4 things to KNOW instead of FEEL

4 Pillarsi’ve written quite a bit about how dangerous it is to trust what you feel. (read some here, here, here, and here). our hearts are deceptive. therefore, when faced with a choice between trusting what you feel and trusting what you know…i’m going to try and go with what i know to be true.

today, here are four things i want to know, even though they are sharply contrasting to what i feel. maybe you want to know these things too?

1) i know i need to pray.
prayer has always been a challenge for me. i think some of that stems from my role in ministry: i was always the “official pray-er” at every church and ministry event i attended. maybe i felt like i didn’t need to pray anymore?

notice what i wrote there? maybe i felt like i didn’t need to pray anymore.

i know i need to pray. i know that communication (both talking and listening) is vital to the development of any relationship. i know God wants to hear from me. i know God has a lot he would like to tell me. i know the discipline of prayer would be good for me…it would force me to slow down and quiet down.

2) i know i need to love others.
my kids. my co-workers. the guests who sit at my tables at Applebee’s. the unbeliever i really like and the Christian i don’t like at all.

no matter who it is or how i feel about them…i know i need to love. not just like. or get along with. or tolerate.

Jesus calls us to love our enemies, but i don’t feel like i have any of those. it might be just as hard to love those you feel apathetic towards. and i know i need more of the Spirit to do this well. see #1.

3) i know God is close.
it’s easy to forget how close God is when you have one arm full of hot plates of food, the other hand with a check to be dropped, two tables who need drink refills, and the expectations your managers, staff, and guests have for you to be perfect.

it’s easy to forget how close God is when you have 3 kids screaming at you and each other, 2 kids wrestling on the couch, and 1 kid waking up cranky from a nap with the worst kind of bedhead.

it’s easy to forget how close God is when your bills are past due, your friends ignore you, your dreams abandon you, and your heart is breaking.

he. just. doesn’t. feel. close.

but. i. know. better.

if anything, on my better days, i may be more aware of God’s closeness in the chaos of my full house and full restaurant than i was in ministry. at the very least, i am definitely more aware of my need for his closeness.

4) i know i’m not a big deal.
i think everyone likes being a big deal. our culture makes a big deal out of becoming a big deal.

i felt like a big deal in the previous season of my life. i was leading a growing ministry. i was sought after to speak in lots of churches and at lots of functions. i had successfully funded a book project, partnering with hundreds of people.

i felt like a big deal.

and i let my big deal-ness define  me. (but more on that another day.)

when you think you’re a big deal, you have to make decisions that help you stay a big deal. you don’t make decisions out of faithfulness or humility or for the benefits of others. you make decisions to help you maintain your rock star status.

here is what i know today: i’m not a big deal. i never have been. and that truth is incredibly liberating. it frees me to be a child of God, a husband to Keri, and a father to my gaggle of children. it allows me to be a lowly server at the neighborhood bar and grill.

i wasn’t making much of a lasting splash when i felt like i was a big deal. now that i know i am not a big deal, i receive the grace to try again and hope for a bigger splash for my family, my guests, and for the little corner of the Kingdom in which i reside.

i simply take up space in the Kingdom

Not well? What is illness to the body of a knight-errant? What matter wounds? For each time he falls, he shall rise again, and woe to the wicked.
–Don Quixote in The Man of La Mancha

the theme God keeps bringing me back to is one of grace upon grace. i don’t know that i will ever understand this kind of love. and if i am honest, it’s hard for me to accept that anyone loves me…especially the God to whom i am accountable.

you see, i’m afraid i let my previous sins handcuff me. i am rendered ineffective. i simply take up space in the Kingdom. 

and when this happens, the Enemy doesn’t get nervous when my feet hit the floor in the morning. he isn’t threatened by me. he doesn’t really have to pay me much attention.

this quote by the beautiful and tragic Don Quixote in The Man of La Mancha reminds me of a few things i can’t afford to forget. perhaps they will serve you well.

// i will fall.
no matter how hard i strive, how far i go, or how good i think i am…i will fall. often. and a lot.

// i will be wounded.
it’s hard to keep falling and not hurt yourself. i learn this every time i go mountain biking; i fall and land on the same spot over and over again. it hurts. it’s almost enough to make me not want to get back on the bike. but…

// i must always get up.
what good am i in the Kingdom if i fail to get up? dwelling on my wounds keep them from becoming scars and scars are tangible evidence of healing. getting up speeds the healing process.

// nothing conquers our foe like the grace of God.
our Enemy wins if we stay chained to the sins of our past. it’s the grace of our Father that lifts us up, sets us back on our feet, and throws us back into the battle. and nothing is more threatening to the dominion of darkness than a bunch of freed captives, wrapped in the light of grace, taking back ground.

today, i vow to loose the chains of previous sin.
i vow to get up, dust myself off, and get back in the arena.
i vow to tell the stories of my wounds to scars.

woe to the wicked.

2 things to remember about college students and evangelism

i interviewed a veteran campus minister years ago, when i was just a newbie in the field. i was writing an article from the slant of “new guys asks old guy how things in campus ministry have changed.” i asked him to share how he personally had gone about sharing the truth of Jesus with college students over his four decades of campus ministry. this is what he said:

“when i get in an elevator, a student will ask me if i am going down. i always respond, ‘not when i die.'”

that story makes me think of this hilarious SportsCenter commercial:

now, this man led thousands to Christ during his lifetime. and so he was not saying that his preferred method of evangelism is “cute sayings in the elevator evangelism” like one would say “real life evangelism” or “sequential evangelism” or “the celtic way of evangelism” (all titles found at Amazon).

i’ve thought about his answer a lot over the 7 years or so since i wrote that article. if we are called to make disciples, we in college ministry must constantly be thinking about how we ourselves approach evangelism and how we equip our students to fulfill their mission of making disciples.

here are two things we must keep in mind.

1 // it’s all about relationship.

i hate when followers of Jesus use fear tactics to scare people into the Kingdom. the whole “if you died tonight, would you go to heaven?” line of reasoning is very frustrating to me. it communicates that Jesus is nothing more than a “get out of hell free” card and that being a Christian is all about what he can give you and not so much about what you can give him.

this approach undermines the relationship we can have with Jesus. imagine you came to my birthday party bearing gifts for me. i reach out to you when you arrive, but only to snatch the gifts away from you. i don’t really care that you’re at my party or that you desire a relationship with me; i only care about what you brought me.

yeah, it’s kind of like that.

(please don’t hear what i’m not saying. talking about heaven and hell and judgment and eternity are all vitally important. but if Jesus is simply an eternal fire insurance policy, i’m afraid we’ve missed the point.)

we must lead people to Jesus. and we must train those people to lead other people to Jesus. and not just his gifts.

2 // it’s all about relationship.

yeah, you’re reading that right. two main points; the same, but different.

the old adage rings true for college students: they don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. that’s why “elevator evangelism” doesn’t work today. authentic relationship is the incubator where an eventual faith takes root. 

people are not projects. and neither is evangelism a task we check off our list. gone are the days, i think, of “large event” evangelism. smaller groups and one-on-one relationships is where the good stuff happens. we must think small; one who comes to faith leads another, who leads another. by thinking small, we impact big.

that’s how Jesus did it.

question for you: what do you think? how did you come to faith? how can we create better environments for healthier relationships in which the gospel can be declared and demonstrated?

6 concerns of college students and my response, part 2

i’ve broken a major rule of blogging these last two weeks. last monday, i posted part 1 of my response to 6 fears and concerns of college students today as outlined by dr. tim elmore. the unspoken blogging code is that you post part 2 the next day.

yeah, that didn’t happen. and there’s a reason.

(cue shameless plug)

i was busy launching this bad boy. at the time of writing, we are at 58% of our goal. if you haven’t had the chance to jump on board, i’d love for you to partner with me!

(end shameless plug)

and so, finally…here is part 2, addressing the second 3 concerns as listed by elmore. this second verse is the same as the first: i will share a few of my thoughts and then i would love to hear your thoughts, especially if you are currently a college student.

4 // they don’t see the world in black or white, right or wrong.

i’m not really sure this is a fear or a concern. it’s more of a characterization. and generally speaking, it seems to be true. college students don’t seem to sure about what to stand for. elmore says this generation wants to possess values, but there has been very little need for them to sacrifice for what is right.

and when no sacrifice is required, the value of what is right diminishes and the line between right and wrong gets a little fuzzy. and because, as elmore points out, life has been relatively sacrifice-free for this generation, they don’t often think in terms of black or white, right or wrong.

5 // their career plan involves “one big break” instead of steadily plodding up the ladder.

i don’t think this generation has an aversion to hard work. i think this generation has an aversion to what they feel is menial work. and unfortunately, there are times when climbing the ladder is going to feel menial. couple this with an “microwave” culture — where everything is ready in an instant — and you’ve got trouble.

i think what college students desire is value. it’s the proverbial forest for the trees; it’s hard to see the value in menial work, but students often fail to think long term about any given situation. working hard and completing the seemingly menial tasks earns the right for greater responsibilities and opportunities. like i said, college students don’t mind hard work. i think they simply sometimes forget that you occasionally have to work hard at that which is menial.

6 // they want their life to count.

i couldn’t agree with this statement more. however, we need to decide what “counts.” i think many college students want to accomplish something incredible that gives their lives great value and meaning.

however, does it “count” when you faithfully provide for your family? does it “count” when you invest in your children? does it “count” when you serve your customers well? does it “count” when you invest in a dozen young boys on a little league team? does it “count” when you are faithful in little things?

i think it counts. and so i feel we must help students today realize they don’t need to cure cancer or write the next great american novel to lead a life that counts.

question for you: what do you think? are elmore’s observations accurate? what about my responses? i’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you are currently a college student.

6 concerns of college students and my response, part 1

a few weeks ago, leadership guru and all-around expert in all things Generation Y, tim elmore, wrote this great post about the 6 fears and concerns of college students today. as someone who works with college students, i thought i would take a couple of posts and share a quick response to each of these fears and concerns. today is part 1 and will address the first 3 statements.

1 // they list the need to grow up faster as among the biggest disadvantages of their generation.

there is no doubt, kids are growing up faster than they have ever had to before. and i also have no doubt that college students feel that pressure. but, i think many college students are resisting this felt need by refusing to actually grow up.

this is especially true for men. much has been written about the “boys who can shave” epidemic. the point at which a boy becomes a man gets later and later in life. first, you were a man when you quit school and worked in the family trade. then it was when you could drive. then, when you could vote and buy smokes and get a tattoo. then when you went to college. then when you could drink. then when you got a job. then when you got married. then when you had a kid.

the fact is, many college men may feel this pressure to grow up fast, but they aren’t doing it. in fact, a study in britain just revealed that the number of men between the ages of 20 and 34 who were still living at home has increased from 14% in 1997 to 33% in 2011.

failure to launch, anyone?

the bottom line is that college students are feeling this pressure to grow up fast. but they aren’t necessarily doing it. and those of us in campus ministry are left with the tension of helping to train a generation of students to actually grow up.

2 // they are not happy with the direction of the country.

elmore says that 62% of generation y believes the country is headed in the wrong direction. and, my facebook feed today (on the day the supreme court upholds obamacare) confirms this.

i’m not sure that students completely understand the potential they have within them to bring about real change. it’s so much easier to whine on facebook than it is to get our hands dirty. students don’t feel they can make a difference in a machine as big as american politics. or in the world for that matter.

can we convey to students the truth of ghandi’s statement that they must “be the change [they] want to see in the world.” we must equip them to think in terms of smaller is bigger. Jesus taught this concept. and so of course, we must center this change on the principles of the Kingdom of Christ.

3 // in some ways, they are at odds with their own beliefs and values.

this is an interesting statement. the students i work with tend to know what they believe; they just aren’t sure how to express those beliefs. they love Jesus, but they aren’t so sure about folks in the church. they struggle to find their place in the community of the saints.

the desires of college students in the faith arena are, in my estimation, shockingly simple: honesty, transparency, and authenticity. if we (the “grown ups”) could express our faith in these terms, it would go a long way in discipling our college students.

question for you: i would love to hear from my college students today: do you think elmore’s observations are right on? what about my thoughts? what would you add?

3 rules to keep trouble (and effectiveness) away

Jesus’ mouth got him into all kinds of trouble.

consider luke 4:22:

“And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.”

but something changes just a few verses later, in luke 4:28:

“When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.”

what happened?

well, Jesus opened his mouth and said stuff. and in doing so, He broke three essential rules for those who don’t want to get in trouble for what they say. follow these rules to keep yourself out of trouble because of what you say.

// don’t say anything meaningful. //
Jesus had just said He was the fulfillment of a long-promised prophecy. He is the One promised to free the captives and give sight to the blind and set the oppressed free. folks loved that. they loved it so much, in fact, that they immediately desired for Him to heal some people. they missed His point.

when you say meaningful things, people will miss the point.

and there is misunderstanding. and that leads to trouble. so, it’s easier if you just don’t say anything meaningful.

// don’t tell the truth. //
Jesus goes on to say a bunch of stuff about how God’s people had historically missed what God was doing, so He spoke to and used the hated gentiles.

this was infuriating to those good jewish folks listening to him in the synagogue.

and it was the truth. the problem with the truth is that it gets us into trouble. we could save ourselves a lot of headaches if we just avoided telling the truth.

// don’t say too much. //
Jesus should have stopped when He was ahead. He should have stopped when the people were marveling at His words.

but, nope…He had to keep going. He had to couple the grace He had spoken with truth. He had to push the envelope, seize the teachable moment, make His point. geez.

Jesus said too much. and He offended His audience and got Himself into trouble.

and so there you have it:

three rules to follow in order to avoid any trouble…
and effectiveness
…your mouth may cause.