Why Change?

I was reading today and came across this quote. It really resonated with me and challenged me. I hope it does the same for you. This is from “How People Change” by Timothy Lane & Paul David Tripp.

“Making us holy is God’s unwavering agenda until we are taken home to be with him. He will do whatever he needs to produce holiness in us. He wants us to be a community of joy, but he is willing to compromise our temporal happiness in order to increase our Christlikeness.”

“God is not working for our comfort and ease; he is working on our growth. At the very moment we are tempted to question his faithfulness, he is fulfilling his redemptive promises to us. Change is the norm for everyone, and God is always at work to complete this process in us.”

If you are a Christ follower, you are in process. God is at work in every area of your life, pushing for holiness. He is drawing us to him, so that we can become more like him. He won’t force it on us, but his desire is for us to be holy like He is holy. Are you holy in your relationships, your work, your family, your finances, your Internet activity, your conversations, your days off, your vacations? Where is God working on you? Where are you too comfortable? How are you changing?

New Years Reading List

Happy New Year!

This time of year usually is a time for people to make resolutions or goals for the coming year. Many people have new hope of making some changes in their lives. That is all good, but many fall short after only a couple of months. January & February are busy months for the weight loss and exercise business. My question is this: If you could change one thing in 2009, what would it be?

One thing that I have tried to do each year to grow and change is to meet new people and read good books. The people you meet and the books you read will impact you more than you can imagine. To do that, you must be intentional about getting out to meet people, to seek a mentor, to get into a small group, to make an appointment for lunch or breakfast. You also need to plan on what you want to read this year. So start planning on who you need to meet and what you need to read.

Maybe you want your marriage to change this year. A great way to start that process, is to read some books about marriage and relationships. You could also go see a counselor or pastor and even better, find a couple with a healthy marriage and meet with them and get to know how they worked through their problems.

Here are some books on marriage and relationships you should consider:

Love & Respect by Emerson Eggrichs
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
The DNA of Relationships by Gary Smalley

If you have read those three, contact me for more good marriage books.

Whatever you want to change in 2009, starts with your decision to change yourself. I hope that 2009 rocks your world. I hope that you will be stretched out of your comfort zone; that you will be challenged in new, unexpected ways; that God will give you a burden for something; that you will have courage to walk through the doors God opens in your life; that God will heal you emotionally, spiritually relationally and physically.

So what am I reading in the coming year? I always have a stack of books on my to read list. Some I don’t get to and I often add to it throughout the year. Many come from recommendations of others, or favorite authors. In any case, I hope you will read more this year and meet some new people that can help you grow.

Here is my reading list:

Non-Fiction:
Unchristian by David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons (Currently Reading)
How People Change by Timothy Lane & Paul David Tripp (Currently Reading)
Discovering God’s Daily Agenda, 365 Daily Devotional by Henry & Richard Blackaby
Crazy Love by Francis Chan
Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell
Sex God by Rob Bell
Sex Begins in the Kitchen: Creating Intimacy to Make Your Marriage Sizzle, By Kevin Leman
Becoming A Coaching Leader by Daniel Harkavy
True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership by Bill George
Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs by Bill Hybels
Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian by Gary Haugen

Fiction:
Split Second by David Baldacci (Currently Reading)
The Last Juror by John Grisham
The Partner by John Grisham

The Bible – NCV

Change & Grow!

Running in December

Some of you know that I have been running to get exercise. I have run in two 5k’s and am looking forward to running more in 2009. During this time of year it is difficult to get outside to run, so I have been running some on the treadmill. I am a fair weather runner. Yesterday was an unusually warm day, it was in the low 60’s here in Walnut Creek. I took advantage of the nice day and went for a run.

This was a different kind of run for me. About half way through my 2.5 mile run I started talking to God. I started talking about how I want to be different this coming year. How I want to be more like Jesus in all areas of my life. I named the roles that I have like husband, son, brother, employee, co-worker, friend, small group leader, pastor, and mentor.

We all play a variety of roles in our life. Each of those roles are important, but are not who we are. Those are the areas that we have influence with other people. I want to use that influence to Glorify God. I talked to God on that run about having a life of worship. To worship God in each of the roles that I have.

As I was running, I kept thinking that this run is the beginning of a long marathon. I asked God to help me keep running, not along the road, but in life. To run a marathon you must run patiently, and to struggle through some pain. It also takes some hard work and preparation to run a race. It is more than just jogging a few laps. The spiritual life is hard work, just like the physical life. If you want to be in great physical shape you must eat well and exercise well.

If you want to go deeper with God, you must eat well and exercise well. It takes more than just going to church. A life of worship includes things like; prayer, reading your Bible, forgiving people, giving grace, having healthy relationships, giving generously, volunteering your time, working with excellence, doing what you say, doing what is right, even when no one is looking, sharing your faith with others, living with purity & integrity. It is loving God with all your being and loving people deeply.

In 2009, I want to love God and love people, like never before. This is an adventure, a race through some rough terrain, with some rough people. It could get a little dirty and you may fall down, but the finish is worth the effort. Every time I go running, I will be reminded of the race we are all in. Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Hebrews 12:1-3 and 2 Timothy 4:7-8 for more on running the race. Start running!

The Identity Trap

I have been studying a book on “How People Change” by Tim Lane & Paul David Tripp. I have only gotten into the first chapter, but already am learning a bunch of good stuff.

When I meet with people, I am always trying to help them make changes in their life. I love to coach people and encourage people to grow. Most often people have lost focus and perspective in their lives. They have become blind in some areas of their life. They have bought into the schemes of busyness, money, happiness and performance. I’m too busy to spend time with God every day. I don’t make enough money. God wants me to be happy. I need to perform for people to like me. Those are just a few lies people believe.

In their book, Tripp & Lane talk about spiritual blindness. The first spiritual blindness is that of identity. “Many Christians do not have a Gospel perspective on who they are.”

This lack of Gospel identity shows up in two ways. First, many Christians underestimate the presence and power of indwelling sin. They don’t see how easily entrapped they are in this world of snares.” Read Galatians 6:1. They don’t grasp the comprehensive nature of the war that is raging within the heart of every believer (Read Romans Ch. 7:7-25). They’re not aware of how prone they are to run after God replacements. They fail to see that their greatest problems exist within them, not outside of them.”

Did you catch that? Read it again slowly. Your greatest problem is the daily struggle that goes on inside you. The struggle for your heart and mind. The stuff you think about and the stuff you believe. That is why the Bible says that the truth will set you free. Believing and thinking about what is true sets you free. Your true identity sets you free.

Here is the second way our false identity shows up.

“If who I am in Christ does not shape the way I think about myself and the things I face, then I will live out of some other identity. Often in our blindness, we take on our problems as identities. While divorce, depression, and single parenthood are significant human experiences, they are not identities. Our work is not our identity, though it is an important part of how God intends us to live. For too many of us, our sense of identity is more rooted in our performance than it is in God’s grace. It is wonderful to be successful at what God called you to do, but when you use your success to define who you are, you will always have a distorted perspective.”

So my question for you today is this, who are you? Do you view yourself through the lens of the Gospel or through the lens of this world? Have you underestimated the level of sin that lives in you and the daily battle you are in? Have your problems become your identity? Maybe your work or ministry has become your identity?

The best gift you will ever receive is your true identity as a child of God. Having that identity will change your perspective and change your life. Keep growing in your faith, character and leadership.

Merry Christmas.

People, Personalities & Problems

I work in the people business. Most of what I do relates to people and relationships. It really is that way for most people. You may be in the manufacturing business, the construction business, the medical business, the retail business or the homemaker business – but really you are dealing with people and relationships.

Because we have to deal with people every day, we need to learn to understand people. If you don’t work at understanding people, you will quickly become frustrated, stressed and angry. Whether at work or at home or at church we need to understand how we are different and how to better communicate with each other. Most of the stress in our lives revolves around people and many times it is because we don’t understand why someone acts the way they do or why they say or do certain things.

In my workplace we have been working hard to better understand each other and how we are wired. It is very enlightening to see how God made people and how their personality affect the way they work and deal with people. We did a personality profile using the DISC system. I have done this several times before and found it helpful each time. This time we used colors to relate what our main styles were. Red, Yellow, Green and Blue. What was neat, was that we had all the colors represented on our team. This helps us get things done and to keep things moving forward.

It takes a lot of work to understand people. We tend to see the world through our own color. When we do that, we often expect others to act, respond and communicate like we do. When they don’t, we get frustrated and can even get angry. That is why the better you understand people the better you can communicate and have influence with them.

If you start to become curious about people and take the time to study people, your perspective can begin to change. When someone reacts in an unexpected way, instead of reacting back, you can ask some questions to try to discover why that just happened. The better you understand people the more favor and influence you will have with them. The better you understand yourself and why you do what you do, the more you can improve the way you respond and react and communicate.

If you are curious about what color I am, it’s mainly Yellow and Green with a little Red. Some words that describe me would be: Sociable, trusting, optimistic, warm, convincing, stable, steady, consistent, relaxed, patient, responsible, independent. I would be what they call a Promoting Relater. I am people oriented, and like working with teams to solve problems in creative ways. I am optimistic and enthusiastic. I tend to verbalize my feelings and have a positive sense of humor. I also have confidence to do the difficult assignments. At least that is what the report said.

OK, there is a small snap shot of how I am wired. Of course there is much more to who I am and it takes time to really get to know people and understand them. I just want to encourage you to start the process of understanding yourself and how God made you. You can check out this online inventory to discover your spiritual gifts and your DISC personality. The better you know your strengths and weaknesses the better you can interact with people.

To learn more, click here.

Change

I was in a meeting this week where the topic of change came up. This is an interesting topic, and there has been a lot written about change. You may have heard some of these quotes:

“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” Niccolo Machiavelli

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” John Maxwell

“We generally change ourselves for one of two reasons: inspiration or desperation.” Jim Rohn

“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” Jim Rohn

“We don’t think ourselves in a new way of acting, we act ourselves into a new way of thinking.” Larry Bossidy

“Complacency kills growth”. John Maxwell

These are some great quotes that have inspired me over the years. As we talked about change in that meeting, I had to ask myself how open am I to change? Usually we are all for change as long as it doesn’t affect me. When we hear that change is coming, it strikes a cord of fear deep inside most of us. What does that look like for me? How will this affect me? What do I have to do differently? What will I lose?

It is easy to talk about change, but it is not easy to actually change. Change takes hard work and discipline. Change can only happen when we do something different, something radical. Whether you want to change your workplace, your marriage, your children, your church, your school, your community or the world; it starts with the individual.

If we refuse to make radical changes in our attitude, work habits, communication skills, spending habits, words, character etc. things around us won’t change either. Growth and change go hand in hand. If you want to grow your faith, your character, your leadership, your relationships – then you need to grow and change yourself. How do you do that? What does that look like?

It is different for everyone, but the first thing you need to do is make the decision that you are willing to change yourself. Once you make that decision the work can begin. Often times you will need some help along the way. You will need some people to coach you, to hold you accountable, to challenge and encourage you. Seek out a mentor or someone who is a little further along than you and spend some time with them. Ask a bunch of questions and get your brain active again. Read and listen to people talk about the things you want to change.

As we talked in that meeting I started getting excited about change! I don’t want to be the same person next year that I am right now. God wants us to be in a constant state of change, becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. God wants the church to be in constant change, so that we will never become comfortable or complacent and forget about lost people. God wants our relationships to grow and change, so that we can live life to the fullest.

So what needs to change in you, in your church, in your marriage, in your finances, in your workplace? Don’t be satisfied with who you are right now, God wants you to think much bigger than that.

Wildlife

Here are some pictures of the wildlife at my house. The two cats are my boys, Winnie and Shadow. Winnie has the white on his neck.

The little tree frog has been hanging out by our back door. This morning I found him on the window sill with a preying mantis. Isn’t it amazing how detailed and creative God was in His creation?

My wife Vikki brought these caterpillar’s in to watch them transform into Monarch butterfly’s, pretty cool.

It was amazing to see how they formed their cocoon’s and began changing into a butterfly. I don’t understand all that, but it reminds me of how all of us need to keep changing. Someday we will have a new body as well. Part of the journey for them is a struggle, but it is that struggle of getting out of the cocoon that strengthens them and helps them to fly.

Part of our journey can be a struggle, but those struggles help us to get stronger, build our character and deepen our faith. The Bible is full of Scripture about our problems teaching and growing us. It all depends on your perspective.




In this World

I started doing some jogging lately and I really enjoy it. I like the idea of getting healthier and maybe even running a 5k or two, but the other thing I enjoy is getting to listen to some of my favorite music, enjoying the great outdoors and listening to God while I run.

This past week I have experienced several things that led me to this entry in my Blog. I listened to a CD from John C. Maxwell called “Success Classics – Part One”. I went to the Free Methodist annual conference in Dalton Ohio at Living Water Free Methodist church. I did some reading, I met with my men’s group and I bought some music on iTunes.

You might wonder what all those things had to do with each other. Well not much except as I was running today God helped me realize that all these events were speaking to me about being in this world and understanding what that means. Sometimes Christians call it secular or worldly stuff. You know, some things are Christian and some things are secular.

Let me explain. John Maxwell was talking about 9 classic books about success. Most of the books he mentioned were rather old, yet they had many great truths in them. Of the 9 books I have only read 2. None of them were Christian books. The one statement that stuck with me was that John said, he is willing to read anything, if he thinks there might be a nugget or two he can take a way. He mentioned the book “The Secret” which has been very popular in the “secular world”. He said that he read it not because it was a classic, but because so many people were reading it, he wanted to see what the author had to say. He went on to say that there were some good things in the book. He also said there were some things that he didn’t think were true and he clarified that. The point was, he was able to read it and take a away some good stuff and throw out the useless stuff, or at least have the discernment to know what is true and what is not.

At the Free Methodist conference on Friday we heard from our new Bishop. He was interesting and tried to be funny and relaxed. It was a nice change from some of the past conferences, but still pretty boring. However, I was able to take a way some good stuff. I am excited about the vision of reaching out to help the poor in our communities even more over the next several years. They also showed a video about a church that was built in a town about 40 years ago. At the same time a grocery store was built in that same town. About every 8-10 years the grocery store made major changes to reach its customers and get them to come to the store. They would change the type of food they offered and changed the look of the store often. The church did not change over those 40 years and eventually was closed. Evidently the church did not want to reach people and get them to come back or even come at all.

I have been reading a book called “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith. I don’t think he is a Christian, as a matter of fact he mentions some Buddhist stuff he studied. I am learning some good things that are helping me be more efficient at work. I also am reading “secular” fiction books by John Grisham and David Baldacci, both great story tellers.

I also met with my men’s group this morning. We had breakfast together and had a great time laughing and talking. One of the guys is moving to Florida and we said our goodbyes, but we plan on staying in touch. He is now a friend of mine. Some of the guys in the group have really opened up and are sharing the real stuff going on in their lives. It is messy and dirty and not much fun. We are praying for each other and trying to encourage each other. Those guys all know that we care about each other and will be there for each other no matter what. This is a real group of guys that are building lasting friendships.

Lastly, I love music. I have been building my iPod collection. I listen mostly to “secular” music. Even the radio stations I listen to are mostly “secular” 92.5 WDJQ & 98.1 WKDD if anyone cares. Just today I downloaded “3 Doors Down” newest CD and I also bought a couple of “Cold Plays” new songs. Other groups on my iPod are Plain White T’s, OneRepublic, Nickelback, Matchbox Twenty, Maroon 5, Lifehouse, Linkin Park, Goo Goo Dolls, Evanescence, Daughtry, Justin Timberlake, Usher, The Killers, Augustana and The All-American Rejects. Of course I also have some great Christian groups as well.

My point of all this is that I don’t want to isolate myself from the world. I don’t want to be a typical pastor or typical Christian. I don’t want to miss what is real and relevant in this world. I want to know what people are thinking about and listening to. As Christians it is very easy to get into our own little world and talk our talk and walk our walk. We can put on a smiley face and be content with our safe little world. Most of the time we are only vocal about what we are against.

I don’t think that is how Jesus was. He was in the world. He got his hands dirty and met with and listened to the most undesirable people. He understood what people were struggling with and what they needed. This world can be dirty and ugly sometimes, but that what makes it real. That is why we are here.

It seems to me that most non-Christian people don’t think very highly of church and church people. At our church conference the Bishop shared that non Christians or seekers use words like judgemental, hypocritical, boring, out of touch and irrelevant about church and Christians. Wow, if that is how people are seeing us, I can imagine what they then think about Jesus. Why would they want to know more about Him?

I had to ask myself this question. Do I love this world or do I hate this world? I have decided that I love this world, because Jesus loves this world. God loves every person in this world, even if they have tattoos or piercings. He loves the alcoholics and the house wives. He loves the homeless person and the farmers. He loves the CEO and the factory worker. He loves the poor and the rich.

Because that is how Jesus is, I want to be like that. I want to understand what people are dealing with and connecting with. I want to be able to listen to someone and not judge them or think that I am so much better than that person. I am glad I am in this world, because that is right where God wants me. He wants us to get dirty, to get real and to be with people. He wants to use us to reach a lost, dirty, broken world. To do that we need to understand the culture in which we live. We can’t isolate ourselves and hope the people come to us.

That is how the church should be. It should be irresistible and real, the coolest most happening place in the community. It should be a place where everyone feels welcome and not judged. A safe place, a place to heal, to grow, to ask questions, to have fun and celebrate, a place to make lasting friendships, a place to be inspired and to be equipped for whatever God brings their way. In short the church should be the hope of the world.

Why do people do the things they do?

In my job, I talk to people every week about different struggles and problems they are experiencing. We all have issues or difficult circumstances in our lives. No one is exempt from suffering and pain. So as I was thinking about some of my own issues and circumstances I have been asking myself this question: “Why do we do the things we do?”

I believe the answer to that question is, we do what is in our hearts. The principle of inescapable influence says “Whatever rules the heart will exercise inescapable influence over the person’s life and behavior.” I learned about this principle in a book called “Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands” by Paul David Tripp.

Tripp says “that if we fail to examine the heart and the areas where it needs to change, our ministry efforts will only result in people who are more committed and successful idolaters”. Anything that replaces or comes before God in our lives is an idol.

So, our daily behavior is our attempt to get what is most important to us in certain situations and relationships. What we do always reveals the true desires in our hearts. The book of James says “But people are tempted when their own evil desire leads them away and traps them. This desire leads to sin, and then the sin grows and brings death.” (James 1:14,15).

So this all comes down to an issue of worship. What we worship determines how we respond to our circumstances. If we are loving, worshipping and serving the wrong thing, we will do things that line up with what we are worshipping.

Here are 5 things that Tripp gives us for application in our personal growth:

1. Our hearts are always being ruled by someone or something.
2. The most important question to ask when examining the heart is, “What is functionally ruling my heart in this situation?”
3. Whatever controls my heart will control my responses to people and situations.
4. God changes us not just by teaching us to do different things, but by recapturing our hearts to serve Him alone.
5. The deepest issues of the human struggle are not issues of pain and suffering, but the issue of worship, because what rules our hearts will control the way we respond to both suffering and blessing.

Every one of our hearts has a fount of competing desires. There is a battle going on in each of us for our hearts. God wants all of our heart, not just part of it. Our hearts direct our behavior, so if our hearts have dark corners or empty spaces we will continue to do things we don’t want to do. We will say things we don’t want to say. Things like anger, bitterness, lust, unforgiveness, jealousy and guilt will leak out of our hearts and into our behavior or words.

Our problems in our relationships and the wacky things we do are rooted in problems of worship. That is why we must start with God. I encourage you to go and read Galatians 5:13-26 for some powerful truth. This passage of Scripture is about what we do next. Will we live in self-imposed bondage to our emotions? Will we submit to our own sinful desires? Or will we grab a hold of the truth and transform our hearts?

It all starts on the inside, when that changes, the outside begins to change as well.

Amazing Stats

I just watched an eight minute video that gave some amazing statistics. It talks about how fast things are changing and how different today’s world is. As I watched the information it made me wonder how we as a church should use this information. How can we stay in touch and reach this ever changing rapidly developing world. The church should be out in front on this. The church should be the most exciting, changing, dynamic place on earth. We need to understand the changes that are happening in our world so that we can connect this world with the greatest news ever. All of these changes are a huge help to the church if we approach it correctly. Are we open to dramatic changes? Are we connecting with the younger generation or expecting them to get things like we did? Are we using technology to our advantage? Are we thinking about two three or ten years from now when technology has tripled? Are we willing to shift?

Watch the video and let’s have a discussion on this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMcfrLYDm2U