Before I left on vacation I did a Marriage Workshop at my church. One of the sessions was entitled “Why You Do What You Do” and was focused on the power of our belief system to generate emotions and subsequent behaviors. I had a handout with a really neat flow chart full of boxes, lines and arrows. I guess you had to be there to appreciate it. So let me simplify it some so it will fit in this email.
Our belief system is full of assumptions about how life should or will go – however, these assumptions are not always based in truth – but true or not, assumptions are very powerful.
For example, if I am young man who is recently engaged and looking forward to marriage, I may bring the following assumption into the relationship: because of the way I was raised and the model my mother gave me, I just assume my wife will always keep the house clean, enjoy cooking, and look forward to entertaining friends. I hope some premarital counselor helps expose and talk through that assumption prior to the wedding or my bride (and I) may be in for tough times.
But let’s get even more foundational. For Christians, there is an assumption that may be one of the most common, most unquestioned, and most naïve that people who believe in God share. We assume that because we believe in God, and because he is love, he’s going to give us a happy life. A + B = C. We assume that the way to find the life God has for us is to (A) believe in God, (B) be a good person, and (C) he will deliver the rest. A + B = C.
You may not be so bold as to state this assumption out loud – you may not even think you hold this assumption – but notice your shock when things don’t go well. Notice your feelings of abandonment and betrayal when life doesn’t work out. Notice that often you feel as though God isn’t really all that close or involved; feel that he isn’t paying attention to your life.
Assumptions will either help us or hurt us, every single day of our lives. Our assumptions control our interpretation of events, and they supply a great deal of the momentum and direction for our lives. It’s important that we take a look at them. And life will provide hundreds of opportunities to take a look at our assumptions in a single week.
Perhaps the best way to ensure our assumptions are accurate is to hold them up to Jesus and ask him what he thinks. In fact, we would do well to hold the same assumptions Jesus does about life – things like, “in this world you will have trouble” or “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” or “without me you can do nothing” – otherwise, I don’t know that we will ever really find the life he has for us.
He Walks With Me And He Talks With Me
April 28, 2013
“I will instruct and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have not understanding but must be controlled by the bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts him.”Psalm 32:8-10
People who come for a ministry session almost always are surprised by the way I pray. It is not unusual to hear me say to the God who is present in the room, “Lord, based on what is happening around him, Billy Joe Bob believes he is unlovable (not worth being with, needs to be punished, whatever – fill in the blank).Is there anything You want to reveal to him about his belief?”
This is often the moment when folks look at me and say, “You pray as if you actually think He will respond.”And I tell them yes, I do believe our God is interactive and involved, right there, right then. After all, the scripture verse above (among many others) seems to come right out and say that the Lord wants to personally instruct, teach, counsel and watch over me – and you.
I did not always believe this way. The majority of my life I was like “the horse and the mule,” busy trying to do the spiritual journey in my own understanding (oh, duh!) and needing to be controlled by the “rules of religion.” It was not a fun, there was little joy, and the Lord’s unfailing love seemed far off.
Then one day – literally, one day – my friend Rudy Gervais led me to do something I had not done in forty-seven years of life. He encouraged me to be quiet and actually listen for the voice of the Shepherd I allegedly knew; to try for just one minute to believe He might actually want to reveal Himself and His truth to me about a specific challenge in my life for which there was no scripture verse. No one was more surprised than me when God “instructed, taught and counseled me” that morning.
When asked why we pray if God already knows our thoughts and requests before we voice them, one young lady at my church responded, “Praying is probably not as much about talking to God as it is the opportunity to listen to God.” Well said.
It Was A Sunday Worth Thinking About
April 21, 2013
(I sent this as a church email on Monday, April 15 but the principles are worth repeating)
I am sitting at my desk this morning aware that there are three things you need to know about yesterday’s services.
Our worship was different yesterday, unlike anything we have done in our history as a church. As part of our emphasis on Legacy, we intentionally invited all our school age children to join us in services; and, for the first time, we observed the Lord’s Supper as individual family units instead of as a collective group. Additionally, Pastor Dale provided an insert in the bulletin entitled, “The Legacy You Want To Give.” This fifteen question survey was a tool to help us evaluate the quality of the heritage we received from our parents and assess the legacy we are passing on to our children.
The combination of the above elements probably had one of three impacts on you: they encouraged you; or they devastated you; or it was just another day in church. With that in mind, let me share the following:
A weak or damaged heritage does not determine who you are today in Jesus.
My good friend, Ryan Richardson, and I spent a few moments together after first service yesterday. Ryan has publicly shared his testimony about being raised in the Central Florida Children’s Home due to the great dysfunction in his birth family. As we sat together, he held up the bulletin insert and said this: “The scores for my family heritage on this paper are horrible. The emotional and social legacy I received was entirely negative. However, I am thankful for the spiritual part they gave me. While it was definitely legalistic and negative in tone, it did give me a solid foundation about God and Jesus – which is why I am here today.”
It doesn’t get much worse than what Ryan experienced – and some of you sitting in church yesterday would fill out your survey just like he did. But I want you to know, Ryan is letting Jesus determine who he is, not his parents or family. Ryan and his wife, Maria, are breaking the chain of the generational curse for their daughter, Mari. You can, too!
God provides an adopted family for those with weak or damaged heritages.
Yesterday, as I was greeting before the first service, I was so pleased to see an entire Life Group sitting together, being family for those single, widowed and divorced folks in their group. It was beautiful. And when I invited a young lady sitting by herself to come join my family for the Lord’s Supper, she sobbed and held our hands while I prayed.
God knows the importance of family – which is why He has adopted us into His family. One of the greatest things an adopted family can do is fill in some of the voids left by birth family (or simply the circumstances of life which require being separated from family). When the family of God functions as He designed, there are no orphans.
It is never too late to change the direction of a weak or damaged legacy.
Yesterday, Pastor and I took turns officiating over the Lord’s Supper so I was able to sit with Debbie in first service and Pastor was able to be with his son, Will, in the second service. As I sat next to my wife, with my daughter and son-in-law sitting behind me, my thoughts turned to my son Mike, who lives in Georgia.
For the first seventeen years of Mike’s life, I was pretty demanding and critical of my son. While I rarely yelled, my words and tones consistently conveyed disappointment in and with him. I was unknowingly giving him a legacy that said he was not good enough. Thankfully, about the time he was seventeen, the Lord revealed to me the reality of what I was doing and I quickly responded by changing my behavior. But I feared it was too late. Nonetheless, I remained committed to changing his legacy.
A few years ago I spent a weekend with Mike. He was 34 at the time. As I was getting ready to leave, he gave me a big hug and said, “Dad, I am glad you came. This is the first time in my life I feel totally accepted by you.” Seventeen years I waited to hear those words. Folks, if you will listen to the Lord and be obedient to His wisdom, it is never too late to change the quality of your legacy.