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Change

September 18, 2012 — Leave a comment

loose-change

I’ve got a little change in my pocket. Not a lot, mind you. Just a little. Not enough to make a phone call, as if there were any pay phones anymore. I expect the ones that are not completely vandalized or uninstalled probably have forgotten how to work at this point.

Change – it’s like a four-letter word to most people, but with 2 vowels – making six letters total, but it wouldn’t look right if it was “chng.” You’d all be thinking, “ching? What’s ching?”

If you’ve ever grown up, grown hair, grown fingernails or grown a chia pet, you have experienced change in some form or another. It’s constant, necessary, sometimes beneficial, sometimes not so much. But one thing is for sure in life – change is always coming.

Some people like their change in a mason jar on the shelf, where you can pull it out every now and then and snag a few quarters for a coke. Others like change similar to what Loki did to New York in Avengers. If you think about it, there’s really no in-between. It’s either grand and sweeping, or subtle and underplayed. But most of the time there’s pain involved.

Some people like change just for the sake of change. “I’m tired of the way it is, let’s change things up!” These types of leaders irritate me. If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.

Some people like change because of the possibilities it can offer – “This is broken and needs to be fixed,” or, “this could be better if we tweak it here and here.” I like those kinds of leaders.

I have been both in the past.

One church where I was an associate pastor, well, let’s just say I thought it was broken, and the only way to fix it was to totally deconstruct everything. I did not seek approval, did not seek wise counsel, did not even pray about it much. I just outlined a 12 month plan and dove in.

Nobody knew what I was doing except I was really pissing them off. Sorry – that’s what they literally said to me.

I went from 30 in the youth group to 10, back up to 50+ pretty quick, but because my thinking was off, it was never enough – I broke it, fixed it, tweaked it, shined it up and spray painted it and when I stood back to admire my creation, there was just not much good about it. Plus that whole losing the trust and good-will of the people thing.

After that I was gun shy, and vowed not to change anything for 12 months, and it ended up pretty much the same as before. I think next time I will at least pray a bit, and ask for some help.

I think that’s what leaders are doing on a world scale these days. It’s really broken. It’s bad. Nobody has a clue what to do about it and what is being done is breaking it more. And we are at each other’s throats.

Will prayer and wise counsel even work? For our nation? For our world?

I think yes, if we have leaders who are humble, who don’t think they know everything, who know they don’t have all the answers, but are willing to listen to “we the people” and accept that they are “we the people” just like you and me.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 exhorts us to pray for our leaders, so that life can be good for us. Life is not all that bad for me. It is pretty bad for a lot of people though – I wonder if prayer really does change things? I wonder…

 

Believe it or not, back in the day, I was an eBay powerseller. I sold the crap out of stuff, and I made some money doing it. The thing I sold the most of was screen protectors for PDAs. You remember those things right? Kinda the ugly, huge, clunky 3rd cousin of the smart phone. I worked really hard at it, and my reward (besides the money) was feedback from my faithful followers.

Now, some of the feedback I can’t share because to be honest, I didn’t make everyone happy, and sometimes unhappy people who are hidden behind their computer screen can be pretty negative. But negative feedback, in anything, but especially eBay, can wreck what you’re trying to accomplish. I wish I could say I never retaliated by leaving negative feedback of my own, but I did on occasion stoop to the lower levels. One in particular that I thought was quite brilliant, the buyer gave me a neutral (which is a throw-away negative that doesn’t actually count) and said “Bad bad seller. Very bad.” My reply, “$2.99 delivered as promised – get a life.”

Ok, not all that brilliant, and kinda snarky right? Thing is, nobody really likes negative (or neutral, as if there is such a thing) feedback. How do you deal with feedback that you consider to be negative?

Myself, I tend to do several things when I get negative feedback.  The first is I get angry. And it’s a righteous kind of anger, which if you think about it is the best kind. It’s the “I’m *not* wrong here” anger that starts in your spleen and rises to your lips (bypassing the brain by several inches) and gets you into even more trouble.

Then there’s sulking, which I am also known to do from time to time. This is a result of feedback I receive from my wife while I am driving and she is a passenger. She is a back seat driver, a side seat driver, a from the trunk driver – where ever a person can be in the vehicle, that’s the kind of driver she is. She’ll be chatting away while I’m trying to find a particular exit and when I pass it inadvertently, she lets me know about it then I just sit in awkward silence for a few minutes.

I don’t do this (nope), but some people throw actual fits when they get some negative feedback. I see this at work sometimes around the time for our yearly review. People go into a room looking normal, 45 minutes later they come out red in the face, spit bubbles in the corner of their mouths, and they go straight to the bathroom where they abuse the snot out of the stall doors, the toilet, the paper towel dispenser and their hands and feet.

Again, I have never done anything like that in my life.

What is an appropriate response to feedback? I have a few ideas there, too.

First we can consider that there is truth in the feedback. The stuff I sold on eBay was junk. I made the screen protectors at home with overhead projector sheets that I printed out a template on and cut out with scissors.  And seriously I sold 1000′s of them. But they were junk and when people called me on it, what could I do? I knew it, they knew it and there it was. There is always a nugget of truth that you can use to make yourself better.

Another thing to consider is, who are you going to listen to? There are a lot of voices coming at us every day, but not all the feedback is worth listening to. We need to be discerning, especially as Christians. Whose voice carries the most weight? A pastor, a mentor, an aquaintance with an admitted substance abuse problem? We need to receive it all graciously, but not all of it needs to stick.

Then, when we have found the truth from people we can actually trust, we need to use feedback to make positive changes. There have been many times in my life when a person told me something in anger, and it was truly negative, but it was also true, even though the words hurt. There have been times when a trusted friend pulled me aside and told me how big a mistake I was making or about to make. In those situations, when we know what is right, we should decide to heed those words and make a course correction.

Not all feedback will be positive or negative. When it’s received, we need to consider the source, think critically about ourselves, pray about it, then make a choice – is this something I can use to make a positive change, or do I need to just let this one go?

What are some ways you deal with feedback?

 

How many times in your life have you been wrong about something?  And did you like it?  I mean did you like it when you found out you were wrong?

If you did like it, congratulations on being first.  Because here’s the thing – we all have a point of view, and we think we are right, and we can defend our point of view until there are no words left – and it won’t matter to whoever we are arguing with if their views are different because they also can defend their veiws until they are blue in the face.

But what if you are wrong?  Who do you learn you are wrong from?  Not the person or group with an opposing viewpoint - you would never listen to them.  Where do we get understanding and knowledge from, and how do we trust that it is true?

Well, here’s my story – I’ve been wrong.  I’ve been told I was wrong and I didn’t believe it.  I had my arguments in place, I defended my little tower, I threw stones and took a few hits and my mind still was not changed.  I’m not talking about anything in particular here, even if you think I am – just in general.  My mind is made up, I’m right, you’re wrong.

Continue Reading…

Let me tell you a little bit about myself, so that you'll know where I'm coming from.  I'm 46 years old, I am a sinner saved by the grace of God, and because of what he has done for me, instead of living in a van down by the river, I'm living right in the big middle of his will for me - and I couldn't be happier!

It wasn't always like that, in fact there was a time in my life when I identified with old Matt Foley.  Life was sad, and I tried any number of things to motivate myself, to pull myself out of the hole I was in.  Unfortunately, the kind of change I needed in my life, I could not accomplish on my own.

What I have learned, from a very wise man, is you can no more change yourself than you can reach down and grab your own feet and lift yourself off the ground.  I'm not talking about self help or 12 step programs.  I'm talking about real life change at the soul level.

In the beginning, and you can read this for yourself in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve made a choice - they chose knowledge over life, and their choice doomed all of us.  We all rely on our own thinking to get us through life, and we end up like Matt Foley - living by ourselves in a self-imposed prison down by the river.  We think so often that we are doing good, and it will count for something at some point, but your actions, good or bad, cannot earn you salvation or any amount of favor with God.

Which brings me to Lucifer.  What an angel he must have been!  Chief among angels, the most beautiful and most wise of any of God's creations.  Ezekeil 28 is about the Prince of Tyre, and many people believe it is a depiction of Lucifer as well.  His heart became proud, his wisdom was corrupted, and he longed for the glory that can only belong to God.  In Isaiah 14, he is described as the morning star who would make himself like God, and was cast down from heaven because of it. 

Like Matt Foley, Lucifer tried to become something he is not through his own power.  He lied to mankind in the beginning, and now because of that, more often than not, we all live our lives exactly the same way.  We think we deserve something, we chase our desires, we imagine in our minds that we can change ourselves and do better or be better.  And many times, by an act of our will, we can choose good - we give to charities, we quit drinking or smoking, we treat our neighbors with respect, and we work hard at our jobs.  And when our lives are over, then what?

Matt Foley is a sad excuse for a motivational speaker.  He's a joke!  The sad thing is, many people feel like that on the inside and just put on a happy mask for the world to see.  Freedom is about becoming the person you were created and redeemed to be, and nothing you do will get you there.  Ever.  It is something that happens on the inside, in your soul, due to an outside influence.

What Lucifer did, and what we do, is we rely on ourselves and we are not good enough, we're not stong enough, we're not smart enough, we are not in control, no matter how good, how strong or how much of a control freak we are.  Our destiny is sealed and we will suffer the same fate as Matt Foley in life - it will be a worthless joke of an existence - and we will suffer the same fate as Lucifer in eternity - forever separated from the source of life - God.

By an act of our human will, we developed medicines that save people's lives, we put men on the moon, we developed wonderful technology that enables me to write this and you to read it.  We build our towers into the heavens, trying to reach God on our own terms, and completely miss the mark every time.  There is so much more!

What if I told you that, by an act of your will, you could have everything that God has promised you in his word?  You can have victory in this life, power to live every minute of every day as God intended - free!  All you have to do is decide one thing - you have to use your will to surrender you will to God.  When you decide that you've had enough doing it your way, when you've had enough struggling trying to make everything work out and your big reward is you end up in a van down by the river, when nothing you do can make anything make sense, when you've had enough of doing it wrong and you realize something isn't right, that is the time to act.  Your strength, your thinking, your actions cannot get you to God.  But surrender of who you currently are can.

When you surrender all that you are in your soul to God, he breathes new life into you, he changes your mind, he renews everything about you, and then everything will change forever.  And it really is just that easy.  Ask him.  Just step right up and say, "God - I surrender my will to you, now take me and change me.  I want a real relationship with you."  He doesn't want or need anything you can give him or do for him.  He doesn't need you or your resources or your knowledge.  But he does want to know you - and he wants you to know him.

If that's what you truly desire, then ask!  You'll receive.  Your life will start over and you'll see things totally differently than you ever have.  You'll be seeing the physical world through spiritual eyes.  You'll experience power in your day to day life.  You'll give sacrificially and it won't even matter because God will give it back 10 fold.  I've been like Matt Foley.  It's no good, no way to live, and now being on the other side of it, I wonder what took me so long because it is so awesome I can't even put it into words.  God is Good and he wants to share everything with you - will you let him?

We all know important people, and we all know people who think they are important.  Where I work, every single day, the same person parks their red Mercedes in the same parking spot right by the door.  Backwards.  I even got there super early one day to see if I could get that spot.  I was going to park my 1998 F-150 in the spot right by the door.  Backward.  Just to see what would happen.  I got to work at 7 am – an hour early – and that stinking car was already there.  I’m beginning to think it is not owned by anybody, it’s just parked there so nobody can have the spot.  Either that, or it belongs to a Very Important Person.  After all, it’s a Mercedes.

We all know important people, and we all know people who think they are Very Important People.  What I’ve noticed about the VIPs is they are generally insecure.  You can tell because of all the bragging.  I know them when I see them because I used to be one.

I used to tell people, who never asked, how many kids I had at church on Wednesday night.  I used to tell, without being asked, how awesome I did when I preached last Sunday morning, and how many people came forward.  I still know the stats – how many I’ve led to Christ, how many I’ve baptized, etc.

None of those numbers are bad – they represent people who have met God and whose lives have been changed by that encounter.  They represent God working through me in an awesome way.  But I didn’t feel awesome about it for some reason.  I felt like if I told everyone they would see how important I was and how much God was using me.  I was insecure in my relationship with God.

That’s pretty much what it comes down to, isn’t it?  Our own individual relationship with God.  I’ve moved away from the idea that God wants to use me, or that I can be used by God.  I’ve moved away from the idea (and it was very difficult) that to be a minister I need to work for a church – even though I am convinced that that is still my calling.  I’ve moved away from the idea that my identity has to be wrapped up in what I do.  I’ve moved away from that, and I’ve drawn close to God.

James 4:8 says this – “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

I always got the first part – makes sense, right?  Draw near to God.  I always ignored the part about sinners and being double minded.  That’s just as important as drawing near.  Drawing near is all I can do.  I can’t cleanse my own sin, and I can’t change my own mind.

What I have found is, if I draw near, under my own power, if I read the Scriptures, if I write my sermons, if I baptize people, but if I still have sin in my life, I become double minded.  I begin to think how great I am.  And when I become great, I want the world to know just how great and how Very Important I am.

But – when I draw near to God, for real, when I come to Him a mess, dirty, confused, and when I come to Him honest about it, He cleanses my hands, He straightens out my mind.  In other words (James 4:10) when I humble myself in His presence, He lifts me up.

A wise man once said, you can no more change yourself than you can put your hands under your own feet and lift yourself off the ground.  You can’t make yourself important, you can’t make yourself great.  Greatness is this life is not who you are, not what you have, not who you know, but what you allow God to do in you.  What He does in you affects the lives of those around you.  By pursuing a relationship with God, you change the world!

Only God can lift you up.  Only God can make you a Very Important Person.  Draw near to Him, allow Him to make you into who He always dreamed you could be!