Ready or Not

About a week ago I read this article about the possibility of another larger volcano eruption in Iceland and there is one phrase that just kind of stuck in my head.  It’s stuck in the midst of these final words of the article,

There are no clear answers, however, and even fewer predictions about what the future may hold. Volcano eruptions, like earthquakes, are difficult to predict.

“Katla can start tomorrow or in 100 years, you don’t know,” said Palsson. “All we can do is be ready.”

“all we can do is be ready”

I don’t know what prompted this, but when I read that phrase I immediately remembered something Jesus said,

You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Luke 12:50 NIV)

One of the things I found funny before I was a Christian, and even today,  is how in some church circles there is so much emphasis placed on WHEN Jesus is going to return.  Some thought Y2K was the big signal (you remember that?), some thought the Gulf War was going to be the trigger.  Now, we have some even saying that Jesus return may be in 2012 because of all the talk of that being the year the Mayan calendar ends.  And don’t get me started on the pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-trib discussion.

Listen to me.  Jesus NEVER once urged his followers to try to figure out when he would be returning.  He just spent time telling them He WOULD be COMING.

He said, I WILL come again.

He said, it WILL happen when you LEAST EXPECT it.

He told them numerous times, and wanted his followers to get it, BE READY!

Now, honestly, I AM  fascinated by the fulfillment of biblical prophecy that has happened in the world over the years.  I even have a few “end times” books on my bookshelves and yes I even have a particular belief on when Jesus will return in relation to the tribulation.  But for me the MOST IMPORTANT thing is that Christ IS returning and we are to live our lives in a READINESS for his return.  What does that mean?  That means,

  • I should always be looking for the opportunities to tell people about Jesus and the gospel.
  • I should be keeping short accounts.
  • I should be focusing on the things that really matter in life (and finding out from God what those things are).
  • I should enjoy today that He has blessed me with and not worry about tomorrow.
  • For that matter, realize that there is always going to be a tomorrow – and tomorrow could be the day He returns.
  • I should be ANTICIPATING Christ’s return.  Honestly, I know that His return will be INCREDIBLE and I’m not frightened by it one bit.  I will confess, there are days I wish He would move a little quicker….kind of like when my kids ask from the back seat, “Dad are we there yet?”
  • I should be sobered by the realization that there are many loved ones in my life WHO AREN’T READY for his return – what am I going to do about that?
  • I should be thinking about how I invest my resources, wisely of course, BUT are my investments helping to advance the Kingdom of God?

I’m sure there’s other things some of you could come up with.  How about you? Are you ready?

[image from flickr]

do we really get REVIVAL?

A few weeks ago I read a really thought provoking post by my friend Geoff Heeg called -> Revival Please* So thought provoking that while I read it I could feel a blog post coming on.  And here it is.

Revival. That word is kind of loaded. In it’s neutral form it simply means someone who has been revived. Were dead. Now alive.

In it’s controversial form it’s the pursuit of the religious fanatic – “give me some of that ol’ time revival” which is too often – sadly – really saying, “I want to be scintillated emotionally and spiritually by displays of wonder and power that will shock others into the particular brand of faith that I follow.”

In other words…

…Something started by someone really cool!

Something started by a person who’s particularly good at getting me hyped up about what God wants to do for me. If this person is really good with the spiritual vocabulary and does some cool things then I can feel a revival coming on.

…Something that makes me feel good.

Revival will give me the spiritual willy-nillies or it’s not really revival. The more hyped up, emotionally charged and awesome cool things that I experience – the better a revival it is. Oh, and when I go to a revival I better leave feeling better or it ain’t a revival. Which brings me to the next point.

… Something I go to.

Everyone knows that revival happens at certain places where God “breaks out” and “shows up” right? I mean everytime we describe a revival we’re talking about the place where it happened or is happening.  We even give it labels that begin with a place name when describing it.

Do the above points sound kind of off? They should. they are pretty representative of some of the comments I have heard when people have described revival.  Here’s a novel thought:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! — Paul (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins….But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much,5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. –Paul (Ephesians 2:1,4-7 NLT)

These scriptures tell me that revival is very simply nothing less than transformation! It exists when people are changed because they’ve met Jesus! It is when those who were dead are given life!  THAT is revival.

Revival is NOT driven by human personality! It brings people to the person of Jesus Christ. When people meet Jesus they are forever changed.  Things start happening when people are changed.

It’s not marked by feeling good. Sometimes revival will bring pain! You can’t have change without some pain involved.  When sin is confronted, when sin is exposed, when the Holy Spirit convicts, when the truth of God is preached and even more lived there ARE going to be some uncomfortable moments.  Somehow there is a segment of “christianity” in the world today that equates revival with painlessness, and euphoria.  Certainly,  true revival will bring joy and excitement – after all the change that Jesus brings is life-bringing.  But I wonder if we see so little of true revival today because there are churches that don’t want to get uncomfortable, who don’t want the messiness of those who are far from Jesus coming to him, who don’t want the pain and effort it takes to move as agents of life among the dead.  I wonder if its because the people in our churches don’t want the way we “do” church to be affected because that means our discomfort.  It’s okay if God shows up as long as its in a way that we can predict and plan for.

Read this carefully,  Revival is NOT marked by feeling good!  We don’t pursue revival for the feelings it brings – we pursue revival because of the change it produces.   And THAT only happens when we pursue, preach and live Christ who is the one who brings change.

Finally, revival isn’t dependent on your where you are or where you go to! It’s not about your physical location, it’s about your spiritual position.  True revival happens when people meet Jesus and are transformed from death to life.  True revival happens when you are lifted up from being a mere “son of Adam” to adoption as a child of the King.  When people embrace Christ and His life is at work through them THEN you see revival.  And this is NOT location based.  True revival will not be confined to the four walls of a building.  It impacts the community the church of Christ is in.  It impacts families, it impacts workplaces, it impacts the rhythm of life that the world is used to.  When there is real revival, newspapers won’t be reporting on the strange going ons at such and such church.  The reports will be about the unexplainable drop in crime rates, the strange miracles happening in the hospitals, the unbelievable drop in divorce rates, and the remarkable generosity happening.

I cringe when I see churches advertising a ‘revival event’ or ‘revival camp meeting’.  Please, please you can’t label a place or an event as a revival! Especially if you know this event or camp meeting is targeting those who are supposed to already be revived!!!

Revival is when the dead become alive. Nothing more, nothing less.

Getting the Most Out of the Books I Read

Any leader worth their salt will be investing in personal growth by, among other things, reading. It is incredible the vast resource of knowledge and insight that is available via all the books being written today! It is a tragedy if any leader is not feeding themselves from it!

For some time I’ve wanted to write a post about the system I follow when it comes to reading. Here it is:

1. Cultivate a “to read” list.

There are literally thousands of books published every day and our access to these books is unprecedented.  The hardest thing anyone has when it comes to reading books is actually choosing which books to read!  That’s why I cultivate a list of books that I want to read at some point.  Here’s how I get my list:

  • bibliography of books you’ve benifited from – if you’ve just finished a GREAT book and it has a bibliography of some sort, that provides a great resource for finding books to read.
  • other books written by authors you like – like what a particular author has to say?  Chances are you’ll like other books by that same author.
  • recommendations from leaders you respect – This is an important one.  I have discovered many books that I might not ordinarily take a look at because a leader I respect has recommended it.
  • recomendations from blogs you read – Similar to the above point.
  • books written by blog authors you’ve read – If you read other blogs, or articles in magazines by a certain author and like what they have to say then you will probably find their books interesting as well.

It’s important that you have a method of collecting this list of books so when it’s time to go to the next book you can easily pick one.  I’ve used many different methods over the years but my current method is using an online app called anobii.  The reason why this is cool is because I can put books on a wishlist (and all I need is the title they take care of adding all the other details of a book).

I also have a “to read” shelf on my bookshelf that contains all the books available  (*ahem) to read.  It’s a good way of keeping new books easily accessible when you’re ready for a fresh one.

2. Schedule your reading.

If you don’t have a set plan for reading, you won’t read anything. Take advantage of the normally wasted moments that always pop up in life.  That’s one of the reasons I always have a book handy in my laptop bag.  With the growing popularity of e-readers (such as the Amazon Kindle, and now the iPad [drool]), there’s even easier ways to have books ready to read on the go.  I haven’t quite jumped on the e-reader bandwagon yet but know I’ll get there eventually.

It’s worth repeating.  If you don’t plan to read a book, you won’t read the book.  Are there certain times each day that work better for reading for you?  Do you travel a lot?  Can you read while on the plane or on the train/bus?  Do you have time during a lunch break to read for 30 minutes?  Do you have a few minutes before going to bed each night to read?  Are you always waiting at meetings for the late-comers to come before getting started?  There are plenty of places you could discover for a few minutes of reading time if you’re looking for a place to plan your reading.

3. Don’t sweat dropping a book that doesn’t wow you.

I have a terrible propensity to have to finish everything I’ve started.  Sometimes it makes my life really miserable because frankly,  there are things that don’t need to be finished.  Books are one of those things.  I’ve learned that nothing kills the momentum of reading than forcing yourself to get through a dry and uninteresting book.  Here’s the thing, not everything you read is going to be of value to you.  So if you are reading something dry and uninteresting and you are dreading picking up the book to read…PUT IT DOWN!  Leave it!  Put it on the shelf and don’t sweat it.  At some point you may want to come back to it but it’s okay to let go and pick up a different book!

One exception however –  if a book is making you uncomfortable, finish it. Usually the books that make you uncomfortable (in a stretching, growing kind of way) are the ones that have the greatest impact in your life.  After finishing a book like that, evaluate why it made you uncomfortable.

4. Develop a system of recording (and using) what you learn.

I’ve read a lot of GOOD and GREAT books over the years.  Unfortunately, some of those books I remember the title of and not much else.  I’ll say to someone, “That was a GREAT book” and they’ll ask why, and I’ll answer, “good question…” and will quickly pick up the book and read the back cover to try to remember.  Here’s the thing, it’s one thing to read a book, it’s another thing to learn from a book and remember what you’ve learned.  There’s two ways to remember, record and apply. So it’s important that you develop some sort of system for recording and applying what you are learning from the books you’ve read (if they are going to make any difference in your life).

Here’s mine:

  • Highlight everything significant – if I like a phrase an author has wrote or there is something they suggest that really resonates with me I will highlight it.  I also pay attention to emotional cues.  If something creates an emotional connection with me – it get’s highlighted.  If something makes me uncomfortable, it get’s highlighted.
  • After I finish reading the book I will record all the highlighted quotes in my tumblr.com stream.  Why?  I want all these important connections I’ve made with this book to be recorded in a way that is easily searchable and accessible no matter what platform or computer I’m at.  Currently tumblr does this for me (as a side benefit – I’m sharing highlights from my reading with others who may happen upon my tumblr stream)
  • I’ll pick one or two things from the book I can apply to my life and make an action step from it. (I’m not always able to do this but I try)
  • Reread the books that really impacted me at least once a year (another thing I’m not great at because my list of “to read” books is so huge!  I often do this though when I’m wanting to read through the book with other people I’ve recommended it to or I’m working through an area in my life that the book will help with).
  • Sometimes I’ll record a review of the book in anobii.com. Lately anobii.com has become my place to rate all the books I read and keep track of when I read them.  I wish I had of known about this resource earlier.

Finally,

5. Read books just for the fun of it to break things up.

Why?  Because sometimes your brain just needs a break!  Pick up a fiction book once in a while or pull out a comic (yeah I still read comics occasionally).  Or even biographies can be a really cool break from the usual reading to inspire and encourage!

So, do you have a system for reading books?  What’s your system?