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Choices, Choices, We All Make Choices


I’ve made some pretty bad choices. We all make bad choices, it’s what you do with those choices (and their consequences). The most natural thing is to regret and wish to correct them; everyone, besides John Wayne Gacy, does that. It’s good to recognize what you did as wrong and regret it, that’s a good first step. A small step, but still a step.

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You ain’t ready to drive yet, kid; first steps aren’t the only steps!

Learning from your mistakes has pretty much turned into a cliché these days. I think that’s glossing over some very difficult steps, personally, and it’s misleading. It makes it sound so simple and makes one feel like an absolute idiot if they can’t just do it. Maybe it’s a little easier if you actually know what that entails. A tiny itsy bit easier. I don’t know about you, but if I have a list of things to do (and if it’s something new, listed steps of how to do said things) I am way more likely to do them than if a broad general task is given (i.e. “clean the house!” vs. “Here’s a list of all that needs cleaned to what depth”). I’m not claiming to have this all figured out, but I believe that I am on to something with what I’ve got, and it’s helping me; maybe it will help you.

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“Guys, I think ‘N’ means North. Or Not Correct, I don’t really know. Guys?”

I think a step in learning from your mistakes is recognizing that you made them. You did. Now if you didn’t know that what you were doing wasn’t a good idea, then I think that’s a different story and you don’t do that again. Bam, mistake learned from, now go eat some fries. But I’m talking about doing stuff you know to be a bad idea, but you do it anyway. It is so easy (so easy that I [and I am sure I'm not alone in this] do it automatically) to lay the fault at someone (or something) else’s feet. You know, “If Tommy wasn’t so mean, I wouldn’t have punched him”, “I haven’t been sleeping well because The Office is so addictive” (I’ve said that), “If my superior (boss, parent, etc.) wouldn’t be so strict, I wouldn’t rebel as much”, or “It was staring at me, so I put it in the microwave!” Okay, that last one is a little extreme, but you know what I’m talking about. You might not even realize that you’re blaming others, and don’t feel too weird if that’s the case; it’s pretty normal. Now I will say that factors do play into our decisions, of course they do. For example, if you eat too much junk food, and you discover that because you drive past a Frito’s plant everyday you are smelling the salty pieces of Heaven. thus triggering your desire for salty oily goodness. Now you understand why it’s so easy to make that choice, but it’s still your choice. You chose the chips, they don’t chose you.

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Frito’s aren’t the thug life.

Okay, so you’ve taken ownership of your choice to do whatever you did. Now what? Honestly, I don’t really know. I think it all depends on the situation. In some situations, now is a good time to take a look back to see what led you to make that choice and take steps to avoid that from getting your attention again. In others, you’ve learned enough to never do that mistake again. In still others, you’re at the very beginning of changing the way you approach life. That’s all I’ve got right now. I’m now regretting not having any Frito’s or chips or any kind in my cupboards because I really want some.

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If Dating Is Distracting You From God, You’re Doing It Wrong


This phrase has been rolling around in my brain for the past week or two, and hasn’t let me go, so here’s my thoughts. First, I want to assure you that I do think there are those times in life where God does indeed have you in a season where having a significant other just wouldn’t be healthy.  But I also think hiding behind an excuse like “I’m focusing on my relationship with God right now” is being dishonest with yourself and/or the person you’re having that awkward DTR with. If you are not focused on your relationship with God while in a dating relationship as much or more than when you were single, I think you’ve made that significant other an idol. That’s not a healthy relationship, Jack!

Not you, Jack, you’re too young to be thinking about this stuff, go play with some dirt or something.

“But Jonathan, if I’m dating someone, I’m thinking about her all the time! Isn’t that idolatry?” (I know the guy’s side better, so I’m going to stick with it mostly) Well, hypothetical 20-something male, what is your thought life like now? You’re probably thinking about how single you are. You probably spend a good amount of time thinking about the various interactions you’ve had with your crush (or crushes, let’s be real here), reading into every little detail, wondering if there’s a chance for you. Okay, so what if you would man up and get into a relationship? Now your thoughts might be more “Dear Jesus, don’t let me mess this up!” Okay, that might be a little shallow. But seriously, wouldn’t you want to make sure that you’re going down the right path? Wouldn’t you want to pursue her heart purely? Guys, your girlfriend will most likely look to you to lead, so you better not disregard your relationship with God if you care about her.

I feel like I should probably give my definition of dating at this point, just make sure we’re all on the same page. At it’s most basic level, I see dating as making sure you would enjoy having the other person being around you for the rest of your life. You should’ve already gotten to know this person pretty well before pursuing something as serious as marriage. Now does this mean that on the first date, you’re thinking about marrying that beautiful girl across from you? Heck no. Don’t be rushin’ stuff, Ivan!  That being said, I don’t believe that there is a model that all dating relationships should follow. I think that for different couples different things work and don’t work. It’s fine.

So if you’re choosing not to date with the excuse that you’re focusing on your relationship with God, I’d challenge you to make sure you are actually consecrating yourself to God, not punishing yourself for past mistakes you’ve made in relationships, or putting another label on being afraid to date. Be real with yourself, and don’t lie to people.

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If The Prayer Room Would Stop


Last night I dreamed a dream (of course I dreamed a dream, what else would I dream, a pound of bacon? I wish.). In this dream, I was at the Prayer Room at IHOPKC where I work currently. I was talking with a friend in the lobby, and she told me that for Christmas, we were going to have people sitting at the front of the room with eggnog and Santa hats. I don’t remember what I said, but I said something about how I disapproved of it. I then went into the Prayer Room, and noticed that it was packed. Then I noticed that in front of each side room was a welcome mat with a different NFL team logo on it. Somehow I knew that it was because it’s football season and they (whoever they were) decided to decorate the Prayer Room accordingly. I went to my seat which was at the front on an angle. I remember seeing that the room was packed with college-aged popular types, who were worshiping , but it felt shallow. Jon Thurlow’s team was on, and they were rocking it (naturally) when the power suddenly cut out. That’s when I noticed that the stage was encased in glass because you couldn’t hear anything. Someone in the crowd quickly got out a keyboard and started playing (because in dreams, everyone carries around battery powered keyboards) as the team assembled on the front of the stage outside of the glass. And that’s basically it.

So as I mulled this dream, I thought about the attitude I sometimes have that looks to the skilled singers and musicians to keep my interest. I thought about how sometimes I don’t take the prayer part seriously. I don’t think that it’s sinful to appreciate skill, or to have fun and laugh in the Prayer Room, but if that’s the main reason you’re there you’ve missed the point of the Prayer Room. When I notice someone in the Prayer Room who doesn’t seem to be taking it seriously, my immediate thought is that they’re being irreverent. Of course, I cannot read hearts, and I usually remind myself that they most likely aren’t irreligious and rebellious.

I don’t want to advocate treating the Prayer Room as if any little thing will somehow defile it. The Prayer Room at IHOPKC is not a basilica with monks and holy water where it feels like you’re being disruptive if you breathe loudly, but it’s also not your personal prayer closet or living room where you can do what you want, it’s a public place set aside for prayer and worship.

Another thing I got from the dream was that it really is about the heart, not where you are exactly. Yes, God may have led you to a certain church or ministry, but if that ministry or church sells out and/or becomes shallow, that does not mean that you are called to become shallow. Here at IHOPKC, I’ve learned to pray for long hours everyday, but if the Prayer Room would close tomorrow, would I still pray as much? Honestly, not at all. I’ve been terrible at developing a prayer life outside of the Prayer Room, and I currently fear the day that I don’t have a Prayer Room to go to. It’s time to make some changes.

There also something about marketing the prayer movement, but that’s another subject for another time.

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Have Hope


I’m sick and tired of life right now. I don’t want to be in the Prayer Room at all, and I don’t want to live in Kansas City anymore. My soul is unsatisfied; my spirit is restless. But you know what? I have hope. Not much, but it’s as effective as a candle in a cave. Why do I have hope? Because love. Because I am loved by God. Tonight I was in the Prayer Room, staring into nothing, internally freaking out over my life. My Bible and journal lay unopened on the table in front of me. My Bible loomed in my mind as a source of guilt, a guide to the pitfalls of my own life. My journal is already filled with angsty, angry, and desperate entries, and I didn’t feel like adding to that pile. I stared for a good half hour, the tension of it all twisting my stomach and pinching my spine. Finally, the Holy Spirit broke through and spoke to my heart, “Read the part where Jesus tells you not to worry about your life.” As I opened my Bible I came across Jeremiah 31, and felt a nudge to read it too.

In Matthew 7, near the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus drops some bombs.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 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? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.(Mat 6:25-34 ESV)

Now I wouldn’t say that I’m to the point that I worry about food or clothes, but I certainly am anxious about my life. I don’t plan on faking it until I make it or something, I believe God desires us to be honest about how we feel. But I will make more of an effort to look at Him rather than the questions that press me from every side. When Jesus was telling the disciples about how to become the greatest, He made a child the example of how to live. Most would say His point was childlike faith where you believe and trust God like a child trusts its parents, and while I agree with that, I go farther. I believe He also wants that honest communication that children are so famous for. A child gets upset over seemingly trivial issues, but a good father doesn’t trivialize and shame the child for feeling so strongly about whatever inconsequential thing. A loving father walks the child through it until the child realizes how small the problem is, or simply remedies the issue for the child if he can.

So take hope, God is the perfect Father, He knows what He’s doing.

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Kicking Against Thorns


In Hosea 2, there is a concept introduced of the hedge of thorns. It’s when God practically traps us to keep us from wandering off. It’s uncomfortable if you try to escape, but if you start to follow Him, the thorns don’t stick you. I don’t know about you, but if someone puts a restriction on me that I don’t understand the reason for, I will most likely buck. If God puts a hedge around me that I don’t understand the reason for, I will kick against those thorns. Sometimes with humans, that restriction can be bucked off or explained so that you can understand it and be okay with it. With God, He’ll explain it to you when He wants, and until then, you’ll bleed all over and make a mess.

I’m not sure I’d call it breaking you, but He wants your trust. It’s like jumping in a stable with a colt. At first he” be skittish and stay away from you. I had that situation once as a kid, but with a calf.

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This isn’t her, but she was a Hereford like this little guy.

For whatever reason, I decided I’d tame this calf. It was in a pen for weaning anyway, so I’d stand by her pen every day and put my hand on her. She’d freak out, every time. But after a couple weeks, she was fine. After a few more weeks, I could step in the pen and pet her. By then, she was fully weaned and released back to the rest of the bovine population. Even out in the pasture, I could approach her and pet her for years thereafter. After some time however, she became skittish again. I think it might have been the lack of daily contact, combined with other human interaction that was not so friendly. Point being, I seem to be in a pen, and God’s standing there trying to get me to trust Him.

Now with a horse, you have to break them. Some trainers prefer to break the spirit of the horse, to make them fully subject to the trainer. I don’t think God’s like that. I think God wants us to daily, even moment to moment, and voluntarily make the decision to follow Him out of love. At the same time, I believe there’s a little bit of breaking that needs to happen. Some trapping unto trusting. And it sucks at first, but it’s okay. It’ll be okay. I have to tell myself that all the time it seems.

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Leadership Is Overrated


Lately I’ve been thinking about leadership and what submitting to leadership really means. I thought about how I’ve been taught leadership works and comparing that to what I see in the Bible. There seems to be a bit of a disagreement. It seems that the general distrust of leadership is unbiblical, yet so is the leadership style that demands rather than earns veneration (fun fact: when I think of the word “venerable”, I think of the Venerable Bede). I could go into how bad leaders who misuse their position are, but I’m not going into that in this post. Jesus said the greatest is the servant, so I think it’s important to learn what correct service looks like.

In my reading of the New Testament, I’ve come across some passages related to servant/master relationship. I didn’t do an in depth study, so I may have missed some, but a scholar I am not; I’m just a man exploring a topic. One of the first passages was in Matthew:

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Mat 23:8-12 ESV)

Leadership1This is directly after Jesus excoriates the religious leadership of that day for being hypocrites and showy. What I gather from this passage is to never consider myself above the law. I don’t mean that leaders should have the same restrictions as those under them all the time, that’s ridiculous. What I am saying is that leading by example is the way, not imposing your will and living outside of restrictions. I think of the FLDS group in the American Southwest, where Warren Jeffs imposed restrictions on his followers while he lived comfortably. It’s a common theme among cults. The leader lives above everyone in everything, and if anyone objects they are castigated as rebellious or something. In the passage above, Jesus slams leaders back down on to Earth, reminding them that they are in fact human. This not the only application for this passage of course, it can also be seen as reminder to all of us to avoid deceiving ourselves in believing that we know it all. That would be called exulting ourselves, and that doesn’t end well. Jesus also addresses this in Luke 22:23-27, if you want to look into yourself.

Another passage I found was in Peter’s first letter:

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1Peter 2:18-23 ESV)

I imagine there have been many leaders throughout history that have justified horrible things using this verse. I think of pastors in the American South preaching to slaves and slave owners, twisting this verse to the slave owners benefit. I interpret it in several ways, really.

One is that as a subordinate, lashing back in the face of accusation, however unfair, is never the right response. Rather, calmly speaking the truth and trusting that your supervisor or God will give you justice. Also, one should do their responsibilities to the best of their abilities (that “all respect” is translated in other versions as “fear” and is the same word used when describing how the disciples felt when they first saw Jesus walking on water). That’s what I see in this verse as a subordinate, but as a leader I see other things.

The first thing I see the passage pointing out to a leader is a need for open communication between a them and those under him/her, so that they can be told that their policies, etc., aren’t working without the subject fearing retribution of some sort. A servant-hearted leader will already have this in place, but it would be good to keep in mind that humans forget important things all the time.  It seems to me like it could be saying that if the lines of communication are not open, the subordinate has no place to criticize the leader and should let unwise decisions be, results being whatever they are. I don’t know how biblical that attitude is, but right now, that’s what it seems to say. As a leader, I would rather someone points out how bad my idea is before it backfires in my face. So making a place where the subjects can feel safe raising objections and reminding them continually of that is important to me. That being said, I don’t think that place should be anywhere/anytime. That can get messy fast.

Overall, I see a trend (especially in church and ministries) where leaders are venerated (and absolutely destroyed by the slightest misstep) and leaders expect veneration. To be on the platform is the goal, and any objection from those in the seats is seen as rebellion. Being a leader is a treacherous path to walk. To those under you and those who want to be you, it seems like it should be easy. Thus I say leadership is overrated.

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Love Can Cause Pain


Growing up, one of the main methods of discipline my parents practiced washttp://img.timeinc.net/time/daily/2009/0908/360_punishment_0811.jpg spanking. Every time I got my backside warmed, I would get angry at whichever parent just doled out that punishment. I didn’t really think about why that was until yesterday in the Prayer Room. I was thinking about how I just hate getting in trouble, but if someone is in trouble with me, they’ll know at the very least. I was struck by the hypocrisy of it all. I am so quick to come down on someone under me if they don’t follow my instruction, but when it happens to me, I am hurt and offended. That’s when another thing struck me. I never made any connection between causing pain and love; I’ve always thought of them as two separate things. When my parents spanked me, I took it as a sign they didn’t love me. When friends would point out a fault (out of love of course), I trusted them less. On the outside, I may have seemed to understand and all that, but inside I would be feeling betrayed and feel awkward around them until they did/said something positive to me. Of course God was no different.

I don’t believe that every negative thing is God punishing us for sin or whatever (but it happens); rather, I believe that God allows negative things to happen to cause us to lean on Him, to learn life skills, and/or show us a different aspect of His personality. While I’ve always said that I believe that everything God does He does out of love, there’s always been a feeling that that is not the case. I suppose that could have come from my parents becoming enraged before the switch ever came out, and children base their view of God on their parents (specifically their father). So if I base my perception of God on my perception of my parents, I see a God who is quick to anger, one with speedy and harsh consequences for breaking His rules, and otherwise isn’t like He says He is. My parents (well, my mom at least, I can’t recall my dad ever doing this) would tell me that they love me after a spanking, and hold me for a bit while I cried. Somehow, that didn’t really connect it my mind.

God does discipline those He loves, and is slow to anger. This true. I just have to believe it, and renew my mind (probably on a daily basis) to remove the lies the enemy loves to plant about God and who He is.

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