We have come a long way in our country haven’t we? I remember doing an interview with my grandparents while I was in Jr. High. I asked them about what it was like growing up in the time period they did. I remember asking about all of the changes they faced and the difference in their lives now. It was an incredible conversation. I had the conversation for a class but I deeply valued that time we spent talking. I remember hearing about them remembering the first time they had running water to the house, or when they got a TV and a phone. These were all luxuries we take for grated that they were very excited to finally have.

It blows me away sometimes as i think about the differences in the lives everyone lives now in comparison to even 50-60 years ago. I remember my first Sunday School at the new church. One girl was having “withdraws” because she was grounded and her cell phone had been taken. Cell phones have grown to be an extended part of our bodies. We are on computers for hours on end. I remember getting home and rushing over to the computer so that I could check Facebook (it had been probably 8 hours since I checked it last!!).

We can now carry the internet around in our pockets and access it anytime we want. We have and app for everything (I saw a funny ad for a cutting board app this morning). Google is way more than just a search engine now. They want to be the place where you can find information, and Facebook seems to be inviting people to stay longer and do more on their site as well. Skype and other similar programs allows not only voice but video chatting.

How wonderful these tools can be! We can now stay in contact with friends and family faster and easier than ever before! We can stay “connected” wherever we are. I heard a sermon recently by Professor William P. Walton of Central Christian College of the Bible on how much technology can add to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ in places that cannot be reached otherwise. These are wonderful and mind blowing tools that we can, and must use for the Kingdom of God.

How heartbreaking it is then, when we find all of this technology being abused. Pornography viewing is at an all-time high. Parents are worried for their children because of the threat of predators online. Terms such as “cyber-bullying” have made their way into our culture. There is also the risk of simply becoming addicted to all the information that is at our fingertips. We can become addicted to the technology and instead of it being used by us it uses us. This should not be!

How Do I Stop the Cycle?

REALIZE THE CYCLE: It first takes realizing that you have a problem. That seems really basic and you hear things like that in some sort of twelve step, but it is true! You cannot overcome the issue if you are not willing to see and admit you have a problem. Are you neglecting real time (I’m talking face to face) with family and friends so that you can stay on your devices longer whether for good or bad reasons? Are you wasting time surfing instead of being productive and getting work done?

TAKE DRASTIC STEPS: I find that if I don’t take a huge step and I try to monitor my time it does not work as well as giving it up completely. One spring I realized I was immediately getting on the internet and typing in “facebook” without even knowing I was. I then gave up Facebook for a month. I did not allow myself on for any reason (my relationship status changed during that time but I refused to announce it to the Facebook world until that month was over). Sometimes it is just not feasible to give up a certain media, then get help. Confide in a friend who will keep you accountable. Tell him/her your plan and ask them to be annoying about making sure you are sticking to it. Michael Hyatt uses a program called anit-social (there is also one that works on PC’s). This program blocks social networking for a certain amount of time so you can get other work done.

FIND A NEW PLACE TO WORK: I’m not talking about leaving your job. What I mean is if you find that you are more tempted to waste time in a certain place, avoid that place. Work on the other side of your office, move to a different chair, spend the morning at McDonalds using up their internet.

There are numerous steps a person may take to gain back freedom from the addiction of social media. I do not want to make it sound like I think it is all bad, I have a Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and this blog, but it can be harmful to being productive or the work of the Kingdom. We must make sure we are using it for good and not letting it use us.
What steps have you taken to be in control or take it back of the social media you have?

It happens all the time, all around us. There is a phenomena that has crept into our society and we find that it happens more and more all of the time. Children, adults, men, and women, it does not matter who you are, this phenomena could happen to you. You may be debating taking part of it right this moment, or you may be an innocent bystander. What is it that I am talking about? It’s

Alright so maybe I took too much time building it up for something so small that may cause you to stop reading this post all together, but stick with me, it will get better. I am almost sure of that.

I deeply despise having people drop out on me at the last second. I think that everything is running smoothly. I have all the volunteers I have for a youth event all lined up, and the day before (if that far in advance) I get a call (or less personal, a facebook message) letting me know that a particular individual cannot make it. They come up with some excuse, “its a family emergency.” Later I find out their brother-in-law had set up a new airsoft and “desperately” needed help testing it out. Sometimes individuals have a legitimate excuse. Most of the time they are backing out because they have found something else that sounds more fun to them.

Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 21 where a son does this to his father. The father wants his son to go work in a field and the son says “sure thing dad, I will be right out there (my paraphrase). But then we are told the son doesn’t go. Who knows why he chooses not to. All we know is he said he would and then he does not.

Of course this parable is about doing God’s will, not the will of Brandon, but I can most definitely feel the pain of the father here.

There is another son in the story as well (actually it is the first son the father goes to). This one says he will not go but “afterward he regretted it” and went to work in the field. I suppose you could look at this story and find both the son’s words to be unreliable but I would much rather have someone tell me they can’t do something and then change their mind and come to work alongside me.

So what does that take? How do we get other people to come alongside us? How do we get them to answer “Yes” and to act on that answer.

Do it: First we need to make sure that we are reliable people. This will not change the actions of everyone but it can’t hurt. When we give someone our word we need to follow through with this. That does require we don’t overbook ourselves and only say yes to what we know we have the time to commit.

Don’t overbook others: Sometimes we go to the same 2 or 3 individuals for everything. That can wear them down and after awhile it can lead to them saying no either in word or action. Spread out the responsibilities. Make sure to find what someone is good at and ask them to be involved in an area that involves that strength.

Set them up to succeed: Make sure to find what someone is good at and ask them to be involved in an area that involves that strength.

Show appreciation: It does not hurt to give your volunteers some extra praise now and then (more now than far off in the future). This can be done through cards, meals, verbal praise, a volunteer retreat, or anything else you can come up with to show them how much you appreciate them. People are much more likely to stay committed when they know they are appreciated.

Think about what it would take for you to say “Yes” and stick to that answer and do that for your volunteers. It won’t mean you will never have anyone backing out, but they will be a lot less likely to do it.

 

What other things would you suggest to someone who is having problems with their volunteers not staying committed? 

Flour, Oil, and God

September 27, 2011

In 1 Kings 17 we find Elijah being commanded by God to go to a land and dwell there for a while. When he gets there he meets a widow. Elijah is hungry so he asks the woman to get him some food but she is going home to make the very last loaf of bread her and her boy will eat before they die. Elijah tells her that if she makes him a small cake from her supplies first that the flour and oil she has will not run out until after the rain returns to the land.

Can you imagine what is going through this woman’s mind? She is unsure of who Elijah is and he is asking her to use up part of her last meal to give to him. Maybe she has strong faith and believes him. Maybe she just figures if it doesn’t work, her and her boy were going to starve anyway so it doesn’t matter if their last meal is all that big. Whatever her reasoning, she goes ahead and makes the cake for him and the flour and oil do not run out.

Between this story and the “Balanced” sermon series I have been listening to by Andy Stanley, I have been greatly reminded about how the possessions I “own” are not really mine. It all belongs to God!

Money: This is the easy one to reference but a hard one to live out. Money is so vital to everything that we do. It is difficult to come the realization that the money I have, I have because of God’s providence. My wife and I immediately take out a portion of our weekly check to put in the next week’s offering. Even when things are running tight (and they do!) we refuse to touch that money. That is specifically set aside for the church. Not just that money is God’s though, it all is! So before blowing all of our money for the week, we ask ourselves “is this how God would want me to use this?” It is a difficult process to get into the habit of doing but it is so rewarding!

Career: It is easy to separate our spiritual lives from our careers. We are often surrounded by those who do not hold to the same convictions we do, so it can be easy to “lax” while we are at the job. God wants our whole lives though. We need to make sure that we are following His will even at work. This is a great opportunity to be a witness to our coworkers as well as growth as we trust God even when it is hard.

Family: Our family is a blessing from God (even when they may not seem like it). We need to be good stewards of them as well. It is often a struggle for men in ministry to not give their families the leftovers. They deserve so much more than that. They deserve our all just as our work does. I pray for my family everyday. I pray with my wife, and I pray with my son. I want to make sure that God is leading us and that I am trusting in Him. I will be judged by how well I lead my family. This leading though is really following after God. It is God who really provides and who does the leading and I need to make sure that I am trusting Him enough to do that.

There are of course lots of areas in our lives we could talk about (starting with possessions), but this is a good place to start. God desires us to follow and trust Him with our entire lives, not just small parts of it. It is all His anyway, we are just stewards of what He has entrusted to us. Let’s make sure to treat His things and people well!

What areas of your life have you been discovering God is actually in control of? How have you been able to let it go and give it to Him?

what does your future hold?

September 23, 2011

I was part of a conversation yesterday about the weather. It went a little something like this:

Man: “Well I’m not sure when they plan on getting done but I know that they are not working today because of the chance of rain.” Me: “When is that supposed to happen?” Man: “I thought it should be already. When I checked the weather this morning at 5:40 the rain didn’t look to far away and usually when it is there at that time, it reaches here by now.”

It actually didn’t end up raining until later in the afternoon. I have had other discussions about the weather or more specifically about certain weather predicting websites. I complain about this one or that one because it was an hour or two off the predicted time for when the storm would be in the area. I expect the “hour by hour” predictions to be spot on. I want to know EXACTLY when and what weather conditions I can expect at any given time. I have found myself getting annoyed and even wondering why I even bother checking the weather anymore. “It’s not even accurate!” I exclaim.

This attitude I have found in myself does not just end with weather predictions. I do the same thing when it comes to watching television. For two years my wife and I have had a tv provider that has given us the capability of seeing what shows are coming on at what times. I can look hours, and sometimes even a couple days, out to see if there will be a show on that I may want to watch. Now, however, our provider does not give us that option. In fact, it does not even give us the option to see the name of the program that is currently on! What kind of service is this?

Funny isn’t it? My desire to know the future has actually grown into an attitude of I deserve to know the future. I am entitled to it. If I do not know it, or have access to it then I am not getting my fair share of information.

Actually now that I think about it, I believe this feeling of entitlement comes from a desire to be in control. I find some small satisfaction and somehow I feel in control of the tv or weather when I know what is coming up. I feel a little more powerful, and in a world where not a lot is sitting in the palm of my hand, it feels good. It feels good to be in the know. We do this with so much more than weather or the tv, but these are fairly non-threatening examples and I will let you sit and think about where you get your power fix from.

We should be having a different attitude. Let’s be honest, this feeling of control I have is just a deception. Knowing that Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman comes on at 4-6 every weekday on INSP does not make me in control of the programming anymore than not knowing (I admit that admitting to knowing when Dr. Quinn comes on everyday does not make me seem very credible with some audiences).

Not being in control though leads to worry right? I mean if I am not in the know of my future then I must worry about it. Wrong. Jesus gives us an alternative. In Matthew 6 Jesus commands that we not worry about tomorrow or what we will be wearing or what we will eat. He tells us that God is in control of those things and that we will be taken care of. So there is an alternative! Instead we must “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.”

We need to change our focus from being in control and having to know it all. We need to let go of the worry because again as Scripture tells us it does not add anything to our lives. We need to rest in the arms of God and realize that He is in control and that should give us the peace that surpasses understanding. Even when we do not know exactly what is coming up, or how we need to handle a situation at work, God know and He will take care of us. We can know what His will is (through Scripture) and let’s spend our time chasing after that instead of things we really have no control over.

Looks like it is going to be a beautiful fall day; maybe that will change. I don’t mind because I know God is in control.

 

When have you struggled with giving your worries over to God or letting go of something you felt you needed to be in control of?

Average Joe by Troy Meeder

September 22, 2011

I just finished reading the book “Average Joe” by Troy Meeder. I got this book for free from http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/bloggingforbooks/.  In this book Meeder attempts to take a look at what it means to be an average Joe and how that life is actually quite rewarding. He begins his book by discussing his definition of an average Joe. When using this term he seems to mean a man who works a blue collar job, not making a whole lot of money, has a wife and maybe a kid or two. His point is that this job is in no way glamorous to the world. He then posses the question of why this life seems so terrible. He argues that it is not and somewhere along the way we have lost sight of what is important. Then he spends the next few chapters writing about average Joes that he has met or has come to greatly admire. The last part of his book he uses stories from his life as an average Joe. He does this again to show how God uses “average” me to do great things for God’s kingdom. He challenges the reader to live our life closer to Jesus.

I had some difficulty getting into this book. It seemed the way Meeder tried to raise up the life of an “average Joe” he downplayed the life of someone who is not so average. It almost seemed as if he had a problem with men who were “well off.” Also, sometimes his definition of an average Joe bothered me, especially in the chapter titled “Soldier.” There is absolutely nothing average about what these brave men and women do. They go up and beyond the call of duty, something found in not many people. Also he said “With names like Mike, Joe, or Bill, these young men are average Joes…”  Does a simple name make an average Joe? I had some problems with the images he used and the way he tried to prove his points. He also got up on his “soap box” a few times and I just wanted him to get to the point. I think the idea of the book is great but I was not completely pleased with how he presented it.

It’s Go Time

September 20, 2011

I am currently reading through a book. This book is about how God uses normal, everyday people to do His will. The author wants to make sure that the reader understands you do not have to be some big and famous person to pull off great and mighty things for the Kingdom. I am having difficulty with the way this author is presenting it (feels as though he is putting down the big and famous or cooperate people as if they are not used by God), but he brings up some wonderful points. These points are not something that this author just came up with though. This is something God has been showing us for a very long time.

SHEPHERDS??                                                                                     We see something amazing in the account of the birth of Christ. Let’s set the stage. Jesus has just come into the world. At the same time there are some shepherds hanging out with their flocks. Fun fact about sheep: they stink. This means that the people who worked with them also stunk. They were not the cleanest individuals. I am beginning to form an episode of “Dirty Jobs” in my mind. Shepherds did a job that nobody else wanted to do. They lived out on a hill away from society

Then, all of a sudden, an angel appears to them, telling them of the wonderful news of the Savior being born. Their lives are changed.

Believed                                                                                                   I am amazed at the shepherds response. Instead of thinking about checking it out tomorrow or thinking their was something in the food they had been eating, they believed the angel and went to go check it out!

Their belief resulted in action. Isn’t that how it should always be? Belief is not just something that happens in our heads. Belief changes how we live. When we believe the house is on fire, we get out as fast as we can. We do not just sit around pondering the heat and how powerful the flames are getting. The shepherds believed and it changed them.

More to the Story                                                                              What amazes me is that for as little as the shepherds knew, it did not keep them from sharing. They had been visited by an angel who told them what they would find and where. When they saw that it was true they praised God and told others about what they saw. How crazy this must have seemed to others!! But the shepherds did not care!

We know so much more! We know who Jesus was, what He came to do, and what He has done for us, but far too often we keep it to ourselves. We are afraid of looking foolish or being singled out as someone who believes differently. We have the whole truth and yet we sit on it! We cannot let the fear of what other people may think keep us back (Jesus told us this would happen, it should not surprise us)!

Let’s take our cue from the shepherd and start proclaiming Jesus to everyone we meet. Let us not be afraid of looking a bit foolish, after all, what the world sees as foolish is really wisdom. Let us cling to the hope that Christ gives us and go out into the world unashamed and unhindered!

What steps are you taking to step out in faith and proclaim the gospel?

A Fresh Start

September 16, 2011

It’s fun to think about new things isn’t it? When somebody drives by in a brand new (insert favorite kind of car), its fun to think about what it would be like to have that; or at least it’s fun to think about what it would be like to have a newer vehicle than our 1998 Oldsmobile Silhouette. It is exciting to dream about a big move, starting a family, or a brand new job.

If you are like me, though, it’s difficult to actually start new. Just recently my family and I moved to a new town, for a new job, going to a new church. We moved away from the familiar. Everybody knew who I was where we were. But God called us to make a move so, in faith, we made the move.

Dreaming about change excites me. Carrying out that change scares me to death. But we did it and we are here, and I am excited!

I had a blog. It was a blog on a different site and I was not very diligent in keeping up with it. I never had a purpose in my writing, I was just writing as a kind of online journal (much like I did with a Xanga account 5 years ago). I wanted to start writing with purpose and a goal, but I did not know how to start, so I simply kept right on doing what I was doing.

Good thing my email address started messing up. Every time I tried logging in, there were complications. It was like God saying, “Here is your out.” So I started this blog. It makes me nervous but I am also very excited. I have ideas and I plan to implement them. I plan to be more diligent in writing. I want to discuss ministry and leadership.

I am through simply reading about how to be a better blogger, how to write better stories, and how to engage with a community. It is way passed time to start; now I am stepping out to take hold of that dream. I have got into my 2011 For Mustang gt and I’m taking off.

When have you had to step out of your comfort zone and start something new?