Love is a Mix Tape: Live Forever

This message was shared at Centerville United Methodist Church on Sunday, July 26, 2015. John 14:1-7 was the Scripture reading for the day. 

This summer, we are going through a worship series called “Love is a Mix Tape”. Each week, we use Scripture and songs to explore various topics. We’ve used the music of Bob Marley, Mumford & Sons, Johnny Cash, and Coldplay. A little later this morning, we’ll hear a powerful song by Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors.

Last week, we talked about forgiveness and the importance of seeking, receiving and then extending forgiveness. This morning, we will be focusing on the relationship between love and obedience.

In this morning’s passage of Scripture, Jesus begins by saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Now, in order to better understand this, we need know what Jesus had been talking about prior to this statement. Just before this passage, Jesus had made it known that he would be betrayed by one of his disciples, he commanded his followers to love and humbly serve on another, and then predicts Peter’s denial.

This is a lot of heavy stuff Jesus just dropped on his disciples. Can you imagine the weight of that conversation? These disciples had given up everything to follow Jesus and now He says, “Well, I’m out. One of you will betray me. Peter, you’ll deny me.” Ouch!  It would be stressful and cause fear and anxiety. And, it’s in this context that Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

In the midst of our stressful, fearful, anxious, troubling moments – those moments where life punches right between our eyes – Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Let me ask you to think about something this morning…What troubles your heart? I’m not talking about your heart being troubled because Meijer was out of Ben & Jerry’s “Tonight Dough” ice cream. I’m not talking about your heart being troubled because the Cubs and Reds split their series last week. I’m not talking about your heart being troubled because your dad bought a Harley on Wednesday and you’re still riding a Schwinn. I’m not talking about your heart being troubled because you didn’t get that “whatever” you so desperately wanted. What troubles your heart?

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled”, and then provides reasons to place our hope and trust in him.

Jesus calls us to stubbornly trust God. When our hearts are troubled, that is when we need to stubbornly trust God. William Barclay writes, ““There comes a time when we have to believe where we cannot prove and to accept where we cannot understand. If, in the darkest hour, we believe that somehow there is a purpose in life and that that purpose is love, even the unbearable becomes bearable and even in the darkness there is a glimmer of light.” When we stubbornly trust God, the unbearable becomes bearable; we can see that glimmer of light in the darkness.

Jesus proclaims that he is the Way. He is our guide. He leads us. Therefore, we are called to follow His example. Jesus was kind, compassionate, loving, and a grace-filled, hope-filled presence among the overlooked and the outcasts, the marginalized, the most notorious of sinners. He had very little tolerance for the legalistic religious types who perverted the ways of God to their own benefit and to oppress the least among them. So, Jesus is the Way. He is our guide.

Jesus proclaims he is the Truth. Jesus didn’t say, “I’ve taught you the truth.” He said, “I am the truth.” If we want to know what is true, we look to Jesus. “You shall know the truth (Jesus) and the truth (Jesus) shall set you free.”

Jesus proclaims that he is the Life. If we want to find true life, it is found in Jesus. What is the meaning of life? Jesus!

Jesus then proclaims that no one comes to God except through Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life. The way, the truth, and the life of Jesus can be summed up in one word: love! If we are followers of the way, the truth, and the life, we are called to love.

Let us hear these words of hope from John 14:15-21: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion, who will be with you forever. This Companion is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world can’t receive because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be with you. I won’t leave you as orphans. I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

We trust Jesus because we love Jesus. Our love for Jesus should naturally lead us to obedience. If we love Jesus, we will obey. The Holy Spirit is given as the guiding force that gives us the strength, the courage, the ability, and the desire to obey the way, the truth, and the life. It is by loving and obeying Jesus that we find life! Obedience is the evidence of our love.

Let me ask you again, what troubles your heart?

  • Hungry children? (33% of children in Wayne County live in poverty – Pal-Item. That 33% too high)
  • Addiction
  • Crime/Violence
  • Broken relationships
  • The fact that many of the most marginalized, the most hurting, the most broken and desperate in our world are overlooked, abused, mistreated
  • That people do not know the way, the truth and the life? People need Jesus!

Demographic studies report that nearly 80% of the folks in a 5-mile radius of our church don’t participate in a faith community. Many are open to Jesus, but they are turned off by the church. What’s that mean? The harvest is plentiful? Hopefully the workers won’t be few!

If we truly love Jesus, if we truly desire to obey Jesus, we have a responsibility to share Jesus with our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and complete strangers. We have to get out of our comfort zones, get out of our building, and share the love of Christ with the world around us. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples” not “sit around and hope someone shows up!”

We have the greatest hope in the world. We’re being selfish and unfaithful if we hold onto it for ourselves.

As Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors “Live Forever” plays, I’d like you to think of those you know who desperately need the way, the truth, and the life. Who do you know who desperately needs Jesus and His church? Pray for them.

Don’t just think about it. Don’t just pray about it. Do something. Share your faith. Invite someone to church. Jesus said “go and make disciples.” Well, what are we waiting for?

Love is a Mix Tape: Fix You

This message was shared at Centerville United Methodist Church in Centerville, IN on Sunday, July 19, 2015.

During our time together, we will be exploring the practice of forgiveness and reconciliation. We heard a short, but powerful passage of Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness. Jesus’ words indicate that our ability to forgive one another is closely connected to our ability to receive forgiveness. (Matthew 6:12-15)

Is there anyone here today who has nothing for which they need forgiven? Any sinless folks among us?

Let’s be honest, we all stand in need of receiving and extending forgiveness. If we are to be reconciled, restored into a right relationship with God and one another, it is essential that we learn to seek and extend forgiveness.

Randy Maddox, in his book Responsible Grace writes, “However extensive our spiritual transformation might be in this life, we still stand in need of God’s gracious pardon.“

When we talk about forgiveness, it is crucial that we understand the various dimensions of forgiveness. Forgiveness is both personal and communal.

Forgiveness is personal when we seek forgiveness from God and others when we are sinful, hurtful, and harmful. Forgiveness is personal when we extend forgiveness to others when they are sinful, hurtful, and harmful.

Forgiveness is communal when we realize that, collectively we have not risen to the bar Jesus has raised. Look at the Old Testament and you can find numerous examples of people seeking forgiveness on behalf of the entire community for acts of injustices, sin, hurt, and harm.

Forgiveness is communal when we seek forgiveness as the body of believers for not doing what Jesus has called us to…failing to extend love and grace to all people, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, caring for the least, the last, and the lost among us. Forgiveness is communal when we collectively extend forgiveness. Forgiveness is communal when God extends forgiveness to His people.

We heard these words from Jesus in Matthew 6 that if we forgive others, we will be forgiven; if we don’t forgive others, we won’t be forgiven. And, yet, in light of these words, we still find forgiveness to be a difficult process. For some, it’s easy to seek forgiveness from God…But it gets difficult when we need to seek forgiveness from our neighbor. It gets tricky when we need to extend forgiveness to our neighbor.

Some of our deepest wounds, our deepest pain, and our deepest hurts are caused by the words and actions of others. When someone causes us harm by their words and actions, we have a decision to make…we can let that hurt define us or we can let it go and move on.

When someone says something that causes us deep pain and hurt, we need to ask ourselves, “Does it hurt because it’s true?” If it’s true, then we need to make a decision to work on that. We need to learn from it and deal with it.

If it isn’t true, we need to decide that another’s untrue words about us will not define us, will not hold us back, and learn to let it go, shake it off, and move forward. (Yes, I just quoted the Frozen soundtrack and Taylor Swift in one sentence. Yes, I am ashamed! Please forgive me!) We have to decide that someone’s false words about us will not control us. We have to decide that our anger, disappointment and frustration will not rule the day.

We are called to forgive- it doesn’t mean that we forget…it doesn’t mean that we stay in an abusive situation…it doesn’t mean that we still won’t hurt or mourn, but it means we will no longer allow that hurtful word or action to define us and hold us back. Instead, we will choose to focus on what is true. We choose love, grace, mercy and forgiveness.

Here’s the truth- No matter who you are, no matter what you may or may not have done, you are a deeply loved child of God.

While we are forgiven, there are still consequences and repercussions. For example, if I practice the sin of gluttony (yes, over-consumption is still a sin) and abuse my body, I should not expect perfect health even when I repent and receive God’s forgiveness. I can improve my health, but there may have been some irreversible damage done. Or, let’s say I get pulled over for speeding on US 40. When the officer comes up to the window, I feel like I should be able to inform him that a ticket is not required because, just before he got to my window, I prayed, confessed my sin of not obeying the laws of the land and have received God’s gracious and loving forgiveness. It simply doesn’t work that way. There are earthly consequences to our words and actions.

So, forgiveness is personal and communal. Forgiveness is also something that is received and extended. When we receive the love, grace, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, we are called to respond by extending love, grace, and forgiveness.

John Wesley developed what we call the “via salutis” or “way of salvation”. Wesley talks about prevenient grace (grace which exists before anything else), justifying grace (which is the grace that provides forgiveness), sanctifying grace (deliverance by God from the plague of sin…that we might sin “less” while working out our salvation), and Christian perfection (perfectly loving God and one another).

In terms of our receiving and extending forgiveness, Wesley said that “God’s desire for our sanctification is a desire for love to become the constant ruling temper of our soul.” In other words, love for God and one another will rule the day…and we will no longer be drawn into sin. (This Wednesday at 10am, we’ll be exploring Wesley’s Way of Salvation through Scripture and song. You should join us!)

We are called to extend forgiveness as God extends forgiveness.

God is continually extending love and grace to a broken, hurting, and sinful world.

God’s love and grace requires a response – we either accept it or reject it.

If we accept God’s love and grace and receive forgiveness, another response is necessary. We respond to receiving God’s love, grace, and forgiveness by extending God’s love, grace, and forgiveness to everyone.

What do we need to be forgiven of personally and communally? Are there groups we are harming by our words/actions or our silence/inaction?

Who do we need to forgive personally and communally?

As the Colplay song “Fix You” is played, think about what you need to be forgiven and who you need to forgive…then seek, receive, and extend forgiveness. May God, through his love, grace, mercy and forgiveness “fix you” and me!

Love is a Mix Tape: I Walk the Line

This message was shared on July 12, 2015 at Centerville UMC in Centerville, Indiana. 

This morning, we’ll be talking about obedience. If you Google “definition of obedience”, you will find that obedience is “compliance with an order, request, or law…or submission to another’s authority. As Christians, when we talk about faithful obedience, we are talking about obediently complying and submitting to the way of Jesus.

One of my all-time favorite country artists is “the man in black”, Johnny Cash. This morning, as we explore the practice of faithful obedience, I’d like us to listen to Cash’s hit “I Walk the Line”.

“I keep a close watch on this heart of mine, I keep my eyes wide open all the time, I keep the ends out for the tie that binds, because you’re mine, I walk the line.”

Part of faithful Christian obedience is learning to walk the line between faith and action. It’s one thing to possess a great deal of Biblical knowledge. It’s another thing to demonstrate that Biblical knowledge through our actions.

We are called to be obedient That’s what Jesus is pointing out in Matthew 7. We don’t prove our connection with God through quoting a bunch of verses or attending multiple Bible studies during the week. That might be part of faithful obedience, but it’s a means to an end and the pursuit of knowledge isn’t the end in itself.

We show the evidence of our faith in the way we live. We demonstrate our obedience through our daily lives. In other words, the proof is in the pudding. We show that we get it when following Jesus transforms our priorities.

Just because our calendars are full of “church” related activities does not mean we are obedient. There are plenty of us who give the appearance of being spiritually mature because we check a great deal of “churchy” things off our religious duties checklist…we go to Sunday school, we go to worship, we attend two different mid-week Bible studies, we’re part of an accountability group, we do personal devotions, we know all the right things. And, this reflects a certain image…my non-Christian friends would say it’s the “holier-than-thou” image. Yet, if our “right faith” doesn’t produce “right actions”, we might not be as spiritually mature as we (or others) think we are.

Yesterday, at a district gathering, Mick Miller (our associate DS and pastor at College Corner) said, “There are plenty of students with perfect attendance who still fail.” In other words, showing up isn’t enough…transformation has to take place.

So, there may be times when we are more like modern-day Pharisees than obedient followers of Jesus.

When it comes to faithful obedience, what did Jesus say it looks like? Let’s take a look:

Matthew 22:36-40

Matthew 25:34-40

Matthew 28:18-20

Our obedience is demonstrated, not only in how we love God, but also in how we love others. Are we loving, serving, and sharing our lives and our faith with the world around us?

Are we obedient followers of Jesus or are we modern-day Pharisees?

In Matthew 15, Jesus is addressing the Pharisees over their legalistic dedication to the law because they questioned him when his disciples didn’t wash their hands. Jesus used this opportunity to point out some of their errors in following the law and then in verse 8 quotes Isaiah 29:13 and says, “This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” They had the knowledge, but not necessarily the right knowledge. They had the practice, but not necessarily the right practice. (Orthodoxy and orthopraxy)

Jesus demonstrated to the Pharisees that, while they knew the law inside and out, they demonstrated in their extremely judgmental lifestyles that they did not understand. The Pharisee’s had learned how to talk the talk, but they did not understand how to walk the walk. And, this is the reason so many Christians are labeled as hypocrites…Many of us are really good at talking the talk…but when it comes to walking the walk, well, that gets a little tricky.

Sometimes we are like the Pharisees because we, in our prideful arrogance, have determined what it looks like to be a “true Christian”. So, we set these legalistic expectations of what it looks like to be a follower of Christ- don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t go with girls who do, don’t be gay, don’t be a democrat, don’t be a Cardinals fan, don’t be a whatever…and really, there’s very little, if any, Scriptural or doctrinal support for many of our legalistic rules and expectations we place on one another.

This week, I stumbled upon a funny postcard-funny

A good reminder to consider…are we walking what we’re talking?


(At this point, I shared some quotes/thoughts from the following article: “Don’t Be a Modern-Day Pharisee”)

So, are we obedient followers of Jesus or modern-day Pharisees?

We are not being faithfully obedient and are more like modern-day Pharisees when we choose:

  • judgment and condemnation over love
  • gossip and speculation over the truth
  • backbiting and slander over Biblical conflict resolution (Matthew 18- one of the biggest ways to gauge obedience and spiritual maturity – do we talk to people or about them? Do we entertain conversations about others or redirect the disgruntled?)
  • disdain and arrogance over compassion and empathy (in other words, “those people” get what they deserve)
  • exclusivity over inclusivity (you have to fit our pre-determined mold/expectations before you can participate or belong)
  • legalism over freedom
  • Idolize our past rather than embracing what God desires to do here and now
  • Expect others to become just like us, to fit our expectations, rather than simply love them and allow them to be who God has called them to be

“We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.” ~Madeleine L’Engle

  • Faithful obedience is about learning how to walk the line between faith and action.
  • Faithful obedience is about learning how to walk the line of the tree of life, rather than by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
  • Faithful obedience is about learning how to walk the line of loving God and our neighbor.
  • Faithful obedience is about learning how to walk the line of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, providing shelter for the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned, caring for the least of these.
  • Faithful obedience is about learning how to walk the line of sharing our faith with all those we come into contact.

How will you practice faithful obedience in the days, weeks, and years to come?

Love is a Mix Tape: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

This message was shared at Centerville UMC in Centerville, IN on Sunday, July 5, 2015. The Scripture reading was Matthew 6:25-34

This morning, we heard a powerful passage of Scripture from the Gospel of Matthew that focuses on not worrying, but trusting God. The passage indicates that we need to trust God to provide for our needs.

In 1969, the Rolling Stones released the album “Let it Bleed”, which featured the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Last night, the Stones performed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. If you have seen any of the footage from last night’s concert, well, it looked amazing. I’ll be honest and admit that last night and this morning I have been filled with jealousy as my friends and the news have shared pictures and highlights. So, it seems fitting that to help us set the stage for this morning’s message, we listen to that song.

It’s my considered opinion that the chorus of this song fits extremely well with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6. “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you find you get what you need!” My favorite part of that video is watching and listening to Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood trade guitar licks! It’s just an amazing bit of rock and roll there!

So, the Stones tell us, “You can’t always get what you want.” However, we live in a materialistic, selfish, and individualistic world that tells us, not only that we can always get what we want…we should always get what we want! We are taught to look out for number one. We are told to do whatever it takes to succeed. Advertisers attempt to convince us that we need unnecessary items in order to receive inner peace and happiness. We are told that our joy will be complete if we just have a newer, nicer, bigger, better, faster, and stronger whatever! Of course, it’s not just the world of advertising that tries to convince us that we need newer, nicer, bigger, better, faster, stronger…

Many prosperity gospel preachers will tell you, if you want something, God wants you to have that something – in other words, the desire for “whatever” was placed on your heart by God – so, you should do whatever it takes to get it. If you want a beach house in Hawaii, God wants you to have a beach house in Hawaii. Therefore, you need to order your life in a way that you can get that beach house in Hawaii…by any means necessary. It may mean you have to see your family less and work more…but God really wants you to have it. Now, is the beach house in Hawaii a want or a need?

The problem is that we often confuse our wants and needs

Of course, it’s not just about beach houses in Hawaii, it’s also about the tag on our shirt, the emblem on our car, the place we buy our coffee, our phone plan, our cable package, our Amazon wish list, our QVC statement, and so on.

Wesley encouraged his followers to “earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” He would later comment that we are really good at earning all we can and saving all we can, but really lousy at giving all we can. Why? Because we worry that, somewhere down the road, we might need a little extra. So, rather than faithfully give, we store up treasures on earth for a rainy day that might not come.

Or in another extreme, we overspend on unnecessary items and “felt-needs”. Felt-needs are really just luxuries that we have convinced ourselves we really need. For example, when I need new shoes, I could go to Kmart and spend less than $25 on a suitable pair of shoes that meet my needs. However, I’ve convinced myself that my shoes need to say “Dr. Martens” or “Adidas” or “Nike” or “Brooks” in order to provide the best fit, feel, and to reduce back, foot, and joint pain.

Wesley said, “When I die if I leave behind me ten pounds … you and all mankind may bear witness against me, that I have lived and died a thief and a robber.” It has been said that Wesley became financially successful due to his fellowship at Lincoln College, publishing of his writings and sermons, and other endeavors. However, he was committed to surviving on less in order to give more. He set a living wage for himself and whenever his salary increased, he kept the same living wage and gave away more. I wonder, how many of us would be willing live that way?

And, so, in Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tells us not to worry. If God gave us life, then we should be able to trust him for the things which are necessary to support life. Look at the birds, though they work hard, they don’t worry about the future, they aren’t seeking to find security by hoarding and accumulating wealth and possessions. Look at the flowers, though they are beautiful, they don’t worry because God provides. If he cares this much about the birds and the flowers, don’t you think he’ll care for you? So, in other words, stop with the worrying.

Jesus lays it out there that worry is, simply put, distrust of God. Jesus is saying that, as Christians, we should not worry because we believe in the love of God- a love that promises to take care of us.

Yet, how many of us would be willing to admit that, in spite of Jesus’ words, we still worry? And, what do we worry about? Everything! Money, food, clothes, housing, jobs, health, family, and more! When we finally get that newer, nicer, bigger, better, faster, and stronger we end up worrying about it. We get new carpet, but we don’t let anyone walk on it or take food and drinks in the room because of all the “what if’s?”

Pursuing the newer, nicer, bigger, better, faster and stronger isn’t just about keeping up with the Joneses. Sometimes it’s about an attempt to fill voids…to find fulfillment…to achieve happiness and inner-peace. And, it all ends up leading to worry!

Our worry is really a symptom of fear. Our worry leads us to accepting what is safe and predictable, rather than God-sized visions of what could be! When we fail to trust God to provide our needs, we are tempted to cave into a fear of the unknown…and it often holds us back.

Our worry truly is a symptom of our lack of trust in God. When we worry, we’re failing to trust the words of Jesus that God will do what he says he will do! Do we really believe that God will provide for our needs?

So, Jesus gives a plan for overcoming worry by seeking first (concentrating on) the Kingdom of God. William Barclay wrote that, “It was Jesus’ conviction that worry is banished when God becomes the dominating power of our lives.”

Worry can be defeated when we “acquire the art of living one day at a time”. Today has enough worry of its own, stop worrying about tomorrow. Stop living in the hypothetical “what if” world and be present today.

In many ways, our worry is a bi-product of attempting to satisfy our needs on our own, rather than trusting God to do what Jesus and the Scriptures say God will do.

Paul wrote in Philippians 4:19 that “My God will meet your every need out of his riches in glory that is found in Christ Jesus.” Again, do we truly believe that God will provide?

Jesus instructs us to stop worrying, to stop taking matters into our own hands, and to trust God.

The Rolling Stones remind us that “You can’t always get what you want but if you try sometime you find you get what you need.”

“You can’t always get what you want”, but, in Jesus we will get what we need!

Fear to Fail…or Succeed

This morning, while working on Sunday’s sermon about needs, selfish desires, and worry, I found myself thinking about the fear of failure…and the fear of success.

Due to my career in ministry, most of my thoughts center on the church. However, I’m pretty sure the fear of failure and fear of success appears in any field.

So, churches often have a desire to grow. Most churches don’t get together and say, “How can we kill this thing?” I say “most churches” because, by their actions & maybe some strategy (some things have to die before they can grow), some churches seem to want to figure out how to die. But, for the most part, churches have a desire to grow.

Churches often, in an effort to grow, desire to pursue excellence. We desire to have excellent hospitality, music, preaching, mission opportunities, generational ministries, facilities, and so on. Most churches don’t get together and say, “How can we be mediocre and maintain the status quo?” I say “most churches” because by their actions, some churches seem to be champions of the status quo! However, for the most part, churches have a desire to improve and seek excellence in all they do.

Churches often have a desire to reach out to the marginalized people in our communities. Most churches don’t get together and say, “How can we ignore entire groups of people in our community?” I say “most churches” because by their actions, some churches seem to have a desire to build tall walls around their properties in order to keep “those people” out. However for the most part, churches have a desire to reach out and share love with all people.

So, we desire growth. We desire excellence. We desire to reach out to all people.

However, we are afraid to fail.

So, out of fear, we fail to embrace the vision, to experiment, and we stay stagnated.

Out of fear, we accept things as they are, rather than as they could be. We accept “the known”, whether it’s working or not, because of our fear of “the unknown”.

Part of our corporate faith is transforming together into the church and people God desires us to be. This transformation requires that we overcome our fear of failure. This transformation requires that we accept and embrace change…not simply for the sake of change, but for the purpose of growth, excellence, and expanded outreach to the marginalized folks in our communities. This transformation requires a radical commitment to the vision.

The fear of failure is not the only factor that holds churches back. Sometimes what gets in the way of our pursuit of transformation is the fear of success. There are plenty of unknowns with success. If we are successful in growing, pursuing excellence, and reaching out to marginalized folks, the landscape of our churches might change drastically.

Sometimes it looks like this: We desire to change. We pursue God’s vision. We give permission for the church leaders to experiment and try new things. We gain insight as we reflect, adjust, and attempt to improve. We confirm the vision and direction. We experience synergy and being to grow, to provide excellence, we reach the marginalized in our community. Hot-diggity-dog! By golly, we’ve done it!

However, at this point, we run the risk of caving into our fears.

As soon as one little thing doesn’t go as planned, we cave into disillusionment. We are easily tricked by illusion in the midst of a failure. Yes, things are growing. But, they are also changing. And, this last project didn’t produce the results. So, rather than reflecting, adjusting, and trying again, we think, “if we could just go back to Egypt”…”if we could just return to the good old days”…”but, we’ve always done it this way”…”we’ve tried that before”. Rather than learning from our failures, we throw in the towel and go back to “they way we’ve always done things”.

Therefore, we begin to panic! We realize that things aren’t going the way we think they should. We forget that it’s okay to not be okay. We forget that with granting permission succeed, we have to be willing to give permission to fail.

failure a

Change and transformation is difficult work. So, we begin to experience exhaustion. We’re working hard and getting worn out. At this point, it’s easy to throw in the towel.

When we are on the road to transformation, if we cave into our fears…if we allow disillusionment to distract us…if we allow panic to distract us…if we allow exhaustion to distract us…stagnation is the result.

Stagnation indicates that, in the midst of our transformation, we lost sight of the vision. Fear, whether of failure or success, is one of the major roadblocks of vision-guided transformation. When fear rears its ugly head, we can get side-tracked from the vision and begin to once again believe that it’s not about the vision, it’s all about me…my wants…my needs…

The great tragedy in all of this is that, when we get distracted…when we allow our fears to overcome us…when we aren’t attempting to pursue the vision, we’ll end up right where we started or even worse.

Therefore, if transformation is going to happen…if we are going to grow…if we are going to pursue excellence…if we are going to reach out to the marginalized among us…it requires a radical commitment to the vision. Whether things are sailing smoothly or we are in the midst of the “perfect storm”, we have to keep our eyes on the vision or we’ll begin to sink. We can’t fool ourselves. Sometimes, when it appears that we are sailing smoothly, we’re actually slowly taking on water and slowly sinking. Sometimes, when we are in the midst of the rocky waters of the storm, we are in the midst of a season of growth. Radical commitment to the vision is the key.
With that, we have to allow room for grace-filled exits. In any organization, there will be individuals/groups that don’t agree with the vision. In that case, they need to be given two options: align themselves with the vision or make a grace-filled exit. Now, some would say, “That seems harsh”. I would say, “No, it doesn’t!” If someone isn’t aligned with the vision, they will be working against the vision (often times in a passive-aggressive/manipulative manner). If they aren’t committed to the vision, they will hold us back. So, we give them the option to embrace the vision or find a place that better suits them. Experience has proven that, more often than not, those grace-filled exits actually make room for growth.
If we desire to grow…if we desire to pursue excellence…if we desire to reach the marginalized people in our communities…we cannot allow our fears to overcome our pursuit of the vision. When we give into our fears, when we accept “what is” instead of “what could be”, we shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t experience growth, achieve excellence, or reach the marginalized.
Radical commitment to the vision in order to experience transformation is not easy, but it’s worth it!