Life is hard and not fair. A good friend of mine, Joe, reminds people often that we cannot control our situations, but we can control how we respond to them. The platitude of attitude is everything comes into play here. When life hits you, a … Continue reading React, Repeat, Respond
Prayer – An opportunity to share all of life with the Giver and Sustainer of the same. ©Lee Wise
A Psalm of Fearless Trust in God.
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation ; Whom shall I fear ? The LORD is the defense of my life ; Whom shall I dread ? 2 When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear ; Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident. 4 One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek : That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple. 5 For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle ; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. 6 And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy ; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD. 7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me. 8 When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.” 9 Do not hide Your face from me, Do not turn Your servant away in anger ; You have been my help ; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation ! 10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the LORD will take me up. 11 Teach me Your way, O LORD, And lead me in a level path Because of my foes. 12 Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, For false witnesses have risen against me, And such as breathe out violence. 13 I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. 14 Wait for the LORD ; Be strong and let your heart take courage ; Yes, wait for the LORD. ~Psalm 27 NASB
Greatness is forged in adversity and the only substance it cares about is character. Adversity purifies character. It makes it shine. This is the development of Christ likeness. We too often find ourselves in the “prosperity gospel.” It is a false notion that if things are going well, then God must be pleased. Life isn’t saved and easy, it’s saved and hard.
We too often forget there are brothers and sisters in Christ who daily wonder if today is the day they may earn the martyr’s crown. Are they any less godly from the persecution they endure? No. Nor are they any better. God developed a plan for us all. Like art, some of our lives are tragedy, others drama, action, mystery, and some comedy.
We too often forget that here is not our home.
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God ; for He has prepared a city for them. ~Hebrews 11:13-16
When we meditate on stories of triumph or sacrifice we see heroes. They are not perfect people. They often have great flaws. God is in the process of shaping us. Just as He shaped them. In each of these stories we see the glimmer of the image of God. As God brings out that spark He as well as we look to the day when all things are made new.
I would suppose it is much easier to write this than to live it. I’m sure it’s much more engaging to read about it then to be in it. Perhaps we too often shy away from it. The pleasantness of here can cloud the future far greater than any discomfort can. This may not make sense, but life in a fallen world doesn’t. We look to the day when all things are new.
There are no silver bullets, no perfect formula’s, no quintessential programs. There is work, study and prayer. Such should result in a growing love for God and a passionate desire to love people. Often living godly in daily life and building opportunities to share the Gospel may seem unsexy, but there is no getting around work. We all want bling, but I find it ironic that it was in a gentle breeze that God’s presence was made known to Elijah.
There is a funny thing I’ve found about heroes. While we fawn over their stories- they are often reluctant to share them and are glad that it is over, wishing none to go through it. Still, character is evident in adversity and shows a pure product. One day the glimmer will shine brightest when we are in the City God made for us. That City will be home.
If you thirst for heaven, then its time to man up. When adversity hits you will see how far He has brought you and how far you have yet to go. Home is soon, but not yet.
The best ideas for your field is often not found in your field. I love collecting proverbs, and this one is a big one. The proverb came from 3 things: Bible, Graphics Arts, and Kelly. If you are stuck, here are some ideas on taking the next step.
In studying wisdom literature a key theme stands out: wisdom comes from afar. It is a key aspect and pattern. This isn’t a contrast between man and God’s wisdom, but it is a picture of how wisdom is a pursuit. It’s beyond and one must seek it. Between proverbs and Ephesians there is a relationship between godliness and wisdom. One requires and builds on the other. Ephesians describes wisdom as a process. “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise.”
Some of the best discussions and ‘how to’s’ of collaboration is found in the graphic arts industry. Successful graphic art involves taking complex ideas and making them understandable. It involves merging complexity, essential concepts, and organization. One could define graphic arts as the merging of left and right-brained activities for effective communication. One consistent piece of advice in graphic arts is getting away. Not to learn about their field, but to learn about something unrelated- and there is where some of the best ideas arrive.
“Old cars look like wagons.” Kelly and I were walking through the Henry Ford Museum. As we were walking through the cars section we saw the evolution of the horseless carriage. You can see lock in- a car must be a self-powered vehicle to a car being its own thing. Our understanding of technology and life changes things. You can see stages of development. The challenge is how to you get out of your box? The car industry is filled with failures and triumphs. There is a process: discovery, replication, barrier, new discovery.
The bottom line:
If you’re stuck, look outside your field. Sometimes you need a fresh look at something different to help you get to the next step. This is true of many things in life. After all, the Bible tells us to seek wisdom.
For success to happen God needs to show up. But the vessels that carry God’s presence is people. In challenging times we can focus on what we lack, or we can embrace constraints by being creative. In being creative you need to get back to basics. The key for expanding the mission is people.
The Y factor
Early on in my ministry I attended “The Leadership Summit” put on by Willow Creek. Bill Hybels discussed what he called “The Y Factor.” You can read about it here. In dealing with a resource crunch, a member on his team wrote X (paid staff) + Y (volunteers) = Z (bearing fruit). Their focus was to double Y.
Y>X= expanding the mission
Expanding on that idea, the Y factor should be exponential. Truthfully, our “volunteers” support the church, serve in it, and more importantly, they’re the missionaries in all parts of our community. The church reaches its missions best when Y (volunteer staff) is greater than X (paid staff). Paid staff is important and vital- think of them as the coaching and support teams. But, paid staff are not the players- that’s the members. The better our members are equipped and mobilized, the greater our ministry impact.
Church is family
Pastor Mark Driscoll describes church as family. Church is extended family. You can hear him describe this here. There are no consumers in church. (At least, there shouldn’t be.) There are two kinds of people: family and guests. One of the marks of being in the Spirit is hospitality. One of the marks of being dialed into God is love. We’re family, and we should be an inviting one.
Free people up to serve
I blogged about a conversation I had with Pastor Pasma, found here. In that conversation he walked me through significant ministries that developed at the church I grew up in- powered by the people. He invested much time in the conversation talking about how to free people up to serve. “Staff to meet essentials… work to free people to serve.” Pastor pointedly stated how the people serving in the church is the truest mark of health and growth.
The Bottom line:
The church is people. The church success rests on people. Church growth is about people. While in hard, difficult or crazy times, the solution is your people. God’s power is evident in three things: Prayer. Bible. People. Loving God gives us a foundation for expanding the mission. Loving people gives us the means to make it happen.
Often people state one’s need to enter the desert before God uses them. Others put it as God needing to break someone before using them. After reading through Proverbs 1-5, I wonder if we have it backwards. What if the desert is God’s provision?
Wisdom as an active pursuit
Proverbs chapter 1 details how we should actively pursue wisdom. It states how the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Proverbs also contrasts the destructive end of foolishness and the emptiness of naïvety. The last statement brings out the biggest issue: “But he who listens to me shall live securely and will be at ease from the dread of evil.” Thus begins the perseverance resulting in provision pattern.
Perseverance results in provision
The formula of Proverbs states if you actively pursue wisdom, it will give you life. For example:
Proverbs 3:1- “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments.”
Proverbs 3:2- “For length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.
Wisdom takes perseverance to posses. It is more an act than a possession. Wisdom does not come by chance. Wisdom is not absorbed. One must pursue it and live it. Keep wisdom through the challenges of life, and it become yours. It takes listening, pondering, treasuring, and keeping wisdom to get it. Wisdom is forged and realized through hardship.
Both wisdom and knowledge start with the fear of the Lord. It is here that we come to the desert. In reading through the persevering for wisdom followed by provision, it makes sense that God would use the desert. Desert moments bring clarity of thought, aptness to listen, and they confront our finite mortality.
While the desert is a life and death struggle, it is also fertile ground for transformational growth. Given the statements at the start of Proverbs, my perspective on the desert changed. The purpose of the desert is not God breaking us. The purpose of the desert is God providing for us. At the end of the desert is provision. The most essential provision God gives us through the desert is knowledge of Himself.
The bottom line:
For wisdom, perseverance leads to provision. It is by going through the desert that we obtain life. To avoid this seeming paradox we can be easily taken by naïvety or foolishness. Persevering through the desert provides us the start of life and theology. God is God, and we are not.
If you want to steer a ship, get it moving. Water passing over the rudder is what makes it maneuver. This is a quote that I want my boys to grasp, and it is one many need to. The concept is you need to get moving, you can always change course later. Pick. Dream. Pursue. And, let God work in you as He gets you to the destination.
Military. Job. College.
My dad gave me those three options when I started 7th grade. They were a huge motivation to do well in school. The last part of the statement went: “But either way, you’re out of the house.” Dad spoke the message clearly. Man up. I picked a direction quickly and pursued it. A key element imparted to me was variety. Broad experiences help clarifies when one pursues a direction. Direction may change from experience. It is hard to change course when you’re not moving.
“Kids don’t dream today…”
The statement surprised me in a conversing with a well seasoned pastor. It made sense. In my high school, many worried over what they were to do. Graduation became somber as much as celebration. I cannot fathom people not dreaming, of not having direction. Partly because I’m wired that way. Partly because time doesn’t stop for limbo. Dreaming is not a passive exercise.
Eat. Pray. Love (Lament).
I can see where the elements of this book & movie resonate with America. Americans do not know how to simply enjoy life. The pace of life also pours into spiritual confusion. Then, with the non stop spiritually confused state, one loses their love life. Love needs a focus other than one’s self. Kelly and I discussed this at length. As we understand it thus far, Eastern Philosophies focus on balance has two key themes: emptying (meditation) and waiting (letting things show themselves). In contrast, Christian thought is filling (God is the God who fills things) and pursuing (Pursuing God is part of waiting on Him) and answers come. This pursuit includes a sabbath principle whereby God want us to simply rest to remember.
Values over Vision; Journey over Destination
Americans love big things. We love vision. We love destinations. In this quest, our blinders go up to values and journey. How often in our literature, art, dramas, and talks do we realize this anew? In “Built to Last” Jim Collins realizes that great companies focus intently on their values more than anything. They focus on being more than doing; the key to their successed. Our thought process is best summed up by Han Solo’s statement: “I prefer a straight fight to all this sneakin’ around.” Dave Ramsey’s one piece of advice he’d give to young leaders: “Let problems work themselves out.” Our pragmatic, driven, competitive side should remember that life seldom takes the direct route.
Visions in the Bible are like cars with really bad turbo lag. Some, like Abraham or Joseph, only get a mere whisper of the vision being fulfilled and it is left to others to do it. The pattern goes like this: God gives a vision…………………………………………and then it happens. Often the trouble comes when one tries to force its accomplishment vs pursuing God in the midst of the wait. The lack of peace in the Middle East is a clear example of this. Focus on being vs doing allows you to pursue without rushing. The Bible focuses more on becoming verse doing. The fulfillment and accomplishment of our vision or destination is already secured by God.
The bottom line:
You can’t steer a still ship. Pick a direction and then let God guide your journey. Your vision may be clarified later, it may not be. You might start with one, and you might not. But, know this: time does not stand still. While anchored in indecision, you will lose lessons of what God wants you to become. If you are too set on your destination, you may run aground getting there, and lose what God wants you to become. Pick a direction and learn to navigate. Work with the currents, the weather, the sun and stars. Clarity and discovery comes to those who pursue over those who wait. Pick. Dream. Pursue. And, let God work in you as He gets you to the destination.
The sub-title of the book says it all: Finding God in difficult transitions. Jeff Manion is not dealing with a hard day. The Land Between deals with gut wrenching periods of time. This book ranks as a must read. If you are in traveling in the land between, you’re crazy to ignore what Jeff is communicating. Strong words but true, and coming from a guy in such a transition.
Using Israel’s trek from Egypt to the promise land, Jeff uses lessons from Israel to help guide us in our own land between. The book handles the Bible passages with excellence. Often the Old Testament is moralized and man centered. Jeff brings out what these passages are really about: God at work preparing and refining His people. He describes God as the hero; not just for Israel but you and I as well. Throughout the book the choice is clear between trusting in God and the pit of complaining & bitterness.
Jeff’s places stories a the right spots like an expert chef using spices. They are brief, real, and at times very raw. (Challenging transitions are like that.) While at times he gives the result, there are times where he does not. Jeff’s own land between ends in blessings. In difficult periods, we need to remember that God does get us through. The stories shared bring reality to light. (Like wondering when the transition will be over.) He clearly articulates the dirty reality of hard times.
The book reads easily and conversationally. I appreciate how the book handles Bible texts well, while not academic in their explanation. That skill is hard to find. The book is applicable in the sense of our relationship with God; the choices we are faced with, the emotions that will boil in us (they will boil) and the intimate involvement of God throughout. Jeff took roughly 200 pages would could be volumes. The Land Between is the perfect size, depth and readability for his intended audience; those of us in the land between.
The bottom line:
The last thing we want to hear is another book we should read when in difficult transitions. This is a book we should read. Why? 1) Israel made costly mistakes that can be avoided. 2) We need to remember that God is not merely with us, He is intimately at work in us. 3) It is not a lassie tale of hard times turned good. The Land Between lays out the road map for our hard journey. More than the insane details of our challenges, we must embrace God. The feeling I got after reading The Land Between was calm resolve. Not the emotion I expected.
There are not many books I’ve read were I have a wish to thank the author in person. Jeff, thank you for you for the map of the desert!
Job 38 is a good reminder that God is God and we are not. While it is ok to get mad at God, question Him, or even doubt, in the end we come to this conclusion: God is God and we are not. It is extremely hard to accept “I am God” as the reason for something happening. Even with all his questioning, Job did not sin. In his trial God clearly wanted Job to know that “I am God” more than the reason why.
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, 2 “Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge ? 3 “Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me! 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth ? Tell Me, if you have understanding, 5 Who set its measurements ? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? 6 “On what were its bases sunk ? Or who laid its cornerstone , 7 When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy ? 8 “Or who enclosed the sea with doors When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb ; 9 When I made a cloud its garment And thick darkness its swaddling band, 10 And I placed boundaries on it And set a bolt and doors, 11 And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther ; And here shall your proud waves stop ‘?
12 “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, And caused the dawn to know its place, 13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, And the wicked be shaken out of it? 14 “It is changed like clay under the seal ; And they stand forth like a garment. 15 “From the wicked their light is withheld, And the uplifted arm is broken. 16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea Or walked in the recesses of the deep ? 17 “Have the gates of death been revealed to you, Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness ? 18 “Have you understood the expanse of the earth ? Tell Me, if you know all this. 19 “Where is the way to the dwelling of light ? And darkness, where is its place, 20 That you may take it to its territory And that you may discern the paths to its home ? 21 “You know, for you were born then, And the number of your days is great ! 22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, Or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, 23 Which I have reserved for the time of distress, For the day of war and battle ? 24 “Where is the way that the light is divided, Or the east wind scattered on the earth ? 25 “Who has cleft a channel for the flood, Or a way for the thunderbolt , 26 To bring rain on a land without people, On a desert without a man in it, 27 To satisfy the waste and desolate land And to make the seeds of grass to sprout ? 28 “Has the rain a father ? Or who has begotten the drops of dew ? 29 “From whose womb has come the ice ? And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth ? 30 “Water becomes hard like stone, And the surface of the deep is imprisoned. 31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, Or loose the cords of Orion ? 32 “Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, And guide the Bear with her satellites ? 33 “Do you know the ordinances of the heavens, Or fix their rule over the earth ? 34 “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, So that an abundance of water will cover you? 35 “Can you send forth lightnings that they may go And say to you, ‘Here we are’? 36 “Who has put wisdom in the innermost being Or given understanding to the mind ? 37 “Who can count the clouds by wisdom, Or tip the water jars of the heavens, 38 When the dust hardens into a mass And the clods stick together ? 39 “Can you hunt the prey for the lion, Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, 40 When they crouch in their dens And lie in wait in their lair ? 41 “Who prepares for the raven its nourishment When its young cry to God And wander about without food ?
The bottom line:
Are we ok with God being God? Can we accept that?
I watched a video with Fancis Chan, Mark Driscoll and Joshua Harris. I’m not quite sure what the discussion was about, but Mark switched the topic to what Francis is doing. The conversation exemplified speaking the truth in love, asking hard questions, and theology. I encourage you to take the time to watch and listen here. It’s about 15 min.
Note these things:
1) A concern and valuing of a brother takes precedent over the agenda.
2) The issue was discussed in community at Francis Chan’s church.
3) The Bible and the Gospel drove the conversation and issue.
4) The spirit of love, concern and truth.
We need to be real with each other in a way that is gracious and loving while also being truthful and discerning. We also need to have theology be a driving force in our discussion processes. Too often we assume the theology and disguise our conversations as “general revelation” or “it’s not an “un-biblical” issue, just a “non-biblical” one. We act based on what we believe. This conversation is an example of that. We need more of this kind of talk in churches.
(especially on Monday)