Friday, March 30, 2012

Why Insignificance? Part 2

I've told you recently that large amounts of drive time make me think. Then I gave you definitions and anti-definitions of insignificance. Having done that, we need to answer the nest question; why should you join me in my search for insignificance?

If you look, you will find.
This isn't like asking God for humility or patience, something every Christian knows you do not want to do. There is only one way to get those attributes and you do NOT want to go through that. I made the mistake once of asking for both of those things. Trust me, it wasn't pretty.

But searching for insignificance is the same. If we're being honest, it's the same in both ways. You can be guaranteed that God will grant your wish and you'll most certainly not enjoy the process.

On the other hand, isn't it nice to know that you can succeed at something?

Success comes in failure. 
I know, it's starting to sound like Jesus meets Confucius in here. Trust me when I tell you that I'm not attempting to sound smarter than I am. But consider this, if significance is convincing people that you are important and that you matter, then the opposite of that is where we'll find success. Yeah, the world might consider us failures, but they won't have what we have.

No one likes to be alone.
In case it was starting to feel a little too philosophical in here, let's break this down to a reachable level. I mean for me, not you. I assume greater things about you. The simple fact is I don't want to do this alone. It's akin to misery loving company, but it's more than that as well.

Insignificance is not like a Twix bar where you're encouraged to get your own. This is something like bellybutton lint. You can dig and dig and always find more. And if you dig deep enough, crazy things may start happening.

I'll admit, that last comparison got away from me. But don't let that keep you from joining me in this journey. If you don't want to compare this to bellybutton lint, what would you like to compare it to?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Little Red Book of Wisdom

I know, I know, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. But look at this cover. There's nothing to it. There's nothing glossy. There's no picture of the author, wooing us in, saying, 'Look at how smart I am. I can offer you wisdom.'

I received this book as a gift from a friend. When I first read the title, The Little Red Book of Wisdom, I had some questions. Why is it red? Why is it little? Was there not a lot of wisdom to necessitate a larger book? And why did my friend give this book to me? Did I need some wisdom? Am I ... (gulp) ... dumb?

Soon enough I left my insecurities behind and opened up this small book by Mark DeMoss, who runs a public relations firm. I submit that I have learned once again the truth about not judging a book by its cover. I was hooked by the first chapter.

Mark is a Christian, but he does not use the Bible or his religion as a hammer to say why he's so smart or even that his smarts are better than someone else. It is simply his story, which he shares throughout the book while dispensing ideas that are, indeed, wise.

Mark divides the book into 2 parts. The first part is wisdom for your professional life. Though he's clearly big business, the ideas shared here could be used on any level. The second part of the book is wisdom for your personal life. There's everything here, from maintaining boundaries to surrounding yourself with older and wiser people. He tackles topics like integrity, listening skills, and even drinking habits.

The chapters are short, making this a good book to read here and there and refer back to. Oh, and his picture can be found inside the back cover. I'm sure this book can be found at several retailers. I'll let you use your own wisdom to decide where you'll find it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Defining Insignificance, Part 2

Last Friday we talked about what isn't included in a search for insignificance. But what is included? Just what is insignificance?

Insignificance is understanding
The dictionary definition of insignificance is lacking in importance or consequence. Sounds kind of dreary, doesn't it? I can almost hear you asking why we would be searching for this. In the interest of full disclosure, I heard you in the voice of my young son, who asks why he has chores and why he can't just play video games all day. Yeah, it's kind of a high, whiny voice, but I felt like I needed to be open with you.

While I'm not going to attempt to redefine the word, I think we put too much emphasis on being important and having consequence. If we understand our real role in this life, then we will understand that we do not need importance or consequence to fulfill it.

Insignificance is accepting
What are we accepting? We're accepting our secondary role. And when I say 'secondary', I mean desperately, hopelessly in second. As in, can you tell me who finished second behind Michael Phelps in any of his 8 gold medals of the 2008 Olympics?

I'm pretty open about the fact that I believe God has to come first in every area of our lives. This only leaves us with second place. In my mind, this is a second place that doesn't need a medal and does not have room to stand next to first in the trophy presentation.

Can you accept that?

Insignificance is longer lasting
This might perhaps be the easiest part of the definition. After all, people seem to grasp that fame only appears to last for 15 minutes. Yet we all still reach out to try and grab for these 15 minutes. Why? My theory is that we are hoping that, in those 15 minutes, we can do something that will lead to another 15 minutes.

Maybe you can. Most likely you won't. But you can go ahead and try. But if we find insignificance, I can almost guarantee that it will last longer than 15 minutes. And that's a good thing. Because if we're going to search for treasure, I sure want one that lasts.

Since you're considering this journey with me, is there anything I missed in this definition that you'd like to add? Oh, and are you ready to go?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Defining Insignificance

On Tuesday, I started talking about the purpose of insignificance and this blog and how I can both achieve and fail at my goal of finding insignificance by building a bigger platform for this blog.

And I was just about to sell you on joining me in this journey when I decided you'd read enough of my words for one day. So here we are now, and you're ready for some more words. Words of what? I'm not sure yet. I'll write some words, you read them. Then you can decide and tell me what kind of words they are. Then, if necessary, I'll cry myself to sleep.

If I told you I was on a journey for some big treasure, you might wonder what kind of treasure. You might ask me questions about how long the journey would be, what we need to take along, or if I'd been watching too many Pirates movies. These would all be great questions.

But I'm going to start by telling you what insignificance isn't.

Insignificance is not obscurity.
This might be a huge load off of your mind. After all, you may already feel invisible to many people. You may not want to be the life of the party, but it's not like you don't wish to be invited either.

Insignificance is not being worthless.
There's already enough voices in your world, trying to weigh your worth. Whether you are at your job or at school, with friends or with smurfs (who am I to judge?), or listening to voices of knowledge or just the voices inside your head; you should never equate being insignificant with being worthless. Totally. Different.

Insignificance is not lacking purpose.
I'm not going to go all Rick Warren on you and give you 5 purposes in 40 days or anything like that. But don't be fooled into thinking that when I say I want to pursue insignificance it means I want to crawl into my man-cave and spend all my time playing video games and eating pizza. My job as a youth pastor can give enough of those opportunities...sort of, but not really.

Well, I would like to start sitting back in my chair, gaze into your soul and ask you if you're ready to journey with me. You might be thinking that it's nice to know what insignificance isn't, but it'd be even better to know what it is. Touche, my friend, I am one step ahead of you. Or, at least, next Tuesday's post is one step ahead of you.

If you've been searching for insignificance as well, what else would you say it isn't?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ruin Your Life

Ruin Your Life? Sounds like a book I'd like to read. There's enough how-to books on succeeding. We need to know how to go the opposite way. I didn't even know what the book was about when I agreed to review this one by Chris Folmsbee and Nate Severson. The title alone grabbed me. 

Imagine my surprise when I realized I would be joining the authors in writing this book. That's because it's a journal. Not just any journal. As they explain in the intro, this book is about discovering your thoughts and feelings through creative expression. 

Each day has a creative exercise, then invites you to explore what you learned from that. We're also given a prayer, some scripture to read from the Bible and an inspirational quote. The original authors are not scared of what happens to the actual book along the way, as they believe that beauty can often come from messiness. 

Sounds like a great idea to embrace. 

My good friends at Youth Worker Journal have hooked me up with this book. Very likely I'll be passing this on to a teenager very soon. You can do the same by finding copies at Zondervan or Youth Specialties

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why Insignificance?

Recently I had multiple meetings that required long distance driving with nobody else in the vehicle. This left me plenty of time for thinking. Thinking and listening to audio books. My thanks go out to Ted Dekker, Michelle Anthony and Jon Acuff for helping the drive time to go by more quickly.

However, as quickly as the time goes by, I do happen to find myself drifting into thought from time to time. For as entertaining as Quitter by Jon Acuff was, it was a book that generated ideas. Perhaps I'll review the book at another time, but for now, know that it caused me to think.

This is both a good thing and a dangerous thing.

See, Acuff was talking about how to pursue your dreams and, if needed, build a platform. This got me thinking about this silly blog I have and what I want to accomplish with it. much as I'd like to hide it, I wouldn't mind having a larger platform.

Yes, I'm aware of the irony. I post blogs about how searching for insignificance is better. I tell people I'm searching for insignificance. And all the while I long for a bigger group of people to share that message with. Now, this could sound like mere justification to soothe my conscience, but the fact is that if someone carries a message they believe the world should hear, it is possible to want the bigger audience all for the sake of sharing the message. This can be done without having ulterior motives of fame and fortune.

I'm not saying I do this perfectly, but I have plenty of people around to remind me of who I am and to help keep me grounded. In fact, sometimes I think I have too many people ready to tell me how insignificant I am. But let's not make this about me.

If I were to make this a sales pitch, now would be the time I would try to sell you on why you should also be pursuing insignificance. And I will. Just not in this post. Stay tuned in the coming weeks, most likely on Tuesdays and Fridays (see my blogging plan), for answers to questions such as these;

What is insignificance? What isn't insignificance?
Why should people join me in a search for insignificance?
What are the benefits?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Who's Who

I was just given a high honor.

They chose me as an accomplished professional in my field. Yeah! Me!?!

At this point, some of you are rejoicing with me because you realize I'm finally getting the credit I deserve.
Others are shaking your heads, wondering who even knows I'm here, while also wondering just how big my head can get.

The rest of you already know this was a sales pitch.


The things is, I'm ok with not being recognized. Because it's not about me. Even my own stated purpose on this blog is that I am searching for insignificance. But I must admit that I often find insignificance about as well as I see what needs to be cleaned around the house. According to my wife, I'm not very good at that.

The funny thing is I didn't think I was feeling down on myself the day I got a call from this company, telling me I'd been chosen for their version of Who's Who. So after playing phone tag with them for a bit, they caught me. I wish they hadn't.

After stroking my ego, and my being silly enough to offer some information, they went in for the kill. For just $299, I could ensure that my name would be plastered on a wall, along with others foolish enough to fork over money to people willing to tell you what you want to hear. Fortunately for me, my desire to be famous is surpassed only by my unwillingness to spend money on stuff.

After all, I could already hear people looking at my name. Who's that? Answer; someone willing to pay to be known? The answer is still no. I'll stick with relative obscurity because there are people who know me. Some of them even like me. As long as those people are in my life, I'll be fine with others wondering, 'who's that?', when they see my name.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Radical Idea

Radical. Do you remember when that used to be the word to use? I was so chest deep in this word that I can remember slowing it down and emphasizing each syllable. Rad-i-cal.

Cool wasn't cool enough and tubular was for wanna-be surfers. So if you wanted to express an idea as being worthy, radical was your word.

Now I don't know enough about David Platt to know if he feels the same way about radical, but he has used this idea in a series of books now. This one, A Radical Idea, is available as a 10-pack, for you and your 9 best friends. The subtitle explains more of Platt's focus; Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God.

At just over 50 pages, Platt doesn't waste anytime getting to the point. Writing from a pastor's perspective he wants to know one thing. "How can we in the church best unleash the people of God in the Spirit of God with the Word of God for the glory of God in the world?"

That's a great question.

Platt weaves in personal stories of tough decisions that his church made in order to ensure that they were making the most of all their opportunities in the community. He talks about not leaving ministry in the hands of the pastoral staff, but intentionally spreading the calling and the task of making disciples to all the people.

While Solomon's reminder that there is nothing new under the sun could be said about every book, I will say that this idea of pastors training others to do the discipling work is nothing new. Clearly, this was Jesus' plan when He started the Dozen on their tasks.

What makes this book appealing is its size. At 52 pages it can be read in one afternoon and still leave time for a nap. This would be a good read for church leaders as they talk and review purpose.

I received this 10-pack from from my good friends at Waterbrook Multnomah. They don't tell me what to say, but ask that I say something. In case you're wondering about those 9 other copies, I've got at least that many leaders at my church that I plan to share these with.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What Are You Looking At?

This is part 2 of a purity talk I gave to local teenagers. I posted part 1 here. It is something I am sharing here because I believe purity is not just an issue for teens and that this is something that affects every area of our lives. 

There will be times when temptation knocks on our door. It used to be that people would have to go looking for things like porn. (I don’t say that in the same way your grandparents talk about the ‘good ol’ days’.) The world has changed, something made evident to me when my 10-year old daughter asked my wife, a fellow child of the 80's, what her favorite website was when she was a child. Sorry, little girl, we played outside.

In today’s culture, temptation often comes in your email and is just a mouse click away on a sidebar advertisement. What do we do then?

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.~2 Timothy 2:22

Do you recall the movie A Knight’s Tale? It’s about a peasant boy who attempts to become a knight. He lies about who he is and learns to joust in one afternoon at a championship level. (Could happen. It’s like the one afternoon I taught myself to be a pro-level basketball player.) Near the end of the movie he’s about to be caught as a fraud. Only nobles can joust. Since he’s not, he’ll be arrested. His friends all attempt to convince him that he needs to run. They’ll even run away with him. He refuses. One of his friends tells him that it is only his pride that keeps him from running. 

In a way that only Hollywood can show, everything works out in the end for him. He gets knighted, wins a big jousting tournament and wins the girl. The message is that we can overcome. If we just hope enough, we can triumph over anything with our own willpower.

That’s a stupid message. He was a stupid man, full of pride. 

If we act like that towards sexual temptation, we are asking to fall. It is our pride which tells us not to run. We convince ourselves that we can handle the temptation. God’s word tells us to flee, to run away. This is not an act of cowardice. It is knowing what you’re running toward. Are you pursuing righteousness? Then you will need to run away from temptation.  

Let me remind you of the basics of a story from Genesis 39. A guy named Joseph had been sold as a slave to Egypt by his brothers. Joe is bought by a man named Potiphar. God blesses everything that Joe does, and so he is put in charge over the entire household. There’s only one problem. Potiphar’s wife has the hots for Joe. Here's what happens;

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master's wife took notice of Joseph and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he refused. "With me in charge, he told her, "my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked things and sin against God?" And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. ~Genesis 39:6b-10

Notice what Joe says to Potiphar’s wife. He doesn’t tell her she’s ugly and that he could never touch an ugly woman. No, he tells her of the incredible trust that his master, Potiphar, has in him. He is talking about purity here. ‘My master trusts me with everything, without a care in the world.’ He concludes his defense with the realization that to sleep with her would be to sin against God. His reasons given, he refuses temptation.

But this isn’t a job he can quit. While he may be in charge of household duties, he is still a slave. Temptation has come to him, despite his desire to live right. And temptation does not quit. We’re told that she kept tempting him day after day. ‘He refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.’ Notice that he is running as much as he can.

Then, when she literally throws herself at him, he just runs out of the house. Can you imagine this scene? 

Could you imagine the first person who sees him running?

-Joseph, why are you running?
                -There’s a woman in there. She wants me!
- And?

Listen closely, because this is where the world will not be helpful to us. For those who are not pursuing God and right living, they will wonder what is wrong with us. They will call us cowards for running. They will mock and tease. 

They don’t get it!

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.~2 Timothy 2:22

The message of 2 Timothy is counter-culture. 

The idea is that we need to be fanatical about pursuing intimacy with God. We are fanatical about our water and our food being pure. Why not our relationships?

Indeed, why not our relationships?

Monday, March 12, 2012

God First, Man Second

I'll admit it. I probably think different than other people. I'm really ok with that. For instance, yesterday I was part of leading a membership class at our church. I was looking forward to it.

That's not a typo.

It wasn't because there was a free lunch involved, although it was delicious. It wasn't because there was the potential for new members, which means growth for the church, although that is good on several levels. It was because one of the sessions I got to teach was on the way of salvation.

The focus, for our church and the class, was on God's grace being the crucial ingredient through every step of the journey. We teach prevenient grace, saving grace, sanctifying grace and glorifying grace. Yeah, that's a lot of grace.

So I started it all with one of my personal faves;

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works so, that no one can boast. ~Ephesians 2:8-9

I like this because I like grace. But I also like when it becomes painfully obvious just how much this isn't about us. It does that right here. This grace is not from you. You can't work enough for it. You can't brag about it. All you can accept it.

Praise God.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Finnegan's Way

So I picked up a copy of Charles Kelly's book Finnegan's Way: The Secret Power of Doing Things Badly. People over 50 might think I stopped by a bookstore and actually picked up a physical copy. Hardly. I used my sources to find a free ebook version of this book being offered over at Amazon.

To them I say thank you. To Charles Kelly, I say well done. This book read quickly and in the style of the many smaller philosophy books I read through college. Perhaps you know the kind. A guy down on his luck meets a suave know-it-all who exudes humility and dispenses wisdom.

In this case, the ne'er-do-well is a guy down on his luck and doing poorly with his paper supply business. The guru is a coffee shop dwelling guy named Finnegan, who we never learn much about. But over the course of several conversation we learn new methods for running businesses, losing weight and finding soul mates.

The solution being offered is to do things badly, although that is probably a misnomer. The key is in doing things differently. But I must admit, it was the title that drew me in, so kudos to Kelly's marketing team. I won't give away the secrets for free here. This is a short book worth the read and even more worth some thought towards its practical ideas.

You can find it at Amazon, though I make no promise that it'll still be available for free.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What Are You Running Towards?

Note: The following article is part of what I presented at a Pure Life Event for teens recently. However, the truth is that purity is not just for teens and it’s an issue that everyone deals with in every area of life. Part 2 will be posted next Tuesday.

Genesis 19:16. This one verse tells us that ‘Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.’ This is in direct opposition to what the angel told her to do, which was to not look back. It would be easy for us to assume that this was a simple Yoda decision. ‘Do or do not. There is no try.’ We could assume that this was as simple as Lot and his wife being told not to look back as they ran from Sodom and Gomorrah.

But this story starts long before that.

Back in Genesis 13 Abraham and Lot are living in a land between the cities of Bethel and Ai. But because they are both rich and have so many flocks and herds, the land is not big enough. It’s causing fights between their servants, so Abraham tells Lot to look around. There is a whole Earth here. He gives Lot the first choice. If Lot goes left, Abe will go right, or vice versa.

Lot chose a well-watered land that took him to the city of Zoar, a city near Sodom and Gomorrah, already well known for being a wicked city, full of sin. This begs a couple of questions.

What are you running towards? What are you looking at?

By the very next chapter, we read that Lot is now living in Sodom. It didn’t take long for Lot to become immersed in the culture around him. Things quiet down until God chooses to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. But all of this time in between, Lot and his wife are living there, soaking it all in. God, being merciful, agrees to rescue Lot and his family before the cities are destroyed.

Two angels arrive at night. They tell Lot to gather his family and flee to the mountains. Lot takes all night, trying to stall and get his sons-in-law to come with him. By the time the angels convince Lot this is actually happening, it is almost morning. Due to the now short amount of time he’s no longer running to the mountains, but back to Zoar. The angels’ commands are simple but strenuous at this point. Flee for your lives! Flee quickly! Don’t look back! Don’t stop!

What are you running towards? What are you looking at?

It is now that we come back to Genesis 19:16, ‘Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.’ In his book, Flashbang, Mark Steele comments on this story;

            Fire and sulfur rained down from heaven that day.

            It was quite a spectacle and, ultimately, a distraction.

A distraction that caused Lot’s wife to turn around for a lone glance that turned her into a statue of salt.
Now much has been debated concerning the fairness of the wife’s comeuppance. OF COURSE she would turn around and look back! It was RAINING FIRE, for crying out loud! How could God possibly expect them to be able to run away during a firestorm without looking back?!

But God did not expect them to run away during a firestorm without looking back – because God did not expect them to run away during a firestorm at all. Had they obeyed God’s version of the plan, they would have been gone long before the fire fell.

Lot’s wife looked back because of relationships she had built back there. Though they may have managed to remain righteous in a land where everyone else was sinning (at least enough for God to save them), they were looking at behavior that became their new normal.

What are you running towards? What are you looking at?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” ~Hebrews 12:1-3

Monday, March 5, 2012

God First, Man Second

I am at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. Today is the fourth and final day, so I am pretty exhausted. But the major theme this year had been Breathe.


And while they build us up and encourage us here, they also remind us that our churches have been fine at home without us for a weekend. Tthat can be a humbling feeling.

But that is what God tells us over and over again. He is God. I am not.

Be still and know that I am God. ~Psalm 46:10

Friday, March 2, 2012

Prophets and PK's

I think I like the prophets of the Old Testament because they are wild. Pastor's-kid-wild. People often assume there's only two kinds of pastor's kid. There's the kind where they have the Bible memorized by the age of 10 and only know what sin is based on watching the friends they are witnessing to. Then there's the Katy Perry kind.

But I like to think there's a third kind. They're wild, but in a good way. They have a view on life that is authentic enough not be jaded by anything they saw growing up. They end up seeing whatever they do as a ministry, but they approach it in a way that is unique and effective. Kind of like the prophets.

See, the prophets didn't just point out sin. They would drop what they were doing, lie on their side, marry a prostitute or weep through a warning just to get their point across. They also delivered almost everything in poetical form and you have to admire anyone who spends enough time doing what they do to think up something that rhymes with debauchery.

Sure, I know there were probably plenty of people who wanted to herd all the prophets into some wasteland away from society. Some may even feel the same way about pastor's kids. Personally, I have a soft spot for pastor's kids, especially the 3 that live with me. Sometimes it feels as if I need to herd them somewhere, but considering some of the extra that they put up with, I'll keep my ears open to what they have to say.

Yeah, these prophets were kind of wild. Just like some pastor's kids. But in a good way. It's kind of what I'm hoping for from my children. Have you ever met any pastor's kids like this?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

An Extra Day - The Report

On Tuesday, I challenged us to use part of yesterday to do something for someone else. It didn't have to be earth-shattering. Just something. What made yesterday special? It was February 29 and it only comes along with Leap Year.

It would have been super-easy for me to just use up every spare minute yesterday. I've got a weekend trip coming my way and plenty on my to-do list to complete before I go. But I wanted to lead by example, even if it was small. After all, insignificance is the stated purpose around this blog, so I didn't want a huge story to overwhelm anyone or puff myself up.

My story will be in the comments. Hopefully it won't be alone.