Worship

Why I’m Leaving Facebook

fastI joined Facebook in 2008. I don’t think at the time, I really understood the implications of this platform. It was new. It was fresh. Everyone was doing it. I joined the craze.

I wanted to buy stock in Facebook when it went public in 2012. I’m glad I didn’t.

But in 2014, I have decided it’s time to leave Facebook! Well at least for a while. You see, I’m giving it up for Lent.

Lent is the 40 days before Easter in which Christians pray, fast, contemplate and engage in acts of spiritual self-discipline. According to my friend, David Timms, professor at William Jessup University, “Lent provides a prayerful rhythm for our lives. It invites us to fast from something that is significant to us, and a regular part of our lives. And our fast is a trigger for prayer. Every time we think of (or desire) what we’re fasting from, we are to pray instead. Not necessarily lengthy prayers, but breath prayers. In short order we find ourselves praying more often throughout the day and living with a heightened sense of God’s presence.”

So for the next 40 days, I am going to be fasting from Facebook! But during this time, I’m really going to pray about leaving Facebook all together. Or at the least, create new rhythms in my life, whereby I am less attached to it.

Facebook was a significant way to connect with friends and family when we lived in Southern California. In fact, it helped us bridge the distance in incredible ways. However, over the last couple of years, Facebook has become a huge distraction and terrible time waster for me. So with that, I am going to test the waters and see how life is different without it. And here’s what I imagine is going to happen…

I will have more time!

I will have more joy!

I will have a deeper connection with God!

I will be more connected to friends!

I will be more present with my family!

I will be more content!

So if you want to catch up with Bryan, I suggest you visit my blog. I’m looking forward to the journey. Perhaps you might even consider joining me.

The Easy Yoke

My-yokeCome to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30, NIV

Lately, I have been contemplating these words of Jesus! What a wonderful invitation He gives to those who were burdened by the religious practices of His day! It’s an invitation to rest, to cease striving, to trust in Him. To the weary and burdened, Jesus states that the easy yoke begins with Him. It begins with a right understanding of spirituality. For as Dallas Willard states, “Spirituality wrongly understood is a major source of human misery and rebellion towards God.”

In Jesus’ day if we measured spiritual maturity based on spiritual activity, then the Pharisees would have won every time. Yet, it was the Pharisees boundary markers that were tiresome, for the Pharisees had a burdensome yoke of self-righteousness and legalistic law-keeping.

So what does it mean to go through life and not be burdened? To fully experience what Jesus talks about in this verse. Well here are a few thoughts…

  1. The easy yoke involves a life of training, not trying! Paul spoke of this in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 when he states, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” Training is simply the means by which I live by grace. Wesley spoke of “means of grace.” If we are going to be experience the easy yoke, we need to arrange our lives around the person of Jesus, reflecting His character and commitments. We enter into training to win an imperishable wreath. Luke 6:40 says, “no disciple is above the master, but every disciple, when fully trained, will be like his master.” Train yourself into godliness. The easy yoke is a life of training (not just trying) to be like Jesus.
  2. The easy yoke begins with joy! One must arrange their day, so that they experience contentment and joy. But what if you have a problem with joylessness? How do we do that? Do you just try harder to be joyful? Does that work? How do you train for joy? One thought…have you ever noticed how many ‘holidays’ there are in the Old Testament? There were countless feasts! All which caused the people to pause, remember and celebrate God’s goodness. These trained people for joy. So go eat great food! Arrange your life to remember God’s faithfulness and goodness in the land of the living. As Dallas Willard puts it, “You must arrange your life so that you are experiencing deep contentment, joy and confidence in your own everyday life with God.”
  3. The easy yoke is finding my worth and identification in who I am and not what I am doing! If this is true, than we don’t have to carry upon ourselves the burden of outcomes! Let’s face it, we are “human beings” not “human doings”. Our worth is based on God’s love and what He says is true of us. It’s not based on what we do. As believers in Christ, we are deeply loved. We are totally forgiven. We are absolutely complete in Christ. Therefore, I don’t have to do anything to make God love me more. He loves me completely, for His love isn’t based on what I do, but whose I am!

To experience the easy yoke, we must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our life. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. Therefore, we must train ourselves to be spiritual, not out of a sense of obligation, but in realizing that this training is the means, and not the end, to truly living the life God intended. 

A New Tradition…Remembering

P1000083My wife Jennifer recently wrote this article and I thought it was a wonderful read worth repeating on my blog…

You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done.  – Psalm 92:4 (NLT)

Well, whether we’re ready or not, 2014 is here! It’s hard to believe that 2013 is over! Time goes by so quickly and the blessings of the year are often so easily forgotten. The arrival of the new year is a great time to start tracking God’s faithfulness and a fun and simple way to capture God’s blessing throughout the year is to create a memory jar. To start the fun, take a large jar (or other container) and place it somewhere your family can easily access. Whenever you have a blessing you want to remember, a prayer that is answered or an event you want to capture, simply jot it down on a small slip of paper and add it to the jar. Encourage every family member to participate and contribute. At the end of 2014, on New Years Eve perhaps, gather the family together and read those slips of paper. Not only will this be a great walk down memory lane, but it will give you the opportunity to focus on God’s faithfulness and unfailing love.

Memory Jars, and memorials in general, are not new concepts. In fact, memorials are God’s idea. Over and over again in Scripture, God instructs his people to remember His goodness, power and provisions. Start a new tradition this year and thrill in the Lord as you remember what He has done.

Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever. – Joshua 4:21-24 (NLT)

Something More

One man’s life changed the course of history for billions of people across the globe. He is both revered and reviled, famed and feared and you know who he is without a single mention of his name. His name is Jesus! Do you know Him?

Faithful in Small Things

Law-of-promotion-300x234I’ve been meditating on Jesus’ words in Luke 16:10, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” It’s a great leadership principle from the ultimate leader. When I think of those who did well with the little they had been given, I think of those great men and women in the Old Testament like David, Joseph and Ruth. None of them were able to skip the humbling tasks and the repetitive dedication that it took to become the well known people of faith. It took time – faithfulness to the task at hand.

In studying the call and anointing of David this past week, I was reminded about two lessons on leadership in God’s kingdom. First, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Secondly, character is not revealed in great deeds, but in little things (Luke 16:10).

King David grew up in Bethlehem. He was the youngest in the family, who was sent out to tend to the sheep and live a life of solitude. He was surrounded by sheep. He had no chance of rising socially. No-one saw and knew what he was doing all day long. He killed lions and bears, but he couldn’t post it on Facebook. Yet God saw David and used Samuel to appoint and anoint him as king in front of all his brothers (1 Samuel 16:13). But, what’s fascinating, is that David didn’t immediately assume the role of king. Instead of an immediate promotion, David submitted to serving the one already in that position and waited patiently for God’s appointment to actually become reality. In fact, David had to wait 15 years from the time he was first anointed by Samuel to the time he became king over Judah. It was another seven years before David was anointed king over all Israel. In fact, David waited over 20 years to rightfully take the throne of Israel.

David led a country that was far bigger than his flock of sheep in Bethlehem. But it began by David being faithful in the small things and waiting patiently on the Lord. God truly values faithfulness. Just look at Jesus. He came to earth and was faithful to do what the Father wanted, even to die on a cross for us. To be a man after God’s own heart means that we need to be faithful, not just with the big things, but the little things, too. You see, being faithful with the little things helps us to be faithful when it’s time for the big things. It’s a matter of the heart.

So, be faithful in small things and see how God will remain with you, for nothing is impossible with Him.

Faith is Not a Feeling

by-faithIn Hebrews 11:1 we are told that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Then after giving us a wonderful definition of faith, the author of Hebrews goes on to give us a list of men and women who were commended for their faith in remainder of the chapter. These people where simply men and women who took God at His word and obeyed His command.

For example, we are told that God asked Noah to build an ark because He was going to bring a massive flood. Noah took God at His word and built the ark (v5). God told Abraham to go out to a place that he would receive as an inheritance. Abraham took God at His word, left his familiar surroundings, and he went (v.6). God indicated to Sarah, who was long past the age of childbearing, that she would conceive a son. The Scripture states: “She considered Him faithful who had promised.” She took God at His word. Regardless of circumstances, despite arguments of logic and reason, and regardless of how he or she felt, each person mentioned in Hebrews 11 believed God and His word and chose to be obedient despite of their feelings.

Feelings are neither right or wrong, but as Christian’s we do not depend upon feelings or emotions, but we place our faith (trust) in fact — the trustworthiness of God and the promises of His Word. You see feelings are valid, but not always trustworthy. However, God’s Word is. Therefore, God’s Word is:

  • truer than anything I feel
  • truer than anything I experience
  • truer than any circumstance I will ever face
  • truer than anything in the world

Why? Because heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s Word will not. This means that no matter how I feel or what I experience, I can choose to depend on the truth of God’s Word and his faithful promises. You see, you and I can either grow accustomed to listening to our feelings, thoughts, and circumstances, letting them control us, or we can be in the habit of taking God at His word despite our feelings and life experiences. We need to choose with our wills to believe that His Word is truer than our feelings.

The promise of God’s Word, not our feelings, is our final authority. Therefore the Christian needs to live by faith (trust) in the trustworthiness of God Himself and His Word.

Soul Care

imagesThe most common response I hear to the greeting, “How are you?” is “Busy.” I hardly ever hear someone say they’re enjoying a “peaceful, joy-filled day.” I know people don’t talk like that, but you get the idea.

As leaders, it’s imperative that we practice what we preach, specifically when it comes to the topic of margin. I don’t think there is any way we can talk with integrity about “the abundant life” Christ offers, if we haven’t come to grips with this issue ourselves. I know many pastors who are stressed out and overloaded, and I wonder…why? After all, doesn’t Jesus say, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”? Is it possible that we are no longer taking the correct yoke—Christ’s yoke—on ourselves? Or is it possible that we have bought into a worldly idea that puts the highest value on more, bigger, and better, rather than faithfulness, obedience, and love? When my surrender is complete and Christ’s yoke is accepted, my soul will find rest.

At its core, margin is about trusting God and loving others. By creating margin in our lives, we allow our body and soul to have the internal resources to love God and love others. I suspect the people who passed the wounded man on the road had no margin, while the Samaritan who stopped to help him did. Jesus seemed to think he had the right idea.

That leads to a question: How would the people around you describe you? A great leader? A good teacher? A man or woman of faith? Or would they boil it down to say: He/she is really loving?

Creating Margin

be_still_and_know_that_i_am_god1How often have you been asked the question, “Are you staying busy?” If you’re like me, I imagine you’ve been asked that question a lot, as if “staying busy” is the ultimate objective in life. However, this is the world we live in. A world that demands us to add more detail to our lives. We live for events we can post on Facebook and keep ourselves busy as a badge of honor and significance. And I admit, I fall prey to cultural demands just as much as anyone else. However, lately I have been asking myself, how much is enough, knowing that we can only handle so many details in life before we exceed our threshold and find ourselves on overload.

To understand overload we must first understand our own limits. Physical limits are measurable, we only have so many hours in the day. We are only one person and can’t be in more than one place at a time. So we need to understand our own limitations. Humans are not infinite. We have limits to our ability–and we must recognize them and be at peace with them. God created us to live within certain limits for our own well-being. Therefore, overloading occurs when the requirements upon us exceed that which we are able to bear, resulting in disorganization or frustration.

In the past, margin was a normal part of people’s lives. By default, rather than by choice, people lived slower, more deliberate lives. They had time to help a neighbor and attend social events. Yet even if we agree that margin is good, for many today it seems like a luxury. There is so much to do, so much to see, etc. And if we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves exhausted and burned out. In fact, in our technological word, overload happens naturally, but creating margin takes work.

So today, I find myself thinking of ways to create a little more margin in my life. And if we find our emotional energy is gone, how do we get it back? Here are ten options that I have seen work:

1. Cultivate social supports – Some people fill us, others drain us. Therefore we need to intentionally develop relationships that nurture us, with people who understand us and care about us.

2. Get a pet – Pets are capable of bonding, loyal and often affectionate—just the kind of things that increase our emotional reserves.

3. Reconcile relationships – Broken relationships are huge emotional drains. Resolving the tension helps to fill our tanks.

4. Serve others – A University of Michigan study found that those who performed regular volunteer work showed dramatically increased life expectancy, as well as experienced more joy.

5. Rest – “Be still and know that I am God!” Have you tried this one recently? If not, try to set aside time regularly for quiet and rest, even if it’s just a few minutes per day.

6. Laugh – Laughter is good for the soul. Read Proverbs 17:22.

7. Cry – Allow yourself to release the grief, the pain or sorrow. Tears can release the tension and heal the soul.

8. Create appropriate boundaries –  We need to be able to say “no” at times, or other people’s demands will overwhelm us.

9. Give thanks – A lot of negative things go away in our life when we are thankful.

10. Worship – Make sure you’re taking regular time to be with Jesus and worship Him. It puts life into great perspective.

The list could go on! What have you found to be helpful in creating margin and refueling in your life?

Approaching God With Confidence

a-place2wrshpIt seems almost daily that I am hearing of great hurt in the lives of those around me. Families on the brink of divorce, battles with cancer, loss of loved ones…the list goes on and the occurrences seem to be on the increase. For those struggling, each prayer request is unique…seeking relief from the pain, anger at the loss, crying out for peace in the turmoil, understanding from the trouble, strength in the fear and uncertainty. Yet for those that know the Lord, despite the affliction, many are comforted by the One on the Throne. Although we all have our own stress and strain, perhaps not as deep as others, we are assured that our requests can be made to God and that we can seek refuge in the One who created and knows us. He knows both our strengths and weaknesses and yet he still invites us to come boldly to the throne.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 NIV

Another translation says “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16 NLT

Isn’t that great news! That we can come boldly to the throne with confidence, remembering who we are approaching, the Creator, the Alpha and Omega, the Omniscient God. He knows our needs and loves us so much that he offers us his mercy and grace.

I often can’t even begin to understand the suffering of those around me. Nor can I imagine enduring my own stress and strain without my Savior, but I am confident in the One on the Throne and I know that I can seek him with confidence in my time of need. I am comforted in the fact that I can boldly call upon him in prayer lifting up those who need additional comfort and support.  I can seek Him with sureness, knowing that he hears each request, sees each tear and feels each heartache. It is with this assurance that I know I will receive his mercy and grace. What a blessed assurance!

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