When God Spoke to Me in My Backyard

Posted: November 14, 2011 in Faith

There are life lessons to be taught and learned as a Dad. What appears trivial in a moment with my kids, God uses as a school book for my faith. Take for instance this last Saturday as I played baseball in the backyard with my boys. I was stoked about enjoying the cool weather and this fatherhood past time of playing catch with my sons. Fairly quickly, however, my good time slipped into frustration.

Playing catch is fun only if both participants are “catching” the ball. Both of my boys were doing fine in the throwing department. It was actually catching the ball where their skills broke down. I had been working with them on not being afraid of the baseball when I threw it their way. Their natural reaction was to fling their body away from the path of the ball making catching it near impossible. I gave encouragement, tips, pep talks, bribery and lectures: “Trust the glove! I’m not going to throw it harder than you can handle!”. I used all the tools that dads seem to pull out when they hit an impasse with their kids. Nothing was working. They were just plain scared of the ball.

God Speaks

That’s when God reached down in my backyard in Raleigh, NC and spoke to me:

“Nathan, you’re just like your sons.  As your Heavenly Dad I’m desiring to play catch with you all the time with the future I have for you and often you’re scared of the ball. Trust Me. Trust my throw. I’m not going to throw it harder than you can handle. I’ve given you all the tools you need: a new nature, faith, the power of the Spirit and unique giftings. Trust this glove I’ve given you and let’s play some ball.”

I bowed my head recognizing it was a holy moment. I whispered a prayer, “Got it……Thanks Dad.”

The Take Away

Needless to say, the rest of the afternoon I was much more patient with the boys.

With God’s help I’m trusting the Thrower and the glove He’s designed, knowing that faith always conquers fear.

What about you? Are there any God throws you’ve been avoiding? Let me hear from you below.

On a morning and nightly basis I have a time with God where He and I deal with my sin. It’s not a long time, but it’s crucial. Last night as I laid down I asked the Holy Spirit to bring anything to mind where my heart was not right: any rebellion, any misaligned thoughts and motivations, any sins of omission (things I should have done, but refused to do.)

He quickly reveals any sin to me and I humbly lay it all down and repent. Many have the misconception that repentance is just telling God your sorry or that it’s just a one-time thing when you first get saved. Repentance should actually be a daily discipline so that our heart remains tender to God. I see Repentance as having four characteristics:

1. Confession: Whether verbally said aloud or acknowledged in the heart to God,  here repentance is acknowledging our sin before God. It’s owning it: “Yes, I did this. I’ve sinned against you when I _(fill in the blank_).”  This gets us past making excuses by either blaming someone else or our circumstance.

2. Spiritual: It’s not enough to say: “I was wrong, I feel bad, please forgive me.” Confession alone is not repentance. Repentance is truly coming to a place of removing our affections from our rebellion > hating it >betraying it > turning our back on it and walking out. It’s about seeing our sin in the light of Jesus and spiritually ripping it down from its place of prominence in our heart and putting Jesus back in HIS rightful place in our Heart.

3. Practical: So we’ve confessed, spiritually turned our back on our sin, now it’s time to reject our sin practically. If repentance is turning our back on sin what does that mean practically in our everyday lives? It means if there is anything of a tangible nature to it, we deal with it.  It can be easy for us to miss this third part of repentance and fall into the trap of managing our sin instead of killing it.

Tangible examples: Not going back to a “place” where we’re prone to sin, leaving a relationship that’s dragging you down (I do not mean a spouse here), getting rid of some phone numbers of people that we sin with, getting rid of any tangible items or resources that are an avenue of sinning. For example, let’s say that I’ve been falling into the sin of lust by watching inappropriate movies that I own. Should I keep them? Is it worth it if they’re causing me to sin? No! I trash them. Satan would love us to believe the lie that we can “repent” without having to change our lifestyle.

Listen to Jesus here:

Matthew 5:28–31 (ESV)

28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Tear your eye out???  That’s a bit over the top….right? Jesus is using a hyperbole. He doesn’t literally mean tear your eye out. He’s making an extreme statement to make a point. Be ruthless with your sin! Make war with it!

4. Relational: If in our sin we’ve sinned against another person we need to go them “own it” and ask forgiveness. This could also mean that you feel someone has sinned against you and you’re carrying an offence against them and they don’t even know it. Go to them right away. Do this in a timely manner otherwise you’ll end up making excusing and rationalizing about how “it’s not a big deal and I don’t really need go to them.” Go!

Keeping your heart tender through repentance should be a daily spiritual discipline. Allow this soul scrubbing in your life to be life giving as you turn your back on your sin and embrace the one who paid an incredible price so that you could be a new creation in Him.

What about you? What are some ways that you deal with your sin as a Christian? Would you share below?

My mom was a HUGE William Shatner fan. As a kid I remember her watching Star Trek every night it was on and I was left to endure Captain Kirk’s reflective monologues on a regular basis. The only high light of the show for me was when the crew was “beamed” anywhere. You remember, they were teleported down to a new planet and then back to their ship. I was amazed by the idea of being able to just show up somewhere without having to take the time or the effort to actually make the trip.

My life balloon was deflated at the age of seven when I was told that no you can’t actually be “beamed” up or out or anywhere for that matter.

Still, I think the frustration still lingers for many of us  that want to go somewhere without having to take the necessary steps to get there.

We want a short cut…….an easy button. We want to play without having to pay.

For example: we want a deeper walk with Jesus, but not have to invest the time with Him. We want to be a writer, without the work. We want to lead without having to learn. We want to go global with our faith without having to go across the street, (Insert your desired short-cut here.)

Sometimes this comes from just plain laziness. Other times it’s something much darker……fear.

Fear: of failure, of something not being what we’d thought it be when we get there, that we won’t have what it takes or of how it might effect other areas of our life.

There could be a million combinations of why we we’re not embracing the process that God wants to take us on to get us where He wants. But here’s a not-so-well kept secret: if we got our wish to avoid “the work” we’d be miserable. Why?

You’d  have no story to tell.

An ending is only as interesting as the story that takes you there. Our lives are no different. The challenges, the effort, the work, the process, it’s all the adventure……the good stuff in the middle of our story. To avoid it would mean you could never mentor, never be able to reach back for a much needed overcoming moment in your story for the encouragement to endure your present.

The “becoming” doesn’t happen when you arrive, it happens in the journey….in your story.

There is no easy button. There is no way around the hard stuff. It’s part of becoming.

Pray. Decide. Then get busy writing the story that God has meant for you.

Let me hear your perspective. What “work” are you being called to? How are you overcoming the temptation to avoid the work? Share below.

The Fear Every Leader Battles With

Posted: October 23, 2011 in leadership

It’s the fear I have to beat back with a stick every day. I mean every day.

If I let this fear take hold I would attempt nothing, risk nothing, have nothing.

It’s the fear of failure……….and I’ve never met a leader who hasn’t looked it in the eye.

Here’s a personal example in my life: This weekend our church kicked off a two weekend push to invite guests to our church to hear the gospel. The two fears I battled with: 1. What if people don’t come? 2. What if they don’t respond?

Turns out people did come and people did respond.

I was still left with the question, where does this junk come from? Answer: It comes from a deeper insecurity; the fear of failure.

If I could put a mic in my mind this is what you might hear : “If people don’t invite people, what does that say about my leadership? If people don’t respond to the gospel when I preach, what does that say about my preaching? Can I even do this?”

My thinking becomes dominated by the word “if”. Now, that’s not always a bad thing. The word “if”  is a powerful.  It’s all about potential. But, when I’m walking in the fear of failure my “if” is fixated on the potential of failure. When I am walking in faith, the “if’s” turn in to seeing the God potential in my leadership.

Notice another theme throughout my mind conversation, the word “I”.  This is pride. Most of the time this fear is less about the mission failing and more about me looking like a failure. “What will people think of me if this doesn’t work?”.

If we let the fear of failure run rampant in our lives we’ll end up not trying or risking anything. Our motto will end up being, “Never try, never fail.” We might not ever have to deal with the pain of failure, but we’ll end up suffocating the growth in ourselves and others we lead. That is failure.

So what’s the remedy?  On a daily basis I have to drag my pride and worry to the cross and nail it there. God has called me to do the right things for the right reasons and leave the results up to Him.

What about you? What are some areas in your life that you wrestle with the fear of failure. Take a moment and share below.

I got schooled in pastoral ministry by my 6 year old son, Landon, last night. He was an innocent school master that taught me a hard truth about myself and sacrificial giving.

The Story

After church last night Landon and I stopped at a nearby Wal-Mart (Don’t Hate) to pick up a few things. As we came out of the store into the rain we were stopped by a homeless gentleman named, Jerry. Jerry began to ask me if I had any quarters that he and his wife could use to wash and dry their clothes that had been soaked by the rain throughout the day or give them some money for food.

You see Jerry and his wife Lynn live in the woods behind Wal-mart with many others. His wife has hepatitis and he’s been out of work for a long time. I explained to him that I didn’t have any cash in my wallet (rarely carry it) but I was more than happy to buy them dinner inside at the McDonalds. He was grateful.

Landon and I went back inside and purchased the food and brought it back out. Jerry said, “God bless you. Will you please pray for us.” I said, “Absolutely!”, and Landon and I circled up and held hands with Jerry in the Wal-Mart parking lot and prayed. We parted ways and I walked away feeling good that we had shown love to Jerry and that I had the opportunity to model Jesus for my son.

 

 

The Interrogation

As we drove away Landon started this conversation:

Landon:  “Dad, does Jerry not have any money?”

Me: “No he doesn’t.

Landon: Why doesn’t he get a credit card?

Me: Because you have to have  money to have a credit card. (Not a universal truth)

Landon: Why does he live in the woods?

Me: He doesn’t have a place to live.

Landon: Why doesn’t he live in his car?

Me: He doesn’t have a car. You see son, that’s why we should be so grateful for what God’s given us and should be generous to share with others. That’s why Dad went in and bought him some food to show him the love of Jesus.

(Long Pause)

Landon: Dad, it’s raining outside. They’re stuff is all wet. We have a dry house. Why didn’t you invite him to spend the night and let him wash and dry his clothes there?

(BOOM……Deafening silence in the car.)

Landon: Dad, he doesn’t have a car. You could turn around and I know we could find him real quick and ask him. He’d probably be really happy and jump in the car.

Me: Son….(Tongue Tied)

Landon: Why didn’t you ask him that Dad?

Me: Because…..

(Landon continued this CIA type water boarding of questioning the entire way home.)

I finally got my whits about me and explained to him that I didn’t know this man and I have to be careful as a dad and husband to protect my family and be careful about who we invite in to our home. Landon seemed to understand and he seemed to roll with it.

I couldn’t roll with it.

The Lesson

The more I reflected on it, the more God wanted to speak to me about this.

The beautiful gift that a child brings is not only child-like faith, but also child-like solutions. In Landon’s mind it was simple: It’s Raining outside > He doesn’t have a home. > We do. > Let’s invite him.

Most kids aren’t jaded with all the reasons of why we “shouldn’t or can’t” do something. They just see the need and say, “Let’s fix this!” For me buying a meal for Jerry was easy. I’ve done that many times and frankly it was much cheaper than the inconvenience of having a homeless couple (that I don’t know) with all their wet stuff  come to my house for the night.

While many might congratulate me. I felt exposed. I hadn’t considered going the extra mile.  My point is that being a disciple of Jesus always means moving beyond what’s easy and comfortable. Thus the daily call to pick up our cross and follow Him.

Lessons Learned: 1. Look for the extra mile and walk  it out with others. 2. Don’t take my son to Wal-Mart. 🙂

What about you? When has God challenged you to go the extra mile? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

There are a ton of reasons you should pick up and walk away from your commitment to your church family. I’ve narrowed it down to the top 5. Be on the look out for these signs….if you see them get out!

1. Someone offended you.  At any point that you feel your feelings are hurt you should leave. Make sure you look for the subtle signs that people don’t like you: someone walking by and not saying “hi”, not being invited along with a group, not being thanked for something you did, a point in a sermon that made you feel uncomfortable, someone doesn’t notice that you weren’t at church because of the other hundreds of people in the room. If you’re offended it must be a good enough reason to leave. Go with that emotion.

2. You don’t “feel” like you’re being fed. This is really important. You need to purposely forget that your pastor is moving a large group of people from across a wide spectrum in their faith experience to maturity. Make an effort to avoid other discipleship opportunities like Life Groups and classes. It’s completely understandable that you would blame your pastor for your lack of discipline in feeding yourself the Word during the week. Make it a point to have a view that it’s really all about you instead of investing in helping others around you grow.

3. Your Son or Daughter isn’t happy there. In today’s child centered world this makes sense to leave your church if you’re child says they don’t want to go. What’s great about this one is it gives you an opportunity to model for your kids what you should do when something is not done your way: leave. Besides your child must know best….I mean they are the child. Whatever you do don’t teach them to adapt, appreciate the differences in others or model ongoing faithfulness. Get out before they plant roots.

4. Your area of passion is not being promoted enough. If the leadership team at your church doesn’t promote your area of involvement you should find the nearest exit sign. It’s obvious that the reason the pastor is refusing to do this is because he doesn’t like you and not because he has a million other important plates that need to be spun. Here is your chance to read sign #1 and be offended.

5. You made a mistake and a leader brings accountability. When you committed to follow the pastoral leaders of your church you certainly didn’t mean you wanted them to help you grow by holding you accountable. Who needs to submit? Not you! Don’t be sharpened by the experience or walk through restoration. Why should you when there’s another church down the street that doesn’t know anything about your issues and will welcome you with open arms.

(Important Note: If you decide to hit the door because of these valid reasons, make sure you share your reasons with as many people as possible. What’s better than leaving your church? Answer: Taking People with you!)

What about you? Have any other signs of when you should leave your church? Please share below.

I was a part of the rest of the collective world that sighed in sadness yesterday when hearing that the great inventive dynamo, Steve Jobs, had died. He is being called the “Thomas Edison” of our time for his tenacious vision for innovation, rightly so.

My first question upon hearing of his death was, “Was he a follower of Christ?”. Isn’t it interesting that we rarely ask that question of great innovators until they’ve died. To not ask this question is to value his personal accomplishments above him as a person. In doing some research I discovered that Steve was a self-professed devout Buhhdist. Unless in the process of dying Steve came to a point of faith in Jesus Christ (which is a real possibility) for the Christian  there should be profound sadness. Why? Because it means that Steve did not come to a saving faith in Jesus. If this is true he will not rest in peace.

Truly, Steve Jobs was gifted by God to be a creative genius. God’s common grace to all mankind was seen in what Steve Jobs gave to the world in advancing technology. However, I believe the greatest lesson Steve Jobs teaches mankind is this: Even great visionaries can be blind. Steve had the ability to see innovation on the horizon but he was blind to see Christ as savior and Lord. The only accomplishment and contribution that can save a man was accomplished on the cross through Jesus.

There are those that will find this post as crass and insensitive written so soon after his death. But I would say this: For the next few days his life will be dissected through article, documentary and essay. This to me is the greatest question: Did Steve follow Jesus?  It is the weightiest question that can be asked of any of us.