For The Love

I admit it, I love money. More specifically, I love the security money brings. But I also love Jesus, and therein lies the rub.  You see, Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

In his book, Empty Promises, Pete Wilson brings some truth that hits me right in the gut (and probably does you as well): “There is zero correlation between money and true peace.  Zero.  You can try – as many other have – to squeeze one ounce of peace from the stacks of money and stuff you own, but you’ll fail.  You won’t find it there.  There is no greater empty promise than the lie that has tricked millions and millions of people of every nation, race, age, and tax bracket.  The empty promise that money will buy you anything you really need.”

This is totally where I live when I slip once again into the service of money.  My heart and passion are to find security in Jesus, but my fears drive me towards attempting to gain security in how much cash I have accumulated in my checking account, IRA, 401k, or emergency fund.

Be honest for a second and ask yourself which of these questions creates more anxiety in your heart: “There is no God” or, “There is no money in the bank”?  Now, stop and let that soak in for a while……..

Jesus said later in Matthew 6, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear.  Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds.  They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them.  And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”

What if we really believed this and lived it out?  How do we even do that?  The answer is generosity.  Generous giving clears out the fear and hoarding that lead us to find our security in more; it aligns our hearts with God’s heart, directing us to find our security completely in Him.

Check out this incredible illustration of generosity from the last month at West Ridge:

The Challenge

The Result on Week 1

The Result on Week 2

If you’re like I was the first time I saw those, you really need some tissues at this moment.

So what now?  Are you ready to join me in discovering what awaits us in a life completely abandoned to the purpose and protection of Jesus?  I’m ready to take the leap, to move beyond my fears, to lead with generosity, and live with absolute faith in Him to take care of my needs and the needs of my family.

Are you with me?

The New “Busy”

You’ve just arrived at a friend’s house for dinner when he casually asks how you’re doing.  You respond, “Man, I’m just busy… between work, family, our kids’ activities, and church, I barely have time to take a breath.  But, things are going well!”  To which he responds, “That’s fantastic, glad to hear it!”  A smile creeps across your face as your chest puffs up a little.

Wait… what just happened?  Are we actually proud that we’re exhausted?  When did our worth become wrapped up in our level activity?  Like it or not, we have become addicted to busy.

I recently heard an interview with a leader talking about his expectations of the staff working underneath him.  When asked how they help their staff achieve balance between their professional and personal lives, he said he actually doesn’t believe in balance at all.  They expect their staff to wrap all of their lives (and their families’ lives) around the organization, and spouses and kids need to understand their rhythm as a family walks in step with the rhythm of the organization.  Now, I understand where he was coming from (and he actually said later in the interview he might look back years from now and say he was totally wrong), but the heart of what he said doesn’t sit well with me.  Do we really want the people in our organizations to give every single part of their lives to our organizational mission, riding the thin line between burnout and success?  Is it really worth it?

Pete Wilson says in his book, Empty Promises, “There’s just something exhilarating about public productivity.  It makes me feel strong, worthy.  It brings approval and accolades and can keep me going on an adrenaline rush.  When I work a fifteen-hour day, I often feel a great sense of accomplishment.  I love the high-risk decisions, the writing under pressure, and the raw excitement of ministry.  Public productivity can be exhilarating.  It stimulates my adrenaline and feeds my ego.  (This is why so many people end up with an inflated ego and deflated family).”

And therein lies the problem.  Our addiction to busy leads in the end not to more productivity, but to an “inflated ego and deflated family.”  In our pursuit of success, we lose our connection with the things in life that actually matter.

On his radio show from October 27th, Ken Coleman posed the question, “what if balance was the new busy?”  And that is the same question I ask of you.  What if living in the “unforced rhythms of grace” Jesus speaks of in Matthew 11 was the norm?  What if we praised people who don’t sacrifice the health of their family, their relationships, and their own health on the altar of busy?  What if sabbath rest was a term used readily and not just by a small cross section of society?

I’ve discovered for myself and in our family the unmatched joy and contentment found in living a balanced life.  And if we embrace balance as the new busy, I believe we will all experience an overwhelming peace as individuals, families, and communities beyond any we’ve ever known.

What do you think?

West Ridge “Night Of Worship” Song List On 11-11-12

1. 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord) – Matt Redman
2. Not Ashamed – Kristian Stanfill
3. Cornerstone - Hillsong
4. All My Hope - Hillsong
5. Forever Reign - Kristian Stanfill
6. The Everlasting - Fellowship Church
7. In Christ Alone - Owl City
8. Running – Hillsong

Get links to download all the songs at West Ridge Worship.
Our worship leaders for the evening were: Andrew Pray, Courtney Pray, Jamie Lynn BrannenChase Gentes, & Jason Foust.

Always Tell A Story

Think back to this past weekend at your church (if you can still remember)… what was the point of your song list, service order, creative elements, teaching, announcements, stage setup, or worship environment?  What was the goal, the big idea, the take-away?  Or better yet… what was the STORY?

We all love stories.  They inspire us, challenge us, entertain us, sadden us, and motivate us to imagine a life bigger than the one we’re currently living.  I was talking with my friend & colleague Chris last week about how we plan our services at church and the importance of telling a good story.

Donald Miller says in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, “A story is based on what people think is important, so when we live a story, we are telling people around us what we think is important.”

In the same way, when we plan gatherings in our churches, our programming should tell a story.  And through the story, we tell what we think is important as a community.  Every single element matters.  What songs you sing, the order you sing them in, the space you allow for silence or “soak” moments, how people speak from the stage, the wording they use, the creative elements intertwined in the program, the demeanor of your people… all of those and many other things should come together in a beautiful cohesion to tell the grander story.

So go back to last weekend.  What story did you tell, or did you even tell one at all?  And once you answer those questions, ask one more.  Did the story you told align with both God’s overarching story of the Gospel of Jesus and the specific mission and vision of your church?

Let’s not waste a single opportunity to always tell a story.

Instead, let’s tell the best story we possibly can, inspiring people to then live the greatest story they possibly can live.

Freedom Through Vulnerability

Being vulnerable is tough… no being vulnerable is just flat out scary.  Most of us spend so much time looking for ways to keep from being vulnerable, hiding being a mask of self confidence, false security, or shallow relationships.  But when you get to the root of it, we keep ourselves closed off because we’re afraid to put our reputations on the line.  “What will they think of me? What if I fail? What if I don’t measure up?  What if I’m not good enough, smart enough, polished enough, etc.?”  Those questions and so many others flood our minds and keep us bound by our own insecurities.  I experience them often when I step onstage to lead worship, meet someone for lunch, walk into a meeting, speak to a group, or open up to a friend.  But… Jesus has called us to a different life, a life of miraculous freedom that can only be found through vulnerability, putting our reputations at risk to let God’s reputation be exalted.

Many of us know the story of when God called Moses to free the Israelites.  After appearing to Moses in a flaming bush and telling him the exact details of how successful he will be, Moses still refuses to believe God’s promise, trapped in a web of his own fears.  Moses’ fear is illustrated so well in Exodus 4:1 when he says, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”  Did you hear that?  He wasn’t afraid of failure or death.  He was afraid of what people would say about him!

In his book, The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson says, “You cannot build God’s reputation if you aren’t willing to risk yours.  There comes a moment when you need to make the call or make the move.  Circle makers are risk takers.  Moses had learned this well: If you don’t take the risk, you forfeit the miracle.”

Moses did go on to accept God’s challenge.  He stepped out in faith, took the risk, and saw God do the absolute miraculous over the course of his lifetime.  And that’s the challenge to me and to you today.  What is holding you back from being vulnerable?  What dream do you need to go after with all your energy and passion?  What relationship do you need to allow to flourish through vulnerability?  Where do you need to put your reputation at risk to see God’s reputation exalted?

Let’s be reputation riskers, vulnerability leaders, experience a freedom that few ever know, and see God do the miraculous in our lives!