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Know Thy Values

 

Ever sat down and tried to identify your personal values?  I don’t mean the values you’re supposed to have, or the values handed to you from your church, family or workplace.  Are you happy with your personal values?

So many of us are guided by implicit values injected into our psyche by our environment, or stuffed down our throats by the media.  I love the ancient Greek aphorism inscribed at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi: “Know thyself.”  This is a primary truth, a truth that is so essential to understanding your world and how you engage it.  We meet the world through the lenses of our values.  Do you know what your values are?

Your values are like your operating system.  They unconsciously guide your choices every single day.  A values inventory is a worthwhile exercise because it enables you to see the operating system behind the machine.  Sometimes changes need to be made to the operating system.  Sometimes it just needs to be celebrated.

This past year I evaluated, audited and edited my personal values.  While they are incomplete, they show the high points of who I am, the major intersections in my web of being.  Here they are:

inspiring: I will help others see possibilities and move them to change.

pure: I will seek to have a clean heart and mind.

innocent: I will envision the world each day as though I am seeing it for the first time.

dreamer: I will see the impossible rather than embrace the acceptable.

God: I will live in full dependance and devotion to God.

faithfulness: I will keep the covenants and commitments I have made – with joy.

adventurous: I will play, explore, laugh out loud, and roll on the floor.

respect: I will treat all humans with dignity regardless of race, gender or religion.

love: I will live and act in the best interest of those around me.

truth: I will have fierce conversations, each garnished with a dollop of frivolity.

integrity: I will live in such a way that my private life will reveal no surprises to my public audience.

desire: I will embrace and enjoy simple pleasure – food, wine, song and dance – but not abuse them.

 

After some soul searching and different drafts, what you see is the finished work.  May they define who I am and who I am becoming.

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I’m Yellow

 

I recently acquired my yellow belt in Ju Jutsu.  That’s right, I am now officially dangerous to myself.

Most people who know me understand how much I love basketball.  I would drive for an hour for a game of pick-up.  I decided last fall to take time off from basketball to try something new.  My trip to Africa in October was a life changing experience that left me wanting to try new things.  I can always play basketball but I’ve never taken up a martial art before.  Besides, deep down inside, doesn’t every boy want to be a ninja?

So after some research, I landed at a great dojo in my area of the city.  Check it out at www.celterre.com.  Kudos to Sensei Trevor…he is a very good teacher.

There are tons of lessons that I have gained this past year in Ju Jutsu.  I think the greatest lesson has been one in “decreasing gain” (I talk about this in another blog posting).  I have learned the value of knowing nothing, of reaching my limits, of having to start at the bottom of the totem pole.  Ju Jutsu is not something you just pick up.  Every class I attend brings new understanding and a greater appreciation for my limitations.  I find myself decreasing, but the result is nothing but increase for my attitude and spirit.   

 

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Training not Trying

 

I recently spoke about self-discipline at Beulah Alliance Church on March 8-9.  For a copy of the message, click on the following link: http://www.beulah.ca/321604.ihtml  The message topic is “Steady to the Core.”

In my talk I focused on the importance of training versus trying.  This concept comes from Dallas Willard’s book, Renovation of the Heart.  I recommend this book for any fellow sojourners desiring transformation of the heart.

At the end of the talk I described four training tips to help develop self-discipline.  I promised that I would post these tips online.  I want to give credit to the book, The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.  The tenth chapter in the book, “Taking Action: The Power of Positive Rituals,” helped provide some of the formative thinking that went into these training tips. 

Establish God-centred rituals.

Rituals are very powerful things. Rituals express our beliefs about life and reality at a very deep level. They help to train us so that when we face an opponent, it requires less energy because we have conditioned ourselves.

 

Gathering together on Sunday with other believers is a ritual. Participating in a Life Group or Table Group is a ritual. Praying with your friends or family is a ritual. Practicing the spiritual disciplines in solitude is a ritual.

 

What are we training ourselves to be? We are essentially training ourselves to be in a God-centred state where we are led and empowered by the Spirit. This is a state where we are aware of God, rely on God, and surrender ourselves to his leadership. We do this as we train so that, when we enter the arena of life, we are prepared.

 

Aim for gradual change.

Self-discipline comes in degrees. In 2 Peter 1:8, Peter talks about possessing self-discipline, among other qualities, in “increasing measure.” Sometimes we envision self-discipline as a light switch. Either it’s on or it’s off.  Either we have it or we don’t have it. But Peter says that we can have more or less self-control. If that is true, then it is better to understand self-control as a dimmer switch. We either have more of it or less of it.

 

Some people tell me that they just don’t have time to establish God-centered rituals. What they often mean is that they can’t find an hour a day to be alone with God. That’s kind of like “hitting the ground running” (this metaphor will make more sense if you listen to the message).  Typically they fall flat on their faces because they have tried to do too much, too soon.

 

Like any training regiment, it’s important to start at a slower pace.  Can you find five minutes tomorrow to connect with God? I bet you can.  Turn off the radio on the way to work or take the time in the shower.  During that time, center yourself on God.  Let God know that you need him, that you want him to lead your life.  Do that consistently for a week. Then take your training up a notch by increasing your time, or adding another dimension to your training.

 

 

Be precise and specific about doing it.

Studies demonstrate, time and time again, that the more specific you are about a ritual, the greater likelihood that you will do it. I recommend that you describe what you will do, where you will do it, and when you will do it. In other words, I will pray, in my car, while I am driving to work. Schedule it in. If you want to develop a ritual, you need to do this. If you say, “I will find some time to pray tomorrow,” there is a high probability that you will not. Why? Because you have not developed the capacity to do it.  It has not yet become a habit.

 

Find a motivation partner.

Studies also demonstrate that if you tell someone what you are going to do, and ask them to help you do it, you will have a much greater chance of success.

 

I recommend that you find a motivation partner. Note that I didn’t say accountability partner. An accountability partner, in the strictest sense, is like an accountant. An accountant doesn’t tell you how to succeed at business.  If you are in the red or the black, it’s not the accountant’s fault.  Similarly, an accountability partner is someone who keeps track but doesn’t necessarily encourage you to succeed. They tell you when you pass and fail – or, rather, you tell them. I recommend that you find a motivation partner, someone you can trust with your goals and someone who will encourage you to succeed.  Find someone who can fulfill the biblical mandate to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

 

If you are looking for a bit more training guidance, I recommend you listen to a message presented by our Lead Pastor, Keith Taylor on January 25-26 titled, “Being People of the Book.”  It’s both inspiring and insightful with added practical tips.  You can access it at this link: http://www.beulah.ca/321604.ihtml

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Love Your Cabby

 

Cab drivers are under-appreciated.  About five times a year I take a taxi to and from the airport.  This is because my family chooses to own one car (keeping it green my friends).

I have met cab drivers from every corner of the globe and am always touched by their stories.  So far, every cab driver I have met has immigrated to Canada.  I’m astounded that so many of them have graduate or doctoral level education.  In fact, two of my recent drivers used to teach in a university.  It brings to mind the Amanda Marshall song, “Everybody’s Got a Story” where she sings about the taxi driver with a PhD.  So true.

So I asked my driver this past week, “What are some of the craziest stories of things that have happened to you while driving a cab?”  Thirty minutes flew by as he unfolded some fascinating tales.  On two separate occasions he was an unwitting driver for bank robbers.  Both times he was rolled by the police with the culprits still in the car.  He said that one time he was assaulted at knife point by someone who refused pay the fare.  He wrestled the assailant to the ground and took away the knife.  Then he stood with his foot on the man’s throat until the police showed up.  On another occasion, he had a woman offer to pay for her fare by removing her shirt.  He didn’t take her up on the offer.  He said to me, “What does she think I am, some kind of an animal?”

I can’t imagine leaving behind the country you love, friends and family, and a prominent career to escape persecution or find a life of freedom.  All I can say is, never underestimate the person behind the wheel of your taxi.  Get to know him.  Tip well.  Love your cabby.

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decreasing GAIN

 

New Year resolutions often focus on personal betterment…increasing.  What if this year you resolved to decrease and not increase?  You may wonder: “What is Rob talking about?”  I don’t think I can take the time to type it out and besides, I hurt my finger playing floor hockey this week at a staff retreat.  But I do encourage you to listen to a message I gave on this very subject on January 3/4, 2009 at Beulah.  You can download or stream this message at http://www.beulah.ca/321604.ihtml once it is posted.

At the end of the message I listed some very practical ways to make this a year of decreasing GAIN.  Some have requested this list, so let me provide it here:

  1. Begin to do some good deeds anonymously and vow to yourself that you will tell nobody about them. Only you and God will know.
  2. Spend a week intentionally listening to how you speak about yourself or others. Take ten minutes at the end of each day to think about it. You might even track it in a journal. Here are some questions to consider: Do you put others down to make yourself look good? Do you spin stories to build yourself up? How do you respond to other people when they praise or blame you?
  3. Take a whole day and refrain from name-dropping or favoritism. When you favor others, you often do it for your own benefit. When you name-drop, it makes you look good.  Try to cut back.
  4. Intentionally perform one act that results in your downward mobility and allows somebody else to move upward. It should be something significant.  It should be something greater than taking a small piece of chicken so somebody else can have the bigger one.
  5. Take a sheet of paper and write down on one side all of your strengths of character (not your expertise or accomplishments). On the back side, write your weaknesses. Then pray, thanking God for who you are and asking him to give you the character you long to have.

May this be for all of us a year where we decrease.  May humility be the wardrobe of our character.

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Poverty in my Theology?

I recently spoke on the issue of global poverty at Beulah Alliance Church the weekend of November 29-30, 2008.  You can listen to the message at http://www.beulah.ca/321604.ihtml once it is uploaded.

I described three reasons why I would avoid helping with the problem of global poverty.  One of the reasons was that my theology didn’t include poverty reduction as an important part of God’s work in the world.  I said I didn’t have time to address why that was so, but that I would refer to in in my blog.  So here goes…

The reason it hasn’t been part of my theology is because of the environment I find myself in.  As an evangelical pastor, trained in evangelical bible colleges and seminaries, I have received little training or exposure to the issue of global poverty.  I am a product of my environment – not completely, but at least partially.

Here is why.  The evangelical movement finds its beginnings in christian fundamentalism .  Near the beginning of the twentieth century, this fundamentalism was largely a response to liberal theology.  I won’t take the time to explain the differences between the two theological movements, but it is enough to say that fundamentalism (including evangelicalism) tended to focus on evangelism, while liberalism focused on the more social aspects of the gospel.  The problem was that these two movements were so polarized that to do evangelism automatically placed you in the fundamentalist camp, and to do social work placed you in the liberal camp.  There was no real middle ground.  That is why today you often see mainline churches (where liberalism was most pervasive) focusing on social issues and evangelical churches focusing on missions and evangelism.  At the height of the controversy, even though you held fundamental beliefs, if you ministered to social needs, there was a good possibility that you would be branded a liberal – and vice versa.  What this led to was an historical trend within evangelicalism toward global mission.

I realize the above is a very simplified explanation of the polarization between liberalism and fundamentalism.  But I hope it can shed some light on the historical stigma we face in evangelicalism against global compassion.  Slowly there has been a shift taking place within evangelicalism toward addressing these global compassion issues.  We have moved away from the tyranny of the either/or mindset and have begun to embrace the genius of the both/and.  It is possible to maintain historically orthodox beliefs while practicing both global mission and global compassion.

As I said in my message, I would argue that of the two, global mission is the primary responsibility of the church but that global compassion should not be demoted to a level of obscurity.  Each of us can make a difference in the world today to help eliminate global poverty.

For more information on Christian fundamentalism, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalism

For more information on Christian liberalism, go to:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Christianity