Are You Really Listening?

So many people are up in arms about the fact that our national government doesn’t appear to want to listen to anyone except their friends. Anyone who disagrees with them is labelled an idiot, bigot, hate-monger, ignorant, terrorist threat, etc. This has a tendency to leave the people whom they serve feeling as if the government could care less about anyone but themselves.

It got me thinking…how much do we as leaders in the church fall guilty of this as well? There are some leaders who believe that they know better (or best) than anyone else, and to question their ideas is proof of the questioner’s ignorance and lack of spirituality. We need to keep ourselves as leaders accountable to someone as well. Yes, God is the best, but we always tend to give that as an excuse that we’re always in the right. We need human accountability as well because, quite frankly, if we don’t like what we hear from God, we tend to dismiss it away in our minds and pursue what we want anyway.

A friend of mine recently put a status on a public profile that got me thinking, and I wanted to share it with the greater public…

The Church’s refusal to entertain critique restricts her ability to stay relevant… Selah. Encouragment w/out critique = stunted growth.

How much do we really listen when critique, true critique, comes across our desks? Or do we dismiss it because we don’t like to hear it? Is it stunting our growth personally, or worse yet, corporately in the church?

Just a thought…

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Go Forth And Do…

This is some of my journaling that I did when I visited a church and the message basically came out as, “We don’t need to do anything, stop talking about going to multiple services and implementing programs and whatnot. Just be. Once we’re all nice and spiritually deep, then maybe we can talk about growth, but not until then…”

Can I say I was ready to scream to the heavens, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” This church had been hurt before when growth happened. Although it was years in the past, they did not seem to be trying to move beyond the “breaking point” as it were, but avoid it to avoid the hurt again.

So when this message of “don’t do, just be” came from the pulpit, I had a feeling I knew where the leadership group was going to take it and became a bit afraid that the cycle was starting again! Here’s what I dug up initially to refute what was being propagated…

Revelation 3:1-6 & 14-22

We are called to do something in everything we are involved in.

“We can’t do everything, but we must do something!” ~Darren Kitto

Rev 3:1-6 basically says the following:
This is the message from the One who is perfection – your “perfect” reputation is that of liveliness and vitality, but your actual state of existence is one of inert death and inaction! WAKE UP! Please feed what little of you is left alive before you kill yourself, body and soul, for good! You think you have arrived, yet what you’ve done has not even come close to perfection in the eyes of God! Go back to the initial teaching of the scriptures – with no commentary slants – obey what it says, how it says, when it says, and turn from your sin of lethargy. If you still do nothing, I will take what life in you remains when you least expect it.
There are, however, a small handful of you whom have stayed true to the scriptural text. You have nothing to fear, you will continue to walk with me in purity, because you have been found worthy to do so. This is your victory, and the honor will be bestowed on each of those faithful – they will not run the risk of losing their place in the Kingdom of Heaven. I will be quite proud to claim you as followers, friends, and family!
If you have ears – open them up and truly listen to these words!

Feed what is healthy; starve what is unhealthy. Wake up to the realization that you don’t have it all together. You may never, but you can be closer than at other times. Pull away the veil, as it were, and see clearly what is truly going on, then take action before it is too late to do anything about it!

We are called to be genuine – asked to re-learn for ourselves what was initially taught to us – not to filter it through titilating commentary and theories that make us feel better, but to view the raw, what-does-it-say-at-face-value message of the scripture – and then actually apply it as such rather than make it more palatable to our human sensibilities, standards, and stereotypes. Drop appearances and become real!

Revelation 3:14-22 also continues in this vein:
This is the message from the Final Say-So, the Ever-Faithful one who cannot lie, the origin of all truth and creation – Do not think that I am fooled by your actions or lack thereof, I know what is truly happening – you have become apathetic. I wish you were either on fire, or truly cold to me – then I would be able to take decisive action on you! But because you sit on the fence rather than taking a side or chosing to do anything of consequence, I am left with only one option – to spit you out of my mouth like undesireable mush.
You say that you are better off now, that “good-enough” is adequate. Yet you do not even have a clue how miserable and pathetic you still are! You are poor, you are in thread-bare garments that cover nothing, you are blinded to reality.
Stop accepting kudos and laurels from yourself – strive for what will make you rich in me! Go and dress yourself in pureness in all you do so you will have no fear of exposure and shame. Clear your eyes of the crusty mess that has accumulated – wash and refresh your sight so it is clear! Do not think that because my words are hard, they are not from Me – If I didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t be concerned enough to bring where you’re going wrong to light or to punish wrong doing. Please take this for what it is – a caring, loving word to keep you from ultimate harm – and turn from the ultimately harmful things you’re currently doing.
I want to come in to your lives and am constantly trying to communicate to you – LISTEN HARD! When you do hear me, open the door so we can do life TOGETHER and get to know each other more intimately! Those who understand and obey this well will have a place of honor in my standing, just as I was obediant and am now in high honor with my Father!
Please LISTEN to the words of this message, don’t let them “go in one ear and out the other!” making no difference in your life.

Apathy requries us to wake up and do something. Riding the fence “waiting for God to send us a sign” will do nothing for the health and vitality of a church. We need to get up off our rear-ends and actually do something about it! To say “we’re better off than we were” is nice, but God never called us to be happy with one baby step. He calls us to another, and another, and another…this means change and growth. If we refuse to do this – we die. If we continue to hem and haw and be wishy-washy in our lives, God will get fed up and walk off. He’s practically screaming “Do SOMETHING! ANYTHING! Just get off your butts for once, and make a definitive decision! You’re supposed to be old enough to not have me do everything for you anymore!”

Warm fuzzies are for babies, real life is for the mature – and real life is not a padded room! Real life will hurt (this side of Heaven) sometimes, but even a seed must die to its current circumstances in order to bring about new and abundant life. God even says, “look, I’m bringing this up because I care and want the best for you”. He’s not just making us uncomfortable because he can, it’s because he knows there’s something better for us, but until we grow past the babying stage, and actually move on our own, we’re rather limited and could die.

If a baby never developed beyond cooing and eating, and just being, he would miss out on many things. A baby never lives beyond the now – maturity looks and prepares for the future, and adjusts accordingly when necessary. A baby expects everything to be handed to him; Maturity will make the decisions and accept any responsibilities for the positive or negative outcomes. It may be harder, but maturity lives a much more fulfilled life than a baby.

The phrase “I need to hear from God” can sometimes be used as a spiritual-sounding excuse for “I don’t want to do this, but if God comes in a booming voice, then I guess I’ll have to do it.” The trouble is, oftentimes, we don’t want to recognize the booming voice (or voices) that God sends! Humility, Diligence, Availability, and Willingness are all keys, but the bottom line is whether or not you truly have the heart of God for others!

Pray for wisdom, pray for discernment, pray for God’s heart, pray to see things as He does, then pray for His provision as you venture down the direction He points you in – it may be unconventional, it may be less-traveled, it may be unrecognizable…but no one who’s had the faith to follow God over man has ever lost out in the long run!

Here’s one last verse to consider…
Anyone who doesn’t breathe is dead, and faith that doesn’t do anything is just as dead! (James 2:26 CEV)

A Lizard’s Tail

I tried to find this old e-mail I sent out a few years back when a church was dealing with some things that were dragging them down to the point of stopping viable ministries. However, due to computer transfer and data loss, it seems to have disappeared…not to worry! My brain still remembers the majority of it, so I will share it here in its newest incarnation… “A Lizard’s Tail

Once, a long time ago when the world was quite new, there was a lizard. Now, just to say that there was a lizard was not anything truly spectacular as there were many lizards created; but this particular lizard seemed to catch the attention of many other creatures in the world. You see, this particular lizard had beautiful markings all along his tail.

The lizard’s tale was a matter of pride for him as many animals talked about how amazing and beautiful the markings were. He would politely accept their praise and say that it was just how God made him. The truth was, he was quite proud of his tail, and sometimes when he was alone, he’d sit on a rock and admire the tail himself. This, sadly, was what lead to the tragic events that took place some weeks later…

On this particular day, the lizard was sunning himself on a rock as he usually did in the afternoon. His tail seemed especially bright as it glistened in the sun – making the colors seem all the more vibrant. The lizard was so focused on admiring his tail that he didn’t notice a lion in the reeds nearby until it was too late. The lion pounced and the lizard barely had enough time to move out of the way…or so he thought.

His tail was caught underneath the paws of the lion. The lizard panicked – he thought he was doomed to be a mid-afternoon snack of the lion. As the lizard was bemoaning his fate, he heard God’s voice gently on the breeze. It said, “Let go of your tail…”

The lizard wasn’t sure he had heard it right, but the voice came back even stronger, “Little lizard, let go of your tail…”

“Let go of my tail!?” the lizard wailed, “How could you suggest such a thing? It is my pride and joy! Creatures near and far know me by my beautifully marked tail! They admire it and talk about it! If I let go, I will no longer have it!”

“Little lizard, Let go of your tail…”

“But…but…I don’t know if I can,” wept the lizard, “or if I want to. I won’t know what to do with myself without a tail!”

“Little lizard,” replied God’s voice, “I created you with the capacity to release your tail in times when dangerously caught by it, so you can preserve your life. You need to trust me when I tell you to let go of your tail!”

“But I…”

“If you do not let go, you will not only lose your tail, but your life as well. You will die as a snack of the lion. Time is running out, little lizard. Let go of your tail.”

Weeping and afraid, the lizard realized he had no choice but to do as God’s voice said if he wished to remain alive. So, taking a deep breath, he let go of his tail and scurried off before the lion knew what had happened.

The lizard was devastated. He ran all the way back home as quick as he could for fear that someone might see him without his lovely tail. Upon reaching his home in the rocks, he turned his body this way and that to assess the damage. Where his once beautiful tail resided, was now just a messy nub. It was ugly, and short, and awful. The lizard began to cry again.

Over the next few weeks, the lizard refused to leave his home unless he was sure no one was around to see him. He was sure that animals would talk and laugh if they saw his disfigurement, his embarassment, his lack of beauty. He would only come out in the cool of the evening as animals were bedding down so he could drink from the watering pond and catch the last remnants of heat from the midday sun’s baking of the rocks. If he ever heard sounds that might be someone approaching, he quickly retreated back into his home. He was so ashamed and embarassed that he never even looked near his own tail again because he couldn’t bear the painful reminder of what he once was and once posessed.

One morning, he awoke early with a desperate need for a drink. He knew that he might be able to sneak out to the watering pond before anyone else came by and then return home. So, he carefully crept out of his hole in the rocks. Making sure he saw and heard no one about, he scurried as quickly as he could to the watering pond. As he was enjoying drinking the cool water and how nice and clean the morning air was, he suddenly heard…

“OH MY GOODNESS, Will you look at THAT!” “Have you ever seen anything like it before?” “Never!”

Stunned, embarassed, and devastated, the lizard tried to fight back emotions of sadness, fear, and anger at being caught outside of his home by others. He quickly whipped around and was trying to think of the best way to leave. As he began inching his way toward home he yelled out, “What?! Haven’t you ever seen a disfigured lizard before?! Just leave me alone, okay?”

The other animals looked at each other in confusion. Then one of the animals nearby said, “I’m not sure what you are talking about, little lizard…”

“Don’t play dumb with me,” the lizard countered, “I heard you all talking about my…my…” he couldn’t bring himself to say it.

“Your beautiful tail?!” the animal replied in confusion. “How could that make you disfigured?”

“Please don’t mock me,” replied the lizard. “I lost my beautiful tail a few weeks back. I’m nothing now but an ugly lizard.”

“You may have lost a tail, but your new tail is amazing!” replied another animal.

“My new tail?!” said the lizard, now confused. He quickly twisted around to see that where once was the remnants of his old tail – his pride and joy – was a new tail nearly full grown, and even more beautiful than the last! The colors were as vibrant as the summer flowers and this tail even had flecks of gold markings that caught the sunlight and sparkled!

The lizard’s heart leapt for joy as he realized that he did not have to worry about what others thought of him anymore. And even better, he knew that God DID know what He was doing when He told the lizard to release his old tail. While he had been moaning the loss of his old tail, God had been allowing his body to grow a new tail! Now, he no longer needed to hide! He could walk with pride in what God had done for him and would continue to do in him, no matter the circumstances! The animals cheered as the lizard yelped out thanks to God, glad that their friend was better!

So there you have it! The basic moral of the story (if you couldn’t figure it out by now) is that sometimes in life, God gives us a ministry, talent, position, whatever, for a season and will bless it, but sometimes that gift or season is cut short or runs its course. Sometimes, we are loathe to part with it for whatever reason; but God is asking us to let it go for two reasons. One, if we continue to hang on to it, we will slowly (or quickly, in some cases) die. Maybe a church is hanging on to a program that has outlasted its usefulness, maybe the talent we have was not meant to be more than something for us to enjoy and we continue to try and force a future in that talent…whatever it is, it will stunt or stop our spiritual growth. The second reason is that God has a plan for something better (and oftentimes bigger) for us, but the old things must “pass away” in order for us to see the “new things” that He’s placing in our lives!

I’d encourage you all, whether the individual or the corporate ministry, that if you are struggling to see the growth or favor that you had in the past, take a good look at what you are doing and really ask yourself, “Am I hanging on to something that I shoudn’t be? Is there something I’m holding on to that’s getting in God’s way? Is there an area that God is asking me to step out in faith and leave the things I know and am comfortable with behind?” If there is, take a deep breath and let your “tail” go, and wait and see what God does in your or your ministry’s life! You probably would never have thought of what He’s about to do!

Be blessed!

Here Goes Something…I think…

Thought I’d give blogging a try. I’ve had many observations on ministry and it’s various facets as of late and figured if some of my friends can maintain a blog – maybe I can as well.

If you happen to stumble upon this blog early on – be patient with me. I will endeavor to make a fair go at this and promise to do my best to give quality entries. Well, here goes something…

…I think…