17Nov
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Feeling distant?

The past couple months, I’ve had conversations with a few people who each said they feel like God is really far away, or is just so silent in their lives. The reasons for why varied from person to person – some were saying they felt like that on a particular day. They had come to church and just couldn’t engage – it all felt forced and as if they were just going through the motions. Others said they had felt that way for a very long time and were struggling with understanding why.

These conversations prompted me to dig into my own notes from previous seasons. I’ve had times where I have felt very distant from God – I spent time reading, praying, singing in corporate worship, but in those seasons it sometimes felt empty and maybe even forced. It was a really awful feeling. Feeling distant can be scary and confusing. It can lead to questions about your faith, guilt from even asking those questions, and a pressure to get it fixed.

In thinking about this, I had some takeaways that helped me as I walked through those seasons – some truths to remember: Read More »

11Nov
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Lessons from falling off a roof

I’m about to tell you a story from the other day – a totally bozo move that I made. And you don’t need to feel compelled to inform me of how stupid, dangerous, or absent-minded it was. I know. You also don’t need to remind me of how thankful I should be that it wasn’t more serious. I know…really, I know.

I’m aware of how dumb what I’m about to tell you was and how thankful I should be that it didn’t end up worse. But there is a point in sharing the story (I hope), so here it goes:

On Friday, I spent the afternoon “winterizing” the house. We have a bunch of older windows upstairs that let in a bunch of air, and in the winter that can feel drafty and cold. We had planned to replace a few of them this year, but money and time were both prioritized elsewhere, so I once again found myself at the hardware store buying the “window insulator kit” and borrowing my wife’s hair dryer to seal up the house. These things take longer than you would think! You have to take off the curtains, clean off the window, apply two-sided tape all the way around, evenly place plastic over the window, heat shrink the plastic, and then cut off the excess – ok, it doesn’t sound difficult, but trust me when I say it’s pretty time-consuming to do a bunch of these. When I got to the oldest, most beat-up window in the house, I remembered that last winter, the storm window wouldn’t shut completely and snow had gotten in between the storm and main windows. I had decided that I needed to seal up that gap somehow, and so I went to the hardware store. Read More »

9Nov
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I Will Go Before You

 

These last few days, I have been reminded of the comfort and confidence that I have in knowing that God goes before me.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deut 31:8 )

God tells us that He goes before us. He knows the road ahead and how each step we take will impact our lives. He knows the struggles and difficulties we will face. He knows the joys and excitements that we will experience. He will go before us.

He is always working ahead of where we are, preparing the road ahead.

In many areas of what I do, I’m thinking and planning many months into the future. One of the pitfalls in this is the constant temptation to focus on the “what ifs” of the future. “What if that goes wrong?” “What if we don’t do this?” “What if that doesn’t come through?” As we launched our third campus at The Chapel this past month, I definitely felt the pressure of “what if.” There were so many potential issues to tackle, and any one of them could cause serious issues to the plan.

But God reminded me over and over that He goes before us. God had initiated the work, and He was paving the way, even if it looked rough from where I was currently standing. Read More »

6Nov
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How does your default impact others?

In an earlier post, I was sharing some thoughts about how self-awareness leads to self-control. A lack of self-awareness keeps us from being able to identify issues that need to be changed, and a lot of times, those issues center around what I would call our “defaults.”

All of us have defaults – actions and behaviors that we revert to without thinking. Defaults … things we do when we we’re lacking discipline. If we’re wired to have a “short fuse” then we’ll lose our temper and spout off if we haven’t kept our heart and mind in check. If we’re wired to worry, we’ll let our thoughts spin out of control until it physically makes us ill. We go to our defaults in the absence of self-control. These defaults shouldn’t be entirely static, as we hope and trust that God is growing and maturing us. But each of us have some not-so-great defaults that we slide into when we’re not practicing self-control.

When we’re not self-aware and not disciplined, these defaults become a huge factor in how we impact those around us:

Kem Meyer who wrote a book called “Less Clutter, Less Noise” said in that book “Your life bears a message of hope and redemption. But, before people in your world encounter your message, they encounter you.” How we are perceived, how we choose to interact, and how we carry ourselves with our nonverbals – they shape the environment around us and people’s experience with us way more than what we want to be known for.

A famous philosopher once said “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?” I guess it might be a stretch to call the movie character Captain Jack Sparrow a famous philosopher, but the quote is an interesting one. “The problem isn’t the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.” Read More »

6Nov

Self-Awareness

Self-control is not a very prevalent trait in our society. We see the lack of it in the news we read and, sometimes, in people we know. A psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania actually surveyed over 2 million people, asking them to rank their own strengths. Self-control was among 24 other strengths on the list, and self-control was ranked dead last on average in that survey result. Not only is it obviously absent in others, but many people realize it’s absence in themselves.

The Bible tells us that, for those of us who are disciples of Jesus, self-control is included in the fruit of the Spirit. You may be familiar with this passage, but have you ever considered what the inclusion of self-control means for us?

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Doesn’t self-control seem out of place on this list? Everything else seems possible to be divinely implanted in us – when we have the Spirit in us, we will be people of love, joy, peace, etc. But SELF-control? It’s a really interesting one in the mix. The passage doesn’t say “faithfulness, gentleness, God-controlled…” it says self. It’s a reminder that God wants us to be actively participating in the process of sanctification. He will place that ability in us to demonstrate self-control, but we have a role to play in cooperation with Him. Read More »

3Nov

Trust and unity

As of this month, I have served on staff at The Chapel in Buffalo, NY for 14 years. And in 14 years, I have seen God do amazing things – literally incredible activity in the Western New York region. I’ve also seen incredible work done to the team and culture that make up the staff team at The Chapel. The healthy culture and strong team dynamic overall can, no doubt, be credited in part to the amazing leadership we have at this church. They have been sensitive to what God has wanted to do within this team, and He has purposefully and actively shaped the staff team of this church in order to prepare and equip us for the work He is wanting to do through us. He’s led us through several new seasons, filled with a lot of change.

Change is a force that can test a team’s health in ways that might not be expected. Change reveals the cracks and pinch points like few other forces can. It always seems to be that just when things settle into a rhythm and we finally feel comfortable with one another and how we’re doing things, that change comes along and rocks the boat. It’s good, healthy change most times. But nonetheless, change that presents learning curves to how we interact with one another. And the way we interact with one another affects us greatly.

Of all the things that I’ve seen as valuable for a team to hold onto, two words surface as incredibly important – TRUST and UNITY.  Read More »

31Oct

The Flintstones!

“Flintstones. Meet the Flintstones. They’re the modern stone age family. “

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This is year #3 for our Halloween fun and lasting memories. For Jackson’s first year, he was Batman, complete with a tricked out Batmobile. Check that out here. Last year we get the whole gang together – Jackson, his sister Mila, and cousins Noah and Finn – and did up the Mario Bros theme. Check that out here.

Well, we’re not stopping in the memory-making department and so this year we set out to create the Flintstones! Read More »

15Sep
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Jesus or the waves?

We are hardwired to a default position of trusting ourselves. I wish that wasn’t true. I wish I could say that in every decision, every thought, every step, I am actively living by faith and not by sight. But even the maintaining of this focus, of knowing where my focus is, requires faith and trust.

I don’t think we are nearly self aware enough, take seriously enough, or even fully grasp how true this is, in our assessments of situations, our perceptions of people’s actions, and what is and isn’t possible based on what we think.

It is this contrast between truth and perception that can really weigh us down, and when we choose to trust ourselves, we quite literally sink.

Look at Matthew 14:25-33
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Read More »

5Sep

So good to be known

Theme_From_Cheers_(Where_Everybody_Knows_Your_Name)It feels good to be known. That feeling and desire is captured perfectly in the theme song for the TV show “Cheers” in which the lyrics say, “you wanna be where everybody knows your name.” We do, don’t we? We want to walk into a room and have people know us, care about us, and be interested in what’s going on with us. We want to have people – acquaintances, co-workers, friends, or family – who know us at some level. Being known makes us feel loved and valuable.

“We’re on a first name basis.” Have you ever heard someone make that statement? When you first interact with someone, especially someone with a title or rank, you will likely address them formally – Mister, Misses, Doctor, etc. If I met the President of the United States, for example, I most certainly would not shake his hand and say “how’s it going Barak?” It would be disrespectful, because I’m not on a first name basis with the president. But imagine if I walked into the oval office, and out of a crowd, I heard my name called out. “Jon…Jon Cook! How nice to see you buddy.” I would still likely reply to him formally, saying “hello Mr. President,” but imagine if he insisted on me calling him by his first name. There begins the basis for knowing and being known personally. This is the idea behind dating, right? To get to know each other, a couple will spend hours together, talking, sharing about themselves, and asking questions. For my wife and I, we’ve spent so much time together and know each other so well now that we have similar responses to things – we literally finish each other’s sentences. We do that because we know each other well. Read More »

4Sep

Right perspective brings clarity

Perspective is a really interesting principle.  It’s defined as something that “gives the right impression of height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point.” That last part is the critical nature of perspective – that “particular point” that puts us in alignment with a right view. When we’re out of alignment, the perspective gets skewed.

Have you seen these artists who are using the principle of perspective to create immersive images out on the streets?

Their intention is to completely immerse you in an experience that you wouldn’t expect to see in the middle of a public road. Objects seem to have depth or height, or even float off the ground.

The key though is to stand in right alignment so as to experience the correct perspective. When you’re out of alignment, the images start to look really strange, even confusing to view.

Perspective is interesting because it’s so personal – we experience everything based on how we’re positioned. Again, thinking about the chalk art, you can be standing in right perspective and see the art for exactly what it was intended to be, and at the same time, someone ten feet from you can be staring at the ground confused because they are out of alignment from the correct perspective. Read More »

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