We’ve Lost the Art of Civility


It’s come to my attention that it’s been almost a year since I last blogged. Oops. So, I’ve decided today to come out of the drought. In your college and young adult ministry, we’ve been doing a series called Messy Faith which I will explain in future posts. Needless to say, it got messy, as our faith often does whether we admit it or not.

There were 2 presentations regarding Faith and/or Science from our students. Things got a little out of hand including rebuttals from the crowd. While it’s unfortunate that emotions flared, feelings were hurt, and we’re walking through the aftermath, I believe it’s a learning experience for all of us.

It’s apparent that the young man had no idea the way he was coming across. Even though he was well-prepared and knowledgeable about his topic, his demeanor diminished his credibility. This happens too often in the best of circumstances where the powerful truths of God’s Word are coated with our fleshly attitudes and responses, preventing people from hearing the crucial message.

Years ago, I preached 11 weeks on 1 verse out of 1 Peter: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. BUT do this with gentleness and respect…”

It bothers me when Christians use social media as another opportunity to demean those of other beliefs and political ideologies. That’s only an invitation for trouble. Does our Facebook status really need to be a venue to further divide people simply because we can’t exercise self control and sit on our opinions? And of course, we excuse it by stating our need to preach the Gospel and stand for truth…except for the fact it’s not quite the truth we’re called to proclaim.

Are we mature enough to be able to sit down at a table across from someone who’s beliefs are diametrically opposed to our own, have a spirited debate based on civility (courteous and polite behavior proper to civilized persons); then stand up, give each other a big hug, laugh, and move on?  Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit, so that’s cool.  Respect does not equal agreeing with someone, conceding to them, or wussing out spiritually.  It is an acknowledgment of a person’s worth and value.

Here’s some things I’ve learned and relearned…and relearned…along the way:

  1. We don’t always need to be right. We’re not here to argue or win debates, but to explain to people what and why we believe. If they don’t believe, that’s not our issue. We are simply messengers.  If our pride is the issue…crucify it!  Let’s win people, not fights.
  2. It’s not just WHAT you say but HOW you say it. Body language. Tone of voice. Posture. Be very aware of what you’re doing with your eyes (are you looking away, rolling your eyes? rather than remaining engaged through eye contact and your hands (are your arms folded? Are your hands constantly in their face or waving, stirring up an already heated discussion).
  3. Be careful of side quips, snide remarks, sarcastic comments, and patronizing phrases, otherwise we run the risk of undoing and demolishing the most articulate of statements. Be careful of phrases like “I disagree” or “that’s illogical” or “that’s ridiculous.” These only fuel unproductive arguments, get people emotional, and make us veer off course.  Avoid stating the obvious.  It’s already intuitively obvious to the casual observer that you disagree without having to reiterate the fact.
  4. Don’t get defensive. Again, we’re vessels for God. We can’t afford to take it personally. Obey Him. Get the job done.
  5. God doesn’t need us to defend Him. He’s Sovereign, Almighty, Omnipotent, Omniscient. He’s huge. He can take care of Himself just fine…long before we took or first breath, and way after we’re 6 feet under.
  6. Don’t get in the way of the Holy Spirit. Not just Forgotten God but forgotten “partner” and overall director. Say what needs to be said, then get out of the way so God can make His move. It’s not our articulate discourses and rhetoric that will move people’s hearts. It’s God’s job to change people.
  7. Be polite and learn to ask permission. “May I please interrupt?” “May I respond to that, please?” “Are you ok if I share my thoughts?”  This diffuses tension and again displays mutual respect and courtesy.  We American Christians are definitely not experts on that.
  8. LISTEN!! And let them finish.

Go spread joy!  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

We blame the devil too much…time to look in the mirror


The Bible is very descriptive of the devil: who he was, who he is, his fate, what he does, and why he does it.  We know through various passages that:

  • He was the chief angel who led the heavenly host in worship (Ezekiel 28:12-18).
  • He was was full of pride and wanted to switch places with God:  instead of being the worshipper, he wanted to be worshipped (Isaiah 14:12).
  • There was a great war in heaven. He lost and was cast out with a third of the angels (Revelation 12).
  • Until his time of punishment comes, he is doing his best to destroy us.  (Revelation 12:7). Plain and simple, he hates God. He hates us because we were created in God’s image.  We are God’s children, the apple of His eye, His beloved, the ones He created.  He has carved us on His Hand. We’re the ones He suffered, died, and rose for; the ones whom He forgives, restores, cleanses, heals, and saves! And the enemy seeks to destroy us because we’ve been completely redeemed and because he wants to break God’s heart.

The devil will do his best to disrupt our lives, derail our hopes, decimate our faith, deceive our hearts, and damage our souls. “For you are the children of your father the Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning and has always hated the truth. There is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

His weapons are very subtle but yet very obvious:

  • Whispers – So many voices go through our heads:  our own, other people’s, God’s, and the enemy’s.  It’s up to us and the Holy Spirit to discern the source.  But in moments of weakness, we get our signals mixed and allow ourselves to be led astray.
  • Deceives – He lies to us in an attempt to get us to disobey God’s Word and deny the Truth.
  • Discourages – While God has great plans for us, the enemy tries to convince us that God has forgotten us, or that we’ve sinned to greatly, etc.
  • Harasses – The devil relentlessly troubles us by repeated attacks regarding troubles or cares…
  • Torments – He reminds us of our past, our failures, our hurts, and gets us to believe preposterous lies. Bitterness, hurt, resentment, hatred…he is well aware of our pressure points.

But this is the problem:  when we do the enemy’s job for him.  From Jesus’ own lips, “you love to do the evil things he does.” Unfortunately, we give into our own feeble plans and selfish desires.  We blame the devil for so many things, but yet, God’s people are more than able to screw up His plans and one another’s lives.

  • “The devil is a liar.”  Yes, that’s true. But do we repeat it? Do we become his mouthpiece and public address system?  The dangers grow with social media.  Do we gossip, slander, tear down, spread dissension?
  • “We’re not going to allow the devil a victory.”  Bold words but we’re the only ones who allow the enemy to win. Are we living for God? Are we committing habitual sin? Do we lie?  Steal?  Give in to lust? We are told not to give him a foothold, an opening…but through our disobedience, we open the back door and still let him sneak attack us.  Often this phrase is uttered because we’ve already yielded ground to the enemy.
  • “Our fight is not against people on earth” (Ephesians 6:11-12, NCV).  I always laugh when I hear people quote this verse because usually it’s too late. We say this as a reminder to ourselves after conflict has already happened.  In the middle of anger, we pull up wisdom that should have been practiced in the first place.  We make people our enemy.

Here’s some obvious pointers for maintaining victory in Christ despite the enemy’s onslaught.  While we are to wage war, I think our focus is diverted to the wrong place.  We forget the Blood Stained Cross which has already declared the winner.  Too often, we fixate on the enemy, rebuking him, talking forcefully to him, even in the middle of our worship.  It’s no longer about Christ.  I believe that the greatest form of spiritual warfare is to simply obey God, again, not giving him an inch of territory to step on.

  • Don’t get distracted and lulled into apathy.  Remain passionate for Christ.  Grown in intimacy and love for Him.  Stay focused in prayer, thanksgiving, reading God’s Word.  Allow other believers to speak into our lives.  Never try to face things alone. “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping” (1 Peter 5:8, Message).
  • Stop sinning.  Let’s do what we need to do.  Follow God implicitly, explicitly, and immediately.   Don’t just start strong, FINISH strong. “You were taught to leave your old self — to stop living the evil way you lived before. That old self becomes worse, because people are fooled by the evil things they want to do.  But you were taught to be made new in your hearts,  to become a new person. That new person is made to be like God — made to be truly good and holy.  So you must stop telling lies. Tell each other the truth, because we all belong to each other in the same body.  When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day. Do not give the devil a way to defeat you.  Those who are stealing must stop stealing and start working. They should earn an honest living for themselves. Then they will have something to share with those who are poor. When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need — words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you. And do not make the Holy Spirit sad. The Spirit is God’s proof that you belong to him. God gave you the Spirit to show that God will make you free when the final day comes. Do not be bitter or angry or mad. Never shout angrily or say things to hurt others. Never do anything evil. Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:22-32, NCV).
  • Let’s live for Christ, not ourselves.  A life surrendered and submitted to God repels the enemy. “So give yourselves completely to God. Stand against the devil, and the devil will run from you” (James 4:7, NCV).
  • Dress for battle and get ready for war.  Our devotional lives position and prepare us for the constant attacks. It’s a preventive measure! Know God’s promises before we become victims. Memorize and declare His Word. Pray, and keep praying! “Put on the full armor of God so that you can fight against the devil’s evil tricks. Our fight is not against people on earth but against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world” (Ephesians 6:11-12, NCV).

It’s Just A Movie Folks. Watch It. Don’t Watch It. Move On.


It’s a unique month heading into Easter with 3 “religious” movies hitting the box offices:  Son of God, God’s Not Dead, and Noah.  Obviously the latter has come under scrutiny and criticism because of excessive poetic license and extra-Biblical content.  Uh oh.  Newsflash. Hollywood didn’t follow the script.

A bigger travesty to me is the 2002 depiction of my favorite book, the Count of Monte Cristo.  TOTALLY butchered it and ruined a great novel.  Seriously, how many of us learned our lesson in high school when we depended on the movie or Cliff Notes rather than reading the actual book.

But as usual, American Christians have taken to what they are best known for:  protesting; fixating more on what they are against than what they are for.

  • “It doesn’t follow Scripture.”
  • “It depicts Noah as a religious nut” (as if a movie about a 100 year old man killing his only son or an animal fur clad man eating locusts and honey wouldn’t be).  Let’s put our beliefs through the filter of an unbeliever’s eyes.  Of course all of us appear crazy.  As irreverent as this sounds, think of how preposterous the Bible sounds some times. Be honest.
  • “Russell Crowe’s portrayal of Noah was ‘too dark.'”  How many of our Bible heroes probably struggled with depression, OCD, or mood disorders?  Can you imagine the emotional weight that Noah carried?  The guilt?  The fear and dread?

It’s obvious we didn’t learn our lesson from the Last Temptation of Christ released in 1988.  Christian mobs at cinemas, death threats, and harassment. But in their attempts to prevent people from seeing the movie, their protesting made it a hit. It brought worldwide attention and foiled their plans.  My pastor used it as an opportunity and preached a sermon with the same title: Christ’s last temptation was to bypass the Cross.  Obviously He overcame that temptation.

Here’s some things to consider:

  • It’s conceived, directed, and produced by non-Christians.  “I  know they believe the Bible is the sacred word of God, but Hollywood is not the place you go for “sacred.” You’d think they’d be glad that an Old Testament Bible story is even being made into a $130-million mainstream epic with a wide release” Michael Heaton, Mail Online.
  • It covers 4 chapters of the Bible. Is that really enough plot material for a 2:18 movie?
  • Is it blasphemous?
  • What else is in the media diet of Christians who would tell others not to watch Noah?  Perhaps we need to purify other aspects of our entertainment. Within the last few months, I’ve heard Christians talking about:  Sex in the City, Endless Love, the Conjuring, and Game of Thrones. Then I hear the comments: “Oh yeah, that movie/TV show was pretty risque.  Don’t know if you should see it.”  As if we couldn’t figure that out by the rating, the actors, and the previews. Honestly, I don’t even see that many movies in the theaters.  It costs too much money.
  • If we’re going to eliminate “Biblical” movies because they’re not Biblical, we need to stop watching: Prince of Egypt, Ten Commandments, Passion of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, One Night With the King, and the History Channel Bible Series.
  • The people who criticize me for watching Noah will be the same ones criticizing me for not seeing God’s Not Dead. BTW, I see those situations every day. No need to pay $10. And in the rare moment that I do patronize the Savoy 16, I go to be entertained, not to be fed, challenged, or convicted. That’s reserved for my local church and my personal devotional life.
  • Does anyone really want to see Noah drunk and naked?  And what ensued with his son, Ham?  It’s in the Bible!
  • Maybe this will give us an opportunity to engage in dialogue about the truth.  Yes actually have conversations with people instead of relying on a movie to communicate the Word.  “This is what really happened and why…”  #selah

Call me a compromiser, collaborator, emergent, etc. I’ve been called worse this month.

The real question is:  do our lives line up with Scripture?  Do our lives contradict the Bible?


P.S.  That was probably one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.  Some redeeming qualities but I’d rather see the English Patient ten times consecutively than watch that again.

The Devil You Know vs The Devil You Don’t Know


This isn’t a blog but a commentary on a friend’s blog. A danger of getting older is that we get more secure in the same old way of doing things. Even when it’s served its purpose and run its course. It’s easier to embrace the mundane and even mediocre than suiting up for a new beginning or a new jumping off point.

Details kill dreams
I strive for perfection. I analyze things to death. If I can’t see it, explain it, figure out all the details, it’s an ice cube’s chance in the hot place I’ll proceed.

Partnership strengthens faith
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 1 Samuel 14:6: “Perhaps the LORD will help us, for nothing can hinder the LORD. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!” Perhaps?  That’s the best you got?  We all have that “instigator” friend in our lives who gets us to do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do. I’m grateful for those friends and moments, well most of them, because it pushed me beyond my comfort zone and forced me to experience new and exciting things.

Let’s jump off a cliff together
I believe, more often than not, we get to these moments where we just gotta go for it. Much like the step of faith scene in the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones had to walk into the unknown in order to save his father’s life. There are people counting on us to make bold, courageous, and even risk decisions.

“Do what you think is best,” the youth replied. “I’m with you completely, whatever you decide” (v. 1 Samuel 14:7). God’s going to help us or we’re going to die trying.  Staying in the same place could prove fatal or even deadly. Butch and Sundance knew that too well. But survival trumped security and common sense. I relish those moments when partners or teams give each other that crazy look and say: let’s go for it. Throw caution to the wind, this is a moment and we’re going to make it count.

Well written, Jason. I’d say the devil is not trying something new.

Originally posted on Living Boldly:

Often times when it comes to embracing change, the very thing that disables organizations from moving forward is the fear of uncertainty. The excuse that is frequently made comes in the form of a question, “Which is worse, the devil you know or the devil you don’t know?”
In short, the conclusion being made is that its better to deal with the same organizational problems, people, practices… you name it, rather than trying something new that has a degree of uncertainty. The problem with this thinking is that the devil you do know is still a devil.
In order to make necessary changes, we have to first understand that uncertainty is not a devil—its uncertainty. Where the question lies is, how then do we mitigate uncertainty in order to get rid of the devil we know? Here are four simple ways to make calculated decisions.
Involve Others…

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If Prayer Is Like Eating Broccoli Put Some Cheese On It!


Suppose I should start out by acknowledging that some people love eating broccoli, even if it’s raw.  I, however, am not one of them.  The preferred state is slightly boiled (still retaining the nutrients) and drizzled with cheese or dressing.

So, why the metaphor?  We know we need fiber, nutrients, and minerals.  Broccoli is good for us…but not always the first thing we want to chomp on when we’re hungry.  We know prayer is good.  We know we need it.  But some times it leaves a lot to be desired if our perspective is off.  So, how can we make prayer a little more appetizing?

We emphasize prayer more than anything else in our college/young adult ministry.  We in no way want to guilt anyone into deepening their relationship with God, but it is the key to drawing closer to Him.  Can’t say it emphatically enough:  prayer is absolutely vital to every Christ follower’s life; it connects us with our Source.

Everyone has the same excuses:  I’m too busy, I don’t know what to say, It’s such a chore, It’s boring, etc.  I’ve been working with a student lately who needed some encouragement with his devotions.  I try to stress quality vs. quantity, but also consistency vs. occasionally.  For the first week, I asked him to just pray 2 minutes each on the P.R.A.Y model:

P raise – thanksgiving, acknowledging God’s attributes and achievements.
R epent – allowing God to show us where we messed up and asking for His help to stop.
A sk – requests for ourselves and others.
Y ield – waiting on God to speak.

This would be a total of 8 minutes, plus reading his Bible.  He was shocked when I said my goal for him was to pray an hour every day by the end of the semester.  After the first week, he expressed his struggle praying that long, simply because he never had before.  Included in this list are some things I suggested to him:

  • Play worship music in the background or through earphones.  This helps get us focused on God rather than letting our minds wander.  I warn people to make sure they’re worshipping/focusing on God and not the music.  It’s easy to do that.  Music stirs up powerful feelings and we don’t want to manipulate our emotions.  Our response needs to be based on Christ’s Presence not the music itself.  One time I was praying outside but someone was playing their radio loudly nearby.  I found myself getting inspired emotionally (musically) because of a Lady Gaga song.  HAHA!  Music meant to attract us can also distract us.  I moved on.
  • When weather allows, go for a walk.  Through the neighborhood, a nearby park, a walking trail…  How better to see the Creator than to view His creation?  “From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20, Psalm 19:1).
  • Vary where we pray.  I do believe in sacred spaces, but I also pray in different places.  I pray at home, my office, our sanctuary, at the U of I Quad; when I was in college there were times I prayed in the cemetery (it was always quiet).  One of my favorite places is the chapel at the Newman Center here.  While some criticize the opulence, it helps me to get out of the “Jesus is my homeboy” phase and acknowledge His Holiness and Sovereignty. 
  • Pray through Scriptures.  What is God speaking through the Word?  How does He want us to apply it?  Pray over those Scriptures, that God would bring it to pass in our lives.
  • Organize our prayer requests.  Not only does this make sure we pray for everyone, it also eliminates guilt from not praying for someone.  There are people I pray for everyday, others I pray for on certain days, dividing them between the days of the week.  This can be done on an electronic device as well.
  • Have a prayer notebook.  In mine, I have guides for different people groups, persecuted Christians, other campus ministries, missionary newsletters, government leaders, church leaders, etc.
  • Create a slideshow.  We can use our smartphones or tablets to show pictures of people or situations we want to pray for.  The slides can be delayed for a minute or more as we pray, then move on to the next one.

There will probably be some who say these practices might be compromising, disrespectful, or catering to culture.  My first response is:  you don’t have to do it.  But can we be people of grace and throw out the guilt?  Ultimately, what we’re seeking is deeper intimacy with God.  If younger generations respond better with some assistance, I say GO FOR IT!

Bottom line is LET’S GO AFTER GOD.  It’s not wrong to have fun while doing it.  How could we not spend time with Him daily?  No healthy marriage would survive on couples spending a few minutes together sporadically during the week.  Let’s put this in proper perspective:  no appointment needed, walk-ins accepted, no intermediary…we are asked to have a private audience with God Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords…our Father, our Savior and Lord, and our Best Friend.

“HELP! I’m A Codependent Mentor!”


I saw the above in my Twitter Feed several months ago and thought I’d write on that subject some day…just now getting around to it…

Going on 23 years of ministry, I’ve had time too look back on an amazing ride:  the highs and the lows.  God’s given me some amazing opportunities and encounters.  But among them, the greatest has been the privilege of mentoring young adults, preparing them to be fully committed followers of Christ in the world.

I used to determine my “success” by the number of people I helped launch into “full-time ministry.”  That was the standard set by my spiritual fathers and mentors, but not necessarily the specific calling God gave me.  The majority of people I’ve worked with have ended up ministering in the marketplace, not standing behind pulpits.  There have been several who ended up as pastors as missionaries but not always the way I envisioned.

Recently, I’ve discovered another reason I tend to overlook those who have made it; in my pessimistic nature, I’ve fixated on those who got sidetracked–on those who chose shortcuts, foolishness, and immaturity versus God’s best.  When God gives us the hearts of mentors, we want the best for those whom He entrusts to us.  This becomes such a passionate desire that we are capable of making some big mistakes while we try to do the right thing:

  • Letting them get too close:  boundaries are blurred to the point that they become confidantes instead of students.
  • Giving them opportunities they aren’t ready for:  allowing them to minister the word, take leadership roles, make administrative decisions, etc.
  • Focusing too much on their ability to present the Gospel instead of living it.  Who cares about the gimmicks, tips, and practices.  What are they like in private?  Is their prayer life growing?  Do we emphasize character over charisma?
  • Desiring them to succeed can blind us to their flaws.  We start to unknowingly compromise standards, making excuses for their indiscretions.
  • Protecting them from hard lessons because of our concern for their welfare.  As leaders, we need discernment to know when to hone in and when to back off.  If God’s disciplining them, don’t interfere.
  • Believing too much in the process instead of the individual, it could bog us down personally, as well as others who need to be mentored.  A kind warning:  Choose carefully and wisely those who bear your armor; they can easily stab you in the back

I asked a close friend of mine:  “How do we get to the point of not living and dying with our protégé’s successes and failures?”  He reminded me that Jesus got frustrated with the Twelve.  If our only goal is to build disciples, then it would seem impossible to remove ourselves emotionally.  But, we see Him push past the immediate lives of his disciples and pursue His Father’s Plan all the way to the Cross.  Jesus was ultimately saying, “Father, they’re yours.  Use them as you will.  Do in them what is needed.  Your will be done, not mine.”  And the result:  some fell, many more made it.

A couple other suggestions I might add:

  • Find people who sincerely want to grow in Christ.  Not everyone is ready or willing to change.  They can’t be forced or compelled to make wise choices.
  • Don’t fixate on people’s gifts but their potential.  There are people who have skills; that doesn’t mean they want to use them for God.  I’ve seen some of the shyest people with meager skill sets become champions.  Let’s not forget the underdogs and fringe people.
  • Accept that we can’t “fix” everyone’s problems.  We grow fond of people and want to help them.  But give God freedom to move as He chooses.  We can’t solve their problems people for them.  In fact, many times, they resent it.
  • Make sure we’re still willing to grow.  Are we still maturing in Christ?  Still praying?  Still practicing what we preach?
  • Make sure Christ’s purpose is being served, not our own.  We do this to bring honor to Christ and obey Him, not to build a trophy case.
  • Believe the best but prepare for the worst.  We stay faithful, point people to Christ, and bring out their best…but know that it doesn’t always end optimally.
  • Realize that it’s Christ who they decide to follow or reject.  Determine to do things properly, and in the event that they walk away, don’t take it personally.  It was and always is for Him!  If people decide to bail, we can’t blame ourselves or pick up the responsibility for their decisions.
  • Never give up on people.  We may need to back off and let them have their emotional/spiritual tantrum…but always leave the door open for them to return.


Shout out to Carlos Ortiz in Texas for the years of friendship, advice, meals, all night conversations, and dreaming of what could be.  Your passion to mentor this generation constantly pushes the standard higher!

When We Feel Duped By God


Disappointments happen.  They’re a part of life.  If we can’t learn how to deal with them, then it’s going to be a very long, uneventful journey.  There are times, however, we feel we’ve heard from God, did everything right, and because things don’t end up the way we want, we start to wonder if God tricked us…that He’s an arbitrary Sovereign who dangles a cosmic carrot in front of us.

Here are some reasons we may feel deceived:

  • We get in the way or try to “help God.”  Like Sarai who gave Hagar to Abram (Genesis 16) or Jacob who usurped his brother’s inheritance (Genesis 25, 27).
  • We’re impatient.  Hmmm, did God forget about me?  Why is it taking so long for Him to fulfill His promise to me?  If we think we’ve waited endlessly, think about this:  Jacob waited over 20 years for his brides, but even longer for the dream at Bethel to materialize.  Moses was a nomad for 25 years before he fulfilled his purpose, and it would be another 40 years for just a mere glimpse of the Promised Land.  What about poor Simeon who waited his entire life simply to see the Messiah’s face (Luke 2)?
  • Our expectations don’t line up with God’s.  We have idea or scheme of how things should look.  How many, how big, how valuable?  This causes us to fixate on the results instead of on God.  Oops.  (Jonah 4:1).
  • We or someone else did something wrong.  Perhaps wrong motives, pride, even wanting to share the spotlight with the Almighty.  These behaviors can jeopardize God working in our lives (1 Kings 11).  
  • We heard wrong.  Let’s be open to the possibility that we weren’t listening to God but possibly the enemy’s deception or our own desires drowning out His voice (Genesis 3).

For my colleagues, there’s another kind of disappointment that’s a little more serious because success is so engrained in our minds, especially in our consumer based society.  We let results define our livelihood and self worth.  Many have left the ministry much too soon because of frustration and hurt.  While that is a part of ministry life, once again the problem may be internal strife instead of external and empirical production.  Are we too determined to achieve:

  • Earthly results.  We are too often judged by peers based on results.  Minsters’ meetings become difficult because we dread the question:  “How many you running now?”  There are times we grow envious of other’s ministries, giftings, results.  Some of our peers seem like they have the Midas touch while we have to squeeze water out of a rock.
  • Earthly repayment. We’ve sacrificed, prayed, fasted put everything on the line because of a cause and passion.  For what?  What do we get out of it?  We have a George Bailey self pity moment, forgetting that it’s about pouring into people’s lives.
  • Earthly recognition.  Too often, we yearn for the applause of man.  We want to be able to say “look what I accomplished.”  There’s a part of us that wants to be the big bad expert that others look to.  Public opinion is fleeting.  People are fickle.  Let’s be content with the approval of Christ.
  • Earthly rewards.  We want to know we’re making a difference in people’s lives.  It’s not always evident, many times til many years later.  Not all of us will have the Mr. Holland experience where all those whom he helped returned to say thank you.  Most times, we need to be satisfied with the God nod.
  • Earthly reference.  We base so much on stinkin numbers:  attendance, bank accounts, square footage of our facilities and property, programs, small groups, salvations, baptisms, miracles, outreaches, etc.  If only we could see things from God’s viewpoint.  All the ledgers, budgets, and accolades mean nothing to Him; only people who seek after Him and His will.  Only in America can we have the biggest congregations, the biggest buildings, the showiest productions and promo, and still have absolutely nothing to say.  Maybe there needs to be a new standard of success…we’ll call it obedience.  Nothing more, nothing less.  We may never know on this side the eternal effect a simple act of obedience could have.

Few people know the name Mordecai Ham who was a powerful preacher in the early 20th century.  He saw much success as a revivalist cutting through grassroots America.  He went through a period of disillusionment and discouragement, not seeing results as he ministered in the Carolinas.  In a moment when he almost shut down his tent meetings, he felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to go on.  When he gave the appeal that evening, only 2 teenage boys responded despite his pleas for people to come to Christ.  Little did anyone know on November 1, 1934 the future of one of those boys whose name was Billy Graham.  What if Mr. Ham hadn’t simply obeyed God?

“One of our troubles is we are not willing to humble ourselves. We are not willing to give up our opinions as to how things should be done.” Moredcai Ham

Do we yearn to see our name in print or in lights, or simply to hear the words, Well done good and faithful servant.”