What to do when you’re nervous…

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When you do new things to connect others to Jesus, it can be hard emotionally. It can make you feel vulnerable.. Out of your comfort zone..

Nervous.

I’m working hard on the new WORDology record. And I’ll be honest, I’m kind of nervous. It’s different from the first two, and I’m wondering what others will think.

Paul, speaking of his ministry to the church in Corinth also felt nervous. Here’s how he wrote about it:

I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death…

Unsure what to do? Check.
Feeling inadequate? Check.
Scared? Check.

But he also shares with us his secret to how he dealt with these feelings. Here’s the full verse:

I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it—and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.
1 Corinthians 2:3-5 VOICE

Ok, I see three things that Paul did:

Paul acknowledged his feelings
He admitted it. It can be really hard for me to simply admit “I’m nervous and don’t know what to do”. I think the issue is pride. It’s pretty humbling just to be real, even if it’s just between you and The Lord.

Paul let go of the need to impress others
I think this is key. As soon as our goal is to look good to people, we put all kinds of pressure on ourselves. And that pressure fuels all the negative feelings and fear. Thee is tremendous freedom in simply letting go of the goal to impress others.

Paul relied on God’s power
Paul let go of the doing the “heavy lifting” and relied on the Holy Spirit to do that. He simply pointed to Christ in a simple and plain way, and God took it from there.

So there you go. Feeling nervous? Copy Paul.

What is love..?

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What is love..? The Bible gives us a multidimensional definition…

Love is a feeling
Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Mark 10:21 NLT

Love is something you do
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
Matthew 25:34-36 NLT

Love is forever
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT

Love treats others well
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT

Love gives value to what we do
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NLT

Love costs
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.
1 john 3:16 NLT

Love is what God wants us to do
Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.
Romans 13:8 NLT

So love.

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.