Book Review – One Thousand Gifts

Thanksgiving is our annual reminder of just how blessed we are, and for how much we can be grateful.  I thought it was a good opportunity to share with you a book about gratitude that has had a huge impact on my life since I first read it three or four years ago.

Ann Voskamp is a Canadian author.  She grew up on a farm, and is now married to a farmer.  Her life has been marked by that lifestyle, as all our lives have been marked by how we were brought up and the experiences that we have gone through.

As a child, she had to endure the loss of a sibling.  Her sister was killed by a delivery truck backing up.  That experience was devastating for Ann and her parents.  It led to major depression for all of them.  For Ann, it eventually led her to attempt suicide as a Bible college student.

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One Thousand Gifts is part personal story and testimony, part encouragement, and part challenge to change your perspective on life by shifting to an attitude of gratitude.  The main thrust of the book is based on an exercise that Ann’s counselor asked her to do.  While she struggled with coping, her counselor told her to stop dwelling on what had happened in the past and on what she had lost.  Instead, she should focus on all the blessings that God had given her.  She was assigned homework – every day, list several things for which she was grateful.  She was supposed to do that until she had listed one thousand things for which she was thankful.

This took her on a fascinating journey.  The more she paid attention to the blessings God had given her, the more her way of thinking and dealing with life changed.  It transformed her entire view of God, of herself, of life, and of the world.  She realized that even in the most difficult of times, the smallest things that can reveal the riches of God’s grace.

Her conclusion at the end of her journey?  In this world, if we have eyes to see it, all is grace.

I benefited greatly from this book – I think most people would.  But if you’re dealing with loss and heartache, I would suggest that it could be a transformative read for you.

As you take time to enjoy family and feasting this Thanksgiving, take time to be thankful as well.  One thousand gifts is a lot…but maybe this weekend, you can take a few moments and write down ten things for which you are thankful.  You might be surprised at what that little exercise can do for your mind.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Oh – and if you decide you want to buy the book, the Kindle edition can be purchased here.

Navigating Change

All of life is change and involves change. Consider:

• the daily journey of the sun across the sky;

• the rhythms of the seasons;

• the steady progress of growth, maturing, and aging;

• the parade of people through our lives – births and deaths; transfers and moves; new neighbors and co-workers;

• the constant development of technological and medical advances;

and the list could go on and on.

But change is difficult. Even when we see the need for habit; even when we are part of the change and desire change; even when we are planning the change; even when we know change is necessary…the truth is that we are creatures of habit. We want others to change; ourselves, not so much.

So how do we navigate change? How do we handle ourselves when we find ourselves in transition? How do we maintain our peace and joy when the transition isn’t what we truly want?

Here are a few thoughts:

Pray. We all know this one. But sometimes we need to be reminded. God answers prayer. God is moved by the prayers of His people. When we are in transition, we need to be in prayer for God to move, to prepare the way, to give us wisdom, and to work in and through our circumstances. And when we have prayed, we need to…

Trust God. As my friend Rob Reimer often says, God is smarter than we are, and He knows things we don’t know. He holds us, and He also holds the future in HIs hands. He can and will take care of us. He will work all things together for our good. Even when we cannot see how that will happen, He does it. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “God is too good to be unkind, and He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.” And as we are trusting God, we need to…

Be patient. God’s perfect timing doesn’t always seem like it to us. We are stuck in the moment, often thinking of what we are dealing with right now. But God’s perspective is eternal. It can often seem like He isn’t coming through when we need Him to (think Daniel being arrested and put in the lions’ den; Joseph in prison; Abraham living decades with no son, for example). But God knows the what’s, why’s, and when’s better than we could ever hope to. So we need to wait patiently for His moment, the right moment. But in being patient, we also need to listen to God, and when the moment is right, we need to…

Act. God still does His work through His people. Trusting, praying, and being patient don’t relieve us of the responsibility to take action, to do what we can do. We need to hear from Him on the timing; we need to be careful not to rush ahead of Him, and not to lag behind. But we need to act. Carefully, wisely, deliberately – but we need to act.

Psalm 25:9 (NIV) says, “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” May we pray, trust God, wait patiently, and then act – all with humble hearts, that we may hear from Him and receive His guidance.

Book Review – David and Goliath

David and Goliath is not just a story in the Bible – it’s a recent book by New York Times bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell, the author of five books and a staff writer for The New Yorker, is well-known for his creative insights into life using academic research as a basis for his ideas. An English-born journalist, author, and public speaker, he now resides in Canada and was appointed to the Order of Canada in June 2011.

Gladwell approaches the story of David and Goliath from a different perspective than one to which most people are accustomed. To most, the story is a classic example of an underdog (David) overcoming a huge warrior-giant (Goliath). And that is what happened – David defeated Goliath with the help of God.

But Gladwell points out that another perspective on the battle between the two of them shows that David’s victory, in some respects, should not have been unexpected. Goliath was a huge, lumbering heavy infantryman who needed an armor-bearer to help him with all of his weaponry and armor. David, on the other hand, was a nimble slinger who, based on historical information, could likely sling a stone with incredible accuracy at great distances, at a speed close to the speed of a bullet fired from a .45 pistol!

In other words, Goliath was looking for another heavy infantryman to fight in close, hand-to-hand combat; but instead, he encounters a fast-moving, accurate slinger who can attack from a distance and who hits him with stone before he can even thrust his spear at David.

Gladwell uses this perspective to point out that what we often perceive as strengths which can never be undermined – Goliath’s strength – can actually be weaknesses at some point. And that which we often perceive as weakness – David’s youth and experience and lack of armor – can actually be a strength, if applied strategically.

In other words, perceived advantages can often be disadvantages. And perceived disadvantages can often be advantages.

Gladwell goes on to demonstrate this from several different perspectives. A few examples:

⁃ Vivek Ranadivé, who knew nothing about basketball, but coached his daughter’s basketball team all the way to Nationals by teaching them to use the full-court press all the time – a completely unorthodox strategy that helped them defeat teams that should have easily defeated them.

⁃ The advantage of being a Little Fish in Big Pond, which can sometimes draw attention to your uniqueness and create unexpected opportunities.

⁃ Dyslexia – while dyslexia is classified as a learning disability, it seems that an inordinate amount of successful entrepreneurs have overcome dyslexia.

⁃ How Wyatt Walker, one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s lieutenants, used the media to help shift perspectives and empower the Civil Rights movement when it appeared to be facing irrelevance.

⁃ A group of “powerless” Irish mothers, who stood up against the might of the British Army during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and broke the control the British Army had established in Lower Falls.

These and several other examples drive home Gladwell’s major theme – your greatest disadvantage, your greatest weakness, can become a great advantage and strength if you are strategic about it. I would add to that if you can trust on God for wisdom and strength in that pursuit. (It’s a hopeful word for churches in today’s stagnant church conditions in America.)

But it is also a word of warning – beware of trusting in your strengths and advantages. There can come a point where they become weaknesses and disadvantages. (I believe that is part of what happened to evangelical churches in the last decade).

If you want a challenging and thought-provoking read, or if you are a leader who is willing to think outside of the box, I would recommend David and Goliath. You can purchase it on Kindle here.

684

684 Sundays.

That’s roughly how many Sundays there are until the beginning of the year in which I turn 65, and probably retire.

I know, that’s a long ways off.

But it’s not that far off.

And I won’t get to preach every one of those Sundays. I will be on vacation for some of those Sundays; I will have staff members who will want to speak for some of those Sundays; and I will have special speakers for some of those Sundays for things like Missions Conference or other special events. Over the course of those 13+ years, a conservative estimate would be that I would not preach 8 Sundays per year. That’s at least 104 Sundays I won’t be preaching, and that doesn’t account for emergencies or unexpected opportunities to have special speakers. So that cuts me down to 579 Sundays.

579 Sundays. That’s about 100 more sermon series, with a length of 5 – 6 messages. To those of you who have to sit and listen to me preach, it sounds like a lot of sermons.

But to me? That number is the number of grains of sand left in an hourglass, and they’re slipping through steadily.

Every week, that number decreases.

So for the time I have left, I want to be sure that every message counts,

The truth is that I’ve lived a significant part of my life in fear and anxiety. I’ve thought and worried too much about what other people think. I’ve tried too hard to please people, and tried to hard to avoid offending people so they wouldn’t leave the church.

But that kind of living is foolishness.

The truth is that no matter how hard I try, or how careful I am, I will always offend someone, somehow. I will always let people down and I will always disappoint some people.

So I’ve got to live my life according to what I think God wants from me.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a license to offend, to alienate, to be inconsiderate, or to just be a jerk.

But I can’t let my leadership of others be governed by fear or by their expectations.

Leadership can be selfish and controlling – manipulative. But it can also be motivational – unselfishly leading people to a difficult place, on a difficult journey, that will ultimately be for their benefit.

684 Sundays. That’s my number. I’ve got to make the most of it. I’ve got to lead differently, invest myself more in young leaders, take more risks, take bigger risks, push other leaders to go where they may not want to go but desperately need to go.

My challenge, my mission, is to fundamentally change the culture and direction of our church so that we are fulfilling Christ’s call. Because right now, while we’re doing some very good things, the hard and honest truth is that we’re failing. And if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting what we’re getting.

We have to change. I have to lead change. And I know what it will cost, because I’ve gone there before.

684 Sundays.

That’s my number.

What’s your number?

What are you going to do about it?

When Does It End?

In the last couple of weeks…

  • Two family members have undergone surgery.
  • A couple of close friends have learned that they are facing medical tests which could lead to life-changing or life-threatening diagnoses.
  • A family member has been harassed to the point of requiring police involvement.
  • Another family member has been defrauded by someone close to them and is facing difficult decisions about how to handle it.
  • Another family member is dealing with physical pain that cannot be helped medically.
  • A couple of close friends are dealing with adult children who are making unhealthy and unsafe relationship choices.
  • A couple of friends are dealing with the possibility of imploding marriages.

And those are just the tip of the iceberg.  Those are just some of the issues in my immediate circles of family and friends.  There are a ton more.  And that doesn’t even touch on things like the deepening divisions in our nation, the threat of war with North Korea, and a hundred other disturbing news items that I could highlight.

Where does it all end?  When does it end?  It feels like one one thing right after another, like one thing gets dealt with and before it’s even completely dealt with, another thing is popping up.  It’s like life has become a giant, losing game of Whack-A-Mole.

How do you deal with all of that without becoming cynical, fearful, anxious, depressed – without just throwing up your hands and giving up?

Hope.  We have to have hope, despite all that is happening around us.

And what reason could there be for hope?

Jesus.  And…Jesus’ promise:

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”  Matthew 19:28-29 (NIV)

Did you catch that?  At the renewal of all things.

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The way things are now is NOT the way that they will always be.

The way your life is now is NOT the way that it will always be.

One day, all things will be renewed.  Re-made.  Re-created, as some Bible translations put it.

All things restored, put back as they were originally created and intended.

I know, it sounds too good to be true.

And there’s so much more there – so much deeper that we could dig into this.  But that’s beyond the scope of one short blog entry.

For today, it is enough to remember that there is hope.  That a day is coming – a day that Jesus called the “renewal of all things.”  On that day, He will fulfill what God promised in Revelation 21:3-5 (NIV):  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”  Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Wednesday Book Review – The Last Arrow

So far, I’ve posted only positive books reviews.  That’s partly because if a book doesn’t quickly capture my attention, I drop it.  There are just too many books to read, so why waste my time on something that doesn’t hold my interest, and why tell you about a book in which I’m not interested????

Once in a very great while, though, among all the great books I read, I come across a book that stands head and shoulders above the rest – a book that is just life-changing.  The Last Arrow by Erwin Raphael McManus is one of those books.

Erwin Raphael McManus describes himself as an author, futurist, filmmaker, and designer.  His author profile says that he is known as “an iconoclast, artist, and cultural thought leader who is recognized for his integration of creativity and spirituality.  He is the founder and Lead Pastor of Mosaic, a Los Angeles based church of faith recognized as one of America’s most influential and innovative churches.”

And he is an amazing inspirational author.

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The Last Arrow begins with a scene that unfolded in McManus’ life in December 2016 – sitting in a doctor’s office and hearing the dreaded words, “You have cancer.”  From there, the book touches on McManus’s journey, different events that are part of his life’s journey, and the testimonies of friends and acquaintances who have encountered Jesus and gone “all in” for the Kingdom of God.

The concept for the book comes from a story about Elisha near the end of his life.  King Jehoash of Israel wants Elisha’s blessing and direction.  He visits Elisha, who is on his deathbed.  Elisha orders him to shoot an arrow out of the window of the room, and then prophesies victory over the Arameans.  Next, Elisha commands him to strike the ground with the remaining arrows.  Jehoash complies, striking the ground three times, but Elisha becomes angry and tells him that he should have struck the ground five or six times – because then he would have completely defeated his enemies.  Instead, Elisha tells him, because he only struck the ground three times, he would only defeat his enemies three times.

What a bizarre story!  The king apparently didn’t know any better; but something in his actions showed a lack of faith and perseverance that were necessary to complete victory.

McManus uses this story, and others from the life of Elisha, to demonstrate the power of living our lives full-out for God – of spending every arrow we have in this life, leaving nothing for the next life.  Because, after all, we will not need arrows in heaven.  The victory will be won.

McManus focuses on some important themes in living our lives in such a way that we hold nothing back – his chapter titles demonstrate this.  They include:  Save Nothing for the Next Life; Choose the Future; Set Your Past on Fire; Act Like Your Life Depends on It; Stand Your Ground; Find Your People; and Know What You Want, among others.

The book is chock full of stories, testimonies, and challenges to get out of our comfort zones and to fully engage with both Jesus and our culture so that we can leave a legacy with our lives.  You’ll read, for example:

  • Erwin’s spur-of-the-moment trip to Brazil for the World Cup Final that resulted in him having an opportunity to share his faith with a Brazilian family;
  • How God was able to us 9/11 to increase Erwin’s opportunities to serve Him because Erwin chose to live in faith rather than in fear;
  • How God used Erwin’s wife and daughter to minister to a family who is helping free women from human trafficking; and
  • How God used a trip to Beirut to challenge Erwin out of his comfort zone.

But of everything he writes in the book, perhaps the dedication challenged me the most:

“Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. – Psalm 127:4

To my arrows: Aaron Christopher McManus, who has never backed down from a fight, and to Mariah McManus Goss, who is as fearless as she is fierce.

Long after I rest my bow and have struck my last arrow, there will still be arrows flying true: their names are Aaron and Mariah. The trajectories of their lives will take them far beyond the ground I have taken. If they were once my arrows, they are now my archers. I dedicate this book to them and the future they represent.

Aaron and Mariah: You are the tip of the spear. You are the future. This is your fight. I pulled the bow back as far as I could and gave you all the strength I had to send you into flight. Fly far and true. Cross enemy lines. Hit the mark. Set captives free. Keep striking until the battle’s won. —Dad”

I want to live my life like that.  I want to be a Dad like that.  If that stirs your passion, stop reading whatever you are reading now and pick up a copy of The Last Arrow by Erwin Raphael McManus.

Walking The Shadowlands

As I trudge along the damp dirt path, tendrils of smoke wisp out in front of me.  I squint as I walk, trying to see through the dark shadows that surround me.  On both sides of me, the high canyon walls cut off the light; above me, a thick canopy of leaves keeps the sky hidden from my sight.

I have been traveling through this valley for some time.  I didn’t enter it by choice, and likely wouldn’t have chosen it; the path I follow brought me here.

There are others walking this same path.  At times, we meet one another; occasionally, we will walk the path together, at least for a while.  Other times, we will spot one another from a distance.  Some of us help one another on this journey; some avoid all help and all contact with others, preferring solitude.

Yeshua, my guide, has assured me that I will not always be in this valley.  He is always with me, although I cannot always see Him.  Nor can I always hear Him.  But as long as I keep my mind on Him, my eyes on Him when I can see Him, and my ears tuned to Him when He speaks, I am not afraid.  Even in this, the darkest of valleys.

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I live in the Shadowlands.  All of us do, actually.  Despite the name, all is not dark in this world, because Elyon created this world.  And when He created it, He created it full of light and beauty and adventure and mystery.  And he pronounced it good.  He poured all of His love into this creation.  Back then, it was known as Eden, not as the Shadowlands.

That came later, after the Cataclysm.  After the Man and the Woman choose to listen to the dark whisperings of the serpent rather than the true words of Elyon.  They reached for knowledge rather than intimacy, not understanding that relationship with Elyon would have opened the door to true knowledge.  In that moment, with that choice, they broke what Elyon had created as good.

Since then, I am told, this good world has changed dramatically.

It is still filled with light and beauty and adventure and mystery. 

But the light – the light does not shine as brightly as it did in the beginning.  The colors are muted; the beauty has been marred.  There is adventure and mystery, but there is great danger – the serpent and his cohorts roam the Shadowlands, seeking to destroy and devour the sons and daughters of Elyon.  And sadly, they often succeed.  Many choose to listen to the whisperings of the serpent.  Many choose to blaze their own trail, not understanding that in reality, they are deceived and only follow the serpent’s trail.

After the Cataclysm, millennia later, Elyon sent Yeshua, His Firstborn, to rescue us.  It’s a long story – perhaps I will tell more of it another time.  Yeshua came to the Shadowlands and with His own blood, blazed a trail through the Shadowlands.  He has told all of us who follow Him that He will lead us along this trail – to Elyon.  To Home.

That’s where I’m heading.  That’s where many of my friends and family are heading – Home to Elyon.

It’s a long journey.  There are times it’s very difficult; times the path is hard to see.  Times too, though, of great joy and bountiful blessing.  And there are times like this – times when we walk through the darkest of valleys.

But valleys are not forever, and shadows are cast only because something tries to hide Elyon’s light from us.  And nothing can hide Elyon’s light completely – not even the final valley that I’ve heard is at the end of this journey.  That valley is called the Shadow of Death.  I’m not sure where it is, but I think it is a long ways off from here.  The thing is, I’m learning to trust Yeshua in this valley, as I have in other valleys that He has brought me through. 

And if He can get me through this valley, I know He will get me through whatever other valley I might face.

He can do the same for you.

Remember – these Shadowlands are wonderful and terrible and wild and beautiful and mysterious.  But they are only a shadow of what Elyon has for us – what we will one day see with our own eyes.

Home.

It’s All Up To You

In one of John Maxwell book “Developing the Leader Within”, he quoted the following:

We cannot choose how many years we will live, but

We can choose how much life those years will have.

We cannot control the beauty of our face, but

We can control the expression on it.

We cannot control life’s difficult moments, but

We can choose to make life less difficult.

We cannot control the negative atmosphere of the world, but

We can control the atmosphere of our minds.

Too often, we try to choose and control things we cannot.

Too seldom, we choose to control what we can…our attitude.

How true that is, and how powerful once we understand it.

There are two important truths here:

    • There is not much that I cannot control in life, but
    • I CAN control my own attitude.

I know people – and I’m sure you do – who spend their entire lives trying to control.  Trying to control their spouses and children and grandchildren, trying to control other peoples’ perceptions of them, trying to control other peoples’ actions, trying to control their lives, trying to control what the future will look like.

And it’s all futile. 

The discouraging truth is that we begin life with no control, we gain some control over our lives as we become adults and make our own decisions, but ultimately, aging is a process of increasingly losing control of different aspects of our lives.  Depressing, isn’t it?  And yet, it’s the human condition.  It happens to all of us, and no matter who we are, how influential or powerless we are, how wealthy or poor we are, how spiritual or unspiritual we are, how well we plan or how poorly we plan, it will happen to each one of us.

But the good news is that while I cannot control what happens to me, I can control what happens in me.  No one can choose my attitude but me; no one can control my response to life’s situations but me.

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Viktor Frankl was a Doctor of Neurology and Psychology.  In 1942, he and his wife were forced by the Nazis to abort their first baby.  In 1944, they are sent to Auschwitz, where he is separated from his wife, mother, and brother.  After Auschwitz was liberated by U.S. Troops, he learned that his wife was transported to Bergen-Belsen, where she died at the age of 24; and that his mother and brother were murdered at Auschwitz.  Despite all of these experiences, Frankl went on to write the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” – the book in which he wrote these powerful words:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Wow.  Consider the weight of those words after all that he himself experienced.  No one can take from you the freedom to choose your attitude.

None of us knows what today will hold, what we will face in the coming days or hours.

None of us can control most of what may happen to us.

But every one of us can control our own attitude.  Every one of us can choose how we will face this day, and all that it brings to us.

What attitude will you choose today?


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.  The paperback version is NOW AVAILABLE for $6.99!  For ordering information, contact me at don@donwhunter.com

Measuring Success, Re-Visited!

Confession time – tonight, I was glancing through my Facebook wall.  A friend had posted something a few days ago that I had neglected to respond to, and so I had a moment and wanted to go back and respond.  When I pulled up my page, one of the first things I saw was my own blog post from yesterday – “How Do You Measure Success?” 

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I saw that no one had like my post.  I thought, “What the heck???!!!!!  That was a good blog!  I did some good writing!”  I wondered what was wrong.  I started to become discouraged.

Then I realized what I had done.

I had allowed the fact that no one “liked” a post – a post about not finding your value in goals and recognition from others – to discourage me.

I had judged myself on the very standard that I had told others to avoid!

Now why am I writing this and admitting it?

Because I need to.  Because if I keep that in the dark, it can create issues for me.

Instead, I’m exposing it to the light. 

One of the things that is a struggle for me is that I seek peoples’ approval.  And that means that if I’m not careful, if I’m not intentional, and if I’m not walking in the Spirit, I can act out of that need for peoples’ approval. 

That’s not healthy.  It’s rooted somewhere in a lie that I’ve believed about my own lack of value or in where my value comes from.  I’m still working through where and when and why I first believed that lie, and what the actual lie is.  And, I’m still learning that all the approval I need is my Father’s approval.  My value doesn’t lie in what anyone else thinks of me or says about me, and my value doesn’t even lie in what I think about myself.

My value has already been determined by my Father, and He demonstrated my value through His Son Jesus at the cross.

The tough thing is that I know this.  In fact, those of you who attend Awakening Alliance know that I preached on this very thing just two weeks ago.  But man, is it hard to re-program our thinking when we have lived under the influence of lies for a long time.

Honesty is hard.  But it is powerful.  And I want to be free.  So, here I am, being honest about not practicing what I just preached about and blogged about it!  This wasn’t easy to admit to myself, let alone to all of you.

But I’m learning.  Tonight or tomorrow, I’ll probably be on Facebook, and I’ll probably notice if anyone like this post or not.  But before I do, I’ll remind myself that it doesn’t matter.  As my friend Rob Reimer says often, the issue of my value was settled at the cross.

I’ll end with the same two questions I asked Wednesday, because I needed to ask myself these same things again: “What about you?  How do you measure yourself?”


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 be available in just a few weeks.

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.