Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Kingdom Gap

We’ve been looking at Jesus’ teaching on possessions and contentment in Luke 12:13-34. We’ve learned that a “Kingdom Lifestyle” is when you are “rich toward God” (v.21) by “selling your possessions and giving to the needy” (v.33). That sounds really poetic..., if you are Mother Teresa or something!

And how am I supposed to do that? How am I supposed to let go of my “kingdom”? I want my stuff! Really, the only way I am ever going to actually think about giving away my kingdom is if I’ve already got another kingdom! A better kingdom:

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

As I come to understand that my Father has already given me THE kingdom, I can let go of MY kingdom. I can live a kingdom lifestyle. I can resource my stuff for kingdom purposes.

I can live in the “Kingdom Gap”

Living in the Kingdom Gap means:

  • Increasing the Gap between the level you could live and the level you do live.
  • Decreasing the Gap between what you want and what you already have.

So rather than buying that new set of golf clubs:

  1. Save up the money for them.
  2. Give that money to a “kingdom cause”.
  3. Play with your old set
  4. And joyfully call them “My Kingdom Clubs”!
Or if golf isn’t your thing how about a kingdom car? Or kingdom counter-tops? Or a kingdom TV? Or kingdom clothes? Anything you are being content with for the sake of the kingdom!

And rather than grumble about what you have, or lust for the next best thing, take joy in what you have and what you are doing to advance Christ’s kingdom! Take joy in your “kingdom stuff”!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Going Public

“Hypocrite” - The word just rolls off the tongue with a sneer of disgust. It’s a favored word for skeptics and cynics. “Hypocrite” immediately places it’s object in the category of the inauthentic and fake. Hypocrisy is an infestation that works it’s way through organizations, churches, and individuals. When image is everything then he who wears the best mask wins. When hypocrisy reigns, “To Seem” triumphs over “To Be”.

“To Seem” is particularly important when you have something to conceal. When you have something to hide, you must project an appearance of “got-it-all-together-ness”. That’s why it’s called ‘facebook”, not “heartbook”. “Not me,” you say, “I’ve got nothing to hide, nothing to conceal.”

Really, you don’t? Really? I do.

The irony of the whole affair is that one day everything will be made public. Everything concealed will be revealed. Everything hidden will be exposed. No more hypocrisy because the masks will be off. Jesus put it like this:

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” Luke 12:1-3

This is a call to be real, especially those of us who claim to be followers of Christ. One day everything will brought to light, all dirty laundry will be aired, and all skeletons will come shuffling out of the closet. Yeah, I’ve got a few myself.

So we might as well be real right now. The “gospel” isn’t about how to be “good”, how to have every (remaining) hair in place, or how to be impressive or respectable. The gospel is about how a Savior loved people who had made a mess of their lives, who took their guilt, judgement, and shame on the cross, and welcomes them back as sons and daughters before they clean up their act (Luke 15:11-32).

That’s a humbling, liberating, and powerful reality. Let’s live it. Be real.

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,

Friday, June 3, 2011

How not to be a pharisee...

We love to read Jesus’ rebukes of the Pharisees. We are astonished of how he takes on the “powers that be” in favor of the little guy. We like it until we realize that we are “the powers that be”! You see, we are those who hold to a high view of scripture, are religiously conservative, and who seek personal holiness - just like the Pharisees!

Now, all those things are good, but can be distorted into something cold, dead and ugly. So, how do we hold true to God’s word and not become like the Pharisees? Let me use the “woes” from Luke 11:37-52 to suggest a few ideas (we can learn a lot from their failures!).

  • Emphasize the inward, not the outward: Luke 11:39-40
  • Majors on the majors, not the minors: Luke 11:42
  • Seek humility, and kill pride: Luke 11:43
  • Remember, God’s word is to be a help, not a burden: Luke 11:46
  • Don’t just revere the prophets, do what they say! Luke 11:47-51
  • God’s word is the key to freedom, not a chain for bondage: Luke 11:52

Marin Luther said that the Bible was like a cradle in which we find Jesus. Don’t examine the cradle, honor the cradle, or try to protect the cradle. Find Jesus!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who is in your heart?

A lot of people think following Jesus is about moral transformation, being a better person, or worse, being a “nice” person. Sometimes we even hear phrases like “That is the Christian thing to do” or “That wasn’t very Christian of you”, as if Christianity was founded by Miss Manners.

But being is Christian is less about being a “moral” person, and more about being a “conquered” person.

When a person becomes a Christ-follower, the Lord Jesus plants his flag in the soil of our hearts and begins his conquest. He displaces all rebellion, demonic or otherwise, and slowly, but inevitably, conquers every inch of our lives.

Inviting Jesus “into you heart” is not like inviting your BFF to your own spiritual slumber party where you can snuggle and feel all warm and fuzzy. It’s more like inviting the navy seals to subdue the terrorists of your soul. Even if that “terrorist” is your own domineering ego.

One scholar put it this way:

“The heart of man is a house which must have an occupant, and the only way to ensure that it is not taken over by disreputable squatters is to see that it is inhabited by the God who made it for himself. Exorcism is not enough: the spiritual life, like the natural, abhors a vacuum” C.B. Caird

So, who is in your heart?

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"WE" vs "ME"

“We” vs “me” in prayer

I don’t know about you, but when I pray, MY concerns about ME crowd in and become MY main concern. Thoughts of US and WE are pushed out my the big ME!

But that’s not the way Jesus taught us.

The Lord’s prayer is not a ME prayer but a WE prayer. Look at all the WE, US, and OUR in the prayer Jesus taught us (Luke 11:2-4).

“OUR Father in heaven, Holy be your name” - This expresses the desire of the whole community of faith that God’s name and fame would be desired and revered.

“Give US each day OUR daily bread” - I’m looking to the right and left as I pray for the needs I know my brothers and sisters have for God’s provision, not just my own needs.

“Forgive US our SINS for WE forgive everyone who is indebted to US” - As I live in community with other followers of Christ, toes will be stepped on. I seek God’s forgiveness as I forgive my fellow believers.

“And lead US not into temptation” - I am concerned not merely for my own struggles, but I watch the back of fellow Christ-followers who go through trials and temptations as I do.

So do your prayers reflect more ME or WE? Let US move to the plural as WE seek the Lord TOGETHER!

The well wisher of your OUR soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Chose your portion well...

“Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” Luke 10:42

One of the key motivators for moving from “Martha mode” to “Mary mode” is the portion we choose. Martha's chosen “portion” was submitting to the tyranny of the the urgent, outward pressure, and inward expectations. She was “distracted, anxious, and troubled” by these tyrants. She was joyless in the presence of Jesus and joyless in the service of Jesus.

Yet that was the portion Martha chose.

I’d like a different portion, please! I’d like Mary’s portion. And what would that portion be?

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup” Psalm 16:5

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” Psalm 27:4

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

“I cry to you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.’” Psalm 142:5

The key to siting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his voice is making his presence your portion. Only the voice of Jesus’ is strong and winsome enough to drown out the demands of the tyrants around you. Only the beauty of Jesus is compelling enough to divert our gaze from the joyless duties we take on. Only a taste of his goodness will keep us out galley slavery.

Jesus is our portion, Chose well!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Too good not to be true...

Have you ever received an offer that was just too good to be true? A great deal, a promise from a “friend”, an advertisement of a new breakthrough product, or a politician who says “Vote for me and all your wildest dreams will come true!”? Sure you have, we all have.

Is the story of the resurrection in that category? Is the resurrection of Christ something too good to be true? The first witnesses to the resurrected Christ seemed to think so. The bible says the disciples were startled, afraid, amazed, and (in my favorite description) they “disbelieved for joy” (Luke 24:41). In other words, this was too good to be true!

Jesus understands their doubts and fears. He gives them evidence for his resurrection: a physical body, an everyday greeting, and even a shared breakfast! And yet they “disbelieved for joy”.

We can’t blame them. The resurrection has staggering implications. If Christ is risen then (among many other truths) death is disarmed, guilt and shame are absorbed, meaning is restored to life, and our alienation is removed.

If Christ is not risen the implications are clear. Macbeth is correct:

“Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.” (Act 5, Scene 5)

But if Christ is risen the implication are staggering. C.S. Lewis is correct:

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” (Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chap. 10, "Hope")

May I humbly comment to you the latter! That “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!” is simply just too good not to be true!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,

Pastor Tom

p.s. Here’s a story about our Easter Sunrise service and Lake Swim! And some pictures from our baptism celebration (sign in to Picasa to view)!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

See, Feel, Go, Care

“He saw him, he had compassion, he went to him …and took care of him” Luke 10:33-34,37

See, Feel, Go, Care.

When asked “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus instead answered, “What does it mean to be a neighbor?” Those four actions are what defined the “neighborliness” of the Good Samaritan. Okay, I’ll admit, the priest and the Levite also “saw”, but they passed by on the other side. The Samaritan saw, felt, went, and cared.

And Jesus says to us, “You go, and do likewise”. So how do we do that?

  1. See those in need. Don’t turn away. Don’t avoid eye contact. Don’t avoid that neighborhood. And definitely don’t pass by on the other side!
  2. Feel compassion. Feel the need of the other. Know that you too were once stripped, beaten, and left for dead. And Jesus came and had compassion on you.
  3. Go to them. Life is hard and life gets messy. We tend to with draw from other’s messiness. Marital messiness. Family messiness. Financial messiness. Emotional messiness. Don’t be afraid to go to people in their messiness. Don’t send someone else. You don’t have to fix them. You just have to be with them.
  4. Care for them. “But I can’t do everything for everyone!” Don’t worry about what you can’t do. Just do what you can. It may not be much. But it’s a lot more than nothing!

See, Feel, Go, Care.

And think about this on a local level: if a neighbor is someone who sees others in need, has compassion, goes to them, and takes care of them, then how does this radically redefine the word “neighborhood”?! What if we said this is what a neighborhood is – people on a block/street/subdivision who see, feel, go, and care for one another? What would that look like? How would that transform the dynamic of your neighborhood?

We might even call it, “Thy Kingdom Come”!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Now, where did I put my joy...?

“Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Luke 10:20

Joy is a fleeting feeling. We take joy in pleasant experiences, personal successes, goals obtained, satisfying relationships, and vicarious victories (insert your favorite sports team here). All those feel good.

But what about when experiences aren’t pleasant? What about when goals are blocked, relationships are strained, and victories are few? What about when we fail?

Jesus challenged his disciples, fresh of a successful short-term missions trip, to find joy. But he challenged them to ground it on a firmer foundation than ministry victories. Jesus said, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven”.

If you are a follower of Christ, your joy comes not in what you do, but who you are. Or rather who God says you are. And he says you name is written in heaven. That is shorthand for all the security that a forgiven, accepted, adopted, justified, beloved child of the Father can have! There is nothing you can do to make God love you anymore. And there is nothing you can do to make God love you any less.

The joy of success only remains as long as the memory of success. And the sting of failure seems to last forever. Those who are justified by faith shall live (Romans 1:17). Those who are justified by performance will die at every disappointment.

But succeed or fail, if you are united to Christ by faith, your name is written in heaven! And in that is true joy!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Live Sent

Jesus sends us all out. That’s it. If you are a Christ follower then you are following Jesus on his mission to reach lost people. If he is going, then we are following. So if you are not “redemptively rubbing shoulders” with lost people then you are not following Christ. At least not as you should.

Read Luke 10:1-16

Jesus talked about reaching people like workers “reach” the harvest. Do you care about the harvest? Do you look at people with compassion because they are helpless and harried like sheep without a shepherd? Can you pray earnestly for the harvest?

Do you feel out of your league? Good! You are in prime position to go in humble dependence upon the Lord.

Do you bring good news? Do you know how to have a spiritual conversation? Can you talk to people about Christ and his cross?

Are you “good news”? Do you come to people with a blessing? Are people happy to see you because they know you love them?

Do you demonstrate the kingdom? Do you pray for people when they are sick? Can you walk into people’s pain and messes and not feel you have to fix them? Can you just “be Jesus” with them?

The Answer: Yes! Yes you can! Yes you are! Yes you will! Jesus has given you everything you need to say yes to all these questions!

So where is your harvest field?

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What James and John got right..

I want a cool nickname. “The Rock” has a cool nickname. “The Black Mamba” has a cool nickname. “Ole Blues Eyes” has (er..., “had”) a cool nickname. And James and John had a cool nickname. Jesus called them the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). That sounds like a biker gang, not followers of Christ! How cool is that?!

Maybe that’s why they got so mad at the Samaritans when they refused to welcome Jesus. “Those ungrateful half-breeds - how dare they disrespect our Rabbi!”. What they actually said was: “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54 ESV). They wanted to go Elijah v. Prophets of Baal on them! (1 Kings 18:20-40)

Is that all wrong?

Jesus did rebuke them for their vindictiveness. That’s never right. But maybe they also got something right.

I don’t know their hearts, but I do detect something that is virtually vacant in modern Christendom. I detect a jealousy for the respect of their master, Jesus. They were jealousy for Jesus’ fame and honor. And they got ticked when he was belittled.

Kind of like Paul, who felt sick to his stomach when he saw glory and devotion going to idols and not to Jesus where it belongs (Acts 17:16). Paul was passionate for the fame of Christ - that’s why he prayed that the message of Christ would spread rapidly and be honored (2 Thessalonians 3:1). Nothing wrong with that heart attitude!

So where is that jealousy and passion today? Where are the hearts that ache to see Jesus honored in West Orange county? Where are the schemes, efforts, and plans to reach our friends, neighbors, and co-workers for Christ? Where are the prayers of those who can’t stand to see Jesus dishonored by the casual unbelief that is so thick all around us? Where are those who say “Your name and your renown are the desire of our soul!” (Isaiah 26:8)

Where are the “Sons of Thunder”?

I’m not talking about calling down fire in judgement. I’m talking about calling down holy fire in revival.

Family, we must lay down our right to vindictiveness. We must not demonize, but pray for those who reject Christ. We must move forward in mercy, forgiveness, and grace even to our enemies (or perceived enemies!).

But don’t lose the fire!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Monday, March 14, 2011

For Lent...

The last couple of weeks we have been learning some “lessons from the valley” from Luke 9:37-50. After the “mountain top experience” of the transfiguration, the disciples meet some epic fails in the valley of ministry. But solid lessons a can be learned:

A Lesson about Faith: v.37-43a “Power lies not in the person praying but in the person of Christ.”

A Lesson about the Cross: v.43b-45 “Before the crown comes the cross”
A Lesson about Humility: v.46-48 “As we serve the weakest and least significant, we serve Christ”
A Lesson about Solidarity: v.49-50 “Kingdom work does not have the luxury of division”

So for Lent this year let’s forgo the usual things we give up, vices of the body, and focus on giving up some crucial vices of the soul that correspond with our "lessons":

For Lent, give up:
Unbelief – Reject unbelief at every turn, every thought, every unanswered prayer. Instead focus on taking up faith by looking more to Jesus and fortifying your soul with the promises of God!

Self preservation and preoccupation – Instead of choosing the path of least resistance in the pursuit of instant gratification, take up action, sacrifice, and risk for the sake of Christ.

Pride – Lay down all thought of congratulation and esteem and rather take up serving “the least of these” and the freedom of humility.

Judgementalism – Put down the tribalism and smug superiority and take up unity with the larger body of Christ & forbearance with those hard-to-live-with Christians!

And as we lay these down, my the image of our Savior shine through our lives!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Monday, February 28, 2011

Big Faith and the Reality of the Cross

Sometimes it seems that Christ followers fall into one of two camps. There is the “big faith” camp which prays big prayers, sings like cheerleaders, thinks positively, and dismisses hardship as temporary at best.

On the other hand there is the “hard core” camp. This tribe counts the cost of discipleship, embraces sufferings, and doesn’t expect much from God but trials.

Is there a third way?

In Luke 9 we see the disciples called to embrace both Big Faith and the Reality of the Cross. We are called to pray for healing, hope, revival, conversions, and deliverances. We are called to pray for these things with Big Faith.

And at the same time we are called to follow a Savior who would be delivered to the hands of sinful men and crucified. And we are called to carry our cross and follow him.

Here’s how that works: We need to pray big kingdom sized prayers while realizing the answers will often be accompanied with suffering. We need to pray big kingdom sized prayers while weeping with the one for whom we are praying. We need to pray big kingdom sized prayers while understanding that we will draw the fire of the evil one by doing so.

But we do it anyway. We embrace both big faith and the reality of the cross!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Probing Questions...

News Flash: God wants the Bible to change us! That’s right, Bible teaching is not to increase our body of knowledge but to transform our lives. So, now that we have worked our way through 2nd Thessalonians, let’s go back and ask ourselves some probing questions...

  • Can I say that my faith in Christ is growing, or have I become plateaued and stagnant? (1:3)
  • Am I treating others with increasing love and affection? Or do I simple love those who love me? (1:3)
  • Am I blaming any lack of zeal or action on my part on my circumstances or afflictions? (1:4)
  • Does the thought of the return of Christ provoke excitement within me? (1:10)
  • Does the glory of Christ captivate my imagination or am I distracted by technology, entertainment, and materialism? (1:10)
  • What ambitions do I have for the sake of Christ for my church? My community? The lost? (1:11)
  • Is my faith alive enough to prompt me to do anything new and different for the cause of Christ? Like what? (1:11)
  • Am I trusting God with my future or do I let the headlines and TV news dictate my confidence in the future? (2:8)
  • Does God’s Word govern and order my life, or only when convenient? (2:15)
  • What good works and good words am I praying that the Lord would establish? (2:16)
  • How hard am I praying that the word of the Lord would spread rapidly and be honored? Am I jealous for the fame of Christ? (3:1)
  • Is my heart’s love for God growing? (3:5)
  • Am I standing firm in my faith or just barely hanging on? (3:5)
  • Am I “walking in idleness” or am I a hard worker? (3:12)
  • Am I growing weary in doing good? Where do I need renewal and restoration? (3:13)

As you ponder those questions, center on 2 or 3 of the most crucial for your life. Now take some time to pray, “Lord, how do you want me to change?”

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Who are you working for?

Everybody works. Everyone who wants to eat, that is! But who are you working for there are several right answers to this question.

Do you work for yourself? Well on a base level this is okay. We are called to “eat our own bread” and not to be a burden to others. And there is that whole work/eat thing.

Do you work for your family? That’s okay too. We are called to provide for our families as a sign of our faith (1 Tim 5:8). We need to take care of the home front.

Do you work for others? Not a bad motive either. Our work should result in generosity for the poor (Eph 4:8), a good witness for Christ (1 Thess 4:12), and pleasing our employeers (Col 3:22 – with liberties!). Working for others is legit.

But the ultimate “who” is the Lord (bet you saw that coming)! Ultimately we work for the Lord:

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, (24) knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24

That brings meaning and purpose for the most menial parts of your day. You are filing those reports for the Lord. You are taking out the trash for the Savior. You are doing laundry for Jesus. You are seeing clients for Christ.

So do your work heartily and happily for God!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness.
Pastor Tom

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Do you think God wants this to happen?

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5
Do you think God wants this to happen? You know, to “direct your hearts into the love of God and steadfastness of Christ”? Hmm, let’s see. He inspired Paul to offer this “benediction/prayer” for His people. He made sure it was recorded in the Bible so we could read it.
Do you think God wants this to happen? Do we want this to happen? What would it look like if God really answered this prayer? How awesome would that be?
Can you think of two experiences more beneficial and powerful in our spiritual lives/ Aren’t Love and Steadfastness exactly what we need and want? Anybody have too much of God’s love? Anybody overrun with Christ’s steadfastness? I didn’t think so.
So, what do you think would happen if we all prayed this, really prayed this, together? Do you think God would say, “Hmm, you know, I changed my mind. I don’t think I’ll answer that prayer.”? Or maybe he would say, “Yes! That is exactly what I wanted you to pray for! Yes, I love to answer prayers so obviously in my will!”
Yeah, I agree. He would love to answer that prayer.
Just like if our kid came to us saying, “Dad, could you help me be more consistent in doing my chores without having to be asked?” or “Hey Mom, I really want to be more respectful and obedient to you, could you help me brainstorm ways to do that?”
I kinda think that would be okay with us!
So, what do say we all commit to pray this prayer every day for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for our church? Do you think God would answer in ways we can’t imagine?
Me too!
The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

When do you need prayer?

When eating at a restaurant I will often ask the waiter/ess, “While we are giving thanks for the food, is there anything I can pray for you about? Sometimes I have remarkable encounters (check it out, and be sure to read the comments) and sometimes they look at me as if to say, “Do I look bad enough to need prayer?!”

American civil religion tells us that prayer is only for crisis moments. The rest of life we handle ourselves.

The Bible portrays a different picture. We are to “pray continuously”. And the spiritual “giants” are the ones who feel the need for prayer the most! That’s why Paul implores the Christians at Thessalonica to “Pray for us!” (2 Thess 3:1).

Jesus taught his disciples to pray all kinds of prayers, from “big prayers” (Thy kingdom come, thy will be done) to “little prayers” (give us this day our daily bread). Why? Because we are just flat out dependent on God for everything! And the degree we “get” our helplessness is the degree with which we pray continuously.

So bring everything to God. Your priorities and passions. Your “muddy self”. Your anxieties and fears. Your dreams and aspirations. Everything.

Because you can do nothing without God. And because your Dad wants to hear it!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,

Pastor Tom

Monday, January 31, 2011

Show up and breathe...

Confession time. I have been watching war movies of late. Particularly Vietnam war movies. Some of them are revisionist history, I realize. But I am still impressed with the courage of those soldiers fighting what seems to be an un-winable war. Most of the time the odds were overwhelming.

We can feel like that at times. Okay, most of the time. We can feel overwhelmed with struggles, sin, and circumstances. And we all have concerns about the decline of the world around us.

And on top of this, we are “promised” that lawlessness will increase and that a great rebellion against God will come headed by a powerful “man of lawlessness” (2 Thess 2:3-12). How can anyone hope to stand against wickedness? What will it take to defeat such powerful evil? What would our champion, Jesus, have to do to overcome such overwhelming odds?

How about, oh, show up and breathe?!

Read 2 Thessalonians 2:8; “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.”

All Jesus has to do to totally decimate his (and our) enemies is show up and breathe. The brilliance of his appearing will be absolutely awe-inspiring marvelous to his people (2 Thess 1:10). The same appearing will be absolutely disintegrating to his enemies. How absolutely mind-blowing crazy will be that vision on that day?! Can we even wrap our minds around that?

So then, let us stand firm in our faith, increase in our love, be stedfast in our hope and abound in “every good work and word” (2 Thess 2:17) as we look toward that day!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness!
Pastor Tom

Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Review: Stuck: Navigating the Transitions of Life and Leadership by Terry Walling

Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

Building on the work of Robert Clinton, Walling focuses on helping the reader to recognize and navigate through times of transitions in his life. Walling first defines a transition as, “...the in-between time in the life development of a Christ follower. In a transition, individuals consolidate past learning, process issues of character, deepen convictions and values, and are prepared for the the next phase of their development. Transitions bring closure to the past in order to move forward to the next stage of personal development.” He then leads the reader through the “Life Cycle” of a transition: 1) Entry, 2) Evaluation, 3) Alignment, and 4) Direction. He targets three main transitions (awakening, deciding, and maturing) carefully placing each transitions on the timeline of one’s life. Walling concludes with a section on getting the most out of each transition. Walling approaches the subject from a Christian perspective informed by leadership theory and life experiences.

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

There is much to like about Stuck. I found myself identifying with the thoughts and feelings associated with the various stages. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, therefore the reader will benefit from anticipating upcoming transition periods in his life so he can recognize the confusion and doubts that inevitably accompany each transition. Also, the sections of reflection questions offer the reader opportunities to go deeper into the concepts Walling introduces. He is very hopeful for those who may realize they are stuck in transition due to a robust view of the benevolent sovereignty of God.

By way of critique, I have to question the “one size fits all” approach to transitions. I can think of many leader’s lives that just don’t fit the timeline or transition cycle. I realize that the author is using broad strokes, but Stuck would have benefited from more case studies and examples. I liked the big idea and resonated with its themes, but I am going to need more buy-in to be moved by this paradigm.

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

To be honest, I feel I would have benefited more if I had taken the time to thoughtfully work through the reflection sections at the end of each chapter. However, I also got the impression that this journey would be best transversed with a coach or mentor who could bring an objective perspective. I do plan to revisit the section on the life-cycle of transition to discern where I might be on that continuum. I also look forward to Dr. Walling’s class to flesh out some of the details in this.

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

p.106 “A sovereign mind-set believes that there is an ultimate, God-ordained purpose for our lives, whether seen or unseen. It believes that God is active, not passive. Regarding a Christ follower’s development, a sovereign mind-set believes that God can use life to shape life. It believes that a Christ follower can live a life of destiny. Each life in God’s economy is part of an ultimate grand narrative. It is about taking the deep theological truth of sovereignty, and making it immensely practical.”