“The 12 Apostle of Ill Health”

One of my year end activities is to read through previous year(s) journals. It is exciting to see what I have learned and how I have matured… and disheartening to see those things against which I STILL struggle. Reading my own writing is a most credible witness to my personal discipline, and lack of self-control.

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If you don’t journal… I urge you to try it! If you do journal… I urge you to read what you have written over the last year(s).

Anyhow, in May of 2017, I was reading Gordon McDonald’s classic work, “Ordering Your Private World.” In this book, he quotes E. Stanley Jones who wrote about the “12 Apostles of Ill Health.” That quote was written in my journal along with a note about a Bible verse I had read earlier that morning. Both are instructive for the person wanting health!

Here is my journal entry:

E. Stanley Jones speaks of the “12 Apostles of Ill Health”: anger, resentments, fear, worry, desire to dominate, self-preoccupation, guilts, sexual impurity, jealousy, a lack of creative activity, inferiorities, a lack of love.”

Jones says, “In prayer, I’ve learned to surrender these things to Jesus Christ as they appear.”

This brings me back to 1 Corinthians 10:13.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “God will not allow temptation to be more than I can stand. When I am tempted, He will show me a way out so I can endure.” (I personalized the verse in my journal, changing the words from “you” to “I/me”).

Take a minute and slowly read the “12 Apostles of Ill Health”:

  • anger
  • resentments
  • fear
  • worry
  • desire to dominate
  • self-preoccupation
  • guilts
  • sexual impurity
  • jealousy
  • a lack of creative activity
  • inferiorities
  • a lack of love.

See anything there that “rings your bell”? Anything there that is stealing spiritual energy? Depleting physical strength? Detracting from overall well-being? What are you doing about that “apostle”?

Jones found that prayer was a strategic tool in the battle for health. 

St. Paul said that God will provide deliverance from the things that tempt us and threaten to destroy us (1 Corinthians 10:13).

As I head into the new year, I see things on this list that need my attention. One of my strategies for reducing and even eliminating the influence of these “apostles” is going to be prayer.

What do you think? Do you agree with Jones’ list? How do you tackle these “12 Apostles of Ill Health”?

Guiding principles for students of Scripture

Today, I am working on material for a teaching series that I am going to give at Church180. We are going to be studying a letter that St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Colossae around 60 A.D.

As I am working on this material, I keep thinking about basic principles that guide my approach to Scripture. I needed to write them down, and figured that this would be a good place to put them.

These are the principles that guide me as I read and prepare to teach Scripture.

  • There is a God.
  • He has told us who He is and what He wants in multiple ways. His most detailed revelation is through the Scriptures.
  • The Scriptures were written over multiple centuries by a diversity of men, in a diversity of circumstances.
  • The Scriptures were given by God to men to address specific, historical circumstances.
  • Many of these circumstances have changed since the time when the Scriptures were written (e.g. how we travel, how we communicate, the means of war, the introduction of global organizations, etc.).
  • While much has changed over the course of time, there is much that has not changed (e.g. basic human emotions, good, evil, etc.)
  • The work of the student is to determine what is timeless, and then apply it to 21st century living.
  • As we “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV) we will understand God and how to live “righteously” in the 21st century.

Much sloppy and destructive teaching has been done because of a disregard for basic hermeneutical principles. With that in mind, here are a handful of questions that guide me as I seek to “correctly handle the word of truth”:

  • Who wrote this? What was his point of view (e.g. Luke was a doctor. Amos was a farmer.)
  • To whom was it written? (e.g. Matthew wrote to a largely Jewish audience. Paul wrote to a largely Gentile audience.)
  • Why was it written? What issues are being addressed? (e.g. Proverbs is a collection of “wisdom sayings” collected over a period of years; Paul wrote to address specific issues and questions in various local churches)
  • What historical, geographical, cultural distinctives might influence this letter? (e.g. when Paul writes that women should not speak in church… is there something cultural going on that might help me understand this and properly apply it in the 21st century?) 
  • When I am studying a particular verse, I pay attention to what is said before and after that verse! In other words, pay attention to the context! Much harm has been done by teachers/preachers who have ignored context. There are multiple levels of context:
    • Immediate context – what is said in the sentences before and after the verse
    • Letter context – how should I understand this verse in light of the entire letter? To whom was it written? Why was it written? What is said at the beginning and end of this letter? How does that influence my understanding of the verse in question?
    • Author context – If I am studying something that Paul said, I ought to inquire as to whether he has addressed this topic in his other writings. 
    • Testament context – If I am studying something in the New Testament, how do other New Testament authors address this topic? Do they even address it?
    • Broader context – does my understanding of the verse in question agree with the broader teaching of Scripture? If my understanding of a particular verse is in conflict with other verses of Scripture… I am probably understanding it incorrectly.

The study of Scripture is a serious matter and ought to be taken seriously. There is great reward for the one who does this work seriously. One of my favorite quotes regarding this matter comes from St. Paul:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT)

 

Eating Frogs and Turds

This morning I walked with a couple of my girls (we were too tired to run). While we were walking we had a great conversation about doing difficult things.

I was able to string together some great, and funny, pieces of advice I’ve heard from others. It went like this…

If you eat a frog, first thing in the morning, everything else will be easy by comparison.

This is Brian Tracy’s way of encouraging people to stop procrastinating on the hard things! Do them first… and everything else will be easy in comparison! He wrote a book by that title.

The second piece of advice made us all laugh. Well… at least me. It made me laugh (the girls just rolled their eyes).

I can’t recall exactly who said it, but, unfortunately, it’s not original. Here goes…

If you have to eat a turd, don’t nibble!

In other words, if you have to do something that’s difficult… don’t take forever! Get it done quickly!

That’s such good advice!

Do the hard things first… and do them quick. That’s a formula for a good day (assuming you brush your teeth afterwards)!

Hug the Struggle

hugBen Horowitz wrote a New York Times bestseller called, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.” In this book, he discusses the underbelly of leadership; the hard and unglamorous stuff that few talk about or consider. He tells and dissects leadership experiences… the hard ones… the REAL hard ones!

I actually picked this book up when I heard Bill Hybels recommend it.

Anyhow, the other day I was reading “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”, and came across a “poem” that Horowitz wrote. It flowed out of his experiences, and was sparked by a sentence from Karl Marx, “Life is struggle.” Here’s Ben…

The Struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place.

The Struggle is when people ask you why you don’t quit and you don’t know the answer.

The Struggle is when your employees think you are lying and you think they may be right.

The Struggle is when food loses its taste.

The Struggle is when you don’t believe you should be CEO of your company. The Struggle is when you know that you are in over your head and you know that you cannot be replaced. The Struggle is when everybody thinks you are an idiot, but nobody will fire you. The Struggle is where self-doubt becomes self-hatred.

The Struggle is when you are having a conversation with someone and you can’t hear a word that they are saying because all you can hear is The Struggle.

The Struggle is when you want the pain to stop. The Struggle is unhappiness.

The Struggle is when you go on vacation to feel better and you feel worse.

The Struggle is when you are surrounded by people and you are all alone. The Struggle has no mercy.

The Struggle is the land of broken promises and crushed dreams. The Struggle is a cold sweat. The Struggle is where your guts boil so much that you feel like you are going to spit blood.

The Struggle is not failure, but it causes failure. Especially if you are weak. Always if you are weak.

Most people are not strong enough.

Every great entrepreneur from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg went through The Struggle and struggle they did, so you are not alone. But that does not mean that you will make it. You may not make it. That is why it is The Struggle.

The Struggle is where greatness comes from.

AHHH!!! I love and hate this! I hate it, because I know how it feels. I love it, because I know that “the struggle” will produce something, if I don’t run… or quit!

So, stay in the game! Pray often. Work hard. Get counsel. Cry. Cuss (not all the time, but sometimes… and not at anyone!). Exercise. Eat some food. Get some rest… and get back into the struggle! The struggle is your friend! It builds your strength and prepares you for the next level! Hug the struggle!

You can get the book (I recommend it), or you can read this article on “the struggle”.

3 Ideas to get “Unstuck” spiritually

stuckI am in the middle of a conversation with someone who is “stuck” spiritually.

This person doesn’t like being stuck, but isn’t sure how to get “unstuck.”

I just sent them three ideas and thought it might be helpful for someone else too… so here they are:

Help someone who cannot return the favor

Most of the time when we are stuck, we have our head in a dark place. We’ve withdrawn and see or hear no one other than our own disheartened, discouraging voice.

The truth is there are other people… other people who may actually have it worse than you… but you’ll never know that until you get in your car and go find them.

Once you’ve found them… do something for them. Need some ideas? Here are five:

  • Go to the local homeless shelter and offer to help them for an hour.
  • Get background checked so that you can volunteer at your local public school… then go volunteer with the kids.
  • Go to your church and ask what you can do to help.
  • Look across the street and see what you can do for your neighbor.
  • Go to McDonalds and see if you can spot a hungry person… buy his/her lunch.

Read a book that will give you fresh ideas.

Too much time on Netflix, Facebook, and any other social media site will just send an avalanche of “I suck” down on your head. Seriously, “stuck” people should not be spending their time reading the faux lives of their online “friends.”

Rather than looking at other people’s lives… go make your own!

If you don’t know where to start, and your stuck so you probably don’t… pick up a book! Interact with some experts. If you’re looking for a recommendation I would be happy to suggest some to you. Just shoot me an e-mail and give me a word or two describing why you’re stuck and I’ll put together a short list of recommendations!

Finally…

Take 30 minutes to pray and write down your thoughts in a journal.

Last week I taught, at Church180, about how Jesus was less busy, but accomplished more than we ever do or will. The question we asked was, “HOW did He do that?” One part of that answer is that he regularly “withdrew for prayer”. You can see that teaching here.

By incorporating prayer into your life you create space to hear a new voice… God’s voice. The voice you are most often hearing, if you’re stuck, is your own. It’s telling you all the reasons you cannot… will not… should not… did not…. God’s voice is different. He will speak… but only to those who are ready to listen.
When you are listening… and you hear… WRITE IT DOWN!
It’s amazing how many insights I’ve had that I don’t remember BECAUSE I DIDN’T WRITE THEM DOWN! Don’t make the same mistake! Always pray with a pen and paper readily available!
So there you go… three ways to get “unstuck.”
Have you ever been “stuck”? What did you do to get “unstuck”?

Stop worrying about your clothes

nothing-to-wearRight now I’m really busy.

This weekend I will officiate at a wedding, preach a sermon, and then carry out my pastoral duties at a funeral… the funeral of a friend.

This busy weekend comes right in the middle of a teaching series I am doing at church called, “Making Space.”

As I am preparing to teach this weekend, I am reflecting on some words spoken by Jesus. These words are incredibly appropriate for every busy person… especially people who are driven and slightly distracted!

I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:25-34 NLT)

This is certainly not a call to forgo planning, hard work, or physical well-being. What it is is a call to STOP making secondary things the primary pursuit of your life.

I’ve realized this: when you pursue the primary things, you get the secondary things thrown in. BUT when you pursue the secondary things first you may never get the primary things.

Looking back over my life, I see that I have often allowed busyness to distract me from the primary things (God, relationships, physical well-being, emotional vitality, etc.)… and the result is rarely good.

The times in my life of which I am most proud are the times when I have kept the primary things in focus and enjoyed, subsequently, the secondary things.

So as I work through this busy season in my life, I encourage you to join me in processing what takes up space in your mind:

  • Is it clothes or close friends?
  • Is it paper or people?
  • Is it your job or your God?
  • Is it primary or secondary?

Give it some thought… and then take some time to make necessary adjustments. You’ll not regret it!

Making space in a packed life

Making Space1“When good things begin to happen, other good things begin to fall through the cracks.”

That is exactly what happened to the leaders of the church when it was in its early days. It’s something that happens to leaders today too. Things start going well, and then things start falling apart, and it’s often the important things that go first: spiritual vitality, relationships, physical well-being, emotional strength, mental growth, etc.

Look at this story found in the book of Acts (6:1-7) (I’m going to insert comments in bold throughout this story):

…as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.

Believers were “rapidly multiplying.” That’s a good thing.

Meeting basic needs, like distributing food to the poor, is a good thing, but it was falling through the cracks because the leaders were too busy… they had no space in their lives.

When good things start falling through the cracks “rumblings of discontent” will soon follow. Sometimes those rumblings come from inside your home. Sometimes they come from inside your body. Sometimes they come from the organization you lead. 

How long it takes for them to come and from where they come are different for each person. What is always true though is that when good things get ignored the rumblings will come.

So what do we do? Look at what the Apostles did:

So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”

They made a decision to let go of some things. They did not STOP them from happening, but gave them over to others to execute.

Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them.

Look at what happened when the leaders let go of those extra responsibilities and focused on their sweet spot…

So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.

Things went gangbusters when the leaders made space in their lives to function in and lead out of their sweetspot!

Now here’s the thing, if you’re in any kind of leadership position, you are going to be responsible for LOTS of people and details… and if you insist on handling everything you will soon run out of space in your life and the rumblings will begin.

Here’s something we talked about yesterday at Church180:

The things you hold onto will determine how far you go.

If you insist of doing everything and letting go of nothing… you will run out of space, the people around you will become discontent and unfulfilled… and you and your organization will soon flatline.
The alternative is letting some things go either by choosing to STOP doing them or HANDING THEM OFF to other people.
Making the decision to “hand off” is tough… especially if you love and feel the responsibility of your organization, but when you do hand off you will discover that there are incredibly passionate and capable people around you that can do things so well that the organization will be happier, healthier, and more vibrant than when you were trying to do it all yourself!
So are some self-evaluation questions for you (and me):
  • Are good things happening in your life? Business? Church? Organization?
  • Have you taken time to determine if other good things are slipping through the cracks as a result?
  • What do you, the leader, need to focus your energy and time on doing?
  • What do you need to stop doing?
  • What do you need to hand off to a team?
  • Are you willing to let go of some things and trust others to do them?

As you’re processing this, remember that the things you hold onto will determine how far you go!

If you are interested in hearing how I taught this story yesterday you can watch it here.