Category Archives: Life

Stop!

You’re working hard. You’re trying to get ahead. You keep going, believing that the more you do, the more you will get out of what you do.

But there is such a thing as the Law of Diminishing Returns.

Basically, there comes a point where more work does NOT equal more results (or the same results as before).

Brushing your teeth for 20 minutes instead of 2 minutes doesn’t make your teeth 10 times whiter.

If one hour of tv watching makes you relaxed, five hours of watching tv doesn’t make you 5 times more relaxed.

Sometimes you just need to stop. You’ve done everything you can (for the moment). You need to take a break, recoup your energy, then get ready to go again.

Psalms 127:2 says, “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.”

Did you notice what the last line says? It makes it obvious that rest is something that God gives. Rest is a GIFT from God!

God would not give you a gift without the time to use it. How horrible would it be to receive a brand new car as a free gift, then to be told that you can’t drive it…it just needs to stay in the garage!

You would think that was crazy! And I would agree.

The same is true of rest. Since rest is a gift given to us by God, then God has already set aside times when we can (and should) do it!

The writer of this Psalm says that it is useless to do all the work that we do, while still worrying if that work will give us enough for our basic needs.

Our job is to work smart, not just work hard, then to take the rest that God gives us, trusting HIM to be the one to provide for each and every one of our needs.

Build rest into your life as a regular rhythm. You will be thankful for it later!

Let’s say it together now: “Stop!”

Today In The News: Istanbul Terror Attack

Not quite today’s news (this happened yesterday), but important nonetheless. Yesterday, 36 were killed and 147 were injured in a terrorist attack that occurred earlier yesterday in Istanbul, Turkey.

You can read about it here.

Unfortunately, these attacks are becoming more commonplace. Multiple attacks have been happening here in the United States and in many places abroad.

No matter who perpetrates terror, the goal is always fear. The impact of terror is far greater than the number of people killed or injured. Fear has the capacity to paralyze entire groups of people, even if they are under no actual threat of violence.

So, what to do? Since terror is reaching across the planet, how is it that this needs to be dealt with? Can it be stopped? What should our response be as Christians, who are called by our Lord Jesus to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44)?

I believe there simply needs to be a distinction between the faith that we as Christians hold, and the countries that individual Christian citizens might belong to. This does NOT mean that we, as Christians, shouldn’t attempt to influence the countries in which we live. On the contrary! I am simply suggesting that we as Christians cannot hold our countries/governments to the same standards with which we live.

Countries and Citizens

We live in an imperfect world, filled with imperfect people, There is good in this world, as well as evil. In human society, we must create solutions for the problems we face, even if those solutions are imperfect.

There is NO perfect system for managing politics, economies, poverty, wars, or anything else. But, some systems are better than others!

With regards to terror, countries have the right to do everything in their best interests to protect their people from terror, going to the root cause of the source of such terror if at all possible. Without involving details of the politics of all this, the current fight against ISIS (ISIL, Daesh) is absolutely necessary, since terrorists need to know that there are consequences for their actions.

My prayer with regards to this attack in Instanbul is that justice is served on behalf of the victims of these attacks. And remember, the victims of terror are not only those killed or injured. The victims include all those who are filled with fear because of these senseless attacks.

Christians

Now, as Christians, how must we respond? While countries have the complete right to function and operate as necessary for the protection of their citizenry, what must we do? And while many Christians may participate in the armed services of their respective countries and have a duty to be a part of that process, how do we respond individually to these acts?

One Bible verse in particular comes to mind. 1 John 4:18 states, “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”

Those who are afraid need to experience the perfect love of Father God that has been expressed to them. Only by living in the eternal confidence gained by knowing Christ are we able to live lives without fear, since our future for all eternity is secure in him. Dying today or dying tomorrow means being with Jesus.

Our job is to love and engage those who do not know the love of Christ…it is only with this love that fear may be removed.

But, even for the terrorists, we must understand that many times their motivation is not only to cause fear in others. On the contrary, they are so filled with fear themselves that they believe it necessary to commit their acts of violence.

We must love terrorists as well. 

Yes, we HATE what they do. What they do is pure evil and we hate all that is evil. And yes, they must face consequences and justice for their actions. Absolutely! There is no room for doubt here.

But, these terrorists are God’s creation. So, we pray. We pray for God to rescue their souls, to fill their hearts with their love, to transform entire societies through revelation of the abundant grace of God.

Does love include justice? Absolutely!

Love includes (1) Love for those impacted by acts of terror (2) Love for those who committed the acts of terror -and- (3) Justice for the victims. All of these combined are an expression of true love.

May the love of Christ dwell richly in all of you!

 

 

6 Ways To Learn

There is so much information in the world today that you can learn anything you want. There is no excuse to not know anything you want to learn…and to learn it in most cases for free!

Want to learn how to cook? Look it up on YouTube.

There is no substitute for learning. Growing in knowledge and wisdom should be our pursuit until the day we die.

Want to be a better parent? Learn more.

A better leader? Keep learning.

A more successful business owner? Yeah, you guessed it. Learn!

So, what are some ways that you can set rhythms for learning in your life?

  1. READ. Books, articles, blogs. Take notes. Highlight.

2.   LISTEN. Listen to thought leaders. Listen to Podcasts. Listen to teaching from pastors and other leaders.

3.   CONFERENCES AND CLASSES. Attend conferences and classes to learn what you want. Need to learn a new trade? Go to a technical school. Want to better your business skills? Go to a conference or participate in a masterclass. As I write this, I am attending the Purpose Driven Conference at Saddleback Church.

4.   MENTORS. King Solomon states in Proverbs 15:22, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” We need multiple mentors in our lives to help bring us success: in our relationships, our finances, our health, and so much more. There is no substitute for having personal advisers. When I started my church (citylifela.org), I had an adviser who met with me once a month for a year and a half. All I had to do was buy him lunch!

5.   EXPERIENCE. Learn from your own experiences and those of others. Learn from your present and your past. Learn from successes AND failures.

6.   ASK GOD. God is our best advisor. His Word (the Bible) is filled with 66 books by 44 authors inspired by God. Pray, read His Word, connect with Him. He is your most important guide in this life to live out the potential he has placed inside of you!

If you set rhythms of learning in your life, you will be guaranteed to be further along tomorrow than you are today. Keep learning!

Going for the Sell

A few weeks ago I was spending time at my mobile office, aka Starbucks. I was minding my own business working on my stuff when two random people walked up to me.

I love working at Starbucks because even though there are a lot of people, since I don’t know any of them, I do a much better job of getting my work done! No distractions and no interruptions, except for this one particular day when I was rudely interrupted by these two people.

They were nice enough…positive, happy people. In their hands they held a ticket. They let me know that they thought it would be great for me to attend an event in order to learn a new type of business where I could make more money.

How nice of them! Inviting me to make more money!!! What an incredible opportunity! Or not. Of course, my participation through their invitation would have made more money for them, as most of these schemes usually do.

But, you see, up until this point none of it was offensive to me. I totally get that they were passionate about what they were doing and they were passionate about making money. There is nothing wrong with that!

They asked me to grab the ticket so I could look at what they were talking about. Of course, I grabbed it as they spoke to me. The ticket was a free entry into their event. As they came to the end of their little speech they asked if I would be interested in going to their event. I politely declined, saying that I wasn’t too interested and it wouldn’t work for my schedule.

What happened next was ridiculous. After I politely declined, they told me that it was necessary that I pass the ticket on to someone else I knew if I wouldn’t be able to make it. Then they asked, “So, are you going to give it to someone else?”, then waited for my response.

Talk about feeling like you’re trapped in a box, stuck between a rock and a hard place!

Here’s the problem with their approach: They were less interested in ME than they were in SELLING to me. 

All of us have a product we want to sell (even if it’s not for the sake of money). What we are looking for is to buy in to our product. We want to sell to our kids the idea of growing up as people of character. If you are religious, you want to “sell” your set of beliefs to other people. If we think someone has a wrong opinion on politics, guns, democrat or republican, education, abortion, or any other item, we typically try to “sell” our opinions to them.

So, let me give you a tip. The best way to sell your product is to show your interest in the PERSON, not the PRODUCT.

Once a person believes that you truly care about THEM, they will be willing to listen to what you have to offer them.

Let’s make life about people!

Why You Should Watch “Noah”, the Movie

I must start by saying that I still have yet to see the movie.

You might be wondering, “How can you tell me to go see a movie that you haven’t seen?”

First, I do plan on seeing it. Second, I have read articles, blogs, and even Facebook posts by people who have seen it. I’ve talked to people who saw the movie. Third, my perspective today is NOT a review of the movie. Rather, it is a perspective about what the movie means for us as believers who are on mission.

Let me make one thing clear: If you are a follower of Jesus, this post is geared towards you.

I have heard many Christians lament the fact that Noah does not represent the bible accurately. They talk about how there are many extra-biblical or unbiblical elements in the movie.

There is an important distinction to be made. “Extra-biblical” is different than “unbiblical”. There is much tradition to including elements not found in the Bible in order to bring color and perspective to the stories in the Bible. This is what I call “extra-biblical”. This has the potential to be powerful and effective. Something that is unbiblical, however, would go directly against the content and the purpose of the story in the Bible.

Now, I’m sure that you, my reader, could debate your point of view about the movie, especially if you have seen it. That is not the goal of this post (but your comments are welcome)!

Here is why I encourage you to see the movie: because the world is watching it. It earned over $40 million in its first weekend. This most likely includes friends and family members of yours. And it quite possibly will include people you know who do not yet know Jesus.

There are many movies that have good morals. Others that do not. But it is not every day that we get a movie seen by millions of people that ALSO claims some type of connection to the Bible. Whether that connection is good or bad, it is still a connection.

We, as believers, are called to be on mission, bringing the light and life of Jesus to the world around us. By seeing this movie, you have the perfect opportunity to engage those who don’t know Jesus in conversation about the real story of Noah.

You might think, “Well, sure, but I don’t have to see the movie to talk about the Noah story from the Bible with those who don’t believe”. True, but you would be missing something important: truth is found in the conversation, not just the presentation. Would you rather engage in a conversation with a person, or simply present what you believe to be truth, hoping that they might agree with you?

Watch the movie, then use it as a tool to engage others about the amazing, loving, grace-filled God that you and I believe in. That’s what I plan to do.

Some Thoughts About What Grand Theft Auto Means For Us

Many years ago, while at a Target store, I happened to be looking through the video games section.  And yes, that IS my favorite section of the store.

While there, a young kid (maybe 10 or 11 years old) came up and went directly for the Grand Theft Auto game (I’m not sure which version it was) and told his dad that he wanted the game.  The dad apparently was ok with it and they went off to purchase the game.  To this day, I still wonder if the dad really knew what the game was about and what it contained.

A few days ago, I ran across an article about young students imitating the rape and drug scenes from the game.  You can read the article here.

It reminded me of this simple truth: There is NO DOUBT that media has an effect on us.

Whether that effect is one that is seen in a person committing those actions in real life   -or-

Whether that effect is one that is seen in a person acting out those things for play (as in the article above)   -or-

Whether that effect is one that is seen in a person who is simply emotionally affected by the experience…

Media has an effect on us.

Ask yourself this question: If media had absolutely no effect on us, then companies wouldn’t bother spending millions and millions of dollars to influence the choices that we make.

So, what does this mean for us today?

1. Know what your values are.

2. Pay attention to what you’re paying attention to.  If what you watch or play starts to have a negative impact on your life (or on the lives of those around you), it might be time to make an intentional decision for your own benefit (or the benefit of others).

3. If you have kids, look at everything before agreeing to let them see something.  If you can’t watch or play something first, at the very least read some reviews that will give you a better idea about what is there.

What else would you suggest?

Have We Lost Our Humanity?

Recently, the pope commented on his belief that unemployment can cause many problems.

I agree. (You can read an article about it here.)

It’s not just that the lack of jobs causes financial problems.  I believe that the ability to work combined with the actual doing of work is one of the fundamental gifts given by God to man (by “man”, I mean man and woman).

When we are able to work, we feel that we are contributing something significant to society.  We feel that ultimately there is something of inherent value inside of us that is useful.

When we don’t (or can’t) work, we are left feeling as if there is no purpose for us to exist.  After all, if you or I do not have anything of value to offer, then what’s the point of being here?

In Acts 20:35, Paul mentions the words of Jesus, saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

When we work, we know that we are going to receive (payment, awards, recognition, etc.), but the value that we feel is directly related to the fact that we contributed something.

We feel good about the pay because we contributed something in order to earn it.

We feel good about the award or recognition because we contributed something of value that was recognized by others.

At the end of the day, everything we get back is directly related to the fact that we accomplished or contributed something.

With this in mind, it reminds me of some other articles that I read recently.  They talked about how federal government programs that exist to help people are actually hurting people.  You can read about them here and here.

My goal here is not political.  But, the reality is that we are in a difficult economic reality in our country.  My hope and prayer is that BOTH parties (Republicans and Democrats) will find common ground to do work in such a way that will actually increase the availability of work for other people in this nation.  The unemployment in our country is still stubbornly high (check out one of those measures here).

Jobs help create value.  May more people find more work.

Soon.

 

Go Fishing

Go Fishing 1424203_14684300

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” -Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie

I heard that proverb many years ago. It was true then and continues to be true today. But, if I were to add on to it, I would change it to the following:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to teach others to fish, make his life worth living.

There are four basic categories of human experience:

  1. Those who depend on others to live (the man who receives the fish)
  2. Those who provide for themselves (the man who fishes)
  3. Those who make an impact beyond themselves (the man who teaches others to fish)
  4. Those who make an impact FAR beyond themselves (the man who teaches others to teach others how to fish)

All of us are on a quest for significance in life.  We want to know that our time spent on earth wasn’t for nothing.  We want to know that we did something during this lifetime that outlasts the amount of time that we exist on the planet.

For this to be true, we must live our lives beyond ourselves.  Only the people in categories 3 or 4 above are living life in such a way that their impact will far outlast themselves.

This is how the Apostle Paul called Timothy to live.  In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul says, “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.”

Paul was a category 4 person.  Paul challenged Timothy to be a category 4 type of person.

I personally believe that the closer we get to category 4 in our lives (and at the very least category 3), the more we will feel like our lives were significant while living on this planet.

What type of life are you living?

6 Reasons Why You Should Fast

A few days ago, I began a 40 day fast along with my church family. I’m so proud of my two older kids who have also joined in the fast!

I wanted to give a few reasons why I believe fasting is helpful for those who do it. Fasting helps us to…

1. Create healthy habits. Over time, it is easy to fall into habits that are unhealthy in multiple areas of our lives. Emerging into a fast causes us to reevaluate those very habits and gives us the opportunity to bring order where disorder has existed.

2. Deepen our dependency on God. A true fast removes things from our lives that are impossible to live (at least for long) without. This is why fasting food is so important. When we fast something that we not only desire, but need, our only choice is to depend on God for strength.

3. Reorder our priorities. On occasion, we lose sight of the things that are truly important. When we spend time to fast and pray, we get a renewed understanding of those things that are important in our lives.

4. Create sensitivity to God. When we are stressed, tired, lonely, or angry, we tend to be more sensitive. While many times this sensitivity leads us to do negative things, the opposite can be said about fasting. When we fast and go without, we are definitely sensitive. But, this sensitivity leads us to Jesus, rather than further away.

5. Transform our hearts. When we are sensitive to God and depend more on him, we create space in our lives for God to work inside of us. Have you been dealing with major hurts or pain? Addictions? Negative thoughts? Doubts or fears? Fasting is a powerful way to let God transform us from the inside out.

6. Disconnect from distractions. In today’s world, we are constantly bombarded with things that compete for our attention. There is not enough time each day to pay attention to all the information and stimuli that is available to us. When we fast, we have the opportunity to disconnect from those distractions and to connect to that which is most important.

Do you have other reasons why you believe it’s good to fast? Feel free to share!

Talent or Trust?

There are lots of talented people in the world.

Then, there are others who are not as talented.

I don’t know in which category you consider yourself to be in.

Some people believe that those who are talented don’t need much from God, since God has apparently given them enough already. Some people who are extremely talented even believe that!

The rest of humanity who is not as talented believes they have to trust God to help them. After all, what other choice do they have?

I came across an interesting story found in the Bible. It’s about three tribes of Israel who went to war.

1 Chronicles 5:18-20

18 There were 44,760 capable warriors in the armies of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. They were all skilled in combat and armed with shields, swords, and bows. 19 They waged war against the Hagrites, the Jeturites, the Naphishites, and the Nodabites. 20 They cried out to God during the battle, and he answered their prayer because they trusted in him. So the Hagrites and all their allies were defeated.

I love what this short story tells us. It is completely possible to be immensely talented, yet still put our full trust in God.

The truth is that God will take us where our talents cannot. It is good to be skilled. It is better to trust in God.

Let’s choose today to use our talents and to trust in God.

That is what leads to success. That makes all the difference.