Are You Putting God in a Box?

Are You Putting God in a Box?

[guestpost]This article has been refreshed from May 2012. I believe it is still true today.[/guestpost]
New York City ChurchSo who’s right? You? Your pastor? The Pope? The head of some denomination? The group of church leaders when they vote? Which leaders? Or perhaps the “who’s right” question isn’t the right one because we’re putting God in a box by asking it that way.

Perhaps each one of us is right in how we hear God for ourselves. He can talk to each one of us, right? So in effect, can each one of us hear differently, and still be right?

And what happens when you hear differently from me? Or one pastor hears differently from another? Or one group of church leaders does one thing in the name of God, and another group does something very different?

There are many examples of this kind of divisive religiosity, but one stands out in my mind. During the period of the US Civil War, both the Union and Confederate sides of the conflict appealed to Christianity and Scripture in support of their respective positions, including both slavery and anti-slavery beliefs. Both certainly could not be right!

Sure, we can misunderstand what we believe we hear from God. And there have been plenty of falsehoods taught in the name of Christianity for two thousand years. But is everybody wrong except me? Or you? Or – who???

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How Getting Fired Can Become Priceless

How Getting Fired Can Become Priceless

Trees from AshesI’ve only been fired once. It happened in one of the worst possible ways. The email arrived on a Sunday night: “You are being taken off the schedule immediately.” There was no warning. No “opportunity for improvement.” No due process. Even looking back from the vantage point of years I can see no warning signs leading up to that traumatic evening. Nobody had the guts to approach me and explain what was going on.

I had it easier than most people who get fired. That position was not the only “job” I had at the time. I was working in three different settings, and was able to quickly increase my hours in the other two positions. Financially I experienced only a minor hiccup, but the internal impact on my psyche wasn’t nearly as minor.

Through that experience I discovered that being fired is good for you. Oh sure, it hurts. But it’s an experience that can spawn a great deal of wisdom, clarity, and maturity if one allows it to.

Here are several things being fired helped me understand, and that you can learn if you have a similar experience:

  1. Life isn’t fair. It’s not worth the emotional angst to try to make it fair. Some people are just jerks.
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Is One of these Character Traits Holding You Back?

Is One of these Character Traits Holding You Back?

SuccessSomething in your soul says you should be farther along than you are. You see others who seem to have so much more – a stronger marriage, a better job, a larger ministry, better health, a larger platform, a more vibrant spirituality. What do they have that you don’t have? Why does it seem so much easier for them?

A friend asked me that question last week, and it got me thinking. And I’m convinced that as unfair as life is, there’s a lot we can do about our own future. Could there be some character traits that are holding you back?

A smart education, good role models, and hard work are certainly important. But it’s not usually the best educated who have the most success. Some who work terribly hard never reach the goals they desire. God has different roles for each of us in His kingdom, of course. God’s favor certainly makes a difference, but does that mean He doesn’t think as highly of you if you’re not at the level you – or He – desire you to be? I don’t think so.

Character is one of the most important factors we can do something about. Character impacts your success not only in ministry, but at least as much in business, marriage, and life in general.

Consider these character traits that could be keeping you from the success you might otherwise have:

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What’s Better Than an Entitlement Mentality or Punishment Mindset?

What’s Better Than an Entitlement Mentality or Punishment Mindset?

Parent and ChildContemporary Western Christianity, and society in general, struggles to remain free from two insidious evils. And when moving away from either one, it’s possible to jump from the frying pan into the fire.

On one hand is the idea that everyone’s out to get you. Your parents, teachers, the government, and even God are just looking for you to mess up. As long as you toe the line perfectly you’re OK. But if you fail to live up to someone’s expectations you’re in trouble. Bad things that happen, such as sickness, poverty, or anything else undesirable, are your fault because you did something wrong. It’s the punishment mindset, and it is certain to wear you out.

The other extreme is no better. Nobody’s out to get you, but everyone owes you something. The rest of the world is primarily there for your benefit. If your life is uncomfortable or lacking in any way THEY are responsible. Your parents owe you an easy happy childhood. Your teachers owe you a good grade. The government owes you education, a job, and benefits. God owes you health and prosperity. The entitlement mentality is alive and well in our society and in the church, and it will end up seriously disappointing you.

In the Bible, Job’s friends displayed a combination of the punishment mindset and the entitlement mentality. When Job lost his livelihood, his children, and his health his friends were sure it was because Job had sinned:

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How to “Make Up” When You’ve Hurt Your Spouse

How to “Make Up” When You’ve Hurt Your Spouse

As uncomfortable as it may be, saying “I’m sorry” for a small thing to someone you may never see again really isn’t all that hard. The stakes are much higher when you’ve hurt the one you promised to love, honor, and cherish for the rest of your life. Making things right with your spouse is more difficult, but it’s a skill you’ll need to learn if you want a long and healthy marriage.

Unless you’re ready for translation, you and I each do things that hurt those closest to us. Sometimes it’s an honest mistake, completely without intention to cause harm. Other times we cause harm through carelessness or weakness, or because we’re hurting ourselves. And then there are times we know we’re doing something that will hurt him or her, but we do it anyway.

In the end what matters is that you caused them pain. Ouch! It’s easy to get defensive and try to explain away what you did, but that only drives you farther apart. If you want your marriage to survive you need to do everything possible on your end to repair the relationship. It starts with you.

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