Recovering GRIT in the Church

Recovering GRIT in the Church

While the secular world has its own vision of GRIT, I think True GRIT is rooted in who we are called to be as Christians.

There is something missing in the church today.

When I read my Bible and the biographies of good Christians of history, I notice that the modern church is missing something. The First Testament prophets and Second Testament disciples had character traits that we moderns seem to be lacking, particularly in the west. Given, there are exceptions but for the most part – something is missing. And when something is missing, the void is inevitably filled by something else.

I have been pondering the question, “what is missing?” for a couple years. It goes without saying that the church in the West is lacking in several areas. I am lacking in several areas. But, I keep landing on the same thing – the same answer to the question of what is missing.

G.R.I.T. is missing from the church both corporately and in the lives of individual Christ-followers. Of course, if you know me very well you are asking one of my favorite questions, “what do you mean by that?”

GRIT is an acronym for Guts, Resilience, Integrity and Tenacity. While the secular world has its own vision of GRIT, I think True GRIT is rooted in who we are called to be as Christians. I decided to provide my own simple definitions to help me remember what GRIT means and provide a few characters in the Bible who demonstrate some of those traits.

Guts:

Courage in the face of adversity, moral fortitude and fearlessness (David, Noah, Moses, Gideon, Esther, Stephen, Paul)

Resilience:

Ability to bounce back from failure, loss and/or setbacks. (David, Joseph, Mary Magdalene, Peter)

Integrity:

Consistent and uncompromising commitment to moral convictions and principles in private and public life – inner consistency. (Enoch, Joshua, Esther, Ruth, Nehemiah, Paul)

Tenacity:

Perseverance over time, determination – will-power. Never giving in. (Noah, Nehemiah, Elijah, David, Job, Daniel, Paul)

Throughout Christian history, we see people who demonstrated GRIT. Martin Luther, John Knox, William Wilberforce, Mother Theresa, Jackie Robinson, Joni Erickson-Tada, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Frederick Douglass and Elisabeth Elliot are just a handful of names that come to mind when I think about good old-fashioned Christian GRIT.

We saw the Clapham Sect in England and the Abolitionists in the States work to end slavery. The White Rose Resistance defied Hitler and the Nazis. In Roman times, Christians rescued unwanted Roman female infants thrown into dumps because girls were seen as worthless. During the Plague, Christians ran to the bedsides of the sick and dying. GRIT is a part of our Christian heritage!

Today, I see fear masquerading as courage and the pride-filled cowardice of online virtue-signaling. The pulse of popularity polls have overtaken the powerful pulse of Christ’s call to His church. The winds of culture are driving the church rather than the winds of God’s spirit. The result of the lack of Christian GRIT over the last 100 years has devastated our witness and contributed to the decay of culture.

The Great Recovery

Every great awakening and revival begins with a series of cultural convulsions. The Church is shaken out of its slumber by some great series of tribulations. Then a recovery begins. It begins with recovering God’s truth and renewing a commitment to follow Christ. This means we will come in direct conflict with the world and culture. We come to understand the sharp words of Christ when he says, “The world will hate you, because it hated me first.” To be Christian is be to a counter-cultural force of light and truth in the midst of darkness and lies.

I’m calling this the “Great Recovery”. I don’t know where or with whom this idea originated. However, the more I read my Bible, pray, talk with other committed Christians and attempt to “understand the times” (like the men of Issachar), I am convinced we must embark on a “Great Recovery”. While, I’ll discuss more in the future, let us begin with GRIT.

Whatever the committed Christ-follower who has counted the cost of discipleship and taken up his/her cross to follow Him may be, they must have GRIT. The days of microwave entertainment-based emotionally-driven cultural Christianity are over. Pastor Douglas Wilson said, “The church has gone from feeding the sheep to entertaining the goats.” Those words sting because they are true in a general sense. Not all churches are guilty but a good many are. We must repent of that and move on to walk with obedience and courage.

Every one of us will pay a price in the face of the zeitgeist (the spirit of the age). We need to pray and encourage each other in the faith and ask God for spirit-filled GRIT as we create Christian friction with a dark culture that hates the light.

We need to recover GRIT.

“Choose this day whom you will serve…” Christ or the zeitgeist.

There is no middle-ground. Christ does not allow for it. He spits from His mouth the lukewarm water of the Church in Laodicea. He separates the sheep from the goats and the wheat from the tares.

To truly proclaim, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” will require Godly GRIT rooted in Christ’s power undergirded by Biblical truth.

Subscribe

If you like what you read here, please subscribe. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.
*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.

Detachment and Reflection to gain Perspective – what have you learned?

Detachment and Reflection to Gain Perspective

What have you learned in the past 12 months?

Two of the best disciplines we can adopt are detachment and reflection in order to gain perspective and make plans going forward.

Yesterday the church cabinet staff had our regular meeting. Our cabinet is comprised of pastors and ministry leaders representing about two dozen ministry areas of the church. We were asked a reflective question that can help shape the future of our ministries. I think this question is applicable life, family and business as well as ministry.

Here’s the question:

What have you learned in the past 12 months?

My process for answering the question…

So much has changed in the last year. I invested more time reflecting and praying than planning. Some would argue that focusing on the future and moving ahead are more important than reflection. I am a contrarian and argue that detaching in order to assess events, changes in the ministry environment and taking an honest look at the good and bad are keys to planning. I’d say that the more complex the issues and events of the past, the more important reflection becomes.

I intentionally employ a slowed-down version of the OODA Loop.

The OODA Loop is an acronym that stands for:

Observe
Orient
Decide
Act

The OODA Loop concept was put forth by the great military strategist Colonel John Richard Boyd, United States Air Force. Simply put, it is the decision-making that occurs in a recurring cycle of observe – orient – decide – act. An entity (whether an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby “get inside” the opponent’s decision cycle and gain the advantage.

To put it another way, “(The OODA Loop) explains how individuals and organizations can win in uncertain and chaotic environments.” – Tyler Pearson

You and I run through the OODA loop thousands of times per day. Next time you are driving somewhere, you’ll stop at a red traffic light (hopefully). Your act of stopping at that light was acheived by the process of the OODA Loop. You observed an intersection ahead and saw a red light. You oriented yourself in proximity to the intersection and the vehicles around you. You decided that you were going to stop at the red light (smart move). Finally, you took action and applied the brakes and stopped your car at the intersection. You just experienced the OODA Loop. When the traffic light turns green, your loop begins all over again. Check out the video below this post to learn more…

Observe Slowly:
In my reflection, I take time to observe what has happened and how all that has happened is effecting current conditions and how past decisions (good and bad) have shaped current conditions. This must be an honest assessment of self and my decision-making. Honest feedback must be gathered from trusted partners. This is where the organizational hierarchy is allowed to be flattened where all team members are on the same level with the leaders and everyone has a seat at the table to provide input.

Orient Carefully:
I take in information I have observed and start to carefully orient myself and get my bearings. I’ve had some experience and training in land navigation (Land Nav). “Land navigation is the discipline of following a route through unfamiliar terrain on foot or by vehicle, using maps with reference to terrain, a compass, and other navigational tools” (Wiki). Honestly, I am terrible at it. However, I understand the most important exercise in Land Nav is ascertaining my current position on a map. If I don’t know where I am on a map, there is no way I’m going to reach my destination. The same goes for orientating myself in the current moment in time in order to decide or plan for the future.

I learned two major lessons in the last 12 months in ministry. It struck my how these lessons apply to life, family and business.

1. BE FLEXIBLE: There is a great line from Gunny Highway (Clint Eastwood) from the film “Heartbreak Ridge” where Highway is addressing his platoon of misfit Marines. He said that in facing adversity on the battlefield a good Marine will, “improvise, adapt and overcome.” In other words, we must be flexible. In the last year of ministry, I had to learn to be flexible due to changing conditions and challenging situations in ministry. Our 2019 pre-COVID plans were often set aside, particularly in regard to events. Therefore, we had to improvise and adapt ministry operations in order to overcome obstacles and accomplish our mission. COVID never changed our mission but our means of achieving our mission changed dramatically.

2. BE DEPENDENT ON GOD: Another lesson I learned was not to hang on to anything too tightly. Due to challenging circumstances and changing conditions, I learned a deeper dependence on God. He reminded me that He is in ultimate control and He would see to it that His purposes would reach completion. Sometimes God puts us in a place of desperation where we come to realize that He is the only one who can make things happen. And sometimes God accomplishes this in surprising ways. Therefore, I learned to be open-handed with my plans and projects knowing that God could step in at any moment and change things. There is a kind of freedom in that experience.

What does all this mean for you?

I believe that if you take time to detach, reflect and observe how things have unfolded and decisions you made (good and bad) in the last 12 months, you can orient yourself. Then, you can make plans and decide how to best move forward. Finally, you can act (completing the OODA Loop).

Remember, being flexible is key to success in an ever-changing environment in ministry, business and in the home. At the end of the day, remember that God is in charge. Your responsibility is to pray, plan and walk in obedience to His Word and purposes. Leave the results to Him. His plans and ways are higher than yours. Be open-handed with your plans and projects knowing that God owns it all and loves you. He will surprise you beyond your understanding.

(Comment and share your thoughts below)

Subscribe

If you like what you read here, please subscribe. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.
*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.
Swimming into your Future

Swimming into your Future

After 5 months away from writing here … I’m back!

My alarm goes off at 4:45am. I get up and get moving toward the coffee source. I gather my gear and head to swim practice with the local US Masters team that kicks off at 5:30am. I do this two to three times per week. It keeps me in shape and typically brings me a good deal of pleasure.

The swim team is a great group of folks of various ages, ethnicities and skill levels. There are some very talented swimmers in the pool every day.

Over the last year, I have been struggling with my swim and a cloud of frustration seemed to lay over me. I didn’t notice how bad it had gotten until a couple days ago. I mean, swimming is my favorite sport. I really enjoy it. Or do I? The thought of ‘hanging it up’ had crossed my mind a couple times over the last couple months. That has never happened before.

Every morning when I show up to practice, this hotshot college swimmer jumps into my lane. He seems to only show up to practice when I’m there. Sometimes, I’m warming up in a lane alone and he jumps into my lane. He is way faster than me and he lets me know it.

Boy does this cocky punk get under my skin. Everyday I’m in the pool, he’s there talking smack to me. I get pissed off and begin swimming harder and harder – not concentrating on my stroke. I’m just pounding the water and feel like I’m treading water or (worse) swimming backwards! He just laughs and blazes right passed me, leaving me in his wake. He steals my enjoyment with every lap.

After Tuesday’s practice, I had a conversation with a guy who’s about my age and swims on the team as well. He’s a solid swimmer and continues to swim competitively. I was complaining about my swimming and shared my frustration. You see, I swam competitively in high school and college. I wasn’t always the fastest swimmer but I was a good and I could hold my own. I was sprinter. Short races were my specialty.  However, at 44 years old, I was frustrated and I expressed that to my teammate.

He said, “I’m not as fast as I was when I was younger. But that’s okay – I focus on the future.”  We parted ways and I went home not thinking much of it.

A couple hours later it hit me! I admitted to myself that the hotshot college punk swimmer in my lane everyday was ME. I was trying to compete with a 20 year old me. There is no way I can do that at 44 years old. Do you know what? That is just fine. There are a ton of things I can do at 44 that I could not even dream of doing at 20.

When I jumped into my lane this morning, the college punk didn’t show up. I focused on swimming into the future. It was one of the most enjoyable swims I’ve had in a long time.  I stopped my teammate after practice and thanked him for his encouraging words.  He said, “We just need to keep reminding each other to focus on the future.”

It’s interesting how we let our self-talk influence our mindset.  How past experiences, both positive and negative affect our lives today.  Sometimes it takes a few words from someone else to open our eyes and change our outlook.

Do not let the younger you criticize you today. Past mistakes, failings, triumphs and victories do not define you today.  Focus on the future. As your physical strength quotient declines, your wisdom and experience quotient increases. There is more joy to be had in the future than in the past.

Focus on the future, Encourage someone else today and NEVER EVER QUIT!


“Your own performance is either improved or diminished by the other people in your scenario.”

Dr. Henry Cloud


Read previous post: Essay: Letter to the Emperor – The Rise of the Failed State
If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

The one who states his case first seems right, UNTIL …

The one who states his case first seems right, UNTIL …

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”

(Proverbs 18:17)

Anyone with children over the age of 4 can attest to the proverb above. The first story isn’t always the right story.

Foolishness loves being first;
and Rashness is remiss,
But, Wisdom waits;
and Prudence is patient.

Everyday at 8:55am a little reminder pops up on my iPhone. It reminds me that I will probably be doing a lot of talking today and I should be mindful of what I say.  It reads;

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3)

Hundreds of words will be uttered from my mouth. As a leader, my words carry influence and authority. They have consequences. Therefore, I need a reminder to watch what I say.

I prefer wisdom over foolishness and prudence over rashness.

“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (Proverbs 17:27-28)

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” – Mark Twain

Read previous post: Iraq – How did I get here?
If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

It’s always an inside job

It’s always an inside job

I used to think that Facebook was my problem. 

Surfing the newsfeed experiencing a new emotion with every little swipe of my thumb, I’d get a little hit of dopamine.  It felt great in the moment.  

Over time I recognized that I had a problem. So, when I went overseas in August I deactivated my Facebook account and did not re-activate until nearly two months later.  At present, I rarely check the platform.  Yesterday, I logged in for the first time in a week to check messages and I decided to scroll the timeline.  Not much has changed.  I got bored after about 5 minutes and went on about my afternoon.  Addiction defeated, problem solved right?

Last night I was alone at the ranch while Kat and the kids were at her folk’s house. Usually, I’d be outside doing something but the weather was nasty.  So, I was stuck inside the house.   I had some choices to make.  I could watch a movie, I could catch up on news on my iPhone or I could sit down and try to finish a book called “Hearing the Spirit” by Christopher Ash.  All decent options.

I rarely watch TV, so I crossed watching a movie off my list easily, no problem.  I scrolled the news and read the paper earlier in the day.  No need to do that.  Reading a book was the most profitable activity I could do as the day drew to an end.  Simple enough.  Let’s read!  I prepared to sit and read for an hour before going to bed.

At some point between making a hot cup of Rooibos tea, sitting in my easy chair and opening my book, I picked up my iPhone to check on the weather. Then, I began reading the news. 

The battle was on! 

I realized that the instant gratification and the dopamine release of scanning news on my smartphone had won over the delayed gratification and long-term benefit of reading a book.  Like a naughty child, I took the culprit (my iPhone) to the other room and put it down.  Problem solved!

I went back to my comfy chair and picked up my book.  Then, I thought, “What if Kat calls with an emergency?”  My phone is in the other room, I’d miss the call.  I’d better keep it with me while I read.  I got up and retrieved my iPhone from timeout.  In the short walk from the other room where the phone had been to my chair, I decided to check the weather again.  After all the wind was howling and it may freeze tonight.  A few moments later, I was watching a news video on some media channel.  I had been ambushed!  It was an inside job!

It’s always an inside job!

My problem isn’t my iPhone or Facebook or Apple News.  My problem is my heart.  If I am honest, the dominant characteristics of my desires are worldly.  Yes, I have a few Godly desires.  But the shimmering allure and distractions of the world draw me away from God.  There is nothing wrong with smartphones, social media or reading the news.  However, when self-centered passions, instant gratification and ruling desires overshadow my desire to know God, my life becomes disordered and worldly in nature.

Worldliness is being devoted to affairs, activities and concerns of temporal existence over our spiritual lives.  A life rooted in worldliness leads to emptiness, frustration and sadness.

As I prepared to pray this morning, I was lead to James 4 (Warning Against Worldliness).  I read the passage and something changed.  A light clicked on in an old forgotten room of my heart.

Worldliness and disorder ooze their way into our prayer life like an infection.  We know the passage; “You have not because you ask not…”  I hear many Christians (myself included) throw it in conversation or prayer when a need arises.  In response, we say, “Amen and Amen!” 

Is that what James 4 is about?  We don’t have because we don’t ask? 

You ask and do not receive, because you ask WRONGLY, to spend it on your passions.” 

James 4:2b-3 ESV

We ask wrongly for the wrong things because we have yielded our hears to worldly passions.  Therefore, our disordered prayers are rooted in worldly desires deep in our hearts dressed up in a veneer of “Christian lingo” and out of context Bible passages.  God does not answer prayers that run counter to His nature and His revealed will in scripture.

Why do I pray for more stuff in my life to distract me from God?  Because I’ve allowed worldly desires to ambush my pursuit of God.

How worldly is your prayer life?


Read previous post: “Help us advocate for John and other kids in foster care”
If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

Father and son – A Voice in the Darkness

Father and son – A Voice in the Darkness

Last weekend, I took my 9 year old son (Nelson) for an overnight camping adventure at our ranch.

I had three objectives. First, to invest time into my son’s life. Second, teach him practical outdoor skills while feeding his sense of adventure. Third, each activity was designed to point him toward authentic manhood. All the while, pushing him outside his comfort zone surrounded by God’s amazing creation.

Upon arrival, I gave him a gift. It was a small field med-pack with a headlamp (red light), a striker, one chem-light (aka: glow-stick for all you ravers), a multi-tool, a small LED light to illuminate the inside the bag at night, a zip-lock with several cotton balls soaked in Vasaline petroleum jelly, a small first aid kit, a wrist compass and a two-way radio. I instructed him to keep the pack with him at all times.

Before sunset, our first lesson was to learn how to start a fire without conventional ignition, like matches or lighters. We gathered rocks, tinder and wood. Then I demonstrated how to ignite a tinder ball using a striker and a cotton ball covered in Vasaline.  Nelson practiced a few times before dinner.

Night came and temperatures fell. Stars filled the clear sky. Nighttime noises in the country surrounded us – crickets, frogs, locusts, owls and coyotes

We dawned our packs and made our way down to the pasture gate in the darkness. I instructed him to turn on his red-light head-lamp and close the pasture gate behind him. I prayed and read Bible passages about loyalty, leadership and humility over him. We turned on our two-way radios and tested our comms. Loud and clear.

“What are we going to do, dad?” he asked with a great deal of uncertainty.

As I put the compass on his wrist, I said, “Son, I am going to walk 250 yards down the path. You will stay here until I call on the radio. When I call, you will begin walking on a southwest heading, keeping on the path. Do not wonder off the path. As you know, there are cactus, snakes and trip hazards out here.” I continued, “Down the hill, there is a tree with a green chem-light hanging in it. I will meet you there.”

Coyotes were howling all around and the moon was not quite high enough to give much light. The red headlamp only emits enough light to illuminate the ground a few feet in front of you.

With his voice a little shaky, he uttered the words I expected, “Dad, I’m a little scared.”

I replied, “Son, there is nothing to be afraid of – this is just a new environment for you.”

I continued, “You have your radio and red light. You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you. Stay on the path, use your radio and your compass. I’ll meet you in a few minutes at the tree. I love you.” I shut off my headlamp and made my way into the darkness.

“You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you.”

When I arrived at the tree, I made the radio call to Nelson. I could see his red light up the hill begin to move toward my position. He radioed that he was still afraid. I encouraged him to keep walking down the hill. “I can see you. You are doing a great job son. Keep going!”

As he approached our meeting point under the tree, he couldn’t see me in the darkness. So, I called out to him without the radio. Nelson trotted over to me. He was so excited, I was too. Hive-fives and hugs around the board. I congratulated him and read Bible passages on purity, honesty and self-discipline to him.

After a drink of water and another radio check, I told him we had a second objective – further into the pasture. The terrain is rocky with a little creek running through it. There would be another tree with a chem-light hanging in it. I walked ahead into the dark to the meeting place and called him over the radio to begin walking. He could hear my voice but couldn’t see me. But, I could see him.

He arrived at the tree excited and confident. I instructed him to take off his pack, get out his striker and fuel. “Are we going to start a fire here?” he asked. I replied laughing, “YOU are going to start a fire!” We cleared a small space and he gathered tinder. With minimal guidance from me, he assembled a small bundle and put the petroleum jelly soaked cotton ball in the center. After several minutes of failed attempts, he produced a giant spark that landed in the center of the bundle. We had fire!  The boy had built his first fire.  I could see his self-confidence and satisfaction on his face.

As we hovered over the tiny flames, I read scripture about excellence, integrity and perseverance over him and I prayed. He was so excited. We put out the tiny fire, put on our packs and headed back to the pasture gate where we had begun.

This time Nelson would lead the way and I would follow. We talked and laughed as we walked in the darkness. Looking forward to building a camp fire and roasting some marshmallows. We would sleep beneath a blanked of stars.  Nelson had conquered fear, learned something about listening to the father’s voice in the darkness and learned perseverance through fear and adversity.

Further consideration…

Maybe you are in the darkness right now. The darkness can be a dreadful place. However, our heavenly father can see us and we can hear his voice in darkest night. You can call out to him. He will answer.

Special Note: The ideas for this activity with my son originated with a book called “Raising a Modern-Day Knight” by Robert Lewis and operations with Ironcenturion. Thanks guys for your creativity and leadership.


Read previous post: Remember when Jesus prayed for us? (a reflection)
If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

Wordpress Social Share Plugin powered by Ultimatelysocial
error

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word