Do Meaningful

I recently beat the Playstation 4 game, “Uncharted 4.” The scenery? Breathtaking. The action? Invigorating. The story? Compelling. And the feeling when you see final credits roll? Empowering. Until I saw that I had completed a measly 31% of the challenges for the game.

31%? Not good enough! Every bit of perfectionism inside of me screamed, “Go big or go home, player!” It would take a lot of hard work, tens of hours, and a lot of grinding to complete them, but I could do it. There’s only one question that I needed to answer first:

So what?

Seriously, so what?

Is any of this meaningful in any way at all?

For example, you can get an insane achievement in the game if you, “Destroy 10 vehicles while being dragged from a rope.” But honestly, what does that do for anyone or anything? It doesn’t teach my children anything valuable. It doesn’t shore up my marriage. It doesn’t build up God’s church. It doesn’t help the poor, the least, the powerless or forsaken. I can’t even say that beating it would be relaxing. Unlocking those achievements are wildly stressful!

This is a ridiculous (but absolutely true) example of how you and I can make ourselves busy with things that ultimately do not matter. Leadership coach John Maxwell says it like this, “You can’t maintain your priorities if you fill your life with busyness.”

Hear this: I know you’re busy, because I’m always busy, too. And you and I can always be busy. We can fill every single moment of our days with activities. We are unquestionably busy.

But, busyness is not meaningfulness.

Way too often, we are busy with things that are meaningless. Busy with the binge-worthy show. Busy with all of the new stories your friends posted. Busy with the podcasts you stream.

Stop being busy for busy’s sake. Start doing what is meaningful.  Or as Paul would say, “God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing” (Eph. 2:10).

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The Three People You Need At All Times

“Technology proposes itself as the architect of our intimacies.” – Shelly Turkle

Technology has drastically changed how we define friendship. Author and speaker Shelly Turkle argues that technology even tries to define what friendship intimacy is. Yet, technology has not (and cannot) change what we need from friendships.  In fact, instead of redefining relationships for us, technology has been slowly revealing what we need out of human interaction: genuineness and intimacy.

There are three types of people we always need in our lives: a mentor, a friend, and a follower.

A mentor is someone ahead of you. The past few months I have been interested in different ways to invest my money. But, if I’m honest, not only am I cluelessly without answers when it comes to finance, but I don’t even know the right questions to ask! So, I reached out to friend from college with a degree in finance. He was able to answer my questions which was great. But, he was also able to ask questions that I didn’t even know to ask.

It was 1492 when Europeans first widely accepted that the Earth wasn’t flat and “discovered” the Americas. For the most part, no one believed that there was anything more to discover. Without a mentor, you will never get where you could be because you don’t even know that you can.

You need someone in your life that is outside of your bubble enough to pop it. A mentor should correct, coach and encourage in ways that no one else can. Do you have someone that you consistently ask to review your life? If not, find a mentor.

You also need a friend. Friends are people that are with you. We need people that are in the same boat or in the boat right next to us. When you’re down, they prod you to the top. And then, you do the same for them. I met a youth pastor in Atlanta last year. Interestingly, we had enough in common that we’ve stayed in touch. Some of my most honest conversations happen with this friend who’s in the same spot that I am in many ways.

The Bible gives us an incredible example of friendship in Proverbs 18:24, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” It’s too easy to have a thousand friends and yet not one person who knows what is happening in your soul. Years ago I watched a leader with great potential, push away anyone that wanted to go deep with them. When he allowed sin to get in his life, no one was close enough to notice. When it grew into a monster, it was too late. You need a friend, closer than your own skin.

Lastly, you need a follower. A follower is someone that you invite to live like you do. Church planter and leader, Billy Hornsby, said something incredible in his last week on earth.

“My greatest accomplishments are other people’s.”

The great Christian leader spent his life building people to do more than he could have ever done by himself. I think one of the saddest recurring themes of history is when people forgot to leave behind greater people than them.

That’s not just a lovely sentiment either: you and I are supposed to make followers of Jesus by having people follow us. Jesus really told us to spend our lives teaching people to live like us the way we live like Jesus. Who are you giving yourself to, who are those benefiting from what you’ve learned?

You need three types of people: a mentor, a friend, and a follower.

 

 

 

Know Yourself

Know yourself.

No, I’m not referring to the Drake song. I’m referring to the line written by Greek philosopher Socrates:

“Know thyself.”

And, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Too often our weaknesses are… our greatest weakness. It’s easy to blame other people for all our woes (my teacher doesn’t teach, my parents don’t listen, my friends are stupid). It’s easy to blame external circumstances too (it’s not fair, bad things always happen to me, or if only I had ____ ).  Jesus reminded us that often when we see problems around us, it’s actually because of a sin issue in our own lives that we’re ignoring (Matthew 7:3-5).    Dealing with those, though, requires that you know what they are.

Sometimes we have strengths that we’re not using well.  This past weekend I learned how to ride a RipStik. Let me come clean: I learned how to hop on and not die. But, it’s a skillset I didn’t know I had. As we learn about ourselves, we discover new gifts and talents. And God tells us that he gave us every gift we have to use on His mission for you to serve others (1 Peter 4:10).

Every day you and I make decisions with consequences. I ride my bike home from work occasionally. I do this because I know that if I don’t, obesity is not far away (seriously, I love dessert).

But I also know this, if I don’t go to sleep when my wife does or set an alarm at night that tells me when to go to sleep, I can easily stay up until 3 AM reading books, researching or playing games. Why? I don’t know. What I do know, is that I, Josh, without the external accountability (my wife or my alarm), have little inclination to sleep. If I didn’t know this, I’d be in a lot of trouble.

The biblical king David had a much more important moment like this. One time returning from battle, he and his men came home to find that their families and belongings had been kidnapped and stolen. In that moment, which did David do:

a. Led his men right back to fight

b. Gave a rousing speech to his men to stay motivated

c. Gone away to care for himself

He did C (1 Samuel 30:6). David knew that he needed to get their families back. To do that, he knew he needed his men. To get his men, he knew they needed a leader. To give them a leader, David knew he couldn’t lead until he spent time with God. He knew himself.

You have to know yourself.

  1. Writing/journalling helps you voice your inner opinions. Seeing them visually helps you know what you really believe.
  2. Evaluating your behavior is a huge way to learn. What annoys you?  What excites you? When are you motivated or unmotivated? Why do you do what you do when you do it?
  3. Personality/ strengths tests are helpful too. I’d like to point out that the “which character on this tv show are you” quizzes don’t count. I’ve taken all of these over the years:
    1. DISC
    2. Meyers Briggs
    3. Enneagram
    4. Strengths Finder
  4. Have honest believers in your life. There’s nothing scarier than having no one in your life to point out your imperfections. You need people that care about your spirit, too.

Know yourself.

 

Don’t Drop Your Guard

I think the term open-minded can sometimes mean two separate things. It can mean teachable and it can also mean hopelessly confused.  I think teachability is essential. No one likes people who are unwilling to learn. If you are teachable, people are drawn to you. Being teachable is the only way to get a job, the only way to build relationships and the only way to grow in Christ .

But sometimes we confuse having an open mind with not believing anything/ believing everything you hear.  Not believing and believing everything are the exact same thing because they both leave you like a boat in a hurricane.  What happens to boats in hurricane?  How well can you steer a boat when waves have half of the boat out of the water?  Not useful at all because it has no control. The Bible tells us that sometimes we can be like that when don’t have any foundation of truth (Ephesians 4:11-15).  The reality is there are a lot of ideas and lifestyles that can’t all be good.  How do we know which ones are good for us?

2 Timothy 1:4 says this “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”  If you are a Christian, then you have been given a task to guard the good truth that you have.  Why? Because it can get stolen from you.  It happens when we let our guard down and allow ourselves to be lied to about things that we know are true.

I have hung out with numerous students in my 5 years as a leader at Vox. I have seen tons of students meet with God, hear God or see God do something amazing and yet- years later they don’t know if they even still believe in God.  The crazy thing is that they knew God and knew that He was as real as you and I.  But at some point, they let their guard down and lies came in to steal the truth that was there.

When you begin to experience doubts, the best way to guard your heart is to look back and remember what you know to be true.  For me, I look back to all the times God has answered my prayers, to times that I have seen God move powerfully, to the places I have been where I saw God heal people physically, and to all the times I’ve heard God speak to me.  Those memories become my shield against lies.  Pray and ask God’s Holy Spirit to help you.  The Bible says he brings all things back to your memory.

Always be teachable- but never drop your guard.

 

 

 

What does the Bible say about slavery?

This question came up this past week in VOX and so we wanted to cover it a little more in depth.  Slavery in your mind is not what the Old Testament calls slavery.  We see a better explanation in Deuteronomy 15:12-18 of what’s going on.

People who got into debt or who could no longer support their family, would sometimes sell themselves to someone to help bail them out.  So a person in debt would give themselves as free labor in exchange that the person paid their debts.  Or they would work for half pay, as long as the master paid for the essentials like food, clothing and a place to sleep.  Biblical slavery was created to help the slave. After 6 years, God would make the masters set them free. And, he made the masters give stuff to the slaves so that they left better off than when they became slaves!

That is definitely not the slavery we think of.  We think of kidnapping people based on discrimination and forcing them into harsh conditions while being allowed to beat them like they weren’t human.  But God says kidnapping and selling people is worthy of a death penalty in  Exodus 21:16  (in 1 Timothy 1:8-10 he compares slave traders to murderers).  God says that none of us are better than anyone else in Galatians 3:28.  So color discrimination is completely anti-God. And so is getting aggressive (Ephesians 6:9)

Historically, by the time the New Testament was being written (40-90 AD), the Roman government wasn’t controlled by God-loving people.  So while the Old Testament tells Israel how to help people in debt get free in 6 years the New Testament is different.  The New Testament tells christian slaves and christian masters how to make the best of it until something changes (1 Timothy 6:1-2Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 4:1).

See God is a God who wants to set people free. He says in Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  Because God wanted our freedom, God sent his son Jesus. In Jesus, we can be free!

 

Home Is Where You Care

You have a giant paper due tomorrow.  You haven’t gotten past the first 3 sentences.  Instead of starting on sentence number 4 though, you find yourself noticing some dust on your desk. Thirty seconds later, and you are now 200% involved in the biggest cleaning operation your room has seen in years.  You’re washing base boards, reorganizing your closet and decided that you’re going to repaint your room.

Here’s the major problem, we’ve ignored the thing that mattered most (the paper) for something that seemed more important in the moment (cleaning your room).  We don’t just do it with tasks, we do it with people too.

In 1 Timothy 5, Paul is talking about how to practically take care of widows (verses 2-7).  He was writing some good advice like: if the widow can live with her family and they’re financially stable, church people don’t need to give her money. Then, the very next verse says:

1 Timothy 5:8 But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.

The “but” is there as an interruption.  Because just like avoiding our important paper, we sometimes forget that the most important people for us to care for is our family.  And usually we do it because it’s easier.  It’s usually way easier to comfort a friend than to comfort your parents.

All people have physical, emotional and spiritual needs.  And we have responsibilities to help our families with these.

You know what happens when you begin to take care of the needs of those close to you?  They begin to pour back into you.  You’ll be more effective cleaning your room when your paper is finished.   You’re a better friend, when your family is cared for.

 

 

 

 

Should Christians Workout?

Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about this:

I think there’s good reason for Christians to be physically healthy.

1. It makes you feel better

2. It helps you focus better

3. It helps you live longer

But, sometimes we get so obsessed with our physical workouts that we forget something.

1 Timothy 4:7-8 (MSG) says this:

“Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart.”

Running today is great. For today.  But if you eat a piece of cake a week from now… that run is not helping.  Physical health can only do a small bit to help your life.

Being physically strong can’t help you pray for a friend.  Having a six-pack is completely useless when you feel broken.  Having no tan lines means nothing when you want to encourage someone.

But training in godliness lasts forever.  If you stay spiritually fit, you’ll be better at everything!  Don’t get spiritually lazy! Take care of yourself! And hey, maybe do something physical too.

 

Friday June 6th

Friday

1 Timothy 1:17

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

The psalmist writes in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” Here in Timothy, we have a beautiful example of Paul stopping to worship his King.  He uses very similar words to praise God in his other letters often, which suggests that these aspects of God are meaningful to Paul.  Then, he ends the phrase with “Amen.”  There’s a break and pause, where Paul is caught up in the excitement of God that he begins to worship.

Thursday June 5th

Thursday

1 Timothy 1:18

“Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well…”

Samuel Johnson once said “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”   Paul tells Timothy to remember the prophecies and godly words spoken over his life.  Why? Because during hard times, we easily forget the good things of God that were promised over our lives.  To survive in this life, to fight spiritual battles well, we must remember who God says you are.