40 Days of Blogging Follow Up

The 40 Things to Give Up Lenten eDevotional will be emailed daily starting on Ash Wednesday

Wow! God is amazing. A couple of days ago I shared how I was going to make a commitment to blog during the 40 days of Lent. Well it seems I will be putting together a devotional book for the season. Starting tomorrow I will be releasing the first issue of 40 Things to Give up for Lent and Beyond. This idea was inspired by a post entitled 20 Things to Give up for Lent which seemed to go viral on the internet. Earlier today it caused our church website to crash. According to Google Analytics we have surpassed a half million views in the last few days.

So if you would like to follow along with the daily posts, make sure to get the email Devotionalsubscribe on our church website.

Cleanse Me from Within

And he (Jesus) said, "What comes out of a a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person. Mark 7:20–23 ESV

I pondered these words for some time. Evil things come from within. Wow! The greatest evil threat in my life to deal with is nothing outside of me, but in my heart. It puts a new perspective on things.

It is no wonder the Psalmist David prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God. And renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

I recognize this cleansing does not happen on its own. This is the work of God. It is the Holy Spirit which leads me to repentance. Good does not come from me. It comes from him.

More of him. Less of me.

Empty me. Fill me.

Finding Your Paul

In a [previous post](http://philressler.com/seeking/you-cant-journey-alone/ ‎) I shared how we all need our Barnabases, Pauls, and Timothys. Barnabases represent our peers. Pauls represent our mentors. And Timothys represent those we are mentoring.

In this post, I want to focus on Paul. The Pauls in our life represent our mentors. These are people who are further along the path or have arrived where we want to get to. The problem oftentimes is we don’t look for mentors and only pool our ignorance together with our peers. It is much more comfortable in the circle of our peers.

The problem with failing to look beyond our peers is that our peers often face the same problems in life. They are challenged by these same problems in the same way we are challenged because we share similar life experiences. Among peers our perceived solutions are more theory than anything else. It was King Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12 who refused to listen to his father’s advisors. Instead he listened to his peers. As a result he lost half his kingdom and almost lost his life. If only he had listened, he would have been much better off.

If you are drowning it does not do much good to look for help from someone who is drowning in the same water. The wise person would look for help from someone who is safe on the shore. Our mentors are the ones who have made it to the shore we are trying to get to. It makes sense we can learn from them how to get to the shore ourselves.

Mentors will stretch us and challenge us and make us to think and act differently so that we don’t keep making the same mistakes. Mentors might be intimidating. They might make us feel inadequate. It is much more comfortable to stick with our peers and people who are not going to challenge us and stretch us. But, if you could have overcome your problem on your own or together with your peers, you would have done so already.

I learned this lesson as a golfer. It is intimidating playing golf with others who are more accomplished than you are. But playing with more accomplished golfers helps make you a better golfer. By watching them play, you work to imitate their game. You start playing better yourself.

Mentoring comes in all shapes and sizes. The easiest form of mentoring is done through books and blogs. There is much we can learn from reading. But reading does not offer much in the way of accountability. We have less of an investment in this type of mentoring and therefore it becomes the least useful. That does not mean there is no value. It is just that it does not offer as much value as other forms of mentoring.

A second form of mentoring is conferences. I have found value in conferences. I have gone to more than a few conferences. Conferences can be inspirational. But applying what we learn at conferences is the most difficult step. Like books, conferences are impersonal. Once the conference is over we are left again on our own to sink or swim.

A third form of mentoring is done one-on-one. Invite an accomplished person in your field to coffee. Make sure you pay. Call them up on the phone. Or ask for an appointment at their office. Ask for an hour of their time. Prepare 5 or so questions you might ask them. And then listen to what they have to say. Value their time that they are investing in you. Don’t make assumptions. Offer them gratitude. This can be done with people you may not develop an ongoing relationship with. Oftentimes those who are accomplished in their fields are protective of their time. That is how they got to where they are. As such they may not be able to have an ongoing relationship with them. But it can be extremely rewarding to be able to be able to sit at their feet if only for an hour.

A fourth form of mentoring is what I believe to be the most valuable and the most beneficial over time. This is developing an ongoing relationship with someone from whom you can learn. It might involve on-going coaching or learning from another person. It might mean meeting on a regular and consistent basis such as once a month or once a week. The value in the on-going relationship is to recognize that so much in life is caught rather than taught. The most valuable things I have learned from mentors is not to listen to anything they shared with words. Rather is was to observe them in action and discover their character and values. The point is the more you invest into being mentored, the more you will get out of it.

Jesus would spend three years mentoring his disciples. He lived life together with them. He brought them along to learn and ultimately to prepare them for the time after he would ascend into heaven.

When it comes to mentors, recognize there are no perfect mentors. There are mentors that help us in our professional life, in our family life, in our faith life, and more. It is rare that you will find a mentor who is able to put all those together. So don’t limit yourself to one mentor. Also, recognize there are different mentors for different seasons.

The challenge in all of this is for you is to consider how you are being mentored. What is one thing you can do in the next week towards increasing the influence of “Paul” in your life.

Finally, I would love to hear what ways are you being mentored in this journey in life? Share in the comments below.

You Can’t Journey Alone

And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. (Mark 6:7)

As we move to claim the promises of God, we must recognize that so many of the promises are not given to the individual but to the community. We so often individualize the faith in America. We emphasize the individuals relationship with God. But when we look at the Scriptures there is a strong emphasis on community. It is not just about the individuals relationship with God, but the community’s relationship with God and the individuals relationship with the community.

It is impossible to live out God’s Word in isolation of other believers. There is no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto and Silver. In the text today, Jesus sends his disciples out two by two. Later on when the Apostle Paul goes on his missionary journeys, he did not go alone. He first went with Barnabas and later Silas.

The point is we need others for the journey. I have been told that we all need to have our Barnabas, our Paul, and our Timothy. Barnabas represents our peers. Paul represents our mentors. Timothy represents those we are mentoring.

As an exercise, make a list of those who are peers. Then list your mentors. Finally make a list of those you are mentoring. After you have made the list, take some time to pray for each of these people.

Finally, consider if there is one of these areas where you are lacking. For example, you might discover that you have many peers, but few mentors. Consider what are some ways you might add some mentors to your life. If you are lacking for people you are mentoring, then consider how you might intentionally pass on to others what you have learned.

Arise Church!

And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Mark 5:39–41

I vividly remember sitting in worship one Sunday as a child when the church started to sing an old hymn called “Stand up, Stand up for Jesus.” The only problem about singing this song was that the whole church was sitting down. It was not long before one of the church members caught the irony of this and started to stand. Slowly, one-by-on others started to stand as well. Within a few seconds the entire church was standing up for Jesus.

This is a picture that is ingrained in my memory. I wonder how much it serves as a metaphor for the state of the church today. We hear all the statistics about how the church is dying in America. This is especially true in the mainline denominations. But I wonder if it is a matter of the church really dying, or are we just sitting down rather than standing up for Jesus.

In the story from today’s reading, Jesus encounters a little girl who has apparently died. However, Jesus says, “she is not dead, she is only sleeping.” (Mark 5:39) When Jesus says this, the people start laughing at him. (Mark 5:40) From all appearances she was dead and it was ridiculous to think anything else.

What happens next is remarkable. It is unheard of. If it happened today, it would certainly go viral on Facebook and Youtube. There is no CPR performed. The girl is not shocked with a defibrillator. Jesus simply says, “Little girl, I say to you, rise.” Immediately, she gets up. Wow!

I hear those words today. Jesus says, “stand up for me.” If I am to live, it starts with standing. But I am so much more comfortable sitting. I have sat for way to long and the longer I sit the harder it is to get up.

Nevertheless, Jesus says, “arise.” So where are you going to stand for him? The calling to rise up is a calling to leadership. It is a calling to go first. It is a calling to take a risk. It is a calling to live differently. It is a calling to go against the flow. It is a calling to radically surrender your life to Jesus.

Arise Church! It’s time to get up. The world needs us more than ever.

Overcoming the Challenges You Have Learned to Live With

Today’s reading is Matthew 5:1–20. You can find the Good Shepherd Daily Bible readings at gs4nj.org/biblereadings.

He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Matthew 5:3–4

“If you could beat this on your own, you would have done so already.” I have shared these words more than once recently. We all have challenges presented before us. With many of these challenges we are left in defeat. As hard as we try and as much will-power as we muster, we just cannot overcome. Rather than trying to overcome the problem, we give up, and we learn to live with it.

The challenge might be an addiction. It might be a strained relationship. It might be a physical disability. It might be an emotional struggle. For everyone the challenge is different. But we all have those walls in front of us that we just cannot find a way to get past and it gets to the point that we stop trying.

Jesus calls Satan the strong man (Mark 3:27). Indeed he is stronger than us. You think you know the Bible well. Satan knows the Bible even better. The problem is that he does not use his knowledge for good but for evil. Apart from Jesus, Satan is stronger than you in every way and will over-power you and leave you defeated.

Satan has a strategy. Satan knows all of your weakness. He knows all of your vulnerabilities and he will exploit them for all they are worth. He might let you think you can take him him on, but that’s just part of his game.

As Americans we pride ourselves in our self-sufficiency, but there are many battles we face that we will never win on our own apart from Jesus. We saw in the story of man with the demon in Mark 5. The people attempted to contain the demon possessed man, but there was nothing they could do. They did everything they could think of. Eventually they got to the point where they no longer worked to solve the problem, but just learned to live with it.

Thats when Jesus comes in. It is not a matter of working harder. It is not a matter of working smarter. It is a matter of giving the battle over to Jesus. Jesus has a lot to say. Maybe more than you realize. He made all the difference for the demon possessed man. It was in that encounter with Jesus that everything changed.

This may sound strange, but maybe your focus should not be so much on solving your problem and overcoming your challenge. Maybe the focus is on encountering Jesus and seeking him in a greater way. Jesus himself says, “Seek first the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 6:33) He does not say seek second or seek third. It is seek first. Just maybe what we think is our challenge is not really our challenge. The real challenge is the priority of Jesus in our life. Maybe if Jesus is where he needs to be, the rest would fall into place. Jesus overcomes the challenges we have given up on and learned to live with.

This is why I love the season of Lent which is just over a week away. The season is a time of the year which leads us to hunger and thirst for more of God. As we are nourished with living water and the bread of life, we are strengthened to face whatever Satan and the world can throw at us.