that some corrections and adjustments are in order. With every generation there is a tendency to amalgamate theology, culture, and pragmatism into one set of beliefs. At first “our own world of belief” seems very natural, but as time goes on the problems are exposed.

This generation is sorting out how a biblical church should look in 2012 and we need to help them process this without protecting “our own world of belief.” I have found that young people really are eager to dig into the Word and find out what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:10). They also appreciate a healthy discussion and want to learn from us.

Those who have a few decades of ministry experience now have an incredible opportunity—not to widen the gap with this next generation, but to close it. When we sit down with our sons in the faith, we can take confidence that God’s Word is sufficient to guide all of us from where we are to where we need to be. Let’s be honest, humble, transparent, and elevate the Word with this next generation. Then we can be part of something much bigger than what we’ve ever known.

A Perfect Pastor

This past weekend Diane and I had the opportunity to visit Brookside Baptist Church in Milwaukee and see Ken Keltner installed as senior pastor. Ken and Kathy have been our friends for many years and partners in two different ministries (Denver and Northland). Diane and I have also been friends of the Brookside family since its earliest days. We have such great love and respect for Ken and believe him to be the perfect pastor for Brookside at this time in its history. I say a “perfect” in the sense that he is God’s choice manifesting itself through the working of the local church there. Even superstar status (perfect in the eyes of men) in no way substitutes for the true realization of God’s appointed servant. It is a beautiful thing to see take place.

Here are the things that I have appreciated most about Ken:

  1. Integrity: He has it in his character and in the way he functions.
  2. Love: He has a love for God and His Word, a love for God’s people, and a love for every lost soul on earth.
  3. Servanthood: He leads in humility.
  4. Disciplemaking: He pours into the lives of others.
  5. Family: The ministry is a family thing… Ken, Kathy, Kyle, Kevin (and new wife Becka, yes, she does have a K in her name :)), Keith, and Kurt.
  6. Joy: This would describe the experience of working together with Ken—a lot of fun.

Congratulations to Ken and Kathy as well as to the folks at Brookside!

I would love to connect with you! If you have any questions or would like to connect please use the contact page.