Friday, February 26, 2016

Every. Body. Matters.

What if I gave you a machine that would sustain your life?  A machine whose complexity was almost unimaginable.  And what if  I told you this machine will take care of itself and even fix itself as long as you give it the right fuel and maintenance?  If this were the case, you would certainly understand that you had a big responsibility that needed to be upheld.  What's interesting is, even thought it would be tough to find someone who would disagree with that, it's almost tougher still to find many people who take much responsibility for their own physical body.  Which is, of course, that complex machine I'm speaking of.

Recently I read Every Body Matters, by Gary Thomas.  The quick version of the review is that it gets 5 stars.  But, let me tell you why it's so easy to give those 5 stars.  Simply put,  it seems to unlock the mysterious connection between body and spirit, just as the sub-title "Strengthening your body to strengthen your soul" implies.  Let me share a few quotes from the book to paint the picture. (Disclaimer: this book was written to Christians, who are the majority of my readers.)

"We are not angels, pursuing God without physical covering, and if we try to pretend we are - living as though the state of our bodies has no effect on the condition of our souls - all the proper doctrine in the world can't save us from eating away our sensitivity to God's presence or throwing away years of potential ministry if we wreck our heart's physical home."

"For most of our lives, we've emphasized growing our souls, not always realizing that a lack of physical discipline can undercut and even erode spiritual growth."

"The reason I want to get in shape, then, the reason I long for God's Church to get in shape, is not to impress anyone, not to make others feel inferior, not to demonstrate our own personal discipline and self-control.  God forbid!  On the contrary, it is to become, as Paul writes, "instruments for special purposes made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work."

I'll stop there for the sake of time, but there is so much motivating truth, I just want to ask you to read this book.  Let me tell you this quick story to illustrate the need for and the value of a book like this.   The other day I was texting with a friend who pastors a local church here in Tulsa.  He asked me about this book because he saw I was tweeting quotes from it on an almost daily basis.  I told him about it and I told him about FitPastors, an organization that has helped me and could help him get holistically fit. Once I told him all about FitPastors, he made a great statement.  He said, "Cool.  I know the "how to" options are there.  Gotta have the "want to" that overcomes the want of food. Seems like this book may attack that!"

He was exactly right.  If you're struggling with your weight or if you're struggling to be physically fit, this book is for you.  If you're one of the many who believe physical fitness has little or no value, I would challenge you to read this.  It may change your perception.  And that change in perception may change your life.  I know it's changing mine.  What's stopping you from taking a potentially life-changing step?

Friday, February 19, 2016

God Does Not Have A Plan For Your Life

"Boo.  Hiss", say all the Christians.  But, Jason, I thought you were a Christian.  I thought you would certainly believe that God has a plan for my life.  You write this blog.  You offer coaching to other leaders.  You lead people at your church. You're writing a book on leadership.  Isn't all that so people can find that perfect plan God has laid out for them since the beginning of time?

Nope.  Not really.  Well, it might be more precise to say not exactly.  I do write this blog and do all those other things so you can find ways to lead yourself.  And one of my deepest desires is that you would lead yourself toward God and His plans.  But, let me be clear.  I do not believe God has a plan for your life.  

However, I do believe He has a plan for the world and sure would like you to be a part of that plan.  Not only that, He wants you to use the specific gifts He's given you to make the greatest contribution you can make to His Kingdom!  Here's why I dislike the "God has a great big plan for your life" speak.  Quite simply, it turns the conversation selfish in a hurry.  If we look at our lives as an opportunity to walk out God's big plan for us, it's about us.  But, the longer I live, the more I realize it's not about us. It's about Him. And if that offends you, I'm glad.  If the idea that life is much more about God than you is offensive, then you do not understand your place in this world.  

But what about Jeremiah 29:11? 
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you,
not harm you, plans to give you a hope and future."

It's the classic verse Youth Pastors and Lead Pastors alike use to whip their crowds into a frenzy of amens.  But do you know what that verse tells me?  It tells me God loves you and wants you to have a prosperous future. Does it really say anything about a specific plan for my life or yours? No.  On the other hand, the entire New Testament has plenty to say about God's plan.  There is an entire world among us who is separated from God and can only be reunited through a relationship with Jesus.  The real question we ought to be asking is, "How has God wired me so that I can make a difference in these people's lives?"  You see the difference?  God has a plan for you.  Selfish.  God has a plan for the world and you have been given gifts to be a part of His plan.  Selfless.  

Obviously, I've just scratched the surface of a much deeper discussion, but I'd love to know what you think about this idea. Leave a comment below and we can talk about it.  

Friday, February 12, 2016

3 Reasons You Need To Honor Your Parents Better

I wrote last week about some takeaways from a book I had recently read.  One of which spoke to the parenting of those of us who call ourselves Christians.  An excerpt from that post is below:

"A new thing is happening in the Christian Church in America.  Young people who see the worth in following Jesus are fighting resentment toward parents who lived lukewarm lives.  Parents who idolized their kids and expected praise in return are receiving the opposite.  These young adults are falling in love with Jesus, despite the example of their parents.  And some even try to respectfully rebuke their parents."

Over the last seven days, I've had some interesting and troubling conversations based off of this post.  And first off, let me say that this is a real issue.  And further, when handled the right way, it can be a step of growth in the family relationship.  As mentioned above, a respectful rebuke is a good thing.  However, based on over twenty years in ministry and, unfortunately, how I've treated my own parents at times, I can say that many times these situations are not handled well and respect gets trampled in emotion and misunderstanding.

Of course, it takes two to tango and relationships do not happen in a vacuum. So let me be clear, I'm writing this directly to you young adults who have found a vital relationship with Jesus, yet find yourself frustrated with the fact that your parents might not share your zeal for Christ.  Further, maybe they taught you to fear God and follow Jesus, but never displayed the passion that you now feel for Him. Whether that's true is up for debate in each individual situation, but no matter the reality, you (young zealous follower of Christ) may need to rethink how you go about relating to your parents.  I want to give you three reasons why.  

Reason #1 - They did the best they could
Do you know who Liz Murray is?  Liz and her sister grew up in NYC with two parents who were hopelessly addicted to drugs. Both parents eventually contracted AIDS and passed away by the time Liz was a teenager.  By age 15, she was a homeless high school student.  He story of climbing out of that situation is wonderful, but I want to share something I heard her say in a leadership talk many years ago.  It has affected me more deeply than most of the "good" talks I've heard over the years.

Someone asked Liz how she was able to forgive and release her parents' shortfalls when it came to caring for her and her sister.  She answered with a story that blew me away.  She was about twelve years old and it had been a whole day since she and her sister had eaten.  She knew that her parents had spent the family's food money on drugs - again - and she was angry.  She decided she was going to go to her dad and tell him just what she thought of him.  Her dad was sitting in a ratty old chair in their tiny apartment, and as she approached him, she first noticed his shoes.  They were so old and worn out that they were more duct tape than actual shoes.  She then looked at her dad and noticed how skinny and tired he looked.  Then the realization hit her.  She and her sister had not eaten in a day, but her dad had probably not eaten in three!  Now, it's easy to say, she goes on, that he allowed his drug habit to control him and the family.  That's true.  But here's what Liz's twelve-year-old mind came to that most of us miss, even well into our 30's and beyond.  He did the best he could.  He could not give her what he did not have to give.  Should he have broken his addiction, gotten a job and taken care of the family he was responsible for?  Absolutely yes.  But he couldn't.  He was sick.  He was unable to make himself well.  He did the best he could.  That realization allowed a twelve-year-old girl to forgive and release her parents for bringing she and her sister up in deplorable conditions!

Can that realization allow you to forgive and release your parents for doing much less to you? Maybe they should have done this or that better.  Maybe they still should.  The reality is, they did the best they could. They could not have given you what they didn't have to give.  You camping out on the fact that they should have been better or done better only drives the wedge in deeper.  You're an adult now.  Let it go.

Reason #2 - You owe them
If you are a parent, this is probably a no-brainer for you.  You get the incredible sacrifice you make on a daily basis just to keep your kids alive, much less thrive.  But if you're not a parent yet, let me respectfully say that you have absolutely no idea what it means to be a parent.  Please don't fall into the trap of judging your parents through a filter of what you think you would have done.  The hard truth of it is that you have no idea what you would have done in their situation.

Honor and loyalty are little-valued virtues in our day.  I want to suggest that your parents deserve both. Yes, you owe it to them because they made sacrifices beyond what you can yet imagine.  And even if you feel like they could have or should have done better, please remember that they did the best they could.  They could not have given what they did not have to give.

Reason #3 - You're commanded to
You're the one convinced of your own deep love for Jesus.  Have you read Exodus 20:12 or Ephesians 6:2?  Biblical commands don't get much clearer than this.  Put your money where your mouth is.  Swallow your pride.  You're not as holy as you think.

Forgive your parents.  Call them.  Apologize.  Set a new course.

Friday, February 5, 2016

You And Me Forever

You and me forever.  Now that's a romantic thought.  It's also the title of the book I just finished this morning.  You and Me Forever, by Francis Chan and Lisa Chan is billed as a marriage book.  I'm not so sure.  I'm not saying it doesn't have some great nuggets of wisdom for marriage, but it's subtitle, 'marriage in light of eternity' would more accurately represent the book if it were 'life in light of eternity'.

Overall, I thought this book was good - maybe 3 stars out of 5.  There were some really strong points and then there were some long stretches - mostly the middle chapters - where Francis just goes on and on about how lazy American "Christians" are and how we need to get out there and be Christ to the people in our world.  He's right!  I agree, but you can only say the same thing so many times before it turns into an all-out rant.  I did almost put the book down, at one point, but I'm glad I didn't.  It finished up really strong.  Let me share some of the gold that's found inside.  There are a few ideas and quotes below.  I will also show you how you can get a free copy of the book!

The Secret to Happily Ever After:

"A strange thing happened when Lisa and I started living with an eternal lens; it caused us to enjoy the here and now!  Many people will tell you to focus on your marriage, focus on each other; but we discovered that focusing on God's mission made our marriage amazing!"

Marriage Isn't That Great:

"We all need to prioritize our eternal relationship with our Creator above all things.  Besides, until you relate properly to God, you won't be much help to anyone else.  People who aren't living well, make matters worse by living together."

What's Really Best For The Kids:

"A new thing is happening in the Christian Church in America.  Young people who see the worth in following Jesus are fighting resentment toward parents who lived lukewarm lives.  Parents who idolized their kids and expected praise in return are receiving the opposite.  These young adults are falling in love with Jesus, despite the example of their parents.  And some even try to respectfully rebuke their parents."

"Here's a question every parent should be asking.  What will break my heart more?  If my kids don't end up loving me?  Or if they don't end up loving Jesus?  Seriously contemplate that question."

This book is worth your time to read.  It's much more about living on mission as a Christian than it is about marriage or parenting.  But, it is worth saying that a Christian truly living on mission will experience the best of marriages and a more fulfilling relationship with their kids than those simply trying to live comfortably, keep the peace and raise good kids.  There is a much higher level of living - both now and eternally.

*You can get more information about this book and 
 about a free pdf download by clicking here.