Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What is that supposed to mean?

We ran into some old friends earlier this week at a school thing. We caught up and exchanged pleasantries, and it was really good to see them!

As the conversation was coming to a close, my wife says, "Tell them what you're doing now at the church." Uhh....OK.

So, I explained that my new role is Married Couples Pastor, and that the former Couples Pastor is now serving as the Spiritual Growth Pastor. He'll be developing small group curriculum, devotionals for quiet time and reflection during the week, and creating some seminar series, such as Old and New Testament classes to help people develop a deeper understanding of scripture.

Our friend responds by saying, "You know what...that's why we left the church. There wasn't anything for mature Christians."

The program was beginning, and the conversation ended abruptly, and I was left stunned. My friend's comments echoed in my mind..."There wasn't anything for mature Christians."

What does that even mean? You want to know what I think it means for most people? It means they believe that spiritual maturity is sitting and listening and learning. Gaining knowledge.

But, is knowledge maturity? Hardly.

Ed Young, Jr. is Founding Pastor at Fellowship Church in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area. He made the comment one time that it's actually the self-proclaimed "mature" Christians who are the real "babies" when it comes to spiritual growth. In Young's words, they sit at the table and cry and whine and scream, "Feed me! Feed me!" He demonstrated this in a sermon by sitting in an adult-sized high-chair wearing a baby bib. Pretty good stuff.

Ed Young says that a lot of Christians mistakenly think they are ready to wade in the deep end of the pool, but really need to continue to hang out in the shallow end. Young added, "When I can master loving God with all my heart, and loving my neighbor as myself, maybe I'll go a little bit deeper."

With so many ways to serve others - both at church and in the community - how can someone ever say, "There isn't anything for mature Christians?"

You know what? You can easily identify the truly mature believers. They're the ones on the front lines, serving and loving others. They are the ones who never complain, and who understand that Jesus' message isn't just for them. They aren't consumers. They're inverstors. They're not takers, they're givers. They aren't listeners, they're doers.

How do you define spiritual maturity? By knowledge, or by showing God's love to those desperate to find the true meaning of life?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Shift Out of Neutral

Have you ever accidentally knocked your transmission into neutral? The light turns green, you hit the gas, and you’re met with a roar from the engine. Then a louder roar. You realize you aren’t going anywhere, and you have 15 cars behind you honking and hands waving out windows flashing you the one-fingered peace sign.

Believe it or not, many of us live our lives in neutral – but usually it’s by design, not by accident. And, all the while, we are holding things up – not only for ourselves, but for countless others who are ready to keep on moving.

You can normally identify the “neutral” crowd pretty easily. They may be disguised, but sooner or later, some pretty telling signs make their way to the surface. See if any of these sound familiar:

• Too much sleep – People who are spinning their wheels but getting nowhere often do nothing but sleep. They sleep until late morning or early afternoon, and are lazy (I’m not talking about people who work the night shift). Further, it’s a sign of depression and low self-esteem.
• Procrastination – A clear sign of running in place is putting things off until later (with no intention of ever doing anything). When you repeatedly hear someone say, “I’ve just been too busy, I need to wait until things settle down,” or, “I’ve been meaning to do that, I just haven’t gotten around to it,” you can bet that someone’s burning fuel while idling.
• Non-Committal – People just don’t commit to things anymore. I’ll admit – I have a ton of flaws, but when I make a commitment, I am in. I am reliable and dependable, and I take great pride in that. I am the exception nowadays, not the rule. Committed, dependable people are valuable beyond measure in today’s culture. Many people give a half-hearted effort or level of commitment to many things, fooling themselves into believing that they are over-achievers. In reality, they are spread too thin and end up hurting themselves and others by not fully devoting themselves to someone or something.
• Few (if any) friends – People in neutral may have a lot of acquaintances, but few (or zero) true meaningful relationships. Because they either don’t believe they have anything to offer anyone, or because they are oblivious to the needs of others, they rob themselves of the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of other people. See numbers 1, 2, and 3 above as to why this might be the case.
• Are consumers, not investors – Let’s face it, people want what they want. They want nicer things, newer things, expensive things. Temporary things, not eternal things. You can determine the things that matter most to people by looking at their calendar (or PDA) and their bank account. The time and money we spend speaks volumes about our character and our priorities. Does any of your time and money go to serve others or to provide for others in need? Or are you only padding your wallet, or buying things that will wind up in next year’s yard sale?

If you find yourself marked by any of these characteristics, it’s time for a change. Grab the stick shift and move it into first gear (not overdrive). Get involved, get to know people, and invest in things that will last beyond yourself. Automobiles aren’t built to sit in neutral. They’re designed to get people from Point A to Point B – and to their ultimate destination. Get out of neutral, and discover the road you were meant to travel all along!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I would classify the stage of life I am in as the "Toy Stage." My life is all about toys. Cleaning up toys, moving toys, putting toys together, yelling for toys to be picked up, stepping on toys and spraining an ankle, buying toys, throwing toys in the trash, hiding toys, finding toys in odd places. Toys, toys, toys.

And, up until this morning, I have had a disdain for toys. I had lamented coming home to floor-covered toys until a thought occurred to me as I was getting the kids ready for school today: one day, I will be sad because I don't have toys around the house. Because, when that day comes, my kids will be too old for toys, or they'll be out of the house. Honestly - those are the sobering thoughts that kicked me in the shins today.

So, I am embracing toys! I want my kids to be imaginative and playful. I want to be able to get on the floor and play cars with them, put puzzles together, and step on sharp Lego pieces that cause brief excruciating pain (OK, well maybe not the last one). I want to play Wii, the Memory Game, and Go Fish. I really do!

These moments are truly precious, and they are fleeting. So, I don't want to begrudge the toys in our house. Not for a while. I'm not ready to get old, and I'm certainly not ready to kiss these fun and carefree years with my kids goodbye!