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Become a Radical: 3 Rules You Should Break Today

Funny SignRebellion is bad, right? In the sense that we are all born bent away from God toward sin, yes. But when God gets hold of us, changes us from the inside out, and sets an entirely new agenda for our lives, it is then time to become a radical and rebel against everything our old nature would have driven us to do and everything the culture pressures us to do.

This is especially true when we are tempted to live out the new life in the pattern and power of our old nature. In other words, when we reduce life to a list of rules and rituals rather than seeing it as an ongoing, life-giving relationship with our Creator, it’s time to rebel. Here are some rules you and I ought to start breaking today…

1. The Prayer Rule.

Wake up. Pray. Check it off the list.

If that’s your pattern, throw the list away! Tim Keller put it this way, “To fail to pray, then, is not to merely break some religious rule – it is a failure to meet God as God. It is a sin against His glory.”

Instead, pray because God is worthy of seeking, powerful to respond, and a delight to have as a close friend. Prayer isn’t a rule to keep, it’s a relationship waiting to blossom. Break the prayer rule. Start a praying relationship.

2. The Church Rule.

Dress up. Get to church. Smile no matter what transpired on the way. Check it off the list.

I don’t need another thing to do every week just because people expect me to do it. What I do need is community. I need fellowship. I need practical, biblical teaching. I need people to do life with and with whom to join in God’s mission together.

It’s entirely possible to enjoy gathering with God’s people. It can be rejuvenating and encouraging, especially when I decide to go with the ministry of encouraging others on the forefront of my mind. It’s also possible that the assembly of God’s people can be a place where we get real about our struggles together rather than mutually upholding a mere facade of outward, performance-based holiness.

Break the church rule. Start leaning into your forever family, wherever they gather each weekend.


3. The Bible Rule.

Read 3.5 chapters. Check it off the list.

It’s always sad when I take the most exciting story ever written and treat it as a mere classroom textbook.

Got through Leviticus again! I don’t remember any of it, but it’s DONE!

The Bible is the written record of God’s redemption of lost mankind from utter desolation to life and heaven through the blood of His sacrificed Son. It’s filled with adventure, with wild men and women doing crazy things for God, with people who blew it and recovered, with wisdom for every situation we’ll ever face. It’s a story of up’s and down’s and all around’s. We’re disheartened over defeat in the lives of its godly characters, then delighted in the victories that inevitably occur, culminating in a mysterious picture of the final, eternal destination of all who trust the Redeemer of the story.

It’s a living book. A life-giving book. A holy book. A God-breathed book. And it’s useful to make us everything God knows we can be in our new relationship with him.

Break the Bible rule. Don’t just read it. Lie asoak in it. Be drenched in the drama of redemption. Be changed by its challenges and shaped by its truth.

If you aren’t praying yet, start. If you don’t have a church to gather with that feeds your faith and causes you to flourish, find one. If you aren’t spending time daily in the Word, start afresh. But resist the temptation for these things, and dozens of others like them, to become the end, rather than the means to the end, which is more of God and more of his blessing.

7 Tips For Better Social Media Connections

Big Cup o' JoeIn the world of social media, there’s a common scenario that goes a little something like this:

FOLLOWEE TO NEW FOLLOWER: Hi! Thanks for following. Check out my services and my blog, and like me on Facebook!

In other words, I don’t know you or care who you are. I just want you to know me and buy my stuff.

When you first connect with someone new over a social media platform, it’s far better and wiser to establish a genuine connection. Here are seven tips for a better way to connect.

  1. Pay attention. Read the bio, click the link, read a tweet or an update or two.
  2. Reach out. Say hello, the way normal people do offline, without selling anything.
  3. Take a real interest. Comment on something personal about the person.
  4. Make another connection. Suggest someone they should connect with in their field.
  5. Add some value. Offer a tip, or to help in some way, but not by selling a service.
  6. Respond. Keep the conversation going.
  7. Be the trusted friend to whom they might turn for help (including paid services) later.

You can’t know everyone, and you can’t always fully flesh out this approach with every connection, but when you want to connect with someone beyond the first follow, there is a better way. Imagine the above scenario, aligned with these tips. It might look more like this…

FOLLOWEE TO NEW FOLLOWER: Hi, thanks for following. You’re from Denver? Been there a few times and love the views!

NEW FOLLOWER TO FOLLOWEE: Thanks! Yes, I work for a marketing firm in the mile-high city.

FOLLOWEE TO NEW FOLLOWER: Cool. Loved the work you did on the Widgets-R-Us logo. Have you connected with Jacob Cass (@justcreative)?

NEW FOLLOWER TO FOLLOWEE: No, haven’t seen his work, but I’ll follow him for sure. Thanks!

FOLLOWEE TO NEW FOLLOWER: No problem. I’m in the SEO business if you ever need any help in that arena. Keep up the good work!

This isn’t necessarily blossoming into a have-you-over-for-dinner-on-Friday kind of friendship, and that’s okay. You can’t do that with hundreds or thousands of people. But you can be personal, authentic, and genuinely helpful. It’s a better way to do things, and good social mojo demands it.

Six Traits of the Best Small Group Hosts

Some churches raise the bar when it comes to recruiting small group leaders. You need to be a member for X amount of time, well versed in the church’s doctrinal statement, agree to a lifestyle covenant, etc. The more qualified the leader, the stronger the group will be… or so goes conventional wisdom. But is that really true?

My friend Ron Wilbur, one of Saddleback’s Small Groups Pastors, once told me I’d probably make a terrible small group leader. It wasn’t that he was trying to discourage me. Ron taught me something valuable when he said, “your tendency will be to teach and answer all the questions, and you’ll kill the discussion and short-circuit the relationship-building process.” Now that I lead a small group in my home, I have to agree with Ron. If I’m not careful and intentional, I’ll be the bottleneck that holds my group back from being a healthy micro-community.

So if we’re not looking for long term members and Bible scholars, who makes the best group hosts? Most commonly, new believers in Christ, but I would expand that criteria to include anyone with these key characteristics.

ProfessorThe Best Hosts Are Facilitators, Not Lecturers

I’m all for one-to-many communication, and I think preaching is getting sidelined a bit too much in our modern obsession with one-on-one discipleship. But a small group isn’t the arena for a lecture, it’s a conversation in a circle of chairs where everyone asks questions and everyone speaks up. Good hosts understand the power of leaving good questions unanswered and throwing them back into the ring.

The Best Hosts Include People Far From God

Rather than seeing a small group as a holy huddle or a gathering of the frozen chosen, great hosts remind themselves and their group that we have a common mission to accomplish – including everyone in God’s family so they can encounter Christ in an atmosphere where they are accepted by friends.

The Best Hosts Are Fellow Students, Not Experts

Small group leaders who facilitate growth in their groups don’t have all the answers, and don’t try to appear to have all the answers. Instead, they are fellow discoverers who participate in the group’s journey into greater knowledge and spiritual depth. How then are we to protect groups from doctrinal errors spread by well-meaning new believers? We trust the pastors, to whom the assignment of guarding the flock was given, to mentor leaders to a more thorough knowledge of biblical truth.

The Best Hosts SPEAK Human

Instead of speaking Christianese, they speak human. My Pastor gave me an acronym to remember a basic approach to human conversation…

S – What’s your story?

P – What’s your passion?

E – How can I encourage you?

AAsk, what can I do to help you?

K – Who do you know that I should know?

The Best Hosts Don’t Have It All Together

Not only do they not have it all together, but they’re willing to be open and honest about not having it all together. Life change only happens as masks are removed.

The Best Hosts Dream of Multiplying

Great small group hosts realize that group time is not just a social hour or a Bible class. It’s a time when God’s people get together to do life together, and to live missionally together. So the host is always looking around the group and asking, “who can I pour into next so that we can send out a leader to launch another group?”

The world around us is not impressed when we’ve amassed knowledge without living differently as a result. But as long as Christians are impressed with the same, we’ll never create a small group culture conducive to involving the surrounding world in the conversation. The best small group hosts love Jesus and love people, but are also real enough to relate to people and build genuine friendships.

I’m not the best small group host. But perhaps you’ve got what it takes? There’s only one way to know. Go start a group.

Photo by katiew

How to Fix Broken Relationships

BrokenContext: The following are my notes for a message to the men gathering for Saddleback’s Herd Saturday, which is why it’s a message directed primarily at men.

Two Things Men Do Well

We’ve been raising both a daughter and a son. I’ve watched my daughter grow from a baby to an eight year old. She has an amazing imagination. She writes, draws, paints, and builds things. Now I’m watching my son grow up and he just turned one year old. I’ve already noticed a significant difference between the two of them. While Ella is being artistic and imaginative, Sam is breaking stuff! He’s a one-baby wrecking crew. He climbs, he knocks things down. He screams at the dog for no reason. He isn’t mean, he’s just… industrious.

Watching them reminds me of the two things that men, in particular, do well.

  1. We have a knack for breaking stuff.
  2. We balance it with a knack for fixing stuff.

This includes relationships. We have a tendency to break relationships too. Sometimes it’s our selfishness and other times it’s our insensitivity. Either way, we have a tendency to wreck friendships and marriages. We’re sinful men, so we often hurt people.

I believe firmly, however, that we’re also good at fixing broken relationships too. We just don’t realize it often enough.

James knew about our tendency to wreck things – not with our hands, but with our words. He wrote about it in chapter three of his general letter. He opens up by reminding us of just how much damage we can do with our tongues. We can set the world on fire, burn down relationships, and destroy people’s lives with our words.

By the way, have you "liked" Grace Hills Church on Facebook yet?

Then James turns his attention to the tactics necessary for fixing and rebuilding peace in a broken relationship. In [youversion]James 3:17-18[/youversion], he mentions seven tools and attitudes we ought to have toward those with whom we’ve wrecked things.

Seven Tools For Fixing Broken Relationships

  1. We need to be pure, especially in our motive to restore broken lives.
  2. We need to be peace-seeking rather than imperialistic. It’s not about conquering, it’s about reconciling.
  3. We need to be gentle, which doesn’t mean weak. It simply means to be under control in our approach.
  4. We need to be willing to yield – to give the right-of-way to the other person.
  5. We need to be full of mercy, which is more than forgiveness, it’s the ability to offer something that either isn’t deserved or can’t be repaid.
  6. We need to be full of good deeds – the actions that demonstrate the value we place on making peace.
  7. We need to be sincere – brutally honest, with ourselves and others.

It’s Time to Get Proactive

These things aren’t easy to do. They’re all tough. We want to lash out. We want to take back lost territory, establish our dominance, and fight for our right to be right. But a wise person once said, “You can be right, or you can be married.”

James dangles before us a prize – a reward if we’ll put aside self and put in the time necessary to cultivate peace and healing in our broken relationships. This is a Bible principle. We typically won’t change because of anything in the past, but the future motivates us. This is why the Bible leans so heavily on our future reward as motivation for living life well.

Here’s the bottom line – if you’ve hurt someone or a vital relationship is damaged, you probably already know what you need to do. It’s just a matter of putting in the time and going through the tough stuff so that you can reap the reward of a restored relationship and blessing. Are you willing to do what you know you need to do today?

photo source: purplegecko

This Mess Called Marriage

SchützenfestAre you happily married? If you’re smart (and you’ve been married more than two years), you’ll realize that’s a question that depends on how things are going in the moment. Am I happily married? I am today – not sure about tomorrow. But I am securely and joyfully married.

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