SteveMurrell.com | Reluctant Leader

Blog / Miscellaneous

BACK TO SCHOOL

July 25, 2016

The Asbury 8 with Charles Wesley on the Asbury Seminary campus.

WILMORE, KENTUCKY. As I write, I am finishing up the first on-campus installment of a DMin (Doctor of Ministry) program at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.

I am part of a group of Every Nation pastors and campus missionaries from all over the world who over the next three years will be furthering their theological education with the goal of becoming better ministers and better leaders.

It’s been a long time since I was in school, and I am happy to be back in the classroom. I have learned a lot since the program started. Here are a few initial impressions from my time here.

The Value of Education

Returning to school after so many years has reminded me that learning is hard work. Plowing through long reading lists, engaging with new ideas, articulating my thoughts in formal academic writing—this is all hard work. But it is worthwhile work. Though I’ve always been a reader and have been blogging and writing for many years, this DMin program has challenged me to flex new intellectual muscles. How so? Because I am being forced to read books that I would have never chosen on my own. And I am reading these new books and engaging these new ideas with other Every Nation (and non-Every Nation) pastors from around the world. Self-guided learning is good, but learning in community is even better.

The Power of Preaching

One of the central focuses of our DMin program is preaching. This seems appropriate since Asbury Theological Seminary was named after the great Methodist preacher Francis Asbury (1745-1816). Responding to John Wesley’s call to the American mission field, English-born Asbury spent most of his adult life as an itinerant preacher in the American colonies and even in the “Western” frontiers of Tennessee and Kentucky. Riding from state to state and town to town on horseback, Asbury preached over 16,500 sermons in his forty-five-year career. (That’s an average of one sermon every single day for forty-five years!) During that time (1771-1816), the Methodist movement in America grew from 600 to 200,000. Preaching the gospel is powerful—both then and now.

The Role of Institutions

As movements grow, leaders will always be faced with the question of continuity. How can we sustain movements for future generations? There are many ways to answer this question, but one often underrated solution to the problem of continuity is investing in institutions that will carry on the mission and vision of the founders long after they are gone. Look at Asbury Theological Seminary. In 2016, it is still promoting the central vision of men like Wesley and Asbury who first came to America as missionaries over 200 years ago. Though the Methodist movement started with revival, it was sustained by institutions (churches and seminaries) that were able to train future leaders of the movement.

It is my prayer that in the coming years we will be able to grow and expand our own educational institutions (Every Nation Schools of Ministry), so that we can continue to train up next-generation leaders who will carry on the mission to reach every nation and every campus—long after the founders are gone.

Blog / Book / Family / Leadership

To Empower or Not to Empower? That is the Leadership Question

April 20, 2016

Arrows in Quiver

MANILA, PHILIPPINES.  Because of my latest book, My First, Second & Third Attempts at Parenting, Deborah and I have been doing our “Heart of Parenting” seminars more than ever. During the Q&A portion of the seminars, we are often asked questions about adult children. Our answer is always the same. Using the language of Psalm 127 that refers to children as arrows, we encourage parents of adults to intentionally empty their quivers.

Arrows are made for the target, not for the quiver, therefore we tell parents of adults, “take your adult kids out of the safety of the quiver, take your hands off, let go, and let them fly toward their God-ordained target.”

The same idea applies to leadership development in your church and campus ministry. Just like parents with adult children permanently hiding in the quiver, many pastors have quivers full of potential leaders who rarely get an opportunity to actually lead. These keepers of the quiver boast of having a “deep bench,” but no one is actually in the game.

Like all strong leaders, Elisha the prophet attracted scores of potential leaders. They were called his spiritual sons. Like real sons and daughters, Elisha’s spiritual sons knew they were not destined to stay in the safety of the quiver forever, so they spoke up.

Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, ‘See, the place where we dwell under your charge is too small for us.’ (2 Kings 6:1)

Of course it was too small. They were called to lead, not to wait forever to be allowed to do something significant. Because real leaders want to lead, and because real leaders think big, it’s only matter of time before they tell their leader that the quiver “where we dwell under your charge is too small for us.”

At some point, everyone who equips leaders will hear this sentiment from next-generation leaders. What you do next will determine whether you multiply or collect leaders and whether you build a leadership multiplication culture or a one-man-show culture.

Notice Elisha’s response.

Go. (2 Kings 6:2)

I am sure Elisha could have responded with a list of character flaws and unfinished leadership tasks. But instead, he allowed them to get out of the quiver and let them fly through the air toward their bullseye.

Releasing leaders is risky for them and for us, but if we want a multiplying leadership culture, we must take our hands off and let them go.

If you are a leader today, at some point someone took their hands off and empowered you to fly toward your target. I am sure you were not totally ready, but you were released anyway.

Potential leaders will only become productive leaders if they are empowered, and it is up to us to empower them…and to let them GO!

Blog / Leadership

Theological Education or Leadership Development?

April 14, 2016

Pencil on Bible

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, USA. Being a global ministry working in unreached nations, many of our recently ordained Every Nation pastors were raised as Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, or atheists. As such, most had zero Bible knowledge before meeting our mission teams. Now, just a few years later, these relatively new Christians are serving as campus missionaries, church planters, and pastors.

It did not require vast wisdom to recognize the need to upgrade the theological foundations of Every Nation’s global pastors.

One year ago I was part of an international team that met in Istanbul to make decisions about minimum theological standards for an Every Nation Churches & Ministries pastor anywhere in the world. If someone is an ordained Every Nation pastor in Katmandu, Bangkok, or London, what are our minimal biblical and theological educational standards? That Istanbul discussion set into motion what is now called Leadership 215. (Inspired by 2 Timothy 2:15)

As part of the Leadership 215 development team, this week I have had a back-and-forth email discussion with Every Nation leaders in Asia, Europe, and North America about our need for pedagogical clarification.

As I read the email thread from brilliant and dedicated global teachers, I quickly realized that while I was not the smartest man in the conversation, nevertheless I had a unique perspective that made my ideas matter. So after looking up the definition of “pedagogical” and several other arcane words (commonly used by dead and mostly dead European theologians) I threw in my two cents worth, which addressed two points.

1. One Team vs. One Genius.  While I am grateful for the teachers who are doing most of the Leadership 215 heavy-lifting, obtaining the “pedagogical clarification” we desired, would require the input of teachers and non-teachers. The non-teachers include pushy apostles, mystical prophets, loud evangelists, practical pastors, and young zealous campus missionaries. Being a teacher, I find it much easier to work with a team of teachers. When I’m with teachers, we almost always agree. But when I add those other people to the conversation, we rarely agree and it often becomes messy.  But despite the messiness, when it comes to leadership development, we are much better together. One team of average minds working together is more productive than one genius working alone.

2. Leadership Development vs. Theological Education. Since the beginning of our Leadership 215 project, I have filed all related documents under “leadership development” not under “theological education.” To the untrained eye this might look like a minor issue, but I think it is an important distinction. My filing label reminds me that the purpose of the Leadership 215 project is not primarily theological education, but leadership development. Theological education is an important part of leadership development, but it is only a part. It is common to succeed in theological education and fail in leadership development, but it is impossible to succeed in leadership development and fail in theological education. In other words, there are many great theologians who can’t spell leadership. But there are no great spiritual leaders who can’t spell theology. We must upgrade our theological standards if we want the kind of leaders who will reach every nation and every campus with the Gospel of Christ. But we must remember that our endgame is a leader not a theologian.

QUESTION: Which is most important, leadership development or theological education?

ANSWER: Both!

 

Blog / Worship

Light in the Dark Ages

March 31, 2016

NASHVILLE. Many Christians look at our modern world of brutal terrorists, corrupt politicians, crumbling economies, decaying morals, compromising churches, and broken families and conclude that a new Dark Age is upon us.

Maybe they’re right and we’re living in the dawn of a modern Dark Age.

But maybe a new Dark Age is not as bad as it sounds. After all, people in the original Dark Age (roughly 500-1500 AD) were completely obsessed with light.

If you have ever visited a Gothic cathedral, you know what I am talking about. Gothic architecture had two foundational design elements: height and light. And every corner of the cathedral is a stand-alone art museum.

Beginning in the eleventh century, 600 years into the Dark Ages, hundreds of massive Gothic cathedrals were constructed all across Europe — from Scandinavia in the north to the tip of the Iberian Peninsula in the south, from Wales in the West to modern Poland in the East. In addition to the great cathedrals, thousands of huge abbey churches and tens of thousands of smaller parish churches were also constructed during this time. While not as grand in scale as the famous cathedrals, these abbey and parish churches were equally obsessed with light.

Because of the church building surge during the Dark Ages, by 1300, France and England had one church for every 200 people. In contrast, today in the Philippines, we have approximately one evangelical church for every 1,000 people, and many of those churches don’t meet in a church building. So, a return to the Dark Ages might be an upgrade.

I mentioned that the people in the original Dark Ages (a.k.a. Middle Ages or Medieval Period) had three obsessions that manifested in Gothic architecture: light, height, and art.

Light. Because of the heat and humidity of Mediterranean Europe, churches in the Roman Empire were typically built with tiny windows and thick walls constructed of stone. This was their attempt at ancient air conditioning. In contrast, Northern European cathedrals built during the Dark Ages included huge windows. These windows allowed Gothic architects to accomplish more with angles, shadows, stained glass, and sunlight than modern sound and light specialists can do with the latest high-tech million-dollar light rigs. Dark Age architects were not only obsessed with natural sun light, they were masters of light, shadows, and color.

Height. Try walking into a Gothic cathedral and looking down. I bet you can’t do it, at least not for long. Eventually, you’ll look up. No matter if you’re a worshiper or a tourist, the stained glass, pointed arches, carved vaults, flying buttresses, and beautiful art force the eye upward. The idea is to help worshipers get their eyes off of temporal earthly things and to focus, at least for a moment, on the eternity and majesty of heaven. Today’s church “architecture” forces the modern worshiper to focus on fallen finite fallible humans — singers, musicians, and preachers — on a stage.

Art. The third ubiquitous design element of Dark Age Gothic cathedrals was art. And art was everywhere in these cathedrals. Paintings, sculptures, mosaics, stained glass, and wood carvings adorned every Gothic cathedral built during the Dark Ages. In fact, when we talk about a Gothic cathedral, the whole building should be considered a work of art.

Some of the most amazing medieval cathedral art was recently discovered during renovation work on Salisbury Cathedral, an 800-year-old Gothic cathedral located 137 kilometers west of London. While doing renovation and restoration work, stonemasons discovered beautiful art hidden in parts of the cathedral that human eyes were never supposed to see. The top of the spires, the back of statues, the bottom of roof tiles, and inaccessible attic spaces all contained intricate carvings and detailed artwork that no one had seen in over eight centuries, since the original artists created it and hid it. In fact, some of the most stunning art in Salisbury Cathedral was designed and positioned so that it would never be seen my human eyes.

Why would these stonemasons, painters, woodcarvers, and sculptors spend time creating art then hiding it so no one would ever see it?

The answer to that question is profoundly simple. These people lived, worked, worshiped, and built buildings for God, not for man.

They saw work as worship, and they believed that worship was to honor God not to impress man. For us, worship means singing four songs before the sermon on Sunday morning. I think the Dark Age perspective of worship was closer to the biblical ideal than our modern Sunday morning mini-concerts.

I have nothing against the singing part of the modern church worship service. Singing those four songs on Sunday morning can be a powerful way to worship and experience God’s presence. But singing on Sunday is a small part of real worship.

Consider what Paul said about worship in Romans 12:1.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Paul taught that “spiritual worship” happens not only when we sing four songs on Sunday morning before the sermon, but when we “present our bodies” to God as a living sacrifice. This means that all of life can and should be worship to God.

If we live life as a sacrifice to God, then what we do at work on Monday through Friday is valid worship just as much as those twenty minutes of singing before the sermon.

I’m not suggesting that every carpenter and stonemason who worked on a Gothic cathedral 1,000 years ago was necessarily living Romans 12, but the overall cultural idea certainly leaned toward seeing all of life as worship to God. Why else would sculptors carve the back of huge statues? Why else would stonemasons carve intricate details on the tops of spires that no one but God would ever see?

They saw their work as worship. Do you?

Blog / Family / Leadership

Great Leaders Put Family First

January 3, 2016

CANTON, MISSISSIPPI. While visiting our Mississippi friends and relatives during the holidays, we stopped by the Murrell family farm/lake house. Has it really been four years since I was last here? Many of my best childhood memories are connected to that land and lake just north of where I grew up. While on the family farm, I took a moment to visit Dad and Mom’s grave sites (photo above). They both wanted to be buried between the cabin and the lake.

I am thankful that I was raised by parents who put family first.

Like most years, I plan to read through the whole Bible in 2016, so as usual, I started in Genesis where I always encounter old friends like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, plus many lesser known but equally fascinating men and women.

Thoughts of my parents and my childhood in Mississippi were flooding my mind as I read about Enoch in Genesis 5. I have always been intrigued by Enoch, the father of Methuselah. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Bible characters knows that Methuselah was the oldest man to ever live, dying at the ripe old age of 969. We know almost nothing about Enoch except that, “Enoch walked with God” and that “he fathered Methuselah and other sons and daughters.” (Genesis 5:22-14)

So basically we know two facts about Enoch, but those two facts are really all we need to know about anyone.

1. He was a spiritual man. “Enoch walked with God.”

2. He was a family man. “He fathered Methuselah and other sons and daughters.”

That’s about all I ever wanted to be, a spiritual man and a family man.

I am in the middle of writing a leadership book that will be released at the Every Nation World Conference in Cape Town, South Africa later this year, so I have leadership on the brain. Everything I see, hear, and read is filtered through my leadership grid as potential material for my book. So, here’s a leadership lesson from our two Enoch facts.

When I am looking for a potential leader or working with a current leader, I need to know about the person’s spiritual life and family life. If those are in order, then everything else tends to take care of itself. But if either of the big two are out of wack, then no matter what a leader has going for him or her, the potential for disaster is always looming.

I have added a number three to Enoch’s big two to frame how I want to live all of 2016. If at the end of this year I have done the following, it will have been a good year.

1. Walk with God

2. Be a good husband

3. Be a good father (and father-in-law and grandfather)

What do you want to accomplish in 2016?

 

 

Blog / Family

A CHRISTMAS EVE DISASTER

December 1, 2015
 This was originally written for Evangelicals Today mag, many years ago. I like to pull it deep from my archives around Christmas. I thought some of you, especially those with small children, might find it helpful this time of the year. 

————–

’Twas the night before Christmas, and the scene of the crime was Savannah, Georgia. The year was 1989. Our oldest son was almost four. Our second son was eighteen months. The third was still inside trying to kick his way out.

This was the first year that William, our first son, realized that Christmas meant gifts. He knew that according to the “youngest-first rule” at my in-laws’ house, he would be the second in line to open his gifts. At my in-laws’ house, the gifts were divided into piles. All gifts that said “To William” were put in a pile. All “To James” gifts were put in another pile. Once all the gifts were put in the right pile, they were opened one at a time beginning with the youngest and continuing to the oldest. This meant that James was first, then William, then older cousins, uncles and aunts, then Mom, Dad, and finally, grandparents.

As good Christian parents, we had attempted to teach our young boys the true meaning of Christmas. We didn’t expect much from James, but we assumed that William understood that it was better to give than to receive. After all, Jesus was born because God so loved the world that He gave… . . That’s what Christmas is all about—giving. What happened that night let us know that our children had completely missed the point, and that we had to adjust the way we would celebrate Christmas in the future.

All William wanted for Christmas that year was a bow and arrow. His little mind was made up. He knew what he wanted and he would not be denied. He prayed to God for it, and just in case that would not work, he constantly reminded us.

One day, just to make sure I understood his request, he said, “Daddy, I want REAL arrows.”

“Real arrows?” I asked, wondering what kind of damage a three-year old could do with real arrows.

“Yeah, you know the kind with the rubber things on the end. Real ones, not just toys.” He was serious about this. “You mean the arrows that stick to walls and windows if you lick ’em before shooting?” I responded, hoping I knew what he meant by real arrows.

“Yeah! Like in Toys-R-Us.”

Back to the Christmas Eve crime scene in Georgia.  Here’s what happened. James, the youngest, was first to open his gifts. Like all eighteen-month olds, he was more impressed with the colorful boxes and ribbons than with the contents. He hadn’t caught on to the materialistic spirit of Christmas yet.

Then came William’s turn. As James continued to play with his wrapping paper and boxes, William anxiously ripped through his first gift in world-record time. He completely ignored the contents and immediately tore into the next one. (At least James played with the boxes.) He only got the wrapping paper half way off this one before tossing it aside and grabbing the next one.

Deborah and I discerned that something was wrong here. “William, maybe you should say thanks and at least act like you appreciate these gifts.”

On the verge of tears, he said, “I thought I would get a bow and arrow, with REAL arrows. That’s all I wanted, and I didn’t get it. I got all this other stuff instead.”

Well, he did get a bow with real (rubber-tipped) arrows. He just hadn’t gotten to that gift yet because it was buried under a mountain of shredded green and red paper.

That was quite a memorable and frustrating Christmas for us. We knew something was wrong, but we weren’t sure just how to fix it.

A few months later, I read a book that described the scene you just read about, only it was happening in another city to another family with small kids. It was sure comforting to know that our experience was not unique. Right now, I can’t seem to remember the name of the book or the author. Anyway, this guy in the book not only had the same problem, but he had identified the root of the problem and had come up with the solution. It was so simple. It opened our eyes and changed the way we have approached Christmas since the disaster of ’89.

On that fateful Christmas Eve I described above, William was upset and ungrateful because he thought he didn’t get a bow with real arrows. The root of the problem is in the word “GET.” His focus was on what he would GET. We will always have a problem when we focus on what we get. Christmas (and life) is all about giving, not getting. The greatest joy and fulfillment comes as we give.

We decided that from then on, we would do our best to focus on what each child wanted to GIVE, not on what they wanted to GET.
In 1989, we asked William what he wanted to GET for Christmas. He wanted to get a bow with real arrows. Christmas Eve came around. It was William’s turn to open gifts. All he could think about was what he would get. He was totally oblivious to what others were getting and to what others had given. We had helped him miss the whole point.
After that, rather than asking our children what they wanted to GET from us, we would ask them what they wanted to GIVE us, their brothers, their relatives, and friends. For the weeks building up to Christmas, our children were taught to focus on what they would GIVE rather than what they would GET.

When gift-opening time would come around at the Murrell house, we put all William’s gifts in a pile, all James’s in a pile, and all Jonathan’s in a pile. We separated Mom’s and Dad’s into piles of their own.

All the gifts in William’s pile would say “FROM William” on the tag. All the gifts in James’ pile that say “FROM James.” The “FROM Jonathan” presents are in another pile, as are the “FROM Mom” and the “FROM Dad.” Once all the gifts were in the piles, each person would take his turn to GIVE all his gifts. This way, the focus is on giving rather than getting. Over the years, our boys learned to be just as excited about giving as getting.

They discovered that it really can be more blessed to give than to receive.
Blog / Family / Miscellaneous

Dick Dastardly, Turkey, and the Remedy for Entitlement

November 23, 2015

NASHVILLE. Yesterday at church my good friend, Rice Broocks preached a powerful sermon that included brilliant exegesis, solid theology, practical application, and a reference to two of the greatest cartoon characters ever – Dick Dastardly and his canine sidekick Muttley. Only Rice would attempt to connect the dots from the Apostle Paul to Timothy to Dick Dastardly and Muttley. (“Rashin frashin Rick Rastardly!”)

In his sermon, “Gratefulness is Our Greatest Weapon,” Rice talked about how gratefulness protects our minds, our relationships, and our hearts. He said that unexpressed gratefulness is actually ungratefulness. This sermon was both inspiring and convicting. And it also took me back in time.

When our now adult sons were young, Deborah and I decided that we would not tolerate an entitlement attitude in our home. Our remedy? Teach our kids to be thankful. I am not sure how successful we were, but we sure tried to raise grateful sons.

Yesterday Rice reminded me of the main point that we tried to teach our kids, that entitlement cannot coexist with gratitude.

Entitlement says that parents, businesses, siblings, government, church, life, God, and Santa owe me something. And since I am owed, there is no reason to say thanks.

Thankfulness is like kryptonite to entitlement. Kills it on contact.

And that brings us to that American holiday, Thanksgiving Day. After a hundred years of American cities and communities declaring their own thanksgiving celebrations, in 1789 President George Washington proclaimed November 26 “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of ALMIGHTY GOD.

Notice that the original official Thanksgiving Day was not about being generally thankful, but about specifically thanking ALMIGHTY GOD.

Recently Americans have become obsessed with removing all God references from the conversation lest we offend Bill Maher. With Thanksgiving we have taken that obsession to an absurd level, not only removing God but also removing the idea of thanks from Thanksgiving Day.

Increasingly Americans are calling the 4th Thursday of November, “Turkey Day” rather than Thanksgiving Day. Are we afraid that if we call it Thanksgiving, someone might accidentally thank God?

So now, rather than thanking God once a year for His gracious provision, we eat turkey and watch football.

Blog

“Daddy, I Disobeyed”: A Lesson on Disobedience & Grace

November 17, 2015

I was thousands of miles away ministering at a men’s retreat near Seattle, Washington. My wife and three sons were in Atlanta, Georgia. I was making a routine phone call to let them know how lonely I was without them, when my wife informed me:

“William has something he needs to tell you.”

I immediately knew my nine-year-old son was in trouble. She handed him the phone. He made his confession.

“Daddy, I disobeyed. And it cost $200.”

That was a short confession. I needed more information, so I played detective.

“Who did you disobey?” I was pretty sure of the answer to question #1.

“I disobeyed Mom.” He sheepishly confirmed my suspicion.

“Ok, so you disobeyed your mother. But how did that cost $200?”

He had disobeyed his mom before, but there had never been a monetary price attached to it. What’s going on here? Did she fine him? Two hundred dollars, that’s a pretty steep fine for a nine-year-old. Maybe, she suspended his allowance for the next five years? But $200? He could never come up with that much money!

“Well, see, Mom told me and my brothers to stop wrestling in the house, and we kinda stopped, but we were still playing this game where we sorta push each other and try to make each other fall down, but we don’t hurt anybody, but we weren’t really wrestling, but Mom says we were, and so my brothers pushed me and my head hit the corner of the door, and blood went everywhere, so I ran downstairs to find Mom, and blood kept going everywhere, and so she took me to the hospital and the doctor gave me a shot so the stitches won’t hurt and I got six stitches and Mom had to pay the hospital and the doctor and buy medicine and all that cost $200. Oh yeah, Dad, I almost forgot, and the doctor said I was the bravest person that he had ever had to put stitches in.”

Besides the $200, it also cost him a week with no swimming — doctor’s orders. That was pretty tough since it was summer time and there was a great pool where we were staying.

Recognizing this to be one of those made-for-the-Gospel events, I seized the moment and prayed God would make the reality of His grace as permanent as the scar on William’s head. I prayed that every time William looked at his new scar he would remember these three truths:

1. Disobedience is always costly—the tragedy of SIN. This lesson was obvious to William. Unfortunately, it’s not so obvious to us most of the time. We think we can sin and get away with it. We can’t. No one can. No one ever has. No one ever will. Adam disobeyed, ate the fruit, and paid the price. Cain sinned, killed his brother, and suffered the consequences. David, because of his position of power, thought he could literally get away with murder, not to mention adultery. Thanks to an obedient and fearless prophet, he got caught. He subsequently repented and was restored. If we sow to the flesh, we reap corruption. It’s a fact of life we can’t change — sin is costly.

2. Disobedience costs more than we can pay — the reality of JUDGMENT. William’s medical bills that resulted from his disobedience cost more than he could possibly pay. That’s how sin is. It always produces death — spiritual death. That’s the price of sin.

William had the power to obey or disobey, to wrestle or not to wrestle. He chose to wrestle. Of course, like most of us, he rationalized that he was not really wrestling, but we all know he was. Just like those who convince themselves that their lying, stealing, and adultery is, somehow, acceptable. All sin, even sin that has been rationalized out of existence, is costly — very costly. William found out the hard way.

3. God paid the price for our disobedience – the gift of God’s GRACE. William disobeyed his mother, cut his head, and in the process accumulated $200 in medical bills. He couldn’t afford the price of his disobedience, so who do you think got stuck with the bill? Right, the offended party. The one he disobeyed paid the bill. That’s what happened on the cross. We sinned against God. We couldn’t pay the price to fix the situation. God, the offended party, paid for our disobedience. We caused the problem, because of our sin. God fixed the problem, because of His grace. That’s the Gospel.

But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23

Thank God for the unfathomable riches of His grace!

Blog / Discipleship / Leadership

The 20-Hour Work Week: Is Hard Work Compatible with God’s Grace?

November 17, 2015

MANILA. A while back I posted  a blog that included a rant about hard work that was inspired by my observation that some ministers and businessmen seem to believe that hard work is not compatible with the Gospel.

Christians with a functioning work ethic today are becoming as rare as Bigfoot sightings.

The 20-hour work week is the new normal, but when we add 20 hours hanging around coffee shops, and another 20 doing social media, we call it a 60-hour work week. It is amazing how little is actually accomplish in the modern 60-hour work week.

Why are we so allergic to work?

Today’s Church has a whole generation of teachers who misunderstand and distort the grace of God, turning it into an excuse for laziness and licentiousness.

The fact that we are not saved by works does not mean we are not supposed to work. Work is a good thing, a blessing from God. Genesis 2:15 tells us, The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden TO WORK IT and take care of it. This was before the  fall so work was originally part of the blessing, not the curse.

Paul saw no conflict between grace and work, rather he saw them as working together in harmony. Consider the following:
Ephesians 2:8-10
Verse 8 – saved by grace…
Verse 9 – not by works…
Verse 10 – to do good works…

Is hard work compatible with God’s grace? Paul thought so. I agree with Paul.

1 Corinthians 15:10
But by the GRACE of God I am what I am, and his GRACE to me was not without effect. No, I WORKED HARDER than all of them—yet not I, but the GRACE  of God that was with me.

Blog / Discipleship / Family

The Myth of the Gifted Child

November 17, 2015

TUGUEGARAO, PHILIPPINES. Last Saturday I flew from Manila to Tuguegarao, then drove to Aparri to meet my friend, Ferdie Cabiling (aka The Running Pastor) at the finish line of his epic 2500 kilometer (1400 miles) run across the Philippines. Ferdie’s goal was to run from Sarangani to Aparri (from south to north) at least 50K per day and finish in less than 50 days in his 50th year all for the benefit of deserving Real Life Scholars.  Learn more about the Real Life Scholars and the Real Life Foundation here.

__________________

“Your sons are so gifted.”

I’ve heard it a thousand times…

— At William’s elementary school piano recitals: “Wow, he has a musical gift”  (No, he’s practiced every day, since he was five.)
— At James’ junior tennis tournaments:  “I wish my son could hit a forehand like that” (Try training seven days a week for a few of years.)
— At Jonathan’s art shows: “He obviously has a special gift for art” (You should have seen his “art” before we hired an art teacher to mentor him.)

Yeah, we have gifted kids — they were gifted with a mother who wouldn’t allow them to waste time doing nothing. And they were gifted with a father who was on a ten-year anti-TV, anti-video game kick during their formative years. That’s why they spent countless hours reading, listening to music, and developing killer kick-serves.

My sons were also gifted with mentors/coaches/teachers who helped them discover and develop a few of the skills and talents that God hid in them.

Gifts are free. Talents are costly. They must be discovered, developed, and funded.

But sadly, most talent is never discovered, never developed, and never funded. It is simply wasted while staring at a screen. Tragic.

What are you doing to develop your gifts and talents?
What are you doing to help develop your kid’s gifts and talents?

I’ll never forget the junior tennis tournament in Chattanooga, Tennessee when the father of a kid sixteen-year-old James had just destroyed turned to me and said: “I bet you paid a lot of money for his forehand.” That father understood that if gifts and talents are to be developed, they must be funded. He was right, I paid a lot of money for that killer forehand, and it was worth every dollar/peso.