The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

I am reading Jonathan Edwards’ Basic Writings and am blown away by his Resolutions document. If you get a chance to read these Resolutions, keep in mind that he wrote this stuff while he was in college in the early 1700’s. I had resolutions in college, too, but we won’t talk about that now.

Sorry for the massive post but I thought I would share a few that jumped out at me as being especially applicable:

Edwards starts with the statement: BEING SENSIBLE THAT I AM UNABLE TO DO ANYTHING WITHOUT GOD’ S HELP, I DO HUMBLY ENTREAT HIM BY HIS GRACE TO ENABLE ME TO KEEP THESE RESOLUTIONS, SO FAR AS THEY ARE AGREEABLE TO HIS WILL, FOR CHRIST’ S SAKE.
5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.
10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.
12. Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.
13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.
14. Resolved, never to do any thing out of revenge.
17. Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
19. Resolved, never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.
25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.
28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,- what sin I have committed,-and wherein I have denied myself;-also at the end of every week, month and year
52. I frequently hear persons in old age, say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.
67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what am I the better for them, and what I might have got by them.
70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.

Anybody else feeling challenged???

The Prosperity Gospel

Who doesn’t want to be rich? I certainly wouldn’t mind it. But how much of a place should this desire occupy in our hearts?

The North American church is conflicted. Consider the following research/stats:

61% of Christians believe that God wants people to be financially prosperous.
48% of Christians believe Jesus was not rich and we should follow His example.
49% believe Christians don’t give enough to the poor.
57% do not believe 10% is the minimum God expects Christians to give.
(source: David Van Biema and Jeff Chu, “Does God want You to be Rich?” Time Magazine 6/18/06)

New research released by The Barna Group reveals that in 2007 just 9% of adult Americans who are Christians gave away 10 percent of their income to places of worship or nonprofits (tithing).

Now consider what scripture teaches:
Ecclesiastes 5:10 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! (NLT)

Hebrews 13:5 Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” (MSG)

It’s time for us to get this thing straight. We have to get off the defensive side when it comes to our money. There has to be a more open atmosphere available for us to deal with this topic. But for those of you who wish I would mind my own business in this regard, I will borrow part of a posting from my friend Chris Goins “I love the way Chris Hodges of Church of the Highlands describes his desire for his congregation as it relates to giving: “Don’t listen to me! Listen to God!””

Happy Earth Day!


I am risking coming across like a tree hugger but it is obvious to me that we have to focus more attention on issues like the environment. It seems that many Christ-followers are a little behind when it comes to dialogue and action regarding ways in which we can take better care of the creation. This is a big deal in our country. While preservation of the earth and its resources should receive more attention from those who follow Christ, I see an even bigger issue at hand.

Since our culture is keenly attuned to matters of ecology, we can easily appear disconnected and aloof if we are not proactive in addressing these concerns. How can we say that that we care for people, for their well being and for the future of their families if we ignore topics like environmental responsibility? I think there is credibility to be gained if we will speak and act in well balanced ways regarding the environment.

What will it hurt if we recycle some plastic, save a little water or drive a hybrid car? Just maybe along with making the world a cleaner place for the next generation, we may also earn the right to address our culture on more important topics, like eternity.

Happy Earth Day!

intentional hanging out


Over the last couple of weeks, Letha and I have had several opportunities to spend time with a variety of friends. These were mostly casual settings – enjoying a meal with another couple, gathering at the church for some fellowship or just spending a couple of hours talking with some guys. The thing is, these events were strategically planned. The calendar over this span has been typically busy, we just decided to make it a priority to be around more people in more settings.

Sounds kind of sad, doesn’t it? We have to be purposeful and intentional about spending time with friends. But that’s the point. Until we made the decision to do so, our time with other people had taken a back seat to the demands of life. And we were paying for it.

I tell people all the time that we were not created to do life alone, that isolation leads to disaster. If you are a leader, you are probably going to have to schedule in some friend time. Look ahead now and plan something. Meet someone for coffee. Plan a meal together with a neighbor. Invite a new family at church over for dinner.

It feels really good to be making more friends, getting to know some old friends better. Give it a shot – intentionally.

Stepping it up technologically

In the last few weeks I have started this blog and also made the switch to an iPhone. Admittedly, I am a slow adapter when it comes to tech but surprisingly, I am having fun. When I do finally take the leap, it is usually because of pressure put on me by friends and family. I get tired of people making fun of me just because my phone is the size of a shoebox.

My daughter, Jessica told me that I am now edging toward being cool. That’s what I want to be . . . cool. But she also is one who is always bugging me, wanting me to text message back and forth. What does she know? Everyone knows that texting will never catch on!

I gotta go. If you need me, I’ll be at my typewriter and on my land line phone.

Critics: Ya gotta love ‘em!

Donald Rumsfeld said, “If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.” We shouldn’t be concerned if the critics line up at our door, waiting for a chance to shoot us down. We should worry if what we are doing and who we are is resulting in the sounds of chirping crickets. It goes without saying, sometimes the critics are correct. They can be our best friend in that they sometimes point out areas that, when addressed and improved upon, can result in growth and progress. But I’d be lying if I said that critical people don’t really bother me. So I collected a few classic quotes, (OK some of them aren’t yet classics) to help inspire you. If you are leading and you are being criticized, (one in the same) be inspired by a few of your colleagues:

Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” Aristotle

Fans don’t boo nobodies.” Reggie Jackson

He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” Abe Lincoln

Don’t pay any attention to the critics-don’t even ignore them.” Samuel Goldwyn

Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue was never erected in honor of a critic.” Jean Sibelius

Criticism is an indirect form of self-boasting.” Emmet Fox

A critic is someone who never actually goes to battle, yet who afterwards comes out shooting the wounded.” Tyne Daily

Come now mothers and fathers throughout the land, and don’t criticize what you can’t understand.” Bob Dylan

Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.” Ben Franklin

So, be encouraged. If you are being criticized, you must be doing something right! Don’t get too caught up with those who tear you down. These are not the people who are changing the world for the better. In fact, many of them have no greater calling in life than to hold others back.

You, however, have the call to change the world!

passion

I am getting stoked about our next missions project. If all of our plans work out, this summer (June 29-July 5) some friends and I will be traveling back to Central America to serve two orphanages. We plan to visit New Life Nicaragua in Managua and Casa Shalom in Guatemala City: casashalom.net. I wish the trip was tomorrow.

These trips help keep me focused on the important things. These babies born in adverse conditions are our chance to express love. It is amazing, although these kids have been abused and neglected, they are very receptive to our care and a little effort on our part makes a HUGE difference for them. It is simply a great way to serve and hopefully change the future for at least one child.

This won’t be a vacation. It won’t be a sightseeing tour. It won’t be a chance to be a hero. It will be a chance to be a servant.

If you have interest in making a trip to Nicaragua and Guatemala, contact me.

Someone Should Do Something!

Somebody has to step up. There are too many hungry kids in the world. There are too many people dying because of a lack of clean water. Too many people lacking basic health care. Who is going to address the problems the people in our world are facing? With all the talk about showing the love of God to people, do we think that maybe Christians could do something? Should the church be more outspoken, more energized toward action?

In his position paper, A Theology of Social Action, Jerry Redman writes:
All of this points us to popular culture, and many of its leading faces and voices that have decided to use their celebrity, wealth and influence to engage those who value their creativity so that the plights of orphans, AIDS patients, the victims of the Darfur crisis, the homeless, the hungry, etc., are no longer ignored or forgotten. It has been especially true of the Church in America over the last quarter century that we have not been nearly as engaged in changing the fortunes of the socially marginalized as scripture calls us to be, but many of the key figures of popular culture (musicians, actors, artists, and athletes) have drawn significant attention to these unfortunate groups. Beyond the attention they have been able to create, they have also created significant momentum and action on behalf of various social action initiatives. The Church, especially the evangelical segment of the Church in America, can no longer sit on the periphery of these issues and the initiatives that seek to solve them. To do so any longer not only lessens our missional opportunities, but also shows popular culture we do not believe the totality of all we say our faith is about and built upon, especially the specific words of Christ.

Although it addresses may other issues, I love Bridget Willard’s quote about the church: “Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church is who you are. Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not just go to church, let’s be the church.”

Maybe we can stop waiting for someone else to do something. Maybe we can step up and make a difference. One person at a time.

Beautiful

A wonderful lady and member of our church just passed away. She has been sick for some time with cancer. I went to visit her again the day before she died, to say goodbye and to comfort her family. As a pastor, I have had the privilege of these experiences several times, but this one was a little different.

When I got to her home, especially her room, it just seemed beautiful. There was a lot of peace there. I was reminded of a scripture and shared it with one of her daughters: Psalms 116:15 The death of one that belongs to the Lord is precious in his sight. (NCV) This entire process, though painful, is precious. It is precious because God loves her so much and precious because He is taking her home.

She was a woman of grace. She lived her life with dignity. She died the same way. Although she never said a word the morning I was there, while we were praying and worshipping, she lifted her hands in praise to God and wore a big smile. She is now in the presence of God. Beautiful!

Worship Together

I am continually blown away by how many Christ followers have so little interest in worship. This sounds judgmental and legalistic, I know, but a regular occurrence in my week is speaking with people who miss corporate worship opportunities for other events. Obviously, not everyone feels this way but lots of people approach worship services like they are their last option. If no better offers presents itself, they will worship God with fellow believers. If there is an opportunity to skip church, you can count on it!

I am reading again Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, A Discussion of Christian Fellowship. Bonhoeffer was a Christian martyr, giving his life for the cause of Christ, in a German prison camp in 1945. In this classic book, Bonhoeffer deals with the idea that Christian gatherings are a privilege that should be treasured. Some quotes: “It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing.” (p. 18) “The physical presence of other believers is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer”. (p.19) “Let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.” (p.20)

My nephew, Rich, spent three years in China working as a missionary. While he was there he was not able to attend public worship services, the only time he could gather with other believers was in secret, underground worship services. When he returned, I had the opportunity to take him to an outdoor worship service on the beach, (one of our regular services). He was overwhelmed at the freedom, at the pure joy of being able to worship God openly, without fear, with other believers.

Worship should be so much more than an obligatory, perfunctory religious exercise. Worship is encountering God, interacting with Him. When we meet for worship with other believers, it is a family celebration, a time to be treasured.

I guess my prayer is: “God, give us a glimpse of what corporate worship really is, a gift of God’s grace, let us approach it with anticipation and let us treat it with great respect.”

What are you doing on Sunday?

I had a profound worship experience on Sunday. I was able to experience Holy Communion from a different perspective. It happened that during our worship, I was seated next to a friend who is quadriplegic. When time came for us to eat the bread and drink from the cup, I realized that he needed assistance. He does not have full use of his hands. When we ate the bread, I took his wafer and put it in his mouth. Then I put the cup to his mouth while he drank. Our tradition is for each person to handle their own elements, which I think works theologically and symbolically. We each have access to Christ and therefore to the Father. The thought that someone couldn’t help themselves to communion was a bit startling, from a philosophical point of view. I was humbled and touched to be able to share this time of worship with a friend. I was also moved to remember that none of us can gain access to a relationship with God by ourselves. I was also a bit ticked at those of us who are sometimes too tired to stand in the presence of God. My friend who is confined to a wheelchair would give everything he owns to stand in worship to God.

This experience is the best thing that happened to me this weekend. It’s been with me all week.

A Hero

Yesterday, the parents of Navy Seal Michael Monsoor received the nation’s highest military honor, the Medal of Honor. Monsoor is only the third recipient of the honor during the Iraq war.

On Sept. 29, 2006, while on a rooftop in Ramadi, Monsoor had to think fast on his feet when a live hand grenade bounced off his chest. He made the decision to die for those near him, his comrades. He saved the lives of those around him. He jumped on top of the grenade. He was only 25 years old.

What a leader. Something tells me that the decision Monsoor carried out that day was made far in advance of that moment. He had, at some point, determined that he would put others before himself. I bet he had a pattern of doing so. You don’t fall on a grenade unless you have lived your life up to that point giving up your preferences and comforts for those of others.

The concept of servant leadership enters here. The ultimate Servant Leader was Jesus who came to “lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) We are told that in order to live a life of significance, we have to serve others. I don’t think we buy it, but we are aware of the principle.

Michael Monsoor got it. He will be remembered for his bravery. He was a true leader. I might forget his name in a few weeks but His friends on the roof that day won’t.

Can You Shoot Free Throws? The Discipline of the Basics

Last night, on a national stage, the NCAA Basketball Championship finals were held in San Antonio, Texas. The Kansas Jayhawks defeated the Memphis Tigers 75-68 in a very exciting overtime victory. It was a great game and one of the more competitive games of the tournament.

Here’s the deal: Memphis lost the game, in part, because they can’t shoot free throws. For you non-basketball fans, a free throw is basically the chance to shoot an uncontested shot while everyone else just watches. The percentage of success is very high, according to the stats. Free throw success rates are generally 20 – 25% higher than shots taken from other areas of the court. Toward the end of the game, as Kansas started fouling Memphis players (a common strategy in basketball), the Memphis players missed free throw after free throw. All they had to do was make a few of these shots. They didn’t, and they lost because if it.

Following the game, Memphis Coach John Calipari said, “We spend no time thinking about free-throw shooting,” Well, every basketball fan in American knows that.

While I was watching the Tigers fold under the pressure, I was making some leadership analogies. I am wondering how many leaders spend time thinking about and working on the basics. In basketball, the basics are dribbling, passing and shooting free throws. In leadership, maybe the basics are communication, being an example and responsible living.

I watched Memphis play a few games earlier this season. I wasn’t crazy about their style. Oh, they were a very dominant team, losing only one game prior to the finals. But they were showboats. Lots of talk, lots of taunting other players and teams. True, they were awesome at slam dunking, really exciting to watch as they dribbled behind their backs and made the cool no-look passes. But they can’t shoot free throws. And it cost them big time.

All they had to do was discipline themselves to the basics.

Can you shoot free throws?

A Shortcut to Credibility

One of the most important factors in becoming a leader in any organization is credibility. Most people will not follow a person who is not believable. Trust is indispensable. These elements of leadership take lots of time to develop. Many leaders grow impatient with the process necessary in order to gain trust from their followers.

There is a way to shortcut this process. While no leader hopes for it, crisis has the potential to expedite the evolution of credibility. How a leader responds and leads in times of crisis has a way of fast-forwarding the growth of one’s plausibility. The greater the crisis, the greater the potential effect.

Be ready to act. Position yourself to respond in strong and decisive ways. It is difficult, if not impossible, to anticipate the specifics of the next crisis. While you may not know the characteristics of the emergency that waits around the next corner, you can prepare yourself in general terms. Essentials like steadiness, courage and foresight are necessary. You can’t wait until crisis strikes to develop these strengths.

Begin now. Get yourself ready. Be positioned to act. Not only will you behave as a leader when tough times come, but you will also enjoy more credibility today. The things that make you a great leader in bad times will also make you a great leader right now.

Ten reasons to be like kids:

they forgive
they laugh a lot
they live to play
they hate broccoli
they like to cuddle
candy is vital
believing comes easy
they don’t mind old people
blankets are good
innocence

God, I want to be more like a kid.

Balance: Watch your step!

We’ve all seen the guy at the circus, feeling his way across the tightrope, hundreds of feet above the audience. Everybody is watching, the pressure is on, and there is a collective holding of the breath, afraid of the worst. In reality, some sick souls in the crowd are actually hoping the performer falls, then the admission ticket would really be worth its price.

The obvious key to getting from one platform, way up high, to the other, is balance. The circus performer uses a long pole to assist in keeping balance. Slowly and methodically, the entertainer moves across the rope and, ultimately, we all (except for the sick souls) breathe a sigh of relief as he reaches the goal of the other platform.

If you are a leader, you get the connection. You are on a tight rope, way above the crowd (I am in no way implying the superiority of the leader, simply his/her visibility). Everybody is watching, the pressure is on, and some sick souls are actually hoping you fall. How do keep yourself from becoming tomorrow’s headline: “Leader Splats on the Ground!”?

Balance is the key. You had better have something to hold on to. The winds are whipping around up there. The tight rope seems to shift around from time to time. Have you seen the guy at the circus perform this stunt while blindfolded? You get the picture . . .

I suppose shaky knees and a weak backbone will work against you. You can’t look too far ahead, you need to look at your next step. You need to have practiced plenty down low before you go to the top level. So many analogies . . .

Let me encourage you: stay on the tight rope. Don’t allow the gasps of onlookers to frighten you. Many of them are also called to walk the rope but they are too cowardly to give it a try. Don’t allow the bright lights and loud music (or the smell of the elephants) to get to you. Stay focused, and for goodness sake, maintain balance!

What about the sick soul who is hoping you will fall? My advice?: Ignore him. If you are focusing on him, you are not focusing on maintaining your balance. Send him home, grouching about the cost of admission. All the while, you are walking the tightrope, from one platform to the next.

Thanks goodness, we don’t have to wear a leotard.

Compromise: Friend or Foe?

Is compromise a good idea or a bad one? As a leader, can you ever be tempted to allow compromise to define, at least in part, who you are?

Like many other words in our language, in order for us to understand the value of the concept of “compromise”, we must first understand the context. In matters of reputation, integrity and morality, compromise is clearly something that true leaders shun at all costs. We learn early on that compromisers in areas of character will fail. Nothing is more distasteful that to have to work with a weak individual who has no sense of personal integrity.

But what place, if any, does compromise have in areas of relationships, communication with loved ones, and life outside of work? Many times, those who place a high value on reputation and character also struggle with the idea of conciliation in their personal relationships. In order to get along successfully with others, we must also learn the value of cooperation, give and take and we have to know how to find the “middle ground”. This is not an affront to your integrity, it is a necessary skill if we are to enjoy healthy friendships and family lives.

Are you carrying over your insistence of “no compromise” into areas of your personal life? If so, how is that going for you? Do you find yourself right most of the time, but alone?

Never fade from your stand for integrity, but don’t allow this emphasis to prevent you from being a warm and forgiving individual.

Leaders must learn how to stay true to form in matters of character. We must also know how to negotiate on issues of the heart.