Being or Doing?

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a little time in a message I preached on “Why Am I Here?” talking about the importance of being versus doing.  Here’s a quick summary of a couple of important points:

  • We are human beings, not human doings.  (This quote is not original with me.  I’ve heard and read it a couple of different places, although most recently on a DVD teaching on Soul Care by Dr. Rob Reiner.)
  • In the creation story of Genesis 2:7-10, God created Adam and put him in the garden to enjoy the beauty and to fellowship with God (to BE) before God instructed Adam to DO anything else.
  • In Mark 3:13-15, (NIV) Jesus calls the Twelve.  Mark tells the story like this:  “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.  He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.”  The interesting this is that Jesus called them to BE with Him, and then what would follow out of their being with Him would be their being sent out on mission.  We often put mission – doing – ahead of being with Jesus.  But as Jesus pointed out in John 15, unless we learn to abide/remain in Him – to BE with Him – we can DO nothing of any eternal significance.  So again, doing must come before being.

As I’ve thought about this more over the past few weeks, and had opportunities to have conversations with people about it, I’ve realized that while this is good truth, it’s difficult truth.  And it’s difficult for a couple of reasons.

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First, most of us just don’t know how to “be.”  It sounds cool to say we are “human beings not human doings” but the truth is that most of us are so busy and live life at such a hectic pace that there’s no room in our lives to simply “be.”  And if there were room, and if there were time, I’m not sure that most of us would know how to “be.” 

(A personal example:  a few years ago, I was taking a course on Spiritual Formation in Redding, California.  On the first morning of the retreat, we were sent out to find a place by ourselves on the campus where we were.  We were not allowed to take anything with us – no Bible, no journal, no phone, no notebooks, no nothing at all.  We were given a few phrases to meditate on:  “God loves me,” “God is with me,” and “God is for me.”  That’s all.  Then we were left alone for an hour and a half.  It was one of the longest hour and a half time periods of my life!  I wasn’t used to just “being” with God.)

For many of us, to “be” is just something that has never been defined, that has never been modeled, that we’ve never been taught how to do, that no one ever felt was an important part of helping us grow as disciples, and that doesn’t come naturally.

Second, “doing” is much easier than “being” when we’ve spent our lives “doing.”  We live in a culture in which achievement is rewarded.  We live in a time when smartphones make to-do lists and organization accessible to all of us.  In school, we’re graded on what we achieve – how well we do.  (Well, we used to be…it seems to be more about participation trophies and standardized testing prep than actually achieving anything, but that’s another blog post.)

So…how exactly do you “be”?  And what should the balance be between being and doing, when we’ve spent most of our lives being taught how to do and being rewarded for doing?

What do you think?  For my answers, stay tuned!  🙂


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

Seize the Day

Every once in a while, I would tell myself, “I’m going to call my Uncle Tim next week.”  But the weeks turned into months, and it didn’t happen nearly often enough.  Then he passed away a couple of weeks ago.  I missed my opportunity.

When I was in high school, the band Alabama hit the country music scene nationally and quickly became my favorite band.  I loved that they were way more southern rock in concert than they could be on the radio.  In 2003, they retired; then a few years ago, got back together and began touring again.  I kept telling myself “I want to see them in concert again.  Maybe they’ll come to Pittsburgh…”  I passed on Lancaster and Buffalo and Cleveland because it wasn’t convenient, or too expensive.  This week, I found out that their lead guitarist has Parkinson’s and won’t be touring with them anymore.  It won’t be same.  I missed my opportunity.

In 2013, the Pirates made the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.  I thought about going down for a playoff game, but decided it was too expensive and I didn’t have time.  Same thing the next two years.  Then in 2016, they didn’t make the playoffs.  I missed my opportunity.

I could go on and list a hundred other things.  Some important, some not so important.  Some involving people, some involving places, some involving events.  Missed opportunities.

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To be fair, life happens.  We all have to make choices.  Money spent on concert tickets or sports events is money that could be spent on Oreo Blizzards or debt retirement.  Time spent with one person means time you cannot spend with another person.  Traveling to one place means you don’t have time to spend going to another place.

But here’s the thing – every day, we are presented with opportunities.  Every day, we have choices to make.  And every day, some opportunities pass us by.

We cannot take advantage of every opportunity.  So we have to make intentional choices about what we will do and what we will not do, who we will spend time with and who we will not spend time with, what we will spend money on and what we will not spend money on.

If we don’t make intentional choices, life will pass us by.  Opportunities will be missed without us realizing it at the time.

So seize the day.  Make your choices.  Don’t let inconvenience or busyness keep you from calling that person, making that memory, chasing that dream.

Seize the day.  Because one day, our opportunities will be lost.

The Plumb-Line

When I was a college student, my Mom introduced to me to Kay Arthur’s Precept Bible Studies.  Precept Ministries is founded on a simple truth – that the Word of God is the plumb-line for the Christian life.

I had to learn what a plumb-line is.  It’s a construction thing – a plumb-line is a cord, weighted with lead, that is used in building to check that vertical structures are straight and true.  A plumb-line hangs free, and gravity draws it to the earth, creating a straight line that can help ensure that walls are built straight.  A plumb-line is a standard.  In the Bible, a plumb-line is mentioned in a couple of different places as God’s divine standard by which He tests, judges, and rebuilds His people.  (That’s a simplified explanation, but this is a blog, not a theology textbook!)

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As I have grown in my walk with the Lord over the years, I have come to realize that the Bible is indeed the plumb-line for our lives.  It also contains a number of important plumb-lines.  They include facts like this:  God is good; Jesus is the complete revelation of the Father; the Holy Spirit seals us as God’s own when we believe on Jesus; there is absolute truth, and God is the source of all truth; Jesus Himself is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; and many other plumb-line truths that help us to build lives that pleasing to the Lord and well-grounded.

Over the past several weeks, as I have processed some of the things that I and my family have been dealing with, I have been reminded of one of the most important plumb-lines in my life: the belief that no matter what I experience, no matter what my eyes tell me, no matter what anyone else may say or believe or try to convince me of, God is good.

This truth has come to inform and to form every part of my life:  my relationships, especially with God; my approach to ministry; my preaching and teaching; my writing; my leadership; my view of God, of people, of this world, of what happens to me and around me and in me and to those I know and love.

God is good.

It’s not the only plumb-line in my life, but it has become one of the most important ones to me.  And it has become one of the primary filters through which I see life.

For me, that’s huge.  There were times in my life when I couldn’t see His goodness; times when I doubted His goodness.  Times I yelled at Him and wondered what the h*** He was doing to me and to my family.  (I’m just being real, folks.)

But He is good.  He is always good.

And I learned that, in part, through those dark times.

God is good.

What are some of your plumb-lines?  Which ones mean the most to you?


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.

What Matters Most

Disclaimer – this is a little long for a blog.  Sorry!

Over the past couple of years, a few people, (including Jewel), whose voices carry great weight in my life, have been encouraging me to make some choices about my time.  As I have picked up new responsibilities and projects, and as I have begun to devote more time to writing, I keep hearing the question, “What are you going to let go of?”

That’s a great question.  My response has generally been to make excuses as to why I don’t need to let go of anything.  “This isn’t going to take that much more time.  And that – it’s just an extension of something I already do.  And that thing?  I enjoy doing that.  Oh, and that other thing?  Well, someone has to do it, and I’m the senior pastor, and people expect me to do it.”

Except that now God kind of has my attention.  Whether I want to or not, I have to make some choices.  I have to let go of some things.  I can’t sustain what I have been doing.  I can’t add more without taking some things off.  I can’t sacrifice my family for my ministry, and I can’t sacrifice my health in order to meet the expectations – real or imagined – of other people.

It kills me to write that.  Especially because I think and worry about what other people think about me.  (I’m working on letting go of that, with God’s help.)

But it’s true.

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So, I’m sifting.  Looking at what I do.  Looking at what I have to do, that no one else can do.  And the list is shorter than I thought it was.

Only I can be my Father’s son for me.  Only I can make sure I am doing what is necessary to make sure my soul is growing, not withering on the vine.  Only I can be Jewel’s husband and Bethany’s father.  In my church, I’m the one who needs to carry the weight of most of the Sunday morning preaching, who goes to God for my people and hears from God for my people, who leads the leaders, and who takes the lead in receiving and sharing vision.

There’s a lot of stuff that I do that doesn’t fall under any of those categories.

So I’m learning I have to make some hard choices.  Just as an example, here’s one:  I’m not going to teach Sunday School anymore.  Sounds heretical, rebellious; sounds like something I actually should be doing.

But for me, teaching Sunday School isn’t a “most effective” and “best use” of my time.  Here’s why:  in the same amount of time I can prepare for and teach 15-20 adults, I can also prepare and write 3 blogs and reach several hundred people in the course of the week.  When I look at it like that, it’s a no-brainer.  So, our elders and board have been talking about what to do about adult Sunday School.  Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy preparing for and teaching Sunday School.  I feel guilty about saying “I can’t do that anymore.”  I know some people will be upset at me; and some people will feel like it’s my job and I should be doing it.  However, in the end, I’m the one who has to answer for how I use my time.  And writing my blog is a more effective use of my time.  So that’s a choice I’ve had to make.  I’m very blessed to have a board that understands and is supportive.  They love me, and are willing to work to find a solution.

Bottom line for me is this – if I don’t care well for myself, I can’t care well for others.  It sounds selfish, but every time you get on an airplane, you are reminded of this when they demonstrate the use of the emergency oxygen system and tell you that if you are traveling with children or disabled people, you must put your mask on first.  If you black out, you cannot help anyone else.

I’ve come to the place where I’ve realized if I don’t take care of my soul, I can’t help anyone else with theirs.  So my first priority every day has to be to quiet myself and sit with my Father and let Him minister to me.

I can’t offer fresh bread from God to my congregation if I don’t invest significant time in silence and solitude in God’s Presence, receiving and hearing from Him.

What does this have to do with pain and unanswered questions and feeling God’s absence?  Simple.  Those things forced me to realize I needed to make some choices.  Perhaps God wants to do the same in your life.  Maybe God wants to help you see that some things that you think are vital are actually distractions.

It comes back to what I wrote a few days ago – if you’re in that place of pain, of suffering, of feeling abandoned or unheard, then maybe it would be good to stop asking “why.”  Maybe it’s time to ask God how He wants to use this.

Maybe He’s trying to bring good out of something painful by helping you see what matters most.


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  A paperback version will soon be available.