God’s…Not Mine…Mine (Part 2)

Exercising leads to discoveries. And when it comes to this exercise about responsibility, the discoveries may not feel good at first. Like discovering you really shouldn’t eat the entire quart of ice cream just because you worked out today.

Chances are through this exercise you discovered that you are taking responsibility, trying to own something, that isn’t yours. It’s a common battle for humans to wrestle with God, stealing responsibility. Paul David Tripp says it’s because we are at war between being in awe of ourselves and being in awe of God. When we are losing that battle, we think everything is ours: money, possessions, relationships, career. Contrary to our wants, we win when we let God own what really is his.

That second heading, Not Mine, can be as big a battle as the God heading. When we haven’t won in that heading, forget about winning in this one. Why? Because if I’ve kicked God off the throne taking all the responsibility, it’s going to inevitably spill over into every area of my life. I have all the answers and control. In fact, I believe I want them. Reality is, I’m burdened and miserable. Like Pilgrim trudging uphill bearing his burden.

I have found three things to address when I’ve discovered I’m taking on someone else’s responsibilities. You might say, these are my responsibilities to stay out of “not mine” responsibilities.

  • Trust-Sure, you’ve job searched before; so what’s keeping you from staying out of your spouse’s or child’s searching efforts? You’ve also scheduled employees before; so what’s keeping you from allowing your manager to do it? You’ve been doing this task much longer than your new volunteer; so why are you micromanaging them? Discovery #1: Sometimes we do what’s not ours because we have trust issues. (Proverbs 3:5; Isaiah 55:8)
  • Humility-If I’m having responsibility issues, chances are I’m also having pride issues. Humility is required to allow good failure (yes, that’s a thing). Humility is required for personal and team growth. Ball hogs, dictators, authoritarians, glory-stealers, all losers in general taint outcomes because of pride. Discovery #2: Often we do what’s “not mine” because of our pride. (Matthew 23:12; Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3)
  • Being For-Many of us are recovering tellers; by nature we take “not mine” responsibility by telling what needs to be done. My recovery started a few years ago. One mindset for a recovering teller is to be for others. Parents/bosses/leaders, you can avoid the “not mine” heading by being for your child/employee/volunteer. Not being over, behind, ahead-be for them. Encourage. Celebrate. Cheer. Discovery #3: Everyone benefits when we are all for each other. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Those are my three. They may be yours also. What else may yours be?

We’ll address that more in Part 3.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Elizabeth French

God’s…Not Mine…Mine (Part 1)

I was awake again before the alarm sounded. It’s a thing. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. When it’s good, I focus my mind toward heavenly things before stirring. My body may not want to move, but my mind does. Relate?

I asked God a question regarding responsibility. And I got a pretty clear answer:

John, many things you believe you’re responsible for are things you choose to be responsible for rather than letting the right person be responsible. Often, that person is me.

That’s how my day started. Jolting. Or not.

I actually decided it wasn’t jolting at all. Instead, it was loving, merciful, and freeing. Loving because God owns his responsibility for all things, including me. Merciful because God waits for me to give back what I wrongfully take. Freeing because I, with repentance, get to return to him what’s his.

In that freedom, an exercise came to me. The exercise is quite simple. On a sheet of paper or on a digital note, make three headings: God’s, Not Mine, Mine. Under each heading, list responsibilities. That’s it.

So for example, I’ll list one under each heading. 

  • God’s: Life
  • Not Mine: Other’s Choices
  • Mine: My Choices

This exercise has lots of potential. It could be an exhaustive look at all areas of life, which could be extremely useful. But it could also be isolated to one present challenge, which is where my mind was before the alarm sounded.

Where’s your mind? Find yourself stuck wondering who’s responsible for _______. Could it be you’re stuck under the wrong heading?

We’ll look more at that in parts 2&3.

Happy Exercising!

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Elizabeth French

Questions: Three for God, Three for Us

The media, culture, and environment in which we live has sought to define love as a feeling that lives rooted deep within our emotional character. This could not be farther from the truth when understood through the focused lens of God’s Word. God defines love not in emotional terms but in commitment and covenant. God has self-defined Himself as love and rests His identity in His intention that He will never recant that commitment to humanity nor will He break His own special covenant no matter our propensities toward sinfulness or spiritual rebellion. (-The Pastor’s Wife and The Other Woman)

I started a new book last night. This quote is from a section discussing how our choices regarding our time indicate what is significant to us.

What is significant is more than what feels good. What we know we can count on, what is solid, what has been tested, what has survived fire-that is significant.

When we question our significance to God, here are three questions to ponder:

  1. What promises has He kept?
  2. How has He shown Himself to me recently?
  3. When was the last time He forgave me?

Turning the spotlight on the other person in the relationship, here are three questions for us:

  1. What promises have I made to God?
  2. How am I looking for God each day?
  3. How do I open my heart to God?

The god of comfort

In seeking the direction and power of the Holy Spirit, the man of God must be willing to do whatever the Spirit leads him to do. This means he will probably be led out of his comfort zone.

This quote is another one from the book Uniquely Bivocational that has general meaning for anyone seeking God’s power in their lives. The chapter it is from focuses on how a pastor prepares to share a message. Yet the title, Receiving and Sharing a Word from the Lord, has application for anyone who wishes to speak into other’s lives as led by God.

Here’s how. Take the phrase “the man of God” out of the quote and replace it with the pronoun “I.” See what I mean? “…I must be willing to do whatever…and I will probably be led out of my comfort zone.”

God is limited when we refuse to be willing. God cannot do all he could if we insist on being comfortable. The god of comfort will keep us from experiencing the power of the God we profess, the God we need.

Believer, drop all the “buts” and “what ifs.” Offer your willingness. Embrace the uncomfortable. Prepare to experience God’s power unlike you ever have.

God of My 20’s: 2 Things I Would Tell Myself

(Post #10 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Eric Vorhies

The things that the 35-year-old Eric would tell the 20-something Eric would need a TLDR (too long didn’t read) section. Don’t go to college unless you have to, travel before having kids, don’t eat too many gummies (they will lead to cavities), learn more about leadership, manage your time better with routine and discipline, stop eating dessert after every meal, etc. There are specific reasons for each of these, and for the ones that I did not share. BUT the problem is that the 20-something Eric wouldn’t have really heard these nuggets of wisdom. He was too sure of himself. So, I have narrowed it down to two things that I wish I could tell myself when I was 10, 15, 18, 21, 25, 27, even yesterday: choose your treasure wisely and stop seeing the world in a binary way.

The Treasure We Choose

Jesus tells a parable in Mt 13: 44-46 about people finding something valuable and doing whatever it takes to obtain it. Elsewhere, the Bible tells us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be. Look…the Bible has a lot to say about treasure. So much so, I think I got lost in the things that I treasured. Now, I didn’t treasure ridiculous things. I like movies, playing frisbee, hanging out with friends, and sleeping in…you know, the normal stuff. Those things are important to me; but when I consider the value that my treasure had, it feels empty.

Before you think I am crazy, let me explain. Friendships are good. Relaxing is good. Exercise is good. What I did wrong is nuanced. I regret making those things the goal in and of themselves. When relaxing or friendship becomes the goal, I subtly shifted from serving God to serving myself. Subsequently, those things are then viewed from a self-serving perspective.

Something needed to shift. That’s when I realized just because we treasure something doesn’t mean it has value. To find treasures of value, we have to pursue God to discover what He values and treasure those things. When we do, everything else becomes a by-product of that pursuit. For instance, the more I pursue God, the more I understand His grace and His love for people. Therefore, I serve at my church, I lead a small group, I foster kids, I push myself to become a better parent and husband. And all the while, I have found more peace and patience, deeper friendships, stronger relationships, and a faith that comes from God because I have reached the end of my rope so many times that I have nothing else to do except trust in Him.

So, I would tell myself to treasure things that have real value, relentlessly pursue them, and learn how to merge what you are naturally passionate about with that pursuit.

There Are Two Kinds Of People In This World

Yes/no. Black/white. Right/wrong. True/false. Iphone/android. Are there really only two options for everything? I used to think that in very mathematical terms. If I put in the right information into a solid equation, then I can predict the outcome. If it failed, then I had a bad equation or didn’t have the right information. A better understanding of the variables and their relationships was the solution to the world’s problems. The thing is…the world is messy. It’s messy in such a way that it shouldn’t always be seen as a problem to be solved, but rather a tension to be managed.

Can’t find the perfect person to date? The perfect church? Your dream job? Well, that’s because they don’t exist. That’s a problem you can’t solve. So you manage the tension. I have learned this is the most deeply personal and profound way that I could. Here’s the truncated version: We fostered a teenager. It was amazing for 1.5 yrs. After getting guardianship, she developed mental disorders. I became a parent of a child I never thought I would have. In a nutshell, I have quit judging other parents…and people in general.

That’s what having kids does to a person. See a frazzled woman with a stain on her shirt — yeah, she could be just some unhinged woman, but she’s likely just a mom. Some guy sleeping in church…of course he could be bored out of his mind, or maybe he didn’t get any sleep because his 5-year-old climbed in his bed and was repeatedly kicking him throughout the entire night.

The world is messy. People are suffering and hurting. Some of them do not have the tools or capacity to know how to respond. So, rather than turning from the mess and complexity, the 20-something Eric needs to embrace it. But not as a problem to solve, but as a tension to manage. A tension that will never go away. But it can get better. And when it gets worse, that’s okay too, because I can always get better also.

TLDR

I get it. 20-something Eric would not have listened well through this either. So, the bullet points:

  • Treasure the things that God says have value
  • The world’s messiness isn’t something to be solved but a tension to be managed

Hopefully, the words of 40-something Eric will be more like, “always have ice cream with your pie,” or “it’s ok that you bought that tool for that thing that you never actually fixed because your neighbor got a lot of use out of it.” I just pray to God that these two are burned into my character at this point. Otherwise, I will make some easily avoidable mistakes.

Covid-19 Update: I wrote this before the pandemic. I have learned some new things, but I will spare you…except for this one last one: Wisdom is a depreciating asset. I am glad to have re-read this today because it reminded me to look at the season I am in now with a fresh perspective. So, be open to re-learning something that you already knew.

God of My 20’s: A Hole in My Heart

(Post #5 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Melissa Gurchiek

Wow! God in my 20’s? I was born and raised into a very strong, Christian Methodist family. My grandmother was a strict believer, and my parents were as well. I think I attended every service, dinner, Sunday school, Bible school, and anything else the church offered. After a Billy Graham crusade at a local movie theater, I even had a small 3-person Bible study that the crusade offered with a woman from the church. As a child, I loved memorizing scripture, the youth choir, being an acolyte, and just about anything connected with serving. As a high schooler, I was a “nerd”; but underneath my issues, I had a strong love of what I thought was being a good Christian. I attended UMYF until some joking around by some of my classmates (about Jesus) made me furious and I left never to return.

In college, I came out of my shell in oh, so many ways. I was definitely a late bloomer. I started out by trying to go to church, but sleeping in soon took over. The only time I really worshiped was when I’d go home for the weekend. After graduating, I married and returned to my hometown to teach. My father had passed, so I continued to go to church with my mom, joined the choir, but never found a Sunday school to attend as none seemed to fit me. If it hadn’t been for that connection with the choir and with my mother, I think attending would have been questionable. Being an “everyday” type of Christian really didn’t mean much to me. No devotions or daily prayer. My husband is a non-practicing Catholic, so there was nothing to inspire me at home. There was definitely a hole in my heart that I didn’t recognize.

In my late 20’s, I had my daughter and raised her in my church. She loved it, she was easy. A few years later, I had my son whose father felt didn’t need to go to church if he didn’t want to. I felt like a failure…not able to say prayers before meals, have family devotions like my family did. This continued to haunt me my whole adult life.

Fear not, my son became a Christian man, and my daughter has a deep belief even though she doesn’t go to church. If I were near her, I think it would be different as she doesn’t have the home support, just like I didn’t. In moving to Bradenton, I have finally found that “drink of water” that my soul thirsted for and have found my fulfillment late in life. I guess I was still a late-bloomer….thank God for that!

God of My 20’s: Doing For vs. Getting to Know

(Post #4 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Bob Morrissey

May 11, 1992, as a 5th-grade boy in a revival service at our church I knew God called me to the ministry. I never doubted it – not as a teenager, not as a Bible college student, and not as a young married man in my early 20’s. However, my twenties were some tough years. I knew much about God, but I did not know Him very well personally. I could quote hundreds of verses of scripture. I could stand and teach my adult Sunday school class confidently. On the occasion that I was invited to preach to the church where I was on staff, I could hardly wait for the time to arrive and hated when it was over. I was living to do things for God without a deep and intimate relationship with Him.

The God of my 20’s was somebody I could do something for.

He was somebody I could impress with my abilities.

He was somebody that needed me.

The lost world around me needed me because they didn’t know God, and I did-or at least I thought I did. I was what was wrong with Christianity. I wanted God to use me to do something great to change people and to change the world, but didn’t realize God needed to change me before He could ever work through me to help people. The God of my 20’s was not the God I know now because I constantly judged people. I judged their piercings, tattoos, clothing, music, and everything I could see. I never truly saw people. I only saw their exterior.

Meanwhile at home, I was short tempered with my wife and kids. I often left her home to take care of our children while I was serving God in the ministry. Because I did not know the heart of God, I ignored my greatest ministry-being a godly husband and father. Thankfully my wife knew God better than me and was very patient with me.

The God of my 20’s was patient with me. He let me fail. He let me embarrass myself, and put me with a pastor who was not afraid to correct me, but loved me enough to endure my mistakes. In my late 20’s God brought a couple of older men my way who I was ready to seek advice from.

If I could encourage and advise those in their 20’s I would say:

  1. Spend as much time with God as you do serving God.
  2. God does great things with young people, but He is not in a hurry. Have patience.
  3. Those who do things for God without knowing God often use people to build their ministry instead of using their ministry to build people. Be a people builder!
  4. Get someone in their 50’s or older to be your close friend. Listen and Learn.

Book Suggestion

I’m really enjoying my current read, Spirituality of Listening by Keith Anderson. If you’re attending First Baptist Bradenton tomorrow, you’ll hear some references.


I just finished chapter five, Story: Shaped by Biblical Narrative. Here are some examples of why you might enjoy this book:

God doesn’t ask that we rise above all of life’s pain; rather, he asks that we bring all of our story to God. God doesn’t ask that we walk around in disguise pretending there are no holes in our hearts; God asks that we bring those painful hearts to the throne of grace.

When someone says thank you for something you have done, it is a gift of gratitude from God. When someone shows you love, that love is a gift of grace from God. When someone tells you the truth, it is a gift of love because God cares to move you from your defenses, hiding, and resistance. Telling our story to one another is perhaps the most sacred thing we do because God shows up in the words, emotions, and crafting of our words.

God of My 20’s: The Father’s Love

(Post #3 in a collaborative series)

Guest Blogger Linda Nelson

I would love to say that I have been a passionate follower of Jesus all my life. However…..

I grew up on a farm in Minnesota. We learned to work hard, and did so to please and earn favor from my hardworking dad. Mom was a hard working, loving woman who loved to bake, cared for our home, and had a great since of humor. Both parents were very outgoing and enjoyed getting together with friends. We went to church and Sunday school from the time I was born. While growing up I was involved with our youth group and always loved hearing the Bible stories and prayed at meals. It was just something we DID. I attended the Lutheran church and was baptized as a baby and confirmed at 13.  I loved going to Sunday School and enjoyed all of the Bible stories. My Sunday School teacher game me a plaque that hangs on my wall to this day which says, “LOVE NEVER FAILS…For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting  life. John 3:16.”  I did not understand what that really meant, but I cherished it none the less.  I liked to study the catechism and learned much ABOUT God and Jesus but never had a Bible until age 13, until AFTER confirmation. It lay in a drawer and was never opened.

My parents were married at a very early age, and it was expected that we kids would also. I met the love of my life when I was 15. We dated through high school and married at age 17; Gaylord, my husband, was 20. We farmed with his parents, and by the time I was 23 we had 3 wonderful children.

Throughout my 20’s we continued to attend church weekly; and, of course, our kids were all baptized as infants. God was someone you read about, and I never doubted who He was.  I loved to hear about Jesus and all of the Bible stories.  I tried like crazy to obey the 10 commandments and ALWAYS felt I fell short.  We always prayed before meals, the “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest” prayer; but every prayer I ever prayed was written in a book or taught to me.  All throughout my 20’s God was just a far away God. I truly never doubted that Jesus was my Savior, BUT I knew I had to be GOOD or I would miss the mark. I came to realize that my view of God was shaped by my earthly father, that if I was good and worked hard I would win God’s love and favor.

It was not until I was 37 that I ever heard about a personal relationship with God.  I had never heard of God’s unconditional love for me. And when I did, it radically changed my life.

It was at that time we moved from Iowa to Chicago. We visited a church where the pastor and people were talking and singing songs TO God NOT just about Him.  The pastor told us that God longed to have a personal relationship with me not because I worked hard and was “good” but that He loved me unconditionally. I had never heard that before.  See what love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God. And that is what we are.” 1 John 3: 1.  (Tears fill my eyes even to this day when I hear this Good News!!!!!) I came to realize I had transferred that thought and feeling from my relationship with my dad to my Heavenly Father.  We were invited to a small group where we received such love, friendship, and best of all a new Bible. Small groups have been at the heartbeat of my walk with Jesus ever since. I was discipled to love God with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to spend time with God in His word daily.  As I spent endless hours each day devouring God’s Word, I became acquainted with my precious Lord Jesus. I also grew to understand that “we are saved by grace through faith, not by works.” Ephesians 2:8. You would have thought I was given a pot of gold. And indeed, as God opened my heart to the truth of His word, I received a Treasure more precious than gold and silver. I, at last, met my Savior, Redeemer, best Friend, and Lord.

Maybe I Should Be More Prodigal

Our life group started a study of Tim Keller’s book The Prodigal God tonight. We highly recommend the book.


Here’s a great example why. 

The word “prodigal” does not mean “wayward” but, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “recklessly spendthrift.” It means to spend until you have nothing left. This term is therefore as appropriate for describing the father in the story as his younger son. The father’s welcome to the repentant son was literally reckless, because he refused to “reckon” or count his sin against him or demand repayment.

Makes you think, right? Under this definition, the story in Luke 15 has much more meaning and application.

As we discussed this tonight, a question came to me: How could we be more prodigal? 

  • Toward neighbors
  • Toward siblings
  • Toward friends
  • Toward coworkers
  • Toward anyone that is physically, spiritually, or emotionally disconnected 

If God, my Heavenly Father, recklessly forgives, loves, endures, welcomes, provides, embraces, longsuffers, probably means I should also. Maybe I should be more prodigal.