Just Eat the Frog

I was having one of those conversations with my wife and son. We were talking about something that someone did that would precipitate a difficult conversation. Granted, I wasn’t excited about having this conversation with someone I love, but some actions left unresolved can begin to destroy a relationship. The actions themselves may not destroy the relationship, but not resolving the issues creates a slippery slope that could.

 

So, in the midst of this conversation, my son blurts out, “Dad, you just have to eat the frog”! I said, “What in the world does that mean”? He went on to disclose to me that his boss, a long time good friend of mine, had recently shared this relational golden nugget with him.

 

Here it is.

 

If someone handed you a live frog and informed you that you had to eat it, how would you begin? Would you lick it to death? Or maybe you would start with the head or its legs? Would you dose it first with salt? How would you eat the frog?

 

My friend said; when you have to have a difficult conversation, don’t delay. Eat the frog. Just plop it in your mouth and get it over with. His perspective is that the more he thinks about the eventual conversation, the more anxious, or worked up he is going to get going into the meeting. One of two things happens at this point. We either experience paralysis by analysis (we over think it and decide to do nothing), or, we envision several possible painful outcomes. When this happens we go into the conversation EXPECTING one of those painful outcomes and at the first sign that one is developing, we jump to the final conclusion and PREDETERMINE the outcome of the discussion.

 

My friends advice; just eat the frog. Pull the person aside as soon as possible, and ask the hard question. It will save you days of anxious inner talk that will predispose you to possible failure.

 

Don’t delay. Eat the frog.frog6

Relational Advice from Moses

I have a friend who wants to know God more, not about God more; but to know Him. Intimate relationships take time and lots of heartfelt communication. But, she doesn’t seem to have an awareness of His presence or be able to recognize His voice among the thousands that seem to occupy all of our brains. Recently, she said to me that not everyone hears God like I seem to. She said I must be some kind of Moses or something.

 

Well, no. I am not Moses and I do not have special powers that no one else has. I do have a trained ear that is getting better and better at hearing His voice (not audibly, though that is biblical). The more intimate you are with someone the more trained your ear is to hear what they are saying. And the Bible tells us that sometimes God speaks in a still small voice.

 

So, this morning I spent about five hours studying for a sermon that involved Moses and I noticed several things about his relationship with God. Moses had a unique experience that I don’t think another human being has ever had. Moses got to a place where his face would shine with God’s glory after he spent time with God. Moses began to look like God, or at least reflect His glory.

 

relationship development

 

There is an old saying; folks who have been married a long time, start looking like one another.

 

The shine didn’t happen the first time they met. It happened after repeated conversations and after a 40-day period of prayer and fasting on the mountain. He comes down and his face is shining and everyone is uncomfortable and he has to cover his face when he talks to Israel. Nowhere in scripture does it ever say that the shine went away.

 

What can we learn about developing intimacy with God (and other people) from Moses?

 

Talk regularly even when the mountain is on fire and your afraid. Long-term sacrifices (40 days of fasting) do produce relational rewards. Moses pitched a tent outside the camp and he called it the “Tent of Meeting”. Anytime Moses wanted to talk to God, he would go out there and God would show up. Have a special place where you and God meet. My wife and I have special places that mean something to us. I also have a few places where God likes to meet me. So; talk a bunch, make appropriate sacrifices, and find a special spot. It works for people and God. For more info go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/tablets-of-testimony.html

 

 

Two Big Relational Sins

What I know about relationships, I have had to learn. It did not come to me naturally.

 

Having said that, there are two BIG relational sins that I have witnessed. The first one I like to call, THE BIG MISTAKE. The big mistake may be an affair. It might be an addiction that destroys a friendship, or even an unethical financial decision that destroyed a partnership. Big mistakes can cost us greatly and one of those costs can be the death of a relationship.

 

The second BIG relational sin is starving the relationship by not investing in it. This is the number one reason people come in for marriage counseling. They just don’t nurture the relationship, and then over time there is no relationship. The kids grow up. One party changes. Or, somebody decides they aren’t doing this for another 20 years.

 

I have seen couples that were so in love with one another. But, when things go south, they fight in such a matter that it destroys everything they built up in the good season. If they could minimize their blowups, they would have a world-class marriage. But, periodically they give back everything they have built in one big fight.

 

I am a firm believer that people do change, but, we grow best in an environment that is supportive for growth. We are energized by people who can recognize who we are, celebrate that uniqueness and cheer for us to be our best. When we do life with Math_Couplepeople who don’t celebrate us, who take us for granted, we sometimes stop competing. Who makes you want to be your best? Whose affirmation means more to you than any others? Who are you celebrating?

 

Tina and I have always told our sons, “Never date a girl that doesn’t celebrate you. If she doesn’t see your unique genius and celebrate it now, there is little hope she will when the hard times of marriage come”.

 

Tina has always believed that I was someone rare and noteworthy (even when we were teenagers). She believes that I am a better version of myself than I really am. But, her believing that makes me want to become that person. We all need someone in our lives like that. I pray that you find that, and it is multiplied to you in your friendships.

Do You Have the Midas Touch

In Greek Mythology there is a story about King Midas. He was supposedly “blessed” with the ability to turn anything he touched into gold. He enjoyed this new power for a while. But, when he sat down to eat, he inadvertently turned his food and drink into gold when he touched it. And, finally he accidently turned his beloved daughter into gold when he touched her. He quickly despised this new gift and asked to be relieved of its power.

 

Recently, I was studying the scriptures about how Jesus healed people. He rarely healed anyone in the exact same way. His preferred method was to touch them. One time there was a man with a withered hand that Jesus simply instructed to stretch it out and when he did, it was healed. So, Jesus didn’t have to touch people when He healed them. But, He preferred to.

 

I am especially moved by the occasion when a leper came to Jesus and wanted to be made clean. Notice he didn’t say healed, he said made clean, implying more than just healing. Lepers not only had a physical disease but the stigma and shame of being publicly unclean. They were contagiouMidas Touchs and could not touch anyone. They were restricted in their public activities and when they were in public, they would have to scream “Unclean, unclean” so that everyone would know they were present. In fact, if a priest (who were in charge of declaring someone to be clean or unclean) touched a leper, the priest was made unclean. But, when this leper came to Jesus and asked to be made clean, Jesus touched him. He didn’t just heal him, which He did. He touched him. Not only was the man cured of leprosy, but also the Savior dignified him!

 

Whatever Jesus touched was changed. If they were sick, they were healed. If they were blind, they could now see. If they were dead, they would come to life. Whoever Jesus touched went away with more life than when they got to Jesus. I want to be like that. When I touch someone, I want him or her to walk away from me with more life than they had before they got to me.

 

Last week, I was running on fumes. I was so depleted. I had nothing left to give to anyone. I hate being here and have been here too often. I was painfully aware that I regretted any interaction with another human being. But, I had one more appointment before the weekend. It was with one of our pastors Dustin Price. Thirty minutes into the meeting, I looked at him and said, “You life me. I have more energy now than when I sat down thirty minutes ago.” I had never been that aware of whether people life me or drain me. Now I hope I never forget. I want to be a lifer. Interested in hearing more? Go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/healing-in-his-hands.html

 

 

Are You In Between Friends?

 

I was talking to a friend recently and he said to me that he was in a season where he was in between friends. That struck me as an unusual statement. So, I asked him to explain. He said, “When you are in a drug recovery program you have to stop hanging out with your old friends. It is just something you have to do”. Which reminds me of an old saying I heard about people working through recovery. It goes like this:

 

No old play things

No old playgrounds

No old playmates

 

I think that advice would work for most of us.

 

My friend went on to say, “So you have to cut off your old friends and it takes time to make new friends. There is about a 6-month period where you have no friends. You are in between friends”.

 

To-have-friends-be-a-friend

 

I had one immediate thought and another that came a day later. The immediate thought was that trying to overcome an addiction must be difficult all by itself, but to do it without friends makes me understand why the success rate is so low. I just can’t imagine how amazingly difficult that must be. My empathy went up for people who fight that battle just from that one conversation.

 

The thought that came to me a day later was I bet that “in between friends” principle works when you are being promoted from one season to another as well. Think about it. For us to make a brave move, change our lives and create a whole new reality, we would have to squelch some of the input from our current friends. They know the old me. They have been very comfortable with the old me and will continually reinforce that version of me.

 

But, when you make your move and have no idea what your doing, you sort of have to go it alone for a while. Don’t you? People can’t really go with you, when you don’t know where you are going…unless they are a rare, friend for life. Are you “in between friends”? If so, it might be uncomfortable but it’s totally normal. You’re probably on the verge of a breakout in your life.

 

I am cheering for you!

 

 

A Donkey and a King

Palm Sunday is the day Christians celebrate the Triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem before His crucifixion and resurrection. Today people celebrate with palm branches as part of worship, and it is the one Sunday a year we use the word “Hosanna”.

 

The hero of this story is Christ, of course. But, there is another character that plays an important role in this drama. That is the donkey. At the instruction of Jesus, two disciples are told to find a young donkey, a foal that has never been ridden. Finding one tied up to his momma, the master’s disciples say they have need of him. They loose him and take him to the Lord. Christ is then seated upon him, and rides him into Jerusalem. Such a parade had never been seen by mankind before this. (I think the parade of captives being led to heaven after Jesus’ crucifixion has to be the greatest).

 

I wonder if the little donkey thought, “the Master needs me? I don’t know what I am to do. I have never been ridden before. I am going to mess this up bad. If He only knew what kind of donkey I was, the Master would never want me to carry Him. I am totally unqualified”.

 

But, what if that was exactly what qualified him for this journey, his inexperience? You see, in Donkeythose days horses were reserved for those with money and power. Kings rode horses. Generals rode horses. Throughout Israel’s history, it was the judges who rode on donkeys. In the Book of Judges, we see several examples of Judges riding donkeys, never horses. So as Jesus is riding into Jerusalem, and the crowd is proclaiming Him King, He is also introducing Himself, as our Judge, riding a lowly, never ridden before, donkey. What a beautiful picture of the judge of the universe, not looming over us in a posture of destruction, but unimposing, humbly riding a donkey.

 

Many people make God out to be a mean, impossible judge, waiting to clobber us over the head when we mess up. But, Jesus is not that at all. Yes, He is King, and when He comes to you, things must bow. And, He is our judge, but He approaches us in a manner that we can receive His judgment and change. What a wonderful God. He is so gracious. Don’t reject His judgment, because He offers it to you in the humblest of ways. For more, click on http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/divine-demonstrations.html

 

Racism in the Church

 

Racism exists. If a solution to racial issues is to be found, it must be found within the Body of Christ. Yet we seem to have plateaued or regressed in the progress made the past 50 years.

 

More than a skin color issue, I believe racism is a cultural problem. People are not inherently different because of their skin color. They are different because of the culture they come from and the values that that culture teaches. When people with some similar traits, like skin color, clash, we attribute the friction to race, when it’s really cultural. It is the cultural values we exhibit everyday that create tension and friction between somebody different than ourselves.

 

I live in the mountains of Western North Carolina, a beautiful area that draws a lot of tourists. Many of them come from Florida. During tourist season, locals can walk into the grocery store and point out to you who is a local and who is from Florida just by people’s dress and behavior. Skin color has nothing to do with it.

 

Some people have an experience with Christ and surrender their lives to Him, becoming Christians. But, this act alone doesn’t make us stop being a racist. God has to deal with our hearts and we must learn to navigate our cultural differences. For proof of that, look at how the Hellenistic Jewish widows were treated in Acts chapter 6. They were being discriminated against by those not like them. So a committee was formed to minister to their needs.

 

The Body of Christ is the only place where diverse people can find a common identity that is Racismsuperior to our particular skin color or culture. Our relationship as sons of God trumps our differences, and makes us ‘brothers’.

 

One of the great tragedies is that many white people attend a “white church” and many black people attend a “black church”. Individually, we may be becoming godlier, but this arrangement is not making us less racist. More black people seem willing to join white churches than the other way around. But, because they are in the minority, the affects have been negligible.

 

Our church is predominantly white, though there are some African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans that worship with us. For several years, we had a black worship pastor. I once said that we were a multi-cultural church. He corrected me and said we were multi-racial, but not multi-cultural. We have different races that attend, but the only culture celebrated here is white culture. To be frank, I never understood the difference till recently.

 

All of this is to say, we have a tremendous amount of work to do as the Body of Christ. We cannot expect the world to solve this problem. God’s grace and our desire to love our neighbor as Jesus loves us is our only hope. What would happen if the Body of Christ was color blind?

 

For more visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/ministry-partners.html

 

Do You Have a God Substitute?

I am blessed to have four great father figures in my life. One in particular, Mike Jones, pursues God more passionately than anyone else I know. He is retired from business but works full-time at the church as one of our pastors, for free. One of his passions is helping people find their God substitute. Trust me, if you get around him for very long, he will help you find yours.

 

The definition of a God substitute is: anything in our lives we use to get our value, worth, satisfaction, joy or identity from – that is not God.

 

We were created in God’s image, and as His children, we should get these things from Him. He is to be these to us. But all too often we allow people and things to prop us up. These are a poor substitute for God.

 

It started way back in the garden. Adam and Eve sinned. Because God is holy, their sin caused a disconnect with the Lord. The consequences of their sin were; Eve would now know pain in child bearing, and Adam’s work in the field would be cursed. This set up two of the greatest God substitutes of mankind.

 

We can use anything as a God substitute, a person, a career, a talent, or an achievement. But let’s focus on the two most popular ones.

 

For men, it is typically their jobs that act as a God substitute. What a man thinks about himself is usually derived from his professional performance. He can have a great family, love God and be compassionate towards people, but if he has been fired from the last three jobs, his value and worth will usually be zero. Yet this is not how God views him.

 

Women tend to make their husband and family their God substitute. For most women, how their husband and children value them creates their identity and establishes their worth. But, we all know that these women are way more than just mothers and wives. Without them, they would still be as beautiful and brave as they are with them. They still would have value and a God given destiny.

 

Like I said, we come by it honestly through Adam and Eve. But, as believers in Jesus Christ, we have daily access to the Lord. And if we would identify and release our God substitutes, we would find that God is more than willing to show us our identity and help us see the value each of us has in His eyes. Then we could walk in a confidence we have never known and we could stop torturing all those poor God substitutes that will never live up to being God for us. I love Mike Jones. I have less God substitutes today than when I first met him. Interested in learning more, go to http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/if-we-only-knew.html

Speaking the Truth in Love

 

“But, speaking the truth in love…” is a well known passage from Ephesians (4: 15). Paul is encouraging the congregation at Ephesus to build each other up in the faith, and to not forget to tell each other the truth…in love. We love to quote that scripture when someone says something to us that is both truthful and hurtful.

 

Pastor Sonny Misar preached recently at our church and he used this powerful analogy. He said, “Some relationships are like a rope bridge, others are like a wooden bridge, and some are like interstate bridges made up of I beams and concrete. You might drive a bicycle over a wooden bridge, but never a semi-truck. Be careful the size of truth you drive over someone’s bridge. If you only have a rope bridge relationship, and you try and drive a semi-truck of truth over it, you will destroy the bridge (relationship)”.

 

That was as direct and succinct as I have ever heard it said.

 

Dr. Frank Harvey taught me two principles relating to this matter. The first, “Tact is stepping on someone’s shoes without messing up their shine”! I like that one. I have reminded myself of it many times before I had to say something hard to someone. The second one is even more important. He said, “Don’t confront someone until it hurts YOU more than it is going to hurt THEM”! Wow, that is powerful. Imagine how much love someone might feel if they noticed how bad you were hurting as you were speaking a hard truth to them?

 

People who are confrontational get a bad rap. We, (yes I am one of those people that is very truth-in-love-300x270confrontational), are looked at as mean because we will say the hard things. But, what about so called “friends” that won’t tell you the truth? Aren’t they just as worthy of scrutiny? What kind of friend lets you walk around with your zipper down all day or the price tag still on your dress? Once, I saw a woman wearing the plastic strip that comes on new jeans that tells you the size of the jeans (it wasn’t a small size). Most women don’t want the size of their clothes broadcast to everyone by wearing it around all day. She needed a friend willing to say, “your size is showing”!

 

True friends venture out on the bridge and take the risk to tell those that we love, what they cannot see.

 

We must speak the truth. If you won’t tell the people you love the truth, you leave it up to their enemies to tell them. And trust me, they will. But, we must do it with love, in a way that causes the relationship to get stronger. It is more important to be in relationship than it is to be right.

 

For more info, check out http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons.html

God Loves Me More

I have made the statement that God loves me the best. I am His favorite. But, then I add that we are all tied for first. Cute saying, but is it the truth? Does God love us all equally? Scripture would say yes…and no. Let’s take a look.

 

The Bible says God loves each of us the same. He loves the Christian, just like He loves the Jew, the same as He loves the Muslim and the atheist. He doesn’t want to kill the Muslim (despite what many Christians believe); He wants to save him. Just like He wants to save the atheist, and save the Jew, and all gentiles. Romans 5: 8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. We all were sinners and Jesus died for all of us. One sacrifice made for all mankind.

 

But, then I turn to the gospel of John and I see something else. John, throughout his writings, calls himself the disciple that Jesus loves. That’s interesting. Did Jesus love John more than everyone else? That is what John believed. John was a young guy when he walked with Jesus, probably a decade younger than the other disciples. We know little about his childhood. We do know that when Jesus came into His ministry, John was already pursuing ministry by being a disciple of John the Baptist. John didn’t seem to have a lot of trauma or major baggage from his childhood. We see him laying his head on the breast of Jesus while they are lounging around the table. That is pretty intimate stuff between two grown men. None of the other guys did that. And, most still don’t. Jesus did not seem to mind that John was that intimate or close. We call John, the beloved because he regularly refers to himself as “the disciple that Jesus loved”. Interestingly enough, none of the other disciples ever dispute that.

 

Heart cloud

Now lets look at Peter. We give Peter a hard time because he is the one that takes big risks and therefore fails the most often. He denied Jesus three times on the night of His betrayal. But, we forget that he was the only one who placed himself in harm’s way and hung around when Jesus was arrested. After Jesus’ resurrection, he meets some of the disciples out by the sea. They have gone back to fishing. John is the only one that recognizes Jesus’ voice. Intimacy helps us recognize His voice, even when it is a whisper. John had that with Jesus. But, Peter is the only one that jumps out of the boat and swims to shore while the others row back to shore.

 

Back on shore, after eating, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these”? And Peter replies, “You know that I do”. Wow. Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him more than the other disciples, including John, in their presence, and Peter says “yes”. And, Jesus never contradicts him. He asks three times about Peter’s love and never challenges whether Peter loves Him more than John. So, John is the disciple that Jesus loved and Peter is the disciple that truly loved Jesus.

 

What if God does love us all the same, but we each RECEIVE His love in different levels of intimacy. What if each of the disciples could have FELT they were the one Jesus loved best, but their baggage, or age, limited what they could experience. Is it possible that we begin in our walk with the Lord, with the Peter love? The Peter level of love is grateful for what God has done for us, is thankful He suffers through our insecurities and that He is painfully aware of our failures and betrayals. We love Him because we are broken and grateful for His mercy. But, what if there is a greater love? What if the John love of just laying on His breast with nothing to prove and no limitations is available to all of us? I don’t think Jesus loved John more than the other disciples. I think John was more aware of Jesus’ great love and RECEIVED more love from Jesus than the other disciples. He really loves you the best, if you only knew. For more information, visit http://www.newcovenantchurch.com/resources/media/sermons/get-your-glory!.html

 

 

 

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