Monday, January 27, 2014

Am I like Jonah...?

Week 5:

Jonah 3:10-4:2 10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.  But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

For years, I was taught that Jonah ran away from God’s call because he was afraid of the people of Nineveh.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned that Jonah was not afraid of the people of Nineveh, but afraid that God would be gracious to such an evil city and its people.  The people of Nineveh were evil to the core and brutal to those they defeated.  They beheaded men and stacked the heads outside the city.  They skinned people alive and laid the skins on the walls.  They impaled men with spears and left them standing for all to see. 

The belief is that Jonah did not want the city of Nineveh to repent.  Jonah knew that God was gracious and would forgive.  So, Jonah ran.  I catch myself feeling like Jonah.  I watch as many deny God, deny His law, mock His goodness, continue in a life of sin expecting God’s grace to cover, etc.  What do I want for those?  Many times I want God to smite them with His power and might.  I want God to punish and show them who He is.  Yet this does not match the Gospels and Jesus teaching that I should go and “make disciples”.

There are certain sins that tend to bother me more than others.  Some sins, I have a tolerant attitude toward and have compassion for the “sinner” around.  Other sins, however, trigger a strong reaction in me.  I will avoid the offender like a plague.  Yet, all sin is equal in the eyes of God.  All sin separates us from a Holy God.  Jesus even pointed out to the Pharisees; those without sin, to cast the first stone.  I recognize that many times I am like Jonah and do not want those “sinners” saved.  From that recognition, I realize that for much of my Christian life, I have made my morality and judgment my Christianity. 

Growing up in this materialistic culture, I have fought the immorality I have observed.  I have been hurt by it, jealous of it, and afraid of it.  Therefore, I have built this moral life with an attitude that I would not be like “that”.  And, out of that self-righteous morality, I have become condescending and judgmental at times.  I am not saying that I shouldn’t be moral.  I am not saying that I should not hate sin.  But, I have built my Christian life off of this morality and not a Spiritual walk.  So, am I like Jonah?  Do I avoid being Jesus to others because of my morality and judgment?  Do I run the other way when God places people in my life that I have strong opinions about their morality?

Where do I go from here?  One, I need to learn from Jonah.  If God is calling me to face what I have strong feelings about, I am not to run.  Look how that turned out for Jonah.  God knows best and He loves His children; to the point of giving them a chance to repent.  Two, even though my morality is based on Biblical truth and that truth is right, I am to set aside my personal judgment for the sake of the Gospel.  The key is to be honest about my opinion without pushing the “sinner” away with a judgmental, self-righteous attitude.  I’ve been on a theme lately of loving relationship.  Love the person(s), looking past the sin without condoning the sin.  All the while, I must realize that my life is full of sin, just different sin. 

I am challenged by this balance in order to reach more for Jesus.  I am thankful that stories like Jonah are in God’s Word to help me to see my life and how I need to improve.


1.      What are some of the sins you cannot stand?
2.      How do you handle those whose lifestyle you disagree with?
3.      Where do you feel like Jonah when it comes to God’s mercy on others?
4.      Where are you like Jonah; running from what God is calling you to do?
5.       Pay attention this week to your “sin” triggers.  Notice how you feel.  Find the source of why that triggers you.  Notice whether or not you want to be like Jonah or are willing to step in where God may be calling you.  Ask God to show you a clear direction.  Take it.  

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Hypocrisy, integrity, and missing the mark...

Week 4:

Psalm 51:3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

I like the KJV translation of this verse:  For I acknowledge my transgressions:  And my sin is ever before me.

I have been reading of late some of the comments, news articles, blogs, etc., of those who have a deep dislike for Christians, Christianity, and what they call the hypocrisy of the Church.  One thing that has really stood out for me is the misuse of the word “hypocrisy”.  I always understood the definition of hypocrisy to be not living or acting in the way you profess to be long term.  Remember, long term, we will come back to that.  I read recently a popular Facebook share that says, “Not going to church because of ‘hypocrites’ is like not going to the gym because of ‘out of shape people’.”  At first I found that funny.  Upon further thought, this type of statement even though true, may not help me much when trying to reach the faultfinder.

I have observed two things around this use of the word “hypocrisy”.  First, the faultfinders of Christianity take any inconsistency amongst Christians and label that as hypocrisy.  Now, mind you, we have hypocrites in our churches; no doubt…but, not to the extent of the accusations.  Secondly, it appears that anything that Christians quote from the Bible that goes against what the faultfinders take part in their lifestyle warrants their accusations.  They just do not want to be told they are living an immoral life.  Again, there are those in our churches who point out the sin to the “outsider” while living a life of indulging in similar, if not the same, sin.  Either way, the use of the word to me is a loose definition.

So what are the faultfinders observing?  Two things come up for me:  Integrity and missing the mark (which is how many scholars define sin).  Again, I realize that we all have a level of hypocrisy in our lives (and if you looked into the lives of the faultfinders, then you would find it in their lives as well).  And there are levels of hypocrisy in our churches.  However, when looking into the lives of most Christians, long term (there it is), there is little hypocrisy and more issues around integrity and unwanted sin. 

Integrity is basically walking your talk.  The Crucible Project looks deep into integrity and helps us as men work on aligning our inside with our outside.  Our actions should match our emotions.  When we keep agreements, we are in integrity.  When we make choices, they should line up with how we profess to live.  So, in many cases, what is being called hypocrisy is really an issue of integrity.  Many times I am out of integrity regarding my walk with Christ.  This does not make me a hypocrite.  Over the long term, I am in integrity more than I am out of integrity.  I would argue that this is the case for most Christians.

Missing the mark is how many describe sin.  God has a standard.  He set laws in motion for humankind to live by.  I don’t think God created His laws just for authority sake (even though He could if He wants, He’s God).   God create us, He knows us; He knows what is best for us and our souls.  That is why His laws are in place.  When we violate one of God’s laws, we are missing the mark.  When I disobey, I am missing the mark.  The target is holiness and perfection.  When I come up short, I have missed the mark.  When shooting at a target, several things can come into play to miss the bull’s eye.  I can be distracted, I can flinch, my sights can be off (I didn’t set them right to begin with), I can pull instead of squeeze the trigger, I don’t take into account the wind, etc.  Living life in the kingdom is like this.  Replace the shooting analogy with living in holiness.  Can you see the factors that make you miss the mark?  Unfortunately, the faultfinders see us miss the mark and label the miss as hypocrisy. 

The sad part is that when the faultfinder sees what he/she perceives as hypocrisy, he/she is done with the Christian, the person, or the group.  So, when you or I run into a faultfinder, we are labelled before we ever open our mouths.  Usually, in this case, it is more about the faultfinder than it is about us.  If we are living the “long term” within how we profess we are, then we may have made a mistake, but we are not hypocrites. 

How do I live life around the faultfinder?  First, I cannot become defensive.  This is most difficult for me.  I want to defend myself and my faith which I follow.  However, I really need to listen to the faultfinder.  This does not mean I have to agree with him/her, just listen.  It also does not mean that his/her faultfinding is about me.  I need to own what is true about me and work on being better in that area or blind spot.  The rest can fall back on the faultfinder from which it has been projected onto me.  All the while, I need to seek to understand where the faultfinder was wounded by the Christian/church-attender. 

Secondly, as I made note of throughout Barriers to Truth, I must show love.  I will not move the faultfinder any closer to Jesus without a loving relationship.  I need to love him/her where he/she is in life.  I must have a compassion and empathy for his her wound around Christian/moral people.  He/she has encountered some sense of self-righteousness and possibly some hypocrisy in his/her past.  To draw them closer, I must love.

Thirdly, and possibly most important, I must show them a different person than the ones he/she have encountered before.  I must live the above verse:  Admit my transgressions, keep my sin in front of me, out in the light where it has no power over me.  Own my shortcomings instead hiding behind my condescending church mask.  Live as a redeemed man who owes Christ my life for the price He paid for me.  This does not mean I have to agree with the faultfinder.  I just live what I profess to be and love like Jesus loved and recognize I deserve judgment.  Then I can share the good news that Jesus redeems those who choose Him.

I can choose to battle and argue and continue to push away; or I can choose to create loving relationships and let The Holy Spirit guide me.  This does not mean I do not stand up for my beliefs.  I just don’t always have to swing the sword.  I can stand on the truth and love like I’ve never loved before.


1.      What has been your definition of hypocrisy?
2.      Who did Jesus warn the most about hypocrisy?
3.      What were the signs of hypocrisy in those who Jesus warned?
4.      Explain in your own words the difference between hypocrisy, integrity, and missing the mark.
5.      Where has your lack of integrity appeared like hypocrisy?
6.      How have you handled the faultfinders in the past?
7.      This week, reflect on question #6.  What changes can you make moving forward from where you are now?

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Some Blogs I follow...


I just wanted to give some props for some blogs that I follow.  I am somewhat hesitant to do this because there will be some who wonder why I have left them off the list, which is totally unintentional unless you do not blog often.  My list here is of those who are pretty frequent.  Another reason I hesitate is because there will be those who do not agree with some of the blogs I choose.  Do note that I follow these blogs yet I do not always agree with everything the authors write about.  With that being said, here is the list  (Each one listed is linked directly to their blog) :

Gateways to God

Dmitri Bilgere has a unique view of God and His love, grace, and mercy.  Dmitri is the author of the book by the same title.  Dmitri is a workshop facilitator mainly focusing on leading people to experience God’s mercy and grace.  Included on his site is a mini course based on his Gateways to God book.

Unfailing Love

Tom Vermillion is an Associate Pastor of a local Church in my area.  Tom is a blogging machine.  Tom writes frequently about how the Holy Spirit works in the lives of Christians and the Church.  Tom is the author of Born to be Free.

Struggling With God

Steven Smith is a local Youth Minister.  He has some insightful views of Biblical application.  His articles give us a glimpse of everyday life with God.

Men’s Work, Life, Etc.

Jason Bachman writes primarily about Men and Faith.  Jason applies his work in The Crucible Project to everyday life.

Leadership Wired

John Maxwell is one of my all-time favorite authors.  His insight into leadership is second to none.  I have taken many of his “Laws of Leadership” and applied them in my everyday work as well as consulting and coaching.  He is probably most well-known for his book:  The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

Two other blogs that I am just beginning to follow show some promise for me.  Searching for Tom Sawyer is primarily focused on raising boys to be…boys.  Masculinity has lost its power over the years and the author of this blog gives some insight into that.  All Our Lemmony Things touches some common applications of God’s Word and how God works in our lives.

As I continue to browse the internet, I will come across other Blogs I may list in the future.  For now, enjoy the share.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Do we really want to get well...?

Week 3:

John 5:6-8 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”  “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

As I continue a journey of transformation in my life and as I walk alongside others who are interested in transformation as well; I find myself growing frustrated.  Some of the frustration is with me that this change just does not happen fast enough.  However, when I look at the whole of my life, I see where God has put me in situations where I have had to face trials and difficulty in order to be transformed.  Upon that reflection, I can see that I have come a long way.

The biggest frustration that I tend to notice is with those who just give up on the transformation work they have begun.  Many times this is the person that moves from new thing to new thing searching for an answer to life.  Some of these types of people land in the area where I am doing my transformation work.  Yet, he/she does not stay long.  It is just not happening quickly enough for him or the work on her heart is just too hard to do, or he just does not get along with the community of believers he is journeying with, or she just likes the idea of change but cannot commit to doing the work it takes.  These are some I have observed, I am sure there are other reasons as well.

I believe that at the basic level it comes down to want.  Honestly, for someone to truly have transformation in life, he/she has to really want to make a change.  Not only does one have to want, he/she also has to take some action.  Notice in the above passage where Jesus asks, “Do you want to get well?”  After that Jesus directs him to “Get up!  Pick up your mat and walk.”  Not only did Jesus find out if the man really wanted to get well, He told him to take action.  Jesus does this in several places:  If I want to be His disciple, then I must take up my cross daily and follow Him (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:23).  If I want to save my life, then I must lose it (Matthew 16:25).  If I want to enter life, then I must obey (Matthew 19:17).  If I want to be great, then I must be humble (Matthew 20:26). 

Let’s go back to this idea of want.  I will use the good old standard example of weight loss.  Yep, I’m going there!   So, I am not satisfied with my current weight.  I don’t like how my clothes don’t fit right.  I don’t like the look of the “love handles”.  I don’t like how I feel when I carry this many pounds.  I don’t like my health when I am at this weight.  Yet, if I do not get past liking the idea of weighing less; if I do not want to change, then I will only give half-hearted action.  I have to begin with want.  I have to truly want to make a change.  It starts there.  Now, my want may not really kick in until I reach the point where the pain of being this way has reached a threshold.  Regardless, if I do not want, (deeply want to change) I won’t take the proper action to change. 

Now, I am not saying that I do not want change or that others do not want change.  I am saying the want may not be deep enough.  Another wonder for me is this notion of the pain for myself (and others) actually giving more comfort than the change I would like to make.  I have become comfortable with my pain and change could make it “flare up”.  Furthermore, my pain may give me an excuse to not try and fail at being transformed.  So, there is a risk for me to make a change…I may lose my excuse.  Or, quite possibly, transformation may not turn out how I envision, causing more pain. 

So, I return to my frustration with others and their unwillingness to face change and work through the transformation process.  After reflecting on my unwillingness to make some changes in my life, I see where this particular journey may be difficult for them.  So, instead of being frustrated and giving up on the person, I can step back and wait on God’s timing.  I can pray for the person and love him/her.  When opportunities arise, I can speak into his/her heart and life with the only intention being that of helping.  If it is rejected, I am to stand back and let them walk their walk.  This is easier said than done, yet with God’s help, doable. 

By the way, that process of loving, praying, helping and backing off is a piece of my current transformation process.

  1. What is a want that you have not wanted bad enough to take action?
  2. What gets in the way of you taking that action?
  3. When you are frustrated about another person not moving forward to change, how much of that is about some part of your life where you do the same thing?  Explain.
  4. If you imagined Jesus asking you, “What do you want?”  What action to imagine he would tell you to take?
  5. Pay attention this week to your wants.  Take them to Jesus.  Then pay attention to what action He leads you to take.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Weekly Devotional Thoughts as an EBook on Kindle

Just released is the first 52 weeks in EBook form on Kindle

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Barriers to truth...

Week 2:

John 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Last week we looked at grace and truth.  Jesus lived and practiced both grace and truth.  For us as Christians to be affective in reaching people with the Gospel, it takes a gracious relationship mixed with Biblical truth.  They both work together.  To understand deeper how to reach others with God’s truth, we must understand the barriers to truth.

While I was High School Senior Bible teacher, I was blessed with teaching an Apologetics class.  This is basically a class to teach students how to defend their faith.  One of the themes throughout the semester is the concept of grace and truth through relationship.  We as teachers tried to avoid debate only, “bumper sticker” Christianity.  One of the early building blocks of the class is the teaching over the four barriers to truth.  We introduce the concepts, point out some ways to recognize the barriers, and give some methods on how to handle these barriers.  The four basic barriers to truth are the willful barrier, the barrier of ignorance, the barrier of blindness, and the emotional barrier.  As I noted last week, when dealing with others around grace and truth; there are many who have trouble with truth.  Some of this is due to our relationship.  However, much of this deals around one of these barriers.

The willful barrier: No matter how God is presented; no matter what is presented, the person does not believe.  I can have all the evidence in the world and even have a great relationship with the individual and yet he/she will not believe.  Whatever the reason may be; pride, stubbornness, anger, etc., he/she refuses to believe.  This is a willful barrier to truth.  Using the Bible will not help.  Not for this individual.  The two approaches needed in order to reach someone in this state are:  Love and prayer.  I have to continue to love this person no matter where he/she stands in life.  I cannot give up on love.  Hand in hand with that has to be prayer for the person.  Only God, through His Spirit, can break down this barrier. 

The barrier of ignorance: I have heard it said, and find it a more true statement the older I become, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”  This may be a person who has never been exposed to the truth about God, Jesus, and the kingdom.  In more, detail, he/she may recognize the names of God and Jesus but have not reference point in his/her life to make a connection.  I see this sometimes as I deal with another person around an issue and I use a Biblical story to illustrate what’s going on.  I have to stop and give the whole story in order for it all to make sense and connect.  The two best approaches here are love and teaching.  Continue the loving relationship and teach where ever possible.  Get a Bible in his/her hand and begin mentoring and disciple.

The barrier of blindness:  The one receiving the message is blinded by something.  Jesus referenced the phrase, “Eyes but cannot see…” in different scenarios.  Something is blocking the hearer from seeing the truth.  It could be an idol, a distraction, a search in the wrong direction, etc.  Whatever it is, he/she is blind.  Two approaches to this barrier are love and information (Are you seeing a reoccurring theme here? L-O-V-E).  I must continue to love.  Out of that love I need to have a strong argument based on Biblical authority.  If I go in to this scenario to only win an argument, then I have missed.  My information must be based on Biblical authority. 

The emotional barrier:  This barrier is based on emotional occurrences in a person’s life.  He/she has usually been wounded by Christians or some Biblical misuse around an occurrence in his/her life.  There is a wound that carries strong emotions for this person.  Pointing out truth may deepen the wound and further shame for him/her.  For example; I knew a man who would not set foot in a Church.  What was his reason?  When his wife was pregnant, they began to attend a local Church.  One day an elder and his wife were visiting the couple.  The elder’s wife did the math and discovered that the baby the couple were having had been conceived out of wedlock.  During the visit, she proceeded to point that out in a condescending and judgmental way.  Yet, when the baby was born, she was one of the first to make a big deal out of the child at Church.  This came across as hypocrisy to the husband.  She may have pointed out truth and the sin that came with that truth, but her timing and lack of relationship was damaging.  The two approaches to this barrier are a loving understanding and the practice of mercy and grace.  Empathy is a huge key here.  First seek to understand before being understood.

With these four barriers in mind, I must continue to understand those who do not see the truth.  The fact of the matter is, I have experienced each of these barriers personally when truth different than I have understood has been presented to me.  When I am faced with these barriers in the future, it would be good for me to keep in mind how I felt or reacted when I did not believe a truth at the outset. 


1.      Which of the four barriers have you been faced with lately when speaking truth?

2.      In your own words, explain why it is so important to have a loving relationship with one you are speaking truth.

3.      Describe the difficulty you have had speaking truth when encountering one of these barriers? 

4.      Does knowledge of these barriers open your eyes to some new avenues?  How?

5.      This week, pay attention to where any of these four barriers shows up.  Ask God to give you strength, boldness, understanding, and wisdom as you encounter one or all of these barriers to truth.
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