How to stay encouraged…

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I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, and he told me how a group of teens he knew never heard of Ringo* Starr. In fact, they had only vaguely heard of the Beatles. This is amazing for boomers. Boomers grew up with the Beatles being the center of the music universe, and already awareness is fading.

If the Beatles are fading, what chance does anyone else have of leaving a mark..?

1 Corinthians 15 is an interesting chapter of the bible. Paul gives us an extended discussion of life after death. He starts with Jesus, and eventually talks about what our bodies will be like in the next life.

So how would you guess Paul would conclude the subject? I would guess he would conclude it with something like “so rejoice, with Jesus you no longer need to fear death” or something like that.

But he doesn’t.

Here’s how he concludes the subject:

My dear brothers and sisters, stay firmly planted—be unshakable—do many good works in the name of God, and know that all your labor is not for nothing when it is for God.
1 Corinthians 15:58 VOICE

And that’s the key to staying encouraged as you serve Jesus. Even when all your efforts seem like failures or at least insignificant. The good we do for Jesus doesn’t fade away. God has designed us for eternity, and what we do for him is also eternal.

And you don’t need to do anything huge. You don’t need to be the Beatles.

To do eternal work, just let your motive be God’s glory. Let your priorities be what’s important to Jesus. Let your timing yield to his schedule. Do stuff for him and you’re on your way.

And this can be done with small things. Stuff any of us can do. You don’t have to be on the Ed Sullivan show. Here’s an example Jesus gives us:

And anyone who has given so much as a cup of cold water to one of the little ones, because he is My disciple, I tell you, that person will be well rewarded.
Matthew 10:42 VOICE

So do stuff for him.

And stay encouraged.

* I think it’s fitting to mention that when I typed “Ringo” on my IPad, the auto-correct immediately changed it to “rings”.

Authenticity, discomfort and bikes…

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Unfortunately, one of the best ways to change your life is through discomfort. I know that when I’m not bothered by anything, I don’t change. Comfort keeps us in familiar patterns. God certainly knows this, and loves us far too much to let us stay comfortable and unchanged. One way He helps us is through the words of John the Baptist.

Here’s what John said once to a crowd of people who came to hear him preach:

Don’t just talk of turning to God; you’d better bear the authentic fruit of a changed life.
Luke 3:8a VOICE

One of our culture’s highest values is authenticity. If I write a song or preach a sermon and someone tells me it was authentic, I know they liked it. There’s so much artifice in our world, and we hunger for genuiness. John didn’t like “fake” either, so he challenges the crowd to go beyond just talk. He challenges them to be authentic.

But how..? They ask John:

What shall we do to perform works from changed lives?
Luke 3:10 VOICE

John gets specific…

The person who has two shirts must share with the person who has none. And the person with food must share with the one in need.
Luke 3:11 VOICE

Most of us live in a world where’s there’s lots of stuff available to us, and it’s pretty much all on sale. Everything’s a “good deal”. As a result, most of us have an abundance of stuff. I know I do. Most of us have redundancy in our possessions. We often have several of any given possession, while others have none.

And I think Jesus wants that to bother us.

Last summer, my wife and I bought new bikes. Cruiser bikes with pedal brakes, just like we had as kids. We already owned speed bikes, so now we both had two bikes. However, we’re not serious bikers. It’s kind of nice to have “bike options”, but we didn’t need those older bikes.

But we knew someone else probably did.

To be honest, part of me wanted to keep the bikes. They still worked fine. They were still worth something. But the thought of having a surplus while someone else had none bothered me. It created discomfort in my heart.

Discomfort works.

This blog is about being a “wildcard“. Looking back on my own journey, I see how important it is to adopt a simpler lifestyle to make room for the whole wildcard thing. Tyler Durden was right when he said the stuff we own ultimately owns us. Jesus said it differently:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:21 NIV

But there’s more to it than just “decluttering” our spare rooms. What’s more important is letting our hearts awaken to the needs of others, and then making room in our lives so we can get creative and be the hands and feet of Jesus. The more I’ve lived that, the more joy and purpose I’ve experienced.

So now, looking back, I’m thankful for the discomfort.

Life at Frogtown…

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This summer, the theme at our church is “Taking Steps of Faith”. What that means is we’re encouraging each other to do something new to connect others to Jesus.

My wife Lisa and I decided one of the ways we would take a new step is by serving out at Frogtown, a depressed area of St. Paul. They have an outdoor church called “The Rainbow Club” that they use to minister to the young souls (and often their parents) in the neighborhood. Lisa and I have a small role, teaching kids Scripture songs written for the “power verse” of the day.

Two things surprised us.

One, it’s quite an experience to see these kids sing our songs with us. They also work hard copying the hand motions Lisa creates to emphasize the lyrics. It’s really moving and inspiring. In fact, we were especially encouraged when our friend Lauren posted this video of a little girl from Frogtown singing one of our songs last night at dinner:

Secondly, this experience has provided us with the songs and inspiration for the next WORDology album. We’ve already started recording it, and we’re excited with how it’s turning out. Different in sound and feel from our first two albums, it documents the songs we’re teaching the kids at Frogtown. We’ll keep you posted as we progress, but hopefully it should be available by early fall.

Anyway, what Jesus taught continues to be proven true:

To find your life, you must lose your life—and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
Matthew10:39 VOICE

Pitching comic books..

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Getting rid of the clutter sounds like a great idea until you actually try to do it. For example, I had a big stack of comics that I read over and over as a kid. It’s junk. It’s clutter. It’s also a part of my growing up. It’s my junk, and it’s irreplaceable.

Before I can get rid of irreplaceable junk, I need a good reason.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve read a lot on the subject of simplifying your life. I’ve read lists of reasons why it’s a good idea to get rid of  unneeded stuff. Most of the reasons I’ve read are excellent, but for me they are all secondary. For me, there’s a reason that stands above all the rest.

In the words of the apostle Paul, here it is:

Brothers and sisters, as I said, I know I have not arrived; but there’s one thing I am doing: I’m leaving my old life behind, putting everything on the line for this mission. I am sprinting toward the only goal that counts: to cross the line, to win the prize, and to hear God’s call to resurrection life found exclusively in Jesus the Anointed.
Philippians 3:13-14 VOICE

Paul knew that to run the race well, he had to run light. And so he let go of anything that slowed him down. He also encourages us to do the same:

So since we stand surrounded by all those who have gone before, an enormous cloud of witnesses, let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us.
Hebrews 12:1 VOICE

Drop every extra weight.

For me, my old comic books were an extra weight. They took up room. They distracted me when I pondered what to do with them. They distracted me when I found myself looking through them. They distracted me when I had to clean around them.

They distracted me.

In addition, they pointed me towards the past, but life moves in one direction.

Life moves forward.

And so I took a quick photo or two of the pile, and pitched them.

And I felt lighter.

A basic overview of the wildcard idea…

One of my favorite things to do when I have time off is create and make stuff. One of my projects was putting together this video. A few weeks ago, I shared this message at Evergreen church. It’s my basic overview on the whole wildcard concept. I included my PowerPoint slides, plus a bunch of more images as I put this together.

If you have time, grab a cup of coffee and give it a listen. Even if you don’t listen, I’d still recommend some coffee. Coffee’s great.

Blessings!

It’s ok if you’re not a genius…

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When I was young, I wanted to be a genius musician. But over the years something happened that messed that up. I started studying the work of other musicians of the day who were definitely brilliant, if not genius. People like like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Prince, etc. comparing my work to theirs made one thing really obvious.

I am definitely not a genius.

And that’s ok. Genius isn’t where the action is anyway.

Romans 12 tells us how to live a changed life because of the love of Jesus. Paul writes that the key to living a new life is letting God change the way you think. And one of the first things he talks about is humility:

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
Romans 12:3-5 NLT

Paul tells us to be honest and real in our assessment of ourselves. He tells us to remember we are just one small part of the body of Christ, and all parts need the others. Our talents are needed, but we also need the talents of others.

So be humble.

The more I’ve understood this, the more I’ve seen God use my flawed efforts as a husband, dad, musician, preacher, cartoonist, blogger, neighbor, friend, or whatever. Not because I’m any closer to being a genius, but because I’m as far from it as ever. Because I’m seriously imperfect and broken.

And I know it full well. And that’s good.

The point is this: given the choice between the prideful genius and the humble, God will use the humble every time.

So whatever you’re gifted in, do it with your whole heart for The Lord. Use your talents to bless and serve, even if those talents are only average. Go crazy.

And if you’re not a genius? That’s ok. Few are.

But do be humble.