How to BEHAVE Better at Work #sanctifyMONtoFRI

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How to BEHAVE Better at Work #sanctifyMONtoFRI

Years ago when I was in ministry (and thankfully I still am – you’ll see why), I was driving on a road in Seattle when for some reason I cannot remember (isn’t that often the case in these situations?) I became incensed at another driver and cut loose in my rage; honkin’, tailgatin’ and just generally hootin’ and hollerin’. And then I realized it: a staff member of my team was driving behind me. She beheld the entire incident. I have made many mistakes in ministry. This was certainly one of them.

My problem I believe was diagnosable across a range of character flaws, disorders, and deficiencies. I was just one arrogant, care-for-nothing dude. In many ways, this marked the first half of my life. And what we give to the world, the world gives back. Now, I am not perfect, but I try my best in this second half of my life to not live that way anymore, to do no more harms. Many things have changed within me; one of them – the certain realization that God is watching… and so are people.

12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:12)

27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. (Philippians 1:27)

I am lucky I get to shepherd and pastor a flock today. I do so out of my many weaknesses, hopefully helping others to not trip up where I have in the past.

I think one thing that sabotages so many of us in the workplace is the notion that no one is watching. Wrong on two counts: 1) People are indeed watching, we get away with little, I find in life; 2) God is watching.

While fear is not the only nor the best motivator towards ethical behavior, it is still a sizable one; add this to your toolkit for life – “people are watching, and God is watching.”

Tell me about an incident where this has happened in your life, either for good or for ill!

#vulnerability

message here:

http://www.wovenchurch.org/sermons/2017/1/17/sanctifying-mon-to-fri-from-strangers-to-ambassadors

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3 Ways To Beat Your Competition And Get Ahead At Work #sanctifyMONtoFRI

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3 Ways To Beat Your Competition And Get Ahead At Work #sanctifyMONtoFRI

A few weeks back I delivered a sermon about getting further, getting ahead, and beating your competition. It's downloadable here, and part of our Work & Spirituality series at Woven, "Sanctifying Monday to Friday". Yes, I'm providing my cutting-edge, biblically-based, industry-shattering secrets that will result in you going farther than you ever have, all if you buy my book for $19.95 and PLUS! I'll throw in this keychain flashlight!

In all seriousness, yes; advancement at work was the sermon topic. But the secret is actually in one word: humility. It is completely counter-intuitive and not the way the world does things. It is not Machiavellian, quicker, more clever, faster, more cunning, more ruthless; it does not market better, nor beat out, nor edge out the competition.

Pause. Perhaps you're reading this after a fresh high, on your commute home. You one-upped someone. You feel good about it. You got to the boss quicker. You made your move. It was glorious. What is this pastor talking about?

Remember Nebuchadnezzar:

"Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?" (Dan 4:30)

His madness was self-inflicted. We, humanity, can be so fickle. On days of woe, we blame others. On days of blessing, we take credit ourselves. This is foolishness. Take no credit for myself; be proud not, O my soul - for God gives, and he takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. And worship Him. Be thankful, and grateful, for our simple daily bread. Glory not in fame and successes.

So how do we truly - from a spiritual sense - advance at work? How do we get ahead?

1.  STOP THE LOOKING

Chad le Clos in the video above serves as excellent metaphor. His actual race was spent the whole while looking sideways; askance at Phelps. He didn't even medal. As a layman when it comes to swimming, my guess is all that jerking sideways with his head ruined his form. Messed up his stroke. What a metaphor for life. Keep looking at the competition. You ruin your own game. Spirituality at work begins when we stop the looking, and do our own thing well, what God has gifted us to do. If we are inflamed with covetousness and comparison, this is impossible. That is when we must fire up the gratitude:

2.  START UP THE GRATITUDE

I have envy. I have covetousness. Yes. Ambition. We are not immune to it. I find the only medicine that works is the slow-release of gratitude. In my experience there is simply nothing else. Nothing else will soothe the coveting inflammation quicker than a slow, regular dose of gratitude. It will ease the pain. Better yet, taking gratitude as a preventative measure, like a baby aspirin daily - will keep the headache of envy at bay.

Write down 30 things you are grateful for. Go ahead. Do that every day for a week. See how you feel then.

God blesses YOU today. Why are you looking at what He did for the other? Forget that; ingratitude is comparison run amok. St. Ignatius of Loyola recognized this: such a terrible sin is ingratitude - it fails to recognize the manifold graces of God to us today.

3.  DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING - DON'T TRY TO BEAT THE DEVIL AT HIS OWN GAME

We try to compete - market better - beat them at their own game. It works for awhile, until they figure out how to beat you too. It is a life-sucking pursuit. When we live by the adage, "might makes right" we die by that same adage; we will be beaten, crushed by it. God's rule still stands - "right makes blessing" - even "right makes might" because in the end, rightness is meekness. Smallness. Humility. This is what God elevates in His kingdom. Try to be anything else - faster, sleeker, shrewder, more cunning - we will be undone.

So I hope these industry secrets help you today.

I share these thoughts with the world in the hopes that it will help someone at work today, and exorcise my own flaws in these areas; I myself need gratitude daily.

May God grace your workplace with you; may God redeem heaven on earth through your labor; and may you turn your city into a veritable Garden once again.

Take a listen here. And drop me a line letting me know how you are advancing at work today. #sanctifyMONtoFRI

- PW

 

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How Can I Find Meaning At Work? #sanctifyMONtoFRI

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How Can I Find Meaning At Work? #sanctifyMONtoFRI

At Woven, we've begun a new series on WORK & SPIRITUALITY, and this past Sunday I dug deep down and preached from the soil between my toes. It was a lifetime opus. Here is the summary of my message in 3 principles illustrating the pursuit of meaning when it comes to Monday to Friday:

1. WORK IS NOT BAD

We get our notions of "fallen" work from Gen 3:17-19 (just after Adam & Eve ate from the tree of knowledge): “Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. 18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; 19 By the sweat of your face You will eat bread."

But a closer search on the theme of work will turn up that the above passage is not the earliest precedent; it is Gen 2:15 "15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it." Indeed, if one wants to find an earliest precedent we can even go as early as Gen 1:1 "In the beginning God created (בָּרָא) the heavens and the earth" - and you can't get earlier than that. Yes, this was work, right at the beginning of creation - otherwise why would God have rested on the seventh day?

So this picture of heaven where we will have escaped evil, terrible work, sitting under a beach umbrella sipping mai-tais - in other words - on permanent vacation - is somehow theologically off. Work is not fallen; bad work is. Work itself is intrinsically good, and pre-Fall. This tells me:

  1. Work is an ideal state
  2. The work we do here on earth is a reflection of heaven
  3. The work we do here on earth can bring heaven to earth

Redemption. That is what the Gospel is about. Redemption of all things. Good work brings us back to the Garden of Eden, turns cities into Gardens.

2. FALLEN WORK IS BAD

The "toil" of work mentioned in the verses above regards work as resulting from Fall, in other words work resulting from sin. I believe any work done by a Christian is sanctified work, holy work, spiritual. But there is no such thing as a diligent, hard working, sanctified... pickpocket. Or a glorious, holy, sacred... human trafficker. The work must be ethical for it to be redeemable. Now many of us do not work in professions in such blatant violation of what is right and wrong, but many of us do struggle with the less than blatant ethics violations, the white lies, the inflated numbers. Remember: work resulting from sin becomes fallen work; these are areas of challenge and honesty for us as we endeavor to sanctify our labors. Ministers and pastors and preachers are not the only ones called to holy vocation. Therefore we must all strive towards more sanctified work.

3. EVERYONE IS CALLED TO "VOCATION"

"Vocation", not "vacation". I don't snub the latter. On that see / hear our teaching on Sabbath: http://www.wovenchurch.org/sermons/2016/8/31/on-sabbath

Vocation comes from the Latin, vocatio, which is a Christian term for works that we are divinely called to. It is holy work, and not just for the priesthood. It was extended to the laity and rightly so, that all can be engaged in a vocatio that is uniquely gifted and divinely conferred and called to. I saw three necessary elements to "vocatio":

  1. Giftedness - we cannot presume to do what we were not created for. Vocatio is to work with your natural giftings and inclinations.
  2. Preparation - nothing replaces good preparation for our fields. As a student I had a natural inclination to synthesize thought in creative ways that people could understand; but it is preparation that made me a preacher.
  3. Calling - there must be a divine element to this. A discernment process, sometimes difficult. We must not only be gifted and prepared, we must be called from above to do this labor - whatever it is - for the kingdom.

So this series preaches from the heart for me, and I hope it equips and empowers you in your respective marketplaces! #sanctifyMONtoFRI!

- PW

 

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Six Ways To Sabbath Better #sanctifyMONtoFRI

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Six Ways To Sabbath Better #sanctifyMONtoFRI

Almost 20 years ago, I suffered my last bout with depression.

And I am so thankful it has not returned: the horrible plunges, the sinking feeling in my chest, the downs, and worst, the fear of hopelessness – that I would be subject to this – again and again. I would never be free. There – there was the hopelessness. Hopelessness of continued hopelessness.

Which is why I began a journey into the idea of Sabbath; from a psychological standpoint, to a theological, and even to a physiological. I’ve swayed between several extremes of hedonistic self-centricism to dogmatic Sunday observance. I’ve studied closely passages on it, from Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels, to the Book of Hebrews, to Old Testament perspectives, and even learning from Jews themselves on how they observe Sabbath. What I have come away after years of study is this:

Which is why I “labor to enter that rest” – to capture the spirit of Sabbath; it is the chief pursuit of life because true Sabbath is paradise – it is heaven. This past Sunday I taught six applications on how we might Sabbath better. While trying to avoid the above-stated legalism, I am also trying to capture the Spirit of the matter:

1. First way to Sabbath = VALUE SELF CARE

This is the beginning perspectival shift; if we don’t value self care, then why even try? It’s just another religious thing to accomplish. Sabbath is contrary to that. It is not about attaining more; it is about halting accomplishment. Valuing self-care means stopping. Here’s an important saying:

2. Second way to Sabbath = SURRENDER. LET IT GO.

Being schooled in graphic design, I approach work with a meticulousness only a lover of fonts could understand… pica, kerning, minute measurements, getting it just right. These are all things that can be slave masters. It is important to remember this:

It is the hardest thing for me to do, but let it go. Surrender it at the end of the workday. Listen to the beautiful words of this poem by Melodie Beattle:

Rest when you’re tired.

Take a drink of cold water when you’re thirsty.

Call a friend when you’re lonely

Ask God to help when you feel overwhelmed.

 

Many of us have learned how to deprive and neglect ourselves.

Many of us have learned to push ourselves hard

When the problem is that we’re already pushed too hard.

Many of us are afraid the work won’t get done if we rest when we’re tired.

 

The work will get done; it will be done better than work

That emerges from tiredness of soul and spirit.

Nurtured, nourished people, who love themselves and care for themselves

Are the delight of the Universe. They are well-timed, efficient, and Divinely led.

3. Third way to Sabbath = CEASE FROM PARTICIPATION IN THE FUNCTIONING OF THE ECONOMY

This definition comes from my OT Prof from Regent, Bruce Waltke. I think it is the most succinct definition of Sabbath. Anything that we do to advance or promote ourselves in the game of life – we are to stop on the Sabbath.

I enjoy board games like Monopoly and Risk. I like the acquisition, the aggrandizement, owning more properties, more pieces of land. It’s so much like life. In fact, in my own mid-life crisis I am beginning to see that life is so much a game. It’s just a game. Acquisition. Aggrandizement. One more hour to get ahead of the competition. One more self-depriving and-God-neglecting day. All to get further. Ahead. STOP.

Sabbath teaches us to protest.

Protest our own self-aggrandizement.

4. Fourth way to Sabbath = DON’T GO TO SERVICE; USE A SERVICE.

I am convinced Sabbath without worship is only a pseudo-Sabbath; I have heard too many people say: Sunday is my Sabbath – so I’m going to sleep in (well-deserved, I concede), wake up at noon, go to my favorite cafe, order my favorite beverage, and take care of ME. I’m going to be spiritual all day – me and my journal – and just “be” worshipful and in touch with God.

Having done this myself, here is why I now think it’s wrong:

It’s all about self. It’s only about me.

And yes, I agree “Sabbath is made for man” but at the same time it is also meant for worship unto God. There is a reason I believe, it is the 4th of 10 Commandments; it transitions between the first 3 commandments unto God and the last 6 commandments unto man. In other words, it is a commandment both for man AND unto God.

If we go on working 6 days but neglecting the worship of God, it is to fail to acknowledge the giver of work. The One who kept us from workplace injury, or the pink slip; the One who gave us livelihood and gainful employment in the first place. Failing to worship Him on Sunday is a form of ingratitude. I believe there is a monetary dimension to this as well, and why I believe tithing is important – it is a form of worship to the Giver of good gifts.

5. Fifth way to Sabbath = KEEP COMING BACK IT WORKS IF YOU WORK IT.

What if you come to church and you say “OK I will worship” and you walk out and say “That was a disappointment” – do we give up on the church? Friends, there is no perfect church. We seek after ideals – especially when we are young – and that is a setup for disappointment. The church is a community of worship, and not about self-driven consumerism. Don’t make yourself a consumer to say “what can this do for ME” – because as I’ve already put forth, Sabbath is not ONLY just for YOU. Be intent on worshiping God regardless of whether your needs or tastes were met. Keep coming back. The music will grow on you. The repetitive message will start to make sense. The odd folks two aisles down will become good friends. The spirit of the service will touch you, you will sway and find yourself moving, growing, worshiping with the rhythms. Embrace it. It works if you work it.

6. Sixth way to Sabbath = STAY IN THE CENTER OF THE HERD.

This is just about the best way I can stress church attendance as a central part of Sabbath without getting legalistic. No I am not saying Thou Shalt Not Miss Church, rather I am saying missing regular worship as a part of your Sabbath is a good way to put yourself in a place of danger. It is not about rule-keeping. It is about staying where you are most connected, most supported. Skipping church repeatedly and missing Sabbath isolates yourself and makes you an easy target for the wolves of life; better to stay in the center; it is the safest place to be.

I’m going to continue teaching on Sabbath and Work with a new series beginning Sept 2016 called: Sanctifying Monday to Friday – A Study on Vocation & Spirituality. If you’d like to hear more in-depth about a theology of Sabbath, I invite you to join us!

- PW

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Sanctifying Monday to Friday

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Sanctifying Monday to Friday

I grew up in a tight-nit, blue-collar, small church of about 200 where faithful people attended week-in and week-out. Sure there was drama, sure there were problems. But what left an indelible impression on me were the hard-working, honest, faithful people who provided the backbone to the church. These were my heroes, among them my father, who gave significantly to the church, and quietly worked away Monday to Friday, pleased and content with his work. He was not a minister as I am. He owned a telecom business.

To me, this was true spirituality. Almost to a point that I begrudged the thought of ever entering ministry myself; why should “spiritual” work only be done on Sundays by professionally trained clergy? It didn’t jibe with the holistic view I was developing from my own study of Scripture. Unfortunately, I didn’t find many who understood this, and I searched far and wide for those who shared these views on faith and work.

I finally found it when I landed at Regent College, ironically, a seminary, in Vancouver, BC. The neat thing however, was that I wasn’t studying alongside students for the ministry only; I was studying alongside professionals, laypersons in fields ranging from law to medicine to social work to art. I thought, “if we could just distill this perspective on vocation, and make it accessible to people who cannot afford to take 2-years off to study at a seminary in beautiful Vancouver… then more would understand that there is spiritual significance to what they do Mon – Fri – and that thus, their lives have meaning, spiritual significance, difference.”

Which is why when I heard about the Reframe Course I was blown away – thrilled. The Reframe Course offered by Regent College (my alma mater) is a 10-week film-based study about what it means to follow Christ in the context of work, vocation, and calling. In the intro video, one puts it well; “God is not just concerned about lawyers, but about law; he cares about engineers, but also about engineering“:

This holistic view of spirituality is what drew me to Regent College in the first place; the recognition that all of life is spiritual, and the rethinking of the sacred / secular divide. Spiritual vocation is not just reserved for those in Christian ministry, but those who actively view their work as spiritual and sanctify not just their private lives on Sunday, but their fields from Mon to Fri. This, I believe, is the right theological perspective.

This Fall Season, Woven will be going through the Reframe course in groups based around Houston. Hit us up if you are interested in learning more about this great opportunity to learn and to grow this Fall 2016!

- PW

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Prayers for Racial Reconciliation

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Prayers for Racial Reconciliation

Events in our nation and in this great state of TX are causing us to shout past each other, and not to hear nor listen. Prayer is the way forward; listening to the Other as we listen to ourselves, all before a Holy God. Here are some helpful prayers of Woven:

The Set Aside Prayer: 

“Dear God please help me to set aside everything I think I know about [people. place or thing] so I may have an open mind and a new experience.  Please help me to see the truth about [people. place or thing]. Amen.”

Prayer for a Better Way:

“God, please show me how to find the way of Patience, Tolerance, Kindness and Love in my heart, my Mind and my Soul. Lord, show me how to demonstrate these principles to all those around me. Amen.”

Prayer of Radical Acceptance:

God, help me to practice radical acceptance today. To receive whatever and whomever comes my way. To resist nothing. To turn my cheek, to give my cloak. To take no offense at offense. Only then will I be open, only then can I meet You today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

And so we pray for those hurting in our nation today, as well as those who serve our communities to keep it safe.

I pray we can use these prayers as a Way to greater openness and to allow Christ to show us a better Way forward. Continued blessings and protection upon our communities and our police.

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How To Stay Afloat In This Economy

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How To Stay Afloat In This Economy

When I first moved to Houston almost 6 years ago we were weathering a recession that prolonged my job search, landed me on food stamps and WIC, and caused a general anxiety over my life. Coming to Houston was like a light at the end of the tunnel for me, and I was surprised to find that the recession had not hit Houston that hard. 

Today it's a different story. I've watched the present oil crisis creep closer and closer to just a degree of separation, where my own job isn't immediately threatened, but I am feeling the effects in various ways. Friends have been laid off. Others consider relocation. It's sad, and hard. But as I dig my hands deeper and deeper into the Houston soil I am finding a rootedness that is hard to escape: I love my city, and I am happier nowhere else. So the question is, how do I stay afloat in this city I love while the economy tanks? Here's a few suggestions from a minister's point-of-view - consider it a spiritual vantage point for your own journey through the dark tunnel:

  1. Build something. Plant something. I have oft reflected on the words of Jeremiah 29:5-7 as a stranger in a strange land: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” These are words that don't twist and turn away; looking and yearning for greener pastures. These are words of settledness, contentment, and trust. Unless directed otherwise, sometimes we need to dig in for the long haul, and it is only in blessing our own very soil we find ourselves on that we find purpose on it.
  2. Say: "Your Will, Your Way." This is a prayer I pray often, myself. The biggest component of my struggle is often myself - the notion that I know what's best for me. This is problematic because those times I didn't run the show, it was so much more charmed; so much more sublime - I just couldn't script this stuff even if I wanted to. Having to surrender my agenda meant relinquishing control and all of the associated discomfort, but the trade-off was the surprising adventure of discovering God's purposes in the twists and turns and redemptions of life in His plan and will. So the best thing I have concluded, is to say "Your Will, O Lord, in Your Way" and to live in expectation and trust of the adventure to come!
  3. Don't discern in a bubble. There are people in your life who speak deeply and see as you can't. As a pastor to my congregation I try to serve this role as a deeper voice in people's lives, and have found that people are grateful for it. I try to avoid telling people what to do, but I do share what I believe to be the direction of God in light of Scripture, ethics, and personal circumstances. For some, it meant leaving Houston to find work elsewhere. As heartbreaking as this was for me, I also knew it to be right. For others, I can tell God is steering differently. The point is, we all need that outside voice to help us; don't discern in a bubble; don't discern in isolation. We often deceive ourselves with crazy thoughts. Rationalizations abound. Get some input. Use telephone therapy. 
  4. Give; don't take. I think times of lack are times of trust. Giving is a way of moving out of our isolated fears, panic, worries. It is an opposing posture to self-absorption. Greater generosity during times of uncertainty may jump-start the blessing process we've been looking for. It may just be the breakthrough - economic or otherwise - to the stoppage we've been experiencing. Give in order to breakthrough. 

So in the end, friends, cast yourself upon God. Get out of your dark room. Stop ruminating, obsessing, worrying. Get your hands into the soil. Sweat it out under the sun a bit. Talk to your spiritual director. Panic not over the Brexit or the oil slump; the Lord of the Storm is asleep in the hold and will not let your ship sink.

-PW

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How Much Does The New Testament Tell Us To Tithe?

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How Much Does The New Testament Tell Us To Tithe?

An ambitious young man told his pastor he'd promised God a tithe of his income. And so together they prayed for God to bless his career. At that time he was making $50.00 per week and tithing $5.00 per week. In a few years God blessed him, and his income increased and he was making $5000.00 per week and tithing $500.00 per week. He called on the pastor to see if he could be released from his tithing promise, it was too costly now. The pastor replied, "I don't see how you can be released from your promise, but we can ask God to reduce your income back to $50.00 a week, then you'd have no problem tithing $5.00." (W.A. Criswell)

J.L. Kraft, head of the Kraft Cheese Corporation, who had given approximately 25% of his enormous income to Christian causes for many years, said, "The only investment I ever made which has paid consistently increasing dividends is the money I have given to the Lord." 

Tithing your income, whatever percentage, net or gross, pre-tax or after-tax, is a big decision to make. We search the Scriptures for understanding. There is no lack of verses in the Old Testament on the subject, but aren't Christians under a new covenant in Christ? Since when were we bound under the Deuteronomic Law of tithing, tenths, and refraining from pork? So we look to the New Testament for direction. But what exactly does the NT say on tithing? How much does the New Testament tell us to tithe?

Here's the thing:

It doesn't.

There are a few passages where tithing is mentioned in passing, but not really as a prescription, let alone command:

  • Matt 23:23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law"
  • Hebrews 7 "Abraham gave (Melchizedek) a tenth of everything"

We are hard-pressed to find any teaching on exactly what percentages to tithe in the NT. But there are teachings on giving. And there the real prescription doesn't seem to be 10% at all. It's a different figure. Do you know what it is? Do you want to know? I'll tell you.

Are you ready?

Parable of the Talents, A.N._Mironov

Parable of the Talents, A.N._Mironov

It's 100%.

Here are a few passages that convey this ethos:

  • Acts 4:32-37 "32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them… 34 there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need."
  • Mark 10:17-31 "go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven... and come, follow Me.”

The ethic of Jesus when it comes to giving our lives to the Gospel is 100%. For some they paid for it in full with their own lives. So there is no haggling over percentages, pre-tax or after-tax, net or gross. It is quite simply, 100%. That is the New Testament Jesus ethic when it comes to giving.

Now in one sense, this is an impossible standard; in another sense, it's a relief.

Relief, because now giving is not about a rule to stand by and keep but a direction, a goal to strive towards, of complete surrender. There is no judgment for failing to give all if you are unable to give all. But Jesus does hold us to that higher standard. Perhaps today we are unable to tithe. But as our faith grows so our giving...

R.G. LeTourneau was one of the more unlikely leaders of 20th century industry. From humble beginnings and a 7th grade education, he taught himself engineering and eventually built a manufacturing empire. His earth-moving machines helped win WWII and construct the highway infrastructure of modern America.  By the end of his life he held more than 300 patents. He had also become one of the leading spokespersons in the lay-led faith and work movement. In the church today he is famously known not for tithing. No he didn't tithe 10%. He practiced something called a "reverse tithe" - 90%. He tithed 90% of his income and kept 10% of it for himself. It was a solid step of faith he took in his younger years to do so, and his legacy continues to this day. As the faith, so the giving.

I don't think Jesus is disappointed with our giving, if it is less than anything but 100%. When he encountered Zaccheus in Luke 19:1-10, he was satisfied with Zaccheus' 50% and 4X amends saying, "Today salvation has come to this house." Now that's still a lot, but somehow this camel made it through the needle's eye: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:25)

So in the end it's not an issue of percentages. It is the response of the rich American that is everything. Be chastened, as I am, by the conscience-piercing lyrics of a song by Arcade Fire: "You never trust a millionaire quoting the sermon on the mount". If there is any prescription in the New Testament for us camels struggling to get through the needle's eye, perhaps it's this:

"Much has been given; much is expected" (Luke 12:48)

- PW

 

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The Blessing Pipeline

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The Blessing Pipeline

A few Sundays ago I taught on something called "the Blessing Pipeline". It was a conceptual crystallization for me after much reflection on the theological concepts of Blessing and Covenant. It all began for me with the experience universally shared by all sooner or later - the sense of being stuck in my life. That can be applied a number of ways; stuck in terms of career advancement, or progress in a relationship, or in some aspect of personal growth, or even stalled financial success. For our purposes we have been focusing on that last one, as we have been learning through a series on finances and stewardship at Woven. It appears to me -- if I may cut straight to the point -- that what we give is what we get; and that is the simple principle of blessing, that is to say, blessing is a two-way pipeline; we cannot just expect to get if we do not give. Here is a graphic illustrating our present sense of stuckness:

The stoppage above prevents all blessing from entering in. Our best efforts and well-laid plans fail because of this. We wait for a breakthrough to come from without, to break in-to our present condition, and to break through our stoppage. We wait for a hand-out. We wait for the blessings. And they don't come.

Often (not always) but often the source of the stoppage is not external, but within us. We can blame numerous external factors - the economy, the spouse, the temptation, our upbringing, our conditioning, but until we face the one factor we can change - ourselves - we will never break through the stoppage. Because we are continuously waiting for someone else to do it for us. And God can't do for us what we won't do for ourselves. Because that violates the simple principle that maturity requires responsibility, and there is no growing up from free handouts and no self-growth.

I am a proponent of counseling and therapy as a means of breakthrough. Yes, I believe that at times in our lives we need some help in breaking through stoppages of repeated patterns, behavioral ruts, relational (and generational) cycles, character defects and flaws; sometimes we need someone to tell us like it is - and yes, hard truths hurt - but it is necessary to break through. We must break through from within:

I apply this financially as well.

We cannot expect to get financial blessing from God if we do not give. Giving is the finishing school of our faith, where we put our money where our mouth is. Malachi 3:10 says "'test Me now in this,' says the Lord of hosts, 'if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.'" And this, if we "bring the whole tithe into the storehouse." Chronic closed-handedness when the charity plate comes around is a sign of a stoppage in our hearts. As the saying goes, "Give according to your income, lest God make your income according to your giving."

Ultimately, the clogged pathways must be opened from the inside-out. But once the pathways are opened from within, blessings can come in from without:

Now in the end, I am sure there are "what if's" and "what about's" and anecdotal evidence of exceptions to the rule: "What of the wicked prospering?" "This person gives naught to charity and yet God seems to bless him." To that I would append "- for now." God in his graciousness sees fit to bless that person - for now. But such a perversion of justice will not be tolerated for long. I've seen enough now in just a few years of wisdom and a few grey hairs that God is just; what goes around comes around, we reap what we sow, and the measure we give is the measure we get back. 

Conversely, begin to sow blessing now, to invest generously, to steward faithfully. See and reap the returns in time. But they will surely come, if your own house is in order.

- PW: 

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I've Hurt People; What Do I Do Now?

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I've Hurt People; What Do I Do Now?

Last week, I heard the remarkable true story of a man who was attacked by a bear in the Canadian wilderness - and survived. For over two minutes the bear mauled him, dragging him off down a ravine to finish the job. It was a direct rifle shot from a hunting companion that finally drove the bear away. After this harrowing episode and his recovery, one of the first things this man did was to get on the phone and make numerous phone calls, apologizing and making amends to people he had harmed in the past.

I find for many people, it takes something like a bear attack - or some major crisis in their life - to finally break down, admit faults, and make amends for their past mistakes. But it doesn't have to be that way. Admitting harms and making amends can be a spiritual discipline, practiced regularly, frequently, and thoroughly. 

HOW DO I DO IT?

Step 1: Complete a FEAR or RESENTMENT Inventory first

These are the preceding steps to doing a harms inventory. The reason is because you cannot and should not outright admit guilt and fault without carefully understanding what character defects you possess. If done prematurely, it might just be an attempt to dump guilt and rather impulsively fix a situation by just powering through it. This is not the way of prudence, and it can backfire, especially if we haven't had enough self-examination to understand just exactly what we are doing to people, and how we are harming them, and it may just be another self-serving attempt to get back into good graces. If indeed we are honest with ourselves, we will make amends that are truly humble, being careful not to point out anyone else's faults but our own. We also learn that the success of our amends-making is not contingent upon their positive response - you may never be forgiven, or acknowledged even. But amends we must make if we are to live a truly spiritual life.

Step 2: Write out a HARMS Inventory

Starting on the left-hand column, make a list of those whom I have wronged. With as much rigorous honesty as I am able, in the next column detail how I harmed them / the type of harm caused. And then in the third column, drawing from the FEAR and RESENTMENT inventories, begin to identify my character defects that were at work in these situations. No other inventory or self-work will be more effective than this column; it is finally facing your wild elephant, and the humble admission of this will remove the pride blocking all effective amends. You cannot properly admit your harms unless you are fully aware of them. Next, examine if you are willing to make it right or not. If not, pray for the grace to do so: "God help me to do what I cannot do for myself. Thy will be done always. Amen." If yes, then proceed to the last column, which is simply, how will I do it?

Step 3: Make the Amend

There are several types of amends: living amends, ongoing amends, and direct amends. Direct amends have to do with restoring justice as much as possible. For example, if I "took" 50 dollars from you and never paid you back, then making amends would be to pay you back directly. In some cases, a direct amends means an actual, well-worded apology with the admission of wrong. Living amends are directed more towards ourselves than the offended party, in that we ourselves - our lives - become living amends. It means changing one's behavior and lifestyle so that we no longer go on offending; so that we - and others - no longer have to go on living with the pain of our mistakes. Ongoing amends are not one-time restitutions, but ongoing commitments to make right wrongs I have done in the past. It might involve volunteering, or regularly serving in some area or capacity.

It is no mystery nor secret that this spiritual discipline is influenced by the Ninth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is truly a powerful and spiritual program. Hear the words in closing from the "12 Promises" of those who, with rigorous honesty, complete their Ninth Step Amends together with a sponsor:

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us - sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

PW

- to learn more, listen to this talk on harms

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How To Deal With My Resentments

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How To Deal With My Resentments

We've all experienced it. We wake up with a recurring memory, and it nags us throughout the morning. Finally we sit down with a hot cup of resentment and maybe a dash of self-pity, and we cogitate.

For some this leads to a downward spiral of "poor me; poor me; why don't you go ahead and pour me another drink." For such unfortunate souls, harboring and nursing resentment is deadly because it leads to a downward spiral of addictive patterns and behaviors. For all, resentment is the bile of the soul.

I am convinced resentment is a daily battle ground and an integral part of our growth into maturity. To live in resentment is to shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. There are many petulant children in the bodies of old people, because they are still harboring resentments. I am also quite sure that the way NOT to deal with resentment is to ignore it thinking it will go away. Or to "forgive and forget" - which is a pseudo (false) form of forgiveness. No, we must face it and depend upon God to help us find a way out of it.

Here is yet another tool called a Resentment Inventory. Like the previous Fear Inventory, it is only as effective as much as you practice it often. Here we list our resentments on the left hand columns, whether it is towards a person, institution, idea, or principle. Again - honesty is the key here. No one is reading this but yourself, and there's no shame in that. But as we get to the middle we face the same "wild elephant" as we did in the previous fear inventory... self

Now before you get all up in arms and say this is just a smokescreen designed to distract us away from the injustice of the other, consider: how long have you mulled that injustice? How long have you been enslaved to that other? Has it helped gain you justice? If so, then good. Justice is a good thing and to live in constant injustice is an intolerable state. We are not prescribing being doormats. 

But if you find that no justice is to be had, then there is no resort but to look at ourselves. For in the end this will turn us back unto our God. It is in looking at ourselves that we begin to recognize our own character flaws and defects - let alone that of the other. As we begin to see our side of the road, God opens up the sunlight of the Spirit. There is no work in the other. Let it alone. But there is plenty in us: I was wrong in perhaps facilitating the conditions for such situations to arise. I was wrong in my self-motivated behaviors. I was wrong in even holding onto the resentment itself.

In the end, recognizing our own character brings us before God, and he releases us from the pain caused by the other. I am not denying that you have been wronged. I am just saying that the path to release is not through them, but through God. And no one can confront God without an honest confrontation of them self. To dissemble by pointing the finger at others "but they did this / that" is to delay the process. "She made me do it" - sound familiar? It's been going on all the way back to the Garden.

Let's reverse the Fall by letting the cleansing sunlight of the Spirit in, showing us our true selves, so we may finally stand before God - and others - in true communion.

PW

- to learn more, listen to this talk on resentment

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How To Deal With My Fear

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How To Deal With My Fear

There's a great line from the newly released movie The Good Dinosaur:

"Listen kid; You can't get rid of fear. It's like mother nature, you can't beat her or outrun her. But you can get through it. You can find out what you're made of."

That pretty much sums up the reality of fear: it will always be present, to the very end, in varying degrees. So it seems the point is not overcoming fear indefinitely - no; it is a natural, built-in mechanism - but rather maturing through it. Outgrowing it.

But how?

Sometimes a good tool is useful. Here is something that might be helpful - a Fear Inventory. It has been used in various counseling situations as a means of writing out and processing our fears. It starts out with naming it, in the first few columns, because without that first step we are only deluding / lying to ourselves. Be honest. You're afraid. But as we progress along we begin to see that somewhere in the fear there is something self-centric, self-preserving - and that we have been turning towards ourselves rather than onto God. We name it - whether it is ambition, self-preservation, pride, self-reliance, or other aspects of the self. These are things we cannot grab at, they are only gifts that God can grant to us in reasonable measure. Were we to grasp at these things as ends in themselves, we would find them like sand, slipping through our fingers. We find as we are letting go of the self, that only then God can gift back and help us to outgrow our fears. So in the end we are directed back towards God, to trust Him, one day at a time, through a prayer, or some kind of action taken.

I hope this tool is helpful. It is only as useful as much as you use it. It is effective when it is practiced, as a tool, often. I myself have written out a fear inventory many a time. I hope with practice, you will outgrow some of your fears, gradually maturing and surely making progress, one day at a time.

PW

- to learn more, listen to this talk on fear

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