Why ‘Warts And All’ Leaders Are OK

I am reading a fascinating book at the moment called The Kim Kardashian Principle. Just let me be clear that I didn’t buy the book because I follow the Kardashians. I don’t even watch their reality TV show. However the book caught my attention for its content.

Essentially this book shows how Kim Kardashian broke Hollywood’s rules to go on to be the star that she now is. In a land where blond hair, blue eyes and stick-thing women dominate the landscape, Kim has stuck to her roots. Hollywood is essentially a one-size-fits-all place for its female inhabitants, but not for Kim. She rebelled against their cardboard cut-out image and has reaped massive benefits.

The power she and her sisters now have is unbelievable, and all because they just stayed true to themselves. In fact just two days ago news broke that her sister, Kylie Jenner, helped wipe more than $1 billion off the value of social media company Snapchat when she simply Tweeted “Does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore…?”

When your Tweets wipe $1 billion off the value of a public company in a day, that’s influence.

However this book got me thinking about the church and our leaders. In the past the leader had to present the close-to-perfect image. The leader was the leader, and any flaws he had were dealt with behind closed doors. Not that I am suggesting they be spread out in the open, but today’s world is more accepting of leaders who show they are not perfect. In fact, according to this book. It is being transparent in your life that will attract people, not repel them.

Hollywood has been the same as the church. The A-listers there are perfectly Photoshopped. Any media coverage has them playing with their children and hugging their partner as though their lives are absolutely perfect. But the world is growing tired of it and is leaning towards a new world of influencers who don’t pretend to be perfect. Youtube and social media stars are now more popular than Hollywood stars.

I think our churches have for too long from the outside looked like they are the place for the squeaky clean. The pastor and his family are close to perfect, and so all of the people who enter the church are seen to be close to perfect too. Until someone realizes that they are not and they are branded hypocrites because they let somebody down with less than perfect behavior or actions.

None of us have it all together, including our pastors. And pastors, it’s okay to not appear to be perfect in your congregation’s eyes. In fact just like Kim Kardashian, in being honest and revealing that you don’t have it all together, you may just appeal and attract a whole bunch of other people who feel like their lives are the same. Our communities are not looking for perfect; they are looking for authentic.


Matt Danswan is the CEO of Initiate Media, publishers of My Christian Daily. He Also blogs at www.mattdanswan.com. His new book, Not Business As Usual, is due for release in March 2018 and can be pre-ordered now.

Goals are dreams with deadlines

“Goals in writing are dreams with deadlines.” -Brian Tracy, personal success coach. Whenever I feel my dreams losing steam, I always think of Booker T. Washington. Born a slave in 1858, his childhood years were anything but pleasant. The family’s farm cabin had no glass windows, and any opening to let in light also let in the freezing wind in the winter.

The floor of the cabin was dirt. The life of slave was back-breaking work that started before the sun came up and continued long after it went down again. His childhood was also lived out during the Civil War, which created turmoil, fear, and uncertainty in the lives of Southern slaves and added additional pressure to an already hopeless state of affairs. But in spite of that desperate situation, young Booker dreamed of an education.

His goal was learning—real learning. Not just the ability to read a newspaper or dime-store novel, but a desire to learn science, mathematics, history, and more. Years later, working deep in a coal mine, he overheard some of the miners talking about a school five hundred miles away called the Hampton Institute.

He immediately decided that one day he would attend the school, in spite of the distance.

His dream simply would not die. As a result, he not only attended the school, but was later asked to lead a new program in Alabama called the Tuskegee Institute. He eventually built Tuskegee into a major college campus with more than fifteen hundred students and a faculty of two hundred professors.

There was not one single thing in Booker T. Washington’s life that helped him except the power of a dream. Starting out he had no money, no education, no training, no influence, and no future. He was just another slave among thousands, with no potential other than living out his life working in obscurity on a forgotten Southern farm.

But the power of his dream opened doors, filled him with motivation, and revealed his true promise. Millions of Americans have been directly touched or indirectly inspired by his story, and this nation is a better place because he never gave up on his dream.

If you feel that your situation is hopeless, just remember Booker T. Washington and start dreaming again.

Phil Cooke – philcooke.com

What’s your crazy, out-there dream?

Have you ever had a crazy ridiculous dream? So way out? So weird? On the one hand in your heart of hearts you believe it’s from God. On the other, it’s so … out there … that you’re afraid to tell anyone, in case they think you’re smoking dope.

Well – here’s mine. I’d love to hear yours …

I’d been a Christian for, ooh about … 6 months. I was already at Bible College, studying ministry. A huge turnaround from the tough, hard-nosed businessman I’d been. My personal life had pretty much fallen in a heap. It was a very ordinary Saturday arvo, and I’d been ironing when, well the best way I can describe it, is that it was like the Presence of God fell on me in the stairwell of my townhouse.

So I sat down on the top stair and the Lord showed me how for years while I (full of myself) had been prancing around stages speaking at large IT conferences around the world – He’d been getting me ready, training me, teaching me … to go out there and tell people about Jesus. To preach the Gospel. It was so humbling and compelling at the same time … I didn’t know how, or when (it would in fact be another 8 years till it started happening).

A year or two later, I was at a Joyce Meyer rally in the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Okay, Joyce isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – but the Lord spoke to me so powerfully through her in those early days as He was laying the foundations of my faith. (Thanks Joyce!)

I looked around – there were several thousand people in that auditorium – and me, being wired and called to preach the Gospel – thinks to myself: If only one day I could tell this many people about Jesus!
Crazy I know. I couldn’t tell anyone. I mean… what would they have thought?!

And just as I was having that thought – I heard a voice, it was quick, it was fleeting but what it said was totally unmistakable:
Berni … this is nothing! Just wait and see what I will do with you …
Nah! Couldn’t be … get out of here!

And yet in my heart of hearts, I dreamed about telling stadiums full of people … millions of people about Jesus. Was I going nuts?

One thing led to another and I became involved in this tiny, almost defunct ministry called “Christianityworks”. A media ministry that had been going for just over 50 years in Australia whose “core business” it was to teach the Bible in the media – principally through radio programs.

Only … it was almost broke. It wasn’t producing any radio programs. And it was pretty much a case of last one out, turn out the lights!
It was at that point (thank you Jesus!) that I felt called to leave my safe, secure and very comfortable IT consulting job, to take over that ministry and start preaching the Gospel. But how? I didn’t know anything about radio and I certainly didn’t know any stations.
But a call from God is a call from God.

So crazy as I was back then … off I went. We spent the last few thousand dollars we had in the bank producing about 12 half hour Christianityworks radio messages (when I listen to them now, I want to crawl in a hole and die! Did I really sound like that?!).

On the 21st of February 2005 the first of those programs went to air on a handful of stations in Australia.

Today, we’re still producing radio Bible teaching programs, and they’re heard through over 1,000 radio outlets in 160 countries around the world, by a weekly audience somewhere in excess of 15 million people. And come Sunday the 3rd of June 2012, we’ll be going on air on a Government owned radio network across India, in a time slot that currently has 30 million listeners each week!

The most common question I get asked is … Berni how did all that happen?

And my honest to God answer is … I really don’t know.

Sure we worked hard, our small team. But God … God has time and time and time again done the most amazing things.

So I’m here to tell you – don’t ever right off your crazy dreams. That strange Voice all those years ago at the Joyce Meyer rally, had it absolutely right!

It’s all about Him. We in the tiny Christianityworks team feel pretty much like bystanders. What a God we serve!!

Well, there you have it. That’s my crazy dream. It’s out there.
Berni Dymet – adifferentperspective.org

Why paper isn’t dead

If you’re caught up in the constant messages we hear in the media that paper is dead, think again.

Sometimes we forget in the swirl of gadgets, productivity apps, and mobile devices, but paper is a long way from being dead.

Particularly as a creative medium, even with an iPad and stylus, there’s something about working on traditional paper. As you can see in this commercial, at least the French get it.

The 4 steps to overcoming ugly duckling syndrome

We’ve all felt like the Ugly Duckling at some point in our lives. We look around at everyone else, and we conclude that we’re worthless. Absolutely worthless.

But God didn’t create you or me, to feel like that. He didn’t create you and me to be the Ugly Duckling. No. He has a much better plan for our lives than that.

Much better.

We’ve all been that Ugly Duckling. You have. I have.

So here are the 4 Steps to overcoming … “Ugly Duckling Syndrome”.

1. When People Scorn You, Simply Don’t Believe Them
At last the large egg broke, and a young one crept forth crying, “Peep, peep.” It was very large and ugly … “Let him alone,” said the mother; “he is not doing any harm.”

“Yes, but he is so big and ugly,” said the spiteful duck “and therefore he must be turned out.”

“The others are very pretty children,” said the old duck, with the rag on her leg, “all but that one; I wish his mother could improve him a little.”

And so they made themselves comfortable; but the poor duckling, who had crept out of his shell last of all, and looked so ugly, was bitten and pushed and made fun of, not only by the ducks, but by all the poultry.

– Hans Christian Andersen

2. Believe What God Says About You Instead
All too often, comparing ourselves with others, listening to the criticisms of others – is like looking at your image in one of those distorted mirrors we used to see down in the side-show alleys when we were kids. It doesn’t give us a true image of who we are.

What does God have to say about you? Simple really. It’s straight out of His Word.

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me,when none of them as yet existed.

How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end —I am still with you. (Psalm 139:13-18)

3. Know that You Were Made with a Clear Purpose In Mind
God didn’t make a mistake when He made you. He exquisitely handcrafted you as a unique creation, wondrously beautiful in His sight. You are a one of a kind.

So precious, that He would send Jesus to die that your sins may be forgiven, and to rise again that you may live a new life. That’s something He is not going to waste. You were definitely, definitely created with a magnificent purpose in mind. Handcrafted for that purpose.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do the good works that God prepared beforehand for us to walk into. (Ephesians 2:10)

The Lord your God has put a special gift inside you, with which He plans to bless the rest of us. And He wants you to know that and believe that … today.

4. Discover that Purpose and Live it Out to the Full
We’ve each been made so differently. That’s why comparing ourselves to others is such a crazy thing to do. There is something that you can do better than anybody else you know. There’s something you enjoy doing so much, but perhaps you’ve been squeezed into the world’s mould, and forced to be a duckling instead of a swan.
Even though you are … you always were … you were created to be … a swan.

All your life you’ve been dreaming a dream. It’s time to live it.

All your life there’s been a song in your heart. It’s time to sing it.

All your life, there’s been this special gift from God inside you.

It’s time to use it.

It’s time to be the you that God made you to be.

The Ugly Duckling Finally Discovers the Truth

But what did he see in the clear stream below? His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan.

To be born in a duck’s nest in a farmyard is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan’s egg.

– Hans Christian Andersen

Berni Dymet – adifferentperspective.org

3 ways to win in life

Step One: Planning to WinThere are lots of steps and sub-steps you have to put together when you begin to plan your success, but a few things are foundational. Planning has to be based on getting a clear vision of what you want, because without a vision you don’t know which goals to set. Without goals you have no targets, and without targets you have nothing to measure how you’re doing. So you can see how important a vision is.

Getting a clear vision for your future is also important because it plays a huge role in the creation of desire! Did you know that desire is the mother of motivation? Desire is the “want to” and the motor that fuels and powers sustained success.

Desire is important and vision is critical, but there are some personal qualities you must have or acquire to get the best possible results. As a matter of fact, there are six qualities: honesty, character, faith, integrity, love, and loyalty. I have called these qualities the foundation stones to any lasting success.

You can develop each of these qualities in your life as you prepare to become the winner you were born to be.

Step Two: Preparing to Win
At first glance, you might think planning and preparing mean the same thing. I admit they might look like they are first cousins, but I see preparation as much different from planning. Preparation is a matter of equipping yourself to win with the right tools, knowledge, and support it will take to turn your dreams into plans that will make your vision into reality. So, you must equip yourself in the best possible way to insure your planning efforts will be successful.Equipping and preparing yourself to win requires five things:

• You need the right knowledge to win.
• You must continually raise your personal performance bar.
• You must acquire tools that help you work better and faster.
• You have to practice your skills.
• You have to surround yourself with positive influences and people.

In summary, you have to train yourself to become a twenty-four-hour champion. Winning involves planning and preparing. Both are a constant-improvement, never-ending process. When you stop planning and preparing . . . you stop winning. Twenty-four-hour champions continually equip themselves to win!Step Three: Expecting to WinI’ve always said that when you have planned and prepared to win, you then have the right to expect to win. The ultimate fruit of positive expectation is hope, and it is hope that pulls you forward in all you attempt to do.

I’m always hopeful and I never worry. I can say that because I expect the best possible result in all that I do. I expect the best because I planned my success, prepared myself to execute my plans, and earned the right to expect the best.Desire is the mother of motivation, because that is where your motivation is born. Properly planning and preparing heightens your expectations, which fuels your desire and drives you to become even more motivated. Through the years I’ve continually heard from individuals from all walks of life whose lives were in a downward spiral—until they heard something in my audio products or read something in my books that gave them the will and the skills they needed to change their circumstances and transform their lives.

They testify that by putting my simple suggestions into practice their lives were transformed. Sometimes the transformation was mental, sometimes it was spiritual, and other times it was material. Whatever the transformation, there was a commonality to the core changes they made. These people changed the way they viewed themselves. They became willing to make significant changes, and they came to believe they were born to win! What they really did is develop the skills and take the necessary actions they needed to plan, prepare, and expect to win!You were born to win.

But to be the winner you were born to be you have to plan to win, prepare to win, and only then can you expect to win. Go out and be the winner you were meant to be today!

Tom Ziglar – www.ziglar.com

It’s not a question of age

Timothy, Paul’s “spiritual” son in the ministry, was very young, and he was fearful and worried about what people thought of his youth. Paul told him to let no man despise his youth. It really does not matter how old or young a person is. If God calls someone to do something, and they have the confidence to go forward, nothing can stop them.

How you respond to your age and, for that matter, how others respond is really up to you. We all age in years, but we don’t have to get an “I’m too old” mindset. Moses was eighty years old when he left Egypt to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land. Confident people don’t think about how old they are; they think about what they can accomplish with the time they have left. Remember, confident people are positive and look at what they have, not what they have lost.

Even if you are reading this book and let’s say you’re sixty-five years old and feel you have wasted most of your life doing nothing—you can still start today and do something amazing and great with your life.

Let no one despise or think less of you because of your youth, but be an example (pattern) for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity. —1 Timothy 4:12

Lord, You used people of all ages throughout the Bible, and You can use me. Today is a new day, and I am excited about what You have for me to accomplish. Amen.

From the book The Confident Woman Devotional: 365 Daily Devotions by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2011 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

Why victory & winning aren’t the same thing

After a pretty spectacular start to His ministry – the voice from Heaven and all that (Luke 3:21,21) – Jesus embarked on a rocky road. Forty days and nights starving in the desert with just the devil to keep Him company (Luke 4:1-13), a lynch mob in His home town (Luke 4:28,29) and then years of being criticised, tested, plotted against.

If we’d had to walk His path you and I, perhaps we would have retreated to the relative safety of the carpenter’s shop where we’d grown up, and consigned ourselves to the easy option.

Maybe that’s why so many people don’t have victory in their lives … because they’re not prepared to go to the dangerous places where we win victories.

No battles, no victories right?

Maybe in the face of attacks and opposition and setbacks and a lack of approval from other people, we’d have withdrawn to a life that wasn’t our calling to live. A life that God never planned. A life of comfort and safety. A life pursuing our own pleasures rather than God’s will.

Am I being a bit too harsh? I don’t know.

I think sometimes we think that serving God is all about winning – serving God is all about having success. Serving God is about meeting our needs. But the more I see of Jesus’ life, the more I see of His brand of victory, the more it seems that His victory had very, very little to do with any of those things.

The religious leaders came after Him with a meat clever because He was upsetting the status quo. He was preaching blasphemies. He was eating and drinking with tax collectors and prostitutes. He was healing people – can you believe it – on the Sabbath.

How dare He? And then, to top it all off, He declares Himself to be the Lord of the Sabbath!!

“Something … something has to be done about this dangerous heretic” they murmur.

“I know,” – says one of them – “let’s have Him killed. Let’s play the system and get Him crucified. That’ll do it. Jesus loses, we win.”

That’s an all too simplistic, all to common view of victory. The world’s view. Our view. Victory is when I win. Right?

But listen to Jesus on the subject of being crucified:

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father. (John 10:17,18)

So when it comes to living a life of victory, for Jesus, it’s not about avoiding the Cross. Victory for Jesus is not about winning in the sense that you and I might think about winning. If we were in His shoes, wouldn’t we be trying to pretty much save our own skin?

Victory for Jesus is doing what He came to do. Victory for Jesus is doing His Father’s bidding – laying down His life voluntarily and then taking it up again. Victory as it turns out – has little or nothing to do with winning. It has everything to do with living out the call of God on our lives.

In pursuing victory, Jesus put no premium on His own life, His own needs and His own comforts.

Victory was not to be found for Jesus, huddled over His tools in the safety of dad’s carpenter’s shop in Nazareth.

No – victory was to be found on the Cross, as He laid down His life for you and me, so that our sins could be forgiven. Victory was to be found in the empty tomb as God’s power raised His Son to bring you and me a new life.

Victory for Jesus was all about – completely about – what He did for His Father in Heaven and what He did for you and me.

It had nothing whatsoever to do with what He did for Himself.

Which is why you have to conclude that victory and winning …. are two entirely separate things.

Are you called to ministry?

One of the most important issues every Pastor has to work through is their call to ministry. Over the years, I’ve discovered there will be times when the only thing that keeps you going in the ministry is your call. When I teach Pastoral ministries classes or have the opportunity to mentor young men who feel called to preach, the first two issues I talk to them about are their conversion experience and their call to the ministry. If you are not clear on both of these issues you have no business going into the Pastoral ministry. So let me give you just a few thoughts about how to know whether or not you are called to ministry:

1.) Can you do anything else an be happy?

This was a question that my Pastor asked me when I surrendered to the ministry and that I ask anyone who tells me they feel called to the ministry. It is actually a question that is derived from Charles Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students.” The point of this question is that the call to preach must be like an all consuming fire in your life. Those who are genuinely called find that they simply can’t do anything else.

2.) Has God given you a clear Word from His Word?

The night God called me to preach our Pastor was preaching from Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” The moment I read these words, they thundered in my soul and I felt that God was speaking directly to me. At the moment I had the overwhelming sense of God’s call to preach the gospel wash over my heart and I knew I could do nothing else. I received a clear Word from God’s Word.

When I talk with men who feel called to the ministry, I always stress the importance of being able to hang your call on specific passage of Scripture. God speaks to us from His Word! I am not saying that the call will not be accompanied by a strong emotion or experience of grace, but apart from a clear Word from the Word of God, we are prone to misunderstand or misinterpret. If you feel called to ministry, search the Bible until you have a clear Word from the Word to confirm your call.

3.) Do you meet the qualifications?

The qualifications for ministry are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-16. I am not going to get into the specifics of these qualifications in this post, but I do want to say that anyone who is called to preach must meet these qualifications before they assume the office of Pastor. I am not saying that any of us are perfect and at times we all falter or come up short in some of these areas, but generally I am seeing far too many men going into the ministry trying to explain away or minimize these qualifications. Whenever I meet someone who does not take these qualifications seriously it is evidence to me that they are not called.

4.) Has the congregation affirmed your call?

Receiving the affirmation of the church is perhaps the single most important step in confirming your call to ministry. In my denomination, we have a two step process of first licensing a man to preach and then later ordaining. In both of these steps, the affirmation of the church is crucial. In licensing, the church affirms that they see the gifts necessary to be an effective minister in the life of the candidate. They are essentially saying, “We think there is some potential here and want to give the candidate opportunities to demonstrate their call.” Usually what happens then is the person who feels called will get some opportunties to preach and minister within the local church.

This provides the church the opportunity to examine his qualifications, his gifts, and frankly, whether or not he can preach. Eventually, if all goes well and the candidate is called to a church he will go through ordination. Which involves being questioned by and ordination council and then affirmed by the calling church.

My council to young men going into the ministry is to seek as much input from other members of the church as possible. In my experience, they are usually in a better place to objectively evaluate our call to ministry. The bottom lines is this, if you are called to the ministry the church will see it. If you can’t convince the church you are called, then you are not called to the ministry.

5.) Can you minister for the applause of God alone?

What I mean by this statement is that in the ministry you cannot be a people pleaser. Your only job is to please God and do what He tells you to do. This means that you will often be unpopular or even hated for preaching the Word of God. If you desire the applause of men more than the applause of God, you are not fit for the ministry.

You will cave to popular opinion and be unwilling to say the things that may make you unpopular. As a preacher you must be willing to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Tim 4:2) You must be willing to be faithful even when that will make you unpopular. Can you minister for the applause of God alone? If not, don’t preach! If so, then PREACH! PREACH! PREACH!

How to manage opposition & criticism

Life isn’t one long race, but lots of short ones.

Every day has it’s own set of things to achieve and challenges to face and they vary from day to day. To be successful is to keep plugging away – we all need perseverance.

A manager once addressed two thousand members of his firm’s sales force during a sales convention:

“Did the Wright brothers ever quit?” he asked his staff. “No!” they responded. “Did Charles Lindbergh ever quit?” “No!” they shouted. “Did Lance Armstrong ever quit?” “No!”

“Did Thorndike McKester ever quit?” There was a long, confused silence. Then a salesperson shouted, “Who in the world is Thorndike McKester? Nobody’s ever heard of him?” “Of course you haven’t!” the manager snapped back. “That’s because he quit!”

Developing perseverance

3 qualities you will need to develop to persevere through the tough times:

Resilience: means you are flexible, you don’t snap easily. Instead, you’re able to spring back when life twists or bends you out of shape.

Vision: we create things in our minds before they are created physically. Without that vision, nothing develops; everything stagnates.

Purpose: You need purpose, because if your reason for doing something is powerful enough, you will stick at it regardless of your limitations.

Keep looking at the positives

To reach your goal, you’ll have to go through storms

Storms will reveal how good your foundation is

You can make a success out of a shipwreck—sometimes you’ve just got to throw things overboard.

Often the worst thing that could happen turns out to be the best. A fire that burned the Gloria Jean’s Coffees warehouse and offices to the ground actually catapulted us to a whole new level. It set us up for the future.

Fear is a dream killer

Here are some simple strategies to get back to reality:

Clarify exactly what you are worrying about

Ask yourself, What’s the worst-case scenario?

Decide to accept the outcome, whatever that might be

Do what needs to be done

Don’t isolate yourself

Allow your support team to help

Give the problem to God

Peter Irvine


Peter is Co-Founder of Gloria Jean’s Coffees, author of ‘Win In Business’ and ‘Building your Business, your People, your Life’ and keynote speaker.

Boston attack: a pastor’s perspective

Monday at 2:50pm two bombs went off in my city. These bombs, designed to injure, did their work. At least three were killed, and hundreds were injured.

All of this leaves us with questions. Who did this? More desperately, why?

The Boston Police will, along with the FBI, launch a full-scale investigation. And the brave and gifted officers and investigators will doubtless find the individuals responsible.

After that, pundits and politicians will start to work on policy changes to insure this doesn’t happen again. Then, when time has passed, other politicians will use this as an issue to show their side has the answers.

But behind all of that work, much of good, lies the why. Deeper than culture. Deeper than religion. Deeper than policies, nations, kings, money, and every other reason we will hear in the coming days to explain this act of violence lies the reason truest of all: sin.

All of us – friends and enemies, kings and peasants – are touched and marred by this realty.

We are all alike fallen from grace. And now, having our visions skewed, perpetrate actions of sin against one another from a cloudy heart which all the while believes itself to be in the right. The broken breaking the broken.

And yet, tragedy like this shows us another aspect of ourselves. It’s the part we see when perfect strangers run headlong into the smoke of fresh explosions to help their fallen neighbors.

We see it when a man removes his shirt to dress a wound. A doctor manages his ER in the face of overwhelming injury. A citizen opens his home to those without one tonight.

We are all alike fallen, this is true. And yet there’s more to us. We are also image-bearers. There’s something of God – his likeness – which comes out even in the darkest of moments. Especially in them.

And this duality should tell us something. We are fallen, but not merely. We are a race of insurgents against God made in the image of the very God against whom we’ve rebelled. Love, art, charity, grace – these are ours because they were given to us by Him.

So what are we to make of it all? What are we to think when tragedy mingles with beauty? When pain accompanies grace? When blood spills with tears? We could start by calling to mind the cosmic event wherein this happened first and finally.

There was one who not only showed us the image of God, but was His exact likeness. He, shining like the sun, brought grace and truth, kindness and undeserved mercy.

And… He also experienced the deepest and darkest violence humanity has ever accomplished – the destruction of the image of God, Christ himself.

There, tragedy mingled with beauty, pain accompanied grace, and the blood of God himself spilt along with his tears. The gospel shows us that, in Christ, darkness, selfishness, terror, sin, and depravity can be and will be once and finally overcome.

That’s the hope – the only hope – for the deepest why of pain.

Tonight I’m praying for my great city. I’m praying that the image of God within her will rise above the brokenness which marks her.

But, cosmically speaking, there’s only one way that happens – and it’s not when we simply look within. The deep problem lives within too.

The image of God within us must connect – or reconnect – with the likeness of God sent for us, Jesus himself.

Yes, I’m praying for my city. I’m praying for the victims. I’m praying for the first responders. I’m praying for families.

But most of all, I’m praying for that grace which comes from God alone to overcome all that besets her.

Please, pray with me.


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The soul-corroding acid of anxiety

Yesterday, I preached a message from Matthew 6:25-33 dealing with subject of anxiety and worry. In his book, Anxiety Free, Dr. Robert Leahy reports that 18 percent of Americans will suffer from anxiety disorder. That is twice the number of people who suffer from depressions and if we add in those who report having some type of anxiety disorder at any point in their lives, the number increases to nearly thirty percent. Leahy says that “The average American child today exhibits the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient did in the 1950′s.” Let that sink in for a minute.

I experienced my own bout with anxiety a few weeks ago when I ended up spending four days in the intensive care unit due to problems related to my blood pressure. When I first went in they were not sure what was happening or whether or not I was having a stroke. After a couple of days of not sleeping and under the constant concern about what was happening to me, I experienced wave after wave of anxiety, that honestly felt as if it would tear me apart. Anyone who has ever experienced a panic or anxiety attack knows the helpless fear that washed over your entire being in these moments. Amazingly, I have been preaching through the Gospel of Matthew for the better part of the last year and have just now come to Matthew 6:25-34. The experience of the past several weeks has helped to give me a renewed insight and appreciation for this passage. One of the first things that we need to notice in this passage is that it gives us the causes of our anxiety. Let me show you five causes of anxiety that I have found in this passage:

1.) Anxiety is caused by a limited worldview (v.25)

In verse 25b, Jesus asks “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” The simply truth is that we often get anxious because we develop a purely materialistic view of the world. In other words, we allow our hearts and minds to become so captured by the things of this material world that we neglect to focus on things of eternal significance. This is a great trap for the soul and ensnares us in the troubles and cares of this life, while neglecting the weightier and more significant issue of eternity. Our lives are more than physical and temporal, we are created for eternity. Maintaining a Biblical worldview, therefore, is essential for eliminating anxiety.

2.) Anxiety is caused by a low theology (v.26)

Sometimes our anxiety is caused simply by having too low of a view of God. Notice in verse 26, that Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” There are really three important truths taught in this verse. First, God is aware everything that is going on in your life. If He is aware of the needs of sparrows, He certainly is aware of your problems. Second, God is able to meet these needs. He feeds seemingly insignificant sparrows, surely He is able to feed and take care of you. Finally, YOU are important to God. If God cares for sparrows, surely He will take care of you and I who are created in His image. Meditating on these three truths alone will cure a great deal of anxiety.

3.) Anxiety is caused by overestimating our own ability (v.27)

At the heart of worry is the wrong-thinking that says we can control or determine our own destiny. Fundamentally, it is an overestimation of our abilities. In verse 27, Jesus asks, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single our to his span of life?” Here we see the acidic nature of anxiety most vividly. In the throes of anxiety we buy into the lie that merely by worrying about something, we can control or change the outcome. In reality, no one has ever changed a single thing by worrying about it. One night when I was in the hospital the nurse was concerned about my heartbeat and made the off-handed remark that she needed to keep an eye on it. That was all it took to set me into a tail spin of worry. In fact, that night I refused to go to sleep, even fighting against the medication they gave me to help me sleep, because I was worried about my heart beat. I was determined to watch it and make sure it didn’t go too low. As you can imagine, this was a futile endeavor and it nearly broke me the the next morning. It seems stupid and foolish now, but at the time anxiety had absolutely convinced me that I could control my own heartbeat. I imagine that if you looked carefully you could find places where the acid of anxiety is eating away at your life simply because you have overestimated your ability to deal with a problem by yourself.

4.) Anxiety is caused by underestimating God’s love (v.28)

In verses 28-32 Jesus reminds us of the amazing love of God, which brings us to the most important cause of anxiety— when we underestimate the love of God we end up neglecting the Gospel. I am convinced that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the single most important thing that we can study and meditate upon. The deeper I reflect on the gospel the further I am transported into the love of God. The gospel is the ultimate remedy for the acid of anxiety in our lives. Anxiety will eat away at our lives and take away our joy. The Gospel on the other hand takes further into the grace, mercy and love of Jesus. The more we understand how much God loves us, the more we learn to trust Him even when we are going through the challenges of life.

Have you experienced the acid of anxiety eating away at your life? It helps to share your story with other believers.