Tag archive for "God"

Uni-Tasking

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Uni-Tasking

No Comments 07 February 2011

Several years ago I saw a performer throwing and catching a working chainsaw, a bowling ball and something on fire (can’t remember what).

All at the same time.

While riding a unicorn.

Ok, it was a unicycle, but still, it was impressive.

As you’ve guessed, he was a juggler. I’ve been thinking lately about how it’s a great act, but a terrible way to live our lives.

You and I, we’re jugglers. From childhood we’ve been raised, educated, and exhorted to have this one ability above and beyond all others. College requires it. Bosses require it. Parenting requires it.

Of course, we don’t call it juggling. That sounds silly. No, we prefer to call it multi-tasking. But don’t kid yourself; it’s the same thing – “Keep everything in motion, all the projects in the air, don’t let anything drop, you can handle it, you can do it!!!”

And we can. We must. Modern life says so.

But what about those moments when we need to stop…and focus…on one thing…or one person…exclusively…for a while?

It’s a crazy question, but I think one worth asking, “Can you uni-task?”

I have four applications running on my laptop even now as I type this post, and my browser window has three tabs open. How about you? We are so chronically distracted, that it feels weird not to be distracted.

Ever check your phone because it “felt” like you were about to get a text?

When you go on vacation, do you leave your work behind? If not, why not? If so, how brutally hard is that?

In the last 24 hours have you had to ask someone to repeat what they just said?

What I’m getting at is this: when the situation requires it, do you have the resolve to ignore everything else and focus on just one thing?

I hate to give you harsh truths, but here we go – Your joy in life depends on your ability to uni-task. Why? For starters, your relationships depend on it.

I read a story recently about a woman who lost her husband. A friend called to offer his sympathy and ask how she was doing. At first the grieving widow was greatly comforted and began to pour out her soul. Then she realized what the noise was on the other end of the phone. He was typing. “Typing?” she thought, “Surely not.” But yes, he admitted sheepishly, he had been checking his email.

When you’re at a gathering, talking with someone, do you look at them or are you scanning the room to see who else you may want to talk with? Do you listen until they finish talking or do you cut out midway thinking about what you’re going to say in reply?

Even more, think about what multi-tasking does to the condition of your soul.

Seth Godin regularly asks his audiences how many of them have a to-do list. All the hands go up. He then asks how many of them have a stop-doing list. All the hands go down. We’re jugglers, and we won’t stop even if it’s crushing us.

In the Old Testament, God didn’t suggest Sabbath, he commanded it. (He practiced it too.) Once a week, all of his children were forced to slow down. Lowly slaves, big shot traders, everyone. Sunset Friday night to sunset Saturday night they all rested. And in that rest, they remembered their Creator and Redeemer. They remembered that their productivity was not their value.

You are not your work. You are a child of God, created for more than juggling.

And if you’ve forgotten that, then you’ve just been assigned your uni-task.

So shut down the computer. Turn off the flashing screen. Put aside the to-do list and pray, right now.

Be still and know that He is God.

You’ll thank me later.

OneFifty – A Social Network Approach to the Psalms

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OneFifty – A Social Network Approach to the Psalms

1 Comment 26 January 2011

The Psalms are emotional. Honest. Raw.

It’s odd that in recent generations, as music has become more and more often an outlet for emotion, that these ancient poems and songs haven’t been picked up again.

OneFifty.me is a step in the right direction. They pair evocative images and videos with particular Psalms, usually in a contemporary paraphrase (The Message), to bring back the emotional punch these lines originally delivered.

And to add a social-network twist to it, the pairings are user-generated. You can go read a few and then submit one of your own, an exercise, I would bet, sure to deepen your personal grasp of the Psalms.

The submissions are hit or miss for me, but mostly hits. One of my favorites, is the pairing of Psalm 139, a Psalm I quoted in my sermon last week, and a video tracking airplanes in flight across the globe to emphasize what a good, attentive God, God is. The image below is a screen capture of that video.

OneFifty is a project initiated by Gateway Church in Austin, TX. Enjoy.

Amazing, Practical Grace

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Amazing, Practical Grace

No Comments 08 November 2010

I think one of the more common knocks against grace is that it’s not practical. Grace is one of those words we’ve all heard but struggle to define. So we often leave it in the realm of abstraction, not the day-to-day world where all of our choices are lived out.

Even preachers buy into this notion that grace isn’t practical, skewing their teaching to topics that are more accessible, more applicable.

That’s crazy. Grace is fundamental to good theology, and theology is the most practical thinking in the world. For example:

Imagine God (whether you believe in him or not). Imagine that suddenly his attention is fixed on one person: you. What do you assume God feels when he thinks about you?

Apathy?

Disappointment?

Anger?

Whatever your answer, it is enormously practical. I think that what we believe about God, particularly his posture and disposition toward us, bleeds out into virtually every facet of our lives: our drive to achieve, our defensiveness, our hesitations about intimacy, our vanity and ego, our sarcasm…and on and on you could (and should) go.

So, what could be more practical than teaching or thinking about grace? When people hear (and really believe) that God is good and his affection is for you (yes, you!) it changes everything.

We stop living our lives to be accepted by God and begin living new lives because we’re accepted by God.

It begins to sink in that we’re valuable, simply because he values us.

We cling to the truth that we are deeply loved by God though we’ve done nothing to earn it or deserve it.

We extend grace to others, and freely, because, well, it’s the best example we’ve seen.

Jesus came to give us new life, and the power to live that new life begins, for many, with the realization of God’s grace. So let’s hear it for God’s grace, his amazing, practical grace.

I’ve just begin teaching through our core values, grace being one of them. For more on grace, read this.

People Hate Change? Don’t Believe It.

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People Hate Change? Don’t Believe It.

2 Comments 11 August 2010

The last two posts have been about change (here and here). This post and the next are intended to wrap that up for a little while. This one shifts our focus a bit, and the next one will get practical about how you and the church you’re part of can successfully help people make needed changes. After that, I promise I’ll find something else to discuss…at least for a while!

You hear it all the time, “So and so just hates change.” Whoever ‘so and so’ is, it’s simply not true. No one hates change. At least, it’s too simplistic to say that people hate change.

In their book Switch, brothers Chip and Dan Heath remind us that people freely choose change all the time. Think, for example, about the choice to get married. It’s like asking to have your whole world rearranged, but people wholeheartedly make that choice all the time.

What about having a baby? Ask any parent if that changes things and get ready to witness a good, deep belly laugh. Babies change everything, but, presented with the choice between sameness and babies, people keep on choosing babies.

What about changing jobs? One of my shepherds at church recently made a career change after 27 years. To leave behind the same office, the same schedule, the same everything you’ve been used to for that long is a huge risk, and while I’m sure he had a lot of trepidation about that choice, the fact remains that he did make it.

From big stuff like job changes, babies, and weddings to little stuff like trying out that new place instead of eating at the old place, everyone chooses change–at least certain changes. (About the image at top: When was the last time you saw someone talking on a cellphone that resembled Zack’s from Saved by the Bell?) The idea that people (or even certain people) hate change just doesn’t hold up.

The examples above also show that it’s not the scale of change that frightens us either. People choose changes of all sizes. We choose little ones more often, but the big changes are the ones that bring us the most joy and satisfaction.

So what is the difference between a hard change and an easy change?

If we don’t hate change, how do you explain all the times we do try to avoid it?

Answer: We don’t resist change. We resist loss.

Going back to the story of Abram, the hard part of God’s call was the word “Leave.” Abram had to let go of what was familiar, what was near and dear before he could obey the other command to “Go.” Doing so meant the beginning of a whole new chapter in the Story of God, but still leaving meant loss.

And loss is hard to accept.

In Matthew 19, a man with a lot to lose walked up to Jesus, asking about eternal life. Before this encounter, by anyone’s estimation, he would have qualified as a good, righteous man. He was honest, faithful, and loving. At the same time, he knew something was off; something was standing between him and God. He asks, “All these [commands] I have kept. What do I still lack?”

What do I still lack?

That’s a huge question.

And a huge assumption.

This man who has so much assumes that coming near to God means gaining even more. He pictures himself as an empty vessel that needs to be filled with the right insights, the right ethics, the right habits. In truth, though, he is not an empty vessel. (None of us are.) He is a vessel filled with things both good and bad, and so the process of spiritual transformation requires not just gaining but also losing.

The man is looking to find out what he lacks –what else he can gain–not what he needs to let go of. On this occasion, however, Jesus tells him he needs to lose. He invites the rich man to sell all of his possessions. Then and only then will he have room in his life to follow Jesus.

Put yourself in that man’s shoes. In that instant, what would have flooded your mind? Thoughts of the awesome opportunities sure to come your way if you follow Jesus? Or thoughts of terror at being asked to sell everything?

I for one would have been terrified. I would have replied, attempting to clarify, “No, no give me one more thing to add on; tell me what’s missing, Jesus! Give me another commandment or bit of wisdom.”

But Jesus knows what we need to hear. The one thing we lack may be the courage to face loss.

Warning: Transformation May Involve Change

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Warning: Transformation May Involve Change

5 Comments 04 August 2010

I talk a lot about transformation. (In the past, some of the teens at church would actually keep score each Sunday of how many times I said the word.) It’s my belief that knowing Jesus changes everything. As a teacher I want to make sure that the Gospel doesn’t stay in the clouds but comes down to earth and connects with our lives in specific ways.

Virtually all Christians have some awareness that transformation isn’t optional.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Notice the words “anyone,” “daily,” and “whoever.” They don’t exactly leave much hope of an exemption, do they? The Gospel is about transformation.

If that’s so, then how do you explain the resistance to change so common in churches? It’s a horrible irony. The Gospel is the most powerful call to change in history, and the gathered Christian community is known for being the most change-resistant bunch on earth.

See if you can imagine the following conversation:

Minister: “Church, we believe in a God who makes all things new.”

Church: “Amen!”

Minister: “So beginning next Sunday we’re going to experiment with a few changes in our Sunday assemblies…”

Church: “Whoa, who said anything about change?”

It seems that we Christians are apt to forget that transformation requires change. As funny as that sounds (they are synonyms after all), I’ve come to believe it. We hear transformation and feel warm inside; we hear words like change, adapt, or experiment, and our hands get shaky. What kind of mental gymnastics does that evidence?

Maybe we should start printing little labels to stick around our church buildings: “Warning: transformation may involve change!”

As Erwin McManus puts it, we need a proper theology of change. In his powerful book, An Unstoppable Force, he writes pointedly about what we so often downplay, “If you don’t like change, you’d better not become a Christian. Once you belong to Jesus, change is inevitable. Our whole Christian experience is an experience of change.”

Read through the Bible and try to find one time when God’s spirit moved, but the status quo for his people went undisturbed. Seriously, take a shot. You won’t find it, and my guess is this: if you can’t find such an example in your Bible, you’re not going to find it in your church either.

Ready for God to transform everything? Careful, He may just ask you to change something.

Sunday Came!

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Sunday Came!

2 Comments 21 July 2010

The phrase, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!” is familiar to most Christians. It takes us back to the darkness of a Friday 2,000 years ago when Jesus was hung on a cross and the brilliance of the following Sunday when he was resurrected.

But the phrase is powerful because it directs us to think about our current situation in light of those earth-shaking events. The God who raised Jesus back to life is still at work redeeming and restoring all people and all things, and if that’s what he did with that, imagine what he can do with this.

Resurrection, in other words, isn’t something that happened just to Jesus, but the pattern of how God works in all things.

In the meantime, Friday is hard. Friday is brutally hard. We don’t spend all of our life there (though some spend more time there than others), but all of us spend some time there.

The year that God seems distant

The season when your marriage just doesn’t work

The day you get the phone call

The moment someone close turns on you

Friday. All of us.

Some Christians seem to think Friday is optional. If you have enough faith or pray just the right way, you’ll get a pass from such troubles in life. Others seem to have settled into Friday and forgotten entirely about Sunday. They punch their card each week and go through all the motions, but, apparently, they ran out of joy before they ran out of work. Neither view has it right.

Here’s the Gospel: Friday is real, but it is not ultimate. Following Christ involves great loss: discomfort, denial, death. Let’s be clear about that; Jesus certainly was. But in every moment of loss, God is at work bringing about new life: redemption, restoration, resurrection.

Death. Resurrection.

Loss. Life.

Friday. Sunday.

Last Friday, I sent a message to about 25 folks who have all partnered together to launch a new church in Shreveport, Louisiana that will be known as ClearView Church. It was just a quick note to remind everyone of the time and place for our first gathering. I repeated that we shouldn’t expect too much: we haven’t yet tried to get the word out, and, frankly, we’ve got a lot of work to do before we should. Just before sending the message, without much thought, I titled it, “Sunday’s Coming.”

On Sunday we gathered, and it was beyond any and all expectations. 72 people came together, some of whom I have no idea how they knew about it, and the sense of joy, freedom, and expectation was greater than I’ve experienced ever before.

Sometimes, we have to grit our teeth and remind ourselves, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” Other times we find ourselves right smack in the middle of God’s goodness, and, with gratitude, all we can do is say, “Sunday came!”

God’s work of resurrection showed up on Easter morning 2,000 years ago. It showed up again last Sunday. It has shown up countless times in between, and it’s going to keep on showing up until the day when there is nothing, absolutely nothing, left for any of us to say but, “Sunday came!”

About

John Hawkins There’s nothing better than seeing what God can do with a human life. That’s why I’m the lead minister for the new ClearView Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, and that’s what this blog is about. Welcome, friend.

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