Archive for the ‘Doing’ Category

It’s Not Everyone Who Calls Me Lord

April 10, 2018

What if Jesus meant what he said?

I truly appreciate that group of teachers who began pondering that question some 45 years ago or so. It is much to our loss that their voices have been drowned by the hype of others.

What if Jesus really meant what Matthew recorded (7:21):

Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Jesus also said (as reported by his good friend John):

I give you a new command, Love one another as I have loved you.

What if we lived today not simply repeating opinions of theology or calling the name of Jesus with empty hearts, but…

that we lived today doing the will of the Father.

Maybe like James teaches, we watch what we say lest we hurt someone rather than building them up.

Hint: perhaps we step back and look objectively at the tone of our opinions and social media posts–remember that the right to free speech does not absolve us from the responsibility of speaking in love.

Maybe like the apostle Paul teaches, such as the list he gives us (1 Corinthians 13) describing how to act with love.

Maybe Jesus really meant that we are supposed to do the will of the Father, not just call out his name.

Do This In Order To Understand

February 5, 2018

Søren Kierkegaard — Christ says: Do according to what I say – then you shall know. Consequently, decisive action first of all. By acting, your life will come into collision with existence, and then you will know the reality of grace. Nowadays we have turned the whole thing around. Christianity has become a worldview. Thus, before I get involved I must first justify it. Good night to Christianity!

Peter delivers a major evangelistic sermon reported in Acts 2. On the day of Pentacost when the followers of Jesus were given the power of the Holy Spirit, they attracted the attention of crowds of people who had traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.

Peter preached about the resurrection of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. It was a moving and powerful sermon. It lacked one thing a great speech of this type needs–a call to action. There must be a “to do” or a “so what” to conclude. But the people listening supplied the question, “So what should we do?” they asked.

“Repent and be baptized,” Peter said.

There is something to do.

Paul wrote to the Romans (chapter 12) after talking about grace and the unity of Jew and Gentile, goes into a list 29 items long telling us how to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. A “to do” list.

I’m reading a psychologist currently. Just started the book. Chapter One–stand up straight. Change your posture and change your life.

We know that we can often act our way into believing, or act our way into changing our attitude. When we perform an action repeatedly, it becomes a habit. And a habit defines us. It pays rich dividends to choose our actions wisely.

Thoughts Are Nice, Actions Speak Louder

July 7, 2017

Be doers of the Word, not hearers only.

I like the little book of James. It is ancient Wisdom literature revisited in light of Jesus.

He talks about how we act and then again about how we should act.

We should accept people of different social classes and backgrounds and skin colors.

We should speak encouraging words being careful of how hurtful words can be.

We can be contemplative, but how we act with others reveals our heart.

I wrote recently about Christian business people. The problem is that they spent so much time outwardly “professing” their own faith that they forgot to care about others.

It’s sort of a Christian Narcissism.

It is not always the “big” acts that count.

Surely we need leaders. But I know a woman whose ministry is writing encouraging notes to people. She has more influence than the preacher. Or the guy whose ministry was hospitality and prepared coffee and cookies for people before and after worship for many years. There is the person who will drive people to doctor’s appointments. The person who will comfort those who are grieving. The person who slips some extra money to someone in need or gifts and orphanage with needed equipment.

We remember these people. The guy who talks a big self story–not so much.

Knowing And Doing

March 17, 2017

To be is to do – Socrates; To do is to be – Sartre; Do Be Do Be Do – Sinatra

I first heard that old joke in grad school years ago. Sometimes it’s good to poke fun at serious thinking that gets too serious.

The suggestion has been made by various people (including me) that instead of making new year’s resolutions or setting goals, determine what sort of person you want to be in the coming year. Who do I wish to be?

The value of an idea lies in using it. Thomas Edison

We then have to act on that vision of who we want to be in order to actually become that person.

Merely sitting around and wishing doesn’t make it.

The same holds for knowing and doing. Knowing how to fix a car or a leaky faucet has no value unless you actually fix the car or stop the leak.

When Jesus gave us his commandment, it wasn’t to know something–“Love the Lord your God … and your neighbor as yourself.”

How many people have spoken those words and yet their lives bear no resemblance to them?

How many times do I have to not do what I should before I can incorporate what I should do into my daily life?

And sometimes we just go through a day singing. And that’s not all that bad.

You Are Who You Are

August 22, 2016

“You are who you are.”

Weird phrase. Sounds like a truism.

Psalm 139 opens with, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me.” Later it says, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

Paul writing to the Ephesians tells us to be worthy of our calling.

So, I was thinking about these weird little phrases, such as “you are who you are.”

Few things are sadder when someone tries to be what they are not. A short kid thinks he’s an NBA star. A tone-deaf person thinks she’s a great singer. A person short on vision and unable to connect with people thinks he’s a leader.

Maybe we dream of being a great speaker and in reality our calling and gifts point toward teaching and mentoring.

Worse still, are the hypocrites. Jesus once said (I bet in reality he said it a lot), “Woe to you hypocrites.”

Hypocrites means someone who wears a mask. They present a persona to the world that is not even close to what they are.

They pretend to be godly.

They pretend to be wealthy.

They pretend to pray.

They pretend they are compassionate.

Yet, their hearts are hardened. They are actually insecure, or angry, or greedy, or self-absorbed, and so on.

Paul prays that we are not like that. That we truly are filled with the spirit of God. That we find our true calling in life and live it out.

The psalmist concludes 139 with, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Those are challenging words. They might make us change direction.

Let Your Light Shine

April 13, 2016

Still looking at the early teachings of Jesus that Matthew recorded. Jesus told us about letting our light shine. We don’t hide lights (duh). The reason we turn one on is to illuminate an area, right?

Whenever Jesus used a common physical story, it is always meant to describe our own lives.

So, he took the light metaphor and applied it to us.

Let your light shine, he said.

Why?

Some think that letting our light shine means to talk all the time. Light equals air. We are shining because we are always telling people about Jesus and ourselves. We tell it. And retell it. And even more.

But…

That’s not what Jesus said. Check it out.

Jesus said that we should let our lights shine so that people will see our good works.

But not just to see that we do good things. It’s not about us. Jesus has lots of stories about people who do things just for show. It’s a little theater. Look at me.

No, Jesus said another so that. So that people will glorify God because of our good works.

It’s all about attitude. You don’t do good works to earn God’s favor. You do good works because you have this great relationship with God. And then you let people see them so that God will get the glory.

We make a mistake when we think it’s all about preaching. It’s all about revealing our right relationship with God through how we act and what we do. Don’t hide your light.

From Theology to Practice

January 19, 2016

Andy Stanley last weekend talked about putting some motion in your devotion.

He captured it well.

Every time I dig deeply into either the Gospels to see what Jesus really teaches, or into the letters which were advice to the new disciples, I come to the same conclusion–the preponderance of the teaching focuses on how we live day-by-day, minute-by-minute.

I’ve been reading, studying, and contemplating on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Some scholars think Paul didn’t write it because the tone is a little different from the rest of his letters. It sure sounds like Paul to me. I go with some scholars who say it was probably more of a sermon than a letter. After all, Paul was firmly in the rabbinic tradition.

Some scholars dissed the letter because they thought it was used to justify the power of priests 1,700 years ago. Maybe so, but I don’t see that today.

Paul begins where he always begins, with the history of God’s relationship with the Jewish people, the breaking of the relationship, and then, most importantly, Jesus coming to teach, die, and be resurrected. Paul’s theology begins and ends with the resurrection. That changed everything for him.

Just as in Romans, though, Ephesians teaches that once we settle on God’s grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus and our acceptance through faith, then the most important thing is how we live. Romans ends with practical advice; Ephesians ends with practical advice.

Part of our spiritual discipline, or spiritual practices, involves how we act. By the way, James who writes from a different tradition supports this thought. Be ye doers, he said (in 16th Century English).

But I digress. Today when you get dressed and head out to work or wherever you go, how are you going to act? What will you do? Will people see what you do and say, “There goes a disciple of Jesus”? Or, will they say, “There goes another one of those Christians who can preach belief but acts as if they’re the only people on Earth.”

I wrote yesterday about how I was once (?) book smart and common sense stupid. How hard it is for us to translate what we know into what we naturally do! But that is our task as set out by God. We may know. We may believe. But could anyone tell by watching?

Too Much Thinking, Not Enough Doing

November 19, 2015

When all is said and done, more is said than done.

As an investor in a local coffee shop, I must admit to coffee envy. This week I am attending a trade fair / conference in Chicago’s McCormick Place. A popular coffee chain has a store adjacent to the entrance to the exhibit hall. This is a large show with over 15,000 attendees. That store had a constant queue of at least 20 people from 6:30 am until they closed about 5:00 pm.

This morning I’m staring at the plain red cup of the day’s dark roast coffee thinking about the ridiculous uproar of a certain segment of self-proclaimed Christians who thought that the company was belittling Christmas by removing reindeer and snowflakes from its cups.

So, what do reindeer and snowflakes have to do with honoring Jesus’ birth? Well, nothing.

Then I recalled the old proverb quoted at the top. It goes along with another saying I find myself repeating–we think too much. That is a funny thing for an ENTP to say (if you don’t know what that is, check out the definitions in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator). But we do.

Think of discussions on points of theology. A favorite one currently concerns the definition of the word translated as “day” in first story of creation. Many people take the English word day and make it a foundation of belief in creation that this means 24-hour days. Just had that discussion. I basically said, “You and I will always disagree on this interpretation. Does that mean that one or the other is not Christian? No. We agree on the foundation of the faith that Jesus lived as a man, was killed, and was resurrected.

Every time I read the gospels, I’m further struck by the words of Jesus. Certainly belief was the foundation, but his commandments always talked about the status of your heart and what you’re doing about it. Love your neighbor, he said. That’s not an emotional, sentimental word. It’s an action verb.

Thinking is OK. But let it not be said about us that when all is said and done, more was said than done.

Thinking and Doing

October 14, 2015

Seth Godin is a marketing consultant. He’s written a few books and has a blog. The blogs are short pieces these days. Usually pithy. Recently he wrote on opportunity and left a few good suggestions.

You can learn a new skill, today, for free.

You can take on a new task at work, right now, without asking anyone.

You can make a connection, find a flaw, contribute an insight, now.

Or not.

We like to complain about lots of things. Work. The boss. The church. Leaders. Not getting ahead.

Godin reminds us of simple things that put the responsibility right back on us.

Today, Jon Swanson wrote on his 300 Words a Day blog about reading. And doing. He read a lot about running. Then he started running. He didn’t read any more. He ran.

He thought about Jesus who said you can sit and listen all day, or you can get out and do.

Preparation is good. Your 15 minutes a day in your chair reading the Bible is good. Your other reading is good.

But, in the end it isn’t good enough. It’s like the athlete preparing for the contest and never entering the competition.

You can do it. Godin says take responsibility for yourself and get up and do. Swanson suggested that there’s a time for preparation and then a time for doing.

What are you doing today?

Do Not Lag in Zeal

October 7, 2015

Do you ever find yourself during the day with a loss of focus, lack of energy, and uncertainty about what to do next?

It happens to us personally. There are times when I just can’t seem to focus and find the energy to do something.

Still deep into studying Roman and looking at the third paragraph of chapter 12, I read “outdo one another in showing honor, do not lag in zeal, be ardent in the spirit.”

Look at those verbs. Outdo, do not lag, be ardent. Action words. Don’t sit around and mope. Do something.

So, what causes the problem?

  • trouble making a decision
  • too many things to do, feeling swamped
  • not focused on the next task (check your Nozbe app!)
  • the food you ate
  • not enough sleep
  • not centered in purpose

I think we can sense that corporately, whether in church or business. Check these thoughts.

  • loss of vision
  • everyone with an opinion, no one with a direction
  • leadership that kills motivation
  • politics
  • no one cares
  • people just want to get along, like a little club
  • forget about those you’re serving

If you personally get into this state of being, it’s time to 

  • pause
  • breathe
  • consciously refocus
  • remind yourself of the purpose of the day
  • go to the to do app and choose the next action
  • oh, and go to work (nothing cures apathy like work)

If it is a corporate thing, then

  • there is a real need for a leader to step forward
  • start reminding people of the purpose / vision
  • refocus on those whom the organization is serving
  • determine tasks
  • go to work

There is much work to do between the steps. But both situations require pause, breathe, focus on vision, go to work.

I think that whoever read these words of Paul “be ardent in the spirit” knew exactly what he meant. Paul must have lived that command daily. As should we.