Accomplish more and attempt less

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Photo credit:  DesiringGod.org

I want to share a quote from a sermon delivered by Charles Spurgeon in 1871. Is it a coincidence that if you flip 71 it becomes 17, as in 2017?? Yes, it is. Nothing supernatural there.

Charles Spurgeon has been dubbed the Prince of Preachers. (If you’re interested in his writings or life, Midwestern Seminary has done a service to us all here.) Being the Prince of Preachers means Spurgeon brought the Word of God to life in a way you and I, well, don’t. Not because we aren’t filled with the same Spirit, but because God uses different people in different ways. You’re not the next Spurgeon any more than I am the next anyone else. You’re you. I’m me.

If you aren’t a pastor, preacher, teacher but happen to read this, the point is just as applicable. It holds true for moms who find food in the strangest of places and executives who are prepping that $300,000,000 deal. There’s no difference in God’s eyes, by the way. Don’t be fooled on either side, whether rolling in dollars or diapers.

Preaching on prayer, Spurgeon made the audacious claim that

The more we do, the more we should pray…it should be the life-blood of every action, and saturate our entire life…I fear that some of us would do far more if we attempted less and prayed more about it.

  • What if, as pastors, we devoted less time to strategic planning and more to praying strategically?
  • What if, as teachers, we thought less about making points and more about pointing to the Maker?
  • What if, as parents, we resolved to be less busied with activity and more active in the business of prayer?

Is it possible that we would accomplish far more if we attempted far less but saturated all that we did do in prayer?

 

Are you a peacemaker or peacekeeper?

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Jesus once said, Blessed are the peacekeepers, for…” Wait. No, no, no. He didn’t say that.

Jesus actually said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Yep, that’s what he said.

David invites those who want long life to “seek peace and pursue it.” In other words, be a peacemaker.

But is there really a difference between peacemaking and peacekeeping? I think so, especially in my southern context.

Southerners–especially church going Southerners–tend towards peacekeeping.

  • Which basically means don’t say or do anything that might upset someone, even if they’re in the wrong. It’s best just to let it go, let a little time pass, and move on.
  • Or the classic, don’t poke your stick in it and it won’t stink.

I’ll confess that I’ve done my part of this for decades. It sounds something like-“That’s not my place.” or “It probably won’t go well, so why bother?” There, I kept the peace.

Simply put, we confuse peacekeeping for peacemaking.

Here’s the primary difference b/n the two:

  • Peacekeeping is passive
  • Peacemaking is active.

In other words, we think we’re being peacemakers in the home, at work, or at church, but it’s actually the shadowy offshoot of glorified passivity known as peacekeeping.

There is nothing passive about peacemaking. Patient, yes. But not passive.

Peacekeeping is about protecting an illusion of calm or avoiding conflict of some kind.

But Peacemaking almost always involves conflict of some kind. It’s active.

  • It may be a difficult conversation. (e.g., someone is doing you wrong)
  • It may be a confrontation. (e.g., someone is wronging others)
  • It may be a confession. (e.g., you’ve wronged someone)

Making peace via these avenues means you and I will be engaged in conflict. It means we will make enemies most likely.

Since I’m writing this around Father’s Day, think about some of the men remembered and revered (not everyone will agree with my list, but you have your own). They actively sought and pursued peace:

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. was a peacemaker. He gave a voice to a people who weren’t being heard and didn’t feel safe to speak.
  • Abraham Lincoln was a peacemaker who put his career and life on the line to acknowledge and honor the inherent dignity of every person no matter the color of their skin.
  • Jesus of Nazareth was a peacemaker whose ultimate goal was to lead people into peace with the God of heaven.

These were men of action. They had plans and goals. And all of these peacemakers have something else in common–they gave their lives in the pursuit of peace.

Peacekeeping doesn’t get you killed. Maybe an unfollow or unfriend, but not killed.

If you choose to respond to the Lord’s exhortation to be a peacemaker, you’ll end up with more unrest and discomfort in your life because of it.

It’s one of the reasons, I suspect, David writes in Psalm 34.19 that “the one who is righteous has many adversities.”

Because you just have more problems trying to follow Jesus than not. As if peacemaking isn’t enough, you love enemies, forgive 1-bajillion times, wash dirty feet, and so forth. So I get it, peacekeeping is easier now, but what about in the long run?

If you choose peacekeeping over peacemaking, what you actually do is leave the door wide open to greater and more complex problems in the future.

       A failure to address things now will only be magnified later.

King David could certainly think about this from his experience as a man, husband, dad, and king

David wasn’t a great dad from the picture presented in Scripture. Well after the triumph over Goliath and his disastrous sequence of events surrounding Bathsheba, David was husbanding, fathering, and doing what kings do. But he wasn’t doing what peacemakers do. Quickly:

  • David’s son Amnon was infatuated with his [Amnon’s] sister, Tamar.
  • Amnon raped Tamar, making her an outcast in that culture.
  • David finds out and is infuriated, as any dad should be.

Here’s the crazy thing, though. Two verses after David is said to be furious comes this: “Two years later…” Two years passed, and we hear nothing of David’s actions to reconcile this situation, to bring the peace necessary to this massive injustice.

Absalom–Tamar’s other brother–hated Amnon and found a way to kill him. Such bitterness took root in Absalom toward David that he decided David was unfit to rule and ran him out of town. Not long after, Absalom himself ended up dead.

And there is king David left to make sense of the carnage. Two dead sons and a disgraced daughter who feels unloved and unprotected by the man who should have been looking out for her the most.

David may have been a pro at keeping the peace, but he was pathetic at making peace.

After avoiding confessions around Bathsheba and Uriah he evaded necessary confrontations and conversations with his sons and daughter.

Peacekeeping is easier now, but everyone pays for it later. As best I can tell, that’s true in business, education, church, and family.

Making peace will require making a mess, at least for a while. But to avoid it is to ensure a greater calamity in the future.

Since peacemaking is active:

  1. What conversation do you need to have?
  2. What confrontation should you schedule?
  3. What confession might you need to make?

Blessed are the peacemakers…

Here’s what may be sabotaging your satisfaction

Don’t worry, I’m a pastor.

That’s my new line for ensuring anyone and everyone that I’m trustworthy, and also poorer than them.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about how you’re sabotaging satisfaction in life!

  • Your job isn’t fulfilling.
  • Getting that degree was supposed to make all the difference.
  • That relationship should’ve been the one.
  • The new car smell wore off, but the payment continues on.

I can speak to this phenomenon of dissatisfaction from any number of angles, both anecdotally and personally. I’m an expert. I’ve maintained adequate levels of dissatisfaction my entire adult life.

I’m especially qualified to speak as a pastor and parent, and a little less so as an educator. But when have qualifications ever stopped anyone? Look at the presidential race! (Too soon?)

Here’s a little nugget from a pastor for pastors by a guy who’s no stranger to the blog he doesn’t know exists, pastor Eugene Peterson:

“Unrealistic expectations about what church is like will kill you…”

I imagine when Eugene typed that one out for his memoir (required reading for pastors) he did so with a curled upper lip…veiled ever so slightly by his bearded awesomeness.

Here is my shot at boiling this whole thing down to a single phrase: Expectations affect the way we evaluate our experiences.

For instance, if I expect parenting to allow the same time and energy to do everything I did prior to having children, then I would be frustrated with my situation constantly, not to mention bitter towards my children upon realizing how misguided my expectations were.

  • When they interrupt Downton Abbey or New Girl for the umpteenth time or 
  • color in my books or
  • dip their fingers in their milk or
  • “help” wash the side of the car with tire cleaner that I’m pretty sure is also used to clean oil vats        

What right do I have to be frustrated towards toddlers acting like toddlers? EVERY RIGHT if I expect them to act otherwise.

In a similar way, if I expect pastoring to be what I think it’s going to be based on minimal experience and an ill-informed 24 or 25-year-old mind, then my conflicting experiences will inevitably leave me bitter, cynical, critical, and looking for the greener grass.

And would you guess what happened? No really, guess………You didn’t guess. I’ll just tell you. I became bitter, cynical, critical, and looked for greener grass.

As it turned out, my unrealistic expectations were akin to Round Up. I killed whatever grass I found under my feet.

My expectations have been the problem, regardless of the job.

It makes sense, then, that changing expectations is one of the quickest and most effective means for enjoying experiences.

Where is there joylessness in your life? Where is there discontent?

Now, what adjustments–however small–can you make to your expectations in these areas? Give it a shot. Let me know how it goes.

 

My public #DaddyGame is strong

I shall not tell you a lie.

imagesyour-words-have-powerI’ve embarrassed myself as a parent. Mostly it in the privacy of my home.

After all, I’m a B.O.S.S. daddy in public. Ladies see me and be like, “Oooh, isn’t he the best daddy?” I can get backtalked in the grocery store and give the, “Now little honey sugar boo, it sounds like you have an unhappy heart. Would you like to try that again?” spiel. #DaddyGame

But inside the walls of our home, I can do exactly what Wendy Speake describes in chapter 2 of her collaborative book, Triggers:

When we exchange angry words for angry words, nasty face for nasty face, slamming door for slamming door, and tear them down with our words because they tore us down with theirs, they will never feel remorse for their own actions (p.28).

I have a glare that has made my children cry. Yep. Not everyone who wears cardigans is a pushover. I’ve forcibly placed my books on the table (read, slammed). I have yelled from one end of the house to the other.

As Speak points out, though, how are kids to know they should be doing anything different if mom or dad mirror the exact same behavior the kids are generating?

Answer: They don’t.

They have to be discipled. And we are always discipling them, no matter our responses. Those little ladies and gents are being discipled to live a particular way. But you know this. The reason you do those things your parents did that you said you didn’t want to do, is because you were their disciple.

Christian parents show kids an alternative and more attractive way of living, an in this world but not of this world way of life. This includes responding to conflict, asking for things, apologizing, expressing dissatisfaction, and all the other learned responses/actions/attitudes.

So it’s Monday. Could this week look different in your home? Does it require a change in tone? Perhaps a knee bend to get down at eye level with the little one? Maybe a quick prayer before answering?

Let’s show them something different. Something better. Something out of this world.

May we all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

 

 

Weary Mama, Jesus has been there

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Moms, the struggle is real. I’m not a mom, but I am married to one. We have four kids, the oldest of which is five, three of which are girls, which means there’s more drama in my house than on all of daytime television.

And when I find myself taking care of all of them solo, I wonder how my wife does it the other six days of the week. But what’s that have to do with Jesus, you ask?

Jesus performed two separate feedings of thousands of people with minimal resources.

In Mark 6, there are 5000 men and who knows how many women and children. The disciples have just returned from their maiden missionary voyage to report all they’ve done in Jesus’ name. But Jesus says, “Shhhhh….you need to rest.”

Out on the boat they go for some rest and relaxation. After all, you can only pour so much of your cup out before the thing is empty. Time to refill.

BUUUUUUUUUUT here come all those needy people. It’s like no matter where Jesus and the boys go, the crowds find them.

Jesus has compassion. “They’re like a sheep without a shepherd,” lost, wandering aimlessly without a clue of how life is supposed to look. After instructing them even more, Jesus feeds them. Actually, he makes the disciples feed them after miraculously multiplying the fishes and loaves.

So I’m reading this in preparation for Sunday’s sermon, and I think, hold on one daggum minute. I’ve seen this happen. In fact, I see it almost everyday.

Lindsey has 2 or 3 kids with her depending on the weekday. Inevitably I get a call or text about 2pm. That’s supposed to be nap time for the kids, which would mean mommy time, which would mean rest or something productive for her own sake.

But that 2pm text usually reads something like, “Addie sabotaged nap time today” or “Caroline is still awake and asking where you are” or “Why do my kids hate me?”

I try to reassure her it’s only a season…that’s going to last another 5 YEARS!

And before you do the whole, “Cherish it because it goes by so fast and you’ll miss it” thing, I hear you. But I’d be better off slapping a lion in the face and trying to outrun it than telling that to my bride.

There will be times, dear mommies–maybe every single day of the week–when you’re at the end of your proverbial rope.

  • Physically exhausted.
  • Mentally shot…like you just found the milk in the pantry that you thought you put in the fridge mentally shot.
  • Emotionally worn.
  • Spiritually sapped.

Because you pour yourself out and out and o..u…..t.

And still, here come those needy people. They’re hungry, tired, scared. They have a belly ache or need a drink of water for the fourth time in 14 minutes. They have no idea what life is supposed to look like. That is, no idea except what you show them.

You’re poured out for them. You resemble the disciples, called by Jesus to shepherd and feed and love those who can’t seem to fend for themselves.

So you have compassion. You shepherd those little hearts (sometimes with the spanking spoon), but always with love. Even when it doesn’t feel like love, it’s love. You’d roll yourself across burning coals for those little punks.

Jesus was literally broken and poured out that we might be blessed and filled. You are figuratively broken and poured out that they might be blessed and filled. But what a calling that is. What a season.

 

You can start one, too. No excuses.

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Who says Bluff City can’t do fancy?

 

 

Lindsey was reading Jen Hatmaker‘s book For the Love a while back (I read it too and recommend it) and came across the idea of a supper club. I don’t think that’s anything new, especially after watching a few seasons of Downton Abbey.

The premise is simple. Get friends together and eat. We have four couples and rotate houses each month. The host covers all costs and does a theme if desired. If the madness is too severe to think about themes or decorations, there is no judgment from anyone–the struggle is real, y’all.

Table fellowship is so important throughout the scriptures that it doesn’t make sense why we would downplay it now. Conversation flows, hearts are opened, and you’re encouraged to hear what God is doing in other people’s lives, including how He’s showing up in the not so rainbow and butterfly seasons as well.

So make the calls or start a Facebook message (or whatever you crazy kids do now) and break some bread. Even if the food is bad for your body, it’s good for your soul.

Will your kids be able to cope with culture?

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Culture itself is a tricky notion to nail down.

You can go technical and talk about language, education, economics, etc. But quite simply, culture is the sum total of what a particular people believe about life.

So if you were a stranger from another planet and dropped into the USofA somewhere, in or around any decent sized city, you could piece together what the people believe about religion, government, money, family, and so on. Even amidst the variety, there is enough consensus to formulate an understanding.

Now, should what you notice in the broader swath of the populace be any different when it comes to observing Christians?

Or does it look as if these Jesus followers are mostly indistinguishable from everyone else?

How about the way they raise their kids? Does that look any different?

As I move along in Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart, the matter of cultural influence is emerging. I always picture culture as a lazy river, and Christians are the weirdos going the other way, which isn’t really relaxing or lazy at all.

If, as the Shorter Catechism states, man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, then how are Christian parents inculcating that anti-lazy river belief into their (our) kids?

Here’s how not to do it. This is how, as Tripp writes, “you teach your children to function in the culture on its terms.”

How do we do this? We pander to their desires and wishes. We teach them to find their soul’s delight in going places and doing things. We attempt to satisfy their lust for excitement. We fill their young lives with distractions from God. We give them material things and take delight in their delight in possessions. Then we hope that somewhere down the line they will see that a life worth living is found only in knowing and serving God.

That last sentence is powerful. We go the way of culture with basically every aspect of life, and belief about life, and perhaps we take the kids to church most Sundays and don’t let them cuss in front of us, and then hope they see that life with God is better than all else.

It’s nonsensical. It’s illogical. Let’s all say it together–It’s dumb.

But it’s what most Christians are doing right now.

We tell our kids with our mouths that a relationship with Jesus is the most valuable thing in this life and beyond. Then we say with our lives and actions that Jesus is great, but not as great as the stuff we can buy or places we can go or experiences we can have or cars we can drive or clothes we can wear or clubs we can join.

Jesus ends up relegated to Sunday mornings and election years.

So if that stranger from another planet dropped into your home, what’s different? What is it about what you are doing and how you are doing it that would cause the stranger to conclude, “I am not sure if the kids get it yet, but their parents are trying to show them the surpassing worth of life lived in devotion to God.”