Fresh Oil New Wine 2015 Living It Out In Real Time The Big Event The Life of Faith The Mysteries of God Through The Looking Glass

Lessons from a Carpenter

Through the Looking Glass

A friend of mine once offered me an interesting perspective on making mistakes.

He told me how, having been raised by a father who was a jack-of-all-trades (and a master of most of them), he would try to build things and undertake projects, but never seemed to really achieve the quality of work his father did (among other things, his dad was quite a good carpenter). Although he enjoyed working with wood, try as he might, it was always a combination of fear and intimidation that kept him from being really good at it… fear of breaking something or having the end result be an embarrassment.

His father passed away while my friend was a teenager, and this strengthened his desire to learn more about carpentry, and make his father proud. However, try as he might, he still fell short of the mark.

That all changed when he met Glen.

Glen was a contractor that he became friends with, and ended up helping build houses. Although he was simply a “laborer”, he learned invaluable lessons simply by listening to Glen, and watching Glen and some of the other more experienced guys on the crew work. The more he worked along side these “masters”, the more he came to understand a few of important things…

#1. You have to have the right tools. Understanding the tools of your trade are essential to any occupation. As a carpenter, you’re not going to get very far if all you have is a tire pump, a pair of wire cutters, and a note pad. Understanding what tools you need, and how to properly use those instruments is critical in being successful at anything. The right tools in the hands of a master is a thing of beauty to behold.

#2. You have to possess a teachable spirit. Often times, important lessons can come from unlikely places or unlikable people. On the crew, one of the best carpenters was Albert… he was old, ornery, and (at times) obstinate. However, he had good reason: He had been a carpenter for over 50 years, and had probably forgotten more about woodworking than most of the younger guys on the crew knew. My friend told me that, if you took the time to see past the rough, disagreeable exterior, Albert was a goldmine of wisdom and knowledge on how to become a great carpenter.

#3. You have to be willing to take risks. No building has ever been built without breaking things, cutting things down to size, and beating things with hammers. My friend came to realize that, if he made a mistake cutting a board, it wasn’t the end of the world… just get another board and cut it right. If he accidentally knocked a hole in a sheetrock wall, it wasn’t a dealbreaker, just a minor setback… fix it and move on. As the saying goes, “You have to break eggs to make an omelet”. He learned from his mistakes, learned how to fix his mistakes, and went away with the knowledge of how to do it right the next time. The axiom is true… All failure is not final.

Regardless of your occupation or aspiration… learn. Get the right tools. Learn how to listen intently, not just to the voices of praise, but to the voices of constructive criticism as well. Be willing to take God-inspired risks, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes along the way — look at David, Peter, Moses, and Abraham — you’re in good company.

And as you go about your life experiences, know that you have the Carpenter from Nazareth in your corner, always near, listening for your calls and cries, and willing to guide the teachable and humble of heart. Take courage from Him, and go be a success.

Fresh Oil New Wine 2014 Healing Living It Out In Real Time The Big Event The Life of Faith The Mysteries of God The Secret Place

Living in the Graveyard of the Past

As we begin to wind down another year (only 42 shopping days left until Christmas), it is only natural for most of us to look back at the year we’re leaving behind, assess the good and the bad, and try to make changes to improve the quality of life for ourselves and those around us. As someone once said, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result”. No one is interested in repeating the mistakes of the past with their tortured consequences, yet oftentimes, we become obsessed with the past (good and bad).

Grave 1We see this when someone dies tragically, and the mantra of friends and family becomes “If only they had (fill in the blank)”.

We experience this when we make bad financial decisions… “If only I knew then what I know now”.

We even see this in worship in our churches… The tendency after God works in an amazing way to try to replicate the experience whenever we do a specific chorus or song. Instead of a fresh word or experience, we want to relive the “feel-good moments” of the past.

Regardless of the context, in order to move on with God, we have to move out of the past, and its perceived security. God is all about doing a new thing in our lives regularly if we will let Him. It reminds me of a line from the C.S. Lewis classic, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Mr. Beaver and the Pevensie children are discussing Aslan, the character that represents Jesus in The Chronicles of Narnia.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver… “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Moving on with God means moving out of the security of our current environment into the unknown – a place where the only thing we have to hold on to is the goodness of God.

Decide to leave the cemetery.

You’ve got to be willing to leave the graveyard of the past. Make a decision to change. The very day Israel made the decision to change, the manna stopped. They got off welfare and went on God’s prosperity plan to gain the land that was theirs! As long as we operate in a circle of unbelief, complaining, “We’re short of money; we don’t have enough to try that path”—we will make it through the day and no farther. When every decision is based on only the resources at hand, we limit our vision and focus for the future.

I’m tired of living in worry over provision, aren’t you? I’m looking for a land flowing with milk and honey. I’m ready to drink out of a fountain with waters from which I’ve never tasted. I want clusters of grapes so large that it takes two men to carry them! I want my portion of fruit from that new land. I’m ready for some milk and honey!

Grave2aIn the academy award-winning movie Coal Miner’s Daughter, Sissy Spacek won the award for Best Actress, effectively and believably portraying singer Loretta Lynn. For me, the scene most compelling in the movie is the moment when Loretta’s father dies. Loretta had just made a record, scraping up what money she had to complete the project. But when her father died, in her biography we find that she secluded herself beside his remote grave for over a day and a night, refusing to leave.

Frustrated, Loretta’s husband, Doolittle, plows up the side of the mountain with a bulldozer, as there was no road up to this graveyard. He basically says to her, “Lorettie, we’ve got all these records and we’ve done all this. You’re going to have to make up your mind whether you are going to do this singing thing or not.” Turning, he leaves her by the grave and goes and gets back on the bulldozer. In a minute she leaves the graveyard, climbs up on the back of that truck and says, “I want to sing.” He says, “What did you say?” “I want to sing.” “What did you say?” he asked her for the third time. “I want this.”

All the success and fame could have been forsaken in that critical moment in Loretta Lynn’s life. She could have sat by her daddy’s grave and mourned the past and talked about how it used to be in the good ‘ole days. “You know, one time I made a record,” she could have said. Her whole destiny, and perhaps even the history of Tennessee and country music, changed when she crawled away from that grave and got on the back of that bulldozer saying, “I’m not going to live in the past anymore.”

It is possible to sit by a past personality and miss the future. You can sit by a past hurt and nurse your pain and miss the future. You can sit by a past grievance and be so angry that you can’t hear anything about what God is saying. You can be hooked to somebody’s past failure or mistake, even if they have asked for forgiveness, that you can’t forget it and you become chained to that place in the past.

I’m encouraging you today to go to prosperity and success. I’m not just talking about a financial situation. I’m talking about true eternal prosperity: embracing a life that counts! A life that counts must say goodbye to some of the things of the past. They are not coming back. They’ll never be here again. It’s time to move on.

Don’t get me wrong… stepping into the future can be full of uncertainties and insecurities. It doesn’t always feel safe. But you know what? That’s ok, because — to paraphrase the sentiments of Mr. Beaver — the (plans of the) King may not be safe, but He is good. He’s trustworthy. He has YOUR best interests at heart.

So get up from the graveside… your destiny is waiting for you!

— portions of this post adapted from my book,  A God-Sized Future
Copyright 2012 by Ron Phillips, published by Charisma House

Friendship The Life of Faith

A Dangerous Business

1227101031aLet’s start with a question: What would you risk for a friend?

Ok… talk is cheap. Let’s start with another question:

What have you risked for a friend?

What friendship comes to your mind that you have taken a risk on? Did it pay off or cost you? Did it lead to fulfillment or heartbreak? True friendship is one of life’s greatest riches. However, a fading friendship can be a devastating force. Victor Hugo once said, “The Supreme happiness of life is the conviction of being loved for yourself, or more correctly, being loved in spite of yourself”. Like a child who fears going into a kitchen after having been burned by a hot stove, many people shut themselves off from relationships because they have been burned by them. When you add the walls that society erects to the equation, the problems grow exponentially.

Do you first view the people you see every day…

… as black, white, Hispanic, Asian (etc)?

… as male or female?

… as young or old?

… as a Yankee or a Southerner (for those of us in the United States)?

… as local or foreign?

… as wealthy, middle class, or poor?

Sadly, we in the church have our own “walls” list, on top of these I’ve mentioned…

… Baptist, Episcopal, Pentecostal, (etc).

… clean-cut or rough-around-the-edges.

… reserved or expressive.

… (musically) traditional or contemporary.

Subsequently, have we limited our vision to only those like us?

If we as Christians are going to follow the example of Jesus, we MUST set the societal and cultural biases aside, and tear down the walls that divide us.

When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well (John 4), in that one conversation, He crossed the borders of gender, society and race (Samaritan), religion, and morality in order to touch her heart.

When Jesus befriended Mary Magdalene, she had been previously demonized (Luke8:2). Mary went on to be one of His closest and most loyal friends. In fact, she was the last to leave Him at the cross, and the first to see Him at the tomb! Here was a woman who took risks to display her friendship, who was elevated by their friendship, and who was generous and unselfish in her expression of that friendship (Luke 7).

Stepping out from behind the walls we erect can be a scary proposition. It can also be among the most fulfilling in life. Taking a risk on another person is part of what makes life worthwhile, and if we are to live out God’s ideal for our lives, we must tear down the walls!

 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. ~ Galatians 6:26-29

So, break out your emotional and spiritual sledge-hammers! What are the walls you are going to tear down today?