Archives For Life

Live Well

Steve —  5.19.2010 — Leave a comment

I was asked by a friend who’s life was falling apart why he should live according to God’s Word. After all, good behavior had gotten him nowhere; in fact, he considered himself worse off because of it.

The second part of our banner is Live Well. We covered Love Much in a previous post and Light Your World is coming up. What used to come to mind for me when I heard the term “live well” was keeping my nose clean and staying out of trouble, but I’ve come to learn it’s much more than that.

Just like loving much involves more than taking someone some chicken spaghetti when they break a leg, living well is much more than staying out of jail. Evidence of this is found in the Gospels (first 4 books of the New Testament of the Bible) in the way Jesus talked to those He met. The call was (and is today) to go and sin no more.

That’s it.
Very simple command.
Very difficult implementation plan.
And He knew that!

You see, you can’t go very far down the Live Well road before you understand that you must Love (Him) Much first. Living a life well is a response to His Love and must be rooted in some very weighty beliefs.

First, you must believe that God desires the very best for you. When Jesus talked about the abundant life, he wasn’t talking about a life free of pain and struggle. He was talking about a life that is used to it’s fullest potential to impact His Kingdom. He was talking about life lived with His perspective, not ours. With His priorities, not ours. With His values, not ours.

Second, you must believe that God has a purpose for your life. He uniquely crafted you with abilities, skills and experiences for His purposes. Exploring what those things are, with an eye purpose, is a fantastic way to understand why you are still sucking wind behind your keyboard. Assessments, other people and some good ole soul searching are great tools to uncover this information.

Finally, you must understand that a life lived well typically will mean hard times become the norm. There’s an Enemy lurking for anyone who starts making waves for God. For some, that will be enough to return to status quo, but for those resolute few who really desire to live well, it merely strengthens their resolve. Additionally, there is still Joy to be had when hard times come because we now have a perspective that we’re being used to make a difference.

So, the question about why we should live life well goes all the way back to a response to His Love and moves out from there to being effective in Lighting the world around you. Hmmm…that seems to be the next topic.

*PARADIGM CHECK: Are people asking you about how or why you live life the way you do? A life lived well is different from the world – different decision grids, different actions and certainly different values. If you look, act and smell just like everyone else, perhaps it’s time to examine your life from His perspective and ask some overdue questions…on your knees.

Love Much

Steve —  5.18.2010 — Leave a comment

My church, Fellowship Bible Church | Little Rock, recently had a sermon series called “Love Much, Live Well and Light the World” – a three-parter that was magnificent. I wanted to spend s0me time telling you why I think so.

First – the combination of the three summarizes perfectly the message Jesus has to mankind. If you spend any time reading the Bible – especially the first 4 books of the New Testament – you will see this message over and over. Jesus was always calling people to love God and others, to live with purpose and integrity and to influence the world around us.

Furthermore, the order is right on. We first need to love – it is the key to everything else. I have a working philosophy about love and it goes a little like this:

The degree to which we can love others is based on how we love God and the degree to which we love God is based on how fully we understand His love for us.

I believe the reason we don’t/can’t love people deeply is because we don’t grasp how incredibly deeply we’re loved by God. A paradigm shift is needed – as with all things related to God. We must examine what’s inside before we can reflect it outside.

One of the best places to start your journey of understanding of God’s Love is the book of Ephesians in the Bible. God describes us as noble heirs to His Kingdom through the redeeming blood of His Son. To be reconciled to God is to return home – right where you belong and the peace and love you feel from the Father will allow you to love people well and extend grace just as it was extended to you.

Being loved by your creator is incredibly life changing, but all too often, we can get in the way. We believe the lies and play the tapes that say we’re not worthy or ready and we resist being embraced. Once again, you have to change your beliefs and it starts with knowing that you are the most valuable thing to God. He sent His Son to die so you and He could have a relationship – what could be more evidence of your worth to Him.

Let that sink in, believe what you read in Ephesians and ask Him to make it all real in your heart. Over time, you will understand what it means to love much and how important that is to living well and influencing the world around you, but more on that later.

May our hearts break for those in the valley, rejoice for those on the high places and may we never forget how He loves us much!

*PARADIGM CHECK: Spiritual maturity is measured in love, not years. We must evaluate ourselves and others against how well we love people.

Whether talking about a person or an organization, there exists a framework – intentional or not – that dictates how decisions are made and situations are handled. Greatness can be described as an intentional examination of this framework and rigid adherence to it. Great leaders know how to develop and use each part effectively.

Below is a graphical representation of that framework. The core is critically important as it provides the basis for all other parts. Integrity among the elements of the core will help to ensure that the Strategies and Tactics are unambiguous and clear results can be achieved.

I’m starting a series of posts that will talk about sermons topics I wish would be taught on a regular basis – every year or perhaps even every quarter. These are the key truths that seem to be the linchpin to unlocking vast treasures of understanding – at least the way I see it (it is my blog after all).

The first one will be no surprise to those that know me: MARGIN.

Margin, by definition, is extra space allocated for a particular reason. We see it in books, roads and even in how the chairs are arranged at church. Have you ever seen a book where the words ran right up to the edge of the paper? It’s maddening to try to read – your eye has an extremely hard time transitioning from one line to the next. Or been driving in a construction zone where the road narrows and there just isn’t much room between you and oncoming traffic? Or sat down to someone and felt like you were too close?

Principle One: The lack of margin requires that you pay extra attention to the edges.

I don’t desire to have our pastors teach on proper book formatting or how to properly space the chairs in the worship center, but the concept of margin exists in some very key areas of life:

  • Time
  • Finance
  • Morality
  • Energy (physical)

Margin in our schedule is probably the one that we just hear and shake our heads at and say, “Yep – I know, but I’m simply too busy.” We know that we are running too hard and are missing life as we hurry along. Strategies and principles of how to create margin in one’s schedule is needed.

Financial margin is another place where we know the good of it, but don’t have any idea how to achieve it. Unless you have a money tree that you haven’t planted, obtaining financial margin will require some very hard lifestyle choices that hurt on the front end, but bring freedom in the end.

Moral margin is not talked about much, but it is simply staying far away from situations that pull you into the deep weeds. We live in a world that is ruled by one who would love nothing more than to see you and I be pulled into something that takes us out of the game. Thinking strategically about this area is what we need help with.

Finally, margin with our physical energy is something that is tied to all other areas. We are either too busy or too stressed to do what is right for our physical bodies. Physiologically, our bodies need rest. When we sleep soundly, our body goes to work repairing all of the crap we do to it when we’re awake. If we either don’t get enough sleep or aren’t able to sleep deeply, that regenerative process can’t accomplish its goal. The results are numerous and affect our lifestyles greatly.

Margin isn’t just a concept to be admired from afar and it’s not a fairy tale either. It is a choice. A personal choice. A personal choice between life and death – literally in some cases and we need our spiritual leadership to lead by word and example to embrace the importance of margin.

Margin is simply putting space in one’s life that is left for God to fill as He sees fit. The margin-filled life is the key to experiencing God’s spontaneous nature and associated we go.

Into the Fire

Steve —  1.21.2010 — 1 Comment

Priincipal's OfficeI had a chance to speak some new truth into my son the other night. About an hour after he went to bed, he woke up crying and I went to see him. I asked him what was wrong and he told me that he didn’t like “those boys at school pulling on my shirt.” I knew what he was talking about because it coincided with other events of that day that resulted in a trip to the “principal,” but that’s not the story.

He was mad – the kind of mad that makes you cry and hit and scream…all at the same time. In that state, he told me he wasn’t “going back to that school – NEVER!” and continued to sob. I snatched him up and tried my best to console him. This is the first time that I felt like he was being picked on by other kids. It obviously made him mad and it certainly made me mad. It’s my boy they’re jerking around, and what’s worse, it has caused him to be afraid.

Fear is tricky and very powerful. Even more so in the mind of a 4yr old. So I did what any other dad would do, I told him that I had his back and that Manatt boys don’t run away from our problems, we use our head and our heart to overcome it. Low and behold, it seemed to work. Cool – that was just a shot in the dark. It was true, but I didn’t expect that to actually assuage his fears.

This taught me two things:

  1. My son looks up to me and believes that I can help him
  2. This parenting thing is starting to click for me…a little…ever so slightly

Today was the day he went back to school (only half days, one day a week) and it went great. My wife was able to talk to his teachers and share our concerns about an apparent breakdown in supervision and asked for a higher degree of sensitivity for the way the kids “played” with one another. How about some kudos for the wife – she’s getting that parenting thing down too!

All kidding aside, this showed me how important my job is to help prepare my kids to handle situations that scare them and to remind them that mommy and daddy have their backs. I sure am glad that God has my back!


Steve —  1.21.2010 — Leave a comment

ImportantExamining one’s life for any length of time (in one sitting) is either a luxury reserved for vacation or the result of something gone wrong (more likely). One reason to go through this exercise is to make sure that you are spending your time on the best things instead of a collection of good things.

Being part of a large and vibrant church, opportunities to get involved are in great abundance because God is doing a ton of amazing things in the lives of His people. I’m glad the resources and organization are available for me to “plug in” and contribute. But there is a hidden trap there too. Let me explain.

Exclude church for a minute (you may anyway), life is full of causes, entertainment and obligations that eat our time…if we let them.  We can look up one day and wonder where the week, month or even year went. These are good things; worthy things to give our time to, but are the best things for me – based on how God made me?

Add church back in and it becomes quite clear that getting an overcrowded schedule is EASY…as easy as saying “Yes.” YES is fun and rewarding and appreciated…until the YES becomes a “how am I going to get it all done?” Then it becomes something different altogether. Guilt and disappointment start to reign in our minds when we can’t meet the obligations we so eagerly signed up for – fun becomes un-fun, un-rewarding and resented.

Want fun and fulfillment to mark your life again? The answer is simple, but the implementation is hard. It is found in just two letters: N, O. I know what you’re thinking. NO isn’t fun – it’s harsh and offensive and divisive…anything but fun. And you’re right. For whatever reason, we are wired to resist saying NO to people and “good” things until we are reminded of the  awful feeling of having too much task and not enough daylight.

Saying NO is the precursor to being able to say YES to the right things – the BEST things. It is also the best way to create pockets of time in your schedule that you can turn over to God and let Him have a say.

So, here’s the challenge: of all of the things you do and all of the obligations you have each week, what are the most valuable…not most important or hardest to do without or even hardest to get out of. Put everything on the table – nothing is safe. As that list is formed – ask yourself why you think those things are the most valuable. Develop an answer for all of them.

As you mull that over, think about your values. If you have a family, what are your family values. Here are a few areas to consider:

  • Financial: what is your belief about debt? savings? giving?
  • Spiritual: do you go to church? why do you go to church? why not? Do you value God’s Word as an integral part of how you live?
  • Marriage: how permanent is your marriage? How do you want to honor your mate?
  • Family: what character traits to you want to focus on in your children? What are the “non-negotiables” in your home? How many nights a week are we going to eat at the dinner table together?
  • Relationships: how close do you want to be with your parents? your siblings? your children?  your neighbors? your best friend?

Now marry the two lists together. Do the reasons you have for how you spend your time match the values you say you believe? If not, perhaps adjustments in the former list need to be made. You see, values don’t change – they are the core of who we are and are immune to our circumstance. Therefore, they should be the starting place once you start to say YES again after a time of saying NO.

Add back into your life the BEST things based on your personal and family values. Resist the temptation to deviate. Because in the end, it is your responsibility to use the time you have and make the most of it.

The Skit Guys have a video talking about this very process that may help bring some clarity.

YouTube Direct-What is God's Will