Category: Spiritual growth (page 1 of 2)

Running on empty

When I started driving at age 16, I bought a little Toyota Tercel. It was old at the time. It was a little beat up, and if you wanted to make it up a big hill you had to turn the A/C off. But I didn’t care. I was proud of that thing.

I remember one day pulling in to a gas station to get a drink. I had half of a tank of gas left, but figured that since I was there, I might as well fill up. I noticed it took longer than normal to fill up. Thinking it was just a slow pump, I went on.  A couple of weeks later, I was still at 3/4 of a tank but decided to fill up again. It took a long time again.

empty

empty

As I pulled out, the gauge jumped from full to empty to full. I pulled over to the side of the road.

I didn’t know what was going on, and I was just praying I would make it home. As I looked down at the gas gauge again, it was full. Completely.

And I was confused. Completely.

The next day, I was on empty again. But before I could pull in to the station, the needle had gone back to full.

What was happening was the mechanism that controlled the needle telling me how much gas I had in the tank was broken. So on a 10 minute drive across town, I would go from full to empty a dozen times. It was maddening. And anxiety-producing.

When I thought I was full of gas, I’d been running on empty.

Are you running on fumes?

It’s entirely possible that you’re running on fumes but you don’t know it. It’s possible you could be out of fuel but think you’ve got a full tank. Cruising around town, you’re about to have to call a tow truck.

If you’re a leader, you’re in an even greater danger of not just taking yourself out of service, but taking others with you. 

God has given us some gauges to help us know whether our spiritual tanks are full or not.

Sometimes they are broken (though more often than not, the problem is that we choose to ignore the warning signs). I’ve found that some of the best gauges are actually questions you can ask yourself.

5 ways to know you’re running on empty

1. How’s your family?
Start with this question. Because your family (or those closest to you) know you often better than you know yourself. And they’re a great indicator for you. If they’re worn out, but you don’t feel that way, your gauge might be broken. You may be physically, emotionally, and spiritually running them ragged. Check that gauge.

Our hearts deceive ourselves, and we need others to help us see what we’re blind to. Those that know us best can help. Have you ever asked them?

2. Are you growing more anxious?
The Bible says to be anxious about nothing, (Philippians 4:6-7) which is easier said than done. We can easily find ourselves anxious about everything. Finances, job security, spiritual growth, physical health, parenting issues, retirement, and tomorrow’s to-do list keep you up all night.

If you’re growing anxious, you’re running on empty.

3. Are you growing less patient?
Patience is a sign of peace. And peace is a sign of rest. And rest is a product of  intentionally sabbathing.

Better a patient person than a warrior,
one with self-control than one who takes a city. – Proverbs 16:32

If you find yourself with a short fuse, with patience constantly out of reach, you’re closer to *empty* than you think.

4. Are you resting well?

And I don’t just mean “are you sleeping enough,” though that may be part of it.

Are you working so hard you need the rest? And resting so well you need the work?

5. Are you feeling less fulfilled?
Fulfillment comes from doing what God created you to do. That’s based on your spiritual gifts, your heart, your abilities, your personality and experiences (HN: Class 301 at Saddleback). So your interpreting a lack of fulfillment isn’t your job’s fault. Or your marriage’s. Or your local church’s. Or your home’s. It’s a by-product of a heart that’s searching for fulfillment in the wrong places. Here’s where life’s found:

And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. – The Apostle John, 1 John 5:11-12

A lack of fulfillment should signal to you that your gauge should be on empty. Time to fill  up.

Have you been running on empty and didn’t even know it?

 

 

Why my kids take their shoes off in the car

I have a 2 year old daughter. She’s equal parts spunk and sass. She’s a spitfire, and I am crazy about her. Even at her young age, she’s got a mind of her own. She knows what she wants, and will stop at nothing to get it.

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But she does this thing. Every time we get in the car, after I buckle her into her carseat and start the car, she takes her shoes off. Every. Single. Time.

If you know anything about putting shoes on kids, you know that this isn’t the easiest task in the world. Kids tend to be a bit squirmy. And if you know anything about the way little kids take their shoes off, you know that they don’t just place them neatly beside each other. They place/launch them into two totally different places.

So when she takes her shoes off in the car, they’re not placed on the edge of her car seat. One is under the passenger’s seat, and the other has somehow been lodged under the floor mat of the trunk. Don’t ask me how that happens.

It’s so frustrating, because every time we get out of the car, I have to go on a hunt for her shoes, then deal with her little feet that want to go any direction except towards the front of her shoes.

But I realized something just the other day that motivates her taking her shoes off.

She has no clue how far we are going.

Confession: I take my shoes off on long trips when I’m driving. It’s more comfortable that way. I can relax a little more when my shoes are off than when they’re on. The difference between me and my daughter, though, is that I know how long the trip is going to take. I don’t take my shoes off if I’m driving 5 minutes to the grocery store.

My daughter does. And that’s because she doesn’t know if the trip we’re on is across the country or across the street. If it were a trip across the country, then of course taking her shoes off would be appropriate. All she thinks is, “One time, we took this long trip, and I took my shoes off and it was great, so…”

Taking our spiritual shoes off

The same thing can be true with our spiritual lives, too. We hit difficult seasons in life. Everybody does. We hit a tough road at work, at home, with our friends, or with our families. We hit tough financial times, strained marriages, and sicknesses. Pain, frustrations, and chaos seem to hit all at the same time. I know, because I’ve been there.

In these moments, it’s easy to give up on God. Easy to “take our shoes off” because it’ more comfortable, and easy, to give up than to persevere.

We give up too soon. We quit too early. Because we don’t know when the end, the payoff, is coming.

One of my favorite verses in Scripture is Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

What a hope-filled verse. This is an easy one to quote to someone that’s living in the middle of a confusing, painful life situation.

But most people forget the verse before:

For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.

70 years!! The promise for the hope God has would come after 70 years of living in exile. But hope was coming.

Our question for God is, “Is this a 7 minute situation? Or a 70 year situation?” And do you know what God answers with?

“I got this.”

Maybe your “shoes” aren’t a painful time of “suffering” you’re walking through, but they’re a dream you’ve yet to see realized. You desperately want ______, and God hasn’t granted it yet.  If we knew the answer to when our suffering would be over, there would take no faith. We wouldn’t need to trust God, because we’d know with certainty when we’d get what we were wanting.

So I tell my daughter now, “Leave those shoes on. We’ve got some walking to do here in just a sec. I’ll tell you when you can take them off.”

Maybe in our car rides through life, God’s telling us the same thing. He’s got a plan, and a timing, but we’ve got to trust. He knows what He’s doing, so we need to leave our shoes on. Relief is coming, but it’s coming through an avenue we couldn’t have imagined. (Ephesians 3:19-21)

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. – Deuteronomy 31:5-6

Relief is coming sooner than you think! It may not be exactly when you want, but it’s better than you could dream of.

What is it that you desperately want, but God hasn’t given you?

 

 

Be careful you’re not blinded by your tears

We have a newborn. And though I love her, you don’t hear a ton about how tough the first few weeks are. Maybe it’s because we parents don’t want to scare non-parents off. Maybe it’s because we just don’t want to complain. Or maybe it’s because we don’t really know what’s going on those first few weeks because we’re walking around in a fog of sleeplessness.

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Our baby is really a good baby. She’s not all that difficult. She cries, but it’s at appropriate times. And I can tell the difference in her cries. There’s the

  • I’m wet
  • I’m dirty
  • I’m tired
  • The sun is in my eyes
  • I just spit my pacifier out and I can’t find it
  • You just sat down to eat, so…
  • You just dozed off, so…

And then the best one is

  • I’m hungry…and I don’t ever think you’ll feed me again!

With this one, there’s a desperation that you don’t hear with the other cries. It comes from somewhere deep in her gut. You can sense the fear and pain and utter helplessness. It’s sad, really. It would break your heart, too. I’m certain of it.

And this happens before each and every feeding.

Even though there’s never been once that we’ve not fed her. Not once that we’ve looked at her crying and said, “I think we’ll just let you cry this one out.” Or, “You’re not that hungry.” Or, “Quit faking it.” Or, “You can wait until we’re done doing ____.”

We feed her every single time. There’s never been once we’ve skipped that portion of parenting.

Yet she screams as if we’re not going to feed her. She quickly forgets our love.

Don’t we act like that with God?

When things begin to go awry, we start to cry.

When things get difficult, we wonder, “Where’s God in this?!?”

When things aren’t going our way, we feel like it’s all over.

When plans change. When timings slow. When promotions don’t come. When the car breaks down…again. When it seems like, from our vantage point, God’s left us all alone, and our cries aren’t heard, we cry and cry and cry. Tears turn to desperation, and we believe that God’s done with us. That He doesn’t care. That He can’t do anything about this. And even if He could, He wouldn’t want to.

But we forget that God’s gone with us. He’s never left or forsaken us. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

We forget that God’s near to the brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:18)

He’s never not provided exactly what we need. He’s never stopped being a Father to us. He’s never left His throne. His love’s never failed. (Psalm 136:1)

We feel like He’s far away, but He’s right there beside us. We just can’t see Him because we’re blinded by our pain. And we’ve chosen to listen to our ever-shifting fears and struggles rather than our never-changing Father.

May we never be so blinded by our pain that we can’t see the food God’s put right in front of us. Let’s open our eyes see God working.

 

Feigning exhaustion

I love to run. That’s no secret. I’m among the <.03% of people that actually looks forward to long runs in oppressingly hot, humid weather. I look forward to my feet pounding the pavement, the the breeze (or lack thereof) whipping through the low spots, and the feeling at the end that, though I’m lying on the ground in a pool of my own sweat, I’ve done something significant. Though, in ultimate irony, I arrive at the same place I started.

My son’s developing this love as well. When he sees me getting ready for a run, he gets ready, too. He ties his shoes on extra tightly. Gets his bottle of water squared away. And queues up the songs he wants to hear as we run.

It’s simultaneously cute and manly.

He runs in ~.5 mile stretches. He’ll run ahead of me for a bit, taunting me as he looks back. Or he’ll run right beside me, talking about how much he loves being outside.

Then .5 mile hits, and he gets bored.

So he starts feigning exhaustion. Breathing hard. Retching his shoulders. Slowing down his words as if to catch his breath.

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Rex’s “I’m tired, but not really…” face

“I think…*big inhale, big exhale*…I want to ride in the stroller a while. I’m…*big inhale, big exhale*…getting…*pause for dramatic effect*…a little tired.”

So I strap him in the stroller as we trudge out a few more miles as he jabbers on about monsters, soccer practice, and one of his new-found friends at church.

He wasn’t tired at all! He wasn’t gassed. Wasn’t sore. Wasn’t out of energy.

He just wanted to quit for a while, and he knew what it looked like when daddy was tired. So he did that.

I wonder if we do the same thing in life?

We give up because we get bored. We want something new. Different. Shiny. And what we’ve been doing…well, we’re going to feign exhaustion so we can jump back in the jogging stroller.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. – Paul, Galatians 6:9-10

You see what God’s called you to do. You’ve see it more clearly than you ever have.

  • The ministry he’s called you to start.
  • The small group he’s called you to launch.
  • The book He’s led you to write.
  • The person He’s called you to love.
  • The place He’s called you to go.
  • The job He’s told you to take.

Your “personal best” is way, way better than your perceived “best.” What you can do, who you can become, and the potential that you can accomplish is massively bigger than the expectations culture places on you. Or what your boss thinks you can do. Or who your spouse thinks you can become.

Because you serve a God that’s bigger than others’ expectations.

You have caught a vision for who God wants you to be. You’ve seen where that idea could lead. You’ve realized who it could impact.

But it’s not shiny anymore. It’s actually kind of boring, and the new smell has worn off. It used to give us energy, but now it feels more like a job.

Don’t. Quit. Now.

You’ll reap nothing if you quit now. They’ll reap nothing if you quit now.

Obedience is found in doing the right thing, even when it doesn’t feel right. Even when it feels boring, mundane, and work-like.

It’s time to keep running.

No jogging strollers allowed.

 

 

 

The Gospel doesn’t change. The way we share it should.

Engage_Banner

I’ve been a part of a handful of projects with Lifeway, but none that I’ve been as excited about as this one.

I was one of 4 authors to collaborate on a small group book/study called Engage: A Practical Guide to Evangelism, and I love how it all came together.

Here’s the overview:

____________________________

The simple truth of the gospel does not change. And while this truth is timeless, we must always evaluate the presentation of that truth to make sure it’s connecting in a culturally relevant way. Engage is a practical study examining the act of sharing your faith. Engage: A Practical Guide to Evangelism answers questions like, How do you begin a conversation about Jesus? What if they have questions you’re not sure how to answer? What do you say if they respond positively or if they reject God’s message?

Engage is a small group study that helps you:

  • Discern the full meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ
  • Understand why all Christians are called to share the good news
  • Prepare for spiritual attacks against the gospel
  • Have tangible ideas for how to share your faith with those who don’t believe in Jesus.
____________________________

Here are a few quotes from the book…written in a way that’s easily shareable on Twitter or Facebook, if you’d like.

Twitter

  • Sharing our faith requires reminders of the beauty and depth of the gospel. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Jesus lived the perfect life I should’ve lived and died the death I had been condemned to die. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • We can approach God with boldness because He sees us according to the accomplishments of Christ #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • You can never earn the title “Christian”—Jesus earned it in our place & gave it to us as a gift #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • We’re accepted before God not because of what we do but because of what Jesus has done. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • What’s inside of our hearts gushes out and compels us to action. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Evangelism is seeing Jesus as our greatest delight and the ultimate lover of our souls. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Loving God & loving others is the fuel that propels gospel proclamation & disciple making. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Sharing your faith is much less complicated than we often make it. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA (via @BenReed)

Facebook

  • Unbelievers are looking for real answers not easy ones. They’re wanting to see that men and women of faith struggle with questions, too. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • The gospel of Jesus is the announcement that Jesus is Lord and has won a great victory on our behalf. The gospel is not a command that we should do better so that God will accept us, but the announcement that Jesus has paid the full penalty for our sin. No longer do we need to live in fear. The battle has been won on our behalf—we need only to believe and receive it. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • The gospel isn’t just the “beginning point” of Christianity, a prayer you pray to begin your Christian life, or the diving board off of which you jump into the pool of Christianity. The gospel is the pool in which you swim, day by day. Once you’ve believe the gospel, the way you grow in Christ is by going deeper into the gospel. You become more aware of how gracious He is and how incredible is the gift He has given you in Christ. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • The world needs to know who Jesus really is and what the benefits are of putting faith in Him. Jesus gave us the responsibility to make those truths known. The potential impact of obedience to that calling is world-changing. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • We not only need the gospel to cover our sinfulness and to guarantee a glorious eternity; we need the gospel for everything! From the most mundane activities of our day-to-day lives to the “big ticket item” decisions that pivot the trajectory of our lives—the gospel should infuse all of it. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • For an unbeliever, we can’t support the legitimacy of the Bible solely on its own word. We have to look at history, at the present day, and even within ourselves to see that God’s Word is true and can be trusted. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Your story is compelling. Riveting. Life-changing (assuming you actually have been changed). And sharing your faith involves sharing your story. Be honest, transparent, and vulnerable. People will connect with your brokenness more quickly and fully than they ever will your “awesomeness.” Share the mistakes God’s redeeming you from, the sin you’re done with, the bigger picture He’s inviting you into, and the ways His grace is sufficient and His love is captivating. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
  • Sharing your faith is much less complicated than we often make it. But it’s also much more difficult. Much more engaging. Much more demanding of your time and effort. Much more challenging of your life. #engage @threadsmedia http://lfwy.co/19OYiFA
You can pick up your copy HERE.
 

A whole new level of gross

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image credit: www.gimmesomeoven.com/

When we sat down for dinner, I assumed it was going to be a dinner just alike any other. Turns out it would be a dinner like no other.

Rex isn’t a particularly picky eater. He tends to eat whatever we put in front of him. Partly because of his taste buds. And partly because he knows that if he doesn’t eat the dinner my wife and I made, we’re not making him anything else.

This particular night, we were having sweet potato fries as a side. We’d sliced fresh sweet potatoes, drizzled them with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, and roasted them in the oven. The sweet aroma weaved its way through the house.

When we sat down to eat, Rex ate his meat, but didn’t want to eat the fries. I told him that he needed to eat at least a few of them. So he pushed them around on his plate, wrongly thinking I’d believe he’d eaten them. “I don’t like orange fries,” he said.

The battle began.

“Rex, you just have to eat 4.”

The battle continued.

Then I saw it happening, but I didn’t believe it. I thought he was faking it, because he’d done it before, trying one more time to get out of eating the sweet potato fries. He started retching a little, talking between heaves: “I really don’t like orange fries.”

“Buddy, you’re going to eat 4 before you leave this table.”

Retch.

Retch.

Then it happened. At the exact moment I’d decided to get on his level and remind him that he’s not getting anything else for dinner…no dessert…no…and I never finished that last sentence before I saw his supper again. He cried. And I wanted to.

I gently wiped his face and hands, and helped him change out of his clothes. I took his plate to the sink, and told him we’d probably had enough dinner tonight. Me, included.

Then I wiped my face off. My mouth out. My hands off. And I put on a fresh change of clothes, too.

Jesus’ Turn

That moment reminded how much Jesus loves me. He loves me enough to take on the mess of my sin. To bear it for me. Because even my best is like a “filthy rag.” (Isaiah 64:6)

He loves me enough to take on the shame of my sin. To look foolish so I don’t eternally have to. (Tweet that)

Every time I’m short with my son I’m reminded again of my stench.

Every time my pride rears it’s ugly head I’m given another glimpse into the dense layers of grace God offers us in Jesus. (Tweet that)

Every time I just care about myself, ignoring the needs of others, I see my stink one more time. Because Jesus doesn’t ignore me. (Tweet that)

Even when I commit the same stupid sin. Again.

Even when I’m less than the husband I should be. Again.

Every time I wallow in my guilt and shame, Jesus comes along and gently wipes my face off. Takes my plate to the sink. And gets me a new change of clothes. He sends me to the living room and says, “It’s ok. That’s enough for tonight. You’re all clean now.”

Once again He affirms His love for me. His love never fails. (Psalm 136:1)

Even when he wears your supper. (Tweet that)

 

“Our church will never grow.”

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image credit CreationSwap user Ales Cerin

Our church will never grow.

Those were the words I heard over the phone from a pastor. “Because of the town where we’re at, and with it being pretty rural, our church isn’t ever really going to grow.”

It felt like the punchline to a joke that wasn’t funny. I unintentionally let an awkward silence hang over the airways while I caught my breath, hoping he’d fill the silence with, “Oh, you know I’m kidding.” He didn’t.

We were in the middle of a conversation about small groups, and how small groups can be a growth engine for your church as they help connect people into life-giving, discipleship-making relationships. I was trying to help him see how small groups can be an environment for people not just inside of the church building to connect and grow, but for those still on the outside. A chance for skeptics to “kick the tires,” if you will, not in an argumentative you-better-convince-me-intellectually kind of way, but in a way where they see the church in action. Where they watch love. Watch grace. Watch forgiveness. Watch confession. Watch growth.

Small groups are the Church. Alive. (Tweet that)

Small groups are ideal environments to invite your friends.

But he wasn’t buying it. And I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

Our church will never grow.

Basically I was being told, “Evangelism won’t work for us. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is for everyone else. Because of where we live, we’re off the hook. Jesus couldn’t have meant us when he commanded us them to make disciples of all nations. No way. No how.” (Tweet that)

If you get to the point where you feel like the Gospel isn’t

  • powerful enough
  • big enough
  • life-changing enough
  • culture-shaping enough
  • hope-giving enough 
  • marriage-saving enough
  • addiction-breaking enough (Tweet that)
  • grace-infusing enough
  • slate-cleaning enough

to shape your community and grow your congregation, get out of the ministry. (Tweet that) Do something else. Anything else. The Gospel is too important to waste. Too powerful to keep confined to a small box.

Pastors, your community needs you. (Tweet that) It needs you to believe that there’s hope in the Gospel. There’s healing to be found in surrender. That marriages can be reconciled. That change is possible.

The Gospel is not small.

 

Planning for growth

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image credit: Creation Swap user Cody Davenport

If you’re someone that’s content to take life slowly and easily, I’d frustrate you. I never find myself “content” with the status quo.

It’s this time of year that I start dreaming about the Fall. Summer’s in full swing, and I’m looking for what’s next. Where I need to grow. What I need to change. What I need to start doing. What I need to stop doing.

What book I need to read. What podcast I need to start listening to. What coffee shop I need to visit.

As a pastor, I’m always thinking this direction as well. I’m constantly looking for what’s next, because I’m never satisfied with where we’re at. “Good enough” doesn’t whet my whistle. Nor does “okay” or “average” or “decent” or “pretty good.”

So if you want to grow spiritually, you’ll have to plan for it. Here are a few things I’m looking towards, that will help me continue to grow. Your list may be different. But it’s time, now, to start making that list out.*

The Fall season can be a great time of growth, but you’ve got to plan now.

Read

I’ve always got a book or seven in my hand. I intake vast amounts of content through books and articles. They help me stretch and grow. Here are a few that are on tap for me leading into the Fall.

Write

For me, writing helps flesh my thoughts out like nothing else. I extrovert my thoughts to make sense of them, so writing becomes an outlet for what God’s showing me. Some of that makes it on this blog. Some of that will make its way into my upcoming book on small group life. But I’ve got to write to grow.

I’m going to write 1500 words/week throughout the 3 months of Fall. Which equates to 18,000 words. It’ll be good for my heart.

Go

It’s important for me to get out of my normal environment if I’m going to grow. Conferences provide that opportunity for me this Fall, and I’m headed to Atlanta for the ReGroup conference. I’m pretty stoked to be going back again this year. It’s a time of refreshment and strategic planning for me. The team at North Point is spot on.

What’s your plan for growth this Fall?

 * For continued spiritual growth, I’m assuming the normal disciplines of the Christian life: reading Scripture, prayer, corporate worship, small group community, confession, repentance, etc. I’ll not quit these, and neither should you. This is my outside-of-the-normal ‘things’ list. I’m also assuming you know that it’s God that produces the growth. I’m just positioning myself for the maximum potential.

 

Top books for people sensing a call to ministry

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image credit: CreationSwap user Agatha Villa

Sensing a call to ministry?

Then it’s time to start getting prepped now. Nothing can substitute for doing the work of ministry. But picking up and working through a handful (or two) of good books will help you more than you could ever know.

These are some of my favorites. Some I read in seminary. Others I’ve read since I’ve been working full-time in the local church.

I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me.

 

Ministry

Small Groups with Purpose by Steve Gladen (e-book)

Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley (e-book)

Sticky Church by Larry Osborne (e-book)

Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne (e-book)

Lectures to my Students by CH Spurgeon (e-book)

Creating Community by Andy Stanley (e-book)

UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons (e-book)

 

Leadership

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell (e-book)

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (e-book)

Tribes: We Need you to Lead us by Seth Godin (e-book)

Good to Great by Jim Collins (e-book)

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (e-book)

 

Theology/Spiritual Growth

The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler (e-book)

Knowing God by JI Packer (e-book)

Christian Beliefs: 20 Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem (e-book)

ESV Study Bible

The Attributes of God by AW Pink (e-book)

Desiring God by John Piper (e-book)

Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owen (e-book)

Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper (e-book)

The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg (e-book)

 

Anything you’d add?

 

The car with the different wheel

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image credit: ParkerLineStriping.com

It was a balmy Saturday afternoon, bits of pavement sticking to the bottom of my flip flops as I picked up my 4 year old to carry him through the parking lot. Sweat beading across each of our foreheads instantly, he asked me to pick him up. This also gave me a better vantage point to hear what he was going to tell me amidst the throng of moving vehicles and people.

We were walking in to one of our favorite restaurants, Chuy’s, a Tex-Mex chain that’s opened up in Nashville. He always gets Mac-n-cheese, and he’d already started telling me how that’s what he wanted this time, too. It was hard for me to think about warm, gooey cheese, when that’s about what the black pavement beneath my feet felt like.

There were cars everywhere. Some with their blinkers on, waiting for a spot soon to be vacated. Some whipping through ready to leave. Others frustratedly circling the lot for a better vacancy closer to the air-conditioned indoors. I was glad I was holding Rex.

An old beater car pulled up beside us, turning left back towards the sea of parked, sun-baked cars. The paint was chipping a little. It made grinding noises when it stopped, and screeching noises when it began to turn. The cloth on the inside roof was sagging, held up by a few staples not part of the original design. Smoke billowed from the back end, blending in with the black of the pavement it was blanketing.

Rex noticed something. One of the wheels had evidently been damaged, replaced by a cheaper replacement that barely seemed to keep the axle from falling to the ground. Instead of a new polished, chrome rim with a deep black tire, it was just an old tire with a dusty, dirty rim. It served its purpose, but not well.

It stood out like a…dirty, dusty wheel.

“Ooh dad, did you see that? That car?”

“Which one?”

The one with the different wheel?”

“Yeah, buddy, I sure do. What about it?”

“We should get one like that.”

I chuckled. I told him that something was wrong with the car. That it was kinda broken. He responded:

“Dad. Did you see it?!? It was cool! That wheel!”

I reminded him, again, that this car was broken, and that we didn’t really want a car like this. We’re blessed to have a car that isn’t broken right now. But he was having none of that, as he continued to gush about the cool wheel that we needed to get.

What I saw was a broken-down car at the end of its vehicular rope, hanging on by a thread. It needed work, needed love, and more than anything else, it really just needed a junk yard.

What Rex saw was completely different. He saw something that was out of the ordinary. Something that was cool, and useful, and that we needed. He saw a car that wasn’t done, but that still had life and value.

I wish I saw the world like that.

I wish I saw people like that.

We see weaknesses. 

God says, “I can use that.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

We see crippling failures.

God says, “I’ve still got something for you.” (Judges 16:28-30)

We see an old washed up life.

God says, “Moses was 80 when he led my people out of Israel.”

We see insecurities.

God says, “Be courageous. I’ve got your back.” (Joshua 1:9)

We see someone so young they can’t do anything.

God says, “Don’t let ’em look down on you because you’re young.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

We see pain.

God says, “I’ll rescue you. Then turn you into a rescuer.”(Galatians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

We see unloved and alone.

God says, “I’ll never leave you.”(Deuteronomy 31:6)

We see useless.

God says,“I am your hope.” (Psalm 62:5)

It’s time we stopped seeing the world for what it is. And started seeing it through the eyes of a God that longs to redeem.

We can start by learning from a 4 year old.

 

 
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