Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How Do You Hear Me?

I deal with “words” in almost everything I do. I write sermons. I write devotions. I write articles for blogs. I speak, preach, and even sing every now and then.

I still find myself dismayed or even angry when what I say or write isn’t received as I intended it to be heard or read.

It is a reminder to me that communicating is a “two-way street.” Even when I’m writing a blog post or preaching a sermon, I should not think of it as a monologue. It is a dialogue – because it involves at least two people, me and the person or persons who hear (or read) me.

I strive to be thankful when that communication actually becomes a dialogue where we speak to each other. 

Even if the response is negative.

For the response may be negative or positive, as you might expect. However, it also may be positive and I receive it as negative. That’s when I have to be reminded of a simple, little formula I came up with a few weeks ago for a devotion that I shared with some friends.

It was about emails and text messages, but it is relevant for any communication.

Send with the best intention.
Receive with the best construction.

At the heart of all communication is exactly that – the heart. What is in my heart develops into my communication. If I am loving God and loving my neighbor, then what I say or write will be “sent” with the best of intention. This is living the truth of “Christ who lives in me.”

Then I have to be reminded that after I say or write “with the best intention” I cannot control how what I say or write is received. I pray that it will be received with the best construction, but I know this doesn’t always happen. And I simply can’t control that!

The relationship I have with the person hearing or reading me can go a long way to being received with the best construction – and that will help me to put what I want to say in a proper context. But the stark truth is that I simply cannot control how what I say is received.

When I’m feeling particularly hurt or scared, the temptation will be to stop communicating. Just shut up and shut down. That way no one can take what I say the wrong way. No one gets hurt.

But that isn’t true either. I’m hurt – because I cannot communicate what I want to say. Others may get hurt – because they won’t hear what God wants them to hear (speaking as a preacher of the Gospel here).

I hope you will read this with the best construction, because I really am writing it with the best intention.

Let me know, please?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What's Your Story?

I’m having trouble staying on task lately.
I’ve gone the route of making excuses – I’m very busy, I have a full-time ministry at a congregation with over a 1000 souls, I have a wife of nearly 23 years and 3 sons (oldest of which is a senior in high school, youngest of which will be a freshman in high school this fall, and the middle son who has epilepsy).
Last week I fell and broke my arm. That become another seemingly valid excuse for not getting things done.
Before that I had a bout with the flu.
Before that were the Advent and Christmas seasons – a traditionally busy time of year for a preacher.
But so what? Lots of people have that kind of life or similar and seem to get a lot more done than I do.
It occurs to me that this is a story of my life. It isn’t the story but a story. And it is one that I’ve been telling myself for a long time.
But I am taking deliberate steps to change this story.
Yes, I’m busy. But instead of that being a crippling excuse not to do anything in an excellent way (see Excellent – a devotion where I wrote about this) I choose to see it as an opportunity that God has given me to make a difference in this world!
Yes, I was injured. But instead of that being a crippling excuse not to do anything in an excellent way, I choose to see it as a reminder that I am fragile and need to take care of myself, take time to rest and recuperate regularly, and that my life is an amazing adventure given to me by God!
I mentioned the story of my life – and that is what I was thinking about as I started this devotion.
The story of my life is what God has and is doing in my life. God has saved me from sin, death, and the power of the devil. God did this by ransoming me – buying me back – through the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
What God is doing in my life right now is nothing short of amazing. And I don’t say that as a conceited jerk. God has allowed me to meet, fall in love, and continue to be more in love every day with a beautiful woman. This August will be our 23rd anniversary.  God has entrusted to us three young men – Eddie, Kurt & Mark. That is mind-boggling humbling to consider! 18 years ago my wife Nancy and I were awaiting the birth of our first-born. Every day since has been an incredible adventure of love and humility.
Then there are the other parts of my life that God has called me to and been directing. The pastoral ministry (going on 19 years), Christian men’s ministry (10th anniversary), and day-to-day ministry of sharing the Gospel with others through various activities at my church and elsewhere.
That’s the story of my life – and God’s is the author and has the starring role. When I start focusing on other stories about my life – by putting myself in the starring role – that’s when I get bogged down with busyness and weariness.
I’m changing my story.

How about you?

Monday, January 20, 2014


“What’s the most excellent thing I can do today?”

I have that quote on my white board above my desk in my office. It is from a man who plays drums in a rock band that I’ve like for nearly all my life. It’s his “motto” for living.

I liked it so much, I wrote it down. And since it’s in a place I look at every day, I can say that I ask that question every day.

But asking the question is different than seeking the answer to it.

Below it, I recently wrote this question:

“More importantly, why should I do it?”

Again, asking the question is different than seeking the answer to it.

Recently I’ve found myself either too busy to really seek the answer to those two questions or distracted by other things to seek the answer to those two questions.

Today, I deliberately stopped the busyness and distractions to do both. I’m seeking the answer by writing about it – and that will become the devotion for this week’s “In My Father’s Footsteps.”

Even though I often don’t seek to answer the question, I do want to do something excellent each day. I do really want to make some kind of difference in this world.

And I do make a difference in that I’m the husband of a beautiful and loving woman. For going on 23 years she’s chosen to live with me – and that’s an excellent thing.

I’m the father of three sons. That’s an excellent thing.

I’m on the staff of a church that’s starting to realize that God has called them to do some excellent things in this world.

What’s the most excellent thing I can do today? Get out of bed. Breathe in and out. I understand that it sounds pretty simplistic and not at all extraordinary.

But what I mean by that is that the most excellent thing I can do today is, first, to be available to God’s calling.

God has a plan for me today. And God – being God – can only have excellent plans! I will begin my day by talking with God (prayer).

Secondly, I will do the things on my life list for this day in the most excellent way I can. I will not do them just to get them done. I will do them to the best of my ability, using the gifts God has given me.

“More importantly, why should I do it?”

There’s two parts to the answer to this question. The first part is “Why wouldn’t you want to do something excellently?” While the answer to that is not good, it is realistic. I’m lazy. I’m distracted. I’m busy. I’ve got so MUCH to do. Like I said, that isn’t a GOOD answer, but it is a real answer.

The second part is answered by looking at what Jesus Christ did. Everything Jesus did was excellent. Start with the creation of the universe. “And it was very good.” Then, from His birth to His life, to His death, to His resurrection, to His ascension – all that was done most excellently. He saved the entire world.

And now, through Baptism, that same excellent Christ lives in me! How can I NOT do an excellent thing this day?

God has called me to this time and place to do an excellent thing.

What is the most excellent thing I can do today?

How about you?