unsubscribe I rarely “unfriend” anyone on Facebook, no matter how wacky they are. When part of your job description is to be kind, it’s pretty hard to sever ties so dramatically (though I’ve occasionally had to do it).

Similarly, I will accept a friend request from everyone just short of Charles Manson. The only ones I deny are those young, single girls from foreign countries who contact middle-aged men like me “just to be friends”. No dice. But for everyone else, it’s “all swim” in the Facebook pool.

I do admit to unfollowing quite a few people though. To “unfollow” means I will no longer be subjected to their goofy posts on my news feed, but they can still see my goofy posts. This way I don’t hurt their feelings, but am spared wondering what planet they’re from every time they write something.

Some I unfollowed because they constantly post angry, condescending political views. Unfortunately, there are some Christian friends I’ve banished to the limbo of Unfollow Land. Rarely offensive, their posts were just too trite. Give too many easy answers about life’s hard questions, and now I’m embarrassed I’m in the same religion with you. And post about how “I’ll get my breakthrough today, if I just copy and paste this on my page”, and I’m crank-calling Mormon’s to come visit you tomorrow morning.

I did make a major “un” decision today, at least in the context of my personal life. I unsubscribed from an email – strangely, one I never subscribed to in the first place.

The email was the weekly update from a former job, one where my tenure had been particularly stressful. When I noticed them coming, my first impulse was to send them a snarky message asking why they thought I cared about anything to do with them.

Problem was, I did care.

I’d watch them each week to see how they were surviving without me. Funny how I wanted to think I was indispensable to a place I’m so glad to have left. I’d snicker when I saw them doing something I’d suggested, though the idea hadn’t been good enough when I brought it up.

I’d troll their Facebook page for hints of how much less productive they were since I left. Occasionally, I’d find proof of deterioration, and that made me feel good about myself…which in turn made me feel very, very bad about myself.

Today I was walking into a building that houses a new ministry I’m involved with – one I could have never done at my former job. So when their weekly update popped on my iPhone, and I gingerly hit “reply” and typed, “Unsubscribe” in the subject line. Send. That was it. No commentary. No speech and no ill will.

It just didn’t matter any more.

I guess that’s how you know you’ve been healed – when the things that remind you of past pain now leave you nonplussed. For me, it was like a scab had finally fallen off on its own.

Or perhaps like the Apostle Paul, it was scales falling from my eyes after a traumatic revelation finally became clear. That revelation is I realized they can’t hurt me anymore. I see that God has blessed and affirmed me in spite of any weapon meant to harm me.

My new life is filled with purpose unlike anything I’d known before. God is using me to draw brand new people to the Cross, and I am having a blast! And as long as I’m obedient, I’m indestructible.

I used to go to work feeling beaten when I walked in the door. I thought my best years were behind me. Now I know I’ll be done when He says I’m done, not a day sooner. Until that day, He’ll continue to work through me as He desires. The approval of others is not discouraged, it’s simply not essential.

Has enough time passed that you realized those who tried to hurt you the most now matter the least? Sure, they attacked you with all they had, but have you noticed how puny their weapons appear now? So this is what you’ve been fighting against so desperately all this time?

What part of you is still waiting to be healed? Do you wonder if it will ever happen? I can tell you it will. You won’t see it coming. But one day you will see those who wounded you, but it won’t hurt because you’ve already unsubscribe from the pain. The wound will fall off like a scab, or scales. Or, more appropriately, like chains.

Today, I noticed that my wounds are gone, and my chains have all fallen off. I didn’t see it happen, but none the less, here I am – healed and free.

Let God do His work, and one day you’ll be surprised like I was today. Suddenly, with no fanfare, you’ll realize you too are ready to unsubscribe.

Broken Jesus

Broken Jesus I got an award once that I was so very proud of, at a big ceremony in Beverly Hills, of all places. Really nice glass statuette, and lots of famous or near-famous people in the room got them too. My wife was so proud of me, and finally I had something to prove my worth as a human being – a hunk of glass with my name on it! What more proof could you want?

Problem was I had to get it back home with me. It was so precious to me, I was unwilling to check it in the luggage. So I decided the smart option was to keep it with me under my seat on the plane.

Big mistake.

I’m really surprised they let me bring it on there, since it probably could have been a deadly weapon of some sort. But I made it on, and then proceeded to shove it under my seat. It wasn’t fitting well, but I had to make it work at this point. So I shoved harder.

When I removed it at the end of the trip, I found to my horror it was damaged. It had rammed into the seat mechanism during the bumpy flight. Though I still cherish it to this day, it’s just not the same since it’s been chipped. I tried turning it sideways on the shelf, but that just looks like the cat bumped it. The pride I’d have in pointing to it now is somewhat dimmed by it’s damaged appearance.

Even my wife, who was so proud of me winning the award, has slowly exiled it over the years. It started out displayed in the living room (with the damaged side artfully turned away from view). Then it was on top of the piano. Now it’s on my bedside table. So much for my “glory days”.

Same problem with trying to shove Jesus into one small little corner of our lives. He simply won’t fit – He is too big and grand and glorious for just a dusty spot on the mantle of your life.

I’ve noticed lots of people display their “Jesus” just like a trophy. They put Him on display when it’s Sunday, or when the pastor stops by. But they’re sure to hide Him away somewhere when His presence might throw a wet blanket on the party.

You have to be careful displaying your “Mini-Jesus”, though. Some people are impressed by a little “Jesus” in your life, but others are offended by even the slightest glimpse of Him anywhere in view. So you’d better be careful and place Him somewhere not too conspicuous …behind that potted plant, for instance.

Might better just put him by the bedside table. Religion is a “personal thing”, right? Like a rash, I suppose…

I find it ironic we could ever deal so cavalierly with someOne so worthy of everything we are. He is truly the “Pearl of a Great Price” whom the merchant sold everything he had in order to possess. So how comical when we take that same Jesus and stuff Him in a bedroom drawer of our lives, next to that one glove without a mate and the old broken watch.

Are we becoming the very “swine” we were warned not to cast our pearls toward?

As arrogant as it may sound, if you truly knew this God who’s gracious enough to call a scoundrel like me His friend…if you had any concept of His beauty and worthiness, you’d be willing to give up everything.

I’m talking “holding nothing back, sell the farm, Katie bar the door, both barrels, full steam ahead, going out of business sale, everything must go”.

If you really know Him, you’d do anything, give up anything just to spend a moment in His presence.

So whatever you do, please don’t try to fit Him into your life. If you do, you’ll inevitably destroy a beauty so transforming, it will recreate you into a completely new kind of person. Instead, you end up with a damaged, distorted image of the real Jesus. A freak show version of something truly brilliant.

Please don’t try to fit Him in your life. That “trophy” is a damaged atrocity best left hidden behind closed doors and bedroom drawers.

So what can one person do? You’d be astounded… Watch Pastor Dave Gipson’s message on the power of each person to change the world, recorded live at Legacy Church Naples FL

No Thyself

Gnothi_seauton.jpgPeople will usually tell you all you need to know about them if you let them. Listen to them talk for a while, and you often understand them better than they do themselves.

That person at the office talking about how gossipy everyone is? He’s the biggest gossip of the group. That girl telling the pastor how much she loves God and people? She’s the most abrasive, selfish person he’s ever met.

So how do they miss seeing the person staring back at them in the mirror every morning?

I tried out for a play once. There was a lead male role that was the romantic interest for a younger woman. The part was big and had the best songs, so of course that’s the part a ham like me wanted. But when I tried out, I got a different part with no romance and a less interesting song.

At first I was a little confused, because I doubted anyone had done better than me. But what I was missing was what everyone else could see: the 50-something year old man, somewhat overweight, trying to play the romantic lead for a girl in her 20s.

Seriously, it’s not that I’ve ever thought of myself as “leading man material”. I wasn’t thinking about how ridiculous I’d look singing to that girl young enough to be my daughter, expecting the audience to think she was attracted to me. The director had actually done me an invaluable service – she had kept me from making a fool out of myself, and turning a musical drama into a musical comedy!

We’re not really certain which ancient Greek sage came up with the phrase “know thyself”, but it represents a level of insight few people attain. Knowing the true virtue of our character is something I’ve rarely witnessed. Most are able to rationalize and excuse any defect in their behavior. Even the worst serial killers seem to think they are pretty fun folks. I’m certain Hitler probably thought he was fun at parties, too.

There’s a funny little story in Judges 12. The people of Gideon had just defeated a group called the Ephraimites, but the defeated army was trying to sneak back across the Jordan into their homeland after the battle. So the Gideonites came up with a way to distinguish innocent travelers from the Ephraimites.

They had a word “shibboleth”, referring to the part of a plant containing grain. But Ephraimites had trouble pronouncing the “sh” sound, and mistakenly said it with just an “s”. So when people would approach and try to cross into Ephraim, the Gideonites would simply demand of them, “Say Shibboleth”. When they mispronounced it, they were exposed for who they really were. Their own words indicted them, without their knowledge.

I have a few friends whom I’ve given permission to tell me things about myself I don’t want to hear. They are people whom I believe have my best interest at heart and would never try to hurt me. Warning: not just anyone should be given that much freedom to speak into your life, but I have a few I trust.

Occasionally, they’ll ask careful questions about a perceived blind spot in my life or actions. I don’t always agree with their conclusions, but I need to hear them since they see me from a vantage point I miss. And sometimes they can see wrong motives I’ve chosen to conveniently ignore.

I hate it when that happens.

I do believe if you let Him, God will send people to tell you the truth about yourself. This will give you one of the greatest advantages possible, to know who you really are and not just who you wish you were. But you have to want to hear it and not just the whitewashed snow job most people serve up.

As for me, I’m glad I’ve learned my lesson and have now embraced who I really am. Got to go now – I’ve got another audition!

I’m trying out for America’s Next Top Model!

Love Moves the Target

We all go into relationships with certain expectations. We want the perfection of Barbie and Ken. The only problem with them is…they aren’t real. In the very real world of love, they don’t exist.

It’s great to have goals and ideals, as long as we realize they are marks to reach for and not the only acceptable outcomes. While love doesn’t change our beliefs on what is right and true, love does realize flesh and blood are easily crushed when forced into the cast-iron molds of our expectations.

So when someone you love missed the mark you wanted them to hit, you get a crowbar and pry off the target you’d nailed high on the wall. With a sigh and a smile, you walk to where your love’s arrow hit and hang the target around the mark.

Always hope for the best in people, but allow them their frailty. Jesus did that for you, and loved you anyway.

When they miss the mark, and they will eventually miss it badly, never forget…true love moves the target.

When they do the team photo for the Church, will you be arm in arm with the rest of the team, or photobombing from the back?

My message, recorded live…and sweaty…at Legacy Church of Naples – PHOTOBOMB 

Available Balance

After Christmas every year, we get “punked” finding gift cards sent to our kids by various relatives. We checked up on a promising-looking one, only to hear the quirky computer voice on the other end of the phone proclaim it had an “available balance of $2.06”. Woo hoo, jackpot.

Sometimes my hope seems just as depleted as those gift cards. Face it, life can be “relentless”. Sometimes circumstances pound you mercilessly. You wonder lots of unanswerable things, like “when is it going to stop” and the piece de resistance of theological exploration, “why me”.

The one thing I keep noticing about my life, and about the lives of most Biblical characters, is how God puts us through pain for a purpose. Some pretty tough and sometimes horrible things happen to us in life, it’s true. But…and that’s an important word there…if we respond with continued faith in the ultimate goodness of God, we will eventually see good come of it.

Though critics accuse the Bible of being “pie in the sky” wishful thinking, it actually gives big helpings of “tough love” throughout. God never said everything that happened to you is “good”, but that all things will eventually “work together for good” (Romans 8:28). And the way I see that working is a lot of those “not so good” things end up preparing you to face some really huge challenges and come out victorious in the end.

Look at the story of David and Goliath. Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell points out that the traditional way of looking at that confrontation is probably all wrong. The miracle was not that a kid with a slingshot killed a giant. The real miracle was how God trained that kid through perilous wild animal attacks on the sheep he was tending in the fields. Through what must have been terrifying nights alone in the wild, David learned how to fight off predators at a safe distance. Gladwell points out that an experienced “slinger” could hit a bird in the air, and the rock that hit Goliath in the forehead landed with the same velocity as a bullet from a small hand gun!

Same thing was true of Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused of rape, thrown into prison. Anyone looking at Joseph’s career trajectory would have written him off as toast, yet God was putting him in exactly the right place to eventually become Pharaoh’s second-in-command.

In the world’s eyes, you “work your way up the ladder of success”. But in God’s book, you have to work your way to the bottom first! Yes, it’s incredibly counter-intuitive, but God repeatedly puts His followers through hell to help them get ready to face the fights ahead of them. It doesn’t make sense to us, but that’s how we know it’s God working and not just happenstance!

When the moment of truth finally comes, our arms know exactly how to fight the battle in front of us because God has taken us through the motions so many times before. We are like Daniel in the Karate Kid movies, doing meaningless exercises for Mr. Miyagi (“Wax on, wax off”). We don’t understand their significance until the fight is upon us and our training kicks in to save us.

It’s like the process of back burning. Fire fighters sometimes do this to stop a raging wild fire from destroying a community. They will pick a spot between the wild fire and the houses, and then do something which at first seems insane – they start a fire! But there’s a smart reason for this. For a fire to spread, it must have fuel. So a controlled burn destroys all the potential fuel of a raging fire. When the wild fire reaches the back burned area, it has nowhere left to go. So the place the firefighters burned ends up being a barrier (or a “hedge” if you will) around the community of homes.

Here’s your good news for the coming year: if you had a lousy one last year, congrats! You’ve already “been through the fire”. It has been painful, and some of the things that happened to you didn’t seem to make any sense. But the good news about fires is this: “the fire cannot go where the fire has already been”! God has protected you from what could have devastated you. You are now stronger than you were from your training and purer than you were from the fire. Things that might have destroyed you will now be the staging ground for a great victory…if you will only believe!

So if you’ve had a tough year, that’s a good indication God has a wonderful victory ahead for you. Be warned – it won’t come without a fight. But when the giants come at you, all your pain from 2013 will suddenly take on new meaning and purpose.

You might want to check the balance on your spiritual account now. Even if it was “insufficient funds” last year, there might be a little something unexpected in there waiting on you now…

God wants you to know you can stop trying so hard now. You don’t have to earn His love – you only need to rest in it! Watch Dave’s message on resting in God, SUNDAY FUNDAY, recorded live at Legacy Church of Naples, FL

Nothing changes until you’re ready to risk your security & move forward.move

That’s all that separates the artists from the critics, the powerful from the pundits, the heroes from the zeros – the willingness to act, as opposed to the safety on the sidelines.

Until that crucial moment of commitment, the world just waits and hopes…