“The Angriest…”

When a fan of “Big Bang Theory” comes across a YouTube video of Chuck Lorre talking about its heartbreaking end, you watch it.


In the interview by CBS Sunday Morning, Lorre’s past as being labeled as “the angriest man in television” surfaced. Lorre had this to say:

I’m trying…I’m trying to have more perspective…but fear for me exhibits as anger because I’m not going to show you fear; I’m going to show you anger because that’s just how I grew up and that’s what you present in the world and that maybe is what becomes your reputation.

Thanks for your transparency and helpful insight, Lorre.

Is it possible that you aren’t angry as much as you are afraid? Is it possible your boss isn’t really mad at your feedback but fearful of something completely unrelated to your conversation? Is it possible that all anger is mostly a smokescreen for fear?

Before you let the sun go down on your or someone else’s anger, consider what role fear has. That attempt at more perspective could change your label and improve your reputation. 

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Adversity: The Integrity Test

Adversity. No one wants it, but when we get it we gain so much. Sometimes that gain feels immediate. Other times it may seem decades before we realize it. I believe the latter was Joseph’s experience (for a refresher, read Genesis 37-50). However long it took him, here’s how he let us know his gain:

You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result-the survival of many people. (Genesis 50:20)

A mindset toward gain from adversity is found in Joseph’s statement. The mindset is vertical (about God), not horizontal (about man). Rather than looking at what man or circumstances have planned, he had learned to look at what God had planned. Easier said than done in the face of adversity, right?

I want to suggest that one preparation we can make before adversity knocks on the door is to make a commitment to integrity.

A commitment to integrity in the face of adversity will…

  • …guard against fear invasion (horizontal).
  • …ward off impulsive reaction (horizontal) giving foundation for calm decisions (vertical).
  • …raise the banner for complete transparency (vertical).
  • …remove selfish ambition (horizontal) to bring in a kingdom mindset (vertical).

Maybe you haven’t considered that integrity is what’s being tested in your adversity. There’s no way around the reality that adversity peels back the layers and shows everyone who we really are. How are you preparing for that revelation? How can you study for the integrity test?

Don’t Be Afraid

An interesting connection seemed whispered to me in last night’s Christmas Eve service that I’ll take a few lines to unpack.

Many times in scripture someone was told not to be afraid. Sometimes it was from a leader to his people; sometimes it was from a writer to his reader. In the scenes of the Christmas story (Matthew 1, Luke 1-2), Joseph and Mary and the shepherds were are told this same message.

After Joseph was told not to be afraid in Matthew 1, Isaiah is quoted that “they shall call his name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.'” Interesting. If God is with us, do we need to be afraid? Is it possible that we get afraid because we believe God isn’t with us? Or at least we get our eyes on something huge like the unexplainable pregnancy of a fiancé and forget that God is with us?

Some have endured the holidays being afraid. And humanly speaking, who can blame them? A recent widower, a confused parent, a lonely senior couple. Pray for them that they experience God is with them.

As you look into 2019, what might you be afraid of? Finances, health, relationships, job security, looming transition? How could you remind yourself that Jesus’ coming made it possible for God to always be with you? 

You don’t have to be afraid. Immanuel came. God is with you.

What If, Men?

I’ve traveled to Jordan twice this year. Much could be said about traveling to that part of the world. One thing I noticed the first time and then even more the second time is this: Arab men know how to do community.

They enjoy talking to each other. They enjoy healthy disagreement. They share the good and the bad. They lean into one another. They plan time together. From my experience, they do it better than we Americans. So I’m doing what I can now to change that experience.

We have an opportunity. If the opportunity could be boiled down to one word, I believe that word is trust. Much like we have to grow our trust in God, we should pay attention to grow our trust in one another. It’s quite possible that the former is needed and necessary in order for the latter to happen. So how do we go about growing these trusts?

TRUST BY SHARING YOUR FEARS

Yesterday one of my friends did this with me during a breakfast conversation. He shared a fear he’s dealing with, and I’m the first male that knows. He seemed to feel better just because he had a brother to share his fear with. Scripture tells us to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Imagine how lighter the community of men would be if we shared our fears rather than bearing them all alone. What if we started by sharing our fears with God and asking him to give us the courage to share them with a brother?

TRUST BY BEING HONEST

We have the habit of not being real, not being completely honest and transparent. Guys, you are not going to be weak by being real. You are going to be stronger because you are not denying the truth. The truth can only set you free when you speak it and live in it. Earlier this year I watched a brother go through a trying season, life threatening, because he refused to be honest. Imagine how stronger the community of men would be if we embraced honesty. What if we started by being honest with God and humbling ourselves to be honest with a brother?

TRUST BY TAKING THE CHANCE

As I’m writing this, the news is reporting the murder/suicide of a deputy sheriff’s family in a nearby county. Familiar story-no one knows why, no one suspected it, no one saw it coming. We can grow our trust in numerous ways of taking chances. What if we took a personal chance by considering a mental health check up as much as a physical one? What if we took a chance by pointing out odd behavior to our brothers? What if we took a chance by asking how to pray for one another? What if we took a chance to follow through on a Holy Spirit nudge to reach out to a brother? Imagine the impact to the community of men if we took more chances. What if we started by asking God to give us a chance to take today?

3 Questions to Counter Fear’s Lies

(a follow up from last post)

When, not if, fear lies to us, we should be ready with a counterpunch. Our most powerful counters will be focused on God, not us. In the story from Exodus 3-4, Moses’ counters were all about himself. Suppose he had countered with these questions instead.

What is God doing? 

  • And I don’t mean, “Pretty cool trick. How is he doing that?” Rather, I’m talking big picture. Moses may have actually been asking himself this question for decades, but I’m guessing his viewpoint was too small.

Where does God want me to join his work?

  • It’s pretty clear Moses gave up this thought long ago. His bully memories and self-excusing led him to accept, “This is all there is.”  It wasn’t long before he found out otherwise. 

How is God revealing himself?

  • Like most of us, Moses was caught up in his own awe. His self-imposed blindness allowed him to offer only what he could see. His world changed when God removed his blinders.

Go ahead. Counter Fear. Give God his chance to remove your blinders to show you what He’s doing and how you can join him.

Fear is a Liar

Exodus 3-4:16
Fear steals your curiosity. 3:1-4
Fear steals your “yes.” 3:11,13; 4:1,10,13
Fear steals your awe of God. 3:5-6,14-15;4:11

Daniel 3
Fear will tell you to bow to other gods. Vs. 1-6
Fear will tell you to give your allegiance to what you can see. Vs. 7-12
Fear will tell you to resist God’s plan. Vs. 13-18
Fear will tell you that God cannot be trusted. Vs. 19-30

Missing God’s Gift (Something Misplaced?)

Yesterday a friend told me how different he is from who he was just 18 months ago. Earlier this week a group discussed how a coaching program has altered their life’s rhythms in just 7 weeks. These people were expressing how receiving a gift from God, such as leaving a successful corporate job to start all over or exiting the routine of life to enjoy Sabbath, has changed who they are. And they want more.

God’s gifts come to us in various formations. Sometimes they are clearly seen as coming straight from God. Other times, we are a little more challenged to determine if an opportunity or unforeseen blessing are indeed gifts from God. That is, unless we live from the viewpoint that God works at all times and through all things in our lives. Until we reach that viewpoint, it’s likely we will often miss God’s gifts.

Why don’t we automatically have this viewpoint? What keeps us from it? How can we move toward it? In talking with these people, I’d say they would say they had some things misplaced.

Misplaced Contentment-Yes, it’s possible to be so content that you miss noticing an offer from God. Our contentment can often lead us to settling, stubbornness, and even pride. So a God-given opportunity can appear unsettling, unnecessary, maybe even unworthy. Think rich, young ruler.

Misplaced Fear-In this case, fear of just about anything (loss of job/income, ability, identity, power/influence, health, security) or anyone (family, peers, leaders, employer, yourself) has been given higher rank than God. Think Moses’ initial bush response.

Misplaced Stewardship-Stewardship covers more in our lives than just finances. Stewarding your family, your talents, your choices, your time, your emotions, your mind, your body, for example. Think about most kings in the Old Testament.

Misplaced Allegiance-Satan is committed to leading us to misplace our allegiances. We can become more allegiant to so many earthly kingdoms that we miss God’s leading us toward his heavenly kingdom. Think about the Pharisees and Paul’s warnings about false teachers in the church.

Misplaced Commitment-Commitments lead to routines, obligations, and expectations-some short term, others long term. These can become idols causing us to be completely blind to something more aligned with God’s plans for us. Think Eli, Saul, or Martha.

We often miss God’s gifts to us because our misplacements lead us to consider way too many “what ifs.” So consider a few reverse thinking “what if” results when God’s gifts are missed:

  • What if you miss God’s gift because you ignore a burning bush?
  • What if you miss God’s gift because you run toward Joppa instead of Nineveh?
  • What if you miss God’s gift because you always look backward rather than forward?
  • What if you miss God’s gift because you follow the crowd and declare, “Crucify him!”
  • What if you miss God’s gift because your faith is so small that your reply to God’s offer is, “No thanks.”

The Gift of Balance: Ministry and Service (Part 2)

(This is part two of the final topic in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. At the end of this entry are suggested resources.)

Tonya: The million dollar question is, “How do you distinguish God’s plan?” If we are making God first and really trying to follow the Holy Spirit, one thing is to pay attention to what’s in your heart, the passions of your heart. Pray that he will open and close doors. It doesn’t mean you won’t miss the mark sometimes, but then you have the chance to recalibrate. We don’t have to go forward fearfully; we can just go forward.

John: I thought about that question by comparing my plans to God’s plans, what characterizes them. So for instance, my plans tend to be my first choice and God’s plans tend to not be my first choice. The reason for that is my plans tend to not require a whole lot of risks, they are comfortable and fit naturally; God’s plans tend to require me to trust him more and to have courage. So for me, I have to say, “Just because it looks good and looks easy doesn’t means it is God’s plan.” God’s plans tend to require me to figure out new boundaries and to step out in courage. They mature and grow me. In that talent parable concept, I shouldn’t try to hide talents as much as allow them to be worked on and developed and let God take care of wherever they go and accomplish. That’s not easy, but the more I live in it the more fulfilled I am; his work is getting accomplished, not mine.

Tonya: He doesn’t always make it easy. He likes us to stretch.

Mark: Well, it’s at that point that we are really trusting and leaning on him, not what we can manage and control on our own.

Where I am at this point about this question about my plans versus God’s plans, first, there are times when God asks us to specifically do things, and as his follower, there really is just one choice. Even Jonah ultimately got to yes. Recognizing his voice and learning to listen over time makes it easier to hear those when they come. I also think there are lots of other opportunities where we just simply love others. There’s no law on how to do that. There are suggestions and guidelines throughout the New Testament of what that might look like, but really we have a lot of creativity and flexibility in being unique by how we were designed-like what you were saying, Tonya, following the passions of our heart. He’s already given us permission, wired us with gifts and passions to do that. Loving people inside of who he’s made us to be is part of being obedient to what he wants us to do.

Tonya: God gives us room and choices. When my husband first graduated from Bible college and we were trying to choose where we were go and sending out resumes, a couple of opportunities came that made it a tough decision. Everything about them was good. I remember asking, “How do you know which one?” A pastor friend once said, “God may be saying this is the direction I have for you, but which one you choose is your choice.” So I think there are those times.  I also believe there are times he is very specific about you needing to be at a certain place. I think he gives us freedom at times in some choices.

John: As you say that, I think that may go back to personality as well. I don’t live in the idea that I have to have 100% approval before I’ll step out. I know as I’ve moved from a church position to the next church position, there’s a moment of solid peace in that process that I know I’m supposed to be there next or I’m supposed to leave this place now even if I don’t know where the next place is. I’ve learned to wait for that moment or I’m not moving yet. That’s for me. Someone else could be willy nilly and be totally fine. I need to have that peace about those big ministry movements before I’m going to move in that direction.

Mark: I can relate to that, for sure. My thinking has also expanded into what Tonya was talking about. I often have this visual of a bowling alley. There may not be a whole lot of room in a lane, but there’s room to move left and right in the lane. I think of God sometimes as the bumper guards that keep us moving down the lane. Sometimes we drift right or left, but the guard rails keep us moving in a specific direction with freedom to move left and right in that lane.

John: I feel it’s important to add that we can’t always wait for the green light. We can’t always have every little jot and tittle clear before we’ll say yes. There are times we know enough, and it’s all we need to know. God will take care of step #29. If you know step #1 and #2, go on. You’re not going to get #29 because he’s not ready to give it to you. Those moments are trust tests on my part. “He’s given me the green light. Why am I not moving?” 

Tonya: That seems to flow us into our final question we wanted to discuss, which was “What one belief best fortifies your balance?” I asked my husband that and he said, “Do it Jesus’ way.” His example was he did what the Father asked him to do. That’s it. He came and did what the Father asked him to do. He discipled people, spent time with them one on one, and he took rest. That was his example. I always love pointing out that he was in ministry three years. He discipled twelve, and eleven of them then created the church which still exists. He walked side by side. He rested. That’s my fortification for balance. Do it Jesus’ way.

John: The scripture that came to my mind for this question was 1 Corinthians 6, “We are not our own. We are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in what we do and in our bodies.” My best fortification is to be reminded that I am not my own. You could say Jesus’ modeled that also. He gave up everything for everybody. Another way to test myself when I’m not responding well to either current ministry or something new that I feel like God is pushing me to, “What is it I’m holding onto that’s not really mine or shouldn’t be mine?” That is a challenging statement to people in our culture. There’s this tension between “it’s not about you” but “of course it’s about me.” This presents the challenge to figure it out for myself, “How do I live in a surrendered place rather than a selfish place?”

Mark: I’m thinking, John, that takes a lifetime of practice to perfect. For me, the undergirding belief is twofold. Kingdom living is full-time, whether it’s called work or service. What works for me as someone wired to be drawn toward legalism, what helps me to stay grounded is just two laws that we’ve already referenced: Love God and Love Others. If I stay focused on that, I 100% agree with what you said, Tonya, things just work out the way God wants them to work out. They may not be my plans or expectations, but certainly better because it works out the way God wants it to work out.

Tonya: Yeah, it may not always be comfortable or feel good, but in the end it’s what he’s doing. Jesus always did what the Father wanted, but it certainly wasn’t always comfortable. He had to go through torture. It doesn’t mean it’s all going to be gravy, but it is all going to be good.

 

Suggested Resources:

Mark’s:

John’s:

 

Hitters: Even the Best Fail More Than They Succeed

(This is the seventh in a series on wisdom from baseball. In this article, Mark Stanifer continues to mine his playing experience for insights into how to better play the game of life.)

One thing that has always fascinated me about baseball is the best hitters still fail to get a hit about 7 times out of 10. Think about that for a minute. Only 3 in 10 appearances at the plate result in a hit. The all-time MLB leader, Ty Cobb, finished with a career average of .3664. This season, José Altuve leads all players with a .350 average. There aren’t too many professions where a 65% failure rate would be tolerated, let alone celebrated as hall of fame worthy.

Learning to live with failure is a must to be successful in baseball. It cannot be avoided. It is a key part of why success requires winning the mental game first. Interestingly, being successful in life also involves dealing with failure. I’m using “successful” here in a very broad context — parenting, running a business, balancing career and family, living fulfilled, following Jesus. Regardless of what you are pursuing, you are bound to make some mistakes along the way. The key is how you look at those mistakes.

Defining Failure

My Mac dictionary says the verb fail is defined as “being unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal.” This has long been my only understanding of failure — an unsuccessful attempt to do something right. In fact, and I admit this with some embarrassment, there have been times I avoided even making an attempt at something for fear of experiencing failure. I realize some of this is my personality wiring, but more often I have not appreciated the benefit that comes with failure.

There is another way to look at failure — neglect to make an attempt. Thomas Edison famously stated that he didn’t fail in his many attempts to make a light bulb, he simply discovered 10,000 ways not to. He also said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Do you think his perspective on failure had anything to do with his success?

Learning From Mistakes

For the successful batter, there is a balance between expectations and reality. If you don’t first expect to succeed then the likelihood of success is diminished. But regardless of your level of expectation, it does not guarantee a hit. I have always believed that making mistakes are rich experiences for learning, for others. But I have not always been so understanding for myself. Maybe you know what I mean.

What do you do when you swing and miss? For some it is a helmet toss or slamming the bat. But after the emotion passes, the successful batter will reflect on the at bat — “What did I do well?” “What could I do better?” “What pitch did I miss?” He analyzes what he can in preparation for the next time. It would be foolish for the player to say “I didn’t get a hit so I’m not even going to bat next time.” Is it not also foolish for us to take the same approach?

Keep Looking For At Bats

Professional hitters are really good. We often say things like “this guy is horrible” or “I can’t believe how bad he is” but that is a relative comparison. And while natural ability has a lot to do with it, much of what makes them so good is they had a lot of practice, a lot of at bats. It’s not always true that the more you play the better you get, but the more at bats you have the more chances there are to get better. I think that’s why so many successful people emphasize the importance of failure as part of growth. They recognize that with each attempt there is an opportunity to get better, to get a hit.

There are no stats per se to measure our life’s batting average. Even if there were, I’m pretty certain that none of us would bat 1.000. Maybe you struck out in your last at bat. Or maybe it has been a while since you’ve even been to the plate. Whatever your game, your previous at bat doesn’t have to be your last. Consider your attitude towards failure. Use failure as an opportunity to learn. Don’t let it keep you from trying again. You can stay in the game and continue to get better, but the next move is up to you.

31 Proverbs Highlights: #14-A Woman and Her House

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs) 

​Every wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1 HCSB

This house is built using truths from this book such as: 

  • Living in the fear of the Lord
  • Following the path of righteousness 
  • Choosing words that instill trust and respect 
  • Giving to the poor
  • Correcting and rebuking the children 

This house is destroyed ignoring and rejecting truths from this book by:

  • Living for personal gain 
  • Following the “whatever feels good” path
  • Stirring up strife and contention with words of gossip and contempt
  • Hoarding 
  • Allowing the children to do as they please