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2 bannerThe Struggle for Approval

How much of your life have you wasted trying to gain the approval of others? Wasting part of your life is one thing—wasting part of your 30th anniversary is another.  I wrote about it in an article to Christianity Today.  It messed up an important event - but hey, I got published.

Here is part of the article:

Bad Timing

It should have been a grand time. My wife JoLynn and I were on an Alaskan cruise for our 30th anniversary. I learned a grand lesson, but I didn’t have a grand time learning it.

There were 1200 people on the cruise, 400+ who chose this cruise to hear mega-church pastor/author Max Lucado speak. He had sold over 80 million books. I’ve sold 10k. Why is it when I meet "big name" people I make an idiot out of myself?

Before the cruise I was hoping – praying for a chance to meet Max. I’d love to write more. So some counsel, a bit of help, an endorsement was in my dreams. I got close.

After white water rafting in Juneau, we had some time left to blow money in town. I bought a hat. We then headed to a chocolate shop where I ordered a month’s worth of dark chocolate to last us through the afternoon. When I turned around, there was my wife, JoLynn, talking to Max and his wife as if they had known each other for decades. JoLynn is from Texas. Texans can do that. But there was a problem.

I’m not Texan.

I stood by stupidly with water dripping off my new made-in-China "ALASKA!" cap listening to the conversation. My mind was a 1970s Timex watch trying to run Windows 10. My screen was blue - my cursor frozen. JoLynn had this "Don’t-destroy-the-moment" look in her eyes. I did.

All I could think about was what I needed. What I wanted. I wanted him to like me, to ask about me, to be able to tell my story. So I broke into a story about our son.

"We have this boy Caleb," I blurted out, "he is 16, our youngest. All of our kids, we have four of them you see, well all four and the husband of our oldest, that makes five, well we were all plus JoLynn and I, that makes seven I guess, well we were sitting around the table one night and .. . Ugh." AWKWARD.

Not knowing what to say next I stammered around for a bit, smiled too big, tried to make small talk, felt like an idiot, saw the confused shocked look on JoLynn’s face, tried again, did worse, felt worse, smiled bigger, dug in deeper, and pretty much died in mid-sentence. I’d give more details, but pathetic reliving is painful.

JoLynn dove back in, elegantly asked about how they were doing on the cruise, and said we needed to go. I said nothing.

We walked for a long time. JoLynn broke the silence talking about something else. I said to myself, "Self," I said, "maybe it didn’t go as bad as I’d imagined." It was 24 hours before she told me it did.

"So, why do you think you get so intimidated by certain people?" JoLynn asked.

"What do you mean?"

"You know, like yesterday…"

I had really, really hoped she hadn’t noticed. More than that, I had prayed it wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined. She noticed. It was.

"It’s just me. I’m just that way. Sorry." I thought she would get off my case, that it wasn’t something I could do anything about. I was wrong on both accounts.

She told me to "Lean into it." And to "Figure out why you’re that way." Ugh. It still amazes me how well I married, and yet how I still hate it when she is right.

Whispers

The next day I got up early to be alone and pray. I’m an extremely non-charismatic kind of guy. When people say "God told me…" it makes me nervous. I want to ask, "Was His voice high or low? Does He still speak in Hebrew?"

But at this point I knew I needed to hear something specific from God. I threw my narrow view of how God had to work overboard, and asked God to speak to me. Then I read and prayed and prayed and read and mostly listened. Silence. Thinking I couldn’t change, and that God wouldn’t speak, I wasn’t too concerned. I should have been.

Through a combination of His Word and my silence, I believe the Spirit spoke to me. One word kept coming back to me over and over again.

Others

I would have preferred a paragraph. Job got three chapters. But there I go again, Job Envy.

Others. I couldn’t let it go. It took about 24 hours before I was convinced God was speaking to me, and I understood what He was trying to say. The two great commandments – love God and love others. Loving God? I can do that. But Others? Wanting to impress others isn’t loving them. It’s loving self.

The reason JoLynn could talk to the Lucado’s and I couldn’t – was because she cared about them. She was asking them about their kids and grandkids, about their anniversary (they have the same 30th anniversary date as we do). I tried to talk about me. She understood the cruise wasn’t a vacation for them – it couldn’t be when you are speaking twice a day, signing books over lunch and having to listen to weird ALASKA-cap-wearing pastors in the chocolate shop.

I wondered about my motivation for ministry. Why did I want our church to grow? Why did I want to see people come to Christ – for their freedom or so I could have a baptism service? Why did I want to write – to help others or to say I’d published? Sometimes the truth you need to hear to deal with your depression is depressing.

A few days later the cruise was about over and Max was signing books. JoLynn wanted to go. I didn’t embarrass her this time, and Max was gracious enough to pretend the chocolate shop never happened. Sometimes being invisible is the best you can hope for. Max even did the obligatory picture with us, which we now have plastered on our church website with the subtitle, When Out of the Pulpit, Max Lucado Worships HERE. Marketing Genius.

Am I wrong, or is Max grimacing?

Below is a response to that CT article. It felt good to know I’m not the only one who struggles for approval. This Sunday we will look at this problem, and God’s answer. Hope you can join us.

Subject: Hello from a pastor in IA

Hi Dan, 

I've never written to an author of an article before, but I just wanted to let you know I read your article in the Leadership Journal and it really struck a chord with me. I'm 26 and 1 year into my first head pastorate.

Your story about meeting Max sounds exactly like what would happen with my wife and I were I to be in the same situation. Last week our church had some "cool" visitors (for the 2nd week in a row!) that I really wanted to impress. I was so scared, I didn't even talk to them in the meet and greet time. 

By God's grace, I got up there, and after praying, "Lord, help me to just speak the truth, it's not about me, it's about you" and delivered what God wanted me to.

I struggle with joy in ministry because I'm so worried about what others think of ME, not concerned about others for God's sake.

This is me in a nutshell... I guess, reading your article has helped me to look my motivations in the eye. I really want to change this, but I'm guessing it's going to be a loooong road.

I just wanted to tell you thanks for being honest, and letting God use you.

struggle to measure up banner5 Ways to Tell if You Struggle to Measure Up

Did you know I once fell 50 feet while pounding in a piton on a previously unclimbed ice pitch while rescuing my CO while training for the Rangers in the Grand Tetons? That may be a bit of a stretch. Actually, a friend fell maybe 30 feet while on my belay at Enchanted Rock in the mostly flat state of Texas. But, I’d rather tell the first story.

I want to measure up, to be liked—admired even. However, that can make lying easy, and living expensive. It seems we all have this innate belief that we have to meet certain standards to measure up. "If people believed I climbed in the Tetons they would think more of me and then I would be happy and successful." Right.

You might struggle to measure up if you. . .

Exaggerate about your rock climbing, or your back scratcher collection, or dalek impersonation or whatever else it is you weirdly want people to be proud of.

Spend more on others for Christmas than you can afford, and spend all year paying interest on VISA. But if that is you, I’m good to exchange gifts with you this year if you want.

Lie about why you are late. Sure the traffic on Paseo slowed you down for 5 minutes, but why are you giving that as the reason you were 20-minutes late?

Buy the flashy car with the horse on the front (Ferrari not Pinto) to look like someone you aren’t. I’ve been told Tom Selleck would have been cool without it (Magnum, P.I. for those too young to know), and I would just be broke with it. But what does JoLynn know?

Use cologne by the case. You might think it will help get the girl, but trust me, it won’t.

God gives us the answer to the struggle to measure up. It’s a fancy word called, "Justification." He tells us that our worth isn’t based on what we do, but on what He has done, and continues to do for us. Once we realize this, we can start telling the truth, spending less, and may even smell better.

Hope to see you Sunday!

 

Wake Up! 5 ways to help this Easter

 

Have you ever been driving along and suddenly wondered where your brain has been for the last 15 minutes? Somehow you’re still on the road, shaken but OK. 

 

When I was a courier we called this entering “The Bogel Zone,” named after a street in Dallas. The Bogel Zone is an odd mental state where life is unconsciously flying by, and you are clueless. Maybe that isn’t so odd after all.

 

The Bogel Zone is responsible for 100,000 police-reported crashes every year. But, you can enter it without driving. It’s probably safer that way.

 

On that first Easter morning, it seems like everybody but Jesus was in The Bogel Zone. It’s almost like he returned undercover.

 

Mary Magdalene, the first to see Jesus, was so out of it she thought he was the gardener. The two disciples going to Emmaus spent most of their 2-hour walk explaining Jesus to Jesus. That makes me feel good, knowing Jesus went out of his way to meet with two clueless disciples going the wrong direction. 

 

That means he probably cares about us too. 

 

Easter is a great time to wake up and get out of the Bogel Zone. Ephesians 5:14 Is a great promise for Mary, the two disciples and us. “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” 

 

5 ways to help this Easter

 

  1. Ask God to show you who to invite to church. A neighbor? Coworker? Friend? You can use the card you were given at church last week.

  2. Fill out the connectionCARD in your bulletin - so visitors will see you do it & feel comfortable doing it too.

  3. Think Others First. Greet everyone around you. Park far away. Take the worst seats. Leave some snacks for those who come late.

  4. Remember – Services are at 8 & 10, w/snacks in-between, and nursery and toddler care at the 10:00 service only.

  5. Pray that those who hear the gospel will commit their lives to Christ.

 

Chart provided by LifeWay Research

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

What would it be like if Jesus showed up as King today? Are we ready?

The Good: I figure, since The Eternal King has absolute authority, that He would stop all the bad guys and bad things. So, if Jesus ruled the earth I could change all my interweb passwords to "password," leave my doors unlocked, go back to eating French fries and hot fudge Sundays for breakfast, and cancel both my health and life insurance. It kind of reminds me of the college days.

The Bad: When Jesus came the last time, people expected Him to go to the palace and kick out the Romans. We might expect Him to go to DC and kick out… everybody. Or go on a rampage against televangelists. Or remove all cats. But what Jesus did on His first coming, was to go to the Temple and clean it up by whipping some people in shape. Later, after Jesus died and the Holy Spirit came, God’s Temple moved inside His believers. So, if He came back, today, would He be more concerned about cleaning up DC or cleaning up me? Am I really ready for His return?

The Ugly: Early in Christ’s last week, the crowd thought they were ready for Jesus to be king. He came in town and the people gave Him a Triumphal Entry. But, it seems likely that some of the same people who had shouted "Hosanna, Lord save us!" early in the week were shouting "Crucify Him" a few days later. What made the difference?

Kingship.

The Eternal King has absolute authority. The only way to prepare for His return is absolute surrender. Am I ready?

One day, He will come back as king. Come Sunday. Get ready.

As I prepare for my message this Sunday, titled, "Jesus and Demonic Possession," it occurred to me how little personal experience I have with this subject. I myself have never been possessed by an evil spirit (acted like it at times), nor has anyone in my immediate or extended family (when my kids were two I wondered about them), nor for that matter have I’ve ever seen anyone act anything like the stories of demon-possessed people in Scripture. Not even when I lived in Cuba, where some folks practiced Santeria (an unholy mixture of African animism and "Christianity") did I experience anything like that. 

I have, however, studied the subject over the years, both out of morbid curiosity and academic interest (is there a difference?), even as far back as my high school days in the 60’s. You see, I was educated by Jesuits, an order of the Roman Catholic Church which to this day regularly practices exorcisms. I vividly remember listening to my public speaking teacher simultaneously scare and entertain us with stories of demon-possessed people and exorcism rites when he was a missionary in India. And of course, listening to him meant we had less school work to do. 

Speaking of Jesuits, Pope Francis, a Jesuit himself, advises priests to refer people to exorcists if they suspect demonic activity is at work in any of their parishioners. But he cautions that they should first be examined by medical professionals to ensure that they receive the medical attention they need should their ailment be of a psychiatric nature rather than a spiritual malady. In spite of some significant differences in the way Pope Francis and I see things, I must admit that there’s some wisdom to be found here.

I also find that some people are either overwhelmed with thoughts about demons, as though they were evil spiritual gnats incessantly swirling around their heads, 24/7. Alternatively, others completely ignore the otherworldly rascals as though they did not exist at all. Both are wrong, and by not knowing the truth both open themselves to Satan’s lies and influence. 

This reminds me of something I read a while back in the preface to C.S. Lewis’ satirical/apologetic novel, The Screwtape Letters,

"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist and a magician with the same delight."

I wholeheartedly agree. And I find that the best antidote to Satan’s influences on me, which is to say, tempting me to sin and trying to get me to believe his lies, is prayer coupled with reading, studying, meditating, and believing God’s word. God’s word is the absolute truth, and knowing and believing His word is the highway to freedom (John 8.31-32). 

Speaking of God’s word and the truth… I am taking my message for this Sunday from the story of the Gerasene Demoniac in Mark 5.1-20. I like this story because it illustrates God’s grace and mercy poured out on a poor helpless victim, one who was delivered from the worst form of the devil’s influence—demonic possession. And once delivered, he traveled throughout ten cities in the region where he lived filled with joy and telling everyone he ran into about all the good that God did for him. Talk about a happy ending!

Pastor Reinaldo