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.

Because that’s what love is…

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A friend of mine used to install carpets for a living. So one day when my basement flooded and the carpeting was soaked, I called him. I had no idea how to clean up the mess.

Right away, he came over. He pulled up the carpet, dried it with his high powered fans, and put it all back together.

And he wouldn’t take a nickel for all his trouble. Even though it took several hours of his work day.

And that’s love. My friend is no longer with us, but to this day I am humbled by my his example.

Love costs. Love is when we gladly give up, so others can benefit. Paul illustrates this in Romans 9 when he expresses his heart towards his Jewish brothers and sisters:

My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them.
Romans 9:2-3 NLT

This is an astonishing statement. Paul doesn’t merely say how much he loves them. Instead, he expresses his willingness to be forever cut off from Christ if that would save them. I other words, if he could, Paul would give up everything for them. When you look at how Paul lived his life, it’s clear that he meant it.

Because that’s what love is. And I think I know where he learned it:

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

In light of the cross, I encourage you (and me) to love and serve others with all your heart, creativity, and self. But make no mistake, this will cost you. It’ll cost you in more ways than you expect. At times it’ll be painful, or inconvenient, tiring, or just plain difficult.

But it’s worth it.

Because that’s what love is.

Simplifying your life: faith required

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A couple of weeks ago, I shared a message with my church telling my story about the joy I discovered when I learned to engage my whole heart and creativity in serving Christ.

After the service, I was speaking to a dear friend, who was frustrated.

He was frustrated because he wanted to engage himself more fully in living for Christ, but he didn’t feel he could. His life was already full and he didn’t see how he could fit anything more in.

In other words, he wanted to be a wildcard, but life was already too full.

Sometimes our lives are jammed packed out of necessity. I’ve been there. Maybe you have a demanding job and a young family and life is hectic. Sometimes our lives are crazy busy out of necessity.

But sometimes not.

This week, I’m planning to start a series of posts on simplifying our lives. Because sometimes we feel too busy because there’s just too much clutter. Physical clutter, emotional clutter, scheduling clutter, relational clutter. Too many “good” things crowding out the best.

Scripture teaches us to simplify our lives. I’ll start with something Jesus said:

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
John 10:10 NLT

Sometimes when Jesus asks us to do something, our first reaction is to refuse, because we think it’ll make our life worse.

But it won’t. Jesus’ words will make your life better. Not always easier, but better. More joy, more purpose, more rest. That’s been my experience following Christ for the last 24 years.

So how do we follow Jesus when everything in us is screaming “no, that’s too much! It’ll ruin my life if I do that..”

Faith.

That means sometimes saying “Lord, I don’t think I understand or even agree, but I’ll do it just because you said so”. I’ve been at that point more than a few times in my life. But never once have I regretted trusting The Lord.

Not once.

But it starts with faith.

Fear wears a t-shirt…

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Fear wears a t-shirt, and on that t-shirt is written “what if…?”.

What if everything falls apart, and my life is just one huge disaster?

What if people hate me? Or laugh at me? Or ignore me..?

What if I fail?

What if..?

Paul addresses “what if” thinking in Romans 8. First he asks a series of questions that would make great “what if?” worries:

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)
Romans 8:35-36 NLT

What if there’s trouble? What if I become financially vulnerable? What if people hate me? Or threaten me physically?

What if..?

He then answers his own question:

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
Romans 8:37 NLT

I’ll tell you why I think Paul wants to reassure us about God’s love when bad things happen. Our greatest fear, deep in our hearts and souls, is not having the love and approval of God. And when bad things happen to us, we often interpret it as God not loving us.

And that adds fuel to our “what if” worries. We start wearing the t-shirt.

No many how many setbacks, troubles or trials you face, you don’t have to question if you’re loved. Once you have faith in Christ, victory is behind you. Jesus’ love for you has already been proven on the cross. Even if bad things happen to you.

So relax…

And the more you understand and believe this, the smaller those “what if” worries become. You gain perspective.

And you stop wearing the t-shirt.

A truckload of something…

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To be a wildcard, you have to stop thinking about yourself so much.

Ok, I have to stop thinking about myself so much.

The goal instead is to become Christ focused, which engages our hearts and creativity to benefit others. And that change of focus leads to joy. A whole truckload of joy.

I’ve experienced this, and it is the truth.

Reading through Romans 7 this morning has got me thinking about this stuff again. Paul is expressing his frustration and misery over the sin in his life. The man is clearly not happy here. Here’s a sample:

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
Romans 7:18-20 NLT

If you read Romans 6:14-24, Paul is clearly miserable. And clearly self focused. In fact, I count Paul using the word “I” 25* times in that short passage.

25.

There’s only one thing that changes Paul’s misery, and that’s when he changes focus. He stops saying “I” so much. Here it is:

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 7:24-25a NLT

Here it is:
I = misery
Jesus = joy

You’re going to experience a truckload of something in this life. The choice is yours.

* I only counted once, so that number may not be exactly right. I thought “should I double check and make sure it’s right?” But then I thought nah..