The Importance of Choosing the Right Church

Fundamentally, the church you call home should promote encounters of heart, mind, soul and body with God, challenging what you know and how you behave; it should be a place that provides accountability to how you love God and serve people; and it should be a place where you receive genuine care from other Christians whom you’re close with.

Worship God.

Provide care.

Receive care.

How some Christians make obtuse life-decisions without taking into consideration what quality of church they’re leaving or what quality of church they’re walking into mystifies me. And yet it’s inevitably quality churches which broken people finally land in that nurse them and their children back to health.

If you’re not in a church that promotes comprehensive God encounters, provides accountability that stings your worst and encourages your best, and pushes you out of your comfort zone to serve those around you, then I suggest you change churches. None around you? Then you’re either called to plant one, or move.

Move?

There’s a reason towns were built around churches: their founders valued divine relationship above industry and economy. Build your life around God and the community of believers, and you’ll find it hard to miss the plans and purposes that God has for you.

And, statistically speaking, no—you’re not going to change the pastor or the board. Though noble, the church is littered with the remains of people who stayed too long, fighting to change the very thing God himself said he wouldn’t: someone else’s free will. Get out, and go find a healthy place to pasture your family while there’s still daylight. Your future is worth it, and so is theirs.

ch:

The Life Dichotomy

Plenty of things in this life should give us reason to pause.

Why does the word “lisp” have an “s” in it?

Since Americans throw rice at weddings, do Asians throw cheeseburgers?

And then there’s this picture of an octopus eating a shag:

IMG_8472.JPG

Not that bird’s best day.

Other more important things give me reason to pause, especially when the propinquity of their seeming juxtaposition nears a common epicenter.

Like my friend’s mom dying within twenty-four hours of my other friends having their first child.

As a Christian, and further as a pastor, such dramatic life events present an interesting gambit of emotional obstacles. Not because I’m worried about crying at funerals, or hate smelling babies’ heads. (I do both quite well). But because I’m called to identify with loss, and equally identify with gifts.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

When we take on another person’s life-state as if it was our own, we participate in something uniquely divine, an inferior reflection of what Jesus did so perfectly: becoming as someone else.

Life’s dichotomies, as experienced most extremely in birth and death, are not meant to be feared, but should be seen as opportunities to act Christ-like. To take on someone else’s burden so that they might understand they’re not alone. Truer, more authentic empathy is rarely seen, save maybe in exchanging one life for another. And even in that we see the picture quite clearly: giving up part of our life in recognition of someone else’s.

We die a little.

We give ourselves away a little.

If you’re asked to celebrate today, celebrate with all your might. You honor the lives around you with your passion.

If you’re called to grieve today, mourn from the deepest part of your soul. You honor the lives around you with your compassion.

You’re also acting a whole lot like Jesus. It can be draining, yes, especially when these life-dichotomies are so close together. But that’s the beauty of it: he knows how to sustain you because he became like you once too.

To Kevin: We’re so sorry for your loss. We’re with you here and now.

To Karen and Costa: We’re so happy for your new little man!

Mourning and rejoicing,

ch:

Out In Front by Kirk Gilchrist

IMG_8400.JPG

My dear friend and senior pastor just released his latest book this week, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for him and for those who read it. It’s chalk-full of hard hitting life lessons, glacial nuggets of wisdom, and often startling arguments to some of church culture’s more common assumptions—ones he confronts from simple, Biblical perspectives.

An eternal pragmatist as well as a tireless worker, Kirk also writes about many of the fundamental cultural principles of leadership that’ve helped grow our church, New Life, to the healthy place it is today.

What I love most about this book, however, is that it reflects a man I deeply admire. I know Kirk. Of all the people I’ve ever met, he operates unlike any other in a true New Testament gift of leadership. He’s always looked to better his team before he betters himself. And he’s paid a high price to be able to speak from a place of authentic spiritual success.

I can’t afford (nor could I survive) to make all the mistakes of other men—I have my own to wrestle through. That’s why works like these are so unequivocally pivotal when it comes to serving others the way Jesus did and does.

Dig in,

ch:

How Do You Read The Bible?

Most of my spiritual conversations over the last several weeks have swirled around a common question: How do you read the Bible? Some of these dialogs have stemmed from the social media firestorm surrounding musician Michael Gungor’s admission that he does not believe some of Genesis’ accounts are literal. Others have been private confessions from believers who secretly believe in evolution (a broad statement, to be sure), but are scared to death to voice this among their Evangelical peer groups. And still others are trying to reconcile inconsistencies found within scripture, now digging deep for contextual understanding.

In all cases, I commend Christians everywhere for their hunger for learning. We must be people that dig deep, and then dig deep again, fostered by healthy communities that endorse free thinking and inspire “walking out [one's] own salvation with fear and trembling.” Changing doctrine is not a sign of weakness, but of confession that we don’t have it right, and God does.

No matter your sentiments or beliefs, the Bible plays a critical roll in all of our development: our faith must be shaped by the cannon of tradition past and by the counsel of spiritual leaders present. Which leads to an all-important question:

How do you read the Bible?

Below, I’ve pasted four very keen points from Joshua Graves, the lead minister for the Otter Creek Church in suburban Nashville, TN. I’d suggest reading his preface on the original post as well, since his four-point list is actually a part of a much larger conversation, both presently and historically.

These four perspectives are incredibly helpful both in knowing where you’re at and helping determine where others are coming from when they purport seemingly irrational conclusions when held in context to your own.

Pastor Joshua Graves:

VIEW #1: FUNDAMENTALIST or BASIC (The Bible is read as a rule-book for living a godly life before a watching judge.)

God is a judge with holy (sometimes angry) and wrathful disposition towards sinful humanity. Jesus saved humanity. Though he loves us, God’s anger burns towards humanity because of continual evil and wicked ways.
The Holy Bible was given via dictation theory or celestial possession. The Holy Spirit literally dictated every single detail. The autographs (original sections of the Bible) and copies are perfect, infallible and inerrant. Every word in Scripture is historically, theologically accurate. The Bible is accessible for any person to understand in a rational and logical approach. It’s not enough to say the Bible in “inspired and authoritative” . . . one must also believe the Bible is infallible, inerrant, and perfect. The Bible is God’s direct instruction manual to all people for all time for how to live before God.

Some of the key players/voices: John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Southern Baptist Convention, Albert Mohler, authors of the Left Behind Series (Jenkins and LaHaye).

VIEW #2: EVANGELICAL (The Bible is read as a collection of timeless principles for morality and conversion in a dark and corrupt world.)

God is a judge and father with a major dilemma that only Jesus can resolve.
The Bible is the Word of God for the people of God. It contains the timeless truths of God’s heart that need to be communicated and shared with all people. While the copies of the Biblical manuscripts might possess some tension/uncertainty, the autographs (originals) are perfect, infallible, and inerrant. The primary role of the Bible is to save people from their sin and hell, providing the road map for any person to spend eternity with God. God’s primary way of communicating to humanity is through the sacred scriptures. It’s the most important tool we have for understanding God. Some in this camp will greatly stress the power of the Spirit to use the timeless truths of the Bible to provide a practical guide for everyday decisions.

Some key voices/leaders: Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, Tim Keller, Max Lucado, Billy Graham, Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes.

VIEW #3: THIRD WAY (The Bible is read an unfolding drama inviting all people to participate in the work of God in the world.)

God is the creative father who seeks to pull all women and men out of darkness into living the Kingdom of God now in preparation for the fullness of the new heavens and the new earth.

Because the church came before the New Testament, this group is inclined to call the Bible the word of God and reserve the phrase the “Word of God” for only Jesus (word does not = Word). Rather, the Bible reveals the Word. The Bible is the word of God in that it is trust-worthy, powerful, and effective in leading people to a living encounter with the power and mystery of Jesus in the world. It is the sacred drama of God, in which we are mere B actors, and Jesus is the main character. While God is revealed in a myriad of ways (creation, art, music, friendship), scripture is unique in that it derives its authority from the witness of catholic orthodox stream of disciples and the local church. The power of the Spirit is at work taking ink on a page, and bringing us closer to the Jesus who holds all creation together. The Bible is the mirror that shows us who God is and who we are. It is not to be worshiped or made an idol as it did not create us, sustain us, die for us, etc. It’s simply the tool God uses in conjunction with all of the other revelations to bring us closer to God’s intent for the world: faithful discipleship, resistance to the powers of this present age (communal). Christ’ presence in the world is both powerful and mysterious and the Bible is a key tool God uses in that endeavor of discovery. This group resists using infallible and inerrant because a) they are not words that show up in Scripture and b) are tied to stale debates between faith and science. This group takes seriously the role of the Bible as it relates to inspiration and authority but refuses to divorce these two words from the main purpose of the Bible, further revelation of the person of Jesus.

Key voices/leaders: Martin Luther King, Jr. Karl Barth, Scot McKnight, N.T. Wright, Lauren Winner, Sarah Coakley, Bonhoeffer, James Smith, Walter Brueggemann, Barbara Brown Taylor, Chuck Campbell, Walter Wink Richard Hays, Ian Cron, and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Oh, yeah. Bono.

VIEW #4: HUMANIST (The Bible is an inspiring document with varying levels of relevancy for coping with life in the modern world.)

(Here, I’m not using humanist in a decidedly negative fashion) God is whoever you think God to be or were taught God to be. If God exists at all. The “God” pursuit is almost exclusively subjective. In this view, the Bible, like the Qur’an, Torah, the writings of Baha’ll’a, and Bhagavad Gita, is simply one more sacred collection of spiritual moral writings meant to speak to life’s deep experiences of pain. While mostly the product of human engineering and imagination, the Bible is important because of its link to history, meaning, purpose, and identity. Not meant to be literal or pure history, the Bible functions as an important narrative for understanding the values and linguistic emphases of many modern westerners. Full of inspiration, the Bible’s authority should be regarded with great suspicion. It can be however, a guide-book for remarkable standards of ethics.

The widest group, the HUMANIST camp, ranges from Liberal Christians to passionate Atheists. “It [the Bible] is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies,” Mark Twain.

Key players/voices: Richard Rohr, Bart Erhman, Christopher Hitchens, the New Atheists, A.J. Levine, Post-Christian Americans and Europeans, Richard Rohr, Marcus Borg, Mark Twain, and Richard Dawkins. This is the most diverse list of all four categories.

I probably needed five categories but ran out of time (pastors have deadlines too).

Had to share this beauty in conclusion. Because, in a sense, everyone does this. Everyone who reads the Bible. Or used to read the Bible.

•••

So, how do you read the Bible?

ch:

Bible Nature

The Bible does not give simple answers to complex questions, but complex answers to complex questions.

Part of its beauty is that it always calls its readers much higher in our thinking, and doesn’t stoop to accommodate an inferior perception of humanity or its Creator.

To treat Scripture as a series of anecdotes to the world morass is to treat it contemptuously; it was never meant to be an easily defined, well-packaged defense of faith.

It’s not tame, and it’s far from tidy.

Rather, let it be a mere introduction to the living God and all his mysteries, one that necessitates the school teacher of the Holy Spirit to be active in all conversing.

Dare to engage the scriptures as God’s story, for that is what it is. Story. Then resign yourself to knowing you won’t figure it all out.

Don’t worry.

Your faith will survive the ambiguity.

Know only that you’ll be better pointed toward him in the process, and let your heart find peace there. For being in him is all that was ever hoped for you anyway.

ch:

For the War History Buff

Thom Atkinson Soldiers' Inventories

I’m intrigued by a meticulous art project from UK-based photographer Thom Atkinson, in which he obtained and laid out the battle kit of English soldiers over the past millennium. The fiction author in me, as well as the child in me, found the images fascinating. Similarly, my boys were eager to look over my shoulder and view each image as I explained the various pieces of kit.

Perhaps showing signs of age, and revealing the parts of my heart that have been touched by the realities of human conflict (particularly with regard to our pastoral proximity to Ft. Drum), I was surprised to find that some of my explanations interested me far less than they used to. And a few unspoken concepts repulsed me.

Because I knew my sons couldn’t and shouldn’t handle them yet.

I think of the use of hooked polearms, or how a gas mask protects against the effects of nerve gas.

The romance of war has certainly faded, though the call to protect and defend has not.

Moving through the various images, I was reminded that these kits were necessary because of our rebellion to God in the first place. And further, I noted how many of the conflicts had purely humanistic motives (which could be said of any conflict, to be sure). One doesn’t need to know much of the Crusades to understand its fundamental atrociousness.

For the innocent blood we’ve spilt, we’ll give answer to; for the innocent we defended, our blood is its own testament.

ch:

A Reminder From Rocky

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!

-Rocky Balboa

Thanks to my friend Wayne Thomas Batson for this beautiful reminder.

Weight

I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure. While I can’t see it, I can feel it.

Weight.

Something pressing’s down on me. Many things, actually. And they’re not bad things. They’re good things. In fact, they’re God-ordained things.

Serving my wife, stewarding my kids, taking care of our home, investing into people, building the local church, growing kingdom businesses that influence communities, creating art that changes hearts.

Every one of these topics have high price tags of time, energy and money. And they each have severe ramifications if I make mistakes.

Legitimately.

And yet they weight me down.

So is the weight something I’m to be afraid of? To fear?

How about to avoid? That seems to be the most common advice I give myself. That’s the advice most well meaning people give. Avoid the weight. Look for ways to offload it. It’s unhealthy. It’s not God. If you’re not at peace with it, look for where you’re being disobedient.

But what if not giving myself to any of those things is the disobedience?

I’m also inspired by a quote form one of T.D. Jake’s famous sermons, The Weight of Glory:

The conduit from laity to leadership is discomfort.

What if the discomfort of my life is the very thing that qualifies me to lead? To stand in front of my family, my friends, my church, my businesses, and say, “Follow me as I follow the Lord.”

I’m inspired by the life and letters of the Apostle Paul, knowing that affliction is the gateway for glory.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

What if the very tactic of the enemy is to get me to believe the “burn out” lie? To subtly convince me to “take it easy.” To “quit” one thing or another “because it’s hard, and I’m so tired.”

If anxiety and burdens are the enemy of the first-world Christian, how can I consciously avoid lines like this in what most scholars believe is the first written text of the New Testament?

And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:28

I can feel the loving eyes of the Father staring at me as I complain about my circumstances. As I moan about one issue or another. About how hard I have it. The past several days, it’s been a minute by minute awareness. He’s checking me. Testing me.

•••

This past Sunday was the most frustrating tech Sunday at New Life. Ever. Four days before, our building was struck by lightning, so by Sunday, my tech department was finding more and more ghosts in the systems. Lights stopped working, lyrics stopped going up on screens, audio sends weren’t feeding. And I have no hair left to pull out.

Meanwhile, on stage, Jamie Wright was talking about victims of sex trafficking and how The Exodus Road is working covertly to rescue them.

Could God be speaking any more loudly to me?

•••

I think I’m mining gold now. I think I’m arriving at a divine conclusion. I feel God forging it deep within me. And I’m becoming profoundly certain of a heavenly truth.

The best way to keep from spoiling our position is to correct our attitude.

And what is my attitude to be?

That I live like a king. That pastors dream about having the “problems” I do. That since I’ve been given so much, much is required of me (Luke 12:48). Anything less than my very best not only belittles my calling and my position, but mocks the one who knew I can stand here and lead. And serve.

I’ve never met a grateful person who was burnt out.

Keep going today.

Don’t give up.

Tomorrow will take care of itself. You just be obedient today.

Souls are waiting on the other side of your obedience.

Ultimately, it’s obedience that the Holy Spirit is looking for (Psalm 40:6, 1 Samuel 15:22).

ch:

My Sermon Preparation Process

How I Use iPhone Apps to Study The Bible and Prepare to Speak

I share the following workflow for three reasons. The first is that I get a lot of requests about how I prepare my messages, and people seem genuinely helped when I explain my methods. The second is that it speaks to study in general; not everyone is a pastor or teacher, but everyone, especially Christians, should be students of scripture and of life.

The third is that I believe I’m in the cross-over generation from print Bibles to digital Bibles, at least in leading and developing first world nations. This is important. I grew up reading my Gideon hotel-stolen NKJV until it needed rebinding, and my leather-bound NIV Rainbow Study Bible. But as I traveled more (specifically flying), the sheer weight and size of my Bibles and notebooks became an impediment. As the iPhone, and then iPad made it easier to chose how I could pack, my study habits also started to change. They became more efficient, and therefore more powerful.

Superior tools allow a craftsman to do better work. The generation behind me often finds digital sterile and cold, some might even say “un-anointed.” But the generation coming after me needs to be even more immersed in the written Word. I’m sure there may have been similar despondency when people could actually bring a Bible into their home for the first time. “But how will we know what it means if the priest isn’t here to teach us?” Or how about the glaring hurdle of having to learn how to read?

The point is, if there are new tools available to us that proliferate the accessibility of scripture and allow us to understand more than ever before, we need to champion them, if nothing more than for the sake of those coming after us.

When preparing a sermon for a church service, I first have to begin where I want to end: my audience (their needs and contextual appetites), my time frame (if I’m at New Life, we have four services each with a 20-25 minute window for the message; if I’m at EDEN school in France, I look at 3-hour blocks), and obviously my goal (what I want them leaving with). Without these, I tend to ramble, over prepare, and think more about what I want to say than what God wants to say. Remember, constraints can either limit you or serve you—the choice is entirely yours.

All of my messages begin (and mostly end) on my iPhone. It’s always with me, so convenience is key. It’s also the place I do my largest amount of Bible reading. I use four different apps for different reasons.

20140724-062401-23041477.jpg

Bible by YouVersion: This is the easiest and simplest app to read from for me. The social connectivity attributes are nice, but not really the reason I’m there. When I need to copy and paste scriptures, this app places them in my clipboard with the reference in parentheses at the bottom. I have it loaded with ESV, NKJV, NIV, KJV and NLT.

20140724-070059-25259874.jpg

PocketSword by CrossWire: This is the mojo, the magic sauce Bible app for me. I use it for one thing: Greek and Hebrew (Strongs modules) in the KJV (the only version they appear in). When I want to research and break down the words (something all good teachers and preachers need to be in the practice of), PocketSword is my go-to app.

20140724-070153-25313393.jpg

Lumina by Bible Studies Foundation: This NET translation of the Bible comes hyperlinked with 60,000 translation notes created by 25 translation scholars from Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. Great for digging a little deeper into those hard-to-understand passages.

20140724-070229-25349360.jpg

Bible+ by Olive Tree: I tend to make most of my in-Bible notes and highlights in this app as it “feels” the most like reading my favorite print Bibles. I typically read out of the ESV here. Pasting copied sections strips out the references, so if I want to grab something I like, I jump back to YouVersion.

20140724-070312-25392465.jpg

20140724-070353-25433363.jpg

The other reading app I use most (paired beside Evernote, which I’ll hit next) is Kindle for iOS. In here I’m gleaning from whatever non-fiction or essays (PDFs) I’ve downloaded. I’m a firm believer that you don’t have enough time to extract everything out of the Bible that you need, so you better eat from the hands of others who’ve used their entire lives to share something worth digesting.

20140724-070429-25469606.jpg

Since I’m one of those preachers who believes that everything needs to be rooted and end up in the written Word, most all of my ideas launch out of verses that speak to my life experiences, world happenings and what I believe God is trying to say to people (my audience, in particular).

As a result, when I’m reading in one of my Bible apps, I’m bound to open Evernote within moments. Evernote is my catch-all of choice. From pics and drawings to links and syncing, it’s my jam, and arguably the best on the market.

I have an “Academics” stack that contains most all of my more heady content, and within, my “Messages” notebook. I allow this notebook to be very fluid. It not only contains finished content, but also “content in process.” Or as my Dad uses in his three ring binders, his “Sermons Working” tab.

20140724-070751-25671748.jpg

Here’s a shot from a message I preached last Sunday at L’Eglise Sans Frontiers in Longuyon, France:

20140724-070848-25728708.jpg

When I’m traveling or under time constraints, I preach right out of Evernote from my iPad or iPhone. But if I have time, there’s one extra step that I take. Fair warning: this is for geeks, nerds, designers and people with any level of OCD.

I import my content from Evernote into InDesign to create a good looking PDF.

I learned from designer Nathan Davis to value the added step of creating a beautiful looking PDF as it has a way of internalizing the content more thoroughly. This added process, while sometimes time consuming, is a great way of embedding the message deeper into my gut where it moves from notes I have to read verbatim to a message I can proclaim intuitively. And when I need to transition from teaching to preaching while onstage, this key component is essential.

20140724-071849-26329359.jpg

My father, Peter, taught (and challenged) me to love scripture. And he still prepares his messages using his wonderful leather-bound Bible and 8″ three-ring notebooks filled with his handwriting. What he passed on, however, we’re not his methods, but his love for God’s Word. Regardless of how you learn, study, preach or teach, make sure that you’re more focused on imparting than on your process: few people will remember how you did it, but everyone will remember what you did.

ch:

Loss Judging

In the arena of business, I’ve met a lot of people who start off conversations by asking future employees or other entrepreneurs how much money they’ve earned. The discussion could include additional possessions, like cars, boats and houses, as if these are medals awarded for valor on the field of capitalist battle.

But asking someone how much money they made doesn’t give you an accurate picture of the whole story. So I prefer another question.

“How much money have you lost?”

Knowing how much money someone has lost not only reveals to me how much net worth they might have, but also the level of risk that they’re willing to live with. Further, if someone has lost a considerable amount of money, or has endured numerous life-failures, and yet they’re still sitting in front of me as a successful person, that tells me a great deal about their individual fortitude and personal character. They’re willing to put things on the line, pay the price if they go wrong, and work themselves out of the hole.

I call this loss judging.

Losing money, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, is never fun. It’s not something we like to brag about either. Who would? There’s certainly something to be said for steering clear of people who habitually tank institutions, organizations or themselves. But when considering a new hire or partnership, assuming the person has something to bring to the table, knowing what they’ve had to go through to get where they are helps paint a more clear picture of who they are.

The same assessment can also hold true in other aspects of life. Much of the time we write off people who’ve made poor decisions, finding themselves at the bottom of the social ladder. How many times have we passed homeless people who actually have degrees in a highly prestigious fields? And yet we give jobs to young 20-something’s fresh out of college, with no experience whatsoever, mind you, and a mountain of debt.

I judge someone who’s lost a loved one—as a different example—as someone who knows how to endure grief. They’ve had to stare mortality in the face and move on, most often at great expense. For those who’ve lost family “out of time,” meaning a son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter, I have even more respect.

Perfect track records can tell you a lot about people, sure. But loss judging not only tells you who a person is, but who’ve they’ve fought not to be. It tells you they’re still in the game. That matters.

Not all loss is bad. And not all gains are good. Our job as leaders is to try and perceive the value of people sitting across from us so we all can move forward in strength. The more scars a person carries, the less your team may have to suffer.

ch:

Measure What You Ingest

Can you recount ten notable headlines of news articles that you’ve read over the last thirty days?

Probably not.

Don’t worry, neither can I.

But can you recall a point that moved you in a book from the last ten years?

You probably can.

That’s because reading intentional long-form works tend to have a far more lasting effect on our lives than reading any of the day’s gossip columns. If this is true for me as I suspect it is for you, it means that we must be more deliberate than ever before about what we’re ingesting on a regular basis.

Making behavior decisions in the present based on what we know will help us in the future is the very essence of wise judgement.

Here are a few things I do to make sure I’m consuming content that I know helps and not dilutes my perspective:

Use YouTube Videos as Podcasts. Whatever your hobby or profession is, there’s probably someone online who’s said something that you need to know. And while podcasts are plentiful, YouTube trends higher on people’s scope. So I stock pile recommendations that people send me, most notable sermons, tutorials or songs, and play them through my headphones when I have down time, especially during travel. The key here it that you don’t always need to see it to receive it. Hearing them talk is just as essential to the process of learning, and often allows us to retain more information in certain contexts.

Stay Addicted, Just Change The Drug. If you find yourself addicted to reading materials on your mobile device, then leverage your new addiction, don’t despise it. This means putting your Kindle app right next to your favorite news aggregate app. Or better yet, place the pop-culture apps further back in your screen pages and keep your Kindle/iBooks app up front. This visual reminder helps promote long-form works of value while keeping the dreaded pop-web-surfing monster at bay.

Value Authentic Communication First. If you’re a Christian, and you’re tempted to read your email or check social media first, make sure that your Bible app is close. I’d much rather hear what God has to say to me to start my day than what people do. Emails are important and, to an extent, so is social media; they’re just not the most important. It’s the myriad of other voices in my email and social media accounts that tend to side track me. Kick things off right: hear from God first.

What ways have you disciplined yourself to intentionally digest wholesome content while skirting the frivolous?

New good habits are hard to form, but they become just as powerful as old bad ones. Only more so: because they help instead of hinder you.

ch:

Order

Life is built on a sequence of events played out over time.

I can’t buy my next guitar until I sell my present guitar. Which I just did.

(Enjoy, Mark R.)

I couldn’t write this post until I got here to Hawaii. Between the build up to Easter, the launching of our North Campus, and leading worship and speaking at Redline Conference, I haven’t had anything more to give a public. This post was conditional upon my last “posting” of service to another audience.

All this to say, I’m simply reminded that we can’t do the next thing unless we finish the present thing.

The next thing sounds wonderful and exciting. It’s a distant horizon, an unopened gift beneath the Christmas tree.

The present thing is familiar.

Overly familiar.

It’s old.

And not the vintage, old-timey old. I mean nasty old. The “dear lord, I’m so sick of this and I just want it to end” kind of old that demands a high level of something to tolerate.

Of…

Of endurance? Patience? Stamina? Fortitude?

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. (Hebrews 10:36 NLT)

The next thing becomes the sweetest thing only when the present thing is treated faithfully.

Said differently with some verbose alliteration, don’t rob your pending promise of its pleasure by prematurely parting with your present plan.

Stay with it, whatever you’re doing today. There is a very real reward on its way.

I’m off to dive on a plane wreck in O’ahu. Yes, rewards are worth being patient for.

ch: