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.

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.

Out of Time

Wow!  What a week this was!  On a national level, we FINALLY finished the election cycle that went on forever.  While both candidates responded very graciously regarding the results (as did our current president), it is obvious that there is a still a great deal of turmoil and divisiveness in our nation.

For me personally, it was one of the busiest weeks that I can remember.  Doctor’s visits, hospital visits, a couple of year-end committee meetings, a clergy planning meeting, two memorials services for which to prepare and then to lead, an interview with the State Police for a part-time volunteer chaplaincy position (in Ridgway; I’m not going anywhere!), three staff meetings, and more phone calls than I usually have to make in a month.

And of course, some of you noticed that in all that busyness, I didn’t blog.  I ran out of time. (Remember, I still only have 24 hours in a day!  And so do you.)

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I was planning to blog, of course, until Monday morning at about 9 a.m. when I realized what my week was starting to shape up to be.  First, I thought, “how ironic that I’m writing about choosing time for God and for what’s important and I’m not going to blog about it because this week is so busy!”

But I actually made the right choice.  Because even though I didn’t blog, I wrote.  In fact, I’ve written over 10,000 words so far this week, and will have hit 14,000 by the end of the week.  All because I chose to do what was most important to me.

Let me explain.

I really enjoy blogging and writing devotionals.  It gives me a way to share spiritual truths in a simple, hopefully easily-understandable format.  It allows me to expand on things that I talk about on Sunday, if I want to do so, or else go in a completely different direction from what I’m preaching on.  However, I don’t HAVE to blog; I WANT to blog.

But there are some things that are more important.  For example, my family responsibilities.  And my ministry responsibilities.  All those meetings and prep and the memorial services?  Those are 1-A priorities, because they’re not really meetings and prep and services – they’re people.  And people are important.

So those came ahead of blogging.

My own time with the Lord in the morning each day came ahead of blogging.

Spending time chilling with my family in a crazy-busy week came ahead of blogging.

And writing came ahead of blogging.  Why?  How does that work?

Because I’ve got some dreams still.  And in order to see some of those dreams come true, I’ve got to make choices about how I spend my time; I’ve got to sacrifice, and work hard, and steal moments here and there to pursue my dreams.

And that’s what I did.  Last night, I wrote 2042 words.  I didn’t finish until 11:15, but I reached my writing goal for the day.  I didn’t write a blog on Monday or Wednesday, but I’ve hit my writing goal each day of this month.  I’m making progress, one word at a time.  But in order to do that, I had to let go of some things that were important, but weren’t most important.

So here’s what I learned this week.  Even when my week is crazy, I can make choices.  It may mean less sleep; it may mean giving up something that I enjoy, but that is less important than something else; it may mean that I have to choose to let some things go.  It doesn’t mean I’m perfect, or that I always make the right choices.  But I CAN choose.  We all can choose!

And ultimately, Jesus promised that if we choose Him first every time, He’ll make sure all the other stuff works out (that’s the Don Hunter paraphrase of Matthew 6:33).

One last thing – don’t ever forget that no matter what, Jesus chose you first.  And He always will!  And when we understand that, and let it inform our choices, we become wiser in what we choose and in how we choose.

May God bless you with a wonderful weekend!

Now What? Part 2!

Now What?

That’s our question this week.

Well, the simple, quick answer is “we keep following Jesus.”

But what does that really look?

Maybe a better question would be this – “how will our following of Jesus be informed by what we’ve learned and experienced over the past several weeks?”

Over the next few days, I hope to unpack that a little more for us.  For those of you who are a regular part of our fellowship at Awakening Alliance, the answers will be familiar (I hope!)  They come from Bill & Jill Randall’s “3-C Model of Discipleship.”  But I hope that the familiarity won’t mean you just rush through it.  I hope instead that with the perspective of the past several weeks, we will, together, be more deliberate and more intentional about how we follow Jesus and how we respond to Him.

Today’s reading comes from John 21:1-14 (NIV), and it’s one of the accounts of the disciples encountering Jesus after the resurrection:

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee.  It happened this way:  Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.  “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.  

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.  He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” 

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.  Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.  The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.  When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.  Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.   Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.  Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.  This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

This short story gives us a beautiful picture of the first “C” of following Jesus – living our lives Centered around Jesus.

The disciples are aimless, unsure of what to do with themselves.  Jesus has risen; they’ve seen Him twice now, but they don’t understand what that means.  They don’t know what they should be doing.  They’re at a loss, because for the past three years of their lives, they have been following Jesus wherever He went, doing whatever He did.  Now, they have a problem.

It’s pretty hard to follow someone wherever He goes when He keeps appearing and then disappearing again.

So, Peter being the “A” type personality that he is, has had enough of waiting and doing nothing.  He decides that doing anything is better than doing nothing.  So he decides to do what he knows best – go back to fishing.  At least in the boat, surrounded by some of his friends and the waves and the seagulls and fish, away from questioning people, he’s comfortable.

So that’s what they do.  And end up having a long, frustrating, unfruitful night (kind of like the Panthers’ offense on Super Bowl night, but that’s another blog post in itself.)

Tired, frustrated, no further ahead than when they set out from shore, they finally turn back to shore early in the morning.  And are greeted by the sight of a man standing on the shore.  A man not in a boat, but who seems to know better than they (who are in a boat) what they should do with the boat and their net – simply put their nets down on the other side of the boat.  (I’ve been fishing, and I sure wish it was as easy as simply fishing on the other side of the boat when you can’t catch something!)

They obey, they catch lots of fish, they realize it’s Jesus, and the story ends with this amazing picture of the disciples gathered together – around Jesus and a fire that He has built for them.

What a perfect picture of the Christian life – we gather around Jesus.  And any fire we have has been provided by Him.

They began the account scattered; came together around an activity; but ended up far closer together around a Person.

What, or who, is at the center of your life?

Yourself?

Your spouse?

Your family?

Your career?

Sports?

Hunting?

Fishing?

Some other hobby?

Money?

Your future?

While all of those things may be important – obviously, some more important than others – none of them can hold as the center of your life.  None of them will hold your life together; none of them will provide everything you need, let alone provide eternal meaning.

Only Jesus will.

The first step in following Jesus is to come to the realization that it’s all – ALL – about Him, and to re-orient your life so that every thought, every decision, every action, every relationship, everything – is centered around Jesus.  Everything is oriented around and towards Him.

So as you begin this day; as you look over what you have to accomplish, where you have to be, who you have to see – at the center of all of that, do you find Jesus?

If not, why not?

And if not – it’s a simple fix.

It’s a simple matter of taking a few moments, praying through your day, submitting every part of it to Jesus, and asking Jesus to help you remember throughout the day that He is the Center.  That when you keep Him at the Center, things won’t spin out of control.

Why don’t you take a few moments right now and do just that?