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Posted by on Aug 22, 2012 in Inspirational | 1 comment

Values don’t matter…until they cost you something.

Values don’t matter…until they cost you something.

It’s very easy for us to sit on our high-horse and look down on the moral failures of the corrupt.  It’s much more difficult for us to put ourselves in their shoes and still be willing to pay the price that it would have cost them to live by the right values.  The truth is that our values don’t mean a hill of beans until we have to give up something to live by them.

There is no sense in priding ourselves on our values until they’ve been tested.  A commitment to financial integrity doesn’t mean anything until you’re presented with a shady opportunity that could help you out of a tight spot.  A commitment of faithfulness to your spouse doesn’t mean anything until you’re tempted during a rough patch in your marriage.  Values don’t matter until they cost you something.

Here are 5 keys to living by your values:

1.) Be black and white.  When it comes to values, grey areas are not helpful.  You need clear lines that you’re committed not to cross.  The more clear the lines are, the more clarity you’ll have when they’re tested.  It’s OK (and healthy) to reassess your values from time to time, but don’t leave questions about values lingering.  You don’t want to be faced with a decision and not have clear values to help guide you.

2.) Ground your values.  Your values are only as good as their source.  If you’ve based your values on the way you feel or think about something then your values will shift when you feel or think differently.  If you base your values on something unchanging, you can rely on them to help guide you even when you’re an emotional wreck.  Ground your values in the Word of God.  Besides being unchanging, God’s Word is also true.  You can trust that living by Biblical values will yield great success in whatever you do.

3.) Write them down and review them weekly.  Not only does this help you make your values more black and white, but it keeps them in front of you every week.  Simply reviewing what’s most important for you to live by will quickly expose the opposing opportunities that present themselves.

4.) Start small and early.  Simply put, if you don’t make small sacrifices for your values today then you won’t make large sacrifices later.  Take back the office supplies you brought home.  Stop flirting with the receptionist.  Be generous even if you only have a little.  Go home and be with your family.  Make the small choices today and you’ll have trained yourself to make big choices tomorrow.  And when you do, write it down in a journal.  Go back and reflect on how much better your life was because you gave up something for your values.  This will encourage you in the future.

5.) Use Visioning.  This might sound scary at first, but it’s really no big deal.  All I’m saying is “see yourself” in a tempting situation and “watch yourself” make the right decisions.  There is no need for the first tests of your values to be in real life.  We have amazing imaginations.  I have faced all kinds of situations in my mind long before ever facing them in reality.  Because I had already “experienced” the moment, it was easy to stick to my values when the situation was real.

Are values important to you?  Where do they come from and how do you live by them?

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Posted by on Jul 4, 2012 in Inspirational, Leadership | 0 comments

Independence Day and the Future of America

Independence Day and the Future of America

Something struck me today while reading through the Declaration of Independence: The men who drafted and signed this document were entirely convinced that they were empowered by God.  I absolutely love the last line, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

The founding of our great nation was not based on the promises of a man, the superiority of an economic system or even the collective voice of the people.  It was based on the firm belief that God was on their side, and that He would protect them and ensure the success of their efforts. They believed He would provide a better future for their families than the King of England.  Seriously, take a look at the first prayer of the Continental Congress that I pasted below.

Here’s my point.  A nation needs moral clarity in order to be strong. But because so many terrible things have been done in the name of God, we’ve had a tendency to shy away from seeking and claiming Divine support.  And it’s true…developing a sense of empowerment from God is dangerous business.  If you’re wrong, you will be destroyed.  If you’re wrong, you will lead many men to die for the wrong cause.  But if we don’t seek God’s will and believe that we’re operating with His support, then we’re doomed to be a weak nation, overrun by people with more developed moral convictions.

I’m curious.  What role do you see God playing in the founding of our nation?  What role do you see Him playing now?

“Moral Clarity yields strength, but Truth endures.  The strength of false is destroyed by the strength of truth. Yet, without clarity there is no strength at all!”

First Prayer of the Continental Congress, 1774

O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States, who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee. To Thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support, which Thou alone canst give. Take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under Thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in Council and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their Cause and if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, of own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle!

Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior.

Amen.

Reverend Jacob Duché
Rector of Christ Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
September 7, 1774, 9 o’clock a.m. [2]

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Posted by on Jun 29, 2012 in Inspirational | 2 comments

confession of a pastor: I don’t pray enough…

Here’s the honest truth.  I can’t think of a single week of my life where I ended the week happy with the amount I prayed.

Here’s another confession.  I gave up.

I gave up trying to feel good about my payer life.  In fact, I’ve decided I never will and I’m OK with it.  Chances are that if I ever feel content about the amount I pray, it will be because I stopped longing for God, not because I finally met some mystical quota.  This week, taking in chapters of A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God before falling asleep, I ran across this portion of a prayer:

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more…I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still…Say to my soul, ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

If you want to join me in feeling miserable about your prayer life, see my tips below…just some things I do that may or may not work for you.

BTW – This Sunday I’m starting an online class on leadership principles.  Look for posts on leadership throughout the month of July.  And feel free to join in for video lectures and discussion here: http://capcitychurch.onthecity.org/plaza/leadership.

Below are my tips, but how do you pray?  What are you curious about with prayer?  How do you feel about your prayer life?

Tips for a miserable prayer life:

I become thankful.  Nothing alters my perspective like thinking of what God has done and is doing in my life and thanking Him for it.  I reflect on how awesome He is.  I read Psalms out loud and let myself get excited about Him and what He is capable of.

I use my prayer language.  My prayer language allows me to agree with God for things I may not even be aware of that He’s doing.  The Bible says that the Spirit of God searches out the mind of God and then prays through me with utterings I don’t understand (Romans 8:26).  I’m cool with that.  If it’s just me and God, there isn’t always a need for my mind to be edified.

I declare truth.  Inevitably, things come to my mind as I pray: people, concerns, events, future conversations…I use my words to turn those things over to God.  I recite/declare Scripture over those things and agree with what God says about it…sometimes making bold declarations about what God is going to do.

I shut up.  I spend probably 60% of prayer time not talking.  I ask God to speak to me, to show me things, to challenge me.  If I can be quiet for a minute, I find He always brings things to my mind that are on His heart.  I ask Him broad general questions and wait for an impression of His response.  “What are you after in me right now?”  “Why am I so anxious about this?”  Honestly, I don’t always know with 100% certainty that what’s coming to me is always God.  I have to compare it with what I see written in His Word and what I’ve been taught about the character of God.  As long as it lines up, it doesn’t hurt me to respond to it.  Many times, it turns out it was God speaking to me during my prayer time.  How awesome is that?!

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Posted by on Jun 27, 2012 in Inspirational | 17 comments

Does PRAYER work?

Seven years ago I was on the phone with Pastor Dennis in the lobby of Sibley Hospital.  Up to that point, I had kept it together.  I had held Eileen’s hand.  I had reassured her that everything was going to be OK.  But when I had to say the words on the phone, I lost it.  I melted into a ball of grief as I choked out an update. We would never get to meet the little baby we had made.  We had prayed, and as far as I could tell, prayer hadn’t worked.

This experience runs in drastic contrast to countless other experiences where we’ve prayed and seen things work out exactly like we’ve asked.  Just two years ago, Eileen and I were short about $15,000 on our annual budget.  We had itemized our projected expenses, compared it to our projected income and found we were $15,000 short.  We prayed together and asked God to make up the difference.  Within two weeks, our expenses decreased and our income increased just enough to close the gap.  We had no idea those things were going to happen!  It seemed a clear answer to prayer.

So, does prayer work?  Two nights ago, I downloaded (for only $0.42 only Google Books) a very short read, The Efficacy of Prayer, by C.S. Lewis.  He suggests that empirical proof on whether prayer works or not is unobtainable.  Basically, we’ll never know, scientifically.  It makes sense.  I can no more run experiments on whether prayer works by praying and testing than I could run experiments on whether an engagement proposal works by proposing to a bunch of women in different ways.  If my goal is to figure out whether it works, then I haven’t really prayed…or proposed.  I just ran a test.

What can we know about prayer?  After all, God encourages us to ask Him for things consistently throughout Scripture.  Let’s focus on the analogy of a marriage proposal.  When I asked Eileen to marry me, I wasn’t trying to convince her to do something she didn’t want to do.  I had a sense, because of our relationship, that she wanted to be married to me.  My proposal was based on a confidence I had gained from what I knew about her and how she felt about me.  To say that my proposal “worked” would be a huge simplification of our relationship. Even if she had said “no”, it would have been a big learning experience in our relationship and understanding of one another.  But if I knew Eileen wanted to marry me, then why even ask?  Why didn’t it just happen?  My proposal to Eileen was an important step.  It was a communication of agreement.  I was saying, “I want this.  I think you want this.  What do you say, we do it?”

It’s just the same when we pray.  We’re not out there trying to convince God to do something He doesn’t want to do.  We’re fulfilling a role of agreement. God has given us the role of asking Him for things He wants to do in our lives and in the lives of other people.  For some reason, God chooses to do most everything He wants through people.  Prayer is just another way for us to be involved.  Why do you pray?  What’s been your experience?

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” John 15:7

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