Shhhh…. Is there something about you that you hope no one else ever finds out?
You’re not alone. Everyone has secrets—hurts, abuses, bad habits, fears. Big or small, secrets can destroy you from the inside out. The good news is that confession is more powerful than secrets—or the fear that keeps you from telling them.
My new book, What's Your Secret?: freedom through confession is now available...find it on Amazon, Barnes&Noble or at a bookstore near you.
My friend, Margaret Feinberg, has a new book and 7-session DVD Bible study called
Awaken to the Nearness of God (releasing Christmas
Day). It is a personal invitation for you to toss back the covers, climb out of bed,
and drink in the fullness of life. As you may or may not know, Maragret and I have worked together on different projects in the past and I’ve been a fan
of Margaret Feinberg and her books for several years.
I recently talked with Margaret about her new book. Here are some highlights:
did the inspiration for the Wonderstruck
book and Bible study come from?
Have you ever
had one of those seasons where everything goes wrong, and when you think it
can’t get worse, it somehow finds a way? My husband, Leif, and I had just gone
through one of the roughest years of our lives. In the aftermath, as we
processed the pain and loss, I had an unexplainable desire in my heart. I began
praying for the wonder of God. In essence, I said, “God reveal yourself, your
whole self to me. I want to know you as Wonderful. I want to know you as I’ve
never known you before and see you in places I’ve never recognized you before.”
God did not disappoint.
do you mean by “the wonder of God”?
talking or writing about wonder feels like tying kite strings to clouds. It’s
ethereal, and you can never quite get a grip on it. But if you look in the
dictionary, the two main definitions of wonder are: “being filled with
admiration, amazement, or awe” and “to think or speculate curiously.”
definitions come together beautifully in our relationship with God. That’s why
I define the wonder of God as those
moments of spiritual
awakening that create a desire to know God more.
In other words, the wonder of God isn’t about an emotional
experience or having some cool story to tell your friends, but the wonder of
God makes us want more of God—to go deeper and further than we’ve ever been
Why do you
think we so easily lose the wonder?
It’s amazing how
quickly we can grow numb to the wonder of God in our lives. I think there are a
variety of reasons. Paying bills. Getting that degree. Providing
for a family. Raising kids. Caring for aging parents. The list goes on.
All too often we find ourselves head down, pushing ahead,
just trying to get through. Somewhere along the way, a gap begins to develop
between God and us. A drifting takes place. We’re not only less aware of God’s
presence in our lives, we’re less expectant. And so even when God does show up,
we miss him. We pass by unaware. We’re spiritually asleep and we don’t even
Yet I believe that as followers of Jesus we’re meant to live
wonderstruck. We’re invited to live on the edge of our seats in wild expectation
of what God might do next. I want to live with this kind of divine expectation,
that wide awake spiritual hunger, searching for God in how ever he may want to
Why you do
you encourage people to pray for wonder?
This is an incredibly powerful prayer, because praying for
wonder invites us to change the posture with which we live our lives. When we
pray for wonder, we’re asking God to expand
our capacity to see and savor the divine gifts all around and take us deeper in
our journey with Christ and in the Scripture than we’ve ever been. A prayer for
wonder essentially says, “God, I want more of you! Take my breath away!” And
leaves us living expectant for how God will answer.
snarky, funny, and inspirational posts on Twitter, Facebook, or her blog. You can learn
more about her book by visiting www.margaretfeinberg.com/wonderstruck where she’s offering some crazy promos right
now with up to $300 of free stuff. I’ve seen the book for as low as $7.95
($14.99 retail) on Barnes & Noble for all you savvy shoppers.
When asking, ”what is the best way to lead other leaders?”, it is important that we look in the right places to find answers. Before drawing on business wisdom, sports analogies or our own experience we need to first look at the life of Jesus and ask “How did Jesus do it?”
I am not advocating a return to the W.W.J.D. bracelet era, replete with a full product line at the Christian bookstore to make sure we can wear and plaster the phrase everywhere we go. Rather I am encouraging that we actually look at how Jesus did things. Not just, “what would He do?”, but “what did He do?” The goal is to pay as much attention to the way we do things as to what we do. For the question at hand we must begin by asking, “How did Jesus lead leaders?”
The leaders in the life of Jesus were of course his disciples and there are some significant take-aways when it comes to how He led them.
Invite.One of the phrases that grates on me is “we need to recruit some leaders.” Is this the US army? All Gospel accounts describe Jesus creating his leadership team through personal invitation. The power of a personal invitation is exponentially greater than a generic call for people to sign up.
With.Most likely, the reasons we need leaders in the first place is because a job needs to get done. Jesus had the job of announcing and modeling His Kingdom but He never asked his disciples to do it FOR Him, instead he asked them to do it WITH Him.
Relational.Modeling and creating an “invite / with” culture is an important starting point and sets the tone for how we lead those who respond. It communicates that you are interested in relationship. The words of Jesus to his disciples when He says “I no longer call you servants, I call you friends,” (John 15:15) are very telling as to how Jesus led them. A prevalent leadership paradigm says you must keep a distance from those you lead. This is not what Jesus shows us. Over the years, some of my greatest friendships have been with those I have led.
Developmental.On a leadership scale of 1-10 I would say the disciples probably fell somewhere around a 5 when Jesus picked them. Isn’t it fascinating that none of them were rabbis or proven leaders? They all needed work. When I look for leaders I will take a person with a servant’s heart over a polished and self-confident leader any day. I know their heart is in the good place for the process of leadership development. Servanthood is the door to leadership in the Kingdom.
If people get the sense that you only want them around because of what they can do for you, the relationship will be short lived. People can quickly see when they are being used. We must build people, viewing the task as a vehicle for doing that. This means we have to be more interested in who they are as a person than in what they do. One way to help us treat people well is to refrain from refer to them as resources. When we view something as a resource we see it as something to consume and then dispose of. Money, buildings and equipment are resources; people are image bearers who are worth dying for.
In summary, the leadership model of Jesus is inviting a rag-tag bunch of guys to participate in the Kingdom vision and becoming friends while cultivating the necessary character to transform them into great Kingdom leaders. Let’s do that!
It has been just over a week since the death of Apple’s founder and innovation genius, Steve Jobs. Almost immediately Twitter, facebook, youTube and the blogosphere blew up as mourning people wrote epitaphs of his legacy. I was struck at how many people, Christians included, applauded him for “changing the world.” I use and value many of the products he introduced but I wonder how much we have thought about the cost of merely accepting and using every new machine thrown our way. In a discussion about the impact and place of technology I think it is valuable to know the story of the Greek god, Prometheus.
In the early days of the human race the essential characteristic of the human being was that each person knew the day of his or her death. That is to say, we knew our limits. Mortality was not a vague apprehension but a fixed date on the calendar. In such a condition and with such knowledge there was no incentive to do much more than exist. On top of that, the gods were capricious and brutal. They had the knowledge of how things worked and the means to accomplish them, they shared neither their knowledge nor their means. They were neither generous nor fair. They held all the significant cards on their own hands. So what is the use of trying? The basic human experience is of mortality and tyranny.
Prometheus, one of the gods, somehow became compassionately concerned about our plight and correspondingly angry at Zeus, the chief of the gods. He took it upon himself to do something about changing the human condition for the better. He did three things that would make a difference. First, he “caused mortals to cease foreseeing doom.” That is, he took away the knowledge of the day of death, the sense of limits. The awareness of mortality. Freed from a debilitating sense of doom, the human now could attempt anything. Second, he “placed in them blind hopes.” Prometheus instilled incentive in men and women to be more than they were, to reach out, to stretch themselves, to be ambitious. But the incentives were blind and directionless, unrelated to any reality. And third, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity. With this gift, people were able to cook food, make weapons, fire pottery. The entire world of technology opened up.
By this act, Prometheus set us on the way we have continued: unmindful of limits, setting goals unrelated to the actual conditions of our humanity, and possessing the technical means to change the conditions under which we live. We don’t have to put up with things as they are. Things can be better; we have the means to accomplish whatever we want to do. Consequently, we humans don’t know that we are human; rather, we think we are gods and act like gods. The awareness of our mortality is lost to us. That would not be so bad if we did not have fire, the technological means to act out our illusions of divinity. As it is we have the technology of the gods without the wisdom of the gods.
Zeus, of course, was furious. He punished Prometheus by chaining him to a rock in a remote mountain, exposed to the scorching sun and the cold moon. Every day vultures attacked him, tearing at his innards, eating his liver. Each night the liver would grow back, ready for the next day’s rapacious assault. Prometheus is unrepentant.
This is the story of Western civilization: incredible progress in things, defiantly unmindful of the nature of our humanity.*
The Apple technology that Steve Jobs created is both aesthetically pleasing and intuitively helpful, but does it give a transcendent sense of power and ultimately contribute to a false hope? I am not advocating for the elimination or avoidance of technology but rather a thoughtful recognition of where we can find real hope for from the world's problems.
Is it possible that by embracing all technology without limits or applied wisdom that our insides may be at risk? Might our souls be eroding while we feel powerful on the outside? Is being connected to what others are doing and thinking at all times conditioning our hearts to avoid silence? Does the ability to communicate with many instantly neglect the personal and contribute to the depersonalization of humanity?
My hope is that we all would think critically about the means we use to live as Kingdom people. As followers of Jesus, the way we do things is equally important as what we are doing. Our motives are great – to help others – but are we then free to justify the means?
So with appreciation and sadness, thank you Steve Jobs. And with prayerfulness and thoughtfulness let’s keep everything in perspective.
*This retelling of the Promethean story is from Eugene Peterson’s book Working the Angles. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids 1987, pp. 27-29.
Less than 48 hours ago I gave my final talk as the pastor, leader and primary visionary of theMILL (to watch or listen click here). It was a joy to lift up the name of Jesus, celebrate what God has done in this community, see so many familiar faces from over the years and a blessing to personally hear the ways that theMILL has impacted so many lives.
For the past eleven years the only thing I have known on Friday nights is theMILL and my heart has been with and for theMILL community and the college students and 20-somethings of Colorado Springs. To not lead in this context in the future is going to take some getting used to. Giving my last message and walking off the platform for the final time was most definitely surreal but it also signified a chapter in the Stern family story coming to an end.
I have truly loved this chapter. All day on Friday I found myself brimming with emotion and regularly on the verge of tears. I know I will be doing a lot of reflecting in the days ahead, but as I have thought about and gone through this transition, one thing is sure…my heart is filled with gratitude.
Thank you to theMILL community for giving me the privilege of leading you and walking with you. For bearing with me as I learned how to communicate and unpack the Scriptures. For catching the heart of God for the nations and being willing to go. For bonding together under any and all circumstances. You showed your true colors in the wake of scandal, corporate trauma and personal tragedy. I am proud to call so many of you friends. I will carry the memories of Village Inn, the Incline, Ice Bowl, Fall Retreat, missions, road trips and so many other times together in my heart. More than memories of fun times, I will carry with me the belief that a community can truly love God, each other and the world.
Thank you to New Life Church for believing in me and giving a kid who walked through your doors at 12 years old a chance. I grew up at New Life - not only physically, but also spiritually. I don’t consider this next step a separation but a multiplication.
Thank you to Brady Boyd and the elders for praying with us and confirming God’s leading. For sending us out and celebrating with us.
Thank you to my colleagues who have become friends who have become comrades. David Perkins, Glenn Packiam, Rob Brendle, Jon Egan, Ross Parsley, Jared Anderson…this list could go on and on. I don’t know who I would be without you.
Thank you to Jossie. You are amazing! I am so lucky. Your support, strength and encouragement mean the world to me. You have always been in this with me. You are a true partner in ministry and the love of my life.
Not only would I not bethe person I am today without these people and many others I wouldn’t be where I am today without them either. The process of saying yes to this change and the planting of Mill City Church in Fort Collins was affirmed and confirmed through many people in so many ways. This process was a picture of the Body of Christ operating as it was designed, by praying, hearing and following the Spirit’s leading together.
All of this is a poignant reminder of the role that relationships play in our lives in the Kingdom of God. Relationships are not the end though, as highlighted by Jesus when he says we will leave brother and sister, father and mother for His sake (Matthew 18:29). Relationships do play a vital role in each of our stories which are then intertwinded with each other's and tied into God's story of redemption and grace. That is a privilege to be a prt of and so beautiful.
Even through the tears we are very excited about the road ahead. As God has gracefully closed this chapter of our lives He is kindly turning the page, and beginning to write something new, beautiful, and profound. Though there is a lot yet to unfold, Jesus is calling. We are following.
This article from the New York Times by David Brooks titled "It's Not About You" is a fascinating perspective for anyone entering or having difficulty in the job market. It is a lucid reminder that we live in a culture that is cultivating a sense that all of life should revolve around us. Though this is not written from a Christian standpoint I think it is interesting to see that Jesus says that "when we lose our lives is when we will find it." Would love to hear your comments.
Over the past few weeks, America’s colleges have sent another class of graduates off into the world. These graduates possess something of inestimable value. Nearly every sensible middle-aged person would give away all their money to be able to go back to age 22 and begin adulthood anew.
But, especially this year, one is conscious of the many ways in which this year’s graduating class has been ill served by their elders. They enter a bad job market, the hangover from decades of excessive borrowing. They inherit a ruinous federal debt.
More important, their lives have been perversely structured. This year’s graduates are members of the most supervised generation in American history. Through their childhoods and teenage years, they have been monitored, tutored, coached and honed to an unprecedented degree.
Yet upon graduation they will enter a world that is unprecedentedly wide open and unstructured. Most of them will not quickly get married, buy a home and have kids, as previous generations did. Instead, they will confront amazingly diverse job markets, social landscapes and lifestyle niches. Most will spend a decade wandering from job to job and clique to clique, searching for a role.
No one would design a system of extreme supervision to prepare people for a decade of extreme openness. But this is exactly what has emerged in modern America. College students are raised in an environment that demands one set of navigational skills, and they are then cast out into a different environment requiring a different set of skills, which they have to figure out on their own.
Worst of all, they are sent off into this world with the whole baby-boomer theology ringing in their ears. If you sample some of the commencement addresses being broadcast on C-Span these days, you see that many graduates are told to: Follow your passion, chart your own course, march to the beat of your own drummer, follow your dreams and find yourself. This is the litany of expressive individualism, which is still the dominant note in American culture.
But, of course, this mantra misleads on nearly every front.
College grads are often sent out into the world amid rapturous talk of limitless possibilities. But this talk is of no help to the central business of adulthood, finding serious things to tie yourself down to. The successful young adult is beginning to make sacred commitments — to a spouse, a community and calling — yet mostly hears about freedom and autonomy.
Today’s graduates are also told to find their passion and then pursue their dreams. The implication is that they should find themselves first and then go off and live their quest. But, of course, very few people at age 22 or 24 can take an inward journey and come out having discovered a developed self.
Most successful young people don’t look inside and then plan a life. They look outside and find a problem, which summons their life. A relative suffers from Alzheimer’s and a young woman feels called to help cure that disease. A young man works under a miserable boss and must develop management skills so his department can function. Another young woman finds herself confronted by an opportunity she never thought of in a job category she never imagined. This wasn’t in her plans, but this is where she can make her contribution.
Most people don’t form a self and then lead a life. They are called by a problem, and the self is constructed gradually by their calling.
The graduates are also told to pursue happiness and joy. But, of course, when you read a biography of someone you admire, it’s rarely the things that made them happy that compel your admiration. It’s the things they did to court unhappiness — the things they did that were arduous and miserable, which sometimes cost them friends and aroused hatred. It’s excellence, not happiness, that we admire most.
Finally, graduates are told to be independent-minded and to express their inner spirit. But, of course, doing your job well often means suppressing yourself. As Atul Gawande mentioned during his countercultural address last week at Harvard Medical School, being a good doctor often means being part of a team, following the rules of an institution, going down a regimented checklist.
Today’s grads enter a cultural climate that preaches the self as the center of a life. But, of course, as they age, they’ll discover that the tasks of a life are at the center. Fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage their tasks, and can’t be pursued directly. Most of us are egotistical and most are self-concerned most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.
This article is from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries by Jill Carattini titled "To Dwell in in Possibility" I found it to be especially interesting considering our current cultural fascination with social media and the endless information feed provided to us via the internet and digital technology. I don't think that we should thoughtlessly ingest what is available to us but rather be mindful of how things impact us. Would love your comments.
"Over the past few years I've had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn't going—so far as I can tell—but it's changing."(1) So begins Nicholas Carr's Atlantic essay, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" His article describes the shifting of his own thought patterns; how he once could delve easily into long bouts of prose, but now finds his mind trailing off after skimming only a few pages. As a writer he is the first to applaud the instant wonders of Google searches, information-trails, and hyperlinks ad infinitum. He just wonders aloud about the cost.
University of Virginia English professor Mark Edmundson is another voice attempting to articulate the current cultural ecosystem, and the minds, souls, and relationships it cultivates. In an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education he attempts to describe the turbo-charged orientation of his students to life around them. "They want to study, travel, make friends, make more friends, read everything (superfast), take in all the movies, listen to every hot band, keep up with everyone they've ever known... They live to multiply possibilities. They're enemies of closure... [They] want to take eight classes a term, major promiscuously, have a semester abroad at three different colleges, [and] connect with every likely person who has a page on Facebook."(2) Edmundson argues that for all the virtues of a generation that lives the possibilities of life so fully, there are detriments to the mind that perpetually seeks more and other options. For many, the moment of maximum pleasure is no longer "the moment of closure, where you sealed the deal," but rather, "the moment when the choices had been multiplied to the highest sum...the moment of maximum promise."
There is a phrase in Latin that summarizes the idea that the way our minds and souls are oriented is the way our lives are oriented. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi is an axiom of ancient Christianity, meaning: the rule of worship is the rule of belief is the rule of life. That is, the way we are oriented in worship (whatever it might be that we focus on most devotedly) orients the way we believe and, in turn, the way we live. In a cultural ecosystem where we seem to worship possibilities, where freedom is understood as the absence of limitation upon our choices, and where the virtue of good multitasking has replaced the virtue of singleness of heart, it is understandable that we are both truly and metaphorically "all over the place"—mentally, spiritually, even bodily, in a state of perpetual possibility-seeking.
Of course, the ancient Christians who first repeated the idiom, Lex orandi lex credendi lex vivendi, did so with Christ in mind as the subject, aware that the Son of God was the only object of worship who could ever quiet their own restless souls. Before any formal creeds were written, the early church held this adage, knowing that the essence of their theology would rise from their acts of adoration, thanksgiving, and petition. And they knew that the ways of their worship, the things they said when they prayed, not only defined their ultimate beliefs, but ultimately defined their lives.
No matter our object of worship, the same is true of our lives today. That which claims the most thorough part of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength both reflects and shapes our lives. We most certainly live in a time when the greatest commandment comes with great difficulty, when focusing our hearts, minds, and souls on one thing is a challenge met with a constant parade of options vying for our attention. But the God who longs to gather us, whose arm is not too short to save (even from ourselves), nor ear too dull to hear, is the same yesterday and today.
What's more, the distracted soul is hardly unique to the age of Google. There was a time when the ancient church father Augustine of Hippo defined his soul as "too cramped" for God to enter. He prayed that God might widen it, seeing too that it needed to be emptied. "You prompt us yourself to find satisfaction in appraising you," he prayed. "[Y]ou made us tilted toward you, and our heart is unstable until stabilized in you."(3) Of course, such satisfaction in worship is not likely if God is known as one of many possibilities in a never-ending, ever-expanding web of activities and diversions. If faith is only a part of life, then it has become as optional as pursuing one more hyperlink or skimming one more article. But those who fully approach the God of all possibilities find rest and focus, wisdom—and indeed, possibility—for their souls. As we worship, so will we live.