The School Dance: A Metaphor

School DanceI remember my first school dance well. The awkwardness of pre-pubescent hormones combined with a complete inability to look cool to the rhythm of music. The only highlight worth remembering was hearing an epic track from a new band called U2.

The school dance serves as a fitting metaphor for the Christian life. Lots of people call themselves Christians, but their experience of following Christ varies greatly. Most will fit into one of four categories:

1. No-Show

People in this category may have prayed a prayer at some point in their life and would profess to being a Christian, but the primary focus of their life is not for Jesus. No-shows miss out on what being a follower of Christ is all about and never experience the joy and abundant life Jesus offers.

2. Wallflower

These are people who go through the motions. Wallflowers get to the dance, but they never get on the dance floor. They show up to church and occasionally pray, but there’s little engagement. They get glimpses of what life in Christ could be and should be, but they never get to take part in it. They like the idea of dancing, but they won’t move their feet.

3. Reserved

People who are reserved not only get to the dance, they also get on the floor. They know the value of following Christ and living the life He intended, but there’s always something holding them back. They move their feet, but they can’t quite go all in because something’s holding them back. This could be personal comfort, fear, insecurity, a competing idol, or a variety of factors.

4. Enthusiast

The enthusiast is all in. They show up, get on the floor and go all out. Enthusiast often aren’t good dancers, they just care more about what God thinks than what people think. It’s not that they don’t have insecurities, it’s just that they’ve found something greater than their insecurity. Christ is the center of all they do- work, family, leisure, finances, schedule, etc. The result is a full, deep, rich experience and a life filled with great joy and purpose.

Which kind of person are you? Which do you hope to be? What needs to change to make it happen?

The Cure For Critical

Are you critical? Do you often find yourself assessing other people and finding that they come up short? Do people feel like they can never measure up to your expectations or do anything right?

Critical

While there is nothing wrong with legitimate criticism, or what we might call “loving discernment,” there are those who tend to be overly critical. They expect and inspect, readily finding deficiencies, causing inevitable strain on relationships.

Fault-finding becomes a pair of pessimistic lenses through which we see the world, consequently stealing our joy.

Like many negative behaviors, a critical spirit is a symptom of an underlying disease… pride. A critic is someone who considers themselves an authority. Pride believes, “I know what’s best… I know what’s right, and because something isn’t the way I believe it should be, it must be wrong.”

So, how do we overcome a critical spirit? If pride is the disease of a critical spirit, humility is the cure.

A humble spirit willingly admits that there may be alternate views to their own and that these views are equally worth consideration. Humility recognizes value in other people and lowers the “self-superiority” of a critical spirit.

The benefits are many including a more positive outlook on life, improved relationships and being liberated from the misery of being critical.

So why not start today? Ask God to replace any pride-rooted criticism with grace-filled humility and watch what happens!

What kind of impact has an overly critical spirit had on your own life?

Don’t Feed the Beast

I was having coffee with a good friend recently when we shared a moment of accountability. “How’s the battle with lust?” It’s an honest question men will readily ask/answer who sincerely desire to live Godly lives.

His response caught me in a good way… “It’s been going well. I haven’t been feeding the beast.” I thought this was a helpful and accurate description (and even said I would be “borrowing” it.)

Wild Dog

It’s true with any sin and certainly with lust. It can either be fed or starved. We can entertain thoughts or we can guard thoughts. We can stare or we can look away. We can expose ourselves to anything and everything or we can filter what we bring into our lives.

The outcome for either choice is real.

If we choose to feed it, it will get stronger. The more we feed it… the greater its appetite becomes. If we choose to starve it, it will get weaker. Starve it long enough, and it may well eventually die.

This is why Colossians 3:5 (NLT) says, “… put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you.” Some things need to be killed and the only way to do so is to starve it to death.

It is likely that most of us have a sin that we have been feeding for far too long. We may not even know that we have doing it. As a result, it is healthy and strong because we have given it too much power. It’s time to take away its power, even if it’s one meal at a time.

What sin have you been feeding that you need to start starving? How have you seen this to be true in your own life?

Belonging & Desire

Though brief, the Song of Solomon could be described as one of the world’s earliest romance novels. It’s detailed descriptions of affection between two lovers is enough to make even a grown man blush.

Verse 10 of chapter 7 offers a beautiful summary statement that captures the heart and essence of romance… “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.”

Solomon 7:10

We find within this single sentence two essential components of romantic love: the blessing of belonging and the delight of desire.

Blessing of Belonging

Every human being longs to belong. This is all the more true in romantic relationships.

It’s why a teenage girl graffitis his name on her school folder. It’s why a young man gives up his hard-earned letterman jacket to be draped over her small shoulders. (Is this still a thing?) It’s why we change a relationship status on social media sites. It’s the underlying reason behind promise/engagement/wedding rings.

All of these say to the world, “I belong. I am accepted.”

When the woman says, “I am my beloved’s,” this is the implication. She is experiencing the blessing of belonging… the assurance and comfort of having been sought after, found and wanted. She has found the security of his love.

Delight of Desire

All desire has direction… our desires move us. They take us towards something or someone. Desire compels us toward action.

Just like belonging, every person wants to be wanted. They want to be the object of desire.

The woman tells us that her man has a desire and that “his desire is for me.” What a statement!

He wants something, he longs for something, and it is her. She is the object of his affection. She is the object for which his desire is being directed and is confident in his love for her. Life without her would be no life at all. “I am what he wants.”

Belonging and desire are beneficial to all relationships, but they are must-haves for lovers. If a person doesn’t feel accepted or wanted, you can forget about any resemblance of romance. With them, you have the makings of an epic love story.

How would you evaluate these in your own relationship? Does your partner have the security of belonging? Do they feel like the object of your desire? What can you begin doing today to improve in both of these areas?

If it must be whispered

If it must be whispered

If it must be whispered and cannot be shouted, perhaps it should not be said at all.

Nothing to Prove

You've got nothing to prove and only One to please.

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

Thanks to Steven Furtick for this great quote!

Great Expectations

Expectations

Most people live in a tension of having expectations about something and subsequently dealing with the reality of whether or not those expectations become a reality.

This happens at work, ministry, marriage, and just about every area of life.

The reality of this tension means people usually do one of two things. They either set high expectations and are disappointed when those are not met or they stop having expectations altogether in order to avoid disappointment.

But there is a viable, healthy third alternative:

Set your expectations high, but be satisfied when you don’t meet them.

Continue to aim high. Dream big and want the best for things in your life. This allows us to accomplish greater things, to excel, and to do more than we think we might have otherwise.

But… whenever you don’t meet the mark set by those high expectations, don’t get discouraged. Be content. Be satisfied knowing that you did what you could and continue having high expectations.

Where do you typically find yourself in this tension?

Practical Potluck Theology

I like food and I like parties and I think God does too. I also think the church is overdo for some practical potluck theology.

potluck

Numerous passages in Scripture encourage the enjoyment of food and drink (Eccl. 9:7; Isa. 25:6; Rev. 19:9.) Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding party (John 2:1-11). He enjoyed enough dinner parties to be accused of being a drunkard and a glutton (Matt. 11:19) and he shared a post-resurrection beach barbecue with his disciples (Luke 24:40-43). 1 Corinthians 10:31 even says, “…whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Every aspect of a Christian’s life, including a potluck, has the potential to honor God.

So here are three practical tips for making the most of our church potlucks:

1. Make It Homemade

Far too many potlucks reveal the same scenario. It’s minutes before meal time. Little thought or effort has gone into preparing, so a mad dash is made to the grocery store. The cheapest, most convenient item is snatched up and subsequently plunked down on the table. (I understand that not everyone has the funds and/or talent for food, but this is not usually the issue.)

Instead, pull out your best recipe, spend some time in the kitchen (or over the grill) and put some heart and soul into it. It shows that you care and it’s a tangible demonstration of love for those who will partake of your culinary creation.

2. Consider Others

Potlucks have a way of turning humble saints into greedy gluttons (reference the Corinthians and Paul’s rebuke in 1 Cor. 11:17-34). The first few leave a tornado-like path of destruction while the rest of the poor souls sift through the rubble.

Let’s remember that this meal is not about getting your needs met (in this case, your stomach full) and it’s not about everyone getting what they want. It’s about people coming together in unity and doing what they can to demonstrate that other people are more important than themselves (Phil. 2:3).

3. Be Present

The best kind of feasts include much more than what goes in our mouths. They involve celebration, laughter, conversation, and people being present in the moment. While the food and drink should be savored and enjoyed, so should the people.

Be where you are. Don’t rush through the moment. Interact with others… tell stories. Get to know someone new. Laugh, play and take your time and don’t keep your face stuck in your phone.

When we do these things we will begin to understand and experience for ourselves why God values the celebration of the shared meal.

What have you experienced at your church potlucks and food celebrations? 

Choosing To Love- The only reason I’m still married.

Donovan and ShellyMy wife and I recently celebrated 18 years of marriage, and it’s for one reason only… choosing to love.

If someone were to graph our marriage, we would see mostly good moments, quite a few high points, and a few low spots. Truth be told, Shelly (my wife) is easy to be married to. I, on the other hand, am not.

During one of our more trying seasons, I remember Shelly saying to me, “I love you, but I don’t like you.” It took me a minute, but I understood exactly what she was trying to say.

When the New Testament was written, there were four major Greek words for what we now singularly call “love.”

Eros love is a romantic love. It exists between people who are physically attracted to one another. As you might imagine, eros is lost when romance or physical attraction is lost.

Storge, is a love that exists because of familiarity. We would associate it with fondness or affection. It naturally exists in relationships between parents and children or maybe between close friends. It’s strength is also it’s weakness, because when familiarity or fondness goes, storge goes with it.

Phileo love is when someone has a strong emotional connection to someone or something. We might characterize it primarily as a feeling. As we’ve seen with the previous loves, when feelings fade, phileo fades.

Agape, the fourth and final love, is altogether different and is essential to the health and long-term success of any marriage. It’s the love my wife gives to me and is the reason I’m still married.

Agape love is not emotional, it’s volitional. It’s a deliberate choice- an act of the will. Agape says “I’ve made a decision to love you.” It has nothing to do with whether someone deserves our love. It’s a unique love because of what it does, not because of how it feels.

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling… no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all…” C.S. Lewis

Jesus teaches us that there is a superior kind of love that is greater and stronger than all other loves. The “I’m choosing” love that is agape. This is why He can paradoxically tell us to love (agape) our enemies. He doesn’t command us to be fond of our enemies or to have good feelings for our enemies, He commands us to choose to act in a loving way towards them.

So, do we resign ourselves to being stuck in a marriage where there is no eros (romance), storge (fondness) or phileo (feeling) love? Not necessarily.

Tim Keller says it well, “Love is an action first and a feeling second. If you love people, eventually you’ll come to like them.” When we choose to love (agape), many times feelings will follow. This is what gets us through the low spots.

Any other lesser-love will fail both you and your marriage. They always will. But there is a greater love that is available should we embrace it. A love that makes marriages last… it’s called agape.

What kind of results have you seen from these different kinds of love in your own marriage?

Making Progess- Four Simple Steps to Getting Where You Want to Be

Most people have an area of their life, either personally or professionally, they would like to work on to make improvements. The challenge isn’t having the desire to make something better, it’s actually doing something about it.

Doc - Jan 24, 2013, 12-05 PM

Here is the simplest approach I’ve found to make changes in whatever area you want to work on.

1) Know where you are.

This is the easiest step and probably the reason you’re even thinking about making changes in the first place… there’s an element of dissatisfaction.

2) Identify where you want to be.

Be as specific as possible. The more you can “see” what it would look like and be like the better.

3) Decide what you have to do to get there.

This is your “to-do” list. Again, be as specific as possible without bogging yourself down to the point that you get overwhelmed.

4) Do it.

This is always the hardest step, but when we see how the “doing” actually moves us where we want to be, it serves as a powerful motivator.

What other advice or recommendations would you offer to help someone get where they want to be?

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