I once heard a sermon by Father Raniero Cantalamessa at Asbury Seminary chapel. He had a very unique and interesting position in the Catholic church. He was the “Preacher to the Papal Household”. It was his primary job to preach to the Pope!

When I heard the man preach it was clear that he knew Jesus and that he was no ordinary Catholic priest. In fact, I imagined that he was more like a prophet than a priest; and the Catholic hierarchy probably understood early on that he wasn’t going to play the game of climbing the church leadership ladder. The Pope himself probably understood that Father Raniero was going to preach the truth to him and not waste his time with kowtowing, flattery and fluff.

When people try to please other people rather than God, they will fall into a ditch. I have noticed that often you can smell such people out if they are generous with flattery.

My friend, Denny Wayman, gave me a heads up when he said that those people most generous with flattery on a Sunday are the people most likely to facilitate your removal when you preach something offensive to them. Take all flattery with a grain of salt!

1 Thessalonians 2:4-6  says, “For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.”

The Apostle Paul (the author of 1 Thessalonians) was a person who knew God and knew who he was trying to please. If such a person gets promoted or demoted really doesn’t matter—just if she or he pleases God!

So if you have a chronic case of people-pleasing, here is the prescription…receive a healthy dose of God’s grace as you consciously reject undue satisfaction from the praises of people. A little praise from people is fine. A little is appropriate. We all want to hear a “good job” when we have worked hard at something, but that is not where your worth comes from! Your worth is derived as a beloved child of the King! Your “atta-boy” or “atta-girl” comes from believing and obeying God—the things that truly please God.

Your Redemption Resume

October 23, 2020

As part of my Doctoral work at Fuller Seminary I have been invited to webinars and classes and have gained access to some great resources. This week I enjoyed a webinar by the Slingshot Group called “Building a Resume That Works”. The Slingshot Group consults churches and helps place people into various positions—specifically in churches and Christian non-profit organizations.

Those graduating from seminary want to get a job. I am fortunate to have one that I love and am not looking for a different one. However, I know that some of the readers of this blog post are indeed looking for a job. Perhaps this will stimulate your appetite for more training and resources.

The first point the Slingshot Groups makes is in preparing a resume and in a job interview is to reflect a knowledge of oneself. They have seen the primary importance of a person being vulnerable, transparent, authentic, and self-aware as they present themselves to potential employers.

How do we become more “self-aware”? One way they suggest is to get a mentor or life coach. This person, it is presumed, will come to know you well. In fact, it is good to have had several mentors or coaches. Can you think of the people who have influenced you the most? In what constructive ways have they influenced you?

One good and constructive way is in the creation of your redemption resume.

To have a mentor or life coach in the best scenarios is to have a trusted person with whom you can relate your whole story to—warts and all. Their job is to assist you in seeing God’s redemptive purposes at work in your life. Maybe your story involved some very negative chapters. Can you see how God has turned those into positives? What have you learned from those experiences? How have you become wiser, stronger, and more qualified because of your experiences—good and bad?

In finding a mentor or life coach, we take steps in making peace with our past. One of the facilitators of the webinar said, ‘God won’t cover what you won’t uncover.” I like that. Outright deception and lies will always come back to bite us—especially when God is in charge of our lives. Take the steps to share your story with a trusted mentor or life coach. It can be the start of a wonderful journey of healing, gaining perspective and inner confidence.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purposes.”

Without a doubt God authors the best redemption stories of them all! How is yours coming along?

Hovering Over the Chaos

October 7, 2020

One of the ways my wife and I have been encouraging ourselves through the turbulence of 2020 is by asking one another, “Do you know who will be sitting on the throne of the Universe on November 4? and January 20? and next year at this time?”

YES! Jesus will be!

God is not threatened or worried or anxious about chaos. He doesn’t run from situations of craziness and conflict as many of us are apt to. He doesn’t turn up his nose and leave when people get boisterous, rowdy, or rude.

In fact, God’s Spirit hovers OVER the chaos.

Genesis 1:1-2 in the NLT reads, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” (One translation reads, “The earth was chaos and waste”)

The word for “formless” or “chaos” in the Hebrew is tohuw and it means “to lie waste; a desolation (of surface), i.e. desert; figuratively, a worthless thing; adverbially, in vain:—confusion, empty place, without form, nothing, (thing of) nought, vain, vanity, waste, wilderness.”

I confess that at times recently I have felt our civilization has drifted into a wilderness place. But could it be that God is about to break in to our chaos and confusion like He did long ago when He declared “Let there be light!”?!

Author Bob Ekblad recognizes that God’s presence is with us through all the difficult circumstances of life. Our job is to RECOGNIZE His Presence with us. We need reminding to open the eyes of our heart and stir our faith when things look hopelessly chaotic.

He writes, “Knowing that God is creating at the beginning in a place of chaos and emptiness encourages an attitude of watchfulness for this creative presence. Learning of the Spirit’s respectful hovering over the waters before God’s pronouncing light from darkness helps me watch and wait with more hope.”

I choose to believe by faith that God is up to wonderful things in 2020. I choose to believe that new, vibrant life in the church and in the world is about to appear. Let us encourage our own recognition of God’s presence over the chaos and our own discipline of watchfulness.

According to St. Hesychios (who wrote the following over 1000 years ago), “Watchfulness is a continual fixing and halting of thought at the entrance to the heart.”

Before anything chaotic without the Spirit of God enters your mind or heart, remember God hovers over the chaos and He is about to break through!