Named–

today at work, I was making an iced grande skinny cinnamon dolce latte. I had heard the order in my headset, so I started the drink before the sticker came through.

As I put the sticker on the cup, time slowed down a bit and I realized something–

an iced grande skinny cinnamon dolce latte is a mixture of:

-4 pumps of sugar-free cinnamon dolce syrup

-two shots of espresso

-nonfat milk

-ice

-dolce sprinkles.

you put them all together and you have an iced grande cinnamon dolce latte.

but someone had to call it that.

in the case of the customer, the sticker differentiated it from any other drink–that particular mixture of syrup, espresso, milk, ice, and dolce sprinkles was THEIR drink. Nobody elses, and that drink could never be made with the same milk, syrup, espresso, ice, and dolce sprinkles ever again.

That’s when it hit me that we are similarly made and named by God. Sure, we’re a mixture of DNA, blood, skin, and bones, but there will never be two COMPLETELY identical mixtures of DNA, blood, skin, and bones.

We all have a personality, characteristics, habits, and passions, and there may be people similar to ourselves, and when you just toss them all together without a name, there’s nothing really special about it.

However, God loves us and cherishes us enough to give us a name. Just as I put the sticker on that drink to differentiate it from all other iced grande cinnamon dolce lattes in the world, God has given us something greater than a sticker–Himself. He promises to live in us and through us. When that happens, we are named by God, and we are given meaning and purpose, instead of being nameless, faceless, assembly-line made people.

History.

I feel like I’ve heard a lot of news over this past week.

-California preacher declares the end of the world (and it doesn’t happen)

-California preacher RE-declares the end of the world (we’ll find out in October. HINT: it’s not happening)

– Canadian couple refuses to reveal the gender of their 4-month old baby, so as to make him/her “free” to choose his/her own identity

-Flooding/tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri

-The Heat win against the Bulls to advance to the NBA finals

Oh wait, I guess that last one’s not so necessary.

News makes me laugh sometimes, because it divides people so much. Some people think it’s great that parents are rearing a child without sexual identity. Some people (like me) think that Mr. Camping needs to keep his mouth shut, so as to not make a fool of the America perception of Christians, while America has had a grand ol’ time picking on him and making their jokes about end-of-the-world parties.

Insert my two cents here about the end of the world (which is not where I’m going with this blog:) I personally think, because of what Jesus said about no man knowing the day or the hour, that any time there’s a big stink about a prediction of the end of the world, people should ignore it, not speculate and criticize, just ignore it. You can relax.

We can know that any time it’s PREDICTED, it’s wrong.

That’s my take on it.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that most of the time, the controversial stories in the news aren’t controversial, or even a forethought 4, 6, 12 months down the road.

They fade.

We like to make a stink about things even though they won’t be ‘important’ in a year or so.

That doesn’t mean some things don’t stick with us–we can all remember where we were on September 11, 2001, when the planes crashed into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

I personally remember seeing Sadaam Hussein’s statue being pulled down.

We may remember the day of Osama Bin Laden’s death for years and years to come.

Still, history is history, and ultimately, history is His story.

You’ll recall my 8 blogs through the book “Men In Their Own Skin” by Dudley Hall. I’m pretty sure at one point in every chapter, he explained that the Bible is God’s perspective on history–His story–and that Jesus was/is the culmination of that story.

Well, that’s still true.

Do you ever wonder what it was like in the Old Testament times? Do you ever wonder what would have made headlines then?

-SAMSON CAPTURED, EYES GOUGED OUT

-DAVID, URIAH’S WIFE CAUGHT IN ADULTERY

-THE SEARCH FOR DAVID CONTINUES

We often read the old testament as just one big story–which is exactly what it is. But don’t you think that people were disturbed/excited/angered and that people argued about things back then, too?

My point is this–we often go through life thinking that today is all there is. Our lives and our own stories are all that matter.

That’s not the hope of the Gospel.

The hope of the Gospel is that we’re invited into God’s family business and we are given a part. A part in the ultimate story–the story of Jesus Christ.

It began with Adam and Eve sinning in the garden.

It continued with Jesus’ forerunner, David.

Then Jesus Himself came, lived a sinless life, died a sinner’s death, and ascended to the right hand of the Father.

He sent His Holy Spirit to empower the church, and today, the church tells His story until He returns again.

our lives are like a breath. They’re fading, and they’re over before we know it, but the hope of the Gospel is that we can use our lives to tell the story of Jesus Christ–the story of redemption and reconciliation to God the Father, and we can walk in a restored relationship with Him.

Men in Their Own Skin–Chapter 8: Men and Their Community

I really don’t know where to begin with this chapter.

This one, out of every chapter I’ve read so far, impacted me the most.

It’s hard to give a good lead-in to this chapter, so I won’t try.

This is, as the title implies, all about community.

Sometimes men try to live in isolation. To be “strong” and live alone. This doesn’t work for godly men who want to be comfortable in their own skin. Why?

Because we’re not made for isolation. We’re made for community.

God exists in community–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Adam needed Eve.

Jesus chose 12 disciples to join Him.

The early church operated in complete community, and they had an impact on the whole world.

God gave gifts to ALL men, not just some, and nobody is without a gift.

As the body of Christ, we are meant to live in community.

Period.

This is true in churches, too–one pastor is not meant to shoulder the whole load. There should be a team of people around him/her–people to counsel, lead small groups, preach occasionally (and let me brag on my church for a second–we have all of these things and I think it’s really helped us to grow as a church!) and provide different ideas and opinions. If one person is spearheading the whole entire church, then some people are bound to disagree with his/her “style” and leave frustrated and/or upset.

Ultimately, people need other people.

And once we commit to that community, we discover our gifts and callings, says Mr. Hall. This may be the best quote of the chapter:

“It’s easy to be fantasize about being a leader until you are placed with others.”

One of the most important things is finding your “place.”

How many young men don’t dream of being the star quarterback on their football team, or scoring 40 points a game on their basketball team, or hitting lots of home runs on their baseball team? Who doesn’t watch an epic like Gladiator or Lord of the Rings and want to be a Maximus or an Aragorn? We all want to be the star.

But who wants to be Frodo?

Who wants to be that black guy played by Djimon Houndsou whose name I cannot remember?

Who wants to be Merry or Pippin?

They all play a key role.

I am reminded of this offseason in the NBA when Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh joined up in Miami. They got together to win. But the problem was, they were all superstars. They still are. But when three superstars come together, it’s not an easy fit. it takes time to gel together. They won some, lost some, and over a long period of time, they finally got their rhythm and they all know their place in the system. They free each other up to succeed, and it seems like one of the Big Three has a big game, while the other two do fairly well but don’t have as big of an impact. They had to discover their role.

So it is with us.

I remember being 17 and wanting to lead worship. When I finally led worship at age 19, I realized how unprepared I was, and how it would have been worse if I had started at 17! I needed time and experience serving on the worship team before I could step into the role of leadership.

Currently I’m discovering my calling as a pastor. I don’t yet know if it will be a senior pastor position or if I will do something on the side such as discipleship or men’s ministry. We’ll find out in due time. I’m keeping my options open–I don’t want to limit myself to one thing or bust because then I’d be set up for either disappointment (if it wasn’t as “high” of a role as I’d hoped) or stress (if it was more than I was anticipating.)

Men are called to live in community, and we’re all called to fulfill a role. True leaders can lead from anywhere on the team, says Dudley.

How about you? Where are you called to lead/serve? How are you seeking it out?

I encourage you to pray and seek the Lord about how you fit into the body of Christ. What ministries can you serve in? How can you serve the body?

With that, my Men in Their Own Skin blogs are concluded. If you’ve enjoyed them, I encourage you to pick up a copy of the book at the library or to order one from Successful Christian Living Ministries (SLCM,) Dudley’s ministry.

Thanks for reading!

Men in Their Own Skin–Chapter 7: Men and Their Work

A week or so after I wrote my last blog, I had some family come into town, so I had to put a lot of stuff away and I ended up unknowingly putting this book in my nightstand. I looked for it the other day and couldn’t find it, and then luckily this morning I opened my nightstand for my life journal and found this book in there too. Needless to say, I went ahead with the next chapter.

Chapter 7 deals with men and their work. I was really looking forward to this chapter–I always appreciate a new outlook on work. Let’s get right to the core of the chapter, shall we?

It’s very fast-paced, so I’m going to try to recap it in my own words.

Men are wired for work. It’s in our very nature. We can’t stand being lazy, and we’re not wired to express ourselves through words as much as work. Work is, in fact, the nature of God, even now He is still working (John 5:17.)

Work is important because it’s part of the original commission–to rule and subdue. Tending a garden takes work. Work is not a strictly secular thing–often times people think that work and “spirituality” have to exist outside of one another. In my own experience, when I first started working, I often felt like I checked my faith at the door and that work was not a place where God went with me. I knew it wasn’t true, but it was still so very difficult to push past that thinking. But in reality, God really does accompany us to work, and work is a very sacred thing, because that’s one of the best ways to fulfill both the original commission (rule and subdue) as well as the Great Commission (make disciples.) People see Jesus in our work ethics. No matter where we work, who we work with (even if we don’t work with anyone) our work can reflect the supremacy of Jesus Christ. I remember, even in the throes of my job at McDonalds (where I worked for the first two and a half years of my working days) people saying that they knew something was different about me. In retrospect, that was my new nature working itself out into my workplace. So while I may not have had a picnic working at McDonald’s, maybe, just maybe I helped create an atmosphere that was a little less stressful because of my work ethic and the way I treated my work.

Actually, now that I’m reflecting on it, I remember one night praying with one of my coworkers because she was not feeling well. I remember trying to talk to her through some of hard times in her relationship. I don’t really know where she is now, but hopefully what I did helped, and maybe I had more impact than I realize.

Anyway, let’s move on. I realize that a good way to learn from this book is to apply it to myself–my life and my situation, and in this case, my work. This book makes me ask, “how am I advancing the kingdom of God where I work?”

Fortunately, I have a job that facilitates this in a very effective way. Working at Starbucks, I am encouraged to connect with people on a personal level. Ask them how they are, what they’re up to, where they’re travelling, etc. Occasionally this strikes up rich conversation. Could it be that by expressing interest in other people, I’m working out Kingdom values in my job? Absolutely. People are God’s primary creations. God loves people, God values people, and at my job, we do too. It’s an awesome opportunity.

Father, help me to represent You in my workplace. help me to be an example of Jesus to everyone I work with and everyone I serve in my job. Thank You for my job and thank You for the opportunity to work and impact the world with Your gospel. in Jesus’ name, amen.

Men in Their Own Skin Chapter 6–Men and Their Wounds

So I just realized, maybe I’m working through this book too fast. I think this is the 3rd blog I’ve done on this book in the past week. But, I attribute it to being done with college for the semester, which is a reality as of today at 8:40 AM.

Last night I read chapter 6.

Chapter 6, like chapter 4, is short and sweet.

This chapter deals with men’s wounds and the injustices that have been done to them. We return to the story of Absalom, whose sister Tamar was raped by his half-brother, the firstborn of David, Amnon. Of course this grieved David, but he extended mercy to Amnon, which infuriated Absalom. He spent the rest of his life trying to get back at Amnon (who he did eventually kill, or have killed) and David. His life was defined by his pain.

Jesus, on the other hand, was about His Father’s business. He didn’t react to the injustice He received the way we do because He had a greater sense of purpose.

Life’s too short and the commission God has given us is too great to let our lives be defined by pain, by something someone else did to us. That’s really the point of this chapter.

Father, show me the places in which I let pain rule instead of You. Help me to give my pain up to you and live with a greater sense of purpose for Your kingdom. In Jesus’ name,

Amen.


my story.

So, if you’ll recall a couple of posts back, I wrote about chapter 3 in Dudley Hall’s book, Men in Their Own Skin. One of the points that struck me the most was that men need to be grateful for their stories.

Last night at life group, we discussed baptism in the Holy Spirit, and how it basically means partnering with the Holy Spirit for His purposes. I thought about my journals and all of the times I’ve written something down that bothers me, and when I go back a few months or years later, I realize that it’s no longer an issue.

Combine those two, and you’ve got where I am right now.

I want to be grateful for my story.

I want to be grateful for my education that happens to be in Richmond, as well as my job that is in Richmond, even though it means I can’t always be with my friends in Berea.

I want to savor the opportunities I get, such as hanging out with the awesome kids from our church, and being with the people I can’t be with every day, and not be jealous for more.

I want to stop wishing I acted like someone else, thought like someone else, had habits like someone else, and basically being someone else.

I’m Jeff, and God loves me just like I am.

Men in Their Own Skin–Chapter 5: Men and Their Failures

I have to admit, that on opening to this chapter, I thought, “Oh great. This is going to be a heavy-issue, things-I’ve-never-experienced kind of chapter.” But I quickly found that I’ve experienced the kind of hurt and disappointment that Dudley talks about in this chapter. This post will be a little raw, a little honest.

The examples Dudley uses to break the ice in the chapter are: his own son turning away from the Christian faith he was raised on, and Absalom, David’s son, who intended to dethrone David.

So many questions come up when something like this happens.

Am I a bad parent?

What does this say about my leadership?

Will he ever come back and serve the Lord?

What did I do wrong?

How am I going to deal with this?

In situations like these, comfort seems to be gone. The world is completely different. Everything you’ve known seems to come into question. You question yourself, God, and others. But the question, Dudley says, is this:

“Is it possible to find something through our pain that is more valuable than comfort? Could it be that God moves us from those comfortable places of fellowship to introduce us to deeper levels of grace? Is there a different aspect of His character we could never know during what we would call the ‘good times?'”

Let me share the example the Lord reminded me of. Recently, a few of my friends have made the decision to leave our church. Not leave the faith, but they say they’ve been called elsewhere. In some cases, it was a shock, in some cases it was not. The hardest part was the shock of the last instance.

I know it seems small, and it wasn’t aimed at anyone, and it wasn’t just me who was affected, but it did  make me think.

Is there something we’re doing wrong as a church?

Was my friendship not enough to keep them around?

What do other churches have that we don’t?

It’s easy to get defensive. To start saying, “well, there’s nothing wrong with our church. where else would you be called?”

But, Dudley reminds us, God has a bigger plan.

David talked about his agony in the Bible. You can find it all through the Psalms. And every time David discussed his agony, he decided he would remember God in that moment. He decided to remember His faithfulness through the years. David knew he was part of a bigger plan.

God has used the failures of men to show Himself strong over the ages. He used Adam’s sin to show His mercy, Dudley writes. Abraham’s faithless to show His faithfulness. He’s not hindered by our choices. Not mine, not yours, and not anyone else’s.

Dudley gives three good strategies to deal with our pain:

1. Have a talk with our souls. It’s ok to vent, just like David did. God isn’t offended or shocked by our frustration.

2. Realize that we’ll laugh again. This pain’s not going to last forever. Personally, I can testify to that–I used to faithfully keep a journal, and I would write down all of my issues and everything that was wrong with me. That was in 2009. These days, I look at it and I laugh because God has brought me so far and done so much in me.

3. get back to work. The example Dudley uses here is of the prodigal son. The father could have stopped working the farm to mourn his son running away. But because he kept working that farm, there was a party to be had when the son returned. They had the resources, and they still had a home to come back to.

I’ll leave you with this last great point Dudley makes: God does not enjoy watching us suffer in our circumstances. “He brings pain only when there is something greater for us to embrace.”