Monday, May 22, 2017

Motivation

At last week's Sunday Quest Gathering, we talked about motivation. What are we motivated by? What fuels us? Is it love or is it fear?

This morning, my friend and fellow Quester, Doug, shared a blog he'd read by Seth Godin that confirmed some of what we discussed (read the whole blog HERE - and subscribe; Godin is terrific and interesting).

Godin suggested that, without motivation, we tend toward apathy, and he listed the following narratives as effective motivators:
  • Avoidance of shame (do this work or you'll be seen as a fraud/loser/outcast)
  • Becoming a better version of yourself
  • Big dreams (because you can see it/feel it/taste it)
  • Catastrophe (or the world as we know it will end)
  • Competition (someone is gaining on you)
  • Compliance (the boss/contract says I have to, and even better, there's a deadline)
  • Connection (because others will join in)
  • Creative itch (the voice inside of you wants to be expressed)
  • Dissatisfaction (because it's not good enough as it is)
  • Engineer (because there's a problem to be solved)
  • Fame (imagining life is better on the other side)
  • Generosity (because it's a chance to contribute)
  • It's a living (pay the writer)
  • Peer pressure (the reunion is coming up)
  • Possibility (because we can, and it'll be neat to see how it works in the world)
  • Professionalism (because it's what we do)
  • Revenge (you'll show the naysayers)
  • Selection (to get in, win the prize, be chosen)
  • Unhappiness (because the only glimmer of happiness comes from the next win, after all, we're not good enough as is)
Some of these are positive, some negative. But Doug thought it was interesting that, while Godin never mentions "fear" specifically, fear is part of what fuels nearly all of these narratives.

I added that they all seem to be self-centric. Even the ones that SEEM others-centric, like "generosity," still feel self-centric (i.e., it's a chance to contribute, but why?). And this isn't good or bad; it just is. Godin is merely relaying the truth of things - most people are motivated by self-interest and fear.

Be we need to push against that. Hopefully, that's part of what makes us different - Questers specifically and Christians generally. Following Jesus rearranges our priorities and our motivations.

Jesus says that people will know we follow him because of the extravagant way we love (John 13:35). And the kind of love he was talking about - agape or unconditional love - has very little to do with self-interest or fear, and everything to do with subjugating our own needs in favor of the needs of others (Phil 2:3).

This narrative has the power to change you and change the people around you, because, like we said Sunday, it's not natural - it's not pragmatic or intuitive -  but it is infectious and powerful because it springs from the knowledge that we no longer need to live in fear - this kind of love that Jesus talks about dispels fear by rendering it powerless (1 John 4:18). 

It's a better narrative, and it goes something like this: 
  • Jesus follower (love because he first loved us)
Unlike the narratives listed above, this narrative can do much more than keep you motivated. This narrative can change the world.

How's that for good news?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Great Expectations

Don't be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7

Yeah, that's who I want to be. I want to be the guy who isn't anxious about anything, because that's the Jesus-y thing to do, right?

This is one of the great perks of being a Jesus follower - this whole "peace that transcends all understanding" thing - but sometimes, it seems hard to access. How do I take hold of this?

I know it's true. I believe it. I do. And I'm trying to live it out. But sometimes I'm still anxious. Sometimes, like right now, for instance, I am worried about the future.

I have great expectations for what God will do through Quest. I know he has great plans for us. And I know he means to make it happen in his time. But, in the meantime, I sweat and fret and pace and worry. I'm anxious. 

I bring my petitions and requests to God with thanksgiving, and I mean it. Every word. But still...

So, maybe the guarding of hearts and minds springs from the knowing. The four words that immediately precede this passage are these "The Lord is near." So maybe the guarding is on God; he's near, and he's on it. 

But maybe the knowing's on me. Maybe I'm still called to do my part. Maybe, in order to receive that supernatural peace of God, I need to quit pacing and fretting and sweating and worrying. Maybe that's MY part. Maybe I need to stop and make room in order for him to start.

Except, no. 

That's not what this is about.

This ties right in with what we've been talking about the last couple weeks at Quest - maybe this is a pride issue. 

Like Paul, who said he delights in God's law, but then finds his pride and his submission are at war, it seems that war is alive in me. One side of my heart wants to stop being anxious because God is in control, and the other side of my heart thinks I can actually make that happen through sheer force of will.

If my trust is just lip service, and I really think that everything's up to ME, how will I ever find peace? And before I can truly leave it all at God's feet, I have to let go of it. 

video

There's this great scene in the series "Arrested Development" where Lindsay is feeling guilty because she's received a wad of bills that were clearly ill-gotten. And she has this moment of conscience where she decides to throw it away, but she just can't. She physically can't release her fingers; she keeps flicking her hand, yet continues to hold the bills. Lindsay wants to feel better about herself, but she wants the money more. It was hilarious and a little sad

This is me with my worries. This is me, thinking that my great expectations for Quest are all about me. This is me, unable to let go and let God.

I want the peace, but maybe I also want the credit. God help me.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Pressure

So, I'm driving my bride to her dental appointment because she can't really drive herself. She's still recovering from her dreadful fall at the skating rink last Wednesday - still hurting pretty much everywhere - still pretty medicated. And there's no way you could sit next to someone who's so battered - in so much pain - and still feel sorry for yourself. And yet, I did.

I'm feeling a lot of pressure to make the most of the next few months at Quest. We really need to make a go of it if we hope to keep this thing​ going. And now that I'm working 25 hours a week outside the church, I'm spread pretty thin.

So I shared my angst with my poor, suffering Kim. And she immediately proved the thesis of this week's message. 

This week, we're talking about who we are to our people - that is, if we're walking the Way of Jesus, God will use us as lifelines to our people - our friends and family - our neighbors and co-workers. 

So I confessed my stress to my gal, and she immediately responded, "Stop worrying. This will either work or it won't. This church is in God's hands."

She spoke life to me. 

Because she is walking on the Way, God used her to give me exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. Right then, that was like oxygen to me.

So I'm gonna quit whining and just do what I need to do. God, it's in your hands. Take my efforts and multiply them. Amen.

Monday, February 13, 2017

R.I.P. - Dearest Liz

Friday morning, right before I left for work, I received notice that my dear friend, Liz, had died. 

When I first entered full-time ministry, back in 2004, Bob and Liz were one of the first older couples who really extended a hand to me. 

They were saucy and un-PC, but not in a racist or mean way, like SOME older people get - they were deliciously un-PC and hilarious. 

I'll never forget when Liz, who was 40 years my senior, saw me in a jacket and tie for the first time. 

She snuck up next to me, gave my arm a squeeze, and said, under her breath, "Hey, you clean up pretty good." And then she smiled and winked at me. 

I responded with something like, "You're looking pretty good yourself, young lady," but, even though I was trying to play it cool, I don't think my face had ever been so red. She got me good. That was a quintessential "Liz moment." 

In retrospect, I think Bob and Liz were a perfect example of people who'd been authentically transformed by the love of Jesus, because they were fully on-board with the mission of Jesus and his church, but yet were still wholly, authentically themselves. 

With Bob and Liz, what you saw was what you got. They never put on a mask or pretended to be perfect, they just served and lived and loved, in their very Bob-and-Liz sort of way. 

When Bob’s health started to decline, I wanted to do what I could to be a friend to Bob and to help out Liz. I would swing by once a week to help with some household chores and play Rummikub with Bob (who almost always won - I’m pretty sure he cheated). And during that time, I got to know both of them much better. So when Bob passed, I was crushed. 

I stopped by several times after that, to see how Liz was doing, and sometimes I spent the whole time trying to help her with her new iPad, but other times, we had long talks about her hubby, and her kids, and her time in the military, and her love and concern for the church, and her ideas about the afterlife, and all sorts of other interesting things. 

It was during these visits that I learned what a tough old broad Liz was, and I kept thinking to myself, "Man, I wish I'd met this couple 20 years sooner. I bet they were a hoot. How much could I have learned from them?" 

But then I moved to Chicagoland to plant a church, and Liz and I kind of lost touch. We played Words With Friends for awhile, but then she got sick, and we didn't even do that anymore. I feel bad that I only got to see her one more time after I moved up here, especially now that it's too late. 

And I'm sure they had an impact on many people over the years, but they definitely had an impact on me. If they'd done nothing but change the way I think about what devoted, lifelong Jesus followers are supposed to look like, that would've been enough, because there's a little bit of Bob and Liz in every sermon I give. 

Their lives, lived on the Way of Jesus, are a significant part of my evidence that what I teach is actually true. 

But what would've happened had Bob and Liz considered their faith a “personal thing - just between them and God?” And what if I'd never visited Bob as his health began to decline? And what if I'd never thought to check on Liz after Bob passed? I would've lost so much. 

But that's NOT what happened. And there's only one reason for it. 

The church. That rickety, broken-down, antiquated institution that Bob and Liz loved so much. That's the common thread that made it all happen. 

They never would've met me if not for the church. 

I never would've gotten to know them if not for the church. 

Our lives collided because God, in his infinite wisdom, designed the church to crash people like Bob and Liz and me together. 

That’s the whole point. 

I will miss them.

Ed

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What in the world...?

HAS EVERYONE GONE CRAZY?

It might seem like that. People seem more tense than ever. It seems like everything's a battle, and there's blood everywhere. The world seems pretty broken, and the future looks mighty dim, and we're all shaking our heads, wondering how we got to this crazy place. But here's the thing...

This is nothing new. The world's crazy. Always has been.

There is, however, a path that helps us make sense of it and navigate it and maybe even make a dent in it. And that path is called The Way of Jesus.

But The Way of Jesus is all about steps. 
So this is your formal invitation to Step One.

The Way of Jesus, like any path to a place where you've never been, is better walked with someone who knows the way, or at least someone who's a few steps ahead of you. So, Step One on The Way of Jesus is to find some running partners, some navigators, some guides.

We're inviting you to join us. We Questers are asking the very same questions you're asking, but we think we've found a path through the crazy. We're feeling our own way down this path, and we're inviting you to get on it with us.

It may be bumpy and dangerous, but what way isn't? And at least on this Way, you don't have to go it alone, and it's headed toward someplace we think you'll like.

Take the first step by joining us at our Sunday Gathering.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Courage is...

When we think of courage, we tend to think about people throwing themselves on top of an exploding hand grenade or battling a terrible illness or taking great risks to aid disaster victims. But courage comes in all shapes and sizes.

Sometimes it takes a surprising degree of courage just to get out of bed in the morning.

And while we may not be called to fight off wild dingos in order to save a newborn or jump onto a moving train in order to rescue the President, many of the things we ARE called to may require almost as much courage.

In fact, sometimes it requires enormous amounts of courage just to continue doing what you've been doing. 

We've been talking on Sundays about the value of waiting. We've been discussing how waiting on God is all about trust, but how sometimes it's really hard, because we don't see results. 

But here's the thing:

Sometimes the value is not in the receiving but in the trusting. Sometimes it's not about input/output or give/receive or cost/benefit. Sometimes it's all about persevering. 

This is why Paul tells us that "suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:4-5) These things are listed in succession on purpose. Sometimes we must suffer to build strength and integrity, and only then can we experience hope. 

But notice that nowhere in that list do we find "quitting" as an option. It doesn't say, "suffering produces misery; misery, complaining; complaining, quitting." Whatever mission we're called to, there is intrinsic value in seeing it through to completion.

And this progression is absolutely critical if we expect to stay on mission. Perseverance is pleasing to God. He loves it when we respond to his call and hang on for dear life. This is why Jesus tells us that the one who takes risks and stays on mission will be considered faithful and will ultimately reap the rewards of their perseverance, which includes high praise and increased responsibility. 

"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!" (Matthew 25:21&23).

If we play it safe, if we avoid risk, or worse yet, if we quit, the rest of that parable doesn't favor us. 

We know the passage that says, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" but shouldn't that lead to the logical conclusion that, if we know we're on mission, if we know God has called us to something, what could be better than that? Even if we aren't seeing the outcomes that we'd like or expect, why would we want to be anywhere else?

Most of the time, being bold and courageous is just about hanging on. It's about waiting well. It's about trusting God. 

Be bold and courageous. 


Thursday, January 5, 2017

How long?

Waiting is hard.

We don't like waiting. That's why we like microwave ovens. It's hard to make a case for microwaves, as far as food quality and taste are concerned. But they win, hands-down, in the not-waiting department. So everyone has one. Because we hate waiting.

But last Sunday, we talked about the value of waiting (listen HERE) - about trusting God's timing.

Unfortunately, as Peter reminds us, to God "a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day." So, even if God is right on top of things, it might not seem like it to us.

But, think about this...

When we read that passage, we tend to focus on the "a thousand years is like a day" part. And that makes us think that God doesn't really care about the fact that our waiting seems very long. "If a thousand years is just like a day to God, then our lives are just a blip. Our life is like nothing at all to him."

But that's only half of that verse. The other half says, "a day is like a thousand years." Think about that. Perhaps millennia are like minutes to God, but apparently, a minute is like a millennium as well. 

In every moment, God sees infinite possibility - he experiences a thousand years' worth of experiences in every moment. So he sees big as small, but he also sees small as big. 

Consequently, our lives are not a meaningless blip to him, but rather an infinite array of beautiful possibilities - a thousand lives crammed into one. 

And because he IS God - because he knows each possible permutation - because he knows what happens if we do this or that - and he knows how it all turns out when we do - he is the ultimate authority on when to do what, amen?

So waiting on the Lord is just trusting that. Do you believe he knows? Or perhaps more importantly, do you believe he cares? If you do, learn to wait. Because it is in the waiting that we see him working. Maybe not in real time, but definitely in retrospect.

Waiting is hard. But it's worth it.