Create a Crisis for a Change.

“Is it okay that I read your wife’s blog? Her writing challenges me every time I read.”
—recent comment from a man friend 1

Right now our kids are scurrying from the yard to driveway pretending to be a peregrine falcon and Thompson’s gazelle, respectively, so we’re safe to write for a few minutes. Until a playful predator comes.

That would be a crisis to their uninterrupted play time.

That’s what I want to talk with you about: crisis. Crises, in fact. Lots and lots of mini-crises, created from our own hands.

A crisis is when you need God to come through, because otherwise you’ll fail. You don’t have what it takes, so you take what He alone can give.

Of course, we cannot create anything ourselves, but all of our creative powers — our creativity — is on loan from the Creator. It’s borrowed to be used well. Whether we steward these powers for good or spend them foolishly on self, we better know what kind of power we’re dealing with. Too many people use their supposed “power” to play it safe, seek comfort, take no risks. That’s some kind of tragedy. A power failure. (Others create all sorts of drama for themselves and every moment seems like a crisis. That’s sad but not in view here.)

RUNRISE

Humanity has been made in God’s image. We may not look like Him in outward appearance, or take a representative form too often, but our essence, our createdness, is in the similitude of God. Makes sense, since He’s our Father.

God has created us for crisis. We were made to shine brightly in dark situations. Yet a person will only know if he or she is ready to trust Him in the inevitable big, unplanned crisis, if they’ve first learned by experience to trust Him with many mini-crises.

That is one secret to Jesus’ life. He is the definition of true humanity, coming to recreate what has been broken lost in us. Yet He did not do it by Himself. Jesus the Son depended moment by moment on the love, approval, and power of God the Father. He imaged the Father well. Perfectly, in all manner of crises. Never hurried, ever-present, calm and collected to unleash the power of God on the situation of Their choosing.

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On my wife’s blog Sacred Mundane (on which this post first appeared) she reflects on various mini-crises encountered each week. As crises help you consider ours, each can find perspective to keep on creating these crises and growing as people. It is because of her steadfastness in the face of these crises, forged in fact by each crisis itself, that each us gets to read on the Sacred Mundane. That’s why many men I know read her blog. There’s meat there, substance more than mere style. Using the mundane moments of each life, what seems at first so un-spiritual, she makes connections to the Gospel. Every man, woman and child can benefit from that. Kari makes public many private details, though each is processed in prayer and with her husband (me), and together we sense the Spirit’s leading for her to share. Frankly, it would be easier to not share anything personal. Just “write about God,” but while the words would be true, they would not be real.

Realness is where the crises happen. Realness is what we’re after.

Actually, wholeness is the goal. Wholeness in Christ. We’re convinced real wholeness is only found in Him, and only on the other side of embracing realness.

There is a gap for each of us between the ideal and real, between what we say we believe and how we really live it out.

Most men I know … scratch that: every man I know likes to do things he feels confident about. Some only do the things they feel confident about. It’s why some don’t search for a better job, and why others like to fish. Confidence makes one work on their own car, and for the same reason others take it to the dealer to get serviced. Confidence. One can have the appearance of confidence with mere talk, yet to truly reveal one’s confidence, a crisis has to do it’s work.

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  1.  This post originally appeared on Sacred Mundane, as guest writer for my wife Kari.
 

You can fly!

1) Throw on wingsuit.
2) Jump off cliff.
3) Fly 100+ mph.
4) Fit like an eagle through rock hole.


(Click here to see video, if not shown.)

I can think of greater tests of manhood — such as being a faithful father and servant-leader husband in the home day in and day out. Yet, I still think one has to admire the preparation and determination it took to attempt a stunt like this. Let’s apply that sort of ambition, in noble pursuits.

 

Get to know the real St. Patrick.

Did you know Saint Patrick wasn’t even Irish, and that when he was sixteen he was captured by pirates and sold off to be a slave in Ireland? (My son thought that was pretty cool. Plus, he now knows there weren’t any snakes in Ireland before Patrick arrived, so he didn’t drive them out.)

St. Patrick in Ireland

Until that sudden change as a teen, Patrick had zero interest in Christianity. Through suffering and isolation from others, God entered his life and transformed him from the inside out. As a new son of God he was never forsaken and prayed diligently day and night while alone tending to his master’s sheep and livestock in the Irish countryside. God spoke to him a way of escape, featuring a long 200-mile trek to board a ship waiting at the coast. Encountering the risen Christ in this special Providence, Patrick learned to trust God and serve Him faithfully and passionately. Upon arriving home he found training in the ways of Jesus (in seminary, becoming a monk), and gave up his inheritance on earth for the sake of the Gospel.

There’s much more to Patrick’s story. I’ll let this super short video from From Timothy Paul Jones and Church History Made Easy share some highlights:

With undaunted courage and perseverance — becoming enlightened by the Gospel and motivated by the grace of God, which overwhelmed his heart and soul — Patrick later returned to the place of his misery to serve, embodying courage and generosity. Back in Ireland he did the work of a “saint,” spread the Gospel, loving people who loved themselves and didn’t love God. Knowing God personally and developing sound theology, Patrick used the terms of the pagans to explain the terms of Grace, the Cross, and the Kingdom of God. (Legend has it he took the common yet sacred-shaped shamrock to describe the character of God, explaining the Trinity in a visual way).

St. Patrick Shamrock Trinity

A great missionary, a great man. Can’t wait to meet Patrick in heaven, snakes or no snakes.

 

What if our churches were generous?

On this morning’s run I ran past a dozen plus church buildings and many more dozen empty commercial spaces looking for a renter.

Our church is walking through the facilities game, praying and researching what possible spaces we can rent for the future. (Haven’t been entirely received with open arms by other churches, and that is expected.) As Jared Wilson wrote this week, there are three levels of generosity for churches, giving reasons why each one is more challenging than the previous one.
MoneyChurches shall be:

  1. Generous with Facilities
  2. Generous with Money
  3. Generous with People

The simplest and easiest way for an established church is to share their biggest brick and mortar resource: their building. Lots of churches do this, and I am grateful to work with two churches in the last seven years who are immensely generous with their buildings. When Willamette built a new building it was meant to be a blessing for the whole community, and it has. Scores of groups use it freely or for a nominal fee. It’s a regular meeting place for all kinds of good organizations. The city is better for the presence of generous, courageous and wise Christians, and their gathering place.

I recently taught that an implication of “getting” the Gospel is embracing whole-life hospitality. Without it we won’t become who we are. Part of being hospitable is opening our homes and using our stuff to bless others. That’s a first step to opening our actual lives. Yet it’s necessary to resist the first-world urge to splurge on ourselves and skimp towards others. Consider these statistics, shared in Kari‘s newest ebook Faithfully Frugal 1 (to be released next week):

It’s a very sobering statistic indeed that only 4% of Christians tithe to their local churches. That Christians give, on average, only 2% of their income. 2 That of that 2%, only 2% then goes to funding international work—the world. It’s sobering that the total annual income of American churchgoers is $5.2 trillion, that the amount available if each of them gave 10% of their salary is $520 billion. That the estimated annual cost to eliminate extreme poverty in the world is only $65 billion. That the annual cost for universal primary education for ALL children in the world is $6 billion. That the annual cost to bring clean water to most of the world is $9 billion. That the annual cost to bring basic health and nutrition for the world is $13 billion. That, therefore, the total amount needed to eradicate the world’s greatest problems: $93 billion (just 1.8% of American Christian’s income). Quite simply, the world God loves in dying and we are … doing what?

Yep. I might want to ask Jesus why He let all these atrocities happen in the world. Then He might flip the question and ask me the same. We are responsible to steward and provoke ourselves to radical generosity. An explosion of joy can overwhelm your heart when you give your life away for bigger things. Our core emphases with RENEW aim at embracing and embodying these truths.

When a church leadership is courageous and generous, increasing financial gifts to groups and causes beyond their walls, it can become contagious, even leading to a new culture of generosity. This is the second level of generosity, as Wilson continues:

“A church’s budget will tell you what is most important to them, just like our bank statements reveal what is most important to us. It can be difficult for a church to be generous with its money because the drift to inward focus and enhancing the internal experience of the church is automatic.”

While a building is a valuable asset, and cash money is king, there’s something even more valuable in our churches that needs to be given away. And since this level holds more valuable resources, it’s the hardest to open up freely. Wilson concludes on this third and hardest level of giving:

This is the hardest generosity, especially as it pertains to our “best and brightest.” Churches tend to be stingy with their leaders and leadership prospects.
Many churches will not endeavor to plant churches because they cannot trust God enough to send quality missionaries away — or, more bluntly, to drop in attendance.

Many churches will not cooperate with other local churches for fear of losing people to the other church. This stinginess with people is an idolatry very difficult to kill.

But a gospel-centered church will grow into a kingdom-mindedness that is a constant reminder that no local church owns anybody and that what is best for every local church is whatever is best for the expansion of the gospel and worship of Christ.

On this level we become not only generous. More than that, we are becoming courageous in a way that will lead others to taste and see the Lord is good. Grateful for the churches and leaders who have been generous with Kari and I.

  1. Faithfully Frugal: Spend Less, Give More, Live More, releases the first week of March on Amazon Kindle (ebook only at this time).
  2. Research by the Barna Group: “Americans Donate Billions to Charity, But Giving to Churches Has Declined.”
 

Speeding ahead, finding confidence, being protected.

Last week Kari and I finished writing a letter to send to friends and family, including a little bit of an update on church planting with RENEW. Re-reading it yesterday caused me to pause and thank God, while considering the rapid change in our lives. This is a season of dynamic change, while other seasons are more like plodding or trudging through the mud. (Which season are you in? Are things moving fast, or really slow?)

I sat there and thought: “Who is up for this challenge? How can we not lose heart? We’re clearly not doing everything ‘right.’ No wonder most church plants ‘fail’ (on a human level). How can we gain the wisdom, generosity, courage we need for this journey?”

That’s a moment of searching for confidence.

Then this morning this Scripture leapt of the page:

“Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord [the Gospel] may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”
—2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 (ESV)

All those verbs Paul uses jump off the page (or screen): pray … speed ahead … delivered … establish you … guard you …

It’s remarkable how a passage meant to encourage it’s first readers can also encourage us, while not really being about them or us. It’s centered on Jesus, the Hero. We gain our significance from being minor characters in His big Story.

Will you pray that for us, as we pray the same for you?

20121129-061852.jpg If you are curious about RENEW, there are three main ways to support this pioneering church plant, described briefly here. One way is to give financially at the close of this year. We’ve simplified the process, adding online giving to snail mail to the PO Box. You can also sign up to receive not-more-than-monthly updates.

Most of all we ask for your prayers personally, that the Gospel would race ahead of us, and this would clearly be God’s work and not merely ours.

 

11 ways to be unremarkably average.

There are many ways to waste one’s life, even while appearing to be “successful.” One way is to reach one’s full “potential” in terms of talents and abilities, yet not cultivate godly character (true generosity, courage and wisdom). Another is to meet all the benchmarks of society where we’re told to “make something of ourselves.” This generally comes in the form of using society (and specific people) to cater to our preferences while carving out a comfortable life. It’s part of the reason why there is so much disconnection and poverty (especially relational poverty) in our nation, even though we are a land of “opportunity.” Too many of us are content to aim for “average,” getting in where one can fit in.

A little parody of this reality:
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