What Motivates You?

Lacking motivation?

I currently feel very unmotivated. I am banging my head against so many metaphorical walls … and I’m not even making a dent. I’m juggling too many things, being pulled in too many directions, and not feeling any level of success in anything that I am setting out to do. Only failure, or what feels like failure.

What keeps you going? Why do you get out of bed in the mornings?

Or do you not?

I’m still moving. Pressing on. (Maybe running on the treadmill—or the hamster wheel—is a better analogy, but I am still moving.)

But I’m having to really stop and think about why. What is my motivation.

To be honest, partly it’s money. I need to earn money to buy the things our family needs. I need to pay off debts. I would love to make money to save for things we want, or want to do. That is certainly part of my daily motivation.

But that, in itself, is hollow, empty.

I love my family. I love to do things with and for them. That motivates me, but much of my day is spent doing things to earn money for our family, so I don’t get to spend as much time with my family as I’d like. (That’s certainly not my own private lament—I’d say most parents who work feel that lacking in their lives.) My love for them is certainly one of my motivations in life.

And definitely obligation, or a sense of duty will push me through when I’d just rather not. When I know my kids are counting on me, or my wife, or maybe even someone else, I will eke out the physical or emotional will power needed to accomplish whatever needs to be done.

Those are some of the things that can move me when I need moving. There are certainly a few more.

Personal comfort is a big one for me. I am VERY motivated to get those air conditioners cleaned up and locked in place when the first hot weather begins to roll in on us. I do not do well in heat and humidity! And… let me tell you, if there’s an offensive odor somewhere nearby, it doesn’t matter how tired I am, I will eliminate it!

Speaking of eliminating… what about when you really, really have to “go”, and there’s not a bathroom within 10 miles? When “nature calls” we can be pretty good at finding our motivation!

Jen knows a kind of personal comfort motivation, too. She doesn’t like pain; any physical discomfort will cause her to seek any way possible to remedy her situation. This includes hunger. She knows that the well-being of everyone around her depends on her not being hungry! Our physical appetites can certainly motivate us—food, drink, sex, even our pride, and desire for acceptance. These motivations can grow so strong that they become addictions.

Personal comfort is certainly a strong motivator.

Another one for me, somewhat related to personal comfort—in an oxymoronic, paradoxical kind of way—is healthiness. I have been walking most of this calendar year, and eating fresh, good food (and less of it) as many meals as I am able. It was something I really wanted to do for my body, and for my family (so I could be more “here”). There is some part that is “duty”-oriented to this motivation, but also, I do enjoy the quiet time alone, and I feel lighter, more alert—less heavy—and just much better, overall.

And of course, the law is another powerful motivation. Not sure if I’d wear seat belts, or restrain myself from using the cell phone while driving, or give the government-funded school system a detailed report of what we are teaching our kids unless I was compelled to by the laws and codes of our various governments.

But the apostle Paul said:

“For the love of Christ controls and urges and impels us…”—2 Cor. 5:14 (AMP)

And also:

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”—Colossians 3:17

So then, love is our motivator. God’s love for us, and for everyone. And being a representative of Jesus—always, gratefully.

I think King Solomon, wisest man to ever live, asked these same questions, pondered these same thoughts. You may already be familiar with his conclusion, even if you don’t attribute it to him:

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!” —Ecclesiastes 1:2

Really. Read Ecclesiastes when you’re feeling aimless, directionless, lacking motivation—it’ll pick ya right up!

So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

(The entire book is this repeating theme of the meaninglessness of everything in life, good and bad. Truly a fascinating read!)

I have no answers. I still feel mostly unmotivated in life. It’s like much of my effort is not worth the effort—it will not have its desired effect, if I am even sure of what that is. I hope God will illuminate me, personally, in that regard. But perhaps he won’t. I know my ultimate motivation—reason for moving—is him. That’s it. Keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. Stay connected to him, the Vine.

That, I know.

But what motivates you? Where do you find reason for your efforts? Impetus for your actions? Why try when our world is so, SO messed up? What does it matter?

Everything is meaningless.

I’d so love to hear your response. Please comment below and let’s do encourage one another with the things that move each of us—great or small—to get out of bed, and carry out a day… and even to do things that move the planet.

What motivates you?

Thoughts on Motivation

Not feeling motivated?

I have been working on a post titled, “Motivation” for a few weeks now. It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while. What is it that motivates me? What motivates anyone, really? What causes people to get up out of their beds each day and do anything they do, let alone some of the great things that so many do each day they breathe. This world and seemingly all of its inhabitants constantly fight back against us at nearly every turn … why do we keep going?

It really poses some interesting questions, and I’ve enjoyed putting into words a lot of these thoughts already.

But then… I just can’t ever seem to find the motivation to finish it…

Let Them Go [Church Book Excerpt]

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookFridays in August will be featuring a selected chapter from the book I published on the topic of the Church, titled, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church—I call it “The Church Book”. If you’d like to read the rest, click the book cover to the left to purchase your copy from Amazon.com! (And, thank you!) Or, see the footer of this post for how to obtain a FREE copy.


Following up on Monday’s post, Natural Consequences, this chapter seems to fit really well with many thoughts recently churning in my heart and mind. It can be so hard to allow freedom toward people we love, especially when it seems obvious that their exercise of that freedom will only lead to hurt. But the greatest love allows the greatest freedom. The Incredible Father in the Prodigal Son story is such a great example of this. I believe it’s truly the heart of our Father.

Let Them Go

while talking with a friend tonight, I think I realized anew a trait of humanity that does not really mirror our Father. On the surface it is not a bad thing. Quite the opposite. But I always wonder when our ways are very clearly not His, perhaps we should take a look at our “ways”?

We are obssessed with fixing stuff. When things go wrong in our lives, or the lives of our brothers and sisters, or others who are close to us, we want to do anything we can to help. And why not? Love your neighbor as yourself, right? Don’t we try and do everything we can to fix our lives when something goes wrong?

Perhaps there is the first mistake.

Life is so much about trust, and most often our first response to adversity is not to stop and listen to what God would have us do, but to roll up our sleeves and tackle the issue head on. Sometimes the blow is too devastating for an immediate response, so then we just reel back and lose any sense of forward direction. Again, we are not trusting our Father to be with us, and take us forward—to go with us there.

When someone we know is in trouble, even by their own choice, the response is quite similar. We want to take matters into our own hands and help them get back on the right track. We offer advice, help straighten out bad thinking, admonish them… and all with an urgency brought about by the discomfort we have with suffering.

I am not saying that I am immune to this. I know I do this very thing. It is hard to watch someone whom I love be beaten down by life, or worse yet, by their own persitently bad choices.

But God does. God allows us so much more room than any of us give to each other. The Father let his wild son have his full inheritance, knowing very well that his son would get hurt. This son, whom he later runs to meet, receives the largest welcome-home party imaginable. This after having made horribly pitiful choices, wasting half of his father’s wealth.

And he let him go.

That is crazy love. That is so crazy, I think I get it, and it still doesn’t make sense. It is so hard to let someone suffer. To not step in and fix stuff. But God does not always fix stuff. Sometimes the greater good, the greater freedom and joy can come from the lower depths of our bad choices.

The ultimate freedom was in the son returning to his father after he had finally hit the bottom. That can not have been easy for the Father. He loved his son. But the greatest good is not always in the immediate fix. Sometimes loving someone really means letting them fail.

So, does that mean we allow our brothers and sisters to wallow in sin? Until they completely destroy their lives? No. If a brother is in sin, restore him gently. We ought to encourage each other to live in the light, since we are new creations—the old has gone the new has come. But once we encourage, once we admonish, once we have lovingly confronted someone in a behavior or mindset that will hurt them or others, we must allow them to choose. We can not make their choices for them, even if we try. God does not miss anyone’s poor choices. He knows all things. Nor does he want for anyone to suffer eternal condemnation due to poor choices. Even still, he does not always step in and fix stuff.

The greatest love allows the greatest freedom. True freedom produces the greatest love.

As hard as it may be, sometimes we just have to let them go.

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This post is a chapter in the book There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

The Masses [Church Book Excerpt]

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookI’ve decided to continue this series of excerpts from the book I published on the topic of the Church, titled, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church—I call it “The Church Book”. The rest of the Fridays in August will feature one selected chapter from the book! If you’d like to read the rest, click the book cover to the left to purchase your copy from Amazon.com! (And, thank you!)


The Masses

Last night we were leading worship at a local church and had a great time! The band were all good friends of ours, and good musicians. The songs were fun. The mood was pretty light. The room was full of people we love. It was great!

After our song set, we went out around back to sneak in and listen to the message, stopping in the lobby for dinner along the way, of course. That is always a hit-or-miss kind of thing, so we did get delayed a bit as we conversed with the various folks in the lobby over food and a leisurely stroll back to the main meeting room.

Once we finally made it, we caught up with the speaker in the middle of his message, and as always, it was great! Packed full of truth from scriptures, and good insights into those. A major theme of the portion we were able to hear was that God is so for us. The infinite God of the universe is not only for us, but he is with us. The fact that such a being would think of us at all, let alone favorably, is a life-changing truth. A truth that God has taught me over the past several years, and that I try to share with every opportunity I have.

What struck me about all of this is that in the middle of a setting that burdens my heart greatly (the polished presentation of all these things)… in the middle of that, there was deep, life-changing truth. There always is. Though I am often saddened with how much effort we put into the actual presentation of the knowledge of God, at its core, there is life-giving hope. We are offered an invitation to drink deeply of the daily life with our Creator, who no longer calls us servants, but calls us friends.

So what I realized again last night was that we just have this thing with efficiency. We figure, this stuff is so good, we want to reach as many as possible. And so, with all our might, we plan and organize, and schedule and rehearse, and build and build and build these elaborate structures (both edifices and programs) to attract as many as possible. We encourage all who attend to invite more people. We plan various outreach events to draw even more people. We tailor the events (including worship services) to be “accessible” to everyone, especially those who might just be “kicking the tires, checking under the hood” of this whole “church” thing. We work so hard to reach the masses, so as to tell as many people as possible in as little time as possible.

It’s not all geared toward the first moment of hearing and understanding the truth. The structures go deeper than that. The goal is to get people connected on a regular basis. To disseminate truth through the vehicle of large group gatherings. Giving the most people the best chance to hear what God is saying to them.

It all seems to make sense. Even as I type it, I think, “Yeah. What’s wrong with that?” But last night, I heard a line, or had a thought, or something that reminded me that Jesus did not try hard to build a structure from within which he could reach the most people. He did not primarily hold public gatherings where he could speak to the most people at once. Jesus’ plan seemed to revolve around close friendships. Make disciples he told us. I have been told that a disciple is one who learns whatever they are learning, and then in turn they “learn” that to someone else.

Where I think we have missed a nugget of greatness that God intended for us is in this sharing of Kingdom things with our closest friends. This ownership of the truth by each member of God’s kingdom. It is the life-changing truth that we have experienced and that we know. Not by passing along a sermon tape (or CD, or even MP3 as the case may be), or even by bringing someone to a large group gathering. Just by sharing life over a cup of coffee. Over a lunch meeting. At the park while your kids play. On an afternoon walk. In the comfort of your homes. Out at a bowling alley. At the local McDonald’s. Not only do we miss the joy of those situations when we pour all of our effort into the structures for the masses, I think we even limit our effectiveness? I don’t like to use that word, but perhaps it’s true? Might God be able to work more mightily through three friends who care about each other, who in turn each have three other friends, who each have three other friends, who each have three other friends… on down the line till each person has a vital connection with someone vitally connected to the Life Giver?

Perhaps.

I wish that we would not focus on the end result so much. On the apparent successes of mass production. While good does come of it, I think we are missing the most important piece of being friends with God—sharing that friendship with his other friends. Directly. Not like watching a movie together, where we sit in the same row next to each other, as we learn about God. But directly sharing our lives, the daily learnings from God, the struggles, the successes, the hum drum and the magnificent.

That is the goal of our structures, but it seems to be missing as so much of our life and energy is poured into feeding the structure. Making it bigger and better, so as to reach more people.

Maybe we could be better spent?

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This post is a chapter in the book There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

Living In Perfect Harmony [Church Book Excerpt]

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookAs I mentioned here last week, I published a book on the topic of the Church, titled, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church—I call it “The Church Book”.

As I was recently revisiting this book, I came across a chapter or two that I wanted to share again.

And so that is what I’m doing again here today!

Today’s post is particularly interesting in light of two previous posts this week, Our Experience at the Hill Cumorah Pageant and The Need to Be Right (Can Be So Wrong!).

This is the official book version—the chapter from the book. As such, it’s been edited, partially re-written, and should be a tad more complete than the original posting on the blog in 2005.

If you’d like to get the whole book, please click the Bookstore tab at the top of the page, and you can purchase a copy through Amazon. Thanks!

(Want to read the back cover?)

And now, “Living In Perfect Harmony”


Living In Perfect Harmony

Last night I had a conversation with a friend about some of the choices we have made recently in how we live out our relationship with Jesus. Our close friends know how we have struggled recently with the current (and long-standing) set up of the “church”. How it frustrates us that we have tied our weekly programmed gatherings into the essence of who we are as the church, and things of that nature. This friend disagrees with our conclusions, and just wanted to ask me about some scriptures, in a slightly confrontational way. (Not bad confrontation. No malice was evident, only concern for a friend.)

Well, we went around a few times on a few scriptures, and ideas and practices that some would consider essential, others might not. We definitely had differing conclusions on similar scriptures. Again, we did not throw punches, but there did not appear to be any reconciling of our intellectual differences.

And to my friend, they seemed important. Very important.

So I tried to make a break in the conversation and get us out of the loop of arguing our different vantage points on truth, and try to come to some agreement. Even an agreement to disagree. We agreed to continue the discussion at a later date. That was at least a good step I think.

I still believe that if we argue “truth”, it will only cause relational friction. I have a few friends who are at least skeptics, and on many days they are more like atheists who need to speak their mind to God. (Which is at least a little ironic.) But what I have noticed is that when viewpoints are in such stark opposition, the arguing is mostly just wasting time. No opinion will be swayed by such banter. No “truth” will be settled by an argument. I really believe that nothing can be gained in such a confrontation.

They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong, the Lord's power will help them do as they should.(Note: That is not to say there is no place for confrontation. If there is a person whom you love who is clearly doing something that will harm them, there is a place for direct and unpleasant confrontation. It most likely will not resolve the issue at that moment, but can certainly lead to better choices down the road. If, as in everything, it is done “in love”. Real love. Not just, “I say this in love” love.)

It has become obvious to me that the only way the give and take can happen in relationships is when differences are 1) accepted and 2) discussed when not in conflict. If there is any hint of “I’m right, you’re wrong” then no relational progress will be made. And again, the emphasis should be on relational progress and not on intellectual, factual “truth” progress. In my opinion.

So after that conversation, I just realized how incredibly different we were. (At least, in the specific area of life we were discussing.) And actually, how badly I had responded. He brought a few things into the conversation that I personally think are silly, void of meaning practices, and, unfortunately, I laughed as he brought them up. I was only thinking of me at that point (I was slightly on the defensive, I suppose, too) and I reacted as though he were not a person capable of being hurt. I hope he was not, but I realized after he left (very much to my chagrin) that I had reacted very unlovingly to some things that he holds to be very important.

As I thought about it more—both my reaction and the issues he raised—I recalled a chapter in the letter Paul wrote to the church in Rome about the very thing we were discussing. And, again, my reactions in that conversation.

I read it today, and I was blown away by the applicable truths I found. I need to quote large chunks of scripture below. Please do read it all, and I will add my comments as we go.

Romans 14:1-4
Accept Christians who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it is all right to eat anything. But another believer who has a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who think it is all right to eat anything must not look down on those who won’t. And those who won’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should.

Oh wow. I have read this before, and in Bible college, it was a good source of humor to say that, “Vegetarians have weak faith!” That’s obviously not the point, and the comment was made in jest, but funny how even in jest we were criticizing, as Paul is warning us not to do.

Two things. One, don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. And two, to whom do we belong?.

First, as I mentioned to my friend, I really don’t think arguments over what is right or wrong will really go anywhere. God has given us much more freedom than the institution of the church is able to allow for. An institution, by nature, must have some set of guidelines or principals to adhere to that separate it from any other organization, and society at large. Otherwise, it would have no reason to exist. So there is a bit of conformity necessary for its very existence. But that is not so of Jesus’ body. We do not conform to the pattern of this world, but we are transformed by him.

Therein lies the other, deeper truth.

He does it. It’s his body. His church. He knows his servants, and he will lead them. This theme is present through this entire section of Paul’s letter. Who are we to question the practices or beliefs of another brother or sister (that are not specifically against the revealed will of God for all of us) in any matter? Paul says they (we) are “God’s servants.” The owner is not the person in question. Nor can they, nor should they be controlled by other servants. The Owner is Jesus Christ.

Listen to this powerful line again:

They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should.

Wow. What if we really lived that way? What if we really trusted God to take care of his own people? They are not responsible to you, or me, or any group of elders, pastors, apostles, or anyone else who cares to wield the authority of a title over them. They are personally responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should.

I say this with such emphasis because I think this piece is so lacking from our corporate life together. Even our individual lives with God. We really don’t believe he’ll do it. We know he can, but in order to be responsible, and keep things going in a good direction, we have to make things happen. We can’t trust God to speak truth into someone’s life. We need to do it. And when the task grows too large, we arrange any sort of structure—rigid or not—to implement that “back-up” plan.

In short, we don’t allow room for Holy Spirit to convict and transform people, we feel like we need to do that. Because he won’t.

Well who do we think we are?

Amazing stuff. Please read on.

Rom 14:5-9
In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. Each person should have a personal conviction about this matter. Those who have a special day for worshiping the Lord are trying to honor him. Those who eat all kinds of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who won’t eat everything also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose, so that he might be Lord of those who are alive and of those who have died.

Arguing from the same line of thinking, Paul partially turns his focus from food to a subject that hits much closer to home currently. He says that some Christians have a special day for worshipping. And he does not say this is good or bad. He says it just is. But what we do with that is where the good or bad arises. We should not condemn someone for not holding a certain day sacred, or worshipping on the day we do. Nor should we condemn someone who does have a “special day for worshipping the Lord.” That line obviously hit home, as one thing that irks me about our current structure is the emphasis we place on Sunday. How we even call it both the Sabbath and the first day of the week, which are incompatible terms. (Sabbath was Saturday, while the first day was Sunday, and in our culture, I’d say the first day would be Monday.) But again, the details are not important. Paul says, “Each person should have a personal conviction about this matter.” Whoa! Really? Is that how we live corporate Christian life today? I don’t think so. I think because of the nature of a large institution, we require a bit of conformity, that Paul says here is unhealthy to individuals and to the body.

Romans 14:10-13
So why do you condemn another Christian? Why do you look down on another Christian? Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say,
   
    “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
    ‘every knee will bow to me
       and every tongue will confess allegiance to God.’”

Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God. So don’t condemn each other anymore. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not put an obstacle in another Christian’s path.

I just want to point out again that Paul is emphasizing that we are not to call each other to a life according to your own conscience, but to their own conscience. He says we will each give a personal account to God. So, if I do something because you tell me to, even if that doesn’t really match what I am thinking or hearing from God or my understanding of Scripture—if it goes against my conscience—then I will have to answer to God for doing something that I did not think was right.

But at least my helpful Christian brothers and sisters will think I am right. I look like them.

We do not own other people, or have a say in what is right or wrong for them. Nor do they. They answer personally, and directly to their Master and their Father.

Romans 14:14-19
I know and am perfectly sure on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. And if another Christian is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. Then you will not be condemned for doing something you know is all right.

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God. And other people will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

I think that’s it. I think, as I mentioned at the top, that relationship is the key. Not an intellectual understanding of truth, but neither is it devoid of any absolute truth. It is the truth applied in love and lived out in relationship. As Paul says, aiming for harmony as we build each other up. I do like how he uses the words “aim” and “try”. He knows we are all flawed. Every one of us. So complete harmony is impossible. But it should be our aim to only speak words of love that build up and encourage harmony among us.

It is interesting to note that Paul actually makes a definitive statement regarding the morality of what we eat or drink. He says he knows for sure from Jesus that everything is OK. And yet, that absolute knowledge of truth can not supersede relationship. The relationship is paramount. Not the intellectual truth.

Also, he reminds us that the Kingdom is not a matter of what we eat or drink—or what days we hold as special, or even what we do on those days, I suppose—he says it is a matter of living a life of goodness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Again, the focus is not on a factual truth, but a life of love toward one another directed by Holy Spirit—not requirements or restrictions placed on us by others.

Romans 14:20-23
Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, there is nothing wrong with these things in themselves. But it is wrong to eat anything if it makes another person stumble. Don’t eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another Christian to stumble. You may have the faith to believe that there is nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves by doing something they know is all right. But if people have doubts about whether they should eat something, they shouldn’t eat it. They would be condemned for not acting in faith before God. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.

I noticed that Paul specifically included drink wine in here. There is a taboo associated with alcohol among some groups of Christians in America these days. I wonder if the same was true in Rome in the first century? Well, Paul’s truth then applies the same today. Jesus says there is nothing inherently wrong with any food or drink, but as he has led each individual, so must they choose. If it’s wrong for you, don’t do it. If it’s wrong for the brothers or sisters you are with, don’t do it. Food or drink—or your own freedom—is not worth the conscience of a fellow believer.

What an interesting chapter. It has given me pause again to consider my reactions to things spoken of, or done by the believers whose lives I come across. God is working in their lives, and who am I to say how they live out their relationship with him is either good or bad?

Please don’t interpret the words in this book that way. That is not my intent. I do not want followers. I don’t want to convince anyone that I am right about anything. This is a place where I get to work out stuff that Father is teaching and working in me, and I hope that by sharing it here, perhaps you may hear something from him as well. But it is certainly not intended to be taken at face value and applied to your life.

I am not your teacher. I am not your master. I am only a fellow servant, who longs to know and follow our Master, and our Friend. He is who I answer to, and so do you. Not anyone else who would presume to take his place. Listen to him, and follow him. Do as your conscience tells you to on matters where he has given us freedom.

Some might balk at that. In fact, I know they would. That, they say, will lead to anarchy. But it won’t. Listen to Paul’s claim one more time:

They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should.

We rob each other of so much joy in directly following the Head, our Shepherd, our Master. He can, he does, and he will rightly lead us to Truth. To Him.

I supposed that is my challenge. To me, and to you. Let’s allow each other to live out a life directed personally by Jesus. Let’s use our words to encourage and build up, not to condemn a fellow believer when that is so clearly not our place.

You do not belong to me, nor do I belong to you. Together, we follow Jesus. And none other.


This post is a chapter in the book There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

The Need to Be Right (Can Be So Wrong!)

Right vs. WrongSomehow, through the centuries and millennia of history, religious folk have gotten the notion that the supreme goal of their spiritual pursuit is to know the right answer—to find and know the Truth. With a capital ‘T’.

Certainly a goal of spiritual hunger is to find answers, enlightenment, and ‘truth’.

But just what that means—”What is truth?”, to quote Pontius Pilate—has been, and continues to be, the cause of such great fracture.

The Focus Is Wrong

If you take a photo of someone, but somehow you focus on the background rather than the subject (the person), you end up with a picture of the wrong thing. What you intended to capture is blurry and secondary, while the extraneous surrounding is what your eye is drawn to. The intended subject is still present, but it’s secondary and you must look hard to find it.

Truth is certainly important. You can do a search through Scripture right now for the word “truth” and, my goodness, the results are plentiful!

But Jesus said:

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!”—John 5:39

And…

“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”—John 14:6

Jesus spells it out: he is Truth. Truth is not a concept, or a list of correct answers, doctrines, beliefs, practices—it’s a person. The person of Jesus.

His Kingdom is so much less about the what (what we should or shouldn’t do) or the where (church, temple, Israel, etc.) and so much more about the whom (God, others) and the why (because he loves us).

Arguments

But we keep making “truth” about what we know, and especially our interpretations of it, don’t we?

Why do you think there are so many religions? How about just within Christianity? There are approximately 41,000 organizations who call themselves Christians, but separate themselves as “different” from the other 40,999.

We make our differences much more important than what we hold in common.

¡Ay, ay, ay!

The words Paul wrote to Timothy would be helpful to folks today who argue over “truth”:

Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.—2 Timothy 2:23-25

The point is that we need to care much less—almost to the point of not caring—about being right and much more about living as greatly loved children of God, loving his other children—and I mean all of them. (Whether or not we agree with them. On anything!)

When we are “right” it makes us smug, self-righteous, and somehow “different” than “them”. Which is not how it is. We are all in the same boat. All in need of grace. All made in the image of God. And all given the ability to freely choose to know him, or not. (And the best part might be that He himself doesn’t seem to be in as much of a rush for us to “get it right” as most people who identify themselves by his name!)

What It’s All About

I read a blog post this morning at Donald Miller’s blog (by a guest author) that ended with this paragraph:

Amazing grace binds us with its simple message that keeps us together. Despite our differences, we are a people tied to each other in love. So we will keep singing “Amazing Grace” and we keep kneeling in the waters of grace so we can always love one another.

The author told the story of how she always thought better of herself for her distinguished taste in music for not liking the song Amazing Grace. However, in one moment when she saw that through the song community/unity was experienced and enjoyed, it was an epiphany for her of what really matters. Not the “truth” of a song’s worth, but each other, and sharing and celebrating what we have in common—made possible through grace.

You see, that’s what this is all about.

We can either hold our ground and fight for “the truth”, OR, we can accept the Truth that God loves every person he created, more than we can possibly imagine, and it’s not our job to change them, convert them, save them, or even condemn them. That’s all his job. We are just to surrender ourselves completely to him, follow him, and as he leads, use every opportunity he places before us to love other people as we ourselves have been loved.

That’s really it.

It’s not about whether baptism saves you, or if you’ve received the gift of the Holy Spirit, or if Allah is the same God that Christians worship, or if Mormons are Christians. It’s not about when and how Jesus will return, whether you are “Once Saved, Always Saved”, free will or predestination.

It’s just not.

It’s about loving God (because you are loved) and loving others.1

In Ephesians, Paul exhorts the believers there to be united, despite their differences. I love the line from early in that chapter, “Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Perfectly said, and oft-repeated in our home.

Listen to how he concludes those thoughts:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.—Ephesians 4:31-32

Yes. Please. Let’s do.

Sometimes We ‘Get it Right’

Now go get a box of tissues, and read this article. 21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity.

Sometimes we transcend the “need to be right” and cross boundaries that we’re “not supposed to cross”, and we just love. Really love.

I believe, that’s who we are meant to be.

We’re not meant to be the ones who are Right. We are meant to know the One who makes Right.


I rediscovered a very related (and pretty funny!) post from this blog’s past. If you have the interest and time to read more, please read Be A Christian!! And, somewhat related: check out this post from even longer ago!

Bee-Do, Bee-Do

Bee-do, bee-do, bee-do | Despicable Me 2“You’re a human being, not a human doing!”

Perhaps you’ve heard, or read that somewhere? I have. It’s clever, and correct—albeit somewhat cliche. A quick search of the web will confirm its ubiquitous usage.1

The reason for such widespread repeating? We tend to focus on the things we do, more than the things we are.

It creeps into every area of life. It’s a subtle form of prejudice, you might say. You’ve likely also heard the verse, “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”2 It’s in our nature to make snap judgments based on what we can see on the outside. And though what is visible does proceed from the invisible character underneath, things are not always what they seem.

And so we have this focus on the external—the “doings”.

One of the first questions we ask when meeting someone is, “So what do you do?” Obviously this is an innocent question, meant to spur further conversation, but it does reveal the emphasis on what we do, rather than who we are—our character, our being.

Is there a distinction? Can we be something and not do that? Or, can we do something without being that?

Good questions, but perhaps this is better: Which has more lasting importance, what we do, or who we are?

Somehow we are frequently tricked into focusing on the former.

(Maybe the best question is, “To be or not to be”… I mean, Shakespeare said THAT is the question… but I digress.)

I know as a parent I often fall into the trap of correcting my kids’ behavior, rather than remembering to get to the heart of what is causing their actions. And I’m not talking about making excuses here: Hitting your sister can not be excused, even if you are tired or hungry. What is important is remembering that Sister is a person, and when you’re being considerate of others (note the use of the word “being”), I’m pretty sure you can’t hit them.

It’s not limited to parenting, of course. In our own lives we know there are things that we do (or don’t do) that bother us, and perhaps we are wishing we had the power to correct those things. But instead of focusing on correcting the actions—the “doings”—often the solution is a deeper trust in Father to provide for us. We lie because we think the truth might damage our reputation, we take what is not ours (steal) because we don’t think we’ll be OK without it, and so on.

But the heart is what matters. Who I am is more important than what I do, or do not do.

I believe we, Christians, have for so long seen life with Jesus as a code of ethics (meaning a list of acceptable behaviors), that we don’t know how to be. We judge others—and our own selves—on how we conduct ourselves.

But Jesus didn’t say “get this right”, he said love. He said, Be glad you realize your need for your Father, and that you long for justice and mercy and peace, even though you are persecuted for this. It means you are mine.3

It is all about being, not doing.

The other side of the coin, of course, is that who we are determines what we do. That is most certainly true. And this is the key. The cause of the “doing” comes from our “being”.

This is so important.

That’s why Paul said:

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”4

Let God transform you. Changing the way you think. Being transformed from within. This is what matters. It’s what comes first. Our actions, our behaviors—flow from this transformation, and thus, are not the primary cause of it.

Paul also said:

So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.

Exactly. It’s not helpful to focus on (correcting) the things we do. Changing behavior does not change our “evil desires”.

The only answer is a common refrain here at this blog: Know the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom he sent.

Everything else flows from this.

You are a Child of God. You are his beloved. You are whatever unique piece of your being makes you “you”.

So rest, and be. The “dos” will flow from your being.


Note: The Minion pictured at the top of this post has nothing at all to do with the content of this post. The newly-released movie, Despicable Me 2, features a scene (highlighted in their trailer) of a Minion making the european siren sound, which in Minion-ese comes out, “bee-doh, bee-doh, bee-doh”. AND, which is also hilarious. See? 🙂

  1. Strangely, after a reasonably thorough search of the interwebs, I was unable to determine its origin, or any consensus on a first use. How odd.
  2. From 1 Samuel 16:7.
  3. Not a direct quote, but my own summary of Jesus thoughts from Matthew 5.
  4. It’s interesting to note that a few translations of Romans 12:2 take what is written here about being able to know the will of God and make it say “so that you can do”. Our bias towards the external is revealed in the translations from the original language. Fascinating!

Roots

tree_with_rootsDeep under the flourishing leaves, and the towers branches, and the succulent fruits which garner all the deserved and proper attention, are the roots.

Hidden roots spread far and wide, providing the foundation of what you see above the ground. The visible draws from its roots the beginnings of its life, mixed with the elements added to it above, producing that which we know and see and of which we partake.

This is not only a simple overview of the biological processes of flora—it’s also true of us.

This past week we spent many hours and days intentionally tapping into my roots. There were celebrations of decades of marriage and long decades of life. My mother’s oldest sister celebrated fifty years of marriage, and my father’s father celebrated ninety years of breathing the air of this planet. Both occasions worthy to note and commemorate.

As these were noteworthy events, they drew family from far and wide. Relatives from many branches of the tree assembled in one of the main roots. The branches now extend far across this country and the next, but just one, or two, or three generations back, all seem to find their roots in Southwestern Ohio.

And so that is where we gathered. At the root.

But it’s not just a place. The roots were remembered through stories and photos and more stories as we gathered in this place.

Stories of a grandpa that I really don’t know—he died when I was barely a teenager, and was mostly estranged from all of his family for much of my mother’s life.

Stories of a tall, kind, gentle great-grandpa—a cherished favorite of my oldest aunt. After hearing the stories, I would have loved to have met and known him, too.

Stories of current generations of family whom, because of geographic distance, we only see very infrequently. Learning of the lives they currently lead upon their various branches of the tree.

Stories of a distant, foreign land which was once my home. Different language, different culture, but part of my root system. And thankfully, plenty of time to enjoy tales from, and new friends from this part of my roots.

New Faces of those who also share this tree whom I have either not seen since my childhood, or some whom I have not ever met. Most of those gathering to celebrate the man who is father to my father completing nine decades of life.

Stories of relatives I only know as a concept. Not always positive stories. Life is messy.

But it is part of my root system.

What a week. So full of life, present and past. Embraces, laughs, even tears. Tapping nearly every root, drinking deeply of as much as we could soak up in seven short days.

And we are full. We leave refreshed, replenished.

And still wanting more.

Thankfully, this is not an end. Not yet. There will be an end. A turning of the page. And a new page beginning. New branches. New fruit.

But the same roots.

Today I am thankful for roots. And I want to know more. Explore different root systems. Deeper root systems. Even just look closer at those we tapped a bit this week.

And I’d encourage you to do the same. Perhaps you already do… but if you do not, please schedule a conversation, or even better, a trip … to know your roots.

What we are right now, today, is built upon our roots. Mixed with the conditions of our lives (sun, water, air, weather) but built on our roots.

And today, I am so grateful for a week of exploring my own.

Independence Day

declaration-of-independenceIt’s hard to appreciate independence as an American in the 21st century.

We are still benefitting today—July 4th, 2013—from the courage and bravery of a people whose chosen leaders pledged their “lives, [their] fortunes, and [their] sacred honor” two hundred and thirty-seven years ago. Well over two centuries of time has passed since that particular July 4th.

(Actually, it was July 2nd, but that’s not really the point here…)

Today we live in the freedom that they fought for, and were successful in gaining.

The founders knew the value of freedom, even though they all had grown up in a culture where human slavery was an open practice for two centuries before their birth! Many of them opposed it strongly and spoke out often against it, including Thomas Jefferson, who tried to introduce a bill into the Virginia legislature to abolish slavery.

(Please read this article, The Founding Fathers and Slavery. It’s full of information that is frequently omitted from discussions about the country’s founding and the obvious paradox of the institution of slavery continuing for nearly another century more.)

They knew and understood that freedom—for all—was an essential, foundational right, given to every individual person created by God.

That is worth fighting for. And it’s worth preserving.

Listen to this, from John Quincy Adams (known as the “hell-hound” of abolition):

The inconsistency of the institution of domestic slavery with the principles of the Declaration of Independence was seen and lamented by all the southern patriots of the Revolution; by no one with deeper and more unalterable conviction than by the author of the Declaration himself [Jefferson]. No charge of insincerity or hypocrisy can be fairly laid to their charge. Never from their lips was heard one syllable of attempt to justify the institution of slavery. They universally considered it as a reproach fastened upon them by the unnatural step-mother country [Great Britain] and they saw that before the principles of the Declaration of Independence, slavery, in common with every other mode of oppression, was destined sooner or later to be banished from the earth. Such was the undoubting conviction of Jefferson to his dying day. In the Memoir of His Life, written at the age of seventy-seven, he gave to his countrymen the solemn and emphatic warning that the day was not distant when they must hear and adopt the general emancipation of their slaves.

Wow. That’s pretty clear. (I added the emphasis you saw above.) Adams said they were “universally” against it, with Jefferson being foremost in that “undoubting conviction”.

Because they knew freedom was so essential.

We the People of the Unites States of America have been traveling down a path towards much LESS freedom for generations now. It’s a pattern in human history; certainly we should be no different. Or maybe we should?

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitles them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government and to provide new guards for their future security.

Today, the Campbells will be reading the Declaration together, again. (It has become a family tradition to celebrate the Fourth of July.) And we will discuss the courage of the founders to stand against those who tried to suppress their inalienable rights, beginning with freedom.

(We also plan to read today from a book called For You They Signed, detailing the lives of all the signers of the Declaration.)

The 4th of July is not about fireworks. The meaning behind our holidays often are lost after only a short time of the annual commemorations.

We must not lose this one.

We are created free, and equal, and are meant to have the unconstrained rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Celebrate today what those men stood for, fought for, and many did die for: your freedom.

And thank God today that you were born here, when we were free. Not all can say that.

Happy Independence Day!


If you’d like to read more about slavery and the attempts in the 18th century to do away with it, I so highly recommend starting here (and then here), and then reading the book about William Wilberforce that that post is in reference too.

An Open Letter Apology from the Church

church buildingNot that I have any real force behind this open letter to every person on the planet, but it’s what’s on my heart today. For so long, those who claim to know and live for God have been such a harmful representation of him (myself included) that many people wrongly dismiss their rightful place as a beloved, treasured son or daughter of the Creator of the universe.

Toward remedying that, I’d like to state the following:


To the people of planet Earth:

  • We, the church of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, must humbly ask your forgiveness for our self-righteous arrogance. Although we have known that there is freedom in Christ (for all), we have not partaken of this ourselves, nor do we offer it to anyone else—Christian brother or sister, nor our neighbors who do not identify with Jesus. Instead, we continue in the delusion that when we have general success over one temptation toward self gratification (or, sin) then we can claim righteousness of our own doing, setting ourselves apart from all others, and then condemning them for their inability to control their own unrighteousness and sinfulness—despite our own failures in so many other areas of our own lives, including the areas over which we presume mastery.
  • Likewise, we ask your forgiveness for proudly condemning sinfulness in you—again, despite knowing our own sinfulness, and either willingly ignoring it, or dismissing it as “not as bad as yours”. We know that Jesus said he did not come to condemn the world, but to save it, and that he wants for us to have life abundantly. That is not exclusive to existing “club” members, but an offer to each of us who breathe this air. Equally, and unconditionally. God does not show favoritism.
  • We humbly ask you to forgive our hard-line stance on doctrines, which have caused divisions even amongst ourselves for centuries and centuries. Jesus said that we would be known by our love—first for fellow believers, then for all others—and we have mostly been a disastrous example of that, only putting our agendas and doctrines and “rightness” ahead of love for each other, and love for you. Divisiveness fueled by lust for power, selfish ambition, as well as hatred and envy, and again the ever-present, horribly ugly self-righteousness we constantly wear. Please forgive us for loving right doctrine more than loving our neighbors.
  • We, the church, ask you to forgive us for not acknowledging that our true citizenship is not of one earthly nation, nor even of this temporary mortal existence, and in such a state of willful ignorance, repeatedly indulging the lusts of our flesh: pride, materialism and greed, and gluttonies of many kinds—all while mostly living as uninvolved, presumably “unaffected” bystanders, offering to “pray for” anyone in need (more often than actually getting into the mess of hurt and suffering in which many of our neighbors find themselves every day). Please forgive our inactions to this point, and while we know that we can’t make right every wrong in a broken world, we want to live each moment remembering the grace we’ve been extended, and extend that to you, our fellow human beings.
  • We also ask you to forgive the many times our desire to own the only truth has hurt you. Words, once uttered, can not be rescinded. Actions may even be harder to take back. In humility, understanding that we are no better than anyone else, we ask for your forgiveness and wish to restore with you a relationship like Jesus had with all of those with whom he interacted—who would receive him: one of kindness, acceptance, gentleness, no agenda, no desire to control or demand to conform, and no thought to the “reputation” of the person with whom he abided.

May His True Kingdom come.

Grace and Mercy, and the fullness of Jesus Love and Peace we extend to you,
—The Church, Jesus’ beloved bride


The saddest thing is, if we (the church) would simply acknowledge our own imperfection, brokenness, and that we are all created equal (meaning God does not show favoritism, making any of us better by birth than anyone else on the planet) then the Gospel would not be so readily and widely dismissed.

Now, I am not naive (at least, not entirely) … I realize that since God has given us the ability to choose, even if the church were the perfect messenger—being humble, acknowledging imperfection, and only extending grace, mercy, and love and justice to all—every last person on the planet still must choose to believe that God exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (because He wants to, and he invites us to trust him with all that we are, all he has given us). AND, there most certainly is evil in the world. And sin.

And so, there will always be brokenness.

We, the church are broken individuals, and a sadly broken Body. We are made whole in Christ, but as we remain in this world, cursed in sin, we do not yet enjoy the fullness of that wholeness.

But we can endeavor to simply do what is just, love mercy, and walk each step with God in palpable, real humility.

If that were so, fellow Pale Blue Dot dweller, we would know a very different world.