I can still feel Colorado when I think about what it was like to live there. Unfortunately, I don’t mean how I felt seeing how beautiful it was or the cold moutain air or anything awesome like that. When people ask me how was it living in Colorado, I tell them that I wouldn’t know. I lived at seminary, the Chick-Fil-A where I worked and the church where we attended and volunteered. Those things happened to be in Colorado, but I was way too busy to notice.
When I say I feel Colorado, I mean the pain that I felt in how hard that season was. It started bad and got worse. The reason I was there was to finish seminary, but I had hoped to do that remotely with my new small groups pastor job at my church in Conway. I didn’t get the job. I actually didn’t even get interviewed. It was hard and hurtful. The first real disappointment in my life. Then we moved…in with my in-laws. They were great and generous to do that, but it’s a shot at the manhood regardless. I was delivering pizzas for a boss 10 years younger than me. My car broke down and couldn’t be fixed. The car we replaced it with stranded me 6 times in a year. Right before we were about to sell it, it literally blew up.
How did I respond to this? Short answer: poorly. Another short answer: whining. I was so good at having a pity party. I cried a lot and I yelled a lot. At 28, I was unprepared for this level of disappointment. I lacked the courage that was needed to face adversity and learn from it. Rather than allowing God to use it in my life, at least for a season, I allowed it to wreck me.
I take comfort that I can say that I was like Joshua, one of the greatest leaders in the Bible. Unfortunately, I comparing myself to his worst moment, but at least I can say that I am like him.
Joshua and the Israelites had just seen God do an incredible miracle at Jericho. Now they were on to Ai. Unknown to Joshua, Achan had stolen some of the treasures that God had forbidden. As such, when they attacked Ai, God wasn’t with them. (A fact that Joshua could have known, if he had consulted God before the attack on Ai. Instead, he rushed in and attacked, forgetting that it was God that had brought them victory, not their soldiers or his military acumen. Another great lesson for another day.)
After their defeat at Ai, Joshua goes straight to whining and complaining mode. He tells God that it would have been better if they had never come to the promised land at all. He questions God’s integrity and wonders why God brought them all this way just for them to be wiped out. Questioning God’s integrity is never a great option. God, however, is gracious with Joshua and explains Achan’s sin and the solution for Joshua.
What should Joshua have done? Said another way, what should we do? When a plan we are convinced is God’s plan goes wrong, what is the right response? When severe disappointment comes, what do we do?
1) Remember what God has already done. One disappointment does not negate what God has already done in your life. God had just brought down the wall of Jericho. He is still the same God. The same God that has brought you to where you are and loved you and served you is the same God that is with you now. You may not understand the what or the why of what’s happening now, but the character of God is the same.
2) Stop and ask God what’s going on. The question is always asked, “Why do bad things happen to good people?’ The answer is both simple and complicated. The simple answer, as with most deep questions, is that it depends. The complicated answer:
- It could be sin. That was the problem for Joshua. This is where the phrase “sin in the camp” comes from. God was opposing them because of sin. The drunk driver should not complain to God about why he is jail. The man who neglects his wife should not complain about her affair. God shows us tremendous grace but that doesn’t mean that the trial isn’t a result of sin.
- It was never God’s plan. We become convinced that God wants us to do something, but we never really asked him. We confuse what we want with what God wants. This is also in play here. Joshua never asked God if it was time to attack or how. Why didn’t I get the job at my church? Because, for a lot of reasons, it wasn’t right for me. What I took as disappointment and a trial was God protecting me from what would not have been a good situation for me.
- Your plan is off. I firmly believe that God is calling me to reach people in NWA through The Grove Church. We have seen some success. We also have had some things we’ve tried go wrong. Why? They weren’t good ideas. The solution is stop doing that and start doing something different. Why was God not with us? It was a bad idea.
- You live in a fallen world. Sometimes the answer is bad things happen to good people because those good people live in a bad place. Don’t let the overwhelming blessing you live under blind you to the fact that we live in a broken world where bad things happen.
3. Listen to God and trust him. Too often we can pray and ask God a question but we fail in the obvious next step–listening. God will answer you. I can make no guarantees on his timing, means, or favorability, but I can guarantee an answer. When faced with disappointment or a trial, reach out and then listen. Then trust whatever he says. Don’t go where Joshua went. He led with a distrust of God. He believed the worst first. Even in that, God met him and gave an answer. Then we see Joshua choosing to trust and follow again.
I am walking through a lot of trials with different people right now. Some are doing well and some are not. The difference between them is simple–they have the courage to trust and follow God.
I would never say that I have been persecuted for my faith. I have been harassed, shamed, embarrassed, intimidated. Maybe that rises to the level of persecution for you but I would not use that word. I have been inconvenienced and had my feelings hurt. As long as people are being tortured, imprisoned and killed around the world, I will not say that I have been persecuted. This is the same reasoning that I used in not complaining about the major stomach issues I had when my wife was in labor. I never brought it up to her, the doctor, anybody. It didn’t seem appropriate. I also didn’t want to get mocked or punched.
For the same reasons, I would not say that there is a war on Christmas. War is a strong word. There is a war on Christians in the Middle East being waged by ISIS. Hyperbolic language trivializes real war. There are real Christians facing real war and real attacks. Let’s not minimize what is happening to them by describing what is happening here as war.
What is happening here? American society is becoming more secular. Fewer people identify themselves as Christian and people feel more emotional permission to not have to say that they are Christian or behave like Christians. People who are not followers of Christ are being more honest about their faith or lack thereof. This is actually an incredible opportunity for Christians. People are more open and transparent about what they believe and it is a great opportunity for genuine dialog.
When I was growing up, everyone was a Christian. Allow me to rephrase, everyone felt they had to say they were and that they went to church, even if they didn’t. This makes sharing your faith and engaging with someone who is far from God incredibly difficult. Because they feel pressure to look and talk like a Christian, they will fail to be honest about their lack of faith or their struggles.
Now people will openly tell you what they believe and their reservations about faith in Christ or their lack of faith in God at all. It’s an incredible opportunity for dialog and engaging people and telling them about life with God through Christ. But this is not what we choose to do. We choose outrage. “How dare you attack Christmas! This is a Christian nation! As such, we require everyone, whether they are Christian or not to talk and act like one!”
So, let’s look at a few of the battles in the war on Christmas:
Xmas–You understand that is simply shorthand for Christmas, where X represents the first letter in the Greek word for Christ, right?
Happy Holidays–You understand that expression has been around for over 150 years and represents an entire holiday season starting with Thanksgiving and going through New Years, right?
Starbucks doesn’t put Merry Christmas or Christmas decorations on their holiday cups–Well, this one is serious. Let’s tackle this.
Alternate headline: Secular Company Chooses to not Overtly Celebrate Christian, Religious Holiday, Christians Outraged!
What difference does this make? Starbucks doesn’t want to celebrate a religious holiday. They shouldn’t have to and you shouldn’t care. To the degree that you do care, you should care and pray for the people whose hearts are far from God. Instead, we harass hourly employees who had nothing to do with the decision. “I told them my name was Merry Christmas, so they had to say it!” That is not a victory. It is either nothing, or a loss.
It’s a loss because we show ourselves to be thin-skinned and unwillingly to lovingly engage people who desperately need the hope and life that comes from Jesus. Instead, we act entitled and whine about how non-Christians behave and talk like non-Christians instead of accommodating me and my spiritual (?) preference for religious greetings on my beverage containers.
Let’s say the protest over cups worked. Now when you go to pay $5-$10 for a cup of coffee, you will be able to read “Merry Christmas.” Is your faith strengthened now? Are you closer to God now?
“Hey, it’s for the people who aren’t Christians!” Ok, a non-Christian reads “Merry Christmas” and is reminded that it’s Christmas season, and then this person thinks to themselves, “I need to get right with God.” Seems unlikely, especially since we have just shown ourselves to be entitled and whiny. My guess is that the way we are conducting ourselves about these cups is making us less attractive, and no amount of caffeinated Christmas greetings will overcome that.
What if we made a different decision? Every time a nativity scene is taken down or someone says “Happy Holidays” or you receive a Christmas-wish-free coffee cup, every Christian did three things. First, we prayed for the people. “Dear God. I pray for the executives at Starbucks/greeter at Wal-Mart/ACLU lawyers. I pray that they would come to know you and follow you. Amen.” What would the cumulative effect be of those prayers in the lives of people who are far from God?
Second, we pray for an opportunity to show the love of Christ to someone who isn’t experiencing that love. We ask God to make us more aware of the hurting and needy around us and give us chances to engage with people.
Third, we actually took those opportunities. What if we channeled all the outrage about our society becoming more secular into a concerted effort to engage the hopeless, the poor and the lost? What if instead of being outraged by a cup we chose to invite out for coffee (non-Starbucks of course) a friend or co-worker who is going through a divorce or loss? What if we took what we spent on coffee and dropped it in the Salvation Army bucket?
What if the world this Christmas began to believe that Christians were an overwhelming force for good, love and hope to people who desperately need those things? Rather than fighting against the “War on Christmas,” we fight for the hearts and minds and lives of people who need the message of the Prince of Peace.
In 2006, I had just been fired from my job as a pastor in St. Louis. I was struggling a lot personally and professionally. I had an interview that spring for a new pastor job. I had made it to the final 3 candidates for a church in Austin. I was in St. Louis, and the lead pastor of that church flew to Chicago and set up at a hotel restaurant at the airport. He met all of the candidates there. I flew to the Chicago airport, had the interview and flew back.
The meeting went really well. He actually helped counsel me some in how I was struggling. I recognized that I still needed a lot of help. Before I got back on the plane, I went to the bookstore in the airport, where they sell books for the low cost of 120% of the cover price. I saw the book Blue Like Jazz. I’d heard a lot about it, but had never read it. I picked it up. I then read it in one sitting. It impacted me big time. Donald Miller gave voice to some of the confusion and hurt I was feeling and he gave me hope and courage to keep going.
After reading his book, I heard rumors that he had drifted from the Christian faith. It had already happened to some prominent Christian authors that were “rethinking church.” It’s still happening (cough, cough, Rob Bell). I didn’t want it to be true, so I chose not to read any more of his books. I wanted that book to have its place in my heart, without being tainted by him rejecting Christianity(the way the Nooma videos are now). I know that’s not the most mature perspective in the world, but it’s what I did.
Then a couple of months ago, Mark Palfreeman picked the book that we would read as a staff and it was a new book by Donald Miller. I was nervous, but I didn’t need to be. The book was tremendous.
Book: Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy (Click here to buy on Amazon)
Author: Donald Miller, Author and Director of Storyline and Storybrand
Why You Should Read It: Miller tells the story of how he discovered, through the pursuit of his girlfriend that would become his wife, how broken and dysfunctional he was with relationships and in his own heart. As he is telling his journey to personal, relational and spiritual health, he gives insights into what keeps us from our own health. There are no lists or proof texts or 5 keys to anything. He is a master storyteller that I am now convinced lives in my head. We have been discussing the book in staff meeting and it has taken over, in a good way. We start discussing it and the next thing we know, staff meeting is over. We are a diverse group of people and everyone is being impacted by this book.
Why Some Would Say You Shouldn’t: It’s that Blue Like Jazz guy. Is he even a Christian? I heard he doesn’t go to church. There aren’t any Scripture references in this book. Where are the action items? Is this even a Christian book?
Why They Are Wrong: It’s not a traditional Christian book. It is not linear. It doesn’t have to-do lists. He barely references the Bible at all. He also doesn’t go to a local church. All of that is true. However, he is clearly gifted in communicating truth. He is incredibly insightful into what goes on inside the human heart. Go in understanding that this book is unlike the other Christian books out there and you will be challenged.
Questions to consider: What is holding me back from intimacy with other people? What has happened in my past that is holding me back? What dangerous things do I believe and think that I’ve come to believe are just “who I am?” How are these keeping from being who God has called me to be? Am I emotionally and personally healthy? Am I willing to even ask that question? Do I even understand that question?
Conclusion: Buy this book. Get a group of people you trust and read it together and discuss it. Don’t read it alone. Read it with people that can process with you what he’s talking about.
Confession time: Fear often gets the best of me. I project often as a confident, self-assured leader. There are times that is exactly what I am. However, sometimes I’m afraid. I’m scared that I am not the husband that I’m supposed to be, or father, or pastor, or leader. Sometimes, I hear from God what the next step is that God wants me to take in my life and it scares me. I feel inadequate.
I remember my very first day as a pastor. I was going to work part-time as a small groups pastor at my church in Conway. I had lobbied hard to get this job and I believed that I could do the job well. I believed that it could be a great step for me out of college ministry and into being a pastor. I believed that I would do this well and then they would offer me job full-time and my career would take off. So, on the first day of work, I went to the church office and sat behind my desk. My first official act as pastor was…panic. I had no idea what to do first or next. I sat there frozen. I would love to tell you that this lasted for a couple of minutes. Insert the word hours for minutes. I was earning my paycheck that day for sure! I did the only thing I knew to do which was call my wife, Heidi.
She did a great job of calming me down and telling me that I would do great. She told me to make a list of everything that needed to get done and then slowly do them one at a time. She told me to pray and she prayed with me. The anxiety began to pass.
Most of us have been there or may be there right now. You know what you are supposed to do, but fear is winning. God wants you to restore a relationship. He wants you to reach out to someone who is hurting or far from God. He wants you to take a risk with your career. The biggest one that many of us face is that he is calling you to stop that destructive sin that is ruining your life. When it is obvious that God is wanting us to stop doing something we shouldn’t be or start doing something that we need to be doing, we can get scared, overwhelmed and desperate.
The people of Jericho found themselves in such a desperate situation in Joshua 2. The Israelites are, for the second time, on the edge of the land that God had promised them. Joshua sends out 2 spies to check out the city of Jericho that God has promised to them. The king of Jericho hears that the spies are in the land and perhaps have taken shelter at the home of Rahab the prostitute. (The fact that she is a prostitute is superfluous to the story, except as a stark contrast of a stereotype. You would expect a prostitute to be the least sensitive toward the leading of God, but the opposite is true. Also, how did the spies end up at a prostitute’s house? Another post for another day.) The king, in what you think is an act of confident counter-attack, sends his soldiers to find and capture/kill the spies.
However, we find out that it was not an act of courage but of desperation. Rahab explains that the whole city is terrified of Israel. They have heard the stories about how powerful the God of the Jews is and they are scared that they are next to be judged by this God. They don’t know what to do.
Rahab and all of the people of Jericho had 3 options.
1) They could choose to fight. They find themselves backed into a corner. It is clear to everyone that God is against them. Rather than choose humility, they choose the ridiculous. They choose to fight God. They would rather die than admit to themselves, others and to God that they were wrong. We see the king doing this, at least at first. He hears that the Israelites have sent spies into the land, and he believes that he can thwart them and God’s plan if he captures the spies. He is still fighting.
2) They could choose to hide. They knew that they couldn’t fight God so they make the decision to just cower and hide and let themselves and their city be destroyed. This is what Rahab says that most of the city has chosen. She says that they are “melting with fear.” They admit defeat, but they do so without humility.
3) They could choose to humble themselves and follow God. This is Rahab’s choice. She stands in the face of the soldiers from her king and lies to them. Death would seem imminent in such a situation. However, Rahab chose in that moment to fear God rather than the king or the soldier that was staring her in the face.
Many of us are staring soldiers of our own in the face right now. It is not that we are uncertain as to what God wants from us. We are not unsure about what the next, best step is. Uncertainty and ambiguity are not our problem. Fear is our problem.
I was scared to get married.
I was scared to have a daughter.
I was scared to have another daughter.
I was scared to adopt.
I was scared the first day of every job I have ever had.
However, I chose God in each of those circumstances and peace and joy and fulfillment beyond my expectations were on the other side. Fighting God is pointless and hiding gets me nowhere. I must choose in the big picture issues of my life and in the day to day moments to not choose fear, but to trust. That’s where life is.
It’s one of the most coveted cards in the Monopoly game. The “Get Out of Jail Free” card. It’s very annoying to get stuck in jail, although if you are losing, it’s a nice break from having to deal with your opponents row of hotels.
No such card exists in real life. There is no card that you can show that can get you out of jail, certainly not literally. There also is no metaphorical “get out of jail free” card either. By that, I mean ways to get out of trouble for the stupid things we do or say. We try to invent them. Most of the cards that we create start with the phrase, “I was just…” “I was just tired,” “I was just hungry,” etc.
However, the biggest, most often used “get out of jail free” card that we try to use is found in the Bible.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
What we think that it means:
There are a lot of different ways to describe what we mean when we quote this verse. You’re not the boss of me. You can’t tell me what to do. How dare you? Who do you think you are?
Basically, what we think this verse means is that no one can tell us what we are doing is wrong. If someone tells you that what you are doing is sinful or wrong, then that is judging. Bible says don’t judge. Again, we play it like a “get out of jail free” card. You do something wrong, someone calls you on it, play this card and you are out of trouble.
Why that is a bad interpretation:
First, there are multiple verses that say this it is our responsibility to confront or rebuke people’s sin. I Timothy 5:20, James 5:19-20, Galatians 6:1, Matthew 18:15. That’s just a few. God is calling us to be involved in each other’s lives and help and confront each other when in sin. It can’t mean that we can’t tell someone that what they are doing is wrong.
This leads to the second issue. What does the word judge mean? As always, words have a lot of different meanings. The context determines the meaning. Judge can mean determine right from wrong or it can mean determine someone’s value or it could mean to determine the consequence or punishment. Just because something feels judgmental to you doesn’t mean that it falls into the category of this prohibition against judgment. It depends on what judging means, and you have to look at the context.
Finally, it is self-refuting. You are judging someone when you say they are judging you.
What this verse means:
When Jesus says don’t judge, what he says next is that the measure by which you judge someone will be used against you. The word “measure” almost certainly is a reference to a scale that you would use to determine the value and weight of something that you were going to buy. So what Jesus is prohibiting is determining someone’s value. That’s not your role. He says that if you do that, you will judged by that same measure. This is by no means a prohibition against determining whether or not an action is sinful or telling us that we are not to be involved in correcting people or being corrected.
However, even though Matthew 7:1 is not a “get out of jail free card,” there also are no licenses in the Bible for you to be a jerk to somebody.
If you see someone in sin and determine because of that sin, that they are less valuable to God or are going to Hell, you should be careful, because you do not want that same measure applied to you. Not only that, but this passage makes it clear that when you do that, you are a hypocrite. He uses an outrageous and hilarious metaphor. Someone is walking around with a log in their eye. Then even though they are blinded by the log, they believe that they have the vision to point out a speck of dust in someone else’s eye. That makes you both an idiot and hypocrite.
This is especially important to the church today in the way that we treat people with what I will call “unusual” sins. Most guys struggle with porn, so that’s normal and understandable. You get grace. Being gay is unusual and therefore worse and worthy of condemnation. Most Americans are greedy and terrible with money, that’s OK. Homeless people though are lazy and unworthy of compassion.
We compartmentalize sin and determine some sins are worse than others because they are foreign to us or repulsive in some way. Therefore, even though I am a sinner, those sinners deserve condemnation. That is not a measure by which you want to be judged, so don’t judge. In fact arrogant condemnation might be the log that you are carrying around with you that makes it where you can’t see the specks in another’s eye.
What we all need is someone who loves us to come to us gently and tell us what we are doing is hurting us and others. We need those people to then help us get better. I’ll do that for you and you can do it for me. That is a measure of judgment that I will gladly live by.
I will never bungee jump. I have ridden thrilling roller coasters and climbed tall mountains, but I will never jump. I am terrified of heights, and although roller coasters and mountain climbing touch on that nerve, they are gradual, or I am strapped in and unable to do anything but hold on with my eyes shut and scream while the roller coaster creeps its way upward in infinite “click, click, clicks” to its summit. Bungee jumping, however, is different. Not only are you at some unholy height above the earth, but as you peer down to the ground “miles” below you, you must choose to leave the platform. They don’t push you. You have to jump.
It’s the jumping I have a problem with. Given the choice, I choose the platform…safety…certainty…over the probably exhilarating experience of freefalling. My desire to protect myself from the possible pain of splatting on the ground prevents me from experiencing the thrill of reaching the end of my rope just short of the splat and having it spring me back into the air for another gleeful descent.
So for years I stood on the “platform” peering off the edge at the freefall that was adoption. We wanted more children; we knew there were children who needed families, and we felt certain that there was, as my husband would say, “another Loften out there somewhere.” But I could not jump. I filled out paperwork. I looked at waiting children websites. I prayed. I talked to adoptive moms about their experiences. I talked myself into it. I talked myself out of it.
There were too many horror stories. The “splats” at the bottom of the jump. Costly international adoptions fruitlessly pursued for years. Heartbreaking domestic adoptions interrupted by unforeseen biological relatives. Plus the timing was never right for our family. We were going to move. We had just moved. Our biological daughters were too young. Now they were too old. Our family was no longer in that season.
What if there was a “splat?” That would mean devastation for our daughters too. For years I had coped with the pain of infertility, wanting more children, planning for more children, but being heartbroken month after month, year after year. My heart was scarred and bruised, no longer bleeding, but still fragile. I couldn’t choose to throw it off the platform. I feared it could not endure a splat.
For years my husband and I had seesawed, each taking turns being the one who was “pursuing adoption” and the one who was making con lists. During one of his “pro list” phases, we went to a meeting. We filled out paperwork. But we were still safely on the platform because we were currently living in an apartment and would not be able to have a home study until we moved into a house. Then we moved into a house. Then we had a therapist friend over for dinner who worked with some boys who were eligible for adoption. And she asked if we would consider trying to adopt them. And my heart screamed, “YES!” And God pulled up next to that bungee jump platform in a roller coaster car and harnessed me and my fragile heart in. We “click, clicked” up higher and higher as God carried me through the adoption process. I no longer felt like I was peering off the edge of a platform trying to muster the courage to jump, but as if I was strapped in, being taken somewhere that I wanted to go although I was not brave enough to get there. Friends and family pointed out to me that I was leaving the safety of the platform—“Are you sure you want to do this?” “It’s been a long time since you had little ones.” “Aren’t some of those foster kids really messed up?” “What if you fall in love with a child and then they go back home?”
All I could do was agree with them. These were valid concerns, and I could see the safe platform becoming smaller and smaller in my rearview mirror. But I was strapped in, and God was driving. He did not wait for my weak and wounded heart to become strong enough to risk being hurt again. He knew I could not and would probably never be able to jump into the uncertainty of adoption. But I could trust My God enough to strap myself into His roller coaster. He didn’t ask me to trust the process, or the agency, or the circumstances, or the people. He asked me to trust Him. God and I had a lot of history together. He had proven His love for my weak and wounded heart time and time again. I could trust Him.
Four years later, I look back at the roller coaster ride that was the adoption process, and I cannot believe I survived it. If I had been able to see the death falls and inverted spirals from the platform, I know my fear would have kept me from climbing aboard and buckling up. By the time our home was open for adoption the 2 boys who lit a fire in my heart had been adopted–the first roller coaster loop. But when my beautiful, blue-eyed 4 year old daughter wraps her precious arms around my neck and squeezes, “Mom, I love you a million billion one hundred and thirties,” my eyes well with gratitude and humility.
Thank you, Lord that you chose this broken, fearful mama for adoption and carried me onto a ride more awesome and rewarding than any I could ever have the courage to choose for myself.
I’m a D-I.
I also am a Lion.
I also am a choleric.
I’m an achiever.
I could keep going, but I’ll end with I’m an ENTJ.
The real question isn’t what am I on all these personality tests, but does it really matter?
There seems to be competing ideas filling up my Facebook feed lately. One is from people taking the Myers-Briggs personality test (that’s the one that declared me an ENTJ). The other is full of links and videos saying that the Myers-Briggs is no good. Stop using it. As with most issues such as this, the truth lies somewhere between “personality tests are the best! They tell you everything there is to know about you!” and “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
A personality test taken well can give you a lot of insights about you and help you understand some ways that you think and approach life that maybe you didn’t know before. On the other hand, it can’t tell you everything about you and not everything it says about your type will be true about you. Use them wisely and they will give you wisdom. Here are some tips.
1) Be honest with your answers. I know that seems pretty obvious, but you would be surprised the number of people that take personality tests or spiritual gift tests and don’t answer based on what is currently true about them. They answer the questions based on who they wish that they were.
Q: On a scale of 1-5, how manipulative are you?
A: 1 How dare you, personality test?
On the other hand, don’t bring your low self-esteem or fake humility.
Q: On a scale of 1-5, how patient are you?
A: 1 There was that one time 3 years ago when I honked my horn at someone at a stoplight.
2. Trust the tests more that have the most categories. I’m not just a lion. I may be more like a lion than the others but I have some otter and golden retriever as well. Mostly I feel like I’m a platypus. “A little of this, a little of that, a little of what is that?” DISC can have as many as 24 categories, Myers-Briggs has 16. The more categories the more specific and insightful the descriptions can be.
3. Share your results with a trusted friend who knows you. You may read your results and not be sure if it accurately describes you or not. Bring someone else in and read them the results and they will be able to help you. It may also be helpful to have someone you trust near you when you take the test for some questions that are challenging, like for me if I’m trying to decide if patient or not opinionated describes me the least. A trusted friend can help you figure out what’s true and what isn’t.
4. Check other profiles if there is an area where you are on the borderline. I always test out at about 55% extrovert. So I don’t really exhibit all the characteristics of an extrovert. So, I also look at the characteristics of an introvert. I’m an ENTJ, but I also have a lot in common with an INTJ. Everything is the same except the second profile is for an introvert. 16 categories aren’t really enough to classify everyone. Many of us will be some mix of a couple of different profiles. That doesn’t make the test bad or wrong. It just simply shows how you need to be smart in how you understand and apply your results.
5. Accept the “bad” results but don’t let them define you. I remember sharing my Myers-Briggs with some guys that were very knowledgeable about the test. They told me that I was impossible to work for. Right before your team is about to achieve the goal, you move the goal post and so you never celebrate victories. I thought, “Man, that’s sweet. Thanks for sharing that with me…at this social dinner. Can you pass me a fork so I can stab your hand with it?” The problem is that what they said was true. That is something that I deal with. However, that doesn’t mean that is who I have to continue to be.
6. Embrace your strengths and manage your weaknesses. I now make conscious decisions to celebrate with my team. We evaluate the details of how something went, less intensely. We celebrate before we evaluate. That doesn’t necessarily come naturally to me, but I do it, because it is right. I have to manage myself to make that happen. Some weaknesses you can’t really fix. I cannot become more detail oriented. I can, however, surround myself with people who are. I can try to not place myself in situations that call for that.
Also, believe in your strengths. Don’t let unhealthy thinking keep you from believing that you have great qualities. Believe in your strengths and use them. I’m a D-I in the Disc and that means that I want to lead, but I also am relational. I describe it as “I’m right, but I want everyone to be happy about that I’m right.” I embrace that as who I am and it helps me lead people effectively as a pastor.
I am a big believer in these tests, taken and understood appropriately. If you can be honest with yourself and the test, you can learn a lot about yourself. Learning about yourself can take you a long way in knowing who God has called you to be and how he wants to use you.
You know I’m right and you’re happy about that, aren’t you?
It was the summer of 1993 and I was in Dallas for a discipleship project before my senior year of college. That summer the 4th of July was on a Sunday and I had never experienced before what happened that day. I had never been a part of a patriotic themed church service. Instead of the traditional hymns that you usually sing, you sing the sort of patriotic/sort of Christian songs like, of course, the Battle Hymn of the Republic. I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about it. I loved America but at the same time, I was in this very intense discipleship project and I was wondering why we seemingly had abandoned Jesus as our primary topic for the day.
There was a theme verse for the day. It was on the bulletin cover and prominently a part of the service and ultimately was also the primary passage of the sermon. It was after the sermon that I knew for sure that I was not a fan of what was happening.
II Chronicles 7:14
What we think that it means:
If Christians in America will simply follow the clear pattern in this verse, humble yourselves, pray, seek God’s face and turn from wickedness, then God will bring healing to America. This is not a call for all of America to repent, just those who are called by his name–the believers. America is under judgment from God because we have turned from God. If the church repents and turns to God, then God will forgive and heal America.
Why that is a bad interpretation:
It is abundantly clear to me that we have no idea how to interpret the Old Testament and so we wing it. We take verses that we like completely out of context and apply them to whatever context we want to apply them. We are not sure which OT commands apply to Christians, so we all, and I mean ALL, pick and choose based on what happens to fit our current desires best. (Read about that more here.) When God makes a specific promise to Israel, we ask how do we apply it? The answer is we don’t know but we like what it says, and so we wing it.
So what is going on in II Chronicles 7? King Solomon has just dedicated the temple and God appears to him and tells the king that he has heard his prayer. He then gives Solomon a warning and tells him that there will come a time when God will bring a plague or drought to the land, the literal land that God had long promised them and in which they now lived. When such a thing happens, the people need to pray and humble themselves and repent. Then God will bring literal healing to a cursed literal land.
So what does this have to do with America? Nothing. Israel was God’s chosen people with whom God made a covenant that involved land. He promised this land to them, but some of his blessing is conditional on their obedience. If they fail, they will be punished. If they repent, God will bless them again.
America has no such arrangement with God. America did not make a covenant with God and Americans are not his chosen people in any sense of any of those words. America began in rebellion against Romans 13:1-6 and has no divine origin. While it is true that some of the founders wanted to establish Christian ethics and devotion to God into the founding, that is a far cry from being God’s chosen people who were promised a land.
Israel never means America. It is more likely to mean the church, but not America. That’s what some people are trying to make this verse mean, in part, when they say that “those called by my name” isn’t talking to all Americans but the American church. Ok, then let’s follow that through. If God’s church will humble themselves and pray, then God will heal the church’s land that has been cursed. What literal or metaphorical land does the church have that has been cursed and needs healing? Whatever land may mean, the church has not been promised American land or any country. God’s promises to the church are in the spiritual realm not in physical land.
What this verse means:
By all means, pray for your country. Pray for your country’s leaders. Pray that repentance and revival will break out in your country. Pray that God will heal people, both individually and collectively, both physically and spiritually. All of those are great things, but do not need to be confused with the bad theology of placing America as God’s replacement for his covenant people. That is neither helpful nor true.
There are times in the New Testament where it would seem that because of sin, people are cursed in some way. The passage in Corinthians about the Lord’s Supper indicates that. If you believe that you or a group you are a part of is under judgment from God, then there are some amazing principles here for us to apply.
We need to be humble not proud.
We need to pray to God.
We need to seek his face, a relational connection with him.
We need to confess sin.
If we do those things, our relational connection with God will be restored. For the individual and the church it is fellowship and blessing. For the country of America, there are no promises of blessing that God has made to that country or any country apart from his chosen people, Israel. Be excited about what God has promised you and the church.
Don’t get distracted by a false narrative about what your home country is or it’s special placement in the heart of God. Be proud of where you are from but don’t allow it to cause you to study the Bible poorly or worse yet, divide your loyalty.
There’s a common story that I hear a lot living in Northwest Arkansas. As many of you probably know, the corporate headquarters for Wal-Mart is here, and that is a huge magnet for businessmen and women from all over the world. You add a university and a few other corporate headquarters and suddenly this area of the state and country has a lot of different people from a lot of different places. Contrast that with a lot of other parts of Arkansas where the overwhelming majority of people are from Arkansas.
So, the story I hear is from people from different parts of the country who at some point in their lives had to/needed to move to Arkansas for work. As someone who has lived 38 of his almost 44 years in Arkansas, I love and am proud of our state. On the other hand, I can see it from their perspective…Arkansas. Arkansas, where they invented the toothbrush (instead of teethbrush), land of Deliverance, where the family trees are straight lines. I’ve heard them all. From these people’s perspectives, these are not jokes but fearful realities.
However, the conclusion of the story is always the same. “I was so surprised! It’s so nice here! I love it! I’m so glad that God brought me here!” They describe coming here as either their only option or their least bad option. They come here and quickly consider it a blessing.
Which leads us to our Christian cliche of the day. “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”
Allow me to give it a different spin. “When God closes a door, who knows what’s going on? Just trust that it was shut for a reason.”
When God closes a door, he may be saying, “Wait right here. I’ll open it later.”
When God closes a door, he may be saying, “What is wrong with you? Why would you want to go out there? That’s not good for you!”
When God closes a door, he may be saying, “I know you think you want to go out here but you don’t. Try this other door, on the other side of the house. It leads some place different.”
When God closes a door, he may, in fact, open a window, because he wants you to take a different path to get to the place you both want to go.
The only thing that you can know for sure when a door closes, is that the door is closed. (I know I just blew your mind!) There are other things that you need to know/remember. God is a good God that loves you and wants your best. You can trust God. He is very much interested in your good (mostly in making you good and seeing you do good things). God will never deflect you from your best path. Him deflecting is how you can know something wasn’t your best path.
So, how can you know what God is doing when a door closes? That’s a great question without an easy answer. Here’s a few tips.
1) Ask him. Talk to God and learn to listen. He wants to lead you, so let him lead you and believe that he will.
2) Ask a friend or mentor who has been where you are. There are often repeatable patterns that others can see because they have lived it, that you can’t see. Do not walk through a confusing time alone, when God has placed others in our lives to help us see what sometimes we can’t see.
3) Take a minute. That’s a common expression for us in our house, but maybe not to you. What it means is slow down and calm down. Take a minute to make sure that you are not overreacting or allowing disappointment to control you. Let trust and hope fill the spot that anxiety and fear are currently filling.
Put all that together with an attitude of trust and at just the right time, which may seem to you like too late, a different door, or the same door, or a window will open, or you’ll wake up one day and wonder why you ever wanted to make a move in the first place. God has laid out for you the path of good that he wants you to walk. Just trust and follow, all the way to Arkansas if need be, or (gasp) Mississippi. (Sorry that’s what we do here. Pretend that we are better than Mississippi.)
For we are God’s handiwork,created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
Starting a new series here. Don’t let the number one confuse you. I’m not saying that this is the most misused, just the first in the series. For a similar series, check out Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying from 5 years ago.
It seems far too often that the more often we quote a Bible verse and the more often it shows up on inspirational posters, the more likely that verse is being abused in some way. Sometimes we misquote it. Sometimes we take it out of context. Sometimes we just misunderstand what it is saying. Sometimes we abuse a verse to say something that is true, and other times to we make the Bible say something we want to be true but isn’t. I encourage you to follow along with this series over the next few weeks. This will help our theology and our Bible study skills.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful;he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. I Corinthians 10:13
What we think that it means:
“God will never give me more than I can handle.” The circumstances of my life will never get so overwhelming that I won’t be able to handle it. In fact, when my circumstances feel overwhelming, I can take some pride in that because it shows that “God thinks a lot of me and what I am able to handle.”
Why that is a bad interpretation:
This verse is not talking about the circumstances of your life. Paul is talking about the temptation to sin. The temptations that you experience are common to everyone and will not be more than you can bear. He is talking about temptation not the trials and challenges of life. The challenges of life can be sources of temptation but Paul is not speaking to simply the times when life is overwhelming
Even if we get that right, Paul is also not talking about your ability to bear those temptations. He does say that God won’t give you more temptation than you can bear, and if the verse ended there perhaps we could take some pride in our ability. However, the verse doesn’t end there. Paul says that God is the one that delivers us.
Furthermore, if this verse is talking about temptation and my ability to bear it, then it is verifiably false. I am tempted beyond what I can bear all the time, because I choose the temptation. I fail to take the way out that God is offering. Instead, I choose sin. It is dangerous to believe that this passage speaks highly of our abilities to withstand temptation because it puts the emphasis on the wrong person. I begin to look to myself as the source of my freedom from temptation.
What this verse means:
The temptation to sin is significant, but whatever temptation that you are facing is not uncommon. In fact, the temptation, no matter how severe, will not be more than you can bear. You will never be put into a situation where your only choice is sin. Because no matter how severe the temptation to sin is, no matter how much the sin seems inevitable, God will provide a way out. Again, God will provide the way out. We experience the power of this verse, not when we take pride in God’s view of us in believing we can handle adversity, but when we are in the middle of great temptation and we choose God and his way out.
Sin is never inevitable. Way too many of us become completely overwhelmed. Even now, many of us feel like there is a recurring sin in our lives that we will never defeat. We have resigned ourselves to continual defeat. However, Paul has made it clear here that is not the case. God has provided a way out for you. When we choose to rely on our own strength to fight temptation, when we falsely believe that we can bear it, we end up deeper and deeper in trouble. So when the potentially overwhelming temptation comes, do not look to your strength to bear, humbly look to God and ask for him to give you the way out.
So, by all means, make an inspirational poster of this verse. Use this verse to inspire you when you are hopeless and sin seems to be getting the best of you. However, when you look at the poster, your next look needs to be to God. With that look, you will see the way out.